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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/21/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 17, Whole Number 1672
Table of Contents
Western United States Trip Logs Available:
The trip logs for our trip to parts of Nevada, California, and Oregon before the World Science Fiction Convention in Reno this year are available at:
My convention report will eventually appear. [-ecl]
Look Up. Look Down. Look Right. Look Left. (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The Space Shuttle Program is over, so this seems to be getting to us a little late, but there is a 360 virtual-reality view of "Space Shuttle Discovery's flight deck during decommissioning in the Orbiter Processing Facility" at http://tinyurl.com/void-flight-deck.
You can look at the flight deck completely surrounding you. You can float in close or just sit and spin. You should note the simulation controls at the bottom of the screen.
If you prefer you can see Times Square at Midnight, New Year's Eve 2010 at http://tinyurl.com/void-times-square. [-mrl]
Horror Audio Drama Archive (comments by Masrk R. Leeper):
The Radio Drama Revival website is a great site for new and original audio drama. It features a weekly podcast covering new and original recordings of drama. These are usually well-produced presentations. The whole site is worth exploring at http://www.radiodramarevival.com/. However, for Halloween they have set up an archive of four years of horror stories they have featured. This is by my count 48 plays, typically half an hour each free and downloadable as MP3s, or they can be played right on the site. The archive is at http://tinyurl.com/rdr-horror-archive.
Optimism (comments by Masrk R. Leeper):
Off the computer, off of television, in newspapers just about anything I read about the world is downbeat. After seeing all sorts of pessimistic predictions around me there is always a place I can go to for solid optimism. The most optimistic thing in my life is a common device. My old GPS is constantly optimistic in figuring drive times. I believe the policy is that it cannot predict traffic jams and traffic lights so it just gives me the time it would take if I didn't have to stop for lights and never got in a traffic snarl. My GPS measures the drive time in PBP hours and minutes. That is it estimates arrival times assuming there had been a biological pandemic and there are only a handful of people left in the world--or perhaps just me and my car. It is what drive time would be like in one of these old post-Holocaust movies like WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. Streets like at Times Square are deserted. I can tell a friend my GPS says I will arrive in one PH hour. (Note: PH is the abbreviation for "post holocaust.") You can see these days I am desperate for any glimmer of optimism. [-mrl]
Predator-Prey (comments by Masrk R. Leeper):
Several years ago I told a sort of upbeat story in one of my editorials. We were leaving work one day and there in the middle of the road was a large turtle. Whenever a car came by he pulled into his shell. Cars went by mostly trying to avoid the turtle. When there were no cars coming the turtle would stick out his six appendages and would make a little more progress across the road. But being a turtle his progress was slow. I could see his path would take him (or her?) across the path that tires usually use. I could see disaster on the horizon. We stopped the car and I got out determined to avert a nasty fate for the turtle. The turtle apparently wanted to handle the situation his own way and demonstrated several defense mechanisms from hiding to hissing to avert an imagined fortune that was worse than the one he was arranging for himself. In seconds he found himself safe on the ground again, out of danger, and just where he was intending to be and several minutes ahead of schedule. He probably did not appreciate the assist, but at least I knew he would live to see sundown.
My story today does not have a happy ending. In fact it had a tragic ending, and probably because I learned how to handle a situation just a few days too late. The real point of this comment is what I learned so others might not make my mistake.
I was walking on the sidewalk of a busy street near my house and there just ahead of me I saw a rabbit sitting on the sidewalk. I smiled and looked at the rabbit as I walked. This so frightened the rabbit that he (she?) panicked and ran right into traffic. I wont go into detail, but I was the last creature that the rabbit came in contact with in his life. People who know me will know how much this would disturb me. If I could have done anything to save the rabbit I would have.
Just ten days later I listened to an episode of Stuart and Glory Jaffe's Eclectic Review Podcast on how animals see other animals and I found it fascinating.
In nature there are two rough categories of animal. There are predators and prey. An animal can tell by looking at another animal whether it is a predator or prey. How? What did the rabbit see in me that made it think I was a predator?
First there are the eyes. A predator has eyes in front of his face. In this way the predator's eyes have overlapping fields of vision. This and the fact that the eyes aim from two slightly different angles give the predator depth perception. That is important in attacking a prey animal. You do not want your attack to fall short or to overshoot. A prey animal has eyes on the side s of the head. This allows the animal to see in very nearly a 360- degree circle. That is useful for seeing attacks from anywhere in a wide angle. So just the shape of my head made me look like an aggressor. But how I looked at the rabbit confirmed it. Looking straight at an animal is threatening. Animals are much more trusting if you turn your head to the side and watch them with one eye. That means you are not sizing them up to pounce. I made the mistake of showing my rabbit both of my eyes. He thought I was sizing him up for an attack.
My path was also an unintentional threat. Predator animals walk in straight lines. That saves energy and time and is useful in an attack. Prey animals wander non-linearly. That makes it harder for a predator to predict where they will be for an attack. I was walking straight on the sidewalk. I was not aiming directly at the rabbit, but it still made me look more formidable.
Finally I may have smiled which for some reason is how human show friendliness. Previously I have commented in this column I have commented on how ugly and threatening a human smile must look to some animals. It is showing off our most threatening feature, our teeth.
So now I feel even worse. I unintentionally looked to the rabbit as if I was threatening the rabbit and drove it into traffic. I sent the exact opposite message to the one I wanted to. But at least I know what I did wrong. And I may try to use what I learned from the Eclectic Review on the animals I feed in my back yard. And if I see a rabbit on a sidewalk I will have a better idea how to look at him. [-mrl]
Socrates (letter of comment by Pete Rubinstein):
In response to Mark's comments on Plato and Socrates in the 10/14/11 issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein writes:
I think that Plato supposedly got the quote from Socrates. The quote, "An unexamined life is not worth living." does, indeed, come from Plato's "Apology", which is a recollection of the speech Socrates gave at his trial. Socrates is attributed with these words after choosing death rather than exile from Athens or a commitment to silence. [-pir]
50/50 (letter of comment by Wendy Sheridan):
In response to Mark's review of 50/50 in the 10/14/11 issue of the MT VOID, Wendy Sheridan writes:
Thank you for your review of 50/50. I just wanted to say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER was much more "expressive" than in INCEPTION (also his face seemed to be pretty expressive when he was in the ensemble case of "3rd Rock from the Sun"). My guess is that it has to do with the director and the character he's playing than his skill as an actor. [-ws]
He may have been more expressive in 500 DAYS OF SUMMER or he might just smile more. (Actually my chief memory of that film is that the days are impossible. They are inconsistent with any possible calendar. Apparently nobody checked that. It was a sloppy bit of writing.) It is true that in 50/50 he bottles his emotions up most of the film. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I am currently reading the AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN: VOLUME 1 by Mark Twain (ISBN 978-0-520-26719-0).
I believe the answer to the most commonly asked question about it is, "760 pages in eight-point type, with block quotes in six-point type."
[I guess most people know point of type better than I do. I would have thought the answer to the most common question would have been "paper and ink." -mrl]
In another case of synchronicity, something I read in the AUTOBIOGRAPHY ties in with DEATH OF A SALESMAN (which I commented on in last week's column). Twain describes an incident with Charley Langdon (his brother-in-law?). Langdon was one of the three partners in a company in difficulty. Twain was not involved with the company, but they prevailed upon him to go to Henry W. Sage and arrange a loan for the company. Twain spent a lot of time learning to understand the balance sheet, and then went to Sage and explained it all to him. Sage was very complimentary about Twain's business acumen and arranged for the loan. But five years later when Langdon told the story, it was *he* and not Twain who talked to and was praised by Sage. As Twain wrote, "The appropriation of my great achievement had without doubt been embedded in Charley's mind for a good many years, and I never could have gotten it out by argument and persuasion. Nothing but dynamite could do it."
In DEATH OF A SALESMAN, Biff says, "How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I'd been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and--I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! We've been talking in a dream for fifteen years. I was a shipping clerk." And later he has this exchange with his father:
"Who was it, Pop? Who ever said I was a salesman with Oliver?"
"But you were practically--"
"Dad, I don't know who said it first, but I was never a salesman for Bill Oliver. ... I was a shipping clerk."
And why was Langdon this way? "His mother had indulged him from the cradle up, and had stood between him and such discomforts as duties, studies, work, responsibility, and so on. He had gone to school only when he wanted to, as a rule, and he didn't want to often enough for his desire to be mistaken for a passion. He was not obliged to study at home when he had the headache, and he usually had the headache--the thing that was to be expected. He was allowed to play when his health and his predilections required it, and they required it with a good deal of frequency, because *he* was the judge in the matter. He was not required to read books, and he never read them. The results of this kind of bringing up can be imagined. But he was not to blame for them. His mother was his worst enemy, and she became merely through her love for him, which was an intense and steadily burning passion."
And why was Biff the way he was? "And I never could get anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!" [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. --Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-RelianceTweet
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