Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/13/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 20, Whole Number 1884

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

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

        23 and Me (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Poetry as Raw Bread Dough (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Comments on the Film WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        SPECTRE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        WOMAN IN GOLD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Candidates (letter of comment by Gregory Frederick)
        Air New Zealand Safety Videos (letter of comment
                by Paul Dormer)
        The Shape of the Earth (letter of comment by Philip Chee)
        This Week's Reading (THE ANATOMY OF REVOLUTION, "The Ballad
                of Lost C'Mell", and "The Marching Morons")
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: 23 and Me (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

You may have seen 23andMe, the genetic testing kit that looks at
your DNA genome and reports on possible genetic diseases.

THE SCIENTIST has details at

The 23 stands for 23 chromosomes in most human DNA.  But I went for
the special kit.  It goes to 24.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Poetry as Raw Bread Dough (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I occasionally listen to an NPR radio program called "Wait.  Wait.
Don't Tell Me."  In it the contestant has to complete a limerick by
telling what the final word is.  I find this game very easy to
play.  Usually I can make out what the final word has to be even if
I know nothing of the news story.  Perhaps you have had the same
experience.  You know it is a word that rhymes with the last word
of each of the first two lines.  The meter matches the rest of the
limerick.  There are not a lot of words that could possibly work as
the final word.  The poem itself (such as it is) hints at what the
final word probably is.  Public Radio probably wants to embarrass
contestants as little as possible so they let the predictable rules
of limericks make the game easy.

Why does a poet go through the effort to deliver a message
formatted into poetic form?  I used to think that poetry was hard
to read.  Certainly one gets that impression from Shakespeare.  I
would explain it that poetic form is actually supposed to make the
words easier to understand.  What makes Shakespeare hard to read is
often the vocabulary he uses.  And a lot of the words he uses are
invented and coined for the occasion.  Speaking in verse is
actually making the words a little easier to understand.

What is it that poetry actually does?  I think the answer is in
bread pans.  Suppose you are on an assembly line getting bread
dough, putting the dough in pans and putting them in an oven.  The
bread comes to you in small or large globs.  You would certainly
have a hard time taking this dough and forming it into equal loaves
and putting them in the oven.  Instead you have the dough coming a
line of five identical bread globs, each of the same size.  You
know how to process the dough in one bread pan.  It makes your job
a lot easier.  If you know the poem is coming at you in iambic
meters you know it is signaling how it is coming.  You might even
guess what the last word of a line is by what does it rhyme with.
Like I say I often find with limericks I can hear the first four
lines of the verse and I can figure out what the fifth line will
be.  I certainly can only very rarely do that in plain flat prose.
But going into that fifth line I know what its meter will be and
that the fifth line will rhyme with the first and second line.

In normal speech you do not know what someone speaking to you is
going to be saying.  The instant a phrase is spoken you brain
starts matching the sounds you heard with words that you know.
There are probably millions of sounds you can match the sound as
you perceived with.  If you know that the sound you heard belongs
to a certain small class of rhyming words.  You have eliminated the
vast majority of possibilities.  If you know the word you are going
to listen to rhymes with "sing" the word you are mentally trying to
match might be "thing" or "wing" or "bring" but not likely to be
"dog."  That just does not fit the pattern.

In school you may have heard a short poem that plays with

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Most poems rhyme,
But this one doesn't.

Somehow it bothers you to have expectation raised and then ignored.
So there are psychological effects of rhyme and meter.  Once you
get into the rhyme and meter of a poem a lot of the work is taken
from your brain in listening to it.  It sort of lubricates the
mental facilities that parse the incoming sounds and turns them
into meaning.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Comments on the Film WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (comments by Evelyn
C. Leeper)

1. How can they predict to the minute when the effects of Zyra will
be felt?

2. Why are they wasting time and resources to print tear-off
calendars with "X days to Bellus" on them when they could just
chalk a number on the wall?

3. For that matter, why are they wasting time and resources to fly
relief supplies to one small aid center?

4. Why do they take a dog instead of "a couple of plump chickens",
particularly since they don't seem to realize the dog is pregnant,
so would not think they were taking an on-going species?

5. They're bothered by the business tycoon buying his way on, so
why isn't anyone bothered by the lead scientist deciding that his
daughter automatically gets a seat, and her boyfriend too, while he
doesn't make any special concession for the other couple split up
until someone gets shot over it?  (Presumably he decides at that
point that he can free up two places without telling anyone.)

6. Is forty people really a big enough gene pool?

7. How is an area with such an evidently temperate climate right
outside the door when they have landed on a giant patch of snow and

8. And lastly, is there any way to get someone to "restore" the
ending to something looking a little less like a cell from FANTASIA
and more like a real place?  [-ecl]


TOPIC: SPECTRE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In the most complex story of any Bond film, Bond has to
fight three battles at once.  He has to track down the leader of
the nefarious organization SPECTRE. Meanwhile there is a struggle
for power in Military Intelligence as MI-5 tries to replace the
00 program.  And at the same time he has to unravel the secrets of
his own early life.  The script is dark and occasionally confusing
and muddled, but it is the most ambitious plotting of any Bond
film.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

The Judy Dench M died at Skyfall, but she was not quite done giving
orders.  She had Bond (Daniel Craig) go to Mexico to foil a
terrorist plot to murder an entire stadium full of people.  Bond's
actions limited the destruction to one building, but the media
blamed him for the damage.  This happened at a very bad time.  M
(Ralph Fiennes) is trying to hold onto the 00 section and save it
from being disbanded by C (Andrew Scott, the Moriarty of
"Sherlock")  There are plans to reorganize the intelligence
organization, merging MI-5 and MI-6, pooling intelligence resources
with eight other countries, and changing the emphasis to drone
surveillance from actually placing agents like Bond.  In the
process the double-O section is to be shut down.  Bond heads off
for Italy to find the meaning of a (kitsch and all too
ostentatious) secret ring that is a clue to finding a giant, super-
secret, world-encompassing crime organization.  That is what
Quantum was supposed to be a few movies back, but this is an even
bigger criminal organization, called by the familiar name SPECTRE.
SPECTRE has been a long-time foe of Bond.  Bond finds what all Bond
fans already know, that SPECTRE is steered by the evil Ernst Stavro
Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).  Meanwhile we learn more of Bond's
origins and so does Bond.

SPECTRE is the longest Bond film of the Eon series, weighing in at
148 minutes.  The director is Sam Mendes, who previously directed
Daniel Craig in THE ROAD TO PERDITION and SKYFALL.  The fact that
he also directed SKYFALL is ironic since that film was impressive
for its brash art design, particularly in its elevator sequences.
Here he goes to the other extreme using nature tones as a visual
theme.  Bright colors are rarely seen.  The screenplay was written
by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth.
Having four writers could easily be the cause of the muddiness of
the plotting toward the end.  The film goes out of its way to show
pictures of characters from previous Daniel Craig Bond films and
gimmicks from many of the previous films (e.g., cars driving down
stairs).  Parts of the script seem to be atoning for the misogyny
of previous Bond films.  There are two Bond women.  One seems to be
about Bond's age: Lucia played by Monica Bellucci, was born in
1968; Daniel Craig dates to 1964.  Madeleine (Lea Seydoux) is
younger but is the aggressor in their lovemaking.

One timely and interesting touch in the script is that the writers
try to get the sympathies of the viewer in the MI-5/MI-6 conflict.
Having real government assassins in the field as killers is a good
thing.  The alternative seems to be surveillance with drones that
would compromise everybody's privacy to collect intelligence on
everybody.  On the other hand, agents in the field like our Mr.
Bond limits what he can spy on and gets the government only the
more useful and appropriate.  James Bond is good for your financial
security.  And if the government wants to collect statistics on me,
they will find I rate SPECTRE a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

In my tradition for each new Bond film I give my ordering of films
in the series from the best to the worst. This ranking may not be
consistent with my previous listings since my opinion of films
varies with time.  In the interim I have heard several commentaries
on Bond films from Tysto at  He finds really basic faults
in plots that I miss entirely.

   1. CASINO ROYALE (2006)
   7. DR NO



TOPIC: WOMAN IN GOLD (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

Capsule: At the beginning of WWII Maria Altman's family had been
torn apart and looted by the Nazis when they seized control of
Austria.  Among what was stolen from the family was a painting of
Maria's aunt by Gustav Klimt.  The new Austrian government
confiscated it at the end of the war.  In the 1990s Altman tries to
get the painting restored to her family, but the government of
Austria refuses her claim.  This could be an interesting conflict
but somehow the drama is never really as stirring as it needed to
be.  Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10.

WOMAN IN GOLD refers to a painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt
that was given to Maria Altman's aunt by the artist.  The painting
was taken by force by the Nazis and after the war taken from the
Nazis by the Austrian government.  The aunt did not survive the war
but her niece made it to America.  Now getting elderly Maria Altman
wants to reclaim the painting for the family who originally owned

Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altman who tried to reclaim "Woman in
Gold" for her family.  The film follows two story threads.  One
thread is the story of Altman and her relation to her family in the
final weeks before the family is ripped apart by the Nazis.  The
other thread covers Altman's efforts to reclaim Klimt's painting of
her aunt, now considered an iconic national treasure of Austria in
spite of its being stolen property.  Representing Altman is Randy
Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), a lawyer with a distinguished family
history.  His grandfather was composer Arnold Schoenberg.  The film
depicts the monumental Kafka-esque frustration of the task of
getting the Austrian government to admit that the country really
did not have a right to own a stolen painting.  Meanwhile Altman
struggles with the philosophical issue of whether the painting
should be the property of the Austrian nation and people, or
whether a single family has the right to the beloved painting.

The story should be inspiring but somehow the drama just fails to
crystallize.  The plot, while based on true events, is just overly
familiar.  Most people with any interest at all will have heard of
similar cases and the ones that get publicized turn out much the
same way.  Most viewers will already know how the efforts turned
out.  Many may have actually followed this case at the time the
case was being tried.  But then, viewers may also know the outcome
of the BRIDGE OF SPIES spy incident, but that was a better films
because it offered more suspense and more interesting settings.
The characters in this film were bland.  Helen Mirren and Ryan
Reynolds star with several familiar actors in supporting roles.
Jonathan Pryce, Elizabeth McGovern, Charles Dance, and Katie Holmes
are among the featured players.

The story is directed by Simon Curtis.  Alexi Kaye Campbell wrote
the screenplay based on the memoirs of Maria Altman and Randy
Schoenberg.  Perhaps the film has problems in the casting.  This
should be a story to ignite the anger of the audience.  Helen
Mirren is too reserved to do that and Ryan Reynolds is just plain
wooden.  It may be a realistic performance, but it was not the
performance this film needed.  And all through the story one sees
that at the end there will either be a tremendous loss to Altman's
family or to the Austrian people who have adopted the Klimt
painting.  It would be difficult to decide this moral issue in any
case and in the end we are just told who won without knowing really
how.  The film is not entirely satisfying where it should have been
riveting.  I rate WOMAN IN GOLD a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


[Note: The original title of the painting was "Portrait of Adele
Bloch-Bauer I".  The title change was done by the Nazis in order to
obscure the fact that the woman in it was Jewish.  -ecl]


TOPIC: Candidates (letter of comment by Gregory Frederick)

In response to Evelyn's comments on political candidates in the
11/06/15 issue of the MT VOID, Gregory Frederick writes:

I agree with Evelyn's comment about only voting for a candidate who
believes in science.  That is, a candidate who believes that
climate change (global warming) is occurring, that evolution is
real, that the Universe is 13.7 billion years old and the Earth is
around 4.5 billion years old and not 6,000 years old.  Also, a
candidate who believes that vaccines should be given to children
when needed.  To solve real world problems the future president
must believe in the real world of science.  Because only by
actually recognizing the problems and using science can we hope to
solve them.  [-gf]


TOPIC: Air New Zealand Safety Videos (letter of comment by Paul

In response to Mark's comments on Air New Zealand safety videos in
the 11/06/15 issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

They also did one where the crew appear to be wearing nothing but
body paint:



TOPIC: The Shape of the Earth (letter of comment by Philip Chee)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the shape of the earth (in an
article about candidates) in the 11/06/15 issue of the MT VOID,
Philip Chee writes:

[Evelyn wrote,] "That gravity exists and that the earth is round
are facts."

Nit: It's actually an oblate spheroid.  [-pc]

Evelyn responds:

True, but at least one defintion I found says that "round" means
"shaped like or approximately like a sphere."  The question then
is, "How close does something have to be to be approximately like"?


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

THE ANATOMY OF REVOLUTION by Crane Brinton (ISBN 978-0-394-70044-1)
was written in 1938 and revised in 1965.  Whether in it originally,
or added later, a lot of negative sentiments are expressed about
the oppressive dictatorship in the Soviet Union, e.g., "Certainly
the Russian peasants in 1917 wanted the land--but for themselves,
not for a Marxist proletarian dictatorship."  Reading this makes it
feel, therefore, very much a book of the 1950s.

Brinton claims, "... though the scientist is very careful indeed
about matters of definition, and is as disdainful of sloppiness as
any historian  and of bad thinking as any logician, he distrusts
rigidity and attempts at perfection.  He is interested less in
beauty and neatness of definition than in having his definitions
fit not his sentiments and aspirations, but the facts.  Above all
he does not dispute over words.  He is less interested in the
accurate theoretical distinction between a mountain and a hill than
he is in making sure that he is dealing with concrete elevations of
this earth."

Yeah, and Pluto is a planet.

(And there are plenty of hills and mountains we talk about that are
not on this earth.)

Brinton also claims that before the American Revolution, "There
were economic stresses and strains in colonial America, as we shall
soon see, but no class ground down with poverty."  Apparently,
slaves do not even count as a class with him.  (Indeed, slavery and
serfdom are not even mentioned in the index.)  One wonders how his
theses about the anatomy of revolution would hold true if he
included the Haitian Revolution as well as the English, American,
French, and Russian.  (He mentions the Haitian Revolution only as
an anomaly, "one of the few examples of successful slave
revolutions," meaning that it does not follow his rules, so does
not really count.  In fact, even he says that everything on his
long list of "causes" of revolutions is present to some degree in
all modern socieites, so that attempting to predict precisely when
a revolution is brewing is a futile effort.

Our science fiction book discussion group read three novellas from
by Cordwainder Smith, "The Marching Morons" by C. M. Kornbluth, and
"And Baby Is Three" by Theodore Sturgeon.  The first two are
interesting to contrast (and actually tie in with my last comments
on Cicero's fourth oration, discussed above).  "The Ballad of Lost
C'Mell" is about how humans created "the Underpeople" by modifying
animals to have human characteristics and indeed to be
indistinguishable visibly from humans (called "true men" or
"hominids").  C'Mell is one of the Underpeople, a "girly girl"--
described as something like a geisha girl, but whether that was
because sexual relations between Underpeople and hominids was
forbidden, or because the magazines of the era wouldn't print
stories that implied she was a prostitute, is not clear.  (The
story appeared in the October 1962 issue of GALAXY.)

But that's neither here nor there.  The basic plot of "The Ballad
of Lost C'Mell" is that of an underclass which is treated as sub-
human, or even non-human, trying to achieve civil equality with the
overclass.  It is a very straightforward transposition of the
attitudes and laws that applied to African Americans in the
American South (and to Jews in Nazi Europe a quarter of a century
earlier), with some telepathy thrown in.  Typical liberal
propaganda, you might say, and you might not be far wrong.

"The Marching Morons" is somewhat similar.  There is an class of
people with sub-normal intelligence (based on current standards),
and another with those of normal (or higher) intelligence.  The
latter feel that they are the slaves in this society, though,
because they have to do all the thinking to keep the society going.
When John Barlow gets revived after hundreds of years in suspended
animation, he tells them he can solve all their problems.  His
solution?  [SPOILER WARNING]  Kill off all the "sub-normals".
Convince them you are going to relocate them to wonderful lives on
Venus, and launch them into space to die.  Send back postcards
supposedly written by them to convince everyone else that things
are fine.  Eventually all that will be left on Earth are the smart

Okay, this is clearly patterned on what the Nazis did with the Jews
(after they started with the "mentally defective").  Barlow even
explicitly states this is where he got some of the ideas from (such
as the postcards).  And you are supposed to think that Barlow is an
amoral opportunist.  But the elite go along with it and kill off
the billions of "morons" without too much compunction.  Are we
supposed to find this admirable?  (Never mind that it is unclear
whether one could actually dispose of billions of people in the
manner described, or if a society could function with only self-
styled elites, none of whom are likely to want to take out the
trash, or harvest the crops.)  And Kornbluth does not make it a
"cold equations" situation the way Tom Godwin did, nor are the
"morons" cannablistic beasts like H. G. Wells's Morlocks.

So what is Kornbluth saying?  Is he agreeing with the elite that
killing off the underclass is the solution?  Is he saying that
there is no solution?  Or what?  (Note: Wikipedia points out that
the story predates hormonal contraception, which would be the
solution proposed now.)  The fact is that the story does seem on
one level to be endorsing mass murder as the solution, trying to
make it more palatable by having it all occur off-screen (as it
were).  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           He who serves two masters has to lie to one.
                                  --Portuguese Proverb