MT VOID 12/27/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 26, Whole Number 2099

MT VOID 12/27/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 26, Whole Number 2099

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 12/27/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 26, Whole Number 2099

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

Why You Got Three Copies of Last Week's MT VOID (explanation by Evelyn C. Leeper):

My apologies for the three copies of last week's MT VOID. The explanation is a combination of both Optimum's and Yahoo Groups's ineptitude.

I have been using Yahoo Groups to send out the MT VOID. It is (was?) a moderated group, and after I emailed each issue there was a separate step to approve it before it actually went out.

As noted before, Yahoo Groups was changing, and last week they made the big change, removing all the archives of each group. In the process, they seem to have 1) caused some sort of multi-hour delay in postings going out, and 2) removed the approval step.

At about 9AM, I sent out the issue. The first problem was that Optimum did its thing in randomly blocking all our email sent through both Thunderbird and Opera from our desktop. So then I switched to sending out the issue via Gmail. (Sending out email through web interfaces is not blocked, but using Optimum's interface messes up the formatting.) Normally I get a request to approve it almost immediately. When I didn't, I went to the Yahoo Groups page to approve it, but could not find the usual page for approvals. So I sent it again about 10AM, but again nothing.

At this point, I decided Yahoo Groups was no longer working. So I took the membership list I had saved and constructed a mailing list for my Gmail account. And I emailed the MT VOID to this list. This is the first copy you received.

After several hours, the clog at Yahoo Groups cleared. That was when you got the mail from the first two attempts to send it. And that is when I discovered that the moderation aspect of the mailing list had apparently disappeared.

My plan for the future is to use the Gmail mailing list. This means that all additions, deletions, and changes have to be sent to me. It does make all these changes easier.

My gmail address is , but sending to my older (and much shorter) email will still work, or just replying to the mail with the issue itself. Changes in the colophon reflect this new information.

I will keep the Yahoo Group (now merely a mailing list) around for a while, but after a few months of using Gmail directly, I will probably delete the Yahoo Group entirely. If at any point, I find that someone is sending unmoderated mail to the Yahoo Group, I will delete it sooner. [-ecl]

Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):

January 9, 2020: CHARLY (1963) & FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by 
	Daniel Keyes (1959, 1966) (short story) (novel)
January 23, 2020: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood, 
	Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
February 13, 2020: THE QUIET EARTH (1985) & novel by Craig Harrison 
March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Old Bridge Public 
	Library, 7PM
May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America, 
	Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
July 23, 2020: CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS by Jules Verne (a.k.a. 
	published by Ace in 1961 in an omnibus titled MASTER OF THE 
	WORLD, which is the title of the sequel), Old Bridge Public 
	Library, 7PM
September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America, 
	Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
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)
	Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for January (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Well, we are now almost in the farseeing new world of 2020. And, guess what? I am running around trying to get this month's work done. I have been seriously tied up with planning the awards of Online Film Critics Society. Just this morning I turned in my ballot of nominations for society awards. The films I have liked the most were JOJO RABBIT, THE AERONAUTS, and THE REPORT. Now if things go like they usually do those films will be completely forgotten at awards time.

Here is what January holds in store:

When I was a young boy I thought that Bob Hope films were just about the ultimate in screen humor. These days I can see one and about the best I can do is cracking a smile. Much of the "funny" seems to have drained out of the movie. In ALIAS JESSE JAMES, Hope is an insurance salesman mistaken for Jesse James. He has sold a life insurance policy to Jesse. However Jesse is in a dangerous profession, robbing trains and such. Hope has to buy the life insurance back while everybody else thinks Hope is the real Jesse James.

The most fun you can have with this film is TV trivia. There must be nearly twenty cameo roles in this film, each of them being played by what would have then been then a familiar television cowboy. See how many you can recognize. Hope plays opposite Rhonda Fleming and Wendell Corey,

[ALIAS JESSE JAMES Thursday, January 2 @ 02:45 AM (ET)]

The sad fact of ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944) is that the short story *is* a short story. There have been attempts to film the story but usually it has to be padded out and anything added just decreases the strengths of the story. The truth is that the story has one very good idea. Any distraction from that one idea detracts from the story. The story was written under the name Pressman Taylor, but the author's real name was Katherine Taylor. In the days leading up to war in Europe two partners in an art business look in horror at Germany in falling to the fascists. One runs the business while the other leaves to go to Germany and see first-hand how the country is changing. The film is highly recommended if you cannot find the story anywhere.

[ADDRESS UNKNOWN, Friday, January 3 @ 03:15 PM (ET)]


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

More comments on THE HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-307-70076-6), from Book II:

"The total disregard of truth and probability in the representation of these primitive martyrdoms was occasioned by a very natural mistake. The ecclesiastical writers of the fourth or fifth centuries ascribed to the magistrates of Rome the same degree of implacable and unrelenting zeal which filled their own breasts against the heretics or the idolaters of their own times."

E: There has certainly been debate over the number of martyrs during the various persecutions, and whether the numbers given y the ancients included all those persecuted, or just those killed. (One need only read Josephine Tey's comments on the "Scottish martyrs" to see that this can happen in modern times as well.)

"It is obvious, that, as long as the immutable constitution of human nature produces and maintains so unequal a division of property, the most numerous part of the community would be deprived of their subsistence, by the equal assessment of a tax from which the sovereign would derive a very trifling revenue. Such indeed might be the theory of the Roman capitation; but in the practice, this unjust equality was no longer felt, as the tribute was collected on the principle of a real, not of a personal imposition. Several indigent citizens contributed to compose a single head, or share of taxation; while the wealthy provincial, in proportion to his fortune, alone represented several of those imaginary beings."

E: This sound like a very peculiar way to levy a "head tax."

"[The] conqueror of the Franks and Alemanni [Julian] could no longer be painted as an object of contempt; and the monarch himself [Constantius] was meanly ambitious of stealing from his lieutenant [Julian] the honorable reward of his labors. In the letters crowned with laurel, which, according to ancient custom, were addressed to the provinces, the name of Julian was omitted. "Constantius had made his dispositions in person; he had signalized his valor in the foremost ranks; his military conduct had secured the victory; and the captive king of the barbarians was presented to him on the field of battle," from which he was at that time distant about forty days' journey. So extravagant a fable was incapable, however, of deceiving the public credulity, or even of satisfying the pride of the emperor himself."

E: The practice of superiors taking credit for the accomplishments of those reporting to them is apparently nothing new.

"The predecessors of Julian, his uncle, his brother, and his cousin, indulged their puerile taste for the games of the Circus, under the specious pretence of complying with the inclinations of the people; and they frequently remained the greatest part of the day as idle spectators, and as a part of the splendid spectacle, till the ordinary round of twenty-four races was completely finished.

E: That's only because golf, baseball, and MMA/UFC had not yet been invented (although the gladiatorial contests might qualify for the latter).

"[Julian] extended to all the inhabitants of the Roman world the benefits of a free and equal toleration; and the only hardship which he inflicted on the Christians, was to deprive them of the power of tormenting their fellow-subjects, whom they stigmatized with the odious titles of idolaters and heretics."

E: Which no doubt they claimed was a war on Christianity.

"The restoration of the Jewish temple was secretly connected with the ruin of the Christian church. Julian still continued to maintain the freedom of religious worship, without distinguishing whether this universal toleration proceeded from his justice or his clemency. He affected to pity the unhappy Christians, who were mistaken in the most important object of their lives; but his pity was degraded by contempt, his contempt was embittered by hatred; and the sentiments of Julian were expressed in a style of sarcastic wit, which inflicts a deep and deadly wound, whenever it issues from the mouth of a sovereign."

E: Well, yes, he actually thought the Christians worse than other non-pagan religions, but he expressed this mostly through what today would be Tweets rather than rounding Christians up. What he did do, though, was to require outward fealty to paganism through sacrifices and such offered as part of Senate meetings, public games, and so on. This made it difficult, if not impossible for Christians to be a part of these. This is basically the Roman equivalent of having prayer in public schools, and having their Pledge of Allegiance saying "under the gods." (I bet if someone suggested changing to that today, you would get an immediate outcry.)

"But the laws and manners of modern nations protect the safety and freedom of the vanquished soldier; and the peaceful citizen has seldom reason to complain, that his life, or even his fortune, is exposed to the rage of war. In the disastrous period of the fall of the Roman empire, which may justly be dated from the reign of Valens, the happiness and security of each individual were personally attacked; and the arts and labors of ages were rudely defaced by the Barbarians of Scythia and Germany."

E: This security of peaceful citizens was mostly true (with some exceptions, as noted) up through the 19th Century, though there began to be shelling of cities even by then. However, the aerial bombing introduced in World War I, and greatly expanded in World War II, has made this no longer operative, and the safety of the vanquished soldier, though now presumably protected by the Geneva Convention, is certainly no longer to be assumed.

"Horseflesh, which in every age and country has been proscribed by the civilized nations of Europe and Asia, they devour with peculiar greediness; and this singular taste facilitates the success of their military operations."

E: Times change. When we were in Belgium in 1989, horse steak was featured on restaurant menus.

"The Jews were a nation; the Christians were a sect: and if it was natural for every community to respect the sacred institutions of their neighbors, it was incumbent on them to persevere in those of their ancestors. The voice of oracles, the precepts of philosophers, and the authority of the laws, unanimously enforced this national obligation. By their lofty claim of superior sanctity the Jews might provoke the Polytheists to consider them as an odious and impure race. By disdaining the intercourse of other nations, they might deserve their contempt. The laws of Moses might be for the most part frivolous or absurd; yet, since they had been received during many ages by a large society, his followers were justified by the example of mankind; and it was universally acknowledged, that they had a right to practise what it would have been criminal in them to neglect. But this principle, which protected the Jewish synagogue, afforded not any favor or security to the primitive church. By embracing the faith of the gospel, the Christians incurred the supposed guilt of an unnatural and unpardonable offence. They dissolved the sacred ties of custom and education, violated the religious institutions of their country, and presumptuously despised whatever their fathers had believed as true, or had reverenced as sacred."

E: Basically, Julian felt that tradition and "the ways of the fathers" (the "mos maiorum" of the Romans) were more important even that cold logic. The Jews got a pass on their religion because they were continuing a tradition older even than Rome. The Christians, on the other hand, discarded and ridiculed the traditions of *their* ancestors when they embraced this "upstart" church. So Julian's "tolerance" was limited in large part to long-established religions. Before you scorn that, consider how new (or seemingly new) religions are treated by our laws and leaders. In their time (and even now), Christian Science, Mormonism, Santaria, and (ironically Wicca and other neo-pagan groups have been dismissed as "not real religions," and their adherents denied First Amendment protections.

"The total disregard of truth and probability in the representation of these primitive martyrdoms was occasioned by a very natural mistake. The ecclesiastical writers of the fourth or fifth centuries ascribed to the magistrates of Rome the same degree of implacable and unrelenting zeal which filled their own breasts against the heretics or the idolaters of their own times."

E: Clearly Gibbon had very little patience with religious persecutions.

"In one of his laws he has been careful to instruct posterity, that in obedience to the commands of God, he laid the everlasting foundations of Constantinople: and though he has not condescended to relate in what manner the celestial inspiration was communicated to his mind, the defect of his modest silence has been liberally supplied by the ingenuity of succeeding writers; who describe the nocturnal vision which appeared to the fancy of Constantine, as he slept within the walls of Byzantium. The tutelar genius of the city, a venerable matron sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, was suddenly transformed into a blooming maid, whom his own hands adorned with all the symbols of Imperial greatness."

E: Nor does he think much of visions, particularly when the details are supplied by fabulists many years later.

"The sublime and simple theology of the primitive Christians was gradually corrupted; and the Monarchy of heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to restore the reign of polytheism."

E: Here one assume Gibbon is referring to the panoply of saints, though to non-Christians the Trinity itself seems to smack of polytheism. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          Someone told me that each equation I included in the book 
          would halve the sales.
                                          --Stephen Hawking, 
                                            A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME

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