MT VOID 01/27/12 -- Vol. 30, No. 31, Whole Number 1686

MT VOID 01/27/12 -- Vol. 30, No. 31, Whole Number 1686

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/27/12 -- Vol. 30, No. 31, Whole Number 1686

Table of Contents

      Ollie: Mark Leeper, Stan: 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

THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE on YouTube (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

I have in the past recommended the film THE FABULOUS WORLD OF JULES VERNE (1958) created by the Czech director and artist and animator Karel Zeman ( This film mixes live action with animation, the latter in the style of the woodcuts that illustrated early editions of Verne. It is a science fiction adventure based on a lesser-known work of Verne.

See or

This film is available free for streaming on YouTube. Unfortunately it is cut in eight pieces, but the film is all there. Those who know how can set up a playlist so it will play as one continuous piece.

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:
Part 6:
Part 7:
Part 8: (note it is "fab9" not "fab8")

There is also a single-piece version on Youtube, but that is in Czech. [-mrl]

Bad Science in Movies (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There is an interesting graphic that shows a checklist of common scientific blunders made in films and what films made them. Oh, well. I guess we should not get our understanding of science from science fiction films.


Whither Romance (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

There was an old romantic song that went, "Pardon me, Miss, but I've never done this with a real ... live ... girl." We don't get nice romantic songs like that because these days men just don't use lines like that any more. The obvious response they would get these days is, "Well, what did you use instead?" [-mrl]

The Return of Pan and Scan? (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like the black bars on either side of the television screen when they're watching an older movie and decided to try to market a "full-screen" version with the top and bottom of the picture cut off? [-ecl]

[Actually that was how they re-released GONE WITH THE WIND in the 1960s. They decided the audience wanted a wide-screen version and did it by cutting off the top and bottom of the picture. At home it is apparently quite common for HD TV owners watching 4:3 television to stretch the picture out so it covers the screen, even if people look wide and short. -mrl]

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

We have another month coming up on Turner Classic Movies. I am not sure my recommendations this month are particularly obscure, but they are quite worth seeing and recommending. In any case this listing gives me a chance to talk about some films I like a lot.

This is a great suspense thriller. True history: The French right- wing terrorist organization OAS attempted to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle in 1962. They failed, of course. Frederick Forsyth's thriller novel THE DAY OF THE JACKAL continues from there suggesting that they hired a very expert professional assassin to kill de Gaulle. The French government learns that the assassin has been hired, but knows nothing about whom it is. They assign a government deputy commissioner detective to find the assassin and avert the assassination--a seemingly nearly impossible task. What follows is something like an international game of chess between two very good players. Edward Fox plays the Jackal and Michael Lonsdale (of MOONRAKER) is the detective charged with hunting him down. This film is solid suspense, a great political thriller building to a really terrific climax. The director is Fred Zinnemann, who also directed HIGH NOON and A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. (Saturday, February 18, 10:30 PM)

Billy Wilder's take on human selfishness and callousness makes for some powerful filmmaking. Kirk Douglas stars as a once-promising newsman who has been thrown off all the major New York newspapers. Now he is down on his luck, out of money and passing through Albuquerque where he takes a job on the local newspaper. He is waiting for a news story he can inflate to a story national interest. It is a year before anything happens and then he gets his chance when he finds a man trapped in a collapsed cave. This is his big chance if he can milk this story for all it is worth. He knows just how to play people to get what he wants from them. This is a merciless and cynical film way ahead of its time. (Friday, February 24, 10:00 PM)

And speaking of cynical success plans, TCM is running one of the great classics. I give THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING my top rating of +4. This was the last film that Allied Artists made. It just did not earn enough at the box office to save the company. It is a pity because the film is nearly perfect. AA could not even pay off its stars, Michael Caine and Sean Connery. Yet I would say it is pretty much the best film either of them ever made. And that is going some. During the age of the British East India Company two likable scoundrels, formerly soldiers of the British Army and now at loose ends decide to travel north of India to Kafiristan where with the aid of army guns they figure they should be able to set themselves up as kings. And the scheme almost works. Almost. Originally this film was to be made with Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. It was a project that John Huston planned for decades before the film could finally be made. THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING is adventure writ large. This is a smart, enjoyable, exciting adventure film, superbly written. Christopher Plummer is perfect as Rudyard Kipling. Also on hand is popular Indian actor Saeed Jaffrey. The dialog between Caine and Connery is priceless. I give this film a very strong recommendation. (Tuesday, February 28, 8:00 PM)

This is sort of a Medieval WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. Henry II (Peter O'Toole) wanted his son John (of Magna Carta infamy) to succeed him to the throne of England. His wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) wants another son Richard (the Lionhearted, played by Anthony Hopkins in his third film) to be the choice for the next king of England. Henry has imprisoned her for ten years, but lets her out once a year so that the family can get together for Christmas. And what a Christmas it is with everybody in the family scheming against every other, alliances being make and broken, family secrets being revealed... a real old fashioned Christmas. This is a film to make you glad you are not British royalty. (Sunday, February 19, 1:00 AM)

Also worth seeing during February are PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, MR HULOT'S HOLIDAY, and THE STUNT MAN.

If you have to choose just one film to see, assuming you have never seen it before, my pick of the month would be THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. [-mrl]

Free Will (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

In a recent column "Why you don't really have free will", Jerry A. Coyne writes about why punishment makes sense even if the criminals had no free will: "But we should continue to mete out punishments because those are environmental factors that can influence the brains of not only the criminal himself, but of other people as well. Seeing someone put in jail, or being put in jail yourself, can change you in a way that makes it less likely you'll behave badly in the future. Even without free will then, we can still use punishment to deter bad behavior, protect society from criminals, and figure out better ways to rehabilitate them. What is not justified is revenge or retribution--the idea of punishing criminals for making the 'wrong choice.' And we should continue to reward good behavior, for that changes brains in a way that promotes more good behavior."

But what he is saying implies that we actually have some choice about whether to mete out punishment. If indeed there is no free will, then whether or not we mete out punishment is pre-determined, and saying we should continue to do it implies that we have a choice not to.

Of course, on a deeper level, Coyne has no choice but to write this column espousing these views, and I have no choice but to take issue with them. [-ecl]

Translations (letters of comment by Fred Lerner and Kip Williams):

In response to Evelyn's comments on translations in the 01/20/12 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

I have long been fascinated by the fact that it is possible for me to write a story in English, narrated in the first person, in which I do not reveal the sex of the narrator. This would not be possible in Hebrew, where verb endings indicate whether the actor is male or female.

If the sex of the narrator were immaterial to the story, I suppose that a translator could arbitrarily choose to use either masculine or feminine verb endings. But what would the translator do if the whole point of the story depended upon concealing the narrator's sex from the reader? [-fl]

And Kip Williams writes:

On verse:

A few years back now, I had a look at what it was like to take a verse out of one tongue and put it in a new one, thanks to a fad (which may still go on, for all I know) of "words of one beat." Some friends of mine were in the group, and I guessed I'd take a shot at it too. It was not as soft a job as you might guess. Of course, if you pour a ton of words in, you can find a way to say most things, but the seams show, and they creak. It was all too clear in prose, but with verse, it's twice--no, thrice as hard. To fit in the same beat as the source is tough. To rhyme at the same time is more so. And of course, to have the same feel as the verse you work from is the worst of all. The last place I was in that did these was " The One Beat Book of Verse" (, which can still be found at the link, though it's been a while since there was new stuff. Names can be hard nuts to crack, and could be called the weak link in the whole chain, but I think a lot of these stand up quite well, and to try your own hand at it can give you a real feel for what pros have to go through with this. (And of course, a lot of it comes down to your own gifts--if you can't say the same thing the same way, you have to write it in a new way that feels the same, which is the trick that some just can't do.)

--Kip Dub You

(See what I mean about names? My damn last glyph has three beats!) [-kw]

Subtitling Versus Dubbing (letter of comment by Gregory Benford):

In response to Evelyn's comments on dubbing and subtitling in the 01/20/12 issue of the MT VOID (and possibly Mark's comments on the subject in the 12/30/11 issue), Gregory Benford writes:

I always read MT VOID, & not just because it has VOID in the title...

Liked the remarks about subtitling. I've lived a lot in Europe and come naturally to dislike subtitling, which occurs seldom in France, Italy, Germany etc... because it jerks you out of the film, demands trimming of the dialog, and as you say about Bergman, even shapes the films.

I realized how profound this is while watching DAS BOOT. I speak German and found whole meanings and shading were erased by the subtitles, especially jokes. Now I go to subtitled films only if they seem so good it would be folly to ignore them.

Voice acting can capture so much more, though you must tolerate lip movements that don't follow the dialog precisely. The Europeans learned this long ago. If American film importers would spend the small bit more to dub their films, I think they would sell many more tickets. [-gb]

Omnipotence (letter of comment by Tom Russell):

In response to Mark's comments on omnipotence in the 01/20/12 issue of the MT VOID, Tom Russell writes:

Omnipotence is the superpower by which a 4000-year-old can get a young girl pregnant without Viagra. [-tlr]

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

EMBASSYTOWN by China Miéville (ISBN 978-0-345-52449-2) is another stand-alone novel from Miéville, which is (in my opinion) a good thing. His Bas-Lag novels are very popular, and under these circumstances many authors would have decided to write more in that world. But Miéville marches to a different drummer in many ways, and not looking for the easy buck is one of them. (The fact is that most writers used to be this way.)

To me, EMBASSYTOWN seems similar in style to THE CITY & THE CITY, though I am not sure I can explain why. Both start with an unlikely premise which is not immediately revealed to the reader, and which is not simply "there is faster-than-light travel" or "aliens have landed." In THE CITY & THE CITY the premise is geographical, here it is linguistic. The fantastical in both of these is found in a state of mind, not in technology.

In THE CITY & THE CITY, the premise may be obscure at first, but the language is relatively straightforward. Here one finds oneself looking (futilely) at the back of the book for a glossary. One page 20 alone, one finds "immer", "miab", "the out", "shiftfriends", "locomotor", "saft", "immer-stained", "enginarii", "biorigged", "exots", "automa", and "turingware". The meanings of some can be deduced (e.g. "turingware") while others need to be further elaborated. (And not all of them are.)

Of course, this is not made any easier by the fact that Miéville uses plenty of real words that most people have not heard of: moot (as a noun), eisteddfod, encomia, nous. (Well, okay, people who have read Tolkien will know "moot".)

At one point the plot seemed to turn into a Ricky Gervais movie (without the humor), and I was sure I knew where it was going, but then it took yet another turn and became something else entirely.

EMBASSYTOWN has echoes of the Borgesian idea of the language of Tlon which has no verbs, only adjectives and nouns, or for that matter of any number of human languages that follow very different rules than English. It will appeal to all those who love languages and words.

AN URCHIN IN THE STORM: ESSAYS ABOUT BOOKS AND IDEAS by Stephen Jay Gould (978-0-393-30537-1) is a change from most of Gould books in that it is a collection of book reviews rather than stand-alone essays. As such, while Gould can spend some time putting forth his own views, he is primarily constrained to address the take on a topic that is expressed in the book being reviewed. And it also makes the essays a little harder to follow if you haven't read the book.

There is some irony in one of the blurbs on the back, though: "What pleasure to see the dishonest. the inept, and the misguided deftly given their due..." Ten years or so after the publication of AN URCHIN IN THE STORM, Gould himself was one of those "deftly given [his] due" when a study showed that the measurements he had criticized in THE MISMEASUREMENT OF MAN were accurate, and his own measurements in challenging them were wrong. (This led to at least one article titled, not surprisingly, "The Mismeasurement of Gould".) [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper

Quote of the Week:

          An Englishman is a person who does things 
          because they have been done before.  An American 
          is a person who does things because they haven't 
          been done before.
                                          --Mark Twain

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