MT VOID 10/03/08 -- Vol. 27, No. 14, Whole Number 1513

MT VOID 10/03/08 -- Vol. 27, No. 14, Whole Number 1513

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/03/08 -- Vol. 27, No. 14, Whole Number 1513

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

Backstage Drama (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I just read a real profile in courage. This would make a good movie. You ought to visit the White House press release at

This is where George W. Bush reveals how he himself warned of exactly the financial crisis we are having right now. He began these warnings apparently in 2001 and the web page shows you year by year since then how urgently he tried to warn of the financial situation.

This was the President of the United States, leader of the party that had the majority of Congress, the man whose party had appointed much of the Supreme Court, and the man who appoints the country's chief financial officers. And here he was trying desperately to get his message to someone who might have a little influence. [-mrl]

My Position on the SNL Issue (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I discuss politics with a friend and we were discussing media coverage of Sarah Palin. He told me he had not seen the "Saturday Night Live" sketch on Palin. I shrugged it off. Later he announced to me that he had now seen it. I did not ask him, but I will ask here. Why is the "Saturday Night Live" sketch so important that it is getting so much national attention? What Palin believes and her ability to reason and to be coherent is important. At some point I may talk about that, or maybe not. But I want to take a non-partisan stand right now and say that what "Saturday Night Live" does to try to be funny and to entertain is a total irrelevancy to my politics. It may be good for a laugh but it has no political importance whatsoever. How far have we fallen as a country that so many people think "Saturday Night Live" sketches are part of the national political debate? [-mrl]

Editorial Written on an HP COMPUTER While Drinking a DIET BARQ'S ROOT BEER Which Foamed onto the Keyboard (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Back when I was very young I used to watch a situation comedy called "The Phil Silvers Show: You'll Never Get Rich." It is more fondly remembered under the syndication title of "Sergeant Bilko." It took place on an Army base and was the comic adventures of a likable but amazingly self-serving sergeant. But the most self- serving thing that would happen on a regular basis is that the characters would just be standing around talking about the story without the plot advancing. And in a few seconds the plot got around to a particular brand of cigarette and how good it is and how popular. It was not actually part of the show; it was an ad cleverly disguised to make the viewer watch. Even if you knew it was a commercial, you generally listened because is was the same characters that you were watching the program to see. But there was a certain feeling that you had been hoodwinked into watching an advertisement. I later heard that the FCC banned this practice. Commercials could not be made to blend in with the program. Over the years the advertising industry has been chipping away at this ruling. They no longer shoot a separate commercial with the same characters. But they discovered that is they were a little more subtle about it they could work their product into the main line of the story. As you probably know this is known as the "product placement" or "embedded advertising."

Films abound with product placements these days. They very blatantly show you characters drinking cans of soda with the name positioned perfectly for the audience to read. Or a character will jump aboard a certain company's package delivery trucks. Generally a product placement indicates it was put there by a filmmaker who does not respect his audience and is willing to prostitute the integrity of his film for a few extra dollars. An argument that has been given in defense of the product placements is that the money payoff was necessary to produce the film or that it is realism to show some product names because we would see them in the real world. In the real world you rarely see a product's label positioned just perfectly to easily read, but it happens in bad movies all the time.

James Bond films were a natural for product placements because in the books Bond is supposed to have refined taste and Ian Fleming mentioned certain products Bond preferred, though presumably Ian Fleming never got paid off for any of these specific product mentions. The Bond films, at least for a while, went into product placements in some unsubtle ways. In the film MOONRAKER there is a chase down a hill past three billboards. Each billboard advertises a specific product. And each of those products also gets a mention elsewhere in the dialog of the film. Clearly the producers were selling a pre-defined package, one showing on a billboard and one mention in the dialog, for anyone who wanted to pay the price. The practice has not gone away in current Bond films. (According to Wikipedia "when reviewing DIE ANOTHER DAY, [the] BBC, Time and Reuters referred to it as "Buy Another Day." When you buy your ticket for QUANTUM OF SOLACE you can expect that you are playing to see a fancy ad for Ford, Omega, Sony, Virgin Atlantic, Heineken, Coca-Cola, and Smirnoff.)

Even Steven Spielberg has gotten into the act. Part of the point of MINORITY REPORT was to give a vision of the future and where advertising specifically was going. But that particular artistic decision was a profitable one with product placements like American Express, Reebok and The Gap. Of course this is in the tradition of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. I do not know if they were paid for all the obvious product names that show up in the visuals.

[Note: I lied about drinking the Barq's Root Beer, but I did start this article back in June and at that time I did use an HP PC. I'll accept cash from Barq's or HP. But I am willing to.]

Some of the information in this article was taken from the article "A Quantum Leap in Product Placement" from "Marketing Week":

(I have to point out that the author may know advertising but does not realize that a "quantum leap" does not mean a large change as the term is frequently used, but actually the smallest possible change.) One thing that will not change next week is my topic. I will be discussing some legislation the FCC is considering in limiting product placement. [-mrl]

GHOST TOWN (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A dentist who died for seven minutes on the operating table finds that he now can see dead people. Half of Manhattan has favors they want of him and making matters worse, it is the dead half. Ricky Gervais, popular star of BBC TV's "The Office", plays the man who doesn't like living people and now has also to deal with the dead. He is asked by a dead husband to break up his wife's relationship with a new fiance. The first half has some very good writing, but the film loses its center and wanders in its second half. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

GHOST TOWN is a supernatural comedy-drama for which the comedy elements, mostly connected with the premise, are pointed and work. The dramatic elements are a little unfocussed. This makes for a film with a great first act, and good but faulty second act and a weak conclusion. The film was co-written and directed by David Koepp. Koepp has been connected with some major fantasy films, usually as a writer. Koepp's writing can be found in JURASSIC PARK, THE SHADOW, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, STIR OF ECHOES, SPIDER-MAN, WAR OF THE WORLDS (Spielberg version), ZATHURA, and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. Those are fairly major fantasy films. Here he tells a romantic story seemingly based on the premises of GHOST and especially THE SIXTH SENSE.

Like Cole Sear of THE SIXTH SENSE, Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) sees dead people. It is the after-effect of dying on an operating table for nearly seven minutes before being revived. Bertram sees the dead like Sear does, but there are not just a few unquiet spirits like we saw in THE SIXTH SENSE. This is Manhattan and there are throngs of the dead who have been waiting around for some living person to get the power to hear them. Each has a mission before he or she moves onto the next existence. Bertram just has to do one or two little things for each of them. Bertram could spend the rest of his life performing important services for the unquiet dead. Complicating matters is the fact that Bertram is just not someone who does a lot of favors. In fact, Bertram is a self-obsessed jerk who would just rather not be around people. He chose being a dentist as a profession because sticking cotton or metal into a patient's mouth generally ends conversations. He has a hard enough time putting up with the living people in his life, and he is less than happy about being the key man for so many dead people. They hound him and they follow him around. The novelty of this situation somewhat compensates for the overuse of the old gag of someone trying to cover up the fact that he is talking to someone that nobody else sees. That one got old along with the "Topper" films.

Chief among Bertram's haunters is Frank Harley (Greg Kinnear). On the day that Frank's wife Gwen (Tea Leoni) discovered Frank was leading a double life, both lives came to an end. Frank wants to make sure that the Gwen does not marry a certain creep, but being dead his options are limited. He stalks and hounds Bertram hoping to use him to save his wife. Not too surprisingly Bertram finds he has an interest in her himself. In the second half the film loses impetus and direction. We have three main characters, one living, one dead, one lost a little in between. But none of these characters seems to know what he or she wants. Instead, the tension comes from not knowing if Gwen will find out that Bertram is seeing her dead ex-husband (literally seeing him).

Fans of Ricky Gervais--and some people who do not care for him-- know him as the boorish office manager in the BBC comedy series "The Office." Koepp gets a somewhat more restrained performance from him for most of GHOST TOWN'S runtime. There are moments when his TV persona does seem to creep back on him. This is a film that takes the idea of THE SIXTH SENSE and makes a passable comedy out of it by examining what it would mean to an average man to have the power. As long as we are getting clever ideas about what it would mean to see the dead, the GHOST TOWN is a lot of fun. When it tries to become more serious the film falters and loses its center. Still I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:


IDENTITY THEFT AND OTHER STORIES by Robert J. Sawyer (copyright 2008, Red Deer Press, $15.95, 284pp, ISBN 978-0-88995-412-0) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

It's no secret here that I'm a fan of Rob Sawyer--I like his writing style, his story telling, and his ability to come up with more ideas in one novel than many writers do in several. What seems to fly under the radar is that Sawyer is a fine writer of short fiction as well. Here's what I wrote about ITERATIONS, an earlier short story collection from Sawyer: "ITERATIONS is full of short stories the way I remember short stories were written when I was younger--short, sweet, with some impact and with something to make you want to go 'hmmmm'. Maybe I've been looking in all the wrong places (I think there's a song title in there somewhere) for short fiction, but I just don't find much like this any more."

This is the second time I've used that quote in another review of a book of Sawyer's short work, the other being RELATIVITY. It holds true here as well.

I've seen a bunch of these stories elsewhere (again, in both ITERATIONS and RELATIVITY, as well as chapbooks and other places), and those stories still make for good reading the second or more time around.

Still, it's other stories that I don't think I've talked about in prior reviews (maybe I have, but I can't seem to find them in my other reviews, so I think I'm good): "The Stanley Cup Caper", wherein the championship trophy of the National Hockey League goes missing, and the detectives looking for it realize that it's in a very unlikely place; "Mikeys", in which the title refers to those astronauts who orbited the moon but never landed there, and which tells the tale about two Mikeys who got the scoop of a lifetime when they didn't land on Mars; "Driving a Bargain", a nice little horror piece that will have criminals think twice about their getaway cars; "Postscript: Emails from the Future", which portrays the future of business extremely accurately, in my mind, that I laughed out loud several times; "Flashes", about a bleak future wherein contact with an alien species has a very undesired side effect; "The Good Doctor", another entry into a traditional series of SF stories that ends in an awful pun that will have you groaning and shaking your head; "Biding Time", another story in the "Shed Skin" universe where our hero detective solves another murder case involving uploaded personalities; "Come All Ye Faithful", about a priest sent to Mars to investigate a Blessed Virgin sighting; and my personal favorite, "On the Surface", where Sawyer revisits the far future of earth from H.G. Wells' THE TIME MACHINE, and just how bleak *that* is.

Sawyer says that he will no longer be writing short fiction--he much prefers novels, and that he doesn't have much time for the shorter works. In that case, I suggest you pick up IDENTITY THEFT, along with ITERATIONS and RELATIVITY. You'll have all of Sawyer's short fiction, and you will really enjoy it. [-jak]

THE MAN FROM EARTH (letter of comment by Dave Anolick):

In response to Mark's review of THE MAN FROM EARTH in the 09/19/08 issue of the MT VOID, Dave Anolick writes:

I recently re-started exercising in the morning, watching DVDs from Netflix as I ride a stationary bike. I normally stick to TV shows because the time of a single show is the right amount of time for my exercise routine. I know to stay away from movies, because if it is a good movie, I often can't wait until the next day to finish. Then my morning routine is blown to heck as I watch TV long after I'm off the bike.

Well, this morning I broke my rule based on your +3 rating for "The Man from Earth" and am now way behind in my day. But it was so worth it, I figured I would spend another few minutes sending email to thank you.

I never would have found this incredible gem of a movie without your review and the MT VOID. I appreciate how good you are about spoilers, but sometimes I like going into a movie knowing as little as possible. So I actually only read the Capsule originally and said that's enough for me and put it at the top of my queue. It was so cool seeing a movie of such though provoking quality without any preconceived notions about what to expect.

Thanks again! [-da]

Mark responds:

This has happened before. At the University of Massachusetts the science fiction club took my suggestion and had a public showing of FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH (aka QUATERMASS AND THE PIT). Afterward the projectionist complained that he had intended to put on the film and then study for his French exam the next day. Somehow his French could not compete with the movie. (I still consider it the best science fiction film I know.)

Thanks Dave. It messed up your day but it made mine. [-mrl]

Macs and PCs (letters of comment by Ed Kreighon and James E. LeBarre):

In response to Evelyn's comments on Macs in the 09/26/08 issue of the MT VOID, Ed Kreighon writes, "Long time VOID reader here... Just read your article on the Mac and PC that you wrote. What I have done on my MacBook Pro, is I used Apple's BootCamp to install XP on a partition on the Mac to allow me to boot up into XP when I need to. And I installed a program called Parallels on the Mac side, that allows me to run a virtual XP machine while I am running MacOS (and it uses the existing BootCamp partition, so you don't need another XP license). With Parallels I get the best of both worlds at once (and I can even create Linux virtual machines as well). Just thought you might want to check it out..." [-ek]

In response to the particular observation about some characters showing up either as "?"s or wacko character combinations, James LaBarre writes, "You are right that this is likely not a 'Mac' thing. Rather, it is an artifact of people composing pages in MS appliucations like MSWord. The various MS applications will attempt to imbed MS-specific formatting codes into the HTML source code, partially to create formatting closer to the original document, partially to make it easier to import the file back *in* to a MS product. The problem with this is that MS Internet Exploder [sic] is the only browser that can render these codes correctly; they violate a large part of the W3C standards, and serve to split the web into 'us' and 'them'. The solution to MS' superfluous characters in the HTML code has generally been to run the file through a "demoronizer" script (there was once a script actually called "demoronizer", the concept has been incorporated into other applications since then)." [-jel]

Evelyn responds, "The problem with a 'demoronizer' script is that several different characters seem all to be mapped to the same character (when things become question marks). I can actually run a script when they become the wacko three-character combinations I mentioned in my comments." [-ecl]

Fifty States (letter of comment by Frank Leisti):

In response to the quiz of naming all fifty states mentioned in the 09/26/08 issue of the MT VOID, Frank Leisti writes, " The Animaniacs do this in about 3 minutes--with the capitals of the states as well: That is how my second son, Niles, learned his states and capitals. He sang that song enough times to remember it that way." [-fl]

Evelyn notes, "I did it in 2 minutes, 19 seconds. (This means typing them all correctly, by the way.) I could probably do all the capitals, too." [-ecl]

Sword and SandalSword and Sandal (letters of comment by David Shallcross, Taras Wolansky and John Purcell):

In response to Mark's article on sword and sandal films in the 09/26/08 issue of the MT VOID, David Shallcross writes, " The movie you have called CIBERIA is available from Kino on Video, under the name 'Cabiria'. Maciste was just a supporting character, neither the protagonist nor the romantic male lead, but was apparently so popular that a long sequence of Maciste movies were made. The silent-era 'Maciste all'inferno' is interesting, although not, strictly speaking, a peplum film. [-ds]

Mark replies, "I wonder why my spell checker didn't catch 'Ciberia'. I have seen CABIRIA. Maciste is not the main character but he certainly steals the show. And considering the sets that takes some doing." [-mrl]

Taras Wolanksy writes:

Mark's story about the Italian sword and sandal flicks brought back some nostalgic memories. I remember liking HERCULES UNCHAINED as a kid, and my fond memories are preserved by not seeing the film since then. The handsome color cinematography was flattering to the pink, rounded limbs of the busty young Italian actresses in their shorty robes that, even then, I suspected were not entirely historically accurate. In those pre-steroid days, Steve Reeves was big and muscular as the demi-god, but not a grotesque monster.

For many people, I'm sure, these films were their introduction to the strange, strange world of ancient Greece. One strong, beguiling impression that HERCULES UNCHAINED left behind--one thing it may have gotten right about the ancient world--was that these people lived most of their lives outside, in roofed structures open to the wind, and in atria open to the sky. [-tw]

Mark responds, " You are right that some people probably did get interested in mythology through these films. Today some kids are getting into mythology through books. I talked to one boy who was very excited about Greek myth having gotten interested though a series by Rick Riordan starting with THE LIGHTENING THIEF. Apparently it is about a young adult who as adventures centering on the gods of myth." [-mrl]

And John Purcell writes:

On to a more fun topic: Sword and Sandal films are one of my guilty pleasures. I have always enjoyed those; much fun to heckle and laugh at over a bowl of popcorn while guzzling a pitcher of KoolAid. I have never heard the term "pepla" used before to describe these films. Your explanation of where this comes from was most helpful, and I like the idea of combining it with "Fusto". Yeah, I like it. Fusto Pepla. Sounds like the name of some Italian pro wrestler.

At any rate, this article was also neat to see the connection between how those Godzilla flicks found their way into the American late-night television movie time slots. When I was a kid in Minneapolis, the local CBS station (WCCO) had this thing called "Horror, Incorporated" which showed some classic horror films from the 1930s and 1940s mixed in with a liberal dollop of 1950s and 1960s schlock films. The program started at midnight and would run double-features--sometimes triple-features--until 4:00 or 4:30 in the morning. I'd stay up all night watching them, too. Loved that kind of stuff then; still do, in fact

So I thank you for running this "pepla" film article. Very illuminating and entertaining, and I agree with you that it would be great if TCM would air more of them. Once in a while they have Ray Harryhausen or SciFi or Horror film fests running all day and night on either a Friday or Saturday night. Mix in these Sword and Sandal flicks from time to time and they'd have a nice rotation of celluloid abominations running. It almost makes me miss Mystery Science Theater 3000. Almost. [-jp]

THE HANDS OF ORLACTHE HANDS OF ORLAC (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):

In response to Mark's review of THE HANDS OF ORLAC in the 09/26/08 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

For me, Conrad Veidt will always be the evil Grand Vizier, Jaffar, in Michael Powell's glorious Technicolor THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD (1940), with Sabu as the Thief, and Rex Ingram as the genie. When Jaffar looks at the heroine, his eye filled with a passion the wimpy, forgettable hero of the movie cannot match, I'm sure many women in the audience, in their heart of hearts, dreamed of being pursued by him to the ends of the earth.

After making that film in England, Veidt moved to America, made CASABLANCA in 1942, and died of a heart attack in 1943. (Veidt had previously made THE MAN WHO LAUGHS in America in 1928, but he was still based in Germany at the time.) [-tw]

Mark responds:

I should have mentioned THIEF OF BAGDAD as a role for Veidt. By the way, it seems older versions of the film, like the 1940 Veidt version spell the city BAGDAD. Newer versions use the spelling BAGHDAD.

Actually Veidt was (I have heard) the center of an international incident. As it is reported at

"Late in 1933 Veidt was back in Berlin acting in William Tell, when the German government learned that Gaumont-British planned to star Veidt in the forthcoming film JEW SUSS, based on a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger, in which a Jewish man named Suss is persecuted in 18th century Germany. The Nazis didn't want the film made, and they definitely didn't want Veidt to star. A note was sent to Gaumont claiming that Veidt was too ill to return to England. Meanwhile, Veidt was detained as a 'guest of the state,' in a hotel room with a bed and a bath. He was not physically abused, but received regular verbal abuse from a Nazi officer, who demanded that Veidt decline the role in JEW SUSS, and demanded that Veidt supply the names and addresses of his associates in Germany. Veidt refused both demands.

Veidt's British producer, Michael Balcon, managed to get a British doctor to Veidt's place of detainment, where the doctor certified him in good health and fit to travel. Then Gaumont-British and the British Consulate brought pressure to bear on the Nazi government, which eventually released him. Veidt returned to Lilli, having satisfied none of the Nazis? demands. The Nazis banned him from returning to Germany, and he never did."

Veidt should have been the successor to Lon Chaney and would have probably made an excellent Dracula. It is a pity that his career in America did not pan out that way. [-mrl]

Polish Film Posters, the Economy, and THE HANDS OF ORLAC (letter of comment by John Purcell):

In response to the 09/26/08 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell Writes:

That link to those Polish film posters was fun. It is always interesting to note how other folks around the world perceive American films. I think my favorite poster of this bunch was that one of TOOTSIE; the caricature of a heavily bearded, hairy-chested male putting on brilliant red lipstick is quite the shocker. I certainly don't recall Dustin Hoffman looking that hirsute in the movie. The poster was more like Jessica Lang's titular costar in that abysmal KING KONG remake. That definitely makes more sense

Somehow, all this economic turmoil and Prez Shrub's response reminds of what caused that catastrophic German inflation of the early 1920's. They kept making deutschmarks in bigger and bigger increments until finally the entire German financial institution imploded, and things got REALLY bad. Boy, those Germans sure were lucky they had that Hitler guy ready to step in and get their country back on track...

Yes, I am being cynically facetious beyond belief, but the parallels between the German economic crisis and the current American one are frightening. Hopefully, things won't turn out THAT bad, but this does not bode well for our nation for many a moon. Treasury Secretary Paulson scares me--much as Bush and Cheney have for eight years--and should not be trusted with being in charge of this 'bailout' which could easily be the result of some of Paulson's own policies and decisions of his time in this position. Geez, I would hate to be the person taking over these problems come January 20, 2009. Let's hope some cooler, more intelligent heads take over. Keep as many of your digits crossed, folks.

[John's comments on sword and sandal films are included among other letters on the same topic above.]

Rounding out this movie-themed issue of MT VOID is your review of THE HANDS OF ORLAC. I do remember seeing this once at a long- forgotten con, and loved it. Again, since TCM has their Silent Sunday movie, this would be a good one for them to show. In fact, TCM's series has me watching these almost on a regular basis. It's a lot of fun to watch these films; quite a treat sometimes. [-jp]

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

CONSTANTINE'S SWORD: THE CHURCH AND THE JEWS by James Carroll (ISBN-13 978-0-618-21908-7, ISBN-10 0-618-21908-0) covers an important topic--the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church towards Jews through the ages. Unfortunately, it seems completely unfocused. Carroll will talk about some historical period, then veer off into a description of how he met Pope John XXIII, or seeing some Catholic ceremony in Germany when he was a child, or being in the anti-(Vietnam)-war movement. I can't help but feel that he should have written two books: one a memoir of his life and the other a history of anti-Semitism in the Church.

This anti-Semitism went through several phases. At times, the belief that the Jews must remain to witness the final days was a dominant factor. Other times, the drive to convert Jews was based on the idea that if they just heard the "truth", they would convert. A particularly counter-productive phase was the belief that the Jews *knew* that Jesus was the Messiah, but refused to convert out of contrariness and/or wickedness. (I find it ironic that a few years ago I heard a variation of this argument from a Jew, who argued that gays and lesbians *knew* that what they were doing was wrong, but did it anyway out of wickedness.)

One of the digressions was actually fairly apt in its depiction of how people turn history to their own ends. Carroll was constantly told about his great-uncle in Ireland for whom he was named. "It was the year of the Rising against the British, and he died an Irish hero," his mother would say. So when Carroll went to Ireland, he went to his ancestral town, and asked about whether his great-uncle was buried there. Sure enough, he was directed to the churchyard. "I pushed away high the grass away to read the inscription: 'James Morrissey, RIP.' Sure enough, the date of his death was 1916. [But] I now made out before his name the letters 'Pvt.,' and below it was the seal of the British Empire. I read the words 'Killed in France.' I was confused only for a moment. Private James Morrissey 'died an Irish hero in the year of the Rising against the British,' but instead of as an Irish Republican Brotherhood rebel, he died as a British soldier, fighting for the king in the Great War."

In one of the essays in THE ENGINES OF NIGHT: SCIENCE FICTION IN THE EIGHTIES (ISBN-13 978-0-385-17541-8, ISBN-10 0-385-17541-8), Barry N. Malzberg says, "Truthful as this material is, if there is any audience for this book (in truth, there is no other) it is one comprised of aspirant writers...." This master wordsmith makes two mistakes in one sentence, one grammatical and one substantive. The grammatical is in the use of "comprises" (it should be "it is one comprising aspirant writers"), but more important, Malzberg fails to reckon with people who are not aspirant writers and still want to read this book. I don't always agree with Malzberg (he has far too pessimistic world view for me), but I do find his writing stimulating.

THE ECONOMIC NATURALIST; IN SEARCH OF EXPLANATIONS FOR EVERYDAY ENIGMAS by Robert H. Frank (ISBN-13 978-0-465-00217-7, ISBN-10 0-465-00217-X) proposes answers to such questions as "Why do drive-up ATMs have Braille keypads?" and "Why do most states enforce mandatory kindergarten start dates?" Some of the answers are obvious, and others are arguable, but on the whole this is at least an amusing book. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           My mind's terrain has become exceedingly rough.  
           Emotional scars are changing my internal 
           geography faster than the mapmaker can keep pace.  
           Wrong turns and dead ends abound, and I'm afraid 
           someday I'll drown in a river I didn't know was 
                                          -- D.H. Mondfleur

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