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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 02/02/01 -- Vol. 19, No. 31
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.
Last week I was discussing Phillip J. Longman's article "The Slowing Pace of Progress." A copy is available at http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/001225/change.htm. While I found fault with some of his arguments, I had to agree with his conclusions that the rate of progress could well be slowing down.
In some ways the future is slipping through our fingers. One thing that is causing this is the sad fact that we are no longer funding science the way we once did. More and more money has been cut back from the National Science Foundation. NASA is on a very tight budget. And engineers are not paid well either. In the 1950s, engineering was a respected job that paid well. In the second half of this century salaries for engineering have not kept pace with the economy. Productivity has increased in engineering but that has only meant we could get by with fewer engineers. Professions like law and medicine have paced the economy much closer. We are not investing in our future as much as we used to do.
Longman points out that our lifestyles are not changing as fast as they once did. He says we have nice tools now like the Personal Digital Assistant--e.g., the Palm Pilot. That makes things easier, he points out but it does not actually alter the human condition. The lightbulb had a much greater effect on the human condition. It meant that people could make use of more of the day. Evening hours no longer had to be so sedentary a time of day. The electrical motor and the gasoline engine had profound impacts on our life style. Actually I am one of the few people I know who feels that his Personal Digital Assistant really did alter the character of my life, but few people use it to the degree that I do. And I will concede that the engines, motors, and lightbulbs have a much greater effect. Computers have done a lot more to revolutionize business than they have to home life.
The implications are that society may in fact be slowing down. We see a younger generation that is highly computer literate and to our older eyes that looks like progress coming hard and fast. But simply using the tools really does not bring progress. The question is whether or not they are innovative. It is the rate of innovation that brings progress and not simply the ability to comprehend the current tools. And certainly there will be some who are innovative, but it is not really clear that the rate of innovation is not dying off. When the younger generation gets their hands on a computer are they reconfiguring it to make it faster or are they just playing Tomb Raider?
Part of what is happening may be that we are becoming a little too fearful of the costs of progress. I am not talking about money but about lives. When our country expanded into the West, it was not unusual to lose a dozen people to poor planning, perhaps starvation, perhaps being killed by Indians. And the spread continued. How long was the spread into space derailed by the loss of the seven Challenger astronauts? We should not squander lives carelessly in the pursuit of progress, but we have to learn to accept that some lives may be nobly lost. How many people were lost to smoking or to drunken drivers that same year? And what do we have to show for that?
If we become a society that lives well off of the progress made by earlier generations, we will simply stagnate or worse we will begin to fall backward. My fear is that that will happen and we will just sit here on Earth using up resources until there are no more. I think I would rather see the human race go with a bang from a technological disaster than from a whimper death like that. [-mrl]
L'ATLANTIDE (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
This 1961 film seems to appear in the United States most frequently under the title JOURNEY BENEATH THE DESERT. It is based on Pierre Benoit's 1920 novel ATLANTIDA. That novel is heavily derivative of H. Rider Haggard's SHE. Both books had multiple silent adaptations and each was adapted into a film in the 1960s. (SHE was adapted also once in the 1930s.) Each is about a lost civilization found in Africa and ruled over by a beautiful but evil female tyrant. In this film three men crash a helicopter in the Sahara only to find that caverns underground hide the lost civilization of Atlantis. This desert was once under water and Atlantis was then an island, but the ocean receded and sands covered the city. Antinea, the evil queen of Atlantis, holds the men prisoner. They are desperate to escape knowing that the desert above their heads will soon be used for a nuclear test that will obliterate the lost city.
The Italian/French production of L'ATLANTIDE was directed by classic director Edgar G. Ulmer who earlier directed films like THE BLACK CAT and DETOUR. Nearly every aspect of this film falls short of its potential. The inexpensive sets are small and lack imagination. One unimaginative set just has a curtain as a background and a vase in the foreground. The musical score is weak and creates little emotion in the viewer. The model work is poor and frequently obvious. The men's costumes are unimaginative robes and the women's are just skimpy. The acting is of the quality of that of a Machiste muscle man movie. The dialog in the dubbed English version is at best uninspired and occasionally overripe. All of these factors make it hard to meet this film halfway. A film like this needs to grip the imagination but this one never quite achieves a feel of H. Rider Haggard it desperately requires. This rates a 4 on the 0 to 10 and a low 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
This film has been one I had been curious about for decades. I finally sprang for a copy from Sinister Cinema. It is a French- Italian production though it takes place near Amsterdam. A writer comes to a small town to write an article on what the locals call "the Mill of the Stone Women." It is no longer a functioning mill. The inside has been turned into a clockwork display with moving stone statues of women in sadistically macabre poses. The writer becomes entranced with the owner's beautiful but fatally ill daughter. The story is slow-paced but atmospheric. Many of the visual images are striking and make good use of images of stone statuary. The acting is not engaging and is further hampered by poor dubbing. The twisted interior of the mill recalls the expressionism of early German and American horror films. MILL OF THE STONE WOMEN, Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY, and Roger Corman's HOUSE OF USHER are stylistically similar though all were made in 1960. The setting is unusual but the plot when one finds out what is going on is one very commonly used in 1960s horror films from Europe. There are some decent touches, but not enough to put this film on anybody's must see list. I rate it a 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Quote of the Week:
There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots. -- E. L. Kersten