MT VOID 09/30/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 14, Whole Number 1669

MT VOID 09/30/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 14, Whole Number 1669

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

Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/30/11 -- Vol. 30, No. 14, Whole Number 1669

Table of Contents

      Heckle: Mark Leeper, Jekyll: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted 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

Orwell/Kneale/Cushing/Cartier Nineteen Eighty-Four on YouTube (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

In 1954 the BBC broadcast a television play depicting a future Britain under a totalitarian government. At the time most people in Britain had not heard of the novel on which it was based, 1984, or the author, George Orwell. The writer who adapted the novel was a standard writer for the BBC who the year before had an impressive hit with his TV play THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, but otherwise he was not too well known. The actor who played the lead in the production was an occasionally-see face in TV drama, but was not really familiar either. His name was Peter Cushing. The play was produced and directed by Rudolph Cartier who would have a lasting impact in BBC science fiction. This broadcast made a huge the public for both its political warning and the degree of violence it showed on television. There were questions asked in Parliament about the appropriateness of this broadcast. Today this version of 1984 is considered one of the great British TV broadcasts of all time.

I see that this legendary production is now available on YouTube as a single piece uninterrupted for its entire 108-minute length. I have set up a link to it for anyone interested.


Blame It on Entropy (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

We visited the area in Palo Alto where we lived while I was in grad school. In those days it was a neighborhood past its prime and going downhill. These days it is the site of a Four Seasons luxury hotel and a high-rise office park decorated with fountains. I am sure the rent has gone up since our days. Evelyn was amazed at how unrecognizable it has become. At the same time a used book store not too far away was in the process of going belly up. Evelyn was not pleased. I guess that this is the kind of change you have to expect when you kick up entropy a few notches. [-mrl]

My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for October (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

This is my monthly guide to lesser-known but still recommended films on Turner Classic Movies. Of course I love horror films, and every October TCM schedules a stupendous number of horror films in a month-long celebration of Halloween. One would expect that my guide to October films would be chockablock with horror films. Sadly, no. I want to recommend films that most people have not seen, and there is only one for me to suggest. If you like horror and have not seen THE UNINVITED, by all means see it, but I expect most readers will be familiar with the film. (TCM will even show it twice: Monday, October 10, 9:15 PM and again on Sunday, October 30, 10:15 AM as part of their 56-hour-long Halloween horror film marathon.) The UNINVITED is a great film, but I assume most people reading this already know that and have had opportunity to see it in the past. The best obscure films (or the most obscure good films) running in October are European foreign language films.

My Pick of the Month is a French film, Henri-Georges Clouzot's WAGES OF FEAR (1953). In Central America four men truck nitroglycerine over bumpy roads and pray that nothing sets their cargo off. THE WAGES OF FEAR is one of those films I had wanted to see for years, but I really did not expect to like it a lot. First of all, I had seen Clouzot's DIABOLIQUE and was not greatly impressed even though it is considered a sort of semi-classic. I had seen too many similar horror movies, mostly from Hammer Films. I had seen SORCEROR, William Friedkin's remake of THE WAGES OF FEAR, and thought it was no more than an okay exercise in suspense. So I knew that seeing the original, robbed of its novelty, could make it a disappointment. Au contraire. THE WAGES OF FEAR is a white-knuckle sort of suspense film. There are not many films that handle suspense as well.

Here is the plot. Somewhere in Central America there is a town, probably one of many such, that is a slow death trap. To leave takes money--a lot of money. But no job in town pays well enough to earn that kind of money, at least no job opening. Those who cannot get work with the big American oil company are doomed by poverty to stay in the little nothing town until they work themselves to death. But suddenly there is an opportunity for work. Four truck drivers are needed to haul nitroglycerine to a burning oil well, and the oil company will pay $2000 for a day's work for anyone crazy enough to go on what might be a suicide mission. Carrying nitro, every twist in the road, every pothole, every unforeseen bump, every mud hole becomes a death trap. This is film noir with a vengeance; every yard of unpaved road becomes an enemy trying to find one unwary moment to go for the kill. (If that sounds over-dramatic, see the film.) Each man reacts differently to the pressures: one is coldly efficient; one is sloppy and foolhardy, taking foolish risks; one is heroic; and one crumbles under the weight of fear.

Admittedly, there are some problems with THE WAGES OF FEAR. It takes a little too long for the plot to get underway. The final moments of the film are hackneyed. There are scenes so absurd as to be humorous. For example, an oil company foreman demonstrates the power of nitro by throwing some on the floor of his office. But it is a film that works, and works well enough to get audible gasps from an audience. THE WAGES OF FEAR is a classic that live up to its reputation. (Thursday, October 13, 9:45 AM)

Post-war Italy was an economic mess with vast numbers of people unemployed and living hand to mouth. While this sounds like a depressing background for a story, THE BICYCLE THIEF by Vittorio De Sica is a beautiful and powerful picture of a father and son's relationship. Antonio is out of work and cannot feed his wife and young son Bruno. There is intense competition for any paying job at all. Then Antonio has a stroke of luck. He is hired to put up movie posters. He had the one outstanding qualification. He owned a bicycle and so could get around town to put up the posters. Bruno is so proud of his father, suddenly prosperous. Then on the first day of work, the all-important bicycle is stolen. Antonio must either get back his bicycle or lose his job and let his family go hungry. The film is about the intense search for the bicycle. The plot is not complex, but the film is extremely moving and the climax is haunting. It plays Saturday, October 15, 8 PM. Then at midnight TCM runs another fine Italian film I recommend, LA STRADA with Anthony Quinn and Giulietta Masina. (Sunday, October 16, 12 AM).

Okay, the horror film I recommend is THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS (1946), a somewhat forgotten horror film. I am not too sure if I really should count this as an obscure film these days, but I rarely hear it mentioned any more and it does offer a good performance by Peter Lorre. In fact Lorre is most of the reason to see the film. He is not as bizarre as he is in MAD LOVE, but still very effective. THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS has inspired other films like THE HAND (1981) and the character Thing from the Addams Family films. Also in the film are the versatile J. Carrol Naish and Alan Alda's father Robert. (Saturday, October 15, 8 PM)

But if you can see only one film, see WAGES OF FEAR. [-mrl]

LITTLE SENEGAL (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A museum docent in Goree, Senegal tells museum visitors about how people were collected, imprisoned, and sent to the New World, but he has never seen the New World himself. Then a dream sends him on a quest to the United States to help a relative he has never meant. Through him we see the United States and especially West Harlem through the eyes of an outsider as we see how life is different. He forms a relationship--shaky at first but later warm--with a cousin who does not know he is a relative. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Alloune (played by Sotigui Kouyate) is an elderly docent at a museum of slavery in Goree, Senegal. The building, a prison really, was once a holding pen for slaves being kidnapped and sent to sea to be sold in other parts of the world. He begins to have strange dreams that he must go to the United States and find a relative, relation unknown, and to save him. Alloune believes he has to fulfill the demands he was given by an ancestor. With little understanding of how different the United States is from the land he has known, he travels to South Carolina. But too much time has passed, too many of the old family names have been changed, and this is not where his distant cousins would be. The search takes Alloune to New York City and the Senegalese community in the area of West Harlem called Little Senegal.

Alloune finds a distant cousin, Ida (Sharon Hope), running a newsstand, and he goes to work for her as a watchman and helper without revealing his mission or even that she is a relative. At first Alloune cannot please Ida. She wants nothing to do with anything in the past. She does not even like Africans. But Alloune realizes she is a woman of the New World with her eyes on the present and the future. Alloune lives more in the past. With patience Alloune forms a bond with his cousin. Eventually the two become warm friends, as he is able to see how family relationships are different in the United States than back in his home country. Meanwhile Ida's young granddaughter shows up at the newsstand one day, at least seven months pregnant and unwilling to name the father. Alloune realizes he must bring harmony to a family that does not want any part of their African heritage.

Kouyate seems a little mystified by the whole experience of dealing with reality out of Senegal. His performance is a little flat, but he is more than made up for by the human thunderstorm that is Ida.

LITTLE SENEGAL is an Algerian-French-German co-production shot on location on what appears to be a very modest budget. It received a release in France in 2001, but beyond film festival showings it was not available the United States until August 30, 2011. Cinema Libre has released it on DVD. Director Rachid Bouchareb had already been nominated once for an Academy Award for his 1995 film POUSSIERES DE VIE when he made LITTLE SENEGAL. In the interim he was nominated again for his OUTSIDE THE LAW (2010). Bouchareb coauthored the screenplay with Olivier Lorelle. He is concerned with ethnic tensions of white and black, but the tensions he is dealing with are from three hundred years ago. More engagingly, he deals with tensions and distrust between African-Americans and African-Africans.

I rate LITTLE SENEGAL a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



CAPSULE: In 1979 a high-energy rock and funk band came out of the black ghetto of Los Angeles with a sound distinctively their own. They influenced dozens of other bands including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt. Yet Fishbone never really was as big a success as other bands that imitated them. In EVERYDAY SUNSHINE directors Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler look at the members of Fishbone, the culture that spawned them, and the music industry. Actor Laurence Fishburne narrates. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

I am told that if you are reading this you probably already know and love the band Fishbone. At least that is the impression I get from the film EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE. I put this film on shortly after hearing some Rimsky-Korsakov. After ten minutes of listening to Fishbone music I was more than ready to go back to Rimsky-Korsakov. But that is my taste. Your mileage may vary. In the film admiring fans, some well-known, keep repeating that Fishbone could have been the greatest band and the one that everybody else copies. Okay. You cannot prove it by me, but I accept it as the premise of the documentary.

So who is Fishbone? Apparently they are a band from the Los Angeles black ghetto. The film makes a big point that they are hard to categorize. Wikipedia calls them an alternative rock band. They play a combination of ska, punk rock, funk, hard rock, and soul. Fishbone performances seem punctuated with screaming, wild faces, gyrations, and literally climbing the walls. Most of these are not actually what I would consider music.

Apparently there is a legion of fans who see the group as seminal. Several other groups started because they wanted to do what Fishbone does. They did not say whether that includes screaming, making wild faces, gyrating, and wall-climbing. Even with such adulation as a band they could never get real profitable success. Among their problems they always had artistic differences and personality conflicts. They pulled in different directions. What kills the band is they do not want to operate as a team. Each has a different idea as to what the policy of the band is. For example, Angelo has created an alter-ego called Dr. Madvibe. Norwood likes Angelo and wants to be in a band with him. But he thinks that Angelo has carried the Dr. Madvibe routine too far. Angelo's response is that he has creativity that must flow out of him or it turns toxic inside of him. The artistic conflict goes on.

Anderson and Metzler focus primarily on the professional careers of bass-player Norwood Fisher and lead singer Angelo Moore. Fisher's trademark is a ponytail in front looking like a unicorn horn. Moore's is a constant infectious smile. Other members of the band came and went during the course of the band's life but the one constant was Anderson and Metzler. In telling of the founding of the group directors Lev Anderson and Chris Metzler show us little of their personal lives. Eventually some of their personal lives creeps in. Someone will say at this point he had broken up with his wife because of his drinking. To this point the drinking problem would not have been mentioned, but we pick it up from context. One picks up on their inner lives by inference. More time is spent on the difficulty of categorizing their music as rock, funk, black music, or whatever. This difficulty apparently also contributed to the group's problem with the music industry. The music stores sell music sorted into standard categories. With a fusion of so many music styles there is no way the music stores could pigeonhole them so there is no obvious place in the store to put their music.

Several different techniques are used to tell the story of the group. To tell their origins, animation is introduced to tell how the group came together in high school. Interview comments are inserted mostly from performers and producers in the industry including the rapper Ice-T, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Branford Marsalis, and Tim Robbins, who I guess is just an interested fan.

The music will not appeal to all, but the documentary moves and covers the material. See below for music samples courtesy of YouTube. I rate EVERYDAY SUNSHINE: THE STORY OF FISHBONE a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Chris Metzler previously co-directed PLAGUES & PLEASURES ON THE SALTON SEA. EVERYDAY SUNSHINE opens in New York on October 7th, 2011 and in Los Angeles on October 21.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

Fishbone's "Party at Ground Zero":

Fishbone's "Date Rape":

Fishbone's "Ma And Pa":

Rimsky-Korsakov's "Russian Easter Festival Overture":


Alphas (letters of comment by Taras Wolansky and Pete Rubinstein):

In response to Dale Skran's review of ALPHAS in the 09/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

Count me as another fan of the SyFy Network's ALPHAS. For one thing, the producers really got the casting right. This is very important for a weekly TV show, because there is so little (or no) time to rehearse.

Ryan Cartwright as the high-functioning autist is particularly entertaining. In one episode, he finally figures out his mom hoaxed him when she told him his boss, Dr. Rosen (David Strathairn), doesn't need him to come in that day. (She had concluded -- quite rightly -- that his job is much more dangerous than she bargained for.) He calls a cab to take him to the Alphas' office, a few miles away, instructing the driver to avoid streets with certain numbers and avenues beginning with certain letters.

Eight hours later ...

I also like the plausibility factor. If such wild talents-- like Dale Skran, I hesitate to call them superheroes--really existed, they would be 1) working for the government, or 2) locked up by the government, or 3) hiding from the government. And in the ethically ambiguous world of ALPHAS, all three alternatives are given a fair hearing.

Pete Rubinstein writes:

Was anyone else struck by the fact that the mercenary [in episode 9], "Griffin", bears the same name as H. G. Wells "Invisible Man"? [-pir]

Nozzles (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky):

In response to Mark's comments on gas nozzles in the 09/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Taras Wolansky writes:

Pumping gas in New Jersey: it may be illegal to do it for yourself, but ever since I had to replace the fuel filler pipe on my little Subaru (293,000 miles), it's been cranky to fill up. The gas station attendants are noticeably grateful that I do it myself. [-tw]

WAR OF THE WORLDS and Other 1950s Media, Faster-Than-Light Travel, and Nozzles (letter of comment by Sam Long):

In response to the 09/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

Hmm, I'm about four to five years older than you are, so when I saw WAR OF THE WORLDS, I was about eight, and I enjoyed it hugely, though I remember it better from when I saw it later as a teenager, on TV, I think it was. I also remember the Classics Illustrated version of that one, and of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, which followed their respective books closely and so differed from the movies, something that I didn't understand well back then. I also remember seeing CONQUEST OF SPACE during the 1950s, and being surprised when the news was told to the crew that they were going to Mars instead of (I think) the moon. "Mars!?" I exclaimed, and other patrons in the theater turned to look at me ... but I said nothing further, and that was the end of that. I particular remember the scene where the body of a crewman that was killed was taken outside the spaceship and committed to deep space. There was DESTINATION MOON, which I liked, and it was fairly realistic for its time; but the real moon landing was much different. And there was FORBIDDEN PLANET, which I saw with my family at the drive-in; and I remember being scared by the Id Monster. I saw that one on TV not so very long ago. It holds up rather well; but you have to suspend disbelief about Leslie Nielsen and put aside his modern rep as a comic and remember that he was a straight actor back in the '50s.

I remember Captain Midnight (brought to you by "Ovaltine, the heart of a hearty breakfast") on Saturday morning TV, but not Commando Cody. I remember trying Ovaltine, and thinking it okay but not liking it all that much; but I did have a Captain Midnight cup for my breakfast milk, which I got by sending in inner seals from Ovaltine jars. Have you ever noticed how many TV and comics superheroes were "captains"--even Captain Kangaroo--and almost never any other rank, except perhaps Sergeant Rock of Easy Company and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon? Most of the Saturday morning TV when I was growing up was made up of Westerns, like "Wild Bill Hickock" and "Red Ryder" and "Sky King"--but there was also "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet"; and I had a toy ray gun in my "armory". There were also shows like "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Sir Lancelot". Ah, nostalgia! And plastic toys in cereal boxes, and decoder rings and the like.

Engineers doing aerodynamic and hydrodynamic studies in wind tunnels and water tanks sometimes have to make their models distorted in one or more dimensions to account for scale and viscosity effects of air or water, that is, so as to achieve aerodynamic or hydrodynamic similarity. I remember reading somewhere that the mini-sub in FANTASTIC VOYAGE could not really have had propellers, because when it was shrunk, they would not have worked in the blood/serum/fluid. It would have needed a flagellum or two, and even then it would have been so buffeted by Brownian motion that it could hardly have been steered in any case.

And have you seen the report a day or two ago that researchers at CERN have apparently detected neutrinos moving faster than light? Apparently they arrived at their target a few tens of nanoseconds earlier than they should have, and would seem to have exceeded c by a very small fraction of a percent. We shall see what we shall see. The scientists are not making an idle claim: they've worked hard to remove sources of error and mistakes in procedure, and still get the same result. So, in the best traditions of science, they've put forth their results for other scientists to replicate or refute or explain. But in the meantime:

There was a young lady named Bright
Who could travel much faster than light.
She set out one day
In a relative way,
And came back the previous night!

I'm not sure of the deep significance of this, but as long as we're talking "superluminal", I have some Y-fronts by Fruit of the Loom with the letters FTL woven into the waistband. A truly stf-nal garment, when you think about it.

As for nozzles, have you ever seen Mozart's opera "Le nozzle di Figaro"?

Good ish, even though I've not seen any of the ALPHAS or other series you mention. [-sl]

Mark responds:

It sounds like we had a lot of the same experience growing up. Some of the films I did not see on first release, like FORBIDDEN PLANET, but I did see them on television as a teen. You did not mention one of my favorite Classics Illustrated comics, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH which was also the title of one of my favorite films of the time. You would have liked Commando Cody. He was the guy with a rocket pack on his back. Oh, I never had Ovaltine either. We were a Nestles Quik family.

Captain seems to be a rank for kid shows. Add to your list Captain Video, Captain Gallant, and Captain Z-Ro. As you get older-- particularly in the South--your heroes are more like Colonels. Like Colonel Brady or Colonel Drummond in INHERIT THE WIND. Nobody ever seems to want to be a major.

I didn't think you actually saw what drove the Proteus in FANTASTIC VOYAGE. I remember it was something that made the water blurry behind it, but they did not tell you how it was propelled.

Yes I did see the news on neutrinos. The mass of a neutrino is very small but non-zero, or it would not be able to oscillate. Any non-zero mass would grow to infinite mass as it approached the speed of light. That would mean an infinite amount of energy is involved and CERN had much less than a small percent of infinite. :-) The first thing to suspect is experimental error, but I would not rule out that like a photon is sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle, a neutrino sometimes has a mass and sometimes does not. Then again I really am using more imagination (which I have in ample supply) than good science knowledge (of which I have a definite shortage).


THE BAD SEED (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to Mark's response to Kip Williams's letter of comment on Turner Classic Movies and THE BAD SEED in the 09/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Kip writes:

I don't think the things I found wrong with the girl's performance in THE BAD SEED is anything that would have been asked for purposely by a director. It's more (to my mind) part and parcel with the standard of the time. Like most movie kids of the day, McCormick (sic?) seems all artificial and dimply. If they'd made it later on, it might be awful in a different way--now, for instance, she'd probably be like all the girl actors I see in shows on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon: wise-assed to the point of intolerability, and with a set of mannerisms that would tell a critic from the future pretty much the exact year they were filmed.

She always sounds like she's delivering a line. She has a sing- song voice and seems like she's in a doll commercial. I wonder if a naturalistic performance would be likely for the time, but then I think of Patty Duke, and decide that, yes, it could have been done.

The TV remake was a bit of a disappointment as well, though (as I've said, maybe even here) the scene where David Carradine, as the handyman, gets under her skin with his insistence that the police have a special bloodhound just for finding sticks that have been used in murder cases went a long way toward justifying my patronage. [-kw]

Mark replies:

You mention Patty Duke. She was in a class sort of by herself. Her childhood must have been quite an experience. Were you aware she was a fraudulent "quiz kid" on "The $64,000 Question" and testified before Congress about how she had been coached to cheat? [-mrl]

Heckle and Jekyll, Movie Availability, and Agatha Christie (letter of comment by Tim Bateman):

In response to the colophon in the 09/23/11 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:

> Heckle: Mark Leeper,
> Jekyll: Evelyn Leeper,

Teh chortle! I always enjoy these, but this particularly caught my fancy. [-tb]

In response to Mark's article "There Is Nothing Like the Second Time" in the same issue, Tim writes:

I had no idea what this item might concern, but enjoyed it very much once I found out. I think part of that is connected with a generational issue; I am part of the "pre-availability" generations, like your self--we had to wait a week between episodes of a TV series, not gobble up sixteen hours of it at a sitting from a boxed set. And if you were on holiday when the final episode of a "Dr. Who" serial was shown, well, tough cheddar. [-tb]

Mark responds:

I remember watching the 1959 JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH on black and white television as the ABC Sunday Night movie. And while I was watching it I was wondering when (or if) I would ever see the film again. [-mrl]

And in response to Evelyn's comments on Agatha Christie, Tim notes:

The exploits of Miss Marple were not necessarily written or published in the order in which they happened. This may be squirming out of a hole, but ... well, I doubt that Christie cared. Speaking of which, I wish that she had cared enough to leave her out of THE MOVING FINGER (and SLEEPING MURDER ... and omit Poirot from CAT AMONG THE PIGEONS). [-tb]

Evelyn notes:

"Masterpiece Mystery" or the BBC or whoever *added* Miss Marple to WHY DIDN'T THEY ASK EVENS? (and possibly others--I gave up at that point). They also changed the plots of some of the recent adaptations, even down to changing who the murderer was! [-ecl]

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

CRAZY U: ONE DAD'S CRASH COURSE IN GETTING HIS KID INTO COLLEGE by Andrew Ferguson (ISBN 978-1-4391-0121-6) is Ferguson's story of his son's journey through the college admissions maze. Or rather, as the title indicates, it is about Andrew Ferguson's journey--there is surprisingly little about his son. And while Ferguson's discovery of all the problems, pitfalls, and paradoxes of college admissions is engaging (and depressing), it oddly does not really address the question of why the parents of college-bound students seem to be the ones who do all the work, rather than the student.

Ferguson describes his experience in applying to colleges in the 1970s, and it was similar to mine (in the late 1960s). I filled in a couple of applications (on paper). I don't think either school required an essay. I never visited the schools. I never took the PSAT. (I did take the SAT.) My parents did fill in a financial statement, but only because I had won a National Merit scholarship and it required one to determine just how large (or small) the scholarship would be. I had some extra-curricular activities, but nothing in the way of summer jobs or projects. There were no AP courses at the time, at least not in my school.

Admittedly, I was not applying to Ivy League schools, but even people who did apply to more exclusive schools did not send in dozens of (expensive) applications, spend an entire summer visiting schools (to which their parents would have to drive them), captain the football team, and run a soup kitchen for Vietnamese immigrants in their spare time. The whole process has changed.

Ferguson spends a lot of time on three aspects of the application process: the essay, the "US News & World Report" book of college rankings, and the cost of a college education. The essay, he concludes, has been designed to ask all the wrong questions, look for all the wrong skills, and select all the wrong people. The "US News & World Report" college ranking system has the same problem as any ranking system--sooner or later people will figure out how to game the system. This is not only Ferguson's conclusion--it is pretty much everyone's conclusion. In 1995 Steve Stecklow of the "Wall Street Journal" found that a quarter of the schools were fudging the numbers they gave to "US News & World Report".

And even when the schools did not lie, they figured out how to improve their numbers--sometimes to the detriment of the students. For example, schools got points for classes of fewer than twenty students and lost points for classes of more than fifty. So one school took students from classes of twenty-one or twenty-two students and moved them to a class with fifty-five students.

And the cost of higher education? Well, one person Ferguson talked to suggested that just like we were in a housing bubble where prices were way out of proportion to value, we're in a higher education bubble, and at some point it will all collapse. Given that any increase in financial aid just brings about an increase in costs, without a corresponding increase in quality of education, he may well be right.

I re-read SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen only eight months ago, but when I saw THE ANNOTATED SENSE AND SENSIBILITY with annotations by David M. Shapard (ISBN 978-0-307-39076-9) in the library, I couldn't resist it. The annotations are of three sorts: short notes explaining vocabulary; longer ones discussing customs, attitudes, laws, etc.; and other longer notes commenting on characterization, plot, and other literary aspects. The first kind sometimes seem unnecessary--the meaning of the word is perfectly clear from context--but on the whole the annotations enhance the reader's understanding of the book. Even so, I would not recommend it for a first reading, because there are so many that they would cause constant interruptions to the flow of the novel. Shapard uses the same format as he did for his earlier annotation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: the book has the novel on the left-hand pages and the annotations in a smaller typeface on the right-hand ones, meaning the annotations are approximately as long as the novel itself. This is definitely recommended, as is Shapard's ANNOTATED PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. One can only hope he will continue with the rest of Austen's novels. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

         Every time the subject (philosophy) came up they 
         (his family) repeated with unfailing regularity, 
         "What is mind?  No matter.  What is matter?  
         Never mind."
                                          --Bertrand Russell

Go to my home page