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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/29/04 -- Vol. 23, No. 18
Table of Contents
Leeperhouse Film Festival: SPIRITED AWAY:
On Wednesday, November 3, at 7 PM we will be showing at the Leeperhouse Hayao Miyazaki's SPIRITED AWAY. While there is room, all are invited, but please let us know beforehand if you are coming. (We need to be sure there are enough chairs, etc.).
Hayao Miyazaki, Japan's premier anime director, created magical worlds (mostly) of his own in children's fantasies like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, KIKI'S DELIVERY SERVICE, and PRINCESS MONONOKE. SPIRITED AWAY is an uninspired title for a long but terrifically imaginative fantasy. SPIRITED incorporates elements of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, Japanese folklore, and Miyazaki's own strange imagination, all whipped together in an enchanting souffle.
Chihiro is moving to a new house and school with her parents. She has some natural worries about what it and her school will be like. But on the way her parents get lost on a drive through nearby woods and find some odd buildings of strange architecture. Exploring them they find a gateway to a strange empty set of strange buildings, perhaps a theme park. Soon Chihiro's parents have gotten themselves into trouble that even they do not realize and Chihiro is on her own to explore this strange and wondrous new world that they have inadvertently passed into. From this point the story gets stranger and more complex. It involves Japanese spirits, strange food, a guide frog, a real spider-man, and a castle full of wonders in a sort of Disneyland of the spirits. This world is as mystifying and with its own strange logic as Alice's Wonderland. Miyazaki seems to have an inexhaustible supply of ideas to fill the screen and to fill screen time. To get everything in he has made this a longish film for children, but one where they will not be bored. There is always something new and strange being introduced.
SPIRITED AWAY is a complex fantasy that should appeal to adults in much the same way Carroll's Alice stories do. [-mrl]
Universal Legacy Packs (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Universal's "Legacy Packs" of classic horror movies have an external slip-case with a transparent window which has a translucent image at the bottom--pyramids for the "Mummy" films, a lagoon for "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" films, and so on, leading Mark to say: "I love the packaging. You intentionally put the boxes in the wrong slip-cases and play mix-and-match with monsters and settings. See the Invisible Man towering over the pyramids of Egypt! See the Frankenstein Monster in an Amazonian grotto! Hours of fun, even after you have seen all the movies." [-ecl]
[I didn't think this comment was all that funny out of context. But if Evelyn liked it, maybe it is worth putting in. --mrl]
Happy 6000th, Whenever It Was (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I don't hold out a lot of hope for the future of geology in England. Well, the rocks will still be there, but I don't hold out a lot of hope that the rocks are going to be really well understood. It seems that the Geological Society of London recently had a sort of a social event. The society was celebrating the 6000th anniversary of planet Earth. On October 22 this month, old Mother Earth supposedly was 6000 years old.
Where does that figure come from? It was computed by James Ussher. Well, I don't know if people these days know about Ussher. You might know the name if you have seen the classic film INHERIT THE WIND. In that film the character Matthew Harrison Brady gives the age of the Earth to be about 6000 years. He cites Bishop Ussher as the source. So who was Bishop Ussher? Ussher was the Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland, and Vice- Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin in the 17th century. It seems the good bishop wanted to know the age of the planet and looked in the Bible for the information. After all where better than the Good Book for a bishop to find the age of planet earth? If God wanted us to know, that is where he would have put the information, or so Bishop Ussher reasoned. Taking the book of Genesis he started adding up the ages of the Patriarchs. Coming up with a figure and counting backwards he came up with the date and time of 6PM, October 22, 4004 BC. Religious people have taken the word of Bishop as, well, Gospel. Now originally he put the date on October 23, but then realized that in biblical times the day went from sundown to sundown, not midnight to midnight. So really the first day of the world must have started at sundown. Or rather at when sundown would be when God later created the sun.
See http://mmcconeghy.com/students/supsomescienceguys.html#ussher for more information about Ussher.
I think that Bishop Ussher and his methods are a bit of a joke with the Geological Society of London. His methods were probably less than perfectly scientific. So they noted the date and planned a jeering sort celebration at 6 PM, October 22, 2004. Actually it was the capper of a conference of fakes, frauds, hoaxes and other misinformation. Of course, what Ussher came up with was not a fake, a fraud or a hoax. But it was not the best way to derive the age of the earth. We have good evidence now that 6000 years is just peanuts to the real age of the Earth.
There is, of course, one teensy-weensy problem with choosing 6 PM, October 22, 2004 for the time of the celebration. Perhaps you have already noted it. That is not 6000 years. 4003 and a fraction years from the BC portion of the calendar and 2003 and a fraction years from the AD portion adds up to 6007 years.
If that is confusing think of it this way. From October 22, 1 BC to October 22, 1 AD is one year. You add up the two year-figures and subtract 1.
1 + 1 - 1 = 1 AD-year + BC-year - 1 = Total-years AD-year = Total-years - BC-year + 1 AD-year = 6000 - 4004 + 1 = 1997
Hence the 1000 year anniversary was 6 PM on October 22, 1997. Of course, that would have put the conference on a Wednesday instead of a Saturday. Perhaps after a day of looking at wrong information, they decided to end the day with a piece of wrong information about a piece of wrong information. Apparently, being scientists they could figure out it was the wrong date, but they still wanted to excuse for the conference. It was like some niteries had big celebrations of the new century and millenium on December 31, 1999 even though they knew full well that the century did not end for another 12 months. The customers thought that the end of 1999 was the end of the century, and the customer is always right. [-mrl]
RAHTREE: FLOWER OF THE NIGHT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This ghost story goes in eight different directions at once, from tragic social message to slapstick comedy. Some scenes are chilling, but the film is unfocused. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
RAHTREE: FLOWER OF THE NIGHT is an extremely uneven ghost story from Thailand mixing love story, social content, horror, slapstick comedy, and satire. Writer and director Yuthlert Sippapak seems too anxious to entertain and to fill the film out to a reasonable length. He seems not to have been able to resist the temptation to use any idea that came to mind. The result is something of a hodge-podge.
Ake Dunrongsgup is a student fascinated by a young woman in his class--but out of his class. Attractive Buppah Rahtree never acknowledges his existence and never even smiles. Eventually his persistence pays off and the two become friends and quickly lovers. But then he betrays her in multiple ways. Pregnant with his child, she gets an abortion the day before he leaves the country for school in England.
In pain from the operation she takes an apartment in a local apartment complex. Later she is found in the bathroom having bled to death. (Hey, did I mention this was a comedy?) As the police are trying to remove the body it starts moving on its own. Very soon it is clear there is a terrifying ghost in room 609 that nobody wants to deal with. (*This* is the funny part.)
Sippapak throws in a strange take-off on THE EXORCIST. There is a lot of comedy that was constructed ad hoc around a boy with Down syndrome who happened to be convenient. Much of the comedy verges on the slapstick, particularly with two very obese Thai women who run a beauty parlor in the apartment building. The comic and even slapstick elements frequently conflict with the horror elements, making the film a lot less frightening than it might be. Sippapak should have either toned down the comedy and concentrated on the tragedy and horror or vice versa.
Sippapak announced at the showing that there are at least two sequels planned. He certainly has enough ideas, but he should decide which ones really go well together. [-mrl]
DOUBLE DARE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: With this documentary director Amanda Micheli follows the lives of two film stuntwomen. She covers their professional and personal lives as well as telling a little about the history of the profession. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
The subject is women stunt performers and particularly Zoe Bell (who doubled for Lucy Lawless on "Xena: the Warrior Princess") and Jeannie Epper (who doubled for Lynda Carter on "Wonder Woman"). Stuntwomen form a very small community, but it is a community. In her sixties Epper is still in the business, being in films as recent as 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, but her best-known roles were decades ago. Most of her family is in the business. Her father was a prominent stunt person who doubled for actors as far back as the 1936 CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE. Jeannie Epper has done stunts in well over a hundred films. Bell and Epper are great friends. Amanda Micheli shows us their lives, and not just their professional lives.
Epper talks about getting older, but her greatest fears are for her daughter Eurlyne. At the time of this filming Eurlyne was a stuntwoman also but only in a limited way, after a seriously wrong fall led to a neck injury limited her ability to work. After a second major surgery failed she quit the business, though that happened after the filming of this documentary.
Micheli takes her camera to show these two women on set and off. Epper notes wryly that while you would think stunt athletics require youth, she is one of the older people working in her films. As the stunt people age, the producers seem younger and younger. They are replaced, but the stunt people stay around. Jeanie is a good friend of the actor Ken Howard. When Howard needed a kidney transplant and it turned out it could not come from Howard's wife, Jeanie gave her kidney for her friend.
The film examines the newly created annual award for stunt work. It looks at the controversy over whether there should be a separate award for woman stunt doubles, an issue about which even Epper is ambivalent. Men dominate the industry in both numbers and the complexities of stunt they are given. The issue is should women be given awards for less complex stunts because they are women?
The camera is present when Zoe lands an important and prestigious job. She will go to China and be the stunt double for Uma Thurman on the KILL BILL films.
DOUBLE DARE is documentary filmmaking in its purest form. It is not intended to present a point of view. It documents the lives of its subjects and allows the viewer to see the life style. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
STRANGE CARGO (ISBN 0-441-01160-8) is Jeffrey E. Barlough's third novel, all of which are set in some strange not-quite-our-world which has mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, Lovecraftian creatures, Wellsian inventions, and a cast of characters (and a plot) right out of Charles Dickens. In STRANGE CARGO Frederick Cargo is trying to find a Mr. Jerrold Squailes named as an heir in Frederick's grandfather's will, while Mr. Threadneedle and Tim Christmas (now there is an obvious nod to Dickens!) are busy tinkering at something, and Miss Wastefield has a terrible secret. We also meet the Rev. Giddeus Pinches and his sister Griselda Pinches, Mr. Moldwort, Mr. Jobberly, Mr. Kix, and Mr. Lovibund. The background world does not bear close inspection. The blurb describes it as "set in a world where the Ice Age never ended and only a narrow coastline of civilization survives," but it is clear that this world's history is the same of ours--without Ice Age-- through at least Classical times, and there is at least some basis for assuming it is the same considerably later. One character claims the situation arose about two hundred years earlier due to the impact of a lost spaceship--but that hardly accounts for the existence of the mammoths and saber-tooths. The only solution is just to "go with the flow" and do not try to analyze it too closely. I love Barlough's books for their atmosphere and settings, and recommend them to anyone who likes Dickens.
(Barlough seems to be part of the movement called by Frederick
John Kleffel "The New Victoriana", which includes books by such
authors as Tim Powers, Neal Stephenson, and Susanna Clarke. See
REMARKABLE READS (edited by J. Peter Zane, ISBN 0-393-32540-7) is
a collection of essays by various authors on "the most something-
est book I read". For example, Denise Gess writes about "The Most
Important Book I Read" (Albert Camus's THE STRANGER), and Nasdijj
writes about "The Saddest Book I Read" (Louis L'Amour's TO TAME A
LAND). Some essays are more interesting than others, of course,
so you will probably want to pick and choose. As such, it is
probably better to get this from the library than to buy it.
We read Paulo Coehlo's THE ALCHEMIST (ISBN 0-062-50218-2) for our
library discussion group. It seemed a very simplistic fable with
the moral that one should work for one's dreams because the
universe/God will help you if you do. The book was extremely
popular for a while (and may still be), and generated a lot of
discussion. but I cannot recommend it. [-ecl]
Go to my home page
Quote of the Week:
Benford's Modified Clarke Law: Any technology
that does not appear magical is insufficiently
REMARKABLE READS (edited by J. Peter Zane, ISBN 0-393-32540-7) is a collection of essays by various authors on "the most something- est book I read". For example, Denise Gess writes about "The Most Important Book I Read" (Albert Camus's THE STRANGER), and Nasdijj writes about "The Saddest Book I Read" (Louis L'Amour's TO TAME A LAND). Some essays are more interesting than others, of course, so you will probably want to pick and choose. As such, it is probably better to get this from the library than to buy it.
We read Paulo Coehlo's THE ALCHEMIST (ISBN 0-062-50218-2) for our library discussion group. It seemed a very simplistic fable with the moral that one should work for one's dreams because the universe/God will help you if you do. The book was extremely popular for a while (and may still be), and generated a lot of discussion. but I cannot recommend it. [-ecl]
Go to my home page