MT VOID 10/18/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 16, Whole Number 1776

MT VOID 10/18/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 16, Whole Number 1776

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
10/18/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 16, Whole Number 1776

Table of Contents

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

Nine Horror Films Under Nine Minutes Each:

This is a nice collection of short films for Halloween:

Merging (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I hate the idea that J. J. Abrams is taking over both STAR WARS and STAR TREK. Somehow I think that they should be kept separate, like Church and State. [-mrl]

Playing with Infinity (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I saw a reference to the Ross-Littlewood Infinity Paradox. Never having heard of it, I thought I would share it with the MT VOID readers. It is one of the many paradoxes dealing with infinity and limits approaching infinity. Infinity can be very tricky and counter-intuitive to deal with. That is what makes it fun. Positions of objects determine how they are counted and that can make the difference between whether there are an infinite number of objects or none at all.

Suppose you have a bag and it has one ball in it. The ball is labeled 0. It is 10 AM. In the 1st hour you remove the ball labeled 0 and replace it with ten balls labeled 1 to 10. You now have 10 balls in the bag.

In the next 1/2 hour you remove the ball labeled 1 and replace it with ten balls labeled 11 to 20. You now have 19 balls in the bag.

In the next 1/4 hour you remove the ball labeled 2 and replace it with ten balls labeled 21 to 30. You now have 29 balls in the bag.

In the next 1/8 hour you remove the ball labeled 3 and replace it with ten balls labeled 31 to 40. You now have 39 balls in the bag.

In the next 1/16 hour you remove the ball labeled 4 and replace it with ten balls labeled 41 to 50. You now have 49 balls in the bag.

[I am sorry to say you probably get the point and I have to go back to typing everything out rather than just cutting and pasting the previous two lines and tailoring a few numbers.]

You can see what is going on. As we get closer and closer to noon the bag--which I forgot to say is made of infinite super-spandex and stretches as much as we want it--will get more and more balls in it. The question is what happens to the bag at noon. Well as noon approaches the bag gets more and more balls in it. The super-spandex gets tested to its ultimate limit. Pick any number of balls--say a quintillion--and at some point there will be more balls in the bag than that. This will be very close to noon. But what happens at the stroke of noon?

Think about it for a moment or two. I'll wait....

Okay, you are back.

If you said you don't know the answer, that is a pretty good answer. On one hand on each iteration the bag gets ten more balls in it. It must have an infinite number at the end of the two hours. But if you think about it the bag is really empty at the end of the two hours.

Now I know some of you out there are going to doubt me. The bag keeps getting bigger and then suddenly it is empty? Well prove me wrong. You tell me the number of a ball that is left in the bag at noon. Well we know it is not ball number 1. That one was removed in the first step. Ball number 2 was removed on the 2nd step Ball number 57 was removed on the 57th step. Every ball in the bag gets removed from the bag some time before noon. Well an infinite number of balls is a whole lot different from no balls at all. I think the bag is empty, but is there anyone out there who wants to suggest a different answer?

This reminds me a lot of the two farmers and the two birds. You have two parallel furrows in a stretch of ground reaching to infinity. In furrow there is a farmer. Each farmer--call them A and B--starts at the beginning of his furrow and drops a kernel of corn and advances each second. Each farmer is followed by a bird determined to eat his corn. But the bird can eat only one kernel of corn every two seconds. Bird A follows close on the heels of farmer A and eats every other kernel of corn. Let us say the corn kernels are labeled A1, A2, A3,... The bird eats A1, A3, A5,... Bird B is lazier. He eats B1, B2, B3, ... and falls further and further behind the farmer. Each bird eats a kernel the same instant so they each eat the same number of kernels of corn. But Bird A leaves behind an infinite number of corn kernels. At the end of 2T seconds each bird has eaten T kernels of corn. Bird A has left behind kernels A2, A4, A6, etc so he has left behind as many kernels as farmer A started with. In fact you can put what he leaves in one-to-one correspondence with the number of kernels that Farmer A started with. Bird B has eaten every kernel of corn. If you do not believe Bird B has eaten all the kernels in his furrow, tell me which one he leaves behind. Both birds eat the same number of kernels at every point. Bird A is awarded an Earth Day lapel pin. Farmer B invites his bird for Thanksgiving Dinner. [-mrl]

LIFE TRACKER (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A corporation claims to be able to tell precise details of a person's future by examining the person's DNA. It is a familiar theme in fiction, movies, and television that knowing too much about the future can exact a heavy price. LIFE TRACKER adds a science fantasy twist. What the film lacks in logic and scientific plausibility it makes up for in the philosophical questions it raises. Phoenix filmmaker Joe McClean writes and directs a thoughtful and generally intelligent science fantasy film on a very low budget. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Spoiler Warning: Important plot developments come early in LIFE TRACKER. I will have to reveal some story plot points if I am to discuss the premise of the film.

Richard "Rocko" Hutchensen of Life Tracker Limited, a bio-tech company from Texas, announces one day that the company has a process to analyze DNA and other biological processes and can from it predict in some detail the future of the person donating DNA. This service is to be offered for a price to the general public. But there may be more of a price than most people realize.

[Sorry, I would like to make a comment here. This is an idea that has been around for a long time and was the basis of Andrew Niccol's film GATTACA. In fact, the idea has been thoroughly discredited. At least currently the tide of scientific opinion is that DNA is less effective at predicting future health than is a study of the subject's exercise patterns, home life, and unhealthy habits. In this film the power of the predictions is almost magical. Perhaps the film is better thought of as a fantasy film in which there is a magical way of seeing people's future.]

Dillon Smith (played by Barry Finnegan) is an amateur documentary filmmaker, or he would be if he could ever finish one of his films. On the day of the Life Tracker announcement Dillon thinks there is a film subject here and takes his camera onto the street to interview people about what they think of Life Tracker's claims. Dillon discusses the issues involved with his friends Scott Orenhauser (Matt Dallas) and Scott's attractive girlfriend Bell Osbourn (Rebbeca Marshall).

Soon it is discovered that not all the information Life Tracker finds is being released to its subjects. Some information, by law, is being kept from the test subjects themselves. The United States Government has mandated that some of the data must be kept secret. This opens public debate. Is it good or bad to know your future? Does the government have a right to hide from a citizen information about him? Is there information it is dangerous even to know about yourself?

When the public protests the secret information is released to the subjects. Almost immediately we see why it could have been better for everyone if the information was not revealed. Personal relationships are heavily hit by too much knowledge.

[Sorry, let me interrupt again. The idea that a DNA test would show precise details of a person's future is absurd. DNA could not possibly predict that a piano would fall on you tomorrow, for example. Identical twins have identical DNA but do not have identical futures. LIFE TRACKER is really in the same category as stories about all-knowing oracles or fortune-tellers. That does not make it a bad story, but it makes it more of a fantasy.] The story develops slowly focusing the three main characters and specifically on Dillon's personality flaws. And the small screen video work adds a feel of cheapness and at the same time tension, both of which work for the tone of the film.

This is Joe McClean's first feature film, though he has made shorts before. This film is shot very cheaply on video about people shooting on video, and it is an example of the sort of small film that can be made for a tiny fraction of what the big studios spend on a film. The budget of this film is so much less than that of a film like THE AVENGERS and there is a lot more intelligence on the scripting.

This is a flight of fancy, in spite of the science trappings, but

after a slow start it is surprisingly effective. I rate it a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


GRAVITY (film review by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

In "Hard SF" the writer limits themselves to perhaps one assumption, say a new space drive, but otherwise sticks to the rules of science. On the near edge of Hard SF we find the techno-thrillers like HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER where there are extrapolations and/or alternative pasts, but no new technology or science. GRAVITY lies in this rare class of film, and it is a most welcome addition.

Perhaps one of the best special effects films ever made, GRAVITY succeeds in creating the intimate feeling of a stage play with a tiny cast written on the canvas of the vastness of space. GRAVITY takes place in either a near-future alternative universe or in an alternative recent past. The major locations include a Space Shuttle servicing the Hubble telescope, the International Space Station, and a Chinese space station. Although these are all real places, they will not coincide in our version of reality since the Space Shuttle has been retired prior to the construction of a large-scale Chinese space station (a small Chinese station is orbiting the Earth as I write this). It is, however, quite possible to imagine an alternative past, where perhaps the Columbia disaster did not occur, and the Shuttle was still flying until a large Chinese station can be built. This is not our world, but it is a tiny branch into a very plausible alternative reality. This would place GRAVITY sometime between 2013 and 2020, but no further into the future than that.

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, and starring Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a mission specialist, and George Clooney as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, GRAVITY creates a high-tension, realistic space adventure as has never before been done. The opening plot device is that the Russians use a missile to destroy a de-orbiting spy satellite, creating a chain reaction of colliding space debris which threatens the Shuttle mission. This fictional event is based on a combination of real recent incidents involving satellite collisions and the testing of a Chinese anti-missile system. Things rapidly go from bad to worse to apparent certain doom for the astronauts, trapping them in a situation a bit reminiscent of Asimov's classic MAROONED OFF VESTA.

I don't intend to recapitulate the tight-rope of perilous events that ensue as Stone and Kowalski attempt to survive against incredible odds, nor do I intend to nitpick the various small errors and inconsistencies that some have pointed out. This is a great film that any serious SF fan must see, and it is a beautiful film to see in 3-D on a big screen. Bullock and Clooney both do excellent work bringing their respective characters to life, and Bullock's performance may be the best of her career. As a "genius" who has apparently had only six months training for the mission, she is extremely believable as a very capable human being who is being pushed to the absolute limit of what is possible, and beyond.

The film makes excellent use of space itself as a metaphor for the loneliness of the human condition, and to illuminate the character of both Stone and Kowalski. Stone's life has been filled with horrific arbitrary disasters, including those that happen during the film, but towards the end, as she faces what may be her final moments, she realizes that one way or another, it was going to be "a great ride." Maybe in the end this is all any of us can hope for.

GRAVITY has already inspired a New York Times editorial to opine on the problem of "space junk," and to the extent that there is a propaganda message here, it is that blowing up objects in orbit can easily lead to disaster for the entire world. One can only hope that the movie raises public awareness of both the importance of avoiding collisions in space, and of how dependent we have become on our satellites.

Although Stone says at one point "I hate space," rather like with JURASSIC PARK, this is not the message that comes off the screen. Even as he nears death, Kowalski's voice is filled with wonder, and you know he would not prefer to go out any other way than how he does. The movie is suffused with a sense of both the danger and the glory of space, but although the events portrayed are tragic, you don't get the feeling that the space program was futile or pointless.

I'm rating this one a high +3 on the -4 to +4 scale. For once, Rotten Tomatoes and I agree, with GRAVITY getting a 97% rating on the Tomatometer. This is a realistic, white-knuckle thriller with some bad language but no sex, no violence, and no car chases. GRAVITY is rated PG-13 but may be too intense for some.

Response to statements in Mark's Review of GRAVITY

Mark's review of GRAVITY stated:

"I am going to be nit-picky. One inaccuracy is that it is impossible to place the setting of this story in time. There is no Chinese space station in 2013 so it takes place some years in the future, but also there will be no more space shuttles in space. NASA probably is moving on to using the Space Launch System (SLS). Undoubtedly it could have been used in this film rather than the Space Shuttle, but SLS has as yet little audience recognition value."

There is a Chinese space station in orbit today. It is called Tiangong-1, and was most recently visited by a crew in June 2013 by the Shenzhou 10 mission. It is nowhere near as large as the Chinese station shown in GRAVITY, being only 34 feet long and 11 feet in diameter. A larger station, the Tiangong-2, is planned for launch in 2015. A still larger module, the Tiangong-3 (60 feet long) is planned to follow. However, the station in GRAVITY appears to be significantly larger than the Tiangong-3, resembling an even bigger station that the Chinese plan for the 2020s.

As I stated in my review, the best explanation of the GRAVITY back story is that it occurs in the period 2013-2020 in a reality where the Space Shuttle is still flying, Hubble is still being serviced, and the Chinese space program is a bit further along than in the real world. If the story were to take place in the real world sometime between 2013 and 2020, there is a very remote possibility that the SLS/MPCV would be used, but as the only two currently planned SLS flights are for 2017 and 2021, a much more likely prospect is that the SpaceX Dragon or the Boeing CST-100 would be used during this period, perhaps with an extended support module. The United States is in the process of transitioning from the Hubble to a new telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, that will not be human serviceable and will be in a much more remote orbit than the Hubble. Thus, a future mission to service the Hubble is very unlikely in the real world, and a mission to service the JWST is almost impossible. A great deal of uncertainty currently exists about the future of human space flight in the United States, and especially about how and when the SLS will be used. Many possible scenarios could be imagined as the background to GRAVITY, but I think on the whole the film made some good choices. [-dls]

Mark responds:

I stand corrected on the Tiangong-1. Leo Doroschenko makes a very interesting point about the ending of the film. You can use to decode this:

Fgbar tbrf sebz orvat bkltra-fgneirq naq unyyhpvangvat fb onqyl gung fur frrf Xbjnyfxv jub vf abg gurer. Naq gura fur fhqqrayl svaqf n jnl gb trg onpx, univat rabhtu bkltra, znxvat n cresrpg erragel ba na hapbzchgrq genwrpgbel sylvat n fcnprpensg jvgu ynoryvat va n ynathntr fur qbrf abg xabj. Fur syvrf guvf nyy ol urefrys, frrvat gur evpu, ornhgvshy, jnez, rnegu orarngu ure, ynaqvat va n cresrpg cynpr, naq orvat noyr gb jnyx njnl sebz vg nyy vagb gur jnez fhafuvar.

Gnxra yvgrenyyl guvf vf snveyl nofheq. Ohg V frr guvf nf orvat dhvgr cbffvoyl na hcqngvat bs BPPHEERAPR NG BJY PERRX OEVQTR. Gur svyz qbrf abg fnl vg, ohg gurer frrzf gb or cyragl bs rivqrapr gung gung vf jung unf gb or unccravat. [-mrl]

TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE by Robert A. Heinlein (copyright 1973, Blackstone Audio copyright 2007, 25 hours 52 minutes, narrated by Lloyd James) (audiobook review by Joe Karpierz):

Back on June 15, I wrote a review of THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON as part of my annual Hugo nominee roundup. It was two days before my hip replacement surgery, and at the very end of that review I wrote the following:

"I'm currently listening to Heinlein's TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. I'll review that eventually."

It's now *October* 13, and I'm sitting down to review TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE, nearly four months after I wrote those words. When I said I'd review it eventually, I didn't think eventually would mean in the fall, when I wrote those words in very late spring.

I've written elsewhen in this fine publication that I never read much Heinlein, if any, growing up. His books were not part of my formative SF reading. I don't know why, they just never were. I guess because my mother, who got me hooked on this SF stuff, didn't have any on the bookshelves in the house. I've dabbled a bit in Heinlein since those early days, but not much. I think my first Heinlein was FRIDAY, and then I read quite a few of his in a row after that. Except for FRIDAY, I didn't much like any of them. I stopped reading them for awhile, then picked up again when I started listening to audiobooks. I really liked THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, for example. But I was still never enthused about Heinlein's work. And then I understood why.

I finally listened to TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE.

For Pete's sake, I just don't understand what people see in that book. At all. Period. Case closed. I could not finish that audiobook to save my life. Remember, I was listening to that book back in June. I finally finished it about a week and a half ago. Then I couldn't bring myself to sit down and review the darned thing. I decided that it had to be done, so here we are.

There are only two things I can tell you for sure about this book: the title, and that the main character is Lazarus Long, Robert Heinlein's fictional alter ego through whom he preaches to us about his philosophies on life, the universe, and everything, and I do mean everything.

At the beginning of this entity I will loosely call a "novel", the Senior, a.k.a. Larazus Long, has lost his will to live. He is recovered from a flophouse, more or less, and is taken to a facility wherein various characters attempt to convince him to undergo rejuvenation in order to, well, continue living. He resists, but finally gives in, as long as people will listen to his stories.

Oh, brother. So now we fall into the life and times of Lazarus Long, following him from planet to planet and scenario to scenario, each one full of Heinlein's pronouncements about life, the universe, and everything (oh, wait, I said that already), including, what else, sex.

Eventually, Lazarus decides it's okay to keep on living, so the story changes to a location where Long and his family live--and those of you who have read this book know just how unusual this situation is--and the story proceeds from there. Finally, as most of the world knows, Long travels back to 1916, meets his family, falls in love with his mother, and well, you know.

Look, I know I've been rambling about this--much like Heinlein rambled in this book. I think there are some interesting things in this book, but my complaint really, is that it's mostly a rambling travelogue with no plot, no conflict, no climax, and no real ending. I'm pretty sure that Heinlein basically just ran out of things to say, so he stopped where he did. When I finished this, I wanted to throw my iPod against the car window, but iPods are expensive and the car is new, so I didn't. I've not been so frustrated with a book since I don't know when.

Okay, breathe. There, much better. I'm in the process of reading CALIBAN'S WAR by James S.A. Corey and listening to ASCENDANT SUN by Catherine Asaro. I think I'll have much better things go say when I finish those. [-jak]


This review covers a book that deals with the development of math thru the ages; though it is not strictly chronological in the order of its topics. The reader will learn how Pythagoras probably traveled to Egypt and could have witnessed the rope stretching technique used by the Egyptian builders to create a right angle. They would stretch a rope with knots that were at lengths of 3, 4 and 5 units on the rope around 3 posts with a knot at each post. This would create an accurate right angle since lengths of 3, 4, and 5 units create a right triangle. Also if you square 3 and 4 and add them you will get the square of 5; this process of squaring and adding the squares is known today as the Pythagorean Theorem. Greek mathematics was influenced by the math of the Egyptians and others before them.

The role of Indian mathematics in creating the concept of zero is illustrated in this book. Before this event when people counted as the Romans did with their abacus zero was simply a placeholder. It represented a column with nothing to count in it. But the Indians took zero to a new level of abstraction which allowed them to multiply by zero and understand that the result was zero also. They treated it as a true number and not only as a placeholder. Having a zero which can be used as a number allows for the eventual development of more advanced mathematical ideas including negative numbers and decimal numbers. The functional zero and other ideas (like a better way to count the one to nine numerals) were passed along to the neighboring Arabic culture and finally made its way to Europe known as Arabic Numerals. Modern math would never have gotten to the current high level of advancement if people only had Roman Numerals and not a real zero.

Pi which is the ratio of a circles' circumference to its diameter is discussed; Pi is an irrational and transcendental number. Archimedes was the first to create ways to increase the accuracy of Pi. He drew a polygon (initially a hexagon) on the inside of the circle and a larger polygon on the outside of the circle. Archimedes then used an early version of trigonometry to measure the lengths of the polygons. If you make polygons with ever more sides you can get a better estimate of the circles' circumference. This approach dominated the way to determine Pi for 2,000 years until Leibniz in the 1600's created a formula from his calculus known as an infinite series which provided a way to calculate Pi. Other infinite series which are more efficient and faster at calculating the digits of Pi were created and with modern computers individuals have increased the amount of known digits of Pi to 2.7 trillion places. This level of accuracy is beyond any practical need but shows how humankind loves a challenge. Today this exercise is also used to test the processing power of computers.

Euclid's geometry based on the book "The Elements" was the only accepted form of this subject until mathematician's like Bernhard Riemann in the mid 1800's introduced the world to non-Euclidean geometry. This came about because for many years people tried to see if the 5th axiom or postulate of Euclid's book, "The Elements" could be derived from the other 4 postulates. This 5th postulate roughly states that "given a line and a point not on that line there is at most one line that goes thru the point and is parallel to the line". It's easy to see that this is the case for Euclidean geometry based on flat planer surfaces and straight lines. But to truly test if the 5th postulate can be derived from the other 4 then you may question how fundamental it really is. Individuals including Janos Bolyai, Carl Friedrich Gauss, and Riemann investigated this and determined that if you had a non-Euclidean surface like a sphere or saddle shape then the 5th postulate actually has different meanings for these non-Euclidean surfaces. A saddle shape which is a hyperbolic surface with negative curvature would have an infinite number of lines passing thru that point and parallel to the line. A spherical shape which has a positive curvature has zero parallel lines thru that point. Later, non-Euclidean geometry played a major role in Einstein's theory of General Relativity. It's difficult to see how Einstein could have produced such an important area of Physics without it.

There are many other fascinating topics covered in this book which will be interesting to anyone with a curiosity about math or even if you only want to know how magic squares of the 1500's became Sudoku this book could be for you. [-gf]

THE PRIME MINISTERS: THE PIONEERS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: In an autobiographical interview, Yehuda Avner, advisor to four Israeli Prime Ministers, gives an inside look at the first two Prime Ministers he served and of the politics of the country at the time. (A sequel documentary being made will continue Avner's account.) In what is hardly sufficient time, Avner gives the viewer a feel for the characters and the political policies of Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir. While the information is of definite interest, much will already be familiar for some viewers. Co-author and director Richard Trank makes an understandable but serious error in having overly familiar celebrities voicing some of the words of the Prime Ministers. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

We recently saw the film LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER, one man's inside look at the leaders and politics of his country during the time he served in the White House. In many ways THE PRIME MINISTERS is a very similar film. Yehuda Avner was an advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. His fluency in both English and Hebrew and his political understanding made his services valuable at several historical events.

The film takes the form of one long interview with Avner giving his recollections of the major milestones of Israeli history from before declaring independence to Golda Meir resignation after she was accused of mishandling the nation's defense in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Particular attention is given to Avner's memories of the day Israel was formed, the Pioneer Movement, and the two major wars: the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Avner discusses what went on with negotiations for support with Presidents Truman, Johnson, and Nixon. Included are not just his observations on the major political changes, but small and personal moments that make the politicians seem more human.

THE PRIME MINISTERS is co-written by Richard Trank (who also directs) and Marvin Hier, the founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Center's Museum of Tolerance, and of Moriah, the Center's filmmaking production company. The latter produced this film. However, the film makes a jarring stylistic error. The film has celebrities voicing the Prime Ministers, just where actual recordings were non-existent or not available. Levi Eshkol is voiced by Leonard Nimoy, Golda Meir by Sandra Bullock, Yitzhak Rabin by Michael Douglas, and Menachem Begin by Christoph Waltz. To see Golda Meir on the screen and to hear an all too easily visualized Sandra Bullock cast way against type pulls the viewer right out of the narrative. Making it worse we heard Meir speak with her real voice minutes before. It is hard to hear the two voices as coming from the same person. And when the viewer hears Bullock's voice it is hard not to see Bullock. Much the same goes for the other three celebrities. Perhaps these four popular actors add some "marquee value" to the film, but less familiar voices might have worked much better for the film.

Director Trank's style had developed since directing last year's IT IS NO DREAM: THE LIFE OF THEODOR HERZL. This film is has a more engaging style and Avner's comments on history are of definite interest.

THE PRIME MINISTERS: THE PIONEERS covers the terms of Eshkol and Meir. Rabin and Begin do appear, but are not covered as Prime Ministers. This is really just the first half of a two-part documentary. Trank is working on a second part covering the terms of Rabin and Begin. The two probably should be seen as a pair. For now I rate the first half a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


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

THE WORLD THAT JONES MADE by Philip K. Dick (ISBN 978-0-679-74219-7) is another book I read in conjunction with SFF Audio. Again, just a few comments, all from the first few pages of the book. The narrator claims that food rationing after the war (not World War II, but a later one) has ended extremist religious and political views (!). Since no earlier rationing did that, this seems unlikely. And they have food rationing but they still have tobacco. If food is so scarce, wouldn't they use all the arable land to grow food?

I thought it interesting that Dick has his reactionary character saying, "we beat those Jews and atheists and Reds"--usually authors have their characters ranting about just the atheists and Reds.

In the circus sideshow, he says, "The next freak was part human, part animal. Somewhere along the line, inter-species mating had occurred; the event was certainly lost on the nightmarish shadows of the war. ... From the war had come intricate legends of man-animal progeny, exaggerated accounts of human stock that had degenerated, erotic tales of copulation between women and beasts." It is interesting that these hybrids are said to be the result of copulation between women and beasts, rather than the result of copulation between men and beasts.

THE ASTRONAUT WIVES CLUB by Lily Koppel (ISBN 978-1-4555-0325-4) tells the stories of the early astronauts' wives. While enlightening at times, it suffers from the difficulty of trying to cover 48 wives in less than three hundred pages. Koppel does concentrate more on the "Original Seven" and the "New Nine"--not surprising, since they were around for the longest time. Some of the material overlaps that of THE RIGHT STUFF (at least the movie), but occasionally points out things the movie elided. For example, Johnson wanted Annie Glenn to meet with him in front of network news cameras when John Glenn's flight was postponed. But her contract with LIFE magazine (indeed, all their contracts) gave LIFE exclusive press rights except for a very brief post-flight press conference, so there was actually a contract to back up her refusal to meet Johnson. And perhaps as recompense for their backing him up in his support of Annie's refusal, John Glenn insisted that all of the astronauts and their wives be included in any parades in his honor.

Koppel also chooses to refer to everyone by first names most of the time (the first reference to them in various section is by full names, but frequently that reference is several pages earlier and you find yourself wondering who is who. And then you realize that this book reinforces the perception of these women as adjuncts of their astronaut husbands, rather than as individuals. Clearly the interest in these women is *because* of their husbands, and no matter how much Koppel refers to Betty Friedan and feminism as being "in the air" at the time, these wives are indeed shown as *wives*. (This is not helped by the occasional reference to them as "gals" or "girls".)

If referring to them only by first names is supposed to ameliorate this, it runs into the problem of two Pats; two Marilyns; three Barbaras; three Joans; a Betty and a Beth; a Jan, a Janet, and a Jane; and a Sue, a Susan, and a Suzanne (plus the colloquial use of "Susie" for the various other women in the astronauts' lives).

On the other hand, this gives a picture of life on the other side: trying to look glamorous on their husbands' military pay because all the extra money from LIFE magazine has gone for college funds, coping with NASA's rules--explicit and implicit--about what they could do and how they should act, and so on. There are some obvious gaps--apparently Koppel was unable to interview Janet Armstrong (who divorced Neil in 1994 but is still alive), because all the stories about Apollo 11 are from the perspectives of Joan Aldrin and Jane Conrad. Presumably there were others about whom Koppel heard only second-hand, whether because of death, divorce, age, or just plain reticence. (Of the first thirty "space couples," twenty-three ended in divorces.)

Clearly the space programs are very different now. Maybe someone will write a book titled THE ASTRONAUT HUSBANDS CLUB (though somehow I doubt it). Koppel reminds us, though, that while NASA was saying women couldn't go into space, Valentina Tereshkova orbited the earth forty-eight times. However, Koppel also claims that Tereshkova was pregnant at the time, which so far as I can tell is totally false. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          If I have any beliefs about immortality, 
          it is that certain dogs I have known will 
          go to heaven, and very, very few persons.
                                           --James Thurber

Go to our home page