Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/03/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 32, Whole Number 1948

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper and Gregory Benford)
        Mini-Reviews of 2016 Films (Part 3) (SWISS ARMY MAN,
                JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU) (film reviews
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Anti-Matter Food (letters of comment by Peter Rubinstein
                and George Phillies)
        Single-Letter Film Titles (letter of comment by Bill Higgins)
                and LA LA LAND (letter of comment by Kevin R)
        This Week's Reading (CIVIL WAR GHOSTS, GREEN TEA AND OTHER
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails (comments
by Mark R. Leeper and Gregory Benford)

In recent issues of the MT VOID we have discussed an astrophysical
phenomenon in which small galaxies send out mysterious mega-bursts
of energy.  Gregory Benford sends us a paper suggesting that these
bursts would be a way an extraterrestrial civilization could be
powering light sails from extraterrestrial sources.  The paper can
be found at .  [-mrl/gb]


TOPIC: Mini-Reviews of 2016 Films (Part 3) (film reviews by Mark
R. Leeper)

I am back to reporting on some of the lesser-known films of last
year that I did not want to give the time to do a full formal film
review.   I just wanted to report on some films that I have seen
and the reader may want to seek out (or to avoid).  I start out
with what may be the most bizarre bad taste film of the year
(though SAUSAGE PARTY is a strong runner up).

Reminder: all films are rated on the -4 to +4 scale.

I will try not to be too offensive in describing this film, almost
all of which would be too vulgar for some people.  This
comedy/fantasy involves a man marooned on an island when his boat
sank.  He is very lonely and ready to hang himself when a dead body
washes up on the shore bloated with decomposition gasses.  He is
somehow able to build a relationship with this body that may or
may not be dead but which perpetually is releasing malodorous
gasses.  They discuss life and especially sex.  In a sense this is
an X-rated version of CASTAWAY with a flatulent corpse instead of a
soccer ball named Wilson.  The film is funny, ugly, pitiful, and
vulgar.  It stars Paul Dano (THERE WILL BE BLOOD) and Daniel
Radcliffe, the screen's Harry Potter.  Rating: +2

Werner Herzog directed and guided this provocative documentary
about how the Internet-connected computing power is changing the
world and altering humanity.  The film is divided into chapters,
each of which talks about some subject related to the Internet but
not really connected to each other so it is like attending a
conference and hearing a wide variety of papers.  We are told
about the first word that was ever sent over the Internet and how
it accidentally became the appropriate "lo."  This is told over the
music of "Das Rheingold".  One interesting account was the taking
an insoluble biological research problem and reframing it as a
networked computer game that quickly solved the previously
impossible problem.  There was also a section on videogame
addiction and one on Internet sensitivity.  Rating: +2

Here we have a documentary directed by Mohammed Naqvi and Hemal
Trivedi about the Red Mosque madrasas in Pakistan.  These are
schools that take in any of the young who want to come to be
taught and fed.  That sounds good, but what they will be taught
will be almost exclusively The Quran and the importance of militant
Jihad.  This is the breeding ground of the Taliban.  They believe
that not having their exact religious viewpoint is a sin against
Allah and one that should be and frequently is a capital crime.  It
is a frightening wake-up call, though no solutions are, or perhaps
can be, offered.  The Red Mosque runs thousands of madrasas
indoctrinating boys to be used as fighters and, as are their
fervent hope, suicide fighters.  The film extensively interviews
Maulana Aziz, the soft-spoken head of the Red Mosque in Islamabad.
AMONG THE BELIEVERS is a very chilling expose.  Rating: Low +3.

In the years before WWI a Scottish girl comes of age in Scottish
farm country where women are treated as chattels.  We get repeated
images of acres of wheat.  The plot is a little hard to follow
because of the thick Scots accent, but the view of farm life is
the film's greatest virtue.  Based on a novel by Louis Grassic
Gibbon.  Written and directed by Terence Davies who directed HOUSE
OF MIRTH and THE DEEP BLUE SEA.  The film is slow and deliberate
but finely textured.  Rating +2.

This is a look at the long career of Norman Lear who made a large
contribution to US comedy, giving it a controversially liberal
edge.  The narrative is the most engaging when it is talking about
familiar television shows like "All In The Family" and "The
Jeffersons".  Not to doubt Lear's contribution, but this film is
of only moderate interest when it is looking at his later work.
Rating: +1



TOPIC: Anti-Matter Food (letters of comment by Peter Rubinstein
and George Phillies)

In response to Mark's comments on anti-matter food in the 01/27/16
issue of the MT VOID, Pete Rubinstein writes:

Since you've already got the chicken, wouldn't it be easier to
find some antimatter cheese?  [-pr]

Mark responds with a wink:

Don't be silly.  Where would you find anti-matter cheese?  [-mrl]

George Phillies writes:

An antimatter chicken, being inverted in all respects, is milchig?
(I think that's the right spelling; if not, I apologize.)

Mind you, I am seriously not fond of the modern custom of melting
cheese onto everything.  [-gp]

Arthur T asks:

Wouldn't it be okay as long as the cheese isn't made from chicken
milk?  [-at]

Mark responds:

You'd think so, wouldn't you?  Don't get me started.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Single-Letter Film Titles (letter of comment by Bill

In response to Mark's comments on Turner Classic Movies in the
01/27/16 issue of the MT VOID, Bill Higgins writes:

In MT VOID #1947, Mark managed to mention in quick succession
Costa-Garvas's film *Z* and Fritz Lang's *M*.

I am wondering how much of the alphabet can be covered by such
feature films. The title of *Z* is just Z, and the title of *M* is
just M, but I would be willing to allow movies with subtitles,
such as *X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES* and *Q*, which in some
sources is entitled *Q: THE WINGED SERPENT*.(Before someone asks,
*BEE MOVIE* does not qualify.)

Only films whose main title consists of just a single letter are
allowed. How much of the alphabet can be filled? I do not know the

Also, are there single-character-title feature films for other
phonetic alphabets, such as Greek or Cyrillic?

Hot jets and clear ether.  [-wh]

Mark responds:

I would say no subtitles or it is too easy.  And if you allowed
short films then just about all letters would qualify.  I would
say you wanted only feature films and if it is an or titles it is

Off the top of my head I come up with only M, Z and an old horror
film called W.  But with the benefit of the IMDB I get single
character alphanumeric titles all but C, D, J, S, V, or X.  And
those letters have mini-series, shorts, or punctuation.  Also,
there are 0, 2, 3, or 6.  Any other alphanumeric will have been
used for a feature film title.  So six letters and four digits
still have not been the title of a feature film.

And the next time you go turning on hot jets and clearing ether,
can you take your plane outside first?  There's a good boy.


LA LA LAND (letter of comment by Kevin R)

In response to Mark's comments on various films in the 01/23/16
issue of the MT VOID, Kevin R writes:

[INHERIT THE WIND (1960)] was one of my favorites when I was a
high school kid, and wanted to be a lawyer.  I used a reading from
the play, mostly lines of the character E. K. Hornbeck (a take on
H. L. Mencken) to win a part in a school production of "Arsenic and
Old Lace."  (I played Jonathan Brewster.)  [-kr]

Mark responds:

And can you do a good impression of Boris Karloff?  [-mrl]

Regarding OF MICE AND MEN (1939), Kevin writes:

This will help you appreciate certain Warner Brothers, and Tex
Avery MGM cartoons:

Kevin also notes that it is Anna Torv in THE DAUGHTER, not Anna
Tov.  [Mark notes, "Sorry Anna.  I was calling you "good."]

Regarding LA LA LAND, Kevin writes:

What's the old saw about movie musicals? I can't remember who said
it and my search-fu fails me.  It goes something like,

"In a musical, if a man and a woman sing together, they are
falling in love.  If they dance together, they are making love."

Mark replies:

Right there?  On the screen???  I am shocked.  [-mrl]


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

What should I read?

It sounds like a simple question, and forty years ago it would
have been less problematic.  But calculating (as Robert Silverberg
once did) how many more books I can reasonably expect to read, it
becomes clear that I need to become more selective.

This in part is why I "abandon" a lot more books than I used to.
In 2016, I "dropped" 68 books (I read 178).  However, I also try
to be selective in what I start--why spend even a small amount of
time reading books that are not promising?

Given that, I imagine (assuming you are still reading this) that
you are wondering why I spend time reading some of the books I do
read.  All I can say is that not every book I read has to be a
classic; it just has to hold my interest.

One such book this week is CIVIL WAR GHOSTS edited by Martin Harry
Greenberg, Frank McSherry, and Charles G. Waugh (ISBN 978-0-87483-
172-3).  There are three sorts of theme anthologies.  One is the
original anthology which has open submissions on a specific topic.
Another is the original anthology where the editor has commissioned
stories on a specific topic.  The third is the reprint anthology
which takes the best of previously published stories on a topic
(subject to copyright permissions).  Not surprisingly, the third
is almost always the highest quality.  After all, it has decades
(in this case, over a century) to scour.  And because Civil War
ghost stories have been around since before 1922, there is no
difficulty about rights to such classics as "An Occurrence at Owl
Creek Bridge" and "The Drummer Ghost".

But the problem with the stories here is the problem with all
ghost stories: because anything can happen, nothing is really
startling.  The author can work on atmosphere, but when it comes to
actual plot, there is little that can be either obvious or
surprising.  If suddenly someone who seems to be human walks
through a wall, well, okay, they're a spirit.  If they vanish
without a trace, well, okay, they're a spirit.  If they vanish but
leave their bouquet of fresh flowers behind, only now the flowers
are dead, well, that's not surprising either.

0-486-27795-0) has this same problem.  The stories are just bland,
and even the one twist in the last one was very predictable.
(Maybe it wasn't as overused a hundred and fifty years ago.)
Still, stories about specters and inheritances and devils just are
not very convincing these days, especially since there are
apparently no rules to follow.  A vampire story tends to have some
rules, e.g., vampires are killed by sunlight and cast no
reflection.  But ghosts seem to have no rules--truly playing
tennis with the net down.

ATHEISM: A BRIEF INSIGHT by Julian Baggini (ISBN 978-1-4027-6882-
8) is a concise summary of what atheism is, its historical roots,
the arguments for it, and responses to the arguments against it.
For example, he makes the distinction between beliefs based on
faith which are presented as evidence and beliefs based on faith
which are recognized as not constituting evidence.  Recommended as
the best short introduction to atheism I have seen.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Dogs, the foremost snobs in creation, are quick
           to notice the difference between a well-clad and
           a disreputable stranger.
                                           -- Albert Payson Terhune