MT VOID 12/03/10 -- Vol. 29, No. 23, Whole Number 1626

MT VOID 12/03/10 -- Vol. 29, No. 23, Whole Number 1626

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/03/10 -- Vol. 29, No. 23, Whole Number 1626

Table of Contents

      C3PO: Mark Leeper, R2D2: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups (NJ):

December 9 (Thu): THE MAN FROM EARTH ("It's a Good Life" by Jerome 
	Bixby), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, film at 5:30PM, 
	discussion of film and story after film
December 16 (Thu): GENOME by Matt Ridley, Old Bridge (NJ) Public 
	Library, 7PM
January 13 (Thu): THE 10TH VICTIM  ("Seventh Victim" by Robert 
	Sheckley), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, film at 5:30PM, 
	discussion of film and story after film
January 27 (Thu): THE PHILIP K. DICK READER (selected stories), 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Life Magazine on Horror Films: has an article from September 2006 by Rick Moody about horror films--with illustrations.

Culinary Response (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I recently visited Italy and discovered something about myself.

I think to me bad Italian food tastes bad; good Italian food tastes good; very good Italian food tastes pretty good; excellent Italian food tastes pretty good; extraordinary Italian food tastes pretty good. I am just not responsive in the higher ranges. [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for December (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

For a few months now I have been writing a column on what films of special interest are coming up in the next month on Turner Classic Movies. December is the first month that I am in trouble on. Perhaps the people who select their films thought that December is a sort of family month and that there would be less demand for challenging films. This is a month when people would want comfort films for the family to enjoy. So pardon me if I am being a little repetitive, echoing recommendations from previous months.

For real fans of tacky fantasy films, TCM is running a new documentary:

THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY is the first study I have ever seen that looks at Murray's bizarre imported films. Many may be unfamiliar with the name K. Gordon Murray and his niche in the history of film. In the 1950s and 1960s the Mexican film industry was strapped for cash and had uneven talent for writing films. They made a lot of movies that were at best spotty in quality with horror films and children's films that all had a sort of tacky feel. Actually frequently there also were some decent visualizations, and it is easy to see how these films contributed to later films like Guillermo Del Toro's PAN'S LABYRINTH. In Florida K. Gordon Murray would import these Mexican films, dub them poorly in English, make trailers, show them in US theaters, and then release them to television. People seeing the horror films on late night TV were frequently puzzled by their surreal quality. A sample can be found at on YouTube. The documentary THE WONDER WORLD OF K. GORDON MURRAY is being run early Saturday morning (Saturday, December 11, 2:00AM- 3:30AM).

TCM will also run a repeat of their documentary WATCH THE SKIES!: SCIENCE FICTION, THE 1950S AND US (2005) with Richard Schickel interviews of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Ridley Scott. The film is a little too short to cover the subject matter at all decently, but some interesting viewpoints are shown. (Wednesday, December 15, 6:30PM-7:30PM)

A film that is no longer a rarity, but is still well worth seeing is Alexander Mackendrick's THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, an Ealing comedy starring Alec Guinness. It is not really clear that anyone working on the film realized that what they were making was a science fiction film, but, in fact, it now is considered to be one of the most intelligent science fiction films of the 1950s, albeit one without the usual tropes of science fiction. It asks what is the nature of scientific progress. Alec Guinness is a research chemist who develops a new textile that is stylish, stronger than steel, and never gets dirty. It sounds like a miracle ... until people start seeing how this new cloth will change society. The feeling is more social comedy than robots and death rays, but it definitely qualifies as science fiction. (Wednesday, December 29, 10:30PM-12:00M)

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946), better known in the United States as STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN, was discussed in my September guide. David Niven plays RAF pilot Peter Carter, who died in the war, but somehow Death did not take him. While the error is being corrected he falls in love. He then feels he has a case to be put before a celestial court that he deserves to be allowed to live. And when I say a celestial court, I mean literally that. There is a courtroom in heaven where his case is tried. Canadian actor Raymond Massey plays a very disagreeable American (uh, United States) patriot, demonstrating that even after the United States came to the aide of Britain in the war, Brits still did not quite care for the United States. The film was written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Fourteen years later the popular Powell would make the powerful horror film PEEPING TOM and torpedo his career. (Monday December 20, 4:45AM- 6:30AM)

A rare find is ORPHEUS by Jean Cocteau. One does not hear much any more about the strange films directed by this French surrealist. For the most part his films are a taste I have a hard time acquiring. But no study of fantasy film is complete without looking at his THE BLOOD OF A POET (1930), BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1946), and ORPHEUS (1950). ORPHEUS is a retelling of the Orpheus myth set in (then) contemporary Paris. The minions of hell are men on motorcycles. Orpheus must descend literally into Hell to rescue his love. Bizarre images abound. (Monday December 20, 3:00AM- 4:45AM)

My pick for the month: If you have not seen THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT, you should not miss this classic. I personally am most looking forward to the K. Gordon Murray documentary. [-mrl]

MONSTERS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: As a sort of a road film, MONSTERS tells the story of two young Americans making their way across a war-ravaged Mexico--where the war is against giant creatures of alien origin. The story is told with a naturalistic style and with the actors improvising with non-actor locals. In the end the film is really about people and not special effects. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

(There is a heavy spoiler at the end will be protected by a rot13 encryption.)

In an old Japanese movie with the giant monster Gamera and other monsters there is a sequence in which a crew building road was asked about their progress and they say that they can finish the road on schedule if the rains do not come early and if the monsters do not come out of the hills and tear up the roads. This is said rather matter-of-factly as if living with the monsters has become a way of life. There is a very similar situation in a new film written and directed by Gareth Edwards. There is a large area of Mexican countryside plagued by giant monsters that tear up cities and villages. But life goes on. What are you going to do?

Six years earlier alien life was discovered in the solar system. A probe was sent into space to take samples and return them to Earth. That probe broke up over Mexico. Soon there were strange tentacle creatures springing up around Northern Mexico causing destruction. The American government built walls to contain the creatures in "infected zones" and built a huge wall between the United States and Mexico to keep the creatures out. Since then the United States military has been running air strikes over the infected zone trying to kill the beasts. The locals just learn to live with the disaster of giant monsters. Like cockroaches, trying to remove them can be worse than just living with them. The monsters are really deadly only when they are attacked. The Americans come in and bomb the invaders and that is when the monsters become really dangerous. Scoot McNairy plays Andrew Kaulder, a photojournalist in Mexico getting pictures of the destruction for a news source. His boss tells him he has to pick up the boss's daughter, guard her, and bring her back to the US. The story becomes a sort of cross between IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT and CLOVERFIELD--as unlikely a pairing as any I have seen in years.

What is interesting about the script is how MacGuffin-like the creatures really are for most of the film. MONSTERS really is a film about how two people's relationship while traveling under adverse conditions. It may that those adverse conditions include a quarantine due to giant creatures like octopuses on spider-like legs, but for most of the film it could be a disease epidemic or a hurricane rather than an alien invasion.

MONSTERS is an extremely low-budget film, but hides that fact well. The IMDB reports that the budget was in the range of $200,000. Besides the two main characters everyone or almost everyone else is a local from the film locations in Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Some of the set design of the scenes of destruction was provided by an actual hurricane. The special effects are created by writer/director Edwards on his computer. Perhaps for that reason, views of the aliens are kept to a minimum, following the lead of CLOVERFIELD. There was not even a detailed script for the shooting. The main actors and the drafted local actors use an improvisational style that give the film a very natural tone.

MONSTERS is not a great film, but it shows how technology is allowing inventive filmmakers to make fairly interesting films on budgets that are tiny by film industry standards. I rate MONSTERS a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

A heavy spoiler follows, decoded in rot13. It can be decoded at, and it is important to understanding the end of the film.

Fbzr erivrjref ner fnlvat gung gur svyz raqf noehcgyl naq gung jr qb abg xabj jung unccraf gb Naqerj naq Fnz. Va snpg jr qb svaq bhg jung unccraf gb gur punenpgref, ohg lbh nyzbfg unir gb jngpu gur svyz ba ivqrb gb pngpu vg.

Pybfr nggragvba zhfg or cnvq gb gur irel svefg frdhrapr bs gur svyz, fubg jvgu n unaq-uryq pnzren. Gur svefg fprar unf n HF zvyvgnel qrgnpuzrag fnlvat gung gurl unir "ybpngrq n znyr naq n srznyr." Gurl gura cebprrq gb trg va n cvgpurq onggyr vaibyivat na nyvra. (Jub vf fubbgvat ng gurz vf hapyrne.) Naqerj pna or frra zhygvcyr gvzrf. Gura jr urne uvz lryy, "uryc." Gura jr frr uvz pneelvat na hapbafpvbhf be yvsryrff srznyr obql. Nccneragyl Fnz vf n pnfhnygl bs gur pbasyvpg.

Gur erfg bs gur svyz vf n synfuonpx gryyvat ubj jr tbg gb gung frdhrapr.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


BLACK SWAN (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: An ingénue ballerina has to dance as if she has a corrupt and worldly side she does not really have in a production of "Swan Lake". At the same time she has this challenge there may be plots against her to steal her coveted role. Is the pressure she feels warping her psychologically or is the threat real? Darren Aronofsky borrows from David Cronenberg in this surreal view of the high-pressure realm of professional ballet. The film is strange and beautiful to look at, but it also treads the melodramatic edge of a horrific surrealism. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

In the world of classical ballet little is what it really seems to the audience. To balance en pointe, rising up and balancing ones entire weight the tips of ones toes seems light, graceful, and even slyph-like. In fact, it is crushingly painful on the toes. The life of a ballerina in an elite ballet company looks as light as a dream, but it is a nightmare of hard work and stiff competition. To Nina Sayers (played by Natalie Portman) the problems may go beyond the artistic achievement. The dual role of the White Swan and the Black Swan in Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" is so coveted that people might do anything to get it. Nina suspects there are conspiracies against her. Are they real or imagined? The former star of the company, Beth Macintyre (Winona Ryder) is leaving, though not entirely gracefully, she seems to blame Nina. Then there is the aggressive Lily (Mila Kunis), ready to push out Nina given the slightest opening. More pressure comes from the creative director, Thomas (Vincent Cassell, who played the lazy son in EASTERN PROMISES). Finally there is Nina's mother Erica (Barbara Hershey looking like a victim of too many face lifts) herself a former ballerina. Erica's demands on Nina's career the daughter can never hope to fulfill, but who is more than willing to dominate her daughter and force her daughter to those goals.

Nina is young and fresh and beautiful. It is a quality that helps her play the good White Swan. But Thomas does not think that Nina can do the dark Black Swan role. It would be like casting Kiera Knightly as Rosa Kleb. The role of the Black Swan does not call for young and fresh. Thomas wants Nina to give herself a sexual awakening that will be reflected in her darker performance. His interest may not be carnal, but he thinks she needs to be more sexually experienced to dance the role.

There have been films before that have shown the demands of ballet. In particular there was THE RED SHOES (1948)--to which this film pays tribute--and THE TURNING POINT (1977). But what we see here we have not seen on the screen before. The world of the ballet company has always seemed a little pristine and rarified. It hardly seems to be a setting for a thriller with horrific overtones, though this film does and so did THE RED SHOES. Aronofsky shows us the pain behind the performance, physical and psychological. We see Nina's skin, toenails, and even her eyes rebelling at the demands of the art. At times the physical effects are even a little revolting and reminiscent of David Cronenberg's THE FLY.

It might have been more interesting to build the film around a less familiar ballet. Even Thomas, the creative director, seems at first bored at the prospect of re-doing "Swan Lake". But in the real world what other ballets does the public generally know? Still the touch having every music box and every cell phone playing the music of "Swan Lake" is just a bit much. Aronofsky builds the tension slowly but by the third act the tension is real enough.

This movie is an experience that is constantly transforming into something unexpected. Just as Nina needs both a light and dark side and needs to go from one to another, so does Aronofsky. A theme that runs through his work is the dark undercurrents of things that seem innocent. But he is more subtle with it---and hence more credible--than a David Lynch. I rate BLACK SWAN a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


THIS IMMORTAL by Roger Zelazny (copyright 1966, audiobook copyright 2008 Audible, Inc., 6 hours, 30 minutes, narrated by Victor Bevine) (audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):

THIS IMMORTAL was originally serialized in an abridged form in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION in late 1965 as ...AND CALL ME CONRAD. It bears the distinction of being involved in one of the rare ties for the Hugo Award for Best Novel--it tied with a little novel called DUNE in 1966.

So, the Earth has been devastated by a nuclear war that lasted three days. The population has dwindled to roughly four million, and humanity shares the planet with various and sundry mutated life forms, many of which take the form of various Greek mythological creatures. Also, a good portion of the planet is own by a bunch of blue skinned aliens called Vegans (no, Cameron didn't get them here, and I don't know if they're really vegans--okay, those were both bad jokes). They're using the Earth as a tourist attraction.

Our protagonist, Conrad Nomikos, is an arts council administrator of sorts. He's been around awhile--a very long while. He seems to have a lot of secrets that he doesn't wish to share with anyone, including his new wife. He is given the duty by his bosses to show an important Vegan around the ruins of our fair planet--or what's left of it, anyway. It's a job he'd rather not have.

The Vegan is ostensibly writing a travelogue; Conrad will act as his tour guide, taking him to dozens of places all over the world. It becomes apparent that the Vegan is here for other reasons; other members of the travelling party, some of whom are colleagues of Conrad's are also members of the Earth's resistance movement. These folks are trying to kill the Vegan, and it falls to Conrad to protect the alien, much to his dismay. It's the one thing he really doesn't want to do. Conrad must find out exactly what the alien wants and decide what he must do about it.

THIS IMMORTAL is interesting to me in several ways. While I've never been a big Zelazny fan, I did enjoy the Amber series of novels (like a lot of people did), and so I thought I'd try something different from him. It's also a Hugo winner, and I enjoy reading all the old Hugo winners. It's particularly fascinating to me that it tied with DUNE. I believe that Dune is the superior novel; in any other year of that era, ...AND CALL ME CONRAD might have won outright, but I can't see it being close to DUNE here. I'm also fascinated by the fact that THIS IMMORTAL feels like a much better book than the Amber series--a more serious novel that explores various themes, including immortality, nuclear devastation, alien takeovers, and Greek mythologies. It's interesting to note that while we know that Conrad is long lived, we never do find out whether he's immortal or at the very least a god. I found the element of that mystery quite appealing.

It's almost as if Zelazny was a much more serious writer before he penned the Amber books.

I'll tell you this: in my opinion, this book is better than most of the Hugo nominees that have been paraded in front of us the last few years. I'd certainly call it better than the two books that tied for the Best Novelaward this year. Among other things, it's actual science fiction--but I digress. I feel that the book holds up fairly well some 45 years after its initial publication. Certainly there are things that are dated in the novel, but the story is well written and is entertaining.

The one problem I have is actually with the narrator, Victor Bevine. Bevine is very monotone, and doesn't play the various roles all that differently, although a couple are noticeably different. He did very nearly put me to sleep a couple of times, and I was behind the wheel driving to and from work. Not good.

All in all, I'd recommend THIS IMMORTAL, although not this audiobook edition.

Next up, AGAINST ALL THINGS ENDING, by Stephen R. Donaldson. [-jak]

Dr. Who (letter of comment by Andre Kuznariak):

In response to Dale Skran's review of science fiction on television, Andre Kuznariak writes, "In response to Dale Skran's thoughts about 'Dr. Who' (or lack of them), I suggest viewing 'Blink' from the third season of the restarted series. It represents the pinnacle of what the series can accomplish, within one self-contained episode. It's written by the person who runs the show now (Steven Moffat, starting in the 5th season). Another interesting self-contained episode that plays more like a Twilight Zone story is 'Midnight' from season 4, primarily a psychological thriller. I also recommend the 2 episodes before that (on the same disc if viewing from the collected DVDs), but they involve a little more understanding of the show's history and of course more viewing time, being a two-part story (also by Moffat). If after watching any of these an SF fan remains unconvinced about the value of this show, then truly the come from a different universe!" [-ak]

SF Predictions, Dangerous Cuisine, Books about Italy, The Good News Bible, Saving Stuff, and a Klingon Christmas Carol (letter of comment by Sam Long):

[Due to a problem in Comcast mail system, several letters of comment from Sam Long were not delivered, so his re-sends of them are collected here.]

In response to Frank Leisti's comments on science fiction predictions in the 10/22/10 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

Apropos of SF predictions, I seem to remember that Arthur Clarke's "A Meeting With Medusa" had as its hero, or protagonist, a man who had been severely injured and made into a cyborg, who was sent to Jupiter and explored the planet's atmosphere in a high-tech hot air-hot-hydrogen, actually-balloon, and found many life forms there, from the mile-wide medusoid (in the jellyfish sense) that feeds on "air plankton" and manta-ray-shaped beings that preyed on the medusoids.

And again, apropos of SF predictions, consider Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, in which Joe Douglas, World Chief Executive, is described as being handsome and amiable, but perhaps not too bright, and his wife is described as consulting astrologers. That could be a description of Ronald Reagan. How did Robert Heinlein know in 1960, when he was writing STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, that twenty years later the US would have a Joe-Douglas-like president? [-sl]

In response to Mark's comments on dangerous cuisine in the 11/05/10 issue of the MT VOID, Sam writes:

What, did the pasta and the antipasto annihilate one another, like subatomic particles? [-sl]

Mark replies, "As for the dangerous cuisine "antipasto" means "before the pasta." If it has pasta itself in it, that means that antipasto must precede itself. If it were "anti-pasta" then having it with the pasta, they would undoubtedly annihilate each other and emit heartburn." [-mrl]

In response to Evelyn's comments on books in that same issue, Sam writes:

Carla and I are going on a tour of Italy next summer, and will visit Venice; we'll have to check out some of your recommendations for books about the country. Jan (formerly James) Morris is an excellent writer: her Oxford is excellent; I used to live there. I'll have to check out The World of Venice at the very least. There's a series of mystery novels set in 18th century Venice, in which the detective is a castrato opera singer. It's the Tito Amato series by Beverle Graves Myers.

One of my aunts gave me a copy of (I think it was) the "Good News Bible", a paraphrase in "today's" English more than a translation. There are numerous references in it to "Israeli[s]" when "Israelite[s]" is meant, something that annoyed me no end when I was leafing through it.

Mark replies, "If the Good News Bible confuse Israelis and Israelites then it is indeed bad news." [-mrl]

And in response to Evelyn's comments on saving stuff in the 11/12/10 issue of the MT VOID, Sam writes:

Good ideas for "Saving Stuff", especially if there is any possibility of contention among heirs. Luckily for us, when Carla's Dad died last year, there was agreement between Carla and her brother (and between them and their father) about who got what and what got disposed off-sold or taken to the thrift shop or to the dump. Cleaning out the house was a major project, though, and I think there were two dumpsters full by the time everything was seen to. Nowadays making a list of who gets what should be easy: a spreadsheet or a database with photos of the items and instructions for their disposal. I'd print out a copy of each item, besides saving the list to disc. [-sl]

Mark replies, "I think Evelyn's ideas on how to best handle dividing up an estate shows how much we have changed over the years. The ideas that used to excite us in the MT VOID were things like finding new galaxies forming in space and proving the four- color conjecture. That was decades ago. Now the ideas that excite Evelyn are how to best divide up a parent's estate. That is more practical, but less thrilling. I am just afraid she is going to go on to exciting topics like what foods are best for regularity." [-mrl]

And finally, Sam writes:

And now for something completely different: You might be amused to know that there is a play running in Chicago over the next four weeks or so called "A Klingon Christmas Carol", in Klingon with English subtitles. It's being staged for charity by a theater group from St Paul, MN. For more info, google the title. [-sl]

Mark replies, "I think I will skip 'A Klingon Christmas Carol'. Klingon is a gutteral language and not very pleasant to listen to. As long as they were inventing a language nearly from the bottom up, why couldn't it have sounded a little more pleasant?" [-mrl]

Genetic Politics (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Sam Long):

In response to Mark's comments on genetic politics in the 11/26/10 issue of the MT VOID, in which he says, "I don't mean it on the level that I don't want to be a basketball player because I am not tall and thin. I am saying that just some ideas may occur to me because my DNA programs me to have those ideas," Kip Williams writes, "I think those ideas come from NBA programs, actually." [-kw]

And Sam Long writes:

Mark [writes], "For example, in a dark room I close my eyes and stare at the insides of my eyelids. I see patterns of light and dark moving around."

Phosphenes. I see them too, when I close my eyes. There's a considerable literature about them; start by googling the word. I checked out the 2003 MT VOIDs that you cite but didn't follow the discussion very far-just the two issues. I believe the always entertaining and informative Oliver Sacks has discussed phosphenes; I remember he suggested that sometimes they, or similar phenomena, are precursors to migraines and may have influenced the art of the medieval mystic Hildegarde of Bingen, who seems to have suffered from that ailment. [-sl]

Mark replies, "Phosphenes seem like what I am seeing in the dark. I have yet to be able to tell if I am seeing the same image with both eyes or am I seeing two images superimposed. You cannot see it with only one eye and close the other eye, since your eyes are closed from the first. And if I am getting an image from each eye, does someone blind in one eye get one image or two?" [-mrl]

Canned Laughter (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Keith F. Lynch):

In response to his own comments on canned laughter in the 11/26/10 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I should have included this with my first comments on canned laughter. If you want to hear the most overpowering, pervasive, ceaseless barrage of canned laughter, sound effects, and rim shots- -all in the service of an entirely unfunny robotic comedian--then this is for you:

Thanks to WFMU, I've been able to listen to this jaw-dropping turkey several times, and might again some day. It's weirdly hypnotic. I listened to it and sort of lost track of time and came to later, smeared with blood and lying in a pile of headless teddy bears. Cautiously recommended! [-kw]

In response to which Keith Lynch writes, "The most inappropriate laugh track I've ever heard was on part of the movie NATURAL BORN KILLERS. But that was obviously *intended* to be wildly inappropriate, as some sort of ironic social commentary by Oliver Stone, so perhaps it shouldn't count." [-kfl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I mentioned recently that I listened to both a Teaching Company course and a UC Berkeley course on ancient Rome. Obviously there was a lot of overlap in the content, but the presentations were very different.

The UC Berkeley course (hereafter called UCB) was a series of (audio) podcasts of the real lectures for a real course with real students, etc. It was intended, so far as I can tell, as a way to allow students who cannot attend some of the lectures to keep up with the course. As a result, it is very different from the Teaching Company course (hereafter called TTC).

The main difference is that TTC is completely self-contained, while UCB assumes the students will read the textbooks and readings. (As was clear from listening to the real lectures at UCB, the students there did not always do the readings before the class.) TTC has a reading list, with recommended and additional readings for each lecture, but does not assume the student is reading them. For one thing, I think TTC realizes that while a matriculated college student will pay a few hundred dollars for textbooks for a course, someone taking a TTC course probably will not. For another, in their advertisements TTC talks about how you can learn a subject during your commute time, etc., just by listening to their course. If you also have to do all the readings they listed, it would double or triple the time, at least. So in the lecture, the professor tells you everything to be covered about that lecture's topic.

The UCB lectures, on the other hand, are more like one or two details, livened up for the class. The professor (in this case) spent a lot of time making comparisons between actual history and HBO's "Rome"; SPARTACUS; I, CLAUDIUS; and so on. She also used terms she had not defined in previous lectures, but which presumably were in the readings. And she also made reference to a lot of visuals, which even those students in the course using the podcast could not see.

Apparently, UC Berkeley has a networking site called "B-space", because the professor would say things like, "I couldn't make copies of the supplemental reading because the copy machine is broken, but you can find it on B-space," or, "The study guides are on B-space." This is great for the actual students, but a bit annoying for us hangers-on. (TTC's booklet serves as a sort of study guide, I suppose.)

TTC's professor, on the other hand, had no references to television or movies that I can remember, but covered the material in a lot more detail in the lectures. Obviously, this is because the lectures are all there is for the vast majority of their students.

(Interestingly, the lecture on Christians under Diocletian for UCB was given by one of the professor's teaching assistants, and it was by far the best organized and most informative of the lectures (IMHO). It was also the only one done in a "traditional" lecture style.)

I will admit that if you take the UCB course with all the reading, quizzes, papers, and exams, you will probably learn more and retain it longer than if you take TTC's course. On the other hand, if you take TTC's course and do all the readings *it* lists, you will also probably learn more and retain it longer.

One big difference not mentioned often is the effect of discussion (classroom and otherwise). Any discussion of correspondence courses or today's more hi-tech versions of distance learning talks about this: a student sitting alone in a room studying does not have the advantage of a student in a group of students and teachers engaged in lively discussion. One solution to this problem with TTC is to take the course with someone else. Mark and I first did this with a course on the "Great Books" that we listened to on a cross-country trip, and we found that we kept stopping the course to comment on it, discuss what the professor had just said, and so on. This may be hard to do if you're listening to the course on your commute, but I still recommend it. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Man is the cruelest animal.  At tragedies, bullfights, 
          and crucifixions he has so far felt best on earth; 
          and when he invented hell for himself, behold, that 
          was his very heaven.
                                          -- Friedrich Nietzsche, 
                                             Thus Spake Zarathustra

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