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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/16/07 -- Vol. 25, No. 37, Whole Number 1432
Table of Contents
Not Again! (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was watching GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S. Tokyo Tower had been destroyed for about the eighth time in the Godzilla films. I guess they just keep rebuilding it back just the same way it was before. Then the kaiju come along and have a monstrous battle and knock it down again. I guess they feel that if they don't rebuild it exactly the same way each time then the kaiju have won. [-mrl]
Don't Drink to Forget . . . Take Drugs (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Apropos of our recent discussion of brain damage to erase unpleasant memories, it apparently can be done with drugs, as this article published recently says: http://tinyurl.com/yqh75w. [-mrl]
Are You Listening, George Romero? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
It has now officially debunked. You may have heard the myth that the earth's population has grown so much that more than half the people who have ever lived are alive today. It is shocking, scary, and nobody was sure it was not true because nobody had done the calculation. Now somebody has. "Scientific American" has published an article that says the dead, whom incidentally Homer dubbed "the Silent Majority," are still the overwhelming majority. See http://tinyurl.com/3apbqd. In fact, it is doubtful that the living could ever come anywhere close to out-numbering the dead. There are a lot more of Them than Us. We could be at a serious disadvantage if it ever comes to all-out war between Them and Us. [-mrl]
Principle Malpractice (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
When the Hiroshima Bomb exploded people were shown that the laws of advanced physics were not just curiosities and theoretical possibilities but very real and applicable to the world in which we live. Laws of theoretical physics crossed over into the world of philosophy. People realized that the laws of physics were verified, at least to the extent that the bomb really did explode, so there had to be validity and relevance there. Principles of physics started showing up in academic and philosophical arguments. As would be expected, when people tried to take these tools of mathematics and physics and apply them to the real world, they were misapplied. This does not mean that the laws of physics were shown to be wrong in other contexts. It is just true that one has to be certain that one is properly applying the principles.
I am currently in e-mail discussions with two different members. (I think they will know who they are.) Ironically, in one discussion I am arguing a pro-atheist viewpoint and in the other I am arguing an anti-atheist viewpoint. Perhaps I should just have them argue with each other. (People who do get into philosophical discussions with me should be cautioned that the point of view I espouse is not always my own.) In any case, my pro-atheist correspondent says, "The Universe makes sense without God, who becomes that excess hypothesis lopped off by Occam's Razor."
He refers to what is considered a principle of nature. It says if you have two hypothetical explanations for an observed phenomenon and one is simpler than the other, it is the simpler explanation that tends to be the correct one. This may be a familiar argument for atheism. In fact, in the film CONTACT the character Ellie Arroway uses this argument as a defense of her atheism (assuming it needed defending).
I would contend that Occam's Razor (or Ockham's Razor) is a principle, often misunderstood, and not a law. I am not sure it is even given the weight of a principle. Occam's Razor does not remove any hypotheses and never did. The principle just says that most frequently the simplest explanation is the one most likely correct. It is a suggestion of which to try to verify among competing explanations. In fact, this may not be a good place to apply Occam's Razor at all. All Occam's Razor says, arguably, is that it may be easier to show there is no God than that there is, but it definitely does not tell you to throw out the Existence-of-God hypothesis. Here we are talking about theological matters in any case. I would be nice to apply the rules of physics, but my suspicion is that the universe does not give us credible tools to test either hypothesis: existence or non-existence, so there is no value in pointing to one hypothesis or the other as more likely.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is another physical principle that is frequently misused outside of the realm of science. The principle says that you cannot simultaneously determine the position and momentum of an electron. My interpretation is that it just says that there are limits to observability in our universe.
The principle has been incorrectly (I believe) reinterpreted to say that you cannot observe something without affecting it in some way. One book gave the example that when you see a football in flight over a stadium you actually affect the flight of that football by merely observing it. My assertion is that you probably do not.
This assumption would be useful at times. Frequently we want to discredit the observations of others. And nobody denies that sometimes observers really do affect results. It is convenient to say that an observed behavior would not have happened if it had not been observed. And it lends credence to such a claim to say that it is a universal principle that things cannot be observed without being affected. However, that is not what Heisenberg said. And that restatement can be easily disproved with what I contend is a counterexample.
In 1572 Tycho Brahe recorded observing a super-nova. That is it. That is a counterexample. Tycho may have observed the supernova in 1572 but that was just when the light from the supernova reached the Earth. It probably came hundreds of millions of light-years to reach the Earth which means that supernova went out of existence hundreds of millions of years before Tycho was born. Unless this strange principle allowed him to circumvent causality and go back in time he was way too late to affect the supernova. The football flying over the stadium gives off photons. If your eye intercepts one of those photons, you have not affected the football. Observe footballs all you like.
Now don't get me started on Godel's Proof. [-mrl]
FLATLAND: THE FILM (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Edwin Abbott's 1884 fantasy is adapted to the screen. Like the book the film seems deceptively simple. In Flatland the inhabitants are figures from plane geometry who do not believe there ever could be a third dimension. Abbott's political satire is updated for the screen, but the story loses none of its charm or its bite. This is a unique animated film that takes on race, gender, class, and political corruption while entertaining and perhaps even teaching a little mathematics. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Fantasy stories have created many lands that have become as intriguing in themselves as characters. There is Swift's Lilliput (among other worlds of Gulliver), Carroll's Wonderland, Baum's Oz, Hilton's Shangri-La, and Tolkein's Middle Earth. Flatland is one land best known to mathematics and technical students as well as people interested in science fiction's 19th century prehistory. The planar land appeared in 1884 in FLATLAND: A ROMANCE OF MANY DIMENSIONS, a strange short book written by Edwin A. Abbott, initially published under the name of the book's main character, A Square.
The inhabitants of Flatland are lines and polygons living in a flat plane. The men are all polygons, generally each with one side more than his father had. The more sides a polygon has the greater status he has in society. Women, on the other hand, are all straight-line segments. That means they have little status. However, since a line cannot be seen edge-on and is thinner than a knife, can easily stab and injure men--intentionally or not--so they are very dangerous. Being dangerous gives them some power. We see this Flatland through the eye (singular) of the lawyer aptly named A Square.
Most polygons in Flatland are white by law and that is how many want it, but there is a growing "Chromatist" movement in the society for the liberating effects of color. (Note that a similar idea cropped up in PLEASANTVILLE more than a century after Abbott wrote about it.) A Square is called on to defend a woman/line falsely accused of being a Chromatist. Soon a Chromatists' rebellion has Flatland in an uproar and fleeing a rebellion A Square hides in his home. There he sleeps and has a vivid dream of Lineland, a one-dimensional land in which all the inhabitants are line segments. They do not believe there can be a second dimension. This dream happens to be fortuitous, because the gentle, bewildered A Square is about to be discovered by the somewhat overbearing A Sphere, a strange spherical visitor from a three-dimensional world, Spaceland. That world is as incomprehensible to A Square as A Square was to the lines segments of Lineland. A Square is allowed to visit Spaceland with his new friend, a person of some prominence in his own world. He finds Spaceland a world very different from his own, mostly because it has the extra dimension. But at the same time this bewildering world is similar enough to be on the brink its own devastating war.
Tom Whalen's script removes much of the Victorian caricature and replaces it with satire of our time. That is at least arguably an accurate approach since it makes the film as timely to its audience as the book was to its initial readership. Remember George Pal's THE TIME MACHINE, another hyper-dimensional novel, also brought up contemporary fears of nuclear war that were not in the original story. Like Pal's THE TIME MACHINE, this film has the essence of the book while taking some liberties with the plot.
Some of the topics this film addresses are class, race, political power, and nuclear war. That is quite a bit even for this is a feature film of 95 minutes. The story moves from being generally whimsical to more serious to even grim in the later parts of the story. But there is always wit, even in the closing credits. As with the book GULLIVER'S TRAVELS, the apparently whimsical themes of have serious intent. The film maintains a running commentary on itself by a mechanism borrowed from some silent films, the witty title card insert.
The film's creator and director, Ladd Ehlinger, Jr., has given the film a very original feel. In fact, Abbott's illustrations for his book and his vision of his characters is really a little plain for a current animated film. One might think that the time for an animated version of FLATLAND might almost seem to have passed. There is not much in the story to allow a production designer use much more than rudimentary computer animation. Even the exalted priests of Flatland--circles--look like little more than Pac-Man eaters are. But Ehlinger is able to improve quite a bit on the Abbott illustrations for imagination, showing us stylized internal organs. The visuals of the film rise to be of no more than moderate interest, but it is impressive that this production could do even that much with them. One minor problem with the visuals: toward the end when the storytelling becomes more complex, the images we see are occasionally hard to interpret. For viewers with a mathematical bent the illustrations may be of a little more interest. However, time does seem to be running out for animated versions of this film. That may be why a competing production is being made, directed by Jeffrey Travis. In spite of having a familiar voice of Martin Sheen, it is unlikely this film will be able to steal the thunder from Ehlinger's version. There were two previous screen adaptations in 1965 and 1982. Neither seems to have made much of an impact or even escaped obscurity.
Probably in an attempt to keep prices down in what had to be a low-budget effort, no familiar actor voices were employed. Nor are they missed. Instead, it appears from that credits that Ehlinger has used the voices of his family and friends. Occasionally there are impressions of familiar voices like Ed Wynn, Ted Kennedy, and perhaps comedian Paul Lynde. While there is an original score, it quotes from existing sources such as Richard Wagner and (I believe) THE INCREDIBLES.
FLATLAND may not appeal to those who want the sort of animated action that was in THE INCREDIBLES or those who want fuzzy animals. The film apparently had a low budget and needed no more. The result is a delectable animated confection with claws in it paws. I rate FLATLAND +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. One minor note, this film takes place in the year 2999 and 3000 and claims that the millenium has changed in that interval. A script on such a mathematical theme should get right that the millenium actually changes between 3000 and 3001.
Note: this film seems some places, including the IMDB, to have been renamed FLATLAND: THE FILM, probably to distinguish it unambiguously from the other adaptation this year FLATLAND: THE MOVIE.
The film's website: http://www.flatlandthefilm.com/
The short novel on-line: http://www.geom.uiuc.edu/~banchoff/Flatland/ (illustrated) or plain text at http://tinyurl.com/245roq
YouTube Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=FlatlandTheFilm
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0972374/
SCORPION'S GATE by Richard E. Clarke (copyright 2005, Putnam Adult, $24.95, 320pp, ISBN-10: 0-399-15294-6, ISBN-13: 978-0-399-15294-8) (book review by Mark R. Leeper):
I actually came upon this book looking for another book by Richard E. Clarke, BREAKPOINT. Clarke has written two fiction books, though he is probably better known for his non-fiction books on terrorism, AGAINST ALL ENEMIES: INSIDE AMERICA'S WAR ON TERROR--WHAT REALLY HAPPENED and DEFEATING THE JIHADISTS: A BLUEPRINT FOR ACTION. Clarke is a government consultant on intelligence, cyber-security and counter-terrorism. He was an advisor to Reagan, Clinton, and the two Bushes. But he retired in 2003 and apparently turned to writing fiction on the subjects he knew so well. I thought reading his novels would be a painless way to learn about current politics and terrorism. I expected his book to be an education in the same way that Tom Clancy books are textbooks on the American military machine.
The book takes place in the near future. At this point the Americans are out of Iraq. But more interestingly, the Saudis are out of Saudi Arabia. At least they are out of the country formerly known as Saudi Arabia and now re-named Islamyah. The Saudis have been forced out of power and fled the country. Sunnis have replaced them with a new government it is finding how and how not to operate. Meanwhile, there is a prize of one third of the world's petroleum supply at stake. The Americans and the Chinese are vying for that oil. The real villain, however, is the Iranian covert Qods Force that is trying to destabilize the Sunnis, particularly in Islamyah and Bahrain.
Clarke has spent much of his career in that part of the world and discussing what he has found. He can present a lot of characters with some authenticity. Unfortunately I cannot say that SCORPION'S GATE works as a novel. Most of what is good about the reading would have been better in a non-fiction book. We do get a lot of points of view in seemingly endless café conversations and briefing room meetings. The book has more characters than I could manage to remember and most are not there to move the plot along but to present their take on the politics on the Middle East. For a while all the conversations are of interest but very soon too many abbreviations and names of Jihadist groups and defense organizations creep in and the conversations become opaque. Perhaps the dialog is too realistic for the book's own good.
Because this is a fiction book, one is not quite sure which of these are real acronyms and real organizations and which, if any, were invented for the fictional plot. There is no character to care much about like we care for Clancy's Jack Ryan. There are people we keep coming back to, but not for long enough to make their characters interesting. Perhaps Clarke had too great an ambition to educate the reader, but the story too long remains a camel caravan of expository lumps. The book might very well have done with a glossary, but perhaps the glossary would be of more interest than the story itself. [-mrl]
ZODIAC (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: The unsolved case of the "Zodiac" serial killer is the basis of David Fincher's thriller, based on a book by one of the unofficial participants in the investigation. This is the story of the investigation that stretched over decades. The investigation and the film are both long and the final conclusion the film reaches is dubious. Still, it makes for a tense if grim true-crime thriller. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
In the ten months from December 1968 to October 1969 a flamboyant serial killer preyed on the San Francisco Bay area. He wrote letters to the newspapers, often including codes as puzzles to be solved promising clues to his identity. In spite of the clues he sent taunting the police, the case still remains officially unsolved. Robert Graysmith, at the time of the murders a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle, became fascinated with the case. He himself was an avid puzzle solver and so was intrigued first by the newspaper puzzles the killer wrote and later by the larger puzzle of who the killer actually was. Graysmith eventually wrote two flamboyant books recounting his own investigation and that of the police, all leading up to his theory of the identity of the killer. This film is based on his book ZODIAC. From the point of view of the film, he had almost entirely solved the case, but frustratingly no action was taken. It should be remembered, however, how many different books there are about the Kennedy assassination, each with different theories of who was behind the killing. Britain has the same phenomenon with the Jack the Ripper killings. Many experts point in different directions. Graysmith's solution may well be the most popular, but it is still a matter of speculation. Of interest is that this is the second crime film based on a Graysmith book. He also wrote the book AUTO-FOCUS about the murder of actor Bob Crane that was made into a film of the same name.
Director David Fincher previously made the horrific serial killer film SE7EN. Here he is more limited in how he can portray the killer, since he cannot show any unmasked character as obviously being the killer. So this film is less like SE7EN and at least a bit more like IN COLD BLOOD. The film concentrates on the investigation and on the effects that the presence of a serial killer has on the people directly involved and the general public. The film is 158 minutes long, and yet the viewer learns little about any character but Graysmith (played by Jake Gyllenhaal). The young Graysmith clearly would like to get the job of working with the investigation, but that dubious honor is given to reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey, Jr.) whom Graysmith sees as a weak man and who is eventually thrown off the paper for his drinking and his irresponsibility. Though Avery helps and is helped by Graysmith, Graysmith seems to have little respect for Avery.
Mostly the film is all about the private and public investigations. During the course of the film Graysmith meets Melanie (Chloë Sevigny), whom he marries, but we see little of the romance or the marriage. That would take too much time from the story of the investigation. We do see that later Melanie had problems with the amount of time and personal sacrifice that Graysmith puts in on his obsession with the killer. Officially on the case are police inspectors David Toschi and William Armstrong, played respectively by Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards. Mostly the film is about the frustration of the investigation and what it does to the men working on the case. With both the police and with Graysmith the viewer follows a lot of blind alleys and false leads. Questions raised in the film are never answered. The puzzle-solving aspect of the film is of interest, but we see a lot of investigators going through what has to be drudgery in the investigation with a stupefying volume of evidence. Arguably the film did not need its length and could have been cut down to a more standard length with just an allusion or two to some of the wasted effort. Instead it become an exhausting experience for the viewer.
This film is a dark and atmospheric account of the efforts to capture a man who could strike nearly anywhere and disappear. Perhaps that makes the film particularly relevant right now. I give ZODIAC a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. One point I did notice, though it was never mentioned in the film. Zodiac was apparently a weekend killer. Every date given for a killing was a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Add that to the list of clues that point nowhere.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0443706/
ADAM'S APPLES (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):
In response to Mark's review of ADAM'S APPLES in the 03/09/07 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes, "Is ADAM'S APPLES one of those Danish 'Dogma' films? If so, that would explain why it makes no sense." [-fl]
Mark responds, "Strange is not the same thing as not making sense. This film just has some weird characters and plot twists. For that matter 'Dogma 95' films do make sense. While I do not especially like the 'Dogma 95' restrictions, I do tend to like the films made under its restrictions. Most of the restrictions of 'Dogma 95' seem to be to make films more like stage plays. The word 'organic' comes to mind. I will add that rarely does a 'Dogma 95' film follow all the rules. I believe rules 2 and 10 are always broken. [-mrl]
BLOOD MUSIC (letter of comment by David Goldfarb):
In response to Evelyn's comments on BLOOD MUSIC in the 03/09/07 issue of the MT VOID (in which she said, "Our science fiction group read BLOOD MUSIC by Greg Bear.... This was expanded from a shorter piece, and both won Hugos."), David Goldfarb writes, "The shorter piece won a Hugo, but the longer was only nominated, it didn't win. (ENDER'S GAME won that year.)" [-dg]
Godzilla, Casting, Pet Rocks, and Slavery (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to various items in the 03/09/07 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell wrote:
A few things to pass along to you before I get back to zining for an hour or so this morning. Firstly, I am glad you're enjoying GODZILLA: TOKYO S.O.S. This is one of the films in the canon that I am not aware of. It certainly sounds suitably wretched, which means I'd love it immensely. In response to that one character who believes a "dying Mothra can stop Godzilla", all I can say is that we all have to remember one key thing about Godzilla films: it ain't over until the midget twins sing. [-jp]
[This is the second to last film in the third series. It was released in 2003. -mrl]
Like you, I admire Jack Lemmon as an actor. He is a wonderful comic actor, and can handle serious roles as well--witness his work in SAVE THE TIGER and TRIBUTE--but I agree with your assessment that his demeanor was too middle-class, twentieth- century American. Part of this problem is the body of work he amassed over the years. Lemmon would fit right into World War I and II dramas, also Eisenhower-era roles, but he strikes me as not a very Elizabethan face. Some people can pull off the historical switcharoo, like Chuck Heston, who could do past (EL CID, et al), present (MIDWAY, CHINA SYNDROME, etc.), and future (SOYLENT GREEN, the "Apes" movies). But not Lemmon. Again, I think this is probably because he's performed roles that solidified his cinematic persona. Loved him and Matthau in all of their films, especially their two "Grumpy Old Men" flicks. Those were so much fun. [-jp]
[As I said in my article I suspect a good enough director could have made Lemmon work in HAMLET. At least he could have worked as well as Micheal Keaton in MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. I think it was Kenneth Branagh's error not to recognize that Lemmon was not working. -mrl]
In the end, though, when it comes down to casting actors and making the final call as to who works and who doesn't, that should come down to the producer and director. Like you say, it's ultimately the producer's fault. As a dog owner--we have three of these beasties here in the Purcell Petting Zoo--I can attest to their curiosity. But dogs aren't as inherently nosey as cats; for them, there's an ulterior motive involved: food. That and their nose for other dogs if you've been around some. Dogs are quite territorial in nature, and cats are too, it's just that cats are sneaky about it and way cool. Cats have attitude. Dogs have enthusiasm. [-jp]
[That may be why I prefer dogs (though I can think of a lot of other reasons). -mrl]
Also, I have to pass along that your throw-away comment about "designating stones to be Pet Rocks" hurt Philbert's feelings. He's been part of my life for almost thirty years now and we are quite attached to each other. I just spent the last twenty-seven minutes consoling that little fella, trying to make him feel better. Geez, Mark; stop taking my Pet Rock's feelings for granite! [-jp]
[I actually independently invented a pet rock in 1968, as Evelyn can attest. Inspired by an episode of "The Outer Limits" in which rocks do talk, I drew a face on a stone and would speak for it saying "MY NAME IS IRVING, AND I AM A ROCK." I would say it with a tight throat to create a voice very much like the voice of the Warner Brothers cartoon Martian. I still have Irving somewhere. -mrl]
Finally, it needs to be told to American students that Africans did, in fact, enslave other Africans. There's a lot more to this than I really have time for at present, nor all the facts about the subject; however, this is a truth that has been long over- looked in the American history classroom, perhaps deliberately so. [-jp]
[Those who are most blamed for anything are frequently not the worst offenders, but who are convenient to blame. I don't know if there are figures available but I have heard that the volume of African and Arabic slave trade was very much greater in volume than the European and American trade, and it has still not been entirely suppressed. I cannot quite place the source, but a British film I saw recently brought up the subject of witch- hunting. Somebody asks, what do you think this is, Salem? Salem has become associated as the center of witch-hunting. Actually Salem is remembered because this practice which was rampant in Europe HAD EVEN spilled over into the New World. There was almost none in the Americas. It seem strange that the country that was home to people like Matthew Hopkins would come to associate witch-hunting and witch-burning as being an American practice. Incidentally witch-burning did not happen at all in the Americas though it was a very common practice in England and Europe. The few people executed for witchcraft in American history died by the relatively merciful method of hanging. -mrl]
Discussing this touchy subject in today's classroom isn't a matter of revisionist history, it is merely a matter of setting the record straight. The more we know the correct information about something past or present, the better informed decisions we will make. That is the theoretic goal of education, you see. [-jp]
[In theory that is true. Frequently the line is not drawn between education and indoctrination. Political agendae in what is taught seems to be running rampant. -mrl]
Well. That takes care of that. I thank you for the zine again, and now it's on to finishing off my SNAPS zine so I can get onto my dissertation work this afternoon. That and doing yard work. Oh, and starting to work on clearing out and organizing the garage during Spring Break. It is going to be a busy week off from school. [-jp]
[Any vacation you do not return from exhausted was wasted. -mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
KING KONG IS BACK! edited by David Brin (ISBN-10 1-932100-64-4, ISBN-13 978-1-932-10064-8) is a mixed bag of essays on King Kong (duh!). Even within a single essay, there can be highs and lows. For example, Nick Mamatas's "Over the River and a World Away" is strong in the way Nick describes how WOR's annual Thanksgiving telecast of KING KONG was a classic. But then he says that MIGHTY JOE YOUNG is forgettable, and also implies that KING KONG VS. GODZILLA had different endings in Japan and the United States. The latter has been disproven. And there are certainly many of us who have not forgotten MIGHTY JOE YOUNG.
There is at least one other error, where Robert A. Metzger in "Dragon's Teeth and Hobbits" gives the location of Skull Island (2 degrees south, 90 degrees east), and then says, "which we are correctly told puts them west of Java (the large, northernmost island of present-day Indonesia)." Actually, the "large northernmost island of present-day Indonesia" is Sumatra, and this point is definitely west of that. However, then Metzger goes on to say that there is nothing southwest of this point for thousands of miles, and says "taking a direction due southwest of the west coast of Java would carry their ship across better than a thousand miles of the Indian Ocean, finding no islands, until they eventually hit Western Australia." No matter whether they left from the west coast of Sumatra or of Java, if they headed southwest they would be headed *away* from Australia. In fact, unless they were headed more like west-southwest, they would miss Africa entirely as well and make landfall somewhere on Antarctica.
Perhaps the most interesting essay was "Divided Kingdom" by Robert Hood. Hood begins by asking who is the true king of the monsters: King Kong or Godzilla? To answer this, he looks at the history of giant monster movies, including the 1950s cycle and Japanese "kaiju eiga". He notes, among other things, that the whole "giant monster" story was invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. [This comes as a surprise to those of us who have read about giant monsters in the Arabian Nights and Greek mythology. -mrl] Poor Doyle--he always thought his lasting legacy would be his historical novels, but instead he is known as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and secondarily as the "Father of the Giant Monster Movie" (it has always worked better in movies than in written form, I think). No one reads THE WHITE COMPANY these days.
While the essays are, as I say, a mixed bag, there is enough to make it worthwhile for Kong fans. And aren't we all Kong fans after all?
A HAIRCUT IN HORSE TOWN by "Click and Clack" ("the Car Guys") ISBN-10 0-756-76423-8, ISBN-13: 978-0-756-76423-4) is a collection of puzzles and associated quips by the National Public Radio car repair duo. Apparently, they started doing a puzzle on each show. For example, (stripped down to its basics) one is as follows: you have fifty black balls, fifty white balls, and two boxes. You are allowed to distribute the balls between the two boxes any way you want. Then the boxes are shuffled. You then pick a box, and (without looking) a ball out of that book. Is there any way to improve your odds of choosing a black ball to more than 50%?
The puzzles fall into two categories: those that will be familiar to any veteran puzzle fan, and those having to do with cars which usually do not give you all the necessary information, *and* which assume a more detailed knowledge of cars than most people have. The transcripts are funny enough into parts, but as a puzzle book, it is a disappointment. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Mistakes are the portals of discovery. -- James Joyce
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