MT VOID 05/27/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 47, Whole Number 1912

MT VOID 05/27/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 47, Whole Number 1912

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 05/27/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 47, Whole Number 1912

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

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):

June 9: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (2010) and story "Adjustment Team" by 
	VOLUME TWO, and ), 
	Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
June 23: [no meeting]
July 14: ROBOCOP (1987) and story "Brillo" by Ben Bova and Harlan 
	Ellison ( or 
	), Middletown (NJ) 
	Public Library, 5:30PM
July 28: "The Spectre General" by Theodore R. Cogswell and "The 
	Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz (both in SCIENCE 
	FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 
August 25: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
September 22: "In Hiding [Children of the Atom]" by Wilmar 
	H. Shiras and "The Big Front Yard" by Clifford D. Simak 
	(both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 7PM
October 27: TBD, 	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
November 17: "Rogue Moon" by Algis Budrys and "The Moon Moth" by 
	Jack Vance (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), 
	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
December 22(?): TBD, 	Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM 

Garden State Spec. Fiction Writers Lectures (subject to change):

June 4: Fran Wilde, Worldbuilding in the Air, Old Bridge (NJ) 	
	Public Library, 12N
July 9: Michael Swanwick, Building Stories, Old Bridge (NJ) Public 
	Library, 12N
August: TBD, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 10: Ellen Datlow, The State of Horror, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N
October 1: Ken Altabef, Adventures in Publishing, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N
November 5: David Sklar, Character Dreaming, Old Bridge (NJ) 
	Public Library, 12N

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

Centennial Event in Matawan (NJ) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Even those readers who live in central New Jersey may not realize that Peter Benchley got his inspiration for JAWS from a series of real shark attacks that took place in this area. The shark attacks took place in Matawan (and other towns) just a hundred years ago, in 1916. Matawan will be commemorating the centennial with trolley and bus tours of the various sites, the unveiling of a plaque in Memorial Park, and the laying of wreaths on the graves of two of the victims. Details may be found at>. (They say this page will be updated as plans firm up.) [-ecl]

Piracy (comments by Mark R. Leeper): DVDs these days say, "Piracy is not a victimless crime." That is true. Then again neither is stamp collecting. But people will probably continue to do both. [-mrl]

Dieselpunk Industries (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There is a large collection of public domain movies, shorts, serials, and radio shows at a new website called Diesel Industries. Go to and select the menu in the upper-right corner of the screen. The real champ site for finding public domain is, but this new site has material I have never seen at The site styling has the spirit of "Diesel Punk". (Think "Steampunk" but set in the 1950s. Think THE ROCKETEER.)

This website is fun.

(Thanks to the excellent Attaboy Clarence Podcast for pointing this website out.)


My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for June (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

June's TCM Director of the Month must be Billy Wilder. I see about seventeen films directed by Wilder. It would not be easy for me to pick the top two or three. And picking a film that the readers might not know is a little tough. There is certainly the popular Wilder film SOME LIKE IT HOT, but most people will already know it. If you have never seen SOME LIKE IT HOT then do so. It is a great comedy. But I think most people reading this already know the film. I believe I have written about Wilder's ACE IN THE HOLE in the past. Let me try you on STALAG 17 (1953).

The film starts with a narrator saying nobody seems to make World War II movies about POWs. Well there are a number of such films at this point. I hope the narrator saw THE GREAT ESCAPE. But STALAG 17 is one of the best and it is all about POWs. A stalag is a German prisoner of war camp. Stalag 17 is for captured airmen, and in this case they are all sergeants. It is a prison camp used for only sergeants. The internees of 17 plan clever escape attempts, but has been having very bad luck with their escapes. The men in the barrack realize that there must be a spy among them who is tipping off the Germans. Everyone thinks he knows whom the spy must be. It has to be Sefton (played by William Holden, who won the Best Actor Oscar for this film). Sefton is s phenomenally successful scrounge. The barrack reasons that he probably could not be so successful unless he was getting help from the Germans. And if so what was he giving them in return? Nobody trusts Sefton, and everybody hates him. Sefton knows he is innocent and realizes he himself has to catch the spy that nobody else believes exists. That would make for a good story, and much of the film is stolen by Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck as Animal and Harry, two low-life and very funny prisoners.

Sefton makes for one of the screen's best anti-heroes, and one of the first. Otto Preminger also appears detestable as the Camp Commandant. This film was undoubtedly the inspiration for TV's Hogan's Heroes. STALAG 17 itself is based on a very popular stage play written by two men who had been POWs in the real Stalag 17. At the time of its release there was some discussion that the American soldiers should have been put in a more heroic John Wayne-like light, but seen today they seem fairly realistically portrayed, and the film stands up well seen from the 21st century. [Friday (into Saturday), June 9, Midnight to 2:15 AM]

BLACK ORPHEUS (1959) is a jazzy and explosively colorful retelling of the myth of Orpheus who descended into hell to save his lover Eurydice. But strangely the film takes place in Brazil told against a backdrop of Carnival time in Rio de Janero. The cast is all first-time players with the exception of Marpessa Dawn who plays Eurydice. How the story could be going on in Rio is not explained till the end. (Hang in there, it will make sense.) The film was the first Brazilian movie to break out to a big international audience. It won the Academy Award for the best foreign language film. It was directed by Marcel Camus. But the greatest contributors would be Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa who Samba score was an instant classic. [Thursday, June 23, 4:00 PM]

HELL DRIVERS was a 1957 action drama directed by Cy Enfield. It is about truckers who carry gravel and compete with each other to make faster and faster deliveries of their loads of gravel. The fastest driver is a hero; the slowest driver wins a pink slip. HELL DRIVERS was made on a low budget with a sort of a nothing cast. Well, it was a nothing cast at the time. Almost everyone in the film went on to be stars. The cast includes Stanley Baker (ZULU), Herbert Lom (Inspector Clouseau films), Peggy Cummins (NIGHT OF THE DEMON), Patrick McGoohan (The Prisoner), William Hartnell (Dr. Who), Jill Ireland (Star Trek), Alfie Bass (THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS), Gordon Jackson (THE IPCRESS FILE), David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and Sean Connery (nearly everything else). This was the FAST AND FURIOUS of its day. [Thursday, June 2, noon]

What is the best film of the month? I know I have previously chosen this as the best film of the month but for me A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966) is a film of true greatness about Thomas More. You cannot do much better than A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, Robert Bolt's play about Sir Thomas More and his conflict with Henry VIII. Nobody can express himself better in a verbal argument than Thomas More. [Wednesday, June 22, 10:00 PM]


WEST SIDE STORY (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

These gangs are very sanitized: the Jets seem really reticent to fight using guns, or even knives.

The Jets seem to think Puerto Ricans eat tamales.

But strangely enough, they have no objection to the mambo.

The gender roles are peculiar for 1961. I know the whole dance thing is part of the syntax of musicals, but I cannot help but think that if the Jets actually danced like that in the streets, everyone would either laugh at them or decide they were all maricons, or both. And Anybodys is far more androgynous than even the male-named female scientists in the 1950s science fiction movies. (Various people have claimed she was a hetero tomboy, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender.)

Natalie Wood may be a good actress, but whoever was her voice coach was terrible, because that is one of the worst Puerto Rican accents I have heard. [-ecl]

THE GOD CELLS (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: THE GOD CELLS surveys the contentious debate on the value of fetal stem cells in treating serious illness and it plants its feet clearly and unambiguously on one side of the debate. Eric Merola was so impressed with the results he got with stem cell treatment that he wrote and directed this monument to the treatment. If stem cell therapy is as good as he says, one wonders why we are not hearing more about it from the rest of the world where, unlike in the United States, the therapy is legal. I cannot evaluate the medical claims Merola makes but they are a little too extravagant to be taken at face value. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

First the basics: What is a stem cell? Every cell in a human came from a stem cell. It is basically the raw material from which all the different kinds of cells descend. All the cells of a multi-cell organism had their origin as stem cells. The fetus of a child has a multitude of stem cells, more than are needed by the baby. These cells are present in the early period of a fetus, but they are material that does not get used in the making of the baby. In the process of aborting a baby these cells that would not have become baby are discarded as medical waste as if they had no value. These cells can, however, be collected and used to create in a laboratory (in vitro) many other kinds of cells that would be useful in medicine, but almost always they are discarded. This question of whether to use the cells gives rise to religious, ethical, and social issues. It is considered an unnatural use of human fetuses. The concerns have to be weighed against the potential these cells would have to save and restore human life. There is a question of the ethics of using biological material taken from human fetuses to save or improve other people's lives. Eric Merola wrote and directed THE GOD CELLS, a documentary examining the controversy stemming from the controversy of stem cell research.

This is partly a startling documentary and part a hard sell on the medical benefits of fetal stem cell treatment for, well, just about anything that needs fixing. Apparently stem cells injected in a patient will find what needs to be repaired and will go there. THE GOD CELLS starts with testimonials of people helped or virtually cured from very bad diseases like cystic fibrosis and by the end of the film it is presenting the view that the treatment is good for just about whatever ails you. In addition to the case histories of near miraculous cures we get a short account of what fetal stem cells are, the controversy surrounding the treatment and big business's war against advocacy of the treatment. And always there is the return to covering patients relating miraculous case histories. As an odd touch nearly every case history seems to document a return not just to vigor in general but to a favorite sport in particular. Frequently the patient is now championship level at the sport.

Much of the film involves the legal status of the fetal stem cell therapy. Patients from the United States who want the treatment find they have to go to another country to get it. Fetal stem cell therapy, as powerful as it seems, is currently illegal on US soil. Americans who want the treatment must go to Mexico or Canada. This we are told is the result of a conspiracy led by the Food and Drug Administration at the behest of Big Pharmaceutical Corporations.

One point that should have been covered in the film and was not was what is happening in Canada. In Canada stem cell therapy is legal and by the evidence given it should really be taking that country's medical environment by storm. That does not appear to be happening. Why are we not hearing more about the popularity and success of the treatment in Canada? In the end writer/director Eric Merola reminds the audience that at times the treatment helps little or not at all. We see no statistics. This documentary is just the enthusiastic account of Merola who had had the treatment and wanted to share his good news. He may well be right about the importance of this medical treatment. His film is a little hard to believe without more corroboration. THE GOD CELLS, with its flamboyant title, is just a bit too fervent to be easily distinguished from pseudo-science. I rate THE GOD CELLS a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale scale or 4/10. THE GOD CELLS opens to limited release in New York on June 3 and in Los Angeles on June 10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Hacking Cars (letter of comment by Peter Trei):

In response to Mark's comments on Michigan lawmakers who wanted to make changing the software in a car a crime with a lifetime imprisonment sentence in the 05/20/16 issue of the MT VOID, Peter Trei writes:

'When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail'. The legislators don't have a clue how to secure cars, so they pass a 'Don't Do That' law.

It's the wrong solution. Currently, some cars can have their critical software hacked by bluetooth from outside the car. Worse, an "update" containing malware could be pushed to every car of a certain model. Imagine, as part of a cyber attack every Lincoln Town Car in America is suddenly 'bricked', and can't move. Or: Every Ford Police Interceptor Utility (as used by my states Highway Patrol) suddenly locks the doors, goes to full throttle, and can't be turned off.

Even on a car-by-car basis, this could be used as an assassination weapon. (ObSF: Stross's HALTING STATE).

If you're planning to do something like that, a 'Don't Do That' law isn't going to stop you.

Legislators and the NTSB should be leaning on the car makers to secure the software update path, secure the CANbus (the car's internal network), separate the media/entertainment/communications net from the driving controls, and add sanity checking and the ability to cut out most of the electronics and fall back to hardwired defaults in an emergency.

But that would cost money, and the car makers might have to scale back their payments to legislators. The only company I'm aware of which seems to have a clue on fixing their product's data security is Tesla. [-pt]

Electoral College (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

In response to comments on the electoral college in the 05/20/16 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Some of the recent MT VOID commentary regarding the electoral college and related ruminations beg a brief response.

I am quite sure "Mark's Crowd" is better informed than the population-at-large, but one hears of "Democracy" so much more often than "Constitutional Republic" that I hasten to note that the Founders, all educated, and all much closer to the depredations of various governances than we, were careful to make natural rights explicit in the US Constitution and the bill of rights. Democracy's at their worst are mobs with the legitimacy of majority rule--without natural rights, 501 voters may enslave the other 499.

The electoral college is not a "natural right" per se, but a way (along with the Senate) to assure that populous state are slowed down a bit when trying mob rule over the others.

Keith Lynch is quite correct to say that "parties are private organizations". Those who don't like that may form their own parties.

(And I'll add that so-called "campaign finance laws" are anti-competitive--by using the courts and police to raise the barriers to entry they benefit the Elephants and Donkeys far more than prevent "corruption". If they were businesses, one could invoke Anti-Trust restrictions for being anti-competitive.)

Mark said:

"Perhaps political systems should not be manipulated at will where the interests of others are involved."

What manipulations and by whom have nominated the likes of Donald Trump? His case, as the most popular primary candidate, would seem to indicate otherwise.

Finally, with respect to how various GOP leaders have begun to support The Donald as an inevitability I'll cite Pres. Clinton who said something like (about presidential candidates)

"Democrats fall in love. Republicans fall in line"


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

WHEN GENERAL GRANT EXPELLED THE JEWS by Jonathan D. Sarna (ISBN 978-0-8052-4279-9) is an examination of General Orders No. 11, which expelled all Jews from the area of Tennessee under Grant's control. Because of poor communication within the area, and Lincoln's contravention of it within a couple of weeks (as soon as he heard of it), it had only limited enforcement.

More interesting is Sarna's discussion of what happened after. There is certainly evidence that Grant regretted his action, often apologizing to Jewish groups even when they had not brought the issue up (although one might argue that it was the six-hundred-pound gorilla in the room in any case). But Sarna cites many occasions when Grant chose Jews for various government positions, spoke out against persecutions of Jews overseas, and in general did more to promote recognition of Jews as full citizens in the United States and protection of Jews from persecution everywhere.

(It is worth noting that until the Civil War, all military chaplains had to be ordained in a Christian faith. And the National Reform Association attempted to introduce language into the Constitution from the time of the Civil War until the early 1900s declaring the United States a Christian nation with "allegiance to Jesus Christ.")

But as proof that the more things change, the more they stay the same, I will quote Abraham Lincoln, "To condemn a class is, to say the least, to wrong the good with the bad. I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners."

I listened again to the audiobook of THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (read by R. C. Bray) (ISBN 978-1-491-59016-4) and a few new thoughts occurred to me.

SPOILERS ahead! Do not read further if you have not read the book. Even the movie is not enough--some of the points discussed are not in the movie.

The hero of the book is Mark Watney, but arguably second place would go to Rich Purnell. Though it does not come out as much in the film, in the book it is clear that Purnell is on the Aspberger's spectrum. What is interesting is that it is not a plot point at all--no one talks about it or comments on it. That is just his personality, the way Jack Trevor or Mindy Park have their personalities.

When Watney takes the laptop outside, the liquid in the liquid crystal display "either froze or boiled off." But how did the laptops get into the Hab to start with. They couldn't have been sent on one of the supply rockets--they apparently had no protection against the cold or the vacuum. And they apparently survived the Hab decompression as well. (And Watney specifically says everything in the Hab is designed to survive a decompression.)

The same question exists for the Sharpies, though those might have been in a vacuum pack. since Mark was more concerned about boiling off than freezing. The potatoes are another question--even if they were brought on the MDV, how did they get to the Hab without freezing? (And how big was the MDV that there was room for potatoes?)

After the Hab explosion, when Watney climbs into his one-armed suit, how does he put his helmet on? Given that the helmets seem completely detachable, he can't just tip it forward and latch it. And he also has to be able to take it off one-handed.

Someone should make a list of all the times Watney survives because of sheer luck. Clearly his initial survival falls into this category, but there are many more. The Hab explosion, for example, happens when the potatoes are just about ready to harvest, rather than when they are still immature. (He also gets stranded *before* the crew has eaten the potatoes.) Martinez happens to have a wooden cross and Johansson has an ASCII table on her laptop. Watney gets lost and runs into a crater; climbing the crater to choose a direction is how he discovers the sandstorm.

Another question: when the rover and trailer roll over, the trailer ends up upside down with its nose pointed downhill. Watney decides to flip it over its nose, which means when he is done, it is pointed *uphill*. He says nothing about any attempt to drive the rover around it so that the rover is in front of it again, yet it seems very unlikely that it would have all the same connectors at both ends. (That the trailer's tow hook was undamaged implies that the tow hooks are at the back of the vehicles.) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          I have tried to know absolutely nothing about a great 
          many things, and I have succeeded fairly well. 
                                          --Robert Benchley

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