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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 11/10/00 -- Vol. 19, No. 19
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.
Videotape (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I heard a commercial on TV from a certain Church that shall remain nameless, but usually associated with a certain Western state. Basically they will send you a free religious tract in videotape form. I guess this is keeping up with the times. They say this Thanksgiving people will be watching a videotape that will "touch their hearts and change their lives." I cannot see volunteering to get a religious tract, unless maybe to get a reusable videotape out of it. But I love the line in the ad "and best of all the tape is free." I figure that with the effort to send the tape and the cost of materials, if they were selling it they might want to change maybe $3. So you save that $3 getting it free. And they say that's the best part. They must figure that touching your family's hearts and changing their lives is almost as good as saving $3. I guess touching hearts and changing lives comes in on the open market at a value of about $2.70. [-mrl]
Election (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Originally I had planned to talk about something else this week. Chili, actually. But this is the wrong week for that. Everybody else is talking about the really unique election, so I will also. Back the day after Halloween I remember thinking that it would be nice to go forward one week in time, to November 8, and find out who won the election. Good thing I didn't waste the time travel.
I have seen little holes growing in our national infrastructure. It bothers me that once we had the capability to put people on the moon and we genuinely have lost that ability. Overall intellectual acumen in the country had gone downhill a great deal but now is on the incline again. Thank goodness. Lots of things that used to be reliable now break too easily. I never thought that one of the things that we have lost is our ability to run a National Election.
I have to admit that there is a sort of bitter irony in our election this week. America is the champion of free and honest elections worldwide. We tell other countries that in the name of human rights we want to send observers to oversee their elections. We set high standards, and do not get me wrong, we really should. The sad and scary thing is that is that not every election in this country meets our own high standards. Perhaps we should have international observers watching our elections. There is sloppiness in our process of asking our people what government they want. Apparently the sort of irregularities that people are seeing in the Florida polls is not new, they just never have been noticed before. They were not that important. If one of the candidates had a clear lead and Florida did not have the importance it has this year, most people would have shrugged off the stories of Election Day problems. Not so this year when circumstance makes it very important to get the vote precisely right. The Florida polling system has become the O-ring of American politics. Their small failures led to big disasters. And who do we have to thank for discovering the problems? Ralph Nader, doing what he does best. He is finding flaws in the system. I figure he has turned up eight major flaws in the Florida election system.
I had thought of writing a humorous editorial here because at first sight this sounds like a very funny situation. I am sure the likes of Jay Leno are having a field day wisecracking about what is going on. But the Constitution is carefully written so that you can never have two different people each with a legal claim to the highest office. That is the sort of thing that frequently leads to civil wars. I can just imagine an army of Gore supporters fighting an army of Bush supporters. Scary thought. And let's face it, the great majority of the arms are on the latter side.
Personally I would hope that what comes out of this incident is the abolition of the Electoral College. It was established so that there would be some control by the ruling class over the will of the people. Some demagogue might come along and convinces the majority of the American people that he is a combination of the finest parts of Jesus, Batman, and Will Rogers. But the members of the Electoral College are educated and in theory can't be fooled. So we have a system in which the people do not choose the President, they choose the people who do have the power. It is a check on the power of the common people. But it is one that is terribly out of date. First of all it is an embarrassment. When I was in China envious locals would ask me if the people really did choose the President. I lied and said they did. It is embarrassing to tell them that in this bastion of Democracy it is not really the people who choose the President. Further if we had a popular vote the vagaries of Florida's polls would be much less likely to be important. The uncounted Florida votes are at nowhere near enough to reverse the popular vote. Another reason that the Electoral College is an embarrassment is that it does just the opposite of what people are claiming it does. I have heard several people claim that the election situation demonstrated that every vote counts in a democracy. That's the bunk. Really what it shows the world is that with states having winner-take-all systems with the electoral college, some people's votes can be worth a lot more than other people's votes.
Regardless of who wins, the final National Election of the 20th Century will have to be one of the most interesting of the century and may well drag on with implications that will shadow the next four years. As a Democrat, I cannot help but wonder. After eight years of the Republican Machine taking every innuendo about the Presidency and turning it into a national headline, I just wonder what that machine would have made of this incident had the tables been reversed. I mean, Bush was declared victor in a state where there were so many voting irregularities almost all of which by an odd coincidence seemed to help Bush and in which Bush's brother holds the highest political office. Had the table been reversed we would have heard about it from the Republicans for years to come. There is smoking gun there enough for any headline hound. [-mrl]
MEN OF HONOR (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: No disrespect to the hero this film is about, but the film is a lot like a lot of other films. The characters are such cliches it is hard to believe they are based on real people. DeNiro does a standout job as racist turned and turning good guy. Film is competently made and well-directed. Rating: high +1
THE DISH (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: This is a real winner of a comedy from Australia, based on fact. Parkes, Australia was turned upside down when its radio telescope was chosen by NASA to receive the TV signals from Apollo 11. A nice comedy of characters and discussion of the value of science. Rating: high +2
POSSIBLE WORLDS (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: A complex science fiction story with a lot of beautiful visual images, but in the end totally confusing and almost totally incomprehensible. It deals with a murder in which a brain was stolen and a man who seems to be able to place himself into parallel universes and perhaps has been everybody in the world. I never caught on entirely but it was very nicely filmed by Jonathan Freeman. Rating: 0
HEY! RAM (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: In the days prior to partition in India a mild man sees his wife raped and murdered by Muslims in Hindu-Muslim riots. He blames Gandhi's political policies and is groomed to be an assassin to kill Gandhi. The story is handled as a historical drama in the conventions of Indian neighborhood films (i.e., it includes songs and comedy!), but it also presents both sides of the issues, not just those the filmmaker would like accepted. Strange by our standards, but also a very powerful film. Rating: high +2
THE MONKEY'S MASK (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: A very thin mystery story with a lesbian detective. Not really a very good mystery story but a film that can be enjoyed by anybody who likes seeing naked ladies. This is a film with strong sexual content and a rather indifferent TV-level mystery story. Columbo is a better detective story but is not so much fun to look at. Rating: -1
THE WEDDING (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: The events leading up to and during a big social event with several plot lines going at once. This is a popular format for Eastern European comedies. In this case it is a wedding. A little drama, a little sex, a lot of comedy. Passable, but nothing really special. Rating: 0
PLACIDO RIZZOTTO (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: True but overly familiar tale, albeit true story, of one courageous man standing up to the Mafia. The star is not the plot but the atmosphere and topography of Corleone, Sicily. The film gives some insight into the how the relatively rudimentary Mafia operated in its native Sicily. Rating: high +1
THE HIT (a film review in bullet list form by Mark R. Leeper from the Toronto International Film Festival):
Capsule: A 1984 crime film from Stephen Frears. Ten years ago Willie betrayed his gang to the law. He has been hiding in Spain, and now the gang has found him and wants to take him to Paris to be killed. Two assassins are sent for the job and the three are in for some days of mind-game playing Rating: high +1
Quote of the Week:
The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. -- George Bernard Shaw