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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 07/06/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 1, Whole Number 2022
Table of Contents
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mosca (Part 1) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
On July 16, 1958--just about 60 years ago--an event occurred that affects some science fiction fans, including me, well, maybe just me, just about every day. A science fiction film was released that caught me at just the right time in my life. It influenced me for the rest of the summer, the rest of the 1950s, and still affects me just about every day. It was a tragedy but it also glamorized the work of a scientist. A film can do that even if it is at heard a slightly silly film. The film was THE FLY. I see THE FLY as Oedipus Rex for a slightly younger set. Andre Delambre, the protagonist had exactly the life I would have styled for myself. He had had it all and he lost it all in a few seconds of carelessness.
This is a film that surprised even its producers. The producers knew the story was a little silly and expected only a modest return on the film from a mostly teen audience. Even the film's stars; Vincent Price and Herbert Marshall, could not take THE FLY seriously. The audience, on the other hand, found that there was much to respond to in the film. THE FLY cost $350,000 to make and grossed $3,000,000 on its release, considerably outstripping any expectation. Based on results of this film 20th Century Fox went on to make several other science fiction films, mostly timed for summer release. I would contend that the reason this film had the impact that it did is that it really is very much a mythic story for the scientific age. It is the tale of a man who has just about anything a man could want and loses it all in a moment of hubris. Helene and Andre Delambre, the major characters, have a warm and loving relationship and they love life. Andre himself just follows his curiosity as his profession, and that provides enough so they live very well. And in one moment of pride and carelessness it was all turned into horror. The film was directed by Kurt Neumann, who counted among his films several low-budget Tarzan movies, ROCKETSHIP X-M and, more recently for Fox, SHE DEVIL and KRONOS. With the possible exception of KRONOS, there is not much there to suggest that he could have been responsible for how well THE FLY resonated with audiences. More likely it is the mythic elements from the story. There is genuine suspense in the film's mystery. Helene's actions seem to be so out of character for her. Every conventional explanation has a good reason why it does not explain the facts. Andre had to have, at some level, cooperated with Helene, even if only to the extent to show Helene how to run the press. Yet Andre should have been able to commit suicide by himself had he wanted to. Clearly they both must have suddenly wanted Andre dead. And that seems to make no sense. This is all just setting the viewer up for the explanation.
I will look at the story itself next week. [-mrl]
"We Are All Destined to Die Confused" (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
It used to be you went to a store to buy a shirt and had to choose among colors like blue, green, or red. Now your choices are Bonnie Blue, Mosaic Blue, Riviera, Blue Curacao, Sky Blue, Baltic, Limoges, Water Spout, and Tahiti Tea--and that's just blue. There is also a color called "Zinfandel"--I like to think it used to be "Merlot" until the movie SIDEWAYS--in which the main character detests Merlot--came out and then they changed the name.
I guess this is not terribly new. Back in the 1990s, our department was having a picnic and one of the (female) organizers asked a couple of the men if "Salmon" was okay for the t-shirts. They said it was, but when the shirts arrived, they looked at them and said, "You got pink shirts?" I mention the genders, because there is certainly a theory/belief that women distinguish between a lot more colors than men do. If that was true then, it has probably changed now that men's shirts come in this range of colors. (Actually, boys got boxes of Crayola crayons back when we were young, so they should know at least those 64 colors.)
Then after you've navigated the rainbow, you check out (either on- line or in the store) and you are asked to rate the transaction, review the item, and possibly even fill out a survey. Even the Post Office does this. I go to the Post Office once or twice a week, and I am *not* going to fill out a survey every time.
(I go to the Post Office that often because I am selling on Amazon and eBay, which leaves me in a bit of a Catch-22. I would love for my customers to leave ratings--well, good ones anyway :-)-- but I hardly ever leave ratings myself. The fact that anything less than 4 stars is considered a bad review and even 4 stars is considered negative.)
And I don't consider a chance to win $500 as sufficient incentive to fill in a survey. The only ones we do are Boston Market (15% off your next order) and Burger King (free Whopper with purchase). It's not much, but it is something.
Restaurants are also more confusing. McDonald's and Panera have both switched over to electronic screens for menus. McDonald's is at least relatively easy to navigate, especially since most people had a passing acquaintance with their menu. But we had been to Panera only once or twice, and the first choice we had was not anything like "sandwiches", "salads", or "pastries", but things like "protein-rich meals". They had a wall menu--hard-to-read with older eyes. They had paper menus on request--even harder to read! We did eventually figure out what we wanted and ordered at the counter.
We had the same problems at a couple of other places--if you are unfamiliar with the menu, using the screen is very slow--often slow enough to time you out!
Burger King and McDonald's also have messed up their wall menus-- instead of *a* menu on the wall, they have screens that change every thirty seconds (or whatever). So just as you're trying to decide which burger you want, the screen changes to their chicken offerings. Or you look at the wall and don't see any milk shakes listed--what, they discontinued milkshakes? No, if you wait long enough, they'll show up. This means you have to stand there reading the new menu a lot longer than you did the old.
And don't even get me started on K-pods.
As Mark says, "We are all destined to die confused." [-ecl]
A.I. TALES (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
This is a collection of four unrelated science fiction stories with downbeat views of the world we are creating today in which we expect to live in the future. The bleak point of view is strongly reminiscent of the TV series "Black Mirror". Each story is set in the future but expresses fears of modern society and what it is becoming. I will give each film a rating from one to four. A.I. TALES is intended as a calling card for a film distributor Hewes Pictures who are specializing in short films. And each film may itself be a calling card film for its cast and crew.
I will give each film a rating of one to four, and I will give a link to the IMDB for each film.
In "Seed" we see a world beset by over-population. Nelson (played by Nelson Lee who writes and directs) has very mixed emotions today. Today is his 40th birthday and also his last birthday. The state has taken care of Nathan and his family in what looks like a very comfortable lifestyle. Today the price tag for his lifestyle must be paid. Nathan has agreed to commit suicide and to let someone else take his place using resources. Nelson Lee, who is the central actor, director, and writer, gives this situation some deep consideration. The plotline is dark and slow, and it is very reminiscent of LOGAN'S RUN. Rating: 2-1/2.
This is a short story of a young woman who is taking a job at a place far away from the home she has known. She seems likable and her friends will very much miss her. But she seems unable to relate to even those people who are closest. In the end this is a science fiction story only because of what her plans are. That seems to be insufficient to interest and satisfy a ready-made science fiction audience. It just seems to say that in the future we will have more choices than we have today. Rating: 2
We see two people watching on video as people somewhere are seem to be in panic mode. It becomes clear for the audience that the world has been totally annihilated in a nuclear war. Years later bands of a few survivors are fighting each other for food. What little is left is considered a treasure. A band of survivors has heard there is a colony of people alive somewhere out west. They are walking the two thousand miles to get to this community and on the day the story takes place they have walked a thousand miles and are half way home. But today has a surprise in store for these pilgrims. But it may not be as big a surprise as our pilgrims are hoping. We reach an ironic denouement. Rating: 2
This is the one film of the four that has an actor I recognize, Eric Roberts. The story here is very hard to follow. It has something to do with time travel. There was a killing in 1984 by what appears to be somebody from the military. With the use of a time machine our main character tries to prevent the killing from happening. Rating: 2
Incidentally, in the entire film there is no reference to artificial intelligence.
Hawes Pictures reports, "Hewes Pictures is excited to announce the theatrical and digital release of A.I Tales on July 13. The theatrical season kicks off at the Black Box Theater in Los Angeles, July 13-19th. The VOD will be available via Amazon day- and-date."
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
DAZZLED AND DECEIVED: MIMICRY AND CAMOUFLAGE by Peter Forbes (ISBN 978-0-300-17896-8) had a great idea for a book, but poorly executed. A book like that cries out for photographic illustration throughout to demonstrate all the various animals, military camouflage, etc. While DAZZLED AND DECEIVED does have 34 color and black-and-white photographs, they are all on a signature of glossy pages in the middle, and not referenced at all in the text, e.g., the text about the lobster moth does not tell you to look at Plate 14, and the index just lists "Moths" without telling you what page the text about the lobster moth is on. Given that some of the photographs are black-and-white, and also that most of early military camouflage was being looked at from black-and-white reconnaissance photographs, a lot more could have been included on the text pages themselves.
That said, it still has something to offer the reader if one is willing to accept descriptions of camouflage rather than actual pictures.
I have been reading DEFINING MOMENTS IN BOOKS edited by Lucy Daniel (ISBN 978-1-844-03605-9) which has hundreds of paragraphs on important books, writers, characters, and moments in 20th century literary history. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in books being added to my reading list. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN UNKNOWN INDIAN by Nirad C. Chaudhuri (ISBN 9778-0-201-15576-1) was one of these, and when it showed up at the Bryn Mawr book sale less than a week after I put it on the list, it just seemed serendipitous. Written in 1951 (shortly after Partition), it covers Chaudhuri's life through 1921, albeit with a few references to the politics of Partition. Chaudhuri has been accused of too much Anglophilia, although he was also supportive of the right-wing nationalist movement in India. Some of this is apparent in THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN UNKNOWN INDIAN, of course, but mostly it is an utterly enthralling portrait of India--or rather, one Bengali's experience of Bengal and Kolkata--in the first two decades of the 20th century.
One of the most obvious examples of referencing the later history of the region is Chaudhuri's discussion of the dissension over the British partition of the Bengal Presidency (subdivision) in 1905 into Eastern and Western Bengal; the two were re-united in 1911. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: I think they should have a Barbie with a buzz cut. --Ellen DeGeneresTweet
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