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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/18/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 29, Whole Number 1737
Table of Contents
Sign of the Times (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I saw a sign on the road that said "ADD child in ". [-mrl]
Doctor Who Timeline:
Follow the Spirit:
This is a seven-minute film that follows the Spirit Mars Exploration Rover from rocket firing to sending back pictures from the planet Mars.
Thanks to Sherry Glotzer for pointing this out.
NASA Johnson Style (Gangnam Style Parody) on YouTube:
Jasper Morello (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I notice that THE MYSTERIOUS GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS OF JASPER MORELLO is available on YouTube. If you have not seen it this is a 28-minute animated film about the adventures of a sort of Jules-Verne-style adventurer. I guess you could say the story is "steam punk." The film was nominated for an Oscar and has won a number of awards.
If you liked THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE, you should like this. I recommend it.
GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
My local Shop-Rite had GODZILLA VS BIOLLANTE on DVD for a crazy price of $4.99. It was near the produce section, appropriately enough. I thought the description on the back was funny. It says that Dr. Shiragami has "a rare supply of Godzilla cells." There should be a lot of Godzilla cells around. He's eighty meters tall and comes to Tokyo every Tuesday, where he gets fired upong by the pride of the Japanese Defense Forces. How hard can it be to find Godzilla cells? Granted I would not want to be the one to have to walk up and collect them, but there would be scrapings. He must have a hard time squeezing past buildings. He'd have to face that problem every day. [-mrl]
Has Godzilla Advanced Paleontology? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
There is an article on the Oxford University Press's website that lists nine scientific terms that we think of as being part of science but which really come from science fiction. The terms they give are:
I would say they missed the term "Atomic Bomb" which was first used by H. G. Wells in his 1914 novel THE WORLD SET FREE. I might even include the term "Time Machine" which comes up in discussions of modern physics.
Why has science fiction contributed so many terms to science? Well, because it had to. It is one of the purposes of science fiction is to look at what may be the science of the future and in doing that it needs a vocabulary to describe just what is going on. It may be only for the sake of entertainment. H. G. Wells had no reason to believe that in the future physics really might look at the theoretical possibility of moving particles or whole bodies to other times. He just had a fantasy that he might want a device that could transport him to another time. It would be a machine that could move him to another time, so he called it a "time machine." Theoretical physics now has caught up to him in looking at the concept. And they have a vocabulary ready-made for them from science fiction.
Scientists would undoubtedly have their current conceptions of paleontology changed if they really could observe real dinosaurs. They cannot. But I suspect that just looking at Godzilla movies has brought up issues that they had not thought about just studying what science knew.
Now I am not sure this is documented by I think we learned something substantial about real life dinosaurs from the 1954 film GOJIRA or GODZILLA.
There is not a whole lot of science in Godzilla movies. And what science there is ridiculously wrong. Yet I have a strong suspicion that the original Godzilla movie may have shown up an error in what was thought to be good science. I think it has pointed out a misconception that science had about dinosaurs.
In the original film early in Godzilla's rampages there is an overhead view of a beach where Godzilla had walked when he was returning to the sea. The point of the scene is that the size of the footprints is supposed to be impressive. You see the footprints and between them there is a deep furrow in the sand. Godzilla drags his tail when he walks just as dinosaurs were usually depicted as doing at the time. It was thought that dinosaurs kept their tails on the ground for stability. That was the way skeletons were set up in museums. Dinosaurs almost always rested their tails on the floor or ground. So there were the footprints and there was a trench dug by his monstrous tail.
The problem was that the image was not accurate to dinosaur footprints seen at the time. There are lots and lots of rocks with fossilized dinosaur footprints. There is never (or hardly ever) a mark between them left by the tail. Why not? Well, the only explanation was that dinosaurs must not have dragged their tails. Bipedal dinosaurs apparently balanced on their feet with their spines nearly horizontal. Quadrupeds lifted their tails also. So that is how museums depict dinosaurs today. I think somebody could have seen the film with the footprints on the beach separated by the furrow and it clicked not just that it looked wrong, but that it was still accurate to the understanding of the day. But real dinosaur footprints usually do not have a furrow. Dinosaurs like sauropods did not drag their tails but held them off of ground.
Was it really a Japanese monster movie that led to the realization? To tell you the truth I really don't know. That is conjecture. Everything else is true. The Godzilla part is conjecture. But if you have seen real dinosaur footprints you cannot look at that scene and not recognize something is wrong with the assumption that dinosaurs dragged tails.
So Godzilla films might be good for something, huh?
Wendy (letter of comment by Peter Rubinstein):
In response to Evelyn's comments on BORGES' TRAVELS, HEMINGWAY'S GARAGE in the 01/11/13 issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein writes:
Wendy's is not an imaginary name. It is the name of the owner's daughter.
And to remove the probably, from the question of Fig Newtons, they were named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts. The manufacturer named a number of their products after local towns. Fig Newtons happened to be one that became popular. [-pr]
I guess I wasn't entirely clear in what I meant. Obviously there are also people named Romeo and Athena as well. But as a *famous* name, there are no famous Wendys that I can think of (well, other than Wendy Hiller), and composing these sorts of stories about how Romeo Montague started a pizza parlor just wouldn't work. [-ecl]
Wendy is actually a name that is steeped in controversy. The argument was whether J. M. Barrie invented the name for PETER PAN. See http://www.wendy.com/wendyweb/history.html. [-mrl]
LIFE OF PI (letter of comment by Gregory Benford):
In response to Mark's "Top Ten Films" list for 2012 in the 01/11/13 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Benford writes:
Liked your movie views, but wonder if you saw LIFE OF PI ... my fave of the year. Fantasy as metaphor. And how about ZERO DARK THIRTY? [-gb]
Good to hear from you again. I hope we are doing right by having a fanzine with the name of VOID.
Ironically, I think I did not like it because of the spirituality. I think of myself as being much more empirical than spiritual. (And I think I would have guessed that you were even more that way than I am, since in our writing you stick to well-known hard science.)
I was bothered that the film promises that the story will make you believe in God. Just from a philosophical viewpoint I would have been interested to see how they did that. Even if it were a true story I would not have felt shaken from my agnostic viewpoint. I am not sure what it would take to do that, but this story did not even seem to be trying very hard.
But someone else wrote me saying it should have been in my top ten. My review is at http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/MT_Void/MT_Void-3122.html#4.
ZERO DARK THIRTY just opened yesterday around here. I have not seen it yet. I will just have to make it eligible for my next year's top ten list.
Thanks for writing. [-mrl]
I ignored the religious cast to the film. The metaphor switch at the end was good and made me rethink the whole film. I don't rethink the God issue much.
I had read your review; just forgot it. BTW, skip HYDE PARK ON HUDSON--weak. [-gb]
Too late. It is weak, though at the heart it makes the interesting point that FDR's paralysis could have been an important political advantage when forming an alliance with the King of England. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I was never all that taken by OLD POSSUM'S BOOK OF PRACTICAL CATS by T. S. Eliot (with drawings by Edward Gorey) (ISBN 0-15-668568-X), figuring it appealed mostly to "cat people" (and not of the Simone Simon kind). But I picked up a copy mostly for the illustrations, and discovered things I had not noticed before.
For example, "The Naming of Cats" is something I thought of as "that poem that Peter Ustinov recites in LOGAN'S RUN." But reading it, I noticed the last five lines:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name: His ineffable effable Effanineffable Deep and incrutable singular Name.
In particular, the penultimate line reads as "Eff-in' ineffable", or "F---in' ineffable."
And it seems clear that Old Deuteronomy the cat is a symbol for the Old Testament and Eliot's negative view of it (and its followers). "His numerous progeny prospers and thrives/And the village is proud of him in his decline" and makes sure nothing disturbs Old Deuteronomy even as he sleeps, oblivious to everything around him. "The digestive repose of that feline's gastronomy/Must never be broken, whatever befall." Translated, Old Deuteronomy represents the Jews and his progeny the Christians. While the progeny prosper and thrive, Old Deuteronomy himself is useless and decrepit, but everyone ignores this and caters to him in spite of it. This is probably a pretty fair summation of Eliot's attitude toward Christians and Jews.
THE ASSASSINATION OF LINCOLN: HISTORY AND MYTH by Lloyd Lewis (ISBN 978-0-8032-7949-3) was written in 1929, so a lot of the conclusions Lewis comes to may have been superseded by new evidence. Then again, Lewis often seems purposely to come to no conclusion, as for example when discussing the rumors that Booth was not shot in the barn, but rather escaped and lived on.
69 A.D.: THE YEAR OF FOUR EMPERORS by Gwyn Morgan (ISBN 978-0-19-512468-5) is a popularized, but fairly thorough, analysis of the tumultuous "Year of Four Emperors" (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian). While that sounds dramatic, after one realizes that there was a "Year of Five Emperors" (A.D. 193: Pertinax, Didius Julianus, Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus, and Septimus Severus) and a "Year of Six Emperors" (A.D. 238: Maximinus Thrax, Gordian I, Gordian II, Pupienus, Balbinus, and Gordian III), it sounds a bit like a mere practice run.
However, the argument can be made that the four emperors of 69 were somewhat more substantial than the five of 193 and the six of 238. When you have two emperors that ruled (jointly) for only twenty days, and another two (again jointly) for 99 days, it's hard to take them entirely seriously.
My one "complaint" about 69 A.D. is that it is too "Latinized". While Morgan does give the current English name for all the places on first mention, he refers to them afterwards only by their Latin (Roman) names, and when one pops up after a long interval, I cannot always remember where it is.
I do like that Morgan discusses his sources (there are basically only four: Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Dio Cassius), and attempts to sort out which are probably accurate on various points and which are not. In particular, Morgan spends an entire appendix discussing each of the sources in detail, and attempting to reconstruct the original source from which they may have drawn.
69 A.D. is probably best read by someone who is only lightly familiar with the period, since to a great extent it covers familiar ground. But as a follow-up for people who have watched I, CLAUDIUS, it will certainly suffice. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg. --Samuel ButlerTweet
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