Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/04/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 23, Whole Number 1887

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Extreme Solutions (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Separated at Birth?
        Step Aside, Tabasco--Sriracha Is the New Kid in Town
                (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Bah, Humbug! (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        Space: The Invisible Frontier (comments by Dale Skran)
        WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
                (book review by Joe Karpierz)
        BROOKLYN (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        SUFFRAGETTE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        PERSIAN FIRE by Tom Holland (book review
                by Gregory Frederick)
        Correction on Oscar-Winning Sports Films (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                (letters of comment by Joseph T. Major, Paul Dormer,
                and Gary McGath)
        Secretary of State or Senator? (letter of comment
                by Mike Glyer)
        Climate Change Proposal (letter of comment by Gregory Benford)
        "I Have Seen the Future" (comments by Alan Woodford)
        This Week's Reading (THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Extreme Solutions (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

When all you have is a stake and a hammer every problem has pointy
teeth.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Separated at Birth?

Mark noticed that there are several monster images that qualify for
the "separated at birth" award:

which might have been inspired by:

which looks a lot like:


TOPIC: Step Aside, Tabasco--Sriracha is the New Kid in Town
(comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I was in a dollar store and I happened to notice for sale a snack
packet of "Sriracha" peanuts.  It occurred to me that that packet
of peanuts represented a basic demographic change in the United
States.  Because of the current mix of ethnicities in the US there
are more people who want spicy food as part of their diet.  White-
bread Americans generally are not fond of piquancy in their food.
South Asians, Southeast Asians, some Chinese, and Mexicans are more
used to having spicy food on the bill of fare.  Today in the United
States there are more people from Asia and Mexico, places where
spicy foods were already popular.  More people in the United States
want it hot than probably any time in our history.

Now even junk food is using spiciness as a selling point.  The
peanuts are not aimed at foodies.  Foodies generally do not shop in
dollar stores.  But this was not the only reference I have seen to
this strange sounding "Sriracha."  There are references in magazine
cartoons.  I see menu items in restaurants.  Still if I mention
Sriracha to most people it draws blank stares.  What is it?  Let us
start with Tabasco.

Until relatively recently there was only one Made-in-USA hot sauce
that had general public recognition.  That was Tabasco Sauce.  It
had been around almost since the years of the Civil War.  Actually
Tabasco Sauce owes its existence to the Civil War.  Edmund
McIlhenny returned from the war to his home to Louisiana from the
war to find his lands ruined.  About the only crop he still had
growing was tabasco peppers.  You cannot make much of a meal from
tabasco peppers.  They make a lovely salad if you want to run
screaming from the room.  But McIlhenny wanted to make them a
money-making crop.  For some reason he also had a store of cologne
bottles.  You could not eat those at all.  He took the peppers and
prepared them with vinegar putting it in cologne bottles.  He gave
it to his friends.  Let them run screaming from the room.  Actually
the sauce was a great mask for the taste of spoiled foods that were
frequently all that there was to eat.  The following year McIlhenny
sold it to his friends who had previously gotten the sauce free.
Over the years Tabasco was built into a national brand.  I am
unaware of any other national brand food that was as piquant as
Tabasco sauce.  It was our national hot sauce.

And to me Tabasco sauce is not really piquant any more.  Once
builds up a tolerance for it.  I have gotten used to hot stuff and
I taste more vinegar in Tabasco sauce than I taste pepper.  For
many years the McIlhenny people ruled the roost of hot sauces.  If
you liked your food hot, they were the go-to brand.  And there was
not a lot of competition for Tabasco Sauce since most Americans
avoided spicy food.  Restaurants would stay away from having really
spicy dishes, because there would always be some customer who would
order a spicy dish and then when he got it he would make a noisy
fuss that the food was too spicy to eat.  It is the worst kind of
advertising to have in your restaurant someone making a fuss and
shouting that the food is inedible.  But slowly some Americans
developed a taste for the piquant.  The monopoly of Tabasco came to
an end about 1980 when there was a new kid on the block.  It had a
richer flavor than Tabasco and soon built a following.

Sriracha Sauce is actually not has hot as Tabasco sauce.  Sriracha
sauce is 1000 to 2500 Scoville Heat units while Tabasco is in the
2500 to 5000 range.  But it has a consistency like that of tomato
ketchup when means you get more of the hotness sticking to the food
and then to your tongue.  The Sriracha bottle is more noticeable.
It is a big red bottle with a green applicator cap at the top.  I
suspect that the color scheme is intended to make the bottle
resemble a hot pepper.  The bottle has a picture of a rooster
causing it to be called in some quarters "rooster sauce."  It has
peppers and vinegar like Tabasco Sauce, but it also has garlic,
sugar, and salt giving it a fuller flavor.

The name "Sriracha" derives from the town Si Racha in Thailand.
The name has never been trademarked so whomever it was who started
using the name for peanuts sold in dollar stores, he is doing it
legally.  The product seems to have a strong popularity,
particularly among former users of hot sauce.

Holy cow!  Okay, now I just learned something.  While I was writing
the above article I noticed there was on Hulu a documentary film by
Griffin Hammond entitled SRIRACHA, THE MOVIE that documents a
fanatic fandom of Sriracha Sauce.  Rooster sauce has become a pop
food trend.  It is claimed to be good on just about anything.
There are apparently hundreds or maybe thousands of fans.  They
seem to be much more fanatic fans than I am.  Now you have the
background, you might want to try the sauce.  You can see the movie
on Hulu:

(You can see it free if you turn off ad-blocking.)

Also see:



TOPIC: Bah, Humbug! (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

And now that December is here, I thought I would mention that I
recently read about a city where they put up decorations (just
evergreens and such), but even that met with complaints about
imposing religious imagery on people.

Of course, the city was Rome, the time was about two thousand years
ago, and the complainers were the Christians:

"Some idea may be conceived of the abhorrence of the Christians for
such impious ceremonies, by the scrupulous delicacy which they
displayed on a much less alarming occasion.  On days of general
festivity, it was the custom of the ancients to adorn their doors
with lamps and with branches of laurel, and to crown their heads
with a garland of flowers.  This innocent and elegant practice
might perhaps have been tolerated as a mere civil institution.  But
it most unluckily happened that the doors were under the protection
of the household gods, that the laurel was sacred to the lover of
Daphne, and that garlands of flowers, though frequently worn as a
symbol of joy or mourning, had been dedicate in their first origin
to the service of superstition."

Just saying, you know?  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Space: The Invisible Frontier (comments by Dale Skran)

Over the last few years amazing progress has been made in space
technology, but with a curious silence in the mainstream press.  On
November 23rd, Blue Origin flew their reusable New Shepard vehicle
to the Karman line (100km), the official definition of the "edge of
space" and back to the launch site for a soft landing on four legs.
Previously, the DCX and SpaceX Grasshopper had flown vertically to
various altitudes far lower than the Karman line, and landed for
reuse. The venerable yet reusable X-15 rocket plane, launched by a
B-52, crossed the Karman line on a couple of occasions, but did not
land vertically. Viewed from this perspective, Blue Origin's feat
does not seem that remarkable.

And in some sense, like all engineering milestones, it is not that
remarkable.  It is one link in a long chain of tests.  It needs to
be followed by close investigation of wear and tear, multiple re-
flights, and finally certification for use by sub-orbital tourists.
This process will take several years. In parallel, Blue Origin is
developing a much larger rocket, for which the New Shepard will be
the 2nd stage.  A methane/lox engine called the BE-4 is being
constructed by Blue Origin both for usage in the first stage of
their own "Big Rocket" and the United Launch Alliance Vulcan.  The
completion of this engine will take more years, and the testing of
a reusable first stage based on the BE-4 still more years.

So what is different about Blue Origin's achievement this time?
First, although Blue has received a small amount of NASA funding as
part of the COTS program, the great bulk of money was provided by
Jeff Bezos himself.  There is certainly no NASA line item, that, if
cut, would cause Blue Origin to change direction or cancel New
Shepard.  Second, unlike NASA, Blue plans to start selling research
slots on New Shepard right away - probably as early as next year.
These commercial research flights will allow for extensive testing
and certification of the BE-3 (the liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen
engine used in New Shepard) and the technology surrounding
reusability.  Finally, when space tourists start flying on New
Shepard, and it increasingly seems like this could happen as soon
as 2017, it will be a world-changing event.  No humans flew on the
DCX or grasshopper.  Only government test pilots could fly the X-
15. Regular tourist flights, even flights with 4 or 5 minutes of
zero gravity, will introduce a new generation to space, and whet
appetites for future orbital flights.  Perhaps more significantly,
the BE-3 will become the first truly re-usable (as opposed to
refurbishable, as were the Shuttle engines) liquid hydrogen/oxygen
engine, no small feat in itself.

Hence, although only a link in chain, the November 23rd landing of
the New Shepard booster after reaching the Karman line must be
viewed as historic event.  I could not help but notice that the
Wall Street Journal, which normally covers business news very well,
did not devote any space in the first section to the safe return of
New Shepard.  I thought there might be a front-page story in the
"Business & Tech" section, but instead there was a small pointer in
upper left hand corner to the story, which appeared on the "back
front page" of the business section.  Now this is not the worst
possible coverage, but it seems quite disappointing for such an
important event.

My local paper, the Asbury Park Press, simply had no coverage
whatsoever.  The APP has given up on covering national news, and
instead relies on an insert from USA Today for this purpose, which
also had no coverage whatsoever.  Readers of the Wall Street
Journal are a distinct minority on the national level. This
admittedly narrow example suggests that one reason Americans think
that space program has been "canceled" is that reporters and
editors have decided that nothing happening in space is of great
interest unless someone dies.  At the rate space coverage is
declining, by the time Elon Musk retires on Mars, it won't be
covered at all, since, after all, who really cares where some rich
guy is going to live then he retires!  [-dls]


TOPIC: WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
(copyright 2015, Harper Perennial, $19.99, 401pp, ISBN 978-0-06-
235142-5) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe

Sometimes, the hardest part of an endeavor is the beginning; once
you get rolling, said endeavor can sometimes become easier and
easier as you go along.  Sometimes not.  I don't know which of
these this book review will be.  I'll only know by the time I get
to the end of it.

Welcome to Night Vale = the podcast--takes the form of a radio show
on a community radio station in the town of Night Vale, located
somewhere in the Southwestern United States.  The podcast relates
the strange goings on in the town, where nothing is normal and
everything is accepted for what it is.  The town is populated by
strange characters--human and otherwise--going about their daily
lives doing things we would consider outside the realm of
normality.  The podcast is strange, surreal, bizarre, and funny.
Oh, yes--it is extremely popular.  In the three years the podcast
has been broadcast, a large number of characters have been
introduced, their stories told, their lives documented.  Sometimes
the stories have gone on for a long time, some are done in a flash.
But all are just a little offbeat.

And therein, I think, lies the problem with attempting to review
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE, the novel.  A friend of mine said that he
has the novel on his Kindle as part of his to-read list, but it's
stuck behind other books on the list.  He said he had never
listened to the podcast, but that the book sounded interesting.
That statement prompted me to start thinking about how not having
listened to the podcast would affect a reader's enjoyment of the
book.  As I thought about this question over the last week or two,
I came to the conclusion that the book can be read and enjoyed on
its own, without the reader having listened to the podcast.
Certainly, the reader's experience with the book would be enhanced
if he or she had read the book, but it wasn't necessary.  The lack
of familiarity with the podcast becomes an issue for the book,
oddly enough.  Then again, the rest of Night Vale is odd, so why
not this?

So, why is reviewing the book difficult?  It shouldn't be.  After
all, when a review sits down to write, the reviewer is working from
the premise that the reader has yet to read the book and is
searching for opinions that would sway him or her one way or
another.  Why is this book any different?  Maybe it's not.  Let me
try.  If you get lost reading what's coming up, well, let it be
known that Night Vale is a strange and weird place anyway, and you
getting lost may just fit right in.

Our two main characters are Jackie Fierro and Diane Crayton.
Jackie works at Night Vale's pawn shop--where transactions are just
a bit strange.  (I've been saying that a lot, so maybe you should
just take my word for it and I'll stop saying it.)  Diane is the
mother of Josh, who is changing.  Changing a lot.  Changing his
form, that is.  It seems to be different every day.  This may or
may not be normal for a boy growing up in Night Vale, but it
certainly is straining his relationship with his mother.  Jackie
and Diane (Am I the only one who keeps hearing John Mellancamp in
his head when those two names are put together like that?) are
among many people in Night Vale who receive a visit from The Man in
the Tan Jacket (yes, that's what the character is called) during
which he leaves them with a piece of paper that has the words "King
City" written on it.  No one knows what that means.

What Jackie and Diane (just doin' the best they can) have figured
out is that the appearance of The Man in the Tan Jacket and the
reappearance of Diane's ex-husband and father of Josh, Troy, can
not be just a coincidence, and so they eventually form an uneasy
alliance to solve the mystery that is facing them.  And they're
pretty sure it involves the town of "King City".

I mentioned earlier that the lack of familiarity with the podcast
becomes an issue for the book, but it's important to note that the
reader should have no problem.  The problem is that Fink and Cranor
spend a good chunk of the first half or more of the novel trying to
shoehorn all the bits and pieces of characters and places into the
novel so that readers unfamiliar with the podcast can fall right
in.  That has the negative affect of slowing the book down,
especially for those who listen to Night Vale regularly.  The
characters that make appearances include The Faceless Old Woman Who
Secretly Lives In Your Home, Old Woman Josie, Mayor Dana Cardinal,
all the angels named Erika that you can't admit exist, Cecil, the
radio announcer, and his scientist boyfriend Carlos.  I don't
actually remember a reference to Hiram McDaniels, the actual five-
headed dragon, and locations like the dog park where you can't take
your dog.  The list goes on and on, and at some point, Fink and
Cranor finally get on with it and get around to telling the actual
story, which isn't too bad, but it's nothing spectacular.  Then
again, I don't think it could be told if it wasn't a Night Vale

I think that one of the reasons that this book doesn't quite hit
home for me as it may for other people is that it doesn't have the
feel of the podcast, and that is probably due to the fact the novel
is not written as if it was a community radio program.  Every two
weeks, Cecil Palmer, the announcer on the program who is
magnificently voiced by Cecil Baldwin, comes into our ears with a
familiar voice that is perfect for telling us stories about the
town of Night Vale.  The radio program makes several appearances in
the novel, but is not the mechanism by which the story is told.

All in all, WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a nice little novel--it's not
bad, but it's not outstanding.  It just is.  Which, I guess, is
what Night Vale is all about anyway.  [-jak]


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

CAPSULE: In 1952 a young Irish woman leaves her home and travels to
America in the hopes of finding a better life.  Her small town
seemed to offer her no promising future.  She has to choose between
her old home and an unfamiliar new country.  This is a nice re-
creation of two very different ways of life styles and two
different worldviews.  Eilis (pronounced "AY-lish") had been very
withdrawn in a life that was comfortable but did not seem to be
progressing.  She has a small hope that America would be better.
Soon she will face the ageless choice of the immigrant, does she
want to stay or return to her home?  The plot of BROOKLYN is
simple--perhaps too simple to justify the high production values.
Saoirse Ronan is charming in the lead role, but other characters
just are not as memorable.  John Crowley directs a screenplay by
Nick Hornby based on the novel by Colm Toibin.  Rating: +2 (-4 to
+4) or 7/10

Saoirse Ronan plays Irish village girl Eilis Lacey who has very
little in her life to interest her as she lives through days that
are nearly identical.  Perhaps that is not quite so bad for her as
she herself is withdrawn.  But she has a chance to break out of her
small life and to make something less ordinary of herself.  She can
go where so many Irish have gone to before her.  She can go to
America.  That will not be easy, but she must choose between the
new world and the old.  Planning on leaving she starts thinking of
what she will be leaving behind, and what things matter to her.
Then she speaks to an Irish expatriate who has returned home for a
visit.  "That's something I will never do again," the woman tells
her.  "What?  Go to America?"  "No.  Come home."

Eilis finds the boat trip to America worse than just taxing and at
the end of the trip there she is on the doorstep of America,
extremely homesick, and having to rely on herself.  The reader can
almost take the rather simple plot from there.

Saoirse Ronan was memorable as a child equivalent of Jason Bourne
in HANNA and has graduated to more adult roles in THE GRAND
BUDAPEST HOTEL.  Here she is in almost every scene of the film and
carries the film.

This could be one of the best period piece films of the year.  We
are given a fine recreation of an Irish town and another of
Brooklyn in 1952.  So much is done well that in preparation to tell
the story that it seems a pity that the story is not really
satisfying.  The viewer can enjoy the detailed visuals.  He can
appreciate fine if reserved acting.  But if he stops to think, he
knows where the film is going and not much is happening in the plot
as it gets there.  The story has disappointingly few complications.
It should have had just a bit more trouble going where the viewer
knows it will go.

While what we see is the Irish community of Brooklyn, the
experiences are very much like those of any ethnic group coming to
the United States.  That makes this film rather timeless if
strongly pro-American.  Most of the people viewing the film will
have someone in their family who went through similar experiences.
The experience is universal and with minor changes could take place
today.  Where the film has problems it is in a plot that is too
simple and progresses too slowly. I rate BROOKLYN a +2 on the -4 to
+4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



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

CAPSULE: As a middling, if well intentioned, film, SUFFRAGETTE
tells the story of one woman in London who joins the 1920s
political movement to allow women voting rights.  The weight of the
British government comes down on her to force her to stop
demonstrating for votes for women.  The cause is great, but the
film account in SUFFRAGETTE is tepid and rather by-the-numbers.
Sarah Gavron directs a screenplay by Abi Morgan.  Rating: high +1
(-4 to +4) or 6/10

There seems to be a standard film plot I would call "The Making of
a Political Radical."  There is a political cause but the main
character is only vaguely aware of it.  He (or she) is
unsympathetic or at most mildly concerned about the cause.  But
then the character becomes an innocent bystander when an incident
occurs that marks him, unjustly, as being an activist for the
cause.  The power of the system comes down on our bystander and
more and more he sees the faults inherent in the system.  His views
become stronger and he more and more becomes the kind of raging
activist that he was earlier wrongly accused of being.  One can see
this pattern in films like THE WILBY CONSPIRACY, I AM A FUGITIVE
one-time bystander has become a committed political zealot.  Note,
I am not saying the cause is wrong, but this is a by the numbers
way to write a plot that may engage the audience.

In SUFFRAGETTE Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) is one of
innumerable downtrodden women in horrible jobs in London in the
1920s.--Cinematographer Eduard Grau make the laundry where Maud
works look like an inner ring of Dante's hell.  Maud has very few
rights and most of what rights she has she gets through her husband
at his discretion.  Her husband Sonny even keeps Maud from seeing
her own child. And Sonny is not at all sympathetic when Maud
suddenly develops political interests.  (Sonny is played,
incidentally, by Ben Whishaw, the young Q in current James Bond

Maud is aware of the suffragette movement, but she does not have
time for politics in her miserable, over-worked life.  Then a woman
who works with Maud is going to testify to Parliament on how bad
women's work conditions are.  But the woman who was to testify is
beaten and Maud is forced to speak in her place.  Unintentionally,
Maud has become one of the more visible spokespersons for improving
working conditions for and for votes for women.  The movement is
led by Emmeline Pankhurst (played briefly by Meryl Streep).  Seen a
little more is another ally, played by Helena Bonham Carter.

Through Maud's eyes we see the government's attempts to stifle the
women calling for votes.  We see a struggle a good deal more
violent than most people realize.  Torture and sexual abuse is used
to punish uncooperative women.

The issues raised in SUFFRAGETTE are still relevant today.  Gender
inequity is still front-page news.  It has been lessened in this
country as public sympathy has shifted to being much more
sympathetic in favor of Women's Rights.  So to some extent this
film is preaching to the choir and using a familiar and well-worn
story structure.  Still, the film is presented with good
performances and the quality production values one so frequently
sees in UK films.  I rate SUFFRAGETTE a high +1 on the -4 to +4
scale or 6/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: PERSIAN FIRE by Tom Holland (book review by Gregory

This book is a look into the history of conflicts between the
Greeks and the Persians in the 500's and 400's B.C.  The author
looks at the early history of Persia and Greece to establish the
framework of their respective cultures first then the conflicts are
studied.  For example, the beginnings of democracy as practiced by
the Greeks are explored.  Sparta initially developed this social
experiment.  Sparta was a military society that depended on its
citizen soldiers known as hoplites fighting in a formation called a
phalanx.  The phalanx is a square or rectangle of hoplites fighting
as one with bronze shields lined up one next to the other and the
front line has their spears facing outward.  This formation
depended on each soldier doing his job and each defending each
other.  In an effort to maintain a solid and dependable phalanx,
Spartans began to consider each citizen whether rich or poor to be
equals and all citizens were treated as part of their shared and
respected military.  Later in Athens the idea of citizens being
able to govern themselves by voting came about in an attempt to
stop the constant infighting of various powerful elites causing
chaos in their efforts to control Athens.  Eventually, these ideas
spread across Greece as democracy.

Persia and Greece first came into contact when the Persians began
to conquer the Ionian city-states.  These were Greek colonies on
the west coast of present day Turkey.  The Ionian Greeks asked
Athens for help and when they did come to provide military
assistance to the Ionians they angered the Persians.  Later, the
Persians in 490 B.C. landed at Marathon in Northern Greece to
launch an attack on the Athenians but they where defeated by an
Athenian hoplite army who stopped them on the beach.  The battle of
the 300 Spartans (with thousands of other Greeks) at Thermopylae
occurred in 480 B.C.  This military action was actually a
coordinated effort by both a land force and the Greek navy situated
near a coastal city called Artemisium.  The Greek navy was under
the command of the Athenian politician Themistocles and attempted
to block the Persian navy as the Spartans blocked the Persian army.
Therefore this strategy required both Thermopylae and Artemisium to
be held, and given their losses at Thermopylae, Themistocles
decided to withdraw the navy to Salamis.  The Persians overran
northern Greece and then captured the evacuated Athens.  The Greek
fleet looking for a decisive victory over the Persian armada
attacked and defeated the invaders at the naval Battle of Salamis
in late 480 B.C.  Fearful of being trapped in Europe without a
strong navy to support his army, the Persian king, Xerxes withdrew
with much of his army to Asia, leaving a general named Mardonius to
attempt to complete the conquest of Greece.  In the following year
a Greek army decisively defeated the Persians at the Battle of
Plataea, thereby ending the Persian invasion.

The author states repeatedly that had the Greeks battle for freedom
from Persian control gone the other way then Greek democracy,
science, literature, medicine, and mathematics could all have been
lost or changed and therefore all of Western Civilization would
have been very different also.

Holland's book is an enjoyable read for those who like to learn
more about ancient history.  [-gf]


TOPIC: Correction on Oscar-Winning Sports Films (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I had a serious failure of fact-checking last issue.  I was too
anxious to get to the point of an article.  CHARIOTS OF FIRE,
MILLION DOLLAR BABY, ROCKY, and (ta-da) BEN-HUR are all sports
films that won a Best Picture Academy Award.  (Thanks to Kip
Williams and others who pointed this out.)  [-mrl]


(letters of comment by Joseph T. Major, Paul Dormer, and Gary

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON in the
11/27/15 issue of the MT VOID, Joseph Major writes:

CHARLY the movie was preceded by an adaptation of the original
"Flowers for Algernon", on "The United States Steel Hour" in 1961.
The adaptation was titled "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon" and it
ran on February 22.

It starred Cliff Robertson as Charlie Gordon, just as the later
movie did.  Robertson bought the movie rights so he could repeat
the role if a movie ever was made.  And he got an Oscar for playing
Charlie Gordon in the movie, too.  [-jtm]

Mark responds:

I apparently saw "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon," the TV play
version of FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and then forgot entirely that I had
ever seen it.  Later I read the short story and a little later the
novel and was supremely impressed by both.  I only remembered that
I had seen "The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon" when I saw CHARLY and
realized I remembered some of the questions on the intelligence
test.  In the 1950s Robertson received critical praise for his
performances in three of his TV plays.  When THE DAYS OF WINE AND
ROSES was to be made into a movie Jack Lemmon was cast for the
lead.  Robertson was really disappointed.  It happened again with
another TV play--he was praised for and again another actor was
cast for the film.  Determined not to let Charlie Gordon get away
from him he bought the film rights for FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON and
determined that nobody else would be cast for the role.  Sure
enough eventually the film was made.  Robertson played the role and
got the Best Actor Academy Award.  [-mrl]

Paul Dormer adds:

On satellite television in the UK there is a channel called TV5,
which is French-language.  I was zapping around the other day to
see what was on and on TV5 there was a trailer for a film called
"Des fleurs pour Algernon", which seems to be a French film of the
novel.  (Released last year, according to the IMDb.)

And I've just realised that Gregory Gadebois who plays Charlie in
the film also plays Toni in LES REVENANTS, possibly the best zombie
TV series I've ever seen.

The opening credits are especially eerie:
.  [-pd]

And Gary McGath adds:

There's also a beautiful song by Kathy Mar called "Flowers for
Algernon"; I'm not sure whether she based it on the short story,
the book, or the movie.  [-gmg]

Mark responds:

The song is on YouTube:

It is apparently Charlie's thoughts after the events of the book.
If it is a bad song, it just has to be as good as the regressed
Charlie Gordon could write.  I admit that I actually like the song
and it actually brought a tear to my eye, but that may be mostly
because it brought back memories of the book.

Be aware you can also see the 2000 TV movie with Matthew Modine at  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Secretary of State or Senator? (letter of comment by Mike

In response to Jim Susky's comments on Presidential candidates in
the 11/27/15 issue of the MT VOID, Mike Glyer writes:

I noticed letter-writer Jim Susky using formal titles:

"Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders would seem to qualify, and
perhaps Governor Bush."

Clinton not currently holding a government position, one could
choose between her former titles as US Senator and Secretary of
State.  Is there a rationale for thinking Secretary of State is
more prestigious?  [-mg]

Evelyn responds:

Well, I can't speak for Jim, but Secretary of State is fourth in
the line of Presidential succession, while all but one of the
senators are considerably down the list (below the entire cabinet,
in fact).  The only Senator "outranking" the Secretary of State is
the President pro tempore of the Senate.  Also, the Secretary of
State is ahead of all the senators in the order of precedence for
ceremonial affairs (though behind the mayor of the city in which
the event is being held!).  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Climate Change Proposal (letter of comment by Gregory

In response to Jim Susky's comments on Presidential candidates and
climate change proposals in the 11/27/15 issue of the MT VOID,
Gregory Benford writes:

About my 2004 proposal to implement a $20-billion Fresnel lens at
the L1 Earth-Sun LaGrange point, which would diffract about 1/2% to
1% of Sol's radiation from the Earth: I really only roughed out the
notion, while actually publishing four papers on carbon capture in
the deep ocean in detail.  After that, an astronomer at University
of Arizona did a detailed analysis, showing that for about a
trillion dollars we could do it.

But! that doesn't address the growing acid in our oceans, from
absorbing all that CO2--a much harder problem.  There are chemical
solutions, though.

I quit working on geo-engineering because there's zero funding for
actual experiments at any level.  Things will worsen through the
2020s, a rising ride of troubles will force such ideas to the fore,
and maybe I'll be interested then.  But I'll be in my 90s, too.


TOPIC:  "I Have Seen the Future" (comments by Alan Woodford)

Alan Woodford posted in rec.arts.sf.fandom:

I have seen the future ...

and computers free with magazines is very definitely it....

I picked up a copy of magPI magazine at lunchtime, with a free
Raspberry Pi Zero on the cover!

I remember computer mags with 5-1/4" floppies on the cover, but a
free computer is in a whole different league.  :-)

For those not familiar with the Raspberry Pi, here is the spec:

A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
      1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
      Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
A remarkably small form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

and it is available to buy for 4 UK pounds, or five of your
American dollars!

Okay, that isn't an earth-shattering spec, but compared to my first
proper PC, it is at least 100x faster, with almost a thousand times
more RAM.

And it was free with a computer comic...

Now all I need to do is sort out the spaghetti, and I might start
programming again!  [-aw]

Mark responds:

All this reminds me of Bhutanese postage stamps that are vinyl
phonograph records:  [-mrl]


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

Our discussion group chose THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYICH by Leo Tolstoy
(translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude) (ISBN 978-0-553-21035-4)
for this month.  The first observation to make is that it is more
about the life of Ivan Ilych rather than his death, though perhaps
the idea is that the way he lived his life was such that in some
sense he started dying very early on.  He was always more of an
opportunist than someone with a moral compass:

"At school he had done things which had formerly seemed to him very
horrid and made him feel disgusted with himself when he did them,
but when later on he saw that such actions were done by people of
good position and that they did not regard them as wrong, he was
able not exactly to regard them as right, but to forget about them
entirely or not be at all troubled at remembering them."

Earlier, Tolstoy described someone else as having "the sort of
career which brings men to positions from which by reason of their
long service they cannot be dismissed, though they are obviously
unfit to hold any responsible positions, and for whom therefore
posts are specially created, which though fictitious carry salaries
of from six to ten thousand rubles that are not fictitious, and in
receipt of which they live to a great age."  It is this sort of
person who moves up to make room for people like Ivan Ilych.

Tolstoy seems to get a sly insult in when he says, "Neither as a
boy nor as a man was he a toady, but from early youth was by nature
attracted to people of high position as a fly is drawn to the
light."  I think most people reading this in English would finish
the phrase "attracted to people of high position as a fly is drawn
to ..." with a word other than "light."

Ivan Ilyich drifts through life with little feeling or connection
to anything.  "The preparations for marriage and the beginning of
married life, with its conjugal caresses, the new furniture, new
crockery, and new linen, were very pleasant until his wife became
pregnant."  Love and "conjugal caresses" are no different to him
than furniture, crockery, and linen.  "Though the salary was
higher, the cost of living was greater, besides which two of their
children died and family life became still more unpleasant for
him."  The fact that two of his children died is a mere aside, of
little importance.

And his ambition is very limited: "All he now wanted was an
appointment to another post with a salary of five thousand rubles,
either in the administration, in the banks, with the railways in
one of the Empress Marya's Institutions, or even in the customs --
but it had to carry with it a salary of five thousand rubles and be
in a ministry other than that in which they had failed to
appreciate him."  He has no interest in what he is going to be
doing to earn this salary--indeed, it is probably one of those jobs
described above, fictitious and of no responsibility.

All that makes his marriage better is to make it less: "Now
everything had happened so fortunately, and that he and his wife
were at one in their aims and moreover saw so little of one
another, they got on together better than they had done since the
first years of marriage."

Ivan Ilyich's goal is to imitate not those he wishes to become (or
be seen as), but those who are in the same position he is.  They
think they are imitating the upper class, as does he, but in fact
they are merely imitating each other.  As Tolstoy writes, "In
reality it was just what is usually seen in the houses of people of
moderate means who want to appear rich, and therefore succeed only
in resembling others like themselves."  And, "Just as his drawing-
room resembled all other drawing-rooms so did his enjoyable little
parties resemble all other such parties."

In a lesson to us all, he becomes too attached to things, because
it is things he has been focused on:  "Every spot on the tablecloth
or the upholstery, and every broken window-blind strong, irritated
him.  He had devoted so much trouble to arranging it all that every
disturbance of it distressed him."

And there is a final universality that Tolstoy describes: "His
condition was rendered worse by the fact that he read medical books
and consulted doctors."  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The mind of man is more intuitive than logical,
           and comprehends more than it can coordinate.
                                  --Vauvenargues, 1746