Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/05/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 27, Whole Number 1996

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Brought to You by the NFA (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        My Top Ten Films of 2017 (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Answers to the Puzzles from ALICE'S PUZZLES IN WONDERLAND
                (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        ORPHAN BLACK (Season 5) (television review by Dale Skran)
        STAR WARS--THE LAST JEDI (letter of comment
                by George MacLachlan)
        THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (letter of comment
                by Joseph T. Major)
        This Week's Reading (THE THIRD MAN) (book and movie comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Brought to You by the NFA (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

This issue of the MT VOID is brought to you in part by the National
Firearms Association.

We here at the National Firearms Association have been terribly
devastated by recent mass shootings that have certainly captured
the public eye.  These are terrible events.  The emotional impact
of such shootings can last for years or even decades.  And while we
are so devastated is not the right time to have a calm rational
discussion of gun control.  We must wait for a proper time to
discuss firearms regulation.  When is the proper time?  We will let
you know a good time to discuss firearm control.  In the meantime
please do not call us.  We will call you.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: My Top Ten Films of 2017 (film comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Once again it is time to pick out what I consider the best of the
best films I saw this year and I have to bemoan the fact that I am
just not in a position to see all the films that deserve
recommendations.  I should not call these the top ten films of
2017, but the top ten I have managed to see.  It also is not a good
idea putting a bunch of these films together and rank ordering
them.  Last year there were four or five good documentaries wholly
or in part about police brutality, race relations, and riots.  This
year there is at least that many.  It was a topic that was very
much in the news in 2017.  If they were seen separately and months
apart they would probably get high ratings.  But it is hard to see
three in a week and not down-rate them for being so similar and not
have that affect my opinion.

Films are rated on a -4 to +4 scale.

This film is based on a true story.  Molly Bloom wanted to be an
Olympic skier and came very close to making it.  Then in an instant
she had an accident, was washed out, and had to give up her Olympic
dreams.  By chance she ended up inheriting the job of organizing the
most exclusive weekly poker game in the world.  This task brought
her some small fame and some major fortune in (honest) tips.
MOLLY'S GAME is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin who wrote THE
did much of the writing for "The West Wing".  I will be honest that
sports films are not my thing, and poker films are not my thing
either.  I started this film thinking it was not for me.  It took
five minutes before I became fascinated by this film and by Molly.
Jessica Chastain is captivating as Molly Bloom and Idris Elba is
her lawyer.  When the two talk they are really convincing as being
very, very smart.  Much of the film revolves around the fact that
Molly has very high scruples.  The FBI did not believe that, but I
do.  This film was a lot of enjoyment and it may well be the most
fun I will have at the movies this year.  This is a major role for
Chastain and I suspect that from now on she will be thought of as a
glamorous actress.  Rating: +3

Set in 1971, the owner of the Washington Post is faced with a
Constitutional issue of whether to publish the contents of the
Pentagon papers or to allow the government to gag her newspaper.
Meanwhile as the first woman ever to own a newspaper she gets
little respect from her own staff.  Steven Spielberg directs a good
cast led by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks.  Hanks's character,
Streep's editor-in-chief, is pushing for the newspaper to exercise
the First Amendment right of the newspaper.  But that way leads to
a lot of trouble.  Rating: +3

This biography of Jane Goodall shows us how by studying chimpanzees
she has changed our definition of what is and is not human.  We
see her in-depth (and continuing) study of chimpanzee behavior.  The
film is a feast for the eye with its beautiful animal photography.
Just how these images became part of the film is actually part of
the story.  This is certainly one of the year's best documentaries.
Rating: +3

This is an epic yet personal story, a memoir of one very young
girl.  Loung Ung, survived in Cambodia when the violently militant
Khmer Rouge controlled much of the populace.  The narrative is just
as vicious and painful as the title suggests it to be.  Angelina
Jolie directs from a script by she co-authored with the real Loung
Ung.  Rating: +3

With an unusual stylistic approach, Christopher Nolan writes and
directs his re-creation of one of the most heroic retreats in
history.  400,000 British soldiers had been fighting in Europe and
now were surrounded by Germans, stranded on the beaches of near the
French town of Dunkirk where they were vulnerable to attack from
the land, sea, and air.  At the same time as he is telling the
story, Nolan does some strange experiments with cinematic time that
the inattentive viewer (like me perhaps) might easily miss.  Rating:

This is the story of the lives of a Hollywood couple, Lillian and
Harold Michelson, who were the barely-sung heroes of the Hollywood
film industry for six decades.  Harold had an instinct for how films
should look and created pitch-perfect storyboards, often
transforming the director's whole vision of the film being shot.
Lillian had a huge and astutely collected research library to find
authentic visions from around the world, from all of history, and
into the future.  The story of their private lives is a love story
of a perfect marriage.  Their visual style and knowledge shaped the
look and feel of surprisingly many classic films.  This film was
written, produced, and directed by Daniel Raim.  Rating: low +3

This is based on a true story.  Stricken with polio and a prognosis
of only three months to live, Robin Cavendish must first overcome
his death wish.  He then attacks his problem that he must live in
hospital with an immovable respirator.  With the help of friends he
engineers a way to live at home and then to actually move around.
His engineering solutions improved the lives of thousands of polio
victims.  Andy Serkis's directorial debut is a moving paean to the
human spirit and the possibilities of engineering.  Rating: high +2

After thirty-five years the classic science fiction film BLADE
RUNNER gets a sequel directed by Denis Villeneuve and based on a
screenplay by Hampton Fancher among others.  The story concerns a
search for the author of the false memories implanted in
replicants.  The film is a long 163 minutes starting at a
contemplative (not to say "snail's") pace, yet is a little
overstuffed with action later in the second half.  It is richer in
ideas than is the original film, though it lacks the iconic visuals
that that first film did so well.  Rating: high +2

A police detective stalks a serial killer in Victorian London and
tries to connect it to a recent killing.  The film feels as if 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

Dr. Bassem Youssef was a heart surgeon in Cairo who was fascinated
by "The Daily Show" and its host Jon Stewart.  He quit medicine and
started his own satirical daily show, patterning himself after
Stewart, but in a country where extremists can be deadly.  This
documentary, heavily laced with humor and satire, tells the story
of Youssef and his send-up show(s) under three dangerous and
autocratic presidents of Egypt.  Rating: high +2



TOPIC: Answers to the Puzzles from ALICE'S PUZZLES IN WONDERLAND
(comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

Last week I said that ALICE'S PUZZLES IN WONDERLAND by Richard
Wolfrick Galland had two incorrect answers.  Here are the puzzles
with the answers given, and my analysis of why they are wrong.

The first is as follows: The Hatter finds a $50 bill.  He went to
the butcher and pays him the $50 he owed him.  The butcher bought a
pig from the farmer for $50.  The farmer paid the carpenter $50 he
owed him.  The carpenter paid the King $50 in taxes.  The King paid
the Hatter $50 he owed him for a hat.  Then the Hatter recognized
the bill as the original $50 bill and realized it was fake.  What
was lost in this and by whom?

The answer given is that all the transactions are invalid and
everything is back the way it was, except that the butcher now owes
the farmer $50 for the pig.  (Or presumably the butcher has to
return the pig.)  But why?  Anyone who has read Eric Frank
Russell's THE GREAT EXPLOSION realizes that this is just a way of
making more concrete the idea of "transitive" debts: if I owe you
$50, you owe Fred $50, and Fred owes me $50, the simplest thing to
do is just cancel all three debts.  The $50 bill just makes it
clearer.  So why say all the transactions are invalid?  If the
Hatter had never realized the bill was a fake, but had lost it
instead, everything would be fine.

The other puzzle involves a shrinking potion and a growing potion.
A witch has a quart iron cauldron of the growing potion and a quart
bronze cauldron of the shrinking potion.  She then takes three
ladles of the stuff in the iron cauldron and poured them into the
bronze cauldron, which she mixed thoroughly.  Then she took two
ladles from the bronze cauldron and put them in the iron cauldron,
then a ladle from the iron to the bronze, and then two ladles from
the iron to the bronze, mixing each time.  Alice then asked which
would make her shorter.

The answer given was "neither", the reasoning being that four
ladles have gone in each direction, so the mixtures are the same.
"What the growth portion has gained in shrinking potion is exactly
what the shrinking potion has gained in growth potion, or else the
amounts of liquids would differ."  Well, the latter statement is
true, but the real question is in which the shrink-stuff is more
than the grow-stuff.  Looking at an extreme example, if the
cauldrons were 1000 gallons each and you moved 4 teaspoons from
each cauldron to the other, the one that started out with 1000
gallons of shrink-stuff would still have a lot more shrink stuff
than grow-stuff.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This film is one of several of 2017 based on true stories.
Jay Bahadur, a determined if somewhat unready writer from Toronto,
decides that his path to fame and permanent employment is to travel
to Somalia and write a book about the pirates who are in the news
for hijacking passing cargo ships.  This film covers his exploits
getting to Somalia and mixing in affairs that he only incompletely
understands.  The film starts as a comedy, but the humor runs out
as Bahadur comes to understand how serious his position is, and he
learns to be responsible.  The film was written and directed by
Bryan Buckley, adapted from the book by Bahadur.  Rating: high +1
(-4 to +4) or 6/10

Most people from the United States probably could not find Somalia
on a world map.  Over the last few decades the world has become
aware of the massive problems of Somalis, in particular those who
turn to maritime piracy. They hijack cargo ships in the African
waters and the Indian Ocean.  Somali pirates seize cargo ships and
hold the hostage for ransoms in the millions of dollars.

There have been at least two major films on this issue.  Tom Hanks
starred in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, and there was an excellent Danish
film, A HIJACKING.  THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA is not as informative
perhaps, with good but unsuccessful intentions telling the story of
Jay Bahadur (played by Evan Peters), an aspiring journalist who had
a special interest in Somalia after he wrote a term paper on the
country for a high school class.  Ignoring the danger, he travels
to Somalia to see if he can find pirates.

Once he gets to know the Somalis he wants to write about them to
tell the world what he has learned.  But the emphasis is less about
the country and more about Bahadur and the problems he faces--a
fish out of water--than about any pirates.  His greatest revelation
is that other countries have over-fished Somalia's fishing waters.
For the Somalis it is an issue of going hungry or finding another
source of income.  Those very valuable cargo ships on the water
near home is a big temptation for them.

Al Pacino plays Seymour Tolbin, considered a great journalist made
famous by his Vietnam coverage, who is sort of inspiration and muse
for Bahadur.  For his role Pacino slurs his speech talking through
rough beard.  He is not based on a real person and is a waste of
valuable narrative time.  There is one other familiar actor,
Melanie Griffith plays Bahadur's mother at least a little better.

Scenes like a pirate attack on a boat are done in animation--a
reasonable way to save on budget.  The film does feature some well-
shot desert photography.  Otherwise the country looks uninviting
and that too we see.

The worst problem of the film is there is much less about the
pirates themselves as there is about how Bahadur found his way to
them.  Rather than a news correspondent story sort of film this
film can more be compared with a film like LOCAL HERO with its
gentle look at the ensemble of background characters.  Even the
pirates themselves indentify themselves as Robin Hood pirates,
supposedly sharing their proceeds with the poor.  Just as Laurel
and Hardy accentuated each other by their opposite statures--one
tall and thin, the other short and squat--Bahadur and his guide
Abdi (Barkhad Abdi) have very different faces accentuating the
humor between them.  Bahadur (Evan Peters, really) has a very
circular face.  Barkhad Abdi has a narrow, triangular face.  (Abdi
was also in CAPTAIN PHILLIPS as the lead pirate.)

Writer-director Buckley seems to think that his viewer wants to
know more about Bahadur than about Somali pirates.  At least he can
make that funnier.  I rate THE PIRATES OF SOMALIA a high +1 on the
-4 to +4 scale or 6/10.  This film had a limited release in the US
on December 8.  A wider release is probably coming.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: ORPHAN BLACK (Season 5) (television review by Dale Skran)

My family has just finished binge watching Season 5 of ORPHAN
BLACK, so I think it is time for a final wrap-up of this excellent
series, albeit a bit later than most critics.  I was fearful that
the final season would drift further into fantastic technology and
anti-business/anti-technology sentiment, but was instead generally
pleased with the result.

The plot of Season 5 revolves around the final "wizard behind the
scenes"--Stephen McHattie as P. T. Westmorland ("Percival")--a
supposedly 170-year-old man who is the brains behind Neolutionism,
and his Dr. Moreau-like island.  It should come as no surprise that
the clones eventually overcome Westmorland's machinations, and he
comes to a bad end at their hands.  The big technologies on-screen
include infusing young blood into the old to extend their lives,
bionic eyes, and the lin28 gene which is related to healing and
aging, all of which are ripped from recent headlines.

There is a really great party scene near the end where Felix
presents several of the clones as human adjuncts to his art show.
The audience believes that each clone is the same person in a
different costume, but in the show they are different people.  Of
course, this is just another example of the acting virtuosity of
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning and all the other clones.

There are two things I don't like about Season 5.  First, there
seem to be about 6 episodes worth of plot, with the remaining four
episodes padded out with flashbacks that aren't really needed, and
a set of extended "final" scenes reminiscent of the ending of the
"Lord of the Rings" movies.  Second, even though the clones finally
dump a huge trove of information on the Internet that destroys
Neolutionism and Dyad, as well as many other related corporations,
no one ever finds out about the 274 surviving Leda clones and they
apparently continue their lives in secret.  This is possible, but
surely should have had some support in the plot, i.e. scenes where
the clones ensure that the data dump does not mention the Leda
project.  Since Rachael eventually comes over to Sarah's side, it
is certainly possible to have suppressed this information, but such
actions are simply not mentioned. This is just lazy writing.

Most of the plot threads brought up in the first four seasons tie
off nicely, leaving just two things that are unexplained.  First,
just exactly how did Siobhan Sadler (Mrs. S) [Maria Doyle Kennedy]
become who she is--a foster mother who seems to have an vast range
of spy skills, a ruthless talent for violence, her own endless
network of henchmen, and unlimited sage wisdom? There is an
implication that she had something to do with the Irish Republican
Army, but this seems a weak straw to lean on. Second, Kira's
daughter Kira has two powers--fast healing, which is explained, and
a loose telepathic connection with the clones, which is not
explained.  This connection is the one thing in the entire show
that is not hard science, and it is not required to make the plot
work in the slightest.  I really wish it had just been left out

Overall, Orphan Black stands as a great hard SF series, probably
one of the best ever.  This is an "R-rated" cable TV show, with
Game of Thrones level violence/sex, and the 5th season is no
exception, so Orphan is only for adults and older teens, but a
must-see for any serious SF fan.  Additionally, Orphan Black serves
an important educational purpose in helping the public to
understand that there is nothing about clones per se that presents
any danger to the world, and that clones are just people like the
rest of us, except there are more of them!

Additional Note: The only objections to cloning I've see that have
real substance is a fear of "clone dynasties."  The idea is that
rich/smart/capable people would create clones of themselves and
pass on their fortunes to the clones, thus avoiding "deviation
toward the mean" and the gradual decline of subsequent sexually
created generations.  This fear assumes that it is well understood
how to raise a clone to be as capable as the original, something
that seems far from obvious.  It might well be that much like in
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, a large number of clones would be needed to
have a shot at replicating the original.   Of course, if 10% of the
clones are highly capable, the main result of this strategy might
be a dynastic bloodbath/"clone war."  Although there is some merit
to these concerns, my suspicion is that the "clone dynasties" would
be rapidly surpassed by those using pre-implantation genetic
diagnosis and gene editing to improve each subsequent generation.


TOPIC: STAR WARS--THE LAST JEDI (letter of comment by George

In response to Mark's review of STAR WARS--THE LAST JEDI in the
12/22/17 issue of the MT VOID, George MacLachlan writes:

I just finished reading the latest MT VOID and wanted to thank you
both for keeping this channel of communication and information
sharing open.  I have many fond memories of our SF club meetings
back in the good old days at the Labs.

I'm still working at AT&T over in MT, but am thinking seriously of
retiring and moving out to the West coast to be closer to our

Donna and I both agree heartily with Mark's review of the latest
"Star Wars" movie.  You do an outstanding job of getting to the
essence of the film and capturing the relevant details.  [-gfm]

Mark responds:

George, Evelyn and I are much pleased with your reactions.  You pay
us very high complement.   Other than Evelyn and I, George is our
only charter member remaining.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (letter of comment by Joseph T.

In response to Mark's comments on TCM movies for January in the
12/29/17 issue of the MT VOID, Joseph Major writes:

THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX has a moving dedication.  I mean the book
(1964): "There are certain men who, when faced with the choice of
dying, or doing the impossible, elect to live.  This story is
written in honor of their kind."

The movie was dedicated to Paul Mantz, the stunt pilot and aviation
mastermind, who died during the filming of a scene.  [-jtm]

Mark responds:

It was not just a scene.  It would have been the most dramatic
scene of the film and one that makes itself obvious by its absence.


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

Spoiler warning: Spoilers out the wazoo!

THE THIRD MAN by Graham Greene (ISBN 978-0-140-28682-3) and its
film version are on the face of it about the identity of the "third
man", but they are also about the identities--the "true"
identities--of other characters and entities as well.  I will be
discussing both the book and the film, and try to indicate which
one I am discussing at a specific point.

The film (at least the British version) starts with the opening
narration.  The narrator says that he did not know "the old Vienna
before the war, with its Strauss waltzes, its glamour and easy
charm.  Constantinople suited me better."  This emphasizes that
Vienna--its underlying identity--has changed.  (In the book, it is
"its Strauss waltzes and its bogus easy charm," suggesting that
even before the war, Vienna put on a false face.)  But this is also
the first of many "mis-namings", because Constantinople was renamed
Istanbul in the 18th century.  It is true the name was not adopted
immediately in the West, but by 1946 one can claim that
Constantinople was no longer the correct name.  (The book makes no
mention of Constantinople.)

The most obvious identity issues are with the characters.  The
first and foremost is the identity of the third man seen by the
porter at Harry Lime's accident.  This is compounded by the
confusion between Lime and the intern Joseph Harbin, who has been
buried in what is supposedly Lime's grave.

In the novel, the main character is the Englishman Rollo Martins,
who writes cheap Westerns under the pen name "Buck Dexter".  This
is not one issue of identity, but two, since he conceals both his
true name and his true nationality.  (We later discover he has
never even been to America.)  In the film, he is the American Holly
Martins (played by Joseph Cotten, he would have to be American),
and he writes under his own name.

In another error of geographical identity in the film, Sgt. Paine
says he likes "The Lone Rider of Santa Fe" (which Holly Martins
wrote), and has always wanted to see Texas.  (In the book, the main
character is "Rollo Martins", not "Holly".)

Martins almost always calls Major Calloway "Callaghan".  In the
film, it seems as though Martins knows Calloway's correct name
(because he does use it some of the time, usually when talking
about Calloway to a third person), but usually addresses him
directly as "Major Callaghan" to annoy him.  The first time (when
Martins is drunk and so may be doing it accidentally), Calloway
snaps back, 'Calloway!  I'm English,  not Irish."  However, in the
novel, Martins appears to be genuinely unable to get Calloway's
name straight at the beginning--Greene has him thinking "Callaghan"
when we are inside Martins's thoughts--but later correctly
addresses him as "Calloway".

Also in the novel, though Calloway is wearing a uniform (colonel
rather than major), he says he is actually Scotland Yard.  More
identity confusion.

In the film, Crabbin (an organizer of cultural events) hears
someone mention that Martins is a writer and assumes he is a
literary type.  In the novel, the confusion is more explicit.  When
Martins tries to check in to the hotel, he is told there is no
reservation for Martins, but there is one for Dexter.  He takes it,
assuming it is for his pen name, but Crabbin, who is expecting the
literary novelist *Benjamin* Dexter, overhears this and assumes
this is he.  Later, Martins finds himself again filling the role of
Benjamin Dexter (at a lecture) and, in the book, signs Benjamin
Dexter's novel as "B. Dexter", telling himself it is not really a

In the film Martins mispronounces Dr. Winkle's name with a "W"
sound at the beginning rather than the correct "V" sound.  (This
actually makes no sense, because Martins has *heard* the name, not
*seen* it.  For all he knows, it is spelled "Vinkle".)  In the
novel, he reads what someone has written, but pronounces it
"Winkle" instead of "Winkler" (no indication of his initial
consonant pronunciation).  Here it is possible than the writing was
not clear enough on the final letter.

In both the film and the book, Martins also adds to the identity
confusion by saying that he has been influenced by "Grey", leading
the literary-minded audience to ask, "What Grey?  I do not know the
name."  "Zane Grey--I don't know any other."  (Zane Grey's full
name was "Pearl Zane Grey", so it is another example of a slightly
concealed identity.  After all, no one would buy Westerns written
by an author named "Pearl".)  However, the audience should at least
have considered Thomas Gray and indeed, in the book Crabbin insists
that Martins is joking and really meant "the poet Gray."

In another cultural referent, both the Brigadier and Paine call an
earlier Hindu dance cultural event a "strip tease".  (One could
even see the adulteration of penicillin as a question of identity:
passing one substance off as another.)

Anna calls Holly "Harry" at least twice in the film, not to taunt
him (as Martins does with Callaghan/Calloway), but because she is
so wrapped up in Harry Lime that his name comes out automatically
instead of the very similar "Holly".  When Martins corrects her the
second time, she says that "Holly" is a silly name.

And of course, Anna's false papers are another form of identity
confusion.  Is "Anna Schmidt" really her name, or is that just the
name on her papers?  In the novel, Crabbin says, "She calls herself
Schmidt," implying that is merely a stage name.  Also, in the
novel she is Hungarian, in the film she is Estonian, and "Schmidt"
is neither a Hungarian nor an Estonian name.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           A really companionable and indispensable dog is an
           accident of nature.  You can't get it by breeding for it,
           and you can't buy it with money.  It just happens along.
                                           --E. B. White