Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/02/17 -- Vol. 35, No. 49, Whole Number 1965

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Greece (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        AFTERIMAGE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Spot the Space Station (letter of comment by Philip Chee)
        This Week's Reading (LAST YEAR and THE MARTIAN)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Greece (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Evelyn and I recently visited Greece for the first time.  I am not
sure why we waited so long.  Much of our culture came from Greece
and it is, of course, a major country historically but one that I
have never been to.  Right now Greece is poised to bring some very
negative economic changes to the world economy.  How could little
and not very powerful Greece do that?  Our tour guide presented us
with what is the general opinion of Greece.

Greece was one of the countries that formed the European Union,
logically enough.  There is strength in numbers.  There in
particular is financial strength in the union of states that is the
United States.  If Puerto Rico is going bankrupt (and it is, by the
way) there is the whole United States to buoy up its economy.  The
more countries in the European Union, the more stable *should be*
their union.

When Greece joined the European Union, it was part of a plan that
was supposed to bring prosperity to all of the member countries of
Europe.  All of Europe gave itself a high credit rating.

Greece did what too many United States wage earners have done in
our own country.  It maxed out its credit.  Greece borrowed scads
of money to buy its way into a life of prosperity.  No small
proportion of that money went into graft and corruption.  Doesn't
it always?  Credit is always just a way of kicking down the road
the responsibility to pay money.  So Greece took loans without much
thought to how it would pay off its debt.  So far our guide and I
are in agreement.

Now here is where I disagree with the general Greek view of what
went wrong. The Greek view seems to be that Greece is too small and
new a country to know what it was doing.  It did not know how to be
financially responsible.  In 1973 it declared democracy, throwing
out the then-current military dictatorship.  The Greeks consider
that the current country started at that time.  Greece pleads youth
and incompetence.  It blames the international creditors and not
the Greek borrowers.  It blames the lenders.  I say that Greece
should have known what way too many Americans have learned, that
you have to manage debt. That is why so many people, even social
liberals, are fiscal conservatives.
The IMF, the International Monetary Fund, is trying to bail out
Greece by loaning funds to Greece and allowing it to spread out its
payments over a longer interval of time, if in return Greece limits
its spending.  That is a mighty big if.  It means lowering
salaries, raising taxes, cutting pension payments, laying people
off, and other painful austerity measures.  This situation is what
Greeks are calling "the crisis."

Greece wants to re-finance its debts.  And it may be the best thing
to do to let it.  Greece's other alternative is to not pay off its
debts.  It can default.  What will that do?  It will ruin Greece's
credit rating.  The odds are the country will find it much more
difficult to get credit.  But there are people who have borrowed
money on the security of Greek loans.  Without the funds expected
from Greek loan payments they may also default on their loans.  And
so the pool of loan defaults will spread to other countries.  Other
countries' economies could fall like dominoes.  What the United
States saw in 2008 could be happening on a large scale in Europe.

Just a whimsical thought connected to all this:

I notice that Greek is a language that has profligate use of its
alphabet.  It is just like French in this regard or even worse.
Signs are in Greek and English.  If it takes 12 letters to say
something in English, in Greek it will require 18 to 24 letters.
Same idea, but it just takes a lot more letters to express in
Greek.  Government documents, newspapers.  Even advertising.
Everything requires a lot more ink and effort because of the
inefficiency of rendering ideas into Greek.  The Greek government
could economize by making English its official language.  There
could be some savings there.  Who knows what the long-term effects
are on the Greek people?  [-mrl]


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

CAPSULE: The late Andrzej Wajda, one of the most respected names in
Polish cinema caps off his career with one final protest against
the Stalinist suppression of intellectuals and artists in the early
late 1940s and early 1950s. He may be filling it with what are
probably autobiographical details.  Wajda directs Boguslaw Linda as
Wladyslaw Strzeminski.  The Soviet indifference to art and people's
lives is chilling.  Some of the conflicts in the film are going to
seem timelier than Wajda would have suspected.  Rating: +2 (-4 to
+4) or 7/10

One of Europe's greatest filmmakers, Andrzej Wajda died in October
of 2016.  He was 90 years old and still making films.  His final
film was AFTERIMAGE, a look at the persecution and death of an
artist.  AFTERIMAGE is one great Polish artist's examining the
Soviet persecution of another great Polish artist, Wladyslaw
Strzeminski.  Strzeminski was considered the most important Polish
graphic artist of the twentieth century, usually dealing with
brightly colored abstract painting.

Our director is Andrzej Wajda, himself considered one of the
greatest film directors of Europe.  Among his classics are KANAL
(1956) and ASHES AND DIAMONDS (1958).  He died in October 2016 with
his final film being AFTERIMAGE (2016).

In the early 1950s Wladyslaw Strzeminski was one of the great
living avant-garde painters.  His style of bright abstracts was his
own.  But the Polish government was a puppet of the Soviet Union,
which was in turn under the control of Joseph Stalin.  Strzeminski
had lost both an arm and a leg in World War II.  Still, he taught
art and his lectures on art held his classes spellbound.  While the
Nazi attitude toward great art had been to steal it, the Soviets,
if it did not suit their ends, wanted to see it destroyed. Bright
colored abstracts did not suit their ends.  The Ministry of Culture
and Art demanded that Strzeminski follow or at least respect the
Socialist Realist style of art and the artist did neither.

What followed were a series of incidents of the artist losing some
ingredient necessary for his art and finding himself struggling to
survive.  He loses his teaching position, then his room at the arts
museum, and then his right to own paints.  He would swallow his
pride and take a less prestigious position or a piece of his own
art only to have the ministry find him again and the cycle would
continue until it would finally take his life.

It took Wajda two decades to get this film made.  He orchestrates
color in the film like he orchestrates acting.  Most of the visuals
of the film are suppressed to make Strzeminski's art stand out.
The artist's color was vivid and gave a sharp contrast to the
dismal gray-green color palette that is used for most of the film,
particularly the later portions.  The repetition of lost battles
that Strzeminski fights makes the film downbeat and a little less
engaging than AFTERIMAGE needed to be.

AFTERIMAGE is a dramatization of how even a very strong personality
can be ground down between the stones of clashing political
ideologies.  The film slowly flows from a cry to a whimper.  I rate
AFTERIMAGE a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.  It is currently
playing in New York City and will open May 26 in Los Angeles.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Spot the Space Station (letter of comment by Philip Chee)

In response to David Goldfarb's comments on spotting the ISS in the
05/26/17 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

[David Goldfarb wrote,] "The "spot the station" website also allows
you to sign up for email notifications of when the station will be
visible.  I went out and looked at it just today: viewing
conditions in Houston were ideal.  The station was in the sky for
about six minutes, which is about the longest it ever is.  It
passed quite close to Jupiter, and at its brightest was noticeably
the brighter."  [-dg]

In SPELL OF CATASTROPHE (the first of a series of novels) [it]
starts off like a standard sword and sorcery book with sword
wielding barbarians (think CONAN), magicians, and gods--or god like
beings--who have an interest in limiting the level of technology
available to humans (e.g. LORD OF LIGHT, SCRAPPED PRINCESS, etc)
but eventually turns out to be s.f.

The author throws a curve ball at the reader by writing in the
first chapter that "The big moon was up, plus some of the small
fast ones" reinforcing the fantasy aspect.

In retrospect "the small fast ones" are obviously you know
whatnots.  [-pc]


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

LAST YEAR by Robert Charles Wilson (ISBN 978-0-7653-3263-9) is a
time-travel novel, but with a more carefully thought-out premise
than many.  Given the "Grandfather Paradox", Wilson supposes that
one is not traveling to the past (in this case 1876) of our world,
but to a parallel world identical to ours, but running behind ours
(in this case, by about 150 years).  (An alternative explanation
would be that the visit to our past causes another branch to sprout
off, but it seems to me that Wilson explicitly specifies the first

The "time travel" here at first seems mostly for the purposes of
tourism, but it turns out that there are other motives as well, and
the whole question of the ethics of time travel is raised.  In a
sense this is about colonialism, and Kant's categorical imperative
(are the people in the past/other world "real"?).

[Kant's Categorical Imperative: "Act as you would want all other
people to act towards all other people. Act according to the maxim
that you would wish all other rational people to follow, as if it
were a universal law."  -mrl]

Wilson is always engaging, and other than his one trilogy, he does
not repeat a theme as do so many other authors, so his works always
seem fresh.

As with any novel, if you read THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir (ISBN 978-
0-553-41802-6) enough times, you start to find contradictions.  For
example, on Sol 34, Mark Watney says, "Nothing to be done about the
heat.  There's actually no air conditioning in the Hab."  But then
on Sol 39, he relates his plan to leave the Hab for a short trip
and says, "I can lower the Hab temperature to 1-degree C..."

In his log for Sol 33(2), he says, "NASA put a lot of effort into
making sure nothing here can burn," and he is forced to cut up a
wooden crucifix to start a fire.  But then on Sol 97(2), he says,
"I have limited paper to work with."  On Sol 201, he says, "Using a
funnel made from a piece of paper..." and on Sol 387, "I even made
a model out of paper."

Laptop displays either freeze or boil off in Martian atmosphere
(Sol 98(2)).  When the Hab blew (Sol 119), Watney should have lost
any laptops in it, yet he doesn't mention this.  By Sol 388 he
mentions "three remaining laptops", so I suppose they might have
been in the Rover at the time rather than the Hab, but that seems

(None of this addresses the unlikely in the novel.  For example,
when every ounce counts, NASA sends enough multi-vitamins "to last
years."  (Later, he says he has double what he needs for four
years, so that's eight years' supply for one, or sixteen months'
supply for the entire crew for their thirty days on Mars.)  A
thirty-day mission for six people should give him enough to last
six months--a year at the outside.  And why do the meals have five
times the amount of protein needed?  And one more word: sandstorm.)

[Mark notes: Non-flammable paper can be made out of hydroxyapatite.


                                           Mark Leeper

           Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater.
           If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby.
           If you give her a house, she'll give you a home.
           If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.
           If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.
           She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.
           So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive
           a ton of sh*t!
                                          --William Golding