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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/26/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 52, Whole Number 1864
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
July 9: no meeting, Middletown (NJ) Public Library July 23: "Universe" by Robert A. Heinlein and "Vintage Season" by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME VOLUME 2A), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM July 23: GRAND TOUR: DISASTER IN TIME (a.k.a. TIMESCAPE) (film) and "Vintage Season" by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM Speculative Fiction Lectures (subject to change): July 7: Leanna Renee Hieber, topic TBA, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N August: no lecture September 12: Carlotta Holton, Applying Local Myths & History into Speculative Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N October 3: Ellen Datlow, The State of Horror Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N November 7: Jennifer Walkup, Finding Your Voice in YA Speculative Fiction, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N December: no lecture Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
Texas et al Trip Log:
Evelyn's trip log of Mark and Evelyn's 2013 road trip to Texas and back is available at http://leepers.us/evelyn/trips/south13.htm. This was in conjunction with the Worldcon in San Antonio; that convention report is available at http://fanac.org/worldcon/LoneStarCon/x13-ecl.html.
The log includes an account of their visit to Robert E. Howard's home in Cross Plains.
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for July (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
It is time for my highlights of the upcoming month on Turner Classic Movies. I will remind people I am totally un-associated with TCM. If asked, the Turner Corporation will disavow any knowledge of my existence or writing. This is just as good an excuse as any to write about film and to have something to write about. Comments are always welcome. In fact, other people's suggestions for films worth seeing on TCM would be more than welcome. All times given are for East Coast US time. Come to think of it, I don't know anyone who reads this column who does not live in the Eastern Time Zone.
I do not think that I ever discussed the film PEEPING TOM (1960) in the "My Picks" column. It is an unusual horror film produced by Michael Powell. Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger formed a film production company in Britain during World War II and in the post-war years. They named their production company The Archers and produced an impressive list of films which included THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP (1943), A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946, a.k.a. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN), BLACK NARCISSUS (1947) and THE RED SHOES (1948). It seemed they could do little wrong. That was until Powell tried his hand at producing and directing a psychological horror film, PEEPING TOM (1960). (Pressburger was officially uninvolved on this one.) This was around the time that if Hammer Films showed some blood on Dr. Frankenstein's jacket audience members would be really grossed out. This was a film about an emotionally scarred young man with a hobby of killing women and filming their dying facial expressions in close-up. The film was roundly detested by a public who was completely unprepared for such a graphic and suggestive exercise in horror. That was really the end of The Archers. Powell produced only a handful of films after that. Pressburger continued working but usually under a false name, Richard Imrie. (I do not know for sure that he was hiding his professional relationship with Powell. But that would have been difficult at this point.) PEEPING TOM is not seen very much. Certainly, it has nowhere near the popularity of Hitchcock's PSYCHO, made that same year. But it has achieved a great deal of respect from film critics today who are not quite so squeamish. That is not to say it does not still spellbind the viewer and produce a guilty feel of voyeurism. [Wednesday, July 22, 2:30 AM]
People seem to like to know when TCM will be running little sub- festivals of genre films. A whole morning or afternoon will be booked for some particular type of horror or science fiction film. TCM offers at least two of these small series of genre films in July. The second Thursday of this month we will get alien invaders coming to our planet. All but one of the films are 1950s films. The 1950s films are all made in glorious black and white like most 1950s science fiction films. In these stories various invaders come to Earth for various purposes. Most come for power or to rule our world for imperialistic gain. It is not clear why they want old Planet Earth in their empire. Some want to run the planet. Or some just want a dry dock to make spaceship repairs. One of the films has a militant pacifist from space telling us be nice and don't fight or we get a planet-wide spanking.
Thursday 7/9 and Friday 7/10: Invaders of Earth 8:00 PM EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) 9:30 PM IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953) 11:00 PM DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE (1951) 1:00 AM MAN FROM PLANET X, THE (1951) 2:30 AM INVISIBLE INVADERS (1959) 3:45 AM THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE (1967)
The other series is about apes. There will be the first two "Planet of the Apes" films which make a story all by themselves. In fact, if you have never seen the films (really???) you might think there really is nowhere for the story to go for another sequel. Ah, but 20th Century Fox found a way. Then we have the three ape films made by Willis O'Brien for RKO. In any case these are the films.
Tuesday 7/14: Apes 9:15 AM PLANET OF THE APES (1968) 11:15 AM BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES (1970) 1:00 PM KING KONG (1933) 3:00 PM SON OF KONG (1933) 4:15 PM MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949)
Best film of the month???? How about 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)? [Sunday, July 26, 6:15 PM]
INSIDE OUT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This is probably Pixar's best film. And that's going some. But here they take on the daunting task of visualizing many of the key aspects of human psychology. Rather than distracting from the plot, the science is a part of the story as the film graphically illustrates human psychology. Yet INSIDE OUT has all the plot and (nearly) all the character appeal we have come to expect of Pixar. The main character is very homesick after having seen transplanted to a new city. With a Woody-Allen-like visualization we see what is going on in her head and many aspects of human psychology. If you get tired of the ideas whizzing around you, you can just sit back and enjoy it as a pretty good Pixar animated comedy, both fun and intellectually challenging. The writing and directing team of Peter Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen have turned out a winner. Rating: +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10
In 1966 the film FANTASTIC VOYAGE took its audience on an incredible ride into the human body. In 1982 there was TRON, which was set in a world inspired by the internal workings of a computer. Now we have INSIDE OUT. It features a journey into a world based on the psychology and workings of the human mind.
Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) has had a sort of idyllic existence in the only place she has ever lived, Minnesota. She has an ideal childhood. But then Riley reacts when her father has to move his family to San Francisco for his business. There is nothing about this new city that Riley likes. She desperately wants to return to Minnesota. Inside her mind there is a parallel world called the Headquarters and presided over by her emotions. The emotions are more or less anthropomorphic and are representations of Riley's feelings. There is Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). These emotions control Riley and her actions. They are the guardians of Riley's memories, represented by bowling-ball-sized spheres. So how does that work, having tangible images of abstract ideas? Well, for example there is a basket of blocks labeled "facts" and another of opinions. The baskets get knocked over leaving a pile of facts and opinions on the floor. The person who spilled them tries to sort them, but is assured that most people cannot tell the difference anyway.
A viewer with knowledge of psychology will appreciate the metaphorical characters and locations. You may already know what distinguishes core memories from other memories, but you can still see what they are. And if the viewer is a child (or just tired of decoding the metaphorical meanings of the plot), he can always turn off his mind and just watch the animated comedy. This film's target audience has the breadth of that of Lewis Carroll's stories.
To be entertaining of such a wide audience is no small feat. One can readily tell that the script was a labor of love, a fun comedy that if it has a fault, it is that the viewer cannot keep up with the fast-paced film. And as is so rare these days, the situation of the characters runs a full gamut of emotions. This was an extremely ambitious production and it pays off well.
Pixar's most recent films, going back to CARS 2, have been disappointments. As of INSIDE OUT they are back in true form. In fact, this film is more intelligent than they ever have been in the past. This is the kind of film you almost need to get on video. You will want to back it up and see interesting touches again and again. There will always be more so see. And my guess is that you will see more every time you see the film you will notice a lot you have not noticed before. I rate INSIDE OUT a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9/10. As is the custom with Pixar films INSIDE OUT is paired with a short animated film, in this case "Lava", in which two volcanoes fall in love.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2096673/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inside_out_2015/
JURASSIC WORLD (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: This is our fourth outing with the world Steven Spielberg created with JURASSIC PARK. As with the first film the defense measures for the restored park are pitted against Nature and we all know who will win. Sadly, the dinosaurs are much more interesting than the people are. The hero of the film seems to be chosen for his age and not his acting ability. The film is full of re-used dinosaurs and re-used plot. But most of us can always enjoy watching the dinosaurs. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
There is a minor spoiler after the review with a posted warning.
The "Jurassic Park" franchise has some built-in limitations for the filmmakers trying to draft follow-up stories. You can go only so far in showing dinosaurs and people in grave situations, trapped and easy prey for bigger and bigger dinosaurs. The first film had people in a jeep in a tree. The second film upped it having a van hanging over an abyss. The third film had a Tyrannosaurus facing the even bigger fiercer Spinosaurus. Now, much of the audience had not heard of a Spinosaurus, but it was explained to us well (and accurately) that a Spinoaurus really is scarier than a Tyrannosaurus. Now we come to the fourth in the series and there is nothing the writers can pull out of the real Mesozoic to be still bigger and badder. At least there is nothing the ticket buyer might recognize. Instead we will have the science patch together bits of DNA to create something nasty enough to outfight anything in any of the other films. This fictional thing is called an "Indominus" and it looks a lot like a Tyrannosaurus with bigger arms and small boney studs of armor on its back. At times it is hard to tell if we are looking at a Tyrannosaurus or an Idominus. That must save some effort for the CGI staff that provided the effects.
It is twenty-two years since the release of the original JURASSIC PARK and in the film we find ourselves twenty-two years after the events of JURASSIC PARK. The dangerous park is now open and running. It has become part zoo and part amusement park. The real dinosaur attractions were a huge success with its first-time visitors, but it suffered from lack of repeat business. The public wants to see something new and really scary in prehistoric reptile form. The park's owners have an idea how to really scare people. They call on science to use genetic surgery to create something bigger and stronger than any currently known dinosaur. It is called the "Indominus." Once again, two young people related to a major executive of the park come visiting. In this case it is two nephews of the Recreation Manager, Claire (played by Bryce Dallas Howard). The boys are Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson). But the real hero of the tale is raptor wrangler and general dinosaur behavior expert Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), only a little older than the park himself. Owen Grady is a far cry from Sam Neill as Alan Grant. Pratt is young, handsome, and rides motorcycles, appealing to the teen demographic. One problem with the plot is the whole idea of creating a newer and more deadly dinosaur that never lived. There are plenty of interesting dinosaurs and contemporary non-dinosaur reptiles for them to need to invent new ones.
To make a long story short Indominus executes a clever escape from its enclosure and runs free into a nearby forest. Meanwhile, off on their own are Gray and Zach who are exploring the forest in a motor vehicle that looks like a hamster globe. They are blissfully unaware that there is an evacuation of the island called because of the escaped Indominus. And of course someone has to go out and find them. This is the same basic plot of JURASSIC PARK.
There is more to the story, but it is hard to care because the characters are not well drawn. There is almost too much in the film but not enough sense of wonder.
While the dinosaurs are interesting to see, what is really missing from this film is moments of awe. Seeing the park is little better than visiting MarineWorld. In JURASSIC PARK we had that terrific scene when Alan Grant and Ellie Satler see the Brachiosaurus walk out of the forest and sit up to get at the high branches. There is just nothing comparably breath=taking in this film.
To re-enforce the connections to JURASSIC PARK there is one character in this film that was in the original. Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), was just a lab geneticist in the original film now runs the biology lab. He was in neither of the intermediate films.
There are films you want to just wash over you and others you want to think about. I do not have to tell you which kind is JURASSIC WORLD. This is a turn your mind off and go with it sort of film. It will pay off in seeing real-looking. For fans of dinosaurs this film has both pain and pleasure. The realistic dinosaurs are the pleasure. I rate JURASSIC WORLD a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0369610/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/jurassic_world/
Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler...
It is getting tiresome in films to have the deadly goings result from the military's thirst for new weapons.
The film says that since Indominus has some Raptor DNA that they would have some rapport. Cats have 90% of homologous genes with humans, but we do not naturally have any natural bond. [-mrl]
BIG GAME (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Hunting Terrorists With Bow And Arrow: A thirteen-year old Lapland boy is sent into a forest to prove that he can find meat for his people. Instead he has to fight off heavily armed terrorists and safeguard the President of the United States, who was shot down over the same forest. Jalmari Helander co-writes and directs. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
Every actor who plays action heroes must have made at least two films much like this one with minor variations. Bad men with guns have some nefarious plan. Just by accident some poor innocent whom nobody would think of as a hero just by chance gets pulled into fighting against the baddies. Through skill and luck he is able to thwart the baddies at every step. In the end it is he alone who foiled the plot.
This time the heroic character is the youngest I can remember in the hero role, and the film may be aimed at a younger audience. There is no sex even referred to. In fact, I don't remember seeing any women in the film at all. The hero is Oskari (played Onni Tommila) who is just precisely thirteen years old. The film takes place in Finnish Lapland where Oskari's people have a custom for boys growing into manhood. On his thirteenth birthday the elders of the community take a boy out hunting. He must make a big kill on his own since his people must hunt meat to live. There is no place for a man who cannot bring home meat. Oskari fails initially and things look bad for him. He is not able to kill at his first attempt, so his father sends him into the forest to hunt and find his way home. And just that same day the President of the United States (Samuel L. Jackson--interesting casting choice) is flying over Oskari's forest on his way to a conference in Helsinki. Somebody shoots a surface-to-air missile at Air Force One and the plane is badly damaged. The President's aides put him into an escape pod. Oskari witnesses the crash of Air Force One and later finds the pod on the ground and lets the President out. That is why we have a thirteen-year-old proving himself by taking down bad men chasing and trying to kill the President. If this plot seems a little familiar to you ... well, it does to me too.
Within the confines of this familiar plot structure, writer/director Jalmari Helander makes his characters engaging enough. There seem to be an excess of familiar actors following the action at the U.S. Command Center or whatever. We have Victor Garber, Felicity Huffman, Jim Broadbent, and Ray Stevenson. Their presence is a tipoff that all of the action will not be in Lapland.
BIG GAME is a likable but not really memorable action film. The film seems to throw in a few too many incredible stunts. In one scene Oskari makes a jump between two--let's call them "things" so not to spoil the plot. It is clear his hands are too low to make it and then in the next shot he has made it. That is cheating a little bit. Even more so there is a scene involving a falling refrigerator, inexplicably found on a high rocky mountain that pushes way beyond suspension of disbelief. The film uses some familiar visual touches like action scenes being shot in slow motion. And while Helander was up there in the stone mountains he gets s some very scenic photography. Some of the Finnish scenery rivals that of THE LORD OF THE RINGS.
Director Helander has given us some very familiar touches from other films, but at least he gives us a good time doing it. I rate BIG GAME a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2088003/combined
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/big_game_2015/
The Six Million Dollar Man (letter of comment by Kevin R):
In response to Mark's comments on the Six Million Dollar Man in the 06/19/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
The 1973 $6m Man would be $32,135,810.81 according to this inflation calculator:
Now, prices do drop for consumer electronics and other tech, once we move from prototype to first iteration to popular units and finally generic knockoffs. I expect a 2015 Steve Austin would have feature creep, and as much prototype in him as the older version, so $6B Man will be at the same place on the cost curve. This is government military procurement. F-22 fighters were going for $150 millioan per before that line was shut down.
I could totally see OSP planning to spend $32 M and winding up in the $6B territory.
"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money." --attributed to Sen Everett Dirkson, (R-Illinois) [-kr]
Kevin later amends:
That "billion here" quote didn't originate w/Sen Ev.
See: http://preview.tinyurl.com/billionhere or http://tinyurl.com/billionhere.
Evelyn further notes:
In its Dirksen entry, Wikipedia says:
"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money."
Although often quoted, it seems Dirksen never actually said this. The Dirksen Congressional Research Center made an extensive search when fully 25% of enquiries to them were about the quotation. They could find Dirksen did say "a billion here, a billion there", and things close to that, but not the "pretty soon you're talking real money" part. They had one gentleman report to them he had asked Dirksen about it on an airflight and received the reply: "Oh, I never said that. A newspaper fella misquoted me once, and I thought it sounded so good that I never bothered to deny it."
Pluto and New Horizons (comment by Gregory Frederick):
NASA's New Horizons' spacecraft will fly by Pluto and its five moons around July 14th. I am sure the news media will cover at least some of this event. Humans have never seen the surface of Pluto before. It should have some interesting data and photos coming back from this mission. New Horizons is about 4.6 billion miles from Earth. This spacecraft was launched back in 2006 and is the fastest spacecraft ever launched by humans so far. [-gf]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
ALPHABETICAL by Michael Rosen (ISBN 978-1-848-54888-6) covers each letter of the alphabet--the history of its various forms, its pronunciation, which letters it can combine with (e.g., you can have "cl", but not "cj"), and so on, along with a longer discussion of a topic about the alphabet which starts with that letter (e.g., "C Is for Ciphers").
My two favorite topics were "D Is for Disappeared Letters" and "Z Is for Zipcodes" (which covers alphabetical order as well). There are seven letters that have disappeared from Anglo-Saxon as it became English:
Other languages have disappeared letters as well, at least of a sort. In Spanish, for example, 'ch' and 'll' were letters in their own right, recited in the alphabet and all, until 1994, which the Real Academia de Espanol declared that they were now simply sounds formed by placing two separate letters together. The 'enya' (not the singer, but 'n' with a tilde over it) is still around as its own letter (which is a bit ironic, since it was derived from a double 'n' which had been "shortened" by writing one 'n' above the other.) The 'c' with a cedilla was dropped earlier from Spanish, but Catalan and Portuguese retain it. (And apparently 'rr' was considered a separate letter in the Americas, but not in Spain.)
No one knows who invented alphabetical order (in the sense that there was a specific order to the letters), but Zenodotus was the first to use it in a library, in Ephesus in the third century B.C.E. (He also apparently invented the idea of putting the name of the author, the title, and the subject of each scroll on a tag on the end so you would not have to unroll it to find out what it was.) A couple of hundred years later, Marcus Terentius Varro catalogued Rome's public library using alphabetical order.
A couple of millennia later Melvil Dewey came up with a new cataloguing system. Unless the rise of computers and search engines, however, most people still needed to use alphabetical order to navigate the card catalog that told you where to find the particular book, author, or topic you were looking for. (Not always--I memorized early on that math was in the 510s, English literature the 810s, and American literature the 820s. But these vague locations helped only in small libraries, or sparsely populated topics.) Only fiction--and to a lesser extent biography- -was left untouched. Even then, libraries started dividing fiction into "Fiction", "Mysteries", "Science Fiction", and so on, making the catalog necessary for those as well. And the Library of Congress classification system treats fiction and non-fiction alike.
Now (as I noted) search engines have made knowing alphabetical order largely unnecessary. Still, if one wishes to organize physical objects--books by author, canned goods by name, DVDs by movie title--alphabetical order seems to be the clear winner (Bill Higgins's "Chromatic Bookshelf" to the contrary notwithstanding). One still has to deal with Ace doubles, whether it is "chick peas" or "garbanzos" or "ceci beans", and those multi-movie DVD packs, but that's a whole other issue.
A quirk Rosen addresses is the two lower-case forms of some letters, in particular 'a' and 'g'. He refers to these as "one- storey" and "two-storey" versions. The lower-case 'a' and 'g' we learn to print (circles with a vertical line on the right side, which in the case of 'g' is elongated below the line and provided with a "hook") are "one-storey"; the ones we often see in print are "two-storey." (The 'g' with its two ovals in particular derives from the Garamond typeface. The 'a' has the vertical line rising above the circle and curving to form an "awning.")
My least favorite chapter might be "X" because he makes two glaring mistakes in it. He says that "x" is used for the vertical axis on a graph. That is just wrong; it is the horizontal axis, and where are all the copy editors these days? And he writes of the cross of St. Andrew (which is X-shaped rather than upright), "You can also make this use of 'X' with your arms and I'm fairly sure that I've seen a terrified gravedigger keep Dracula at bay (as played by Christopher Lee) with this 'hex sign'." Wrong again--in none of the seven films in which Christopher Lee played Dracula did this happen. For starters, Dracula does not hang around cemeteries all that much. He prefers his coffin to be above ground, where it is easier to get in and out of. In fact, I cannot remember ever seeing Christopher Lee's Dracula in a graveyard. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: In a very real sense, people who read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. --S. I. HayakawaTweet
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THE MT VOID Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/26/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 52, Whole Number 1864