MT VOID 07/19/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 3, Whole Number 2076

MT VOID 07/19/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 3, Whole Number 2076

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 07/19/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 3, Whole Number 2076

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Canine Perception (Part 3) (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Continuing on my perceptions of canine perception, I have always wondered a little why canine intelligence has seemed so similar to human intelligence. One gets the intuitive belief that dogs think very much like us. A dog's mind seems not all that different from that of a human or at least what a human would have if he also had a dog's anatomy. Why I find that strange is that I most definitely do not feel that all humans are that similar to us. We humans, it seems to me, have a tendency to overrate the difference between humans and dogs and tend to underrate the degree of variation in humans. The Disney idea that it is a small world after all and we are all really alike is far more the product of wishful thinking from an armchair philosopher than one based on actual observation. In fact, I think the aborigine of Australia *living in his own society* has a very different mind from my own. Yet I get just the opposite feeling for a dog living in our society. I had a hard time resolving those two opinions. But I am coming to accept both. First, the dog is much more similar than the expectation is that he would be. The aborigine is much less similar than the expectation says he would be. But of course they are two very different expectations.

Last week I was discussing why a house dog might think more like you think than an Australian Aborigine would.

But that does not account for the entire phenomenon. The key is that dogs raised in human society in China understand a tonal language and I do not. Dogs raised in China will have similarity to Chinese people. Dogs raised in America are not wolves and wild dogs in different surroundings. They pick up our culture and really are, like Moreau's creation, an amalgam of the animal and the human. Having been raised in our society they may actually have minds closer to ours than have the aborigines who were raised and adapted to a very different culture. [-mrl]

ASTRONAUT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: ASTRONAUT seems like it ought be an appealing story for young and old alike. Retired Engineer Angus is too old to be sent into space, but that is his one great wish. By chance, a space industrial company will send a contest winner into space, but Angus is clearly to old to qualify. Now, also by chance, he knows a deadly flaw in the launch plan that is being used by a private space entrepreneur. This story could have been more exciting. Unfortunately, the plot falls apart under the weight of too many overly contrived coincidences. Director & writer: Shelagh McLeod. The film is also honored with the presence of actor Graham Greene. Rating: low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

This is a film with two or more themes that are unlikely companions. On one hand, it is about private companies with their own space programs. Private enterprise is getting into the act in doing their own space development and exploiting space outside Earth's atmosphere. On the other hand, it is about relationships among the elderly and also it has a little for young and old about hope.

Angus (played by Richard Dreyfus) is in his 80s and lives to see his grandson growing up and getting fascinated with the world moving into space. Angus once wanted to travel into space himself, but he was born just a little too early. Then private entrepreneur Marcus (Colm Feore) announces his space development company will run a contest in which one member of the public will win a free ride into space. If Angus could win the contest it would be a fulfillment of his most powerful dream. But Angus is about two decades too old to be doing any trips into space.

ASTRONAUT has a bittersweet tone. As a film meant to appeal to kids it does not make any moral judgments about Angus at times cheating and being unconcerned that his actions involve fraud. But it also tells the young to have an indomitable spirit.

Angus in the film has a deep love of space and passes that interest to his grandson. There is an overly familiar cliche in film story telling. If an older person wants to inspire a younger one to love science he demonstrates it with a telescope. Films like CONTACT frequently have such sequences.

Incidentally, Dreyfuss himself will be 72 years old this year and appears to be a science fiction fan. He has written alternate history science fiction so he more or less fits the role.

At times the director too obviously shows this to be a film for a younger audience. Other times the drama may be a bit strong for some children. I rate ASTRONAUT a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


CREATING WOODSTOCK (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: I have to give a full disclosure here. I have never been a fan of rock music. In 1969 as well as now I would have preferred music by Puccini. I still do not find rock music melodious. But that is why I like this film. It is not about the music; it is about how a group of unprepared people produced one of the biggest music events in history, the Woodstock music festival. It is not about grooving to a mellow scene, it is about talented people solving problems as they arose and when they were not tied down by their problems they were grooving to the scene. Directed by: Mick Richards. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

I saw CREATING WOODSTOCK as an outsider of the rock scene. Guess what. I did then and still do prefer Puccini scene. At least twice that I can remember I tried to watch the film WOODSTOCK. It did not do much for me and I gave up on it twice. So I approached seeing another documentary about the concert not expecting to like it much, but still I was determined to give it a try.

Rather than documenting what the musical performances were and what celebrities were on the stage, instead it was about problem solving. It was about people who put the show together, the problems that came up, and how they were circumvented well or not so well. Even without a strong interest in the music and the performers I intend to watch the film again. It is an education of who the organizers were and to show documentary film of people a concert. CREATING WOODSTOCK has a good collection of interviews with organizers and performers and of the event. Much of what is covered includes more anecdotes or even gossip. It gives more information or how this massive task of putting on the three-day super-concert. We see how organizing the concert was accomplished. Many of the special problems of Woodstock came with problems of scale. Typically performers would arrive and have no instructions what to do next. Then they would disappear into the crowd and could not be found.

Perhaps the film is most engrossing as it tells of mistakes and near-mistakes that were made by the organizers. Maybe the organizers really were being watched over by angels. If a few fewer people showed up, there would not have been enough volunteers. If a few more attendees had arrived, the crowds would have been too large to manage. There were still problems when too many or too few attendees showed up. But the problems were still manageable.

As an example, the organizers were already admitting people and collecting admissions before attendees stormed them. Then they realized that there was no way to collect admissions as fast as would have been necessary. Reluctantly they announced that the attendance was now free. They really had no other choice.

Under time pressure the sanitary facilities were thrown together. Then the state government sent an inspector. This would have been sufficient cause to shut down the show before it really got started. But as it happened the inspector brought his 15-year-old daughter. She ran off at her first opportunity and melted into the crowd. The inspector spent the rest of the weekend looking for his daughter and never did the inspection.

The hero of the film and of the entire celebration is one Max Yasgur, a Jewish farmer. When it looked to the organizers like there was no place acceptable to set up the concert stage, Yasgur heard about the problem and contacted the organizers suggesting one of his fields. It turned out to be perfect. Yasgur merits a special memoriam in the closing credits.

Over all the film provides several engrossing footnotes to history.

I rate CREATING WOODSTOCK a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10

Incidentally claims are made to the crowd that Woodstock was the largest public gathering in history. However, it attracted 400,000 attendees. That was in 1969. Mahatma Gandhi's funeral attracted between 2.5 and 3.5 million attendees in 1948. That was roughly five times as many people attending the funeral

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Canine Perception and G. K. Chesterton (letters of comment by Gary McGath and Dorothy J. Heydt):

In response to Mark's comments on canine perception in the 07/12/19 issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

[Mark writes,] "Dogs do not have the rods and cones in their eyes that would allow color perception." [-mrl]

Dogs do have rods and cones. That's how all mammalian eyes work. According to several Internet sources, dogs have a higher rod-to- cone ration than humans. Rods are monochrome perceptors, but they're more sensitive than cones, which can differentiate colors. This gives dogs better low-light vision.

The ability of dogs to differentiate colors to some extent is no more a mystery to science than the ability of the bumblebee to fly. According to one source, dogs have only two types of cones instead of the three humans have, so they can't differentiate as many kinds of color. [-gmg]

Dorothy J. Heydt writes:

[Mark writes,] "The other thing making even domesticated dogs very different is the very different sensory balance and the fact that dogs are probably not even aware that they have a different balance. I wonder if bloodhounds ever get frustrated with humans that we don't just sniff out things for ourselves." [-mrl]

[G. K. Chesterton's "The Song of Quoodle"]


Evelyn adds:

Note that the Chesterton poem has anti-Semitic overtones. This was not Chesterton's original wording, as Dr. Denis J. Conlon notes: "Chesterton never seems to have collected his own poems. ... Either [his wife] or the publisher, influenced by the libel case against his brother resulting from the Marconi affair, changed lines to avoid any further prosecutions. In 'The Song of Quoodle' 'Old Gluck' (Sir Isidore Gluckstein) was censored and replaced by 'The Jew', thus making a valid comment on the exclusion of the public from parkland seem like an anti-Semitic diatribe." [-djc/ecl]

IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? and Lectoring (letter of comment by Paul Dormer):

In response to Evelyn's comments on IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? TRANSLATION AND THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING in the 07/12/19 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

I read that book many years ago. (I appear to have got it as a Christmas present in 2012.) The two bits I remember best were the problem about the EU regulation and the bit about "lectoring".

Apparently there was some court case over whether a company needed a licence to transport animal carcasses. The EU regulation in English had an ambiguity and the lawyers searched all the translations of this regulation and found that the Dutch wording didn't have this ambiguity, so they used this to prove their case.

Lectoring apparently started in synagogues possibly as long ago as 5th century BC. By then, Hebrew wasn't the spoken language in Palestine and as the rabbi read the text in Hebrew, someone else gave a commentary in Aramaic.

Bellos points out that a variant of this process now occurs in east European TV and cinema. It's expensive to do a full dub of a foreign film for the eastern European market, so instead they turn the soundtrack down and have a single voice giving a translation. You can hear the original soundtrack in the background.

Bellos is English by birth and is old enough to remember the eastern European TV programmes that would appear on the BBC in the Sixties, of which the most famous was the East German 'The Singing Ringing Tree'. The BBC used exactly the same technique. I well remember how as the single voice gave an English translation, you could hear the German (or Russian, or Czech) in the background. But Bellos doesn't actually mention this.

Of course, the extreme example of this was the French show shown in the UK as 'The Magic Roundabout'. Eric Thomson (father of Emma and Sophie) spoke no French. He'd watch the French version and make up the dialogue with absolutely no idea as to what was going on in the original. [-pd]

Evelyn responds:

We have experienced lectoring when we saw DELUGE (1933) at the Film Forum in New York back in the 1980s. The film was originally in English, but the only remaining print had been dubbed into Italian, so they had a lector in back reading either the original script, or a translation back into English.

The lectoring (which Word keeps trying to auto-correct to "lecturing"!) of "The Magic Roundabout" sounds like the English- language version of WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY?, which totally ignored the original dialogue of the Japanese film KEY OF KEYS, from which the visual aspect was taken. [-ecl]

This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

EXHALATION by Ted Chiang (ISBN 978-1-101-94788-3) is Chiang's second collection. His first, STORIES OF YOUR LIFE AND OTHERS, had eight stories; this contains nine. The two comprise Chiang's total output to date, covering a period of thirty years. Clearly, Chiang takes time to craft each story, so the idea of including every one of his stories in a collection is perfectly reasonable in a way it is not for many authors.

Chiang's stories are "idea stories"--but not the usual science fiction ideas. He doesn't ask what would happen if aliens arrived, or if we have faster-than-light travel, or any of the usual science fiction ideas. No, he asks, "What if the universe *were* the result of intelligent design?" or "What if we could prove that there is no such thing as free will?" or "Just as writing affected how we communicate, what would universal eidetic memories do?" In other words, he is writing philosophical fiction which just happens to be science fiction. Absolutely positively highly recommended!

I haven't been writing much about the Great Courses course on "Classics of American Literature" lately. The authors covered in the interim were Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain (TOM SAWYER, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, and PUDD'NHEAD WILSON), Henry James, Stephen Crane, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Of these, I will note that PUDD'NHEAD WILSON has some science content, making it "science fiction" by some definitions. For example, Theodore Sturgeon said, "A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content." But I also note that no one would consider PUDD'NHEAD WILSON science fiction, any more than C.S.I. would be science fiction. It merely points out the flaws in this definition. (The original counter-example was ARROWSMITH by Sinclair Lewis, but while the example was well- known in Sturgeon's day--James Blish quotes it in THE ISSUE AT HAND (1964)--no one now would understand the reference.)

Henry James, of course, wrote THE TURN OF THE SCREW, which may or may not be a ghost story. Indeed, much of the studies about it center on trying to determine whether James intended it as a ghost story, or a story of the governess's repression and (perhaps) incipient insanity.

And regarding Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the professor talks about the influence of Poe on her work, or more specifically, "The Yellow Wallpaper". When I read it, many of the images seemed similar to those in H. P. Lovecraft's work. Of course, Gilman pre-dated Lovecraft by a couple of decades, and it is unlikely that Lovecraft was heavily influenced by Gilman, so maybe they both come from Poe. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I 
          should have been more specific. 
                                          --Lily Tomlin 

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