MT VOID 08/04/00 (Vol. 19, Number 5)

MT VOID 08/04/00 (Vol. 19, Number 5)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/04/00 -- Vol. 19, No. 5

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.

Disney "Space" Series (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

In the mid-1950s Walt Disney's TV show did three imaginative documentaries on space travel. They were very popular and helped to inspire the space achievments of the next decade. Then they dropped from sight. They have never shown up anywhere and people have been lobbying Disney Enterprises to make them available again. They will be running on the Disney Channel August 8, 9, and 10 (late Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; VCR settings would be for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) respectively at 1 AM EDT. [-mrl]

Restaurants (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Okay, we are continuing our discussion of restaurants.

Mexican food is a prime example of a cuisine that has to be rendered inoffensive before it can be successful as restaurant food. It has sort of crossed over and become the mainstream food in many places in this country, particularly the South and the West, but it still has some people a little leery. I have been told that Mexican is the fastest growing ethnic cuisine in the US, but it is not clear to me it should be considered a single cuisine. Near where I live in New Jersey there are four different concepts of Mexican food vying for public patronage.

First there is the mass-produced fast food of Taco Bell. This is the most successful. Kids who would never think of eating spinach or quiche will hang out at a Taco Bell. It will never be as successful as Burger King, but for a successful chain the food is surprisingly exotic, featuring things like whipped beans inspired by someone who may have eaten real Mexican food once. I have actually seen in stores where everything sells for a dollar, Taco Bell brand taco sauce. I guess they thought somebody would want to be able to recreate the Taco Bell experience at home.

For the second type there are the serious gringo Mexican restaurants. These are not chains. Some of the dishes were inspired by real Mexican dishes. However, the food is distinctly different in style and flavor from what you might expect in Mexico. Perhaps they have this sort of food in the gringo resorts, but it is not what Mexicans eat at home. If you go into a little restaurant in Oaxaca, don't expect this sort of food.

Somewhere between these two types is the third type, the Mexican chain. In my area the popular chains are Chi-Chi's and On the Border. These are not fast food like Taco Bell, but they are still very plastic. Generally they have identical menus from one restaurant in the chain to the next. Do not expect to find tamales on the menu unless some MBA has statistics to show there is a nationwide demand for them based on test market figures. And let me assure you, there are no such statistics. In spite of the real Mexican-looking wall decorations and the giant margaritas at the bar, this is a lot like eating inside a computer.

Then we have the fourth kind of Mexican restaurant. One of the secrets of restaurant going is to find ethnic neighborhoods, particularly where the people don't earn very good salaries. Unbeknownst to even most of the acceptors in the area there is a small Mexican community very near Rutgers. And in this community there are restaurants. And you can go there if you are not threatened by the very real possibility that you might be the only person in restaurant speaking in English and that the jukebox is playing songs you never heard before sung in Spanish. Some of these restaurants do not even bother translating the menu into English. This is pretty authentic Mexican. This is to my admittedly uneducated eye the closest food to what we had in Mexico. Do I like the food? I have to say I put it roughly on a par with what we get in the second type of restaurants above. I know I should like it a whole lot more, but what can I say? I know myself pretty well and what I am is a gringo.

By the way, as a bonus it is priced for people who have not been able to get very good jobs. For about $8 you get a plate of food that will not quit. You can do that at Chi-Chi's but there will be less food and lower quality. Now if only they had food that good in the chains.

Next week I hope to have some things to say about what makes a decent ethnic food chain. [-mrl]

X-MEN (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have gotten so much response on my X-MEN review, all of it so similar, that I am going to write a single response for the notice.

I frequently review films that I have a special interest in. For example when I was growing up I was growing up I was a fan of Zorro. I have seen just about every English language Zorro movie. And I said that in my review of THE MASK OF ZORRO. The reason why is not just to brag that I am a completist, it is to tell my readers that they may have a very different reaction, not having such a special interest. I basically told people that they might not want to trust my opinion because all judgement is subjective and clearly I am biased toward Zorro films. Is THE MASK OF ZORRO really a good film and most of the public cannot appreciate it? Probably not. In any case I write my reviews for the general viewer. If the general viewer cannot trust my opinion on a film, I try to be very frank about it as I was with THE MASK OF ZORRO. I always give my true opinion of a film and if necessary I tell people where I am coming from. I always admit I am not objective. Nobody is.

The situation is reversed for the X-MEN film. This time I am the general viewer and I am still reviewing for the general viewer. That is good. I do not need to make any disclaimers. But there are a lot of people around me who have been big fans of the X-MEN comic book. The response I hear from these people is that this was really a terrific representation of the great comic book. I do not doubt it. It may even make it a great feat to have made such a film. But that does not make it a film I can recommend to your maiden aunt in Pittsburgh. You may see something special in X-MEN the way I did with THE MASK OF ZORRO, but it is not great cinema. The film may lose points if it is not really faithful to the source material, but the critic should be reviewing a film, not a film based on a comic book. [-mrl]

Quote of the Week:

     If you are gong to sin, sin against God, not the
     bureaucracy.  God will forgive you but the
     bureaucracy won't.
                                   -- Hyman Rickover