MT VOID 03/20/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 38, Whole Number 1850

MT VOID 03/20/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 38, Whole Number 1850

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/20/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 38, Whole Number 1850

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 or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

R.I.P. Ib Melchior (17 September 1917-13 March 2015):

We have lost another famous name of science fiction films, Ib Melchior. He wrote several science fiction films, best known of which was ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS.

Another Science Fiction Fan:


"The 2013 election of Pope Francis marked a number of firsts for the Catholic Church: the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first to have worked as a nightclub bouncer, and the first non-European to lead the church in 1200 years.

He's also the first pontiff to heartily recommend LORD OF THE WORLD, Robert Hugh Benson's trippy dystopian novel from 1907--a strange, intense and not entirely successful book about the rise of the anti-Christ, the demise of the Church and the end of the world."

More at:

Mini-Reviews (and One Midi-Review) of 2014 Films, Part 6 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):


It took many months for me to get an opportunity to see BOYHOOD. It is not the kind of film that plays in Central New Jersey I guess. Thanks to NetFlix I finally got a chance to see the film. This was the film that was shot over the course of twelve years showing a boy developing over that length of time. There was one segment shot each year. In the first the boy was in first grade. The second was shot when he was in second grade, and so forth. The shooting title supposedly was 12 YEARS, but it had to be changed to avoid confusion with 12 YEARS A SLAVE. BOYHOOD is a decent film, but by its very nature it has to be episodic. The filmmakers took a great risk that they would not lose one of the main characters, somebody crucial to the production during the shooting. I am told that a film contract can only be seven years or less, so any of the actors could have easily scuttled the project by leaving, voluntarily or not.

BOYHOOD could be considered a series of stories but perhaps without enough connective tissue between them. Some of the plotlines are not tied up until the next segment and then the viewer must pick up how the plot ended from context. To shoot a film this way is a real accomplishment, but that does not mean the end result is ideal. The plotline needs a little more narrative thrust to pull the viewer along. Ellar Coltrane plays the boy, but he does not develop into an actor with stage presence. Ethan Hawke as his father steals the film from him. To make a twelve-year story short, against the odds, the film did get made.

I think that the film took an impressive effort and it is surprising that Linklater did not win an Oscar as Best Director. BOYHOOD is an example of someone who did not win Best Picture but deserved Best Director. So Barbra Streisand was wrong when she complained that a film nominated for Best Picture was not nominated for Best Director. The Best Director does not necessarily make the Best Film, so the converse has to be true also. I liked BOYHOOD for its originality, but it does not really have a strong story. Also, I think that at 165 minutes it is a trifle long. Ethan Hawke played the boy's father and in an un-father-like gesture stole the film from Ellar Coltrane as the growing Mason. In the end the story just did not amount to much. Rating: high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.


This is a whimsical documentary about Mark Landis, the bane of art museums. Landis gives away art to art museums. The art is beautiful. Landis makes it himself. He is an extremely proficient art forger. He forges great art and then gives it away to museums as the real thing. If he were to charge the museum fifty cents he would be guilty of fraud and would have to play for his crimes. But he is not guilty of fraud; he is guilty of hoax. Hoax is maddening, but it is not illegal. He takes no money, but the museums, thinking they are getting great art as a gift, treat him very nicely.

Matthew Leininger is on Landis's trail. Leininger was an art museum employee who is trying to track down and stop Landis. He was so obsessed that he lost his job and now tries to put a stop to Landis and to alert art museums to the danger of hoax gifts. Landis even has exhibitions of his art. He is very open about what he does, but unless it becomes illegal he is just a living admonition to art museums. Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman, and Mark Becker direct the documentary. Rating: high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.


This film is a cross between BICYCLE THIEVES and an action heist film. Oscar Ramirez is a Filipino farmer who can no longer make a living farming. He decides that there is much more opportunity in the big city of Manila. With desperately little money he takes his wife, his nine-year-old, and his baby to try their luck surviving in the big city. All that happens is that they get cheated and swindled so what little money they had drops to a small fraction. After a nightmarish town Oscar gets a dangerous but decent-paying job with a security courier. In the second half of the film the plot twists on just how good a job Oscar has gotten. Meanwhile his wife has the only job she can get: dancing in a sexy bar. This job also turns out to be a bad idea. The plot starts to have some bang with its whimper. The film mixes street realism with what turns into a crime plot. Rating: +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.


STAND CLEAR creeps up on the viewer. The camera crew just seems to be following a few people around as if to make a documentary. Little by little the viewer gets engrossed in the story. Only then does one realize that these are really actors and some of the scenes had to have been set up and rehearsed. Ricky is about ten years old and autistic. His habits like peeing on the toilet with the lid down are driving his family crazy. One day his sister forgets to pick him up after school and the autistic boy goes wandering off over the Rockaway's and in the subways. Ricky's mother is desperately searching for him. Ricky is in particular danger as a super storm named Sandy is headed for the area. The pacing is slow, but one has a setting that seems authentic because it really is. Rating: +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.


This is a credible account of a small group of environmentalists in Oregon who want to blow up and ecologically unfriendly dam. The film makes a good case that this is not as easy as it sounds. And these are amateurs doing nearly everything wrong, obvious from the start. If anything one comes away from the film wondering how likely was it that things did not go much worse for them. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning, and Peter Sarsgaard. Kelly Reichardt directs a screenplay co-authored with Jonathan Raymond. The film is talky with not much action for the most part. That really slows the pace. Rating: high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.


There are legions of people in this country who live too far from medical services or who cannot afford medical care. In order to help such people there are volunteer doctors and traveling medical facilities. In Bristol, Tennessee, the traveling clinic comes once a year for three days and sets up shop in the NASCAR speedway, giving free medical care to the legions of people who show up. This is no comfortable three days for doctors or patients. Numbered tickets are given out each morning at 3:30 AM to handle the crowds. With the patients who show up later there is no guarantee that they will get treatment. Many people have to wait days to see a doctor. Few of the patients have all their teeth; many clearly ignore doctors' orders, particularly on smoking. Some people wait 14 or 16 hours just to get a ticket to see a doctor. Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman direct. Rating: high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.


Downton Abbey (Spoilers Ahoy!) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Does it seem like one of the goals of the writers of "Downton Abbey" is to show how the rich spend their time making messes that their servants and others of the lower classes have to clean up?

I don't mean this only in a literal sense (though I am sure that the Crawleys never emptied their own chamber pots or cleaned their toilets), but in a broader sense.

During the first season, a Turkish diplomat dies in Lady Mary's bed. She and her mother have to enlist the help of her maid to move the body.

Lady Edith has an illegitimate child. First she leaves her with people in Europe, then takes her back and arranges for some tenants to adopt her. Later she changes her mind and first persists in pushing herself into their lives, and ultimately she reclaims the child leaving the foster mother--who was told the mother was dead and this was a permanent arrangement--consumed by grief.

Lady Mary wants to have a week with a lover, so she sends Anna out to buy a contraceptive device, and afterwards insists that Anna keep the book and device in her own closet. Not surprisingly, Bates discovers them

James is being chased by one of the Crawleys' upper-class friends. She is staying at Downton, and pressures James to visit her room. There is a fire, and he is discovered. He gets sacked; nothing happens to her.

I could go on, but basically the upper class seem at some level to feel that the lower-class are not worth worrying about, and that they are there, among other reasons, to serve as a buffer, or perhaps a car bumper is a more apt analogy. [-ecl]

THE WALKING DECEASED (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: THE WALKING DECEASED is a wildly uneven zombie film parody. It takes a lot of pot shots at other familiar films, zombie and otherwise, but it soon loses steam and by the final act neither the jokes nor the plot of the film are working. Freshman Scott Dow directs a script from freshman screenwriter Tim Ogletree. There are better, funnier film parodies of the zombie subgenre. Rating: high +0 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

The IMDB tells me that the original title of this film was WALKING WITH THE DEAD. Do you get it? Like WALKING WITH DINOSAURS? But my guess is that probably made the title seem a little sepulchral and most people would not get it was a joke. So the film got the more obviously humorous title THE WALKING DECEASED. If one gag is not working, just remove the joke and drop another one in. Jokes are a major fraction of the dialog; there is little that can be taken at all seriously. That is sort of symbolic of the whole film. The plot is weak as a story but wherever things are not working the filmmakers just drop in another joke. Unfortunately their humor becomes wearing and not very funny. They at least try to take jabs at WARM BODIES, WORLD WAR Z, SHAUN OF THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, ZOMBIELAND, 28 DAYS LATER, and of course THE WALKING DEAD. All the jabs leave little room to develop characters. You do not need a zombie attack premise to spend several minutes showing people getting stoned on drugs, but it seems thrown in to help the film reach feature length.

Our story opens as Sheriff Lincoln (played by Dave Sheridan) awakes in a hospital coming out of a coma and finds the world he knew has come to an end while he was unconscious. (Note the reference to 28 DAYS LATER, and to THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS.) Soon we are jumping around "two weeks later," "five weeks earlier"... Lincoln has formed a small band of survivors killing zombies and roving around the countryside. Joining the band is a closet zombie, Romeo (Troy Ogletree), who decides not to be antisocial to the living. We hear his thoughts as a sort of inner monolog, so the viewer may think he is the main character until he notices there is another of the band whose inner monologue appears in texting language as printed in air. The band finds Safe Haven Ranch ruled over by a mysterious couple who want to serve them Kool-Aid.

This is a film with minimal characterization beyond jokes and with even less plot to it. By the last half hour it has lost its narrative momentum. The movie is all sugar and no tension and is stretched to feature length with excessive drug sequences and a lot of politically incorrect humor. With all the zombie films being made, by now there have been some decent films parodying the zombie subgenre. Two of the better ones are FIDO and WARM BODIES. This one I cannot recommend. I rate this one a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

If you want to see the blooper clips of the actors having a good time, they run under the closing credits. But nobody involved with this film has the wit of a Jackie Chan.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Enceladus (comments by Greg Frederick):

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn and imaging the moons of Saturn since 2004. One of the smaller moons of Saturn named Enceladus (diameter of 314 miles) is especially interesting. This ice-covered moon has a liquid ocean under the outer ice layer. Geysers of water vapor and organic chemicals have been seen coming off the surface ice layer on Enceladus by Cassini. Cassini flew thru one of the geyser plumes and studied the water vapor and organics in it in 2008. It was found that these organic chemicals are part of the essential building blocks of life.

Just recently scientists on the Cassini mission released their findings about the very small silica (silicon dioxide) particles in Saturn's' outer E ring. These 4-16 nanometer sized silica particles can only form under very specific conditions; they need water which is at least 194 degrees F in temperature, at depths of at least 25 miles. Cassini scientists know that the silica particles are coming from the geysers of Enceladus. We find such specific conditions on the Earth at the hydrothermal vents deep under our Oceans. These deep hydrothermal vents on Earth are teeming with life. This form of life uses the chemicals from the vent and the warmer waters to exist. So, now the data from Cassini is telling scientists that deep hydrothermal vents are at the bottom of Enceladus's Ocean. Enceladus obtains this internal heat from the gravitational pull of Saturn. Though not conclusive, the mounting evidence suggests there could be life in Enceladus's ocean. [-gf]

[By the way, it's pronounced "en-SEL-uh-duss". -ecl]

Super Pi Day (letters of comment by Lee Beaumont and Andre Kuzniarek):

In response to the comments on Super Pi Day in the 03/13/15 issue of the MT VOID, Lee Beaumont writes:

Of course I am looking forward to super pi day, however I do have a concern.

If Pi is approximately 3.14159265359, truncating this to 10 digits gives: 3.141592653 which can be expressed as 3/14/15 9:26:53.

However rounding it to 10 places gives: 3.141592654 which can be expressed as 3/14/15 9:26:54.

I don't want to start the celebration a second too soon! [-lrb]

Mark replies:

Look, Lee. I see your problem and I feel your pain, but your problems are of your own making. Pi time is not a second but an instant of time. It is just one point of time in the huge gulf of time that falls between the two times you have given me. By rounding pi you have labeled yourself as someone willing to settle for the almost right time. You are doing this for your own convenience. 3/14/15 9:26:53 is way too early to celebrate pi, and by 3/14/15 9:26:54 you are way too late and the boat has sailed. You are picking convenient times and missing pi altogether. Maybe for a while you can get away with that, but I warn you, the Universe IS NOT MOCKED. [-mrl]

Lee responds:

Thanks for this totally rational reply about a famously irrational number! [-lrb]

And Andre Kuzniarek writes:

You might enjoy this: . [-ak]

[This is a web page that will find where any given numeric string occurs in the decimal expression of pi. -mrl]

Fractals and Surface Area (letters of comment by David Goldfarb and Keith F. Lynch):

In response to Mark's comments on his surface area in the 03/13/15 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb writes: [Mark wrote: 'My knowledge of fractals tells me I have infinite surface area.']

Infinite surface area of a fractal depends on the space it's embedded in being continuous, doesn't it? The space we're in is (to the best of our knowledge) quantized. That would set an upper bound. [-dg]

Keith Lynch responds:

Yes [infinite surface area of a fractal depends on the space it's embedded in being continuous].

[But as to the space we're in being quantized]:

No. As far as anyone knows, only action, spin, and charge are quantized.

Your surface area depends on the application. Perhaps "capture cross-section" would be a more precise term. It's different for different forms of radiation, and it also varies with your orientation. It's very small indeed for neutrinos, and even smaller for gravitational waves.

If the question is how much heat you would radiate in a cold vacuum, then it's the area of your convex hull that's relevant, i.e. the area of the smallest sack that could hold you. Again, this varies with your orientation. If you ever find yourself naked in interstellar space, I recommend the fetal position to minimize heat loss. (Of course you'd also have other problems.) [-kfl]

Sally Hemings (letter of comment by Philip Chee):

In response to Evelyn's comments on Sally Hemings in the 03/13/15 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

[Evelyn wrote: 'As for Sally Hemings, there is merely a brief mention of how Jefferson acquired "the noted Hemings family, who were mostly 'bright' mulattoes" from his wife's family's estate. In this case, again, words have changed or lost meaning--"bright" did not mean intelligent, but light-colored.']

Being a life-long SF fan I immediately imagined this as some sort of bluish radioactive glow as seen in e.g. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. [-pc]

Evelyn adds:

You can see the original report by J. T. Callender at

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

I re-read MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot (ISBN 978-0-14-043388-3) and was struck by how contemporary Fred Vincy is. He is the irresponsible university student who is constantly borrowing money because he has no sense of how much money he has to spend. He just feels that there is an unending supply of money because, after all, he wants it:

Fred had at first given a bill with his own signature. Three months later he had renewed this bill with the signature of Caleb Garth. On both occasions Fred had felt confident that he should meet the bill himself, having ample funds at disposal in his own hopefulness. You will hardly demand that his confidence should have a basis in external facts; such confidence, we know, is something less coarse and materialistic: it is a comfortable disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom of providence or the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the still greater mystery of our high individual value in the universe, will bring about agreeable issues, such as are consistent with our good taste in costume, and our general preference for the best style of thing. Fred felt sure that he should have a present from his uncle, that he should have a run of luck, that by dint of "swapping" he should gradually metamorphose a horse worth forty pounds into a horse that would fetch a hundred at any moment--"judgment" being always equivalent to an unspecified sum in hard cash. ... The Vincys lived in an easy profuse way, not with any new ostentation, but according to the family habits and traditions, so that the children had no standard of economy, and the elder ones retained some of their infantine notion that their father might pay for anything if he would.

Vincy manages to get most of the money to cover the loan, but then loses most of that in an episode of horse-trading referred to above. The result is that Garth has to take the money he had worked for years to save for his son's apprenticeship, and give it to Vincy.

This is all so like so many people's financial decisions in the last few decades. They keep buying stuff they cannot afford because they want it, and they convince themselves that the money will come from somewhere. Then one day it all crashes down and they lose their children's college fund, or their retirement fund, or their house. And if the bank or insurance company has "co-signed" enough bad mortgages, they go down as well.

An even more explicit description of what many people now experience is found later:

Eighteen months ago Lydgate was poor, but had never known the eager want of small sums, and felt rather a burning contempt for any one who descended a step in order to gain them. He was now experiencing something worse than a simple deficit: he was assailed by the vulgar hateful trials of a man who has bought and used a great many things which might have been done without, and which he is unable to pay for, though the demand for payment has become pressing.

Eliot sees perfectly how people can tell everyone else how to manage their problems without ever applying that advice to themselves:

It is true Lydgate was constantly visiting the homes of the poor and adjusting his prescriptions of diet to their small means; but, dear me! has it not by this time ceased to be remarkable--is it not rather that we expect in men, that they should have numerous strands of experience lying side by side and never compare them with each other?

Of course, Eliot is hardly the first to note this:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. [Matthew 7:3-5]

Rosamund Lydgate is particularly detached from reality. Not only does she absolutely refuse to understand that they are in serious financial difficulty, but she also deludes herself about how people--specifically, men--see her:

She had felt stung and disappointed by Will's resolution to quit Middlemarch, for in spite of what she knew and guessed about his admiration for Dorothea, she secretly cherished the belief that he had, or would necessarily come to have, much more admiration for herself; Rosamond being one of those women who live much in the idea that each man they meet would have preferred them if the preference had not been hopeless.

She reminds me of Mrs. Bennet and of Lydia in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE--neither of them seems to have the slightest notion of the impropriety of Lydia's running off with Wickham. For example, Mrs. Bennet bemoans the fact that Lydia and Wickham married before returning, rather than coming back for a big wedding. In these days when one frequently sees an obviously pregnant bride in a white wedding gown, it may not be clear to readers what a shocking idea this would have been then. Similarly, Lydia does whatever she pleases, with no concern about whether it is wise or not.

All this is usually not considered the main story of MIDDLEMARCH but in fact, there are several stories other than that of Dorothea and Casaubon that have as much "page time."

I only read part of AMERICAN PULP: HOW PAPERBACKS BROUGHT MODERNISM TO MAIN STREET by Paula Rabinowitz (ISBN 978-0-691-15060-4)--specifically, the chapter titled "Senor Borges Wins! Ellery Queen's Garden". A sample of the writing may give you a clue why: "In an enclosed landscape with a 'mythical' city filled with a world of languages rendered into English, the sun never sets on the British Empire, even if in the Palermo neighborhood he lived in, filled with streets named Thames (pronounced Thomas), he gloried in its exuberant sunsets and "a bar, shelter of criminals." She also uses the word "demotic" (meaning popular) twice in consecutive paragraphs and says that the Falklands/Malvinas War "sundered forever whatever Anglophilia lurked among most of Argentina's populace." "To sunder" is to break apart or into two, and while one might sunder a bond or a friendship, one cannot sunder Anglophilia.

While Rabinowitz mentions Brian Aldiss's EARTHWORKS on page xi of the Preface, she says next to nothing about science fiction for the rest of the book, just three mentions in the context of cover art, and Aldiss is not even in the index. Oh, and the term "passim" recurs in the index (e.g. "labyrinths, 161-83 passim"). I had to look it up; it means "here and there"--a useful term, but not one I recall ever seeing in an index before.

INTERN NATION by Ross Perlin (ISBN 978-1-84467-686-6) is an expose of the internship system, including the (illegal) use of unpaid interns to replace paid workers, the lack of training for interns, the total disregard for labor laws covering interns, and the use of green cards to intimidate foreign interns. This book is now three years old, though, and a lot of these abuses have been covered in the media since then. (However, it is not clear that anything has improved.)

The book could have used a better proofreader (possibly a job for an intern? :-) ). One book title cited spans a page break and only the part on the first page is italicized. Another time, there is a reference to the "Wage and House Division" (rather than the Wage and Hours Division) of the Department of Labor. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          The world is full of magical things patiently 
          waiting for our wits to grow sharper.
                                          --Bertrand Russell

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