Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/03/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 40, Whole Number 1852

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Answer to Last Week's Puzzle (sent in by Tom Russell)
        Pride (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Ad Hoc Rights (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Global Climate Change (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        UNDOCUMENTED EXECUTIVE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE GIRL IS IN TROUBLE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        A GOD THAT COULD BE REAL by Nancy Abrams (book review
                by Leland R. Beaumont)
        Politics (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        This Week's Reading (THE SEVEN SAMURAI, THE TERMINATOR,
                and NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Answer to Last Week's Puzzle (sent in by Tom Russell)

A calendar.

Correct answers were sent in by Don Blosser and Tim Bateman.


TOPIC: Pride (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I think a fish and chips shop should be called Pride of Plaice.


TOPIC: Ad Hoc Rights (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I heard an incident discussed in a news article.  It occurred at a
public swimming pool open to people of either gender.  A man who
was shall we say unattractive was sitting by the side of the pool
for hours watching women going to and from the pool.  I guess the
common term for his activity would be "ogling."  And one woman who
was--I suppose the polite term would be "oglable"--was getting
tired of being stared at.  Her swimsuit was on the skimpy side.
She tried some counter strategies like giving the man obviously
angry looks.  She tried disrespectful looks.  The man seemed
impervious to this sort of countering gestures.

Eventually the woman decided that stronger action was needed.  She
went to the manager of the pool and complained that a man kept
staring at her.  The manager told the woman to come with him and he
went down to confront the man.  He was hoping that simply telling
the man to stop would be sufficient.  It was not.  The sleaze ball
said he had a right look at anything he wanted to in a public
place.  The woman responded with, "And what about my right not to
be stared at?"  Both sides were using their rights in their

What is a "right"?  It is a permission to do some thing without
needing further permission of anyone else to do it.  Rights are an
absolute.  If you have a right to take some action--and it is a
real right--permission of anyone else to do or not to do that thing
is an irrelevancy.  It is a non-revocable option.

Now my natural sympathies are with the female.  She started just
minding her own business.  I agree with her up to a point.
However, I think she goes a little too far when she claims that she
has a right not to be stared at.  A right is a fairly serious
thing.  One should not be able to just invent a right when it is
convenient.  What she is really saying is not that she has a right
not to be stared at, but simply a feeling that she should not be
inconvenienced for just minding her own business.

Even there she is not irreproachable.  Generally if a woman wears a
swimsuit that is skimpy, it is not to make swimming more
convenient.  If her swimsuit is attractive, she is anxious to
attract the attention of the opposite sex.  She has put out a very
non-specific bait and is angry not that it was abused by a male,
but that it had attracted the wrong male and his persistence is
spoiling her day.

Now, the police could get involved in a case of stalking and
harassment.  But it seems to me that there must be more to stalking
and more to harassing than just staring.  One has to move around to
stalk (unless we are talking about cyber-stalking).  And harassment
has to mean more than must sitting in one place and silently
staring.  But the article said nothing about the man moving around.
He was just persistently looking at a sight that was
unintentionally being presented to him while it was being presented
to others.

In the comment section someone labeled the incident as "stare
rape."  So we have people now only inventing new rights that they
expect to be accorded to themselves, others are even inventing new
kinds of rape.

But what I think we have here is a case where claimed rights are
being coined without being consistent.  I think that anyone born
with eyes should be able to look around them and see what is there.
I think the woman in the story needs should accept that her
dressing that way has consequences and she cannot expect that the
system will protect her from every uncomfortable situation her own
actions put her in.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Global Climate Change (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

When people argue about global climate change, it is important to
pin down what they are arguing.  The choices would seem to be:

- They don't believe that significant global climate change is
- They believe that significant global climate change is occurring,
but that it is not caused primarily by humans.
- They believe that significant global climate change is occurring
and that it is caused primarily by humans, but that there is
nothing we can do about it.
- They believe that significant global climate change is occurring,
that it is caused primarily by humans, and that there is something
we can do about it, but it is not worth the cost.
- They believe that significant global climate change is occurring,
that it is caused primarily by humans, that there is something we
can do about it, and that it is worth the cost.

Have I missed any?  [-ecl]

Mark responds:

The movie VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, was about global climate
change not caused by humans, but there was something that could be
done about it.   This is not denying that it was a very silly film.
I am not arguing that.  There are probably other combinations if
you think about it.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: UNDOCUMENTED EXECUTIVE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Through a comedy of coincidences, mistakes, and bluffing
an incompetent Mexican immigrant laborer suddenly finds himself the
chief accountant for an investment company.  He has to bluff his
way with the help of an ambitious assistant who wants his new job.
The dialog and a few of the situations created are genuinely funny.
But the characters are mostly cliched and one-dimensional.
Writer/producer/editor Brian Kosisky, who has directed only
documentaries previously, directs his own narrative film.
Considering the controversial subject matter, the film could have
been a little more original and ambitious.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to
+4) or 6/10

A Mexican laborer, Jesus "Jaqi" Gutierrez (played by Tony Guerrero)
illegally enters the United States hoping to find work.  Find it he
does as a series of errors gets him interviewing not for a building
painting job but as the financial comptroller of Truvestech, an
investment firm.  He is in a complex job that he has absolutely no
training for.  His only hope is bluffing his way along shielded by
other people's misunderstandings.  As a stroke of unexpected luck
his is given as an assistant, Anita Vasquez (Melissa Ponzio), who
can do the job of comptroller and had expected to get his job for
herself.  She decides to help Jaqi pull off his bluff.

Well, let me get the bad news out of the way first.  This is a
comedy of misunderstandings and errors.  There is no shortage of
those.  They go back to William Shakespeare.  But Shakespeare did a
lot more to characterize the people on the stage.  Pretty much
everybody in the film is a stereotype.  The characters are all
familiar and the plot is just as familiar.  Naturally this part of
the company is run by two older white males who are, of course
racist, sexist, dishonest, and who would cheat anybody who comes
into their grasp.  None of this is innovative filmmaking.  The
writer/director is Brian Kosisky whose previous work is in
documentaries.  Kosisky should have been able to put a little bite
in this film and give it something to say without damaging the
comic content.

At the same time the film is telling its comic story it could have
been showing a little more deeply the problems of illegal
immigrants in this country.  We see Jaqi's sister scrubbing floors
while her employers accuse her of theft and suffix every noun with
"o" to sound Spanish.  There is no denying that this film is
successful in being an amusing comedy striving only to entertain.
But the characters could have been a little deeper and the plot did
not have to be quite so predictable.  This film could have
delivered its comic payload and still could have the viewer with
something to think about.  It may at first seem a little racist how
silly-stupid Jaqi is as the immigrant in the early parts, but on
second consideration he is probably no worse than Jerry Lewis was
in his early films.

For a film with a familiar plot, UNDOCUMENTED EXECUTIVE does manage
to pull off a few laughs.  And as Edmund Kean said, comedy is hard.
The film will not be a memorable one but it is amusing for 90
minutes.  Still as a premier film from a documentary maker, I rate
it high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.  The film will be
available on iTunes starting March 30.

Side note: Actor Guerrero is himself an illegal alien fighting
deportation.  In 2012 he was ordered deported.  He was getting the
deportation postponed a year at a time year by year.  Meanwhile the
President's executive order has given him a reprieve, at least
temporarily.  But in the current political climate that order may
not hold.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE GIRL IS IN TROUBLE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE:  The title tells us that Swedish femme fatale Signe is in
trouble, and in trouble she certainly is.  She has witnessed a man
being killed and now is on the run.  The closest friend she can
contact is the dude she met at a party five days earlier and has
ignored since.  She has seen a crime but does not know who might be
stalking her.  Director Julius Onah gives us a crime story that
pays homage to film noir thrillers, but he also works in a few
light touches along with the grim.  The story is not profound and
there are not a lot of puzzle pieces to put together, but it holds
the viewer's attention and keeps him anxious to work out the
mystery.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

August (played by Christopher Short) is an immigrant from Nigeria
trying unsuccessfully to make it as a disk jockey in New York City.
He needs to find a job soon as he is flat broke and his landlord is
setting little ambushes for him.  The night we meet him he gets a
phone call at 2:36 AM.  Signe (Alicja Bachleda) is a girl he met at
a party, but then she never called him.  Now suddenly she wants
urgently to get together with him five days later and in the middle
of the night.  He remembers his horoscope said that change is
coming to his life, so he decides not to turn her down.  Common
sense tells him he is being played.  Common sense is right.  Soon
he is involved in a situation involving murder, drugs, a missing
drug dealer with an avenging brother, fraudulent investments,
prostitution, a phone video of a murder, and a mysterious Swedish
damsel in distress.

August is trying to make sense of all he finds out, making himself
an unlikely and uncomfortable detective.  Different people seem to
be stalking Signe including Angel (Wilmer Valderrama) who is
searching for his brother Jesus and a scary looking thug aptly
named Fixer played by Mike Starr.  Starr, a popular character
actor, has an imposing stature and is frequently used as a henchman
or a thug in films like MILLER'S CROSSING.  He is one of those
character actors the viewer recognizes immediately but never
remembers for long.

Bachleda is alluring as Signe, but her voice sounds nothing at all
like a Swedish accent.  Director Julius Onah seems to have been
anxious to work into the plot as many different ethnicities as he
could manage.  It goes with his short expository lump explaining a
short history of ethnic migrations to New York Cody.  Jesse Spencer
plays Nicholas, the spoiled son of a Bernie-Madoff-like investment
swindler.  Nicholas is supposed to be at least part Jewish, but has
no air of Jewishness about him except for him playing the violin.
And even that he does poorly.

THE GIRL IS IN TROUBLE is a spiritual descendent of film noir style
films.  But at times it departs from its serious style for a few
moments of amusement when the director's tongue is planted firmly
in his cheek.  Early on it introduces a large number of characters
who may partake of the plot, but the narrator reassures the
audience that this one and that one the viewer need not remember.
Onah digresses into a short exposition on when various ethnic
groups arrived in New York--again not really necessary for the
plot.  He also seems to have some fun jumping the narrative forward
and backward in time.

It is nice to know that some vestige of film noir is not dead, and
even in the 21st century there are still running around femme
fatales waiting to seduce and double cross you.  I rate THE GIRL IS
IN TROUBLE a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



FUTURE OF OUR PLANET by Nancy Abrams (published March 10, 2015,
Beacon Press, 200pp, ISBN 978-0-807-07339-1) (book review by Leland
R. Beaumont)

This is one of the most intriguing books I have read in some time.
It shows us a way forward toward a coherence that transcends the
divisive religious doctrines that deny the well-established truths
of the universe and the sterile scientific models that ignore or
dismiss the power of spirituality.

Throughout history concepts of God have evolved to explain the
workings of the universe as it is best understood.  Historically
theologians did their best to make their image of God consistent
with the universe as they understood it to be.  Today our
understanding of the universe has advanced far beyond what the gods
of traditional religions explain.  These obsolete gods are holding
people back.  This book proposes a concept of god that is up-to-
date with our present understanding of the universe.

The book emerges from a dilemma faced by the author.  Because her
husband is Joel Primack, a prominent physicist who studies the
origins of the universe, she is conversant with the most up-to-date
research describing the origins of the universe and its composition
including dark energy and dark matter.  Based on her husband's
research, she has total confidence in the accuracy of these
scientific findings.  She lived as an atheist most of her life.
However, recently she has been able to recover from an addiction to
overeating using the spiritual approach of a twelve-step program.
She conceived of the higher power called for in the program as a
"loving but unbullsh*table witness to my thoughts."

She abandons the tired question "Does God Exist?" as a hopeless
distraction and instead pursues the question "Could anything
actually exist in the universe, as science understands it, that is
worthy of being called God?" The price of a real God is that we
have to consciously let go of what makes it unreal.

Rejecting intelligence, tool-making, and language as the defining
characteristic of humans, she proposes that humans are unique
because we aspire to something more.  After illustrating the
concept of emergence she presents the core thesis of the book: God
is endlessly emerging from the staggering complexity of all
humanity's aspirations across time.  God is all that drives us
forward toward what we can be and what we want to be.

Chapters 4-6 making up part II of the book are somewhat contrived.
Here she attempts to accommodate spirituality, prayer, and
afterlife within her reality-based concept of God.  These ideas are
thought-provoking and worthy of more discussion, but not yet
settled in my mind.

In Chapter 7 she gives practical suggestions for renewing and
reinventing religion.  After describing actions to bring religion
into harmony with reality, she identifies three sacred goals: 1) to
protect our extraordinary jewel of a planet, 2) to do our best for
future generations, and 3) to identify with humanity's story.

Chapter 8 outlines a "Planetary Morality." Here she considers the
essential question: "How can we individually expand our moral sense
to care about our collective effects at size scales and timescales
we are just beginning to grasp?"  She presents eight high-level
principles for good living informed from a global perspective.

This book is both poetic and scientific.  Within a rigorous
scientific framework she passionately discusses spirituality,
prayer, love, identity, common bonds, heaven, and hell.  "For the
first time we can have a coherent picture of reality that meets our
highest scientific standards, reveals unexplored terrain in
ourselves, has a meaningful place for an awesome God, and frees our
spirits to strike out with fervor-- and not a moment too soon."

Read this important and thought-provoking book.  It is boldly
conceived, well written, clearly argued, and backed by reliable
evidence.  [-lrb]


TOPIC: Politics (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

[The opinions expressed here are those of the author.  For example
I do not believe that a property right protects the practice of
putting a harmful substance like cigarette smoke into the air of a
non-smoker.  -mrl]

In response to Mark's comments on politics in the 02/06/15 issue of
the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

That was a valuable lesson you learned about democracy.  Republics,
with proper respect for Natural Rights, are much better--after all
a democracy legally killed Socrates.

Yet, unless lawmakers have a proper respect for (or knowledge of or
understanding of) Natural Rights, they all too often subject us to
well-intentioned, fashionable, and illegitimate restrictions on
those rights.  A relatively trivial example is the prohibition
against smoking in bars and restaurants, which by any rational
standard is a gross violation of property rights.

There are many "justifications" and rationales to support such a
prohibition--none of which trump the owner's prerogatives to
regulate smoking within his establishment as he sees fit.  One such
"justification" is the "public interest".

This rests on the confused notion that the owner's patrons are "the
public".  In fact they are individual sovereigns (another of the
Natural Rights alluded to earlier) who voluntarily occupy the space
owned by the owner--a sovereign in his own right--who permits such
occupation as another fundamental right.

A stranger, who walks into a bar, is one of "the public" in the
broad sense of "the community".  However in the narrower sense--the
one that counts in policy/lawmaking--a bar or restaurant is
*private*.  The difference is easy to discern: which part of the
gun do you see when considering the flow of the taxes, levies,
tolls, fees, excises, tariffs?

If you see the barrel, then taxes are extracted and your
institution is private.

If you hold the gun, then taxes come in, and the institution is
public (as in city hall, the DMV, the courts, or any of the many
tax-financed spaces that grace our lives).

I'd assert that smoking prohibitions in private establishments
violate the peaceful assembly codified in our First Amendment,
which reads in whole:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress
of grievances."

and excerpted thus:

"Congress shall make no law respecting ... the right of the people
peaceably to assemble".

That so many lawmakers fail to appreciate the public/private
distinction and the spirit of peaceful assembly is perhaps one
widespread failure of public (that word again) education--but
that's a topic for another day.  [-js]


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

I have been reading more of the BFI booklets on film, and have come
to the conclusion that the first one I read (CAT PEOPLE by Kim
Newman, reviewed in the 10/10/14 issue of the MT VOID) may be the
best, at least for my purposes.  Certainly the last two had some
surprising errors.

In THE SEVEN SAMURAI by Joan Mellen (ISBN 978-0-85170-915-X), the
author writes, "The coins which Katsushiro rains down upon the rice
grains are an application of Eisenstein's synaesthesia, the
substitution for the whole."  No, that's synecdoche; synaesthesia
is "the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or
part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the
body."  (Frankly, I do not think either term describes what is
happening; it is more than the coins make explicit the high value
of the few grains of rice to the hungry villagers.)

And in THE TERMINATOR by Sean French (ISBN 978-0-85170-533-8),
French applies what must be now considered an outdated test.
Claiming that perhaps THE TERMINATOR has achieved classic status
"by outliving its decade, if not its century" (Samuel Johnson's
criterion), French writes, "This 1984 film was considered worthy of
a sequel after a gap of no less than seven years.  As I write, in
early 1996, twelve years after its opening, you can still buy it on
video.  What greater demonstration of longevity could be required?"
Well, these days you can buy just about *anything* on video, so
that really does not count for much.

French also claims Karloff played "endless recyclings of the
Frankenstein monster."  Actually, Karloff played the monster only
three times--in the first three Universal films (FRANKENSTEIN

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND by Fyodor Dostoevsky (ISBN 978-0-486-27053-
1) was written in 1864.  I mention this because early on, the
narrator writes, "I did not know how to become anything: neither
spiteful nor kind, neither a rascal nor an honest man, neither a
hero nor an insect.  ... I want now to tell you ... why I could not
even become an insect.  I tell you solemnly, that I have many times
tried to become an insect."  If you did not know that Franz Kafka
wrote THE METAMORPHOSIS in 1915, fifty years after NOTES FROM
UNDERGROUND, you might think that Dostoevsky was inspired by Kafka
when, if anything, it was the other way around.  Such is the power
that Kafka had that he made the trope distinctively his.

Dostoevsky (in the person of the narrator) claims, "The enjoyment
of the sufferer finds expression in those moans; if he did not feel
enjoyment in them he would not moan."  I think Dostoevsky was not
as much a behavioral psychologist as he thought.  I suspect
moaning, screaming, and crying out are reflexes that evolved when
if you were injured, the best thing to do was to cry out for help.

"In any case civilization has made mankind if not more blood-
thirsty, at least vilely, more loathsomely blood-thirsty.  In old
days he saw justice in bloodshed and with his conscience at peace
exterminated those he thought proper.  Now we do think bloodshed
abominable and yet we engage in this abomination, and with more
energy than ever.  Which is worse?  Decide that for yourselves."
It is a hundred and fifty years later and one suspects Dostoevsky
would not have changed his opinion much.

"What has made them conceive that man must want a rationally
advantageous choice?  What man wants is simply *independent*
choice, whatever that independence may cost and wherever it may
lead.  ... And in particular it may be more advantageous than any
advantage even when it does us obvious harm, and contradicts the
soundest conclusions of our reason--for in any circumstances it
preserves for us what is most precious and most important--that is,
our personality, our individuality."

Or more concisely, one is forced to believe in free will.  (Or, as
the old joke continues, one chooses to believe in determinism.)

"May it not be that he loves chaos and destruction ... because he
is instinctively afraid of attaining his object and completing the
edifice he is constructing?"  I would not say I love chaos and
destruction, but I do tend to put off finalizing projects--wrapping
a gift, sealing an envelope, etc.--until almost the last minute.  I
don't have this problem with reversible actions; for example, I
have no problem emptying the dishwasher and putting all the dishes
away.  But when the step is "irreversible", something kicks in.

I cannot say I recommend NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND--it is far too
bleak and downbeat to recommend.  (I read it because there was a
film made of it that seemed to be considered well-done, and I
figured I should read the book before seeing the movie.)

Major and John S. Major (ISBN 978-0*345-43994-9) with the idea of
getting a lot of ideas for our book discussion group.  Our group,
you see, has a 300-page limit on books, so I figured everything
here would qualify.  Well, a closer examination indicates that
there are probably a few that exceed that limit.  The first one I
checked was THE HOBBIT and that was 287 pages, so I suspect there
must be a few that will be too long.  And even the authors says
that "sometimes ... perhaps the evening will last a little beyond
your normal bedtime..."  Still, out of a hundred suggestions there
must be quite a few that qualify.  Then the only problem is whether
they are available at the library.  Some are classics, but that
does not necessarily mean much--recently Mark discovered that our
library did not have a paper copy of THE MOON AND SIXPENCE by
Somerset Maugham, only an e-book.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The axiom of choice is necessary to select a set
           from an infinite number of socks, but not an
           infinite number of shoes.
                                           --Bertrand Russell