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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/15/12 -- Vol. 30, No. 51, Whole Number 1706
Table of Contents
Question to Ponder (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
What if we hit the singularity and an hour later get an Electro-magnetic Pulse? [-mrl]
Sad Discovery (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I guess I am a sentimental sort of guy. I will be in a grocery store and go all misty. I'll just see a can of tuna packed in brine and think, "Yes, he would have wanted it that way." [-mrl]
Does Santino Have an Attack Plan? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I often write here about animal behavior. I guess I feel the great body of knowledge that we have collected about how animals think is so tainted with human egotism and chauvinism that I take joy in every example that shows that animals have much better minds than they have been given credit for. They cannot defend themselves from human condescension and arrogance. Humans assume they have the full complement of senses. Friends look at me strangely if I say I suggest that a dog may have a sixth sense that we do not share. Nobody thinks twice if I say that we have a sense that a cave lizard does not. We have the sense of sight and a cave lizard does not. People may ask me what the sixth sense a dog might have might be. How would I know? Try explaining what eyesight is to a cave lizard or a person who has been blind from birth. It certainly appears that at least some dogs have better memories than humans. But somehow I cannot look at how a dog behaves and say this mind is something totally alien or that he just a set of conditioned responses. There is a mind there and it does not think all that differently form how my mind thinks.
Three years ago there was a debate about Santino. He is an adult male chimpanzee in the Furuvick Zoo in Gavle, Sweden. Santino is an aggressive male. And it is no secret that Santino does not particularly like the humans who come to see him at the zoo. It is not hard to guess why. Sometime when you are in a zoo observe the humans as well as the animals. They call the animals by name if like Santino the animals have been given names the visitors know. Or they make sounds like animals call. And when the animals look, it turns out to be the humans were just hoping for any sort of reaction from the animal. They are bothering the animal for no purpose except to get a reaction. It is similar to the behavior of children who ring doorbells and run away. No wonder the animals try their best to ignore the humans.
There are lots of good reasons for the animals in the zoo to hate the human visitors. I remember seeing a monkey island in a zoo. A boy about ten was looking at the monkeys and mimicking their sounds. Suddenly a small monkey made what I can only call a panic scream. Two larger monkeys ran to the young one and linked their arms in a circle around the baby monkey to reassure him that they would protect him. Let us just say I do not have a lot of respect for a lot of zoo visitors. I fully understand why Santino might not like the crowds that came to see him. He would collect rocks in the morning and put them in a little cache. When people came around he would pick up rocks from his cache and throw them at the people. This was not unexpected. Alpha males throw rocks at intruders as part of normal chimpanzee behavior. The question was at what point did he decide that the rocks were to be used as weapons. Did he actually collect the rocks planning ahead that he would throw them or was he just picking up what was near at hand when provoked. We are told that humans are the only animals that plan ahead and nothing was happening that proved that there was any forethought in his actions.
That was three years ago. Santino's behavior is a little different now. He still collects stones in the morning before the visitors arrive, but now he makes his cache closer to where the humans will be standing. At the same time he chooses places where the rocks will be concealed. He even brings in stacks of hay to hide the stones under. The behavior is consistent with him planning and preparing a surprise attack on the humans who enter his territory. But that is no proof he is planning ahead. There can be no proofs of a chimpanzee's motives, but there is strong evident that Santino plans his attacks--something we have not been convinced animals do.
This research in useful to better understand chimpanzee behavior, but it also tells us a lot about the history (and prehistory) of humanity. There is also observation that seems to imply that bonobos may plan ahead. Bonobos and chimpanzees have been seen apparently crafting tools in advance of when they would be needed. If chimpanzees and bonobos have a propensity to plan ahead then humans very probably have had that same capacity since before the three species branched off from each other. That would place it some time before 14,000,000 years in the past.
I think the truth is human vanity has prevented humans from actually understanding animals. It would be just too inconvenient if we discovered that some of our food animals are thinking, reasoning creatures.
PROMETHEUS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: PROMETHEUS is a spectacular film and a spectacularly frustrating film. Full of earth-shaking ideas, much of the script just does not make even basic sense. It promises to give us at least science fictional explanations for some of the great questions of human existence, but it never has the courage to answer those questions. With tremendous special effects, much of the film is just plain unpleasant to watch. To director Ridley Scott's 1979 ALIEN it is at once a prequel, an origin story, a remake, and a broadened context. Scott seems to have intended it as some sort of statement about the relation of science and religion, but that is lost in the muddle of trying to do too much. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Spoiler warning: I will discuss some of the ideas of the film after the main review. I do not think it will damage the impact of the film, but be warned.
Ridley Scott and Ron Shusett created the "Alien" creature that has become as familiar to the world as (the similarly volatile) Mel Gibson. It inspired the creation of PREDATOR and between them the two monsters are responsible for lines of movies and books none of which has Scott or Shusett lent his talents to. Now Scott has returned to that same universe and as if to laugh at all the films and books using his creation, he has come back and said, "You think Alien is bad? His species is just the infestation feeding on a bigger and more important creature--one that has more serious implications for humans." (A similar "that's not the *real* monster" concept was used in the 1956 RODAN.) PROMETHEUS is a real mixed bag of interesting questions of the relation of religious belief and science. It looks at the origins of life on Earth and the Panspermia Hypothesis. At the same time as giving a much larger context to the creature from ALIEN it is an origin for that creature and the film follows the lines of that film so that more than a little of the story is a remake of ALIEN.
As the film opens a pale white alien creature, looking like a marble statue, stands on an empty rock landscape and (voluntarily?) commits suicide so that his DNA will be left behind and spread to this world.
Flash forward to the year 2089 and the discovery is made that several Paleolithic cultures independently drew the same star map of six stars on cave walls, a map of a "galactic system" they could not have possibly seen with their naked eyes. This seems to prove aliens visited earth in prehistoric times. Fascinated by this discovery is Peter Weyland (played by Guy Pearce), the founder of a corporation made fabulously wealthy by the diverting of stimulus money into tax cuts for the rich. Weyland has funded his own personal interstellar expedition to the one moon the aliens could have come from. (Right!)
On Starship Prometheus is a decidedly blue-collar crew in the ALIEN tradition. The pious Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) has her own struggle between her religious belief and evidence that a somewhat non-Biblical origin for human life may have occurred. Shaw is "partnered" in multiple ways with Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) and together they are the scientific thrust of the expedition. Elizabeth befriends the android, David (Michael Fassbinder of SHAME) who is fixated on the film LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. The crew is commanded by the impassive Vickers (Charlize Theron), more machine-like than David is.
It is hard to rate a film that does so much well and so much that is cringeogenically silly. While the first hour is full of philosophical questions, it is followed by an hour of empty action. There just seems to be something about having a massive tentacle wound around your throat that that just drives all of the philosophical questions right out of your head. But science fiction that revels in questions albeit brief and unanswered is so rare that I do not want to say anything that might scare it away. I hate to think of a world in which the most intelligent science fiction film around is on the level of AVATAR. I may be being a little charitable here, but for the philosophical content I would give PROMETHEUS a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
One question that is not very clearly answered is at what point in our evolution was the alien intervention. If it is well before our ancestors evolved to the modern form, how is it that the random walk of evolution took us to a shape so similar to that of the intervening aliens? If the involvement was after our ancestors took modern form, why are supposedly close relatives like bonobos and chimpanzees so much like us in form and in DNA? Bearing on this question is the question of why an image of a globe found on the alien moon seems to be of our present-day Earth. It could be what the map of Earth looked like when humans began, but it looked very differently when all life began. The question of when the first scene might have occurred arises but is frustratingly unanswered. Scott leaves us to draw our own conclusions.
Also, the film tells how the corporation found a specific moon and just the right place on that moon to find the aliens who had visited Earth. That is ridiculous. The stars are so far away they are not visible from Earth and are in another galactic system. With so crude a source one probably could not distinguish a cave painting of the Big Dipper from one of the Little Dipper, and they are prominent and visible in the night sky. There would be billions of matches in another "galactic system," (a term which they misuse, by the way).
Oh, and Nature makes lots of straight lines. Look at the edge of a crystal.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/prometheus_2012/
The Game of Thrones Trilogy (review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
The "Game of Thrones" Trilogy, consisting of:
GAME OF THRONES
CLASH OF KINGS
STORM OF SWORDS
and also reviewing
HBO Game of Thrones Season 1
GAME OF THRONES (GOT) is an enormous series. The books weigh in at 807 pages, 969 pages, and 1128 pages, respectively, about 3,000 pages all told. There are hundreds of characters and dozens of locales. The first book contains a cast listing that runs to 25 pages, growing to 46 pages by the third book. And, truth be told, these are not padded books like RETURN OF THE NATIVE, vast and vastly dull. The first volume is very tight, and while there is a bit of extra stuff in books 2 & 3, by normal standards each volume is a page-turner, packed with action and character development.
With the sheer size of the series laid out (and with two more books available to read that I have not yet read) it should be clear that I am going neither to attempt to summarize the plot, surely a fool's parade, nor to list the main characters, since I don't wish to die of old age while doing so. Instead, I will focus on what I see as some of the major themes that have made GOT a popular series and now a very popular HBO TV show.
Firstly, these are adult books, with adult themes. The characters, as you may have guessed from the title, are mainly concerned with the pursuit of power unconstrained by any merely ethical considerations. Politics is the theme everywhere in GOT, and it is about time! When was the last time that you read a popular novel that focused mainly on different forms of government and the effect of power on human character?
As you may have heard, these characters also have *sex* and lots of it. They seem to live in a kind of pre-Christian era, where Puritanism has yet to arrive. And yet, this is a tale of honor as well. The noble lord Eddard Stark struggles to do right while surrounded by the most vile and corrupt associates. The rag-tag army of men that make up the Night's Watch have sworn to give up having families and being part of the political life of the kingdom to spend their lives guarding a massive ice wall 700 feet high, that, rather like Hadrian's Wall in England, keeps back the northern barbarians. Except in this world, something far worse than mere barbarians is rising in the north.
However, GOT is not merely an adult tale of intrigue and warfare. Interspersed with medieval noir, we have large helpings of characters straight out of Heinlein--the man who learns better, and the boy/girl who grows up. These tales, far from being grim and pointless, are about bad men becoming better men, and about children who aspire not just to be leaders, but great leaders who bring justice to all. Some tales take a darker turn, as innocent children forge themselves in the fire of medieval violence and chaos into something akin to vengeance given human form.
GOT is also in some sense the negative of Niven's THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. In the world of GOT, there were dragons, magic, and monsters, but they have become historical. Warfare proceeds just as it would in our world, with knights fighting with swords and arrows and siege engines. But behind the scenes, magic is making a comeback--dragons are being hatched, sorceresses have arrived from distant lands, and vile creatures of the cold are moving south with the ending of a ten-year summer. Martin's magic always requires sacrifice--real shedding of blood--to create any major effects. Magic is never an easy way out for anyone.
Among the more interesting characters is Daenerys Targaryen, sometimes called Daenerys Stormborn, The Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, and, one suspects, in time, Daenerys the Conqueror. As the sole survivor of the previous regime, she has traveled the world looking for safety after the fall of the dragon lords of Westeros. At her lowest ebb she is sold by her cruel brother to a barbarian chief in return for a promised army. One step at a time she rises, earning each of her names, in pursuit of a restoration of the Targaryen House. Conservative commentators have noted that she seems to embody a balance between ruthless action and the liberation of the oppressed. I fully expect that in volume 6 or 7 she will return to Westeros with her dragons and the mighty horde of freed slaves that now follow her, leading to the inevitable battle royale. In the Heinleinian parlance, Daenerys is the girl who grew up to be a queen, and more than a queen--a ruler, a conquerer, and mistress of dragons.
But there are other stories of children growing up. The two I like the best are those of Jon Snow (Stark) and Arya Stark. John Snow is the bastard son of Eddard Stark, who takes the vow and joins the Night Watch on the wall in the north. Through a long series of difficult decisions and strenuous adventures, the end of the trilogy finds Jon the Lord Commander of the Nigh Watch, which, in one of Martin's political experiments, runs via direct democracy.
Arya Stark is a girl of eleven who loves to roughhouse and hates the thought of being a princess. Something of a trouble-maker, she ends up being one of two surviving Stark girls after Eddard is executed for treason (you'll observe that few of the major characters in the first book make it out of the trilogy). She is drafted into a group of orphans and criminals being impressed to serve with the Night's Watch. One act at time, starting with killing a stable boy while escaping the initial massacre, Arya is honed into an instrument of vengeance. She prays each night for the death of her enemies, listing each by name, and makes more progress on the list than you might suspect. Known by many names--Arry, Nan, Weasel, and Cat--she lives in secret, moving from one lesson to the next, learning from some of Westero's most dangerous men, and finally ending the trilogy at what appears to be a school for assassins in a land across the ocean. With the inevitability of night falling and winter coming, Arya Stark will be back in volumes 6 and 7 to complete her list.
And then there is the man who learned better. Most fans of GOT like Tyrion Lannister, also known as the Imp, the best, but his elder brother Jaime Lannister seems in some ways more interesting. Think of Jaime as an evil Sir Lancelot--the top sword fighter in the land, but willing to throw a young boy to his death to conceal his incestuous affair with his sister. He is known best as the "Kingslayer" since his major achievement in the revolt against the Targaryens was to stab the king he was sworn to protect in the back--literally. By the end of the first book Jaime is the man you love to hate, but two volumes later he is on a rough road to a kind of redemption.
Switching gears a bit to discuss season 1 of GOT on HBO, the first season covers the first book of the trilogy, and it is my understanding that the just completed 2nd season covers the 2nd book of the trilogy. Supposedly, the 3rd book is so large that it will be split over two seasons on HBO. Watching the DVDs was a bit like seeing the WATCHMEN movie--a great storyboard for the book, but lacking a lot of the depth of the book. Still, as TV goes, GOT HBO is complex, demanding, and adult, and, I warned you, full of *sex*. Contrary to what you may have heard, at least in the first season, HBO toned down the sex in the book, or at least moved it around. There is a tendency to not show the main characters nude when they are nude in the book, but instead add in some scenes with a nude whore, played by an unknown actress, here and there. In a couple of cases expository lumps are slapped onto scenes with nude women, presumably to see if you pay close attention to every detail!
All in all, GOT is a highly readable fantasy series, in my view, far more readable than LORD OF THE RINGS. I find the political thinking interesting, and the characters worth following. In case you haven't figured this out--the books and the HBO series are strictly for older teens (with parental permission) and adults. There is also quite a bit of medieval violence--hand chopping, heads on poles, etc. [-dls]
PORTRAIT OF WALLY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: PORTRAIT OF WALLY relates the story of one of the 20th century's most controversial conflicts over the ownership of a piece of art. Egon Schiele's portrait of his mistress was stolen/confiscated by the Nazi "authorities" during the Holocaust. The painting subsequently fell into the hands of a private Austrian museum. The former owner, now living in New York, saw it on display while it was on loan to the Museum of Modern Art. This opened the issue of who now owned the stolen painting and what restitution to the former owner had to be made. Andrew Shea has filmed a compelling documentary of a story involving property rights, war restitution, art, anti-Semitism, the future of art museums, and political power. The story is surprisingly complex even for the field of art. The film is a dramatic expose of a stunningly sleazy art world rife with theft and bigotry from people, some of whom are prominent people. Rating: low +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
In 1912 the painter Egon Schiele painted two paintings, one of himself and one of his mistress Valerie Neuzil, affectionately known as Wally. The painting was eventually sold and owned by Austrian and Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi. When Nazi Germany annexed Austria the Nazis confiscated Bondi's art gallery. Bondi had hoped to retain "Portrait of Wally"--not actually part of her gallery but hung in her apartment. Bondi had hoped to keep the painting, but it soon became clear that any such effort would have been tantamount to pointless suicide. Bondi fled Europe with her life but leaving her art holdings behind.
In the confusion at the end of the war the painting went to the Austrian government and though an oil painting is was claimed to be a drawing that was part of another collection of Schiele's art. That collection went to the Austrian National Gallery. Bondi wanted to reclaim her property in 1946 and asked Rudolph Leopold for assistance in making her claim. Leopold approached the National Gallery, warned them they might soon lose "Portrait of Wally" anyway, and convinced them to trade it for some paintings from Leopold's collection. Leopold now claimed the painting was his and refused to give it up to Bondi. Bondi tried to retrieve the painting until her death in 1969. Meanwhile the Austrian government bought 5400 works from Leopold's collection, including "Portrait of Wally", and created the Leopold Museum with Rudolph Leopold director for life. The Leopold Museum claimed the painting came from the other collection of Schiele art. In late 1997 and early 1998 the painting was lent to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. There it was seen by Bondi's survivors and they started legal proceedings to try to get back their property while it was still in the United States.
The complications of the case went on and on. A United States federal judge ruled that the painting could not be considered "stolen" because the American military had returned it to the Austrian government in 1945. The Justice Department had the judge reverse that ruling since the military did not have the power to make the painting non-stolen. The MOMA claimed that by contract it was bound to return the painting to the Leopold Museum. Other American museums entered the debate on the side of the Austrian government, claiming that not returning the painting would have a tragic cooling effect on the system of museums lending and borrowing artifacts between museums. And there were many more complications.
Writers Andrew Shea and David D'Arcy and director Shea have assembled the complex story and present it with on-screen interviews explaining the entire enthralling controversy in detail and what is perhaps its final resolution.
For those who think that a documentary made largely of interviews is dry and monotonous, PORTRAIT OF WALLY is a bombshell. A complex legal controversy is made enthralling and not infrequently shocking. Treachery, hypocrisy, bigotry, and outright theft are brought into daylight by the story of this one painting. The film is a history lesson and a thriller. I rate PORTRAIT OF WALLY a low +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1919017/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/portrait_of_wally/
Robin Hood (letter of comment by Sam Long):
In response to Mark's comments on Robin Hood in the 06/08/12 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:
Myself, I always enjoy watching ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS! Errol Flynn has nothing on Cary Elwes.
I remember the TV series "The Adventures of Robin Hood", with Richard Greene; they were enjoyable for a youngster like me, and I daresay they do hold up well. I remember that, at the end of the program, a "minstrel" with a lute came out and sang, "We'll have a merry time again / With Robin and his Merry Men. / And folk who'll bring him to you then, / Ask a word with you." [cut to a commercial for the sponsor]. And there was the theme song: "Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen, / Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men. / Feared by the bad, / Loved by the good, / Robin Hood, Robin Hood Robin Hood.", which the Monty Python crew parodied so well in the "Dennis Moore, highwayman" skit. (Lupines!) In the late 1960s-early 1970s, I was stationed in England, and enjoyed the (Eric) Morecambe and (Ernie) Wise comedy show on the BBC. On one show they had Richard Greene as their guest star ... but I didn't recognize him at first, because he had put on some weight, and it was only when Wise (I think it was) came out with a toy bow and arrow that I realized who the guest star really was.
(We just bought a 60-inch flat-screen HD-TV. Watching movies on it is great.) [-sl]
With Mel Brooks's films I tend to prefer the early, funnier films. I do remember the TV "Robin Hood" with Richard Greene well. I remember Greene in swashbuckling and horror films into the 1970s. He was in the film TALES FROM THE CRYPT.
I envy your 60-inch. I always wanted to get a close as possible to the real theater experience at home. I hire two teenagers to have a conversation behind me and I put double-faced tape on the bottoms of my shoes. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
When I read OF MEN AND MONSTERS by William Tenn (ISBN 978-0-345-29523-1), my first thought was that this was inspired by, or a response to, the speech by the artilleryman in H. G. Wells's WAR OF THE WORLDS:
"Well, it's like this," he said. "What have we to do? We have to invent a sort of life where men can live and breed, and be sufficiently secure to bring the children up. Yes--wait a bit, and I'll make it clearer what I think ought to be done. The tame ones will go like all tame beasts; in a few generations they'll be big, beautiful, rich-blooded, stupid--rubbish! The risk is that we who keep wild will go savage--degenerate into a sort of big, savage rat.... You see, how I mean to live is underground. I've been thinking about the drains. Of course those who don't know drains think horrible things; but under this London are miles and miles--hundreds of miles--and a few days' rain and London empty will leave them sweet and clean. The main drains are big enough and airy enough for anyone. Then there's cellars, vaults, stores, from which bolting passages may be made to the drains. And the railway tunnels and subways. Eh? You begin to see? And we form a band--able-bodied, clean-minded men. We're not going to pick up any rubbish that drifts in. Weaklings go out again. ... Those who stop obey orders. Able-bodied, clean-minded women we want also--mothers and teachers. No lackadaisical ladies--no blasted rolling eyes. We can't have any weak or silly. Life is real again, and the useless and cumbersome and mischievous have to die. They ought to die. They ought to be willing to die. It's a sort of disloyalty, after all, to live and taint the race. And they can't be happy. Moreover, dying's none so dreadful; it's the funking makes it bad. And in all those places we shall gather. Our district will be London. And we may even be able to keep a watch, and run about in the open when the Martians keep away. Play cricket, perhaps. That's how we shall save the race. Eh? It's a possible thing? But saving the race is nothing in itself. As I say, that's only being rats. It's saving our knowledge and adding to it is the thing. There men like you come in. There's books, there's models. We must make great safe places down deep, and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry swipes, but ideas, science books. That's where men like you come in. We must go to the British Museum and pick all those books through. Especially we must keep up our science--learn more. We must watch these Martians. Some of us must go as spies. When it's all working, perhaps I will. Get caught, I mean. And the great thing is, we must leave the Martians alone. We mustn't even steal. If we get in their way, we clear out. We must show them we mean no harm. Yes, I know. But they're intelligent things, and they won't hunt us down if they have all they want, and think we're just harmless vermin. ... After all, it may not be so much we may have to learn before-- Just imagine this: four or five of their fighting machines suddenly starting off--Heat-Rays right and left, and not a Martian in 'em. Not a Martian in 'em, but men--men who have learned the way how. It may be in my time, even--those men. Fancy having one of them lovely things, with its Heat-Ray wide and free! Fancy having it in control! What would it matter if you smashed to smithereens at the end of the run, after a bust like that? I reckon the Martians'll open their beautiful eyes! Can't you see them, man? Can't you see them hurrying, hurrying--puffing and blowing and hooting to their other mechanical affairs? Something out of gear in every case. And swish, bang, rattle, swish! Just as they are fumbling over it, swish comes the Heat-Ray, and, behold! man has come back to his own."
It's all in the Tenn: the gigantic size of the invaders, mankind living in burrows, the use of the drains, the winnowing of the weak, the attempts to harness ancient science to help mankind and possibly defeat the invaders. It is not unusual to see a science fiction novel written in response to another (consider Robert Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS, Joe Haldeman's THE FOREVER WAR, and John Scalzi's OLD MAN'S WAR), so to assume OF MEN AND MONSTERS was is not all that far-fetched.
(Other examples of responses include Donald Kingsbury's PSYCHOHISTORICAL CRISIS in response to Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series, and several short stories in response to Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations".)
One also sees elements of the classic "generation ship" trope, particularly the idea that after a few generations the inhabitants will have imperfect knowledge of what their actual situation is. Robert A. Heinlein originated this, in the second "generation ship" story, "Universe" (written for the May 1941 ASTOUNDING, less than a year after Don Wilcox wrote the first, "The Voyage That Lasted 600 Years", AMAZING, October 1940). In OF MEN AND MONSTERS, humanity (or at least many of the tribes thereof) think that their burrows and the monsters' house (or even more specifically, the monsters' storeroom) is all there is to the universe. They have rote learning of some astronomy, but no idea what it means. (Shades of John W. Campbell's "Nightfall" as well?)
I recently watched the 1942 version of THE JUNGLE BOOK (with Sabu) and noticed a couple of details. In the book by Rudyard Kipling (ISBN 978-1-420-93279-9), Buldeo the village hunter is negative on Mowgli, calling him "the Jungle brat" and in general being dismissive of him. But in the film, he is a fanatic about Mowgli, proclaiming of him: "This is a thing of the jungle. This boy has been reared in the jungle. He has the evil eye. I warn you all--he had the evil eye. He is a wolf; let one in and all will follow. He will bring down the jungle upon us." This is far more than Buldeo says in the book--and very similar to what the Nazis were saying about the Jews, the Roma, and others in 1942. It is possible I am reading too much into the film, but it is also true that war-time films often had a war-related message even when they were about something else entirely.
The film also relies a lot on nature and travel footage, which are often clearly of a different film stock than the footage filmed specifically for the movie. Alas, the Technicolor (on the DVD version I saw) has not aged well. At the beginning the storyteller is identified as the one wearing "the yellow turban," but when you see him, the turban looks white. Also, some reels are darker than others, meaning that people change skin tone when the reels change. (Mark came in while I was watching it and said he had seen some of it on TCM recently and it had excellent color there, so someone must have restored it recently. The DVD version I saw was on one of those "15 Films for $5" DVDs.)
The film is a bit inconsistent. Sometimes when Mowgli talks to the animals, it is in animal language that we (and the humans other than Mowgli) do not understand (wolf howls, monkey chattering, etc.), but when he talks to the cobra, they both speak English and Mahala also understands them.
For that matter, the girl and the whole sub-plot of the treasure trove at lost city were added for the film. I guess the animal stories alone--including a tiger attack on the village--were not considered exciting enough.
AFTER THE FALL BEFORE THE FALL DURING THE FALL by Nancy Kress (ISBN 978-1-616-96065-0) looked very promising: Kress is an excellent writer and this was a stand-alone novel of under 200 pages--a rare breed these days. Unfortunately, the novel was highly unsatisfactory. *SPOILERS* There are three threads interwoven, one taking place during 2013, one during 2014, and one during 2035. The characters in the post-apocalyptic 2035 have their own view of what has happened. They are frequently confused by what is going on, so the reader knows to distrust some of what they say or think, but even so the objective facts presented indicate a certain past history. However, as the earlier threads leading up to the apocalypse are revealed, they make pretty much everything the 2035 characters think and say wrong, and even call into question the objective facts, as well as leaving a *lot* of unresolved questions. For example, are there any Tesslies? If not, what are those things they are seeing, and who built all the technology they are using? And isn't it convenient that the young characters from 2035 were able to collect exactly the items they were going to need later without having any understanding of what those items were when they grabbed them because they had never seen them before (e.g., tents or bags of seeds)? The "intelligent being" that Kress seems to propose might conceivably be able to orchestrate the events of 2013 and 2014, but the technology et al of the 2035 thread has to be considered as beyond the realm of possibility without some additional explanation.
HOW TO DISAPPEAR by Frank M. Ahearn with Eileen C. Horan (ISBN
978-1-59921-977-6) was recommended in Bruce Schneier's blog about
A final note of this year's Friends of the Library book sales: Our
own library just had theirs, and it was a bit of a letdown.
Probably the reason was that the ongoing sale throughout the year
means that the annual sale does not have the volume or quality that
it used to. We found only half a dozen books during the regular
sale (though that did include an academic book on 3-D movies and
another on the dinosaur films of Ray Harryhausen). On bag day,
however, we bought 25 books for $5--we are experts at bag-packing.
(The first rule is to avoid the hardcovers, *especially* any by
Robert Jordan or Stephen King!) These included several "Flashman"
novels, a couple of film scripts, some miscellaneous fiction and
mysteries, and a CD-ROM "Star Trek Encyclopedia" which may or may
not work with current operating systems. As far as mysteries go,
Old Bridge seems to be a mystery hotbed, with three full tables'
worth (and more being brought in all the time, while science
fiction had about a half a table. The regular prices seem to be a
dollar for mass-market paperbacks, two dollars for trade
paperbacks, and five or seven dollars for DVDs! (During the bag
sale, the DVDs and other higher-priced items were removed.) Five
to seven dollars seems totally out of line for used DVDs unless
they are multi-disc sets or otherwise special, but some I see there
I have also seen in dollar stores. [-ecl]
Go to our home page
Quote of the Week:
In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics,
A final note of this year's Friends of the Library book sales: Our own library just had theirs, and it was a bit of a letdown. Probably the reason was that the ongoing sale throughout the year means that the annual sale does not have the volume or quality that it used to. We found only half a dozen books during the regular sale (though that did include an academic book on 3-D movies and another on the dinosaur films of Ray Harryhausen). On bag day, however, we bought 25 books for $5--we are experts at bag-packing. (The first rule is to avoid the hardcovers, *especially* any by Robert Jordan or Stephen King!) These included several "Flashman" novels, a couple of film scripts, some miscellaneous fiction and mysteries, and a CD-ROM "Star Trek Encyclopedia" which may or may not work with current operating systems. As far as mysteries go, Old Bridge seems to be a mystery hotbed, with three full tables' worth (and more being brought in all the time, while science fiction had about a half a table. The regular prices seem to be a dollar for mass-market paperbacks, two dollars for trade paperbacks, and five or seven dollars for DVDs! (During the bag sale, the DVDs and other higher-priced items were removed.) Five to seven dollars seems totally out of line for used DVDs unless they are multi-disc sets or otherwise special, but some I see there I have also seen in dollar stores. [-ecl]
Go to our home page