Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
03/09/18 -- Vol. 36, No. 36, Whole Number 2005

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Squirrel Sports (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Gender Pay Gaps? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        FRANKENSTEIN; OR, THE MODERN PROMETHEUS by Mary Wollstonecraft
                Shelley (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Film Score: ANNIHILATION (film score review
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                by Ian Stewart (book review by Gregory Frederick)
        Sporting Animals (letter of comment by Barry Litofsky)
        ANNIHILATION (letter of comment by Lax Madapaty)
                VOLUME TWO: THE DEVIL'S ROSARY) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Squirrel Sports (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Last week I mentioned my theory that squirrels might intentionally
run in front of cars for the thrill of the experience and to show
off for lady squirrels.  In the intervening week I got news of
Olympic snowboarder Daniela Ulbing of Austria on one of her runs
almost had a run-in with a squirrel who might well have been
playing chicken.  The squirrel ran in front of Ulbing's snowboard,
but made it out alive.  And the squirrel, whose name is being
withheld, had world wide fame for his five minutes.



TOPIC: Gender Pay Gaps? (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Back when I worked for Lucent or Avaya--who remembers which one?--
we had our Affirmative Action meetings.  I remember a meeting when
the room was segregated with the female attendees on one side of
the room and the males on the other.  They were talking about the
Gender Pay Gap, the problem that a man would be paid more for a job
than a woman would doing the exact same work.  The women were
glaring at us men because we were males just like the management
people who were responsible for the gap.  I know that I was not
responsible for anybody's salary.  I think that the people who
*were* responsible had their own AA meetings with much better food.
I think we males were there mostly to act as lightning rods to
absorb female resentment.  It occurred to me at the time to wonder
just how true the claims were.  I just would have been surprised to
find out that there was a lot of prejudice against women in the
salaries being paid by the company.

That meeting came back to me today when I listened to a
"Freakonomics" podcast.  They were talking to some economists who
were looking at the male-female Gender Pay Gap.  They had many
contradicting estimates as to just what percent the gap was.  They
were talking at a new study done at Uber.  Uber pays its drivers
following an algorithm that does not use gender at all.  It is
completely blind to gender.  If there is a Gender Pay Gap, it must
come from factors other than gender discrimination.  We could see
what the claimed Gender Pay Gap is at Uber when gender
discrimination has been taken out of it (or never was in).  The
company does not have the software to discriminate and the
passengers have no way to discriminate.

What did they discover?  In the discrimination-free environment
male drivers made about 7 percent more than female drivers.  If one
looks at all jobs across the board, Uber or not, the pay gap is
just about the same 7 percent.  This does not say that gender
discrimination does not exist, but it does not seem to be a major

So what did they find?

About 20 percent of the 7 percent Gender Pay Gap had to do with
choice of area that the drivers went to picking up fares.
Particularly profitable drives, for example, are taking passengers
to the airport.  If the driver is in a ritzier neighborhood in the
early morning hour he or she will likely get a more profitable
fare.  Sunday afternoons are also profitable because other drivers
prefer to be home and watching football.  For these fares women
seem to do better than men.  The Gender Pay Gap for Uber drivers is
not the result of gender discrimination but of driver strategy.

Also, more women tend to leave the job after a shorter period of
experience.  The six-month attrition rate is about 63 percent for
men and 76 percent for women.  Even with drivers of the same
experience, men will average three drives for every two women will

But that still does not account for a chunk of pay gap.  What does
that turn out to be?  Apparently men drive faster than women.  That
means they are done with a trip sooner than a woman driver would
be.  That means more trips per hour.

So with no gender discrimination possible in the system claims of a
gender gap at Uber may not be reasonable.

You can read a transcript of the episode at:



Wollstonecraft Shelley (audio book published by Trout Lake Media,
narrated by Jim Donaldson, 8 hours 35 minutes) (audio book review
by Joe Karpierz)

2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary
read--or in this case listen to--the novel because of the
anniversary, it does seem appropriate that I picked this time to
read what is generally considered the first true science fiction
novel.  I would imagine that most people, myself included, first
encountered FRANKENSTEIN as the 1931 movie of the same name, which
is somewhat based on the novel.  As we know, the movie recounts the
story of a scientist who, along with his assistant, pieces together
a human-like creature from the pieces of dug up corpses.  Most
infamously, Henry Frankenstein's assistant Fritz acquires the brain
of a criminal for the Creature (played by Boris Karloff), thus
lending the story the conflict it needs when the Creature comes
alive and begins wreaking havoc throughout the local countryside.
There have been many movie and literary adaptations and spinoffs of
the original FRANKENSTEIN.  I am particularly fond, of course, of
Mel Brooks' movie YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, in which Peter Boyle portrays
the Creature.  I'm also fond of Michael Bishop's 1994 novel BRITTLE
INNINGS, which links the FRANKENSTEIN story and baseball.

It probably would surprise no one who has only seen the movie that
it bears only a small resemblance to Shelley's novel.

Shelley's novel is told as a framing narrative.  The story starts
out recounting the correspondence between Robert Walton and his
sister Margaret.  Walton is traveling to the North Pole to gain
scientific knowledge.  While on the journey, he and his crew first
spot a dog sled driven by a large man, then rescue a man who is
near death.  The man is Victor Frankenstein, who has been pursuing
the man in the dog sled.  As Walton nurses Frankenstein back to
health, they become friends.  Walton shares his story of intense
desire for scientific knowledge.  Frankenstein, seeing much of
himself in Walton, recounts the story of how he arrived on Walton's
boat and why Walton should think twice about his intense thirst for

The framing narrative becomes layered as Frankenstein first
recounts his story of becoming obsessed with scientific knowledge,
and especially that of how to bring life to an inanimate being.  He
almost quite literally becomes the "mad scientist", spending all
his time researching the subject and then, once he discovers the
actual process to bring a creature to life, doing nothing but what
it takes to make it happen.  He rarely eats and sleeps, and his
relationship with his family deteriorates to almost nothing.  He
does finally bring the Creature to life, but once he sees it he is
appalled and disgusted with what he has done, and he aims to
destroy it.

Next comes the Creature's story as told by the Creature itself,
which takes up the bulk of the novel.  Unlike Karloff's portrayal
of the Creature, the novel shows the Creature learning about
himself, learning about language--to the point where he becomes
erudite to the point of sounding as if he had what we might call a
college eduction--and learning how and why he is shunned by the
rest of humanity.  He then realizes that he is what he is because
of Frankenstein (resulting in what would be a fascinating study of
the nature versus nurture--or in this case, lack of nurture--
discussion) and vows to deprive Victor of happiness much like
Victor has deprived him of happiness.  Eventually the narrative
returns to Frankenstein's story and eventually Walton's,
culminating with Walton meeting the Creature itself.

It was somewhat surprising to me how short the novel actually is.
As readers we have been trained to expect complex stories like this
to be at least double the length.  And while there is much detail
that could be discussed--and I refuse to be concerned about
spoiling a story that is over 200 years old at this point--I will
stop here and let those who have yet to read the novel go ahead and
do so without giving it all away.

I was pleasantly surprised by FRANKENSTEIN.  I guess I've been
conditioned by the movie, which I've seen several times, to expect
one thing while the novel turned out to be entirely something else.
While the name Frankenstein usually is used to refer to the
Creature, it's pretty clear that the real villain of the novel is
Victor himself.  His hubris in creating life from where there is
none--and at the time FRANKENSTEIN was written the implication was
that Victor was stepping where only God was meant to tread--
resulted in a Creature who quite understandably was ticked off at
his situation and who also quite understandably blamed the only
person he knew to be responsible for his plight.  The Creature was
shown to be a compassionate being, and one who gave Frankenstein
every opportunity to shut down the violence and death that was
occurring around him.  Yet, Victor chose to let it continue, and
indeed brought so much suffering upon himself by his actions the
reader might be tempted to believe that he is the Wretch (as the
Creature is sometimes called) and not the Creature itself.

Jim Donaldson provided an adequate narration of the novel.  As I
listened to the book, I felt that his voice and tone were perfect
for the gothic nature of the story.  His gravelly-voiced rendition
of the Creature could not have been easy for him to do; at the same
time, I was taken out of the story by his portrayal of the
Creature.  He sounded like a crotchety old man, which does not fit
with my image of the Creature.  That could be due to me being
influenced by Karloff's rendition of the Creature, although his
guttural roars do sound like an old man too, I suppose.

If you've never read the book, I suggest you do so.  It's
interesting to contrast the novel and the movie, and of course
that's something we do with today's movies anyway--from LORD OF THE
RINGS to HUNGER GAMES to anything else. I can see why this is
considered a classic, and it's well worth the time for you to read
it for yourself and, hopefully, come to the same conclusion.


Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: This documentary is a study of the task of being a film
Foley artist and the prospects for the future of sound effects art.
A Foley artist is the sound effects person who manages all the
minor and subliminal sounds in a scene.  If the sound is not right
it is the Foley's task to decide what the sound should be and what
in the real world would make just that perfect sound.  Lalo Molina
scripts and directs this account of the Foley artists' use of the
sound from props and the hunt for objects that make usable sounds.
It also looks at the future of the Foley career.  Rating: low +2
(-4 to +4) or 7/10

Of late we have gotten some good documentaries about the internals
of the process of filmmaking itself.  Last year's HAROLD AND
LILLIAN: A HOLLYWOOD LOVE STORY was about a storyboard artist and a
reference librarian.  This year we have ACTORS OF SOUND about Foley

There was a crisis in shooting SPARTACUS.  They were filming a huge
panning shot of a Roman army.  There were hundreds of extras
playing Roman soldiers.  After the scene was shot the actors were
sent home in their hundreds.  Then it was discovered the recorded
sound was useless for some reason.  They could not call back a
whole army.  What was there to do?  Jack Foley (more on him later)
pulled out of his pocket a ring of keys and shook them in rhythm.
For all anyone knew it sounded right so hundreds of actors were
played--on the sound track--by a ring of keys.  That Foley artist
was Jack Foley, the man whose name became the name of the task.
All the studios except Universal Studios would orchestrate their
sound like they orchestrated the elements of the picture.  Starting
in the very early days of sound Universal would re-record all of
the sounds in the picture to get a perfect recording of each sound.
The technician who did this for Universal Studios was Jack Donovan
Foley.  And the art he invented became an industry standard.

What is a Foley artist?  Consider if you are shooting a (sound)
film there are probably noises all around the actors.  But few of
those noises are initially recorded in a condition good enough to
be incorporated into the final film.  There may be dozens of
sounds, each applied to the soundtrack of the film one at a time.
The Foley artist has to look very closely at the frame of film and
figure out what sounds should be present.  If an actor is walking
in snow the Foley artist will have to do something like putting
shoes on his hands and grinding the shoes alternating into a box of
kitty litter.  It may not look like the actor in the scene, but
what is important is that it sounds just right.  The film shows and
interviews Foley artists of this country and of other countries
like India and Germany where Foley artists take it easy and perform
sounds sitting down.

Foley artists do not get rich, but they still love their job.
Artist Shelley Roden says her ideal job would be to be an athlete,
a musician, or an actor.  Those are exactly the talents being a
Foley artist requires.
In an industry like the movie industry that is going high-tech,
what is the future of the Foley job?  Most sound people are
convinced their job as they do it will not go away.  There have
been attempts to digitize Foley sounds and automatically create the
right sound for the right occasion.  The sounds it made sounded
right but the sound overall sounded dead.  The real Foley artists
are making noises the old-fashioned way.

Foley is an art that has been going on in almost every film you
see, but you have probably have not known it was happening nor
known the names of the artists.  They rarely get awards, but they
love what they do.  I rate ACTORS OF SOUND a low +2 on the -4 to +4
scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Film Score: ANNIHILATION by Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury,
for the film ANNIHILATION directed by Alex Garland (film score
review by Mark R. Leeper)

Alex Burrow and Ben Salisbury had previously scored EX MACHINA
(also for Alex Garland).

To begin with, the story of ANNIHILATION is intentionally
disorienting.  Somewhere on the eastern seaboard a region square
miles in size seems to have undergone a radical transformation.
Only a little way inside the perimeter is visible.  In this region
called "the shimmer" the standard laws of physics are upended.
Dozens of explorers, all men, have been sent in to investigate this
weird space.  None have returned and are assumed dead.  We follow a
squad of five, this time all women, and experience this piece of
truly alien real estate.

What demands would a plot like this place on the score?  The music
should sound alien and should itself be disorienting.  Those modest
goals the score does well.  There is nothing for the happy viewer
to hum to himself leaving the theater.  There is no melody and no
harmony in almost any of the score.  If that is the intention of
the composer, that is indeed the tone that the score does project.
Divorced from the rest of the film, the music is possibly not
recognizable as music.  Most to the music falls into a short
spectrum from raucous to peaceful to soporific.  There is some
recognizably choral music somewhere about Track 6, but there are no
words sung.  Other places we hear what sounds like an electronic
oscillator and just for variety.  It sounds like the buzzing of
insects or a radio tuned in to another dimension.  For variety's
sake they have some guitar music in Tracks 2 and 6.  This is still
all texture music.  Its main message is you do not understand what
happens in the shimmer and you never will.

Gosh.  I miss melody.  Even in science fiction film scores.  [-mrl]


by Ian Stewart (book review by Gregory Frederick)

This science book delves into the realm of mathematics and its role
in understanding our Universe.  Astronomy and math have been used
for many years as partners in the discovery story of our Universe.
Ian Stewart starts with the Sumerians and Babylonians recording
observational data of the planets and stars on clay tablets around
1200 BC and probably earlier.  Much later, Kepler calculated the
orbit of Mars from rather accurate observations created by Tycho
Brahe and Kepler proved that the orbit was a conic section known as
an ellipse.  Kepler produced his three mathematical patterns known
as the Laws of Planetary Motion in the early 1600's based on his
calculations.  Newton deduced his law of gravity a math formula
based on the planets orbiting the Sun using an ellipse.  Newton
invented new mathematics, calculus to help him determine the
motions of the planets and ordinary objects on the Earth too.
Beyond this Newton revolutionized science by creating a mechanical
version of physics.  Einstein worked on his theory of General
Relativity which explains how gravity works by causing the
curvature of the space-time continuum and he used Riemannian
geometry which is a form of non-Euclid geometry in this theory.  In
2015 an ingenious application of math determined how the comet
which the spacecraft Rosetta orbited was formed.  Statistics and 3D
geometry methods allowed the scientists to determine that this
comet's duck shape was created by a gentle collision.  Some of the
various theories of the Multiverse are discussed in this book also.
These include the following: Quilted Multiverse, Inflationary
Multiverse, Landscape Multiverse and the Quantum Multiverse.  Each
uses advanced math to understand that multiverse; for example; the
Quantum Multiverse uses quantum mechanics mathematics and the
Landscape Multiverse uses String Theory mathematics.  This book
does require a devoted reader since Stewart does include some
detailed descriptions touching on advanced math concepts but it is
still a very good read.  [-gf]


TOPIC: Sporting Animals (letter of comment by Barry Litofsky)

In response to Mark's comments on squirrels in the 03/02/18 issue
of the MT VOID, Barry Litofsky writes:

For several years until recently, in retirement I drove a 35-
passenger tram giving birding tours at JN "Ding" Darling National
Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, FL.  As I was driving along, often a
northern cardinal would fly across right in front of the tram, me
missing it by inches.  I used to call them kamikaze cardinals.  I
never could figure out why they did this, but it sounds to me like
your squirrel!  I never hit one, or maybe they never hit me, but
came awfully close. The tram is like a big bus with a flat front
end and no windows.  No other type of bird did this!  [-bf]

Mark replies:

This may well be another example of a sporting animal.  Relatively
frequently I find a bird has flown into a window and killed itself.
I don't think I have ever seen a bird fly into a car windshield.
Your tram pushes a cushion of air in front of it.  That cushion may
blast the bird to safety.

In the last year Evelyn and I were on a cruise ship.  I made the
mistake of trying to walk around the fore-deck.  We came darn near
to getting blown off the boat.  There is a very strong cushion of
air in front of a moving vehicle.

See the first article in this issue for more information on
sporting squirrels.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: ANNIHILATION (letter of comment by Lax Madapaty)

In response to Mark's review of ANNIHILATION in the 03/02/18 issue
of the MT VOID, Lax Madapaty writes:

I will see ANNIHILATION. Sometimes you just have to feel Cinema.
Not try to make sense of it and analyze it endlessly through
repeated viewings. And once you 'figure out out' and go talk to the
film maker, they might laugh at the very notion and most likely not
confirm your understanding of the film.  [-lm]


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

ROSARY by Seabury Quinn (ISBN 978-1-59780-927-6) is the second of
five volumes, comprising all the Jules de Grandin stories published
in WEIRD TALES between 1925 and 1951.  I became acquainted with
them from the six paperback volumes published in the late 1970s,
but these included only about a third of the stories.  This is the
first time all the stories will have been published other than in a
limited edition.  (The first volumes was THE HORROR ON THE LINKS,
reminiscent of Agatha Christie's "Hercule Poirot" novel, MURDER ON
THE LINKS, and de Grandin has been called "the occult Hercule

Alas, the suck fairy seems to have visited these tales.  They are
not terrible, but their flaws are more obvious now.  For starters,
there's the obvious one: a detective of the supernatural is
difficult to make fit the traditional detective story mold.  It is
not that there are no rules to the supernatural, but that the
readers do not know them all.  So when de Grandin is suddenly able
to overcome a zombie by putting a piece of meat in its stew, or
overcome a demon by using some obscure plant, it is out of left
field.  It's as if the readers of a normal detective story had no
knowledge of fingerprints or blood types or gunshot wounds.

Another problem is a relic of Quinn's time--the stories are
incredibly racist.  Indians, Tibetans, Muslims--they are all pagans
and devils and worse to Quinn.

One might claim that Quinn is at least an equal opportunity
stereotyper, because de Grandin seems to have an unending
collection of French exclamations: "nom d'un fusil", "pipe d'un
chameau", "nom d'un canon", "nom d'un porc", "larmes d'un poisson",
"mord d'un chat", "vie d'un coq", ...  In my experience, people
tend to stick to a fairly small collection of expletives, rather
than inventing a new one each time.

These stories were terrifically popular when they were first
published, and worth reading for their historical interest.  Quinn
"pushed the envelope" on sex and graphic violence (and this may be
*why* they were popular).  But for most people I suspect that the
first few of these might be sufficient.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           There is no more common error than to assume that,
           because prolonged and accurate mathematical calculations
           have been made, the application of the result to some
           fact of nature is absolutely certain.
                                           --A.  N.  Whitehead