@@@@@ @ @ @@@@@ @ @ @@@@@@@ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @ @ @ @ @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/07/13 -- Vol. 31, No. 49, Whole Number 1757
Table of Contents
More on Changing Your Email Address (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
A further explanation on changing your email address:
I had said that you can just send an email to email@example.com from the new address.
That is true, but then you need to be sure you respond to a reply asking you to confirm this address. If your spam filters (or your ISP's filters) block this confirmation request and so you don't reply to it, your new address won't get added. I would like to think this is a rare occurrence, but who knows.
The safest thing is probably still to email us that you're trying to add yourself. Then if we don't see notification that the new email has been added, we can try to follow up on it in the logs. You can also go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mtvoid/join and join there.
To remove the old address, you can still mail us, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from the old address. [-ecl]
I Could Never Do That Again (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I have a sort of joke I do when I listen to the Will Shortz weekly puzzle on NPR. He will be giving clues for the home puzzle and I will be pretending to solve it and forcing what I get as a solution. I may end up looking for a place name that starts "Tz" and I will insist to Evelyn that the solution is Tzennessee or something like that. This week the puzzle was:
Shortz: Take a word that starts with "g".
Shortz: Change the "g" to a "t" ...
Shortz: ... and rearrange the letters to make a word that means the same thing as the first word.
Me, a little astounded: "Titan".
Apparently without even knowing what I was to do with the word I had picked at random only knowing the first letter was the right word. Now I am going to try flipping a coin and see if it lands on its edge. [-mrl]
More on Ellipses and the Earth (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I wrote a few weeks ago about ellipses (05/24/13) and a surprising result that just looking at the behavior of the loci of the ellipse drops you into the same formulae, the Lorentz transforms, which define the behavior of particles traveling at relativistic speed.
I got a question from the erudite Fred Lerner asking, "Why is the orbit of a planet around its star an ellipse rather than a simple circle?"
Good question. And let's say that with my two years of college physics I might not be the most qualified person to answer it. I would say the answer to your question is "initial conditions." With perfect initial conditions a planet could travel around its star in a perfect circle. A circle is a special case of an ellipse. It is an ellipse in which the two foci are each the center of the circle.
I think the best way to see what is happening is to picture a gravity well. We live in an enlightened age in which it is easy to picture a gravity well. A lot of science museums have a large plastic funnel-like surface to show the workings of gravity. Perhaps you have seen one.
You roll a ball or a coin from the outer edge and it goes around and around the funnel. As it loses energy it goes in smaller and smaller loops until it is finally captured by the hole in the center. This is a good simulation of an object orbiting the sun until it loses energy due to friction and goes spiraling into the sun. Planets orbiting a star loose very little energy as they orbit so it can take a very long time, perhaps on the order of trillions of years, before they fall into their suns. Suppose you throw a ball just perfectly just inside the outer edge of funnel. It would go almost in a perfect circle. It would be a perfect circle except that it is losing energy by friction. You would see the ball or coin fall into the hole at the center. If it is a coin you have just contributed to the museum. Get a receipt.
Now a five-year-old comes along, and he wants to play too--you know five-year-olds. He throws a ball and it goes much nearer to the center, but still goes by it. Then it starts up the far side, but can go only so far. It loses momentum and starts falling back toward the center. It is still too high on the side to fall into the center. It comes back up the near side for a while and loses momentum and starts falling back toward the center again. If it was losing very little momentum to friction it would continue tracing nearly the same ellipse with the hole at one focus. It would not be traveling in a circle, but it would be traveling in an ellipse.
So the answer to the question is if an object had just the right momentum in the right direction it could circle the star in a perfect circle. But the probability of that happening is nil. Nature throws matter like a five-year-old does. Both balls would be traveling in ellipses, but only in very special conditions, conditions that really have probability zero of happening by chance, would the planet go in a perfect circle.
But let me ask a related question. Throw a ball up in the air (but not straight up) and it will fall back to earth following the trajectory of a parabola. Throw that ball hard enough and fast enough and the curvature of the Earth becomes a factor. When it falls down the Earth has curved down out of its path and it goes around the Earth. It is circling the Earth in orbit. (Maybe a more accurate verb would be "ellipsing" the Earth, since it probably is not going in a circle.) That is what orbiting is, it is just perpetually falling past the edge of the Earth. So when the ball falls down if the Earth extends that far or not determines if it will fall to Earth or go into orbit.
Now comes the trick. The Great Mystic Leeperini (GML) can predict almost immediately if when the ball comes down later will it just hit the Earth or will it be beyond the edge of the Earth and fall into orbit. How does the GML do it?
You can tell by the curve that the ball follows if it is an arc of an ellipse or an arc of a parabola. If it is an arc of a parabola then the ball will hit the Earth. If it is an arc of an ellipse it will miss the edge of the world and go into orbit around the planet. I just have to study the curve that it is following to know if it is tracing a parabola or and ellipse.
Is something wrong with that logic? It sure sounds like it. The GML admits that the trick is flawed.
Actually, I claim that when you throw the ball it always follows an ellipse. It is just very close to being a parabola. Sorry, my apologies to your physics teacher who taught you it travelled in a parabola. It is nearly a parabola. As an object moves horizontally, the direction of straight down changes very little. But it changes. If gravity was always pulling the ball straight down that spheroid really would follow a parabola. But that could happen only if the pull was toward a point mass at infinity. Then the pull of gravity would always be in exactly the same direction. The vectors of pull would always be parallel to each other. But that is not the world we live in. This is all sort of a thought experiment.
If you throw the ball hard enough and fast enough the ball will go into orbit. And gravity would always be pulling it straight down, but it would have gone far enough that you have a different straight down. The direction gravity pulls will always be toward a point mass at the center of the earth, but you will have traveled far enough that straight down will no longer be parallel to what straight down was when you threw the ball. Every orbit the direction of "straight down" will rotate around the ball 360 degrees always pointing at the center of the earth.
When you throw the ball it is essentially orbiting a point-mass at the center of the Earth and it is traveling in an ellipse. What stops its orbit is the planet clumsily gets in its way. In a sense, if you had an ellipse and pulled one of the foci off to infinity, the curve would become a parabola as a limiting case.
Incidentally, Dale Skran points out that it is highly unlikely that 1) you could collect enough data to distinguish a parabola from an ellipse like I describe above and 2) that the velocity would tell you whether the ball would go into orbit or not. True on both counts, but I am doing this in sort of a thought experiment world where you are given a formula for the exact position of the ball at any moment and this is all being done on an idealized planet whose mass is exactly some M. Here I am making an observation about the relation of parabolas and ellipses rather than engineering a practical solution that anyone could possibly use. [-mrl]
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (film review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
J. J. Abrams returns with an all-new and improved second "Star Trek" movie--STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS. I like the second Abrams outing better than the first--the movie mercifully lacks the sophomoric humor of the first, i.e., Scotty trapped in the water filled tube scene. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto perfectly capture the spirit of Kirk and Spock, with the rest of the cast doing a convincing imitation of an alternate universe "Star Trek" crew. Rather like IRON MAN 3, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS starts out leading the viewer on the path that we are watching another warmed over version of Bin Laden, but instead we are treated to a new take on someone who may be the fan favorite "Star Trek" villain.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS looks fantastic in 3D--filled with wonderful alien vistas and gorgeous technology. The plot is plenty complex to fill the time but never veers into over-complication. I've seen two complaints about STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS that I'd like to rebut. The first is that the movie does not feel like "real Trek" but has a few scenes and bits inserted to please the fan base. I'm not sure what movie this critic watched, but the STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS I saw was Trek from start to finish. The same reviewer also opined that it is odd that the leadership of Starfleet would gather in an undefended room on a tall tower. This is on the same level as saying it would be odd for the United States military leadership to meet in the Pentagon on September 11. See--the US military meets in their headquarters all the time, and they don't generally expect that one bright sunny day there will be a surprise attack. They don't ring the Pentagon with troops, missiles, and guns because we were not at war (or at least so they thought--Bin Laden had a different view!) and until September 11, nobody had ever attacked the building.
Another complaint I've seen is that STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS is not a good name. Although STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS may not be the most original name, it is highly appropriate. There are multiple levels of meaning as applied by Abrams. First, it refers to the voyage into space, literally, into darkness. Second, it refers to the journey of the main villain, who, although with understandable intentions, makes a personal descent into darkness. Third, it refers to the actions of a faction inside Starfleet, who, with similar good intentions, move to the deepest darkness of all, and become a force of pure evil.
I rate STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS a strong +3 on the -4 to +4 scale. This is a must-see summer movie that pretty much everyone except for small children will enjoy. There is considerable violent action, and a couple of scenes of underwear-clad women that you could see on any beach.
=========== Spoiler Alert ============
Since a good bit of the fun of INTO DARKESS comes from several plot twists, I am warning those who don't want spoilers to stop now.
The returning villain is none other than our old friend, Kahn Noonien Singh, genetic superman of the 1990s, played marvelously by Benedict Cumberbatch. This is a somewhat darker, more desperate, and less grandiloquent version of Kahn who has been enslaved by an evil faction of Star Fleet to produce weapons for a future war with the Klingons. As in his first "Star Trek" appearance in the episode "Space Seed" (1967), Kahn is a brilliant military leader and engineering genius with amazing fighting abilities. In the original episodes, Kahn is bested, barely, by an older James T. Kirk, who downs him with what amounts to a dirty trick. In DARKNESS, Kahn has no trouble beating a younger Kirk, but is later pitted against Spock in a true battle of the supermen.
One significant departure from "Space Seed" has Kahn with remarkable re-generative powers, such that others can be cured of virtually any disease using his blood. The Kahn of "Space Seed" could have had such blood, but it is simply not mentioned. In "Space Seed" Kahn is often referred to as product of selective breeding, but in STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS it is implied that he was the product of genetic engineering. This is more a result of scientific progress in the real world since "Space Seed" was made than anything else. Since technically genetic engineering and selective breeding can achieve the same results, this is also a bit of a distinction without a difference, although selective breeding is almost certainly the slower approach. It is physically impossible for a selective breeding program on Earth to have produced supermen in the 1990s unless the program had been in secret operation for centuries. This fact is reflected in that in the Kahn-related 3-episode arc from the STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE television series and in the various Kahn "Star Trek" novels selective breeding is replaced with genetic engineering.
I found the Kahn of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS more convincing as a superman--when having nothing to do, he sits silently, gathering his energies, and then snaps into frenzied action. He is less given to speechifying and more to action than Ricardo Montalban. Quite a bit of time in "Space Seed" is devoted to lionizing Kahn, both via the viewpoint of the female Enterprise crewmember who is fascinated with him (Marla McGivers), and via the bridge crew that admit that although he was "a dictator who ruled much of Asia" he was the "best of them." "Space Seed" is more ambiguous on eugenics than I remembered. Although the weakness of the enhanced humans seems to be that superhuman abilities lead to superhuman ambition and constant infighting, the final judgment to pardon Kahn provides him and his 72 surviving crew a planet of their own to develop. This suggests that the writer was ambivalent about human enhancement, and that although it may have led to warfare on the earth in the 1990s, there was some hope that given a fresh start, something good might come of it.
As is typical in Trek, SSTAR TREK INTO DARKNESS does not deal with the technology that created Kahn and his wonder-blood at all, leaving him and his crew once again in cryogenic capsules, no doubt to return in a future Abram's movie for a rematch with Kirk and Spock. It is virtually impossible to imagine that the Federation would make no effort to understand and replicate the restorative properties of Kahn's blood once it became known, but this willful blindness is true to Roddenberry's vision. Although the "Star Trek" universe features all manner of amazing physical technologies, including warp drive and teleportation, the medical science seems only marginally advanced over our own, something best made explicable by an off-camera system of repression preventing research into life extension and genetic engineering. This is rendered more plausible by the all-encompassing cocoon of the TREK lifestyle, which seems completely controlled by the Federation bureaucracy. The ultimate irony of "Star Trek" is that while superficially bold, it is in reality inward and backward looking, having no place for anyone, such as Kahn, who has their own vision of things.
For a contrasting vision of the future created during the same period as original STAR TREK, I recommend James Schmitz's "Hub" stories, and especially DEMON BREED. The Hub is the opposite of the Federation, a vast anarchic wilderness very lightly controlled, led by an invisible elite of supermen, busily focused on improving the human kind via free choice. The rulers of the Hub would not care if Kahn conquered a planet or two--they don't manage things at that level. Most or all of Schmitz's Hub stories are available in a paperback collection, THE HUB: DANGEROUS TERRRITORY. This includes DEMON BREED and another story starring the same major characters, TROUBLE TIDE. DEMON BREED is sometimes available with the title THE TUVELA, which is what the "mythical" superhuman rulers of the Hub are called. Schmitz is known for creating female lead characters in adventure stories long before it became fashionable, and Nile Etland and her two genetically enhanced otters are among his best creations. Although Schmitz wrote many more Telzy Amberdon stories, I always liked Nile Etland better. Telzy is so powerful she is the Superman of the Hub, while Nile is more along the line of Batman with two otters, not looking for a ring. Enjoy!
P.S.: This ending is a reference to Mark Leeper's humorous parody of LORD OF THE RINGS, which he encapsulates as "Three Otters in Search of a Ring." I apologize for the inside joke, but I could not resist! [-dls]
End of Season TV Roundup (television reviews by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):
It's that time again--the end of the regular TV season, and the start of the summer season. Time to lasso the SF TV shows and examine how the season went! First, however, I want to note that ALPHAS (SyFy) has not been renewed for a third season. This happened a while back but somehow escaped my notice. I liked the first ALPAS season a lot, but the second season was weaker, and I guess the network execs noticed. My main issue with the second season lay in the tactical action as executed by the ALPHAS team. I know they are not (for the most part) trained professionals, but time after time they would do something really stupid, on the level of walking around a haunted house calling out "Here, kitty, kitty." At some point credulity is strained to the breaking point. It's too bad, because there were some good second-season episodes, and I like most of the characters.
LOST GIRL (SyFy) remains a guilty pleasure, but also remained a show that had just enough gross ick and sex to deny it a wider audience. It's not bad, and the second season is similar in quality to the first, but I don't think it is going to become super-popular or break much new ground.
WAREHOUSE 13 (SyFy) has started a new summer season, and about three episodes in it seems to be staying the course--good acting, fun moments, absurd but vaguely plausible plots as the agents struggle to save the world from the next evil artifact.
The new CW show ARROW concluded with a bang as Green Arrow (a massively muscled and frequently shirtless Stephen Arnell) fights Merlyn to the death against the backdrop of a Starling City threatened by earthquake bombs. I like this show a lot. It features understated superhero adventures involving a whole bunch of DC characters you probably haven't heard of (Huntress, Slade Wilson, Deadshot, and so on) none of whom have actual super powers. ARROW provides an imaginative and plausible back story for how Oliver Queen, rich playboy, became the Green Arrow, a super-tough fighter, who, as he says, "does not need the bow" to do this. ARROW is one of the best TV superhero shows yet--better than SMALLVILLE, NO ORDINARY FAMILY, or THE CAPE. It lacks the sweep and cast of HEROS, but is well worth your time. Each episode has a main plot, but there are reqular flashbacks that gradually unfold Oliver's adventures while marooned on a remote island. ARROW has been renewed for a second season starting in the fall, and I'm looking forward to it.
NIKITA's (CW) third season held my interest well. Few TV spy shows take their premise as seriously as NIKTA, or keep up the suspense as well by allowing anything to happen. NIKTA is light SF on the techno-thriller side, but the fourth and probably final season will set our intrepid band of heroes against "The Shop," a group of unethical scientists that provided Division with its bleeding edge technology, promising more hi-tech fun and games with the world at stake. Watch for a final shortened fourth and final season of NIKITA that will start mid-season in 2014. If you like chick super-spies, NIKITA compares favorably to ALIAS.
Sam and Dean have just finished season eight of SUPERNATURAL (CW), and I understand two more seasons have been contracted for. The major change of season eight is that an entire new strand of secret history is introduced via the means of Sam and Dean's grandfather in a time-travel episode. It turns out that they were both destined to be part of a secret organization called "The Men of Letters," who operated out of a magical art deco hideout near a dam. This introduces new villains like the Thule Society, a gang of Nazi necromancers, and new heroes, for example, a team of Jews that used Golems to fight the Nazis. There were some surprisingly good episodes, including the "found footage" werewolf episode, and two new episodes featuring every fanboy's favorite gamer, Felicia Day, a refugee from EUREKA, as Charlie Bradbury. SUPERNATURAL remains entertaining if not profound, so I'll be sticking around for the next season. My son Sam is a fan as well, but it could just be that one of our two heroes is named Sam! Just a reminder--SUPERNATURAL is one of the more violent/horrific shows on TV, although some new series like THE FOLLOWING (which I am not following!) are probably more violent.
J. J. Abram's new REVOLUTION (NBC) remains an incomplete thought. I seem to have missed a key episode that explained more about why the power has been turned off, but it has something to do with flooding the world with nanites that both curtail the flow of electricity and also enable the healing of certain diseases. This may be impossible or even absurd, but it's not obviously silly, so I'm still watching. Episode to episode REVOLUTION works well as a tale of post-apocalyptic warfare. One group of our heroes are on quest to turn the power back on by reaching something called "The Tower," which appears to have, among other things, what is no doubt a nanite infused monster in the basement. The second group is leading the revolution against the sadistic and increasingly desperate General Monroe, who now has the ability to locally power up weapons, and is deploying things like nukes and weaponized anthrax. A continuing theme is how far to go to win a war in which everything seems to be on the table. If I've written this much, I must be still interested, so I'll be back for the second season (REVOLUTION will be returning in the fall with a full 22 episodes), although I'm not yet at the point of strongly recommending the show, which is probably of greatest interest to war gamers and fans of military SF.
DEFIANCE (SyFy) comes to us all new and shiny from the SyFy channel, and it has the look and feel of an epic SF tale. Certainly the special effects are impressive. The Earth has been forcibly "terraformed" by aliens, and then colonized by a vast array of different species, transforming our Earth into something new and completely different. The TV show apparently has tie-ins to a video game as well. Sadly, however, DEFIANCE appears more as a horse opera than anything else. It is possible to re-envision everything that happens with cowboys, Indians, Mexican soldiers, outlaws, a tough ex-military sheriff and so on, with about zero change in the plot. The attempts to introduce aspects of different alien cultures are for the most part not interesting, and a lot of the plotting is cribbed from GAME OF THRONES. I wanted to like DEFIANCE, but can't recommend it. I'll watch some more episodes, but I don't expect much.
I'll reserve the best for last--CONTINUUM (SyFy). This Canadian show is the best new SF TV show I've seen in a long time. It has it all--time travel, time war, moral ambiguity, political speculation, engaging characters, interesting technology, police procedural action, SF murder mysteries, and a complex plot. Season Two starts in early June, and you are cordially invited to come aboard. You can probably catch up on-line, or by ordering the season one DVD from Amazon. I'm about half done re-watching season one on DVD with my wife, and it has improved in the second viewing. I'm convinced that small cuts made for the TV broadcast sometimes significantly alter the apparent quality of the program. I was a bit concerned that the early episodes were overly maudlin, but the second time around I found the balance appropriate. The main character would naturally be initially overwhelmed with a sense of loss, but as time goes on she would increasingly come to see that she has to go on--either her timeline is lost forever, or she can return to it--she has to find out by actually seeking to go back (or more accurately, go forward to her own time). Season Two promises to be interesting, and it appears that the writers are going somewhere with the story. It is always possible that stupidity will follow, but so far, so good. [-dls]
FRANCES HA (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: There is not a lot of plot to this account of a dancer in her late twenties looking to better her existence by being connected to professional dancing and find an appropriate place to live and someone to live with. This is very minimalist storytelling much of which feels improvised in front of the camera. The film is more of a character situation than a character story. Greta Gerwig stars and co-writes with director Noah Baumbach. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
What can you say about a film in which the warmest and most enjoyable sequences are those scored with Georges Delarue's music for KING OF HEARTS? I don't remember what was happening at the time, but the music was better than the story.
Greta Gerwig plays Frances, who is entering her late twenties and for the first time is finding out that her dreams of being a great innovative artistic dancer just are not going to happen the way she had planned. The rubber is just starting to meet the road. For the first time, she does not get a part in a show she wants. Her lifelong best friend and occasional lover Sophie (played by Mickey Sumner) is going to move out of the apartment they share and is going to live with a boyfriend. Until now Sophie was someone she could run through the Manhattan streets with and could urinate on subway tracks with. (Charming.) Now all the cotter pins that held Frances's life together are being pulled out and the life is falling apart.
Frances is looking for financial stability and a chance to use her skills as a professional dancer. The model for the film seems to be Woody Allen's MANHATTAN. Like MANHATTAN the film is shot in monochrome. The plot is not strong, but the dialog seems to be the film's focus. Instead of a cute Woody Allen we have Gerwig whose charm is present more in theory than in actual fact. The character is in her late twenties and her personality is mostly likable but verges on the obnoxious and has perhaps intentionally just an edge of desperation. Certainly her cuteness seems a little strained when it is so often tracking shots of Gerwig running on the street.
Director Noah Baumbach (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE) says he tries to tell a big chunk of the story with each scene, but that is not that useful if overall the story does not progress. Too many of her gags end with the viewer asking what was the point of that scene. In one sequence Frances is taking a male friend to dinner and when she goes to pay, the card is rejected. She leaves her friend at the table and runs out to find an ATM machine. It is hard to find so we have a lot of Gerwig's trademark running through streets. This causes her to fall down, and when she returns to the restaurant she finds she is slightly bleeding. So she takes care of her injury. I was first saying to myself "And ...?" When we move on to the next sequence and this one does not seem to impact anything I now am left asking "So ...?" The idea seems to be that we are so entranced by Gerwig that we want to know everything that happens to her. Perhaps it need not come together for the Tweet generation. We are expected to just be enough entranced by Gerwig's physical and floppy graceful style that that is sufficient. I rate FRANCES HA a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2347569/ combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ frances_ha_2013/
1-900-TONIGHT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Two lonely people and the walls they build around themselves are the subjects of this comedy-drama written and directed by Michael Di Jiacomo. John Turturro plays Leroy, who does not get out much when not on his job as a bicycle courier. One night Leroy calls a phone-sex line and is connected with Patti (Katherine Borowitz), who is equally neurotic. Through a series of phone calls they open up to each other and form a tenuous bond. The acting is good but the viewer has a hard time emotionally investing in their relationship. Because the overwhelming majority of the film is just phone conversation, this material almost could have been better served by being a radio drama. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
Leroy (a.k.a. Wooly, played by John Turturro) is a marginal human being. He is a bicycle courier by day and at night he hides in his room from the world. One night he calls a phone-sex line and chooses Patti (Katherine Borowitz) as the least objectionable of the candidate voices at the other end. Knowing little more about Patti than that she shares his taste for fish sticks, he requests a call from Patti. When he gets it she has no interest in phone sex, but does go into rambling conversations. Though they do not hit it off immediately, now that Patti has Leroy's phone number she calls him repeatedly. The conversations do little more than give us tragic but also perhaps whimsical views of the two people. Leroy can draw off of Patti's emotional balance, but soon it becomes clear that she has severe problems of her own behind the calm façade.
We are never really sure why the two lonely people are doing what they are doing, and getting to know them through subsequent conversations does not help a lot. Most of what we know about the characters is only subtly implied. In one conversation Patti refuses to talk unless Leroy is talking. When he pauses, she pauses. She is playing a game with Leroy that seems pointless. Soon she gives up on this behavior--what she calls "an old behavior"--and moves on to her next idiosyncrasy never to repeat this one. Each is not so much a person, but a collection of strange behaviors. Leroy is floored by what he hears coming over the phone, but is oddly charmed by Patti and half attracted to her. It is hard to take Patti as being more than just a set of contrived eccentricities. Even if we do take her seriously we wonder if Leroy really should be attracted to her. Any long-term relationship of the two is doomed by her fighting her own personal devils. For the film to have any charm the viewer needs to be invested in their rapport and writer/director Michael Di Jiacomo has not created a relationship the viewer has much interest in.
Ninety percent of the film is just the conversations on the phone relieved with very little and usually mundane action. With little modification this could have been done as a radio play. The story takes a long time to develop into much and the ending in a contrivance.
Ashleigh Brilliant drew a cartoon of a turtle saying, "I am glad I am going slowly, because I might be going in the wrong direction." That relationship between Patti and Leroy may develop slowly. but they really may not be right for each other. 1-900-TONIGHT (a.k.a. SOMEWHERE TONIGHT) is a quirky romance that is never quite satisfying. It never really works. I rate 1-900-TONIGHT a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034293/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/somewhere_tonight_2012/
Hugo vs. HUGO (letter of comment by Kip Williams):
In response to Evelyn's error in transcribing Kip Williams's letter of comment in the 05/31/13 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:
Error in transmission--I love the plot twists in Hugo, as in Victor Hugo. My comment was not intended to address the movie HUGO, which I liked, but not to the same extent.
I may be repeating myself, but anyone interested in a radio version of LES MISERABLES, a little over three hours in length, starring and supervised by Orson Welles, that's at archive.org. [-kw]
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I'm so used to people sending movie titles sans capitalization or quotation marks that I automatically read "Hugo" as a movie title. Clearly in the context (LES MISERABLES) that was completely wrong. [-ecl]
I have to say that I also recommend the Welles six-part dramatization of LES MISERABLES. It is one of the best adaptations of the novel I have heard/seen/experienced. Find it at http://archive.org/details/OrsonWelles-LesMiserables1937 or find it with lots of other radio drama at http://www.mercurytheatre.info/. [-mrl]
Writing Styles (letter of comment by Jim Susky):
In response to Evelyn's review of THE UNITED STATES OF ARUGULA in the 05/24/13 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:
Some like the sound of their own convoluted sentences. This edit took less than a minute--which sounds better to me--with a little work it might even sing a bit. "-ing words" should be used only sparingly. Mouthfuls should be split up using periods. (Wonder if Kamp eats that way, too?)
[Original:] "In 1976 when she was still only twenty-three, Piper opened up her own place in Madison, L'Etoile, which was, if anything, an even greater triumph than the Ovens of Brittany, its dedication to local foods inspiring the food press to posit Piper as a Midwestern analogue to Alice Waters."
[Re-write:] "In 1976 when she was still only twenty-three, Piper opened her own restaurant in Madison. L'Etoile was an even greater triumph than the Ovens of Brittany. Its dedication to local foods inspired the food press to posit Piper as a Midwestern analogue to Alice Waters."
[Just] a nod of agreement with your wife on writing that is too "structural". Except for substituting "restaurant" for "place", I used all of his words, but arranged them more serviceably.
I wonder, how does a "real" editor, one paid by a publisher, influence an author under contract to *use periods*--to tighten his prose?
Would Kamp be insulted by the reconstruction I offered? Style is tricky. Some readers (many of which, are writers I imagine) seem to love those kinds of super-structures (though, I'm not one of them).
It's been a long time since I read Asimovian fiction--but I've recently read two of his longest works--Vol 2 of his first autobiography and his big Guide to Science (1960, 1965, and 1984 editions). Asimov's prose sounds like he talking to you--either in a lecture situation or in a speech. Kamp's sounds like a class I'm going to drop. [-js]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I recently (again) listened to the BBC adaptation of Isaac Asimov's "Foundation Trilogy" and was inspired to continue by re-reading FOUNDATION'S EDGE by Isaac Asimov (ISBN 978-0-553-29338-8). You know how when someone asks on Usenet in what order to read the "Foundation" series, the answer is almost always, "Read the Trilogy, then stop"? Well, they're right. And why are they right? Let me count the ways.
Asimov wrote the initial trilogy over nine years, from 1942 to 1951. Then thirty-two years went by before he wrote FOUNDATION'S EDGE. In the interim, a lot happened, including "Women's Lib". Asimov felt he had to update his series to have more women in positions other than loving wife or precocious teenager. This might have worked, but when he tried to retro-fit it to include Preem Palver's wife, it just seemed very forced. And he seems to have forgotten how to write strong female characters. Harla Branno is just not convincing in the way that Susan Calvin was.
In addition, Asimov decided he needed be explicit in tying all his novels together in a single "Future History". So he wrote hooks for the robot novels, and even for THE END OF ETERNITY. (Admittedly, the novels THE CURRENTS OF SPACE, PEBBLE IN THE SKY, and THE STARS, LIKE DUST already contained passing references to Trantor et al.)
At first glance, ALIVE! by Loren D. Estleman (ISBN 978-0-7653-3331-5) appeared to be an alternate history in which Bela Lugosi did not turn down the role of the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN and Rudolph Valentino became a private detective. In fact, the picture and references to Lugosi as the Monster on the cover refer entirely to the ten minutes of test footage of his that was shot and then lost, and Valentino (no first name is ever given) is a "film detective" working for the Film Preservation Department at UCLA. When a friend of Valentino's is murdered and it turns out to involve the lost footage, Valentino starts investigating. There's even a character patterned after Forrest J. Ackerman.
Estleman makes a couple of mistakes. He says the town of Tarzana was named by Edgar Rice Burroughs after his jungle hero. Burroughs named Tarzana Ranch (which he then subdivided and sold as a whites-only community under a restrictive covenant; it was ten years later that the residents named the town Tarzana.
And he mistakenly refers to "As it was with the DRACULA star's signature accent, one had only to assume Karloff's stiff-legged, groping-armed walk to tell people ... whom he was imitating." But the groping arms came about in FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN when the Monster was supposedly blind (from a bad blood transfusion), and that was well after Karloff stopped playing the Monster. And who was playing the Monster in that film? None other than Bela Lugosi, meaning that ironically it is Lugosi's performance that people imitate to portray Karloff!
All in all, ALIVE! Is an okay mystery, but clearly aimed (along with the rest of the series) primarily at film fans. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: That famous writers block is a myth as far as I'm concerned. I think bad writers must have a great difficulty writing. They don't want to do it. They have become writers out of reasons of ambition. It must be a great strain to them to make marks on a page when they really have nothing much to say, and don't enjoy doing it. I'm not so sure what I have to say but I certainly enjoy making sentences. --Gore VidalTweet
Go to our home page