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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/14/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 11, Whole Number 1719
Table of Contents
Corrections to Science Fiction Discussions and Speculative Fiction Lecture Series (NJ):
Michael Penncavage spoke on September 8, not Ginjer Buchanan. Therefore the remaining announced talk is with Ellen Datlow on October 8.
Oops, GATTACA will be on October 11 (along with FRAMESHIFT). My apologies for not pointing that out explicitly along with the announcement that WYRD SISTERS would be postponed to Sept. 13.
Hugo Explosion on Jupiter Caught on Video:
The title tells it all. An amateur astronomer was filming the right place at the right time.
Regency (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
When we went to the Worldcon we stayed at a Hyatt Regency. Now if I remember my history a regency is the reigning of a person in the stead of another person who should be reigning but is too young or too wounded or just drunk and living a life of dissipation. I am curious about the name. Just who is the regent for whom? At one time I thought the name referred to the Regency Period in England. The room seemed somewhat dated, but I am sure it was not that old. I am not sure who is the regent for whom. Will they have to change the name when the rightful person comes of age or sobers up and no longer needs a regent? I was a little afraid to go to sleep. I thought that at any moment the real person would come to power and with a knock at the door I would be thrown out of the room. [-mrl]
One of Life's Mysteries (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Why is it we can send a Martian rover the size of an SUV 350 million miles and land it safely only one-and-a-half miles from its target, but cannot get Rachel from Cardmember Services to stop calling me? [-ecl]
Keeping America Safe (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Let us be realistic. The shootings in Aurora have brought us to a new level in citizen safety. They have upped the game. For years the gun fans have been telling us that when everybody has guns we will be much safer. As someone put it, "The cure for bad guys with guns is good guys with guns." I suppose he had a point. Would the Columbine massacre have happened, after all, if everybody at Columbine High School had guns on their desks? I mean, when you have somebody coming into your school shooting at you and your friends you need to put your hands on some real firepower and fast. What you need to have on your desk is a Glock, not a copy of SILAS MARNER. But most kids in Columbine simply were not allowed to be packing heat. Wouldn't we all feel a lot safer if everyone from fifth grade up could loose a fusillade of bullets just like they do for pretend in videogames? Hey, wouldn't it be better if everybody had guns all the time?
But Aurora changed everything. That sort of thinking is so 2011. That was the way it used to be. The Aurora Massacre has been a real game changer. It has pointed the way to the future. What is this new game? Very simply it is body armor. For sure. And just the fact there is body armor out there is going to remove that thrill of knowing you have the power to kill anyone you see if it becomes what you want to do.
If you had been in that movie audience with only your simple, lovable old 9-millimeter or even the AK47 that Mommy gave you for your tenth birthday, you could still have been in real trouble. I mean this guy who came to the movie came ready to boogie. He came in body armor--basic black to make him harder to see (and it is stylish). And he came with more. He had an AR-15 assault rifle with a hundred-round magazine, you know, what everyone really needs to pop squirrels and such for the cook pot. He had two shotguns-- just what you want for that pump action feel. He had a Glock with him and a spare in the car--just in case, you know. And this is the nice touch--he had gas canisters to create a smokescreen and add to the confusion just like they do it in the Batman movies. Man, if you have that stuff you have all you need to get something done.
But, as I say, the big new thing and where he showed that he was really forward-thinking was the body armor. This is what SWAT teams use. Wearing that he could can take quite a booting and keep on shooting!!! What is your best strategy if you are facing that kind of fire power and only have a simple, cute little 9-millimeter in your pocket? I suggest you hide under a seat. Because, you know, you go against that kind of bad guy with just a handgun you are going to be toast. We need good guys with guns AND body armor. Without armor, you are just making yourself a target.
This is a whole new day. Just carrying a handgun does not cut it any more and it never will again. You need to show people you are one mean dude who is prepared. You need to show the bad guys that you are ready for them too. You need to be wearing full body armor. And I mean you need to be wearing it BEFORE you are attacked, not after. In other words wear it all the time. ALL THE TIME. Like the Scouts say, be prepared. By one guy in Aurora being able to do so much with the protection of body armor we have seen the future. Hey, I am not saying I approve of what he did one little bit, but you have to admit he got his point across. Well, did he or did he?
And you got to get this stuff soon. Just because the Gun Grabbers are losing now there is no reason to let down your guard--literally or really. Let us not forget they could gum up the works with gun show background checks and concealed weapons permit requirements and magazine capacity limits and age limits and the like. The good news is that body armor counts as protection. The clueless anti- gun nuts haven't been able to ban assault rifles. What are the chances they are going to ban something that is obviously defense and protection like body armor is? In Aurora the body armor was the peaceful part of this well-planned balanced arsenal. But there are a lot of knee-jerkers around who just don't think. So we got to do the thinking for them. We have to get the word around that we all need to wear body armor. Every day. Certainly to every grocery store and every movie theater and every public school. Wear it anywhere you have a bunch of people who are targets. And spread the word: us good guys are going to need armor-piercing bullets.
We all need to be on our toes to keep America safe. Every citizen should be wearing body armor. And remember that the bad guys are ruining the world. Let's be careful out there. [-mrl]
THE POSSESSION (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A family going through a painful divorce is also subjected to the ravages of a dybbuk, a possessing spirit from Jewish folklore. Until this point probably all dramatic stories of dybbuks have been based on a single famous play by Shalom Ansky. This film uses the concept of a dybbuk, but seems to have it behave in ways that are horror-film violent but most un-dybbuk-like. THE POSSESSION is a film that may do well with fans of explicit horror and clich´d plots, but not well with people interested in folklore. Danish director Ole Borndel delivers just what is expected for a visual horror film, but besides the reference to dybbuks, there is nothing at all new or fresh. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
THE EXORCIST (1973) was one of the most financially successful horror films of all time. After it was released there were a host of films about demon possession and about exorcisms to trade off the fame and popularity, almost all had possessing spirits able to suspend the laws of physics and biology to perform nasty tricks. A large percentage claimed to be true.
These films almost always copied THE EXORCIST by couching the story in Catholic theology. THE DYBBUK (1937) far preceded THE EXORCIST basing its story on the Yiddish Play "The Dybbuk" written by Shalom Ansky in 1914 who in turn based the story on Jewish folklore going back to the 1500s. A dybbuk is a possessing spirit that left its own body to possess that of another. While I cannot claim to know a lot about dybbuks the possession is a spiritual one. If one could not trace the unfamiliar spirit to someone else, a possession could be mistaken for a case of multiple personality. And multiple personality could well be the origin of the dybbuk stories. There are no physical manifestations. There are no physically unexplainable contortions or poltergeist-like attacks. In the Ansky play the dybbuk is even bringing some justice to an unjust trick of fate. It is considered bad enough just possessing someone else's body without throwing people around rooms.
THE POSSESSION, which tediously claims to be based on a true story, is a novelty in that it uses the concept of a dybbuk as few films do. In fact, it may be the first film to have a dybbuk that is not based on the play. However, the script of the film may claim to have a dybbuk, but it behaves more like a demon from a post- EXORCIST exorcism horror film. It can throw people dozens of feet; it seems to have some sort of intimate relationship with some breed of large flying insect; it shows up as a small fully formed human in X-rays. All of this would be fine in a film about Exorcist-like demon possession, but it seems very out of place in a story about a dybbuk, or for that matter a story that claims to be true.
Clyde and Stephanie (Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick) are going through a divorce very upsetting for their two daughters Em (Natasha Calis) and Hannah (Madison Davenport). On a day of custody with her father Em goes with Clyde to a yard sale where Em is fascinated by a carved wooden box with odd writing. (Some viewers will recognize the letters as being just Hebrew upside- down.) She buys the box and places it in her bedroom. Soon Em starts having some distinct personality changes. It is almost as if she is possessed by some strange spirit!!!
Director Ole Bornedal claims to have liked what he saw as the subtlety (?) of THE EXORCIST, and that clearly was the kind of film he was trying to make. He should have seen the 1937 film THE DYBBUK. Or perhaps he would have been better off never having seen any story of a dybbuk possession. Then he might have given us something new and fresh. This is an old plot being with its roots in bad horror films rather than folklore. I rate THE POSSESSION a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0431021/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_possession/
Snowflakes (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Pete Rubinstein):
In response to Mark's comments on snowflakes in the 09/07/12 issue, Kip Williams writes:
I've been saying for years that no two snowflakes are entirely dissimilar, and that the similarities between any two flakes vastly outweigh any differences they may have. [-kw]
Pete Rubinstein asks:
I have often heard that no two snowflakes are alike. How do you know that this contention is true? [-pr]
The probability of two snowflakes having the same number of atoms in the same locations is very small. The chances that they would have the same number of atoms in the same locations for any interval of time is much, much smaller. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
The book/film discussion group this month chose WYRD SISTERS by Terry Pratchett (ISBN 978-0-451-45012-8). This is the sixth of the Discworld books, and Pratchett is starting to focus on particular subjects. At one point, within the space of a half-dozen pages, Pratchett has the playwright of a traveling theatrical company referencing the Phantom of the Opera, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, and William Shakespeare. A few pages earlier, Pratchett bemoaned the fact that it was easier to portray the rapid passage of time than to describe it, and then said, "[The] kingdom did not ... move through time in the normal flickering sky, high-speed photography sense of the word. It moved around it, which is much cleaner, considerably easier to achieve, and saves all that traveling around trying to find a laboratory opposite a dress shop that will keep the same dummy in the window for sixty years, which has traditionally be the most time-consuming and expensive bit of the business."
REDSHIRTS by John Scalzi (ISBN 978-0-7653-1699-8) takes place on the Universal Union Capital Ship "Intrepid" in the year 2456. Andrew Dahl, a new ensign on the ship, begins to realize that he is living in a universe that appears to be, well, illogical. Every Away Mission ends up with some minor crew member dead in some peculiar, unlikely, improbable way, and although one of the officers is often injured, he always recovers fast enough to be back at work within hours. Others have noticed this, too, and soon they are trying to figure out why this is the case. The problem is that the explanation is obvious to the reader, and one finds oneself thinking, "GALAXY QUEST did this first" (or something very like this, which is encapsulated in Sigourney Weaver/Gwen DeMarco's reaction to the chompers: "Whoever wrote this episode should die.").
Scalzi does have something beyond this, and it is based on the difference between GALAXY QUEST and REDSHIRTS. In GALAXY QUEST, there are real people (well, Thermians) who think that a television show is the real world, and that the actors from it are actually the characters they play. They then construct their world (as much as possible) to match the television show.
In REDSHIRTS, the "real" world *is* the television show, and, as one character says, "There's no way to hide from this. There's no way to run from it. There's no way to avoid fate. If the Narrative exists--and you and I know it does--then in the end we don't have free will. Sooner or later the Narrative will come for each of us. It'll use it however it wants to use us. And then we'll die from it." (page 136) The GALAXY QUEST characters are not controlled by any explicit "Narrative" (a.k.a. God), though they are constrained by the laws of their universe insofar as they have constructed their equipment to match the television show (e.g., the computer responds to only Weaver's voice).
Scalzi did a report on the Creation Museum at Renovation. Though he did not say so, that and this seem consistent with the idea that he is an atheist, yet when I read his blog and other writings, I think he has a more nuanced belief. On the one hand, the comparison of God with a bad script writer can hardly be considered favorable to God. On the other, Scalzi does not impute the level of evil to God that an author like Philip Pullman does. You will have to read it and decide it for yourself.
There's also some discussions about whether the 2456 future is the future of the 2010 of the writers of "Chronicles of the Intrepid", or if it is a separate timeline. (After all, as someone notes, there is no "Chronicles of the Intrepid" show in the past of the characters on the "Intrepid".) This is not dissimilar from discussions about time travel and alternate history paradoxes, so this is not entirely new. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Sign hanging in Einstein's office at Princeton: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. --Albert EinsteinTweet
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