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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/07/11 -- Vol. 29, No. 28, Whole Number 1631
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups (NJ):
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 February 10 (Thu): FORBIDDEN PLANET by W. J. Stuart), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, film at 5:30PM, discussion of film and book after film February 24 (Thu): WANDERING LANDS AND ANIMALS by Edwin A. Colbert, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
Questions about Myth I (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I seem to ask myself questions that nobody else does.
A course I was taking told about the history of Ancient Greece and the economy. It led me to wonder a little about the stories I have heard of Ancient Greece. Do Bacchantes get some sort of a stipend for being Bacchantes? I mean, wine is one thing, but even Bacchantes need to eat. What does a Bacchante do for a living when she is not reveling? Is being a Bacchante something that is open only to the independently wealthy? [-mrl]
Was That Me??? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Several people (well, some people anyway) have asked me was that my name that they heard on National Public Radio on Sunday morning, January 2. In fact it was my name. Every Sunday morning NPR has the Sunday Puzzle hosted by Puzzlemaster Will Shortz. They have a participant from the radio audience try to answer Will's questions. At the end of each puzzle Shortz gives the listeners a puzzle of their own to work on and next week and they can submit their answers. The next week's participant is chosen at random from among the people who submitted the correct answer to the current week's question. That question that goes out to all the listeners is a puzzle that has been submitted by a listener to Shortz off- air. The first audience puzzle of 2011 was submitted to Shortz from Mark Leeper of Matawan, New Jersey: "Take a plural noun that ends with the letter 'S'. Insert a space somewhere in this word, retaining the order of the letters. The result will be a two-word phrase that has the same meaning as the original word, except in the singular. What word is this?"
You can hear the program at http://tinyurl.com/leeper-puzzle. My puzzle is asked about 6:20 in, toward the end of the program. Next week they will give a solution.
A previous puzzle that I submitted and Shortz used is at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6931112 The puzzle is "Name a famous film director, whose last name has two syllables. Phonetically these two syllables sound like words that are opposites of each other. What are the words and who is the director? Challenge from Mark Leeper of Old Bridge, New Jersey."
Next week I will print the solution for each puzzle. [-mrl]
THE TIME MACHINE Adapted to Radio (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Multiple time times American radio tried to adapt H. G. Wells's THE TIME MACHINE as radio plays and the ones I remember are uniformly terrible. The Radio Mensa web site has posted a 2009 BBC adaptation as long as a full-length movie (99 minutes), and did a superb job. I would say this is the best dramatic adaptation o the Wells classic--much more faithful to the novel than the George Pal film was (which is not setting the bar all that high). I think Radio Mensa says they post their radio dramas for four weeks, which means it should be around until January 28 of this year. But if you want it, it still would be a good idea to download it soon. Enjoy. And happy new year to all of you.
The following is borrowed text from the Radio Mensa web site:
Drama on Three - The Time Machine
Robert Glenister stars as the Time Traveller with William Gaunt as HG Wells in Philip Osment's dramatisation of a time-traveller's journey to the future, where mankind has diverged into two species - the Eloi and the Morlocks.
The opening scene is set in 1943, with HG Wells recording his broadcast Reshaping Man's Heritage. In this talk, Wells addresses the fact that for the first time in history, man is capable of bringing about his own destruction and the destruction of the world.
American journalist Martha spends the evening with Wells and he tells her the story of the Time Traveller. Wells explains that he was actually there in person in Richmond in 1885 when the Time Traveller came back from his first journey, and reveals that the Time Traveller made recordings of the final moments of the world, recordings which Wells still has and plays to Martha.
Time traveller ............................ Robert Glenister
HG Wells ..................................... William Gaunt
Young Wells ................................ Gunnar Cauthery
Martha ....................................... Donnla Hughes
Filby .................................... Stephen Critchlow
Bennett ........................................ Chris Pavlo
Mrs Watchett .................................. Manjeet Mann
Weena ........................................... Jill Cardo
My Top Ten Films of 2010 (film comment by Mark R. Leeper):
It is once again time to pick my ten best films of the previous year. Last year I thought that it was a particularly weak year for films. Sadly, that trend has gone even further. In addition, the best film of the year will make few reviewers'/critics' top ten lists because it did not have a theatrical release. It was made for HBO and appeared there first where it swept the Emmy Awards, but was not well noticed by the major film critics. That situation is particularly galling because a French made-for-TV movie had its first showing in the United States as a theatrical film, so it is eligible for the major film awards.
As usual I will not keep the reader in suspense and will present my choices with the best first.
1. TEMPLE GRANDIN--Made for HBO, this is the true story of Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science, a college professor, and a person with autism. She has used her individualized condition to reexamine livestock handling, to redesign animal handling mechanisms, and to shed new light on the autistic mind. Clare Danes gives a hypnotic performance and director Mick Jackson keeps the film visually interesting and full of ideas. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10
2. TRUE GRIT--The Coen Brothers remake one of the classic Western films--a John Wayne Western yet. Their work was cut out for them, remaking a well-liked film, but they manage to make the characters more real and even to give the story a little more edge. Jeff Bridges gives one of his best performances and Hailee Steinfeld more than holds her own against the other leads. Matt Damon sort of fades into the background. It is not clear we needed another adaptation of the Charles Portis novel, but the production is first rate. It has more texture and more edge than the Wayne film. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
3. THE SOCIAL NETWORK--When we entered the Internet Age we entered a strange new world in which it is possible accidentally to become a billionaire. Based on truth, this is the story of how Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) fooling around invented Facebook and the power struggles afterward when the new web site became a mega-money maker. The story is complex, but mesmerizing. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
4. THE KING'S SPEECH--This simple likeable story of the future King of England attempting to overcome a speech impediment is playing to sold out theaters here in the United States. THE KING'S SPEECH tells the story of how a self-effacing prince of England overcame stammering to be a leader for his people when they went to war against Nazism. Tom Hooper directs a film that gives a rich and warm study of the royal family of England. This is one of the best-written films of the year. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
5. RABBIT HOLE--Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart turn in moving performances in this story of a formerly happy couple hit by the loss of a child and the ironic reactions of the couples' friends. This is a journey into anguish and loss, but it does not wallow in self-pity and is even at some times witty. Under it all there are some wry observations of inter-couple relationships. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
6. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO--An investigative report probes into a forty-year-old mystery of a disappearance of a girl from a gathering of a rich and influential family. He is dealing with forces too powerful for him, but is rescued by a mysterious and troubled young biker with almost fantastic abilities. This is the first of a trilogy about "The Girl", but it gives us enough of a taste to want to know more about this woman. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
7. WAITING FOR SUPERMAN--It is impossible to overestimate the importance of education to the well being of this country. There is no question that our schools are sick and in desperate need of healing. Writer-director Davis Guggenheim lays out the problem. This documentary is a thorough look at the educational system and how it hinders rather than fosters the intellectual growth of our children. This year there were several really powerful documentaries that really deserve to be seen and studied. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
8. FOUR LIONS--This is a low-budget, dark comedy with a very clever concept behind it. Four dim-witted Jihadi warriors plan a giant terrorist attack in England, but bumble at just about every turn. Parts of the film are very funny and parts are misfires. But even on the misfires one almost feels one should laugh just to support the very idea of the film. Britain's TV director Chris Morris makes his first feature film for the movie branch of Britain's Channel 4. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
And somehow similar:
9. CARLOS--This is a five-and-a-third hour mini-series from France telling the story of the legendary terrorist Carlos (the story is based on fact but with gaps filled in with speculation). Though for two decades Carlos was at the top of the "wanted" lists, we see that the man himself was lazy, narcissistic, and not really very bright. Edgar Ramirez plays Ilich Ram¡rez S nchez, know as Carlos. The first of the three parts is hard to follow, but eventually writer/director Olivier Assayas makes the story worth the effort. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
10. INCEPTION--There comes a point when enough is too much. Writer and director Christopher Nolan makes an intelligent thought-piece that is at the same time an explosive action thriller with lots of digital effects. There is little time to absorb the ideas. It may be better to see it more than once. In a world where a few people have the capability of invading and redesigning dreams, a team induces dreams in the heir to an industrial empire and then enters those dreams to plant an idea. This is a long film with a lot of fiery explosions, intelligent ideas, sputtering machine guns, and violent car crashes. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Honorable Mention goes to these six films:
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT--A two-lesbian-parent family is functional and stable until the children decide to meet the donor-father they share but have never seen. Meeting him upsets the dynamics of the family. What starts as a comedy about unconventional family relationships turns into a drama with ironically more conventional relationships. Annette Bening, Juliette Moore, and Mark Ruffalo star. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
TOY STORY 3--Some of the most serious films being made today are the comedies from Pixar Animation Studios that the whole family can enjoy. Pixar has another hit returning to the "Toy Story" franchise. In TOY STORY 3 young Andy who always loved his toys is going to college and his toys are going into storage. As a last- minute reprieve they go instead to a day-care center where they can play until they break. Unfortunately that fate may not be as far away as they had hoped. The writing quality is what makes this film work as a comedy, an adventure, and a film with some serious affecting human drama. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
CITY ISLAND--This comedy-drama is a real joy. In an Italian- American family living on an island off the Bronx, everyone has a secret or two that he keeps from the others. These secrets and the misunderstandings they cause become a major force in the family. Writer/director Raymond De Felitta has an uncommon talent for creating simple but compelling characters. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN--This 139-minute documentary of Ludwig van Beethoven is the most intelligent film biography of a composer I have seen. By featuring great musicians and conductors giving their commentary on the music itself this film is a step more intelligent than most musical biographies. Beethoven's music is transcendent and washes over the viewer. Phil Grabsky writes, directs, and even films this account. Juliet Stevenson narrates. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
AFGHAN STAR--Just as Americans have their television program "American Idol", since 2005 Afghanistan has had its own popular music program "Afghan Star". It is the same and not the same. The difference is that religious fanatics like the Taliban can at any time decide singing a song is a capital crime. This is a country torn apart by those who want to bring in modern international ways and those who want to seal off the country with a fundamentalist fascism. This documentary follows four contestants on "Afghan Star" and what they experience risking their lives for a singing competition and for freedom. Havana Marking directs. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
One Day at a Worldcon (comments by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
[This is a brief look at one day of Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal.]
General comments: The science track was great, but treatment of media was really poor, and the con was often disorganized.
Monday, August 10th Panel 5-030 "Storing, Restoring, and Appraising" [Dale attending] 10AM-11AM
The panel was moderately useful but suffered a bit from covering a wide range of topics. In particular, the audience often wanted to know about the resale of SF art, but the panel was most expert in movie collectibles. However, I did pick up a good number of tips for selling on E-Bay, as well as a pointer to the Heritage Auction house, which now that I am aware of the name I see selling space collectibles as well in Ad Astra magazine.
Panel 5-049 "The Drake Equation and the Fermi Failure" [Dale attending] 11AM-12PM Panelists: Jordin Kari, etc.
This panel was a planning failure by the con, as it was SRO when I walked in, and after about 15 minutes moved on its own initiative to a much larger room. The panelists managed to mix a number of skeptical jokes on the Fermi Paradox with a reasonable review of the main ideas. I think you have to net this out that it is a reasonable question that we don't know the answer to. On the whole, the panelists were skeptical about the SETI efforts of the Planetary society, which on panelists characterized as "ants in NYC looking for pheromone trails, finding none, and concluding that there was no intelligent life in NYC."
Panel 5-089 "Mr. Miyazaki's Wonderful Flying Machines" [Dale, Sara, Jo, and Sam attending] 12:30-2PM
This panel was an unexpected surprise. The speaker had done a lot of research comparing the anime vehicles to real aircraft, and it was surprising that what at first appeared as fanciful airplanes were in fact based on real vehicles, including some that you would not believe had ever existed or flown. He also presented a thesis on how the degree of realism in the art reflected the degree of good or evil in the characters, with the really bad guys having unflyable vehicles. The speaker had dug up some great video clips on the internet of the various real flying machines. This panel was a joy for anyone with even a passing interest in aviation and unusual aircraft.
Panel 5-107 "A Century of Atom Smashing" [Dale, Jo, Sarah, and Sam attending] 2-3PM Panelists: Bill Higgins, etc.
The main thrust of this panel was to report on a trip that Higgins and another panelist had taken to McGill University to see Rutherford's atomic lab. Toward the end a brief review of the state of particle physics was presented. This panel was great fun for any hard-core techie.
HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE by Charles Yu (book review by Tom Russell):
Suppose we could review science fiction the same way wine tasters critique wine? Then, instead of "Fine body, hint of blackberry" we could write "Fine idea, hint of Bradbury." The wine taster takes one sip of wine and then spits it out rather than drinking the whole bottle as the vintner intended; book reviewers could simply read the spoilers...
Perhaps the greatest scientific discovery of all time was Galileo's seeing the moons of Jupiter. Suddenly the Earth is not the center of the universe. In more recent times there have been two discoveries which have changed our view of the universe and of our place in the universe: the double-slit experiment, and the experiment which is the inspiration for Yu's story.
I didn't like the book, but I encourage you to pick it up at the bookstore or library, read a few pages, and decide for yourself. If you want just a spoiler taste, read the footnote on pages 109- 110. If you do decide to read the whole book you will find hints of some science fiction classics: Charles Dickens, Carl Sagan, and Mel Brooks. And others.
And there is even 11-dimensional music. But beware: there is a bit of unobtainium--not my taste at all. [-tlr]
THE KING'S SPEECH (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This simple, likeable story of the future King of England attempting to overcome a speech impediment is playing to sold out theaters here in the United States. THE KING'S SPEECH tells the story of how a self-effacing prince of England overcame stammering to be a leader for his people when they went to war against Nazism. Tom Hooper directs a film that gives a rich and warm study of the royal family of England. This is one of the best-written films of the year. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
It has been claimed that there are statistics that say that people's dread of death is only their second greatest fear. Their greatest fear is public speaking.
It is the late 1920s and Britain's Prince Albert, the Duke of York (played by Colin Firth), has a very commonplace problem. He stammers when he speaks. If he gets in front of a microphone he finds it only possible to utter only incomprehensible monosyllables and long pauses. For his predecessors this would not have been a problem. Few people ever actually heard the voices of royalty. Loudspeakers and the radio are changing that. In the past few people had an opportunity to hear royalty. The age of electricity has changed that. For now, Albert is just a prince. His older brother David, the Duke of Windsor (played by a waspish Guy Pearce), is in line for the throne of England when their father King George V (Michael Gambon) dies. But the king is getting old, and neither of the brothers wants to be King of England. David is in the midst of a romance (to put it politely) with American divorcee Wallis Simpson (Eve Best). Albert's greatest fear is coming true. David may abdicate and Albert may well end up king. Albert is a much better choice for king, but he cannot get in front of a microphone and speak to his people. After going to several specialists, Albert is no closer to overcoming his stuttering. The last possibility is Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) an eccentric Australian speech therapist. He is demanding, impertinent, and imperious. He demands the right to call the Prince "Bertie," a familiarity reserved for the royal family. Albert demands that his visits to the therapist be kept strictly private. Not even Logue's wife is to know. (How Mrs. Logue learns who is husband's client is makes for one of the more memorable scenes of the film.)
The story of THE KING'S SPEECH is at heart a simple one. There is more than a little of THE MIRACLE WORKER in the story. Logue is taking on a job that people considered to be experts have failed at. He wants things done his way. The two men form a relationship of opposites. Albert is the royal and soon to be the king. Logue is a commoner, and as an Australian he is commoner than most. Yet it is Logue who insists on the imperial manner. Each is engaging in his own way, and the two form a bond that will last the rest of their lives together. Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth, wife of Albert and the woman whom we would know as the Queen Mother. Carter is getting old enough that she actually looks a little old and dowdy in the role, perhaps a first for her.
Director Tom Hooper shows us an England changing in many ways. The technology of radio is making new demands on the King. Preparing for the King's accession ceremony the demands of the Archbishop of Canterbury are pushed aside for the demands of the sound technicians. Still the remarkable thing about this film is its "niceness." In spite of being about the pressure of high government and the rise of Nazism going on in the background, the viewer gets a believable look at the royal family as being likable and as far as possible unassuming people. The Prince and later King has problems that your next-door neighbor might. Somehow too few films are made these days that are leisurely enough for the viewer to get to know and like the characters.
THE KING'S SPEECH has good performances all around, but the two main characters rank highest of all. I rate THE KING'S SPEECH a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://uk.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_kings_speech/
MADE IN DAGENHAM (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: MADE IN DAGENHAM is a frustrating experience. It runs very parallel to Martin Ritt's NORMA RAE and deals with more momentous historical events, yet it feels like weak tea next to Ritt's film. In NORMA RAE an enraged Sally Field storms through that textile mill. You feel her rage. And you have sequences like that of her mother being deafened by the machinery. NORMA RAE actually makes you angry at the factory and its conditions, while MADE IN DAGENHAM just leaves you miffed. It is ever so much more delicate and reserved. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
MADE IN DAGENHAM is based on real and what would become historic events. It is the story of a 1968 strike for equal pay by 187 women employed the Ford auto works at Dagenham, England. But there is very little good in this film that was not done better in Martin Ritt's NORMA RAE. Plus with British diffidence it is not nearly as affecting as Ritt's film. Director Nigel Cole tells his story in an entirely too reserved manner. Ritt knew how to go for the gut. Both films are about factories going on strike. In NORMA RAE it is at least in part about conditions that deafen people and deaden lives. This film is also about the women unfairly being under- classified and later about not getting equal pay with man. That is a very real complaint, but it does not have the power of seeing Sally Fields marching through a factory shutting down machines or seeing her mother temporarily deafened by the din of the textile machines.
At the center of the strike Rita O'Grady is played by Sally Hawkins who was the (literally) irrepressible Poppy from HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. She is just one of the girls in a hot noisy room where 187 women sew together the fabric of car seats for new Ford cars. The room is so hot several of the women remove their blouses. Without losing modesty they wear only their brassieres, much to the embarrassment of union representative Albert (Bob Hoskins). Albert is a simple ineffectual man with a cockney accent. The women are irritated that they are classified "unskilled" while doing tasks for which men would be classified at least "semi-skilled." The women decide to go on a one-day strike. With a twinkle in his eye Albert chooses Hawkins to lead. Any good he can do for the women has to be approved by his boss, Monty (Kenneth Cranham), an official union leader does not want to rock the boat with a relationship with the company that is paying him well. Little do the women realize that their one-day strike would start a chain of events that would have international implications.
There are many familiar faces in the film. After HAPPY-GO-LUCKY the viewer just feels comfortable with Sally Hawkins on the screen. This may not be a good choice because she at heart does not seem as forceful as her historical counterpart had to have been. Hoskins plays a nice, unglamorous bunny-like man, perfect for the role. He is content to let other actors have the more dynamic personalities. Miranda Richardson is intense as Barbara Castle, the secretary of state for employment issues--torn on if she should keep a lid on labor unrest or be indignant at the sexism inherent in the system. Rosamund Pike plays Lisa Hopkins who formerly read history at Cambridge, but now has been unhappily reduced to a trophy wife for a Ford factory executive.
There are really two ways to teach history like the Ford Strike. One can just say this was the situation and this is what people did. Or one can go for the gut and get the audience emotionally involved and indignant. Director Nigel Cole shows us the conditions and then considers the injustice. The same story can be told with force and power the way Ritt did with NORMA RAE. Cole wants to make his women endearing. They are just the girls getting together to have fun together to the sound of several sixties popular songs. He forgets that we are not here to be nostalgic about the 60s. He should be telling us why we do not want to go back to these times with their inherent injustice. Showing how sweet they were is akin to patronizing them. I rate MADE IN DAGENHAM a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Cockney accents may be a little difficult to make out, particularly for some older viewers.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371155/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/made_in_dagenham/
JUSTINIAN'S FLEA by William Rosen (book review by Greg Frederick):
I just finished reading JUSTINIAN'S FLEA by William Rosen. It is a very interesting book and covers the reign of Justinian I from A.D. 527 to 565. He was the emperor of the Eastern (Byzantine) Roman Empire. His reign is considered by some to be a transitional time between the old classical world and the beginnings of the later European states. Justinian surrounded himself with the best and the brightest ministers and generals and not just the royal and well connected elite. This was a fortunate thing for him and helped him to insure his later successes. His capitol was in Constantinople, which he seldom left. Justinian sent his able generals to reconquer the Northern coast of Africa, Sicily, the Italian peninsula, part of southern Spain and other former regions of the fallen Western Roman Empire.
Belisarius was one of his best generals and reconquered large areas of the former Western Empire sometimes with little aid and support from Justinian. Many times he lead an army of inferior size against a large barbarian army and typically won the battle or ended the battle in a draw. Even when he was 50 some years old and in retirement, Justinian called him back into service to defend the Empire against a force of 30,000 Huns' invading from the North. Belisarius only had the emperor's guard (400 trained troops) and a few 1000's of untrained peasants to try and stop the Hun army. There was no large Roman legion in the local area near Constantinople to oppose this invasion. Again as is typical of Belisarius's career he defeated the larger Hun army. He did this by causing them to retreat and saved the city with his superior tactics and wise use of the battleground. Belisarius was very innovative and incorporated a heavy Roman cavalry unit into his army. This cavalry unit wore metal chain mail with metal plating, carried a bow with arrows, a small lance, a sword and even throwing darts. They did not have stirrups at that time and so could not joust as medieval knights could but they were the forerunners of the medieval chain mail wearing knight.
Modern European civil law owes its beginnings to Codex Justinianus. This was a huge effort by Justinian and his ministers to assemble and make logical sense of the many previous centuries filled with Roman laws from various Roman emperors. Also during Justinian's rule the infamous bubonic plague struck and killed millions across Europe. Rats carry fleas which were infected by a deadly bacteria caused this great terror. The rats came with the cargo carrying ships and quickly spread it across Europe. It weakened the Empire of Justinian and prevented him from farther goals. The plague also made it easier for Mohammed a few decades later to conquer some of the territory of Byzantium since the plague had depopulated some of the cites and deceased the size of the Byzantine army. This is an important part of European history that is probably not well understood by many. [-gf]
WAREHOUSE 13 (letter of comment by Alan M. Gopin):
In response to Dale Skran's review of WAREHOUSE 13 in the 12/31/10 issue of the MT VOID, Alan Gopin writes, "The two agents on WAREHOUSE 13 are not FBI agents, the are Secret Service agents." [-amg]
Collateral Damage, Spider Man, Anne Francis, Christmas, New Mexico (letter of comment by Sam Long):
In response to the 12/31/10 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes, "I've often wondered about all the "collateral damage" that occurs in movies or comic books or whatever--you know, the cars parked innocently on the street that the monster or the bad guys or the good guys crash into, for example. How would the notional owners deal with such damage, what would they tell their insurance agents, and so on. Oh, and did you see where (the stunt double of) Spiderman fell off the stage in the Broadway production a week ago and was rather badly injured? [-sl]
As for the collateral damage in films: I don't see that it is too much of a problem. If you have to tell you insurance company that your car was stepped on by a dinosaur, it helps that the New York Times just had a front page that says 'Rhedosaurus Loose in New York City'."
I did hear about the 'Spider Man' fall. I cannot imagine trying to do "Spider Man" on a live stage. What you need to do most with a 'Spider Man' story the stage has all the wrong limitations. I am sure it will be a case of being like a dog walking on its hind legs. That is it is not that they will do it well, but it is amazing that they do it at all. This accident has given them some rally bad publicity. I wonder if the problem was that they were selling tickets for box five." -mrl]
Sam continues, "Also, Ann Francis, costar with Leslie Nielsen, Walter Pidgeon, and Robbie the Robot in Forbidden Planet, just died, age 80?" [-sl]
[Mark replies, "Yes, Anne Francis died January 2. It is curious that it was so soon after the death of Leslie Nielson. Under different circumstances I might say that it sounded like the final vengeance of Morbius's id." -mrl]
Sam goes on:
Writers of Christmas or Wintertime songs are not under oath when they write. As a matter of fact, it rarely gets to freezing, or snows, in Bethlehem-Judah in winter--though it does get chilly. But "earth stood hard as iron, water like stone"? Hardly. In any case, why would shepherds wash their socks by night in December? There are some hymns that have SF connections, however. Hymns have titles, but the tunes that they are sung to have names. I've seen and sung hymns to tunes named Anderson, Bradbury, Clarke, Lafferty, Tucker, and Wolfe in various hymnals. Of course, those tunes are named for or by their composers, not for SF's Poul, Ray, Arthur, R.A., Bob, or Gene, but still.... The Presbyterian Hymnal contains hymns titled "O God of Earth and Space", and "Lord of Light, Your Name Outshining [All the stars and suns of space]". (Zelazny would be pleased--or would he?). And there is a line from "Our Cities Cry to You, O God" that goes "You made us for Yourself alone, but we choose alien life."
You write, "New Mexico probably can be cold in mid-winter". It certainly can, especially up in the mountains. My brother-in-law and his family lived in Santa Fe (elev. about 7,000 ft; Los Alamos is on a bluff above Santa Fe) and Carla and I would visit them for Christmas. It was often very cold and snowy there (even though Albuquerque, 60 miles south and 2,000 ft lower might be merely cold with no snow). Two years ago, we got stuck in the snow at the entrance to the brother-in-law's driveway, just 50-odd yards from the front door; the snow was the better part of a foot deep. B-in- l and family now live in San Antonio, TX, a much milder climate. This past Christmas they had temps up into the high 70s--and some down to the upper 20s. But no snow. [-sl]
[Mark replies, "As for New Mexico cold, LET ME IN did not take place up in the mountains, but I think it was still realistically cold. -mrl]
Malzberg, Heinlein, and the Department of Homeland Security (rec.arts.sf.fandom):
Further comments on Malzberg, Heinlein, and the Department of Homeland Security (from its appearance in rec.arts.sf.fandom) can be found at http://tinyurl.com/malzberg-heinlein.
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
After you've read the title of OPERATION MINCEMEAT: HOW A DEAD MAN AND A BIZARRE PLAN FOOLED THE NAZIS AND ASSURED AN ALLIED VICTORY by Ben Macintyre (ISBN 978-0-307-45327-3), reading the book is almost superfluous. Well, okay, not really, but this is definitely an excessive title. The book tells the true story of a super- secret World War II operation to give the German High Command disinformation. Briefly, the plan was this: take a body, dress it in uniform, plant some fake documents on it that make it look as though the invasion of southern Europe will be in the Balkans instead of Sicily. They would then dump the body off the coast of Spain where the Germans will eventually get a hold of the papers.
The title for the classic book on this subject--THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS by Ewen Montagu (ISBN 978-1-557-50448-7)--was certainly catchier. Of course, that book was less comprehensive, and also much less accurate. There are two reasons for this. One was that Montagu, as one of the leaders of the team that created Major William Martin, had perhaps a natural tendency to inflate his role and minimize those of the others, as well as to emphasize all the good points and omit the various errors. (Another example of this sort of narcissist distortion was Eliot Ness's memoir, THE UNTOUCHABLES.) But there was a second reason, and in this Montagu had a better excuse than most authors, as Macintyre points out: because much of the truth was still classified, Montagu was obliged to hide a lot of the details, change others to obscure the truth, and leave a lot of names out. In fact, Macintyre spends quite a few pages talking about Montagu's book and other accounts, along with the movie. Not surprisingly, the film of the same name was even less accurate than Montagu's book.
For example, Montagu's book doesn't talk about how the original idea for "Operation Mincemeat" probably came from Ian Fleming (who got it from a Basil Thompson mystery novel). Indeed, Montagu makes it sound as though the entire project was his, with only passing mention of other major players. Nor does Montagu talk about how the team actually made a lot of errors in the execution of the plan, such as having no random items in Martin's pockets, or assuming there were no German spies in England who might investigate some of the details. And though Montagu (and everyone else) claimed "Martin" had died of pneumonia, Montagu at least knew that he died from rat poison, and ignored the fact that this could, in fact, have been detected if the Germans were thorough. Or that Montagu's brother was spying for the Soviets in the early days of the war (before Hitler wrote his treaty with Stalin), and
that information was being passed to the Germans at that time. (One might assume that by 1943, of course, this was no longer true).
I do disagree with Macintyre on the "unreality" of the letters supposedly from Martin's girlfriend, which he says read more like letters one would find in a book or movie than in real life. I have read some letters written at that time, and there were certainly some letters written in that style.
And in 1998, Montagu's claims that "Martin" had died of pneumonia and that permission had been granted by his family for the body's use were revealed as false: Martin was actually Glyndwr Michael, he died from eating rat poison, and his family (his parents had been dead and he was estranged from his siblings) had never been contacted. Montagu believed that all evidence of Martin's real name had been destroyed, but it was still on (at least) one document, and that was discovered by Roger Morgan. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: You can only be young once. But you can always be immature. --Dave Barry
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