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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/05/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 49, Whole Number 1861
Table of Contents
Cambodia and Vietnam Trip Log:
Evelyn's trip log of Mark and Evelyn's 2014 trip to Cambodia and Vietnam is available at http://leepers.us/evelyn/trips/asia.htm.
The Eternal Return (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Spring is here. A couple of houses down the kids have set up a basketball basket and are teaching themselves what every baby already knows, how to dribble. [-mrl]
The Coffee Double-Cross (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
The Germans have a word for it. It is "schadenfreude." You probably have heard the word. It means taking pleasure from someone else's misfortune. Schadenfreude is a common emotion, and not just for politicians. I myself occasionally give in to this emotion when I feel the misfortune has gone to someone who richly deserves it. I do not drink coffee much myself, but Evelyn, I think, loves coffee--a Chimelis family trait. She has pointed out to me that she and a lot of other people are feeling negative on the Keurig coffeemaker people.
I started seeing these Keurig coffee brewers all over: in banks, in doctors' offices, in car repair waiting rooms, even in friends' houses. It seemed like a machine that apparently made coffee without the usual mess. You had these little plastic cups of ground coffee called K-Cups or "coffee pods" and you feed one into the machine and it seemed to work well. Out pours good coffee. And apparently the machine did not cost a lot. Keurig sold their own coffee for the machine, and licensed other coffee companies to provide pods. They also let people buy their own coffee and put that in a product called "My K-Cup." They were making their own coffee pods.
It was still an expensive way to make a cup of coffee, but some people are willing to pay a lot for a cup of good coffee if they really like the flavor. Keurig seemed to be a big winner for their parent company, the Green Mountain Coffee Company. But Keurig wanted to turn their coffee machines into an even bigger winner. They got greedy.
Last year Keurig decided to cash in on the popularity of their brewing machines in a big way. In August 2014 they brought out a new generation of brew machine, the Keurig 2.0, with some small improvements, but they added a new feature that the Keurig 2.0 looked at the coffee pod for a marking confirming it was a Keurig generation 2.0 pod. Nothing else would work in the machine. It would not even function with a generation 1 pod. And there were no generation 2 "My K-Cup"s. Owners had to use generation 2.0 pods with coffee from Keurig or it would not function. And generation 2.0 pods were one pound of coffee for about $50. There were still lots of 1.0 pods being or having been sold. But they would not work in the new machine. Keurig added insult to injury by saying that this step was it insure the quality of the coffee made by the Keurig machine. The implication was that the customer could not do a little bit of experimentation and discover how to get the best flavor from the coffee they decided to use. They could use only Keurig's brand of coffee, Keurig Green Mountain at that hefty price of about $50 a pound, or licensed coffee from other providers, equally expensive.
Now this could be called just simply bad judgment, and a failure to fully consider the effect on customers who had their older stock. The company said they thought they were doing what was best for the customers who demanded high quality coffee (which could only be purchased from Keurig). The company clearly wanted to have a captive market to sell their very expensive coffee to.
The angry customers may not have attracted much attention of the management of Keurig, but this is the Internet generation. People share their experiences. Sales of Keurig coffee brewers dropped off seriously. And the company's stock price followed suit. Other companies started producing coffee pods that would take any sort of coffee and fool the machines into thinking they have bone fide Keurig pods. Eventually Keurig went back and said they would make refillable K-Cups for their coffee maker. But Keurig has lost considerable market and reputation. They had a good thing going, but wasted it when they tried to go too far.
H. L. Mencken is (well, falsely) credited with the quote, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." That may not be true where coffee is at stake. [-mrl]
SHARKNADO (film review by Art Stadlin):
SHARKNADO does not waste time with lots of character development. The shark tornado is in full swing before the credits. No need to worry about the characters. Over the course of our story of survival, those you want to survive *do* survive, and those that you want to become shark bait *do* get eaten alive. We even see a dog rescued!
Remember JAWS? If you do you will certainly enjoy the references SHARKNADO lifts from that classic: Playful people splashing in the water forced to run from the sharks. A pressurized scuba tank inserted into a shark mouth and detonated by a bullet. Even the tale told by our leading lady of a shark attack in years past lifts the exact sequence of lines used by JAWS' Quint in his retelling of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis.
But make no mistake, SHARKNADO is unlikely to become a classic. OK, it might become a cult-classic of sorts. It must have had some financial success since the creators developed the sequel. The hero of the Los Angeles shark event gets to repeat the experience at his book signing in New York City. Both films are currently available to stream on Netflix.
The special effects are clearly lower budget than higher-budget films we've seen in the past decade. For those who want to take SHARKNADO seriously, you will need to suspend belief in the laws of physics and some other sciences. How likely and realistic is it that a shark in three feet of water will jump to the roof of a school bus for a quick bite? And how feasible is it to be swallowed whole by a great white shark, chainsaw in hand, and be able to cut your way out using a gas-powered tool? Oh, and that scene is reminiscent of that classic escape-from-the-tummy scene in ALIEN.
Bottom line, SHARKNADO is action-packed wild and crazy fun. But make sure those watching with you are age-appropriate. While there is no foul language and no nudity nor sex, there is plenty of blood and guts. JAWS left the terror mainly to the imagination. SHARKNADO takes the gloves off, in blood squirting glory. This "realism" is completely expected in film of this genre these days. It's a fun way to spend 86 minutes. I'd rate it a 2 of 10 against all the films I've ever seen in my life, but an 8 of 10 in the group of wacky / spoofy / slasher films.
P.S. Just noticed this: SHARKNADO 3 is coming!! Will debut on the SyFy channel on 7/22/2015 @ 9:00 PM EDT. Looks to have a line up of famous people making cameo appearances:
Mark Cuban (as POTUS) Ann Coulter (VPOTUS) Bo Derek Jerry Springer David Hasselhoff Michele Bachmann (as herself) Kathie Lee Gifford Michael Bolten
In this 3rd edition, the shark tornado comes to Washington DC and Orlando!
Official site, with trailer:
Some Annotations to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Scandal in Bohemia" (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Not all of these are original, although I have tried to add enough that I am not just repeating other people's previous observations.
1) No one really knows whether it is "I-ree-nee" or "I-reen" Adler, though the consensus seems to be "I-ree-nee". My own feeling is that when she was born in New Jersey, it was "I-reen" but when she became a European opera star, she changed the pronunciation to "I-ree-nee".
2) You can tell this is an early story, because Watson writes that Sherlock Holmes "was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen"--the "I take it" indicating either uncertainty, or some strange acknowledgement of a better authority than himself.
3) At times Holmes claimed he never took credit for his detection efforts, yet Watson reads about him in the newspapers in conjunction with three international cases. That he would actually have read anything about something the Holmes "accomplished so delicately" for the royal family of Holland seems doubly unlikely. (This is similar to the problem in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery"--the mere fact of its publication would reveal all those details that Holmes wished to keep from the main participants in the case.)
4) The date, as is frequently the case, is disputed--it seems that Doyle was often sloppy with his dates. In this case, the starting date given (20 March 1888) is a Tuesday. But "we have three days left" until the next Monday makes this impossible, unless Holmes is excluding both Saturday and Sunday. There is no reason to exclude either in this situation, and in any case, Saturday was a working day (or half-day) for the majority of the population.
5) In this story, Holmes "threw across his case of cigars" and later "sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette." In other stories, there are references to pipes, but so far as I recall Holmes did not go so far as to take snuff or chew tobacco.
6) Holmes makes all sorts of deductions based on the King of Bohemia's physiognomy that no longer have any credence--with no longer think that "a thick, hanging lip, and a long, straight chin" are " suggestive of resolution pushed to the length of obstinacy."
7) Why can the details be revealed after two years? True, the King would be married by then, but it seems very callous of him to say that just because Clothilde would be trapped, he would not mind embarrassing her with these revelations. Then again, he does seem a bit uncaring of other people's feelings. 8) There is also no explanation of why Irene Adler wants to ruin the King's marriage. One could presume the King might be reticent to say, but the explanation than "rather than I should marry another woman, there are no lengths to which she would not go" seems mere wishful thinking on the King's part. (In at least some of the dramatizations, there is reference to the fact that the King had promised to marry her, but that is not in the original text.)
9) Unlike in the movies, and indeed in later stories, here when Holmes appears at Baker Street in disguise as "a drunken-looking groom, ill-kempt and side-whiskered, with an inflamed face and disreputable clothes," Watson does not attempt to chase him out as an interloper, but merely notes he "had to look three times before [he] was certain it was indeed he," implying that he suspected that from the first and was merely verifying it.
10) Godfrey Norton seems singularly unprepared if, when time is apparently of the essence, he has to stop on the way to the church to buy the ring.
11) In several of the dramatizations, Holmes shows the cabman a handful of gold coins, which seems much more convincing than merely jumping in looking like a shabby drunk and calling out. "The Church of St. Monica, and half a sovereign if you reach it in twenty minutes."
12) The less said about the errors that Doyle in the marriage ceremony the better. One must ask, though, why after the ceremony the bride and groom go their separate ways. (This is reminiscent of Hatty Doran and Francis Hay Moulton's marriage in San Francisco in "The Noble Bachelor".)
13) Holmes asks Watson if he is willing to break the law or run a chance of arrest. Watson says, "Not in a good cause," and Holmes replies, "Oh, the cause is excellent." Really? I suppose that even though Doyle makes clear he thinks the King is arrogant, he believes protecting the King's reputation (and in the process deceiving Clothilde) is more important than Irene getting her revenge.
14) Holmes's character as a clergyman reminded me of Peter Cushing's portrayal of the clergyman in DOCTOR SYN.
15) If Irene's marriage "as averse to its being seen by Mr. Godfrey Norton, as our client is to its coming to the eyes of his princess," one has to ask why she would not have been this averse two weeks earlier, or indeed whenever she threatened the King. And for that matter, if she is "a well-known adventuress" (a euphemism of the time for a loose woman), why would Norton had been surprised or shocked by the photograph?
16) For all his intelligence, why it did not occur to Holmes that Irene might realize it was a trick and not stay around until he (or someone else) showed up to take the photograph?
17) And why does Irene think she needed to keep the photograph to safeguard herself from him? Why would he consider her a threat without the photograph? Especially if he says, "I know that her word is inviolate." And if he does decide she is a threat, what is to stop him from finding and seizing the photograph then? [-ecl]
BRAINSTORM Letter of comment by Steve Milton):
In response to Mark's comments on BRAINSTORM in the 05/29/15 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Milton writes:
I remember reading that BRAINSTORM was changed because of Natalie Wood's death. The long drawn out destruction of the facility was the replacement for the Natalie Wood scenes they were unable to film.
Here's a puzzle: name another movie where the untimely death of an actor required padding the movie with filler (and no, it is not THE CROW). [-smm]
[We will publish the answer next week. -mrl]
Deux Chevaux/Two Horses (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris):
In response to Evelyn's comments on "Deux Chevaux" in the 05/22/15 issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:
Evelyn wrote, "saying "there are lots of two horses on the road" would be mathematically incorrect--there are either two horses or lots of horses."
On eBay, it's easy to find, for example, lots of two books. In fact, there are lots of lots of two books. [-csh]
Time-Traveling Responses (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris):
In response to the "Deux Chevaux" comments in the 05/29/15 issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:
How do people respond to comments that haven't yet appeared in the VOID? Were the comments emailed to individuals as well as to the VOID? [-csh]
Friday's MT VOID is posted the following Monday to Usenet's rec.arts.sf.fandom, and often their will be a thread of comments on an item in that MT VOID, which then gets transcribed into the next Friday's MT VOID. [-ecl]
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (letter of comment by Steve Coltrin):
In response to Mark's comments on MAD MAX: FURY ROAD in the 05/29/15 issue of the MT VOID, Steve Coltrin writes:
There's a set of picture-as-shot matched with post-CGI at http://tinyurl.com/void-fury-road-cgi.
They mainly used digital to remove safety equipment and vehicle tracks that aren't supposed to be there, but there's also some green-screen for backdrops. What there isn't is CGI characters or other interacting objects. [-sc]
Colony Collapse (letter of comment by Kerr Mudd-John):
In response to Mark's comments on Colony Collapse in the 05/29/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kerr Mudd-John writes:
I think neonicotinoids have been a strong suspect for quite a while. I also think that it is not believed to be the full answer. There are probably several contributing factors of which neonicotinoids is likely a major one. There was a recent discussion of this on one of the science podcasts, probably "Science Friday". [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I picked up DARK CITY: THE FILM NOIR by Spencer Selby (ISBN 0-89950-103-6) at a Friends of the Library book sale, mostly because it was a McFarland book and most of the McFarland books I have bought have been really well-done specialty books, focusing on subjects such as Universal horror films, Japanese science fiction films, or interviews with actors and crew from 1950s science fiction films. This one, though, was a bit of a disappointment. Half of its 250 pages are an "annotated filmography" which is really just a list with credits and plot summary such as one could easily find in the IMDB. The other half is devoted to what Selby considers the top twenty-five films noirs. I cannot really argue with his choices, but some of his analysis is either superficial or just plain wrong. (For example, in one film something turns out to be a dream sequence and Selby writes, "The psychological function which [the] dream performs is symbolic of mass functions that all subjective thrillers perform." The problem with this is that it was only at the last minute that this became a dream sequence, due to the requirements of Production Code. (This is evident even in the film itself--the dream sequence has POV shots of things the dreamer could not have seen.)
This did not completely surprise or shock me. I had always had a high opinion of McFarland, but a year or two ago I heard more about their business model. Far from being a high-class publisher of niche-market books, they are a way for people who have written books about various aspects of popular culture that would have a limited audience to reach that audience. However, they provide limited editorial assistance and pay lower royalties than most mainstream publishers. There is nothing underhanded about this--the niche market means a bigger risk and a smaller print run--but they seem less concerned in copy editing than others do.
Hey, it cost me only $2, so I cannot complain too much. And some of their publications (e.g., Tom Weaver's books of interviews, or Bill Warren's KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES!) are true gems. But one cannot buy McFarland books blindly and expect all of them to have that high quality.
Another disappointment was THE COMPLETE BOOK OF WEREWOLVES by Leonard R. N. Ashley (ISBN 978-1-56980-159-8) (not a McFarland book), at least the chapter on cinema. Ashley starts by claiming this is "the most exhaustive annotated werewolf movie list to be found." Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but it has it flaws. Ashley expands the list to include all sorts of transformation films, including some (but not all) Jekyll and Hyde films. The title of both the Val Lewton film and the Paul Schrader film is "Cat People", not "The Cat People". CRY OF THE WEREWOLF has been seen by many living souls (we have two copies on tape, both recorded off television well before the 2001 publication of this book). Ashley must not have looked very hard if he could not find anyone who had seen BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLYN GORILLA. He questions whether Santo was always played by the same actor (he was--his real name was Rodolfo Guzman Huerta). He spells Nigel Kneale's name as "Neale". He claims no one has seen CAST A DEADLY SPELL, a nifty little Lovecraftian film that I have frequently recommended. He bizarrely briefly discusses "Mummy" movies. And in his biggest blooper, he says that Lugosi is the mad scientist in ISLAND OF LOST SOULS!
WHEN IT CHANGED edited by Geoff Ryman (ISBN 978-1-905-58319-5) is subtitled "Science Into Fiction: An Anthology", which sums up the premise of this original anthology, by which is meant an anthology of stories first published here, not (necessarily) an anthology with a completely new premise. Indeed, someone who remembers the science fiction of the 1930s and 1940s might suggest that the whole idea of science fiction was "science into fiction."
But Ryman took that far more seriously, in that he introduced authors to scientists and had them work together, with the author fashioning a story based on the scientific knowledge the scientist brought to the union.
The participation of scientists would seem to ensure a very hard science feel. But even with that firm a science basis, one can still get a story such as "Moss Witch" which is almost indistinguishable from fantasy. This is not a bad thing, however; one can claim that "Moss Witch" merely demonstrates how magical and wondrous the real world can be. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: I would rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the allegorical paintings they can show me in the world. --Samuel JohnsonTweet
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