MT VOID 02/16/01 (Vol. 19, Number 33)

MT VOID 02/16/01 (Vol. 19, Number 33)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 02/16/01 -- Vol. 19, No. 33

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.

Sleep Apnea:

I was describing last week how I was headed toward a sleep study when I got enveloped in a thick fog. I had thought I had missed my turn and had turned around once returning to try to find my turnoff.

I was fairly sure of where I was and was sure there was another route up a road near me. But that also was a road that would not have much light near it and I was not sure if I had passed it or not. The heck with it. I would go back to my first route and continue up the road hoping eventually to find something I recognized to back I went and just continued to drive up the road further than I expected to ever have to go. This time I clearly saw the turnoff I was looking for the first time. It was marked by a church that was illuminated. I can only conclude that in the fog and with the slow driving I misjudged how far I had traveled and had gone a shorter distance than I thought I had. Fog makes everything look different. Now I was on the right road for the hospital.

Why do emergency rooms seem to attract the poor? Perhaps the wealthier have their own doctors to go to, but the room seemed like it was made up of mostly the disadvantaged and disabled. It looked like an unemployment office, except for the occasional injuries I could see. The TV was playing a situation comedy with liberal doses of annoying laugh track.

Ever wonder how they do laugh tracks? What are these people laughing at? Well, years ago there was a comedian on television named Red Skelton. He would do his show in front of a live audience. Frequently he would do silent pantomimes. Somebody collected the sounds of all these laughs and categorized them. He then just mixed them in over the soundtrack of taped sitcoms, et voila... the world's most receptive and cooperative audience. Now most of the audience and Skelton himself are dead. So when you hear the audience laughing at the antics of this year's twenty- one-year-old comedic genius, it is the dead who have been resurrected to chortle on cue who are doing most of the laughing.

I told the desk that I was to go to the sleep disorder laboratory and they asked me to have a seat, they would call security. Security was supposed to escort me to the laboratory. I sat for about twenty minutes until it was clear they were not doing anything to help me. It was now about 9:20 PM and I was late, so I asked at the desk where to find security. They pointed me in he right direction and off I went. I found them. It was a few more minutes and they brought someone to escort me.

Up we went to the sleep disorder lab. The guard said that he would turn me over to someone I will call Sandy. Sandy took me to where I would be sleeping. Now the brochure that had been sent out to explain what would be happening showed a man sleeping in what looked like a nice hotel room. The room I was taken to looked just like a hospital room except that it had only one bed. Sandy told me that I would be left alone and that I should change into my pajamas, then to come to the room next to mine. I changed and put on a robe and slippers.

Sandy sounded like she had been given a set of messages to give to me and every word she said sounded as if she had memorized it. She gave the words all the expression and all the personal feel that an airline stewardess gives to telling the passengers where the exits are and how to use an oxygen mask. But I mean every word out of her mouth sounded like that.

I had come prepared. I had brought a book to read, a cassette (the brochure claimed the room had a VCR though I never saw one), and a Walkman. Anything I would need if I had trouble sleeping. The brochure even said that you could bring your own pillow and while I thought that was a little extreme, I had brought my pillow in the name of science.

Sandy explained that she would be attaching electrical leads all over my head and face to monitor my breathing as I slept and to monitor my brain activity. She would also be watching me on a television she had there. Halfway through the night she would probably wake me up and put a CPAP on me. A CPAP (pronounced "sea-pap") is a Constant Pressure Air Pump. It fits over the user's nose and its pressure keeps the user's air passages open. I hope that they have reasonably miniaturized it. I don't so much mind going to sleep looking like Emmett Kelly, I do not want to have to stick my head in a machine.

So how did the study go when push came to shove? More next week. [-mrl]

HANNIBAL (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: Our third outing with America's favorite psychopath shows us more of the damage he can do but little of the inner man or how he thinks. This is a stylistically visualized crime story but nothing like what the fans of Hannibal Lecter had been hoping for. HANNIBAL is even an occasionally slow crime film punctuated with some over-the-top gross-out scenes. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), 0 (-4 to +4)

Thomas Harris has written four novels and each has been adapted for the screen. The last three have dealt with serial killers and casting his shadow over all three is the figure of Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychotic who triumphs over the forces of the law not only because he is brilliant, but because he thinks in an entirely different way from sane people. He understands other psychotic killers because he is both a psychiatrist and a psychotic. His thinking is perfectly logical, but it is just not the way a sane person would think. Lecter has been getting larger amounts of attention in each successive book. In RED DRAGON, made into the film MANHUNTER, he is on stage for just a short time, but still manages to dominate the story. He gives the story the feeling that in some senses psychopaths are a form of superior intellects who are capable of incredible feats and who understand each other in ways we normals cannot. Lecter has a major part in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, though like RED DRAGON it is in large part as a consultant about another serial killer. At last comes HANNIBAL, a novel and film about Lecter himself.

One would certainly feel that this at last is the film in which we really delve into Lecter's aberration. But the unfortunate irony is that is not at all what happens. If anything each film tantalizes us that we will be learning more about Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and with each film we are more distanced from the character, even as he is more dangled in front of our eyes. In the first film we can see how he makes deductions based on obscure facts like what blood looks like by moonlight. We also see how he plays mind games with his captors. In the second story we learn a little more about the mind games and in the novel more things like how his sense of smell contributes to his success. But in the end we have learned less than what we learned the first time around. Now we have a whole film about the recapture of Lecter and he is turned into a cipher. He is an inscrutable monster who can kill with a touch and whose culinary tastes run to gourmet cannibalism, but we are never allowed into his mind. In the end we really do not know why he made the most unexpected choice of the film. One is left to wonder if we are not going to come to understand Lecter, what is the point of sitting through the film?

Director Ridley Scott has in HANNIBAL given us a stylish box, but the box is empty. We have a story with settings among the upper crust of the United States and in Rome, beautiful and old, quite a change from the tawdry world of Buffalo Bill's cellar in the previous film. The story on the other hand is really little more than a police and crime film spiced with a few gross out scenes. This is a film for people who do not mind a little bit of gore with their entertainment, but who do not have stomachs strong enough to take the Shakespearean prose of the much parallel Anthony Hopkins gore-fest TITUS. TITUS is a film that is superior to HANNIBAL not just overall, but in every single aspect that comes to mind.

As HANNIBAL opens Clarice Starling (this time played by Julianne Moore) is involved in an FBI operation that goes wrong. In spite of Agent Starling doing everything right she is later held responsible for the failure. (And isn't that a familiar plot?) Particularly negative on Starling is a member of the oversight committee, Paul Krendler (Ray Liota). It could be the end of her career or the FBI could hush it up. They will do the latter if Starling is willing to go back on the Lecter case. It seems that a very rich and influential recluse, a living victim of Lecter (played unrecognizably by Gary Oldman), is putting pressure on the government to capture famous psychopath. Meanwhile Lecter (again Anthony Hopkins) is living the good life as Dr. Fell, an art expert in Rome. Apparently he is killing just occasionally to protect his identity. But when a local policeman deduces who he is there begins a cat and mouse game in which is it not clear who is the cat and who is the mouse.

It goes without saying that Hopkins is impressive as Hannibal Lecter in a role that he must have known would come been practicing and since his role in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Still perhaps he dissipated some of his maniacal energy in TITUS. Julianne Moore has perhaps a tad less vulnerability than Jodi Foster, but once the story gets going (and a case could be made to say that is ninety minutes into the film) one can easily picture either delivering the other's lines. Gary Oldman seems to feel that the screen has seen too much of him already and seems to be specializing in the kinds of characters of whom you say at the end of the film, "You mean THAT was GARY OLDMAN????? I had no idea." In that sense he is sort of like a younger John Hurt. Or maybe even an Eddie Parker.

As usual Ridley Scott takes a great deal of care with the visual style of the film. To give the film an expressionist feel he overcrowds scenes with detail difficult to take in in its entirety. As he usually does he keeps his scenes smoky or very dark. This is a very noir-ish threatening and shadowy world and Lecter likes to hide in the dark. Occasionally there is a witty allusion. A scene from the point of view of animals in a chamber about to be released from their stalls is shot to look like they are within the walls of an arena in GLADIATOR. Sadly, Scott gives in to commercialism giving us multiple product placements. Perhaps another visual joke is that in Rome, Dr. Fell dresses and looks like Truman Capote. In another place a newspaper photo of Lecter has had the eyes enhanced to make him look more like a demon.

In HANNIBAL Lecter is reduced to being a sort of an extreme version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The film pays more attention to his cannibalism than his brilliance. In spite of Scott's visual style, HANNIBAL is little better than a prosaic monster movie. I rate it 4 on the 0 to 10 scale and a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale.

The reference to Doctor Fell is a reference to a famous verse written by student Thomas Brown about the Dean of Christchurch:

          I do not like thee, Doctor Fell,
          The reason why I cannot tell.
          But this I know, I know full well,
          I do not like thee Doctor Fell.


Quote of the Week:

    You learn more from ten days of agony than from ten
    years of content.
                                   -- Sally Jesse Raphael