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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 11/29/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 22, Whole Number 2095
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
December 12, 2019: THE LAST MIMZY and "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" by Lewis Padgett, Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM https://tinyurl.com/Borogoves-1943 http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?189840 (postponed from last month) January 9, 2020: CHARLY (1963) & FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by Daniel Keyes (1959, 1966) http://www.mrkingrocks.com/files/ffa.pdf (short story) https://archive.org/details/flowersforalgern00dani_3 (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 (1981) 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. ROBUR THE CONQUEROR, [Fr. title ROBUR LE CONQUERANT], 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 https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/3808 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: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for December (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
We are starting the month of December. This seems to be the month the providers of media suddenly get the idea that everybody is just dying to see Ebenezer Scrooge or some facsimile of him learn to assimilate and be obnoxious like most everyone else. People seem to want the whole story being repeated ad nausea with small variations in style. They make the same point over and over in slightly different style. The story is, of course, A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
There is only one adaptation of this story that gets the Mark Leeper Seal of Approval. That is the 1951 version originally titled SCROOGE. It was retitled A CHRISTMAS CAROL and might appear either way. Actually, I am informed by the TCM articles source that it was released with both the United States and England and the title SCROOGE was used in England but not the United States. That article raises an interesting point. If A CHRISTMAS CAROL is such a joyous holiday film, why does it have it be such a dark, depressing exercise, as it also is in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, both introducing us to a man unhappy with his life choices? Both films are downbeat. Perhaps that is the basis of their popularity. Perhaps people like to feel unhappy and sorry for themselves. Then Christmas comes and people feel they have a responsibility to be of good cheer and they have one little island of brightness in their gray depressing lives. A one-day cure for depression is unlikely to do much without use of drugs.
Personally I can think of no better way to spend the holiday than watching a bunch of good movies. Pitiful but true. Enjoy any holidays you may run into.
[CHARLES DICKENS' A CHRISTMAS CAROL or SCROOGE, Sunday, December 1 @ 08:00 PM (ET)]]
My choice for best film of the month is UMBERTO D. The title refers to an elderly man who finds himself penniless just rejected by society and sentenced to live near starvation, He thinks he has lost every thing and has noting left that he valued until he finds he indeed had one last possession he is forced to give up.
Film of the month would be UMBERTO D (1952), directed by Vittorio De Sica.
[UMBERTO D, Wednesday, December 25 @ 04:45 AM]
Veggie Burgers (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
The Berkeley Wellness Letter says that homemade veggie burgers are better than frozen, and their recipe is "fast to make."
Their recipe has 14 ingredients, and uses three pans and a food processor. Along the way, you have to cook the couscous; toast the pine nuts; slice the mushrooms; dice the onion, celery, and pepper; mince the garlic; pulse all the ingredients in a food processor; and then form and fry the patties. Meanwhile, toast the buns, slice the tomatoes, and flatten the spines of the lettuce leaves.
I've seen "fast to make" and this is not it. [-ecl]
A RUSSIAN JOURNAL and Stalin (letter of comment by Scott Dorsey):
In response to Taras Wolansky's comments on A RUSSIAN JOURNAL in the 11/22/19 issue of the MT VOID, Scott Dorsey writes:
"[Taras writes,] 'Evelyn's thumbnail review of Steinbeck's RUSSIAN JOURNAL: Visiting the birthplace of the Potemkin village, you'd think Steinbeck wouldn't take things at face value, but no such luck. The Soviet people don't fear Stalin, but worry about another war, Steinbeck writes. In reality, people were too afraid of Stalin--likely every family Steinbeck visited had lost somebody to the terror or the purges or the artificial famine--to express the slightest negative emotion; and fear of another war was the sentiment they had been instructed to express.' [-tw]"
[Arthur] Koestler writes that people really did like Stalin, because the newspapers talked about how great Stalin was and the radio talked about how great Stalin was, and when you were out in rural Ukraine and getting all your information from Pravda, you had no idea anything bad was going on. This is why there was just so much shock when Stalin was finally denounced after his death and when all the information about the purges started becoming available to the general population. People who have always lived with a free press miss out on the sheer amount of control that it's possible for a state to have through the press. [-sd]
Imhotep and Boris Karloff (letter of comment by Sam Long):
In response to Mark's comments on Imhotep in the 11/22/19 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:
Imhotep was the first person known to have expressed an opinion, which is why, when we express opinions these days, we often prefix our words with IMHO.
On a related subject, Bill Pratt (a.k.a. Boris Karloff) had a birthday two days ago: he was born 23 November 1887. His great- aunt was Anna Leonowens, of "The King & I" fame. [-sl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
I recently listed to an episode of the (highly recommended) podcast "Classical Stuff You Should Know" which discussed the work and philosophy of the recently deceased Harold Bloom. Naturally, a large part of the discussion was about Bloom's book THE WESTERN CANON.
As part of this, the podcasters (A. J. Hananberg, Thomas Magbee, and Graeme Donaldson) ask the question, "Why do people continue to write books when they realize they will never measure up to Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Whitman?" Their answer is that there are many things not covered in the existing canon. The Iliad was a great work, but it said little or nothing about love and marriage. Genesis is great poetry about the Creation, but it left large gaps that Milton felt obliged to fill.
And that is precisely why the "Western Canon" is not enough. For example, Chinua Achebe's THINGS FALL APART is considered one of the world's great novels, and tells a story not covered in the "Western canon". Similarly, Murasaki Shikibu's TALE OF GENJI is another classic omitted from the traditional canon. Interestingly, Bloom's list of the "Western Canon" includes the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and such Sanskrit works as the RAMAYANA, neither of which seem "Western".
But what *does* "Western" mean in the con text of "the Western Canon" or "Western Civilization"? The Greeks thought anyone outside of ancient Greece barbarians, the Romans thought most of the Europeans they encountered barbarians, and I'm pretty sure the (Eastern) Roman Empire of its time would have thought BEOWULF totally unworthy of consideration. Edward Gibbon in his DECLINE AND FALL writes of "the nations of Europe, the most distinguished portion of human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms." And so on, even through the present-day, and slopping over into the whole immigration debate. But there we shall not go.
At any rate, this is something I have thought about quite a bit, and the fact is that while Bloom may have tried to pin down some sort of "Western Canon", his list is neither entirely Western, nor (probably) entirely canonical. When Wikipedia (okay, not the unimpeachable source of wisdom some may think) says, "Since the 1960s the Western literary canon has been expanded to include writers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East," the adjective "Western" seems to lose most of its meaning.
(It's like trying to define "Spanish", "Hispanic", and "Latino/Latina"; or "Latin America", "Ibero-America", and "Hispanic America". But that's a different rabbit hole.)
And regarding SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN, another book by Bloom, one is tempted to place it in the same category as Julian Jaynes's THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND, that is, a book that proposes a fascinating theory that could be used as the basis of a great novel (in the case of Jaynes, SNOW CRASH) but one that probably does not stand up to serious examination. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails. --Max EastmanTweet
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