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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/30/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 18, Whole Number 1569
Table of Contents
Acknowledgement (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the Pre-Owned-Humvee Owners Exchange. Buy a used Humvee today. The Earth is just not that important. [-mrl]
Sleep Just 4 Hours a Day (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
It has recently been discovered that the human body functions better on non-contiguous short sleep periods. You actually can feel more refreshed and have a mind that works faster with only four hours of power-naps a day. Your reasoning and understanding will improve. I have been on the regimen for two weeks and I find my mind is a whole lot more lucid and effective. I find all my old mathematics ability coming back. And amazingly I do get all that on only four hours of sleep a day. I sleep in four power sessions: Midnight to 2AM, 6AM to 8AM, Noon to 2PM, and 6PM to 8PM. That's all it takes. [-mrl]
Does Germany Have a Better Class of Rich People? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
According to BBC News, "A group of rich Germans has launched a petition calling for the government to make wealthy people pay higher taxes. The group say they have more money than they need, and the extra revenue could fund economic and social programmes to aid Germany's economic recovery."
Radio Drama: Frankenstein (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
It is rare that someone adapts the Mary Shelley novel to a dramatic form and still remains faithful to the source material. There have been all kinds of films and radio plays supposedly based on FRANKENSTEIN. I know of only one film version that is accurate. That is VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (a.k.a. THE TERROR OF FRANKNSTEIN), a Swedish-Irish co-production.
However, The Quicksilver Radio company has now made a radio version that is short enough to be entertaining and still remains faithful to Shelley's story.
This shows what can be done with radio drama. By the way if you are interested in a faithful radio version of DRACULA, Orson Welles did one as his first Mercury Theatre radio broadcast. A copy can be downloaded from http://www.mercurytheatre.info/.
Good listening. And have a great Halloween. [-mrl]
Disassembly Day (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Not long ago I was helping out a friend. He had lived in a large apartment--actually a half of a house--since he was young. Now the time had come for him to move to a new home. He had lost his parents and was now living in this apartment all by himself. He had a lot of memories in this house and a large accumulation of items. One cannot live without accumulating all sorts of "stuff" in your house. Most houses I know of are full of items of sentimental value that would mean absolutely nothing to someone else. One person's memento is another's junk. This was a house that was filled with memories, and a lot of them took corporeal form in the shape of a stack of comic books or a model from "Star Trek" or a box of lenses for some sort of a device to magnify and illuminate the pages of a book. These memories are made of metal and plastic and cloth, but the most common material is paper. There is a magazine on a shelf with the date June 1979 and with a bookmark in a six-page article that someone still has the intention to read when there is time. Just loose papers are probably the most common category of memento.
Owning a house makes the collecting even worse. When you live in an apartment you have a monthly reminder--when you pay the rent-- that the premises do not really belong to you, and some day you will have to remove all this stuff. Perhaps then you do not collect so much of it. Paying rent is a chronic splash in the face. It reminds you of the reality that someday you will have to get all this stuff out of your home. But when you actually own a house, well, you own the house. You don't get the reminder. You can put things where you want them to be and nobody has any say in the matter. The house is yours for now and you have the illusion it will always be.
The truth is that whether you own or you rent your home the day will come when you have to empty it. All the objects and memories that you have stored for years will have to be removed. This big accumulation of stuff will have to be disassembled. Things that you have not seen for a long, long time will suddenly claim your attention again. Like kindergarteners besieging their teacher all these old objects will want your attention at the same time. "I am your mother-of-pearl shoehorn. What do you want to do with me?" "We are your grandmother's spoons. Where should we go?" "I am a photograph of your father when he still had hair. Do you still want me?" You can put to the back of your mind that this day will come. But it will. Disassembly Day is coming. This is the day when your home has to be disassembled and you see old the old artifacts sitting around. You may die before Disassembly Day comes, but then someone else will disassemble your things and most or all will become junk.
Today you accumulate a bit at a time. "The extra blender blades? We can put those in the back of the kitchen drawer." "The game diskettes from the Atari? Those can go in the back of the top shelf of the linen closet." "Those shirts that no longer fit? Well, until you lose weight those can go up in the attic. Just until you lose weight." Six months later you ask yourself, didn't we have more blender blades? Didn't we put those in the linen closet? You tell yourself you will remember where things are, but there are too many things to remember.
In our household we have a computer spreadsheet that lists where the things we look for the most have been kept. But you cannot track everything. Some things get moved and the list becomes no longer accurate. People are better than records. I depend a great deal on Evelyn's memory to locate the double-faced tape or the dental floss. Sadly my memory is terrible and I cannot be as much help to her when she is looking for something. It is a rare joy when I can locate something she is looking for. Even Evelyn forgets where some things have been put. In unjust frustration I respond that this object has gone forward in time. It has fallen through a time warp. We will meet up with it again on Disassembly Day. [-mrl]
World's Greatest Dad (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait writes and directs a surprisingly sharp and cynical story about success, public image, and fame and is about both those who have it and those who don't. Robin Williams plays a middle-aged high school teacher who is a failure in just about every aspect of his life. He is raising a son who is pointedly obnoxious and vulgar. But a change is coming for both father and son. This is a story of sharp irony and strong sarcasm. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Note: The premise of this film is seen only after a plot twist and will not be revealed here.
The title makes this film sound like the sort of wholesome family comedy that Disney Studios would have made in the 1960s. Nothing could be further from the truth. Robin Williams plays Lance, a man who seems to be met with failure wherever he turns. He teaches high school poetry in an elective course that almost nobody is electing. Lance has tried to be a writer and after five novels nothing he has written has ever made it into print. He would like a relationship with the attractive art teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore), but though she finds him good enough to bed, he is not good enough to be seen with in public. And the worst thing of all is his repugnant son Kyle (Daryl Sabara) who hates the world--Lance most of all. Kyle is totally self-seeking, repulsive, and offensive. As a single parent Lance is being worn down and chewed up by all that is happening in his joyless life. But he will get a chance to have his writing make a difference.
In some ways this film is very much like some of my favorite dark films, Billy Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE and Budd Schulberg's A FACE IN THE CROWD. It falls short of those films, but not by as much as I would have expected from a film by Goldthwait. (Though this is the first movie I have seen that he directed.) Like the above two films WORLD'S GREATEST DAD is about the media and how easily public opinion is formed and deformed. With this deceptively simple film Goldthwait is playing in the same ballpark as some of the big boys.
By now Robin Williams has been in a wide gamut of roles, but rarely has he played someone as troubled as he is here. His part in this film rivals the intensity of his role on ONE HOUR PHOTO and is probably an edge up on his killer in INSOMNIA. One scene in this film in which he appears on television and on the edge of hysteria, ambiguously laughing and crying, is going to be remembered for a good long time. The touch of showing on the margins posters and clips from zombie movies, Lance's favorite genre, seems oddly appropriate to what this film is really about.
I would like to tell you what it is that this film does well. There will probably be too many people too ready to do that. Just be aware this is a good film and not at all the film that the title makes it seem. It is not even the film you will expect it to be half an hour into the film. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. This film has raw language and sexual situations.
Film Credits: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1262981/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1213731-worlds_greatest_dad/
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
MÁS ALLÁ DEL ARROZ Y LA HABICHUELAS: LA GUÍA LATINO-CARIBEÑA PARA COMER SANO CON DIABETES (BEYOND RICE AND BEANS: THE CARIBBEAN LATINO GUIDE TO EATING HEALTHY WITH DIABETES) by Lorena Drago (ISBN-13 978-1-58-040221-7, ISBN-101-58-040221-6) is a food guide in the format of an Ace Double, one side in English and the other in Spanish. I had hoped to find some good recipes to serve my father, but it is not a cookbook. Rather it is a guide to adapting Puerto Rican/Dominican/Cuban cuisine for diabetics. Reading it, though, I learned a lot about Puerto Rican cuisine I did not know (or realize). For example, my father is always asking for more liquid when I served him beans. It turns out that Puerto Rican cuisine includes the concept of "el caldito do habichuelas", or bean sauce, served over rice. (This is not a thick gravy, but something of soup-like consistency.) Presumably this started as an economy measure way to stretch the beans further, but it seems to be popular even when economics don't demand it.
At the very beginning of the book, Drago tells of a home health nurse from Puerto Rico who asked a weight loss center for information on Latin diets and was handed a menu that contained enchiladas and tacos. "Where are the menus with pasteles, and arrox con gandules?" she asked. And Drago also cited an article titled "Dominicans Do Not Eat Tacos" by Joan Clifford. This book, at least, seems to recognize the differences. (Oh, and it does have a couple of recipes.)
JULIAN COMSTOCK by Robert Charles Wilson (ISBN-13 978-0-7653-1971- 5, ISBN-10 0-7653-1971-3) is good, but disappointing. Why disappointing? Because I have been a fan of Robert Charles Wilson from way back, and he has moved away from the very original works with which he started.
His first books included THE HIDDEN PLACE (a fantasy set in a hobo camp during the Great Depression), MEMORY WIRE (about cybernetics in 21st Century Brazil), GYPSIES (about children who can "sidestep" into other worlds), THE DIVIDE (about the experimental enhancement of intelligence), THE BRIDGE OF YEARS (about time travel), and HARVEST (about aliens who come to transform the human race into something higher).
And while JULIAN COMSTOCK is well-constructed and well-written, it covers fairly familiar territory. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future (though it is the "end-of-oil" collapse rather than plague or nuclear war), the United States has mutated into a fundamentalism totalitarian state, and we follow a simple farmboy from his small town home to the bigger world and his adventures therein. The religious element reminds me a bit of Wilson's MYSTERIUM, an alternate history in which Gnosticism has prevailed.
The religious nature is emphasized by his choice of the central character's name (Julian Comstock ... J.C. ... get it?) and his nickname "Julian the Conqueror", with its echoes of "Julian the Apostate".
SUDDEN FICTION: AMERICAN SHORT SHORT STORIES edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas (ISBN-10 0-87095-265-2) is both a good idea and a bad idea. I like having a book of very short stories, because they are great for reading when I have only a few minutes. (One suspects this book has ended up in more bathrooms, proportionally, than most any other.) But it is also a book that "jumps around" so much that it is difficult for the reader to decide that their time might be better spent elsewhere. I had the constant feeling that while the story I just finished was not that good, the next one would be better. After a while, though, I decided that modern literary fiction was not my thing, and read only the authors I was interested in (e.g., Ray Bradbury, Tennessee Williams). I think that I prefer this sort of collection within the speculative fiction field. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Don't think of us as senior citizens-- think of us as the great old ones.
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