MT VOID 07/21/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 3, Whole Number 1344

MT VOID 07/21/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 3, Whole Number 1344

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/21/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 3, Whole Number 1344

Table of Contents

      El Presidente: Mark Leeper, The Power Behind El Pres: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

National Film Board of Canada Shorts:

The National Film Board of Canada has made fifty of its classic short films available on the Internet at

The Long and Short of It (comment by Mark R. Leeper):

Well, the weather is so hot that I am going out of the house in shorts. I usually do not wear shorts out of the house because I think I look dumpy. But I find looking at young people today baggy shorts, a tee-shirt, and a paunch are very in. If you wait long enough, the world comes to you. My careless look is now in style. Mostly. However, I refuse to pull down my pants so that my underwear shows. There is only so much I am willing to do for fashion. Oh, and I don't have a single tattoo in a private place to show off. [-mrl]

The Geography of Planet Beach (comment by Mark R. Leeper):

There is a business near my house called Planet Beach. This name has always bothered me. You may see the name and leave it at that. I take it a step further. I start thinking about the mathematical meaning of Planet Beach.

There is a restaurant called Planet Hollywood. I have always assumed that this meant that the place was like a restaurant you would have on a planet where every thing is like Hollywood. That in itself is a pretty horrifying thought. But at least there is nothing particularly geometrical that says you could not do it. The reason it sounds so nauseating is purely a matter of taste and not logic.

But Planet Beach raises the insanity to a whole new level. Could you actually have a planet that is just beach? Well you could have a dry and sandy planet. That might be a desert planet like Arrakis in DUNE. But does a desert qualify as a beach? No. I think that it is important if you have a beach that it leads to water. In fact, it leads to a lot of water. If there is a lot of sand and not much water I am not sure you could call that a beach.

Of course, a planet need not be named for its most massive feature. It need not be named for its feature of greatest area. Planet Earth has more ocean than earth on its surface. The earth is only about 30% of its surface area. But I still would not call Earth a beach planet. There is too much of the surface of the planet that is isolated too far from the water. You have great inland areas because you have very large land masses that are the continents.

Now it becomes a more interesting question. Could you mathematically design a planet for a maximal amount of beach? What you would need is a structure of land that is very like an isthmus very nearly everywhere. There are many ways you could cover the surface of the planet with narrow strips of land. That is fine if you are constructing a planet, but few of us ever do that. Could it occur naturally? Well, I suppose you could have a surface covered by a lot of craters, sort of like the surface of a golf ball, but not so regular. I suppose it could be in close proximity to an asteroid belt so it could be hit frequently by asteroids. Then it would have to hold an atmosphere to have liquid water in the craters. I suppose you could have such a planet and have it covered in large part by beach, but it probably would not be a lot of fun to swim there.

Speaking of the silly mathematics of beaches in science fiction, this all reminds me of one of the only two episodes I saw of the television series "The Lost World". In fact, this story sort of explains why I did not see much more. Our main characters are stranded on the plateau that is Maple White Land. One comes upon a beach of what appears to be an ocean. That would be stupid enough. Professor Challenger hears about it and suggests it might be used as a water route off the plateau. I can picture the geometry of Planet Beach, but a plateau with a beach at the top and a water route off the plateau goes beyond my poor powers to imagine and picture.

My initial thought was that Beach Planet is a place for people who like to go to the beach. I admit that in this instance my intuition was wrong. In fact, it is a tanning salon to make you look like you have been to the beach, but you really have been in the office or home instead. Isn't that something! In our modern world you no longer *have* to go to the beach. You can stay home and watch "American Idol" and "Survivor", then pop over to Planet Beach and come out looking like you spent the day sunbathing on the shore. Why not call the place "Beachless Planet"? [-mrl]

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Captain Jack Sparrow is back in a two-and-a-half-hour story (and that is just the first part) that continues from the previous PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL. Much more than the last film, this one returns to the franchise origins as an amusement park ride. This time this film is darker--both literally and figuratively. The characters are established so director Gore Verbinski spent less time developing them and more time skewering them or having them sword fight in rolling mill wheels. But the fun is still there. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" series is trying to be for this generation what the Ray Harryhausen "Sinbad" films were for my generation. They have a very good shot at making it. Where Harryhausen built his films around his stop-motion effects, these films are built around CGI effects blended seamlessly with the live-action to tell imaginative stories. As with the Harryhausen films, they have the effects down really well and the plot needs just a bit of work. Part two of the series, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST, does not stand well on its own. Had I not seen the first film I would have been lost, and also the film ends on a cliffhanger. This episode is a bridge and as we see in the film some bridges are not very strong. Nearly all of the people who could be back are in the same places in front of and behind the cameras.

The grim story has few sunny skies. It opens on what should have been a happy day. As Will Turner (played by Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) are to be married the King's men come ashore on their island to arrest them. Why? Well, you remember the last film ended with everyone lovably letting Jack Sparrow get away? It seems the authorities were not amused. Now there is hell to pay. Actually it is all part of a fantastical plot by the evil East India Company. (Aside: I have looked and can find no reference that the East India Company every operated in the Caribbean. I do not have the knowledge to rule it out entirely, but I am highly skeptical. I suppose they are an infamous corporation of the time and these days corporations make ready screen villains.) Will and Elizabeth may be allowed to go free if they use their freedom to track down Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) for the law. Where is Jack? He is on an island of cannibals who also does not look like local boys. He is now king of the cannibals and he is loved so much they could just eat him up. And that is just the beginning of the new story.

The sea tale will bring all these people into the clutches of Davy Jones (who, under the impenetrable make-up and prosthetics, is played by the incomparable Bill Nighy. Davy Jones, we learn, is also the Flying Dutchman, which makes no sense at all because he is not Dutch and no previous legend has ever conflated the two figures to my knowledge. Davy Jones was a sea demon who in spite of the name was never human. The Flying Dutchman was a legendary cursed sailor or his boat.) Davy Jones and his "men," as visualized here, are chimeras composed of human and sea animal parts. Davy himself has an octopus for a head and crab claws. Parents might be warned that some of the sea-horror images might be too intense for younger children. Yet with all the cutlass and knife play, there is no blood and the only gore is directing the film. The horror visages are so believably done it is impossible to tell what is prosthetics and what is CGI.

In the first film we were getting to know the characters and it is almost a pity that we now know them. The plot is now driven by the circumstances the characters find themselves in, and not so much by their personalities. The characters are much less developed in this film than in the previous one. Having seen the first film is somewhat a prerequisite for enjoying this one. One more point: In that first film we are told that Jack Sparrow recognized William Turner as resembling Bootstrap Bill, his father. We meet Bootstrap in this film. Stellan Skarsgård plays him. I leave it to the viewer to decide if Stellan Skarsgård actually has a strong resemblance to Orlando Bloom.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL was a total surprise. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST does not quite measure up, perhaps because we were expecting something really good. Hopefully next year's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END will have enough surprise to overcome our expectations. I rate PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. Incidentally, these days Hollywood filmmakers are more frequently putting one last joke at the end of the credits to reward those viewers who like me sit through the long credit sequences (or to punish those who don't). X-MEN: THE LAST STAND added a major plot twist at the end of the credits. This episode of PIRATES ties up one loose end after the credits. My advice: when the film is over, relax and listen to the music. At home you can fast-scan. [-mrl]

A SCANNER DARKLY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Richard Linklater adapts one of Philip K. Dick's less cinematic novels into a rotoscoped, animated film. The approach is creative, but it still does not overcome the problems of bringing such a contemplative novel to the screen. This becomes just a bland paranoia melodrama set in a very contemporary drug culture. An interesting effort, but it does not work as a film. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10

Philip K. Dick was an amazingly imaginative writer, but he was a long way from being a poster child for mental health week. He gave over his life to being ruled by the I Ching and then when he did not like the results turned violently against the I Ching. Similarly he took way too many drugs and hated the government for trying to regulate them, but then turned against the drugs themselves. His novel A SCANNER DARKLY is both anti-drugs and anti-anti-drugs. He hates the fictional drug Substance-D, but still vilifies the tactics of the government to suppress the drug. These represent the drugs that Dick himself first embraced and later blamed for his problems that they had caused, all the while hating the government efforts to control them. In fact he was the beneficiary of a policy that generally went after the producers, even if they were in other countries, and emphasized much less prosecuting the users. The final words of the film are a list of Dick's friends who damaged or destroyed their lives on drugs. They were punished far worse than they deserved, or so he claims. I can respect Dick as a writer, but much of his logic seems tragically flawed. Richard Linklater (BEFORE SUNRISE, THE SCHOOL OF ROCK) has made a film of Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY as a rotoscoped animated film much in the visual style of his WAKING LIFE.

Keanu Reeves plays narcotics officer Bob Arctor. His job is to go under cover and spy on some particular users of a new drug, Substance D, that nearly everybody seems to be using. So why these particular users? The stoners are the garrulous Jim Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and rather oblivious Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson). Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder) also hangs around with the group but makes clear her friendship is definitely platonic. Bob, who goes by the name Fred, has scanners all over the house they live in so that their every move is watched. He passes himself off as one more stoner, though he tries to limit his drug use and is on the knife-edge of becoming addicted himself. Through it all we realize that the Government is bad; the drug users are bad; everything is bad, bad, bad. We stick with these people because we are expecting the story to go someplace interesting. It all builds to two major revelations, but neither has much surprise value. The story works only if you are interested in seeing a paranoid view of life in the drug culture.

The animation could have been a good idea, but in this adaptation it is definitely a mixed blessing. It becomes a distraction from the story itself. For example we see a police car stop, but the word "Police" on the side seems to move a little out of sync with the rest of the car. Perhaps this is intentional to simulate a drug state or simply to convince people that this is what a drug state is like. Important in the plot is something called a "scramble suit" that subtly changes the wearer's appearance so that the wearer is inconspicuous and cannot be described by witnesses. This is the one really engaging science fiction idea in the story and apparently Linklater entirely misses the point that the changes are subtle. He has the animated version rapidly flashing different appearances like something from a Bill Plympton "Plymptoon". This flashing of different visages is highly distracting and renders the wearer nearly as inconspicuous as a hippopotamus parade. If the government had merely wanted the wearer to be unrecognizable better disguise technology already exists to make the wearer appear to be Darth Vader or perhaps Ronald McDonald.

Okay, I admit it. Films about drug paranoia and anti-government paranoia--even science fiction films on those subjects--are not my favorite entertainment. There are Dickian ideas I like, but this film is surprisingly lacking in them. In the dark of a theater there are better films to scan. I rate A SCANNER DARKLY a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10. [-mrl]

WORDPLAY (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and its top competitors are profiled in a new documentary by experienced cinematographer but first-time director Patrick Creadon. We get introduced to the people who build the puzzles and the people who compete to be the fastest solvers, then we see the competition. The film falters most in showing us celebrities who claim to be puzzle fans but who are not really connected to the competition. Testimonials and weak comic relief from Jon Stewart was not necessary. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

There seems to be no end to films about competition as long as the competition is about sport. Lately we have been getting a few films about more intellectual sorts of contests. SPELLBOUND, BEE SEASON, AKEELAH AND THE BEE, and the short SPELLING BEE were released within the space of a few months of each other, all involving spelling bees. Those contests may now have been over- exposed. WORDPLAY is a delightful change from the spelling bee films just as both kinds of films are a delightful change from sports films. (I would not mind seeing a documentary about a mathematics Olympiad, myself.) But two recent documentaries deal with vocabulary competitions. They are WORD WARS and WORDPLAY. WORD WARS from 2004 dealt with an international Scrabble competition. WORDPLAY is this year's documentary about an international crossword puzzle competition. The challenge is to make a film that is visually intriguing. It is remarkable that we have a documentary about the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and even more so that such a film can be made visually interesting and even suspenseful. The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has been held for twenty-eight years every March at the Stamford (Connecticut) Marriott. In 2005, documentary filmmaker Patrick Creadon covered the competition.

Now, how exciting can it be to watch somebody fill letters into little squares? Well, first get out of your head that crossword puzzle solving is a slow sport. Early in the film we see somebody work a "New York Times" crossword puzzle in something like three or four minutes. To me this is like building a highway in an afternoon. When I first heard that there were people who could do the puzzle in a few minutes I thought I had heard wrong. To me it is surprising that such a thing as a crossword puzzle could even exist. It is amazing that someone could find the words to put something like that together. We take it for granted but it is surprising that there are enough words in English that it can be done, even as rich as the language is. But some people are apparently much faster with language than I am. Competing here are people whose minds move so quickly they are limited mostly by how fast they can write.

The film is really structured in two halves. The first half introduces the viewer to the participants and their attitudes toward crossword puzzles. Mixed in are celebrities also talking about the puzzles that are their daily routine, such as people like Bill Clinton and Ken Burns. The former was involved in an amazing crossword puzzle verbal coup for the puzzle that ran on the Tuesday of 1996 Presidential Election. The puzzle was to include the winner of that day's election and the puzzle with all the clues worked whether the seven-letter space was filled in with "Clinton" or "BobDole." The proper answer would not be known until election results were known the day after the puzzle was published. It is a good thing they did not try to repeat this trick in 2000. A little less welcome are sequences like Jon Stewart cutely talking to himself as he fills out a puzzle. The second half of the film shows us the actual tournament. The top contestants use marking pens on large puzzles in front of an audience and they earn a single numerical measure that takes into account speed and correctness. There is a major turnaround and heartbreak as one of the champions makes a foolish error. Crossword puzzles almost work as a spectator sport.

The competition is hosted by Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor of the "New York Times" whose voice I hear every Sunday morning as I compete with my wife with the weekly National Public Radio Weekend Edition puzzle. Unfortunately, I found that I had heard a bit too much about the movie revealed on NPR before seeing the film. Also we get to see Merl Reagle, who authored many crossword puzzles that have soaked up too much of my time. People like Shortz and Reagle have a place in this film where Jon Stewart seemed inappropriate.

I have to admit that for me these self-proclaimed nerds are more interesting and impressive than anything that I have ever seen in a NFL documentary. There is a certain chill as Will Shortz tells the assembled competitors that "this is the puzzle that is going to rip your heart out." The film may not really show us why these people have the compulsion, but I am still there rooting for them. I rate WORDPLAY a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. [-mrl]

Ancient Navigation (letter of comment by David G. Leeper):

In response to Mark's article in the 07/14/06 issue of the MT VOID on ancient navigation, David Leeper writes: "Re the puzzle of the ancient navigators, there was a similar trick in our old Boy Scout Handbook. They called it "deliberate compass error." Their example was making camp by a river and then taking a long hike on unmarked trails to the east. With a compass you could return by continually making progress west, but when you got to the river and didn't find the camp, you wouldn't know for sure whether to turn north or south. By deliberately hiking back to river via a NW or WNW path, you could confidently turn to the south when you reach the river. . . At least no one (?) has suggested the ancient navigators must have been guided by aliens from space. . . [-dgl]

Transporter (letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek):

In response to Mark's article on "100% pure" in the 07/07/06 issue of the MT VOID, Andre Kuzniarek writes: I've always thought of the 'Star Trek' transporter (in the old show at least) as similar to Wonka-vision, where the transported nano-components (atoms or sub-atomic particles or strings, who knows) of the person are actually being broadcast to another location, in a pseudo-analog fashion. While still using a destructive/reconstructive process. They are not copying a blueprint, destroying the original, then reassembling a facsimile with local atoms, although this probably makes more sense from a technical standpoint. This latter method is like digital recording, whereas the pseudo-analog method is more like making a record or tape recording in the sense that fidelity must be preserved in a continuum, which is why Scotty was always messing with the controls to guarantee 'reception,' and which might allow for preservation of those things that make a person alive and sentient which we do not understand. Digital recording is truly just a simulation, and digital data requires much less 'purity' of transmission since data buffers can employ redundancy and parity checks to complete the 'image' accurately (but only to the specified resolution) regardless of flaws in transmission. I believe the script writers might have started playing with that idea in the later shows with respect to transporter technology, not sure though. I recall the episode where Scotty stored his image in a transporter circuit running on backup batteries after being stranded. This could have been a pattern stored in a buffer as a simulation, or it could have been a lossless infinite loop of the transmitted nano-components. I believe there's a conceptual difference, but of course this is all splitting hairs of the Jabberwock." [-ak]

Orange Juice (pointer by Mike Glyer):

In response to the letter of comment by Andre Kuzniarek in the 07/14/06 issue of the MT VOID in response to Mark's article on "100% pure" in the 07/07/06 issue of the MT VOID, Mike Glyer sent a pointer to an article about what makes freshly-squeezed orange juice taste so good: .

It says, in part, "Is it that hidden smell of paint thinner? Or perhaps the subtle hint of mothballs? Researchers have isolated more than 40 of the natural compounds that make up the aroma of orange juice. When smelling the extracted compounds, volunteers compared some of the scents to gasoline, cut-grass, roses, cheesy feet, and cotton candy."

THE DA VINCI CODE and SUPERMAN RETURNS (letter of comment):

In response to Mark's review of THE DA VINCI CODE in the 06/02/06 issue of the MT VOID Mark's review of SUPERMAN RETURNS in the 06/30/06 issue of the MT VOID, a reader writes:

I read with interest your recent reviews of SUPERMAN RETURNS and THE DA VINCI CODE.

I have to say first off, I usually agree with your reviews making you one of the few film reviewers that I can say that about.

[If our tastes are correlated you are one of very few such refined readers who can say that. :-) My tastes are somewhat individualized. As for my background perhaps I am reaping the advantage of a misspent youth. -mrl]

I also find that your obvious knowledge and excellent memory of what has gone before makes for very interesting reading. It amazed me somewhat when almost every film critic seemed to hate THE DA VINCI CODE . . . that surprised me because I thought the film worked very well and I'm wondering if they weren't expecting the usual action packed low brow mystery thriller and couldn't quite accept something different. But I'm even more confused as many of these people had obviously read the book which made their view even more puzzling. I had read the book prior to watching the movie and thought the movie did a very good job of translating the book to the screen. The essential elements were there and the story worked on the screen but was still true to the book . . . no mean feat! So why all the negative press . . . odd!

[Yes, most people did not seem to get excited by DA VINCI CODE. It is a sort of a downbeat low-key adventure about some rather abstract ideas. The Christian teachings would not change if this were true, just the rationale for believing them. And it was a little hard to warm up the characters since they might not want to introduce a romantic element. The action was mostly mental and the characters came off as a little off-putting. That may be what happened. They were just not people whom you really wanted to spend time with. -mrl]

And I suspect the Catholic Church owns shares in the movie because by telling people not to watch it, they probably doubled the book and movie sales.

[Yes, the Catholic Church only got more people thinking about the ideas by campaigning against the film. That probably was just what they wanted. If they can make a case that the religion is threatened by the film, the loyal become even more loyal. I am reminded of the Cartoon Jihad. --mrl]

Now SUPERMAN RETURNS . . . I have to admit I liked the movie. I don't actually like Opera but do quite like some classical music so I guess I'm only half or less of an intellectual.

The obvious plot points, i.e., the people around Superman not noticing who he was . . . well, it never really worked in any of the movies or the series. People are just not that dense so I forgave them that. And they did do some nice set pieces which helped explain why people might not think Superman and Clark were one and the same. And some of the little touches like the curl of hair in his face were very clever and the set piece of, "Is it a bird, a plane . . ." "Were you looking for me?" was quite nice.

And Kevin Spacey was excellent.

[As for SUPERMAN RETURNS I am willing to accept that Jimmy and Lois are dense on recognizing Clark Kent is Superman. But this film really pushed that because they were also noting the physical similarities AND both mysteriously disappeared for five years and both showed up at the same time. Just like Kent first came to the Planet just when Superman came to Metropolis. This brings me from willing suspension of disbelief to begrudging suspension of disbelief. How dumb do they take me for to expect I am still going to suspend? -mrl]

I also never thought of it as an electromagnetic pulse, just a brown-out as the crystal somehow sucked all the power from its surroundings.

[I believe the script explicitly said that Luthor was using electro-magnetic pulse. Otherwise I would agree with you, though even a brown-out would not take out the computers and then restore them to the same place without booting. -mrl]

And the love triangle was very well handled . . . not the cliché Hollywood style at all, quite brave I felt. And the kid being Superman's heir worked for me. I have read "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" but also remember superman being "made human" on a couple of occasions and making love to Lois. I thought it was a nice touch and didn't actually jar for me . . . probably because I didn't think too deeply about it. But it's a low-brow movie and thinking is definitely not recommended.

I thought it was a fairly good restart of the Superman series and would have given it 7/10 and so did the people I saw it with.

I agree BATMAN BEGINS was a better movie but there was always more depth to the Batman character than the Superman character.. Although the threat in BATMAN BEGINS just annoyed me so much it was all I could do to suspend disbelief. You commented on the disbelief you felt at the crystal shutting down the computers but seemed to overlook a massive microwave generator which didn't fry every living creature as well as heating the water in the pipes. [-anon]

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

[Warning: I cannot possibly discuss the first three books without some level of spoilage, because any comments about them must reveal *something* anti-spoiler purist may not want to know before reading them. I try to keep it to a minimum, though.]

I have recently read three novels by Christopher Priest: THE AFFIRMATION (1981) (ISBN 0-171-11684-1), THE QUIET WOMAN (1990) (ISBN 0-8095-1063-4), and THE GLAMOUR (1984) (ISBN 0-575-07579- 1). If I had to find one adjective to describe Priest's work, it would be "Escheresque". Reading these books (along with THE SEPARATION [ISBN 1-882-96833-6], review in the 03/21/03 issue of the MT VOID), I am constantly reminded of one or another of M. C. Escher's pictures, especially "Drawing Hands", "Encounter", and "Print Gallery".

A paragraph from THE QUIET WOMAN expresses some of this feeling: "The way the evening had developed was a complete surprise. It started ominously: the wine bar where Tom Davie had suggested they should meet turned out to be one of the coffee-bar haunts she and Bill used to go to in the old days, with a different decor and new prices, menus and clientele. Simply going through the door had given her a chill of alienation. Everything looked simultaneously familiar and strange, and charged with deceptive memories." [page 74]

In THE AFFIRMATION, Peter Sinclair, having undergone several major life crises, begins writing his autobiography, but decides that he will change the names, the places, and indeed the underlying reality to reflect some "deeper truth". Some of the subsequent chapters take place in this new reality, with the new people proceeding with their lives. Yet some of them also seem to have flashes of Sinclair's world. We also continue to follow Sinclair through the progression of his life, and realize that his "misperception of reality" is not limited to the intentional misperception of his writing, but includes what he thinks is his actual reality.

THE QUIET WOMAN begins in what seems to be our present world, but we soon discover that there has been a major nuclear meltdown across the Channel from England. The action takes place in an area considered dangerous and hence somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, and the government has become much more oppressive. The main character has written a book that the government is trying to suppress, a friend of hers is killed, and gradually events take on a level of dislocation. Different people have different perceptions of reality, and not just in a figurative sense.

What makes this even more confusing is that the alternate reality in THE AFFIRMATION is the "Dream Archipelago" which Priest has used in other stories, and one of the characters in THE QUIET WOMAN, when describing her own history, seems to be describing that of one of the characters in THE AFFIRMATION.

THE GLAMOUR by Christopher Priest (ISBN 0-684-81615-6) seems at first to be much more straightforward. The main character has been in an accident and is suffering from amnesia of the period for a few months preceding the accident. He is visited by a woman claiming to be his girlfriend, and with her help starts to remember what had happened. Or does he? Priest writes most of this novel in a much more traditional structure than THE AFFIRMATION or even THE QUIET WOMAN, but still manages a few twists.

Someone mentioned to me that they liked my observations in the 7/07/06 MT VOID on the missionaries' opinions in William Ellis's A NARRATIVE OF A 1823 TOUR THROUGH HAWAI`I. So I though I would mention a couple more.

Ellis met a woman claiming to be Pele, but when someone else attempts to discredit her by saying, "[it] is you that have destroyed the king's land, devoured his people, and spoiled all the fishing grounds. Ever since you came to the islands, you have been busied in mischief; you soiled the greater part of the island, shook it to pieces, or cursed it with barrenness, by inundating it with lava. You never did any good, and if I were the king, I would throw you all into the sea, or banish you from the islands. Hawaii would be quiet if you were away." To which the woman/Pele replied that even worse than her destruction was "the rum of the foreigners, whose God you are so fond of. Their diseases and their rum have destroyed more of the king's men, than all the volcanoes on the island." As Ellis says later on, "It was exceedingly painful to hear an idolatrous priestess declaring that the conduct of those, by whom they had been visited from countries called Christian, had been productive of consequences more injurious and fatal to the unsuspecting and unenlightened Hawaiians, than these dreadful phenomenon in nature, which they had been accustomed to attribute to the most destructive of their imaginary deities, and to know also that such a declaration was too true to be contradicted."

And in an amazing passage, Ellis writes that before Europeans arrived, the Hawaiians ate with their fingers, reclining on the ground. Now, however, "their] intercourse with foreigners of late years has taught many of the chiefs to prefer a bedstead to the ground, and a mattress to a mat, to sit on a chair, eat at a table, use a knife and fork, &c. This we think advantageous, not only to those who visit them for purposes of commerce, but to the natives themselves, as it increases their wants, and consequently stimulates to habits of industry"! [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no 
           harm to the body; but knowledge which is 
           acquired under compulsion obtains no hold 
           on the mind.
                                          -- Plato

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