Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/07/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 49, Whole Number 2070

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Deceptive Headline (comment by Mark R. Leeper and
                Evelyn C. Leeper)
        The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 1 (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        You'll Know One When You See One (comments by Tom Russell)
        This Week's Reading (and Watching) (Retro Hugo dramatic
                presentations: BATMAN, CABIN IN THE SKY, A GUY NAMED
                OPERA) (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Deceptive Headline (comment by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn
C. Leeper)

Mark saw a headline on the cover of "Science News":

"Mammoth Lives"

His first reaction was, "My God, have they really cloned a

Then he realized they meant "mammoth {lyves, with a long 'i'}",
not "mammoth {livs, with a short 'i'}".

Truly, no one has copy editors any more.  [-mrl,ecl]


TOPIC: The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 1 (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

People are not the only resource migrating from one culture to
another.  Foods migrate forward and backward across cultural
boundaries as well.

America has been a melting pot country and as a result its cuisine
is sort of a melting pot cuisine.  These days American food
includes a lot of influence from Chinese, Mexican, Greek, Indian,
Italian, Japanese, and many more cuisines.  Frequently the real
American food is not a dish invented here but is just our own spin
on some other culture's dish.  We may not even recognize it as
being distinctly American.  Sometimes the cuisine loses in the
translation.  Beware, for example, the ethnic food served in public
school. The diversity programs some of us have been subjected to
tell us to respect other nationalities and so often the cafeteria
then slanders their cuisine in trying to imitate it.

But frequently an ethnic dish made to another ethnic group's taste
can take on a life of its own. What nationality of dish is Chop
Suey?  It's American.  I believe that is common knowledge.  It is
made in a Chinese style, but it is an American dish.  Well, I don't
care for Chop Suey but it was quite popular in the Detroit area
back in the late 1970s when I was living there.  No good Chinese
restaurant could survive long if it did not have a big neon sign
that said "Chop Suey."  And on the menu were hamburgers and hot
for the families that brought their children in.

There is a huge international following for pizza.  Contrary to a
common belief pizza really is Italian, but by all accounts there is
no comparison between American Pizza and Italian Pizza.  Popular
Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni used to say that he wanted to do
more American films because only when he came to America could he
get good pizza.  Of course that was also back in the 1970s.

American pizza is a wholly different animal from authentic Italian
pizza.  But most people prefer the imitation.  The same thing seems
to be happening in other countries also.

The Japanese dish Sukiyaki was invented by the Japanese for the
Japanese but it was supposed to be "this is what westerners eat."
But her the original version is what is preferred.

Next week I will say a little about Balti.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: You'll Know One When You See One (comments by Tom Russell)

Read an article yesterday about dinosaur fossils found in
Australia.  It said the fossils gave evidence those dinosaurs lived
in herds.  But wouldn't it be more correct to say they lived in

Perhaps paleontologists are ornithologists.  [-tlr]

Mark responds:

If dinosaurs were discovered today they might be named to emphasize
"birdy-ness."  Whenever I hear this discussed my mind goes back to
a comic book about dinosaurs.  They showed the farmer who turned up
the first dinosaurs with his plow and he is thinking "there sure
must have been some big birds living around here."  The idea was to
teach the reader that they were not big birds but dinosaurs.  But
now they would have to admit the farmer was right all along.


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

This week I'll cover the Retro Hugo, Best Dramatic Presentation,
Long Form category.

BATMAN is a serial in fifteen parts.  The narration is overblown,
to say the least, and Batman's "ears" look more like the Devil's
horns.  Not surprisingly, the Batmobile looks a lot different than
the ones we have seen from the 1960s television and onward.  As
with all the superheroes with secret identities, writers had to
come up with explanations of why they were not fighting the Axis or
even in the army.  In this case, apparently the government knows
Bruce Wayne is the Batman (they use the definite article at this
point), and he tells Robin that to keep his secret, he has to say
that he is 4-F.

Alas, there is a heavy dose of anti-Japanese racism in this.  Yes,
it was common during the war, but it is definitely beyond cringe-
inducing.  (It is not helped by the fact that it is done in
yellowface, with Dr. Daka played by J. Carroll Naish.)  What
astonishes me is that the IMDB claims that many racial slurs
against the Japanese were edited out from the first home video
release.  I thought that was what I had, which makes me wonder if
it was even worse than it seems.  If I have problems with
MUNCHHAUSEN as a German propaganda piece (see below), I have even
more to this as blatant racism.

CABIN IN THE SKY is quite unusual in that it was made by a major
Hollywood studio (MGM) but featured an African-American cast, only
the fourth such sound film.  Its importance has little to do with
its fantasy content, and everything to do with its place in the
history of African-Americans in films and their image in American
culture.  Although the script was apparently submitted to and
approved by the NAACP, it still has some negative stereotypes,
particularly in the character of Little Jose and his friends.  The
religion aspect is the fantasy element, and bears a strong
resemblance to the fantasy element in HEAVEN CAN WAIT (see below).
Both are about someone being judged after their death: will they go
to Heaven, or to "the other place"?  (I don't think either film
actually uses the word "Hell", probably due to the production

The character of "Little Joe" is an embarrassment, but CABIN IN THE
SKY is worth watching for the musical numbers with Ethel Waters and
Lena Horne.  As a *fantasy* film, however, it has little to offer.

A GUY NAMED JOE is yet another "afterlife" film (see CABIN IN THE
SKY [above] and HEAVEN CAN WAIT [below]), but it adds a war-related
story, making it a sort of doubly-cliched film of its time.  Joe
dies in a fighter plane, so he is assigned to help a new (live)
pilot gain enough skill and confidence to help win the war.
Apparently he does this by whispering motivational suggestions in
the pilot's ear during his flights.  Was this supposed to make
people whose loved ones had died in the war feel that they were
still helping the war effort from beyond the grave or something?
This is even more dated than most of the Retro Hugo Dramatic
Presentation finalists (though perhaps not as offensive as some).

HEAVEN CAN WAIT has a gorgeous set design for Hell, but is
basically a comedy about the life of a ne'er-do-well in the late
19th and early 20th century.  As with several of the Retro
finalists, the amount of true fantastical content is fairly small.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the
lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in
1943.  And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of
Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical.
As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws.  One is that long
stretches are fairly boring--I just don't find Munchhausen's
intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting.  The second is
that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by
someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should
one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a
propaganda film (of the "Volksfilm" style)?  It's a fine line, I
agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it's available
free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the
royalties, it's not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a

There are those who feel that PHANTOM OF THE OPERA should not be on
the ballot, because it has no science fiction or fantasy elements.
As noted, this complaint could be applied to many of the finalists
in both the Long Form and Short Form categories.  Its big advantage
is that it doesn't shoehorn a war story in, or Heaven and Hell.


[It's tough to decide which of BATMAN and MUNCHHAUSEN should rank
lower.  BATMAN is more blatantly racist, but MUNCHHAUSEN was made
by actual Nazis.  If I were actually voting, I would not even rank
them, so that neither would get my vote even if other entries were

Next week: Retro Hugo, Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form



                                           Mark Leeper

           The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a
           fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not
           scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.
                                           --Samuel Butler