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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/09/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 11, Whole Number 1666
Table of Contents
Euchre=MC^2 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
In Modern Physics we have come around to agreeing with Albert Einstein that God does not play dice with the Universe. Latest data from the Large Hadron Collider seems to indicate that the game is more likely canasta. [-mrl]
Trailer Breaks (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Each year I have attended the World Science Fiction Convention I have made it a tradition to attend and report on the Trailer Park if they have one. Trailer Parks are the last vestige of the old days when filmmakers like George Lucas would bring props from their upcoming release to see how the fans like them. In more recent years presentations have drifted to the hugely attended San Diego Comicon and even there seem to not be doing well. Now instead the distributors send trailers for upcoming films and they are shown in a session entitled "Trailer Park". Each year the trailers we have seen at Trailer Park seem less and less promising. This year the Trailer Park may have been a little better than it had been in previous years, but not by much. I took notes and intended to write an article on my return.
Well, the day after my return we had an earthquake. Four days later New Jersey was pretty well lambasted by a hurricane. The next four days we had no power. Then when I started to try to write my summary it was too late to make much sense of my notes. I decided to use my Mac computer to refresh my memory. Curiously my Mac has an unadvertised feature that it downloads something like 300 current theatrical trailers that can be viewed on demand. It occurred to me that I could set up my own Trailer Park on demand. And I generally can choose better films than the convention Trailer Park shows. I watch a large number of trailers, and here are my comments on films coming up soon. (Opening dates are in parentheses.)
SARAH'S KEY (July 22, 2011) Gilles Paquet-Brenner co-adapted the popular novel by Tatiana De Rosnay. A modern-day journalist (Kristen Scott Thomas) investigates the case of a little Jewish girl whose family was arrested in the Paris Vel' d'Hiv Roundup of Jews in which the French proved they could be just as evil as the Germans could. If the story is fiction the background was very real. The novel has been compared to SOPHIE'S CHOICE and could potentially be as harrowing. The story seems to be the sort of thing that reading discussion groups might pick.
CONTAGION (September 9, 2011) The film industry previously tried to take on the danger of contagious disease with the film OUTBREAK. That film started well, taking a serious look at the very real danger. OUTBREAK went swimmingly until the writers decided that they should find some human with Right Wing politics and make him the villain. This was a story that could do very well without a human villain, thank you. I hope CONTAGION does it better. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, and Jude Law play people caught up in a pandemic. I would rather the filmmaker worried more about getting a good script and less about getting an all-star cast. The trailer seems to suggest the film covers mostly the early hours of the pandemic, but it already seems quite destructive to society. This is a good idea for a credible thriller if they don't mess it up. Steven Soderbergh directs.
MAIN STREET (September 9, 2011) Horton Foote wrote this film as well as the screenplays to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and TENDER MERCIES, and a bunch of good plays for television. I have not seen his name recently, and I am glad to see he is still writing. And Horton Foote does write. He creates solid characters. This film has Colin Firth, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson and Orlando Bloom. It is set in the dying town of Durham. Firth plays a stranger in town who thinks he can reverse the town's fortunes by building a factory in town and employing locals. The critics have not been especially kind to this film, but I want to try it.
STRAW DOGS (September 16, 2011) Rod Lurie directed THE CONTENDER and NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH. Both were excellent. I would expect there to be a point to every film he makes, which is why the trailer for his STRAW DOGS is confusing. It looks very similar to the original film of that title. Sam Peckinpah directed that one. The major difference in the two versions is that now James Marsden is in the role previously played by Dustin Hoffman. If Marsden's acting can beat Hoffman's I am looking to see Bambi cream Godzilla. Otherwise this will be a totally redundant remake.
ANONYMOUS (September 30, 2011) Roland Emmerich I associate mostly with action films. Here he uses some of the same techniques apparently. This is a political thriller and a period piece set in Elizabethan England. The issue rises as to just who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. That has been a mystery for centuries. The trailer shows some nice digital work recreating the look of the period.
BLACKTHORN (October 7, 2011) Mateo Gil directs Sam Shepard as Butch Cassidy. The film assumes that Butch Cassidy did not die in a gun battle with the Bolivian military but survived and attempted to return home. It looks like most of the film takes place in natural settings with a minimum of sets created. We know that Butch Cassidy did not return to home and fame so there are only a limited number of ways this story can work itself out. Somehow I expect this will be a new ROBIN AND MARIAN without the nice music. [-mrl]
Turner Classic Movies Halloween Schedule (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Turner Classic Movies has announced its October lineup for their annual celebration of Halloween. There is good news and bad news. The good news is they have a real heavy-hitter lineup. The bad news is that there is nothing really rare and novel. Real science fiction/horror/fantasy fans will not find a whole lot they have not seen before. They do seem to have a new hour-long documentary on the horror film. They have a few sub-festivals: over the month they will run all of Val Lewton's films and most of Hammer Films' best horror films. This is the schedule of Halloween films and selected others:
October 1 9:30a Spiral Staircase, The (1945) 11a Zorro Rides Again: Retribution (1937) 11:30a Zorro's Fighting Legion: Golden God, The (1939) 12p Tarzan's Greatest Adventure (1959) 7p Night at the Movies, A: The Gigantic World of Epics (2009) October 2 6a Berlin Express (1948) 11a Time Machine, The (1960) 3p Crimson Pirate, The (1952) 5p Strangers On A Train (1951) 7p Night at the Movies, A: The Suspenseful World of Thrillers (2009) October 3 8p TCM Night at the Movies: Horror (2011) 9p Frankenstein (1931) 10:15p Freaks (1932) 11:30p TCM Night at the Movies: Horror (2011) October 4 12:30a Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1932) 2:15a Mark Of The Vampire (1935) 3:30a Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, The (1919) 4a Nosferatu (1922) 6:15a Phantom of the Opera, The (1925) 9:30a Touch Of Evil (1958) October 5 8p Thing From Another World, The (1951) 9:45p It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) 11p Curse of Frankenstein, The (1957) October 8 2a She Freak (1967) 3:30a Berserk (1967) 9:30a House Of Wax (1953) 11a Zorro's Fighting Legion: chaps 2,3 12p Tarzan The Magnificent (1960) 1:30p Golden Voyage Of Sinbad, The (1973) October 9 6a Sea Hawk, The (1940) 12:15p Sinbad The Sailor (1947) 8p Sherlock Jr. (1924) October 10 6a Haunted House, The (1921) 8p Wolf Man, The (1941) 9:15p Uninvited, The (1944) 11p Dead of Night (1945) October 11 1a I Walked With A Zombie (1943) 2:15a Cat People (1942) 3:45a Curse of the Cat People, The (1944) 5a Devil Bat, The (1940) 6:15a Dead Men Walk (1943) October 12 8p Manchurian Candidate, The (1962) October 13 9:45a Wages of Fear (1953) 6:30p Bwana Devil (1952) October 14 12a Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court, A (1949) 8:30a Third Man, The (1949) 12:15p Three Musketeers, The (1974) October 15 3:45a Heavy Metal (1981) 9:30a Beast With Five Fingers, The (1946) 11a Zorro's Fighting Legion, chaps 4 & 5 12p Tarzan Goes To India (1962) October 17 8p Horror of Dracula (1958) 9:30p House On Haunted Hill (1959) 11p Tingler, The (1959) October 18 2:15a Curse of the Demon (1958) 4a TCM Night at the Movies: Horror (2011) 5a Bucket of Blood, A (1959) 12:30p House Of Wax (1953) 8p Bigger Than Life (1956) October 19 11:15p Black Book, The (1949) October 21 8p She (1965) 10p Prehistoric Women (1967) October 22 12a Viking Queen, The (1967) 2a Gamma People, The (1956) 3:30a Village of the Giants (1965) 9:30a Ghoul, The (1933) 11a Zorro's Fighting Legion: chaps 6 & 7 12p Tarzan's Three Challenges (1963) 1:45p 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) 3:15p Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956) 4:45p Camelot (1967) October 23 1a Cry of the Werewolf (1944) October 24 12p TCM Night at the Movies: Horror (2011) 6p Dr. Coppelius (1968) 8p Carnival of Souls (1962) 10:30p Dementia 13 (1963) October 25 12a Strait-Jacket (1964) 1:45a Pit And The Pendulum (1961) 3:15a Masque Of The Red Death, The (1964) 5a Devil's Bride, The (1968) 9a Bell, Book and Candle (1959) October 26 5:45p Bad Seed, The (1956) October 28 8p Dead Ringer (1964) 10p Black Room, The (1935) 11:15p Other, The (1972) October 29 1a Dead Men Walk (1943) 2:15a Motel Hell (1980) 4a 10 Rillington Place (1971) 6a Two Mrs. Carrolls, The (1947) 9:30a Doctor X (1932) 11a Zorro's Fighting Legion: chaps 8 & 9 12p Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (1966) 1:45p Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) 8p Cat People (1942) 9:30p Martin Scorsese Presents, Val Lewton: The Man In The Shadows (2007) 11p Body Snatcher, The (1945) October 30 2a Bedlam (1946) 3:30a Seventh Victim, The (1943) 5a Ghost Ship, The (1943) 6:15a Leopard Man, The (1943) 7:30a White Zombie (1932) 8:45a Devil Doll, The (1936) 10:15a Uninvited, The (1944) 12p Berserk (1967) 12:30p Isle Of The Dead (1945) 2p Dial M For Murder (1954) 4p Them! (1954) 6p Forbidden Planet (1956) October 31 4a Around The World In 80 Days (1956) 7:15a Reptile, The (1966) 8:45a Gorgon, The (1964) 10:15a Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966) 12p Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1969) 1:45p Revenge of Frankenstein, The (1958) 3:15p Frankenstein Created Woman (1966) 5p Mummy, The (1959) 6:30p Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, The (1964) 8p Village Of The Damned (1960) 9:30p Night of the Living Dead (1968) 11:15p TCM Night at the Movies: Horror (2011) November 1 12:15a Innocents, The (1961) 2a Haunting, The (1963) 4a Repulsion (1965)
Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2015 (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
My ten favorite entries from the Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2015:
5. There have always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships. 12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America. 15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. 17. Japan has always been importing rice. 21. They've always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus. 27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV. 46. Russian courts have always had juries. 47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Day. 61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild card entry in the playoffs. 64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
The full list is at http://www.beloit.edu/mindset/2015/. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Our book discussion for August was the next third or so of THE BEST SCIENCE AND NATURE WRITING 2009 edited by Elizabeth Kolbert (ISBN 978-0-547-00259-0), the first part of which we did earlier.
The biggest problem with "Virtual Iraq: Using Simulation to Treat a New Generation of Traumatized Veterans" by Sue Halpern (May 19, 2008, New Yorker) is that Halpern doesn't know when to stop--a sentence, that is. There is one paragraph of just three sentences that has 217 words. This is not quite as long as José Saramago's sentence of 91 words with fifteen commas, but it's getting there. This is fine in literary writing, but the profusion of extended sentences makes it difficult at times to follow what Halpern is saying. Halpern's description of a new treatment for P.T.S.D. is fine as far as it goes, but I would have liked more information about how likely it is to become more common, whether its funding is in danger, and a lot of other things that Halperin was not writing about.
"Chain Reaction: From Einstein to the Atomic Bomb" by Walter Isaacson (March 2008, Discover) is a brief summary of the story behind Albert Einstein's famous letter to President Roosevelt about the possibility of an atomic bomb. There is not much new here, though a lot of it is not well known
The problem discussed in "Wasteland: A Journey through the American Cloaca" by Frederick Kaufman (February 2008, Harper's) can be be summed up by the Steve Askew quote: "People wake up in the morning, they brush their teeth, flush the toilet. They think it goes to the center of the earth." But of course it doesn't, and Kaufman follows it, so to speak, on its journey.
"Minds of Their Own: Animals Are Smarter than You Think" by Virginia Morell (March 2008, Animal Minds, National Geographic) is definitely the best of the batch, all about animal cognition. My take on their observations is that either animals are a lot smarter than we think, or we're not as smart as we think we are, because animals seem to have a lot of the abilities that we have--and attribute to our special intelligence.
"Back to the Future" by J. Madeleine Nash (High Country News) is about the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum and how it relates to global warming.
"Taking Wildness in Hand: Rescuing Species" by Michelle Nijhuis (May/June 2008, Orion) is also about global warming, as well as habitat loss and other problems species are having. One solution that has been proposed is transplanting species from their current habitats to more amenable ones: further north, into a protected area, or just somewhere under less attack by "civilization". Not surprisingly, while some see this as a way to save species, others see it as a way to destroy species in the destination area by introducing predators and competitors.
"How We Evolve" by Benjamin Phelan (October 7, 2008, Seedmagazine.com) proposes that human evolution is not something that happened just millions or even thousands of years ago, but something that is still going on.
"Pop Psychology: Why Asset Bubbles Are a Part of the Human Condition That Regulation Can't Cure" by Virginia Postrel (December 2008, The Atlantic Home) covers an economic experiment I had previously read about. Subjects are given complete information about an asset: how much it will pay out over a set number of cycles. (At the end the asset becomes worthless.) Then they start buying and selling them. You would think they would never pay more than the expected return, but in fact, they will. The reason seems to be that people do not want to make sure they don't lose money; they want to make sure that no one is making more than they are. So because they expect a bubble, they hope that even if they buy about expectation, they can sell it off to someone else at an even higher price before the bubble collapses. How depressing!
A long time ago people used to think that cancer was contagious, and they were afraid to come near anyone who had it. Then they learned better. Now, in "Contagious Cancer: The Evolution of a Killer", David Quammen (Harper's Magazine) explains that they may have been right after all--at least a little bit.
THE WORD OF GOD, OR, HOLY WRIT REWRITTEN, by Thomas M. Disch (ISBN 978-1-892391-77-3) is ... well, what is it anyway? Part fiction, part poetry, part memoir, part satire, it seems to be a medley more than a novel, or even a collection.
The premise of this first-person narrative is that Disch is a god (or possibly *the* God--it is not quite clear). Disch explains how everyone seems to have gotten the whole God thing wrong, along with stories of how Philip K. Dick tried to kill him by going back in time and killing Thomas Mann (purportedly Disch's real father), how Disch got baptized at Noah's Ark Mission, and his opinions of monotheism, of evil, and of a whole lot more. Some of the stories are probably true, some are clearly false, and some you cannot tell. Did Dick really think Harrison Ford was trying to kill him? As if anticipating some of these questions, the copyright page says, "All events portrayed in this book, and any resemblance to real people or events, especially the late Philip K. Dick, is purely coincidental."
The framework parts are reminiscent of Mark Twain, but the inserted stories and poems are pure Disch (except when the poems are someone else's). There is a lot of discussion of suicide in this book, published in 2008, shortly before Disch committed suicide on July 4 of that year, and overall, this is singularly appropriate as the final work of Disch's career. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream, and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. --Douglas AdamsTweet
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