Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/22/15 -- Vol. 33, No. 47, Whole Number 1859

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Nobody There? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Annual Fight (s) with the Jaws of Death (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH (film review
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (comments by Charles S. Harris)
        Deux Chavaux (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
        This Week's Reading (THE ALTERNATIVE DETECTIVE and SKYLIGHT)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Nobody There? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Where I live I get a lot of phone calls in which there seems to be
nobody at the other end.  It is probably telemarketers who want to
register my phone as one that answers, but it could be obscene
phone calls from Marcel Marceau.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: My Annual Fight(s) with the Jaws of Death (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

This article is based on true events in the early part of 2015.
This is the part of the year I like least.  It is the early days of
winter so the days are short.  Nature is given over to cold and
dark.  Even as the days start getting a little longer the world
around me is getting colder.  The longer days give false hope.

But talking about that only makes things worse.  Not least among
the things I hate doing is finish up the financial matters of the
year's end.  We keep documents a certain number of years and then
destroy them.  While matter/energy can be neither created nor
destroyed, I do the best I can.  Financial papers can be destroyed
(mostly), but only at very high cost.

We have a nice cross-cut shredder.  It happens to be my least
favorite appliance in the house.  Compared to it, the can opener is
great.  But I won't go into that.  The shredder converts private
papers into strips a quarter of an inch by maybe two inches.  I
HATE the damn thing.  This year we had a four-inch high stack of
paper to dispose of.  Why was there so much?  Let's leave that
between me and the British Secret Service.

I want you to picture somebody using a paper shredder.  What does
it look like?  Some beautiful but dignified secretary, stylishly
dressed, drops a sheet of paper into a box and out the other end
drops strips of paper ready to be dumped on a Fifth Avenue parade.
All this under a warm sun someplace comparatively pleasant like
Tehran or Baghdad.

Would it help you to get a clearer picture if I told you that a
good eighty percent of the time I spend shredding paper is spent
trying to un-jam the machine.  Each year I come to the machine
saying this year would be different.  This year I will only feed
two or three sheets at a time.  This year I will not get chad all
over the carpet.  Yes I do.  The shredder supposedly can handle
eight sheets at a time.  That is intentionally misleading.  But the
shredder has a tractor drive that pulls the paper into the machine,
crumpling it as it goes.  Voila, the paper in its anxious jaws is
more than eight layers and the machine has a license to jam.  And
it uses that license frequently.

Now when you see that happen you get to use your most valuable tool
in the whole process, a pair of needle-nose pliers.  You have to
use them to perform dry dentistry on this creature.  That is
removing a lot of little tiny chunks of paper, picking the teeth of
the beast.

Let me tell you about the mouth of a shredder.  I call it a mouth
because it looks like the maw of some horrific sea beast with rows
of implacable steel teeth.  You go in with your pliers and start
picking at impacted wads of paper ground between the creature's
teeth.  When you remove a piece it tears leaving most behind.  If
you are lucky (and you almost never are) you have gotten out enough
that the opposing teeth can push the rest out.  There is only one
way to find out.  You withdraw your hands and tools from the
beast's mouth and plug the beast in.  (If you find it is already
plugged in you are living on borrowed time.)

Most likely you hear a humming sound.  That is not the sound you
were hoping for and it means you did not clear the teeth and the
beast is packing in bits of paper to heal the damage you did trying
to clear out bits of paper.  Sometimes the shredder will toy with
you emotions.  It will sit there quietly mimicking a fixed machine.
Sometimes it has cleared itself and it is ready to work.  More
often it is playing possum and scheming.  It has gone back for more
paper to add to the congestion.  Only rarely does it really clear
itself and it stares at you ready for work or more likely to
ensnare you once again into its own tangle.

No single strategy works to clear the jam.  A move that pull out
paper on one side may jam in paper on the other side.

I try to be very careful not to attempt dentistry on the beast
until the beast is unplugged.  I keep my hands off if the beast is
plugged in.  And the plug is very tight.  I could leave shredder
plugged into the power strip and just turn the strip off when I
want to try to clear the jam but sooner or later the shredder would
turn its own power on and then just sit there looking innocent like
something out of THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: With a staccato of visual images and strange ideas, George
Miller co-writes and directs the first new Mad Max film in thirty
years.  Tom Hardy replaces Mel Gibson in the title role as the
drifter who joins an armored gasoline convoy in the Australian
desert wasteland.  The action comes faster than the pace of a
videogame, though the plot advances only slowly.  What makes the
film work for me are the creative and amusing visual images, mostly
of armored fighting vehicles, and the kinky view of what a post-
holocaust world might be.  This film is a sort of action film
concentrate as envisioned by a surrealist.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to
+4) or 6/10

When the first STAR WARS film was released, it had a much faster
pace than virtually any films made previously.  The plots were less
complex than most films but the action and the visuals were
compelling.  This had the unfortunate effect that other filmmakers
felt they had to speed up their story telling and imitate the
successful formula they saw in STAR WARS.  Now George Miller is
trying to speed up the pace of a film again upping the ante by
making and telling what is really a minimal story with super-
charged action sequences.  It is as if Miller is trying to make an
entire film with the pace of a fast videogame.

Several years after the events of MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME,
society in the Australian Outback seems to be deteriorating even
faster.  Gangs and violent cults rule the Australian Outback.
Warlords run the more vicious gangs and control access to basic
commodities like water and gasoline.

Max (played by Tom Hardy) has been captured and is being held by
the War Boys--both a gang and a cult ruled by the masked Immortan
Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) who has a spectacular lair that would have
made Thulsa Doom weep with envy.  Knowing that Max's blood type
makes him a universal blood donor, a War Boy named Nux holds Max
captive to milk him of his blood.  Though a complex twist of fate
Max escapes only to end up in more trouble traveling with a big rig
owned driven by Imperator Furiosa, a woman whose left arm seems to
come and go.  Furiosa (played nearly unrecognizably by Charlize
Theron) is a gasoline transporter.  Right now the capable Furiosa
is carrying five women with her taking them to the safety of the
green places where she grew up.  They are Angharad, Capable,
Cheedo, the Dag, and Toast and look like they came from a Playboy
spread.  Somehow they seem to have access to an improbable source
of cosmetics.  Are you confused? Worry not.  All you have to
understand is that what a fight looks like rolling down a road.
Really a lot of these details and not essential, since the film is
mostly just one very long road chase.

The dialog is very, very sparse and is delivered indistinctly.  I
am told Miller is intending to export the film everywhere un-dubbed
and un-subtitled, as a dialog-optional film.  The visuals are
everything.  The action scenes will do almost all the talking.
Rather than thinking about dialog and plot, Miller seems to have
spent his effort and budget on images like war machines that may be
on the screen for just a flash.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is filled with unexpected visual ideas from the
mind of George Miller.  Where he shows his imagination the most is
with the chimerical fighting vehicles he creates, juxtaposing
familiar features in unfamiliar ways.  One such imaginative jump is
a car chassis welded on top of what looks like a WWI tank.  There
are a lot of off-color and bizarre ideas on the screen like the
milk farm and the chastity belts. (If you've seen the film you
understand.)  But since they are not discussed, the viewer has to
watch this film as closely as if it were a silent film.  Images go
by too fast to take in.  And it pays to see the film more than once
or to at least discuss the film after seeing it to get clear what
Miller has been showing us.

One wonders how this film with its complex and dangerous stunts
ever could have been made without killing multiple stunt people.
That is impressive and so is the complexity of the images that
Miller has assembled.  And one can look at any quarter of the
screen and see more action and more amusing detail than is in any
three other action films this summer, but you have to look quick.
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is an exhilarating non-stop ride through a
barren land and a fertile imagination.  But the film still needs
work on its characters and development of its plot  I rate MAX MAX:
FURY ROAD a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:




CAPSULE: At the height of the London Blitz a class of children are
evacuated from the city and boarded at Eel Marsh house.  Big
mistake.  The house has a vengeful ghost who has an angry vendetta
against other people's children.  The film is very dark, but the
story is very slow and padded out with people's suspenseful
wanderings around in the dark house.  As a very un-Hammer-like
Hammer Film this film is very slow to develop and besides some
cheap jump scenes is only mildly thrilling and not very scary at
all.  Visually it is nice, but it offers very little new.  Rating:
low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10

For the benefit of those who came in late, Hammer Films is back, at
least in name.  Hammer was the low-budget but prestigious horror
film factory mostly of the late 1950s to the early 1970s.  In name
and somewhat in spirit it has been resurrected.  Now the original
Hammer did absolutely no ghost stories for the theatrical screen.
However, the new Hammer did a strong atmospheric adaptation of the
novel THE WOMAN IN BLACK by Susan Hill.  There was a previous film
version that ran on television, but Hammer is neither adverse to
remakes nor sequels if the new story contained enough that was new.

In this sequel to THE WOMAN IN BLACK London is being shaken and
bombarded to pieces by the Germans in the Blitz.  Many of the
besieged Brits reluctantly agree to have their children taken away
from them temporarily and moved out of harm's way.  Schoolteacher
Eve Parkins (played by Phoebe Fox) comes with her school's
headmistress to take a few dozen children somewhere that was not
being bombed.  Eve has special feelings for the newly orphaned
child Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) who is now mute.  They will be
taken to Eel Marsh House in the charmingly morbid town of Crythin
Gifford. (Uh-oh!  Isn't that the house haunted by a ghost who wants
to kill children?  See THE WOMAN IN BLACK.)

Sadly director Tom Harper's sequel to the Hammer version of THE
WOMAN IN BLACK, delivers not enough of what it delivers not enough
of and too much of what it delivers too much of.  There is a lot of
wandering around in the dark (in scenes sometimes hard to make
out).  There are lot of little shocks that make the viewer jump and
expect that something important has just happened.  And a moment
later, with a sigh of relief we realize that nothing scary
happened, and with another sigh that the plot did not even advance.
This is an exceptionally slow ghost story.  We see what might have
been one or two flashes of the eponymous ghost, but we are not even
sure of what we have seen.  Then we return to wandering around in
the dark.  There may be noises in the night--and the film seems to
take place mostly in the night, in the dark--but there is nothing
for the eye to rest upon so one can say the ghost has been sighted.
If you want to see what the ghost looks like, look at the film
poster instead of the movie screen.  We do get our fill of ominous
antique toys and dolls cluttering up the house.  (Somehow it does
not matter how kid-friendly a Victorian vintage doll was intended;
it still gives one the heebie-jeebies.  I think a whole generation
of little girls must have grown up warped by the experience of
mothering these disturbing-looking dolls.)

A good scary ghost story needs both story and shocks.  This film is
not without story, but the story is just a whiff.  Much of the
screen time spent with someone wandering around a haunted house in
near dark waiting for something to jump out.  And we see little of
the ghost.  In fact, except for the ghost's penchant for preying on
children there is not much reason why this story is a sequel to its
predecessor.  This is a ghost story that is short on both ghost and
story.  I rate THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH a low +1 on the
-4 to +4 scale or 5/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (comments by Charles S. Harris)

[Member Charles Harris sent this as as part of an announcement of a
book and film discussion meeting.  That discussion is over, but I
thought the announcement was worth reading by itself.  You can even
follow some of the links.  -mrl]

Meteorites impact Woking, England, and Linda Rosa, California, and
right nearby in Grovers Mill, NJ.  But they'e not really
meteorites.  They're spaceships with a payload of creepy Martians
and their unstoppable war machines.

Will humankind be totally obliterated (or perhaps devoured)?

Or will we be granted a reprieve by a deus ex biota--"the humblest
things that God in his wisdom has put upon the earth," as H. G.
Wells put it?

H.G. Wells' novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS was published in 1897.
Forty years later it was adapted for radio:

With Orson Welles as director and narrator, the realistic news
bulletins provoked widespread panic and even suicides.  Or maybe

Another fifteen years later the 1953 movie arrived.  Its state-of-
the-art pre-CGI special effects wowed audiences. As a recent
reviewer put it, "[George] Pal's Oscar-winning camera trickery is
awesome to behold".  Pal laid out a detailed explanation in

If the flying war machines look familiar (with their re-imagined
tripod supports), it's because the same basic design was featured

War of the Worlds sculpture in Woking, UK:

War of the Worlds monument in Grovers Mill, NJ:

Martian tripod war machine in Holmdel, NJ (officially, it's
supposed to represent a gigantic transistor, but H.G. Wells fans
know better):


Evelyn adds:

You can read about the "War of the Worlds" tour of New Jersey that
Mark and I took on the 75th anniversary of the Welles broadcast at  It also
has a pointer to a much more high-resolution, but very slow-
loading, picture of the monument in Grover's Mill.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Deux Chavaux (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)

In response to Evelyn's review of THE STONE RAFT in the 05/15/215
issue of the MT VOID, Charles Harris writes:

Please explain: "Or another, this a mathematical/grammatical
conundrum: '... there are lots of Deux Chavaux on the road, the
expression is awkward but there is no mathematical
contradiction.'"  [-csh]

Evelyn responds:

Sorry for the confusion.  "Deux Chavaux" is the nickname for a
Citroen 2CV car and means "two horses" or two horsepower.  So while
saying "there are lots of two horses on the road" would be
mathematically incorrect--there are either two horses or lots of
horses (though I suppose you could have lots of pairs of horses)--
saying "there are lots of Deux Chavaux on the road" is no different
than saying "there are lots of Toyotas on the road."  [-ecl]


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

THE ALTERNATIVE DETECTIVE by Robert Sheckley (ISBN 978-0-312-85381-
5) is a humorous hard-boiled detective story, not a science fiction
or fantasy novel.  The "alternative" aspect of Hob Draconian's
detective agency is not that it deals with werewolves (though
clearly his name is supposed to evoke the supernatural), or even
with alternate histories, but that it works mostly with people who
are not in the mainstream of life.  Hob's clients are not rich
businessmen or movie stars, but people living at the edges of
society.  Rachel Starr is looking for her boyfriend, who played in
a rock band and had taken a job with a very avant-garde film
director.  And Hob's nephew wants him to collect payment for a half
dozen sailboards he sold to someone in Spain.  Not exactly General
Sternwood or Derace Kingsley--and although Sam Spade is explicitly
mentioned, the sub-genre is more Philip Marlowe, with Istanbul as
Bay City.

SKYLIGHT by Jose Saramago (translated by Margaret Jull Costa) (ISBN
978-0-544-09002-6) was Saramago's first novel, written in 1953, but
when he sent it to a publisher, the publisher misplaced the
manuscript and never responded to Saramago.  Saramago was so
discouraged by this apparent disregard that he did not write
anything for another twenty years.  Even when it was re-discovered,
after Saramago had become successful. Saramago insisted that it not
be published until after his death.

One reason for the (implicit) rejection might have been the big
cast of characters (particularly in a 300-page book).  There is the
cobbler Silvestre, his wife Mariana, and their lodger Abel; the
four women upstairs who have come down in the world (Aunt Amelia,
Candida, and Candida's daughters Isaura and Adriana), Justina and
her husband Caetano; Rosalia, Anselmo, and their daughter Maria
Claudia; Carmen, Emilio, and their son Henriquinho; and Lidia (an
ex-prostitute and now the mistress of a rich businessman).

It also does not have a strong premise the way his later novels do.
There is no plague of blindness, Iberia does not break loose and
drift westward, the main character does not have a mysterious
double, Death does not take a holiday, and no one is visited by the
ghost of his dead author.  (Given the premises of Saramago's other
novels, I find it ironic that the dust jacket copy describes him as
"the master of the quotidian.")

In the end, this is a realist novel somewhat overloaded with
characters and not (in my opinion) representative of his later
work.  Probably of interest to Saramago completists only.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           All science requires mathematics.  The knowledge
           of mathematical things is almost innate in us.
           This is the easiest of sciences, a fact which is
           obvious in that no one's brain rejects it;
           for laymen and people who are utterly illiterate
           know how to count and reckon.
                                           --Roger Bacon