Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/06/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 19, Whole Number 1883

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Ukraine and Darth Vader
        Air New Zealand Runs Rings Around the Competition
                (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Fundamentals (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Spot Removing (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Candidates (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        BONE TOMAHAWK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        We Are All Science Fiction Fans (comments by Dale L. Skran)
        Lofgeornost (letter of comment by Fred Lerner)
        THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Douglas Fairbanks, and Silent Films
                (letters of comment by Kip Williams, Gary McGath,
                Alan Woodford, Paul Dormer, and Keith F. Lynch)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Ukraine and Darth Vader

"A statue of Vladimir Lenin in the Ukrainian city of Odessa has
been given a sci-fi twist--by being transformed into Darth Vader."

And from last year:

"Sixteen men named Darth Vader have registered to run in Ukraine's
parliamentary elections."


TOPIC: Air New Zealand Runs Rings Around the Competition (comments
by Mark R. Leeper)

When it comes to getting people to pay attention during the safety
instructions, Air New Zealand seems to have found a way.  (But I
wonder how many people really are paying attention and how many are
just enjoying the scenery.)



TOPIC: Fundamentals (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I was watching a documentary about Britain's National Gallery.  In
one segment the staff is discussing whether it is good or bad for
the museum that the finish line for an annual running marathon
should be in front of the National Gallery.  The issue ended in
real disagreement among the staff.

It occurred to me that we have human institutions in a natural
setting.  Everything in the natural setting, if examined closely
enough, comes down to mathematics.  All human institutions,
examined closely enough, come down to politics.  If you are
interested in sound or the orbits of planets, you have to
understand mathematics.  If you want to show people the beauty of
art paintings, you eventually have to get involved in politics.


TOPIC: Spot Removing (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Well, there is bad news and there is good news.  Don't worry.  The
bad news is bad, but it is not something you have to worry about
really soon.  In fact, if you just forget the bad stuff you can
live perfectly happily for the rest of your life and never think
about this negative tiding again.  It is involved in astronomy and
astronomical bad news tends to not greatly afflict or affect our
lives.  It is as if I told you that the sun has just another five
billion years to live.  Then it will swell up and will radiate less
heat and become a red giant.  I will not mourn the old sun because
I will not be around to mourn.

But there are people who do take personally astronomical news such
as that Pluto no longer qualifies as a planet.  Well, it really
never did.  And they will feel a genuine sense of loss.  This is
that sort of bad news.  It deals with another icon of the solar
system.  It even occurs in a peaceful place in the solar system.
It is happening on one of the more placid planets.  Jupiter is
pretty when looked at close up but you see it has what looks like
stripes with spinning vortices in the gas.  And it is one such
vortex that is Jupiter's biggest claim to being endearing.  That is
of course the huge rid spot that is the center of what is
essentially a hurricane.  It turns out the giant red spot is sick.
Or looked at another way Jupiter is showing signs of getting

Since the 1930s we have known that the red spot on Jupiter is
shrinking.  About when H. G. Wells was writing about Mars the red
spot was measured at about 25,500 miles across.  That must have
been something.  Would you believe that it is now only about 10,250
miles across?  That would cover something like 1/6 the size it used
to be.  5/6 is gone.  It probably will not happen in your lifetime
or mine, but the storm may be getting ready to blow itself out
entirely.  Jupiter's biggest excitement may die out before it
really properly gets started.

What is going to happen to Jupiter if the storm dies?  The planet
will lose a lot of its allure.  It is just going to become one
enormous Neptune.  No spark of appeal there at all.  Jupiter is as
massive as 18.5 Neptunes, but what does it offer astrophiles?  Not
much pizzazz.  Without the red spot who will get excited about

Well, you could make a case for it.  Jupiter has about 5/7 the mass
of the known planets of the solar planets.  But how do you
glamorize Jupiter with that?  I mean it is one thing to see a photo
of Jupiter and see this giant red zit on its chin.  But what will
happen if it clears up?  Will people look at Jupiter and say, boy,
doesn't that look massive?  You can't tell from a photo how much
mass is there.  Jupiter also spins faster than any other planet in
our solar system.  One Jupiter days is about ten of our hours.  But
that is not all that photogenic either.

Even the Moon you can glamorize by showing footprints on the
surface.  I don't even know what happens to you if you try to walk
on Jupiter (or any gas giant).  You probably crush before you find
anything solid to stand on.  It makes you wonder how do you define
the diameter of Jupiter.  It is the length of a line segment that
goes from where to where?

The red spot storm is shrinking, but the rate of shrinkage it now
appears is slowing down.  The size function may have a negative
first derivative, but it has a positive second derivative.  Perhaps
we are just observing the red spot between the acts.  The storm may
be picking up again.  Or perhaps nobody living now will ever know.
We are such puny and ephemeral creatures.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Candidates (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

With the Presidential election just about a year off, I got to
thinking about the candidates.

It used to be that I looked for a candidate with whose positions I
could agree.  Now II look for a candidate who actually engages with
reality, and who does not deny facts.

What do I mean by this?  Whether "trickle-down" economics works or
whether one is pro-choice or pro-life is a position.  That gravity
exists and that the earth is round are facts.

So rather than try to match up positions, I am looking for a
candidate who accepts:
- that climate change is real, and primarily caused by humans
- that the earth is billions of years old
- that life on earth has evolved from lower forms
- that President Obama was born in Hawai'i
- that vaccines do not cause autism, but do prevent deadly diseases
- that women can get pregnant by being raped

Engaging with reality also means not promising the patently
impossible.  It is not possible to find and deport 11 million
aliens in a year.  It is not possible to end illegal immigration.

I also want candidates who recognize what the Constitution says.
They may disagree with it and call for an amendment to change it,
but they should at least acknowledge what it currently says, and
that includes birthright citizenship, no establishment of religion,
and no religious test for office.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: BONE TOMAHAWK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Cowboys and troglodytes make for an unusual combination.
This is a Western that is also a comedy until the good humor runs
out and what is left turns into a grim horror film.  Against a
background of the American Southwest we have a story of a kidnapped
woman and a posse that goes off to try to rescue her and finds it a
deadly matter.  The film is surprisingly entertaining, featuring
Kurt Russell and Richard Jenkins.  S. Craig Zahler writes and
directs a film that is at times warm and at times graphically
violent.  Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

Spoiler warning: This review contains potential minor spoilers.

One popular type of film is the road picture.  Two or more people
traveling the road together learn about each other and see each
other under stress.  The same sort of arrangement also happens in
Westerns, but for the fact that they frequently do not have roads.
I suppose they should be called "trail pictures."  TRUE GRIT or
LONESOME DOVE probably would qualify as trail films.  Usually these
films will have some comedy mixed in to develop the characters.
BONE TOMAHAWK is one of these and mixes in both comedy and horror
and does a decent job of each.  The horror is explicit and
harrowing.  Just seeing a Western is rare enough these days.  One
just has not gotten many horror Westerns since BILLY THE KID MEETS
DRACULA.  This film is one of the stranger westerns ever made.

Our story starts in Bright Hope, one of the flea specks of the
American West from the cowboy past.  It seems someone--nobody is
exactly sure who--raids the town and takes prisoners, including
Samantha O'Dwyer (played by Lili Simmons) wife of the Arthur
O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson).  Patrick is recovering from a broken leg
but insists on hobbling along to join the search for his wife.
Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell who seems to be reviving much of the
persona he created for Wyatt Earp in TOMBSTONE) organizes a posse
including what turns out to be a racist gunslinger (Matthew Fox)
and an over-the-hill deputy (Richard Jenkins).  Together they set
off to find the Indians or whatever it was that raided their town--
"Troglodytes," an Indian declares.

The film is 132 minutes long, which gives the men plenty of time on
the trail to get to know each other better.  Meanwhile Arthur (of
the broken leg), who was in no condition to walk at all much less
join a posse, shows incredible spirit agonizingly walking on a
broken leg to keep up with the rest of the posse.  They are chasing
people who seem to be local folklore who are suspected as being
total savages and cannibals.  Along the line there are incidents
that reflect on the local white men's relations with local Indians
and Mexicans.

The film features a throng of familiar, if mismatched, faces
including Sean Young, James Tolkan, David Arquette, Sid Haig, and
(of all people) Fred Melamed of A SERIOUS MAN.  This is the second
film written and the first one directed by S. Craig Zahler, who has
a whimsical touch for writing dialog even in unthinkable
circumstances.  While the last part of the film seems an odd match
for what comes before it, the talk remains strangely off-center and
going off in odd directions.

Many people who enjoy the first half of the film may be surprised
or even shocked to go where this film will take them.  It is almost
like it came from another film.  I rate BONE TOMAHAWK a low +2 on
the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: We Are All Science Fiction Fans (comments by Dale L. Skran)

We live increasingly in an SF world, where the once minority taste
of speculative fiction is mainstreamed.  The leading comedy, BIG
BANG THEORY, concerns a group of comic and media SF fans who are
also scientific geniuses. The current #1 movie is THE MARTIAN,
classic SF for certain.  TV is bloated with fantasy, SF, superhero,
horror, and techno-thriller themes.  And now it has come to this--
SCIENCE magazine, the leading United States scientific magazine,
and the flagship publication of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) has in the latest issue (30 October
2015) four pages devoted to reviewing not just the 2015 Hugo- and
Nebula-award-winning novels, but also all the nominees for Best
Novel for both awards.  At this point, we are all SF fans.  This
should come as no surprise, as the International Space Station just
celebrated fifteen years of continuous human presence in space. Ad
Astra.  [-dls]


TOPIC: Lofgeornost (letter of comment by Fred Lerner)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the Old English word
"lofgeornost" in the 10/30/15 issue of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner

Borges has it right. "Lofgeornost" means "most desirous of renown",
not "most deserving of renown", and any translator who takes it to
mean the latter reveals his misunderstanding of the Anglo-Saxon
ethos--which is why I've always maintained that one can judge a
translation of BEOWULF reasonably well by looking at how that final
word is rendered.  [-fl]

Evelyn responds:

Thanks--I suspected I would hear from you.  In fairness, I may have
misremembered at some point exactly what the definition was.


TOPIC: THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, Douglas Fairbanks, and Silent Films
(letters of comment by Kip Williams, Gary McGath, Alan Woodford,
Paul Dormer, and Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on THE THIEF OF BAGDAD in the
10/30/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I really wanted to like the silent THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD, but
Fairbanks's acting in it is more like voguing.  He is constantly
pulling happy faces (to say I AM HAPPY!) and miming so much that
it's really hard to believe he could successfully steal anything.

At one point, he SEES (and points with his arm, shoulder, and
latissimus dorsi) a PIE!  AHA!  It will TASTE GOOD (licks his lips)
in his TUMMY (which he rubs for us).  HA! HA! HA!

For, as the Prophet has written, enough is enough!  Fairbanks does
much better in other movies, so I'm inclined to think the director
figured nobody could read the title cards or something.  [-kw]

Mark responds:

I am not sure I would recognize voguing.  Fairbanks did sort of mug
for the camera, but that is somewhat in the silent acting style.
He is supposed to be a powerful character and his acting is large.
He never chuckles, but he does le out with a belly laugh that takes
his whole body.  That is just how Fairbanks plays him.

As an aside, the oldest film with the title THE THIEF OF BAGHDAD
was made in 1961.  That was one of the titles that IL LADRO DI
BAGDAD had for American release.  It seems that after that most
foreign productions used the spelling "Baghdad" and American
productions spell it "Bagdad".  [-mrl]

Kip replies:

There was naturalistic acting in many silents.  Playing for the
back rows was, I think, regarded as hokey even at the time.  Yes,
there was a bit more vestigial sign language going on in silents,
and trying to tell a story through face and gesture.  If you have
ever told someone to say a couple of sentences with their mouth
moving and no sound coming out, you will have seen them
overcompensate in a way that tells an observer that they aren't
making any sounds, whether they have an audio input or not.

I have seen silent movies.  I contend that, even in the context of
silent movies, that Fairbanks was overdoing it, laughing with his
head thrown back every time anything happened, and pushing his
miming so much--pointing, acting out what he is saying, leering--
one might suspect he had been told that there would be no
intertitles at all.  I've seen him do much better than that.  [-kw]

Mark answers:

I think Fairbanks intentionally played this role large.  How one
acts if mouthing dialog is irrelevant.  The films were silent; the
actors acting were not.  It would not work for long if the actors
were only mouthing their words.  Other actors needed to hear what
they were saying so they could react.  Yes, we call them "silent"
films.  But the actors spoke their lines and there were often even
musicians making music to set the tone of the scene for the actors.

Fairbanks's acting was an intentional decision as the best way to
play the character.  THE THIEF OF BAGDAD is one of just a handful
of silent films that have remained popular.  Audiences really like
it the way it was played.

What do you think of the Cowardly Lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ?  Should
that performance have been more restrained?  [-mrl]

Gary McGath writes:

I love silent movies when they come with live accompaniment.
Fortunately, due to one very active guy (Jeff Rapsis), there are
lots of them in my neighborhood.  [-gmg]

Alan Woodford replies:

We've seen a few presented like that, thinks like THE FOUR HORSEMEN
OF THE APOCALYPSE, with some guy named Valentino and a full
orchestra, at Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

Not only silent movies, although I will admit 2001 doesn't have
huge amounts of dialogue :-)  [-aw]

Paul Dormer adds:

I've seen Abel Gance's 1926 film NAPOLEON with a live orchestra
maybe a dozen times.  [-pd]

Keith Lynch writes:

I find silent movies difficult to follow.  Similarly with wordless
comic strips.  I'm sure this is because I'm verbally rather than
visually oriented.

There's nothing wrong with something being from another age or
meant for a different audience.  I enjoy books that are far older
than any silent movie.  [-kfl]


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

In FOUNDING BROTHERS by Joseph J. Ellis (ISBN 978-0-375-70525-3),
Ellis writes about people such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison,
and so on, but he writes not of the man but of the moment.  He does
not cover Washington's career except as it pertains to the moment:
Washington's "Farewell Address".  Jefferson is described only for
his role in the dinner meeting of Alexander Hamilton and James
Madison about the assumption of Revolutionary War debt by the
Federal government and the ultimate location of the nation's
capital.  (These seem unconnected but were both involved in the
"Compromise of 1790".)  Not surprisingly, Aaron Burr is covered
only for his part in the "Interview in Weehawken."  (Duels were
euphemistically called "interviews".)  The chapter about the duel
reads something like "CSI: Weehawken" in that it spends a lot of
time analyzing the evidence and testimony about the duel to
determine exactly what happened: who fired first, whether each of
them was actually attempting to hit the other, and so on.  This
is because after Burr and Hamilton were in position and started
counting (or whatever), everyone else either left or turned their
backs so that they could all truthfully say that they did not
witness any duel.

However, there is also an interconnectedness in people's lives.
Hamilton is a major player in several of the moments chosen, for
example, but discussion of him is confined to those events.

At one point, Ellis encapsulates one of the dilemmas of alternate
history: "Though we might wish otherwise, the history of what might
have been is usually not history at all, mixing together as it does
the messy tangle of past experience with the clairvoyant certainty
of our present preferences."

The chapter about a moment of abolitionist effort, is called "The
Silence" because for decades there was an agreement never to talk
in American politics directly about slavery (and naturally the
agreement was also unspoken).  One need only look at the oblique
references to slaves and slavery in the Constitution to see how
this worked.  At the time, Benjamin Franklin wrote (under the
pseudonym "Historicus", supposedly reporting something written by
Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, but it fact penned entirely by him) a speech
which took all of the arguments *for* slavery given by white
Southerners and with very few changes (e.g., the Koran for the
Bible) and explained why it was good and proper for Muslims to
enslave Christians and keep them enslaved in perpetuity.  Oddly,
this did not convince Southerners to change their minds.

(ISBN 978-0-87932-053-9) is proof that the more things change, the
more they remain the same.  Even when they are different, they are
part of a continuing trend.  For example, Thompson starts his
series of articles eleven months before the election and thinks
*that* is very early, yet we are having debates *fifteen* months
before the election.  I am sure that a graph of when campaigning
for a Presidential election started would show a monotonically
increasing function since campaigning began.

Some changes just make us smile, though.  Thompson expresses
outrage that he has to pay $1.50 an hour for parking in Washington,
DC, or that a club would charge $1.75 for drinks.

However, I gave up about halfway through--I found Thompson's style
very off-putting, and I also found his description of the political
process very depressing.  Probably accurate, but depressing.

SOBRENATURALES by Amado Nervo (ISBN 978-84-8211-246-6) is a
collection of fantasy stories by an author who is known for his
poetry even though his prose works outnumber his poems three-to-
one.  (One is reminded of Isaac Newton, who wrote much more about
alchemy than about what we consider science.)

Nervo lived from 1870 to 1919 and was the first Mexican science
fiction writer.  However, only one of his thirteen science fiction
works is available in book form in my library system, so I decided
to try this volume of some of his fantasy works instead, since it
does contain that one science fiction story.

(Two notes: Manuel Antonio de Rivas was a Franciscan friar who
wrote science fiction in Merida in the 18th century, but he was
Spanish, not Mexican in the way that appellation if used today.
And many of Nervo's science fiction works are available on-line,
because by now they are in public domain.)

SOBRENATURALES ("The Bride of Corinth and Other Stories of Angels
and Supernatural Beings") is a fifty-page book comprising an
introduction, ten stories, and a glossary.  The latter makes me
think this was aimed at what we would call a "young adult" (or
younger) audience.  (It is published by Letra Celeste-Minuscula,
which from the name one assumes specializes in these very short

The stories are actually fairly insubstantial, and seem more
focused on a "twist" ending than any depth of plot or even
characterization.  The title story ("La novia de corinto") is just
a variation on the urban legend of a visitation of a dead girl who
leaves a token to prove her presence.  In the song it is a sweater;
here it is a ring.

"El heroe" ("The Hero") is about a fearless soldier in World War I
who receives all sorts of commendations for heroism.  After he is
finally killed in battle, a letter from his wife is found in his
kit, telling him she does not love him, but loves another with all
her heart and soul.  Apparently, he enlisted the day after
receiving it, insisted upon being sent to the front lines, and was
just trying to commit suicide.

There is one story in this volume that J. Patrick Duffey in his
fiction: "El pais en que la lluvia era luminosa" ("The Country in
Which the Rain Was Luminous").  In some sense, it has a Wellsian
feel to it, but with more poetry than H. G. Wells included in his
stories, and less plot.  The luminosity is entirely scientific, due
to the same micro-organisms that create bioluminescent bays today.
(However, I cannot swear that it is possible to have these
organisms sucked up when the water they lived in evaporated, so
that they descended in the rain.)  But when Nervo says, "From the
thousand gargoyles of the Cathedral fell tenuous milky filaments,"
or, "The monstruous medieval [gargoyles], crouching in grotesque
postures, seemed to cry starry tears," one has to acknowledge that
Nervo is the poet that Wells is not.

I say that "El pais en que la lluvia era luminosa" has less plot
than an H. G. Wells story.  This is also true of "El obstaculo"
("The Obstacle"); in fact, "El obstaculo" has a very Borgesian feel
to it, reminding me of "Las ruinas circulares" ("The Circular
Ruins").  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Dachshunds are ideal dogs for small children, as they
           are already stretched and pulled to such a length that
           a child cannot do much harm one way or another.
                                  --Robert Benchley (1889 - 1945)