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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/08/06 -- Vol. 25, No. 10, Whole Number 1351
Table of Contents
Project Gutenberg Additions:
Project Gutenberg has added Andre Norton novels (THE GIFTS OF ASTI, PLAGUE SHIP, RALESTONE LUCK, STAR BORN, STAR HUNTER, and VOODOO PLANET). Scroll down from http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/n#a7021. They also have Garrett P. Serviss's EDISON'S CONQUEST OF MARS (a quickie rip-off of the Wells novel) at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/19141.
New Heinlein Novel:
VARIABLE STAR is a new novel by Robert A. Heinlein that has been finished by Spider Robinson and will be released in September. See http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/076531312X for more details.
[Thanks to Rob Mitchell for pointing this out, and also to Rob and to Steve Goldsmith for sending out the MT VOID while we were on vacation. -ecl]
New Name for Uranus (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
While the powers that be are considering a revision in the list of what we call a planet, there has been some discussion as to renaming the seventh planet. Apparently astronomers are tired of the jokes and puns on the name Uranus. There is a popular pronunciation which sounds like you have said something scatological. There is an alternate pronunciation which gives rise to puns about another bodily waste. Neither do astronomers really want to use. One astronomer proposed that the planet should be called Oberon. Picking up on the "Midsummer Night's Dream" theme another contingent much preferred Titania. They could not agree and finally a compromise was reached. The seventh planet is to be renamed Bottom. [-mrl]
Trailer Park Report: Animated Films (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
As is a sort of a yearly tradition I have covered the film studio presentation of upcoming films given at the World Science Fiction Convention. These presentations are a custom that goes back at least as far as MidAmericon in 1976 when a minor filmmaker, George Lucas, showed his designs for his upcoming film, STAR WARS. Presentations of upcoming films for the Worldcon became common for a while but are now a dying tradition. These days one person comes to the convention with one or two DVD disks of trailers and there is little to the presentation besides that. Instead they send advertising giveaways like pins and buttons. That is less labor-intensive and the same presentation can be rolled out at different convention with little extra effort. In fact, they make the package up for another event entirely, the San Diego Comic-con. That event is much more commercial than the World Science Fiction Convention but also much bigger so that from the studios' point of view it has eclipsed the Worldcon. My knowledge of the films discussed here has been augmented by references to the Internet Movie Database.
I think that the Golden Age of animated films is right about now. Certainly studios like Pixar and Dreamworks have shown that animated films frequently can out-perform films of similar cost shot in live action. The first trailer for a film presented was CHARLOTTE'S WEB. Curiously, that is being done live action. I will talk about that next week. It was followed by a string of animated films and I will talk about them now.
OPEN SEASON, the first of several animated trailers we saw, already has trailers in theaters. It seems to be the adventures of a likable bear and a fast-talking deer. Boog is a tame bear who escapes and finds himself in woods during hunting season. He cooperates with Eliot, the deer, to survive the guns that will be pointed at them. The content is not promising, but the jokes in the trailers had the audience laughing. Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher are the primary voices.
When I was young, films for children were expected to be wholesome. Even for adults they were expected to avoid vulgarity. Most people who saw a toilet in PSYCHO were seeing that sort of facility for the first time on the silver screen. These days the films with scatological humor are mostly made for young kids. FLUSHED AWAY deals with a mouse who is flushed down a toilet only to find a wonderland in the sewers of London. Not much is obvious from the trailer beyond that premise. This film seems to be all about the adventure of a house mouse learning to live as a sewer mouse. Oh, boy.
What looks to be an allegory about being yourself has Mumbles, an Emperor Penguin wanting to tap dance his way in HAPPY FEET. Unlike penguins who sing to find a mate, Mumbles wants to tap dance his way into the hearts of females. It will be interesting to see how people react to this film after seeing the harsh world that some Emperor Penguins live in MARCH OF THE PENGUINS. I don't suggest tap dancing when you have the next generation balanced carefully on your feet. There are advantages to singing. Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, and Hugo Weaving do the voices.
It was hard to tell the viewer much about MEET THE ROBINSONS except that the Robinsons are a weird family that you would really not want to meet. The IMDB says that this one is about a boy who has a machine that retrieves memories and somehow he goes forward in time with it to find a family that needs his help. Maybe you have to see the film to understand this.
RATATOUIE is the adventures of a rat in France who lives in an expensive French restaurant. He suddenly realizes that what he and other rats are eating is garbage. When you are a rat it comes with the territory. This rat goes off in search of better cuisine. This sounds like FLUSHED AWAY in reverse. Brian Bird directs and previously directed THE IRON GIANT and THE INCREDIBLES, so in spite of the trailer not being very inviting, the film might still be decent.
TMNT (that seemed from the trailers to be the title though the IMDB lists it as TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES) is an animated film telling the further adventures of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The trailers--there were two of them--had little information except that there is a falling out between two of the turtles and they fight something that look like a gargoyle. There is not much information yet about the plot.
A very repressive Paris in the year 2054, one where spy cameras are trained on everybody, is the setting for a stylish, apparently monochrome animated film entitled RENAISSANCE. (The description in the IMDB says, "In 2054, Paris is a labyrinth where all movement is monitored and recorded. Casting a shadow over everything is the city's largest company, Avalon, which insinuates itself into every aspect of contemporary life to sell its primary export--youth and beauty. In this world of stark contrasts and rigid laws the populace is kept in line and accounted for.")
What makes objects appear to be three-dimensional is in large part the fact that your eyes get different information. They see together more than one eye can. I would think this means you cannot go back and make a two-dimensional image three- dimensional. Apparently with new digital technology you can extrapolate out the missing information for the left-eye image. So they can and have made a 3-D IMAX version of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Because the animation looks like a 2-D image of actual 3-D objects, this is a good choice of a film to choose. For me, Tim Burton films are a mixed bag. This is one of the Burton films I really do like. There is a lot of creativity in all parts of the screen.
Next week I will talk about some of the live-action films that are coming. [-mrl]
Time Travel and Interviews (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):
In response to Mark's article on time travel in the 09/01/06 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:
Isn't your concept of time travel the way DVD players fast- forward and rewind?
And in response to Mark's article on interviews in the 08/18/06 issue of the MT VOID, Taras writes:
"You can choose photographs that make the politician you dislike look like an idiot." Quite right; whenever you see a picture of a politician (or celebrity) in which he looks like an idiot, this tells you that the magazine or TV show is behaving unethically. When people are photographed thousands of times, they will inevitably be caught making strange, split-second faces.
Similarly, when you have thousands of hours of videotape, you can make anyone look like an idiot--if you're unscrupulous. You may have seen Donald Kingsbury's review, ripping Fahrenheit 911 for doing exactly that.
Even "unedited" interviews have their pitfalls, as Paul S. R. Chisholm suggests. Nearly all TV interviews outside of studio are done with only one camera. Thus, after the interview is over, the on-air personality and the camera crew find a blank wall somewhere and ask the questions again. The same questions, hopefully: Jay Leno has a routine in which he inserts himself into a Presidential press conference and intercuts his comical questions with the real replies.
A woman interviewer (it may have been Baba Wawa) once laughed about the praise she had gotten from her network president for keeping cool during a contentious interview with Khrushchev (or some other irate leader). All her "reaction" shots were filmed later, of course.
On the other hand, if the journalist is on the same side as the politician, then we well may ask, "To what extent is the interviewer collaborating with interviewee?"
An article in "The Wilson Quarterly", maybe a half-year back, made the point that a high IQ is not necessarily the most desirable thing in a leader. As an example, the author gave us JFK and Richard Nixon: based on the military IQ tests both men had to take, JFK scored 121; Nixon, 145. (By contrast, the IQ tests of the 2004 candidates gave Bush only a slight advantage over Kerry.)
But even if nearly everything about JFK was fake--his healthy "vigah", his ideal Catholic family life, his intellectualism (e.g., the ghost-written Profiles in Courage)--at least his famous verbal wit was real, I thought.
Only months later did it occur to me that while the press hated Nixon--in his press conferences, they were picador to his bull-- they loved JFK. How many of the witty exchanges were scripted, I began to wonder. [-tw]
Is my concept of time travel the same as how VCRs speed up time? It is inviting to compare the two because most time travel functions have analogs on a VCR. Still, there are really good reasons to NOT use VCRs as an analogy. VCR signals are (I think) 24 frames a second. When they broadcast a film, most films are 24 FPS. Reality is continuous. That confuses just about any discussion you might have. Fast-scanning on a television is showing an interval of frames, skipping some and showing some more. But are the intervals chosen on frame in length or, say, three frames in length. You get into issues that do not fit well with time travel.
As for embarrassing photos, you just have to get a DVD of the most charismatic actor speaking and step through the sequence a frame at a time. It will not be long before you find one frame that out of context makes him look bad. (I seem to remember them using this phenomenon to good effect with Reese Witherspoon in ELECTION. They froze frame at just the right spot to make her look silly.)
As for filming the interviewer at a later point after the interview, I think that that fit into the plot of BROADCAST NEWS where and interviewer (William Hurt) was apparently so moved by the person he was talking to that he cried. Then it turned out that he was being filmed later and it was an act. [-mrl]
Planets, Time Travel, Hugos, Interviews, and Laserdiscs (letter of comment by Jack Purcell):
In reponse to Mark's articles on a variety of things in the 09/01/06 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell (who apparently reads the issues from the web pages) writes:
I was just reading Jack Speer's "Up to Now" last night, in which Donald Wollheim figured so prominently, so your opening about Pluto was rather timely. I now understand the jury's being recalled about their recent judgements. "Twelve Angry Planets"?
[I know of only the Angry Red Planet. -mrl]
My wife and I love the original movie version of THE TIME MACHINE with Rod Taylor. Like the book, it's a great sociological statement about the human race. It is a wonderful, fun movie.
[Wells wrote frequently about the future of mankind both sociologically and biologically. I believe that even the WAR OF THE WORLDS Martians were supposed to be like a future stage of human evolution. -mrl]
Your musings about time travel are interesting. One must operate out of assumptions in regards to this concept, such as that time and space move in concert and at the same rate. I understand your argument, and it does make sense, but I'm not much of a theoretician about this kind of thing. Still, an interesting discussion. We will have to see what some other folks say when they weigh in on this topic.
[I either do not follow that or do not see how they could not. -mrl]
As far as the Hugo Winners go, read the 15th issue of my zine "And Furthermore" for my take on the Fan Hugo Awards. It should be posted to efanzines sometime later today. Good for David Hartwell to finally win! I met him at Iguanacon and enjoyed talking with him; a very nice man.
[We were very pleased to see him win finally. -mrl]
Interviews can be either tough to do or they can be easy, depending upon how well interviewer-interviewee mesh together. I don't like it when an interviewer goes in with preset negative attitudes of his "target". It may make for an interesting sound- byte or three, but I don't like adversarial interviews. Paul Chisholm's comments about the "60 Minutes" methodology might be apocryphal, but I can see where people might get the notion of post-interview editing that includes additional footage and so on.
Yeesh, I remember Laserdiscs. When I was Second Shift Supervisor at a distribution warehouse for Musicland Group way back when, those things didn't move at all. Nobody really had players for them. DVDs and VHS tapes are ideal, though. We're getting quite a collection of both here.
Nice ish, Mark. If this goes on, I just might have to subscribe to your newsletter. [-jp]
[Thank you. We try. Hey, if you want to subscribe we are offering a half-price offer all this month. Instead of the usual zero charge this month we are charging half of that. -mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
STRANGE ANGEL: THE OTHERWORLDLY LIFE OF ROCKET SCIENTIST JOHN WHITESIDE PARSONS by George Pendle (ISBN 0-15-100997-X) is a biography of the man who developed solid rocket fuel, then got involved in Aleister Crowley's religious cult, and eventually blew himself up under somewhat suspicious circumstances. Along the way he was heavily involved in science fiction fandom and LASFL/LASFS. In fact, he seems to have taken some ideas for rockets from early Jack Williamson stories, introduced L. Ron Hubbard to Aleister Crowley's cult (gee, I wonder what effect that had :-) ), and known most of the major science fiction authors of that time. Interestingly, of all the authors he knew, it is one of the oldest who is still around to provide information to Pendle: Jack Williamson (born 1908). Forrest J. Ackerman (born 1916) and Ray Bradbury (born 1920) are also still with us, but so many other authors died much younger: Asimov (1920-1992), L. Sprague de Camp (1907-2000), Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), Willy Ley (1906-1969), and Alva Rogers (1923-1982).
I had read most of the Jorge Luis Borges available through my library system, but I was recently in a Library not in the system, so I read a couple of books that they had: BORGES ON WRITING edited by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, Daniel Halpern, and Frank MacShane (ISBN 0-525-47352-1) and TWENTY-FOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH BORGES (ISBN 0-394-62192-1). The latter is a collection of interviews by Roberto Alifano carried out between 1981 and 1983, and I will make a couple of comments. In "Funes and Insomnia", Borges claims that "memorious" is not an English word. Actually it is a very old word, dating back to at least 1599; Shakespeare uses it a year later in TIMON OF ATHENS.
In "Books", Borges says, "Scripta manent verba volant (The written word stays, the spoken word flies). That phrase doesn't mean that the spoken word is ephemeral, but rather that the written word is something lasting and dead. The spoken word, it seems to me now, is somewhat winged and light...."
And then later, he adds, "I believe that books will never disappear. It is impossible that that will happen. Among the many inventions of man, the book, without a doubt, is the most astounding; all the others are extensions of our bodies. The telephone, for example, is the extension of our voice; the telescope and the microscope are extensions of our sight; the sword and the plow are extensions of our arms. Only the book is an extension of our imagination and memory."
I read a couple of books on the film industry recently. THE FIRST TIME I GOT PAID FOR IT edited by Peter Lefcourt and Laura J. Shapiro (ISBN 0-306-81097-2) is a collection of short articles by screenwriters writing (mostly) about their first paying jobs (though some drift off-topic). Some are humorous, some depressing, and some merely informative. I found enough worthwhile to recommend the book to film fans, but I suspect that everyone will disagree on which the worthwhile ones are.
FILM CRAZY by Patrick McGilligan (ISBN 0-312-28038-6) is presented as a collection of interviews with famous directors and writers. However, for a few of the people, there is no interview, but just an article by McGilligan about the subject, with some quotations. (The entry for Reagan is an article rather than an interview, and was written early in his political career.) As articles in a magazine they would be interesting, but they make for a rather lightweight book.
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway (ISBN 0-02-051960-5) is Hemingway's reminiscence of Paris in the 1920s. However, as Errol Selkirk noted in HEMINGWAY FOR BEGINNERS (ISBN 0-863-16128-6), it was not written until shortly before his death in 1961, and indeed the final editing was after his death. (The book was finally published in 1964.) So a lot of the memories are colored by intervening events: fallings-out with friends, literary successes or failures, and so on. Still, it does give a picture of what Paris was like in that era, and unlike George Orwell in DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON, Hemingway was not stuck in a restaurant kitchen washing dishes, but was hob-nobbing with the literary lights of that time. (HEMINGWAY FOR BEGINNERS gives a good summary of his life, but the artwork in it does not do as much to amplify the contents as the artwork in the books in the "Introducing" series.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: There are more fools in the world than there are people. -- Heinrich Heine
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