MT VOID 06/20/08 -- Vol. 26, No. 51, Whole Number 1498

MT VOID 06/20/08 -- Vol. 26, No. 51, Whole Number 1498

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/20/08 -- Vol. 26, No. 51, Whole Number 1498

Table of Contents

      El Honcho Grande: Mark Leeper, La Honcha Bonita: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

229's Missing Digit Answer (puzzle answer by Mark R. Leeper):

We received several answers to last week's mathematics problem, all correct. Some people did the brute force technique of multiplying the number out. It works. But the problem can almost be done in your head if you do it modulo 9.

The question was 229 is a nine-digit number with no digit appearing more than once. What digit does not appear?

This is David F. Shallcross's solution:

If I accept that 229 has nine distinct digits, then using paper and pencil I can show that the missing digit is 4.

As for most puzzles involving digits, the method uses arithmetic modulo 9. Modulo 9, I can calculate that 20 = 1; 21 = 2 ;22 = 4; 23 = 8; 24 = 7; 25 = 5; 26 = 1 (things start repeating here) 229 = (26)4 * 25 = 5.

A number with nine distinct digits, missing digit d will be equal to 9-d modulo 9, so I conclude that the missing digit is 4.

Solutions received were from (in chronological order) David F. Shallcross, Randy Wrigley, Stephen Milton, Victoria Feinberg, Andre Kuzniarek, Robert Hell, Richie Bielak, Gina Teh, and Tim McDaniel. And speaking of mathematics problems, see the next item. [-mrl]

Three-Month Drug Trial Aborted Because Mathematics Puzzles Are Irresistible (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have always thought that mathematics and logic are fascinating. I have to admit that at work, when a meeting was going slowly and covering something not relevant to my projects I would fool around with mathematics on a piece of paper. If you are curious enough about enough areas of mathematics, you really don't need to carry around a Gameboy or iPod to keep you occupied. Just a pencil and paper will do it. But only rarely does a good logic problem seem to engage the rest of the public. Rubik's Cube did. I would see little kids walking down the street trying to solve what was essentially a problem in advanced Group Theory. Another puzzle that caught on with the public is Sudoku. A lot of people seem to love Sudoku. It is that addictive logic puzzle where you are given a 9-by-9 square with some numbers filled in. You have to fill in the numbers following certain rules. There is something psychologically rewarding about Sudoku puzzles. You work with them for a long time making slow progress and then suddenly everything will fall into place and you start getting answers as fast as you can write them down. All of a sudden everything starts working out for you.

Now Reuters reports from Sydney that a big important drug trial that had been going on for three months had to be aborted because four or more of the jurors had been playing Sudoku supposedly to keep their minds active during the duller parts of the trial. Jurors were sitting there playing Sudoku games when they should have been paying attention to the trial.


Stan Winston (1946-2008) Brought Visual Imagination to the Screen (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

[My original article for this week, the fourth part of series of four, has to be postponed a week so that I can mark the following milestone in the field of artistic expression of fantasy.]

Each generation there seems to be one name most associated with translating visual fantasy to the screen. Willis O'Brien did KING KONG and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG. His mantle was passed to Ray Harryhausen. Harryhausen is still alive, but the man most logically considered his successor died of cancer this week at the young age of 62. But unlike Harryhausen, who is best known for one particular technique, stop-motion animation, Winston was a generalist and master of many different visual techniques. He started his career with fantasy in makeup, but his skill set extended also to mastery of puppetry and to robotics. He is also known for digital effects. There was little in the visual expression of fantasy on the screen that he did not get involved with in some way. His resume reads like a history of the big science fiction blockbusters.

As a boy in Richmond, Virginia, Stan Winston was early an enthusiast of puppetry of the creation of masks. At the University of Virginia he studied painting and sculpture graduating in 1968. He continued his studies at California State University, Long Beach, but left intending to take up a career in acting. Unable to make a living at acting he also learned the art of makeup working at Walt Disney Studios. While there he rediscovered his childhood interest in puppetry and masks. This redirected his career.

He formed Stan Winston Studio in 1972 and that same year did the makeup/mask effects for the TV-movie GARGOYLES. His work on that film won him an Emmy and established his credentials in Hollywood. In the 1980s he began a long association with James Cameron when he designed Arnold Schwarzenegger's robotic makeup for THE TERNINATOR in 1987. The following year his work on Cameron's ALIENS netted his first Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. He continued in a similar vein with PREDATOR and in a very different vein for the makeup of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. These two projects, together with his earlier work on HEARTBEEPS, each won Winston a nomination for an Academy Award. And in 1992 he won two Academy Awards in one evening for TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, one for makeup and one for visual effects.

To this point Winston's creature creations had been ways to make up humans to look alien either before or after shooting the film. When Steven Spielberg brought him on board JURASSIC PARK he expanded his skills with digital imaging. He used it to create creatures digitally inside the computer and combine the images with live-action. His effects won him another Academy Award. That same year, 1993, he founded Digital Domain, a digital visual effects studio.

Winston again worked with Spielberg on AI: ARTIFICAL INTELLIGENCE and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK. Those films and BATMAN RETURNS netted him three more nominations for Academy Awards. His most recent work that has made it to the screen was the special effects that he and his company did for IRON MAN, released just weeks before his death.

Lessor-known of his work was to produce a series of films for cable with titles taken 1950s Roger Corman films. (I refuse to call them remakes as some have, because only the titles are preserved.) He wrote the story for and directed the horror film PUMPKINHEAD. And at one time he was also a stand-up comic. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. (Oddly, Ray Harryhausen did not receive one until 2003).

Winston's makeup and visual effects on the screen were an integral part of some of the most sensational fantasy films on the screen from the 1980s to the present. He was a major creative force. He had a wonderful imagination and the power to show the audience what he saw. He was also known for his philanthropic works including founding Free Arts for Abused Children

I also note with sorrow the passing of Algis Budrys and (outside genre) Tim Russert. [-mrl]

Saving Money on Drugs (Free Samples Aren't Really Free) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

We all know that generic drugs are cheaper than brand-name. And we all think that getting free samples from the doctor is cheaper yet. But it isn't.

The samples that the doctors get to give out are pretty much only for those drugs that have no generics. So if you are diagnosed with condition X that requires a maintenance drug, and the doctor says, "Let's try drug Q; here's a month's worth of free samples," what happens at the end of the month? If drug Q works, he or she will prescribe drug Q--and it's available only as a name-brand. (That's why the drug company gives out the samples.)

On the other hand, if you say up front that you want to try a generic first, you will have to pay for the first month's supply. But if it works, the on-going prescription will be for the (much cheaper) generic. [-ecl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by Geraldine Brooks (ISBN-13 978-0-670-01821-5, ISBN-10 0-670-01821-X) is a novel about the Sarajevo Haggadah. Brooks uses a style that I identify with James Michener's book THE SOURCE (also about Jewish history). This style involves discovering a lot of objects connected with the central focus of the novel (in Brooks, the Haggadah, in Michener, an archaeological dig), and then giving the history of each one. In both novels, the description the main characters in the framing story give is occasionally incorrect. One difference is that Brooks focuses on the women in the history, at times to the detriment of verisimilitude. I had a particular interest in this, since we have been to Sarajevo and have a facsimile copy of the Haggadah, but neither of these are pre-requisites. (Looking at a copy of the illustrations on-line might be helpful, though.)

THE END OF THE ALPHABET by C. S. Richardson (ISBN-13 978-0-385-52255-7, ISBN-10 0-385-52255-X) was recommended to me somewhere. The premise is that Ambrose Zephyr has been told that he has a month to live, and hence decides that he and his wife Zappora Ashkenazi should travel to cities he has always wanted to visit, working his way through the alphabet, one city per letter. Unfortunately, not much comes of this other than that which would have happened with the alphabetical conceit. There is the occasional bon mot (e.g., "He was cinematically familiar with a few biblical stories."). This is also another example of a book that has done away with quotation marks as perhaps being an unnecessary expense of ink.

SHINING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA by Stephen Marche (ISBN-13 978-1-594-48315-8, ISBN-10 1-594-48315-9) is arguably science fiction, though I know of no one who reviewed it as such. (The cataloguing data calls it "experimental fiction". It purports to be an anthology of Sanjanian fiction and other writings, with a preface that provides the historical, sociological, and literary background necessary to understand them. Sanjania is an island nation in the North Atlantic, and was formerly part of the British Empire. It is a very literary culture: "Sanjanians are perhaps the most literary people on earth. Bookstalls are as common as fruit stands, the theatres around Saint Magdalene's Square dwarf the City Hall, and on Sanjair flights the stewards push small carts of books down the aisle after the beverages and pretzels."

Later, it says of Saint Magdalene's Square, "Seemingly endless bookstalls fill the square's edge and spill into the side streets in every direction. Bargain hunters and literature lovers cram every nook and cranny from sunrise (more or less) to sundown (more or less)." (Sounds like Hay-on-Wye in Wales.)

The only real drawback to this literary Shangri-La is that it does not exist. Oh, well, you can't have everything.

The earliest pieces--in terms of the internal chronology--are the most interesting, since Mache constructs a separate dialect for that era: "In his eighteenth year, Marlyebone oxchopped and mangled the other wolfheads, Goodfriday Martins, Samuel Baker Deloney, Abraham Crisp and Lover Gromes, and claimed the overward. In his nineteenth year, the Crown pursued him. Crownagent Keagan Poulter took a bulletsmash in the face and could not be regaliated. Agent Will Champion's moniker fibbed everafter his failure. Robert Strunk sunk. In Marlyebone's twentieth year, his Scourge Sally Parkman, a Woman Crownagent, grabbed his pirate fleet, and yawled it against the waves of Portuguese Cove, ane Marlyebone scuppered overhill byland toward his homecove Restitution, flittering."

This dialect is characterized by many compound words, and I suppose Marche got tired of creating them, because after the first few pieces, they go away, alas. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous 
           breakdown is the belief that one's work is 
           terribly important.
                                          -- Bertrand Russell

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