• MT VOID, 02/18/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 34, Whole Number 2211

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Feb 20 07:26:23 2022
    Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
    02/18/22 -- Vol. 40, No. 34, Whole Number 2211

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    SF Trailer Featuring Bell Labs Holmdel (comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    The Better Films I Saw in 2021 (film comments
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    THE PLANETS by Andrew Cohen with Professor Brian Cox
    (book review by Gregory Frederick)
    Star Trek Economics (letters of comment by Gary McGath
    and Scott Dorsey)
    THE TIME MACHINE (letters of comment by Jeff Urs,
    Scott Dorsey, Kevin R, and Robert Woodward)
    This Week's Reading (THE END OF ETERNITY) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: SF Trailer Featuring Bell Labs Holmdel (comments by Evelyn
    C. Leeper)

    SEVERANCE is a series that releases on Apple TV+ this Friday. Two
    seasons have been scheduled so far; the first has nine episodes,
    the second ten. The IMDB description is "Mark leads a team of
    office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between
    their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears
    outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about
    their jobs." Interestingly, they list it as "Drama, mystery"
    without even mentioning science fiction.

    On imdb.com, the trailer is at <https://tinyurl.com/5h3bmppk>.

    One presumes the series may have even more shots of BTL Holmdel.


    TOPIC: The Better Films I Saw in 2021 (film comments by Mark
    R. Leeper)

    Every year I have been making my list of the films I saw the
    previous year that I thought were the ten best. But once again
    this year the circumstances are quite unusual, as I am sure the
    reader is aware. Again, I have seen far fewer films and while 2021
    was better than 2020, the list is still a bit unusual, with few
    major films appearing. But at least most of these are
    "top-ten-worthy." Here in my opinion are among the best I saw.
    (A couple are older films first seen in 2021.)

    1. NIGHTMARE ALLEY: NIGHTMARE ALLEY is described by its makers as
    a new adaptation of the book by William Lindsay Gresham, not a
    remake of the 1947 classic film noir version. There is a great
    deal of difference between the two, but this is every bit as good
    as the previous film. The production design, art direction, set
    decoration, and costume design are all note-worthy, and this film
    has a star-studded cast who bring it to life.

    2. HOUSE OF GUCCI: This is more than a film about fashion--it is
    an Italian family epic in much the same style as THE GODFATHER, and
    based on a true story. There is conspicuous wealth, scheming,
    betrayal and yes, even murder.

    3. LAST NIGHT IN SOHO: LAST NIGHT IN SOHO looks back at the 1960s
    through the dreams; the use of camera filters and different film
    stock helps fix the time periods of the various scenes, as well as
    the set design. This is a surprising film with enough ideas for
    two films.

    4. A HERO: When the secret girlfriend of Rahim (the title
    character) finds a purse full of gold coins, he thinks this will
    solve his debt problems, but it only entangles him further into a
    web of lies and deceptions. Very much a film about honor and
    reputation, this does not rely on flashy techniques but on good
    solid story-telling and acting.

    5. WORTH: WORTH is a film about the September 11 Victim's
    Compensation Fund, and uses two very good actors in a strong and
    even riveting conflict: when forced to name a dollar amount as the
    worth of a human being, how can someone actually fairly assign a
    monetary value on the worth of a human? Michael Keaton, Stanley
    Tucci, and Michael Tucci star.

    6. LAPSIS: LAPSIS is set in a world not quite our own, where Ray
    takes a job running cables connecting large, metal cubes in a
    (mostly) deserted forest. This is not a big-budget sci-fi flick,
    but a low-budget satire of aspects of our lives today.

    7. THE COURIER: THE COURIER is a classic spy thriller based on
    historical fact and starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It is not quite
    up to the recent BRIDGE OF SPIES, but is definitely a quality film.
    Again, this does not rely on expensive special effects or stunts,
    but on writing and characterization.

    8. JUNGLE CRUISE: JUNGLE CRUISE (the movie) was based on "Jungle
    Cruise", a Disneyland ride, so we weren't expecting much, and were
    definitely pleasantly surprised. The script owes some of its
    intelligence and humor to THE AFRICAN QUEEN and ROMANCING THE
    STONE, as well as THE MUMMY (1999) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.,
    but there is nothing wrong with using classics as inspiration. All
    in all, this is a fun movie.

    9. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE--CITIZEN HEARST: Most people know William
    Randolph Hearst only as the fictional title character in CITIZEN
    KANE. Almost four hours long, this documentary looks at the real
    William Randolph Hearst and the power he wielded as perhaps the
    first media mogul. Sadly, this film would not qualify for Oscar
    consideration because it played on PBS rather than theatrically.
    But the American Experience films made for PBS deserve recognition
    for their consistent quality, and this year I MAKE THE RULES.

    10. THE FATHER: This is a look at dementia from the inside--Anthony
    Hopkins is suffering from progressive dementia and cannot remember
    people, places, or events. What makes this different is that, for
    example, when Hopkins does not recognize his daughter, she is
    played by a different actress than when he does, so we experience
    his perception from inside his head. Other techniques are used as
    well. Disturbing, but recommended.



    TOPIC: THE PLANETS by Andrew Cohen with Professor Brian Cox (book
    review by Gregory Frederick)

    This 2019 book is a large-size edition science book with many
    beautiful color images of the planets and their moons plus new
    photos of the dwarf planet Pluto from the New Horizons space
    craft. Knowledge gained from decades of robotic missions into our
    Solar System is contained in this large format book. Billions of
    years ago Mars and possibly Venus too were much more like Earth is
    today. That is, there was liquid water lakes and oceans on those
    planets and an atmosphere which had a comparable density and depth
    similar to Earth's. But only Earth has survived with a stable
    life-sustaining environment for more than 3.5 billion years or so.
    These days Venus has temperatures as high as 457 degrees Celsius
    and a surface pressure as high as 89 Earth atmospheres. And Venus
    has a very dense thick atmosphere of mostly CO2. Mars currently
    is a cold very dry desert planet with a very thin atmosphere that
    is only 1% the density of Earth's atmosphere. The only water on
    Mars today is frozen solid at the poles and under the dusty soil
    of the planet.

    For most of the history of astronomy we only had our Solar System
    of planets to study. But since we began recently studying the
    solar systems around other stars we have discovered that our Solar
    System is quite unique. Most of the planetary systems around other
    stars is very different from our own Solar System. Inward from
    Mercury our Solar System is empty until you reach the Sun. But
    when you look at that same region around other stars you find the
    region is packed with a completely different class of planet called
    Super Earths. Super Earths are 2 to 8 times the mass of the Earth
    and have thick hydrogen rich atmospheres. They orbit around their
    star at very fast rates because they are so close to their star.
    We also find large mass planets like Jupiter size or greater
    orbiting much closer to their star. Scientists have been
    conducting many computer simulations of the early days of our newly
    forming Solar System and finding out that Jupiter could have been
    moving closer to the Sun back then and helped to form the Solar
    System we have today. Eventually as Saturn formed its massive
    gravity pulled Jupiter back to the location it has today. This is
    a well written book with great images of our Solar System's planets
    and moons. [-gf]


    TOPIC: Star Trek Economics (letters of comment by Gary McGath and
    Scott Dorsey)

    In response to comments on Star Trek economics in the 02/11/22
    issue of the MT VOID, Gary McGath writes:

    The Ferengi are a running joke. Any trading culture knows that
    reputation is highly important. They might grossly cheat people,
    but they work hard to keep the appearance of honesty. The Ferengi
    don't even try. They literally have a book on how to cheat
    people. [-gmg]

    Scott Dorsey responds:

    You've never bought a car from a dealer, have you? [-sd]

    But Gary replies:

    They try hard to appear honest. [-gmg]


    TOPIC: THE TIME MACHINE (letters of comment by Jeff Urs, Scott
    Dorsey, Kevin R, and Robert Woodward)

    In response to Evelyn's comments on THE TIME MACHINE in the
    02/11/22 issue of the MT VOID, Jeff Urs writes:

    [Evelyn wrote,] "Our group spent a lot of time discussing why Wells
    included the sequence with the crabs and whether they liked it."

    Clearly, Wells was aware that everything eventually evolves into
    crabs. [-ju]

    Scott Dorsey elaborates:

    CLAMS -> PEOPLE -> CRABS [-sd]

    Kevin R adds:

    Some crabs have been around a long time. I encountered this one a
    lot as a kid.

    <https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/ Invertebrates/Horseshoe-Crab>


    Scott responds:

    Those are RANK IMPOSTORS! They are not actual crabs at all! They
    are just giant arthropod scabs taking jobs away from innocent
    crustaceans. Blue blood, indeed! Write your congressman today!

    Robert Woodward jumps in:

    What do you mean imposters! Horseshoe crabs have been around twice
    as long as so-called "true crabs" (who just a bunch of
    Johnny-come-latelys). [-rw]


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

    **SPOILERS** (but the book *is* almost seventy years old!)

    The first time I read THE END OF ETERNITY by Isaac Asimov (Orb,
    ISBN 978-0-765-31919-7) I really liked it, but I was probably
    about fourteen and it was still the tail end of the post-war era.
    Now when I read it, it seems incredibly sexist, and often makes
    little sense to boot.

    Oh, the basic idea of a "time patrol" (under whatever name) is
    nifty, and can result in some intriguing philosophical questions.
    But Asimov's "Eternals" are working only in our future, so there's
    never any look at the history we know (as there is in Poul
    Anderson's TIME PATROL, for example), and no real in-depth
    discussion of the future periods (other than how much skin women
    uncover, and what the attitudes toward sex are).

    As for women, Asimov writes that all the Eternals are men, because
    removing women from the timeline is "ten to a hundred times more
    likely to distort Reality" than removing men, because of births
    that didn't happen, etc. Apparently Asimov was confused about who
    is responsible for pregnancies and births--he seems to think humans
    reproduce by parthenogenesis. (And don't even get me started on
    how Eternals can request a "liaison" and be issued a woman, much as
    one would request a new jacket.)

    (Also note that when Twissell calls himself "queer", he is using
    the old definition of being peculiar. There is apparently no
    homosexuality in the entire timeline. Probably just as well;
    Asimov's attempt at writing a heterosexual sex scene is appallingly

    Asimov (or his characters) never explain why the Eternals would
    choose a return to the "Basic State" that would effectively wipe
    them all out. Even calling it the "Basic State" implies that it is
    the "correct" one and the rest are incorrect or artificial. Why
    not declare that the harnessing of fire, or agriculture, or speech,
    destroyed the "Basic State"? And while the Basic State allowed the
    Galactic Empire that Asimov had already written about (at least the "Foundation" trilogy, if not the later books), it left the question
    of why there were no non-human intelligent races in it, since in
    this book the Eternals specifically say that these races exist.

    Okay, so this is a book the Suck Fairy got to. More evidence that
    going back and reading one's old favorites from one's childhood may
    not be a good idea. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    I don't want to become immortal through my work.
    I want to become immortal through not dying.
    --Woody Allen

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