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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/13/01 -- Vol. 20, No. 2
Table of Contents
Well, we discovered last week that the where we had intended to send the MT VOID from imposed a limit on the size of outgoing email, and that that limit was less than the size of last week's MT VOID. (Admittedly, last week's was the largest we had published in at least two years.) While we will probably be using a different machine for email in the future, this raises the rather frightening possibility that the MT VOID could become a semi-weekly rather than a weekly newszine. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Also, note that the Big Cheese has a new email address. [-ecl]
The Speeding Up of Time (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
(This article contains nothing salacious, but it would be best that children under 18 not read this. You will be finding out about this soon enough. You are on your honor not to read what follows. It is just the same as if it were a web site.)
Well, here we are. Can you believe it? The summer is about half over already and it feels like it just began. You have probably asked yourself where has all the time gone? Now a recent discovery of science has the answer. We have all known subjectively for years that as you get older time speeds up. When you were young holidays always were far away. If you were waiting for Halloween or Christmas it took forever to come. And we all remember how long summers seemed when we were children. On that first day of summer you had almost an eternity before school started again. You had what seemed like years in which your time was your own. Later as you grew up time started telescoping down on you. By the time you reached college a summer was already much shorter. You probably got yourself a job, stuck with it a while and the end came faster than you realized it would. Then it was back to school. By the time you got to be an adult summertime went by very fast. It was like this year. You look at your calendar and ask yourself where has the time gone. When you were a kid half of a summer was so big you could not see the beginning or the end from the Fourth of July. What is going on here?
For a long time science has thought that the speeding up of time was easy to explain. As you grow older you see the same intervals of time, but now you have a longer life of experience to compare them to. When you were a child summer seemed long because you had had only eight or nine years to compare that length of time to. It was thought that as an adult with a much greater stretch of life to compare to, summer only seems shorter by comparison. It is an easy explanation and as often happens an easy false explanation hid the not so obvious truth. Subjectivity was never a totally satisfying or convincing explanation for the phenomenon. We all had the feeling that something else was going on. Now it can be revealed. There is another explanation, but it has been suppressed because it is just too depressing. I am afraid I am going to have to let you know what it going on. But donít forget you did not read it here.
Hold on to your hats. Here it comes. It is not an illusion. Time is actually speeding up. You cannot prove it easily and it is not obvious because we measure the passing of time with clocks and watches that are themselves speeding up. Our subjective measures of passing time do distort our perception of that time, but not as much as we had been assuming it did.
What gives us the feeling that this measure of time is subjective? Well, your children think that these summers last a long time, just like you did when you were young. It feels long to them as children and short to you as an adult. But what do they know? They were not around to experience the really long summers when you were young. To them this is a really long summer because they have never experienced what summer that actually does seem really long is like. But hereís a shock: you havenít either. What you thought was a long summer was really summer just flying by. Ask your parents. Summers were REALLY even longer when they were young. They were three months like ours, but they were three much longer months. And your parents felt it at the time. They just thought that what felt like the shorter summer when you were young only felt that way because they were older.
If you could go back to Ancient Rome, summers were like what we think of as eons. No wonder they had time to build all those roads. The Roman children knew that the summers were long. Perhaps they did not realize how long they were, but they seemed long to them. Roman adults lived through these huge summers and clucked their tongues and said in Latin how fast the year seemed to be going. "Tempus fugit," they would say, to coin a phrase. Here it is already the Ides of the Month of Julius. Before you know it, we will be into the Month of Augustus. The merchants in the marketplace are already showing their winter togas. It will be cold in Rome soon. We better reserve a place in Pompeii. But if you were there with your time sense it would seem like the rest of the Month of Julius would be time enough time to walk to the nearest star and back.
But the truly sad thing is that your children will have barely any time at all. Time has sped up so much that even this pitifully short summer will be long by their standards. When they are adults twenty years from now (or seventeen months adjusting for inflation) their lives will be going by so fast they will have no time for anything.
Where will it all end? Nobody knows. We have calculated there is a subjective 317 years left to the end of time. That is the convergence point as you total an infinite number of years each going by at a fraction (less than one) of the time the previous year took. 317 years. Then what happens? [-mrl]
SEXY BEAST (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Gal is a 50s-ish London cockney gangster who has retired to Spain. His old associates want him for one last job and send the vicious Don to give him an offer he canít refuse. A standout performance by Ben Kingsley as Don cannot save what is essentially a set of cliches recycled from old Westerns. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), 0 (-4 to +4)
Roger Ebert asks in his review OF SEXY BEAST, "Who would have guessed that the most savage mad-dog frothing gangster in recent movies would be played by... Ben Kingsley?" My response would be that anyone who has seen Alan Arkin in WAIT UNTIL DARK, Henry Fonda in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, or Anthony Hopkins in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS should have guessed it. They should know that the way for a film to create a really creepy sociopath is cast someone who generally plays mild, sympathetic, or even ineffectual character roles. The same characteristics that make an actor seem gentle in most of his roles can work in his favor when a role calls for him to be fierce and vicious. That is the principle that works for Kingsley in SEXY BEAST.
Gary "Gal" Dove (played by Ray Winstone) has retired from a London career of crime and is living on a luxurious villa in Spain. Life has become a routine of sunning himself and relaxing. But his paradise is about to be shattered by a one-two-punch. The first punch is a boulder that comes rolling down the hill next to the villa. The second punch comes from Galís past. Back in London gang boss Teddy Bass (Ian McShane, TVís Lovejoy) is planning to break into a safety deposit room in a bank and he wants Gal. He sends his most rabid henchman Don Logan (Ben Kingsley) to fetch Gal. Don will accept any decision Gal makes from "yes" to "certainly." However, if Gal says "no" Don will do whatever it takes to turn it into a yes including threatening Guyís ex-porn- star wife DeeDee (Amanda Redman). In the meantime Don knows just how to get under everybodyís skin. Kingsley makes Don a compact package of fury and nastiness.
There are some serious problems in Louis Mellisís and David Scintoís script that should have been caught before filming. When we see the actual crime we have no idea why Gal was so important to its success. Beyond an ability to use skin-diving gear, no special talents are required of him. Any local hood could have done what Gal is needed for. Additionally the crime involves digging from a swimming pool to the bank vault, flooding the vault. No only could they have let the water out of the pool and avoided the complication altogether, but there is by far too much water to be accounted for by what was in the pool.
In spite of the provocative title, the story is cliched and overly familiar. I know I have seen all the plot elements of SEXY BEAST in old Westerns like THE LAW AND JAKE WADE. The story is usually of the reformed outlaw, a Robert Taylor type, who has hung up his guns and is trying for a life of peaceful respectability. The old gang, however, wants to do one more job with their old buddy and sends a rabid Richard Widmark type to go and git Ďim. It is not a great plot. In SEXY BEAST even the plot twists have gray beards. Perhaps the film has a little more respectability because it was made not as a Western but as a stylish British gangster film. It is an old plot dressed up to look new.
If the plot is old, at least the style is creative. This is director Jonathan Glazerís first film, but he has reputedly done some notable TV ads for Guinness Stout. His style does have some unexpected touches including some very odd dream sequences. Cinematographer Ivan Bird uses a lot of half lit scenes. We see one side of a personís faces. But the other side fades into the darkness, a sort of metaphor for the half-world these characters in-habit. Half of everything that is happening is also kept hidden.
We Yanks will have a hard time with some of the dialog. At least in my theater it was difficult to make out the words with the quiet speaking, the heavy accents, and the cockney language.
SEXY BEAST is a very and familiar minor plot lent respectability in the US by being done in what is here a still somewhat novel genre, the London crime film. The plot may be new to British crime films, but it would be overly familiar as a Western. Further respectability comes from Ben Kingsleyís high-powered performance. I give it a 4 on the 0 to 10 scale and a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty. -- George Bernard Shaw
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