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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 02/22/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 34, Whole Number 2055
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
March 14, 2019: DR. CYCLOPS (film) and "Dr. Cyclops" by Henry Kuttner, Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM March 28, 2019: WE by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1920) May 23, 2019: DIASPORA by Greg Egan July 25, 2019: THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) September 26, 2019: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada November 21, 2019: THE SLEEPER WAKES by H. G. Wells (1910) January 23, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada July 23, 2020: TBD by Jules Verne September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America/Africa/Canada November 19, 2020: Rudyard Kipling: "A Matter of Fact" (1892) "The Ship That Found Herself" (1895) ".007" (1897) "Wireless" (1902) "With the Night Mail [Aerial Board of Control 1]" (1905) "As Easy as A.B.C. [Aerial Board of Control 2]" (1912) "In the Same Boat" (1911) Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for March (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
ACE IN THE HOLE
Both actor Kirk Douglas and director/writer Billy Wilder were known in 1951 for films in which they showed a cynical view of human nature. Here we have the double whammy of both. This is a neatly written story about politics and how the news media can be manipulated to control a reaction from the public. Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a very talented newsman who nonetheless has been thrown off all the major newspapers for drinking and/or sex. Now his huge talent has landed him alone and penniless with a broken- down car driving through Albuquerque where he wheedles his way onto the local newspaper. He is waiting for an even a medium interest story he can build up to national news. But it seems like it will never come.
Flash to a year later and the biggest story for him to cover, with a cub reporter, is a rattlesnake hunt. It is not exactly a "stop the presses story. But on the way he stops for gasoline. He sends the cub reporter in and the boy come back out saying there is a woman inside praying with all her might. Tatum realizes there is a big exploitable story here someplace. The woman's son was in the cave looking for Indian relics and was caught in a cave-in he cannot pull himself out. Tatum realizes this is a story with real exploitation value and decides that this situation has the potential to be made into a story that will be front-page news all across the country. With Tatum's help people from miles around flock to the site where a rescue will take place.
The film is known as ACE IN THE HOLE or THE BIG CARNIVAL. The film
can be read as a cynical comedy. [ACE IN THE HOLE, THURSDAY, MARCH
14 @ 08:00 PM]
Two American tourists in Scotland come upon the mysterious village of Brigadoon. It has quaint people, but no map shows the town. There is a secret to the town. It seems that Brigadoon is a village that has a spell over it. Only one day in a century does Brigadoon exist. Not entirely unexpectedly one of the tourists falls in love with a local girl. But what kind of life can the lovers hope to have if they can be together only one day in a century?
This was a popular an amiable play of writer Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. But as far as I am concerned they wasted the potential of their concept. They had a story of two lovers torn apart by magical fate. There was reasonable as it was, but there are a lot of stories of lovers torn apart in the real world. On the other hand what would have been interesting is what would it be like to live in Brigadoon? Living each day, 100 years of invention and knowledge would pass by. It is an interesting premise for a Broadway musical. [BRIGADOON, FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 2019 @ 04:00 PM]
What is the best film of the month? Probably the film most critics would pick would be CITIZEN KANE. [CITIZEN KANE, MONDAY, MARCH 25 @ 11:15 PM]
BULLITT COUNTY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: In the autumn of 1977 five people who were close a decade earlier get together for a reunion and to look for a cache of missing proceeds from Prohibition days. Not surprisingly, bad memories and a fortune of illegal money changes the relationship of the people. Twists become foreseeable and the conflicts are mostly what was predictable. Directed by David McCracken; written by David McCracken. Rating: low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
With all the bad press that bachelor parties get in movies, it is amazing that these celebrations can still get anybody at all to attend. In this case the soon-to-be-married Gordie has a party that is still relatively tame. At least it starts that way.
The party gets rolling with GOH Gordie's celebration just ramping up. So far all that has happened is that Gordie has been kidnapped and thrown into the trunk of a car. Gordie is freed and ends up standing in the middle of a street wearing only his skivvies. Is this the fun part? Well, at least this is some of the more peaceful time. Things will soon start happening and the fun of the pranks will be over. The theme of the party will become a hunt for a stash of prohibition cash. That makes things seem more serious. Old friends might be pals, but money will always be money. Illegal money is the universal solvent to even close bonds of friendship.
The year is 1977 and the location is Bullitt County, Kentucky. Our central character is Gordie but there are four guys and one girl working out their problems with each other some using a gun. The style begins comic, but drifts into a crime thriller territory. The repartee at times is vaguely cute, but does not do anything really substantial for the story.
The plot has several twists, but they do not improve the plot. They just have some twist with little story payoff.
Director David McCracken tries some artistic effects that seem out of place for a simple low-budget crime thriller. He will flood the frame with a sepia or blue wash. He will divide up a frame into multiple frames. Flashbacks are represented as a staccato of very short visual cuts.
There some spots where the story twists, they do not payoff with an overall clever story. I rate the film a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Minor spoiler: It must be hard to tell a story where people are old friends and are still not really who they are assumed to be.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6140148/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/bullitt_county
Science Fiction and Possible Futures (letter of comment by John Hertz):
In response to Mark's comments on harbingers of the future in the 10/12/18 issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:
In VOID 2036 [12 Oct 18, vol. 37 no. 15) Mark says "a major benefit of science fiction is to vent concerns about possible futures. Science fiction gives us tools to think about possible futures, to evaluate how likely they are, and if some are more possible, to think about how to be prepared for the more likely ones."
May I respectfully suggest this needs re-thinking?
To begin with, "venting". It's a common expression among some folks these days, and picturesque. We may sometimes feel like steel tanks from which pressure must be released.
But that leaves out environmental consciousness--people around us. What might they feel like?
Once at an open-air market I heard a salesman cry after some folks who were walking away "But I am in a *selling* mood!"
A teacher of mine once said "If you feel like 'venting', go find a nice thick wall, outdoors, with no one else nearby, and shout at it--as loud as you can."
A wall is not alive (so far as we know). People are not objects.
Also, are we fair to ourselves thinking we are as rigid as steel tanks? Thinking of emotion as a force that must either be let out or, at great cost and possible danger, held in?
A steel tank can't get a different perspective. A steel tank can't transcend anything.
Then about science fiction. Thinking a major benefit of science fiction (or any artform) is to be a channel for venting is, I respectfully suggest, degrading--to the artform, to the audience, and even to the artist.
Changing the metaphor, how does an artwork look when it shows the artist had an axe to grind?
Then about tool. I respectfully suggest "giving us tools to think about possible futures" is something science fiction in fact *can't* do. It isn't by nature a thought -experiment. There's all the difference in the world between imagining people sent to the Moon in a shell from a giant gun, and the acceleration and metallurgy--to take just two factors--of actually sending them.
Nor does that mean the story was bad for not predicting what, in the event, the science would be.
Art is a poem. Science is a plan.
Art is neither a map nor a territory.
Artists *make things up*.
And if I may, that's the glory, that's the love, of story. [-jh]
I am not quite sure what that was all about. However I would say that there are pieces of art that are not poems. And there are pieces of science that are not plans. [-mrl]
[Apologies to John for taking so long to include this, but it took a while to get it typed in. -ecl]
Wisdom and the Future Research Center (letter of comment by Lee Beaumont):
[Lee Beaumont is an old friend, but I cannot say I have looked in detail his researches into philosophy. Let me put the same kind of a warning on this study that you see on a commentary on a DVD. I will give him a forum, but the opinions expressed are Lee's alone. -mrl]
Working with a colleague, we recently created the Wisdom and the Future Research Center where researchers are exploring the question, "How can we wisely create our future?"
Perhaps you or other MTVoid readers will enjoy participating as spectators, enthusiasts, learners, researchers, or advocates. [-lrb]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
AGENTS OF DREAMLAND by Caitlin R. Kiernan (ISBN 978-0-7653-9432-3) is yet another Lovecraftian story. I suppose that is unfair; the fact that I have been reading several years' worth of Tor novellas in a short period of time, not to mention other works that were inspired by Lovecraft, should not mean that any particular work is not worthy of serious attention. So I will say that my impatience with this is probably my own fault. But it also has an "X-Files" tinge that may appeal to some, but does not recommend itself to me. For people who see my criticisms as praise, well, this review has served its purpose.
BUFFALO SOLDIER by Maurice Broaddus (ISBN 978-0-765-39429-3) is set in an alternate present-day America, with what is now the United States divided into (at least) Albion, Tejas, and the Five Civilized Tribes' area. Into this comes an African-Jamaican servant with his employer's offspring. There is no explanation of where the title comes from, nor why such people as James Baldwin and Toni Morrison exist in this timeline as well. It has certain similarities with THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS by P. Djeli Clark, but I believe that the latter is far more rewarding.
There is a new novel, GOLDEN STATE by Ben H. Winters, which Winters describes as: "GOLDEN STATE is a mystery novel about the dissolution of objective reality, set in a place that is like California but not exactly California; a place where lying is against the law; a place where the maintenance of mutually understood and accepted reality is the paramount objective of political and civil life."
Winters is a "mainstream" writer, so he may not be familiar with similar science fiction works, e.g. CITY OF TRUTH by James Morrow, or even the film THE INVENTION OF LYING. But I certainly thought of these when I heard of GOLDEN STATE.
For what it's worth, in ancient Persia lying was considered among the most serious crimes. Herodotus writes, "They hold it unlawful to talk of anything which it is unlawful to do. The most disgraceful thing in the world, they think, is to tell a lie; the next worst, to owe a debt: because, among other reasons, the debtor is obliged to tell lies." [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: When I eventually met Mr. Right I had no idea that his first name was Always. --Rita RudnerTweet
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