Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
11/29/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 22, Whole Number 2095

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
                Lectures, etc. (NJ)
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in December (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        Veggie Burgers (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        A RUSSIAN JOURNAL and Stalin (letter of comment
                by Scott Dorsey)
        Imhotep and Boris Karloff (letter of comment by Sam Long)
        This Week's Reading (Harold Bloom, THE WESTERN CANON, and
                SHAKESPEARE: THE INVENTION OF THE HUMAN) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)

December 12, 2019: THE LAST MIMZY and "Mimsy Were the Borogoves"
        by Lewis Padgett, Middletown Public Library, 5:30PM
        (postponed from last month)
January 9, 2020: CHARLY (1963) & FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON by
        Daniel Keyes (1959, 1966) (short story) (novel)
January 23, 2020: THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
February 13, 2020: THE QUIET EARTH (1985) & novel by Craig Harrison
March 26, 2020: TBD by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Old Bridge Public
        Library, 7PM
May 28, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
July 23, 2020: CLIPPER OF THE CLOUDS by Jules Verne (a.k.a.
        published by Ace in 1961 in an omnibus titled MASTER OF THE
        WORLD, which is the title of the sequel), Old Bridge Public
        Library, 7PM
September 24, 2020: TBD from Europe/Latin America,
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM
November 19, 2020: Rudyard Kipling:
     "A Matter of Fact" (1892)
     "The Ship That Found Herself" (1895)
     ".007" (1897)
     "Wireless" (1902)
     "With the Night Mail [Aerial Board of Control 1]" (1905)
     "As Easy as A.B.C. [Aerial Board of Control 2]" (1912)
     "In the Same Boat" (1911)
        Old Bridge Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in December (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

We are starting the month of December.  This seems to be the month
the providers of media suddenly get the idea that everybody is just
dying to see Ebenezer Scrooge or some facsimile of him learn to
assimilate and be obnoxious like most everyone else.  People seem
to want the whole story being repeated ad nausea with small
variations in style.  They make the same point over and over in
slightly different style.  The story is, of course, A CHRISTMAS

There is only one adaptation of this story that gets the Mark
Leeper Seal of Approval.  That is the 1951 version originally
titled SCROOGE.  It was retitled A CHRISTMAS CAROL and might appear
either way.  Actually, I am informed by the TCM articles source
that it was released with both the United States and England and
the title SCROOGE was used in England but not the United States.
That article raises an interesting point.  If A CHRISTMAS CAROL is
such a joyous holiday film, why does it have it be such a dark,
depressing exercise, as it also is in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, both
introducing us to a man unhappy with his life choices?  Both films
are downbeat.  Perhaps that is the basis of their popularity.
Perhaps people like to feel unhappy and sorry for themselves.  Then
Christmas comes and people feel they have a responsibility to be of
good cheer and they have one little island of brightness in their
gray depressing lives.  A one-day cure for depression is unlikely
to do much without use of drugs.

Personally I can think of no better way to spend the holiday than
watching a bunch of good movies.  Pitiful but true.  Enjoy any
holidays you may run into.

@ 08:00 PM (ET)]]

My choice for best film of the month is UMBERTO D.  The title
refers to an elderly man who finds himself penniless just rejected
by society and sentenced to live near starvation, He thinks he has
lost every thing and has noting left that he valued until he finds
he indeed had one last possession he is forced to give up.

Film of the month would be UMBERTO D (1952), directed by Vittorio
De Sica.

[UMBERTO D, Wednesday, December 25 @ 04:45 AM]



TOPIC: Veggie Burgers (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

The Berkeley Wellness Letter says that homemade veggie burgers are
better than frozen, and their recipe is "fast to make."

Their recipe has 14 ingredients, and uses three pans and a food
processor.  Along the way, you have to cook the couscous; toast the
pine nuts; slice the mushrooms; dice the onion, celery, and pepper;
mince the garlic; pulse all the ingredients in a food processor;
and then form and fry the patties.  Meanwhile, toast the buns,
slice the tomatoes, and flatten the spines of the lettuce leaves.

I've seen "fast to make" and this is not it.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: A RUSSIAN JOURNAL and Stalin (letter of comment by Scott

In response to Taras Wolansky's comments on A RUSSIAN JOURNAL in
the 11/22/19 issue of the MT VOID, Scott Dorsey writes:

"[Taras writes,] 'Evelyn's thumbnail review of Steinbeck's RUSSIAN
JOURNAL:  Visiting the birthplace of the Potemkin village, you'd
think Steinbeck wouldn't take things at face value, but no such
luck.  The Soviet people don't fear Stalin, but worry about another
war, Steinbeck writes. In reality, people were too afraid of
Stalin--likely every family Steinbeck visited had lost somebody to
the terror or the purges or the artificial famine--to express the
slightest negative emotion; and fear of another war was the
sentiment they had been instructed to express.'  [-tw]"

[Arthur] Koestler writes that people really did like Stalin,
because the newspapers talked about how great Stalin was and the
radio talked about how great Stalin was, and when you were out in
rural Ukraine and getting all your information from Pravda, you had
no idea anything bad was going on.  This is why there was just so
much shock when Stalin was finally denounced after his death and
when all the information about the purges started becoming
available to the general population.  People who have always lived
with a free press miss out on the sheer amount of control that it's
possible for a state to have through the press.  [-sd]


TOPIC: Imhotep and Boris Karloff (letter of comment by Sam Long)

In response to Mark's comments on Imhotep in the 11/22/19 issue of
the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

Imhotep was the first person known to have expressed an opinion,
which is why, when we express opinions these days, we often prefix
our words with IMHO.

On a related subject, Bill Pratt (a.k.a. Boris Karloff) had a
birthday two days ago: he was born 23 November 1887.  His great-
aunt was Anna Leonowens, of "The King & I" fame.  [-sl]


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

I recently listed to an episode of the (highly recommended) podcast
"Classical Stuff You Should Know" which discussed the work and
philosophy of the recently deceased Harold Bloom.  Naturally, a
large part of the discussion was about Bloom's book THE WESTERN

As part of this, the podcasters (A. J. Hananberg, Thomas Magbee,
and Graeme Donaldson) ask the question, "Why do people continue to
write books when they realize they will never measure up to
Shakespeare, Tolstoy, or Whitman?"  Their answer is that there are
many things not covered in the existing canon.  The Iliad was a
great work, but it said little or nothing about love and marriage.
Genesis is great poetry about the Creation, but it left large gaps
that Milton felt obliged to fill.

And that is precisely why the "Western Canon" is not enough.  For
example, Chinua Achebe's THINGS FALL APART is considered one of the
world's great novels, and tells a story not covered in the "Western
canon". Similarly, Murasaki Shikibu's TALE OF GENJI is another
classic omitted from the traditional canon.  Interestingly, Bloom's
list of the "Western Canon" includes the Egyptian Book of the Dead,
and such Sanskrit works as the RAMAYANA, neither of which seem

But what *does* "Western" mean in the con text of "the Western
Canon" or "Western Civilization"?  The Greeks thought anyone
outside of ancient Greece barbarians, the Romans thought most of
the Europeans they encountered barbarians, and I'm pretty sure the
(Eastern) Roman Empire of its time would have thought BEOWULF
totally unworthy of consideration.  Edward Gibbon in his DECLINE
AND FALL writes of "the nations of Europe, the most distinguished
portion of human kind in arts and learning as well as in arms."
And so on, even through the present-day, and slopping over into the
whole immigration debate.  But there we shall not go.

At any rate, this is something I have thought about quite a bit,
and the fact is that while Bloom may have tried to pin down some
sort of "Western Canon", his list is neither entirely Western, nor
(probably) entirely canonical.  When Wikipedia (okay, not the
unimpeachable source of wisdom some may think) says, "Since the
1960s the Western literary canon has been expanded to include
writers from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East," the adjective
"Western" seems to lose most of its meaning.

(It's like trying to define "Spanish", "Hispanic", and
"Latino/Latina"; or "Latin America", "Ibero-America", and "Hispanic
America".  But that's a different rabbit hole.)

by Bloom, one is tempted to place it in the same category as Julian
BICAMERAL MIND, that is, a book that proposes a fascinating theory
that could be used as the basis of a great novel (in the case of
Jaynes, SNOW CRASH) but one that probably does not stand up to
serious examination.  [-ecl]


                      Mark Leeper

           Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails.
                                           --Max Eastman