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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/24/08 -- Vol. 27, No. 17, Whole Number 1516
Table of Contents
In Defense of the Amoeba (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
You know what word bothers me a lot? It is the word "pseudopod". I mean what does it mean? It means literally a "false foot". It is like a foot, but is not one. And an amoeba gets around extending out a part of itself and pushing itself along as if it were a foot. But it is a false foot. At least that is the modern point of view. I will tell you what bothers me. Amoeba were among the earliest protozoa. And they are essentially unchanged since they first existed. That means way back when about the only forms of life were protozoa they had pseudopodia. So there were pseudopodia hundreds of millions of years before the first thing that we would call a foot. And the coming of feet was my no means fore-ordained. So how can you have a false imitation of something that might have never come along? What was it imitating? Nothing! It was a thing on its own. May I strongly suggest that the proper wording would be that what amoeba have are "podia". Those stiff things under your ankles are "parapodia". [-mrl]
Fascinating and Beautiful Talk (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
If you want to see an impressive show about subatomic particles and symmetries and why the Large Hadron Collider was built, see "Garrett Lisi: A Beautiful New Theory Of Everything." Don't expect to understand it all, but it shows the beauty and symmetry of the cutting edge research in sub-atomic particle. The film runs about 21 minutes. Even if you cannot understand everything (and don't expect to) you can appreciate the beauty.
We Are ALL Moses Now (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I have to tell you that I have always felt like something of a misfit. I feel out of place. It is like there was something going on and I just had not been told about it. And I knew it was terrible. Things just did not seem right around me. Time was out of joint. I had this creepy feeling that there was some huge injustice being done. And partly as a result of this I have felt that I have had a sort of kinship with those oppressed. It is sort of like the Charlton Heston Moses in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. But I did not until recently know just how much it was like that. Okay, I know I am not making any sense. Let me explain.
Some of you may remember that just about five years ago I found a cause that I could be deeply committed to. In the 10/03/03 issue of the MT VOID I explained the situation. It can be found at: http://fanac.org/fanzines/MT_Void/MT_Void-2214.html
The editorial was entitled "Not in MY Name". I explained just what this nasty situation was. As I said at that time:
"We grew up with [the] Sagittarius [Galaxy] in the sky. It is about one-tenth the diameter of the Milky Way but weighs less than one- thousandth as much as the Milky Way. It is just a little shy thing up there. It had to feel intimidated being so close to a heavyweight galaxy like the Milky Way? We now know that Milky Way galaxy has been eating pieces of our little friend [the Sagittarius Galaxy]. It probably has been going on for years. Thousands of stars have been ripped from our friend are coming to our part of the Milky Way galaxy. Milky Way is outright stealing this matter from its near neighbor to send our way. Why? Because it can. Because it is big and massive and has pull. Because it wants to throw its weight around. I feel just terrible. I mean at one point I was proud to say I was a citizen of the Milky Way galaxy. I mean in spite of the bucolic name, I felt I was a part of something bigger than myself. Well, it's big all right. Milky Way is really big. It is big enough to steal matter from other galaxies that it has no right to. It just is not big enough to know it is wrong, Wrong, WRONG! Astronomers from the University of Virginia and the University of Massachusetts did the study. You can see the press release at http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=12630. "It's clear who's the bully in the interaction," said Steven Majewski, University of Virginia professor of astronomy and primary author of a paper revealing the discovery? Astronomers from the University of Virginia and the University of Massachusetts did the study. '" This study is called the Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). [I think the name "2MASS" is an allusion to "UMass" since the project is led by my alma mater, the University of Massachusetts.]
But there is more to the story. Something the same study found more recently is dynamite. Last year the awful truth was discovered. And this is what the Powers that Be are keeping from you. (In fact none of the four Presidential candidates has even mentioned it.) Get this. They say "If we originated from the Milky Way, we ought to be oriented to the galaxy's ecliptic, with the planets aligned around our Sun in much the same angle as our Sun aligns with the Milky Way. Instead, as first suggested by researcher Matthew Perkins Erwin, the odd angle suggests that our Sun is influenced by some other system. Together with data from the Two-Micron All Sky Survey we now know what it is. We actually belong to the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy."
Let me repeat that last part again. "WE ACTUALLY BELONG TO THE SAGITTARIUS DWARF GALAXY." What does that do to your loyalty to the Milky Way? What do you think of your galaxy now? Boy, you were upset about Pluto not being a planet. Here we were taken in bonds of gravitational force from our true galaxy, WITHOUT OUR CONSENT. Is it any wonder things are screwed up and out of balance?
And even if we had intergalactic drives, we could not go home again. There is no home to go back to. The Milky Way is ripping up our home galaxy so that there will be nothing left by the time we can get there. This is it. We are pretty much in the Milky Way for keeps. Don't be fooled by the cutesy, maternal name the Milky Way, it is one heck of a mean, greedy, and vicious galaxy. It probably would not let us go back even if we tried. But I tell you this. The Milky Way may think it has the human race under its proverbial thumb. It maybe has us for the time being. But it is not going to get one ounce of cooperation from me. I am going to resist it in any way that I can. Well, I am not actually sure what I can do right now. But I am open to suggestions.
But I suggest your remember your true heritage. When you see that white band across the sky look up defiantly. That is the Milky Way. Those are your captors. Start thinking of yourself as a brave Sagittarian and no longer as a simpering Milky Wayian. And you share that heritage with some of the most noble people in history. [-mrl]
Goya (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In response to Mark's comments on Goya in the 10/17/08 issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn writes:
I would like to add a few of my own comments on some of the prints. For example, I was stuck by the technical excellence of "Mala noche" (number #36) which shows a couple on a very windy night--and everything about the clothes, the hair, etc., make you really *feel* the wind. And "Miren que grabes!" ("Look How Solemn They Are!") (number 63) has amazing detail.
See http://www.gasl.org/refbib/Goya__Caprichos.pdf and add two to the sequence number.
In the "Donkey Series" (numbers 37 through 42), "Asta su abuelo" (number 39) shows a donkey showing off a book of his genealogy. This is obvious satire on its own, but there is more to it. In Spain, there had been for centuries the concept of "Limpieza de Sangre" ("Cleanliness of Blood")--proofs that one was descended from "old" Catholics and not from converted Jews or Moors. These records were kept in large books, and the book that the donkey is displaying makes one think of these "books of blood". A later print, "La filiacion" (lineage) (number 57), is on a similar theme.
"Los chinchillas" (number 50) has a character whose head is surprisingly shaped like that of Universal Studios Frankenstein, and also has similarities to scenes from the film BEDLAM (about the notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, a insane asylum). (Since the latter came from Hogarth engravings, there might be a link through them.)
If you want to get children interested in Goya, show them "Sopla" ("Blow") (number 69). I'll bet they never thought that great art included scenes of creatures lighting torches with flatulence!
In addition to the Goya prints, there was a section titled "Legacy of Goya", which included works by Pablo Picasso, Yinka Shonibare, and Enrique Chagoya, all inspired by "Los Caprichos". Chagoya's are the closest to Goya, with copies of eight prints. For example, he has copied "Se repulan", but with Jerry Falwell, Jesse Helms, and the purple Teletubby. His version of "A caza de diontes" has Snow White and Rat Fink. And all of Chagoya's prints have a stamp that says "Museo de canabalismo y technologia macrobiotica". I have no idea what that signifies, but it reminds me somewhat of the Museum of Jurassic Technology. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
My regular book discussion group chose THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO HUNTING AND FISHING by Melissa Bank (ISBN-13 978-0-140-27882-8, ISBN-10 0-140-27882-6) for this month. It is supposedly a humorous novel (or rather, a collection of related humorous stories) but I didn't find it funny at all. I just found the characters either boring or annoying.
MAN IN THE DARK by Paul Auster (ISBN-13 978-0-8050-8839-7, ISBN-10 0-8050-8839-3) is an alternate history--sort of. The narrator Owen Brick (well, one of the narrators--the book has multiple first- person narrators) wakes up in a pit and soon discovers that he is in an alternate world and has been brought there to be given instructions to kill someone. The other narrator, August Brill, is entangled in this story in a very unusual way, and what makes things even odder is that the alternate history aspect vanishes entirely from the final third of the book. Given that the book is only 180 pages long, Auster has a lot going on in such a small space. As an alternate history, it's okay, but its real appeal is its convoluted structure rather than the alternate history aspect.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH by Philip Pullman (ISBN-13 978-0-375-84510-9, ISBN-10 0-375-84510-0) is another "sort of" alternate history. It is set in Pullman's "His Dark Materials" universe, which has a fairly substantial alternate history basis, but ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE NORTH itself uses very little of that. It is basically a Wild West (or perhaps Northwest) story, with some fantasy elements added (e.g., armored talking bears, balloons), and tells an early story in the life of Lee Scoresby. It is mostly notable, I think, for the engravings by John Lawrence, and the letters, book extracts, newspaper clippings, bills of lading, and so forth, reproduced as informational illustrations, and also for the general quality of the physical book itself. Though issued as a book, it is really only novella-length (I estimate about 20,000 words). As such, it is similar to the previously published LYRA'S OXFORD. Either of these would be a nice present for a teenager who enjoyed the trilogy; I'm not sure there is enough depth for adult readers.
I liked TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY by John Steinbeck (ISBN-13 978-0-142-00070-0, ISBN-10 0-142-00070-1) so much that I recommended it for my afternoon reading group. In the 1960s, Steinbeck traveled across the United States and back, making observations about the country and how much things had changed in his lifetime. Reading it now, one gets a second level of realization--that of how much things have changed since the 1960s. (Charley, by the way, was Steinbeck's dog.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Evil is like water, it abounds, is cheap, soon fouls, but runs itself clear of taint. -- Samuel Butler
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