Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
12/06/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 23, Whole Number 2096

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
author unless otherwise noted.
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        Small Note on Email Distribution of the MT VOID (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        The Theory and Origins of Spicy Food (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE AERONAUTS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        SCROOGE/A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) and Other Christmas Movies
                (letters of comment by Paul Dormer, Gary McGath,
                Kevin R, and Keith F. Lynch)
        This Week's Reading (THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and
                GETTYSBURG) (book and film comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Small Note on Email Distribution of the MT VOID (comments by
Evelyn C. Leeper)

Because our ISP (Optimum) has started randomly deciding we are
sending out spam, and so cuts off our outgoing email for a day or
so before turning it back on, we occasionally have to mail the MT
VOID from my Gmail account.  And even then, there may be a delay.
And of course, Yahoo groups is having its own delays as they are
changing over to mailing lists only.  So if the MT VOID comes from
a different address, or late, that's why.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Theory and Origins of Spicy Food (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I have had a couple of occasions in this past week to eat hot
foods.  One of the more harmless of my reputations among friends is
that if no other part of me is really in Machismo, my tongue is
super-macho.  I grew up with a pallid cuisine that was an amalgam
of Eastern European and American.  (Why did somebody with an
English-Irish name like Leeper grow up with Eastern European food?
Well, that's another story for another time.)  In any case, as I
have grown older and did not become athletic or otherwise sports-
minded, I have noticed a lot of otherwise macho-seeming men cringe
at the taste of a little hot pepper in their food.  Like me, they
probably grew up with bland food, but I grew a little more tired of
it than they did.  So I have come to like food that sent others
screaming from the room.  My dog decided for himself to stop
begging for table scraps.  The most sadistic Indian, the cruelest
Szechuan, the vilest Mexican chefs had no horrors for me.

In the shelves of my refrigerator jalapeno mustard nestles against
jars of Tabasco peppers.  Oh, and don't let anyone tell you
jalapenos are as hot as they come.  Tabascos, the stuff they dilute
with vinegar to make the famous sauce, are hotter.  And the people
who bottle them have to dress up like they're handling plutonium--
I've seen them.  Tabascos in their native state, however, come
packed in vinegar.  I can only guess whether they would match the
dreaded green peppers you get dry in Indian restaurants. The most
potent I have ever had our guide picked off a tree in the Amazon.
Little orange peppers the size of blueberries.  The fact that they
are so small is the best argument I know for there being a merciful

Then there is another whole breed of hot.  This is the mustard and
horseradish sort of hot.  These don't burn your tongue.  The good
ones just give you three hours of cluster headaches in about five
seconds.  A really good, freshly ground horseradish is quite nice.
Then there is Japanese wasabi.  That is a sort of green horseradish
that you get with sushi.  Less than the amount to cover the tip of
a chopstick is a wasab. (I have defined a wasab as a unit of
strength equivalent to dropping one volume of the New York Yellow
Pages on your nose from one foot up.)  As a way of estimating, one
standard slice of Grossinger's rye bread, generously spread with
Frank's Mr. Mustard--the best mustard in the world--and diluted
with one-eighth in thick slices of a good kosher salami will total
about four or five wasabs.  Divide that by the number of bites
you'd get out of it and you get an estimate of the effect of each

But in any case, what started me thinking is that I started looking
at a jar of peppers in my refrigerator and I concluded that in a
world of perversity there is no such thing as a reliable defense.
Huh?  Well, you see, way back somewhere there was a family of
peppers with a problem.  What was eating them? I don't know--
insects or something.  Anyway, a couple of the kids were different.
They had developed some sort of irritant.  Insects that tried to
take a bite out of them would fly off doing whatever the insect
equivalent of cussing was.  So these peppers had a good thing going
and lived to reproduce with each other.  First thing you know, they
have established themselves and have big families.  An insect bites
one of them and starts singing, "Mama Said There'd Be Days Like
This."   So the peppers start feeling really smug.  They build
their own country clubs, that sort of thing.  Then, whammo!  Along
comes humans.  The first few see the peppers.  "Hmmm, pretty
colors.  Like nice fruit.  Me bite....  Hmmm!  Mama said there'd be
days like this."  And eventually little humans come along and say
to littler humans still, "Here, have something nice to eat from the
tree." The next ten seconds gave man the idea for the air-raid

But eventually that little human got tricked and tried the hot
peppersso many times that he got used to the taste.  Then started
putting the peppers in stews and things.  Invited the older
brothers and sisters and their families over for dinner.  The
Borgias used to use the same principle.  Now things have gotten to
the state that the pepper would be left alone by the humans if it
didn't have the defense mechanism.  After all, it isn't very big.
Humans only eat the little peppers so they can enjoy having the
pepper fight back.  The worse a pepper defends itself against me,
the more I like it.  Rotten defense if you have so many masochists
who look forward to the counter-attack.  So go figure!  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE AERONAUTS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: With a little flare borrowed from Jules Verne, we get a
story of two mid-19th century explorers who attempt to travel by
balloon higher above the Earth than any humans had ever been to
that point.  The two leads from THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, actors
Felicity Jones and Eddy Redmayne, are reunited in a piece of proto-
science fiction.  Of their two characters one is serious and in the
process of inventing what will be the new science of meteorology.
The other is a daredevil adventurer for whom the record-breaking
flight is little more than a publicity gag. Ms Jones is an exciting
woman taking a bite out of life and in return it may well take a
bite out of her.  Directed by: Tom Harper; written by: Jack Thorne.
Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Though THE AERONAUTS is not based on a Jules Verne story it shares
EARTH (especially the James Mason versions) the same sort of sense
of wonder and the ageless fun I would have loved at age 6 or at 60.
Our adventurers enter a world where no human has visited and where
they do not know the dangers they will be facing.

Two people who do not care for each other share a balloon to travel
to what they hope will be a world record high flight.  They will
several times be hanging onto ropes and wicker within inches of a
spectacular and horrific death. This is my last day of November
2019 and I just saw the film I have enjoyed the most of any film I
have seen this year.

This is a film with modest visual imagery to prove to filmmakers
how much visual imagery can be done with a minimum of digital
effects work.  The effects could have been done full size with some
rope, some wood, and a few other gimcracks.

As a companion to this film the Smithsonian provided a nice article
"Age of the Aeronaut":

I rate THE AERONAUTS a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or 9 out of 10.

Release date: Dec 6, 2019

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: SCROOGE/A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) and Other Christmas Movies
(letters of comment by Paul Dormer, Gary McGath, Kevin R, and
Keith F. Lynch)

In response to Mark's comments on SCROOGE (1951) in the 11/29/19
issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

A favourite in my family, too.  It's usually on TV at some time
when I stay with my sister over Christmas.  Alastair Sim in the
title role is a joy to watch, especially in the final scenes after
awakening.  Plenty of other great British actors of the period, as
well, George Cole, Jack Warner, Kathleen Harrison, Michael Hordern.

A great music score, too, by Richard Addinsell (of Warsaw Concerto
fame) with its use of the old ballad Barbara Allen.  [-pd]

Gary McGath responds:

I like the Mr. Magoo version.  It's hard to feel the story is dark
when Magoo is playing Scrooge.  The song "We're Despicable" has
long been a favorite of mine.  [-gmg]

Paul replies:

I remember seeing that in the early sixties, but I don't know if it
has been shown on British television since.

I meant to add yesterday a snippet I had just heard on the radio.
Dickens was doing a reading in Edinburgh and afterwards he was
walking through a graveyard and saw a tomb stone that had on it the
name Ebeneezer Scrogie.  He liked the name, but wrote it down
wrongly.  Scrogie was described as a "meal man", i.e. he dealt in
corn meal and the like, but Dickens mis-read it as "mean man" and
given the Scots reputation for parsimony, thought that amusing.
Shortly after, he wrote A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Coincidentally, in last night's "Only Connect" missing vowels
round, one of the categories was actors and films in which they
played a ghost and the final question, which neither team got
before time was called, was: MCHLHRDRNNDSCRG


Kevin R also replies:

 From 1962:

"We're just blankety-blank-blank no good!"

When I played the miser in our school production, 5 years later,
Quincy McG's performance certainly informed my own.  I would have
been all of 10 going on 11 in late 1967.:)

I know that one year, perhaps before our class did A CHRISTMAS
CAROL, but probably in one of the next 2 years, the assembled
school was shown the Sim SCROOGE.  I was well-impressed by it.

The Magoo CC spawned a series, in which the near-sighted thespian
took on other classic stories:

Sim voiced Scrooge in an animated version!

I liked the 1984 version with George C Scott, and the musical
starring Albert Finney had some wicked tunes, such as "Father

Happy Humbug!


Keith F. Lynch writes:

It's been 40 years since Henry Winkler ("The Fonz") played Scrooge.
I don't recall whether I saw it, but I recall thinking that he was
way too young for the role.  Presumably they used makeup to age
him.  Why didn't they just give the role to someone the right age?

Today, he's just the right age to play Scrooge (74).

There are certainly plenty of other Christmas movies.  For instance
HOME ALONE and its sequel.  (Macaulay Culkin is 39.)  Or GREMLINS.
(Zach Galligan is 55.)  Or SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS.  (Pia
Zadora is 66.)  Or MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.  (Natalie Wood has been
dead for 38 years.)  Or even the very first known Christmas movie,
SANTA CLAUS, released in 1898, which can be watched for free on
YouTube.  (Dorothy Smith has been dead for 55 years.)  [-kfl]

Paul responds:

Scrooge does appear as a young man in the Christmas Past sequences.
In the film SCROOGE, the young Scrooge is played by George Cole.
Cole had been more or less adopted by Alastair Sim and his wife--
they first appeared together on film in 1941, when Cole was 16.

favourites on British television.  But curiously, THE GREAT ESCAPE
seems to get shown at Christmas regularly.  [-pd]

Gary adds:

I like SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN.  It shows a young Kris
Kringle who is constantly at odds with the local authorities.

Yesterday, while waiting to see the doctor (a routine examination)
I re-read a couple of stories from THE HUGO WINNERS, which I had
brought with me.  One was Clarke's "The Star."  It's a Christmas
story, in a manner of speaking.

I also re-read "All the Sea with Oysters."  On the way out, I asked
the lady handling my checkout if she knew why there were never
enough safety pins and always too many coat hangers. She did!


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

Our book-and-film group read THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley
Jackson (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-143-03998-3) and watched the 1962
movie.  (The less said about the 1999 remake, the better.)  One
thing that struck me was Jackson's intentional avoidance of
gendered pronouns in the description of Theodora's roommate.  I'm
sure in 1959 it would have been more of a problem if the rommate's
gender was revealed, but now it would be just ho-hum.  I amo sure
someone will point out that I am drawing conclusions that Jackson
never makes explicit, but I think she put enough clues in to make
them valid.  (Martha Wells's avoidance of gendered pronouns in the
"Murderbot" series is also noticeable, but it serves a very
different purpose.)

We have seen the film GETTYSBURG a dozen times before the latest
(yes, really), but as proof that one can always find something new
one had not noticed before, Mark observed that there was a cluster
of three swords in the scene of General Armistead's wounding and
capture that seems to be a copy of the sword placement in Jacques
Louis David's "Oath of the Horatii".  And when I watched Kilrain's
face as Chamberlain is describing how to execute the bayonet
charge, he appears to have a look of pure terror on his face I had
not see before.  [-ecl]


                      Mark Leeper

           I think we are drawn to dogs because they are the
           uninhibited creatures we might be if we weren't certain
           we knew better.
                                           --George Bird Evans,
                                             TROUBLES WITH BIRD DOGS