Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/20/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 34, Whole Number 1846

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Double Lesson (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Is America a Great Country or What? (comments 
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Seeing a Floater (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        JUPITER ASCENDING (film review by Dale L. Skran)
        Strofe and Antistrofe (letter of comment by Tim Bateman)
        LUNCH and Gary Owens (letters of comment by Kevin R, 
                Paul Dormer, Tim Bateman, and Keith F. Lynch)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Double Lesson (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I got a lesson in history and in the importance of proper 
punctuation when I read in the last issue that Roger I had 300 foot 

(Don't get me wrong.  Greg Frederick had it right but I was proof 
reading using text-to-speech and did a double-take.)  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Is America a Great Country or What? (comments by Evelyn 
C. Leeper)

So what if we are only 30th out of 65 in mathematics scores, 23rd 
out of 65 in science scores, 20th out of 65 in reading scores, 26th 
out of 28 in infant mortality, and 114th out of 195 in measles 
vaccination rates?

After all, we're 13th out of 75 in per capita firearm deaths, 4th 
out of 141 in wealth disparity 4/141 (beaten only by Chile, Mexico, 
and Turkey), 2nd out of 20 in per capita greenhouse gas emissions 
(beaten only by Saudi Arabia), and #1 in obesity rates.

Is America a great country or what?  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Seeing a Floater (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I was recently in a movie theater (watching SELMA, I will mention 
for completeness' sake).  Suddenly I saw what looked like sort of 
like spider leg right there covering a big chunk of the screen.  It 
was not straight ahead, but to one side.  I saw it sort of out of a 
corner of my eye.  I looked over at it and it zipped away.  My eye 
went back to where it was originally, but then so did the spider 
leg.  After a moment or two of hide and seek I realized it might 
have been an optical problem.  My eye had developed a floater.  At 
first this seemed like a piece of very bad luck.  It had been years 
since I noticed having a floater in my eye.

A floater is a small moving spot that appears in apparently in 
front of your eye.  Actually the effect is literally all in your 
head and more precisely all in the interior of your eye.  What you 
are seeing if you have a floater is a small fleck of collagen that 
is floating in the vitreous humor in the back part of your eye.  
The vast majority floaters are completely benign and go away in at 
most six to eight weeks.  They are more nuisance than actual 
threats.  In my youth I had gotten them and they went away on their 

So now I had got a benign floater in my right eye.  At first I 
thought it was a misfortune.  I will see something moving in the 
room and my senses go all at attention.  I go to look at what I had 
seen, but it will flit away just out of sight.  That is because it 
is actually inside of my eye and will move with the eye as it 
swivels.  So I would see the image in my peripheral vision, but if 
I tried to look at it, it would nip off.  The image is always right 
there until I try to look at it and then it impishly runs off to 
the side.  In the first week it was an irritation.  But with a 
little effort I got used to living with my floater and it bothered 
me a less.  Now I am wondering about the effects of keeping my eye 
floater around.  Perhaps I should take advantage of the positive 
aspects of having a floater in my eye.

That may sound daft, but it actually is deft.  Consider that humans 
have a need for companionship at some level.  If in prison you are 
placed in a room with nobody else that is called "solitary 
confinement" and is considered a harsh punishment.  The loneliness 
starts to bother you a lot.  There is a basic human need to just 
not be alone.  You really need to have in the room with you a human 
or an animal that has its own locomotion.  You need to have 
company.  You want something to be moving other objects or itself.  
For survival reasons your brain scans the world looking for 
movement to bring to your attention.  Deny it that job long enough 
and there are bad effects.

I think at base you have to be giving your mind these little 
interrupts to keep it active or it will start to provide its own 
interrupts.  Your mind evolved with these interrupts coming from 
your environment and learned to require them.  That is one function 
of a pet.  The pet rolls over in its sleep and your brain registers 
it.  You cannot provide the interrupts yourself any more than you 
can tickle yourself.  You have to be able to surprise yourself, let 
you eyes observe it, and let your brain say, "no problem."  And the 
source come from what appears to be outside of you.

That is where an optical floater is ideal.  Because you think of it 
as being outside your eye and it actually is inside, it does the 
unexpected.  If you look at it, it jumps away.  It gives the 
impression that it is capable of its own independent motion.  It 
does not need any food or water that I would not normally be 
eating.  It needs no particular care like walking it around the 
block.  It does not leave little messes around.  I can say that my 
floater affectionately follows me around the house.  Wherever I am, 
if I want to look for my floater I know where to find it and it is 
happy and ready to play the Run Away game.  A floater in your eye 
is just about the perfect pet.

Of course, there is a problem with its short lifespan.  How 
attached can one get to a little flaw in the fluid of your eye?  
Not very, I suppose.  But when it gets old it will probably have 
outlived its welcome.  As of now, even as I writer this report my 
little floater keeps jumping up on my computer screen to see what I 
am writing.  I assume after two or three weeks of this I will be 
tired of it, but for now it is charming.  Even Evelyn is not THAT 
anxious to see what I am writing.

Say, on a similar topic, can someone who knows tell me how I can 
install an operating system on my Mac--the kind like in the movie 
HER that has its own personality?  Now that would be even better 
than a floater in my eye.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Matthew Vaughn directs, co-produces, and co-authors a 
script about a super-special branch of the British Secret Service.  
Sending up the James Bond films and nodding to films as diverse as 
INVADERS FROM MARS and THE SHINING, the film has a solid sense of 
fun.  Colin Firth plays a superspy who recruits the wayward son of 
the agent who saved his life.  Firth trains the boy and then 
together they face off against a high-tech super-villain, Samuel 
L. Jackson affecting a childish lisp.  The story makes little sense 
but moves fast enough that the viewer hardly notice.  This film is 
astonishing and fun.  What could have come off as a bunch of cheap 
shots poking fun just add to the class of the production.  Rating: 
high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

When the James Bond films were getting popular they were satirized 
in the "Flint" movies: OUR MAN FLINT (1966) and IN LIKE FLINT 
(1967).  That almost seems redundant since the Bond films satirized 
themselves.  Unimaginatively, Flint was an agent who just was an 
expert on any subject he needed, far beyond the capabilities of 
mortals like you and me.  And the film industry forty-nine years 
later is still challenging Bond by creating super-agents.  The 
latest and very likely the most creative is the preternaturally 
smooth Harry Hart (played by Colin Firth), agent of the British 
super-Secret Service.  The film is the spectacularly exaggerated 

The film opens with Harry Hart, superspy, slipping up and nearly 
getting killed, but for the help of another agent who saves Hart 
but gets killed in the process.  Years later the heroic agent's son 
is going wrong in brushes with the law.  At the same time the 
Secret Service is looking for promising material to mold into new 
secret agents.  Hart wants to kill two birds with one stone, 
bringing the troublesome boy into the organization.  Hence this boy 
with the thick English accent gets his chance to prove himself and 
become s spy.  Taron Egerton plays Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin, about to 
enter the bewildering world of the secret agents.

Doing a tongue-in-cheek satire is really a dangerous business.  
There are any number of satirical films, frequently filled with 
graduates of "Saturday Night Live", that go on for long stretches 
without ever earning a chuckle.  This film has genuine original 
material and situations some of which work.  Toward the end there 
are some astonishing ideas.  The approach is more comic book than 
James Bond, but it does not talk down to the viewer.  This film not 
only has allusions to Bond films, but if you look and listen you 
The dapper British agent with impeccable suit, tie, and brolly may 
have come from THE AVENGERS or as far back as Ralph Richardson as 
Major Hammond in Q PLANES (1939).  There is also a clear visual 
reference to Oscar Pistorius.

Problems with script include too easy a visual test to find who are 
the villains but it is inexplicably only too rarely used.  And 
there is the standard problem that guns seem to have an 
inexhaustible source of rounds without the user reloading.  There 
is also a puzzle involving parachutes that I believe could have 
been solved more easily (and safely).

Actually the first little surprise of the film is the banner for 
the production company Marv.  Marv's banner at the beginning of the 
film can only be read by people not colorblind.  There is a rather 
egregious product placement for a fast food chain.

Familiars in the cast include Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, 
Jack Davenport, Tom Bell, and even Mark Hamill.  And these days 
what is a spy film without Mark Strong of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER 
responsible for cinematography with some breathtaking natural 
visuals and other times he seems to capture a 3-D effect, though 
the film was not released in 3-D.

This film is really an original, the first of its kind.  See it 
before a dozen imitators come along.  I rate KINGSMAN: THE SECRET 
SERVICE a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: JUPITER ASCENDING (film review by Dale L. Skran)

I went to see JUPITER ASCENDING with the lowest of expectations.  
The tomato-meter reading is a mere 22%, and I'd seen snippets of 
numerous reviews, decrying the leaden dialog, the lack of 
chemistry, etc. etc. etc.  As the latest Wachowski brothers 
production, which seem to have been declining since THE MATRIX, 
JUPITER ASCENDING carried a load of bad karma.  I was thus rather 
surprised to find a lot to like in JUPITER ASCENDING.  It reminded 
me of the sort of stories that Gordon Dickson or Keith Laumer 
produced in the 1950s where some poor schmo on Earth turned out to 
the heir to a galactic empire.  This story of the "lost prince or 
princess" is of course a cliche, but it can be a lot of fun.  This 
is pure space opera, and rather like in STAR WARS, you cannot probe 
too deeply into the underlying technology or the sociology of the 
galactic empire before it all falls apart.  However, the point is 
to have pure, unadulterated Edgar Rice Burroughs style grand action 
fun, something which seems lost on a host of movie critics.

Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, an Earth-born cleaning woman who 
turns out to a "recurrence" of galactic genetic royalty.  JUPITER 
works best as a sense-of-wonder introduction to galactic technology 
and civilization.  The sets, costumes, art direction, and CGI are 
outstanding.  There are even some interesting ideas here, although 
they will be familiar to any fan of written SF. The movie is over 
two hours but feels shorter since there is so much eye-candy.  I 
kept waiting for the terrible dialog, the tedious expositions on 
galactic politics, and the lame humor the critics warned about, but 
what I saw was decent acting in an average film with a stunning 
look and feel.  Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise, a human-wolf 
genetic "splice" who joins Stinger Apini (Sean Bean), a human-bee 
splice, in assisting Jupiter as she struggles to survive the 
vicious politics of House Abrasax.  Eddie Redmayne plays Balem 
Abrasax, the main villain, with a hard-to-understand slithery 
whisper of a voice.

You can complain that some of the action scenes run on too long, 
but they are so amazing to watch it didn't bother me that much.  
There are a lot of just in time saves, but nothing you haven't seen 
in a multitude of classic pulp SF stories.  JUPITER ASCENDING is 
fun way to spend two hours, and I recommend it to all SF/Fantasy 
fans.  If you can see it in 3D, please do.  Few films make more 
effective use of 3D than JUPITER ASCENDING.

JUPTER ASCENDING combines a +4 look and feel with an average plot, 
so I'm going with a +1 rating overall.  Rated PG-13, JUPITER 
ASCENDING, is suitable for tweens and up.  Probably a lot of 
younger kids would enjoy it as well, although it is too loud and 
scary for young children.  Lots of action, no sex. The good guys 
are good and the bad guys are really baaad.  [-dls]


TOPIC: Strofe and Antistrofe (letter of comment by Tim Bateman)

In response to Evelyn's comments on strofa and antistrofa in the 
02/13/15 issue of the MT VOID, Tim Bateman writes:

My schoolboy memories of [redacted] years ago lead me to believe 
that this is part of the chorus in Greek drama.  I seemed to recall 
the spellings 'Strophe' and 'Antistrophe.'  Using these spellings 
led me to a Forry Ackerman moment via Google, for example 

Obama in Washington


Obama, President of America 
Michelle, his wife 
Biden, the Vice-President 
Chorus of News Anchors

The scene: The White House Lawn 


Great and good must the man be who, against all the odds of the 
prejudices and ignorance of society, achieves the highest office in 
the land.  Surely the gods must smile upon such a man. 

Those very same gods have ordained that a man who leads the people 
is their servant, not their master.  For such is the just order of 
the city. 

ENTER: Obama, Michelle, their children and Joe Biden. 

Obama: O, gleaming virgin stones which welcome me, how glad I am to 
see thy shining selves. 

Michelle: Mind that bag, Biden.  Don't jog my Lord's golf clubs. 

Et cetera et cetera et cetera.


Evelyn adds:

The URL directs to an ordinary definition; the example appears to 
be Tim's own.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: LUNCH and Gary Owens (letters of comment by Kevin R, Paul 
Dormer, Tim Bateman, and Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's review of LUNCH in the 02/13/15 issue of the 
MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

Sadly, Gary Owens just passed away.


Paul Dormer notes:

When hearing that name on Rowan and Martin in the sixties (probably 
the most prominent exposure he had in the UK) I was amused to 
discover that a garryowen is a type of kick in rugby football.

And those of you who remember television sports in the sixties will 
remember the late great Eddie Waring, who used the alternative name 
for it, an up-and-under.  [-pd]

Kevin adds:

Wiki doth say the "bomb" kick got the nickname from the club of the 
same name in Limerick, Ireland. The traditional air became the song 
of various US, British and Canadian military units.  Whenever a 
film features Custer and/or the US 7th Cavalry, you will hear it.

Gary Owens' given name was Gary Bernard Altman, so maybe no actual 
Limerick connection.

So many of his credits are in animation, with many SFnal or 
fantastic themes: Roger Ramjet and Space Ghost, and many others.

We didn't get much of either Rugby code on US TV then, though NBC 
had US Rugby Sevens on recently.  Now, Gary Owens may have spun a 
Fred Waring tune on the radio, now and then. :)  [-kr]

Tim Bateman responds:

Perhaps Mr Altman changed his name in homage to the military?

Fraser in one of the Flashman books refers to 'Garryowen' as a 
specifically cavalry song IIRC.  [-tmb]

Keith F. Lynch adds:

Hal Kanter and Sid Caesar [also in the film] are also deceased.  


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

MANUAL OF PAINTING AND CALLIGRAPHY by Jose Saramago (translated by 
Giovanni Pontiero) (ISBN 978-0-547-64022-8) was Saramago's first 
novel, and did not do well initially; Pontiero speculated that the 
title made critics and readers think it was a handbook for art 
students.  The good news for readers is that Saramago had not yet 
developed his punctuation quirks, so there are quotation marks 
setting off direct speech, and sentences end with periods.

Early on, the narrator (called only H.) says if he were more 
assertive, "I would not be this triple man who for the third time 
is going to try to say what he has unsuccessfully tried to say 
twice before."  This refers to the fact that he is painting a 
portrait of a businessman, but with which he is dissatisfied.  So 
he starts a second, secret portrait, but that also is not working 
out, so he starts a manuscript describing the process--this book.  
To me it seems as though these correspond to the Father, Son, and 
Holy Spirit, but this may be based on a non-Catholic perspective: 
the second painting seems like a child of the first, but the 
manuscript seem to be of a very different quality/substance.

This idea of a "triple man" recurs in THE DOUBLE (in which the main 
character has a double who is an actor who has not only his real 
name and personality, but also a stage name and personality).

And again later, H. talks about examining the subject and then 
"fabricating a double without flesh or blood but with a threatening 
illusion of reality."  So is the triple/Trinity the subject, the 
first portrait, and the second portrait, or the first portrait, the 
second portrait, and the manuscript?  Or is it all like an infinite 
regression of a picture that contains a representation of itself?

Then suddenly we are reading a first-person narrative by Robinson 
Crusoe ... what the heck is going on here?  After a long paragraph 
of this, we get "Since starting to write, I have copied texts on a 
number of occasions for one reason or another: .... Here I have 
done it to keep my hand in training, as if I were copying a 
picture," and we cannot help but flash back to Jorge Luis Borges's 
"Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote".  (Well, *I* cannot help it; 
maybe you can.)  And the whole chapter touches on what John Searle 
writes about in "The Logical Status of Fictional Discourse"--when 
H. writes "My name is Robinson Crusoe," that is a lie, but when we 
read Defoe's novel, we do not think of it as a series of lies.

Portiero uses the words "artemages" as a parallel with "art" and 
"artifact."  The problem is that there is no such word, so the 
meaning is not clear.  Later, he uses the word "remiges" and says 
that both "remiges" and "artemages" are Gallicisms; however, 
"remiges" is a real word.

H. says, "Taken refuge in [a monastery] overcome with remorse ... 
is what the pilot did who dropped the bomb over Hiroshima (or was 
it Nagasaki?)," but neither Paul Tibbetts nor Charles W. Sweeney 
(the pilots for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings) entered a 
monastery nor even expressed regret for their actions.

H. expresses the idea that in Vitale de Bologna's painting of "The 
Life of Saint Antony Abbot", the "various planes with multiple 
perspectives, which place the viewer at every possible angle 
simultaneously" the effect "is probably the same as that created by 
representing a fourth dimension wherein one can imagine an 
additional dimension."  Or maybe it is just that Vitale had a poor 
grasp how perspective.

Saramago toys with alternate history when he has H. muse, "If Jesus 
had died on the Mount of Olives from that hemorrhage [described in 
Luke 22] which turned out to be benign and not fatal, would there 
have been any Christianity?  And without Christianity history would 
have been altogether different, the history of men and their deeds; 
so many people would not have been immured in cells, so many people 
would have met a different death, not in the holy wars nor at the 
stake with which the Inquisition tried to justify its own relapsed, 
heretical and schismatic nature.  As for this attempt at 
autobiography ..., I am convinced it, too, would be different.  For 
example, what would Giotto have painted in the Chapel of Scrovegni?  
Arcadian orgies of a mythology which persisted into the Middle 
Ages, if not to the present day?  Or would he simply have been a 
house painter who was there not to paint the chapel but simply to 
whitewash the walls in the Scrovegni household?"

Of St. Peter's, Saramago writes, "On the right once stood 
Michelangelo's 'Pieta', which some suspicious madman vandalized."  
This refers to the attack on the sculpture by Laszlo Toth on May 
21, 1972.  It was repaired and returned to its place, but 
presumably after Saramago wrote MANUAL OF PAINTING AND CALLIGRAPHY 
in 1974.

Speaking of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Saramago writes, "Salazer 
continued to govern, then fell from his throne, rotted and died."  
As i noted in my comments on "The Chair", this is not a mere figure 
of speech--Salazar really was reported to have died because he fell 
off a chair (or rather he had it collapse under him), but only 
after lingering for two years.

Saramago makes reference to several leaders in Portuguese history, 
and who influenced them.  Salazar I have already discussed; when 
Saramago says, "Marcelo Caetano ... looks at the world around him 
and can find no one to follow," he is talking about the leader who 
followed Salazar after the latter's accident, from 1968 to April 
1974, when he was overthrown by the "Carnation Revolution."  Given 
the 1974 copyright of the book, one suspects that Saramago wrote it 
before Caetano's ouster, and so this is another example of a book 
being overtaken by current events (though Saramago does add of 
Caetano, "The hour of his putrefaction is nigh").

[This is why Ken Liu's solution in THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM by Cixin 
Liu (no relation) is excellent: he footnotes historical references 
that the Chinese readers would know but that English-speakers would 
be unfamiliar with.  Ken Liu discusses this and other translation 
issues on an episode of the Coode Street Podcast.]

An example of another of the problems of translation is found 
towards the end of the book.  In English, it reads, ""'My love.'  
To repeat those two words on ten pages, to go on writing them 
uninterruptedly without any clarification, slowly to begin with, 
letter by letter, carefully tracing out the humps of the 
handwritten m, the loops of the y and the l, the startled cry over 
that o, the deep riverbed excavated by the v and the slack knot of 
the e."  Except, of course, in the original Portuguese, the words 
were almost definitely "meu amor", and while some of the letters 
are the same, many are not.  Yet this is an important passage, 
because it emphasizes that H., as an artist, is not concerned only 
with the meanings of words, but with their form and the shapes of 
their letters (hence calligraphy rather than merely writing).

This novel does not have a standard structure: it starts with the 
narrator musing on his painting of portraits, then intersperses 
chapters discussing paintings and other artwork the narrator has 
seen on a trip to Italy, and finally jumps (rather abruptly) into a 
political novel.  So far, it is the most atypical Saramago novel I 
have read.

[And, yes, I've been on a bit of a Saramago binge lately.  I have 
suggested a panel on Saramago for this year's Philcon, which 
probably means I'll be on it, which means I should make sure I've 
read all his fiction.]  [-ecl]


                                          Mark Leeper

          Thus every dog at last will have his day - 
          He who this morning smiled, at night may sorrow; 
          The grub today's a butterfly tomorrow. 
                                          --Peter Pindar