Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/19/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 29, Whole Number 1998

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
author unless otherwise noted.
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        Two Lesser-Known Sherlock Holmes Television Series
        Hand-Written Computer Fonts (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        OPERA (1987) (a.k.a. TERROR AT THE OPERA) (film review
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING by Ada Palmer (book review
                by Gwendolyn Karpierz)
        The Traveling Money (letter of comment by Jim Susky)
        Edmund Wilson and J. R. R. Tolkien (letter of comment
                by Fred Lerner)
        Emoticons and Morse Code (letter of comment
                by Keith F. Lynch)
        Writing from 2312 (letters of comment by Philip Chee,
                Tim Merrigan, Keith F. Lynch, David Goldfarb,
                and Peter Trei)
        This Week's Reading (THE FIRST WORLD WAR) (book comments         
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Correction

In the 12/01/17 issue of the MT VOID, I made a typo in John Hertz's
comment on Hertz Van Rental, typing "Eijndal" instead of "Rijndal".
It should have read:

Hertz Van Rental is a Dutch branch of the family, maybe from around
Rotterdam.  The name is a local version of Rijndal, i.e., Rhine
Valley.  [-jh]


TOPIC: Two Lesser-Known Sherlock Holmes Television Series

"The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson" (1979-1986)
starring Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin (eleven episodes,
forming five stories):

"Sherlock Holmes" (2013) starring Igor Petrenko and Andrei Panin
(sixteen episodes, forming eight stories):

Both are in Russian, subtitled in English.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Hand-Written Computer Fonts (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

At the time of year that I am writing this, late December, I am
getting a lot of paper mail (as opposed to email) from charities
and causes.  This is the end of the year and many people will for
tax motives make their biggest contributions to charities and
causes in December.  Every day in my mailbox I get three or four
appeals for money.  Now the people who are doing the requesting
know that they want their particular appeal to stand out from the
rest.  They know that they have a lot of competition in the mailbox
to make their message stand out.

Well, they know that a lot of the requests are coming from big
organizations where everything is computerized.  They want to give
the impression that they are not just an impersonal computerized
machine.  They want you to think that they are thinking
specifically of just you.  They are giving their appeal to your
personal attention.  How can they send that message?  If their
target audience sees that they have been given an individual hand-
addressed envelope, then of course your particular contribution is
something they feel is personal to both you and them.  This is a
one-on-one appeal.  Only one problem remains.  It really does take
time to hand-address an envelope.  Do not forget you have to hand-
write the return address also.  That is a little time-consuming.
Maybe it is two minutes per envelope.  For 1000 pieces of mail that
is 2000 minutes.  That is 33-1/3 hours.  That runs into time, even
if the person doing the addressing can keep up the pace.  You have
to pay these people minimum wage or get them to volunteer.  It is a
lot to pay for a momentary warm feeling.

Can you get that warm feeling any way that is cheaper?  You can get
a hand-written computer font for your computer.  You just have to
sample your own handwriting.  You fill 26 little boxes to sample
your lower case, 26 more for upper case.  Then there will be
punctuation you have to worry about.  In all there are probably
fewer than 100 characters in all that you have to show the computer
how you write and it will print out addresses on envelopes in your

There are two problems with this approach.  One is that it is
fairly easy to detect that someone sending you a letter has used a
hand-written font.  My name is Leeper.  Of six letters in my
surname half are 'e's.  If each of the 'e's are exactly like one
another, that is the kind of thing that would be obvious to me.
Some font makers seem to sample twice as many characters and so
lower the odds that the similarities will be noted.  But it is
still noticeable.

Another way to tell is to look at the address line end-on.  If you
can sight down a line of writing and the base of each character
sits on a ruler-straight line.  That is very hard to do with human
penmanship.  It is conceivable that a computer printer could be
able to have the baseline move up and down a little off the
baseline, but I doubt it.

But then if you use this font for a charity appeal, you still have
that second problem. THIS IS THE MAIN POINT.  Think on this.  If
you are asking for contributions your most valuable asset is the
trust of your contributors.  If the first thing you do is to try
deceiving your contributors to thinking you are giving them some
special service that you are not, it sends a very bad message.

There have been major appeals that have been caught breaking their
word to their contributors.  It usually does not go over very well.

But I will tell you if I as a contributor get an appeal for money
from you and before I have opened the envelope I have caught you
trying to defraud me, trying to fool me into thinking you are
taking the time to convince me that you are giving me personal
attention when I see that you are not, how seriously do you think I
am going to take the appeal inside that envelope?  [-mrl]


TOPIC: OPERA (1987) (a.k.a. TERROR AT THE OPERA) (film review by
Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In 1987 Dario Argento, one of Italy's best-known horror
directors, used PHANTOM OF THE OPERA as the inspiration for a story
of a maniac stalking the members of an opera company.  This is one
of Argento's most graphically horrific pieces.  As a film of the
Italian "giallo" genre, it has its share of jump scares and gory
scenes, but an instantly forgettable plot.  An unworthy story is
packed newly released Bluray package with lushly beautiful restored
photography and great use of color.  There is less for the mind
than there is for the eye.  Which is appropriate since eyes are a
major visual theme of this film.  Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

First, some basics for beginners interested in seeing the film
OPERA produced, written, and directed by Dario Argento.

Who is Dario Argento?  Argento was one of two highly respected
horror film directors from Italy. (The other was Mario Bava.)  From
the 1960s into the new century these two were ahead of a small pack
of horror directors.

OPERA was made in 1987.  It was clearly influenced by the
popularity of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical THE PHANTOM OF THE
OPERA.  This film almost seems like a version of that play done in
the style of a giallo.

What is a giallo?  Originally it was a type of crime novel.  There
were a series of them from one publisher and they could always be
recognized by their yellow book covers.  The word "giallo" is
Italian for yellow.  Giallo has come to mean a gory and graphic
crime story with a villain usually being a maniac who has no
problem slicing his victims.  OPERA is one such giallo.  This film
should not be confused with Dario Argento's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.
Nine years after it was made Dario Argento made a film he could
claim was an adaptation of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, though it also was

excessively gory and graphic and was barely more faithful to
OPERA) has been rarely seen in the United States, but now is being
released on Bluray with beautiful photography and restored color.

Argento's film starts out as if it will be an updating of the story
of "The Phantom of the Opera."  But after about fifteen minutes it
is telling its own story.  Cristina Marsillach plays Betty, a
singing student who gets the opportunity to play the lead in a
production of Verdi's "Macbeth".  Almost immediately there are
murders at odd times with no recognizable pattern.  We are
introduced to N-1 characters that are really red herrings and one
character who is the murderer.  We are not given much in the way of
clues as to who the murder is and what his (or her) motive is.  In
the end all is revealed in one scene in which the real killer gets
talkative.  (This is all fairly standard giallo fare.)  Until then,
the killer wants Betty to see all his murders so puts duct tape
over her mouth and a row of needles in her eyelids so if she closes
her eyes she destroys her eyes.  Speaking of eyelids, did I mention
that eyes are a major theme of the photography?  During through the
course of the film we are constantly looking at eyes.  In the very
first scene we are looking at the opera house reflected in the eyes
of a raven.

An interesting side-note: The story has the opera company bringing
into the opera house live ravens to have as stage decoration for
their opera.  They create absolute havoc.  But it is rumored they
caused the fictional opera company not nearly as much havoc as the
ravens created on Argento's real set.  A raven is an amazingly
intelligent animal, and one thing you do not want to have to deal
with is a large and intelligent bird.

The color restoration is beautiful and Bluray shows off the color
splendidly on home video.  The singing is beautiful also.  It is a
pity the story was not more engaging.  I rate OPERA a +1 on the -4
to +4 scale or 6/10.

Release: Bluray debut on January 23, 2018.  Of note, Dario Argento
wrote and produced the 1991 film THE SECT which also has restored
color now and is bring released on Bluray.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING by Ada Palmer (copyright 2016, Tor,
$26.99, 432pp, ISBN 978-0-763-7800-2) (excerpt from the Duel Fish
Codices) (book review by Gwendolyn Karpierz)

Full disclaimer: I did not finish TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING.  I only
made it through 105 pages before I had to quit.

I don't know what's wrong with me.  Everyone else loved this book.
It's been touted as amazing, intricate, intelligent.  I've hardly
ever read such rave reviews on the back cover of any book.

"Oh, Duelist Fish Gwendolyn," you'd say, "it's the writing style.
It's too high-falutin' for you.  You couldn't handle it."

The thing is, I don't mind a more eloquent writing style; it
usually appeals to me.  But in some ways, you'd be right: It *was*
the writing style.  Not that it was too fancy.  Just that it was so
incredibly *patronizing*.

TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING, by Ada Palmer, is set in a world far
advanced from ours.  People don't live with their own blood, but
choose their families.  Religion is outlawed.  Gender is taboo.
And there's one thing I have to admit: It's a very intricate world.
Palmer went deep.  She didn't skimp.

It reads like she is so very *impressed* with herself for doing so.

The style of the book is supposed to mimic, I believe, an
eighteenth century style.  Supposedly in following these
conventions, the narrator (Mycroft Canner, a harmless criminal-
turned-Servicer) frequently addresses the reader in the most
condescending tone I have ever encountered in a novel.  'Dear
reader,' he frequently assures us, 'if you have no idea what's
going on, who all these people are, and what any of these means,
don't worry.  You're not supposed to know.'  What?  Excuse me?
Your job as a writer is to make sure your reader knows about what's
important, and if it's not important and serves no purpose, don't
put it in!  There's literally a part right before Palmer inserts an
indecipherable economics chart where Mycroft says, "Again, reader,
do not wrestle with the numbers.  Do not even read the chart..." If
the story can be read without it, why include it?  You're just
showing off that you know about that thing and your reader does

At one point, the writing devolves into a script format:
Designation, colon, dialogue.  "Are you disconcerted by this
scriptlike format, reader?"  Mycroft asks, and then proceeds to
justify it by asserting that it was common in the eighteenth
century.  Fine.  I'm not disconcerted by it, I'm *frustrated* by
it.  It's lazy writing, because you don't have to think up actions
and internal descriptions to keep your dialogue interesting.  If I
encountered that in a creative writing class--and I have--I would
cross it out and write that it was unacceptable.  It's *lazy*.

All this is accompanied by a dizzying number of irrelevant
historical names and an incomprehensible economical plot (this is
probably just my lack of understanding of economics, but I felt it
was distracting from the far more interesting concept of Bridger,
the boy who can bring inanimate objects to life in a world where
there is no magic).  Furthermore, if you're going to pick a gender
neutral pronoun for everyone, stick to your guns!  Don't
arbitrarily assign gender pronouns in the narration!  How people
identify and how they present can be very different; you don't just
get to switch around without an actual discussion of what those
things mean!

Overall, this book frustrated me on too many levels, until I just
didn't care anymore.  In his review some five months ago, Duelist
Fish (no, I'm not going to explain that title) Joe noted that
things get so topsy-turvy "to the point where we're not really sure
what's going on."  Since when is that a bonus in a book?  You don't
want to know what's *going* to happen, but you sure want to know
what's happening in the present moment.

Now, like I said, everyone else seemed to really like this book, so
don't take my word for it.  I just didn't need to be patronized by
a book I was reading for enjoyment.  [-gmk]


TOPIC: The Traveling Money (letter of comment by Jim Susky)

In response to Evelyn's comments on the traveling money in the
01/05/18 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

Thanks for your article on a "transaction puzzle", which elicits
some thoughts.

If the King had started the chain with a "legitimate" $50, then the
"loss" would have the same--none at all, as you stated.

I believe that in the USA the "loser" would be the hatter or
whoever holds the phony bank note when an "authority" seizes it.
If the hatter turns it in to a US bank, then he loses what he
"found"--a case of Easy Come Easy Go.

Another way to see this is that the phony note provide "velocity"
to $50--a term I've heard in matters economic.  Yet another is the
way that note affects information.  Each actor knows his own net
zero subset on his "books" but none of the other "balances"--all
get resolved.

Part of the wrong answer was:

"butcher now owes the farmer $50 for the pig.  (Or presumably the
butcher has to return the pig.)"

It occurs to me that if the farmer agreed that the butcher owes
him, he could instead take less than the entire pig with some
value-added hams, bacon and chops.  [-js]


TOPIC: Edmund Wilson and J. R. R. Tolkien (letter of comment by
Fred Lerner)

In response to Evelyn's comments on Edmund Wilson's LETTERS ON
LITERATURE AND POLITICS: 1912-1972 in the 01/12/18 issue of
the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

Have you ever read Edmund Wilson's "Oo, those awful orcs"?  You can
find it at .

Evelyn responds:

No, but I will.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Emoticons and Morse Code (letter of comment by Keith
F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on emoticons in the 01/12/18 issue
of the MT VOID, Keith Lynch writes:

Unfortunately for that joke, none of those three characters were
part of American Morse code at the time.  [-kfl]


TOPIC: Writing from 2312 (letters of comment by Philip Chee, Tim
Merrigan, Keith F. Lynch, David Goldfarb, and Peter Trei)

In response to Joe Karpierz's review of NEW YORK 2140 in the
01/12/18 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

[Joe Karpierz writes,] "After I read Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars
Trilogy what seems a half a lifetime ago, I didn't read a novel by
him until 2312."

Ah?  This MT VOID is from the future?  BTW who won the superbowl in
2018?  [-pc]

Tim Merrigan responds:

They'd probably have to research ancient sports records.  Do you
have any idea of the results of any sporting events in 1724 (the
same distance in the past as 2312 is in the future)?  [-tm]

Keith Lynch replies:

Re "Who won the superbowl?": The same people who always win those
things:  The NFL.  They rake in tons of money in advertising

Re events in 1724:

I would have to look it up.  Just as I'd have to look up the winner
of the most recent Superbowl or the most recent World Series.

As such, I'd make a poor excuse for an accidental time traveler.
If we've learned one thing from SF, it's that accidental time
travelers always just happened to have memorized tremendous amounts
of sports trivia.  And also a list of when and where all solar and
lunar eclipses took place over the past 2000 years or so.

Me, I can barely remember which lifeboats left the Titanic half
empty, which could be essential information if I ever find myself
accidentally transported there just before the sinking.  I do
remember the Titanic's radio call sign, which is not especially
useful.  And I remember the theme song from Gilligan's Island,
which could be useful if I'm ever stranded on a -- no, I guess it
wouldn't be, not even then.  [-kfl]

David Goldfarb responds:

For my own part, I find it quite easy to remember the World Series
winner, at least.

Correcting to be polite: Super Bowl is two words.  [-dg]

Keith answers:

I thought it was, but I went with how Philip had it.  When it comes
to sports knowledge, I always defer to what the other guy says.  I
guess I should make an exception for him.  [-kfl]

Peter Trei asks:

How far back would sports trivia be valuable to a time traveller,
as a basis for betting to gather money?  Betting on sporting
contests is ancient, but what to we have good records for?

As far as I can see formalized team sports don't really emerge
until the mid-1800s.

Horse racing has formalized, named races and good records going
back to the 1770s in Britain.

We know of *some* famous gladiators and chariot racers in Ancient
Rome, and (I think) a handful of Ancient Greek Olympians, but those
records are pretty spotty.  [-pt]


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

With the centenary of the beginning of World War I four years ago,
and the centenary of the United States's entry into that war last
year, all the books about World War I that people finally got
around to reading are now appearing in the used book stores.  So I
recently picked up THE FIRST WORLD WAR by John Keegan (ISBN 978-
0*375-70045-3) and MR WILSON'S WAR by John Dos Passos.  I will get
to the latter one of these days, but for now, I will talk about the

Early on, Keegan addresses the issue of why World War I was both so
unexpectedly deadly and so unexpectedly protracted.  As Keegan
explains, "The ... belief in the power of the offensive was
correct; whoever first brought his available fire power into action
with effect would prevail.  What had not been perceived is that
firepower takes effect only if it can be directed in timely and
accurate fashion.  That requires communication."  More
specifically, it requires instantaneous communication, and the
armies of World War I did not have this.  Radio ("wireless
telegraphy") requires heavy, bulky equipment that could not be
transported easily in battlefield conditions or on airplanes,
airships, or balloons.  The telegraph was available, but required
wires, which were invariably cut by the enemy.  Reduced to line-of-
sight signaling, runners, or even carrier pigeons, commanders often
ended up having their shells fall too far forward (hence behind the
enemy troops), or worse yet, too close, dropping on their own
troops.  When radio was used, as in the Tannenberg campaign,
messages were often sent un-encoded, due to the lack of time and
the difficulties of distributing code books.  This happened on both
sides; all that kept some messages from the enemy was that there
was a shortage of operators and equipment preventing constant
monitoring for messages.

Keegan does a good job of describing the background and politics of
World War I.  He is less successful (with me, anyway) in describing
battle maneuvers.  Some are relatively clear, e.g., the Germans
would use tear gas to force the Allied troops to remove their gas
masks, then use phosgene against them.  But apparently even Keegan
is unable to explain troop movements so that I can understand them.
(His need to list every corps, division, brigade, and battalion by
number did not help.)

Still, Keegan's writing is quite literary and often poetic, and I
would certainly recommend this as a manageable-sized coverage of
World War I.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Lying has a kind of respect and reverence with it.  We
           pay a person the compliment of acknowledging his
           superiority whenever we lie to him.
                                           --Samuel Butler