Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/15/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 11, Whole Number 1980

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Going the Distance (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Love for the 20,000 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        COLD MOON (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE DISAPPEARING SPOON by Sam Kean (book review
                by Gregory Frederick)
        This Week's Reading (THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Going the Distance (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Evelyn sent me an article saying that the human animal's maximum
life span is about 120 years.  This was my response:
Some people say the 120-year limit can't be broke.  A doctor will
tell you it's an absolute, like the firmness of the earth. Going
beyond the 120-year limit is pie in the sky. They'll tell you the
heart will seize up. You can't budge your stick. They'll tell you
anybody tries to live longer will auger in. Well, now, maybe it
can't be broke. Then again... maybe it can. Maybe it can only be
broke for a specified diet and exercise regimen.

(It is a film reference.  If you don't get it, don't worry about
it.)  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Love for the 20,000 (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Evelyn and I (unfortunately) are voracious book collectors.  When
we get interested in a subject I have the bad habit of collecting
books on that subject.  Do I read them all?  Probably most go
nearly unread and the rest have been skimmed or just one section on
one topic has been read.  I intend to continue, but years later I
still have not finished it as some other topic of interest has come
up.  It is a bad habit, but I have always been a slow reader.  I
considered owning a book was the next best thing to having read it.

I blame my sub-par reading rates on my school when I was in low
grades.  I was taught "see-and-say" reading rather than phonics and
that has been a burden to me all my life.

When I finish with a book I probably should somehow dispose of it
since, as it has been observed, it is a lot easier to acquire a
book than to get rid of one. Indeed a book is like a kitten; it is
easy to obtain, but then calls for years of care.  There are all
sorts of threats to books out there.  My collection has been
attacked by leaky water heaters and by insidious organisms like

Evelyn and I have a collection of some 20,000 books.  All or almost
all are cataloged (thank you, Evelyn) and I have a pretty good idea
where to find any particular book in the catalog.  Our collection
is legendary to people I know.
My brother-in-law asked if we did not make a mistake buying all
this big collection of books now with the world going to e-books.
I think there is a basic misunderstanding.  I will not say "never"
but "nearly never" have we bought books as an investment that we
hope to sell and cash in on.  We just like being surrounded by

This reminds me of a story.

When I got to high school I saw our school had a big impressive
library.  It must have been four times as big as my junior high
school library.  For months after I came the high school I would
explore.  Each afternoon when school was over I would go to the new
library and wander.  Any row I picked I would find something of

One day, a week or so after school started, I went to English
class.  The teacher said today we are going to introduce you to the
library.  "We've already met," I said to myself.  Still, that's
cool.  Maybe I would find some books I didn't know.

The librarian gave a talk to the class and asked if anybody could
guess what a book entitled A HOG ON ICE would be all about.  I had
seen the book on one of my expeditions.  After someone guessed it
was about hockey I raised my hand and said it was a book of popular
expressions.  The librarian responded that in all her years of
running the library I was the only student who had known or guessed
correctly what the book was about.  The kid sitting behind me asked
me how I knew.  Well, I admitted I had seen the book on a previous
visit.  The guy behind me said I knew it because I had seen the
book.  The librarian said I had been driving her crazy.  (Me?
Crazy?  Exaggeration for humor.)  She had seen me come in each
afternoon, but she could not figure out what my interests were.
She noticed that I kept coming to the library but seemed to go some
place different each time.  (Yup.)  The librarian started referring
to me as the "man who ruined her life."  It gave me a few moments
of fame.  The name stuck with me.  I wish I remembered her name.
She was really good at her job.  I with I could tell her that while
she had not ignited my fascination with books, she had certainly
fanned the flames.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A police detective stalks a serial killer in Victorian
London and tries to connect it to a recent killing.  The film feels
like it was dipped in "Victorian atmosphere concentrate."  The
movie takes itself very serious indeed, but the viewer can look
between the lines to see it as something of a romp.  Peter
Ackroyd's 1994 novel DAN LENO AND THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM, is the basis
of this dourly fun mystery with a popular London music hall as a
background.  Juan Carlos Medina directs a screen adaptation by Jane
Goldman.  The film features the never-fail actor Bill Nighy and
Olivia Cooke.  The mystery is perhaps not enough mysterious, but
the acting and the look and feel are worth the trip.  Incidentally,
one disappointment is that the plot has virtually nothing to do
with golems.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Note: Limehouse is a district in East London that at this time was
a realm of poverty and a cesspool of crime, sin, and vice.  A golem
is a creature from Jewish folklore, a clay statue mystically
brought to life using the same recipe that God used to bring Adam
to life.

Our story starts in 1880 in a run-down district of London.  The
Ripper has not yet begun his crimes, but he would recognize and
approve of the neighborhood.  Sherlock Holmes might suffer a
breakdown collecting details.  Limehouse is the home of a
concentration of drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, cutpurses,
cutthroats, and a crowded music hall.  There is this new murder
that reminds people of a recent and unsolved series of serial
murders committed by a character nicknamed the Limehouse Golem.
While the killing spree in the film precedes the Ripper murders by
about eight years, the golem leaves ripper-like clues such as
cryptic messages left on walls near the scene of the killing.

A murder has been committed by poison.  The unruly public thinks it
is a return of the Limehouse Golem.  Assigned to the unpleasant
case is John Kildare (played by Bill Nighy).  Kildare is in the
late period of his career and he suspects he is intended to fail so
he can be eased out.  Kildare's chief suspect for the killing is
Lizzie Cree (Olivia Cooke), the wife of the murdered man.  Also
present are familiar faces on good actors like Eddie Marsan and
Daniel Mays.

The film is based on fictional murders and a fictional trial, but
with personages such as Karl Marx, Dan Leno, and George Gissing
added to the story.  A setting such as Limehouse would frequently
have turned up in Hammer films.  Hammer was famous for its low
budgets, the kind that were recreated with very simple sets.  On
the other hand for this film art directors Frederic Evard and Nick
Wilkinson had a much more appropriate budget and the images are
full of life.  They are not just sufficient; they are extravagant.
They might almost be said to be unrealistically lavish, if that is
the right word for depicting a place like Victorian Limehouse.  As
thick as the settings are, some of the accents are thicker.  They
are too realistic and indistinct for the ears of the American

This is a mystery in the best traditions of BBC/PBS "Mystery".  I
rate THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

SPOILER WARNING: The viewer sees too many clues over too short a
period of screen time.  Don't try to guess the killer--you might be



TOPIC: COLD MOON (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In a small backwater town in Florida a teenager has gone
missing.  She lives with her grandmother who is deeply worried
about the lost girl.  Griff Furst directs this adaption by Jack
Snyder of Michael McDowell's novel, COLD MOON OVER BABYLON.  The
story is either a psychological or a supernatural thriller.  You
can take your pick.  Furst takes advantage of the Deep South
setting where giving a feel of gothic to the proceedings.
Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

For a genuine Southern Gothic feel to a film, you really need to
see some swamp or some kudzu.  Somehow you need the feel of HUSH,
missing that, but it does have some gothic feel.  Our film takes
place in Babylon, Florida in 1989, though the film is based on COLD
MOON OVER BABYLON by Michael McDowell, which was written in 1980.
The film starts with a missing-person mystery.  High-schooler
Margaret Larkin was on an errand on her bicycle when she completely
disappeared.  Her grandmother Evelyn (Candy Clark) wants her found
in no uncertain terms.  Early on we are sure she will not show up

At about the halfway point of the film we find who the culprit is
and we move into the killer's mind as he is tormented by ghosts of
the dead who may or may not be all in his mind.  Actual ghosts or
imaginary, they are real enough to torment him.  The mystery plot
is little that is new to the mystery genre.  The film's strongest
point is the visual imagery of the dead returning to avenge the
murder.  I am not an easy scare for a horror film, but the makeup
effects had me on edge. In a flashback we see a man with his head
hidden in a black hood murder her.  No doubt the Deep South texture
enhances the chills for the viewer.  The uncertainty whether the
ghosts are real or not is familiar to most horror audiences since
THE INNOCENTS or its source in the Henry James story A TURN OF THE

The film is based on Michael McDowell's novel, COLD MOON OVER
BABYLON.  McDowell is noted for writing the stories of BEETLEJUICE
and NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.  This is a somewhat more serious
plot than either of those films had.

Main character Sheriff Ted Hale is played by familiar face Frank
Whaley.  Horror film veteran Candy Clark plays Evelyn.  And
Christopher Lloyd of the BACK TO THE FUTURE series--nice to see him
still working--is along in a small but effective part.

COLD MOON has the feel of a horror novel and makes for a few
unexpected chills.  I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Release date: October 6, 2017.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



ELEMENTS) by Sam Kean (book review by Gregory Frederick)

This book is a science history book and is basically about the
history of the development of the periodic table of the elements.
It also covers the details of the discovery of some of the elements
and the properties of many elements.  Therefore, the chemistry and
the physics of some elements is discussed.  Also, the human
behaviors of passion, competition, and obsession factor into this
story too.  Chemistry concerns the electromagnetic force and the
bonding the outer shell electrons of an atom while the physics
delves into the nucleus of the atom, the strong and weak nuclear
forces and its structure.  Though, Dmitri Mendeleev is the person
most associated with creating the first periodic table there where
others before him who attempted the same thing.  Mendeleev's lab
experience gave him a deep level of knowledge of the elements and
he had the courage to even predict some of the properties of
elements that were missing in his new periodic table.

Originally, the table listed elements by order of their atomic
weights but later this was found to be not a good way to list them.
After Mendeleev's early work, another scientist, Henry Moseley, was
probing the nucleus of an atom and it was determined that the
atomic number which is the number of protons in a nucleus of an
atom is the best way to order the elements.  So, when you look at
the periodic table you will see that cobalt which is heavier than
nickel precedes it in the table.  Nickel has a larger atomic number
than cobalt though.  Learning about the physics of an atomic
nucleus was needed to unravel the problem of ordering the elements.
Some exotic creations like the Bose-Einstein Condensate which was
created by reducing the temperature of a group of atoms (2,000
rubidium atoms) to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero
which causes them to act as one giant atom is described in this

If you like to understand how humans learned about the materials
which make up our world, then this enjoyable book is for you.


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

At the NASFIC this year, Brother Guy Consolmagno recommended some
books that look at education, including THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE by
James Rebanks (ISBN 978-1-250-06024-2).  The jacket flap says, "A
James Herriott for Modern Times".  Given that Herriott died in
1995, it is not as if he lived back in Edwardian times or anything
like that.  (Rebanks was born in 1974, so I suppose he is from a
slightly newer generation.)

Rebanks describes the life of shepherds and farmers in the fells of
the Lake District.  From the time he was shunted into a
"comprehensive" school (which sounds like what we would call a
vocational school) until he left school at the age of fifteen, he
had no use for schooling or books, but later he became a voracious
reader.  (The title, for example, seems to be an homage to A
SHEPHERD'S LIFE W. H. Hudson.)  However, he has a very different
view of the Lake District than William Wordsworth or Alfred
Wainwright (who wrote a series of walking guides in the 1950s and
1960s).  Rebanks has little patience for tourists who look only at
the scenery and completely ignore the inhabitants.  The fells to
him are both beautiful and harsh; it is not an easy life there.

Contrary to the implication of Brother Guy, THE SHEPHERD'S LIFE is
not about education, but about the life of the sheep farmers in the
Lake District.  (While much of what he says would be true of small
sheep farmers everywhere, much is very specific to the sheep
farming in that region.)  To a great extent Rebanks is making a
plea to maintain a way of life that has existed for thousands of
years, though one senses that he realizes that this becomes more
difficult as time goes on.  A combination of government regulation
of livestock, the increasing value of the land for purposes other
than farming, and the temptations of the outside world on
succeeding generations all work against maintaining small, labor-
intensive, marginally profitable farms.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people
           who have them.
                                           --P. J. O'Rourke