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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 08/05/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 6, Whole Number 1922
Table of Contents
The letter of comment from John Purcell was in response to Dale Skran's review of THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, not one by Joe Karpierz.
Tor eBook Club Deadline (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
As implied acouple of weeks ago, the Tor eBook Club gives members only a week to download the monthly selection. For August, THE JUST CITY by Jo Walton will be available only until August 7.
I notice that the first two selections are the first books of series. I suspect this will continue to be the case, since that is basically giving readers a free sample, but making them buy the following books if they are interested. [-ecl]
The Lessons of Pinocchio (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I think I was in third grade when I had my great realization about the adult world. Our teacher was out sick and we had a substitute teacher. I do not remember much about the substitute. But one thing that she did stuck with me. It seems that one student was bored with her lessons. He took out a pen and while the substitute taught he started writing something in ink on the back of his hand. I have to add that this was long before tattoos had become fashionable for whatever reason that was. Today we might have a little more sympathy for this aberrant behavior.
The teacher looked up and saw what was going on. "Oh, you must never write on your hands." The substitute teacher went on to say she was in a hospital the previous weekend. She saw a boy in very bad shape. He was in a great deal of pain. Both of his hands were bandaged half way up his forearms. The teacher asked what he was suffering from. She was told the afflicted boy had been writing on his hands and this horrible condition was the result. Half the students in the class of 8-year-olds stared at the teacher in horror at just the thought of what the poor boy had gone through. I had a different reaction. I don't remember any specific words, but if I had my current eloquence I would have expressed my feelings at that point by saying, "What a load of horse-pucky!" Now I know she was really well intentioned. I wish I had her here now so I could tell her I understand and what she told the class was a load of steaming horse-pucky.
That brings me to mail I received after I was negative on the Walt Disney version of PINNOCHIO in the 07/15/16 issue of the MT VOID. Kip Williams writes that the cartoon was "Gorgeous, involving, and about a tenth as violent and offensive as the book it's based on." Joe Major wrote and said, "If you think Disney's Pinocchio has 'sadistic and ridiculous punishments.' Be glad he didn't stick all the way with the adaptation. The two swindlers end up crippled and I believe one is blind too. They are lucky. Pinocchio squashes Jiminy Cricket." I personally have not read the book PINOCCHIO, but what I got of it from the movie did not sit well with me.
PINNOCHIO seems to be a sort of exaggerated indoctrination propaganda. Like my teacher's story it is well intentioned, but it is a lie and a veiled threat. If you have what society sees as middle-class values and "walk the straight and narrow path" as the song from the film goes, you will be rewarded. If you see yourself as somehow different, perhaps more creative, and you do not live up to expectations then you will be punished with unexpected pain. You perhaps cannot be trusted with the future you wish for. If you want something different from the standard values, all you have to do is to "wish upon a star." You cannot do much harm wishing on a star. (After all, the light you are seeing left the star long, long, long before you were born.)
But disobedience is even worse. You drag others into being punished for your wrongdoing. Pinocchio, for example, had disobeyed, and Geppetto, the craftsman who built Pinocchio, went off and tried to find him. Instead, he is swallowed by Monstro the Whale. Pinocchio saves Geppetto, but almost kills him in the process. Pinocchio could have saved himself and Geppetto a lot of terror and pain if he had just been a good obedient puppet and behave like the greatest thing in the world to be, a real, live boy. I say all that is Hooey.
Now I am not saying that the virtues that this film is touting are not worthwhile virtues, but children are smart--often smarter than the adults who feel superior to them. Telling children that there are these horrible things that will happen to you if you do not obey will only convince them that their parents/teachers/Disney are not to be trusted and are giving them a load of horse-pucky and hoping they buy it and do just exactly what their parents want them to do. [-mrl]
yHomeless? (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Glen Dunzweiler directs and compiles this documentary. Nearly homeless himself he travels to thirteen major cities to interview the homeless, find how they live, and find what choices they do and do not have. And generally he gets an appreciation of the extent of the homeless problem and what it is doing to people. Most viewers will already be aware of the problem of homelessness and many issues involved, but the degree of the problem is stunning. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
I have been told that in the Stalinist days in the Soviet Union the Soviets suggested a film exchange with the United States. We would choose Soviet films to show in our country and they had chosen US films to show in the USSR. All the films that they chose were films of protest showing how bad conditions were for some in the United States. First up would be John Ford's THE GRAPES OF WRATH. In it the Joad family from Oklahoma during the Great Depression lost their home to the bank and had to pile into their car and drive to California looking for work and a place they could stop. The film was to be put on tour. The first showing the Soviet audience was stunned by what they were seeing. "You mean that in the US even *poor* people have cars?" The film tour was cancelled. Yes, in America your house can be foreclosed on and you may still have your car. Glen Dunzweiler's home was nearly foreclosed on, but poor as he was he still had his car and he used that as a springboard to make this documentary.
Had Dunzweiler lost his home he would have been turned out on the street, literally homeless. He decides to visit thirteen major US cities make a documentary about the life of the homeless who actually are out on the streets. He will sleep in his car or if invited on the couches of people he meets. He will have a minimum of money for food. The film will document the condition of the homeless he meets. He finds what it is like to sleep outdoors, frequently not even under cover. There are places where there is no sanitary plumbing. He lives the life of the homeless and interviews people who do.
Dunzweiler looks at aspects of homelessness like finding shelter; how cities are spending to help the homeless--not always in the most effective manner; how did people come to live on the streets; what is life on the street like; what happens when the young or whole families are put out on the street, how are homeless military veterans treated (1 in 4 homeless adults is a veteran while veterans are only 1 in 9 in the population), how much crime is there with homeless victims. Some may be living on the street only temporarily (e.g. waiting for veterans benefits to kick in) and others will never escape. A Catch-22 bites some: they cannot get a job without an address; they cannot get an address without a job. Dunzweiler interviews 50 homeless people and 25 advocates for the homeless.
Dunzweiler finds relevancy not just for the currently homeless, but a little bit of money is all that is between any of us and the life on the street. Many people do not own a home and some do but their income is based on one job. Lose that job and they perhaps cannot get another. They may be one paycheck away from homelessness. Some of the people living on the street have been poor all their lives and some may have been fired from well-paying careers. Dunzweiler points out fallacies about the homeless. He started out assuming that most of the homeless are "addicted to drugs or mentally ill." For many homelessness is just a lifestyle they have been forced to adopt and a small fringe actually likes the homeless style of living.
yHOMELESS? gives a reasonably thorough examination of the problems of the homeless and a feeling for their circumstances. I rate yHOMELESS? a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. yHOMELESS? is available on DVD and on VOD. (I saw no explanation for the lower case "y" or the question mark in the title.)
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1995512/ combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ yhomeless/?search=yhomeless
Encores (letters of comment by Paul Dormer, Gary McGath, and Keith F. Lynch):
In response to Mark's comments on encores in the 07/29/16 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
As I long-time attender of classical concerts, I'm well aware that an orchestra is not going to give an encore unless they've rehearsed it. Not so sure of where there's been a concerto performance and afterwards the soloist does their party piece without the orchestra. Then again, I've seen encores where the soloist gets one of the orchestra to accompany them; of course that's been rehearsed.
The BBC Promenade concerts, known as the Proms, are on at the moment, a two-month series of mostly classical concerts. I used to attend them regularly when I lived in London, going most nights. A lot of visiting orchestras gives a series of concerts at the Proms and almost always end with an encore or two. I remember an occasion many years ago, reported to me as I was away that week, of a visiting orchestra that did Wagner's MASTERSINGER's "Overture" as the encore for every concert. The regulars got a bit sick of it.
And I remember one concert where a Bruckner symphony got ecstatic applause at the end, and we in the audience could see the encore on the music stands, but we got no encore. Story I heard was that the conductor, I think it was Solti, was too exhausted to do any more. [-pd]
Gary McGath responds:
The Meistersinger overture seems like quite a heavyweight piece for an encore. It's not short as operatic overtures go. [-gmg]
It was a visiting American orchestra, and those Americans always want to do things bigger.
Also at the Proms, I remember an orchestra once doing Shostakovitch's "Tahiti Trot" as encore, when that piece was less well known. For those that don't know, Shostakovitch heard the song "Tea for Two" on the radio and a friend challenged him to orchestrate it. Which he did in 45 minutes. From memory. [-pd]
Keith F. Lynch adds:
ObSF: The climax of Stross's THE ANNIHILATION SCORE is set at the last night of the proms. A visiting soloist plays a key role. [-kfl]
When we went to a Jerry Goldsmith concert at Carnegie Hall, there was such a long and loud demand for an encore that he and the orchestra ending up repeating one of the pieces they had already played. [-ecl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
BOOK BUSINESS: PUBLISHING PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE by Jacob Epstein (ISBN 978-0-393-04984-1) was published in 2001 and is "an expanded version of three lectures ... delivered in October 1999." While Epstein was a major figure in the publishing industry, and the book is a fascinating glimpse into various aspects of it, many things Epstein says or predicts have turned out to be incorrect.
For example, he describes the origins of the "Library of America" series of books, as well as its purpose: to keep in print "all of American literature worth having." However, he then says, "The Library of America has now published substantially all the work for which it was created and for which rights are available. Its obligation hereafter is to husband its resources so that this work remains in print and accessible to readers, and to ensure that funds are on hand for the publication of twentieth-century writers as rights permit." Here Epstein seems to have limited its ambit to the nineteenth century, with only a nod to the twentieth century. One wonders what he would think of the "Library of America" volumes of Philip K. Dick and H. P. Lovecraft being published.
He also badly misjudges Amazon.com, which he described at the time as "essentially a retail bookstore with sidelines in music, toys, electronic gadgets, drugstore items, and so on." And so it was at the time, and even Epstein suggested, "Perhaps Amazon.com will evolve into another kind of business, a brokerage for a variety of goods and services or and advertising medium. Perhaps it will become an online distributor of electronic texts. As its losses grew, there was talk of 'leveraging its customer base,' jargon for selling access to its millions to sellers of other products." Prescient, you say? But Epstein went on, "But Amazon's book buyers may not be equally interested in other products while Amazon's affiliated retailers will face the same low margins that afflict Amazon itself." He concluded that Amazon's business model could not succeed. I think he may have been wrong there.
ARE WE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW SMART ANIMALS ARE? by Frans de Waal (ISBN 978-0-393-24618-6) is written for a general audience, so there is a lot of "anecdotal evidence." He also presents results of controlled experiments, but this has its problems. The main problem in studying animal intelligence (a.k.a. animal cognition) is that we do not have a good definition of intelligence and how to measure it. Or of cognition, or of language, or of tools, tool- using, and tool-making. Or of self-awareness. Of or most of the "things" the scientists want to study.
Of course, the lack of solid definitions is due in part to the strong desire of many (both scientists and non-scientists) in making/keeping humans exceptional. One need only look at the evolution of the definition of language over the years--as people found animals whose communication met all the requirements at time X, new requirements were added. The classic example, thought, is that humans were once called "the only animal who uses tools." When other animals (e.g., apes, corvids) were seen using tools, we became "the only animal who makes tools." When that failed, it became "the only animal who makes tools ahead of time and carries them around." This also has proven to be false; someone once claimed that the next revision would be, "the only animal that uses a Black & Decker table saw."
(de Waal says whenever a student writes about "non-human intelligence" he wants to write in the margin, "Why not non-hyena intelligence or non-shark intelligence?" Dividing intelligence into "human" and "everything else" is not useful scientifically.)
In one study, border collies were listed as the most intelligent dog species. The owner of a dog whose species (Afghan hound) rated much lower pointed out that this was because Afghans were "independent-minded, stubborn, and unwilling to follow orders." The list, he said, "was about obedience, not intelligence."
de Waal also notes that most of the tests which "proved" that animals had no cognition, or self-awareness, or whatever, were seriously flawed. Elephants were given the mirror test for self- awareness using a small mirror placed outside the bars of their cage in such a way that they may not have been able to see their faces in it. They failed the test. But when a large enough mirror was placed *in* the cage (eliminating a double set of bars), they passed.
Another example: experimenters claimed children and chimpanzees were given the same test. But the children were seated on their mothers' laps, in the same room as the experimenter, who was the same species as them. The chimpanzees were alone on a chair on the other side of a wire screen from the experimenter, who was *not* the same species as them.
Yet another: testing wolves against dogs with tests that involve interacting with, or taking cues from, humans (such as pointing tests) is not impartial. The dogs have all had much contact with humans, while the wolves rarely have. Wild wolves do poorly in pointing tests; the few wolves raised by humans do as well as dogs.
These are just a few of the topics de Waal covers. As I said, this is a book for general audiences, not a scientific paper full of tables of data, and as such, is certainly worthwhile for people interested in "animal intelligence." [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: There's no better feeling in the world than a warm pizza box on your lap. --Kevin JamesTweet
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