Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/13/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 33, Whole Number 1845

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.

All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        Save Energy (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Mini-Reviews of 2014 Films, Part 4 (LUNCH, JOE, THE SKELETON
                TWINS, GET ON UP, THE DOG, and BOXTROLLS) (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        DIGGING UP THE MARROW (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        QUEEN AND COUNTRY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE NORMANS FROM RAIDERS TO KINGS by Lars Brownworth
                (book review by Gregory Frederick)
        This Week's Reading (PERSONAL LIBRARY PROLOGUES)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Save Energy (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Will the last person to fall into the black hole please remember to
shut off the Hawking radiation?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Mini-Reviews of 2014 Films, Part 4 (comments by Mark R.

I am, as you can see, still working my way through films that I was
asked to consider for the annual awards of the On-Line Film Critic
Society.  Somehow when these films are all unknown entities, or
even when I am voting, every year feels like it is a below average
year.  One I get some distance from the films I start to feel that
some of the films had some charm.  When it comes time to vote for
the next year's films, it seems like this was a better year than I
realized at the time.  Arnold Toynbee, take note.


Every Wednesday some of America's great humorists, writers for TV
and movies, get together for lunch.  It is a tradition 42 years
old.  Many were writing in the 1950s.  They get together, tell
jokes, reminisce, and argue.  LUNCH is a documentary about the
lunchtime tradition.  Some of the humor is still funny, but most is
not really.  It has to be a problem in the humor since these are
people who really know how to tell a joke. Writer/director Donna
Kantor mostly just shows affection these elderly gentlemen have for
each other.  The film is really an education in the major comic
writers of the past.  People present include Monty Hall, Hal
Kanter, Gary Owens, Carl Reiner, and one of the great names in
American comedy, Sid Caesar.  Rating: 1 on the -4 to +4 scale or


This is a deliberately paced story of a very remote town in the
Southeast.  Gary, 15 years old and drifting with his worthless and
abusive father, comes under the protection of the title character,
played by Nicholas Cage.  This brings Joe in conflict with Gary's
father and a local with a grudge against Joe, two men who are happy
to kill.  David Gordon Green directs a screenplay by Gary Hawkins
based o a novel by Larry Brown.  The story has a Davis Grubb sort
of feel.  Rating: high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.


Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are two fraternal twins who come to
terms with their relationship, their relationships with others, and
with their sexuality.  The talk between the two reunited after
years is bitter and cute if not actually funny.  Wiig seems to be
borrowing Amy Adams's act.  I am not sure the film really goes
anywhere, but somehow it is likable enough.  Rating: +1 on the -4
to +4 scale or 6/10.


Just about every show business celebrity who has ever had a biopic
made about him has had almost the same biopic made about him.
People do not believe he has talent, but he overcomes all
obstacles.  He has vision and an unmistakable talent.  With
sequences liberally punctuated with his art, he makes it to
success.  But success spoils him and he is not the great guy he was
before.  Usually by the end of the story he will come to appreciate
all the little people who have contributed to his success.  That is

This is the story of James Brown, called "the Godfather of Soul."
Chadwick Boseman quite handily plays him.  Indeed he overcomes
child abuse, racism, artistic philistines, and selfish Big
Business.  Some of the sequences seem a little overripe.  Brown is
being delivered to entertain the troops in Vietnam when his plane
is attacked.  Brown is the only one calm on the plane and is doing
what he can to help the others.  The film is full of heavy-handed
adulation for the greatness that is James Brown.  Directing is Tate
Taylor.  Dan Aykroyd plays Brown's manager.  Rating: high +1 on the
-4 to +4 scale or 6/10.


The title is THE DOG, as in DOG DAY AFTERNOON.  The documentary is
about John Wojtowicz as was Martin Scorsese's DOG DAY AFTERNOON
about a man who robs a bank to get money to pay for his male
lover's sex-change operation.  This is a full-length documentary
about Wojtowicz from his childhood to the near present.  WOJTOWICZ,
a self-proclaimed "pervert" is very frank about his sex life
especially his relationship with Ernest Aron for whose sake
Wojtowicz robbed the bank. Directors Allison Berg and Frank
Keraudren cover Wojtowicz's bizarre and gender-bending life.  At
100 minutes the film somewhat overstays its welcome, but I am not
sure what would have been best to cut.  Rating: low +2 on the -4 to
+4 scale or 7/10.


In some unidentified Middle European village the normal citizens
are terrified of the boxtrolls--gnomish little people who wear
cardboard boxes and can pull into them turtle-like for defense or
just to make themselves easy to pack.  They pull all the boxes
together to form a big block to sleep at night.  (Presumably the
ones toward the center of the block have super-sized bladders.)
The town fathers, all useless gits who wear white hats and love
cheese, hire nasties to exterminate the boxtrolls, but we know the
boxtrolls are nearly innocent and harmless.  Their reputation is
mostly the product of the nasties.  Boxtrolls are dangerous in that
they may scare people enough that people hurt themselves.
Parallels to Jews living in ghettos are obvious.  This is all done
with a very nice three-dimensional animation.  Rating: high +1 on
the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.



TOPIC: DIGGING UP THE MARROW (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Written, directed, and co-produced by the main actor
playing himself is Adam Green.  Green is making a documentary about
a man who has discovered that just a few yards under our feet there
is a parallel world inhabited by what we consider monsters.  If
there are monsters there Green wants to film them and if there are
not he wants to document the strange personality of the man who
claims to have discovered an underground world.  Heavily employing
money-saving techniques like raw found footage, he tells the story
of his long tedious waits watching for monsters at a portal into
the underworld of strange creatures.  The viewer sees very little
in the nature of special effects or special monster make-up.  Green
is adept in finding ways to stretch a buck letting the words create
tension while delivering little visual.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4)
or 6/10

It is hard to pigeonhole DIGGING UP THE MARROW as a single or even
two or three kinds of film.  It is a "found footage" pseudo-
documentary mystery horror film that is part comedy.  Adam Green
starred, wrote, directed, was executive producer, and even lent a
hand to editing.  The only major actor who does not play himself is

This film is not "found footage" technically because the footage
was never really lost.  But it is footage shot as the fictional
Adam Green--very similar to the real Adam Green--is interviewing
monster lovers at a monster lovers' convention.  He is contacted by
a man who claims to have actually seen not one but many monsters.
Ray Wise plays the mysterious William Dekker, a retired police
detective who has devoted his life to finding and studying and
revealing to humanity that there is a world beneath our feet where
monsters live and have their own society.  This place, literally an
underworld, he has dubbed "the Marrow."  Green and Dekker set up
cameras to stand vigil over a portal to the underworld, hoping to
see and perhaps film real monsters.

Green (the filmmaker) very intelligently creates tension while
never promising to deliver a monster for the viewer to see.  The
film need not move very fast because the characters are so very
patiently waiting and filming the portal into the Marrow.  If Green
let on that this is a fictional story he would have to deliver
monsters in makeup.  The viewer is kept in suspense as to what
direction the film is taking.  Since most of the cast are playing
themselves their acting is nearly automatically authentic.
Everybody is a near-perfect representation of himself talking just
like the real person does.  The dialog is frequently funny, but
credible as it comes from witty, artistic people.  Since Green is
showing where he works, he can freely use product placements of
posters for his previous film FROZEN (2010).  The early part of the
film is filled with talking head interviews and creative pictures
of monsters--fan art--to stoke the viewer's imagination.  The only
actor who really has to act like something other than himself is
Ray Wise.  Wise's performance is a little exaggerated, but
generally strong.

The film has several cameo performances by people really in the
film and entertainment business, probably far more than most
viewers would recognize.  Frankly, the biggest disappointment of
the film is that Green, like so many young filmmakers, cannot think
of a clever and original way to close out the final minutes of the
film.  In this case the film ends with a yawn of familiarity.
Green needs to work on that problem for his next film.  But there
is enough different here that DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a worthwhile
film to see or rent.  I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: QUEEN AND COUNTRY (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: The year is 1952 and Bill Rowan, the main character from
1987's HOPE AND GLORY, is now an adult drafted into the army to
fight in the Korean War.  The impudent ten-year-old is now an
impudent soldier teaching other soldiers to type.  He is a friend
of Percy, a real rebel and together they do their best to make
trouble and incidentally to find love.  John Boorman, who wrote and
directed HOPE AND GLORY writes and directs the further adventures
of Rowan.  QUEEN AND COUNTRY is entertaining enough, but military
hi-jinx and romance are just not nearly as fresh a premise as was
his sense-of-wonder-view of World War II through the eyes of a boy.
Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

The credit "Directed by John Boorman" is rarely seen these days on
the American screen.  As often as not, his films seem to go off the
rails into his own esoteric territory.  While he was well-regarded
for DELIVERANCE, fewer film fans had much use for ZARDOZ.  And
while EXORCIST II placed THE EXORCIST in a larger and more
interesting context, it was not where fans of the original film
wanted to go.  EXCALIBUR started well and then made a left turn
into the surreal.  His 2001 THE TAILOR OF PANAMA used a screen
James Bond actor but rather punctured the Bond mythos with a more
realistic secret agent.

In 1987 Boorman had made HOPE AND GLORY, which looked with a
child's sense of amazement at England's home front in World War II.
Particularly memorable was a sequence with an errant barrage
balloon that may well have been the high point of the war for the
boy's family and friends.  Boorman has now written and directed a
sequel to HOPE AND GLORY.

Bill Rowan, once that boy who looked with such wonder on a barrage
balloon and all his other artifacts of the war, is now grown up and
serving the title entities as a soldier preparing to be sent to
Korea.  Bill, now played by Callum Turner, has an opportunity to
see a war from the inside.  He was hoping to have avoided
conscription, and his new masters intend to send him to the not at
all desirable battlefront in Korea.  Right now they want him to
teach recruits typing.  The problem is that he has no respect for
the army and likes to lapse into anti-military diatribe for his
typing students.  But his chaos is more than matched by that of the
like-minded Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones).  David Thewlis,
always a good actor, plays Bradley, their commanding officer who
bullies the men in the name of army discipline and is in turn
bullied by his C.O., Major Cross (Richard E. Grant).

Callum Turner is agreeable as the lead but there seems to be little
emotional connectivity between this film's Bill Rowan and that of
the earlier film.  We see a little more of the dynamics of his
family (all but one played by different actors) but none of them
seem to really be recognizably the same characters we had seen in
the first film.  Turner and Jones seem to compete to be the main
character of the film and in the end it is Jones who seems the most
memorable.  Tamsin Egerton plays Ophelia who makes an elegant love
interest for Rowan.

What is disappointing about the film is that it does not do what
HOPE AND GLORY did.  The 1987 film showed us the home front and let
us see how the war could be full of exhilaration and wonderment to
a ten year old.  But films about insubordinate military men with
unreasonable officers are nothing new.  This film is really a
British equivalent to M.A.S.H. or MISTER ROBERTS or any of several
others.  In fact, the captain and his palm in MISTER ROBERTS is
mirrored by the regimental sergeant major and his clock.

While Boorman's HOPE AND GLORY will be remembered when QUEEN AND
COUNTRY is forgotten, the new film is never less than entertaining
and makes a few scattered serious points.  I rate QUEEN AND COUNTRY
a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



review by Gregory Frederick)

This is a book that covers a little known era of European history.
This age of change created by the Normans occurred for only two
centuries between the tenth and the twelfth centuries.  The Normans
were actually direct descendants of the Vikings.  After raiding
Ireland, England, and the coast of France for decades a group of
Vikings were granted lands along the Northern coast of France.
This territory was eventually called Normandy (land of the
Northmen) and the Vikings who lived there became known as Normans.

In an effort to retain their land, the Normans adopted French names
and the language of that area of France.  The Normans became
differentiated from their Viking ancestors in other ways too.
Vikings fought on foot and the Normans usually had chainmail
equipped heavy cavalry.  One of these Normans was William the
Conqueror who conquered England in 1066.  Normans created an
inflection point in time that changed the course of European
history affecting England and France.

But there were also other Normans who left Normandy for greater
opportunities and who changed the history of Southern Italy,
Sicily, Northern Africa, and the Middle East.  One Norman family,
known as the Hautevilles, produced many of the Normans who traveled
south to the Mediterranean Sea.  Roger I and his son Roger II were
of this family and they created the Norman Kingdom of Sicily
consisting of Southern Italy, Sicily and for a time part of North
Africa.  Roger II created a more centralized and tolerant
government compared to Northern Europe.  For example, his kingdom
allowed Muslims, and all Christians, to practice their faiths.  The
feudal lands of Europe did not have this and this gave the Kingdom
of Sicily an advantage.  Roger's people were less likely to rebel
and his army was more willing to stay together for longer periods
of warfare.  Most medieval armies were less likely to stay together
for long periods of time; because power was not as centralized.
The Normans during the reigns of Roger I and Roger II seldom lost a
battle.  Normans were usually outnumbered in battle but in many
clashes they still won the day.  In one amazing battle in Sicily, a
Saracen Muslim army of 35,000 lost to a Norman army on a hilltop
commanded by Roger I who only had 130 knights and 300 foot

Normans lead the first crusade to the Holy Land; this crusade was
successful and actually captured the Holy Land most of the other
crusades did not accomplish this goal.  Norse or Normans formed the
most trusted Varangian guard of the Byzantine Emperor.  The
Varangian guard played a critical role in the actions of the
Emperor.  Normans played an important role in European history but
except for William the Conqueror most people probably have not
heard of them.  This is a very well written and engaging book
covering a hidden and important period of history.  Lars Brownworth
also wrote another good history book titled LOST TO THE WEST which
details the little known history of the Byzantine Empire.  [-gf]


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

In 1985, Hyspamerica began publishing a collection of a hundred
"indispensible" literary works chosen by Borges.  He wrote only
seventy-four prologues before he died in 1986; these form the
volume PERSONAL LIBRARY, PROLOGUES (ISBN 978-8-4206-3209-4) which I
read in the omnibus MISCELANEA.

As with earlier reviews of compendiums (compendia?) of Borges's
works, I will comment only on items of particular interest.  (I
will give the titles of the articles in English, even though they
are in Spanish in the book.)

Prologue to Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt, Hedda Gabler": Borges
actually begins by discussing "A Doll's House", saying that now
(1987, when he wrote this), the idea of a woman having her own life
is commonplace, but in 1879 it was "a scandal."  Indeed, for its
London performances, Ibsen was forced to add another scene at the
end where Nora returns to her husband and children, and in Paris he
had to ad a lover so that Parisians could have a reason they
understood for why she was leaving.

Prologue to Edward Kasner & James Newman's "Mathematics and
Imagination": It is only fitting that Borges write a prologue to
this, given how mathematical his work is; just consider the number
of books and papers written on the mathematical aspects of it.  He
starts be observing that an immortal locked in a prison with a
lifetime sentence, could discover all of algebra, all of geometry,
and indeed pretty much all of mathematics.  It is not an
experimental science.

He then goes on to describe how points form lines, lines form
planes, planes form solids, and solids form hypersolids.  Of
hyperspheres and hypercubes, he says, "It is not known if they
exist, but their laws are known to us."  (It sounds less repetitive
on Spanish, since he uses two different verbs, saber and conocer,
but I cannot come up with a better translation.)

Borges particularly recommends the "strange/alien illustrations,"
for example, of the Moebius strip, which can be constructed from a
strip of paper and is "an incredible surface of only one side."

Prologue to Herman Melville's "Benito Cereno"; "Billy Budd";
"Bartleby, the Scrivener": Borges's prologue is mostly about
Melville's life and "Moby Dick", with only a brief paragraph on
each of these works.  He sees "Bartleby" as a precursor of the
works of Franz Kafka, and "Billy Budd" as the story of the conflict
between justice and the law.  (Why in English is it always the full
title "Bartleby, the Scrivener", but rarely the full title "Billy
Budd, Foretopman"?)

Of "Benito Cereno", he writes: "'Benito Cereno' continues to
generate argument.  There are those who judge it the masterpiece of
Melville and one of the masterpieces of literature.  There are
those who consider it a mistake or a series of mistakes.  There are
those who suggest that Herman Melville set himself to write a text
deliberately inexplicable that would be a cabalistic symbol of this
world, also inexplicable."

Prologue to Arthur Machen's "The Three Imposters": Borges makes
what seemed an astounding claim: that during World War I, Arthur
Machen invented the legend of the Angels of Mons.  Well, it seems
to be true.  Machen wrote "The Bowmen" as a propaganda story for
the "Evening News" (29 Sept 1914).  When occult magazines and even
supposed eye-witnesses spread the story, Machen tried to explain it
was fiction, but was not believed.  Many have said that thought the
"One Step Beyond" episode "The Vision" was inspired by this legend,
especially since no one has ever found any documentation for the
incident in "The Vision", which was pinned to a specific date and
time,  (John Kenneth Muir, author of "An Analytical Guide to
Television's 'One Step Beyond'", states, "Though [this episode]
must be based on an account that writer Larry Marcus unearthed in
his research, that account has not been located, and the author was
unable to secure an interview with Mr. Marcus for further
information."  Why he is so sure that there was an account and not
that Marcus made it up either from Machen's story or out of whole
cloth is not clear.)

And Machen's "The Three Imposters" seems to have been named after a
famous book titled "De tribus impostoribus" which was supposedly
written in the twelfth century.  The "three impostors" were
allegedly Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, but as you might have guessed
by my adverbs, the book was entirely fictional.  However, it
generated a lot of fuss for hundreds of years as rulers and clerics
tried to locate it and destroy it.

Prologue to "Song of Songs", "Exposition of the Book of Job": Of
"Job", Borges writes, "We hope to find rationality, but
rationality, characteristic of the Greeks, is foreign to the
Semitic soul and the work limits itself to offering splendid
metaphors.  ...  Max Brod, in "Paganism, Judaism, and
Christianity", has analyzed [God's speech from the whirlwind].  The
world is ruled by an enigma."

Prologue to Thorsten Veblen's "Theory of the Leisure Class": Borges
writes that when he first read "Theory of the Idle Class", he
thought it was a satire.  One reason may have been Veblen's
tendency to go overboard: while living in certain neighborhoods and
owning certain artworks may be valid examples of conspicuous
consumption, he also "erroneously affirms that the reason for the
study of Latin and Greek is because of the fact that both are
useless."  And if an executive doesn't have time to conspicuously
consume, his wife and children must do it for him.  (If this
doesn't sound like the source for Frederik Pohl's "The Midas
Plague", I don't know what does.)

Then Borges claims that in Argentina, this notion of the leisure
class is taken very seriously.  Except for monks, everyone in
Argentina pretends to be of this class.  "Since my youth," Borges
writes, "I have known families that spent the hot months hidden in
their homes while everyone else believed they had gone to spend the
summer on a hypothetical ranch or in the city of Montevideo."

Prologue to Marcel Schwob's "Imaginary Lives": This is apparently a
collection of biographies in which the protagonists are real, but
the events are unreal, at times even fantastic (in the sense of
fantasy, rather than in the sense of spectacular).  Borges says
this was one of the inspirations for his book "A Universal History
of Infamy", but this was not noticed, even by the critics.
(Wikipedia mentions it, but also cites this book as a reference, so
no one gets credit for discovering it on their own.)

Prologue to Eden Phillpotts's "The Red Redmaynes": Of Phillpotts,
Borges writes, "Eden Phillpotts, 'the most English of the English
writers", was of evidently Hebrew origin and was born in India.
Without denying his ancestry, he was never a professional Jew the
way Israel Zangwill was."  Clearly what Borges means is that
Phillpotts did not write about Jews or Jewish culture, or Jewish
settings, but what an odd way to express it.

Prologue to Gustave Meyrink's "The Golem": Alas, Borges does not
really say anything new about the Golem here, but I felt I should
mention that he included it in his selections.

Prologue to Henry James's "The Lesson of the Master", "The Private
Life", and "The Figure in the Carpet": Borges describes Henry James
as "the son of the theologian of the same name," which I found
confusing (wasn't his brother William James the theologian, or at
least the philosopher in the family?), until further comments
indicated that William James "was" his brother, and his father must
have been a theologian also named Henry, just one that I had never
heard of.  Borges describes Henry James (the author) as "not ... a
creator character; he created deliberately ambiguous and complex
situations, capable of indefinite and almost infinite readings."

Prologue to Herodotus's "Histories": Borges writes, "He curiously
imagined that the Danube was as the 'antistrofa' of the Nile,
corresponding to its inverse."  This sent me digging through
dictionaries until I found "antistrofa" in the 1572-page
"Diccionario manual e ilustrado de la Lengua Espanola" by the Real
Academia Espanola, where it was defined as "in Greek poetry, the
second part of a lyric poem composed of a strofa and an antistrofa,
or of these two parts and an epode."  Well, that was not very
helpful.  The best I can figure is that Herodotus felt that the
Danube somehow "balanced out" or "completed" the Nile, but that is
mere guesswork on my part.  ("Antistrofos" is Greek for "inverse",
if that helps.)

Prologue to Antoine Gallan's translation of "The Thousand and One
Nights": Why is it "a thousand and one nights" instead of just a
thousand?  Borges suggests, "It has been conjectured that the
addition was due to a superstitious fear of even numbers; I would
rather believe that it was a discovery of an esthetic nature."


                                           Mark Leeper

           I would never die for my beliefs, because
           I might be wrong.
                                           --Bertrand Russell