• MT VOID, 07/29/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 5, Whole Number 2234

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jul 31 07:22:34 2022
    07/29/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 5, Whole Number 2234

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    We Now Have Racist, Sexist Robots
    Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
    Lectures, etc. (NJ)
    My Picks for Turner Classic Movies in August (comments
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    Mini Reviews by Evelyn, Part 7 (HULLABALOO, MAN OF THE
    (film reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS by Ryka Aoki (audio book review
    by Joe Karpierz)
    PRYM, and HIDDEN FIGURES (letter of comment
    by John Hertz)
    This Week's Reading (OPERATION MINCEMEAT) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: We Now Have Racist, Sexist Robots


    First two paragraphs:

    "As part of a recent experiment, scientists asked specially
    programmed robots to scan blocks with people’s faces on them, then
    put the 'criminal' in a box. The robots repeatedly chose a block
    with a Black man’s face.

    Those virtual robots, which were programmed with a popular
    artificial intelligence algorithm, were sorting through billions of
    images and associated captions to respond to that question and
    others, and may represent the first empirical evidence that robots
    can be sexist and racist, according to researchers. Over and over,
    the robots responded to words like 'homemaker' and 'janitor' by
    choosing blocks with women and people of color."


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

    Meetings are still fluctuating between in-person and Zoom. The
    best way to get the latest information is to be on the mailing
    lists for them.

    August 4, 2022 (MTPL): 5:30PM, THE HIDDEN (1987) & novel NEEDLE
    by Hal Clement
    September ?, 2022 (MTPL), 5:30PM: ???
    September 22, 2022 (OBPL), 7:00PM: ???


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

    Back in 1989 Turner Classic Movies ran a gigantic triple of the
    three films that composed the SAMURAI TRILOGY, which told the life
    of Miyamoto Musashi with its highlight on the duel against Sasaki
    Kojiro on the morning of April 13, 1612, on Ganryu Island. (The
    films themselves are adaptations of Eiji Yoshikawa's novel
    MUSHASHI, which originally ran as a newspaper serial in Japan
    between 1935 and 1939. If you are a samurai film fan you cannot do
    much better. Well, yes, you can actually. In August TCM will run:

    08/19 08:00 AM Throne of Blood (1957)
    08/19 10:00 AM Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)
    08/19 12:00 PM Samurai 2: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)
    08/19 02:00 PM Samurai 3: Duel at Ganryu Island (1956)
    08/19 04:00 PM Yojimbo (1961)
    08/19 06:00 PM Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo (1970)
    08/19 08:00 PM Rashomon (1950)
    08/19 09:45 PM The Seven Samurai (1956)
    08/20 01:30 AM High and Low (1963)
    08/20 04:00 AM I Live in Fear (1955/1967)

    [The last two are not samurai films, but are set in the 1950s and
    1960s. You probably.won’t know the difference.]

    If you are just getting started in samurai films my 1989 review of
    SAMURAI may or may not help:

    Capsule review: Three films make up one long story, a
    fictionalized account of a historical samurai and what is perhaps
    the most famous samurai duel ever. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4).

    Perhaps the most fabled samurai duel ever was the duel between
    Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro. Musashi had been a ronin from
    an early age. After the great battle of Sekigahara, he became a
    notorious bandit until virtually forced by a Buddhist priest to
    learn zen. After that he became a samurai in service to a lord and
    traveled the country, winning more than sixty duels. Musashi is
    famous for, among other things, writing GORIN NO SHO (a.k.a. THE

    Sasaki Kojiro was a brilliant young swordsman using unorthodox
    technique. Each man had an impressive list of victories when they
    faced each other on the shores of Ganryu Island.

    In 1953 and 1954, Hiroshi Inagaki made three films based on the
    life of Miyamoto Musashi. The first one--known variously as THE
    MUSASHI--tells how Musashi fought in the battle of Sekigahara, how
    he became a bandit, and finally how he became a full-fledged

    DUEL AT OCHIJOJI TEMPLE (the continuation) finds Musashi's past
    catching up with him, forcing him into a great battle against
    tremendous odds, as well as a battle with himself in order to
    follow the way of the samurai code. We also meet the enigmatic
    young swordsman Sasaki Kojiro, whose name would be ever linked with

    The conclusion, DUEL ON GANRYU ISLAND or MUSASHI AND KOJIRO, tells
    how Musashi turns his hand from samurai to farmer. Part of the
    story seems to have been the inspiration for Kurosawa's SEVEN
    SAMURAI. Finally Musashi must meet his young opponent on the beach
    of Ganryu.

    These are not so much three films as one film in three parts and
    have been called SAMURAI I, SAMURAI II, and SAMURAI III. They
    total more than five hours in length and tell a nearly seamless
    story with complex characters and situations. Director Inagaki
    returned to the story of the famous duel, incidentally, in 1967.
    His KOJIRO also told the story of the duel, but gave Kojiro's
    history instead of Musashi's. One minor problem, at least for me,
    is that after the battle of Sekigahara comes the peaceful early
    years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. (Readers of SHOGUN should realize
    that Sekigahara was the real name of the great battle in SHOGUN.
    Toranaga's real name was Ieyasu Tokugawa.) But my point is that
    these were times of peace and the duels were not fought over
    politics but were more like sports events. They do not have great
    historical significance.

    The production was from Toho and fans of 1950s Toho films will
    recognize familiar faces such as that of Takashi Shimura, who
    played the wise old scientist from the first two Godzilla films,
    the dying man from IKIRU, and the lead samurai in SEVEN SAMURAI
    (the part played by Yul Brynner in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN). Also
    present is Akihiko Hirata, whose oxygen destroyer was the only
    weapon ever to kill permanently a godzilla and whose report
    foretold the coming of the Mysterians.

    This clearly was an expensive production and Inagaki not only used
    color at a time when most Japanese films were in black and white,
    he also made full and unorthodox use of color with (for example) surrealistically vivid skies. Just as Masaki Kobayashi did with
    the 1964 KWAIDAN and Kenji Sawara did with 1957's RODAN, Inagaki
    gets the full effect he can from the color photography.

    SAMURAI is probably not classic film in the same way as Kurosawa's
    samurai films are, but it is a sort of light classic in the way a
    film such as HIGH NOON is. If it shows up at your video store it
    is certainly worth seeing. I rate SAMURAI a +2 on the -4 to +4



    TOPIC: Mini Reviews by Evelyn, Part 7 (film reviews by Evelyn C.

    HULLABALOO (1940): HULLABALOO sounded like it might be interesting,
    with its main character being fired from his radio job for
    broadcasting a fake Martian invasion. But there was so little of
    this, it's almost not worth mentioning. And the claim that Frank
    Morgan was doing all the impersonations has been pretty much
    debunked. Skip it.

    Released theatrically 10/25/1940.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/4f63eb49-34d9-3441-8c5c-

    MAN OF THE YEAR (2006): MAN OF THE YEAR is a political satire that
    is depressingly true to life. Robin Williams plays a television
    comedian who jokes about running for President, gets put on the
    ballot in a bunch of states, and then due to a programming error,
    is announced as the winner. The premise of one computer company
    being given the contract to run the election in all fifty states is
    impossible due to how elections are defined in the Constitution,
    the programming error makes absolutely no sense (even if
    intentional, which it wasn't), and so far the evidence (at least in
    Ukraine) is that a television comedian would actually be a better
    President than a reality show host. Still, as with other prescient
    films (A FACE IN THE CROWD, NETWORK), it is at times painful to
    watch as it is more didactic and less nuanced than those other

    Released 04/12/2002.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    satire. The ex-President of the Unite States decides to run for
    mayor of Mooseport, Maine, to keep his ex-wife from getting his
    Mooseport vacation home. The sincere but inept town handyman is
    nominated to run against him, there's a love triangle, and the
    whole thing is even more a waste of time than MAN OF THE YEAR.

    Released 02/20/2004.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM (1933): Mark and I are watching our way
    through the Universal Studios "horror" films of 1931-1946. In
    particular, we are using UNIVERSAL HORRORS: THE STUDIO'S CLASSIC
    FILMS: 1931-1946 by Michael Brunas, John Brunas, and Tom Weaver.
    This book includes a lot of "non-horror horrors" such as "old dark
    house" films and other mystery films (including all the "Sherlock
    Holmes" films). Most of the genuine horror films were familiar to
    us, but a lot of the "non-horror horrors" had not been released on
    DVD or run on channels such as TCM. However, a recent check of
    YouTube indicated that almost every one of these "missing films"
    was now available.

    THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM is the first of these. There is a
    country mansion with a "Blue Room" in which there had been three
    mysterious deaths. Two guests say they will spend consecutive
    nights in the room; the first vanishes and the second is shot and

    Brunas et al say this is one of the best of Universal's "non-horror
    horrors", but that is not saying much. However, after seeing the
    terrible copy of THE OLD DARK HOUSE (which was long thought lost,
    but actually existed in a single neglected print), it was a delight
    to see a film where you could actually tell what was going on.

    Released 07/20/1933.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_secrets_of_the_blue_room>

    HEAD (not available, and really just a melodrama about war
    profiteers) and LIFE RETURNS (which we had seen many years ago and
    is a terrible pseudo-documentary), so MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (1935)
    was the next "unknown" Universal "non-horror" film in the sequence.
    It's not a horror film, but at least it's a murder mystery, and it
    does have the cachet of Charles Dickens's name. Alas for
    Universal, the great expectations they had for their GREAT
    EXPECTATIONS (1934) were not realized, and the lavish budget and
    production values for this based on those expectations made this a
    major financial flop. It's a pity--taken on its own, it is not a
    bad film (although perhaps with too many songs).

    Released 02/04/1933.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_mystery_of_edwin_drood_1935>



    TOPIC: LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS by Ryka Aoki (copyright 2021,
    Macmillan Audio, 13 hours and 13 minutes, ASIN B08TYXZ4T7, narrated
    by Cindy Kay) (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

    At the Audible page for Ryka Aoki's LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS,
    there is the usual attempt to describe the book in a way to draw a
    listener (or reader). There are two different descriptions in the
    same paragraph, which I present here.

    The first:


    The second:

    ...a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel
    Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien
    courtship over fresh-made donuts.

    X meets Y is something that is used a lot when attempting to make a
    quick description of a book. Sometimes it works, sometimes it
    doesn't. So, the first doesn't work for me at all because I'm not
    fond of either work. And I'm not sure GOOD OMENS entirely fits, as
    nearly all the discussion deals with hell and damned souls, while
    GOOD OMENS has an angel that is a major part of the plot.

    The second description is much more interesting to me, especially
    the donuts. Well, the other things too. But the dichotomy of the
    two descriptions mirrors, for me, the two ways this novel could
    have gone in telling its story.

    Shizuka Satomi is a world class violinist and violin teacher--with
    a secret. She's made a pact with a demon (the origins of which
    I'll leave out because, well, spoilers) to win her soul back from
    damnation if she can provide seven souls in forty-nine years in the
    form of students she develops into world-class violinists. At the
    start of the book, the reader learns that the Queen of Hell (as
    Satomi is called) has provided six of those seven souls, and is
    roughly a year away from the deadline.

    Katrina Nguyen is a young transgender runaway, slipping away from
    her abusive parents in the middle of the night to head to the San
    Gabriel Valley to stay with a queer friend who turns out not to be
    the person she thought he was. She doesn't have much with her, but
    she does have her violin--an object that her father scorns. Satomi
    encounters Katrina in a park and listens to her play. Katrina has
    talent, but is raw and untrained. And she plays video game music.
    Not quite the student that the Queen of Hell usually takes on, but
    she believes she has her 7th and final student.

    Oh yeah. Aliens and donuts. Lan Tran is a starship captain who
    has brought her family to Earth to try to protect it from the war
    that is happening back in the Empire. The cover for Lan and her
    family is the Starrgate Donut shop. Yes, they're trying to build a
    stargate, and the donuts they make are replicated from recipes
    given to Tran by the people she bought Starrgate from. And Lan has
    a thing for Satomi. I'll leave that to the reader too.

    This book could have gone two ways: action adventure with
    everything that is in the second description, or a much more
    thought-provoking story of family and relationships between people
    that are thrust together via unique circumstances that shows that
    despite our differences and all the difficult things going on in
    our lives, we can form bonds that can never be broken. We did get
    a bit of the action adventure, but in a way that supported the
    bonding of Katrina, Satomi, and Lan. So I apparently was mistaken
    in my earlier statement, because the story went essentially a third
    direction. And it was the right one.

    LIGHT FROM UNCOMMON STARS is a well-crafted tale which kept me
    interested right from the start. It's well-written, too. And Aoki
    clearly knows her stuff with regard to violins and their history.
    Her description of Bartok's "Sonata for Solo Violin" caused me to
    run to Google to find out more about it. The weaving of the piece
    into Katrina's story is masterful and accurate. I didn't know much
    about violins coming into this book, and I may not have retained
    much now that I'm done, but it's clear from the novel that Aoki has
    much knowledge of the instrument.

    Cindy Kay is a delightful narrator, and her voice worked well for
    this story. I've not encountered her previously in all of my audio
    book listening, and I would be happy to again hear her narrate a
    book I'm listening to. [-jak]


    FIGURES (letter of comment by John Hertz)

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's review of FIDDLER'S JOURNEY TO THE
    BIG SCREEN in the 04/29/22 issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:

    I had the pleasure of seeing Zero Mostel as Tevye in FIDDLER ON
    THE ROOF live (MT VOID 2221, Vol. 40, No. 44, 29 Apr 22). I
    commend Sholem Aleichem'a atories themselves. There are several English-language collections, even a website
    <https://sholemaleichem.org> Tevye starts out as a drayman, then
    becomes dairyman--alas, dissimilar in Yiddish.

    In response to Evelyn's review of HERO OF TWO WORLDS in the same
    issue, John writes:

    The title "Hero of Both Worlds" makes me think of Adam Strange or
    maybe Julie Schwartz. Using colloquialisms, slang, in formal
    language is a delicate business, not to be undertaken by the
    tone-deaf. Nero Wolfe is masterly at it, a credit to his author
    Rex Stout.

    In response to Heath Row's comments in the same issue, John writes:

    About SF's "not aging well". If we disabuse ourselves of the
    mundanes' notion that the merit of SF is predicting things--Roscoe!
    that's unimaginative--we'll not be shocked at technology in an SF
    future described a while ago that's less advanced than we have
    today, or at SF, written in a racist or sexist time, that shows a
    future more racist or sexist than we ourselves have achieved.
    Verne in FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON knew less than we of
    metallurgy; so? Then the Academie Francaise in 1872 gave him a
    prize for "works most useful to morals, and [showing] a character
    of moral elevation and utility." We'd better not be too quick to
    scorn that; it's what many of us today evidently demand; but is it
    the most important criterion?

    In response to Evelyn's comments on A STUDY IN SCARLET in the
    05/06/22 issue, John writes:

    E manages to write 900 words about A STUDY IN SCARLET (MT VOID
    2222, Vol. 40 No. 45, 6 May 22) remarking only what's wrong. I
    think that's wrong.

    In response to Evelyn's review of THE DEVIL AND MISS PRYM in the
    05/20/22 issue, John writes:

    So as not to fall into the same pit myself, I applaud "it isn't the originality of the premise (which I spell "premiss", reserving
    "premise" for the physical kind) or internal stories (or lack
    thereof) that matters, but the way in which (the author) tells
    (the) story [which] makes this well worth reading (MT VOID 2224,
    Vol. 40 No. 47, 20 May 22)

    In response to Doug Drummond's comments on HIDDEN FIGURES in the
    05/13/22 issue, John writes:

    I haven't seen the HIDDEN FIGURES movies (MT VOID 2223, Vol. 40 No.
    46, 13 May 22). I recommend the book, see <https://file770.com/submitted-for-your-consideration/>. Once upon
    a time I used the IBM 704 and the 7040/7094 Direct Coupling System;
    debugging gave a poignant meaning to "Those were the days, my
    friend, we thought they'd never end." [-jh]


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

    NAZIS AND ASSURED AN ALLIED VICTORY by Ben Macintyre (Harmony, ISBN 978-0-307-45327-3) is an updated telling of the events in the
    better known THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS by Ewen Montagu. Montagu was a
    major player in the original plan, but because of various secrets
    acts and diplomatic considerations at the time, THE MAN WHO NEVER
    WAS was substantially fictionalized. (For example, the story at
    the time was that the British government got the permission of
    Glyndwr Michael's parents to use his corpse for the plan. In fact,
    Michael was a an orphan and a vagrant whose siblings may not have
    even still been alive.) The only reason Montagu was allowed to
    publish was that an American--not under the control of the British government--was going to publish his version of the story.

    Macintyre goes into a lot more detail than Montagu, and some of
    that is in worthy of a book on its own. For example, Montagu's
    brother Ivor was a dedicated Communist, and he was passing
    information to the Soviet Union. Before 1939, in spite of Ivor
    Montagu being Jewish, the pact between the USSR and Germany meant
    that he was effectively passing Allied secrets to the Nazis. He
    also invented "table tennis' (after he tried to form a "Ping Pong"
    group and was told the term was trademarked), and was an active
    filmmaker who produced a half dozen of Alfred Hitchcock's films.

    Even without all the interesting sidebars, the main story is
    engaging enough. It is like a sort of C.S.I. in reverse, with the
    planners trying to make sure that they have considered every way
    that their ruse might be discovered and then figuring out a way
    around it.

    This was the basis of the Netflix movie OPERATION MINCEMEAT, but is
    much better, because it goes into a lot more technical detail, and
    does not over-emphasize the "romance" between Montagu and "Pam". I
    must have read Montagu's book at some point. I don't remember it,
    but I can pretty much guarantee that this is better. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater.
    --William Hazlitt

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  • From Gary McGath@21:1/5 to eleeper@optonline.net on Sun Jul 31 12:07:01 2022
    On 7/31/22 10:22 AM, eleeper@optonline.net wrote:

    TOPIC: We Now Have Racist, Sexist Robots


    First two paragraphs:

    "As part of a recent experiment, scientists asked specially
    programmed robots to scan blocks with people’s faces on them, then
    put the 'criminal' in a box. The robots repeatedly chose a block
    with a Black man’s face.

    Those virtual robots, which were programmed with a popular
    artificial intelligence algorithm, were sorting through billions of
    images and associated captions to respond to that question and
    others, and may represent the first empirical evidence that robots
    can be sexist and racist, according to researchers. Over and over,
    the robots responded to words like 'homemaker' and 'janitor' by
    choosing blocks with women and people of color."

    The flaw was inherent in the experiment. The software (calling it a
    "virtual robot" just adds clickbait) was used to identify personal characteristics based on facial appearance. How could it not engage in
    some kind of stereotyping?

    The only thing it can do is go by statistics. In the United States,
    black people more often have menial jobs than whites do, black crime
    rates are higher, and women are more often homemakers (though the
    correlation is less than it used to be). This doesn't mean you should
    assume someone is a criminal or has a low-paying job based on
    appearance, but that was exactly what the software was directed to do.

    Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com

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