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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 07/21/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 3, Whole Number 1972
Table of Contents
In the 07/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, I mistakenly typed TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING as TOO LIGHT THE LIGHTNING a couple of times.
In the same issue of the MT VOID, I mistakenly spelled Alan Glynn's name as "Allen Glynn".
My only defense is that we had just returned from vacation and things were a bit rushed. [-ecl]
National Parks Senior Pass (public service announcement by Evelyn C. Leeper):
On our way to El Morro and the San Juan National Historic Site, Mark and I had a discussion of what would happen if he died first, and the conclusion we came to was that at El Morro I should pay the $10 and get my own Senior lifetime National Parks pass, since there was talk of them raising the price from $10 to $80 very soon. (Mark already has one, and it allows him to bring in a guest, but it is not transferable.)
Which is another way of suggesting to everyone here over 62 get your pass at the old price, even if your spouse/partner already has one. because when we got back, we discovered they had already announced that the price increase would take effect August 28. The cheapest way is at a National Park, Monument, Historic Site, etc., but you can buy it on-line or via mail by paying an additional $10 handling fee. [-ecl]
The Newark Steam Man (comments by Tom Russell):
Tom Russell pointed out the following story in the Asbury Park Press (July 9, page 5A):
"These days there's a popular fashion or 'cosplay' fad known as 'Steampunk.'
Steampunk is based on the idea of futuristic technology existing in the past, usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England--but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.
But 30 years before H.G. Wells published his sci-fi masterpieces, there was a real life Steampunk walking the streets of Newark."
Notes From My Recent Trip to San Juan (Mostly the Food) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I am still in San Juan and in Trip Advisor's second highest rated restaurant of better than 1000 restaurants in town. It is the Casa Cortes ChocoBar. In other words, it is a restaurant dedicated to chocolate. They have about twenty-five chocolate dishes and about ten kinds of hot chocolate. We tried only one small dish and each tried a type of hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is of a consistency half way between the familiar US hot chocolate (Shop Rite) and cooked chocolate pudding. It is very rich. Evelyn's chocolate has a higher chocolate content. It is about 70%. It takes a little getting used to since it is bitter and has only a touch of sweet. It has very little sweet taste. The small spoon stands up in it. I got mine a little sweeter. The spoon falls slowly, but it is not as rich as Evelyn's.
Evelyn and I got a small piece of chocolate pizza. That is melted chocolate and melted marshmallow on bread. Not chocolate bread, but just bread. Each order seems to come with a piece of good (sweet) chocolate on slices of cheddar cheese. I could probably make at home any dish I saw at the restaurant, but it was all a great sensory experience.
Speaking of restaurants, I found that that the restaurants were a long walk from the Marriot hotel except for two or three in the same building as the hotel. There are more restaurants on Ponce de Leon about a twenty-minute walk away in the hot sun and humid air. The restaurants treat customers as if they were a pair of twins. By that I mean dishes cost about twice what you would expect to pay, and you are served about twice as much food as you would want to eat. And the hosts are quite willing to bring an extra plate. Our first meal at the Metropole (in the hotel) we noted the prices were high. One got a Cuban sampler and one got Chicken with Mofongo (mostly unripe plantains fried and mashed with garlic, fried pork oil and broth; it tastes like polenta). We had to abandon some good food or we would have died right there of busted bellies. We did not make that mistake again.
A later day we went to Los Pinos on Ponce de Lion. We tried to order a sampler plate of Puerto Rican foods. When I ordered the sampler the owner insisted that we were ordering too much. He was not satisfied until he realized we would be splitting the dish and that was all we were having. It was sort of a Puerto Rican Pu Pu Platter. It had chicken, pork, squid, plantains, and a bunch more. We left behind one piece of fried plantain neither of us had room for.
Well, this is our last morning in Puerto Rico. I am sitting at my last Puerto Rican breakfast. It is the same place we ate our first day and we ate here once in between. It is at Cafe Macchiatto, another of the restaurants around here that are a bit overpriced, but not if we split a dish. About half the time we have breakfast in the room since we just want a few handfuls of cereal. But three times we have eaten here.
Our first morning we stopped at what is little more than a mom and pop restaurant. The host wanted to tell us what they had to offer. The first dish was Huevos Rancheros.
I stopped him right there. He had me at Huevos Rancheros. This is usually a Mexican dish. It is fried egg on tortilla with salsa and melted cheese. The portion is generous enough that we shared an order even here. We have been doing a lot of that as I described above. Restaurant prices are high even at our breakfast place but portions are big. If we can agree on what to order we can get two good meals at half the price. Luckily Evelyn and I have almost identical taste. That way neither of us is disappointed. Anyway we have been at Cafe Macchiatto for three of our seven mornings. [-mrl]
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Four years after the war started in the last "Planet of the Apes" film, Caesar, an intelligent ape, wants to end the fighting. But first he wants vengeance on the leader of a paramilitary organization who killed Caesar's wife and son. Director Matt Reeves looks not so much for a realistic war but for an allegory that examines human slavery and concentration camps, placing them on the planet of the apes. There are some big holes in the logic, and the story drags too long, but the film still seems to be an audience pleaser. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the third installment in the rebooted "Planet of the Apes" series. As the film begins we jump to four years after the last film, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014), ended. As a "Planet of the Apes" tradition, this film is not actually about what the title says, a war for the planet. It is about a single engagement. In fact, that is one problem with the script. Everything happens within what might be a hundred miles or less from everything else that happens. We have no idea what is happening in China. For that matter we have no idea what is happening in Los Angeles, not more than a few weeks' walk away.
Peace advocate Caesar is reluctantly fighting in the skirmishes against humans and at the same time is trying to broker a peace agreement. Just when he was pulling out of the war he gets pulled back in like Michael Corleone. Caesar finds out that his wife and son have been killed by a paramilitary group called Alpha-Omega that is led by someone calling himself the Colonel. Caesar decides to put any peace plans on hold while he goes off to kill the Colonel (played by Woody Harrelson) and, if possible, to de-fang the whole Alpha-Omega. For a creative film series, this plot is REALLY, REALLY too much of a cliche. The I-want-peace-but-first-I- want-vengeance plot has long been a yawner.
Do not go to this film expecting a rousing good adventure. The story would be grim on a sunny day, and there are no sunny days in this film. Every scene seems gray and most are dismal. By now Andy Serkis probably sleeps in his motion-capture doodads because he wears them through so much of his life. Do not expect the level of animal realism he had in KING KONG. His face is believable as an ape's face, but his posture and gait are of human-in-ape-suit quality and not chimpanzee. In keeping with the grimness of the film he has what looks like a perpetual scowl on his face. He is not a happy camper even in the Muir Woods scenes at the beginning. There is some attempt here to tell how came about the world of the original 1968 PLANET OF THE APES. Perhaps this film closes the loop.
There are multiple languages that apes use to communicate: English, sign-language, ape-language. And the film does not seem to be consistent with who speaks what and who understands what. Of course, not thinking out the logic of who speaks or understands what is a long tradition of PLANET OF THE APES writing. This goes all the way back to when Taylor heard the first ape speaking English and did not question how the knowledge of English language came to the planet. With WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES the language problem could have been corrected but not without substantial reliance on multi-language subtitles, and subtitles could have damaged the box office take. The battles are realistically and mind-numbingly staged and fierce enough to leave the viewer ragged.
At 140 minutes this film drags on at least twenty minutes too long. Some scenes just seem to go on and on without adding to the plot. There is an old adage for filmmakers that says, "Show your audience, don't tell them." If director Matt Reeves wanted a 140- minute film he could have done it better than avoiding the long scenes in which Caesar talks with the Colonel or another ape and is told what happened to his family. Reeves TELLS events in the plot but SHOWS battle scenes that only advance the plot slowly. There is just too much time with nothing happening in the story line. Reeves does manage to get some more interest-value into his ape characters than previous films in the series have had. There are also some little references to other films, both in the "Planet of the Apes" series and not. Reeves would have done well to trim this effort down to under two hours, but it still develops the apes more than previous films. I rate WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3450958/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/war_for_the_planet_of_the_apes
Tights (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and Kevin R):
In response to Mark's comments on tights in the 07/07/17 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
Interesting (well, to me) transatlantic confusion here.
In the UK, tights are the female garment that I believe are called pantyhose in the US. Shear coverings for the legs, including the feet and lower torso.
In the UK, leggings don't have to cover the feet, judging by the images I got from googling leggings:
When I was growing up, tights were opaque leg and foot coverings that were the same as pantyhose (which hadn't been invented yet). Pantyhose are described in Wikipedia as "sheer tights". [-ecl]
Kevin R elaborates:
Leggings used to be worn UNDER something: a long tunic or a jumper (US meaning, a dress, not the equivalent of US sweater, though I suppose one could wear a very long UK jumper over them.) They were popular to wear under short skirts, as they gave a little more coverage to to thighs and parts north of them.
Women have taken to wearing them instead of slacks, or jeans There are even "jeggings"--"jean-like leggings"--meant to look like blue jeans or black denim, but much tighter than even the late 1970s/1980s "designer jeans" such as Jordache, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Brooke Shield sin her Calvin Kleins. These babies are, as Billy Ocean once sang, "painted on."
Actually, I think what we call a jumper is called a pinafore in the UK. It is designed to be worn over a blouse. There is much more discussion at https://tinyurl.com/void-rasff-tights. [-ecl]
TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING / SEVEN SURRENDERS (letters of comment by David Goldfarb, Gary McGath, and Paul Dormer):
In response to Joe Karpierz's comments on TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING in the 07/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb writes:
Given Joe Karpierz' favorable review of TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING, someone should tell him that he doesn't have to wait for the sequel: SEVEN SURRENDERS came out back in March. It's the third volume, THE WILL TO BATTLE, that will be out later this year. I note also that LIGHTNING and SURRENDERS form one complete work, to which WILL is a sequel. (I don't know whether it, like LIGHTNING, will be a first half.) [-dg]
Gary McGath adds:
The paperback of SEVEN SURRENDERS is coming out in November. I found that out after the local bookstore tried to order it for me and then figured out their mistake. For the moment, I'm being cheap. [-gmg]
Paul Dormer writes:
[Joe Karpierz writes,] "The (apparently) inconsistent use of gender pronouns is difficult to follow, at least at first." [-jk]
It didn't seem that inconsistent to me. In fact, Canner explains it in his narrative.
In all reported speech, the epicene pronouns are used. (I think it was Ben Yagoda in his Not One-Off Britishisms blog ( https://britishisms.wordpress.com/) suggests that the use of they, them and their as epicene pronouns is more common in English English. I use them all the time, and was even taught it at school, so this didn't seem odd to me.
But in Canner's narrative itself, he uses gendered pronouns, and specifically says in his introduction that this is to give an archaic feel to the narrative. But there is a further confusion that he uses the pronouns for the gender he feels that person ought to have, not their biological gender.
Incidentally, was anyone else reminded of Alfred Bester by the style. I was just thinking "Bester" when there is introduced a character with the surname of Bester. [-pd]
Scholastic Aptitude Test (letters of comment by Philip Chee, Kevin R, and Scott Dorsey):
In response to Jerry Ryan's comments on the SAT in the 07/14/17 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:
According to Ars Technica, taking cognitive tests repeatedly makes you better at taking cognitive tests.
I took A (and S) level exams while at boarding school. During the final term before the exams, we did a complete mock exam every week for the whole term. By the time the real A levels rolled around I could have taken it in my sleep :P . (Note I don't really recommend this for most people). [-pc]
Kevin R responds:
I took the New York State Regents algebra test as a freshman in high school. My math grade had been less than what I was used to in grammar school: less than 90%, sometimes coming scarily close to 80%. My teacher gave me old Regents tests to take home and complete, and we'd correct them next day. After all that practice I was able to make a perfect score on the state test.
Besides ACT and SAT test prep guides, when I was in the bookstore trade we sold sample test books. Repeatedly taking the tests would improve your score. Just being familiar with the format might limit the "freakout factor" that some report, allow one to calm down, and get close to completing the test.
Taking the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) was encouraged at my school. Besides getting to experience the SATish test environment, it was used to pick National Merit semifinalists and finalists.
There was no essay section on the SAT when I took it. It has been added, and now, made optional. If a school you are applying to requires it, I expect you should take it. Faking good writing is undoubtedly harder than filling in bubbles on a Scantron form,* which doesn't care how you get the answer.
Kevin R writes:
*Yes, I took the SAT test back in 1973. No computer terminals, tablets, etc. Just pen and paper. [-kr]
Scott Dorsey writes:
I fell asleep about half an hour into the Georgia Test of English Competency, which I was required to take as an undergraduate since I had attended high school in a different state. I had completed the first third of the multiple choice section but I slept completely through the essay section.
The remarkable thing was that I actually passed the multiple choice part. [-sd]
Did you manage to pass the section on the proper use of "y'all?" :) [-kr]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
EVOLUTION by Stephen Baxter (ISBN 978-0-345-45783-7) has a structure very similar to THE SOURCE and HAWAII by James Michener. THE SOURCE has a framing story of an archaeological dig in Israel and is a chronological series of novelettes, each centering on an object found in the dig. HAWAII is not as clearly divided, but has an even longer time span than THE SOURCE, and deals more with the interactions of the various emigrant groups than THE SOURCE. (The flip side of these would be Olaf Stapledon's LAST AND FIRST MEN.)
EVOLUTION takes a somewhat different approach. Rather than looking at the stories behind what is found, or at the merging of lineages, Baxter mostly follows a single lineage from the appearance of mammals before the mass extinction of the dinosaurs to the far future. Baxter does occasionally diverge into other lines of descent that do not lead to Homo sapiens. In at least one case, one might quibble that the population bottleneck Baxter creates makes the subsequent population growth and success unlikely. But the complaint one reviewer had--that it was unlikely/impossible to have a single primate be the ancestor of all humanity is just wrong: Purga is not the *only* ancestor, as this person seemed to read Baxter's assumption, but merely a *common* ancestor.
Some of Baxter's more interesting "digressions" are stories of completely unknown species. Given that there were undoubtedly millions of Tyrannosaurus Rex during their existence, and so far only fifty specimens have been found (most incomplete), there must have been *many* species that lived and flourished that we have not a clue about. Baxter describes "what might have been"--not in the sense, of "what might have been, but wasn't" but in the sense of "what might, or might not, have been--we can never know." It's classic "sense of wonder" stuff.
Almost every chapter is about a key development in our evolution. We are there with primates who use "proto-tools" and when they use real tools. We are there when the first primate decides to leave the forest and live on the grasslands. We are there when they have the first glimmers of empathy (the idea that other primates have their own internal minds)--and how this leads to the invention of lying and deception. We are there when they start to use language as more than just a half-dozen cries meaning "food", "danger", and "submit" We are there when they invent art and religion.
The book's focus is, of course, on evolution, but Baxter takes this is an unexpected direction in the chapter in which agriculture is introduced. Yes, we adopted/invented agriculture as part of the evolutionary process, but Baxter seems to take a position that has been becoming more prominent lately: that agriculture was humanity's biggest mistake. From an evolutionary point of view, agriculture makes sense. It supports more people, who can have more children, who will replace through conquest those who do not embrace agriculture. But what is lost, according this position, is the *quality* of life. The agricultural human has more pains and more diseases, has to spend more time working to survive, has a high probability of having a less enjoyable life, than the hunter- gatherer human. Evolution does not care about happiness or even health per se--it cares about who produces more offspring. (This does not mean I think "evolution" has volition, just that this is a convenient way to express this.)
In the midst of reading EVOLUTION, we went to see WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES, and I found myself using some of the science cited in Baxter's book to critique the movie. For example, majority of the apes in most of the scenes walk with a human gait, not a simian one. Baxter details the evolutionary skeletal changes necessary to make this change, and clearly the apes could not have made these changes pretty much instantly, even with the virus. (For that matter, there is a lot in the film that is inconsistent. Nova is mute, but shows no other symptoms of the virus. Caesar supposedly is the only ape who speaks regularly, but when useful for the plot, a couple of the other apes seem to have the power of speech as well. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: The mad are happy, the sane ignorant; those of us stuck on the sane side of madness or the mad fringe of sanity are in a purgatorial cage. --Terri GuillemetsTweet
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