MT VOID 12/07/01 (Vol. 20, Number 23)

MT VOID 12/07/01 (Vol. 20, Number 23)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/07/01 -- Vol. 20, No. 23

Table of Contents

Big Cheese: Mark Leeper, Little Cheese: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Windycon XXVIII:

The Fan Guests of Honor at Windycon XXVIII (November 8-10, 2002) will be Mark and Evelyn Leeper. See for more details. [-ecl]

An Overlooked Example (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

A few issues back I was saying that science fiction might get more into "Alternate Physics" where the basic constants are modified. Ken Howard (the club member, not the actor who played Jefferson in 1776) points out that on the fringes of this idea are the Mr. Tompkins stories of George Gamow. These are a little closer to scientific explanations than actual adventures in an alternate physical universe. But they are stories with characters a little better fleshed out than A, B, and C. [-mrl]

National Testing and Research Center of the Consumers Union (part 2) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Last week I was talking about our visit to those guardians of good advice for the pocketbook, the Consumers Union. I wish to remind people that though I poke a little fun at what these people do, they do have my undying respect. They do a function that I consider very useful. These are the people who know what has to be done to test things like popcorn. How would you test grape jelly? If you were testing grape jelly, what would you test? Who knows? Try coming up with ten tests for grape jelly. It isn't easy, is it? But I digress. I was talking about their business meeting.

There was a man getting up announcing the results of the raffle and talking about fundraising. I might add (because they did not) that a raffle is probably not a good investment for the consumer, unless you consider the cause to justify it. But they probably figure that a raffle is a "painless" way to raise money. Financially pressured organizations are all much the same. They may not know what is best, but I do. It is going to be Bingo Night at the Consumer's Union.

Our host, James Guest, (or was our guest James Host?) talked about how CU reacted to September 11. They had all this food they had tested they could give to WTC rescue. Well, probably the most thoroughly tested food people did not want. The stuff that they use in the dishwasher tests I guess they just throw out. I hope so, anyway.

Guest talked about how they are making a new structure for changing environment. They were shortening test cycles. They wanted to be sure they could get up-to-date test results. They were working on reports that could be downloaded to a Palm Pilot. They said they had been hurt by the slow economy and fall of the stock market. This was starting to sound like being at work. The next you will hear about is that they will be "strategizing their priorities," "implementing their visioning while facilitating empowerment," and "concentrating on the global market to optimize their core objectives." In other words, they will have massive layoffs.

They did have massive lawsuits, it was reported. They had been testing Sport Utility Vehicles and they reported this one unacceptable because it tipped over. The manufacturer turned around and sued them. Some people may WANT an SUV that turns over. It may be a valuable feature. Anyway, an SUV manufacturer decided to draw more attention to their lousy design by suing the CU for bearing the bad news. I mean it is not like anyone is going to believe that the Consumers Union went into the test prejudiced. If you think CU is biased, you would not be reading their magazine in the first place. Still, American auto manufacturers accuse CU of being prejudiced in favor of the Japanese. They just had a Japanese auto manufacturer accuse them of being prejudiced in favor of American companies. Both make about as much sense. Apparently they have a very good record of winning these lawsuits. As they say about the suits against them, "the truth is a strong defense." I think the auto companies may be suing them only as a nod of the head to acknowledge the bad report and to be able to tell their stockholders that they did protest the bad news with massive lawsuits.

Next came the question-and-answer period. Why is it that when there is a question and answer period, nobody has any questions, but lots of people have speeches they want to make and suggestions for the magazine? The first speaker wanted more coverage on prescription drug plans. The next person complained that there was too much information on high-cost cars like BMW and Lexus: how bad can a car like that be, he asked, just to be asking a question. Even if audience members want to make a statement, shouldn't they be forced phrase it like a question? Isn't it easy enough to make every statement they want to make a question? Wouldn't this at least slow them down? Where is Alex Trebek when you need him?

The panel of experts explained that there is a real strategy to testing. They tested high-end cars to know what features, particularly safety features, are available and which they should expect should become available in the lower end cars. Also, there are a whole bunch of staff members who want to get their hands on a Lexus. But not for the reason you might think. It is their version of how they can be implementing their visioning while facilitating empowerment.

Next week I will return to the fun guys at the Consumers Union. [-mrl]

ABCD (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A second-generation (Asian) Indian brother and sister, each about ready to marry, find that their Indian culture affects how they see other people and how they make choices about whom to marry. Meanwhile, their mother has a hard time not managing their decisions as she would have in India. This film is mostly in familiar territory, but writer and director Krutin Patel saves the film from being too Hollywoodish. The main characters are confused and frequently not very likable. The view of Indian culture in America will be appealing, particularly to those less familiar with it. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

The title is meaningful in the Indian community. ABCD stands for "American-Born Confused Desi." An ABCD is a Desi (pronounced "day-SHE", an Asian Indian) born in the US and torn between the customs of India and those of the US. ABCD is the story of Nina (played by Sheetal Sheth) and Raj (Faran Tahir), a sister and brother, who work in Manhattan, just an hour's drive and half a world away from their gently manipulative mother Anju (Madhur Jaffrey), living in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Nina is attractive and outgoing. She is a sassy version of the Amy Irving character in CROSSING DELANCY. She wants no part of being an Indian, preferring the sexually promiscuous modern life of an American. Just now she has dumped one boy friend for thinking of her as Indian and has rediscovered Sam (Rex Young), a lover of eighteen months earlier. Anju would like to fix her up with Ashok, a much more traditional Indian who was a barely-remembered childhood friend. To Nina, Ashok represents everything she is rebelling against.

Much closer to his mother is Raj, who sits for hours talking to Anju in her porch swing. Raj is a talented executive in an accounting firm. He works with a college friend. In another familiar plotline, Raj is very good with accounting and out- performs his friend, but his friend, who looks less foreign, seems to be getting all the breaks from upper management. Meanwhile Raj has been engaged two years to a talented Indian woman Tejal (Adriane Forlana Erdos), but cannot bring himself to set a date to marry her.

ABCD was made two years ago when writer director Krutin Patel was just 33. He takes some of the standard approaches to showing us the Indian culture in America. Primarily he seduces the viewer with appealing photography of Indian food. [Following the film my wife and I changed our plans and had dinner in the same Indian neighborhood where Anju probably would have shopped.] We also see an Indian wedding with its very different look from what one character calls the "stuffy" look of a church wedding. A short sequence shows us a classical Indian dance by Tejal. A positive touch is that Patel does not over-romanticize his characters. The natural inclination is to expect both siblings to be drawn closer to their culture and find happiness in being Indian. Patel knows enough to resist such a pat approach. Rather than give us easy answers, Patel chooses not to give answers at all. The film unfolds realistically enough that it could have been based on real people that Patel knew. His characters are three-dimensional and in no way heroes. At times Raj is not very likable usually Nina is not. The question of assimilation or of retaining the mother culture, whatever the mother culture happens to be, is a familiar one. But if it is a familiar question, at least the view will be applicable to viewers far beyond the Indian community and people of many different ethnic backgrounds should see themselves in Patel's looking glass.

While the situations and some of the style of ABCD are familiar, Patel is able to find truth and believability in his characters. I rate this film a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. ABCD should not be confused with AMERICAN DESI, a film released earlier this year. If the name Jaffrey is familiar, Madhur Jaffrey, who plays the mother, is the former wife of familiar Indian actor Saeed Jaffrey. [-mrl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Insanity: a perfectly rational adjustment to the 
                                          --R. D. Laing

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