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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/15/09 -- Vol. 27, No. 46, Whole Number 1545
Table of Contents
In Case You Were Wondering (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Paleontogeny recapitulates paleophylogeny. [-mrl]
Optical Illusion (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
This is not a joke. Go to the link, find the frame with the falling ball, and follow the instructions in the frame. This is a very convincing optical illusion. It really felt like I could control where the falling ball lands by where I am looking in the frame. Of course, it always lands in the same place. Thanks to Evelyn for showing this to me. [-mrl]
The Liberal Tug (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Supreme Court Justice David Souter is stepping down from the bench soon and the President will choose a justice to replace him. Souter was named to the Court in 1990 by then President George H. W. Bush. Bush termed the nomination of Souter as a "Conservative Home Run." Indeed, it has been suggested that this nomination was made as a consolation prize to the conservatives to whom Bush had promised no new taxes and then broke his word. However, Souter proved to be one of those justices who turn out to be more liberal than expected on the Supreme Court. In fact, Souter seems to have waited to have a liberal President in office before he retired so that he is more likely to have a liberal successor.
This is not the first time that a Supreme Court justice had proven to be more liberal than expected. Earl Warren was appointed by Dwight Eisenhower but voted strongly in favor of civil rights, for separation of religion and government, and against racial segregation. I remember when I was young there were billboards in the South recommending that Earl Warren be impeached for turning liberal on the bench. But somehow I can imagine that in the position he might feel mandating a progressive civil rights policy might be a good use of his power. I could be wrong, but I know of few cases where justices have proven more conservative than expected. The tug seems to be to the left. Felix Frankfurter and Byron White seemed to move to the right on the bench. But Harry Blackmun, appointed by Richard Nixon, wrote the Roe v. Wade decision. Nixon also appointed Lewis Powell who gave major support to affirmative action. John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy all swung to the left and were all Republican nominees who became more liberal on the bench.
Why would sitting on the Supreme Court turn conservatives into progressives? Only a Supreme Court justice knows for sure and many of them may not know. But I am trying to picture what it is like to be a newly appointed justice sitting there in my robes on the bench. I am picturing myself thinking, "Here I am on the Supreme Court. I am really proud of my accomplishment. And I do not need to worry about re-election. I have this seat as long as I want it. Now I have real power. And I want to use it rightly. I want to do something for my country. I want to leave a legacy for the American people." But what is his next thought? Somehow I do not believe it is "What I would really want to do is make handguns cheap and readily available." Or, "I want to protect the income of the heads of big corporations."
Maybe it is because I personally grew up in a mostly liberal environment, but I would have a hard time imagining a justice thinking like that. I would much more likely think to myself, "I want to improve working conditions of laborers." "I want to make sure that people can afford to get good healthcare." "I want to reform the prison system." These seem to be more liberal goals.
I guess I think there is something about being on the Supreme Court that makes people think in terms of repairing or improving society and making people's lives better, and helping people I think of as a liberal ideal. I am a centrist more than a liberal, but it seems to me the liberal ideal is to help a broad range of people and the conservative ideal is to make sure people can protect what is theirs. That seems much darker and more pessimistic an ideal. It is an important goal in its own way, but it hardly seems "noble." It may be a failure of my imagination, but I am not sure what would be a lofty conservative goal.
Souter himself said after he was sworn in, "The first lesson, simple as it is, is that whatever court we're in, whatever we are doing, at the end of our task some human being is going to be affected. Some human life is going to be changed by what we do. And so we had better use every power of our minds and our hearts and our beings to get those rulings right." Is it just me or does that sound to you like a liberal sentiment? It is hard for me to picture a Supreme Court Justice thinking about the power he has and not feel a natural tug of liberalism. [-mrl]
STAR TREK (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: The new film STAR TREK (the title is just the two words) is J. J. Abrams's restart of the "Star Trek" series. While nobody is going to give it any awards for great new ideas, it does tell a good action-filled adventure story and makes a prequel and origin to the original TV series that is almost consistent. The viewer does see and hear the 1966 characters in their younger incarnations--no small feat for the filmmakers. One almost wants to go back and watch the original series to see what happens next. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Film series generally work by formulae that please the public. But eventually a formula becomes too predictable and the series audience slowly slips away. Sometimes the storytellers decide to just make the series more extreme. This strategy reeks of desperation and is called "jumping the shark." But by rethinking the characters and situations and perhaps putting in a little more intelligent writing, a series can be revived. Batman and James Bond films have each gone through relatively recent rethinking. Now that the "Star Trek" TV and movies have died out, the producers have decided that the series needs a re-fit for the new generation just as the Starship Enterprise itself periodically did. To captain the new "Star Trek" we have J. J. Abrams, the creator of TV's "Lost" and "Alias", who was chosen for the director's seat. He has given us the best of the "Star Trek" films and brought the old series to a new generation.
The idea of Abrams's film is to do an origin story. That gives new details about the characters to old fans and old details to new fans. The series started in 1966 with some characters on the bridge and running what was to be the most famous spaceship in future history, the Starship Enterprise. Now Abrams with the help of writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman tells the story of how those characters got to be on that starship. Nearly everybody seems to have come from the same class at Starfleet Academy. That class was entertained the friction between two of its members, both misfit rebels (how original!), both bright, but otherwise very different. One was the undisciplined James T. Kirk (played by Chris Pine) and the other was a priggish half-human-half-alien named Spock (Zachary Quinto). For the film they have brought on board the newly-launched Enterprise pretty much the whole gang including Chekov (Anton Yelchin) who did not appear in the first season.
The film also has its own nasty, a Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana). Those Romulans not only took the name of their planet from Ancient Rome (on Earth), they seem to have taken their personal names from Roman history.
The story has two main requirements. It has to tell a good story, at which it is fairly successful. It also has to be consistent with the existing "Star Trek" mythology. (George Lucas had similar constraints with STAR WARS: EPISODE III--REVENGE OF THE SITH.) I would guess that at some point in the writing the script was doing both successfully. But for various reasons the jigsaw puzzle piece that was crafted did not quite fit. So the script copped out and said that this is not the world we knew from TV. This is an alternate history created by circumstances of the story and things may not work out the same way. That does add a little dramatic tension, suggesting that characters who lived in the TV universe might die in this one. There are some revisions to Kirk's background. In this world he did not get to meet his father. Nor, mercifully, did he get a commendation for cheating in the Kobayashi Maru academy test as STAR TREK II suggested. There are other differences in the two worlds.
The characters seem a little better fleshed out in this film than in previous "Star Trek" films. And the acting is good both to the characters and to provide continuity. One can almost hear the original characters' voices in the new mouths. Kirk even looks and sounds a little like the original, and so does Spock and McCoy (Karl Urban). One the other hand Uhura (Zoe Saldana) did not sound a lot like Nichelle Nichols. The one bad apple is Simon Pegg as Scotty. He really overdoes the Scottish accent as if he is playing less to "Star Trek" fans and more to Simon Pegg fans.
The film has the usual dubious pseudo-science invented for the story. In this universe there is some as yet undiscovered type of matter dubbed "red matter." Red matter must have something to do with trans-dimensional physics. It is light and portable, but if released it gets mass from somewhere unexplained and generates a black hole. This is used as the villains' weapon. They drill deeply into planets and create black holes inside with rather nasty consequences. It was unclear to me why a black hole simply dropped on the surface of a planet would be any less dangerous than one in the planet's interior. And dropping on the surface of the planet would have made for a lot less work. Another problem is that while the series was never very consistent on the shape of Spock's pointed ears, at least they never made that obvious. In this film we see Spock at two different ages and the ears look entirely different. Quinto's nose seemed built up a little also to match Leonard Nimoy's nose better. (Quinto should be grateful that Karl Malden wasn't the original Spock.)
A new fan of the series--and there are more that I would have expected--can enjoy STAR TREK, but a veteran "Trek" devotee will get a lot more out of it. Now that I have seen Abram's STAR TREK, I almost feel like I want to go back and watch "Star Trek" the original series. I rate the new movie a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0796366/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_trek_11/
UNDER OUR SKIN (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Writer and director Andy Abrahams Wilson looks at the spread of and effects of Lyme Disease in the United States. He examines the controversy of whether chronic Lyme Disease actually exists and looks at the financial and political interests aligned in not recognizing the disease. We meet some of the sufferers and the doctors who risk their careers to treat the disease. The film is certainly not unbiased, but allows those who do not believe in the disease to give their reasons. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
As recounted in UNDER OUR SKIN, Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that can result from the bite of a deer tick. Ticks are a reservoir for a spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia. In its early stages it can cause rashes, joint problems, and symptoms like influenza. In most cases antibiotics can cure the disease in a matter of weeks. But cases of the disease have spread across the continental United States, with some cases in all states with the exception of Hawaii. Making matters worse, there may be a much longer-term chronic Lyme Disease. Whether chronic Lyme exists or not and what are its symptoms is the subject of intense disagreement. That controversy is the topic of director/writer/producer Andy Abrahams Wilson's documentary UNDER OUR SKIN. The case for the existence of chronic Lyme Disease seems a strong one, based on this documentary, but this review will not take sides.
In many (alleged?) cases chronic Lyme Disease is painful and debilitating. Frequently it is associated with fever, extreme joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, and stiff neck. Complicating the matter is the fact that diagnostic tests have very poor accuracy--around 50%. The infection rate is growing and widespread. But the medical community claims that there is not enough evidence. The film examines this controversy and many of its aspects. Wilson makes a case that the insurance industry is fighting the recognition of chronic Lyme for what are claimed to be medical reasons but which are also very strong financial reasons. If chronic Lyme is accepted as a serious disease, insurance companies will be obliged to carry the financial burden of treatments. The insurance companies are interlocked with the medical community that has a hard time finding evidence of the disease and is denying what evidence is available. Symptoms claimed to be arising from chronic Lyme are being attributed to other causes including psychosomatic problems.
It is hard to deny that the people who believe they are victims of this disease are suffering, and the cause appears to be chronic Lyme. The film tells us the story of six victims of the disease. Doctors are treating patients do seem to be getting positive results. However, these doctors also face losing their license to practice and also face very large lawsuits. One such doctor is Dr. Charles Ray Jones, who has treated 10,000 children for Lyme Disease. He was charged by the Connecticut State Medical Board with unprofessional conduct. A legal defense fund funded in large part by his patients was established to pay his legal fees.
Some issues probably should have at least been mentioned. If Lyme Disease is distributed across the country, it must be fairly common in Canada also. If Canadian doctors accept the chronic form exists, that would be a powerful endorsement for the filmmakers' point of view. If they themselves doubt that the chronic form exists, they do so for medical rather than monetary reasons. Dr. Jones's treatments appear to be effective, but to what extent does that prove his diagnosis? One cure can work for many different causes.
This is a good science documentary about a problem that does not get much press. It even manages to have a hopeful ending rooted in recent discoveries about Lyme Disease. This film raises disturbing questions--not just those related to the disease itself but also broader questions of the conflicts of interest across the insurance and medical community. These issues need to be understood and possibly remedied. I rate UNDER OUR SKIN a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1202579/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/under_our_skin/
Response from Andy Abrahams Wilson, director of UNDER OUR SKIN:
Thanks for the review. We could just scratch the surface of LD as a global problem in UNDER OUR SKIN. But, since the disease was discovered here and the most established researchers are here, it makes sense to look at LD in the US as fulcrum and microcosm. Of course it's absurd that ticks would honor national boundaries. But that's what the CDC would have us believe. Unfortunately, the map we show in the film is the only "official" map of LD prevalence. Partly because of the CDC's prevalence numbers and IDSA's guidelines, Canadian physicians and officials do not recognize LD as a significant problem. Most LD patients, if they are diagnosed at all in the Canadian system, have to travel to the US for treatment with Lyme-literate physicians. This is a global problem. Different countries have varying responses to the crisis, but the IDSA and CDC have significant sway globally. "Healthcare for all" is obviously not a truth or a panacea. For info about Lyme disease in Canada (which is said to have among the poorest reporting in the world), visit: http://www.canlyme.org.
You start asking obvious questions about this disease and you end up five years later down a dark rabbit hole, with a movie and- yes--a point of view. [-aaw]
A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Chris Marker's epic four-hour history of the New Left from 1967 to its fall in 1977 has rarely been seen in the United States until now. Cut to three hours, it may still feel ponderous and obscure to some. As mostly a hodge-podge of roughly edited footage, it recreates the feel of the period, but in the end its obscurity undercuts its power. Tracking the leftist movement from the exuberance of the late 1960s to dissolution of the movement in the late 1970s this is a huge project that feels like it veered off course. It probably works much better in France than in front of an international audience. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
One type of film that the French do better than anyone else is the epic-length documentary. Marcel Ophüls's THE SORROW AND THE PITY and Claude Lanzmann's SHOAH have been shown in the United States to deserved acclaim. In my opinion the only epic documentary from the United States that stands with these films is Ken Burns's THE CIVIL WAR. One major French documentary that has never gotten much of a release here was Chris Marker's A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT. To be honest I had not even heard of this film until a few weeks before its scheduled DVD release in the United States in May 2009, though it had a low-key release in 2002. The film was originally 240 minutes in 1977 and was cut to 177 minutes for a European rerelease in 1993. Why the film has been so rarely seen in this country is not hard to guess.
The name Chris Marker may sound familiar, by the way. He wrote and directed a 28-minute film "La Jetée." Terry Gilliam remade the film, enlarging on the ideas, for his TWELVE MONKEYS.
Here is a test to see for yourself if this documentary is for you. Suppose you were to see a film clip of a young Jacques Delors. Would you know who that was? Would you recognize him? Would you know that he was later to become a major figure in the French Parti Socialiste? Would you enjoy hearing him or someone like him discuss dialectic in French accompanied by frequently difficult to read subtitles? No doubt there are some who will answer with "no" and some who can answer with "yes". I freely admit I am in the "no" camp. Perhaps greater numbers of French would be in the "yes" group. Still, Marcel Ophüls and Claude Lanzmann made their documentaries accessible with little presumed preparation. Chris Marker did not. Marker will have someone lecturing in French and intercut a picture of what looks like a raccoon. It appears a complete non sequitur. Meanwhile the person talking usually is not given any identification and his speech is not very clearly translated into English. At times even the subtitles are hard to read.
Marker begins with the Odessa Steps scene of Serge Eisenstein's BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, intercutting it with nearly identical scenes taken from then current news footage. Marker's study of the New Left starts in 1967 with protests of the Vietnam War. Then early on there is a disturbing sequence of an American flyer taking great pleasure from the sport of dropping napalm on Viet Cong on the ground and watching them scatter. "We saw people running every which way ... I really like to do that." Intercut we see footage of people burned by napalm and get a better feel of why they do run every which way. So far the narrative is fairly clear, but it does not remain that way. Soon it will be littered with long speeches with obscure references. Someone will just start talking about the Grenelle Report without any explanation of what it is or what its importance is. Presumably it is more meaningful in France.
Marker will give us footage of Fidel Castro making a speech about policy. It will not be clear how it fits in. But Castro's style is to speak with long pauses between sentences to collect his thoughts. Marker needed to do something to edit out the pauses, but instead the viewer sits and waits. There is a lot of footage of crowds protesting. The camera will pick someone out of the crowd and focus on him. Is he someone important or just supposed to represent a typical member of the crowd? We never know. Again, this might be a very different film in France.
The film is divided in two parts. The first part titled "Fragile Hands" chronicles the Vietnam War and the protests it generated in the United States and also in Europe. The title is a reference to a quote that the workers will takes the revolution from the "fragile hands" of the students. As I remember that period, most of the workers wanted to part of the protest or the protesters. Norman Lear was more accurate when he personified the typical worker as Archie Bunker. The second part, entitled "Severed Hands", is more downbeat and starts with the schisms in the left brought about by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. It covers the leftist movement in France, Japan, Venezuela, Cuba, the United States, China, Chile, West Germany, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and South Africa. It ends with Chile and the bringing down of reformer Salvador Allende.
While the footage cobbled together gives a feel for the excitement and disappointment of the times, the editing seems rough and the sound is often muddy. This feels almost like a rough cut rather than a film that has been re-edited more than once, but the crudeness is probably intentional to give the film tone. Still this film seems more like a pile of scenes than an edifying history. Some of the electronic music used sounds like something from a Dario Argento film.
To get full value from A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT, it would be necessary to watch it taking notes on what is not familiar. Then one would have to research those topics--Wikipedia is probably fine. Then watch the film a second time. And no doubt there will be more to look up. That is not saying that it is a bad documentary, by any means, but it is made for a different audience than the film will likely find in the United States. This is a long documentary that recreates feel of exciting times but does not explain those times as clearly as an Ophüls film would. I rate A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10. The title of the film is obviously a reference to the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll's ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, but the meaning remains unclear. The French title of the film, LE FOND DE L'AIR EST ROUGE, means "the bottom of the air is red." If anything, that makes less sense.
The DVD is being released on DVD on May 14 from Icarus Films. It comes with a 16-page booklet which includes essays by Chris Marker and film critic Phil Hall.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0076042/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/grin_without_a_cat/
Reflected Moonlight (letter of comment by Victoria Fineberg):
In response to Tom Russell's comment about those objecting to the claim that the moon has no light of its own but only reflects sunlight ("Lunatics?") in the 05/08/09 issue of the MT VOID, Victoria Fineberg writes, "Excess moonshine?" [-vf]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I recently listened to the audio book of THE ELEPHANT AND THE TIGER: THE RISE OF INDIA AND CHINA, AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR ALL OF US by Robyn Meredith (read by Laural Merlington) (ISBN-13 978-1-4001-0485-7, ISBN-10 1-4001-0485-8). I have two sets of comments, one on the actual book, and one on the audiobook experience.
The book is about the rise of India and China as economic super- powers. Or rather, it is about the return, since Meredith claims that both countries had been super-powers for most of the last thousand years, and their "decline" in the 20th century was just a blip. The chapters seem to alternate between China and India, and the two seem very much like the hare and the tortoise, with China leaping ahead rapidly, while India is taking a slower path which may yet make it the ultimate leader. Both countries have achieved massive gains in part because they insisted companies set up research and development facilities (along with factories) in the country. (Mexico, by comparison, seems content to accept factories with no higher-level facilities to provide white-collar opportunities.)
In the discussions of why India has been able to get millions of service jobs (e.g., call centers), the widespread knowledge of English was given as a major factor. It has been said that the two good things England did for India were to build the railroads and to wipe out the Thuggee. Perhaps one needs to add a third: to introduce English.
Meredith claims that some jobs cannot be off-shored, and gives as an example personal services like plastic surgery. But this is wrong--people are more than willing to travel to India, or Thailand, or the Philippines, to get major surgery done for a fraction of what it would cost in the United States0
As for the audiobook experience, I have to say that long lists and statistics don't work well in audiobooks. For example, a list of the major United States companies served by an Indian call center would be fine in a print book, but listening to the narrator reading off dozens of company names is boring, and uninformative. These seem to be filler in any case, along with such things as a long description of how flax is made into linen.
And Meredith loves the word "tectonic".
ALL THE WONDERS WE SEEK: THIRTEEN TALES OF SURPRISE AND PRODIGY by Félix Martí-Ibañez (no isbn) was first published in 1960, but two of the stories appeared in WEIRD TALES in the early 1950s. Before I comment on the stories, let me point out that Martí-Ibañez is yet another doctor who writes speculative fiction, though his writings tend more towards fantasy. More current examples are Michael Crichton (definitely science fiction) and F. Paul Wilson (horror). But Martí-Ibañez's model is more from the mainstream, since his dedication reads, "To William Somerset Maugham, greatest modern example of the physician as homme de lettres, whose friendship has been throughout the years an evergreen source of joy, inspiration, and enlightenment."
Another general observation is that although Martí-Ibañez was born and raised in Spain, and later moved to the United States, his stories are all set in Latin America. One might say they are magical realism (see last week's column), but in any case, Martí-Ibañez apparently felt that the atmosphere needed for his stories was neither Iberian nor North American. (Not until such writers as Mark Helprin and Neil Gaiman did this sort of writing with North American settings gain a wide audience.) One perhaps sees the inspiration of Maugham here, since Maugham set many of his stories in hot jungle climates.
But Martí-Ibañez is very even-handed about his settings. Every story is set in a different country (or in some cases, two), meaning that of the seventeen continental Latin American countries or territories, he covers all but Mexico, Panama, and Uruguay, as well as having one story set in Cuba. (Belize, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana cannot really be included in Latin America in this context.) And there is no duplication of countries, leading one to think that this was intentional.
"The Sleeping Bell", for example, takes place in the Colombian jungle. We know this because in the very first paragraph he writes, "when one is traveling on foot in the Colombian jungle...." Indeed, he is very explicit in every story about where the events take place. Unlike some authors whose descriptions are either vague or contradictory, Martí-Ibañez is quite clear in his locations. And like many of his other stories, this one is rooted in the events of the Spanish conquest--in this case the story of a pagan statue and a church bell.
"The Star Hunt" (which takes place in Ecuador) uses another recurring theme: the desire to escape from "the commonplace and hopeless." The main character goes out one morning on an errand and finds himself drawn into a series of extraordinary adventures far beyond his normal banal existence.
"A Tomb in Malacor" is one of the WEIRD TALES stories and takes place between Managua (Nicaragua) and Guatemala City (Guatemala). It has a real "Twilight Zone" feel to it, but definitely pre-dates the series, so it is possible that this is one of the stories that inspired Rod Serling.
"Niña Sol" is set in high-altitude Peru, "The Seekers of Dreams" in "Maitecas, close to the steaming Paraguayan jungle" (what an evocative description!), "The Buried Paradise" in La Paz (Bolivia), and "Amigo Heliotropo" in Honduras and El Salvador.
The inspiration for "Between Two Dreams" may very well be the story of Zhuang Zhou (a.k.a. Chuang Tzu), who fell asleep one day and dreamt he was a butterfly. When he woke up, he wondered whether he was Zhuang Zhou dreaming he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuang Zhou. I find Martí-Ibañez's choice of Costa Rica a little unusual for a tale of a conquistador, although I suppose if Central America was good enough for "stout Cortez", .... Okay, that's a literary reference--I know Cortez was not in Central America. (This is the other WEIRD TALES story.)
"The Song Without Words" (set in Argentina) has a definite Pied Piper sub-text (or maybe not even so "sub") as well as having the popular fantasy plot device of the circus. Even when the circus is not literally magical, the whole philosophy of a circus is magic-- something beyond our daily existence.
"The Threshold of the Door", set in Caracas (Venezuela), is a story that with a couple of additional phrases could have appeared in Clifton Fadiman's FANTASIA MATHEMATICA. "Stand sideways on the threshold and walk sideways toward the frame. ... if you walk straight toward the frame without fear, I promise you that you shall enter the poetic world whole and safe. You know why? Because in our world doors are horizontal instead of vertical. Our doors, when open, cross yours. That is why you can't enter the poetic world through the opening of your doors. You must stand sideways on your threshold and walk straight into the side beam. You will then enter the invisible door of our world." Even as it is, without any descriptions of the fourth (spatial) dimension, it seems inspired by Edwin A. Abbott's FLATLAND ("Upward, not northward!").
"Havana: 60 Longitude West, 70 Latitude South" is not a typo, even though Havana is actually 82.33 Longitude West, 23 Latitude North. (The title actually has degree symbols, but I cannot do them in ASCII.) Let's just say that this brings plate tectonics to a whole new level.
"Senhor Zumbeira's Leg" (set in Brazil) is a story that could easily have come almost directly from the Arabian Nights. Not that it is a secret--it is clear that that is what Martí-Ibañez intended. Is it just accidental that the only story based on a story cycle from "the mysterious East" is set in the only non- Spanish-language country in Latin America--or is it that Martí-Ibañez chose Brazil as the most foreign to himself as a native of Spain?
"Riquiqui, I Love You!" (set in Chile) was listed in the table of contents as "Riquiqui, I Lov Youe!", which actually sounded more mysterious. Alas, this title *was* a typo, and while the story was fine, the misprint seemed so redolent with atmosphere that I was at least a little disappointed.
Martí-Ibañez has written a lot of other books. Most seem to be histories of medicine. He has at least one other collection of stories (WALTZ), a historical novel, a humorous novel, and a travel book. I suppose it is good that he can write in many fields, but it does mean that we have not gotten as much speculative fiction/fantasy/magical realism from him as we might otherwise have gotten. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: There is frequently more to be learned from the unexpected questions of a child than the discourses of men, who talk in a road, according to the notions and prejudices of their education.
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