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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/15/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 37, Whole Number 1745
Table of Contents
Tardigrades (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
A little animal you may never have heard of is jaw-droppingly amazing:
Let's Be Real (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
School children are being told that they can save the environment by using cloth shopping bages and recycling. Trying to reverse environmental damage by recycling and using cloth shopping bags is as effective as trying to fight famine by mailing grapes. [-mrl]
Math Puzzle (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Bill Amend's Foxtrot comic frequently has math content. In the case of the cartoon below Paige is given a mathematics test that is supposedly extremely difficult. Of the four "killer" problems one is actually a simple problem that can be done in your head in under five seconds. Which one is the simple problem and what is the reasoning? I will publish the names of people who get a correct answer.
Supernatural Folktales of Costa Rica (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
On our recent tip to Costa Rica we were going to be spending some time in the town Guanacaste. Our guide, Fiorella Matarrita told us that Guanacaste is a town of supernatural legends. This, of course, interests the horror fans in both Evelyn and me. Fiorella told us that the folktales came from Guanacaste. Some may have, but many of the legends of Costa Rica are shared by Mexico and much of Latin America. I doubt they all came from this one town. Some of these legends are similar to folk-legends from other parts of the world. Most of these stories are thinly disguised morality tales of someone who does not behave the way society says they should and by misbehaving they are opening themselves to being vulnerable to hellish demons and supernatural retribution. Also of the stories I was able to find in other places, there is no consistent version of any of the stories. Each story-teller tells the story differently. I guess that is what makes them folktales.
This story is reminiscent of some Japanese ghost stories. La Segua is what appears to be a beautiful woman who looks for young men traveling on the roads. She attracts these men like a succubus does. They cannot resist the combination of strong drink and a beautiful and willing woman. The segua parties with unsuspecting travelers, all the while getting them drunk and trying to seduce them. She succeeds and she takes them to bed, but at the crucial moment her lover will see either her head or her whole body transform to the head or body of an animal. The traveler finds he is making love to a female horse. In some versions she has a face that looks like a horse skull--not like a horse face, but a horse skull.
La Llorona (The Crying Woman)
This is a famous story I ran into as a Mexican horror film, THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN and later as LA LLORONA. It is a legend in some ways very similar to the legend of the Flying Dutchman. Maria is in love with a man who does not want her. In specific he does not want to be tied down with her two children. But Maria is obsessed. If her two children were all that stood in her way they could be removed. She drowns both of them. But still the man she wanted spurned her, and let's face it, a woman who drowns her own children might not be a really great marriage prospect. Maria realizes that she murdered her own children and is heart-broken and given to crying. Finally she drowns herself, but even heaven does not want her. Her sin is so bad her spirit is sent back to earth for eternal penance. She wanders the world as a crying spirit.
La Carreta sin Bueyes (The Ox-Cart without an Ox)
Our magical hour is midnight; in Costa Rica the scary time is 3 AM. Magical things happen at 3 AM. In this case you can hear at 3 AM an enchanted ox-cart, which moves without an ox to pull it. (I guess it is just one of these enchanted ox-less oxcarts.) Actually the story of a man named Pedro who tilled the soil with oxen and was unkind to his animals. On the day that the village animals were to be blessed Pedro tried to bring his oxen directly into the church where they would do damage. The oxen knew they did not belong in church and would not go in. Pedro told the priest that his oxen did not need blessing since they had already been blessed by the devil. The priest blessed the oxen and cursed Pedro and his oxcart so that he and his cart to walk the earth with his oxcart travelling by itself as if under a spell. That may sound a little too magical so some versions say there is a casket in the back of the wagon and it is carrying the dead Pedro.
[Note: I was not able to find anything about this legend on-line even trying possible alternate spellings.]
A Mica (pronounced "Meeka") is a demonic dog-wolf combination. He haunts people and then jumps into ceilings to hide. I guess he finds ways to hide in ceilings. (This must be considerably easier in office buildings that have suspended ceilings.) Midnight is the scary time for Micas. At midnight he does three back flips and three front flips. Then his skin falls off. That seems horrific. But it is then that the haunted have an opportunity over the scary beast. If you take his skin and put in a meat bowl with meat and add salt he loses the ability to transform back. [I hope I have that right. It does not make a lot of sense to me. But the legend is probably why I don't want meat in the restaurants in this town.]
The Two Cadejos
There is not one but two Cadejos. They are big, mean-looking hairy dog-like creatures. The black cadejo (pronounced "ka-DAY-ho") is vicious and evil. The white cadejo is angelic and good. (Some places it is the other way around.) The black cadejo hides in shadows and attacks the unsuspecting. Usually the attacked person has recently be lazy or selfish. But the white cadejo comes to their rescue, but he cannot be counted on to stop the black cadejo. The Black Cadejo varies in meanness by who is telling the story. Some versions of the story say the black cadejo is now more powerful than an angry dog. Some say he is the Devil Himself. [-mrl]
"Visit to the World's Fair 2014" by Isaac Asimov (review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
Fresh off my review of the "writers of the future prediction time capsule" article, I noticed that Asimov had written an article full of predictions targeted at 2014. As this is only about 10 months in the future, it seems appropriate to take a gander at his predications. To help you in finding Asimov article, I note that a short version of it appears as "Chapter 26: The World's Fair of 2014" in a paperback essay collection titled IS ANYONE THERE? while a longer version appeared in the New York Times Magazine of August 16, 1964. This longer version can be found on the web at http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/23/lifetimes/asi-v-fair.html. From 1964 to 2014 is 50 years--a most difficult interval over which to predict, perhaps at the outer limits of the time period one could rationally expect a prediction to hold.
For starters, Asimov correctly supposed that there will have been no world killing war, since if we are around to discuss his article, this is almost certainly the case. However, he made the assumption that there would be a 2014 World's Fair. In fact, the most recent fair was in 2012 in Yeosu, South Korea, and the next planned one is targeted for 2015 in Milan, Italy. What Asimov could not have anticipated is how much less significant the World's Fair would become as a venue for the display of national and corporate power. Onward to the specific predictions!
"Electroluminescent panels will be in common use"--this certainly is not the case, although Asimov might be impressed at our relatively new LED fixtures.
"In a variety of colors that will change at the touch of a push button"--also not happening although LEDs are available in many colors.
"Polarized windows"--this technology seems to be widely available, and often used in cars.
"Degree of opacity of the glass may ... alter automatically ... in accordance with the intensity of the light"--widely used in sunglasses and elsewhere in 2013, although personally I don't find the products that useful.
"Underground houses--should be fairly common"--a miss here--underground houses are no more common in 2013 than in 1964.
"At the World's Fair of 2014 models of ... underground cities with ... light-forced vegetable gardens"--certainly such models may appear in a 2014 World's Fair, but it is interesting to note that so-called "vertical farms" in urban areas are being developed in many locations in 2013, and not just as models.
"Kitchen units will prepare 'automeals' ..."--this prediction is more true than not, especially the idea that "Complete lunches and dinners ... will be stored in the freezer until ready for processing." My families' kitchen has a "coffee machine" and a "bread machine" along with two microwaves, and it is by no means the most automated kitchen current today.
"Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence."--generally Asimov's vision of the robots of 2014 is accurate, although he might be surprised that the most widely deployed household robot does one thing--floor cleaning! Rather as he predicts, we have lab models of towel folding robots and so on. Still, Isaac might be terrified to find that our real progress in robotics can be found in a global network of airborne man-killing drones, and a host of war robots for a myriad of tasks.
"Appliances ... will be powered by ... radioisotopes ..."--a big miss on this one!!! Asimov both failed to see the turning away from nuclear power and the widespread fear of radioactivity, not to mention that the relatively large size of such batteries makes them prohibitive for all applications except space probes and Mars rovers such as "Curiosity."
"Fission-power plants ... will be supplying well over half the power ..."--a reasonable prediction that ought to have come true, but thanks to Three Mile Island and Chernobyl did not.
"An experimental fusion-power plant or two will already exist in 2014." - a big miss here, as in 2013 fusion remains the power source of the future, and seems likely to remain so for another 50 years at least.
"Large solar-power stations will also be in operation ..."--I'd give Isaac 100% on this prediction.
"An exhibit at the 2014 fair will show models of power stations in space ..."--another 100% hit by Isaac, as SPS (Solar Power Satellites) remain in the model stage in 2013.
"Long buses move on special central lanes." - the high occupancy lanes aren't in the center and most buses are longer than in 1964, but you have to give Asimov 100% on this prediction.
"Ground travel will increasingly take to the air a foot or two off the ground."--the Ground Effect Vehicle has proved a big bust, due to the immense amount of fuel it consumes relative to cars, and the even more immense amount of noise it makes!
"Much effort will be put in the designing of vehicles with "Robot-brains" ... that can be set for particular destinations ..."--Asimov is spot on, since such technology might well be demonstrated at a 2014 fair as he predicts, but not be in wide deployment. As of 2013, Google has developed a driverless car that is being trialed, so Isaac's accuracy on this prediction is nothing short of amazing.
"For short-range travel, moving sidewalks ..."--outside of airports, you won't see any moving sidewalks in 2013. They don't function well outdoors, and Asimov probably missed that idea that we are all in desperate need of exercise!
"Compressed air tubes will carry goods ..."--outside of the movie BRAZIL, a big miss for Isaac here.
"Communication will become sight-sound ..."--although the video phone (Skype and others) has never, and probably will never, become ubiquitous, it is widely used enough, both in business and at home, to give Isaac credit for this one.
"The screen can be used ... for studying documents and photographs ... and books"--another hit for Isaac on this one. If anything, Asimov understates the progress made. For example, in 2013 e-readers have started to cut significantly into the sales of printed books.
"Synchronous satellites ... make it possible to direct-dial any spot on Earth, ..."--Isaac gets high marks here, if not 100%, since satellites are not the only technology that made this possible, but they are certainly a key part of the mix, allowing you to call a cruise ship, for example.
"You will be able to reach [call] someone at the moon colonies ..."--this would only be true *if* there were any moon colonies in 2014, which we can say with pretty much absolute certainty will not come to pass, since there isn't one in 2013, and there are no concrete plans to build one.
"On earth, the laser beams will have to be led through plastic pipes ... Engineers will still be playing with that problem in 2014."--here Asimov, failing to anticipate the completely new technology of fiber optics and laser diodes, scored a big zero. Engineers are not playing with lasers in plastic pipes because there exists a world-wide network of fiber-optic cables that carries most of our information traffic in digital form.
"Only unmanned ships will have landed on Mars ..."--a solid bulls-eye for Asimov here.
"... a manned expedition [to Mars] will be in the works ..."--Isaac gets some credit here, as the giant SLS (Space Launch System) is being built, and we always have "plans" to go to Mars. I think, however, Asimov would be surprised to find that the only human Mars expedition likely in the near term is a private trip organized by space tourist Dennis Tito.
" ... wall screens will have replaced the ordinary [TV] set; ..."--Isaac gets a good bit of credit here, although I'm not sure how to define a "wall screen." However, I just went to Costco and got stuck in line behind two people buying 60-inch flat panel screens! I may not personally own any "wall screens" but I have shifted to flat-panel LCDs and a projector system with a sound bar for the movie experience, so maybe that counts as a "wall screen".
"Transparent cubes will be making their appearance ... in which three dimensional viewing will be possible "--Asimov gets at least 50% here since 3-D TVs are widely available, but are based on polarized light/special glasses rather than the holographic technology he envisioned.
"World population will be 6,500,000,000 and the USA ... 350,000,000"--we'll give Isaac 50% here since the world population in 2013 is around 7 billion, but the United States population is about 300 million.
"2014 will see a good beginning made in the colonization of the continental shelves"--this is a big zero for Isaac!
"Processed yeast and algae products will be available in a variety of flavors"--another big zero for Asimov.
"A larger portion [of the population] than today will be deprived"--generally Asimov feared the population bomb, which has turned out to be a fizzle, and underestimated the impact of genetic science on agriculture. He also missed the one-child family in China and the rise of the Asian Tigers.
"Lifted life expectancy in some parts of the world to age 85"--taking the 2010 figures from Wikipedia, the peak male life expectancy was 79.29 years in Japan, and the peak female life expectancy was 86.96 years, also in Japan. On the other hand, I think it is safe to say that for the affluent in many countries 85 is a reasonable expectation. Both my parents made it to 86, in large part due to the kind of technology that Asimov was no doubt anticipating.
"A worldwide propaganda drive in favor of birth control"--there is certainly such a drive, but I think Asimov would be surprised by the large degree of success it has had in the developed countries, to the point that the major issue in countries like Japan is not population growth, but massive de-population.
"The world of ... 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine"--I'd give Asimov about 50% here. There are still a large number of service jobs like barbering that people just don't want done by machines even if we had machines to do them. On the other hand, we are in the midst of a massive replacement of mid-level white collar workers with semi-intelligent software.
"All the high-school students will be taught ...computer technology ... binary arithmetic ... computer languages"--this is simply not the case. A more accurate statement would be that any college student who hopes to work in a technical area needs to have computer skills, including programming in some high level languages, but the average high school student needs skills in popular tools like Excel, Powerpoint, and so on.
"Mankind will suffer ... from the disease of boredom"--a big miss here, as Isaac failed to anticipate that application of computer technology to the entertainment industry, and especially video/computer games. Angry Birds, anyone? If anything, the poorest person today has more entertainment options than the kings of old, and to such a degree as to be almost beyond imagination in 1964.
"The most glorious single word ... will have become work!"--here I think Asimov is 100% right. We seem to be in the grip of an economy that is becoming more and more efficient while creating fewer and fewer jobs.
Overall, Asimov did a decent job of predicting 2014, and his mistakes fall into categories, i.e., over-predicting progress in space, exaggerating the impact of the population explosion, expecting nuclear power to continue to grow in importance, etc. His robotic predictions are highly accurate, perhaps because Asimov had thought a great deal both about the technology in this area and how it might evolve. As was the case for virtually every prognosticator, Isaac has the direction of the communications revolution right, though with a considerable underestimation of the speed and strength of the revolution.
Clarke wrote in PROFILES OF THE FUTURE that there were two main failures in predicting the future, the failure of courage and the failure of the imagination. Asimov had courage in abundance, and this allowed him to make a series of reasonable extrapolations, some of which turned out to be incorrect. However, the failure of imagination is almost unavoidable, even for as capable a futurist as Asimov. Here is a list of things that have come along over the last 50 years that we can be reasonably sure Isaac would not have expected to be likely outcomes of 1964 technology:
1. Quantum computers 2. Invisibility shields 3. Stealth technology 4. Fiber optics 5. Synthetic biology 6. Quantum dot technology 7. Communication at the Nyquist limit using belief networks 8. Widespread usage of Bayesian prediction 9. Dark energy 10. Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR)/mapping the genomes 11. Epigenetics 12. Quantum teleportation of matter 13. Quantum encryption 14. Exact knowledge of the genetic differences between humans and Neanderthals 15. Flexible electronic circuits printed on plastic
CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE by Lois McMaster Bujold (copyright 2012, Baen, $25.00, 432pp, ISBN 978-1451638455)(book review by Joe Karpierz):
CAPTAIN VORPATRIL'S ALLIANCE is Lois McMaster Bujold's latest novel in the Vorkosiverse. Set before the events of CRYOBURN, the protagonist in this new novel is not Miles Vorkosigan, but his cousin Ivan Vorpatril. Ivan has been a fan favorite for a number of years now, and readers have been asking for an adventure he can call his own. CVA (it's going to be easier to type CVA than the full title) is that adventure, and I have to say that it is a worthy entry into the Vorkosiverse Saga.
As most readers know, Ivan has spent his entire career avoiding all the kinds of silliness that his more famous cousin Miles gets himself into. Ivan wants a quiet life, with no political intrigue, no political alliances, or any of the other things that go on in a typical Vorkosiverse adventure. He's happy being who he is.
Of course, that's all about to change.
Ivan is on a short assignment on the planet Komarr. Things are going according to plan (as in quiet and boring), when ImpSec agent By Vorrutyer shows up at Ivan's apartment late one night to ask Ivan for a favor. It seems there is a young, attractive lady who is involved with By's latest assignment, and she may be in trouble. By asks Ivan to go find her and look after her, keep her safe. Ivan doesn't trust By, of course, given that a) By is ImpSec and b) Ivan and By have had a less than stellar relationship in the past. But Ivan, if nothing else, likes young, attractive women and hey, she might be in danger. So Ivan agrees.
And thus gets himself in all sorts of trouble. Of course.
He finds her at the shop where she works. He asks her out. Multiple times. She turns him down. Multitple times. He meets her at her apartment - and her roommate shoots him with a stunner and ties him to a chair. Not long after, Ivan finds himself in trouble with his superiors, the local law enforcement agency, criminals, and just about everyone else around. Ivan has promised to keep Tej--the attractive young lady--safe, so, at a crucial moment, when things are about to go horribly wrong, Ivan marries her on the spot using a old wedding custom. At that point, Tej is safe because she isn't just any old young attractive woman, she is now Lady Vorpatril, and is under Ivan's protection. Her apartment mate, Rish, is hired on the spot to be a sort of servant to Ivan and Tej, and they escape unscathed. They agree that this will be a temporary marriage until everything is all cleared up.
Oh, come on, this is a Vorkosiverse book. Really?
Well, it turns out Tej and Rish are part of a family back in Jackson's Whole that has been removed from power. The family shows up on Barryar to retrieve Tej and Rish and indeed something else. And this is going on at roughly the same time that Ivan has to go through the ringer with Lady Alys, Simon, and just about everyone else we've run into in this series.
This book is something of a comedic romp. It's not overtly funny, where the reader is laughing every page (at least I wasn't). But the reader at least grins at the references to earlier events and people, nods his or her head when something from the past pops up, and in general has a good time. And the image of Gregor tilting his head to one side to try to figure out what is going on with ImpSec HQ is priceless.
Ivan grows up in this novel. He's always been the cousin that hasn't amounted to anything, almost a buffoon that certainly has no ambition. Now he has a love interest, and maybe life is changing.
There are a lot of cameos by long time characters in the series. Miles is there for basically a chapter, being Miles. And Bujold helps the reader who is new to the Vorkosiverse by explaining all the complex political and personal relationships in the Vorkosiverse. That explanation is not forced by any means. It's necessary, just because Tej, as the new Lady Vorpatril, needs to know all this detail. It's amusing to listen to the explanation coming from Ivan's viewpoint - it's a bit twisted, I think, but fun to read.
All in all this is a much better book than CRYOBURN, and one that I highly recommend. I suspect that the next time we get a Vorkosiverse book from Bujold, we'll be reading about the aftermath of the events at the end of CRYOBURN. [-jak]
HAVA NAGILA (THE MOVIE) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: To Jews the song "Hava Nagila" is more than just a melody. It is a celebration of Jewish joyfulness. It has uplifted Jews of three different centuries and in later years has become a sort of musical ambassador to other well-meaning people around the world. The song is the Jewish "Ode to Joy". But most Jews do not know its origins and history. Roberta Grossman's documentary traces its past and its culture and about two hundred years of Jewish history. Included are several celebrities, some Jewish, some not, many of whom performed the song on stage, record, and YouTube. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
It happens at a Jewish celebration and gathering--a bar mitzvah, a marriage, a party, a circumcision. If there is happiness there is a band. If there is a band, sooner or later it may play "Hava Nagila". Suddenly there is dancing. But it is not partner dancing like a waltz. People form a circle holding hands to the right and the left forming a forming a rung, or multiple rings, and singing "Hava Nagila". As they dance around some people will drop from the chain and lift a chair with someone seated in the chair being held aloft like a king or a rock star. This too is part of the "Hava Nagila" dance. And the people will sing the song. Here in the United States most may not know what the words mean, they are in Hebrew. But they will sing them phonetically as they have heard the song so many times. ""Hava Nagila". "Hava Nagila"!! "HAVA NAGILA"!!!! Ve-nismeha." In the United States most will just know the Hebrew words phonetically. What does it mean? "Let's rejoice. Let's rejoice. Let's rejoice and be happy."
Director Roberta Grossman inquires into the origins and meaning of "Hava Nagila" in Israel and the United States in a new 75-minute documentary written by Sophie Sartain. With it she tells with a little bit of humor the story of the song and the Jews as they move from the Shtetls of Eastern Europe to Western Europe to America, to the suburbs, and to the Internet. As one interviewee says, "It's been a long, strange journey from Ukraine to YouTube." And, of course, the real origins of the song are shrouded in a controversy over who actually wrote it. But in spite of that Grossman is able to trace the origins to a single Ukrainian synagogue.
The film uses a mass of recordings of the song being performed by both Jews and non-Jews and in many different styles. The song was popularized by singers like Harry Belafonte, Connie Francis, and Glen Campbell, each of whom is interviewed. For a short film the "HAVA NAGILA" (THE MOVIE) ranges from tragedy to comedy and farce with a decent amount of kidding. And through it all we hear a multitude of different versions from all around the world. We hear it from the above singers, but also variations from Lena Horne, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, a Bollywood production number, and many more. The film combines documentary footage of Eastern European Jewish life, with footage of Jews in Palestine and Israel, in New York and right out into the suburbs. Some of this goes on a little long. Several pieces are taken from one event because we keep seeing a man who looks like a Jewish James Gandolfini. The editing could have been edited a little tighter and briefer, but perhaps it all adds to the party feel of the proceedings.
The singing of "Hava Nagila" by non-Jews carries a deeper meaning than just that it is a pleasant melody. It is a statement of tolerance and even welcome to a people who have known so much pain over the centuries and into the present. This is a Jewish song that becomes even more joyful when sung by non-Jews.
Occasionally the editing creates some intriguing cuts. We form pictures of Jews in the suburbs we are suddenly looking at a piece of the film TRUE GRIT (1969). What is that doing there? Glen Campbell put his recording of "Hava Nagila" on the flip side of his popular 45-RPM record with the popular song "True Grit". I didn't see that one coming. I guess I never noticed the Jewishness of TRUE GRIT. As one interviewee says the song "is a melody that evokes new life, hope, and joy." The song does that and so does HAVA NAGILA (THE MOVIE). I rate it a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. Grossman never explains the meaning of the chair in the dance. It just seems to be a tribute to the guest(s) of honor at the party.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2244856/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/hava_nagila_the_movie/
MAY I BE FRANK (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This is a documentary account of a morbidly obese man who gets a last chance at life. Frank Ferrante is an abuser. Most of his life he has abused food, alcohol, drugs, and his personal relationships. Along the way Frank ruined his body and his life. Then one day he wandered in to a vegan, holistic cafe and the three proprietors offered to put him on a vegan raw food diet for 42 days to restore his health and his personal balance. His reactions and his progress, experiences, and reactions are documented. Frank improves his life using unconventional New Age therapies. The film is unpleasant at times and also surprisingly honest where Frank is less than totally successful. But Frank's positive personality shines through. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Frank Ferrante and three friends, Ryland, Conor, and Cary, are trying to save a life. It is the life of Frank Ferrante himself. Frank is a 54-year-old man who has abused food, alcohol, drugs--including heroin, but in return they have abused him even more. Frank has spent a life giving in to every temptation until he weighs 290 pounds plus, has Hepatitis C, is nearly diabetic, and has alienated his family. But he also has the three friends whom he met at Cafe Gratitude, a raw, organic, vegan café. The three who run the café have a plan for getting Frank to redeem himself. They offer to put Frank through a regime of self-love, affirmations, natural vegan foods, yoga, and colonics. Over the 42 days we see Frank go through pain and effort as he ingests a lot of things that are not greatly pleasant. Franks diet consists of obscure concoctions like wheatgrass juice and coconut milk smoothies. He eats just nuts, fruits, and vegetables. And he affirms his new attitudes with mantras like "I, Frank, do love me. I am a perfect human being, radiant beauty and divine energy. I am divine. I now hold in my mind this new image of myself as a thriving, flourishing, gloriously beautiful human being." He uses these affirmations in trying to overcome pangs of guilt over people that he has hurt over the years.
While his improvement over the 42 days leads to many positive results, those results fall short of what Frank and the viewer might have hoped for. Pictures of Frank a few years later show he as lost a lot more weight and at least appears to be smiling.
What makes the film watchable is the fact that in spite of it all Frank himself has a winning personality. Whatever Frank has done before--and it is pretty bad to his siblings, his wife, and his daughter--Frank comes through as a man who can take his hard knocks and still laugh at them. He wants to lose weight and to break his drug habits so that he can redeem himself and fall in love one more time. He clearly has a way with beautiful women and people who still love him in spite of himself.
MAY I BE FRANK made in 2010 runs very parallel to Joe Cross's FAT, SICK, & NEARLY DEAD, also produced in 2010. Cross started out a bit heavier than Ferrante did. His regimen seemed to have involved less spirituality though he also depended a great deal on whole, natural foods. Cross did not have the problem with his relationships that Ferrante had and at the end of the film Cross seems to have healthier interactions with his family, though we cannot tell if that was just an aspect not covered by the film. Frank is perhaps too frank about matters of defecation. These sequences run on too long and try the patience of the viewer.
A story of the guilt-ridden overcoming their past and redeeming themselves will always have an audience. The viewer has to accept Frank more or less like his family does, not forgetting the ugly parts of his past, but trying to like Frank in spite of them. I rate it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
May I be frank? There are two ways to look at this film. One can see it as a portrait of Frank Ferrante and how his viewpoint changes over six weeks as he struggles to redeem himself and earn release. There may even be something to be learned from his new attitudes. But if the viewer takes the film as a recommendation for its unconventional medical views on health, that could be a mistake. Frank's loss of weight and his spiritual changes are perfectly consistent with mainstream views on health. Wheatgrass cocktails are probably a lot healthier for what they are not, e.g. sugared Coca-Cola, than for anything special that they are. Odd concoctions like wheatgrass juice have no demonstrated clinical value. Ryland, Conor, and Cary are not trained medical practitioners, they just run a café. It is not at all clear that Frank's rapid weight loss is not simply the result of commonplace dietary improvement. And the spirituality might have just given him motivation to stick rigorously to his diet. In any study Frank would be just one datum point, not evidence of any powerful medical truth.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1474792/combined
The ARGO Dilemma (letters of comment by Steve Milton and Walter Meissner):
In response to Mark's comments on "the ARGO dilemma" in the 03/08/13 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Milton writes:
I think that the James Bond finish to ARGO was not meant to be taken literally, but to put the audience into the frame of mind of the escapees in their last minutes in Iran. The sequence as presented, while exciting, makes no sense; it is the kind of scenario that was likely running through the escapees' minds as they sat in the airplane waiting to leave Iran.
The sequence starts when the revolutionary guards at the airport realize who the escapees are. A squad of guards runs to the gate, but the plane has already pulled away from the gate. So they rush to the control tower and run up to the control room. When they get there they find the plane has already been given clearance for take-off. So, they tell the control tower to instruct the pilot to exit the runway and return to the gate. Oh, no, they didn't; forget that last sentence. In the film, the guards run back downstairs, jump in their truck and chase after the plane as it is rolling down the runway for take-off. After the plane takes off it simply flies away; there is no instruction from Iranian air control to return to the airport. [-sm]
And Walter Meissner writes:
I just saw ARGO at the local library and then followed your review and comments.
When I watched the film, I had already suspected that the final suspenseful "chase" scene did not occur.
As you mentioned in MT VOID, many films bare little resemblance to reality. One you left out was THE SOUND OF MUSIC featuring the von Trapp family. The only true facts were there was a family and nun, they lived in Austria and came to America. The rest is re-written fiction. The actually leaving of Austria by the von Trapp family was pre-announced to the town, who met them at the train station and helped them load their bags. They took the train to Italy, and boarded a ship to the United States. There was never any suspenseful "chase" scene. The temperament of the characters was revised to help out the story line, and the songs were chosen for audience appeal and not what they normally would sing. Mrs. von Trapp complained bitterly at this misrepresentation. If the film had been true to the story, it would never had the appeal that made it popular.
In the ARGO film, there is one other discrepancy that I am surprised that the director did not catch. The laws in Iran are very strict, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, literally. So if a driver accidentally struck and killed a pedestrian, they would be tried and put to death. As a result, foreign citizens always hire "local" chauffeurs to avoid legal problems. Yet the film has the foreigners and principal characters driving the cars.
Overall, I found the film well done.
I found it ironic that the other embassy personnel were given short shrift here, since they had to endure 447 days as hostages. [-wm]
I think in general most historical-setting films get facts wrong. You just have to accept film as an unreliable medium. The real trouble comes when you have willful distortion of the truth for political purposes. Filmmakers have to be aware that viewers can be influenced by what they put in films and the well-meaning ones will avoid political distortions. [-mrl]
Fred and Ginger, the ARGO Dilemma, George R. R. Martin, Style Guide, and LoneStarCon 3 (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to the MT VOID of 03/08/13, John Purcell writes:
Good morning, Mark and Evelyn. It is a bit windy outside, so I sit here at the computer writing the first letter of comment of the day. With luck I can get a couple more of these done before moving on to the serious writing: literature review section re-write of my dissertation. Fun and games.
I have always enjoyed Fred and Ginger's movies. Remember that line about Ginger Roger's dancing abilities? "She was a better dancer than Fred Astaire because she did all of her moves backwards." Or something like that.
I have yet to see the movie ARGO, and the points you raise make the movie a worthy movie to watch. Now that it is available on DVD, Val and I will probably rent it someday - once the initial wave of sales and rentals peters out - and see what all the hoopla is all about. Anything that piques interest in history, old or recent, is a good thing in my book. I remember when this all went down, too. Your point about creating a dramatic ending instead of being dead-on accurate to what really happened is to be expected about Hollywood: they're in it for the bucks, so it's not surprising. Still, ARGO touches on a subject that is reasonably pertinent to now, so it's worth viewing for that reason alone. Besides, the American public loves a happy ending, especially one where "we win." Or something like that.
Lots of reviews this time, folks, and a fine mixture of movies, television shows and books (oh, my!). Two weeks from today George R.R. Martin will be in town for two events: the opening weekend of the "Deeper Than Swords" exhibit at the Cushing Library of Special Collections (where the science fiction and fantasy collection is housed) at Texas A&M University, and also Martin will be the special guest of honor at Aggiecon 44 that same weekend (March 22-24, 2013). The "Deeper Than Swords" exhibit runs through most of the rest of this year, and displays works by Martin and other goodies from the collection. Cushing Library is the home of his papers, etc., so this is a major coup for TAMU. Here is the link for the exhibit: http://deeperthanswords.library.tamu.edu/index.html.
Thank you for explaining the stylistic criteria for MT VOID. I have never had any problem with your weekly newszine, and appreciate your producing it. Will you two be at LoneStarCon 3? If so, we can finally meet since I am hosting the fanzine lounge. Which reminds me, this coming week--it's Spring Break, so not teaching Monday-Friday next week--I will hopefully be finalizing my plans/layout for the lounge and what kinds of things will be occurring there. Hope to see you folks there.
With that, I believe I shall end this missive. Many thanks, and in the words of that Canadian philosopher, Red Green, "keep your stick on the ice." [-jp]
We had a heavy snowfall yesterday, but the temperature is above 50 today so all that is left is water... LOTS AND LOTS of water. Evelyn says our back yard looks like a Louisiana swamp.
ARGO is a very enjoyable film, but I have to say it is not worthy of all the praise it is getting. Even with the real ending on ARGO it would have been a happy ending with a United States/Canadian victory. This way it was more exciting than accurate.
It is great to see George R. R. Martin becoming a celebrity after all these years. He certainly has paid his dues over the years.
Good hearing from you. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
The film discussion group read "Waldo" by Robert A. Heinlein (ISBN 978-0-450-39730-1) in conjunction with the film SLEEP DEALER. The film deals with the idea of "telepresence," which is just a fancy name for what Heinlein called waldoes. (And not just Heinlein--the name has passed into common usage.) Published in 1942, so presumably written in 1941, it has a lot of interesting references. Everyone smokes, even in space. It mentions Bell Laboratories. Heinlein predicts that we will become a nation--or in "Waldo", a world--of people who are out of shape, who shun physical energy, and, if not a generation of stamp collectors, at least a generation of video gamers. (Of course, the reason in "Waldo" is not of the people's own choosing.) One of the main characters wants people to go back to the "better" petroleum-based energies instead of the radiant atomic power everyone is using. (The radiant energy reminds me of Nicola Tesla's conception of power distribution.) There is no World War II in Heinlein's projected future (and the narrative voice refers to "the Great War"), but there is atomic energy and something called "the United Nations". I assume that name was being bandied about in 1941 rather than that Heinlein invented that term as well, but note that Heinlein does not assume that the League of Nations is just re-energized.
Heinlein also claims that furniture in space can be very fragile because nothing has any weight, but this ignores the fact that everything has mass. It is true that a very fragile cage would hold a supply of clothing (for example) if it were placed there, but if someone with a mass of 200 pounds moving across the room at 4 miles an hour bumped into it, it would either break from the impact, or be pushed into a wall that would have the same effect.
The story also veers into fantasy, with people getting energy (and other more mystical things) from "the Other World." What exactly constitutes this "Other World" is not clear, but I am somewhat reminded of THE GODS THEMSELVES by Isaac Asimov, where they are pulling energy from another universe. In THE GODS THEMSELVES, the characters are concerned when they discover that their actions are damaging the other universe. In WALDO, Waldo does not show any concern about the effect on the Other World. (He does seem to think it is a real world, not just a conceptual one.) His unconcern is not surprising, because he clearly does not care about this world or its inhabitants either.
I was watching GODS AND GENERALS the other day and noticed that among the many other advantages the Confederates had at Fredericksburg, they seemed to have used an "assembly line" approach to firing.
Earlier the film showed the nine steps involved in reloading:
At Marye's Heights, we see the front row of the Confederates firing, then handing back their rifles to the two rows behind them for reloading, and being passed a loaded rifle in return. This let the Confederates use their best marksman for all the shooting, not just a third of it, but in addition, each of the two back rows only has to go through four steps.
But my question is, am I right in that they saved even more time by not restoring the ramrod to the rifle each time? In the film they do not seem to, and that would speed reloading considerably. The back row would half-cock, handle, tear, and charge the cartridge, while the middle row would ram the cartridge, prime the rifle, and pass the rifle forward to the front row. Because the shooter was not handling the ramrod, it did not have to be "stowed" before firing. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. --Gore VidalTweet
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