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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/03/02 -- Vol. 20, No. 44
Table of Contents
George Alec Effinger George Alec Effinger died 26 April 2002 at the age of 55. He was the author of many novels and stories, including "Marid" series (beginning with WHEN GRAVITY FAILS) and the Hugo-, Nebula-, and Sturgeon-award-winning novelette "Schrödinger's Kitten." A fuller obituary can be found at http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/119/obituaries/George_Alec_Effinger_author_laced_humor_with_science_fiction+.shtml .
Hello? (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I have always had this paranoid vision that something is going on that people are not telling me about. I suppose this is not an uncommon delusion. It doesn't help that when I open a bottle of soda for no reason on the underside of the cap it unexpectedly says, "Sorry, please play again." [-mrl]
Ratings Minutiae (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I have been asked for verbal equivalents for my 1 to 10 ratings. This is generally how I might break them down. Also I give the equivalent in my -4 to +4 scale.
10 A film of superior quality, five or six this good a decade (+4)
9 Excellent film, maybe one or two a year (high +3 or +3)
8 Very good film, probably will be on my top ten (low +3 or high +2)
7 Good film, certainly worth seeing (+2 or low +2)
6 OK, could be worse, could be better, about average for released films (high +1 or +1)
5 Watchable, probably on the level of average cable TV (low +1 or high 0)
4 Flawed film, may have moments but pretty weak (0 or low 0)
3 Not really worth seeing, perhaps the filmmaker has some potential (high -1 or -1)
2 Seriously flawed film, not worth the time (low -1 or high -2)
1 Uniformly poorly made (-2 to -4, some films are worse than others)
Charles Harris pointed out that he had seen reviews in which I rated films high +0 on the -4 to +4 scale. He asked how this was different from a high 0. It isn't. I treat it much like an electronic calculator does. +0 is the same as 0 is the same as -0. They are all the same number. [-mrl]
Science Ponders, "Was Leeper right?" (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
A lot of these editorials I write are just musings that I have. Frequently I will think about some science article I have read and give my own theories. Without much of the education it would require I cannot give an expert opinion. However, you shoot enough times at a target and occasionally you hit. Occasionally months or years later I hear what seem like echoes of my own thoughts in what the experts say.
I cannot say I am right about this, but a suggestion I made in an editorial many months back is curiously echoed by a new scientific theory. You may have heard that a few years ago an odd phenomenon was discovered. Two different studies tried to measure the degree that gravity was slowing the expansion of the universe. Both studies found to their surprise that gravity was not slowing the expansion as much as they expected and in fact it appeared that the acceleration was outward, not inward. OK, what is likely to cause that? There would have to be some force pushing outward. But we know of no such force. We know gravity will give an inward pull. We do not know what could give an outward acceleration unless there was energy from somewhere. Matter attracts other matter, it does not repel it.
It was in answer to this question that I wrote one of my MT VOID editorials, September 17, 1999. The whole quandary seemed to arise from receiving the measurement of light that had traveled a huge distance for a very long time. In fact, this was light that must have traveled about the longest and from the greatest distance of any light we have ever used in a measurement. I asked if this light could be bearing false witness? Or more accurately maybe we were not correctly interpreting this light.
Could it be that the very great distances this light had traveled could be relevant? It could be changing the properties of the light itself? After all we have seen the behavior of light over only very short distances. I think that experiments testing the properties of light to see if we understand it have been overwhelmingly been performed on light that has traveled less than 100 million miles. Even that measurement has been rare compared to experiments on light that has traveled only a few meters as it did in the Michelson-Morley Experiment. Light that has traveled from the edge of the universe may not arrive in "mint" condition. Properties like wavelength may change subtly over very long distances. From where we sit on Earth that would be hard to detect.
When I wrote about the idea I suggested that something like a shift in wavelength may have taken place and that would be giving false data. Now there is a theory that that is not what happens, but what may be happening is that some photons are becoming axions along the way when they travel long distances.
Oh. What are axions? Well, now, there you have me. They are theoretical particles that have been suggested exist. Photons can transform into them. It is explained in an article was published April 16, 2002, at http://unisci.com/stories/20022/0416026.htm and titled "Do Photons From Supernovas Become Axions On The Way?" If I had suggested that light was transforming into axions, I could really be proud. But it is interesting that I was as close as I was.
Well, it is interesting to me. [-mrl]
BLADE II (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Guillermo del Toro directs but unfortunately does not write this sequel to BLADE. There is lots of fighting filmed with some style but only about five sentences worth of plot in the entire film. Wesley Snipes recreates the title character whom he subtly interprets as righteous, mean, and undefeatable. Ironically an all-action film that drags. Rating: 3 (0 to 10), -1 (-4 to +4)
America has George Romero, John Carpenter, and Wes Craven. Canada has David Cronenberg. Italy has Dario Argento. Ironically none of them has a record for quality like Mexico's much lesser-known Guillermo del Toro. He has made three very stylish films to date: CRONOS, MIMIC, and THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. I was not fond of BLADE, directed by Stephen Norrington, and had no desire to see the sequel until I heard Guillermo del Toro had directed. Sadly his hands appear to have been tied by a dull script that needed del Toro more than he needed it.
As we learned in BLADE the world is ravaged by evil vampires, but they are kept in check by Blade (played by Wesley Snipes) who is the half-breed that resulted from his pregnant mother being attacked by a vampire. Blade conveniently has all the special powers of vampires, but none of the limitations like allergies to sunlight and garlic. Vampires in this world are preternatural, getting their powers from a special blood type, though inconsistently they do have some supernatural powers that seem like they cannot possibly be related to blood type. In battle Blade can do many things because though he is a vampire he is also a "daywalker." Kris Kristofferson returns as Whistler who knows many things because he walks by night.
In BLADE II Blade and his vampire enemies form an uneasy non-aggression pact in order to fight against a new kind of vampire that feeds off of both humans and vampires alike. These new vampires are anatomically different from humans and vampires with a modification that should, among other things, totally destroy their ability to speak distinctly. The story, which is actually slow with the gaps filled by battles and characters posing for dramatic images, then works itself out with no untelegraphed surprises. Watching the film is like spending an evening at the fights and knowing at the beginning of each fight who is going to win.
Visually, del Toro has managed some reasonable touches. That is not surprising since del Toro films are known for their atmospheric visuals of a dark world. The film does get a nice Eastern European atmosphere by being filmed and set in the Czech Republic. When a vampire is killed he does not just fall to dust but from the inside burns to embers. Most settings seem to be in some dark European nether-world. Some rather athletic vampires move like super-ninjas, but are a little too obviously digital images.
What is supposedly the most innovative are the computer-enhanced fight scenes. That is not a feature I can tell you much about. For me the fight scenes are just passable because they do not interest me a great deal. It is like asking me to tell really good dishes from ones that are just okay in Inuit cuisine. The fights staged do however get the job done, though they take a lot of film time doing it. The new vampires are fairly gross-looking, if that is an accomplishment. This film may have subtleties in aspects I do not appreciate. Del Toro is certainly a director who creates subtleties I do appreciate in his other films. Here he has created a big comic book for the screen with a lot of fast cut dark bang up scenes.
The film brings back Wesley Snipes as Blade. He looks mean, and is fully up to the athletic requirements of the film which are considerable, and the acting requirements which are minuscule. Snipes snarls as convincingly as any actor alive and the script asks for little more than that. Kris Kristofferson seems a little tired, but that may be what the part calls for. Playing master-vampire Rienhardt is del Toro veteran Ron Perlman.
Perhaps the proceeds of BLADE II will help to fund del Toro's next film, HELLBOY. In any case, del Toro is writing that one and by the release date I will have forgotten that he was involved with BLADE II, which I rate a surprising 3 on the 0 to 10 scale and a -1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper email@example.com Quote of the Week: "My disdain for the establishment is exceeded only by my disdain for those who rebel against the establishment." --ANONYMOUS
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