Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/16/18 -- Vol. 37, No. 20, Whole Number 2041

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        The Square Dance Conspiracy, Part 3 (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        ISLE OF DOGS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        The Metric System (letter of comment by Dan Cox)
        Gender Pronouns, George Orwell, and Square Dancing
                (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)
        George Orwell (letter of comment by Kip Williams)
        This Week's Reading (THE SKETCH BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON)
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: The Square Dance Conspiracy, Part 3 (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

Continuing with my findings about square dancers (from a column
originally published 10 April 1987):

I have been doing a series recently on the rising tide of square
dancing in this area and, I am told (this should scare you), at
places like MIT.  The vast majority of square dancers take their
orders (which they term "calls") from a caller.  The caller is sort
of a local lieutenant in the conspiracy, but there appears to be no
single leader of this conspiracy, no Reverend Moon of the Square
Dancers.  The callers go off to secret classes where they "learn to
call."  These have not been infiltrated by outsiders as far as I
can tell, but there are hints about who might be pulling the
strings in square dancing itself.

Think about what you have seen about square dancing.  It is a very
mathematical, very symmetrical form of dance.  But who really sees
the symmetry?  The caller stands above the floor and can see the
symmetry, but even there only from an angle.  The perfect place to
appreciate square dancing is directly overhead.  So what does that
imply?  Lots of forms of dance can only be fully appreciated from
directly overhead.  But the June Taylor dancers who used to appear
on the Jackie Gleason show and who specialize in this sort of
geometric display, came along only after there were overhead
cameras to show the effects to an audience.  When square dancing
was invented, there were no such overhead cameras, at least none
that the history books record.  These were designs that could be
appreciated only from the air directly overhead at a time when that
was an impossible position for a human to get to...  just like the
mysterious figures on the plains of Nazca.

Clearly there is a possibility that square dancing was invented for
the benefit of (and perhaps by) visitors from another world.  It
may have started when these alien visitors first "came to call."
They now have a serious foothold in technical institutions in
places like MIT and AT&T.  Beware.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: ISLE OF DOGS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: Wes Anderson gives us a science fiction animated film in
which the characters are intelligent dogs who talk like humans.  We
are twenty years in the future and in Japan, and we are in the
middle of a war of humans of the Kobayashi Clan against an
overloaded population of dogs.  The human city intends to exile all
dogs to an island-sized trash dump.  There the dogs will be in
quarantine.  Is this fair to the dogs?  They do not think so.  The
plan is being angrily debated.  We flash to Trash Island ruled by
exiled dogs.  There the dogs are getting used to their new home.
But it is clear things cannot go on as they have been.  The story
is itself could be better, but the film is a treasure trove of
ideas--some cute and some engaging.  There are even more ideas than
in director Wes Anderson's previous film, GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
(2014).  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

Wes Anderson has not yet made a name for himself that readily comes
to mind in discussions of the best contemporary animated fantasy
films and their makers.  That is probably just because while many
of his films include some animation, it is generally just to add a
small piece of humor.  His main body of work is live-action comedy.
Yet where he uses animation (as he frequently does) humor is an
indispensible part element of his overall quirky style.

The dogs in ISLE OF DOGS are animated three-dimensional figures
they look both realistic and whimsical.  In the film humans speak
in Japanese but the dogs speak in English.  This ambitious film is
animated with three-dimensional animation.  The dogs' faces are
both realistic and sympathetic.  The story is told with ingenious

Anderson has his own group of actors who are likely to show up in
his films who might almost be considered as his own repertory
company: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum,
Bob Balaban, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, and Tilda Swinton.
Also being heard from are Kunichi Nomura, Ken Watanabe, Greta
Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Fisher Stevens, Koyu Rankin, Liev
Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson, Frank Wood, and Yoko Ono.  And the
idea of having dogs who talk like humans may well have been
inspired by the novel CITY by Clifford Simak.

I was never very fond of the older Wes Anderson films going back to
RUSHMORE, but his style has been steadily improving.  I really
HOTEL.  These films are nearly unique.

Alexandre Desplat composed the score to have a very Japanese
atmosphere.  It is composed of wooden blocks, and chanting.  Also
Anderson has named the film in such a way that one cannot purchase
tickets without declaring love of dogs.  Full disclosure: I do love
dogs.  And until I get one I rate ISLE OF DOGS a high +2 on the -4
to +4 scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: The Metric System (letter of comment by Dan Cox)

In response to Gary Labowitz's comments on the metric system in the
11/09/18 issue of the MT VOID, Dan Cox writes:

Re Metric vs. "English":

In the 70s we tried raising a generation to internalize metric
measurements.  The teaching approach was not the best, involving
memorizing more prefixes than necessary.  I suspect that native
metric users don't usually say "70 decimeters and 3 centimeters"
when they could say "73 centimeters".

The 5K run is already metric, and is an example of a measurement
which many in the US have internalized.  But 2 liters, 1 liter, and
750ml are probably the most internalized here.  Be careful how
often you internalize 750 ml.

I've read that the hard part could be retooling.  Not just the
extra wrench sockets that fit metric bolts while being usable on
your quarter-inch-drive socket-wrench handle, but making all of the
parts in metric sizes.  Go into a large home hardware store and the
vast majority of machine screws still use "English" measurements
20, 24, 32, or 40 threads per inch.  Though the thickness is
defined as "number 2", "number 4", etc.  These are sizes I
internalized without ever knowing their precise definition.

Pipes come in various sizes, measured by inside-diameter or by
outside-diameter, depending on what material the pipe is made from.
I wonder if the metric world standardized that.  Electrical wiring
comes in gauges, with larger wires having a smaller number
identifying their gauge.  [-dtc]


TOPIC: Gender Pronouns, George Orwell, and Square Dancing (letter
of comment by Gary Labowitz)

In response to various comments in the 11/09/18 issue of the MT
VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

I have only a brief moment for now.  I have to start preparing for
Thanksgiving, and my monthly casserole for the Hospice downtown.
So, I'll be brief.

On gender pronouns comment:

Your example should read, "No one I knew was at the party, and I
missed 'em."  Ask ecl if it sounds "right" or even "okay" that way.

On the Penguins: What comes to my mind is the book report given by
a small third grade girl: "This book told me more than I wanted to
know about Penguins."  Short, sweet, and absolutely correct.

On Square Dancing:

I grew up in Kansas City, MO, and boy did I square dance.  You got
to swing your gal ... and that was fun.  I also did dancing (not
square, but oval) on roller skates, when I got a little older.  And
then on to ballroom, and freeform on the stage (I never tapped).
At this point, however, I'm lucky to be able to get out of an easy
chair and stand up!

Live Alert has a motto, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up."  I
figure I could start a company to be called Live Alert Lite, with
the motto: "Help! I sat down and I can't stand up!"  Do you suppose
it would sell?  [-gl]


TOPIC: George Orwell (letter of comment by Kip Williams)

In response to Evelyn's comments on George Orwell in the 11/09/18
issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

I had never read the stories Orwell wrote about in his essay on
English stories for boys, but that hardly mattered. It was all in
the article, and I found it interesting enough that I ended up
finding and reading Kipling's "Stalky and Company" some time after.

The comparison, for me, would be to Bernard Shaw, whose criticisms
of music don't depend upon my having heard the performance, or even
knowing the piece of music he's referring to.  He gives his
information, writing very clearly with no jargon (except when he's
making fun of jargon after someone wrote in and claimed he didn't
know any).

As long as I'm mentioning music criticism, a word of admiration for
a critic, long years dead now, who wrote of an amateur performance
of a piece by Blumenfeld with the dry observation "it is
unfortunate that the composer did not indicate exactly how flat he
wished the Trio to be sung."  [-kw]


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

The second author in the Great Courses course on American classics
was Washington Irving.  As was noted in the lecture, Washington
Irving wrote a lot that was read in his time, but today he is known
for two short stories: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van
940-45014-1 [Library of America edition; many cheaper/free versions
also available]).  Irving is the anti-Hemingway.  Where Hemingway
is known for his short sentences (his average sentence length is
slightly over ten words), Irving starts "The Legend of Sleepy
Hollow" with:

"In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the
eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river
denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and
where they always prudently shortened sail, and implored the
protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small
market-town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but
which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry

(Okay, this is an atypical sentence, but his average sentence
length is still forty words.)

Though the lecturer emphasized Irving's characterizations, I think
it is probably true that it is the premise of each story that
people remember.  And the irony is that these are not very
original.  The Headless Horseman is a variation on a ghost, perhaps
with some inspiration from the legend of the ghost of Anne Boleyn
("With her head tuck'd underneath her arm, she walks the Bloody
Tower").  And "Rip Van Winkle" is just a variation on "The Seven
Sleepers of Ephesus".  But for some reason they have cemented
themselves into the mythology of America.  Neil Gaiman writes about
Old World gods and demons coming to the New World, and many authors
have drawn on Native American legends, but the Headless Horseman
and Rip Van Winkle are the first *United States* legends.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           The analysis of variance is not a mathematical theorem,
           but rather a convenient method of arranging the
                                           --Ronald Fisher