MT VOID 08/21/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 8, Whole Number 1559

MT VOID 08/21/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 8, Whole Number 1559

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
08/21/09 -- Vol. 28, No. 8, Whole Number 1559

Table of Contents

      C3P0: Mark Leeper, R2D2: 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

Acknowledgement (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

This week's MT VOID is brought to you by the Pre-Owned-Humvee Owners Exchange. Buy a used Humvee today. A man must never doubt his engine. [-mrl]

Retro T-Shirts (and Art):

If you're interested in "retro world of tomorrow" images, check out

Not To Be Confused With (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Have you ever considered the phrase "not to be confused with..." For example they will talk about "Springfield, Missouri, not to be confused with Springfield, Illinois." Did anybody think they were intended to be confused with each other? [-mrl]

The Halifax Explosion (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

The worst manmade disaster in the history of North America was the Halifax explosion. A North American city was destroyed by a blast of near-nuclear proportions. Now you hear very little about it. The year was 1917 and Halifax was an important port from which war materials were sent to Europe.

With the coming of World War I, the United States and Canada were major suppliers of goods for the war effort in Europe. American ports on the Atlantic were busy and crowded. Halifax harbor was particularly successful.

On December 6, the French ship Mont Blanc was carrying (among other explosives) 200 tons of TNT, 2300 tons of wet and dry picric acid, ten tons of gun cotton, and 35 tons of the fuel benzol, all to help the war effort. Benzol is a colorless and inflammable liquid that can be added to gasoline to give it more power. The captain of the Mont Blanc, who eventually would be blamed for the disaster, was himself very nervous about his orders to carry this much explosive and this much benzol. "This is a damn bad cargo," he said. However, he was under orders from the French military to sail this floating bomb to Europe.

At 7:30 AM the Mont Blanc moved into the harbor mouth. At the same time the Norwegian ship Imo left its berth headed for New York. Imo was steaming fast and having problems with the harbor signals. Only too late it swerved to avoid the Mont Blanc. It was not really a bad collision, but it started a fire in the benzol on the Mont Blanc. The collision occurred at 8:45.

The French crew knew a major disaster could not be avoided, but rather than trying to fight the hopeless fire they abandoned ship and rowed a lifeboat to shore. That saved all but one of their lives. They were the only ones in Halifax who had any idea what was coming. For twenty minutes the Mont Blanc burned, the hot flames lapping closer to the explosives. Meanwhile the boat drifted, following the current to the business center of Halifax. People seeing the burning boat came running to get a view of something exciting. School openings were at 9:30 that morning and on the way to school students stopped to watch the burning boat in the harbor. For most, watching the fire would be a fatal decision. One woman told the story that she was standing with her baby near the water when she saw French sailors running in her direction. A sailor started yelling at her in French. She had no idea what he was saying. He grabbed her baby and ran to the woods with the child. She ran after the Frenchman yelling for him to come back. The quick-thinking Frenchman had saved two lives, but that was small compared to the number of deaths that were coming.

Just before 9:05 in the morning the flames reached the explosives. Mont Blanc exploded with near nuclear force carrying shards of metal and glass. Hundreds were killed instantly. Buildings were leveled. Carnage was terrible. The captain and crew of the Imo were all killed. The crew of the Mont Blanc made it to shore, and all but one survived.

The Mont Blanc explosion had a force of 3 kilotons. For comparison's sake the explosion of the first nuclear bomb in New Mexico was 20 kilotons. At the time that was the largest man-made explosion. Before nuclear weapons, the largest man-made explosion was the Mont Blanc in Halifax harbor. None of the Mont Blanc was ever found in the harbor. A 1200-pound anchor was found 2.5 miles from the explosion. Glass from the blast was found 60 miles away. The explosion was felt 300 miles away. But the flying glass and metal mowed down a huge swath of Halifax.

Almost immediately following the deadly air blast, a tidal wave forty feet high hit the shore. Stoves and furnaces were knocked over starting uncontrolled fires. Hundreds were killed in the explosion, hundreds more in the fires. As if things were not bad enough just by coincidence there was a blizzard that night which dropped 16 inches of snow, hampering rescue efforts and freezing some to death.

The Red Cross sent out a call saying grab as much as you can and come immediately to Halifax. Help came from all over Canada and from the east coast of the United States. From Boston came a trainload of help and supplies. Every year Halifax sends a Christmas tree to the Prudential Center in Boston in gratitude for special help coming from Massachusetts.

The explosion killed 1200 people outright and another 800 died from the effects. 12,000 people had damaged houses, 6000 people were homeless. The deaths were eight times those of the Chicago fire and four time those from the San Francisco earthquake.

An enquiry into the disaster began a month later, and was followed by another and another. Most blamed the reluctant captain of the Mont Blanc. One blamed the captain of the Imo also. The French commanders who ordered the Mont Blanc to carry the deadly cargo presumably felt they were fighting a war and that justified the risk. But the risk was to allies an ocean away. So why isn't the Halifax Explosion better remembered. As near as I can figure it, it did not happen to a country with a large film industry. Film has become our memory of history. An explosion in Canada was never the subject of an American film. The Chicago fire happened to the United States. The Titanic happened to the US and Britain. Pearl Harbor happened to the United States. 9/11 happened to the United States. This is not a negative comment on the United States or on the film industry. It is a comment on the power of film to become our memories. But if had happened in an American harbor the event would be far better remembered.

[This account is based in part on the Wikipedia account.]


University of Massachusetts Science Fiction Society (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Back when Mark and I were in college at the University of Massachusetts, we were active in UMassSFS, the University of Massachusetts Science Fiction Society. One summer when I was working for the post office, I got to talking to someone about science fiction, and she said her father had boxes of science fiction magazines he wanted to get rid of. I found someone to help and we carted dozens of boxes up to the UMassSFS library, filling in our collections of ANALOG, F&SF, GALAXY, AMAZING, FANTASTIC, and IF, as well as getting issues from other magazines as well. I always wondered what happened to them, and then Mark found this:

Science Fiction Society Collection

Founded in December 1964 with the help of Isaac Asimov, the University of Massachusetts Science Fiction Society is one of the oldest student-run clubs of its kind in the nation. Beginning with a small number of engineering and science students, the Society almost immediately began to share books and magazines among its members, formally opening its library to circulation in 1966. Since that time, the Society has amassed one of the largest circulating collections of science fiction and fantasy literature on the east coast, with over 8,000 volumes. The membership have taken on a number of other enterprises, as well, including sponsoring film series, lectures, art and writing contests, and conferences, and they have published three magazines, Zobee (1967- 1968) Grok (1969-1970), and Betelgeuse (1971-present, with lapses).

In April 2005, the Society transferred its extensive collection of science fiction magazines to the Department of Special Collections. The collection includes complete or nearly complete runs of dozens of titles, running to over 120 linear feet of issues extending back to the golden age of the late 1940s and early 1950s.


FISSURE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Paul Grunning was a good cop broken by a professional case that brought him personal tragedy. While trying to put is life back together he is sent to an odd house only to find reality breaking down on him. Anything outside his sight may not be there when he looks again from another angle. First-time director Russ Pond directs a script by first-time writer Nicholas Turner and creates a nice low-budget crime thriller with some nice science fiction turns. It is the kind of idea that would have made for a very good "Twilight Zone" episode, but fleshed out. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

There is a lot more happening in FISSURE than meets the eye. Detective Paul Grunning (played by James MacDonald) has recently had a personal tragedy in his life. Right now it looks 50-50 whether he will make it back to being a good cop or be a basket case. He is sent on a simple job, a small domestic disturbance. When he gets to the house there is a dead man on the floor and this turns out to be a bigger case than he expected. But at least it is a kind of case he knows and should know what to do. His biggest problem: he has fallen into a world where reality seems unstable. Details of reality keep changing. A room may look one way and if he walks away and returns, the room is different. It is like his life has what would be called in film "continuity errors." In addition voices are heard from other rooms of the house where people cannot possibly be. And there is someone else in the house that Grunning and the viewer gets only flashes of. Is the cause the drugs he is taking to pacify him or is it something deeper? After all, the dead man is Professor Roger Ulster (Jim Blumetti), a man who seems to be experimenting with quantum physics. Or is this all a plot just to keep Grunning from finding the real truth of what went on? Whatever is going on, Grunning is crumbling under the pressures of the investigation that defies logic.

One odd touch is the casting of Vietnamese-American Todd Haberkorn as the Ulster's son. He does not look like either of his parents, a touch that could easily have been explained by a line of dialog saying he was adopted, but the line never comes. Jane Willingham plays Emma Ulster whose memory of her husband's death seems to be suppressed one moment and returns the next.

FISSURE was released to DVD on August 11, 2009, and is also being released as a web series. I think it is fine as just a feature film. Costing a reported one million dollars to make, it does not have the CGI and big stars of some of the summer competition, but Nicholas Turner's script is a good one and one that will keep the viewer guessing. Video production values are high and the film looks quite good on a minimal budget. It all supports my belief that the cheapest way to make a really good film is to have really good writing. This film will bring back memories of films like MEMENTO, 21 GRAMS, and some time machine stories, but it is really very different. Nonetheless, that puts the film in very good company. If a film can do that, it is probably very good. This one is worth seeing. After seeing the film with a friend, be prepared for a discussion of what was really going on and if it all hangs together. (I think that it doesn't, but I will put that in a spoiler section follow the review.) I rate FISSURE a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:


In some ways the story could not work this way, at least not without some explanation. Nobody seems to notice that Grunning had accurately predicted things that had not happened yet. [-mrl]

DISTRICT 9 (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: Peter Jackson produced this film directed by Neill Blomkamp. When a spaceship brings a large load of alien refugees to South Africa, racism becomes three-sided. A government functionary charged with relocating the refugee camp finds himself more personally involved in the conflict than he expected. Blomkamp's and Terri Tatchell's script asks us to dissect racism and understand what exactly the rules are. While the film is asking difficult questions, it is a first rank piece of science fiction. When it starts to answer those questions in the easiest and most predictable ways the film becomes just another loud summer action film. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Query: Some large number of alien refugees shows up on Earth emaciated and needy. Does society have an obligation to care for the aliens? Does society have an obligation to release them freely into the world? Is there still an obligation if they have customs that we consider anti-social? Is it worse to kill and eat aliens than to kill and eat earth animals? Is our first responsibility to creatures from Earth or to creatures with intelligence?

DISTRICT 9 is an ugly, violent, painful, and intelligent film. It delves into racism (or is it species-ism?) in ways that could never be examined without science fiction. For as long as the film is asking questions the film is intelligent. Sadly, the film runs out of intelligent questions about at the halfway point and reverts to being ugly, violent, painful, and sentimental. That makes for a long second half.

A large alien mother-ship arrives on Earth and parks itself in the sky over Johannesburg, South Africa. Eventually humans come knocking and discover that Earth's first contact with aliens is with a ship full of immigrants who need help. The good-hearted human race is happy to rescue them and put them into a dirty and brutal detention camp outside Johannesburg. There the visitors get into the predictable sorts of poverty and crime. The story really starts as a documentary of the aliens' resettlement to a new camp further isolated from Earth people. Wikus Van Der Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley) is in charge of moving the now nearly two million aliens (given the insulting name "prawns") to a more remote camp. At the same time he is rationalizing the action of Multi-National United for the cameras of a documentary crew. Not surprisingly things start to go wrong. With whites, blacks, and prawns there is a triangle of racism underlying the film. In addition there is a dehumanized government pulling the strings and conflicting with more humane players. Wikus has to decide which side has his loyalty. Sadly, by this point in the film his decision is predictable.

Blomkamp does what he can to make the film seem stark and real. He subdues the color, which makes the film look a lot like CHILDREN OF MEN. He uses a shaky hand-held camera to follow the action. Often the action regresses into chaos that the camera shows with sharp, loud bangs. There is some of the feel of an unsubtle Peter Watkins pseudo-documentary. Even after the plot starts to twist, there is a semi-documentary style that follows the action with inserts of people commenting on the action as if it took place in the past. The story follows what is in retrospect a very familiar arc.

Though DISTRICT 9 is bleak nearly all the way through, Blomkamp and Tatchell manage some touches of black humor. The favorite alien food is human cat food in a can labeled "Puddy." Well there is no accounting for alien taste. There are little allusions to other films like THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD and INDEPENDENCE DAY. The entire situation is reminiscent of ALIEN NATION or perhaps the "Outer Limits" episode "The Zanti Misfits". The first half of the film is first-rate intelligent science fiction. By the midpoint, however, the film goes to autopilot and delivers a rather standard action film that is kind-hearted but uninteresting. The combination of maudlin and violent is not a good one. My recommendation: skip the second half, but watch the first half twice. I rate DISTRICT 9 a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


I SELL THE DEAD (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: In the 19th Century in the British Isles a grave-robber tells his story in the last hours before he is guillotined. Superficially this film looks like a reprise of the sort of horror film made in Britain in the 1960s by Hammer and their imitators. As such it is a lot of fun, but rather than a single good story, it is broken into short episodic pieces. Glenn McQuaid writes and directs (and edits!). Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

One of the staple elements of the Gothic horror films of the 1960s was the professional grave robber (or "resurrectionist" or "body snatcher"). The most notorious grave robbers were William Burke and William Hare who plied their trade in Edinburgh in 1827-28. They turned to murder when the supply from the local graveyards could not meet the demand from the local medical school. Burke and Hare inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Body Snatcher" and Dylan Thomas's "The Doctor and the Devils", both adapted into films. But the 19th century setting for horror stories almost seems to be a thing of the past. That made I SELL THE DEAD with its body snatchers particularly nostalgic and welcome. The score under the opening credits is gleefully macabre with the right touch of dark humor. An opening reminiscent of CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN follows it with one body snatcher, Arthur Blake (played by Dominic Monaghan) ready to be taken to a guillotine to pay for grievous crimes committed in partnership with Willie Grimes (Larry Fessenden). Also as in CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN he is confessing his sordid story to a priest. However, unlike how a Hammer film would do the film, it is not one coherent story but three or four short stories almost unconnected. The stories end with the film frame fading into a nearly identical panel of comic book art, more or less as was done in the CREEPSHOW films.

Little Arthur Blake agrees reluctantly to do work for Willie Grimes. He does not know what the work is but is not very shocked when he finds out it is stealing the bodies of the dead. A job is a job to young Arthur Blake. But the thing is that Blake has a talent for this line of work, stealing a body from right under the weeping eyes of the deceased's relatives. Blake and Grimes begin a partnership that continues for years.

The real heroes of I SELL THE DEAD are art director Beck Underwood and set decorator Devin Febbroriello who take a leaf from Hammer Films' book and make what is probably a tiny budget look like a much fancier one. A little in the look is made to seem like a lot more. For surprisingly long this film seems to be doing everything right, pitting the boys against a gamut of supernatural horrors. In the second half, however, the film jumps the shark by putting a decidedly late-20th century visual joke in as the punch line of a story. That one joke seriously damages the atmosphere and it does not get better when the story takes a turn for "Pirates of the Caribbean" territory.

Larry Fessenden who plays Grimes as well as co-producing the film should have a better feel for the mood. Fessenden has a deft hand for disturbing horror as he proved in writing and directing WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER, two very effective horror films. Dominic Monaghan is probably best known as Brandybuck in THE LORD OF THE RINGS. But stealing the show from him at every opportunity in the confession scenes is Ron Perlman making the most of a role that could have otherwise gone unnoticed, that of Father Duffy, the priest hearing the confession. To drag attention to himself Perlman really chews the scenery in a role that really requires him to do little more than sagely nodding.

In the end, I SELL THE DEAD is just a collection of comic book stories with continuing characters rather than the horror opus it could have been. Rather than a serious attempt to resurrect the Gothic horror of the 1960s it is more just a reverential nod or even a send-up. It is not a bad film, but it is one that failed to meet its potential or fulfill its promise. But to rate it for what it is, a fun film, rather than the horror film it could have been, I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Perpetual Motion Machine? (letter of comment by David G. Leeper):

In response to Robert Stampfli's comments on perpetual motion in the 07/31/09 issue of the MT VOID, David Leeper writes:

Robert has set up an interesting (and seeming) paradox by saying it should take four times the fuel to accelerate an ideal vehicle to 60 mph than it does to accelerate to 30 mph because at 60 mph the vehicle has four times the kinetic energy than it does at 30 mph.

This seemed like a good conservation-of-energy argument, and it had me scratching by head.

For an ideal vehicle, assume we have a rocket in space at rest relative to observers on earth. Assume the rocket is so massive that the fractional mass of any fuel expended in accelerating to 60mph is negligible. So its mass may be assumed constant. And assume its engine can supply a constant propulsion force of F when it is firing.

As Mark said, it takes the same amount of time--and necessarily therefore the same amount of fuel--to accelerate from 30 to 60 mph as it took to accelerate from 0 to 30 mph. So the rocket's constant propulsion force in fact does 3 times the work in going from 30 to 60mph as it did going from 0 to 30 because the rocket travels 3 times as far in going from 30 to 60mph as it did going from 0 to 30mph. And work = force * distance.

So that all seems consistent. I guess a heuristic way of looking at Robert's seeming paradox is to say that an engine imparts a *force* on an object and not (necessarily) any kinetic energy directly. Imparted kinetic energy depends on the circumstances and the observation point. I used to fly out of an aiport where the Air Force tested jet engines by bolting a fighter jet to the ground and starting the engine. The engine imparted a huge force on the fighter but *no* kinetic energy at all. To get kinetic energy, the force has to be applied over some distance relative to an observation point.

The other part of Robert's paradox is that at some point, it would seem a rocket should stop accelerating because the v2 term is growing so fast that the engine can no longer impart any additional kinetic energy. But we know this is not true ... rockets impart a force, not (directly) any kinetic energy. As long as the rocket can deliver a propulsion force, the rocket keeps accelerating at a=F/m.

The only time the situation changes occurs when the speeds approach the speed of light ... then the mass grows in proportion to sqrt(1/(1-v2/c2)) where c=the speed of light. So acceleration begins to decline. But at that point all hell breaks loose anyway ... [-dgl]

Reason and Dinosaurs (letter of commentary by Pete Rubinstein):

In response to Mark's comments on Evelyn's comments on whether reason allowed us to defeat the dinosaurs in the 08/14/09 issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein writes:

[Evelyn said,] "For example, he says that reason allowed us to defeat the dinosaur."

[Mark said,] "Durant says it was 'we' who defeated the dinosaurs. But he does not say what that includes. It is possible that 'we' did defeat the dinosaurs where 'we' refers to me and a certain asteroid."]

I am curious as to how you (or your ancestors) used your reason to cause an asteroid to help you defeat the dinosaurs. [-pir]

Mark replies:

1. The Latin phrase is, "Qui tacet consentire vidétur." Silence give consent. By not participating in an action, but doing nothing to prevent it, one is in fact "allowing" it.

2. Now consider the set containing all humans and the set of circumstances--the falling of the asteroid or whatever--that killed off the dinosaurs. This set of things killed off the dinosaurs (as well as building the Empire State Building). The members of that set containing us defeated the dinosaur.

3. Reason did not prevent that set containing the human race and the circumstances from killing off the dinosaur, so in fact it allowed the action.

So reason allowed us (the members of that set) to defeat the dinosaur. QED

It is not how I usually think of it, but technically speaking it is true. [-mrl]

Novels (letter of comment by David Goldfarb):

In response to Evelyn's comments on novels in the 08/14/09 issue of the MT VOID, David Goldfarb writes:

In the latest MT VOID you wrote, "In a sense, this is similar to how we are taught that the first novel was Samuel Richardson's PAMELA (1740), or possibly even Miguel de Cervantes's DON QUIXOTE (1605), with no mention of Lady Murasaki's TALE OF GENJI (1020)."

Having read THE TALE OF GENJI (in translation), I'd have to say that this is a matter of definition. What is a novel? Is Bradbury's _Martian Chronicles_ a novel? I tend to think that to be called a novel, a work needs to have a unity of conception; I'd say that both THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE TALE OF GENJI are collections of short stories. (Really, THE TALE OF GENJI is *two* such collections--the first and longer one is about the title character, and then the author gets bored with him and kills him off. Offstage, even.)" [-dg]

Evelyn replies:

If TALE OF GENJI is not a novel, but a collection of related stories, then what are James Michener's HAWAII and THE SOURCE, or Dan Simmons's HYPERION? All of them are generally considered novels, but all have that episodic structure. For that matter, ACCELERANDO by Charles Stross was a collection of nine episodic stories, many of which had been nominated on their own for Hugos as short fiction, yet the Hugo voters nominated it as a novel (and the Hugo administrator accepted that). [-ecl]

Genetic Diversity (letter of comment by Mike Lukacs):

In response to the letter of comment by Lee Beaumont in the 08/14/09 issue of the MT VOID, Mike Lukacs writes, "The book ACQUIRING GENOMES: THE THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OF THE SPECIES by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan gives very convincing arguments that most of genetic diversity (the input needed for natural selection) comes from the combining of different kinds of life, a process they call 'symbiogenesis'. The most graphic and convincing example of this phenomenon is the creation of the first prokaryotes, the precursors to the entire present animal and plant kingdoms, by the symbiotic combination of anaerobic sulfur cycle bacteria like those found around geothermal vents with oxygen cycle bacteria which became the mitochondria found in all animal and fungal cells and the similar combination with Cyanobacteria which became the chloroplasts found in all plants. Some creatures contain both mitochondria and chloroplasts." [-mel]

Vanishing Money (letter of comment by Morris Keesan):

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Bernie Madoff fraud in the 07/03/09 issue of the MT VOID, Morris Keesan writes, "I agree that Madoff's victims' losses were not as large as the amounts they believed were in their accounts, but surely the losses were greater than simply the amounts invested. If I invest in a fraudulent scheme such as Madoff's, I'm losing not just the money I've invested, but also the potential earning power of that money if I had invested it elsewhere. A more accurate estimate of the real amount lost would be something like the expected aggregate value of all of the money Madoff stole, if it had been invested in something like an S&P 500 index fund, or some other instrument tracking the average performance of the stock market. [-mk]

[Apologies to Morris for not running this sooner; it got lost in the shuffle as we prepared for our trip to Canada and the Worldcon. -ecl]

3-D Television (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to the comments on 3-D television in the 07/10/09 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I was interested in the recent comments on 3-D television, and I went back to see the original articles. I was lucky enough to see HOUSE OF WAX in the theater, years ago, with polarized glasses. When a body fell toward the camera, a friend sitting next to me put his foot out to stop it. Somebody threw a pencil at the screen, where it lodged, creating an interesting glitch that could have scarcely endeared the process to the theater owner. I saw CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON at a campus theater, with colored glasses.

As far as TV is concerned, I've seen GORILLA AT LARGE with red-blue glasses, which was somewhat problematic as it was a color movie. The glasses mostly had the benefit of reducing the blurry, false colors. I can't say they ever made the movie look three- dimensional to be, just kind of interesting in the same way as if I had looked at a regular movie with the glasses on. It twitches the part of the brain that sees differences, but doesn't create the illusion of depth.

Another method I didn't see addressed (and probably with good reason) is the one where you are provided with glasses that are a little darker on one side--usually the left, I think--and the broadcaster concentrates on scenes that are moving in a particular direction (right to left, or panning the camera from left to right). It was used for a much-ballyhooed halftime show, and in at least one video game I have tried. They say it's possible that the darker image reaches the brain a split second later, causing the effect. A science project book I have says to try it with a pendulum going back and forth, and it will seem to describe a circle. I used to sometimes put one side of a pair of sunglasses over one eye at the movies for a touch of this fake 3-D, which works as long as the action is moving in the right direction. Every so often, someone brings this up again. I expect we haven't seen the last of it. [-kw]

Mark replies:

The DVD of CORALINE is released with what is claimed to be a 3-D image. Evelyn and I have been wondering how this is done. I suspect it is done using the same process as GORILLA AT LARGE. I think we are still a long way off from getting 3-D in a process you can use with even a good modern TV. I have never heard of the darker lens process, however. It does not sound like it is very good, but I will keep an open mind. [-mrl]

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

My reading has been somewhat hampered by our vacation to the Atlantic Provinces of Canada and the World Science Fiction Convention. I did read the Vinland sagas (and commented on them last week), but have spent most of the last week unpacking. (One uncommented-on benefit of traveling with only carry-on luggage is that there is much less to unpack when one gets home.)

I did manage to read MERTON OF THE MOVIES by Harry Leon Wilson (ISBN-13 978-1-8907-7196-6, ISBN-10 1-8907-7196-1), mostly because a film version of it was being run on TCM and I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. It is a satire of Hollywood in the 1920s, with our hero a gullible small-town boy who thinks that everything he sees on the screen is done with no doubles or tricks, that everything he reads in the fan magazines is true, and that everyone feels the corny emotions that so many of the films portrayed. Much of what is in the book is based on real people and events, and it is thoroughly enjoyable.

And I watched PATHFINDER, a film which purports to be about the conflict between the Vikings and the Native Americans, though clearly it is more inspired by Conan the Barbarian and by Peter Jackson's images of Minas Tirith than by any historical accuracy. It starts by placing this conflict 600 years before Columbus; in actuality it was less than 500 years. The Native Americans would not have seen horses as omens, and even if the Viking had brought horses on their rather small ships, they would look more like Icelandic ponies and less like giant steeds. The Viking clothing, armor, and helmets are all wrong. (Blame Richard Wagner-- apparently he was the first to insist on horns on helmets.) The scenery looks nothing like the eastern coast of Canada. The Native Americans are peaceful and happy. The Vikings are vicious brutes whose only purpose seems to be to kill--they don't take any loot, don't claim any land, and don't seem to do anything but fight. Bleh. [-ecl] [A clarification is needed here. Native Americans *might* have seen horses as omens, but Evelyn does not give a complete explanation above. In the film they see horses in their dreams before the Vikings arrive. There were prehistoric horses in the New World, but they had died out long before Native Americans immigrated to the New World. In fact there is no record of there being any horse in the New World at the same time as a Native American until the time of the Spanish Invasions. Also, Evelyn's final assessment of the film, "Bleh," is incorrect and is used only because some members' email systems would not deliver the MT VOID if she used a more descriptive and accurate expression. -mrl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

           Life without geometry is pointless.
                                          -- Anonymous

Go to my home page