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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/13/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 2, Whole Number 1710
Table of Contents
Oops! (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Bill Higgins pointed out that my comments on William Tenn's OF MEN AND MONSTERS, Rudyard Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK, Nancy Kress's AFTER THE FALL BEFORE THE FALL DURING THE FALL, and Frank M. Ahearn's HOW TO DISAPPEAR had already run in the 06/15/12 issue. I *thought* I had run them before, but when I looked, somehow I didn't find them. [-ecl]
The Twenty Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Pictures at http://tinyurl.com/void-beautiful-bookstores.
Barbra Streisand: Somewhere (Else, Please) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
TOPIC: Barbra Streisand: Somewhere (Else, Please) (comments by Mark R. Leeper) I was hearing on the radio Barbra Streisand singing the song "Somewhere" (a.k.a. "There's a Place for Us") from WEST SIDE STORY. WEST SIDE STORY is the reframing of ROMEO AND JULIET to a 1960s New York City gang war setting. In this song two young people who desperately love each other have been ripped apart by the hatreds all around them. They are totally destroyed by the unremitting enmity between their two warring communities. This song is the two of them giving each other the last little bit of comfort they can. It is extremely touching. And how does Streisand sing it? She rolls her voice. I am not sure how to describe it. Maybe the word is coloratura. She is playing with her voice as she sings it. It is like in the middle of this tragic situation she started cracking their knuckles. It is just horrible. I wish someone would take away her singing license. [-mrl]
STAR WRECK: IN THE PIRKINNING:
Apparently there is a feature-length Finnish fannish satire of STAR TREK with good special effects:
More information can be found at:
MT VOID Member Donates Science Fiction Magazine Collection to Columbia:
As reported by http://www.sfsite.com/news/:
"Fan Fred Lerner has donated his collection of science fiction and fantasy publications to the Columbia University Libraries. Lerner attended Columbia College and received his doctorate from Columbia's former School of Library Service, where he wrote the dissertation "Modern science fiction and its reception by the American literary and educational communities, 1926-1970". His donation is the first such donation made to Columbia and contained nearly complete runs of several science fiction magazines."
[And, no, I don't expect it includes the MT VOID, since that has been almost entirely electronic for years. -ecl]
Comments on THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (Part 2) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Last week I was discussing Ray Harryhausen's fantasy classic, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, heaping it with moderate praise. Continuing where I left off...
I guess I also saw some problems with the film. That is not surprising. This was Harryhausen's first color feature film. Color complicates the task of doing special visual effects. Film stock was cruder in the 1950s and scenes had to be carefully color- balance controlled or the colors would change, and it would ruin the stop-motioneffect.
Supposedly in the film the dragon protects Sokurah's lair. She is kept on a chain to control her much as you might a dog. And the chain is coiled on a reel. But the reel to pull in the dragon's tether was right there in plain sight. Sinbad just turns the reel to pull in the chain. Anybody could have gotten past the dragon in the same way. What kind of security was that for Sokurah's lair? (Side thought: can you imagine what kind of a life that dragon had if it was constantly chained to the wall? No wonder the dragon was angry and mean. It has to sit there in the middle of dragon droppings.)
The spiral stairway was a great setting for the fight with the skeleton. But I am unclear what the stairway was doing there in the first place. It didn't seem to have much function. There didn't seem to be anything to climb up to above it. Sinbad and the skeleton climb to the top and then just stop.
Something that is particularly irksome is Sinbad's ship. The filmmakers used what may have been stock footage for the ship sometimes and their own ship other times, but the two versions of Sinbad's ship are very different. One is an Arabic looking boat with a single triangular sail. The other is a galleon and has three square sails. The two ships could hardly be less like each other. Also it is not clear how Princess Parisa could be shrunk down to a few inches tall and not lose her voice. Nor could she survive the shaking she gets hanging from Sinbad's belt.
But Kerwin Matthews makes a really good swashbuckling hero. And he really knows how to shadow-box with a Harryhausen creation that he would be seeing as just a stick. Since the skeleton would be inserted in the film much later, he has to memorize what movements the skeleton would make and his counter moves. After Harryhausen's effects he is the best thing in the film. Sadly, playing opposite one of the screen's best Sinbads, Richard Eyer makes one of the screen's worst genies. Eyer was born in Santa Monica, California and he gives the genie a performance every bit as exotic as a kid from Santa Monica, California. I suppose the producers decided that the kids in the audience needed to see a character they could identify with. Here he is a genie who, like Pinocchio and "Star Trek"'s Data, wants to be a real boy. Eyer is perhaps best remembered for playing the title role in THE INVISIBLE BOY, acting opposite Robbie the Robot.
Okay, now what film am I talking about? It is directed by Nathan Juran like 7TH VOYAGE was. It stars as its hero Kerwin Matthews like 7TH VOYAGE. The villain is played by Torin Thatcher, like in 7TH VOYAGE. And it makes extensive use of stop-motion animation like 7TH VOYAGE. That's got to be THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, right? Wrong. It seems that another company tried to make their own film borrowing as much as they could from THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. In 1962 Edward Small and Robert Kent wanted to make another film that was going to be their THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Their film was JACK THE GIANT KILLER released through United Artists. They got the same director and the same two major actors. They also got their own stop motion animators, Gene Warren, Wah Chang and Tim Baar. So did they succeed? Obviously not or more people would have heard of the film. It's not a bad film for the Saturday Matinee crowd. Still if I were going to perform major surgery on the film I would take out the irritating leprechaun. (If you have Netflix streaming, incidentally, you can see the film there. It also can be found on YouTube.)
As for performing major surgery on JACK THE GIANT KILLER after the film was released, producer Edward Small actually had to do that. Columbia threatened to sue over the similarities of JACK THE GIANT KILLER to their THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Small had the film re- edited. He decided it would be better to turn it into a musical and so his company wrote some songs for it. But the film was completed, how could they get the stars like Kerwin Matthews to mouth the words? They had someone else sing the songs on the soundtrack and to make Matthews's mouth move they would run the film forward and backward to give the effect that Kerwin Mathew's mouth would open and close. It looked terrible. Even worse Jack would be standing on a ship with water as the background. The water would flow back and forward in tune with his mouth. I saw the film when it was first released and it was fine, then it was re-edited into a musical and for years that was the only version available. These days Columbia must be more tolerant because though the film is rare, the musical version is much, much rarer. And we can all be grateful it is so rare.
JACK THE GIANT KILLER on YouTube:
The Ancient Greeks and Their Color Sense (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I have recently been reading THE ODYSSEY, and also have read about how the words for colors develop in a language, so recent podcasts and articles about the use of color in Homer are of particular interest.
Background: Linguists have discovered that all languages create words for color in a particular order. The first words created are for black and white. Next invariably comes red, and after that yellow and green, although the order of the latter two may vary, and last comes blue. Apparently orange, purple, brown, and other more specific colors such as aquamarine do not count, although in some languages there are more terms than we have for "basic" colors. For example, Russian has a word for light blue (goluboy) and another for dark blue (siniy), but no word for just blue.
In the 19th century William Gladstone, when he was not being Prime Minister of Great Britain, was becoming a scholar of Homer, and he was the first to point out that Homer's use of words for color was, well, odd. Homer rarely mentioned color, and never mentioned blue. The term "wine-looking" (which we are more familiar with these days translated as "wine-dark') was applied both to the sea and to oxen.
Gladstone's explanation was that the Homeric Greeks had no sense of color other than black, white, and red. Linguist Guy Deutscher (among others) claims this is wrong, that the Greeks could distinguish colors every bit as we can.
Ananda Triulzi, however, says that Homer's colors include "metallic colors, black, white, yellowish green and purplish red." Homer refers to the sky as "bronze" and honey as green ("chloros"). He also refers to Hector's hair as blue ("kyanos"), which would seem to contradict Gladstone's claim that Homer never refers to blue.
Triulzi also seems to attribute this to a less evolved color vision on the part of the Homeric Greeks. But she thinks there were also cultural forces at work, and that the distinctions between "color, texture, and shadow" were less important to the Greeks than to us.
Many have pointed out that 2700 years is not long enough to evolve such a detailed color perception as we have from the primitive one some people attribute to the Homeric Greeks. Others note that what we call "blonde" hair is referred to as "blue" in several other languages.
I have my own theory. It comes from reading that Obama is black, Al Pacino is white, the flame-colored Prius in the parking lot is a green car (and for that matter, that the new guy in the office is green), that Lucille Ball's hair is red, and that Texas is a red state but Illinois is a blue one. An alien reading all of this two thousand years from now might be forgiven for thinking we had a very odd color sense. [-ecl]
PATRIOCRACY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: It is no secret that the politics of this country are highly polarized and filled with more fire and smoke than with light. That is the problem that Brian Malone's PATRIOCRACY examines. You will not find a whole lot in PATRIOCRACY the film that you do not already know something about. If you did not know about these issues you probably would not be seeing this documentary in the first place. This film is a diagnosis of the problem without much in the way of a cure, though it does propose some solutions and tries to be optimistic about them. What you will get is at the least a reasonably complete statement of the problem of the polarization in one compact summary. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
For the past four years the United States has been as politically polarized and vitriolic as it has been in a century. The Congress has been at near standstill with a battle between confirmed liberals and extremist conservatives. Those who have tried to bridge the gap with moderate views have been admonished, sometimes their careers have been destroyed, and one, Gabriel Giffords, was nearly shot to death. Rallies of protest are frequent and the rhetoric is often hate-filled and vicious. Denver-based writer/director Brian Malone's film falls in two parts, one is a statement of the problem and one is of Malone's approaches to a solution. Both parts seem optimistic for the size of the problem. Along to provide voices of reason are respected experts like Bob Schieffer and Alan Simpson.
In looking at the polarization Malone examines several arenas of controversy contributing to the schism. He examines the role of the Internet. There was a time when if one had an outlandish political opinion, one was at least exposed to more moderate viewpoints on television and in the newspapers. But now the Internet connects people allowing someone with such a perspective to find many other people with similarly extreme viewpoints. On blogs, on commentary radio and television, one can surround oneself in a virtual community of people with similar ideas reinforcing those opinions in one another. One can easily avoid being exposed to countervailing opinions.
Malone looks at Fox News and MSNBC, which masquerade as news networks though they actually collect no news of their own. Frequently they simply just spread and even create rumor. Their programs look physically like network news programs with news-like graphics, newsroom-like backgrounds; they have the format of news programs with official-looking anchor people, but they provide the pre-chosen spin to news that has already been reported elsewhere. Malone calls then entertainment shows rather than news programs. Malone looks at how Fox News and MSNBC each provided their own spin to the Giffords shooting and the deficit crisis standoff.
The director looks at the 112th Congress, which Bob Schieffer characterizes as the worst, the nastiest, and the meanest Congress in his memory. He looks at the effects on elections of the Citizens United ruling from the Supreme Court which allows corporations to anonymously funnel huge funding into political campaigns as if the corporations were citizens. He considers that effect that ruling will have.
The film spends about seventy minutes presenting the aspects and facts of the polarization. Nothing it presents is at all surprising and most of it is familiar. But the case for there being urgent problems is cogent for those not already convinced. The last twenty minutes is spent on his suggestion for a solution to the problem. That there is a solution sounds good, but his solutions are not so convincing. Ex-Congressman Mickey Edwards has several steps but they are of dubious practicality. One of his steps is "reform campaign spending." (Great idea. I'll get right on it.) One is to get people to "forfeit party allegiance." (How hard can that be?) And so forth.
The approach used in the film is one of even-handedness. The film sides neither with the rightists or the leftists. That would be a quick way to alienate half of the audience. But Malone does get his point across. The United States political system is not yet irreparably broken, but it definitely needs some maintenance to get it working again. I am not greatly optimistic about Brian Malone's solutions or that enough people have the will and power to correct what is going wrong. But Malone makes a convincing case, if one is needed, that things that are wrong are going very wrong. I rate PATRIOCRACY a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. PATRIOCRACY will be available on DVD and digital download on July 17, 2012
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1916719/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/patriocracy/
Problems with E-books (letter of comment by Arthur T.):
In response to Evelyn's comments on e-books in the 06/29/12 issue of the MT VOID, Arthur T. writes:
In addition to e-books with silly errors and possibly being disappeared, there's a question of privacy:
which, in turn points to the source article:
[The actual URL for the first link contains the string "barnes- noble-amazon-know-which-sections-of-fifty-shades-of-grey-youre- reading-over-and-over", which gives you a hint of what it says. -ecl]
How to Vote the Hugo Ballot (letter of comment by David Shallcross):
In response to Dale Skran's reviews of SOURCE CODE and CAPTAIN AMERICA in the 07/06/12 issue of the MT VOID, David Shallcross writes:
I hope Dale L. Skran, Jr. isn't actually voting the Hugos as
> SOURCE CODE > GAME OF THRONES > HARRY POTTER > CAPTAIN AMERICA > No award >[not voted] HUGO (since I have not seen it)because the Hugo vote counting process treats this as saying, "I would rather that no award be given out in this category than that HUGO gets it," which seems a rather strong statement to make about a movie one hasn't seen. Basically, everything not given a numerical rank is treated by the process as tied for last place.
Myself, I never rank "No award" unless I have seen all of the nominees in the category. [-ds]
Mark asks for clarification:
I don't understand. He is saying he did not vote on HUGO. If he had given HUGO a  then he would be voting "No award" above HUGO. He just says he did not vote on HUGO. Isn't that the right thing to do? [-mrl]
The Hugo award vote-tallying algorithm is specified to work as follows (I leave out some rules for ties, as they have changed over the years, and still aren't all-inclusive):
Initially, no items have been eliminated.
Then, loop for each ballot, count it as voting for its highest-ranking item that has not yet been eliminated if there is an item that has more than 50% of these votes, break the loop otherwise eliminate the item that got the least number of these votes end loop
The remaining item appears to be the winner, but there is one final test. Compare the number of ballots ranking it above "No Award" with the number of ballots ranking it below "No Award". If the ballots ranking it below "No Award" is greater, the item is eliminated.
Administrators have stated that, for the purpose of the final test, a ballot that ranks an item but doesn't rank "No Award" counts as ranking the item above "No Award", and a ballot that ranks "No Award" but not the item counts as ranking the item below "No Award". For the entire algorithm then, leaving one item not ranked gives the same output as ranking that item last. In either case, if HUGO and some other dramatic presentations haven't been eliminated yet, then this ballot casts a vote for one of the other dramatic presentations. If only HUGO and "No Award" are left, this ballot casts a vote for "No Award".
http://www.thehugoawards.org/the-voting-system/ probably explains this better than I have.
In particular it reads: "lack of preference is, by definition, lower than any preference." [-ds]
I guess it has been shown (by Condorcet?) that any voting system is broken in some way. If by ranking four presentations and saying each it better than "No Award" is effectively saying something unintended about the fifth presentation, that is a serious flaw. His ballot seems like the intuitive way to express his attitudes. [-mrl]
If you did not see the fifth item because you somehow knew you would hate it, this system seems to work. (Although clearly you could be wrong about actually hating it. I just read a posting on Usenet where someone say he did not read Neal Stephenson's CRYPTONOMICON because he did not like anything Lovecraftian.)
However, if you have seen four of the five and *hated* one of those, then what? You want to rank the three you liked above "no award" and the one you hated below it. But then what do you do with the one you did not see? Or what if you did not see one of them that you wanted to see, but was unavailable?
Basically, the Hugo voting system (a.k.a. instant run-off, previously mis-named "the Australian ballot") works only if everyone is familiar with everything on it. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
In AN ECONOMIST GETS LUNCH: NEW RULES FOR EVERYDAY FOODIES by Tyler Cowen (ISBN 978-0-525-95266-4), Cowen looks at food from an economic standpoint. Some of this may sound familiar, e.g., the idea that foods grown on another continent and brought in by ship may have a lower carbon footprint than locally grown foods. But Cowen spends more time talking about such things as the specifics of various ethnic cuisines. For example, Mexican cooking involves cutting meat thinner or shredding it, while American cuisine has thick steaks--why? Mexican beef is grass-fed, so the meat is stronger tasting, gamier, and "chewier" (tougher). American beef is corn-fed, hence milder and more tender.
As for why most American food is--or at least was--fairly mediocre, Cowen's theory is that the causes are primarily:
There is also a great chapter--perhaps the best chapter in the book--on learning how to shop in an Asian supermarket.
DEAD AFTER DARK by Charlaine Harris (ISBN 978-0-441-01597-9) is the first of Harris's "Sookie Stackhouse" series. Sookie Stackhouse is a telepathic waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana, in a world where there are vampires and they have, in their own words, "come out of the coffin." (Is this world an alternate world, or a future world, or what? There is no way to tell.) Sookie gets involved with a vampire who has just arrived in town, but they both get caught up in a series of murders which may or may not have been committed by a vampire. So we have a telepathy-vampire-murder mystery-romance novel. This may be trying to juggle too many balls at once.
The series has been compared to Laurell K. Hamilton's "Anita Blake" series, but since I have not read any of those, I cannot judge the comparison. DEAD UNTIL DARK is acceptable enough, but not so enthralling as to make me continue with the series.
THE MEOWMORPHOSIS by Franz Kafka & Coleridge Cook (ISBN 978-1- 59474-503-4) begins, "One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten. He lay in bed on his soft, fuzzy back and saw, as he lifted his head a little, his brown arched abdomen divided into striped bowlike sections." That whirring noise you hear in the background is ... well, you know the rest.
I *believe* that PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith was the first of the mash-ups, spawning a genre so popular that there is now a publisher (Quirk Classics) devoted to it. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES already has both a prequel and a sequel, and there are also SENSE AND SENSIBILITY AND SEA MONSTERS, THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN AND ZOMBIE JIM, and ANDROID KARENINA. (The latter seems to be the only science fiction in a sea of horror novels.)
I report all this, not because I have actually read THE MEOWMORPHOSIS--frankly, the thought appalls me--but because it seems as though these days whenever someone comes up with a new idea which might be good for a piece of short fiction, it immediately gets extended into a novel, then a series, and then is copied by numerous other authors until one is sick to death of it. As a friend recently said of another fad, "If I never read another Victorian steampunk alternate history, it will be too soon."
IF CHINS COULD KILL by Bruce Campbell (ISBN 978-0-312-29145-7) is Campbell's informal autobiography--informal in the sense of sounding more like he was just talking to you rather than writing a book. And what you discover is that, while a star like Tom Cruise may live a life of luxury, someone like Bruce Campbell spends most of his working time in terrible conditions, covered with mud and being put through dangerous stunts.
I did find his take on California a little misguided. He writes, "I wasn't aware how lame the fruits and vegetables were back East until I set foot in a California supermarket. Suddenly, I had three choices of lettuce other than iceberg, and I could get strawberries." This was in 1982, and it may say more about 1982 than about "back East". (And since when is Michigan "East"?) Now, if I go into a store and see only three kinds of kinds of lettuce other than iceberg, it seems like a really poor store, and that is true in Massachusetts as much as the Garden State of New Jersey.
But this is a minor item and, after all, the book is not about produce. If you have enjoyed any of Campbell's work (his first big film was THE EVIL DEAD, but he may be best known for the television show BRISCO COUNTY, JR.), you will probably like this book. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Older people shouldn't eat health food, they need all the preservatives they can get. --Robert OrbenTweet
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