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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/02/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 31, Whole Number 1426
Table of Contents
Web Pages of Interest:
General science fiction interest:
(Many other pages at http://www.dbooth.net/internerd are interesting as well.) [-ecl]
NPR Sunday Puzzle:
As noted last week, Mark had a puzzle chosen for NPR's Sunday Puzzle challenge for January 21. It went as follows:
Challenge from January 21: Name a famous film director, whose last name has two syllables. Phonetically these two syllables sound like words that are opposites of each other. What are the words and who is the director? Challenge from Mark Leeper of Old Bridge, New Jersey.
The answer is "Francois Truffaut". [-mrl]
Cause and Effect (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The December 16 "Science News" reports the discovery that a negative attitude is correlated to susceptibility to catching cold. They feel that having a negative attitude weakens the body and makes it less susceptible to colds. I don't know how much consideration they have given to the possibility that it goes in the opposite direction. Getting a lot of colds really wrecks one's attitudes. [-mrl]
Toddler Air Rage (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The last time I flew on a plane I saw a little drama taking place. Actually, as I now realize, it was the first act of what could have been (and was elsewhere) a longer drama. Three rows ahead and across the aisle a mother was trying to put here daughter--maybe two or three years old--into a safety belt for the flight. The daughter did not like the belt and was resisting. Mommy waited until the last moment so her daughter would not have to be belted into the seat for long. At this point the daughter decided that she *really* did not want to have to wear a seatbelt. She started crying and wiggling out of her seat and throwing a tantrum in the aisle. A stewardess started came to help, but that only made the little girl scream even more. The stewardess told the mother that the little girl would have to be in her seat. The plane was about to take off and the regulations say the girl had to cooperate or they family would have to leave the plane. I did not see what means of coercion were used, but the child did get put into her seat and the flight, already half an hour late for unrelated reasons, did take off. At the time I discussed the issue with Evelyn and we more or less said that if the child would not cooperate that the parents really should take the child off the plane rather than hold the flight up any more. That was in December.
In January what must have been a nearly identical incident ended differently by a narrow margin. This time the incident made national news. I assume it was a different family but on January 14 much the same thing happened with Julie and Gerald Kulesza and their three- year-old Elly. AirTran ordered them off the plane when it was clear that the plane would not take off until the child was cooperative or removed. The Kuleszas were told they would have to leave the plane and could not fly again for twenty- four hours. Later AirTran apologized for the inconvenience and offered the family a free flight in return for the inconvenience. The Kuleszas angrily said they would never fly AirTran again.
The story somehow hit the news media and the Kulesza family anxious to give AirTran a black eye ended up on "Good Morning, America" to tell their tale of woe. They were, it is reported, intending to get a groundswell of support for them and against the airline. Something went terribly wrong, and they are still waiting for all the support they were going to get from parenting groups. Instead there was an unexpected groundswell of support for AirTran. The show has at its site a poll of people to get their opinion of the action and surprise of surprises, most people believe the airline did the right thing. 62% in fact sided with the airline. The Kuleszas were shocked. Aren't people supposed to be supportive of parents with young children?
My theory of what happened is this. The vote was not really fair. I think the people had a grudge against the Kulezsas and families like them who let their children cry and be irritating in the confining cylinder of an airplane fuselage. I think that a lot of the voters have been in such an uncomfortable tight space with a loud noisemaker like Elly and they did not like the experience. I know we are all supposed to believe that all children are just darling simply because they are children and without respect to their behavior, but it is not really true. You have a number of trends occurring at once that lead to this situation. You have airplane seats in coach becoming less and less comfortable as the airlines squeeze in as many passengers as possible. And you have the baby boomers getting into their fifties and sixties, and all the people in this population surge are becoming the age when they are cantankerous and less tolerant. Both are trends are real. But I am certain you are also getting a lot of parents who are more permissive of misbehavior of their children. And also some people are getting a little tired of other people's undisciplined children.
Go back a few generations and parents were really embarrassed if someone bearing their name inconvenienced someone else. Particularly if the inconvenienced party was a stranger who would get a bad impression of the family. Today the attitude may be more that " What do I care what some stranger thinks of my family?My own flesh and blood means more to me than any stranger does. " Or they may be thinking, "I am making very large sacrifices to raise my kid. I am going to rest and let other people bear some of the burden for the next hour or so."
If people consider answering their cell phone in a movie theater takes precedence over consideration for strangers, how much more are they willing to tolerate bad behavior from their children? At restaurants Evelyn and I have a code-sentence. We say, "This place is becoming a family restaurant." What we mean is "a lot of inconsiderate people are coming here who are letting their children run amok."
Parents, this is a cold, hard fact of life, so you better memorize it. You may love your little Scrumptious to death. And your parents may love your little Scrumptious to death. And even your friends may say they love your little Scrumptious to death. And if you take Scrumptious in the carriage and walk him around the park, you will probably find other people who will say they just love your little Scrumptious to death (though it may not be true). But when it comes to inconveniencing perfect strangers, you will discover that most of them don't want to make allowances for your little Scrumptious. Your child may be doing what comes naturally, and that is just fine. That is what little children do. Nobody would say the buck stops with this charming little child. Parents, the buck stops with you. A planeload of people already late are not likely to side with you if little Scrumptious has a hissy fit against sitting in a seat. Your family is a unit. If your family unit is causing disruption in a restaurant or an airplane or a movie theater you have a responsibility to the people being inconvenienced. Your family is to blame and you should do something about it. Have some consideration. [-mrl]
DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA (DRACULA IN ISTANBUL) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This has been a very rare film, but it seems to be becoming more readily available. This is not a sequel to, but a simplification of Bram Stoker's novel. It just replaces the London backdrop with Istanbul and sets the story in the year of its production, 1953. The film has some nice bits on a tight budget, but turning the Mina character into an alluring stage dancer somehow cheapens the story. Atif Kaptan makes what seems a lack-luster Dracula, but perhaps if I knew Turkish it might have been more impressive.
As someone who was interested early on in horror films and not long after that in the long history of the horror film, I had a large number of titles of films I wanted to see some day. Most I was able to see as a teen or at least by my twenties. But there are some lost horror films and some that are just too obscure to ever find. I had considered the Edison version of FRANKENSTEIN one such lost film, but I eventually got a chance to see and review it (http://us.imdb.com/Reviews/248/24809).
Nearly as rare was the Turkish version of Dracula, Mehmet Muhtar's DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA or DRACULA IN ISTANBUL. This was a 1953 version--not a sequel--of the Bram Stoker story. In this version Dracula comes to prey on Istanbul. At first that change of setting seems strange, but NOSFERATU and DRACULA (HORROR OF DRACULA) did bring Dracula to Germany. This was only the third film version of the novel. Actually Dracula was only one of several well-known figures who were brought to Istanbul in Turkish films. There was TARZAN IN ISTANBUL (1952), THE INVISIBLE MAN IN ISTANBUL (1955), THE UFOS IN ISTANBUL (1955) (if a UFO can be considered a well-known figure), and in 1967 there was the Turkish FANTOMAS: APPOINTMENT IN ISTANBUL.
One might think that setting the latter part of DRACULA in Istanbul would create a problem. Bram Stoker's Dracula is all caught up in the Christian tradition. The vampire is repelled by the cross, by holy wafers, and by holy water. Well, actually the problems had already been worked out. In 1928 Ali Riza Seyfi wrote a novel KAZIKLI VOYVODA (or VLAD THE IMPALER) which was mostly just a translation of DRACULA, though the action does not move to England but to Istanbul. Seyfi had already worked out how much of the vampirism translated to a mostly Muslim country. The holy wafers and holy water were left out. Crosses became portable copies of the Koran which repelled Dracula. Seyfi's intent was to play up Bram Stoker's having Dracula the vampire be the still-living remains of Vlad Tepes, also known as Vlad the Impaler. After all, whom did the real historical figure Vlad impale? It was Turkish invaders into his country. Turks have a special historical reason to hate Dracula.
The film DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA is based on both the Stoker novel and the Seyfi novel. And because the two novels are so similar, probably even Ümit Deniz, the writer of the film, did not know what parts he was taking from either. The script is really a much-shortened version of the story most people know well.
After the film was released in 1953 it disappeared for many years, as films frequently did in those days. It was just an unavailable film that people like me wished to see but never really expected to see. I thought it was a lost film like LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT. Apparently eventually it did make it to Turkish television and eventually could be seen in various ways in this country. I saw it under less than ideal conditions. It was in Turkish without subtitles and the aspect ratio was wrong. I do not know Turkish. But seeing this film is like seeing an opera on the stage. I may not know exactly what is being said at each instant, but I know the story well enough to have a rough idea of what was going on.
Is this film an accurate film adaptation of DRACULA? Well, NOSFERATU and the 1931 version of DRACULA did not set the fidelity bar very high. DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA was the most accurate adaptation up to its time. Five years later Terence Fisher would make DRACULA (United States title: HORROR OF DRACULA) and I would say the two are on a par for closeness to the novel. Neither was exactly right and each was much simplified. Still, this book has never been really well adapted to cinema. I would say the most accurate versions made to date were COUNT DRACULA, the 1977 BBC/PBS version with Louis Jordan, and Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 DRACULA, though each took liberties. Orson Welles also did a fairly accurate radio version for the premiere of his Mercury Theater radio program. (Go to http://www.mercurytheatre.info/ for all his Mercury Theater programs online.)
DRAKULA ISTANBUL'DA updates its story and moves the story to Istanbul. That is two strikes against it. It also removes an entire insane asylum, Dr. Seward, Renfield, and a host of other characters. Mina is no longer the delicate flower of a girl she is in the book but a somewhat sensual stage dancer. She is less innocent, so does not create so much concern for her situation. There are two production numbers showing her on the stage, one has her as a Latin hottie and the other as a tastefully covered Turkish belly dancer. The musical production numbers in a horror film may have been inspired by THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943).
There are little economies throughout the production. My wife pointed out how many scenes had Jonathan Harker in one hallway of Dracula's castle and how easy that made camera setups. (By the way, the character names are all Turkish and nothing like what they are in the novel with the exception of Drakula. For example Mina becomes Guzin. To save explaining I will use the names of their antecedents in the novel.) Dracula has only one bride and one servant. The latter is of dubious loyalty and seems more sympathetic to Harker than to Dracula.
The score has odd touches including at bit of "April in Paris." The composer, whoever he is, seems to be frequently at cross- purposes with the director. Times when the film should be creating an aura of fear, instead the score has an air that is light and comical.
Visually the film is a mixed bag. Clearly it was made on a low budget. But it has atmosphere. The credit sequences take a cue from what might be Universal horror films. The American studio would frequently some touch like smoke congealing into the letters of the opening titles. For this film the opening credits seem to roll out like a scroll on invisible paper across the screen. Dracula has sleeping gas piped to some of the rooms of his castle and in one room is comes out like smoke from the eyes of a painting creating a bizarre image. Staking scenes take place with most of the gory action off camera. Dracula's castle, really an unconvincing drawing, is wrong for eastern European castles. I think of them as having conical turrets like Castle Bran does in Transylvania. The castle we see in the film has open turrets like we would expect to see in a King Arthur movie (or on the sorts of castles built by the Crusaders in Turkey).
Mina does not look particularly Turkish and she is played by Annie Ball, which does not sound like a Turkish name. Nevertheless Ms. Ball seems to have made a career in Turkish films. Atif Kaptan who plays Dracula apparently had appeared in other macabre roles. He is a slight letdown as the King of Vampires. It might have been different if I could understand what he was saying, but he just looks like a distinguished gray- haired gentleman without particularly striking looks. Dracula appears to have fangs that grow when he needs to use them. It has been claimed that this was the first film to put fangs on a vampire. Not true. NOSFERATU had fangs, but they were two front teeth and not retractable. One effect that does not work well any more is that Dracula appears in a flash. Basically it is the effect that goes back to George Melies of just stopping the camera, having the character walk into its view, and start filming again. There is a nice scene of Dracula's face when he is in the form of a bat.
In a sequence taken from Bram Stoker, Dracula crawls down the wall of his castle, a disquieting scene. COUNT DRACULA (1977) usually gets credit for having shown this sequence for the first time. However, it appears earlier both in this film and in SCARS OF DRACULA (1970). The film plays up his bat-like characteristics. As a human he wears a cape that gives him a bat-like look. Dracula can transform into a bat, but for some reason he does not toward the end when he is being chased on foot. This mistake leads to his downfall. The age-old vampire is something of an esthete and he hypnotizes Mina to have her dance for him. Also unorthodox for portrayals of Dracula is that when he wants to disable an opponent and just socks him. I suppose Buffy vampires kickbox, but for some reason I just do not think of Dracula as ever having to deliver a roundhouse punch.
I decline to rate the film since I feel only somebody who knows what the actors are saying should have that privilege. Overall, I did not care for the updating. But I was willing to overlook most of the film's other weaknesses. It had enough strengths to make watching it, even under poor condition, a real pleasure. I hope that now that the film has been re-discovered that some entrepreneur will decide it is worth subtitling and putting on DVD. Was it worth the wait to find this film? Well, probably not. But now that it is becoming available it is worth seeking out.
CHILDREN OF MEN (letter of comment by Joseph T. Major):
In response to Fred Lerner's letter of comment on CHILDREN OF MEN in the 01/26/07 issue of the MT VOID, Joe Major writes, "There's also GREYBEARD, by Brian Aldiss (1964), one of the worldwide catastrophe and good grey English resignation to it all novels that were popular then (i.e., just about everything J. G. Ballard had done at novel length in the sixties). ISFDB doesn't list any novel called just IMPLOSION or any novels by D. F. Jones other than the 'Colossus' series. I wonder if D. F. Jones worked at Bletchley Park?" [-jtm]
Well, we own a novel called IMPLOSION by D. F. Jones, Putnam's (Book Club edition), 1967, described on the back flap as Jones's second published novel, so unless it's fallen in from a parallel timeline, the ISFDB is inaccurate. Wikipedia lists it, however. It is commented on in my column below. [-ecl]
Cookies, Warskiing, and Electronic Vagabonds (letter of comment by Daniel Kimmel [correction--Dan Cox]):
In response to Mark's article on deconstructing cookies in the 01/26/07 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Kimmel [correction--Dan Cox] writes:
Sugar wafer cookies
In response to Evelyn's review of Howard Waldrop's "Warskiing" in the same issue, he writes:
This makes a little more sense if you are aware that "Wardriving" is driving around a neighborhood with a laptop (or other more-portable device) looking for open wireless LAN connections. [-dk]
[Yes, that helps. What's amazing is that Howard Waldrop, a man who famously has no email, would know about it. -ecl]
And in response to Evelyn's article on electronic traveling in the same issue, he writes:
[Regarding the camera, I carry around a $20 "keychain digital camera" for that purpose. However, I will admit that having a real digital camera with us when someone rear-ended our rental car in Arizona was nice--Mark took pictures of the damage for our own records, and they are much better than the small camera would have given. -ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I have commented a couple of times on colons in titles. I think David R. George III may hold some sort of a record with STAR TREK: CRUCIBLE: SPOCK: THE FIRE AND THE ROSE.
I read in "Locus" that Robert Charles Wilson has turned in AXIS, a sequel to SPIN. I am sure it is good, but it is a bit depressing to see that after having resisted "sequelitis" for a dozen novels, he has succumbed.
If you liked Ambrose Bierce's THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, you will probably also enjoy "The Dictionary of Received Ideas" by Gustave Flaubert, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer (in BOUVARD AND PECUCHET, ISBN 0-140-44320-7).
For the flavor, I will give you an example that appears in both, "diplomacy":
Bierce: "The patriotic art of lying for one's country."
Flaubert: "A fine career, but best with difficulties and full of mystery. Suitable only for aristocrats. A profession of vague importance, though superior to trade. Diplomats are always subtle and shrewd."
One thing I wonder about is the translation process. Krailsheimer does indicate a couple of spots where he took liberties. For example, he has "SPICE: plural of 'spouse'; an old joke but still good for a laugh," with a note "[chacal/shakos in French]." "Chacal" is "jackal", but I cannot find "shakos" in my dictionary. I could not understand how "DIANA: Goddess of the chaste (chased)" could work in English and French--the French verb is "chasser" and the adjective is "chaste" (with a 't'). So I looked it up, and an on-line version of "Dictionnaire des idees recues" has the definition "Diesse de la chasse-tete", or something like "Goddess of the leader of the hunt" with a pun on "chastete" ("chastity"). So Krailsheimer was in fact not adding a pun, but coming up with one in English that would reflect the one in French. Still, for several, I wonder if the cliches exist in French (such as "WIT: Always preceded by 'sparkling' or IMAGINATION: Always 'lively').
[French readers will find links to it online at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14156. Sadly I cannot find it online in English. People who enjoy them may also enjoy the delicious "Maxims of La Rochefoucauld". They also hard to find in English, but some five hundred of La Rochefoucauld's maxims can be found in English at http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery?s=la+rochefoucauld. --mrl]
I have been doing a lot of long-distance driving lately, so I have been listening to books on CD. THOMAS AQUINAS IN 90 MINUTES (actually more like seventy on CD) by Paul Strathern, read by Robert Whitfield (ISBN 1-566-63194-7, audiobook ISBN 0-786-18527-9) is better than his GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ IN 90 MINUTES. For one thing, it is more linear. For another, it is done in the style of English humorist (or humourist) Mark Steel, peppered with comments such as, "In an age when the mail took over a fortnight to reach Rome, as it does once again today"; "Christ's crown of thorns, of which there were only three genuine originals at the time"; and (of Louis IX of France) "he was canonized and is now famous throughout Missouri and for his blues."
This book is not for everyone, nor is Aquinas's work. Strathern says at one point about Aquinas's writings, "Other topics which have insured Aquinas's masterpiece the slimmest chance of entering the best-seller lists include the following: what the world will be like after judgement; whether weakness, ignorance, malice, and lust are the result of sin; and whether the movement of the heavenly bodies will cease after judgement." He then says that you might find it difficult to believe these were popular topics. Just as I was thinking, "Well, *I* would love to read arguments about these," Strathern says that Aquinas was doing more than just writing "Christianity's answer to the Talmud." "Ah, ha!" I thought. "That explains why they sound like fun."
I will note that there were a couple of mispronunciations, and at one point the reader says "Augustine" when he obviously means "Aquinas". (I am assuming the error was in the reading and not in the text.)
And speaking of Augustine, I also listened to AUGUSTINE FOR ARMCHAIR THEOLOGIANS by Stephen A. Cooper, read by Simon Vance (ISBN 0-664-22372-9, audiobook ISBN 1-596-44188-7). This is much longer (about six hours) and aimed mostly at Catholics, I suspect, but I found it interesting nonetheless. There were a couple of points I thought worth mentioning. First, Cooper talks about how Augustine "proves" the existence of "natural law". Augustine argues that stealing is against natural law, because even thieves do not believe it is right that people should steal from them. As such, this seems to be an application of Kant's categorical imperative centuries before Kant formulated it. And Cooper says that Augustine had tried to read the Bible when he was young but gave up, but not because it was too difficult. Cooper pointed out that Augustine was educated in a classical manner, and read elegant Latin works. However, the Latin translation available to him was aimed at the average person (I got the impression that the modern English equivalent would be the "Good News Bible"), and Augustine found it very inelegant and vulgar. I think this was probably the "Vetus Latina", not the Vulgate.
Spurred by comments from various readers about books similar to CHILDREN OF MEN, I read IMPLOSION by D. F. Jones (no ISBN). Jones is better known as the author of COLUSSUS (made into COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT). The premise of IMPLOSION is that an Eastern European scientist is working on a way to get rid of rats. He comes up with a drug that vastly decreases the fertility of rats, and then his government decides to modify it to work on people. Why England is the target is a bit contrived, and the degree to which its use is limited as long as it is, will seem unlikely to modern readers. And the reaction of the English to the discovery that 80% of the female population is sterile, and to the measures imposed, seems very "well-behaved"--more like what one hears of their reaction to World War II than what it would probably be today. My main criticism is the depiction of women seems very sexist by today's standards (though rather Heinleinesque, I think). One finds characters saying things like, "A strong maternal woman is close to nature--she knows kids are her business--she knows too that Mother Nature produces nothing useless; yet a sterile women with strong maternal instincts *is* useless, and knows it. She feels useless--that's why some of 'em are so bitchy." Still, it is a novel of its time (1967) and quite worth reading if one keeps that in mind.
I also read another novel that has been compared to CHILDREN OF MEN, GREYBEARD by Brian Aldiss (ISBN-10 0-755-10063-8, ISBN-13 978-0--75510063-7). The reason for sterility here is a series of atomic tests in the atmosphere that interfere with Earth's shielding from damaging solar radiation. (At least here it seems to be an equal opportunity disaster--in both IMPLOSION and the film CHILDREN OF MEN, it appears to be only the women who are affected. I am told that in P. D. James's original novel CHILDREN OF MEN it is the men that are sterile.) This is even more "English" than D. F. Jones's IMPLOSION, with characters fairly stoically slogging along in a world without any children for decades. The story gradually unfolds (backwards, with flashbacks to more recent events first and the explanation of what originally happened last), and Aldiss manages to include all sorts of settings: England, United States, market town, college town, rural village, etc. The ending, which seems a bit unlikely, is the novel's only weak point. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The questions which one asks oneself begin, at least, to illuminate the world, and become one's key to the experience of others. -- James Arthur Baldwin
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