MT VOID 11/22/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 21, Whole Number 1781

MT VOID 11/22/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 21, Whole Number 1781

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/22/13 -- Vol. 32, No. 21, Whole Number 1781

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

Doris Lessing, R.I.P. (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and Guest of Honour at the 1987 Worldcon in Brighton, England, died at age 94. She frankly described herself as writing science fiction and (according to Wikipedia) claimed her most important works were her "Canopus in Argos" series.

(I mentioned her last week in my article on Jose Saramago.) [-ecl]

Solution to the Puzzle for "Game of States" Players (submitted by Tom Russell, Jerry Ryan, Dan Cox, Steve Milton, and David Goldfarb):

To recap:

The geography teacher assigns her students a special challenge:

Plan a trip through the 48 contiguous US states, starting in a state with eight neighboring states, and visiting each state just once.

When she grades the papers she finds that of her 27 students, just eleven have proper trips. All eleven trips are different, as she expected, but to her surprise the 42nd state visited is the same state on all eleven correct trips.

What is the likelihood of this happening?

The answer is: 100%.

Jerry Ryan writes:

It will always happen that the 42nd state will be the same (NY).

I observe that Maine has only one neighbor... and it's the only state that does... thus on all correct paths Maine is #48 and its neighbor NH is thus always #47.

If you work your way through all paths from NH and discard dead ends, you see that you have to then go VT (46), MA(45), RI(44), CT(43) and NY (42).

Any other path gets you to a dead end at Rhode Island and/or forces you to visit a state more than once.

There's a similar dead end to consider after this, such that Delaware is always #39 or #40. [-gwr]

Dan Cox adds more detail:

Assuming no cheats (airplane, Canada, Mexico, Oceans, or the Gulf of Mexico etc.), the 42nd state visited must be New York.

The states with 8 neighbors are Tennessee and Missouri. Maine has 1 neighbor, which is New Hampshire. So the last 2 states in the trip are New Hampshire and Maine.

New York isolates the following states from the other contiguous states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, so we get

New York = 42, { Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont }, New Hampshire = 47, Maine = 48
{} used to denote the order between the {} is not yet determined

It can be narrowed down further: Rhode Island can only be reached from Connecticut and Massachusetts, so we either need (Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts) or (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut)
() used to indicate an ordered sequence

New York + Massachusetts cut off Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. We have enough to know the last 7 states are New York = 42, Connecticut = 43, Rhode Island = 44, Massachusetts = 45, Vermont = 46, New Hampshire = 47, Maine = 48

Pennsylvania + Delaware combined isolate New Jersey + the last 7 states. So New Jersey must be number 41 in the sequence.

Beyond that it starts branching out. [-dtc]

Correct answers were also submitted by Steve Milton, and David Goldfarb. [-ecl]

Modern Forensics (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

It seemed the real world is catching up with CSI in doing some phenomenal work solving past crimes. With cutting edge forensic techniques we are making discoveries that are shedding new light on old mysteries. We now know for certain that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. There was a second shooter who has now been positively identified as Teddy Roosevelt. [-mrl]

Anniversaries (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of C. S. Lewis, creator of the "Narnia" and "Perelandra" series of books.

Today is also the 50th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, creator of 1984 and ANIMAL FARM.

And today is also the 50th anniversary of the death of some other guy who never wrote any science fiction or fantasy. [-ecl]

[Have you read PROFILES IN COURAGE? -mrl]

The Mystery of Jewish Food (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Why is Italian cuisine popular among Italians and non-Italians alike? The same goes for Chinese food. But with few exceptions Jewish food is unpopular even, in my experience, by most Jews. Why cannot a creative people like the Jews create a popular ethnic cuisine?

There is an old adage that says if you want to find a good Chinese restaurant, look for one in which many of the customers look Chinese. Chinese people are the most knowledgeable and the toughest critics of Chinese food. And of course this will generalize to other ethnicities. If an Italian restaurant attracts a lot of Italians, it is probably good. A Thai restaurant that attracts Thais ought to be pretty great. A Jewish restaurant will be nearly all Jews and should be great, right? Well, ... perhaps not. In my experience of just about any ethnic group, Jews have the least enthusiasm for their own cuisine. Jews eating in a Jewish restaurant may or may not be greatly pleased about what they are eating. Most Jews I know would rather eat an eggroll than tzimmes. That is a stew of cooked carrots and dried fruit. Jewish food.

If someone wants to go out for Jewish food, he/she probably is Jewish. You just do not get a lot of non-Jews who are crazy about Jewish cooking. Few non-Jews have ever even tried Jewish food more obscure than delicatessen or bagels. (Actually I guess we think of that as Jewish food, though in truth neither bagels nor delicatessen are really Jewish in origin. Bagels were brought to this country mostly by Polish Jews, but in Poland they were not particularly Jewish. I think the same is true of deli food.) Certainly if you want to find traditionally Jewish foods at a restaurant it will not be easy, and your best bet is a Jewish delicatessen. I am Jewish and I don't even know where I would buy a plate of cholent. But particularly if you are not Jewish, the odds are you do not have a particular desire to try Jewish cuisine.

You can go to a Chinese restaurant and find non-Chinese people poring over the menu and trying delicacies like Mu-shu Pork. Even in kosher delis you do not find anyone with similar enthusiasm for finding foods like kugel, gefilte fish, chopped liver, and sweet noodle casseroles. A vast majority of people who like these foods are Jewish. And even among Jews they are not at all popular. Like Jackie Mason says he never finds a little Chinese man who says he is looking for a good piece of gefilte fish. (Of course I am Jewish and I consider "good piece of gefilte fish" to be an oxymoron.) The dark secret is that even among Jews true fans of chopped liver and lokshen kugel are thin on the ground (if not around the waistline). So the question is what is happening here? How can a people like the Jews who are creative enough to have contributed 41% of all Nobel Prize winners in Economics and more than a quarter of the Nobel Prize winners in Physics fail so badly at developing a cuisine that is popular among its own people and so much less so people of other cultures?

Adding to the paradox is the question of contacts with the outside world. If people of different cultures live together, they tend to pick up the best of each other's cuisine. I could easily believe that the isolated natives of New Guinea who never had a lot of contact with the outside world might never have tasted other people's food and might never have looked for ways to improve their own cuisine. Their cuisine could go for centuries without changing much. That is not like the history of the Jewish people. It is hard to come up with another culture as international and cosmopolitan as Jewish culture. What country has developed a great cuisine and does not have Jewish visitors, if not residents? Why did Jewish cuisine go so many centuries without evolving into a more popular form?

Well, in fact good dishes from other cultures and adopted by smaller groups of Jews, but do not get adopted by the cuisine as a whole. The best Spaghetti Bolognaise I think I ever was my mother's. But it does not get adopted by Jewish cuisine the way that kishke has. Kishke is real Jewish food. What is it? It is beef intestine stuffed with a seasoned filling. I am Jewish and I cannot tell you off hand one person, Jewish or not, who wants to have some "beef intestine stuffed with a seasoned filling." I am sure they are out there.

The easiest explanation for why Jewish food has not evolved and improved is a mixing of cuisine was not always possible. The rules of Kosher say no shrimp, no pork, and no mixing of meat and dairy. That is a real barrier to cuisine exchanges. A friend could be offering a Jew a sample, but little of what could be offered was kosher and far less actually could be absolutely trusted to be kosher. So Jews have to shy away from other cuisines. My mother's Chicken Paprikash was delicious, but it was not as good as Chicken Paprikash made with sour cream. It is the rules of Kosher that put in place a barrier between Jews and other cultures' foods. And there is no way to make a kosher pepperoni pizza or a kosher cheeseburger.

But the answer cannot be the rules of Kosher alone. As I say the Jews are a highly creative people. They should be able to find good foods within the kosher restriction. The question of how these foods would become part of Jewish cuisine is more complicated. There are a lot of good Kosher cooks. But I think that Jewish cuisine has not adopted their contribution. Instead what seems to happen is the better foods are adopted more by the outside world. If a lot of people are eating bagels across cultures they are not really Jewish any more. As I say, bagels were once mostly a Jewish food and now they seem to be just another part of American cuisine. Matzo ball soup seems to be showing up in a lot of non-Jewish restaurants these days.

Take away the stuff like matzo ball soup from Jewish cuisine and what is left is dishes like lokshen kugel. That is not a pretty picture. [-mrl]

Mid-Fall Season SF TV Report (television reviews by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

Here we are again for another round of my infamous SF TV mini-reviews. I admit to being unable to keep up with all the genre TV I could potentially watch. I watch GAME OF THRONES and TRU BLOOD on DVD after the fact as I am not a HBO subscriber. Currently I am not watching quite a few shows--ONCE UPON A TIME, SLEEPY HOLLOW, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I may be leaving out a few--such is the richness of the current list of offerings. I've also fallen into the habit of not watching REVOLUTION since it conflicts with other shows I like better. I may catch up with it on-line or on DVD at some point. It's fair to say that while it has not fallen off the deep end into idiocy, it isn't that compelling either.

First let's look at old friends making a return visit. Now bereft of the Originals, who have moved to their own show, the VAMPIRE DIARIES continues to amaze with its ever more embroidered plot lines. The new season pits the now human Catherine against a powerful ancient witch Qetsiyah who has recently returned to physical world from "the other side" and Silas, Qetsiyah's long ago and now immortal lover. The plot is way too complicated to explain to newbies, but DIARIES continues to dig deeper into the back story for more thrills and chills as Damon, Stefan, and Elena, now all vampires, struggle to work out their literally eternal triangle while dealing with the knowledge that at least two of them are doppelgangers as well.

Audrey has returned to HAVEN from the other-dimensional "Barn" to find that the Troubles are on a path to destruction. Sheriff Carter from EUREKA is now a regular, and we've learned a lot more about what is happening without understanding anything. HAVEN continues to function well as a supernatural/superhero detective story with a long-running fantasy/SF background that still remains unexplained.

Sam and Dean are back for a new season of SUPERNATURAL, and the show continues to mine folklore and fantasy for plot lines. Recent episodes featured the Wicked Witch from Oz (and Dorothy!) and a chef who takes on animal powers by eating parts of different creatures ritualistically. Both episodes work surprisingly well, and the bit where Dean drinks a potion to allow him to communicate with a dog who witnesses a murder was especially funny. It turns out in the Oz episode that Dorothy was a Hunter who worked with the Men of Letters, and that the story books may have gotten a few details wrong. I fundamentally like what they've done by anchoring Sam and Dean in the "Men of Letters" back story and giving them an art deco headquarters, partly because I am a fan of secret history stories, but mostly because it is just plain cool.

ARROW has been renewed for a second season, and things are off to a good start, with a non-super powered Black Canary coming on-stage for the first time, bringing ARROW a bit more in tune with the DC comic universe. Trained as an assassin by none other than Ra's Al Ghul himself, Canary's origin on the show is much improved over the various versions found the comics. Not every episode is equally good, but ARROW is fundamentally an interesting story about superheroes with no real powers, which almost always makes for the best superhero tales.

The last returning show is THE MENTALIST. The big news here is that the show's writers are bringing the Red John story line to a close, apparently by mid-season, so this has been a white-knuckle roller-coaster ride as Patrick Jane closes in on his nemesis. One episode in particular has some torture scenes that are hard to watch, and are a bit out of character for the show. The reputation of THE MENTALIST is riding on how this story line is resolved. If the job is well done, THE MENTALIST will be remembered as one of the great TV mystery/crime shows. If it is done poorly, I'm going to be even angrier than I was after watching the last episode of LOST.

The good news is that they are trying to end the Red John story line, thus avoiding the mistake of THE X-FILES. From the scuttlebutt on the net, they also plan to "play fair" with the audience. In other words, Red John is not Jane himself, for example, but one of the remaining seven suspects. Clues that have been given in the show will be binding. This is a huge balancing act for the writers. To explain Red John's apparently superhuman abilities in a believable yet interesting way is a vast challenge given all the water under the bridge. Once the story line resolves, the writers will face an even greater challenge as they try to continue the show without one of the major factors that raised it above the general run of TV crime shows.

Onward to the new shows! Perhaps the most awaited and most talked about is AGENTS OF SHIELD, Joss Whedon's new show. Clark Gregg starts as Phil Coulson (who has appeared in a number of the Marvel movies), who leads a motley team of agents as they investigate new weirdness after the Battle of New York chronicled in THE AVENGERS movie. This show seems pitched at a younger audience than ALIAS or NIKITA. If you are looking for very complex storylines or adult themes you won't find them here. However, AGENTS at its best is well made, well acted, and decently entertaining for a wide range of audiences. Some episodes are weak, but it seems to be improving and I'm definitely watching it. You can see the Joss touches here and there and they are frequently the best part of each episode.

I wasn't sure whether THE ORIGINALS could sustain itself outside the cocoon of the VAMPIRE DIARIES, but I was pleasantly surprised. THE ORIGINALS follows three of the surviving original vampires--Klus (Joseph Morgan), Elijah (Daniel Gillies), and Rebekah (Claire Holt)--as they seek to regain their home in New Orleans from Klaus's protégé, Marcel. Part Machiavellian power plays and part a meditation on redemption and living with immortality, THE ORIGINALS is violent and surprisingly entertaining. Part of what keeps me watching is just that the three main characters are well cast and fun to watch on the screen together.

The final "new show" is THE TOMORROW PEOPLE. This is definitely the weakest of the three new programs I'm watching, and I don't recommend it. It is mildly entertaining, and I am still watching it, but it suffers from back story silliness. The "Tomorrow People" all have the powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation, but can't kill anyone. Why? Who knows? But as this is the 2nd or 3rd version of this TV show, we are stuck with the fundamental silliness of the basic concept. The heroes have a supercomputer in their underground hideout--where did it come from? One could go on and on, but THE TOMORROW PEOPLE collects random ideas from other movies, shows, and SF stories and jumbles them together incoherently. By comparison, every aspect of ALPHAS seems tightly reasoned!!!

One final show awaits--TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY. This is now running on BBC America as a repeat, but I'm seeing it for the first time. Like most Torchwood outings, it is not perfect SF, but credit is due for taking on the idea: suppose one day people just stopped dying? MIRACLE DAY contains a decent extrapolation of how society might react. It has the main conceit that the normally immortal Captain Jack Harkness has now been rendered the only mortal man on Earth, a strange reversal of fortune. I have yet to see the final episode, but so far I'm pretty happy with this Torchwood installment. The only two surviving members of Torchwood, Jack (John Barrowman) and Gwen Cooper (Eve Myles) must recruit new allies as they face a vast and deeply established conspiracy that has transformed the world beyond recognition.

And so, in summary:

SUPERNATURAL, VAMPIRE DIARIES, THE ORIGINALS: Recommended fantasy series with adult/violent/horror/sexual content--not for kids.

HAVEN: Not recommended except for those who like this kind of thing--not for kids due to strong horror elements.

AGENTS OF SHIELD: Recommended superhero show--entertaining but not setting the world on fire--fine for kids.

ARROW: Recommended superhero show--some episodes may be too dark and violent for kids. In particular, avoid season two episode "Broken Dolls."

THE TOMORROW PEOPLE: Not recommended, but ok for kids.

THE MENTALIST: Highly recommended crime show with fantasy elements--some episodes may be too dark and violent for kids. Also, features complex plot lines that kids may not be able to follow.

TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY: Recommended but not for kids due to violence and adult themes.


DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Matthew McConaughey dropped a lot of weight as well as his romantic image to play Ron Woodroof. Woodroof was big into cocaine and sex and (in the film) rodeo until in 1985 he was diagnosed with AIDS. He was given one month to live. The FDA-approved treatment was worse than useless so Ron set up an international network to buy in mass anti-viral drugs unapproved by the FDA. With McConaughey's role in MUD followed by this role McConaughey clearly transforms himself from heartthrob to serious actor. Jean-Marc Vallee directs a screenplay by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

This year the Christian Bale Award for Starving for One's Art goes to Matthew McConaughey for DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Officially, it was stated he lost 38 pounds, but there are a number of sources saying it was closer to 50. McConaughey was shedding more than pounds. He was also shedding his romantic comedy good looks in an effort to be taken more seriously as an actor. And there is some chance that he may net some acting awards for in one year making MUD and DALLAS BUYERS CLUB. Both are films in which he was not likely to be considered anybody's dreamboat. But he might be considered Best Actor.

Back in the 1980s when AIDS was a new horror, a modern-day plague, Ron Woodroof (played by Matthew McConaughey) is a heavy drinker, a cocaine user, a homophobe, and is heavily into sex. (In the film he is also a rodeo rider, though the real Ron Woodroof on whom the film is based was not.) Diagnosed with full-blown AIDS he is hospitalized. There his roommate is Rayon (Jered Leto), just about what Ron hates most, a gay transvestite seeking sex reassignment and dying of AIDS. His doctor is Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner) who will become involved in his case and his life.

Woodroof very nearly dies on the drug azidothymidine (AZT). He staggers through denial, anger, and bargaining before with waning strength he goes to Mexico where a one-time doctor who had lost his license treats him with drugs that were not approved in the US and finds they are much better for him than the hospital therapy back home.

It is not long before he is bringing large quantities of these medications into the US and re-selling them. To get around the United States law that says he cannot sell these medications, he forms a "buyers club" in which the drugs are provided free to members who pay a $400/month membership fee. He is soon travelling all over the world to find suppliers of anti-viral drugs and becomes one corner of a three-way fight among the hospital, the FDA, and Woodroof. After a while Woodroof's legal machinations may not sustain the same viewer interest, but the relationship between Ron and Rayon--the homophobe and the gay transvestite--grows in interest value.

Beyond the fact that there was a Ron Woodroof who founded a drug buyers club to improve the treatment AIDS, I am not sure how much of this film I really believe. And Woodroof himself, I am told, had no connection to the rodeo. But the viewer will come away with a better feel for the issues of AIDS therapy. The film could have used more discussion of the issues of how thoroughly a drug has to be tested before being given to people who might die without it. That is not an easy question. The FDA's policy is criticized, but there is little suggestion what the appropriate policy would be.

McConaughey's is a performance that will be remembered. It is hard to believe that after a year in which McConaughey starred in both this film and in MUD that his name will not appear on the Best Actor ballot and deservedly so. On the other hand Jennifer Garner could and certainly should have done more to raise her character above a walking cliché in a white lab coat. Writers Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack might well have consigned Jered Leto's role to the same fate, but Leto does more for his gay transvestite than the writers do.

I rate DALLAS BUYERS CLUB a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Ye Old DVD Catch-Up Reviews (film reviews by Dale L. Skran, Jr.):

It is often the case that in the course of my sometimes busy life, I miss the first run of a movie in the theaters. In this case I wait until the DVD shows up on the bargain rack, and then watch it. Recently I've caught up on a number of films I would have seen in theaters if I went to the movies twice a week.


I had high hopes for this movie. The previews looked interesting, and the critical review was okay--46% on the tomato-meter. The results were somewhat disappointing. The basic plot of a magic user coming of age, torn between two sides, and forced to make a choice was presented in a simplistic and uninteresting fashion. Her love interest turns out to be that durable icon of southern tales, the intellectual lad stuck living with bible-thumping idiots. This movie might be better named "Tennessee Williams and his Magical Love." Every stereotype of the religiously intolerant Southerner is on display here. TRU BLOOD handles this material much better.

Rating: 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. Rated PG-13; okay for teens and up; entertaining but best to see on DVD.

HANCOCK (2008)

I had pretty low expectations here, and I was not disappointed. Will Smith and Charlize Theron star as superheroes with the powers of gods because, well, they ARE gods!!! This tale of the irresponsible hero who learns his true origin and overcomes his baser instincts is brimming with crude humor and stupid jokes. The "big secret" was a bit surprising but ultimately not very interesting. The tomato-meter gave HANCOCK a very appropriate 41%

Rating: 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. Rated PG-13 for comic violence and toilet humor.

KICK-ASS (2010)

There has been a lot of press about how vile this movie was, including its supposed ultra-violence and sexualization of children. It got 77% on the tomato-meter so I was moved to check it out. The brief of KICK-ASS apparently was to show just how brutal the action would be if you set out to really be a super-hero and fight crime.

Dave Lizewski (Aaraon Taylor-Johnson) is inspired by his meaningless life to put on a scuba suit and fight crime as "Kick-Ass." On his first outing the crooks beat him to a pulp and he is hit by car. Many operations later, he recovers, but now has extensive nerve damage and metal plates all over his body. The result is a mild case of a super-power: he can take a beating that others could not.

Fairly soon Kick-Ass encounters some more professional super-heroes: "Big Daddy" (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Big Daddy is a former policeman seeking revenge on the criminals who framed him for drug dealing and drove his wife to suicide. He styles himself as Batman with a lot of guns, and Hit-Girl, his daughter, as his Robin. In the KICK-ASS world, Hit-Girl is the real deal. As an eleven-year-old girl who has trained her entire life by her father to be a living weapon, she is totally psychopathic and utterly remote from anything like normal human reactions. With a child's disregard for both death and moral limitations, and powered by Moretz's considerable acting talent, Hit-Girl was a big hit with critics and fans alike.

Critics of the film viewed Hit-Girl as an exercise in pedophilia, but I guess they watched a different movie than I did. If you think children should only be presented as innocents on film, then KICK-ASS is not the movie for you. On the other hand, I suspect Hit-Girl may be relatively restrained compared to the real-life heroin addicted child-soldiers of Sierra Leone.

At first fairly realistic, the movie eventually moves to more familiar fantasy terrain as the action becomes more exaggerated. Chloe Grace Moretz is by far the best thing about KICK-ASS, and I understand the adulatory reviews I've seen. She has had a very successful movie career so far, and I predict she will go on to even better things.

Rating: +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. Rated R for good reason, this movie is worth watching but ONLY for those who like this kind of thing. If you enjoyed KILL BILL, KICK-ASS is for you. Definitely not for kids or teens--bad language, violence, torture, drugs, etc. etc.


This is a bad film. Rated only 17% on the tomato-meter, it is filled with numerous flaws. However, for an apocalypse film completist, it is a must-see. Laurence Fishburne stars as Briggs, the leader of a post ice age colony. The rationale for this ice age is that humanity built a large number of weather control towers to counter the effects of global warming. They appear to have worked rather too well, bringing on an uncontrolled winter. As back stories go, this is not especially scientific, but it certainly fits into the broad range of acceptable SF starting points.

The colony itself is interesting. It is located underground, in what may be a factory or a mine--this is never made clear. The colonists have quite a bit of technology, including hydroponic farms, bee colonies, TV monitors, tests for the flu, and so on. There is a single large wind turbine in front of the colony entrance. It's unclear whether this is to measure wind speed or generate power. It seems too small to generate power for 400 people. Inside the colony, people walk around dressed like it's freezing, which I suspect is inaccurate. Body heat from 400 people would tend to make the colony warm, not cold. Flaws aside, this is a fine starting point for an SF tale.

The colony is having problems. Their rabbits are not thriving, and disease keeps spreading. They have a strict policy of quarantine and exile/death for those who don't rapidly recover. Suddenly an SOS arrives from a nearby colony that they have a mutual aid pact with. Briggs leads two companions on a rescue expedition. Once they get to the other colony, which is clearly located in an old factory, the ominous mood leads one to expect zombie attack, but the real problem turns out to be a band of cannibals led by a generic unkillable tall bald guy wrapped in chains. I'm sure I've seen him before! Nothing that happens after this will surprise you. There is plenty of gross violence as they make their way home, followed by the cannibal legion.

For some reason, once the attack gets underway the colony seems to have about 50 members rather than 400, and the cannibal legion, which never seems to be more than about 20 when seen outside the colony are quite numerous once inside. The tactics the colonists use to defend themselves vary from the stupid to the idiotic. In particular, they avoid trying to stop the cannibals as they enter through the single main door to the colony, where a few people could have held off hundreds.

This all concludes in an orgy of violence, with an olive branch of hope as our surviving heroes set out for a weather station which apparently has been turned on to warm the area around it. In the hands of a better writer, this could have been a real movie rather than an excuse for a lot of running around inside tunnels. The only plus point I can think of is that the weather stations are cool to look at.

Rating: -2 on the -4 to + 4 scale. Not recommended. Rated R for good reason, lots and lots of violence.


THE HUNT (JAGTEN) (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: In a small town in Denmark a popular kindergarten teacher is accused of sexual misconduct with first one and later with many children. Lucas (played by Mads Mikkelsen) struggles against a gossip-fed witch-hunt of hatred and prejudice that threatens to destroy his life. Thomas Vinterberg directs and co-authors a film that makes a very interesting companion piece to his THE CELEBRATION (1998). This will certainly be one of the best films of the year. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Lucas is a well-regarded kindergarten teacher in a somewhat isolated Danish village. He has a good relationship with all the kids. One of his favorites is the angelic Klara who loves Lucas and his dog. Klara's father is Lucas's best friend. One day Klara, disappointed that Lucas would not accept her valentine, makes up a story that is interpreted by an adult that Lucas has sexually abused her. That turns out to be one accusation for which it is impossible to prove oneself innocent. Klara admits to her parents that she had lied only to have them reject her confession and continue to believe the charge. The child is questioned suggestively so anything she says makes Lucas look guiltier.

Where possible deviant sex with children is concerned the people of the town are simply not ready to believe anything but bad or worse. The school will not stand by Lucas while more and more of the town gives way to gossip as the lie spreads contagiously. Lucas is divorced and has nearly lost contact with his son, but this makes him all the more resolved that he will not throw out another life and start over a third time. But even those closest to him cannot be sure they are absolutely on his side.

The film is directed and co-written by Thomas Vinterberg who also directed THE CELEBRATION (1998) on a related theme. His story combines aspects of Lillian Hellman's "The Children's Hour" and Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People." THE HUNT also could have been inspired by the McMartin Preschool Incident and Trial in which the court decided that false memories of sexual abuse had been planted in children's heads. One would hope the court ruling would end the matter, but some accusations it is impossible to be found completely innocent of in the public's mind. Humans bear strong instincts to protect the young and those instincts are hard to overcome with logic. The school principal insists against all evidence that children do not lie. It is a pleasant fantasy, but while it might be nice to believe it, it is false. And here that fantasy could destroy a man's life.

Lucas is played by Mads Mikkelsen, best known to me as the villain Le Chiffre from CASINO ROYALE (2006) and as Struensee from last year's excellent A ROYAL AFFAIR (2012). Mikkelsen also is the title character in TV's "Hannibal." He is a fascinating actor with the sort of face that suggests fires going on behind his eyes.

Alfred Hitchcock made several films about accused innocent men; THE 39 STEPS, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and FRENZY come to mind. His films all return the man character to normality when the story is over and his accusers have been proved wrong. In the real world things are not nearly so neat, unfortunately. This is a serious treatment of what it is to be in that position, and it is much more disturbing than anything in a Hitchcock thriller. I rate THE HUNT a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. This is *not* a Dogme 95 film, incidentally.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Nobel-Prize-Winning Science Fiction Authors (letter of comment by Fred Lerner):

In response to Evelyn's comments about science fiction in the mainstream in the 11/15/13 issue of the MT VOID, and authors of science fiction who have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, Fred Lerner writes:

There's another SF writer who won the Nobel Prize for literature--Rudyard Kipling. [-fl]

Evelyn adds:

Also (to varying extents) Harry Martinson, Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and William Golding. [-ecl]

The Shadow (letter of comment by Tim Bateman):

In response to Mark's and my comments on the 1938 Retro-Hugos in the 11/15/13 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:

[Mark wrote,] ""Initially the Shadow just started out as the host of a crime show. When the producers got the idea to actually make him a character in the story the sponsors said no. Eventually when the sponsors were told that if they made the Shadow a character, they could always go back to the original format if the character did not catch on. The Shadow did catch on and his program was the highest rated program on the radio. A pulp magazine was started with a character called the Shadow, but who did not have the psychic powers."

Whoa there, Nellie!

I have always understood that The Shadow started on the radio as a narrator, then appeared in the pulp novels as a continuing character, then the radio series changed to include (at least a version of) this continuing character. As you know, Mark, the Shadow novels constitute one of the longest series of novels depending on how one writes the rules (English-language, all written by the same writer, etc. all affect the results). [-tmb]

Mark responds:

I am not sure I follow what you are disagreeing with. He was initially just a host like the Whistler. Then was made into a character with special powers. Or are you saying that I have events out of order? [-mrl]

States, Presidents, and Elements (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to Mark's comments on the "Game of the States" in the 11/08/13 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Growing up in Alaska during the 1960s we didn't have the "Game of the States" board game. We did have at least two jigsaw-type puzzles with the states as pieces.

(Both had the usually misplaced Alaska and Hawaii off the coast of Baja California.)

(This was okay, since those were the "easy ones" for us.)

This was augmented later by the Landslide board game. This helped me to learn, among other things, that New York, California, and Texas (then in that order) were by far the most populous states.

This, along with somewhat omnivorous reading habits, helped me as a science-kid to expand my horizons--at least to the shores of the Atlantic.

Flash-forward to one of several consulting jobs--late 1980s, no place to go, after hours, during the long, dark, cold Alaskan winter. A challenge was set: sit down and write out a list of the States--you get 1/2-hour. Thirty minutes hence I was stuck at 46--a little disconcerting, but not obsessively so--I forgot about this until ten years later.

While discussing a question (with the CFO) about whether our electrical cooperative should adopt a new information system, I cited a corollary of Scot Adams' Dilbert Principle:

"If a manager doesn't know how to do something, he assumes it must be easy."

(I thought, and still do think, that this particular CFO was a grownup with enough self-awareness and an ego healthy enough to take that in a positive light.)

Despite my opinion of him, I was rewarded by being assigned to a committee for a series of eight-hour evaluation sessions, which were unspeakably boring. I passed part of my sentence by taking up the States Challenge once again. This time I drew a map and scored a 50.

Here's another challenge, considerably less time-consuming, if only because the trail (trial?) usually peters out quickly and is usually performed verbally.

I call it "The Standard US Trivia Question". Its origin is lost to the mists of time--at any rate no one will contradict me when I say I came up with this independently.

Name United States Presidents, starting with the current one, in reverse order.

This is not interesting for the actual naming of the list, but for the *process* involved with its extraction from the wetware. It's fascinating to watch the associations that are uttered as the list goes backwards in history. For instance, one nice lady, who took the challenge, recalled the wars her male relatives and ancestors had fought and associated those wars and their timing with the presidents. The associations are the fun part, so I always encourage the player to take her time.

The process of recalling associations harkens to an interesting book--Hirsch's CULTURAL LITERACY: WHAT EVERY AMERICAN NEEDS TO KNOW--In which two key ideas are asserted:

1) that a core of knowledge is necessary to infer, read-between-the-lines, and to understand wholly much written material, and;

2) that *content* is vital in education--the mental organization of which (though association and other means) is essential to becoming educated.

To demonstrate another assertion, namely that public education is largely failing; Hirsch claimed that a majority of high school seniors can not correctly answer this question:

"In what decades did the Civil War, World War I, and World War II occur?" I was 35 when I read this and asked it (in 1995) of a 25-year-old architect. I was sorry to see Hirsch's statement borne out--the young man would not even attempt an answer.

I'll close my naming one other challenge, which is to name the elements. I got a neat coffee cup for Christmas a few years back--on which was printed a legible periodic table. I put this challenge to my teenagers who had a slightly older friend with us (ages ranged from 14-17). I said I'd pay them five dollars each if they got ten and twenty each if they got twenty (and hand over your smart phones). After some fruitless negotiating on their parts to lower the bar, they collectively came up with eight.

FWIW, I tried it one weekend afternoon and got somewhere between 60 and 70. I'd bet you could name more. [-js]

Mark responds:

My memory these days is tricky, but appropriately enough your mail brought back memories. I also had a jigsaw puzzle of the United States. It may have been old enough that it did not have Alaska and Hawaii.

At one time, for a short time, I could list all 50 states in alphabetical order. I linked each state with the next state by some visual mnemonic. Sadly I have forgotten the mnemonics so I doubt I could do it again.

I do remember enough mnemonics to be able to figure the day of the week for any date AD. But those I practice regularly.

Decades of wars I would have thought would be easy for most people, but it really helps to be a film fan for this. (I would like to think I would remember them even if I was not a film fan, but knowing movies makes trivia a lot easier even for non-film questions.) I would have a really hard time with the elements. [-mrl]

Evelyn responds:

When I list the states, it's geographically--I picture a map of the United States and work my way through it. [-ecl]

Oh, Well (Redux) (letter of comment by John Hertz):

[Mark summarizes, "In the 11/01/13 issue of the MT VOID, I commented on a quote I heard that--I'll give his name, I guess--Beethoven slept with every woman he could get his hands on. I said I did too, but it did not do me any good. -mrl]

John Hertz writes:

Granting that in your use, Mark, N = E = 1, and not knowing [unreadable] of tour personal [unreadable], I still think I have reason to suppose it's done you a bit of good. [-jh]

[Alas, the Post Office managed to rub off a couple of spots on John's post card, but the gist is still there. -ecl]

[Touché. I guess I meant beyond the obvious. -mrl]

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

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FICTIONAL & FANTASTIC LANGUAGES by Tim Conley & Stephen Cain (ISBN 978-0-313-33188-6) is the sort of book that has been somewhat superseded by the Web in the sense that if you Google any of the languages, you would find more about it than you do in the book. Yet without the book you probably would not have any idea what languages there were for you to Google. One might quibble about the choice to arrange this encyclopedia by source work (book, film, or whatever) instead of by language, but since many of the languages are not actually named there really was not much choice. (There is an index so that you can look up a language by name.)

SPHERE by Michael Crichton (ISBN 978-0-061-99055-7) is very cinematic. This is not precisely a compliment. It is written in short simple scenes, with not very well-fleshed out characters: the mathematician is a bad guy, the woman is defensive about her gender, and so on. It is full of sloppy science and writing. For example, the marine biologist refers to "octopi" (the correct term is "octopuses"). Another character talks about a computer using "askey code." And there are several (other) awkward info-dumps as well.

The stories in ENCOUNTERS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by George Mann (ISBN 978-1-781-18003-9) are well-written, but they are all too often "doubly derivative" (or in Hollywood terms, "high concept"). You know the sort of thing: "Sherlock Holmes meets Raffles", "Sherlock Holmes meets the Martians (and H. G. Wells and Rebecca West)", and so on. And since many of the authors have on-going series with other well-known characters, it is not surprising that, for example, Mark Hodder writes about Algernon Swinburne and Sir Richard Francis Burton. (And for anyone who knows the real-life characters in Hodder's stories, there is not much mystery.)

Still (as I said), the stories are competently written and not so overtly divorced from the original setting and mood of the Holmes stories as to be jarring, so I do recommend this book. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The problem with America today is that too many 
          people know too much about not enough.

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