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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/12/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 50, Whole Number 1862
Table of Contents
BRAINSTORM Quiz Answer (question by Steve Milton; answers by Steve Milton, Peter Rubinstein, Jim Susky, and Peter Trei):
Last week, Steve Milton asked:
Here's a puzzle: name another movie [other than BRAINSTORM] where the untimely death of an actor required padding the movie with filler (and no, it is not THE CROW). [-smm]
The answer Steve was looking for was TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, but Peter Rubinstein had another:
I'm not sure his death was all that untimely, as he was 73, but Bela Lugosi died during filming PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, requiring additional footage from Ed Wood's wife's chiropractor as a stand- in. [-pr]
Jim Susky writes:
The "last" Pink Panther movie* came to mind but Wikipedia put the lie to that--saying that Sellers died two years after its release.
(*and what was Steve Martin thinking?--"take the money and run"??)
I was stumped for a bit but recall (presuming the film ED WOOD was accurate) that Bela Lugosi died while making PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE.
This may not be your answer - considering that the whole film is "filler"--but there it is. [-js]
And Peter Trei writes:
The genre example which springs to mind is of course PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, when Bela Lugosi died.
But the problem is common enough for TvTropes to have a page for it:
Three that stand out:
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS: Heath Ledger
GLADIATOR: Oliver Reed
YELLOWBEARD: Marty Feldman
It's more of a problem for series, whether TV or film. Many examples found at the above link. [-pt]
Actually we never set up a protocol of how to handle a problem or question in a letter of comment. If I were the de facto judge I would say that I would need some more evidence than that an actor died during the making of the film. I kind of doubt that there were new pages of script added to GLADIATOR to make up screen time because of Oliver Reed's absence. And it makes a difference if the changes were made for the purpose of having enough screen time or of adding patches so that the story still works. [-mrl]
High Intensity (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I see Medicare now covers what they call "High Intensity Behavioral Counseling." I think that is what my parents used to call a crack in the mouth. [-mrl]
THE JAYHAWKERS! (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I used to tell people that I considered the 1959 film THE JAYHAWKERS! to be one of the best Westerns. Nobody else ever seemed to have heard of it. Sadly, the film is almost forgotten. It recently came out on Blu-Ray and I wanted to say something about why this film deserves to be noticed.
There is a certain Joseph Conrad influence on the film that centers on a political reformer inspired by Napoleon who wants to carve out a country from the bloody pre-Civil-War chaos that was the territory of Kansas torn over the issue of slavery. Luke Darcy (played by Jeff Chandler) has set himself up as the charismatic demagogue eith big plans. But initially the film focuses on Cam Bleeker (played by Fess Parker). Bleeker has escaped from the territorial prison of Kansas to find his wife and the man who he has heard had seduced her. He finds his farm has been purchased from the territory by an immigrant French woman (Nicole Maurey) who lives there with her two children.
Bleeker is captured by the law, but instead of being returned to prison he is taken to meet with the territorial Governor. The Governor offers Bleeker his freedom if he will kill the charismatic demagogue Luke Darcy (Jeff Chandler), leader of the anti-slavery terrorist Jayhawkers. Darcy is the man who stole Bleeker's wife, the man Bleeker escaped prison to kill.
When Bleeker meets Darcy he finds himself drawn into Darcy's ambitions to win over the people of what was then "Bleeding Kansas" and to turn their territory into the idyllic "Republic of Kansas". Bleeker is fascinated by Darcy's philosophy and his covert plans to take the territory for his own and run it like a utopia. This might be a good time to note that though there was a terrorist group called Jayhawkers raising hell in Kansas at this time, the group in the film is entirely fictional. The filmmakers used only the name.
The film was made in the 1950s, when the memory of World War II was still fresh in the public's mind. In that war there was more than one dictator who offered the people a better country in return for their loyalty. Darcy leads the abolitionist Jayhawkers. He would disguise his men as pro-slavery Missouri Red Legs, tear up a town, and then return as Jayhawkers promising protection and the dream of a better future.
Luke Darcy is subtle and complex with his own sense of honor. He wants to make an ideal future for a lot of people is willing to turn a blind eye to who is harmed on his way to that dream. He is a cultured and well-spoken man, perhaps the most cultured man in Kansas. While he drinks wine, Bleeker will only drink whiskey. (In real life Parker owned a winery.) Darcy has a large library of political and military philosophy and often repeats the lessons he has learned. His one exception to his high image is that he is a womanizer. His only fear seems to be that he will be hanged as a public spectacle, the fate of Darcy's brother.
Fess Parker's Bleeker is earnest. He is a man of many secrets but few he can keep long. At the time, Parker was a popular television star as Walt Disney's Davy Crockett. Actually, he got his lucky break being given a very small part in THEM! and overpowering the role. Walt Disney saw him in THEM! and saw that Parker looked good in front of a camera.
Jeff Chandler (real name Ira Grossel) was a popular teen heartthrob of the 1950s. Probably he got an unexpected boost in his career for his prematurely gray and distinguished-looking head of hair.
It would be easy to say that the Production Code would have made it hard to tell this story on the screen. It is, after all, about two men in a very close relationship that is totally platonic. The two men just respect and like each other. In fact, the Code probably made it easier to tell such a story in the 1950s than it would be now. The Production Code forced a sort of innocence on film. We were expected to take at face value that the two men liked and respected each other and that was as far as their relationship had to go. If a viewer chose to interpret their relationship as including a sexual attraction, that could be ascribed to a "dirty mind." Today it is almost a responsibility to explain their relationship. Perhaps our current freedom of expression is not an entirely unalloyed good.
Loyal Griggs's camera captures the broad stretches of Kansas. But a major part of the atmosphere of the film was contributed by a musical score by Jerome Moross. Moross is best known for his score for THE BIG COUNTRY, considered one of the best American Western scores. His score for THE JAYHAWKERS! is memorable, particularly since the score for the popular television western WAGON TRAIN was written by Moross based on his score for THE JAYHAWKERS! [-mrl]
Unstuck in Time (and Notice of Upcoming Major Anniversaries) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I have come unstuck in time. In fact, excessively so.
I am currently reading THE HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon. In that, currently I am somewhere around the early 7th century. I am also re-listening to Mike Duncan's "History of Rome" podcast. In that, currently I am in the early 4th century.
I am also listening to Mike Duncan's current podcast on the French Revolution, where I am in 1794. But because the 200th anniversary of Waterloo is coming up on June 18, I am also watching the "Napoleon" mini-series and documentaries about Napoleon, so I am also in 1815.
Oh, and I was listening to "The History of Byzantium" but have stopped. There it was the early 8th century. The "History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps" is somewhere in the Middle Ages. But because the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is June 15, I am also watching "The Devil's Crown" (late 12th and early 13th centuries).
So I find myself bouncing around among the early 4th century, the early 7th century, the early 8th century, the late 12th and early 13th centuries, the Middle Ages, 1794, and 1815. And I don't even have a time machine|
As if that is not enough, in "The History of Rome" I am coming up on the period in the Roman Empire when the emperors lost all originality on names and so we have Constantinus I and II, Constantine I through XI, Constans I and II, and Constantius I through III. (It might almost be easier if they all had exactly the same name, like the Henrys and Edwards of England, and the Louises of France. That's more than one "Louis", not more than one "Louise"!)
In any case, mark your calendars:
June 15: 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta
June 18: 200th anniversary of Waterloo
SLOW BULLETS by Alastair Reynolds (copyright 2015, Tachyon Publications, $14.95 trade paperback, $9.99 e-book, 192pp, ISBN 978-1-61696193-0) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):
Alastair Reynolds is one of my favorite authors today. He writes the kind of science fiction I like--galaxy spanning space operas, weird and strange characters, grand in scope and scale. Really, the sense of wonder kind of stuff that I grew up with and so desperately crave in my reading today. He's one of several British writers doing this kind of stuff today, the others being Peter F. Hamilton, Stephen Baxter, and the dearly departed Iain M. Banks. I first discovered Reynolds at Torcon in 2003 (good grief, was it THAT long ago?) when I saw the book covers for the Revelation Space series and decided I wanted to read them. They are complex, dark novels full of all the wonderful things that drew me into the field when I was a kid. I read the four books in the Revelation Space series, then stopped. I have no idea why.
Then SLOW BULLETS came along. The book is labeled a "short novel", but it's really a novella, and the form suits the story very well. SLOW BULLETS is a fast paced, action packed read, which at this point in the year was something that I desperately needed as I had a large (well, for me, anyway) number of books to get through before I started my Hugo reading, and this was one book that has been high on my want-to-read list since I heard about it at Loncon last year.
Scur is a soldier who was conscripted into the military against her will. There has been an interplanetary war going on, but a cease- fire has been declared. Scur is captured by Orvin, a war criminal from the other side, who tortures her and inserts a modified slow bullet into her, which is supposed to travel through her body and eventually kill her. Scur vows that not only will this not happen, but that she will track her tormentor down and exact her revenge. She grabs a surgical instrument and begins to cut herself open to remove the slow bullet....
... only to wake up on a damaged and disabled space ship, the Caprice, orbiting a planet. She encounters a crew member, Prad, and makes an uneasy truce with him. Together, as the remaining people on the ship--comprising crew members, civilians and ordinary military, and soldiers who had "committed acts against the laws of war", called Dregs. The ship was headed for a planet called Tottori, where the passengers were to be processed. The ship was damaged en route, and all the people on board are waking up from hibernation as the ship begins to repair itself and get back to working order. However, something has gone wrong, seriously wrong- -doesn't it always, in stories like this?--and Prad doesn't know where or when they are. As the people wake up there is conflict and fighting. Scur and Prad manage to calm every one down, impose a semblance of order, and put a structure of, for lack of a better term, government in place. While addressing the assembled masses, Scur notices a disturbing thing. Orvin is on board.
SLOW BULLETS is a story on multiple levels. First and foremost, it is an adventure in a space ship about people who have nothing in common coming together to arrive at a common goal and survive their plight. Second, it is Scur's story in the context of the adventure. It is clear that the story is being told in the form of a sort of diary, so that Scur, or the people coming after her, can remember what happened here. Third, it is a study of a small, enclosed society dealing with unforeseen problems and issues that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Oh, it's also a story of revenge, but that's almost not important here in the long run, as the revenge is just a part of the overall story of how the passengers deal with their plight.
The title comes from the device that is implanted into every soldier that really isn't a bullet. It is a small, computer like device that carries information about the soldier. This is an interesting concept that in the context of a full novel would be explored more fully, and I do wish there was more time for it. The soldiers are also driven by The Book, which is contains the creed by which they live (at least it seems that way to me). While not expressly stated, The Book can be thought of as any of the religious texts society is familiar with in modern times, whether it be the Bible, the Koran, or any other. It is something that is very important to them and in fact is important to the storyline of the novella.
As I previously stated, the book is a fast-paced, action-packed read, but it is also tightly written with no filler whatsoever. The fact that it takes place almost entirely within a spaceship contributes to that, I think--well, that, and the fact that it is novella length. It's certainly a much easier and accessible read than other books I've read by Reynolds, and yet it seems to fit nicely into the rest of Reynolds' work. If you're into space opera, and are interested in trying Alastair Reynolds, this would be a good place to start. It will ease you in to his work. For those of you who are fans of Reynolds, you won't want to miss this. It's a terrific story, and should be on many awards short lists next year. Enjoy. [-jak]
THE GLASS BEAD GAME (letter of comment by John Hertz):
In response to Evelyn's comment on THE GLASS BEAD GAME in the 05/08/15 issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:
Glad as I am to see attention given to Hesse's masterwork THE GLASS BEAD GAME (1943; sometimes printed in English as MAGISTER LUDI, Latin, "master of the game", being a role to which the protagonist is promoted), I must join those who point out that Castalia was a nymph Apollo turned into a fountain at Delphi consecrated to the Muses; listening to or drinking her waters inspired one with poetry; they were also used to clean the Delphian temples; no doubt Hesse's classics-conscious Order of the Game thus made her their eponym and he expected us to know it.
This great novel was one of the Classics of S-F we discussed at LoneStarCon 3 , http://lonestarcon3.org/program/classics.shtml, still available as I write); an 800-word note by me, originally in Art Widner's fanzine YHOS--"Your Humble Obedient Servant"--is in my second collection DANCING AND JOKING and reprinted to be timely for LSC3 in THE DRINK TANK 352, pp. 3-4 http://efanzines.com/DrinkTank/DrinkTank352.pdf. [-jh]
Keurig Coffmakers (letters of comment by Gary McGath, Peter Trei, Philip Chee, Jette Goldie, Jay E. Morris, Keith F. Lynch, Tim Bateman, and Kevin R):
In response to Mark's comments on Keurig coffee makers in the 06/05/15 issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:
DRM for coffee. Surely one of the dumbest business ideas ever. [-gmg]
Peter Trei notes:
It's also used for printer cartridges: http://tinyurl.com/void-printer-cartridges. [-pt]
Philip Chee adds:
What baffles me is that the consequences were wholly predictable. Did they check their brains in at the door or what?
Google Google Thank You Google [quotes from various articles]:
- Meanwhile, executives are making strategic changes aimed at boosting demand for the 2.0 system while also paving the way for smoother product introductions in the future. Those strategies include lowering brewer inventories and redesigning the packaging on the 2.0 brewer to better communicate its benefits.
- Since November, Keurig Green Mountain Inc.'s stock price dropped from $152 down to $86 a share at the end of May--more than 40 percent.
- 'Some of this was due to consumer confusion around pod compatibility, which we've mentioned in the past,' said Kelley about Keurig's failure to meet Wall Street expectations.
- Most consumers weren't confused at all. They quickly figured out Keurig was attempting to do with its brewers what printer companies had done with their printers: Sell the hardware at a reasonable price, and then sell consumers high-priced ink cartridges that the printer required. .... Kelley blames the backlash on a "small percentage" of "passionate" users who want to have some flexibility with their coffee choices. If Keurig officials believe that is the only reason, it's an indication they still don't get it.
- But overall, the DRM on the company's products will stay. Kelley argues that the issue has been one of consumer education, blaming "consumer confusion around pod compatibility which we've mentioned in the past". Once consumers learn about the wide range of licensed coffee available, Kelley says he is sure sales will pick up.
- Keurig's explanation was a model of what not to tell angry consumers. The company said the change was for the consumer's own good.
- "The My K-Cup accessory and other reusable filters are not compatible with Keurig 2.0 Brewing Technology," the company explained on Facebook, "because the brewer has no way of determining what beverage is being used or how much coffee is being added, and therefore cannot adjust to factors such as brew strength and amount of water, which could represent a safety concern."
Sadly, this is the state of corporate executive accountability and responsibility in the US at this time.
The rule of thumb is 'never, ever admit you were in error'. Always shift the responsibility to someone else, in this case trying to get people to believe 'our customers are too stupid to understand that selling them coffee at $50/lb is a good thing for them.'
My current office has Keurigs all over the place, but does *not* supply the pods. So, with regret, I bring them in. The $0.75 or so per cup is half the cost of coffee from the cafeteria.
[This is the first place I've worked in twenty years which didn't have free coffee--at RSA, they had Keurigs, but there was a wide selection of free pods.]
Jette Goldie writes:
Even the generics are expensive and they're not easily recycled. I'll be sticking to good old fashioned coffee making methods-- filter, percolator or coffee press. [-jg]
Jay E. Morris writes:
This is not the first coffee pod machine to do this and it's purpose is not DRM[*]. The Kraft Tassimo was introduced in France in 2006 using what they call T-Disks. The machine reads the bar code and then it will change the water temperature, the amount of water, and the brew time and strength. Where Keurig screwed up was not having some sort of bypass mechanism so that regular pods could be used. I don't believe the Tassimo does either but it was also sold as a high-end machine.
The hack has been to cut off the top of a bar-coded pod and use it on the generics. I believe I also read that someone was selling stickers.
Keith F. Lynch adds:
I'm pleased that consumers aren't total wimps. It's understandable that Keurig thought otherwise, given the marketing success of other DRM schemes. [-kfl]
To which Tim Bateman replies:
I am with you on this. Terms and conditions apply with regard to DRM, however, I suspect strongly. [-tb]
But Kevin R writes:
Isn't this really a warranty issue? It wouldn't be EULA, because I'd assume you could read a copy of the user manual before buying, but I could be wrong. DRM applies to copyrighted material. It is certainly DRM-like, though.
The company that supplies the "freedom clip" to help defeat the lockout of non-standard K-cups is talking antitrust. [-kr]
To which Tim replies:
Yes, having read your opinion I would say that they are attempting to establish a monopoly rather than do something with IP rights.
The attempt appears to have had less degree of success than I assume they were either hoping for or anticipating. [-tb]
Apparently the last quote from Philip was from before Keurig announced in mid-May they would be bringing back the "My K-Cup" for the Keurig 2.0.
To Peter: If it's not a 2.0, you can buy a refillable cup at lots of places and use your own, considerably cheaper, coffee.
To Jette: I assume by "generic" you mean "non-authorized" cups of coffee. If you buy the refillable cup ("My K-Cup" or generic copies of it), then you do not have a recycling problem. It becomes the equivalent of the metal filter for cones. [-ecl]
Review of the MT VOID (review by Guy Lillian):
In THE ZINE DUMP #34, Guy Lillian reviews the MT VOID thusly:
"MT Void Vol. 33 No. 28 (whole no. 1861) / Evelyn C. Leeper, email@example.com / http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper / free subs through firstname.lastname@example.org / The Leepers' e- mail fanzine collects well-formed opinions and observations from across the SF spectrum. This week's edition is a good example of the zine's breadth: a review of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, thoughts on the old, tragically unfinished BRAINSTORM, even a review of SHARKNADO, which is unwisely fielding a third installment. (Like Venus on her half-shell, SHARKNADO should remain pure.) Coffee and Cambodia (the Leepers drink the former and recently visited the latter) are also on their docket. I very foolishly deleted my store of previous issues (an accident; I swear); if Mark or Evelyn voiced opinions on the Hugo matter, I would like to see them anew."
A better email address would be email@example.com (it goes to both of us).
My web page has an index to the last year's worth of back issues; a full list can be found at http://leepers.us/mtvoid/back_issues.htm.
My comments on the Hugo kerfuffle is in the 04/10/15 issue, at http://leepers.us/mtvoid/VOID0410.htm#reading. Follow-ups (in terms of ballot changes) were in subsequent issues.
Many years of back issues can be found at fanac.org. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
NUMBERS RULE: THE VEXING MATHEMATICS OF DEMOCRACY, FROM PLATO TO THE PRESENT by George G. Szpiro (ISBN 978-0-691-13994-4) covers all (or most of, anyway) the various voting systems developed throughout history.
Of Plato's comments on voting, Szpiro writes, "The description of the exchange [in 'Laws'] as a conversation or dialogue--trialogue would be more apt--is somewhat of an overstatement. Plato reduces Cleinas and Megillus to uttering 'of course,' 'that is very true,' 'by Zeus', and 'OK' from time to time. (Well maybe not 'OK,' but something like that.)"
Just such a pattern was also noted in the BBC's version of the Sherlock Holmes story, "The Lion's Mane" (dramatization by Bert Coules):
"You know, this is just like that damn stage play."
"The similarities elude me."
"Questions! All I'm doing is asking an endless string of questions! It's always you who gets the interesting speeches.!"
"I thought you liked it that way."
"'Amazing, Holmes!' 'That's incredible, Holmes!' 'It all seems so simple now you explain it, Holmes!' Oh, I'm not sure I want to go down in history as a literary device to make you seem even cleverer than you are. Not to mention lending credence to your dubious deductions.'"
The method that is currently used for Hugo voting (not nominating!) is discussed and its major flaw pointed out. Szpiro covers this in what could be called Charles Dodgson's multistage voting, which appears to be the same as the Hugo method. Each voter ranks the nominees. Whichever gets the lowest number of first-place votes is dropped, and its second-place votes distributed to the remaining nominees. Repeat until one nominee has a majority. (Later, Szpiro describes the more commonly recognized "single transferable vote" method, which so far as I can tell is identical with Dodgson's method.)
The problem is thus: Assume four candidates and eleven voters. Two voters list A first, and three each list B, C, and D. The last nine all list A as their second choice. In specific, the rankings are:
ABDC ACDB BADC BADC BACD CABD CABD CABD DACB DACB DABCA gets dropped in the first round, and B and C each get a vote from those ballots. Now it is B=4, C=4, and D=3. D is dropped, and B picks up one vote, while C picks up two, making C the winner. But 8 of the 11 preferred A to C! This can be summarized by saying that if there is a candidate who is no one's first choice, but everyone's second choice, they cannot win.
(Oh, and the system is susceptible to strategic voting, as proved by the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Theorem. Consider it a partner to the Arrow Impossibility Theorem in showing just how impossible life is.)
There are also four chapters on the very current topic of the apportionment of Representatives in the US House of Representatives (and by extension, the Electoral College) which covers several paradoxes without even touching on the recent question of whether the apportionment should be on the basis of eligible voters, citizens, or all persons (including resident aliens, etc.). The Fourteenth Amendment states, "Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed," which is, one admits, a bit ambiguous.
Rather, the paradoxes addressed by Szpiro (and various apportioning bodies) are due to the fact that when you divide the population of a state by 30,000 (or any reasonable number near that), one ends up with fractional Representatives. How to round these numbers to integers is the difficulty: merely rounding up or down based on the arithmetic mean favors bigger states. Using the geometric mean favors smaller; using the harmonic mean did not work either. Even if one came up with a "fair" system for the current population, when new states were added, or the size of the House was increased, or state populations increased at different rates, additional paradoxes arose. You might be able to stop the first two, but the third, like the poor, will always be with us. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends. --S. Weir MitchellTweet
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