MT VOID 09/24/99 (Vol. 18, Number 13)

MT VOID 09/24/99 (Vol. 18, Number 13)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 09/24/99 -- Vol. 18, No. 13

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, 732-817-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218,
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.

East Timor

Two weeks ago I wrote a somewhat elliptic piece about the resurgence of tyranny in East Timor. Member John MacLeod points out, a radio interview containing a summary by Noam Chomsky of events in East Timor. I will say that on the past issues Chomsky's facts have occasionally been called into question. So while not endorsing his viewpoint, his article is fairly useful for getting up to speed on what the issues are. There is also a decent FAQ at [-mrl]


Someone in my workgroup sent around mail saying she was selling year 2000 entertainment books. What kind of deal do you find in a Y2K entertainment book?

Half price! Only two rifle bullets for a can of peaches in syrup. Recently found 8 oz. cans of peaches good as new. Some without labels. Usual price, four rifle bullets. Most standard gauges accepted. [-mrl]

Video Games (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

When I was a kid growing up my father worked for Monsanto Chemical. Every year as a perk to their employees they would rent out the local amusement and have the Monsanto Picnic. All the rides were free. But part of the fun was the Penny Arcade. They had a bunch of different minor concessions. They had a vending machine which for five cents would dispense pictures of aircraft like the Bell X-1. There probably were pinball machines, but I rarely played those. One game I did like was a sort of anti-aircraft gun. It was a green metal tube about a foot in diameter. It had handles with triggers and a sight at one end. You looked through the sight and you would see a scene of sky and ocean. Not very convincing looking aircraft would fly over the ocean and if you were aimed reasonably close to being aimed at the aircraft when you pulled the trigger the sky would flash red about as credibly as a red light bulb could make it. That was how you got points. I guess I liked playing the game at the time. Electronic games is one technology that has changed a great deal.

We passed by a video game parlor in Melbourne recently. It probably is no different from video parlor here in the US. We watched someone playing an EMPIRE STRIKES BACK game. The imagery was a lot more advanced. It really looked like this guy was in the movie. This guy playing the game was flying around wiping out these huge lumbering Imperial Walkers and these flying thingees and freeing friends and generally having a high old time. The 3-D effects look really good. That supposedly makes this game what they call "realistic." But I asked myself, what's wrong with this picture?

This is not what battle is all about. It cannot possibly be this easy. If there were two fliers on the same side for whom it was this easy that would be enough to wipe out the entire army of the other side. If there was only one guy for whom it was this easy on the other side it would not have been this easy for this guy. A more realistic view of what it really would be like to be in battle would be you would put in your fifty cents. Your speeder starts up, you fly thirty feet, there is a big red flash; the enemy got you; game over. But nobody would drop the next fifty cents in to try again.

This is not real war. This is the myth of war that the WWII movies wanted to present. And not just WWII movies have used this myth. From the beginning of time governments have wanted to convince the common people that war is great fun. You just go out there and you knock down those enemy soldiers one, two, three. And you win valuable hero points as you go. Maybe you even win medals. Oh boy. And people go out and they get killed. Before the Civil War the attitude of many people toward the war made it seem like a big-scale football game would to us. People thought it was a big fun game, and they would go out and teach the other side a lesson and come home with glory. It was not far into the war when both sides realized that it was going to be pretty nasty.

A more realistic view of what war is or can be like is what you see in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. It is a nightmare worse than most nightmares you could imagine. It think THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK video games have much more market potential than SAVING PRIVATE RYAN video games would. That is true even though PRIVATE RYAN games have even more potential to be realistic.

And the irony is that it really was the Vietnam generation who made video war games take off. These were people who went and fought and knew it was hell, or people who did not want to go because they knew it would be hell. But fake and easy war games got popular just as people were getting a serious lesson that real war is horrible.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not being as anti-war as I may sound here. I definitely believe that there are causes that are worth fighting for. And there are causes worth dying for, unfortunately. War is bad for the people who have to do the fighting, but it is not all by itself evil. Or if it is it can be a necessary evil. But we probably should stop fooling ourselves that it is great sport to fly through the legs of an Imperial Walker taking out enemy aircraft. Really these games are adjusted to feed the player's ego. If the player sneezes four of the enemy fall down dead. The game is made up of responses that are to battle what canned laughter is to humor. [-mrl]

MICKEY BLUE EYES (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: A callow young auctioneer finds out that the father of the woman he wants to marry is a mobster and he is marrying into a crime family. Hugh Grant is developing into a very uninteresting actor incapable of putting any depth into his characters. This film starts with a rudimentary plot and then just fills time until it has enough to make this a feature film length. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), 0 (-4 to +4)

Michael Felgate (played by Hugh Grant) is Manhattan art auctioneer with a mild, non-assertive personality. He lets the truckers he deals with walk all over him. He wants to marry Gina (Jean Tripplehorn) and she seems to love him, but she is strangely reticent to marry for reasons she will not say. When Michael goes to her father's bar and restaurant he finds out part of the reason why. Her father (James Caan) and her uncles make up a dangerous crime family. Gina is sure that if Michael marries into the family he will be pulled into the criminal activity. Mike is just as certain that there is no reason that he would do that. But almost immediately he is asked as a favor to use his auction house to auction off a garish painting created by one of the crime family members. This starts an escalating chain of reluctant favors and counter-favors and a chain of events that pull Mike into the whirlpool associating him closer and closer to organized crime.

The problem with this film is that it seems to have been written by formula. It started with a skeleton of a cliched plot and then apparently the writers started hanging jokes on it like ornaments on a Christmas tree. The jokes all have little to do with each other. The most that they have in common is that they use of screen time. One can almost see the writers sitting there saying, "Okay, now we have a 45-minute story. Let's throw in a comic FBI agent. Now we are up to 50 minutes...." Even then the central plot builds to a very predictable ending. Anyone surprised by the surprise ending is probably new to 1990s cinema.

Hugh Grant was charming early in his career with his boyish smile and youthful charm. But he seems incapable of stretching himself as an actor or leaving his comfort zone. In this film we care for his character about to the extent that we want to cuddle and protect a small child. Listening to him try to talk like a gangster is like watching a child trying to sound like an adult in a school play. It is cute but it is not really entertaining and shows very little accomplishment. Here we are not pulled into the plot or the irony of the situation and the jokes are not particularly perceptive. And worst of all they are rarely funny. The views we have of crime figures are largely cliched. That is part of the joke, that they are instantly recognizable as crime figures. That worked in THE FRESHMAN, but that film had a much better story behind it. James Caan provides the only interesting role interpretation and even he can not make things click.

This comedy overall seems tired with far too few jokes that hit home. It is for fans of Hugh Grant and nobody else. I give it a 4 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

Quote of the Week:

     Did you ever walk into a room and forget why
     you walked in?  I think that's how dogs spend
     their lives.
                                   -- Sue Murphy