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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/21/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 51, Whole Number 2072
Table of Contents
Astronomy (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
So much has changed in astronomy since I went to school: now there are about 4000 planets (versus 9 then) that we know of but Pluto is not one of them, and the moon is part of Mars. [-ecl]
The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 3 (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Last week we were talking about foods that change their ethnicity.
In the United States we have our own strange concoctions that are strictly our own. For me one of the stranger American dishes is Cincinnati Chili. Now, many believe chili is originally a Mexican dish and what we have in the United States is an Americanized version. But Cincinnati chili is a whole different breed. It is actually a Greek variation. It is not piquant; it is sweet flavored with an unexpected hint of chocolate and cinnamon. But you can get it what they call five-way, four-way, down to one-way. This syntax is as strange as the taste of the chili. A "four-way" stop is a stop you can approach from four different directions. A three-way-something seems to be something you can use three different ways. That's not what it means here. A "one-way" chili is chili in a bowl; a "two-way" is chili over spaghetti; a "three- way" is chili over spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese; a "four- way" is chili over spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese and chopped onions; and a "five-way" is chili over spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese and chopped onions and kidney beans. So you cannot have some ingredients without other ingredients. If you want kidney beans in your chili there is no way to do it unless there is spaghetti under it and grated cheddar and onions over it. You have to earn the right to have those kidney beans by buying three other ingredients. It is a little strange but that is what you get when you have a Greek variation on an American variation on a Mexican dish. Yet Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per person than any other city in the world. So they must be doing something right. Skyline was the chain I remember seeing and they are more common than McDonalds is most parts of the country.
But this leaves some unanswered questions. If it is so popular in Cincinnati, why is our traditional American chili not more popular? Maybe it is better than standard American chili. But if it is that good, why is this Greek variant on chili only popular in Ohio? As far as I know Cincinnati is the only American city known for its chili. There is need here for some anthropologist to find some answers. [-mrl]
"Ugly" Produce (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
There have been companies popping up lately whose business model is to buy excess or "ugly" produce from farmers and wholesalers and sell it to consumers, with home delivery and presumably for less than it would cost in the store. Given that a large percentage of the enormous amount of food waste in this country is in the area of produce, this sounds like a win/win situation. However, a recent article asked "Does Your Box of 'Ugly' Food Really Help the Planet?":
"In an op-ed last year for The New Food Economy, the heads of two food-justice nonprofits in Oakland wrote that Imperfect Produce 'reflects a very troubling trend ... that commodifies and gentrifies food waste.' The company, they argued, is not in the business of food waste so much food surplus: It buys excess products that farmers can't sell to supermarkets, but could sell to restaurants, canned and processed food companies, or, as a last resort, donate to food banks. 'The stuff in these boxes is not ending up in a landfill,' co-author Max Cadji, the founder of Phat Beets Produce, told me. 'They're just tapping into the same marketplace as the guys who make shredded carrots.'"
There is certainly some logic in what the article says. If a farmer grew 10 tons of produce one year, and 10% went to waste, then it is supposed they would grow 9 tons of produce the following year. (Of course, it is hard to know precisely what the yield will be.) Assuming demand stays relatively steady, that would theoretically be the right amount. But as the article notes, if the farmer sells their 10% surplus to someone, even at a discounted price, do they have any incentive to plant less?
And consider the consumer market for produce. Whatever it is, adding more produce, in the form of "ugly" produce that might otherwise be discarded, will probably not change it. So some produce in stores that might otherwise be sold to consumers is not, and ends up wasted there. The only thing that gets around this would be to increase demand, or at least, consumption, by donating this produce to people who would otherwise not use produce--and this is where the donations to food banks actually do help. (Even the farmers are helped--they can probably get a tax deduction for these donations.)
However, it could also be that when 10 tons of produce are transported to stores, etc., 10% is damaged in transit (bruised, crushed, etc.). So growing 9 tons the next year means only 8.1 tons makes it to market successfully. In other words, there will always be some loss/waste, and the sellers of "ugly" produce do not (and cannot) solve this.
(Of course, trying to avoid damage in shipping is what led to tomatoes that can be transported without damage, but are hard as a rock and taste like one too. Be careful what you wish for.)
Another issue is the effect of shipping this produce to individuals. Even if the boxes are totally recyclable, and totally recycled, there is still an effect on the environment of the manufacture of the shipping materials, and of the fuel required to transport all this produce in small quantities to many end points.
What probably addresses these problems better is buying reduced- price produce in the supermarkets. This sounds like a more effective way to prevent waste than just buying more produce from the farmer. [-ecl]
OPHELIA (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: It takes no small amount of chutzpah to take what is one of Shakespeare's greatest and most respected plays and to extend the story with language in Shakespearian English. This version centers on Ophelia and the familiar circumstances are seen through her eyes. Though friends of mine who are fans of the Bard may not like me saying this, this Ophelia is more compelling than most stage versions of the same character. The reimagining has some plot revision, but that is kept to a minimum. Directed by Claire McCarthy; written by: Semi Chellas. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10
Occasionally we get a well-known story written as a retelling of an already familiar story but seen from a different character's viewpoint. MARY REILLY told the story of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE from the point of view of a housemaid. ROSENKRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD told a part of HAMLET from the point of view of the two title characters. Currently the film OPHELIA--also taken from HAMLET--tells the story of Ophelia, lover of Hamlet. But it is told from her side from the famous plot.
Most of us who took English in school will know the story of HAMLET. One weakness of Semi Chellas's screenplay is to make Ophelia sort of a Super-Elizabethan with talents beyond those of her peers or in Denmark of the time. She is more boy than most boys in the court, while she impresses other women by knowing how to read, a rare talent in her circle of friends or in Denmark. Daisy Ridley, Rey from the STAR WARS series is forceful in the title role, but all too often her speech lacks a certain quality I call "decibels." Also featured are Naomi Watts as Gertrude and Clive Owen as Claudius. The story could be better matched to their talents.
The screenplay is tied to the Shakespeare version by several references to events mentioned in the Shakespeare play. For example, out of context someone might mention Yorick died without the reference advancing the plot.
The production design does its part, but might have been more ornate. It may disappoint some viewers, coming as it does just few months after the film THE FAVOURITE was released. Of course, one expects the late Restoration court of England to be more lavish than the late Middle Ages court of Denmark.
[Spoiler: Images of the dead, drowned Ophelia seem heavily based on the painting John Everett Millais' painting "Ophelia."]
I rate OPHELIA a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.
Release date: In theaters June 28th and available on VOD and Digital July 2nd
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5690810/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ophelia_2019
I AM MOTHER and "Mother" (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz):
In response to Mark's review of I AM MOTHER in the 06/14/19 issue of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:
Oh my ... another Gary. We are a relatively rare bunch and now you have two!
The review of I AM MOTHER, brought to mind a novelette by Philip Jose Farmer called "Mother" that was, as I recall, heavily commented on for being too "sexual" in a science fiction story. There was a follow up story, but I don't remember it at all. It had the hero living (?) inside a pod like plant (?) that needed him to be a sexual partner ... if I remember this one rightly. It's been a loooong time since I have even thought about this piece. Perhaps you know of it? I may have this all screwed up, but it's stf, so who cares?
Thanks again for your publication. It is always making me want to sit down and read, but I never seem to get around to it. Busy with other things. My calligraphy takes a bit of time and the rest goes to trying to understand how to be a successful seller of it on line. This turns out to be harder than one might imagine. It's mostly a lot of research into what people are looking for and getting all materials aimed to them by search engine optimization. Then analyzing statistics on hits, replies, pricing, delivery, etc. What a world. The old "basic" internet was much easier, but has grown to be a complicated, competitive environment. But, it is loaded with possibilities if one can get over the technical hurdles.
Thanks again. [-gl]
And then Gary follows up with:
The date was 1953, so I was 14 when I read it.
And it was in THRILLING WONDER STORIES, which checks out because I was reading and collecting that particular group of magazines. (STARTLING STORIES and one other) where I answered a letter in their fan letter column that got me connected to K. Martin Carlson and becoming a co-editor with him on KAYMAR TRADER. I eventually took it over and eventually terminated it, turning the subscribers over to another zine which name I don't really remember ... perhaps FANTASY TRADER or some such. It had a longer name than that, of course. So, ultimately, following a chain of cause and events I guess it is all Samuel Mines fault! (He was editor of the "Startling" group at that time.)
No good deed goes unpunished. [-gl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Well, I said I might be doing the current Hugo finalists for short stories, and here they are. My first observation is that the titles tend to be much longer now.
"The Court Magician" by Sarah Pinsker takes a common theme and develops it in a new way, making concrete the idea that magic comes with a price, while also looking at the ethics of using magic at someone else's command. It certainly has more depth and better writing than the Retro Hugo short story finalists I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.
"The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society" by T. Kingfisher is the humorous story on this year's ballot. (There always seems to be one.) It's certainly an amusing "turning the tables" sort of tale, but nothing substantial.
"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" by P. Djeli Clark is not a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is rather a piece written in the same vein as many of Jorge Luis Borges's "stories" (e.g., "The Library of Babel", "The Babylonian Lottery") which are sketches or portraits more than simple narratives. The title emphasizes that there are as many different stories as there are teeth--it is not "The Secret *Life* of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington".
"STET" by Sarah Gailey seems to emphasis form over content, but maybe that's just my reaction.
"The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat" by Brooke Bolander struck me as a rather run-of- the-mill feminist fantasy story--okay, but not Hugo-worthy.
"A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies" by Alix E. Harrow reminded me of Genevieve Cogman's "Invisible Library" series, being about magical books and portals and such. I think these sorts of stories are popular because readers of fantasy and science fiction, at least those dedicated enough to nominate for the Hugo Awards, are by their nature enthralled by books.
Ranking: "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington", "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies", "The Court Magician", no award, "The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society", "The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat", "STET"
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since. --William CowperTweet
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