MT VOID 11/30/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 22, Whole Number 1730

MT VOID 11/30/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 22, Whole Number 1730

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/30/12 -- Vol. 31, No. 22, Whole Number 1730

Table of Contents

      Pierre Curie: Mark Leeper, Marie Curie: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups (NJ)

December 6: TWO FAMILY HOUSE (film hosted by Mark Leeper), 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 6:30PM
December 13: K-PAX (2001), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM; 
	discussion after the film
December 20: DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
January 17: TRIGGERS by Robert J. Sawyer, Old Bridge (NJ) Public 
	Library, 7PM (note this is the *third* Thursday)
March 28: THE RAPTURE OF THE NERDS by Cory Doctorow and Charles 
	Stross, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

Eternal Questions (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

TOPIC: Eternal Questions (comments by Mark R. Leeper) I was listening to the song "Blowing in the Wind." I lived through the 1960s just like everybody else of value, but I realize now I never knew what the song meant. It says "Yes, how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn't see? The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind. The answer is blowin' in the wind." I am not sure I understand the question, but I surely do not understand the answer. What do they mean the answer is blowing in the wind? How does it make their point? It has nor more meaning than if it said, "The answer is apple back-scratcher." [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for December (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

This is my monthly guide to hopefully some of the lesser-known films on Turner Classic Movies.

In the 1970s the best source of interesting horror films was late Saturday night TV. Channel 9 out of New York came up with a horror film I had never heard of. One day LEMORA showed up on and nobody I knew had ever heard of it. That generally meant it would be a film made really cheaply and one that would be laughably poorly made. Well, LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL (1973) shows its tiny budget, but at least it was imaginatively strange. This film seems like it is going to be a crime film and then falls into a surreal world with the hypnotic logic of a nightmare. A gangster's daughter sees her father die and gets on a bus landing in a town where half humans come out of the woods at night and a seductive woman, perhaps a vampire and perhaps a lesbian, rules. Some of the ambiguities were cleared up when it was re-dubbed as LEMORA, LADY DRACULA. You have not seen much like LEMORA. [Saturday, December 15, 2:45 AM]

COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE (a.k.a. COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE) (1970) was an innovative and effective horror story. I believe that originally it was THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA and was intended to be s skin flick with a vampire plot. I believe someone decided that is was not as effective as a sex film as it was as a vampire horror film. It is. Also early the name in the title was changed to YORGA so people would not have trouble pronouncing it. At the time vampires in films were the slow moving but hypnotic creatures we see in the early Hammer films. This makes (some of) the vampires bestial and very fast like cats. It isn't unusual today to see vampires and zombies that strike like cats, but this was the first time that idea was used. COUNT IORGA, VAMPIRE is still a pretty good vampire horror film. The vampires are scary and do not sparkle. [Saturday, December 15, 4:15 AM]

I am recommending the Alastair Sim A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) on incomplete information. There are so many film versions of this story that I cannot keep up (and frankly I would not want to). This version is the only one I have ever seen that that I thought was first an adaptation of a Charles Dickens story first and a Christmas movie second. I am sure other people have their favorites, but it is hard for me to imagine I could ever thing "Scrooge" and picture any other actor. Give it a try if you have not seen it. [Sunday, December 16, 9:30 PM]

The stable of writers for the early 1950s comedy show "Your Show of Shows" was the proving ground for some of the greats of later comedy. On that team were Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Neil Simon. The experience of being on that comedy team has been the basis of multiple films and plays. Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor," TV's the Dick Van Dyke show, and the feature film MY FAVORITE YEAR. This film is based on the actual experience of having a heavily alcoholic Errol Flynn appear on "Your Show of Shows." Peter O'Toole plays the unmanageable swashbuckler actor Alan Swann. Mark Linn-Baker plays Benjy Stone, a young comedy writer is given the overwhelmingly impossible task of babysitting Swann. Second only to T. E. Lawrence, this is Peter O'Toole's best role and the whole film is great comedy. [Sunday, December 16, 2:00 AM]

If I were to pick what I thought were the best films noir I would include NIGHT AND THE CITY just after TOUCH OF EVIL and NIGHTMARE ALLEY, though I had not seen the film until a couple of months ago. Through an unbroken stream of theft, lies, and betrayal Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) creates his own hell and drags down all who trust him. Unusual for films noir it takes place in beautifully filmed sinister cityscapes of London. Fabian sees a chance to become big and important and is willing to destroy anybody to get that prize. Director Jules Dassin discovered he had been blacklisted in the United States while he was making the film and every bit of his anger is on that screen. The film features Gene Tierney and Herbert Lom. Gene Tierney was a really interesting actress who had her life ruined by an avid fan's criminal stupidity. Her real life personal tragedy became the basis for the Agatha Christie murder mystery THE MIRROR CRACKED. [Wednesday, December 5, 4:00 AM]

Best film of the month: Either NIGHT AND THE CITY or MY FAVORITE YEAR. [-mrl]

LIFE OF PI (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: LIFE OF PI joins JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL (1973) and THE LITTLE PRINCE (1974) as being an adaptation of a philosophical book that reached for big meanings, and it is not a lot more profound. Ang Lee's film of Yann Martel's novel LIFE OF PI is a visual feast, well acted and with very fine use of 3D, but the story itself does not reach profundity and instead seems flat and a little pretentious. Lee has done as much or more with this story than can possibly be expected, but like WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (1998) I personally would prefer to watch it with the sound off. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

[Disclaimer: I will say at the outset of this review that I think of myself as an empiricist. I personally am skeptical of mysticism of all stripes. But when a film starts out by saying that it has a story that will make you believe in God, they have my attention. Philosophers have attempted this feat for centuries. Then the film proceeds then to tell a fictional story. I generally do not find fiction modifies my opinions on metaphysics.]

I am a fan of the first half of Carroll Ballard's THE BLACK STALLION (1979). In that first half a shipwreck maroons a young boy on a small island with a beautiful Arabian stallion. With poetic photography and not a word of dialog, it shows how the boy wins over the initially cautious stallion and how the two become close friends. In the second half the boy is rescued and allow the horse to be used as a racehorse, which makes for a disappointing ending. That was the sort of film I was expecting with LIFE OF PI. I was aware that the novel, a favorite of afternoon book discussion groups, had a long section of a similarly shipwrecked young man, Pi, sharing a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger without becoming the tiger's emergency food ration. In fact, that turns out to be most of the story. Though there is more build up, that is the story. The tiger and Pi (the latter played as a young man by Suraj Sharma) survive the sinking of the ship taking them from India to Canada and the two survivors find ways to co-exist. One nice touch is there never is a point that Pi can be sure he has made a friend of the tiger. To the author's credit the film never becomes a buddy movie. Unfortunately, Lee tries to reach for deep meanings, which may be as bad. The experience adds to seventeen-year-old Pi's philosophical bent that has already made him simultaneously a Hindu, a Christian, and a Moslem, so adding a new system of beliefs to the pile is not much of a stretch for Pi.

Along Pi's way to rescue we see the Pacific Ocean and the sky overhead photographed by Claudio Miranda with a beauty rarely matched in films. But Ang Lee is not one to let natural realism get in the way of an image he wants for the film. Some of this is real ocean well-filmed, but Lee is not shy about using computer graphics wherever it will help to create the feeling he wants, realistic or not. He can give an animal a very human expression because that animal exists only in a computer. The expression is more eloquent for the audience can be but not very realistic since what we really are seeing is a convincing-looking cartoon. Using CGI we get to see a whale, flying fish, and what I am told is an entirely digital tiger. We also get a carnivorous island (?) inhabited by Meer cats and shaped like a woman. One wonders what is the symbolic meaning of a killer island shaped like a woman.

In addition Lee frequently uses impossible or at least unexplained lighting. The sea seems to glow with beautiful phosphorescence that nature knows nothing about. Lee also uses 3D to reasonably nice effect, though the most impressive use is in the opening titles in which a lizard run up to the front of the screen. Ang Lee is a director who seems unafraid to direct any style of film as long as he has done nothing like it in the past.

To show Pi at different ages four different actors play him, though they do not really resemble each other. As an adult, Pi is played by now-familiar Indian actor Irrfan Khan. We have seen him in major Western films like THE NAMESAKE, A MIGHTY HEART, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Khan has very characteristic eyes that none of the other actors playing Pi seem to share.

Some viewers will certainly see this as an insightful parable and have a very different experience from mine. Still, if LIFE OF PI is not the soul-stirring inspiration of faith that the script calls for it to be, it is more than two hours of natural and unnatural wonders. If the movie is not tucked into my soul, at least it is well-lodged into my memory. I rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


STEAMPUNK III: STEAMPUNK REVOLUTION edited by Ann VanderMeer (copyright 2012, Tachyon Publications, 418 pp, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-61696-086-5) (book review by Joe Karpierz):

The steampunk movement and I passed like two ships in the night. My three encounters with steampunk were reading THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE by Sterling and Gibson a long time ago, reading Cherie Priest's BONESHAKER, and reading Girl Genius online (and even that I'm way behind on). That's it. No more, no less.

So, with some trepidation I launched into reading the latest installment of the Steampunk series published by Tachyon Publications, STEAMPUNK III: STEAMPUNK REVOLUTION. I certainly had this vague idea of what steampunk was, but I really wasn't sure whether I was right or even what to expect. It turns out that it was just fine that I had no real preconceived notions about steampunk, for this book is aptly titled. The stories in this book are meant to take steampunk in a different and more widespread direction than just goggles and airships in Victorian England. These stories are also meant to make us think about the way we think of steampunk (okay, that was a bit awkward), make us confront issues about not only the Victorian Era itself, but how people relate to each other in terms of their backgrounds and the technology steampunk loves so well, and let us know that steampunk can take place in far futures as well as the past. Many of these stories don't look or feel much like steampunk, others throw in a reference to goggles or airships to tie themselves to the subgenre. What these stories do have in common is that they are different and terrific. As with most collections, not all of the stories are to my tastes, but that doesn't make them bad stories; that just makes them stories that someone else will like.

Probably my favorite story in the collection is "The Stoker Memorandum", by Lavie Tidhar. This is a delightful little piece that mixes Dracula, Holmes (Mycroft, not Sherlock), Jekyll and Hyde, Frankenstein, Charles Babbage, and probably a few other things I missed in a story about reaching for the stars. Another story, "Peace in Our Time", by Garth Nix studies what happens when people in charge of advanced technology and weaponry that can destroy entire populations can't deal with the society and civilization they live in. It's also a favorite of mine, and one that implies it takes place in a future with space travel. "The Seventh Expression of the Robot General" also nicely blends the topic of war and space travel, but also cautions us about having our military led by robots who are bent on destroying everything in their path.

There are a couple of very frightening stories here as well. Caitlin R. Kiernan's "Goggles (c. 1910)", a chilling tale of survival in a post-apocalyptic world, pulls no punches with its treatment of the subject. It's one of those stories that doesn't really seem like steampunk at all, and yet it's one of the best and most thought-provoking pieces in the book. Malissa Kent's "The Heart Is the Matter" was really the first story in the book to shake me up. The story concerns a girl who has donated her heart to her sister, and was given a metal heart as a replacement that she keeps outside her body. She is looking forward to meeting Thomas Edison in hopes that he sees a way to use electricity to keep her heart pumping. His reaction took me completely by surprise and made me realize that this wasn't my kids' steampunk any more.

"The Effluent Engine", by N.K. Jemison, takes us in yet another direction, this time across race and national boundaries in New Orleans to investigate how people from different viewpoints and walks of life can cooperate to make technological advancements. It's a terrific story by a terrific writer that I think I may have to start adding to my to-read stack at some point in the near future. Fixing Hanover, by Jeff VanderMeer, chronicles what happens when an inventor who is trying to run away from his past is caught by his old superiors. While something of a straightforward adventure, I think, the story also investigates what happens to the relationships the protagonist has built up over time while in hiding from his past. "On Wooden Wings", by Paolo Chikiamco, is another story about cooperation between two young people of different classes to create a technological marvel. I found it to be a very delightful and touching story.

Other stories that I enjoyed were "Captain Bells and the Sovereign State of Discordia", about two spies working a job that ends up going in a different direction than they expected; "Nowhere Fast", by Christoper Rowe, a story about a revolutionary of sorts and his efforts to bring the past back to the present; and "Arbeitskraft", by Nick Mamatas, about an attempt to build a computer that would be able to emulate Karl Marx and just what would happen if there was an attempt to liberate the workers.

There are many other stories, here, notably by Cherie Priest, Cathrynne M. Valente, Genevieve Valentine, Lev Grossman, and Bruce Sterling, just to name a few. As you can see by the list, Ann VanderMeer was able to bring together some high-powered writers to contribute to this volume, and they made thought provoking contributions to the collection of stories contained within this volume.

Also, I shouldn't leave out some non-fiction pieces that talk about the state of steampunk, where it's been, and where it should be going. "From Airships of Imagination to Feet on the Ground", by Jaymee Goh, is probably the most scholarly of the non-fiction pieces. "Winding Down the House Toward a Steampunk without Steam", by Amal El-Mohtar, hooked me in with its very first sentence: "I want to destroy steampunk." Margaret Kiljoy and Austin Sirkin also provide short but interesting looks into their views of the sub- genre.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, in large part because it went in directions I wasn't expecting it to. That's not to say that I can't enjoy steampunk, but if I thought of these stories without the steampunk label and all the trappings that label brings with it, I was able to dive right in and enjoy because for the most part, these stories weren't steampunk as I expected it to be defined. I highly recommend this collection for all steampunk fans, and maybe those who don't like steampunk as it is currently portrayed. [-jak]

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (film review by Rob Mitchell):

I didn't see a review of this on your website, so I thought I'd pass on a recommendation. The film is JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI and is about an 86-year-old owner of a ten-seat sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station - who has earned 3 Michelin stars for his sushi. It's an excellent look at a craftsman, his craft, and the impact he has on the people around him, like his two sons. It's available from the Matawan-Aberdeen library, or it will be tomorrow. I gave it a 3 on my personal -4-to-4 scale, and I think you and Evelyn would be glad to have seen it. [-rlm]

Mark responds:

Thanks, Rob. I appreciate the recommendation.

The distributor, Magnolia, sent me a copy so I would consider it for awards, but we had seen the film months before from NetFlix Streaming.

The film shows just how much an art form sushi is in Japan though (Philistine that I am) I think it could have been better cut to sixty minutes. There is a lot of time in the film spent on showing Jiro doing mundane things that do not obviously connect to his art form. Jiro can walk in the park and get on a railway train well, but I am not sure why they were showing me it.

I would say JIRO is very likely to be nominated for Academy Awards Best Documentary. I would give it a +2. I guarantee that it will make the viewer hungry for good sushi. Though (again Philistine that I am) I am not sure I would know good sushi from sushi Jiro- quality sushi. [-mrl]

LINCOLN (letter of comment by Stan Brown):

In response to Mark's review of LINCOLN in the 11/23/12 issue of the MT VOID, Stan Brown writes:

[You write,] "One can read in high school history books that under Lincoln the 13th Amendment was ratified."

It may be true that one can read that, but if so it's yet another error in textbooks. The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified almost eight months after Lincoln's death.

That aside, thanks for the review. As usual, it was helpful to me in deciding whether to watch the film. From your description, this sounds like it will be my cup of tea. [-sb]

Storm Diary (letters of comment by Kip Williams and Susan de Guardiola):

In response to Mark's comments on Sandy in the 11/23/12 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I never thought of this as a tip until I saw it presented in a big page of tips. Then I thought, oh, man, I could have made this a tip! Anyway: If you don't have a flat-bottom flashlight, point your light at a bottle of water, and the light will diffuse in more directions. Also the bottle looks neat like that. The little LED light I do that with most often is blue, which is ever so slightly neater.

While I'm tipping, it seems my best one is the squeeze bottle with diluted soap in it for the kitchen sink. It has several uses, from quick dishwashing and hand-washing to killing bugs. The soap (I put a goodly squirt of liquid Ajax in an 8-ounce container with a squirt top; adjust to suit) breaks down the chitinous shell, and they drown in it--well, that's what I've been told. Anyway, they slow down and stop, and when I wipe/rinse the counter, it leaves it cleaner, instead of with toxic waste on it. The dilution also makes a bottle of liquid-ish soap (not dishwasher soap) last a really long time, and I think it gets used way faster than it needs to otherwise. (I used to use a spray bottle, but they inevitably clog; the squirt top from a bottle of drinking water has proven much more durable.) [-kw]

And Susan de Guardiola writes:

I'm enjoying reading your storm diaries. How lucky you were to have your landline still functioning! My mother (in Ridgewood) lost her Verizon service (landline and broadband internet) during the storm and did not have it restored until November 20th. [-sdg]

Mark replies:

I think that were we are the landlines are underground and copper rather than fiber-optic and that makes it more secure. I am really amazed to see how much damage was done. Our friends had a yard that had a lot of trees and now it looks like a flat battlefield. And they were really lucky that the house had no bad damage. [-mrl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I'm gradually reading all of Terry Pratchett's "Discworld" books (in the order in which they were written) and have just finished PYRAMIDS (ISBN 0-451-45044-2). My favorite line is from an argument between Xeno and another man, at the end of which Xeno says to the man, "The trouble with you, Ibid, is that you think you're the biggest bloody authority on everything."

The premise of RIGHTS GONE WRONG: HOW THE LAW CORRUPTS THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY by Richard Thompson Ford (ISBN 978-0-374-25035-5) is basically two-fold: The Law of Unintended Consequences applies, and people will find ways to "game" any system. Since these are not exactly new ideas, the book does not say anything amazing, but merely supplies examples. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself.
                                          --Samuel Butler

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