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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/13/10 -- Vol. 29, No. 7, Whole Number 1610
Table of Contents
The Return of William Castle (film schedule):
As part of their summer schedule, the Film Forum in New York City is having a William Castle retrospective, *complete with Castle original marketing gimmicks*. The schedule is:
August 27/28: HOMICIDAL (with Fright Break) and STRAIT-JACKET (with Coward's Corner) August 29: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (in Bone-Chilling Emergo!) and MR. SARDONICUS (with Punishment Poll!) August 30: THE WHISTLER, MARK OF THE WHISTLER, and MYSTERIOUS INTRUDER August 31: (nothing listed) September 1: MACABRE (with $1,000,000 Insurance Policy!) and 13 GHOSTS (in Blood-Curdling Illusion-O!) September 2: THE NIGHT WALKER and LET'S KILL UNCLE September 3: WHEN STRANGERS MARRY September 3/4/5/6: THE TINGLER (in Spine-Tingling Percepto! And the Far-Out Miracle of Psychodelorama!!) September 4: JESSE JAMES VS. THE DALTONS (3-D) September 5/6: FORT TI (3-D)
For full details, see http://www.filmforum.org. [-ecl]
A Question to Be Asked Again and Again and Again (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Okay, what I want to know is: if it was the Mayans who had this view that history is cyclic, why did it wait for a good United States songwriter to observe that Everything Old is New Again? [-mrl]
Picks for Turner Classic Movies for August (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
This is my monthly pick of unusual films for the upcoming month on Turner Classic Movies. August is not one of the better months coming up. Certainly if you compare the choices of SF/horror/fantasy films in August with the schedule for October, August has a much less exciting choice. However, there are a few lesser-known films that are worth pointing out.
THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (1949)
Considering most of his writing, one hardly would expect a horror story from D. H. Lawrence. One would more expect a sexual undercurrent. This film really has both. A young boy is tortured by the bickering of his parents. His father has fallen on hard times as far as finance and his mother refuses to give up her fancy, extravagant life style. The boy has an answer however. If he frantically rocks in his new rocking horse his frenzy takes over his mind and he can psychically see the winners of the next day's horse races. John Mills is a groom who innocently (perhaps) encourages the boy's fascination with horse racing and betting.
Alfred Hitchcock later adapted the same story for television for his series, "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", but Anthony Pelissier's version is nearly perfect. The photography is noir-ish and the images are very powerful, thanks to Desmond Dickenson's photography. He also has a knack for transforming a rocking horse from a playroom toy to something really scary. This is an undeservedly neglected classic. (Sunday August 22, 10:15 pm - 12:00 am)
THE STUNT MAN (1971)
Movies are often labeled "cult films" by distributors trying to sell them. THE STUNT MAN has a genuine cult following. A Vietnam veteran (Steve Railsback) being chased by the law (literally) sees a car drive off a bridge and the driver is killed. This turns out to be a stunt in a movie, but the stunt man is really dead. The director of the film, Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole), offers the vet a change of identity to help him hide from the police if he will pretend to be the stunt man who died. The vet takes the position and begins a new career as a stunt man. But it is likely to be a short career as the vet realizes that Eli plans to kill him getting a perfect shot.
Peter O'Toole allegedly based his performance on David Lean, and it is one of O'Toole's best performances. The film is full of excellent stunt work and director Richard Rush keeps the audience off-balance throughout. (Sunday, August 29, 12:00 am - 2:15 am)
A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957)
Andy Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes, a bum in a drunk tank who gets a chance to perform on the radio. He is amazingly popular with his listeners and soon he is a media sensation. As his popularity builds he becomes aware of the political influence he has he has over his audience and he makes himself the most powerful man in the country. The film is an entertaining essay in how the public can be swayed and controlled. This is a powerful film that is timelier today than when it was made in 1957. Directed by controversial director Elia Kazan from a screenplay by Budd Schulberg. (Thursday August 26, 8:00 pm - 10:15 pm)
BWANA DEVIL (1952)
I will not actually claim that this is a good film--it's not--but it was influential. It was written and directed by radio horror man Arch Oboler and it started the 1950s 3D craze. It was based on the famous true incident of the Tsavo lions (which was also the basis of THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS).
In March 1898 the British were building the Kenya-Uganda Railway bridge over the Tsavo River when things started going very wrong. Horrifyingly, two hungry lions over months came to drag off dozens of workers and eat them alive. It is now thought that somewhere between 35 and 135 workers were killed this way and the two lions probably were already experienced at killing human prey when they started at Tsavo. (Monday August 16, 11:15 am - 12:45 pm)
Six Items or Less (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In the 01/23/09 issue of the MT VOID, I wrote about the "100-Thing Challenge", which was David Michael Bruno's attempt trying to reduce his possessions to only 100 items. This really only worked because of the loopholes:
1) Food, toiletries, other consumables, and everything jointly
owned doesn't count.
2) All your underwear counts as one item, all your socks count as one item, all your undershirts count as one item (though apparently not all your T-shirts!), and all your books count as one item.
Now there is a similar challenge, just for clothes: The Six-Items- Or-Less Project. "Each participant gets to choose six (and only six) items of clothing and pledge to wear only these six items of clothing for a month."
As always, there are exceptions: "undergarments, swim wear, work- out clothes, work uniforms, outer jackets (rain slicker, outdoor jacket), shoes, and accessories. You can get multiples of the same item for laundry purposes, but different colors count as separate items."
I said of the "100-Thing Challenge", "If you have twenty shirts suitable for wearing to work, does it make sense to get rid of ten, and then have to buy new shirts sooner because you've worn those out faster? I can understand saying 'I won't buy more shirts until I have fewer than ten,' but not, 'I will give away ten shirts this year, and then next year have to buy more shirts because I've been wearing what I have twice as much.'" This applies in spades to the "Six-Items-or-Less Project": If I have ten T-shirts in different colors and only do laundry every two weeks, I have to buy nine more shirts of the same color as one of the ones I have. This project really seems designed for people who do laundry every day. Maybe what is needed is a "One-Load-of-Laundry-or-Less-A-Week" project: conserve water and electricity by figuring out how to do laundry less often.
Details of the "100-Thing Challenge" can be found at http://www.guynameddave.com/100-thing-challenge.html.
Details of the "Six-Items-or-Less Project" can be found at http://sixitemsorless.com/the-project/. [-ecl]
[I think the way to do this is start out by picturing you have all your belongings in a knapsack on your back... (It is a film reference. If you don't get it, don't worry about it.) -mrl]
JULIAN COMSTOCK: A STORY OF 22ND CENTURY AMERICA by Robert Charles Wilson (copyright 2009, Tor, $25.95, 413pp, ISBN-10 0-7653-1971-3, ISBN-13 978-0-7653-1971-5) (book review by Joe Karpierz):
The final book in my survey of this year's Hugo nominated novels is JULIAN COMSTOCK A STORY OF 22ND CENTURY AMERICA. Everyone who reads my reviews, such as they are, knows by now that I've been railing mercilessly against the nominees, for the most part. Other than Sawyer's WAKE, I've not been overly kind to the nominees. JULIAN COMSTOCK is a book that I can honestly say that I like a lot, and in the sense that it posits one potential future, if we squint we can call it science fiction.
The year is 2172. Big Oil has collapsed and the big cities have followed suit. There's been a Plague of Infertility. America now has 60 states. The Presidential office is hereditary. The country is under the grip of one Deklan Comstock, who has been in power a very long time. There is a religious organization known as the Dominion, which oversees the religious and moral health of the country. The Dominion also has its fingers in the military. All in all, given that Deklan is corrupt, while the country is in decent shape and starting to recover, things aren't looking that good if you're peering at it from the point of view of a person living in our times. America is also embroiled in a war that seems to have no chance of ending. Indeed, things are kind of a mess.
So is the setting of our story. Julian Comstock is the nephew of the President--which doesn't guarantee him any safety whatsoever; it seems that Deklan had Julian's father killed for treason because, well, he was too popular. Our story is told by one Adam Hazzard, a friend of Julian's who wants to be a writer when he grows up. The novel, however, is not so much the story of Julian Comstock, but the story of a country that is battling to regain what it had after the Fall. It just so happens that Julian Comstock was a central figure in one piece of the future history, and Adam Hazzard tells the tail of Julian through his own eyes, but he tells his own story as well.
Julian is an aristo--upper class, if you will. Adam is a lease boy --kind of middle class indentured servant. They get conscripted into the Army--which is somewhat amusing because they had been attempting to evade the whole thing but got caught anyway. Julian hides his identity--he's afraid of what his uncle will do to him. Julian, of course, eventually becomes an officer in the Army, one who is well liked by his troops. As you might guess, he becomes so wildly successful that his uncle puts him on an assignment (after his tour of duty was up, no less), that he has no chance of winning. The point being, of course, to have him be killed in the line of duty, much like what happened to Julian's father.
You know how these things go, though. Julian isn't killed, Deklan is overthrown, and Julian becomes president. The story then takes a path that I wasn't quite expecting (which is good), and ends in a way that I wasn't expecting (also good).
An interesting thing to watch throughout this book is the conflict between Julian, an Agnostic of sorts and a man who has very heretical ideas, and the Dominion. His ideas are those of the Secular Ancients--us. They are heretical because the Dominion says so. It's interesting to watch a semi-oppressive religious organization grab power in the name of keeping the morals of our country where they belong. It's also interesting to watch Julian take on the Dominion. I think this novel alone makes a great case for the separation of Church and State.
COMSTOCK is a pretty good novel. Not Wilson's best, mind you, but pretty good. It's certainly better than most of its competition in the Best Novel category. I highly recommend it. [-jak]
Hugo Voting (letter of comment by John Hertz):
In response to Evelyn's comments on voting for the Hugo in the 06/25/10 issue of the MT VOID ("I'm not eligible to vote for the Hugos ... because I'm not going to Australia for the Worldcon"), John Hertz writes:
"What do you mean, not eligible to vote because you can't attend? S*U*P*P*O*R*T*I*N*G M*E*M*B*E*R*S*H*I*P"" [-jh]
Evelyn replies, "Okay, I was a bit too concise in what I said. I'm not eligible to vote because I did not purchase an attending or a supporting membership, and the former was because I am not going. The latter is because it is not worth the cost of the supporting membership (A$70, or about US$63) just to vote for the Hugos. Yes, I know that I could also get the publications, but I find there is very little in them of interest to non-attendees, and it's not clear how much is left over after all that actually to support the convention. I know that this year a big appeal of the supporting membership was that you go the electronic Hugo packet with all the fiction, etc., but that didn't change my mind." [-ecl]
Mel Gibson, Triceratops, and THE CUBS AND THE KABBALIST (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to the 08/06/10 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Many thanks, Evelyn and Mark, for the latest MT VOID. As always, a welcome e-mailed zine for my edification and enjoyment. I do have a couple clarifications to make, though, so here they come.
First, regarding Mark's response to my loc, I likewise don't pay attention to Gibson news or any other celebrity news. Most of it is drivel and geared toward the huddled masses yearning to be mindless. He is right that this kind of stuff is merely "scandal- sheet material" that isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Okay, he didn't add that clause following the quoted words; that's my editorial voice being heard. Sometimes I need to put the gag in much tighter.
You know, I hope they don't replace Triceratops with Torosaurus. Watching old skiffy movies, especially the dinosaur battle scenes created by Willis and Harryhausen, et al, would never be the same. If anything, Torosaurus sounds like a family or genus of dinosaurs and Triceratops a species. Something like that. I am no paleontologist, but please, people: Save Our Triceratops! Hmm. I think I'll have a t-shirt made up that says that and wear it to conventions.
Evelyn's review of THE CUBS AND THE KABBALIST makes the book sound rather interesting, I have FROM ELLIS ISLAND TO EBBETS FIELD, which is essentially about immigrants playing professional baseball in America. One entire chapter, in fact, is devoted to Jewish baseball players, and some of them, such as Hank Greenberg, whom you mentioned, and Sandy Koufax excelled at the sport and wound up in the baseball Hall of Fame. A very interesting book; I don't know if THE CUBS AND THE KABBALIST would work for me, though, and the review confuses me; is this a work of fiction? Just curious, and I thank you.
P.S.: I really like that Churchill quote at the end. A splendid image! [-jp]
Evelyn responds, "THE CUBS AND THE KABBALIST is a work of fiction." [-ecl]
[As for Torosaurus vs. Triceratops I would just say that on one hand a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. On the other I doubt that a Torosaurus would be very sweet-smelling. -mrl]
Housing Developmenst (letters of comment by Kip Williams, Tim Bateman, and Paul Dormer):
In response to Mark's comments on naming housing developments in the 08/06/10 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes, "It's standard to name a housing development after whatever they tore down to make it. I'm still waiting for the day when they'll tear down a crappy mini-warehouse and name the subdivision 'Crappy Mini-Warehouse Estates'." [-kw]
Also in response, Tim Bateman writes, "Back in the early 1970, my father was grimly amused by the developers who cut down part of the forest near us to build Sylvan Way." [-tb]
And in response to Tim's comments, Paul Dormer writes, "Back when I lived in London and walked into central London, there was a side street off the Old Kent Road called Sylvan Grove. Not only was there no trees around, that I could see, it was right next to the gas works [see map at http://tinyurl.com/263xzp4]." [-pd]
Triceratops, Pluto, and Mnemonics (letters of comment by Tim Bateman, Cryptoengineer, and Keith Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on Triceratops in the 08/06/13 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes, "When did Brontosaurus get revealed as a mere error? This is the first I've heard about it." [-tb]
Mark responds, "The Brontosaurus error was known as far back as 1903, but only by a few paleontologists. It was in the 1970s some time that the Brontosaurus error came to be recognized by the general public, at least those who follow science. I remember much later that the American Museum of Natural History had something called a 'Brontosaurus"' skeleton and it had a Camarasaurus head. Now they are all correct." [-mrl]
Tim continues, "I can see the sense in naming the species Triceratops rather than Torosaurus. Most people have heard of the former name--and it is only a name we humans have give the species for our reference and convenience." [-tb]
Mark replies, "Really the proper name for the species Torosaurus/Triceratops would be Torosaurus. That is the name of the adult animal. Otherwise it is like saying that name 'lamb' is more familiar than sheep so a sheep would be more properly called a lamb. In fact, that is actually similar to what is done in United States restaurants. No restaurant admits to serving 'mutton'. The meat is always called 'lamb'."
In response to Mark's comments on Pluto in the same issue, Tim writes, "On Pluto: surely people should be allowed to refer to Pluto as a planet ... if they refer to all twenty-four Pluto-style planets in the Solar System as planets and learn all their names in a mnemonic featuring my very educated mother. While we're at it: does anyone know a good mnemonic for how to spell the word 'mnemonic'?" [-tb]
Mark responds, "There is no law that says that you cannot call Pluto a planet. But if you want to be strictly accurate, it is not a planet. I never needed a mnemonic to spell mnemonic. I always just called it a "memory trick." These days I do try to use the word "mnemonic". My Neighbor Enlightened Me On Naming It Correctly." [-mrl]
Also in response to Tim's comments, "Cryptoengineer" writes:
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." - Emerson
Frankly, I can't see that anything at all is harmed by referring to Pluto as a planet, even if Eris et al, aren't. Common nomenclature is a matter of tradition, not science. [-pt]
And Keith Lynch responds to Tim, "Sounds good to me. Pluto isn't merely not the only object of its class, it isn't even the largest. But why bother with a mnemonic if they can memorize them without one? I've always found mnemonics more bother than they're worth. 'Memorization's Not Easy; Memory Often Needs Initial Cues.' But then of course you'd need a mnemonic for each of *those* words, ad infinitum. Well, not literally ad infinitum since you'd stop when you had a mnemonic for the spelling of every word in the English language." [-kfl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
We recently watched a 1962 BBC production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD by Anton Chekhov and I was stuck by how topical it was. The mother, faced with having to pay taxes on the estate, basically decides to bury her head in the sand and refuse to take any action. For example, she could save the house by selling the cherry orchard, but apparently doesn't think she should have to make any sacrifices and so refuses to do so. This reminded me of people now who want to keep getting Social Security, Medicare, police, road maintenance, etc., but not to have to pay the taxes to support those services.
The mother also does not want to take the alternative of cutting down the orchard and leasing the plots of land either. Nowadays, of course, her attitude would fit right in with the idea of preservation of "greenspace", but I don't think that was Chekhov's intent. (In specific, the characters talk about how no one is buying the cherries anymore, and they've even forgotten how to make cherry jam.) Rather, she refuses to realize that unless she takes action, the orchard will be sold and then be cut down anyway. This too is familiar--people bemoaning how they don't like all the changes going on and how they want to freeze everything in place. The mother here has her nice house, beautiful view of the orchard, access to the river--and she doesn't want other people to have any of those things because that means giving up a bit of what she has. It may be a stretch, but all the people whose ancestors got here before there were immigration restrictions and took land that no one else was using (except the Indians, who didn't count), are now complaining about immigrants in just the same way. (One I know not only had ancestors who got here a couple of hundred years ago, but apparently further back they were among those who came over to England with the Norman invaders. I guess invading another country is better than being an illegal immigrant.)
And in THE CHERRY ORCHARD, who eventually buys the orchard? A man whose grandfather used to be a serf on the estate before emancipation (1861). Not surprisingly, he has no great emotional attachment to the accoutrements of the landed gentry--he sees the orchard as an impediment to be removed in order to get full value from the land. This is not surprising--I doubt that the grandchildren of slaves here would have been too upset to see the plantations sold and broken up so that houses could be built on small plots that they might be able to own.
MAMMOTHS OF THE GREAT PLAINS by Eleanor Arnason (ISBN 978-1-60476- 075-7) is a small press publication that contains the title novella (novelette?), a revision of Arnason's 2004 Guest of Honor speech at Wiscon ("Writing Science Fiction During World War III"), and an interview of Arnason by Terry Bisson. Oddly, the cover design does not include mammoths, but in a way it makes sense, as the mammoths are really superfluous to the story. It's a story of living in balance with nature (or restoring that balance with technology), and how the Indians were better at it than the Europeans, and how the mammoth spirits and the bison spirits speak to people. The mammoths are basically off-stage for the whole book, and so far as I can tell if you told the story with just bison, it would not be that different. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy. --Isaac Newton
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