MT VOID 01/15/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 29, Whole Number 1893

MT VOID 01/15/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 29, Whole Number 1893

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 01/15/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 29, Whole Number 1893

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

Quick "Star Wars" Quiz:

Without looking them up, give the full titles of the first three "Star Wars" movies (the 1977-1983 series).

Now give the full titles of the three prequels (1999-2005).

How successful were you? [-ecl]

Every Frame a Masterpiece (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is two hours and sixteen minutes long.

That is 136 minutes long.

That is 8160 seconds long.

Celluloid theatrical film runs at 24 frames per second. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is digital and I am not sure it runs at 24 frames per second, but let us assume it is shot/created at that frame- rate.

That is 195,840 frames in the film.

As of January 10, 2016, the film has earned $812,000,000.

Each frame has earned $4146.24.


The Pants Zipper Crisis (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

It is said that anatomy is destiny. And Destiny has its good aspects and bad aspects. We spend much of our lives trying to avoid destinies that we cannot avert. But that is a discussion for another day. It is true that anatomy offers each gender positive and negative aspects that it does not offer the other gender. Men tend to have more physical strength. On the other hand women tend to live a longer lifespan. What I would like to discuss is a male anatomical problem that females never have to face in the same way. I would like to discuss it in the most tasteful way possible. However, since it involves differences in male and female anatomy it may be an attempted tasteful discussion of what is a vaguely distasteful subject and I hope female readers will use discretion on choosing to read on or not to read on. I shall assume that from this point I have only readers of the male gender.

Hey, Bro. How 'bout them Jets? What say you grab yourself a brewski and read on?

It seems that the clothing industry has committed an act of what I hope is accidental negligence, but I am afraid that it was a matter of policy. I suspect that the industry as a whole has decided to economize on zippers for men's pants. In any case, conspiracy or not, it would appear that there is some savings to be had making a pants zipper an inch shorter than has been traditionally done. It is not a big savings, I am sure, but there are a lot of pants made each year for men worldwide and that is a lot of inches. Now a pants zipper goes from the waist down a little way toward the crotch.

[Okay, ladies, I am assuming you are long since gone. If you are still reading you do so at your own peril.]

The problem is that the male thingee is attached at the bottom of the crotch. Now a male porno star may never have this problem but those of us of sub-porno-stature may have problems of making ends meet, as it were. The problem is that at some time during the day the average male will have to, well, return some moisture to nature, so to speak. And the nearest point of departure for the thingee may be an inch higher due to the new pants industry standard of an inch shorter zipper. So now the pants wearer has to decide what is to be done to free up the thingee. Don't forget that it is hardly sufficient for the pointed end of the thingee to reach fresh air. No. Don't forget that the cloth below the bottom of the zipper will hold the thingee at an upright angle pointed in what is entirely an inappropriate direction. Of course, the user has some flexibility in the thingee that will help in aiming the point. But even if the point is up to where it can get fresh air, that is a sharp bend and part of it will be over the sharp teeth of the bottom of the zipper. This is answering Nature's call in a manner that Nature never intended. One is likely to temporarily fireproof a large and not entirely or completely predictable field in front of the pants wearer. This has the unpleasant side effect of giving the environs sort of the smell of the ocean, and that lasts longer than the fireproofing. Also, it is not recommended to go to any high-level business meetings scheduled for later in the day than the Nature visit.

Ok, so this is a form of warning. Should you be destined to buy new pants, this is a concern about which you should be aware. Okay, can someone let the girls back in? [-mrl]

Toleration (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I am currently watching the Great Courses (a.k.a. Teaching Company) "The Skeptic's Guide to American History" and the first lecture is about the myth that the first settlers to what became the United States came here to establish religious toleration. (We will overlook for the moment that the first settlers in what became the United States were Spaniards in Florida, California, and the Southwest, and they certainly did not want to establish religious toleration.)

Rather, Professor Mark A. Stoler points out that while early English colonists came to escape religious persecution, their plan (or plans, since there were several different religious groups) was to establish a colony where *their* particular religion called the shots, and anyone who disagreed was fined, punished, or banished. (Actually, the much-vaunted Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 granted toleration for all Trinitarian Christians, but decreed the death sentence for anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus. Some religious toleration!)

But Stoler's further point is to note that today we don't understand how people then could feel that they were so absolutely correct in their religion that they could deny all other the right to be observed. However, we actually have a very similar attitude, but toward government rather than religion. We (or at any rate, many of us in the United States) feel that the only valid government is a representative democracy, and all others--monarchy, dictatorship, theocracy, Communism, even anarchy--are not valid and should not be allowed. The argument here is not that all other forms of government are equally valid, but that our attitude towards them is not all that different from our predecessors' attitude towards all other religions. [-ecl]

JERUZALEM (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Footage presumably found in one of the holiest cities in the world show how two young American tourists in Jerusalem see the sights, including a few they never wanted to. Somehow they are there when a gate to Hell opens. Out come demon-like zombies (or is it zombie-like demons?). The Paz Brothers (Doron and Yoav) write and direct an apocalyptic story taking place (and shot) in the Old City of Jerusalem. Once the horror gets going most of the action takes place in the dark. Unfortunately, one scene of people screaming in the dark looks a lot like any other scene of people screaming in the dark. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

The Paz Brothers work in Israel mostly in television. They have made JERUZALEM doubly on the cheap. JERUZALEM is a film obviously designed to give a lot of punch on a meager budget. Since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, we have gotten a lot of films using the ultra- economical style of "found footage." With consumer electronics as low-cost as it has become it is a fairly cheap approach to making a film and it can be effective in giving a feel of verisimilitude to the action of a story. Unfortunately a lot of filmmakers jumped on the bandwagon and made a lot of very similar films. Without a real stylist designing a film visually there can be too much resemblance from one found-footage outing to the next. That does become tiresome. Beyond found-footage they have set their second film, JERUZALEM, in Jerusalem where there are a lot of spectacular backdrops available to be used cheaply. And in general zombie films are economical to make. It is a clever plan to make a horror film economically.

So it turns out that the city sacred to three major world religions is actually a gate to Hell. Who knew? Who would have thought it? And on the right day demons and monsters come out of a bottomless pit. This is particularly inconvenient to two girlfriends, Rachel and Sarah (Yael Grobglas and Danielle Jadelyn, visiting Israel. Rachel is wearing smart glasses (Google glass in all but name) which is convenient if you are going to film your whole trip. For the first half of the film they sightsee, party, and flirt. On the way they pick up a young archeologist. Yon Tumarkin plays Kevin, who explains the historical basis for much of what they are seeing. All religions have their demons, he tells them, and for Jews it is the golem. [Sorry, Pazes, the golem is not demonic. It is more a clay statue brought to animate life by the same process that God used to create humans.] They are visiting the Old City looking down on the Old and New cities from a rooftop and there is an explosion, apparently from terrorists. This is part of what opens the gate to Hell. Everywhere is chaos. The rest of the film is trying to get to safety and fight off the demons who follow the rules of zombies. The demons are visually the most innovative part of the film. Don't expect a lot to be impressed by, but at least it is an interesting touch.

Where the film is most out of the ordinary is in its showing of the scenery of Jerusalem, but seeing the smart glasses in action is probably the best feature of the film. Too bad the horror is so unoriginal. The Paz Brothers apparently had some good ideas of what to put into a horror film, but not much new in how to make that film. I would rate JERUZALEM a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. The title if you missed it is of course "Jerusalem" with the "s" replaced by a Z for zombie.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


A BORROWED MAN by Gene Wolfe (copyright 2015, Tor, $25.99, 300pp, ISBN 978-0-7653-8114-9) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):

This may come as a surprise, but I've never read a Gene Wolfe novel all the way through. I picked up SHADOW OF THE TORTURER back in the day, but found the writing to be too dense for my tastes. I occasionally would pick up other Wolfe novels, but again, I could not get through his writing style. I suspect that it was, in large part, due to my immaturity as a reader at the time. It's quite possible that I wasn't ready to read Wolfe's work. So, while the critics praised his work, I resigned myself to never being able to appreciate the novels he has given the field.

As 2015 started rolling to an end, Wolfe's new novel, A BORROWED MAN, was published by Tor. The concept sounded interesting--a society in which people were "re-cloned" and stored on a shelf in a library, to be used as reference material or checked out, just like a traditional library book. Recently I was wandering through the dealers' room at a local convention, stopped by a bookseller, and thumbed through a copy. It didn't look too imposing or intimidating, so I figured "what the heck?", and bought it.

At its heart, A BORROWED MAN is a detective story/murder mystery. Colette Coldbrook is a wealthy schoolteacher--yes, that is indeed explained--who checks E. A. Smithe out of the local library. Smithe is the author of a book called Murder on Mars, and Colette feels that since Smithe is an author of murder mysteries, it would be useful to check him out of the library to get his insights as to what happened to her father who disappeared. The additional connection is that a copy of Murder on Mars was found in her father's safe, and it may contain the secret to the family's immense wealth (see, the wealthy teacher angle is explained) as well as to the father's disappearance. Things get even more interesting when Colette's brother, Conrad Jr., is found dead after getting the book out of Conrad Sr.'s safe and giving it to Colette.

As the story unfolds, it quickly becomes clear that whatever the answer to the mystery truly is, it will be found in the Coldbrook family mansion where Colette grew up. She doesn't live there any more--she lives in Spice Grove, the location of the library from which Smithe is checked out. But Smithe wants to investigate the mansion, and so they do. In fact, for the most part, whatever Smithe wants, Smithe gets. He is, after all, the expert on the situation, and was checked out of the library for the express purpose of being the detective who figures out the mystery.

I'm not quite sure what to make of A BORROWED MAN. It's clearly science fictional, even dystopic. It takes place in what is presumably a not too distant future, in which the world's population is down to roughly 1 billion. Hints are dropped that there is no more war, as while the world powers still possess the knowledge to build highly destructive weapons, they no longer possess the resources or the willpower to do so. There are hints of a very oppressive society, with strict rules and regulations regarding the re-clones and interactions with them. Re-clones are not considered human beings, but possessions of a library. If a re-clone is not checked out or referenced enough, they are destroyed by burning, much like a library book might be burned (for a moment my mind drifted to FAHRENHEIT 451, but the reasons for burning are not similar). It's also a violent, corrupt, and sometimes lawless society, where not even the police or government agencies can be trusted. Wolfe reveals these bits of information not in chunks of exposition, but in sentences casually dropped into the middle of paragraphs when you're least expecting it.

I recently heard an interview with Wolfe in which he was asked how he knew what the line was between describing too much and just enough. His answer was, essentially, that you describe as much as the characters need to drive the story. He's not interested in pages and pages and pages of description of the world as that description would have no bearing on the story itself. I do like that answer, because it seems that too many books these days care more about world building than the story itself. However, I feel like that approach falls short in A BORROWED MAN. True, we get just enough to get us through the story, but in this circumstance it doesn't feel like quite enough. The characters know things that it isn't clear they should know from the knowledge the reader is given. And while once we accept that and move on from each time that occurs, it's jarring enough to knock me out of my reading experience. There is one scene, a quite important one, in which the first thing that came to my head was "now how did he know THAT?", but I really can't tell you any more about it because it's a major plot point and the spoiler police will be on me in a heartbeat.

In the end, the question is this: did Wolfe want to explore a world where there were re-clones that could be checked out of a library, or did he want to tell a murder mystery and needed a science fictional angle that was fresh and different? I'm not really sure, but it really didn't work for me all that well. Once Smithe was checked out of the library, although the fact that he was a re- clone was mentioned from time to time, the conceit wasn't used all that much. It's reminiscent of the gender-neutral aspect of Ann Leckie's "Ancillary" series, wherein the story was set up with that aspect but then that conceit was sent to the background as she got on with the rest of the novel.

In the end, A BORROWED MAN is a well-written murder mystery with a few nice twists, but really nothing to write home about. Maybe I'm still not mature enough to read and appreciate a Gene Wolfe novel. Maybe I never will be. [-jak]


Over my winter vacation I took along five books to read, and more or less covered all of them. I started with the light stuff--THE BONE LABYRINTH by James Rollins. Rollins seems to have picked up the mantle of pulp-style techno-thrillers. There is an intrinsic plausibility to his "Sigma Force"--the covert action arm of DARPA that looks into the kind of odd science and lost race stuff that Doc Savage used to deal with. Sigma Force combines former military operators with scientific experts in its NATIONAL TREASURE style HQ under the Smithsonian.

BONE LABYRINTH deals with a rogue Chinese group that is seeking to use ancient DNA to create super-soldiers. Mayhem ensues with around the world travel, lost races, bizarre monsters, and alternating guns and fists in the best pulp style. Rollins always ends his books with an annex where he discusses what parts of the book are real and which are not--these can be fun to read. This is not a great book, but if you enjoy pulp style action, you may like it.

Next I read PERSONAL by Lee Child, another Jack Reacher novel. This tale is the second following A WANTED MAN which I reviewed in the MTVOID recently. PERSONAL is different in tone than the other Reacher novels I've read, with a lot of the feel of a Jason Bourne story. Reacher is recruited by American intelligence to hunt down a dangerous killer who he arrested in the past, but has now been released from prison and appears to be on a vendetta to both kill Reacher and create chaos by assassinating international leaders. As usual, there is a lot of detective work on display as Reacher gradually figures out the full dimensions of things. Reacher novels have a standard structure with at least one female sidekick and lots of slogging detective work, concluding with an apocalyptic battle. This particular final conflict seemed better motivated and plotted than those in the other Reacher novels I have read, and in its inventive choice of villains reminded me of Modesty Blaise tales.

This was followed by HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT: FROM MARS TO THE STARS by Louis Friedman. I'm going to write a separate review of this book, but it is both controversial and worth reading. I don't endorse the message of the book--that we ought to settle Mars but go no further--but Friedman deserves credit for advocating his viewpoint in an interesting fashion.

We're getting into the heavier books now--THE BRAIN ELECTRIC: THE DRAMATIC HIGH-TECH RACE TO MERGE MINDS AND MACHINES by Malcolm Gay. I'm not going to say I read this entire book. I skimmed the first third and speed read the second two thirds. Mainly I was attempting to understand the state of the art in this field. DARPA has been funding a series of projects to create thought-controlled prosthetic arms. The book focuses both on the colorful scientists leading competing projects and the brave paralyzed patients who volunteer as lab rats. Being a lab rat here involves having a lot of needles stuck in your brain, so it is nothing to scoff at. The patents especially come off as real heroes, selflessly dedicating the final period of their lives to experiments that will most likely just be a stepping stone to the real solution.

The net here is that by about 2012 we have reached the point that a patient can mentally control a robot arm through ten degrees of freedom, a major achievement. However useful this may be, it reveals a new set of issues about how the brain really works, and what is needed to restore independence to paralyzed folks. For example, it was found that the patient could pick things up while not looking at them, but if they looked, they couldn't do it--at first. This appears to be related in complex ways to the lack of tactile feedback in the arm and what the brain expects when it picks things up. Enormous progress has been made, and in time DAPRA will succeed, to the benefit of millions. But mysteries remain--I suggest reading the book to find out more about them.

Finally I started HERO OF THE AIR: GLENN CURTIS AND THE BIRTH OF NAVAL AVIATION by William F. Trimble. Curtis operated out of upstate New York near where my son worked last summer, and I had the opportunity to visit the Curtis museum. Everybody knows about the Wright brothers, and they were first, but Curtis may be the person that contributed that most to making airplane travel a commercial reality. He also has the distinction of being the real person who may most resemble the original Tom Swift. There was a rivalry between the Wrights and Curtis in aviation that might be compared to the current battle between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in rocketry.

A self-taught engineer who graduated from eighth grade, he started out racing, fixing, and selling bicycles. From this he evolved to building, selling, and racing motorcycles, and at one point held an unofficial world motorcycle speed record. He then moved on to building and flying his own aircraft, working as part of a team with the legendary Alexander Graham Bell that might be described as the first instantiation of "Bell Labs." In all of these endeavors he was a bold competitor who won countless competitions while developing himself advanced engines and related technologies. Toward the close of his career he produced streamlined mobile homes, another Tom Swift project. I'm not quite done with the book, but so far I'm enjoying it.


DURANT'S NEVER CLOSED (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Spend some time with Jack Durant, the Phoenix steakhouse owner who is anything but restrained. Durant is funny, violent, and foul-mouthed, and probably has ties to the Mafia. DURANT'S NEVER CLOSES introduces Phoenix restaurateur Durant, one of the more legendary personalities of the Phoenix area. Rather than having a plot, the film takes the form of a collection of vignettes and short stories--not all believable--woven into a minimalist account. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Jack Durant (played by Tom Sizemore) was a real person, a least as real as he allowed himself be. Tough guy Durant owned a bar and restaurant in Phoenix called, appropriately enough "Durant's." [Or "Durant's Steakhouse."] There were all kinds of stories about him and no one knows which ones are true. In DRUANT'S NEVER CLOSES the viewer can spend some time in the restaurant and see the man in action, telling stories, getting in fights, making bets, and swearing a red streak, and letting everybody know who is boss. Durant knew the shiny side and the underside of Phoenix.

DURANT'S NEVER CLOSES recreates one of the more notorious figures of 20th century Arizona. Mabel Leo wrote the book THE SAGA OF JACK DURANT; Terry Earp turned it into a stage play; Travis Mills adapted the play for the film and then directed the film.

The film is a little claustrophobic, having most of the action take place in the restaurant. The production design is simple. When we are in the restaurant, which we are through most of the film, most everything in front of the camera is bright red. We have scarlet furniture, scarlet wallpaper, and scarlet lighting turning people's flesh to the same oppressive bright red. These are some of the reddist scenery since MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH.

If the background turns white we are either in Durant's head or having a flashback, or both. Durant thinks about his past and talks about it. The stories come thick and fast, though after an hour they seem less thick than fast. There are implications that Durant suggested the value of Los Vegas to Bugsy Siegel and also vaguely that he has something to do with Siegel's death. But that's Durant's version of the story. All this we get through a drowsy jazz score by Tyler Parkinson. There is some classical music when need be to bring things to a higher plane.

If your thing is watching tough guys get drunk and pick fights, browbeat the staff and even the customers, there is plenty of that sort of action. If not, the film is a little more problematic.

The viewer cannot know if Tom Sizemore's impression of Durant is accurate, but it is the film's strong suit. I rate DURAND'S NEVER CLOSES a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. This film is not for everyone or for anyone allergic to the color bright red.

Film Credits:

Background information on Jack Durant:


Choices (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to Evelyn's comments on choices in the 01/01/16 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

It is refreshing to see a skeptical, perceptive view on food certifications. For some time the informed consumer is obliged to discover what is behind all those labels--else remain ignorant like most of us.

In the Sixties my father subscribed to the two Rodale magazines: PREVENTION and ORGANIC GARDENING AND FARMING (both had the same format as READER'S DIGEST and ANALOG). Dad had a two-acre vegetable garden as a "hobby" in addition to his day job. He was not dogmatic--I remember helping him sow chemical fertilizer along with potatoes at planting time.

Flash forward to the late Eighties at Enzyme Express where you could get wheat grass juice along with fresh vegetable juice and spirulina-enhanced smoothies (all of which I enjoyed from time to time). Thanks to Dad, fresh carrot juice was by then twenty years old in my personal history. Once a patron in line with me referred to the "organic carrots" at this place. I was in a cynical mood so I replied (knowing full well what she thought she meant):

"I can't even imagine an inorganic carrot."

I've often thought the "organic" label was unfortunate and overbroad--"organic standards" ought to be called "purity standards" or some such--but perhaps by the time Rodale published his rags various food safety acts had already appropriated the term "purity" and its variants.

Whenever I hear a vendor offer something "free" I hold my wallet tight. Perhaps "fair" is another instance of this. My poorly- informed cynicism makes me think that "fair trade" coffee means the entire production/wholesaling/roasting/distribution/retailing chain are all in the same club, which needs no "fairness" beyond ordinary ethical business practices.

Some time ago my son decided he would not eat industrially-produced fowl or flesh (a.k.a. factory-farmed). This has led me to seek out bison (which will not submit to the same indignities as cattle) and what I call "happy chickens" (which, by the time we get them, are nonetheless just as inert as their un-happy fellows). Thus when shopping at the Natural Pantry I see a 13-dollar chicken beside a 23-dollar chicken--the plain difference being that the 23-dollar chicken is festooned by many more labels and certifications (and now, like that poor Russian-expat, I feel the stirrings of my own nervous breakdown).

Fish is relatively easy in Alaska. If one is willing to pay, fresh or flash-frozen locally caught (aka "wild") salmon, halibut, pollock, and cod are always available along with imported fish. Costco offers "Atlantic" salmon along with the local stuff, but I suspect it's not farmed, therefore not firm and dyed, so I have yet to pull the trigger on that. [-js]

SEVENEVES (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to Evelyn's review of SEVENEVES in the 01/01/16 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Having just read the first of two "books" (comprising about 60% of the novel) I have to say that I am mightily impressed with Stephenson's SEVENEVES so far.

Like Evelyn I did not try to carefully envision all the structures (Cloud Ark and Izzy). That would have been too much work for me who struggles with spatial imagery.

Not the only impressive part was that Stephenson seemed careful to get the orbital mechanics right--the entirety of which amounted to a wondrous tour-de-force.

(Dr. Benford may wish to comment on the latter.)

Also impressive, Stephenson did not ring my BS detectors as did the thoroughly enjoyable film treatment of THE MARTIAN.

(I did not take notes, as I'm sure Mark did as a bona fide film reviewer, but there were at least a half-dozen implausibilities in the first hour--a list that grew somewhat to about ten by the end. The Martian "wind" was only the most obvious of these.)

Perhaps if SEVENEVES wins a Hugo and sells well, someone will attempt an illustrated edition--which I'd be happy to purchase.

Perhaps best of all was that the first book used only existing technology--with the possible exception of those exquisite, customized, and numerous robots.

Now, on to Book Two! [-js]

TRUMBO, HE NAMED ME MALALA, ANOMALISA, and Last Week's Puzzle (letter of comment by Kevin R):

In response to Mark's comments on TRUMBO in the 01/08/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

Re TRUMBO: I deplore any involvement in any level of government in promoting the Hollywood blacklist. I would have been fine with it, had it been a completely private endeavor. That said, am sick and tired of the hagiography of the likes of the real life Trumbo, who was, actually an actual communist, which means he was trying to destroy everything near and dear to me. See or [-kr]

Mark responds:

I find it hard to know exactly what someone wants to do based on just the fact he is a Democrat or that he is a Republican. Judging a Communist would be even harder for me. How do you know what you are saying is true of Trumbo? Regardless of his beliefs, did he ever take any actions beyond being a (much-needed, apparently) gadfly? [-mrl]

Re HE NAMED ME MALALA: The media also downplay what a mouthpiece she is for socialism, connected to an International Marxist Tendency. I believed in some pretty stupid political ideas when I was 17, so I will cut her some slack for that. I expect classical liberalism isn't a very big political faction where she lives, and you make common cause with who you can. [-kr]

Mark responds:

I think she has less of a chance than Trumbo did of affecting your life in any negative way. Wouldn't it be better to judge people by what they do rather than by what they think? It certainly would economize on the number of judgments you would have to make. [-mrl]


As you know, Bob, Puppetoons were from the great SFF/sfx man, George Pal. {WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, etc.}

"Still, it would take a Steven Spielberg to make me feel sorry for the plight of a puppet. [-mrl]"

Pal could do it. The New York City independent TV stations used to show the Puppetoons on their kids shows into the 1960s, until characters like Jasper became an embarrassment. L'il Kevrob enjoyed them, not thinking them any worse than the Our Gang/Little Rascal shorts. Besides, they were cartoons--everybody was a bit ridiculous in 'toons.

I was actually touched by his "John Henry".

Just seeing the trailers on TV, I think we have an Uncanny Valley problem, as far as my eyeballs go. [-kr]

Mark responds:

Yup! Also Ray Harryhausen worked for a while on Puppetoons. Both he and Pal are better known for their non-Puppetoon work, but each called on their fund of knowledge from working on the Puppetoons.

"John Henry" is really a classic. [-mrl]

Re puzzle:

"I was going to say "raise up." [-kw]"

Except, when it is Passover, the bread doesn't rise!

Fathers and mothers blessing their children is all through the Old Testament, and I have heard of Christians continuing the practice. I'm not a parent, so I've never done it. But, I'm not religious, anyway. [-kr]

THE MAN WHO COUNTED and Logic Puzzles (letter of comment by Arthur T):

In response to Evelyn's review of THE MAN WHO COUNTED in the 01/08/16 issue of the MT VOID, Arthur T writes:

I can't put my hands on it right now (to give you author, date, exact quote, etc.), but there's a MENSA quiz book that gets a liars and truth-tellers puzzle wrong. I've shown it to several people who agree that I'm not just misreading it.

It was the usual island with the two tribes, and you had to ask one question of the two natives in front of you to find the safe path. But in this case, the MENSAn didn't specify that you somehow knew that the two natives were from different tribes. He still gave the standard answer (ask one which way the other would say is safe). My thought was that after the MENSAn took the path they didn't point to, the two truth-tellers looked at each other, shrugged, and said, "Crazy tourist" (or the two liars shrugged and said, "Smart tourist"). [-at]

Mark responds:

You need to ask only one question of one native. "If I asked you if this is the safe path would you say it was?" Suppose it is the safe path. The truth-teller would say yes and would say he would say he would say yes. The lie-teller would say "no" but would not admit he would say no, so he also would say yes. You just have to use a double-negative. [-mrl]

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

THE ANNALS OF IMPERIAL ROME by Tacitus (translated by Michael Grant) (ISBN 978-0-14-044-60-7) is a (mostly) year-by-year account of the period between the start of the Common Era and sometime around the year 60 (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, though parts are lost, including all of Caligula's reign).

"Tacitus" means "silent", and while Tacitus was not silent, he is known for his brevity and clarity.

Tacitus has this digression about fate versus chance (or looked at another way, predestination versus free will):

"When I hear this and similar stories I feel uncertain whether human affairs are directed by Fate's unalterable necessity--or by chance. On this question the wisest ancient Thinkers and their disciples differ. Many insist that heaven is unconcerned with our births and deaths--is unconcerned, in fact, with human beings--so that the good often suffer, and the wicked prosper. Others disagree, maintaining that although things happen according to fate, this depends not on astral movements but on the principles and logic of natural causality. This school leaves us free to choose our lives. But once the choice is made, they warn that the future sequence of events is immutable. ... Most men, however, find it natural to believe that lives are predestined from birth, that the science of prophecy is verified by remarkable testimonials, ancient and modern; and that unfulfilled predictions are due merely to ignorant impostors who discredit."

What is interesting is that Tacitus expresses this as people preferring predestination. Admittedly, one can argue that having your fate guided by something/someone more powerful is better than having your fate decided by chance. But it also seems (to me, anyway) that having free will is more appealing than believing you have no control over your fate.

While one understands the logic in the following, it still ends up sounding completely insane:

"Next day, the townsmen of Upse sent envoys asking for the free population to be spared but offering to hand over ten thousand slaves. The victorious Romans rejected this proposal on the grounds that it was barbarous to slaughter men who had surrendered, but hard to provide guards for such large numbers--better that they should be slain in normal warfare. So the soldiers, who had scaled the defences on ladders, were given orders to kill; and the inhabitants were exterminated."

In other words, we do not have enough guards to guard you if you surrender, but neither can we kill you if you surrender, so we are going to have what is basically a mock battle so that we can pretend that we killed you in battle.

(This reminds me of someone's proposal that the South might have been able to win the Civil War if all their wounded surrendered to the North, thereby putting an enormous strain on the North's resources. This might not have been a good idea, though, because the South being overwhelmed with prisoners was what created prisons such as Andersonville.)

The following aside got me to wondering about the geography of it: "His colleague in Upper Germany, Lucius Antistius Vetus, planned to build a Saone-Moselle canal. Goods arriving from the Mediterranean up the Rhone and Saone would thus pass via the Moselle into the Rhine, and so to the North Sea." Given that the Romans did not, to the best of my knowledge, have canal locks, I would think that a canal openly connecting two rivers would result in the flow of the river at the upper end of the canal would redirect itself to the canal and down the other river.

SHE NAILED A STAKE THROUGH HIS HEAD: TALES OF BIBLICAL TERROR edited by Tim Lieder (ISBN 978-0-9766546-7-4) was a book I had been looking for for a long time--and then I found it on the freebie table at Philcon. (Actually, it's more a swap table--while occasionally publishers may put out a few books, it is overwhelmingly books, tapes, DVDs, and general miscellanea that ordinary con-goers put out to get rid of. I highly recommend this as something cons should plan for, in the sense of having some extra table space next to their flyer racks and "official" freebie tables, especially if a lot of people arrive by car. And, yes, occasionally something I put out seems to appear on a dealer's table the next day, but it's very few items, because most of the good stuff gets picked up fairly quickly.)

Anyway, back to SHE NAILED A STAKE THROUGH HIS HEAD. I cannot remember where I read about this, but I am guessing it was in the Locus list of books received, with a very short description, because I was expecting either a straight re-telling of the Biblical stories, or something along the lines of James Morrow's "Bible Stories for Adults". It is neither, but rather a series of stories inspired by various Biblical stories.

"Whither Thou Goest" by Gerri Leen and "As if Favorites of their God" by Christi Krug are the closest to what I was expecting. The first is a , re-telling of the story of Ruth as a horror story. (Who knew?) The second is that of Saul and the Witch of Endor.

"Babylon's Burning" by Daniel Kaysen is an updating of the story of Daniel, but of the prophecy on the wall, not the lions as one might expect in a "terror" anthology.

"Judgment at Naioth" by Elissa Macohn is a re-telling of the story of Tamar and Absalom and Solomon and so on, but with motorcycles and other modern accoutrements. "Jawbone of an Ass" by Lyda Morehouse is the story of Samson set in recent Northern Ireland.

I am not sure what "Judith & Holofernes" by Romie Scott is, unless it is some strange delusion of Judith's, but told in the third person.

"Last Respects" by D. K. Thompson seems more based on the New Testament (maybe the Book of Revelation?), but its closest fictional relative seems to me to be Piers Anthony's "In the Barn".

And a couple are not from the Bible at all, unless there is an extended version of which I am unaware. "Psalm of the Second Body" by Catherynne Valente is from "Gilgamesh", and while "Swallowed!" by Stephen M. Wilson does mention one Biblical character and another character from Hebrew folklore, it is primarily inspired by the Cthulhu mythos.

It is an interesting volume, but I found it disappointing. Oh, and Jael never shows up at all. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          Most people have never learned that one of the main 
          aims in life is to enjoy it.
                                 --Samuel Butler

Go to our home page