MT VOID 04/04/97 (Vol. 15, Number 40)

MT VOID 04/04/97 (Vol. 15, Number 40)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 04/04/97 -- Vol. 15, No. 40

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
              Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  908-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  908-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  908-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
              Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  908-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  908-957-2070
Backissues available at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week:

URL of the week: "Geoffrey Ryman's 253 home page": an example of the sort of fiction designed for the Internet that is available. (Ryman is the author of several science fiction novels, the best known being THE CHILD GARDEN.) [-ecl]


Hey, so what's the deal on bagels? Today you have jalapeno bagels, you have Chinese bagels, you have blueberry bagels. What is this conspiracy to make them non-Jewish? A few years ago both McDonald's and Burger King discovered the bagel and started advertising them. So what did they do? Burger King has a sandwich, your choice of ham, bacon, or sausage and cheese on a bagel. What kind of thing is that? You don't cross breed a Chihuahua and a St. Bernard. Some things just naturally go together and some do not. And what does McDonald's do? McDonald's runs these ads showing a black guy in New York eating a bagel. That's their illustration. Now I am sure there are lots of black guys in New York who eat bagels. Black guys are welcome to eat bagels all they want. But if McDonald's had egg rolls would they show a Swede enjoying them? No. Because everybody is willing to let the Chinese keep their connection with egg rolls. You don't have egg roll deniers who want to hide that egg rolls were ever Chinese. And people figure that if egg rolls are Chinese anybody else can enjoy them. There's lots of good Chinese food. People don't feel that way about Jewish food. And it's not fair.

I mean, there's good stuff in Jewish food. It isn't all like gefilte fish. Not that gefilte fish isn't bad. We had a dog who would eat just about anything as long as he thought it was human food. I don't think it was a matter of taste so much as status. This dog didn't like dog food. And it was because he knew it was meant for him. "Hey, this is the stuff you give me to eat? I wouldn't give it to a--you should pardon the expression--dog. If you don't mind, I'll take the bagel, you eat the smelly meat." But you give him gefilte fish right from the table and he starts scratching at the door to get outside. And that was right off my plate. And he could get it because when it was put on my plate I started scratching to get outside. I'm not claiming that gefilte fish was as smelly and as disgusting as dog food. No, this you should read between the lines.

But if McDonald's wants to show some guy in New York eating a bagel why not just have some guy with sideburns and a yarmulke and have him eating the bagel. Ugh, maybe it shouldn't be the black guy. Better yet you could put a guy in the long coat and the hat and the long curly sideburns. You ever see a Hassidic Jew in an ad intended for non-Jews? How often you see a Hassid even in a movie? There are some groups who claim that they don't get cast in movies often enough to be fair. And they don't get the juicy roles. And that Jews run the film industry. So where are all the great roles going to Hassids? I haven't seen those movies. You put an Hassid in a film and most people will assume he is Amish. There are a lot of people in the mid-west who I bet have never seen a Hassidic Jew. And they wouldn't know one if they saw him. Jewish culture has not really permeated to the general consciousness. We were in a Howard Johnson's in Manhattan (well it was the only thing open on a Sunday morning!). And there were some tourists at the next table. And they said the menu listed a bagel for something like $2 and a bagel with lox for something like $5. "What's lox?" they wanted to know. But they knew what a bagel was. They may have thought it was black soul food, but they knew bagels. (If you don't know what lox is, ask me.) When I was a kid the joke was the flying saucer made an emergency landing on earth and the little green man needed to replace a wheel on it. He sees what he thinks he need in the window of a bagel bakery. He goes inside and says "I want one of those wheels." The baker tells him it isn't a wheel, it's a bagel to be eaten. He offers the little green man one. The alien takes one bite and says "not bad, but you know these would be terrific with lox and cream cheese."

But McDonald's doesn't want their bagels associated with Jews. And why not? Well, with non-Jews there is that 2000 years of ill-will and you never know who still has it, deep down. And Jews know what kind of bagels McDonald's are likely to have. I mean you get a lot of things today called bagels but you and I know better. There are a lot of people making rolls out there and just making them bagel- shaped. They are the same kind of rolls they have been making all along but the shape is a little different so they call them bagels now. There is a Dunkin Donuts billboard near my home introducing Dunkin Donuts bagels. The ad says "They're round. They have a hole in the center. Yeah, we can handle that." To a non-Jew that's a funny joke. I guess. A Jew looks at that and says "Oy!" That is the sort of reasoning that leads to bad bagels. There is a lot more to a decent bagel than being round and having a hole. You don't bite the center out of a hamburger bun and get a bagel, you know.

Actually, maybe I have no right to complain. (But try and stop me.) Bagels were not originally Jewish. They just were saved from extinction by Jews. Bagels originally were Polish food. You didn't know that, did you? In 1683 some unknown Viennese baker wanted to get in good with Polish King John III Sobieski (called "Vanquisher of the Turks"). Supposedly he started making rolls in the shape of a stirrup. What is the Austrian word for stirrup? Beugel! But in Poland the fad passed. I guess not being Jewish, King John didn't really appreciate bagels. Probably couldn't even get good lox. But they stayed alive among the Jews who no doubt saw the possibility that if they brought them to some as yet unknown foreign city they would be popular with lox and cream cheese. They brought the food with them to the New World in the late 19th century. In the Jewish neighborhood of the Lower East Side peddlers would take freshly baked bagels and string them on a stick or dowel and go out on the street selling them. And still at the time I was growing up everybody knew bagels were Jewish food. I can't imagine ham every saw bagel before the 70s when there was a general loss of traditional values. Now bagels have become co- opted into the mainstream. And I had an old office mate--Chinese-- asked me why I called bagels Jewish food. What's Jewish about a bagel? [-mrl]

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THE DEVIL'S OWN (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: An IRA terrorist comes to the United States to buy weapons and brings mortal danger to his hosts, an honest cop and his family. Alan J. Pakula directs Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford in a thoughtful action film whose strongest feature is that it does not have a pre-digested point of view on the politics of Northern Ireland. The film is a taut and not surprisingly violent thriller, but the BBC does better on a skimpy budget. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)

THE DEVIL'S OWN cost a reported $90-100 million to make. Ordinarily that is of little interest to me as a viewer since I pay the about the same ticket price to see it as to see a little inexpensive independent film. But it should be noted that this is not a subject matter that requires a big budget. Whatever was good in this film was done far more intelligently but on a television budget in the British made-for-TV thriller HARRY'S GAME (1982). With the exception of bigger (but not more realistic) action scenes THE DEVIL'S OWN offers little that HARRY'S GAME did not. (For all I know there may be other equally good thrillers on this subject from the BBC that just never made it to this country. But I do notice that the previous Harrison Ford IRA-related film, PATRIOT GAMES, borrowed the music of HARRY'S GAME in apparent homage.) Perhaps the real virtue of THE DEVIL'S OWN is a moderately even- handed approach to the politics. These days it seems unusual to have a major action film which covers politics and which does not make it obvious which side is right and which is wrong. Leaving audiences to wonder about which side to be on in a conflict is not generally thought to reflect well at the box-office. It is only a minor touch in THE DEVIL'S OWN that the story does not come right out and take sides. It is the most refreshing touch that it is left to the viewer to decide. Perhaps the writers, and there were at least four, felt that pushing one point of view was not really crucial to tell the story.

At a young age Frankie McGuire (to be played as an adult by Brad Pitt) saw his beloved father gunned down at the dinner table by masked Protestants. Two decades later Frankie is an IRA terrorist who has killed more than twenty people and British Intelligence is trying desperately to stop him. Frankie's next project involves stinger missiles and he has to go to New York to buy them with a large satchel of money. A sympathetic judge finds lodging for Frankie at the house of honest cop Tom O'Meara (Harrison Ford). Tom, glad to have another male in a house full of women, has no idea of who Frankie is or what he is really doing. The two men are each interested in the other's country and culture, each surprised at what he discovers. They begin a friendship that the viewer knows can only end only in violence. Violence is key word and not all of it is over Northern Ireland politics. But the even- handedness in treating these conflicts even extends to partially justifying a halfworld-ish bar owner and arms dealer played by Treat Williams. This is a film of many different conflicts in which nobody is entirely right or wrong.

This admittedly is a minority opinion, but Harrison Ford is not a particularly expressive or charismatic actor. In spite of his popularity he has a limited acting range and does not project much personality beyond weariness. The same can be said of many other actors, but few of his repute. Pitt carries his role with a thick, at times impenetrable Irish accent, that is reasonably convincing. Their friendship could easily devolve into a simple father-and-son relationship, but it is more complex than that with Ford playing the innocent compared to the generally more worldly and certainly more experienced Pitt. The cinematography by Gordon Willis creates mood by matching the darkest moods of the characters with dark murky scenes in Ulster and in New York.

THE DEVIL'S OWN is more sophisticated and intelligent than most of the action films in the theaters these days, but this expensive production is still not up to what the BBC can do on a skittles and beer budget. There was little on the screen to justify the enormous cost of the film. Still, I rate THE DEVIL'S OWN a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 908-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     In order to become the master, the politician
     poses as the servant.
                                   -- Charles De Gaulle