Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
06/21/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 51, Whole Number 2072

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Astronomy (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 3 (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        "Ugly" Produce (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        OPHELIA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        I AM MOTHER and "Mother" (letter of comment by Gary Labowitz)
        This Week's Reading (Hugo short stories: "The Court
                Magician", "The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration
                Society", "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth
                of George Washington", "STET" by Sarah Gailey,
                "The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and
                the Prince Who Was Made of Meat", "A Witch's Guide to
                Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies")
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Astronomy (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

So much has changed in astronomy since I went to school: now there
are about 4000 planets (versus 9 then) that we know of but Pluto is
not one of them, and the moon is part of Mars.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Natural History of Naturalized Food, Part 3 (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

Last week we were talking about foods that change their ethnicity.

In the United States we have our own strange concoctions that are
strictly our own.  For me one of the stranger American dishes is
Cincinnati Chili.  Now, many believe chili is originally a Mexican
dish and what we have in the United States is an Americanized
version.  But Cincinnati chili is a whole different breed.  It is
actually a Greek variation.  It is not piquant; it is sweet
flavored with an unexpected hint of chocolate and cinnamon.  But
you can get it what they call five-way, four-way, down to one-way.
This syntax is as strange as the taste of the chili.  A "four-way"
stop is a stop you can approach from four different directions.  A
three-way-something seems to be something you can use three
different ways.  That's not what it means here.  A "one-way" chili
is chili in a bowl; a "two-way" is chili over spaghetti; a "three-
way" is chili over spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese; a "four-
way" is chili over spaghetti with grated cheddar cheese and chopped
onions; and a "five-way" is chili over spaghetti with grated
cheddar cheese and chopped onions and kidney beans.  So you cannot
have some ingredients without other ingredients.  If you want
kidney beans in your chili there is no way to do it unless there is
spaghetti under it and grated cheddar and onions over it.  You have
to earn the right to have those kidney beans by buying three other
ingredients.  It is a little strange but that is what you get when
you have a Greek variation on an American variation on a Mexican
dish.  Yet Cincinnati has more chili restaurants per person than
any other city in the world. So they must be doing something right.
Skyline was the chain I remember seeing and they are more common
than McDonalds is most parts of the country.

But this leaves some unanswered questions.  If it is so popular in
Cincinnati, why is our traditional American chili not more popular?
Maybe it is better than standard American chili.  But if it is that
good, why is this Greek variant on chili only popular in Ohio?  As
far as I know Cincinnati is the only American city known for its
chili.  There is need here for some anthropologist to find some
answers.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: "Ugly" Produce (comments by Evelyn C.  Leeper)

There have been companies popping up lately whose business model is
to buy excess or "ugly" produce from farmers and wholesalers and
sell it to consumers, with home delivery and presumably for less
than it would cost in the store.  Given that a large percentage of
the enormous amount of food waste in this country is in the area of
produce, this sounds like a win/win situation. However, a recent
article asked "Does Your Box of 'Ugly' Food Really Help the

"In an op-ed last year for The New Food Economy, the heads of two
food-justice nonprofits in Oakland wrote that Imperfect Produce
'reflects a very troubling trend ... that commodifies and
gentrifies food waste.'  The company, they argued, is not in the
business of food waste so much food surplus: It buys excess
products that farmers can't sell to supermarkets, but could sell to
restaurants, canned and processed food companies, or, as a last
resort, donate to food banks.  'The stuff in these boxes is not
ending up in a landfill,' co-author Max Cadji, the founder of Phat
Beets Produce, told me.  'They're just tapping into the same
marketplace as the guys who make shredded carrots.'"
Some thoughts:

There is certainly some logic in what the article says.  If a
farmer grew 10 tons of produce one year, and 10% went to waste,
then it is supposed they would grow 9 tons of produce the following
year.  (Of course, it is hard to know precisely what the yield will
be.)  Assuming demand stays relatively steady, that would
theoretically be the right amount.  But as the article notes, if
the farmer sells their 10% surplus to someone, even at a discounted
price, do they have any incentive to plant less?

And consider the consumer market for produce.  Whatever it is,
adding more produce, in the form of "ugly" produce that might
otherwise be discarded, will probably not change it.  So some
produce in stores that might otherwise be sold to consumers is not,
and ends up wasted there.  The only thing that gets around this
would be to increase demand, or at least, consumption, by donating
this produce to people who would otherwise not use produce--and
this is where the donations to food banks actually do help.  (Even
the farmers are helped--they can probably get a tax deduction for
these donations.)

However, it could also be that when 10 tons of produce are
transported to stores, etc., 10% is damaged in transit (bruised,
crushed, etc.).  So growing 9 tons the next year means only 8.1
tons makes it to market successfully.  In other words, there will
always be some loss/waste, and the sellers of "ugly" produce do not
(and cannot) solve this.

(Of course, trying to avoid damage in shipping is what led to
tomatoes that can be transported without damage, but are hard as a
rock and taste like one too.  Be careful what you wish for.)

Another issue is the effect of shipping this produce to
individuals.  Even if the boxes are totally recyclable, and totally
recycled, there is still an effect on the environment of the
manufacture of the shipping materials, and of the fuel required to
transport all this produce in small quantities to many end points.

What probably addresses these problems better is buying reduced-
price produce in the supermarkets.  This sounds like a more
effective way to prevent waste than just buying more produce from
the farmer.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: OPHELIA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: It takes no small amount of chutzpah to take what is one
of Shakespeare's greatest and most respected plays and to extend
the story with language in Shakespearian English.  This version
centers on Ophelia and the familiar circumstances are seen through
her eyes.  Though friends of mine who are fans of the Bard may not
like me saying this, this Ophelia is more compelling than most
stage versions of the same character.  The reimagining has some
plot revision, but that is kept to a minimum.  Directed by Claire
McCarthy; written by: Semi Chellas.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or

Occasionally we get a well-known story written as a retelling of an
already familiar story but seen from a different character's
viewpoint.  MARY REILLY told the story of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
from the point of view of a housemaid.  ROSENKRANTZ AND
GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD told a part of HAMLET from the point of view
of the two title characters.  Currently the film OPHELIA--also
taken from HAMLET--tells the story of Ophelia, lover of Hamlet. But
it is told from her side from the famous plot.

Most of us who took English in school will know the story of
HAMLET.  One weakness of Semi Chellas's screenplay is to make
Ophelia sort of a Super-Elizabethan with talents beyond those of
her peers or in Denmark of the time.  She is more boy than most
boys in the court, while she impresses other women by knowing how
to read, a rare talent in her circle of friends or in Denmark.
Daisy Ridley, Rey from the STAR WARS series is forceful in the
title role, but all too often her speech lacks a certain quality I
call "decibels."  Also featured are Naomi Watts as Gertrude and
Clive Owen as Claudius.  The story could be better matched to their

The screenplay is tied to the Shakespeare version by several
references to events mentioned in the Shakespeare play.  For
example, out of context someone might mention Yorick died without
the reference advancing the plot.

The production design does its part, but might have been more
ornate. It may disappoint some viewers, coming as it does just few
months after the film THE FAVOURITE was released.  Of course, one
expects the late Restoration court of England to be more lavish
than the late Middle Ages court of Denmark.

[Spoiler: Images of the dead, drowned Ophelia seem heavily based on
the painting John Everett Millais' painting "Ophelia."]

I rate OPHELIA a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 8/10.

Release date: In theaters June 28th and available on VOD and
Digital July 2nd

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: I AM MOTHER and "Mother" (letter of comment by Gary

In response to Mark's review of I AM MOTHER in the 06/14/19 issue
of the MT VOID, Gary Labowitz writes:

Oh my ... another Gary. We are a relatively rare bunch and now you
have two!

The review of I AM MOTHER, brought to mind a novelette by Philip
Jose Farmer called "Mother" that was, as I recall, heavily
commented on for being too "sexual" in a science fiction story.
There was a follow up story, but I don't remember it at all.  It
had the hero living (?) inside a pod like plant (?) that needed him
to be a sexual partner ... if I remember this one rightly.  It's
been a loooong time since I have even thought about this piece.
Perhaps you know of it?  I may have this all screwed up, but it's
stf, so who cares?

Thanks again for your publication.  It is always making me want to
sit down and read, but I never seem to get around to it.  Busy with
other things.  My calligraphy takes a bit of time and the rest goes
to trying to understand how to be a successful seller of it on
line. This turns out to be harder than one might imagine.  It's
mostly a lot of research into what people are looking for and
getting all materials aimed to them by search engine optimization.
Then analyzing statistics on hits, replies, pricing, delivery, etc.
What a world.  The old "basic" internet was much easier, but has
grown to be a complicated, competitive environment.  But, it is
loaded with possibilities if one can get over the technical

Thanks again.  [-gl]

And then Gary follows up with:

The date was 1953, so I was 14 when I read it.

And it was in THRILLING WONDER STORIES, which checks out because I
was reading and collecting that particular group of magazines.
(STARTLING STORIES and one other) where I answered a letter in
their fan letter column that got me connected to K. Martin Carlson
and becoming a co-editor with him on KAYMAR TRADER.  I eventually
took it over and eventually terminated it, turning the subscribers
over to another zine which name I don't really remember ... perhaps
FANTASY TRADER or some such.  It had a longer name than that, of
course.  So, ultimately, following a chain of cause and events I
guess it is all Samuel Mines fault!  (He was editor of the
"Startling" group at that time.)

No good deed goes unpunished.  [-gl]


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

Well, I said I might be doing the current Hugo finalists for short
stories, and here they are.  My first observation is that the
titles tend to be much longer now.

"The Court Magician" by Sarah Pinsker takes a common theme and
develops it in a new way, making concrete the idea that magic comes
with a price, while also looking at the ethics of using magic at
someone else's command.  It certainly has more depth and better
writing than the Retro Hugo short story finalists I reviewed a
couple of weeks ago.

"The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society" by
T. Kingfisher is the humorous story on this year's ballot.  (There
always seems to be one.)  It's certainly an amusing "turning the
tables" sort of tale, but nothing substantial.

"The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington" by
P. Djeli Clark is not a story with a beginning, a middle, and an
end.  It is rather a piece written in the same vein as many of
Jorge Luis Borges's "stories" (e.g., "The Library of Babel", "The
Babylonian Lottery") which are sketches or portraits more than
simple narratives.  The title emphasizes that there are as many
different stories as there are teeth--it is not "The Secret *Life*
of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington".

"STET" by Sarah Gailey seems to emphasis form over content, but
maybe that's just my reaction.

"The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who
Was Made of Meat" by Brooke Bolander struck me as a rather run-of-
the-mill feminist fantasy story--okay, but not Hugo-worthy.

"A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal
Fantasies" by Alix E. Harrow reminded me of Genevieve Cogman's
"Invisible Library" series, being about magical books and portals
and such.  I think these sorts of stories are popular because
readers of fantasy and science fiction, at least those dedicated
enough to nominate for the Hugo Awards, are by their nature
enthralled by books.

Ranking: "The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George
Washington", "A Witch's Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of
Portal Fantasies", "The Court Magician", no award, "The Rose
MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society", "The Tale of the Three
Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat",



                                           Mark Leeper

           I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since.
                                           --William Cowper