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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 11/11/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 20, Whole Number 1936
Table of Contents
Supermoon on November 14:
"Entire lifetimes have come and gone without the moon looking quite as large as it will this month. On November 14th, skygazers will witness the closest full moon, or "supermoon," of 2016. But more excitingly, it'll be the closest full moon since 1948--and we won't get another one like it until 2034."
Mark adds, "And is Central New Jersey lives up to its traditions that night the sky will be overcast." [-mrl]
Swimming and the Apollo program (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was watching a swim race where the when the swimmers swam one length of the pool and slapped the pool edge on the far side and then returned in the direction they came from and swam right back. Slapping the wall showed they made it. It occurred to me this was the same strategy as the Apollo Program had for reaching the moon. [-mrl]
I Give My Rating System +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
One of the most frequently asked questions I get about my reviews is why do I have such a strange rating scale. Why do films get two different ratings, one of which has to do with negative numbers and one that does not? I certainly have what looks like the most hi-tech rating system of any reviewer I know. Actually, it is not so complicated even if it looks that way.
It has been a few years since I explained the rating system in the MT VOID, so it is probably time to explain again. People ask me why I invented this strange -4 to +4 rating system. The simple answer is I have never invented my own rating system. I have always borrowed someone else's rating system at a time when it was commonly used.
Years ago I was a fan of CINEFANTASTIQUE MAGAZINE, the periodical that had the most intelligent reviews of then current fantasy films. I was a reader and so were a small group of friends who kept close together by frequent mail and visits. We picked up the rating system the magazine used. They rated films on a -4 to +4 scale. +4 was their highest rating, and -4 was their lowest rating. I liked it because it really could be thought of as using the bell-shaped curve used in statistics. An average film got a 0-rating. Each point was a certain number of standard deviation away from the average film's quality. I never went through the calculation to figure out how many standard deviations corresponded to one rating point, and that would not really be possible. The films I see are skewed upward in the ratings. I see mostly films I expect to be good. I would not intentionally pay to see a film I expect to rate a -2 for example. So most films I review would be well above the average film.
Then there was an additional problem with the rating system. It must have been something like 80 percent of film got a +1 or a +2. That left room for a lot of variation between the highest +1 film and the lowest. So I divided the each band in three levels. Instead of having only +1 in that range I divided the range into low +1, +1, and high +1. That made the scale three times more precise.
For years my rating system and I were happy. But by then more people were reading my reviews and they did not understand why use a -4 to +4 scale. Understandably, it confused them. They may not have taken statistics. They often suggested that a 1 to 10 scale was in much more general use. But then my friends would not be sure what -4 to +4 rating would correspond to a 1 to 10 rating. It had become to compare films on different rating scales I decided to use the same solution that the carvers of the Rosetta stone had. I would rate every film both on the -4 to +4 scale I had been using for years and on the 1 to 10 scale that was which was commonly used in the outside world.
Now that sounded to me very accommodating. People could just use whichever scale was more comfortable to them. Problem solved, huh? Well, people still puzzled why would anyone use two rating scales? So I just let people pick the scale they want. This is no stranger then having labels printed in English and Spanish. I frequently see that at the grocery. [-mrl]
LAURA (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I just watched LAURA again, and while it is a wonderful movie, the actions of the police are so unbelievable as to make the whole film fantastical.
For example, Det. Lt. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) goes to question Walter Lydecker (Clifton Webb). When he is done and says he is going to talk to McPherson, Lydecker just tags along with him. Do the police always let one person involved in a murder accompany them and remain present while they question another? Then he lets yet another person join the ever-growing group observing his questioning of possible suspects--and not just watch, but interject questions and comments.
Later, McPherson goes back to Laura's apartment, takes out her letters and diary and starts reading them. Doesn't he need a search warrant? Shouldn't the letters and diary be taken to the police station and logged in as evidence? Even later, he returns again, takes out the letters, *pours himself a drink*, and in general makes himself at home. Really?
He taps Laura's phone, apparently on his own say-so.
He follows Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) to Laura's cabin in the country, which is clearly out of his jurisdiction (he is a New York City detective). From here he removes another piece of evidence, again with no paperwork.
Then he goes to Lydecker's apartment, again without a search warrant. (How did he get the key?) While he is there he damages a valuable antique on a hunch. (Later, it is clear he did not need to damage it after all.)
On the plus side, McPherson does prevent Lydecker from removing items from Laura's apartment. But frankly, I would also object if someone claimed that several valuable antiques were merely on loan from him to Laura, without presenting some proof.
I know things used to be more lax, but this seems to be not just doing things to make the investigation go faster, but also doing things that can only confuse and slow it. [-ecl]
This is yet one more classic film that on close scrutiny does not really bear close scrutiny, like CASABLANCA, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. [-mrl]
Rocket Fuel (letters of comment by Philip Chee and Kerr Mudd-John):
In response to Greg Frederick's comments on fueling rockets in the 11/04/16 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes: [Greg writes,] "The Moon is a great place to test equipment and technology needed for an eventual mission to Mars. The Moon is only three days travel from the Earth and there is only a few seconds of time delay in radio communications with Earth too. So, if something does go wrong help is not far away."
Or a nuclear waste dump could explode sending the moon hurtling through a space warp or two (or was it a black hole--I can't remember). [-pc]
Did they say "space warp" or "black hole"? I think they just needed you to suspend disbelief. [-mrl]
To which Kerr Mudd-John replies:
This all happened 17 years ago. PKUATB. [-kmj]
[Please Keep Up At the Back"? -ecl]
MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN (letters of comment by Kevin R, Tim Merrigan, and Philip Chee):
In response to Mark's review of MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN in the 11/04/16 issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:
Marvel has their character, Swarm, probably inspired by the 1974 novel by Arthur Herzog, subsequently a film in 1978. Marvel's version came out in 1977.
Many a super hero has [power over air, including incredible lungs]: also a couple of the Wild Cards. Kal-El has done that for decades.
[Being invisible is] not original or unique to Marvel; Wells, of course, the comic strip Invisible Scarlet O'Neil dates from 1940. Radio's the Shadow, if not the pulp version.
Starting with Supes, who doesn't [have super strength]?
["and yet another has the power to make vegetables grow fast" -mrl]
Chlorophyll Kid from the Legion of Substitute Heroes (1963) got there years ago, as did Marvel's villain Plantman from the same year. Layla, the love interest in Sky High (Danielle Panabaker as Layla) had that schtick, as does the Batman villainess Poison Ivy.
["The twins can--no, that would be telling." -mrl]
One hopes Burton came up with something original for those two.
Shape-changers [like Jake] go back to mythology, of course. Is Burton playing with mythological archetypes? I'd let him off the hook for not being too original, then.
Actually, invisibility goes back to Plato's Republic and the myth of Gygas.
As for the twins, I don't know if it showed up in comics before, but it has been used before. [-mrl]
Tim Merrigan notes:
As to Mr. Burton being original there is the tiny detail that this film is based on a book. I, personally, could stand for producers/directors of films based on books to be a skosh less original than most are. [-tm]
Yes, know that you remind me. I haven't kept up with the YA-SF/F 'splosion since I left bookselling. I know of Percy Jackson and Ms Everdine the Archeress, but haven't read any of that, nor watched the films. Yet.
A quick glace at the wiki shows some weirder stuff, and, as usually happens when Hollywood gets its hands on books *or* comics, the filmmakers have changed a few characters' powersets. Typical. [-kr]
Philip Chee adds:
[Re growing vegetables fast:] Tsk! Tsk. Silly you. You forgot The Swamp Thing!
One could argue changing the special ability of Negasonic Teenage Warhead improved on the original.
Invisible Boy from Mystery Men (via Flaming Carrot) can be invisible but only when nobody is looking at him. [-pc]
Swampy is a comparative latecomer to that list. Layla is much newer, but her character is of an age with the reviewed film's ones, and I'm a Panabaker fanboy (she's All Growed Up on "The Flash.") I tend to think of SW as a horror character, like the classic monsters, rather than as a superhero. He, the Heap and the Man-Thing are all versions of Sturgeon's "It!"
Solomon Grundy owes a lot to Roger Kirk, too.
I could have included the Silver Age Atom's foe, Jason Woodrue, aka The Floronic Man/Floro, etc. Also Golden Age Flash villainess The Thorn could control plant life. [-kr]
The Interplanetary Experience (letter of comment by Tom Russell):
In response to Evelyn's comments on the XKCD interplanetary experience in the 11/04/16 issue of the MT VOID, Tom Russell writes:
"to try and" seems to be more common now than "to try to" [-tlr]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNT: A CROOKED FAMILY HISTORY by Helene Stapinski (ISBN 978-0-375-75870-4) is described on the back as "an extraordinary tale at once heartbreaking and hysterically funny." "Heartbreaking" I agree with, but "hysterically funny"? Really? It also says, "By turns hilarious and alarming, uproarious and depressing..." Again, the alarming and depressing manages to overwhelm the hilarious and uproarious.
Stapinski describes her family, which had two relatives in a mental institution, including her grandfather, who was coming home with a gun to shoot the entire family when he was stopped by the police just outside the building door. There are also bookies, numbers runners, and a variety of relatives who supplement the income from their jobs by bringing home anything not nailed down: steaks and lobsters from the cold storage facility where her father worked, books from the book bindery where her aunt worked, soap and toothpaste from the Colgate factory. pencils from the pencil factory. They didn't need detergent; the first time Helene's mother washed the clothes her brother had worn to work at Colgate the suds overflowed the washing machine, because the clothes had been full of detergent dust even before she added more. From then on, they never had to had detergent as long as her brother had that job.
So, okay, there are amusing stories. But reading about decades of corruption in Jersey City that left the streets potholed, the parks full of broken glass and syringes, and organized crime moving in on the "independent" numbers runners was hardly funny, and the stories of the corruption of the Jersey City Catholic Church hierarchy (at least in their parish), including "oversexed priests" and a parochial school that seemed determined to avoid teaching anything to its students besides that the ERA was evil, now that Noah's Ark had been found the world was coming to an end, and if your parents were divorced, you deserved to be humiliated in front of the whole class.
I won't say the book is uninteresting, or boring, but don't expect a laugh riot. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Ignorance is always ready to admire itself. Procure yourself critical friends. --Nicolas Boileau, 1674Tweet
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