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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/09/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 15, Whole Number 1566
Table of Contents
This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the Pre-Owned-Humvee Owners Exchange. Buy a used Humvee today. Because you're never too old to play soldier. [-mrl]
Convention Reports (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
My full Denvention 3 (Worldcon 2008) convention report is available at http://leepers.us/evelyn/conventions/denvention3.htm or http://fanac.org/worldcon/Denvention/x08-rpt.html.
My "nano" Anticipation (Worldcon 2009) convention report is available at http://leepers.us/evelyn/conventions/anticipation.htm or http://fanac.org/worldcon/Anticipation/x09-rpt.html. This has my comments on the convention in general which appeared in previous issues of the MT VOID, but no panel reports. A full report will appear eventually. [-ecl]
Puzzle (puzzle by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Take a famous person's name. Add one letter to the last name and you get that person's occupation. Remove one letter from the first name, re-arrange the letters, and you get what that person makes others do.
The answer will appear next week. [-ecl]
True Story (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I overheard a story of a woman who had taken her three-year-old daughter to see an exhibit called "Walking with Dinosaurs". They had mechanical renderings of dinosaurs and a lecture telling about dinosaurs. No sooner did the lecture start than the little girl threw a screaming tantrum. The mother had to take the little girl out. Later trying to soothe the little girl the mother asked, "Those dinosaurs weren't really so scary, were they?"
"I liked them."
"If you liked the dinosaurs, what were you crying about?"
"The man came out and said, 'Let's go back 65 million years.' I didn't want to go back. I like it here." [-mrl]
My First Science Fiction (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was discussing science fiction with a friend who thought he had been a science fiction fan for a long time. He was younger than me but probably had been a fan longer since he had become a fan at about age ten, which he thought was early. I told him that I got interested in science fiction at about age five. That got me thinking about what was my introduction to the field. A lot of fans became fans from watching STAR TREK or STAR WARS. They think of that as the primitive times of science fiction. They don't know what primitive was.
When I was age three my parents took the family to the movies. Apparently they did this often, but this was my first movie experience that I actually remember. The film was George Pal's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. This still amazes me because my parents had very little taste for fantasy in any form. I once asked my mother why they would ever pick a science fiction film to go to, and she said they would see just about anything in those days. But I don't think that was true even then.
The movie bored me most of the time and scared me some of the rest. I remember one idea I found very frightening was showerheads that sprayed water that killed people. (Actually that is not far from a current news story. See http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/14/showerhead.bacteria/.) I seem to also remember people hiding in a bunkhouse and being chased by a shiny black sphere that had big red, green, and blue lenses. Neither is exactly what is in the film, but anyone who knows the movie will know exactly what scenes I was recalling, if somewhat misinterpreting. I remember hating the movie. And I was not even aware there was such a thing as science fiction. I did not become a fan of science fiction until about age five.
At that age I had seen Superman on television and that got me interested in superheroes, but not yet science fiction. I think I got interested in science fiction from two programs that ran back to back on Saturday mornings in 1955. One program was "Commando Cody, Sky Marshall of the Universe". This was really just a rehash of the Republic serials at the time. The television series was sort of a remake of the serial RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON. A villain who looked just like a human came from the Planet Mercury with some sort of plan for conquest that involved robbing our banks. Defending the Earth was Commando Cody, who had a rocket suit and a bullet shaped helmet that allowed him to fly like Superman did. Good guys and bad had rocket ships that took off horizontally like in the old Flash Gordon serials. You never saw the nose of the
rocket as it was taking off. You saw the rockets blow smoke and the spaceship moved along the ground, presumably because an off- camera truck was actually towing it. The seats in the rocket looked like office chairs. I guess what I thought was nifty was Cody's ability use his jetpack to rocket between spaceships in flight.
That program ran from 11 AM to 11:30 and it ran on NBC. I am pretty sure the next half hour on CBS was "Captain Midnight." This was a science fiction infusion into a radio series that was not science fiction. Captain Midnight was the code name for some sort of a government agent who led a group called the Secret Squadron. Only rarely did the Secret Squadron ever got involved in the adventures. It was usually just Captain Midnight and his funny sidekick Ichabod 'Ikky' Mudd. He also had a second sidekick, Tut, who was a scientist and offered sage scientific advice to Captain Midnight, but did not get physically involved in the adventures. Captain Midnight had his own state of the art jet plane called the "Silver Dart", his personal Douglas Skyrocket D-558-2. Now he was not so much a science fiction hero, though he did have his headquarters in scientific laboratory. But the villains frequently had scientific weapons. One I remembered had a new kind of guided missile that rode on wheels along the ground and looked like a canister vacuum cleaner, which for all I know it was. Another opponent, not really a villain, was a man who had made himself into a monster that gave electrical shocks like an eel does.
It was this double dose of science fiction every Saturday morning that turned me into a science fiction fan. And that was at age five, which is the earliest of anyone I know. It was not long after that I started thinking about how much I really wanted to see THE WAR OF THE WORLDS again. I was sure it deserved a second chance--or I did. Now science fiction was pretty exciting stuff to me in those days. By the time I was six one of my great ambitions in life was to see the Pal film from the advance perspective of a six-year-old. I must have been about eight when I got the "Classics Illustrated" comic book and that was about all it took to get me really hooked. Take a look at the cover. How can you not love that?
In third grade I wanted to read the book for a book report. (They switched me to DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE. It was science fiction, but not the same.) I had heard about the Orson Welles radio broadcast and I desperately wanted to hear that version. I collected Mars Attacks bubble gum cards, which were inspired by the super-science invasion of Pal's THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. Yeah, that one film became an obsession.
Just to tie the story up, in about 1962 THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was released again to theaters on a double bill with another George Pal film, THE CONQUEST OF SPACE. It was a deeply spiritual experience. By that time H. G. Wells, George Pal, Commando Cody, and Captain Midnight had all teamed up to make a lifelong science fiction fan of me. And my parents could never understand why. [-mrl]
Diabetes (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
We are told diabetes is on the rise, and everyone has a theory about why. How about the following:
When controlling diabetes by diet, one is not supposed to eat after a meal until one's glucose level is below 120. If one doesn't wait, then the carbohydrates in the second meal/snack will interfere with the processing of the glucose still in the blood. This will presumably cause a rise in the A1C level, which is one of the main determining factors for diabetes. (An A1C level over 6.0 is interpreted as signifying diabetes.)
Now, up until recently, people ate three well-spaced meals a day, or even less, and so for most of them, their blood sugar achieved a sub-120 level before the next meal. But now many people snack constantly--breakfast at 8, a mid-morning pastry at 10, lunch at noon, chips at 3, dinner at 6, and something at 8 in front of the TV. So their level never gets below 120, their A1C goes up, and they get diagnosed as diabetic. Are they *really* diabetic? If they go back to eating three meals a day and no snacks, and their A1C goes back below 6.0, I would say no. There is probably nothing wrong with their insulin production, any more than someone who manifests various symptoms after drinking four espressos has some heart or nerve disease that also has those symptoms.
One can argue that it is important to have people go back to eating in a more regulated manner, because that is what our bodies have evolved to cope with. But what happens is that even when people go back to three meals a day and reasonable glucose and A1C levels, the most doctors will say is that they have their diabetes under control, not that they either 1) did not really have diabetes, or 2) are cured of diabetes. (They do admit that gestational diabetes can go away, so I don't know why they seem to refuse to think other types can also.)
What seems to be the case--as I see it--is that diabetes is defined as impaired insulin production. But to say that insulin production is impaired because it cannot handle completely unnatural eating modes seems to be expecting everyone to have the equivalent of "Super-Pancreas". [-ecl]
[The regulated "three-meal" manner of eating is not what our bodies evolved to cope with. I would think that the snacking behavior is probably more the holdover from when we were evolving. At that time the behavior would have been more to eat when there was food. It is hard to imagine our prehistoric ancestors having set lunches and dinners. (Breakfast might be more a fixed custom.) Eating whenever there was food is the more natural behavior, but we evolved when there was very much less food available. By comparison in the United States today we are virtually flooded with food. -mrl]
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Yet another digital 3-D animated film comes out this year. Giant food is falling from the sky in this un-engaging children's adventure. After UP set a standard for character development, CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS falls short. There is not much logic and not very interesting characters in this story suggested by (but not taken from) the children's book of the same name. Phil Lord and Christ Miller share writing and directing credits. If you are a little nauseated by the thought of a place like Candyland, don't go to Swallow Falls where food falls on you from the sky. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) lives on Swallow Falls, an Atlantic island whose major industry is sardines. But sardines are not popular any more, and the island is in economic crisis. Flint does not want to go into the dying sardine business. Instead he wants desperately to be an inventor. Sadly, none of his inventions ever seem to work as intended. Flint has become the island's joke. With an echo of OCTOBER SKY, Flint's father has little interest in his son's inventions and just wants his son to go into the sardine business. Flint thinks sardines are icky. His new invention turns water into any food requested. Tell it what food you want and it is there, not unlike a "Deep Space Nine" food replicator.
For some strange reason the food replicator can fly like a rocket and ends up sitting motionless over the island replicating requested food and dropping it on the island in giant food storms. (No, I mean the storms are giant, not the food. Okay, as the trailer shows that comes later.) Now Flint has a successful and even well-loved invention and the town is grateful. But this is only the start of the situation. Free food in of any type and quantity is not so good as it seems at first. Some people are growing very fat. The film has themes of healthy eating; a theme of people who are afraid to show their intelligence; a related theme that is it okay to be a nerd; father-son relationship themes; and more--all on a very superficial level. Just when you start to dwell on one of the film's messages, an action scene comes along to distract the viewer. The pace of the films is fast, but the story seems to make less and less sense as it goes along. It could have some intelligence if it concentrated on fewer distractions. Maybe it could have expanded on one theme like the father-son relationship. But the film seems intent on hiding the intelligence it might hold.
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS is full of imaginative food adventures and visually it is quite creative with visual puns with edibles. And in digital 3-D these are even nicer to watch. But once the audience is used to giant foodscapes they do not add a whole lot.
Somehow the logic of the film just does not work for me. Nobody on the island seems to notice that Flint has created some potentially world-shattering inventions, least of all Flint himself. One would make it possible to understand the language of higher animals, in this case a monkey. (Didn't we see the same device in UP?) One creates instant, flexible, permanent, spray-on insulation. One keeps a craft aloft in the stratosphere indefinitely above a certain point in the North Atlantic. And one--of particular interest here--could feed all the hungry of the world using nothing but water. Any one of these inventions would have fabulous applications. There are only three problems holding this genius back. One is that like Wile E. Coyote, Flint gives up on each of his inventions after the first setback. He has no imagination as to where his inventions will find their greatest application. Phil Lord and Chris Miller do not appear to have given any thought at all to the implications of the situation they have set up. The character and those situations apparently do not appear in the book of the same title by Judi and Ron Barrett and were created exclusively by Lord and Miller.
The film first tempts us with the food and then rubs our noses in it. A year ago this might have been considered a better 3-D film. But films like UP have raised the bar and this one does not measure up. I rate CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0844471/
What others are saying: http://tinyurl.com/cloud-meatball
THE INFORMANT! (letter of comment by Sherry Glotzer):
In response to Mark's review of THE INFORMANT! in the 10/02/09 issue of the MT VOID, Sherry Glotzer writes, "We saw THE INFORMANT! on Tuesday and I wholeheartedly agree with your impression of the film. I think Matt Damon is the perfect 'everyman' and he gives credibility to the storyline. But I had a problem keeping some of the film straight. There seem to be a lot of interference ... not the least of which was a whining four-year-old in the front row. I do not know why they sell tickets to a film such as this to a couple with a child in a stroller!" [-sg]
Mark replies, "Audiences are definitely ruder today than in the past. Evelyn and I saw the film with a group of noisy children, but in our case they were children in their 70s." [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
RED PLANET by Robert A. Heinlein (ISBN-13 978-0-345-49318-7, ISBN-10 0-345-49318-4) was first published in 1949 in a heavily edited form. This edition is a reprint of the 1992 publication of Heinlein's original manuscript (sans typos, etc.) and in the introduction William H. Patterson, Jr., says, "The restored RED PLANET--the one you have in your hands now--is the *real* RED PLANET: the one Heinlein intended." This may be yet another example of why editors are important.
I am not going to go through the whole book, just Chapter 2 ("South Colony, Mars").
Not surprisingly, the first edit in this chapter was in Heinlein's description of Jim's mother: "She was wearing a costume that a terrestrial lady might choose for sunbathing or gardening and was a very pretty sight, although Jim was certainly not aware of it." (Clearly, the Heinlein in which Jim would be aware of it was yet to come.)
The next change is bigger. Jim has left his gun where the baby could get at it, but he manages to grab it in time, just as his father gets home. When Mr. Marlowe asks what the ruckus is, his wife says, "Nothing, darling." In the edited version, that's that. In the original version, he asks again, and apparently gets an answer, because he then comes into Jim's room and gives him a lecture on gun safety, including the following: "You are proud of being a licensed gun wearer, aren't you? ... And I'm proud to have you be one. It means you are a responsible, trusted adult. But when I sponsored you before the Council and stood up with you when you took your oath, I guaranteed that you would obey the regulations and follow the code, wholeheartedly and all the time-- not just most of the time." Heinlein's original had no such speech, and in fact, it does not even make sense. If being a licensed gun wearer means Jim is an adult, how can (or why should) his father guarantee his behavior?
(According to GRUMBLES FROM THE GRAVE, this explanation of gun licensing was added in response to a specific request by Dalgliesh.)
In Heinlein's version, the gun incident is followed by Jim's younger sister Phyllis asking for a pistol of her own. (If Jim is fifteen, she is about thirteen.) Her father pretty much agrees to take her and see if city hall will license her, which makes Doctor MacRae say he wants to move to another planet: "Sir, it is not the natural limitations of this globe that I object to; it is the pantywiast nincompoops who rule it-- These ridiculous regulations offend me. That a free citizen should have to go before a committee, hat in hand, and pray for permission to bear arms-- fantastic! Arm you daughter, sir, and pay no attention to petty bureaucrats. ... The swarming beehives back on Earth have similar childish rules; the fat clerks that decide these things cannot imagine any other conditions. This is a frontier community; it should be free of such."
Well, clearly Heinlein had some definite opinions on this, and equally clearly his editor at Charles Scribner's Sons, Alice Dalgliesh, did as well, at least in terms of what was suitable for what we now call a young adult novel. I have to say that I can see her point, now even more than in 1949. One can certainly argue that the widespread availability of guns to teenagers has not been as benign as it always seems to be in Heinlein's novels. Heinlein would finally break with Scribner's (or more accurately Scribner's would break with Heinlein) in 1959, when they rejected STARSHIP TROOPERS altogether. (Reading the letters in GRUMBLES FROM THE GRAVE, one gets the impression that they came very close to rejecting RED PLANET completely, and possibly only Heinlein's insistence on payment for time spent made them willing to accept it with edits.)
Oh, and one parting editorial shot: Doctor MacRae at one point acknowledges that he has "a taste for gossip," then adds, "I like also eavesdropping and window peeping." In the edited version, needless to say, the "window peeping" is gone.
I did not read both versions through the whole book, so I cannot say precisely what else has changed. But it is clear that Heinlein had intended this book--and presumably his other YA novels--to be more polemical than his editor would allow. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Ask about your neighbors, then buy the house. -- Yiddish proverb
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