• MT VOID, 02/03/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 32, Whole Number 2261

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Tue Feb 7 06:30:27 2023
    02/03/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 32, Whole Number 2261

    Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, mleeper@optonline.net
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    Mark Leeper's Top Ten Films of 2022 (comments
    by Mark R. Leeper)
    (book review by Gregory Frederick)
    AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie (comment
    by Kip Williams)
    Nuclear Rocket Engine (comment by Gregory Frederick)
    Firefighters, Samuel L. Gravely, and Breaking the
    Sound Barrier (letter of comment by John Hertz)
    Chengdu Worldcon (letters of comment by John Dallman,
    Mike Van Pelt, Gary McGath, and Scott Dorsey)
    Jewish Vampires, Breaking the Sound Barrier, BIGGER THAN
    JEAN BRODIE, and Email Regularity
    (letter of comment by Taras Wolansky)
    This Week's Reading ("The Rime of the Ancient Mariner")
    (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Mark Leeper's Top Ten Films of 2022 (comments by Mark
    R. Leeper)

    All these films would be rated somewhere between a high +2 and a +3
    (-4 to +4), but are close enough that I will just list them

    AMSTERDAM: AMSTERDAM starts in the 1930s, but then jumps back to
    World War I and its aftermath before returning to the 1930s. The
    production design by Judy Becker and art direction by Danielle
    Osborne and Alexander Wei, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki,
    and the script by David O. Russell all capture both periods.

    APOLLO 10-1/2: APOLLO 10-1/2: A SPACE AGE CHILDHOOD starts out as
    the story of a young boy chosen for an Apollo mission because the
    lunar lander was accidentally built too small for an adult
    astronaut. In actuality, it is a reminiscence of growing up in the
    1960s, specifically in Houston, but almost everything would strike
    a chord with anyone of that age. A wonderfully nostalgic film, and recommended.

    BULLET TRAIN: The people who see BULLET TRAIN are going to have
    problems following it if they haven't taken the Evelyn Wood speed-watching-and-listening course. The dialogue is delivered
    really fast, as are the action sequences, and with five assassins
    trying to various people (mostly each other), there is a lot of
    action. But even if the film is a little hard to follow, what you
    can follow makes this film a lot of fun.

    ELVIS: ELVIS is told as a series of reminiscences by Colonel Tom
    Parker (Tom Hanks, in a very atypical role), his lifetime manager.
    Baz Luhrmann is the writer and director, so you know the film will
    be compelling in both its visuals and its script.

    two-hander featuring Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack, but it is
    clearly Emma Thompson's film. McCormack is there mostly to react
    and respond to Thompson (both as a character and as an actor).
    This is yet another film that focuses on women, and in this case
    older women, as characters in their own right, not just adjuncts to

    that makes mathematics look like fun with a seemingly super-powered
    handling of multiplication. The film is reasonably accurate about
    Jerry and Marge's lottery scheme, although the ending is perhaps
    more sentimental than real life. A delightful movie for an adult

    THE OUTFIT: THE OUTFIT is another tour de force for Mark Rylance
    (BRIDGE OF SPIES). Rylance is Leonard Burling, a cutter (*not* a tailor--tailors just do buttons and hems, according to his
    character) who has left England and come to 1950s Chicago, where he
    ends up making bespoke suits for a family of gangsters. The film
    relies on an excellent script, with all the action contained within
    the two rooms of Burling's tailor shop.

    SIDNEY: SIDNEY is a fairly straightforward biography of Sidney
    Poitier; its interest lies in the story of Poitier's experiences
    and how they shaped his life and his work. His effect was felt not
    just within the Hollywood community, but throughout the wider
    society, particularly during the civil rights years.

    TILL: TILL is the story of Mamie Till-Bradley, the mother of Emmett
    Till. While it does show some of Emmett's life, it concentrates
    more on her fight for justice. As such, it does not show Emmett's
    torture and murder, but does show his body at his open-coffin

    BEWITCHED--A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR is a 194-minute documentary on
    "folk horror" in cinema and an amazing in-depth study that every
    folk horror fan should see.

    Honorable Mentions:




    Neil deGrasse Tyson (book review by Gregory Frederick)

    This is another interesting science book by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    Tyson uses his own cosmic perspective to view our civilization on
    Earth in a new way. He states that if we humans were to view the
    planet and our place in it with a Cosmic Perspective many of our
    differences would disappear. The book looks at a number of the
    crucial fault lines of our time, such as; war, politics, religion,
    truth, beauty, gender, and race. In a time when our political and
    cultural views feel more polarized than ever, Tyson provides a much
    needed antidote to so much of what divides us. The author also
    lists a number of technologies we use today that came about due to
    advanced scientific research. If you ever had an MRI in a
    hospital, you have used a technology that originally came from two astrophysicists who were using radio telescopes and were studying
    clouds of hydrogen gas in our galaxy. Tyson wrote a good book that
    is a very user-friendly read for the casual reader. [-gf]


    TOPIC: AND THEN THERE WERE NONE by Agatha Christie (comment by
    Kip Williams)

    From junior high on, I was a fan of Christie's subtractive murder
    yarn, culminating in playing the Judge in 1976 (in what was the
    best cast and director I'd had the luxury of). There's a lot of
    trivia associated with it, book and play and movie (different
    endings! different statuettes!), but I'm thinking about the song
    just now, composed by Septimus Winner, a composer in Philadelphia
    who also brought us "Der Deitscher's Dog" (Oh where or where has my
    little dog gone?), and "Listen to the Mockingbird," and "Whispering

    As Winner penned it, it was about Ten Little Indians (sic), and
    besides the verse, it also has a familiar chorus: "One little, two
    little, three little Indians (sic)..." The chorus seems to have
    been traditional. Winner published his song in 1868, and in 1869,
    what we could call the Christy Variant popped up--the version
    preferred by the minstrel shows (and Dame Agatha).

    I have to say, though, it was cool to smash a statuette every
    night. I had so much fun in that part. [-kw]


    TOPIC: Nuclear Rocket Engine (comment by Gregory Frederick)

    NASA and DARPA are now getting into the act of creating a nuclear
    rocket engine. This one is a fission engine. This engine could
    reduce a six-month trip to Mars to 45 days.

    "One of the bigger questions surrounding NASA’s interest in sending
    a crewed mission to Mars surrounds the best way to get there, and
    it appears the agency might have found its answer. NASA announced
    today that it will be developing a nuclear thermal rocket engine in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

    The collaboration is called DRACO, or Demonstration Rocket for
    Agile Cislunar Operations, and it’s expected to reduce the travel
    time it takes to get astronauts to Mars and potentially more
    distant targets in deep space. NASA will lead technical development
    of the nuclear thermal engine that will be combined with an
    experimental DARPA spacecraft. The two agencies will further
    collaborate on combining the rocket with the spacecraft ahead of
    its demonstration in space as early as 2027."

    <https://www.yahoo.com/news/nasa-darpa-collaborating-nuclear-powered -212000003.html>



    TOPIC: Firefighters, Samuel L. Gravely, and Breaking the Sound
    Barrier (letter of comment by John Hertz)

    In response to Evelyn's comments on firefighters in the 11/04/22
    issue of the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:

    Alas for complicators, "firefighter" (MT VOID 2248, 4 Nov 22) is
    needless and even illiterate--alas for Harvard Press (MT VOID 2250,
    10 Nov). The subject "-man" isn't masculine. It just means
    "person" Winston Churchill said, "Errors in the direction of the
    enemy are to be lightly judged"; this error, attacking sexism, is
    in the right direction, but there are better uses for our Cavalry.

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's comments on OPERATION SEAWOLF in
    the 10/14/22 issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

    Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., (1922-2004; MT VOID 2245, 14 Oct) was the
    first black in the U.S. Navy to serve aboard a fighting ship as an
    officer, first to command a Navy ship, first fleet commander, and
    first to achieve flag rank, retiring as a Vice-Admiral. I haven't
    seen OPERATION SEAWOLF (s. Luke dir. 2022), but in the poster (<https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13429928/mediaviewer/rm594611201/?ref _=tt%20o_i>) Hiram Murray, portraying Gravely, looks much like him,
    as you say. You remind me to see RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP (R. Wise
    dir. 1958), although Captain Beach thought it took undue liberties
    with his 1955 novel--which I first read, soon after it appeared, in
    a READER'S DIGEST CONDENSED BOOK volume. At the time I was an RD
    fan. I told my mother, "I don't see why people complain about RD";
    she said, "That's because you're eight years old." Later I read
    RUN DEEP in the original.

    In response to comments on the breaking the sound barrier in the
    12/16/22 issue of the MT VOID, John writes:

    Richie Bielak's and Scott Dorsey's corrections about exceeding the
    speed of sound (MT VOID 2254, 16 Dec) were worth making. Going
    faster than the speed of sound in level flight was the great
    breakthrough (you should pardon the expression). And I remember
    wondering why airplane propellers got more blades. [-jh]


    TOPIC: Chengdu Worldcon (letters of comment by John Dallman, Mike
    Van Pelt, Gary McGath, and Scott Dorsey)

    In response to Evelyn's comments on the Chengdu Worldcon in the
    01/27/23 issue of the MT VOID, John Dallman writes:

    [Evelyn wrote,] "As for Site Selection, I suspect China will not
    bid for 2025."

    I hope not, but that decision may well not be in the hands of
    Chinese fans. Given the conduct of the convention so far, I
    suspect there will be a substantial anti-Chinese vote for any
    future bids. [-jd]

    Mike Van Pelt responds:

    Site selection (and other) voting is by membership of the
    convention, right? If the CCP wants to own WorldCon, at this point,
    they probably can. [-mvp]

    Gary McGath notes:

    First there has to be a bid. The Worldcon site doesn't currently
    show any bids for future China conventions: <https://www.worldcon.org/worldcon-bids/> [-gmg]

    But Evelyn observes:

    With the change of dates, the deadline for filing a bid is now 180
    days before October 18, or April 21. So far, only Seattle has
    filed. [-ecl]

    Gary also says:

    Good points, to which I'd add that getting a visa for visiting
    China is much harder than traveling to most of the Americas and
    Europe. [-gmg]

    Scott Dorsey elaborates:

    It depends. If you apply for a tourist visa and you're not famous
    and you don't have any friends with pull, they will take your
    passport for a couple weeks and make sure you haven't said too many
    bad things about China online and that you're probably an okay
    person. They'll also categorize you to decide how much you need to
    be watched in the country, and this takes some time.

    BUT... if you have friends with pull, it goes very very quickly.
    The editor of an audio magazine I write for wanted to visit a
    microphone factory. The factory also supplies the PLA so the
    factory manager made a call and my editor got a visa in a day.

    Scientific conferences usually arrange visas pretty quickly because
    they are usually run by people with pull.

    What you are seeing right now is that the Worldcon is being run by
    young people who don't have pull. Because of that they are having
    trouble getting relatively easy things done. You have to work with
    the right people if you want to get things done. And that includes
    bringing in members from out of
    the country. [-gmg]

    Gary responds:

    If I were foolish enough to attempt it, they'd probably say, "Sure,
    give this guy a visa. And make sure there's a 'welcoming
    committee' for him at the airport." [-gmg]


    TOPIC: Jewish Vampires, Breaking the Sound Barrier, BIGGER THAN
    Email Regularity (letter of comments by Taras Wolansky)

    Thanks for many issues of the VOID. (It seems I've been keeping
    notes toward a LoC for months! Please feel free to drop anything
    too hoary down the memory hole.)

    The discussion of Jewish vampires reminded me of the scene in BUFFY
    where Willow Rosenberg is nailing crosses all over Buffy's bedroom.
    (Angel is being naughty again, I think.) Willow does NOT say, but
    I wish she had: "You know, Giles says the Star of David works just
    as well ... in Tel Aviv and parts of Florida ... "

    True, the 75th anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier was
    little remembered, aside from (I find) websites connected to Chuck
    Yeager or to the Air Force. In this dark time, it's possible that
    the media are more ready to tear down a man like Chuck Yeager, than
    celebrate him.

    The review of BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956) reminds me that at the time,
    and later, John F. Kennedy was using cortisone. I've often
    wondered if the mood swings from that medication (and others)
    accounted for his erratic performance in office--like agreeing to
    invade Cuba on the upswing, and then refusing to send air support
    on the downswing. The impression of weakness and vacillation he
    gave Khrushchev later led to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    I've always assumed GATTACA (1997) is a mashup of Robert Heinlein's
    BEYOND THIS HORIZON (eugenic society) and STARMAN JONES (forged
    papers to get into space). It may be significant that the star,
    Ethan Hawke, later headlined the movie, PREDESTINATION (2014),
    which is explicitly based on a Heinlein story.

    Incidentally, GATTACA may overdo the constant DNA testing. In
    these Covid days, if you present a plausible looking vax card,
    nobody doublechecks your blood for antibodies. In GATTACA's
    society, it's plausible that people would simply assume that any
    imposter will immediately reveal himself by failing at his
    task--just like somebody who faked his SAT scores to get into an
    Ivy would tend to flunk.

    Anachronisms in movies discussed: In THE GREEN KNIGHT (2021), a
    peasant woman is presented in the flashforward as distraught over
    her child being adopted as royal. She would be ecstatic. Not only
    was that one child in gravy, but every other child she bore would
    be half-siblings to royalty, and would all probably get cushy jobs
    in the castle.

    Watching THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (1969) years ago, I found
    the title character's preference for the German-allied Falangists
    over the Russian-allied Republicans (in the Spanish Civil War)
    bizarre and wrong-headed. But that was 20-20 hindsight, I now
    realize. At the time the story takes place, Russia had already
    murdered millions of Ukrainians in the Artificial Famine, or
    Holodomor, while Germany's mass murders were still mostly in the
    future. Unlike Russia, "Germany is a civilized country", people
    said at the time. Turns out "technologically advanced" and
    "civilized" aren't exactly the same thing, who knew.

    On the subject of email regularity, there's a difference between
    what one sends and what other people receive. For example, not
    infrequently I find periodicals I subscribe to sitting in my spam
    folder, because of some chance combination of words. And any
    reference to a certain article of male anatomy, which is sometimes
    alleged to require improvement, will go directly to my trash
    folder. Even if there are asterisks between the letters! [-tw]


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

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge may be a great poet, but an astronomer he
    is not.

    In "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner", he writes:
    "All in a hot and copper sky,
    The bloody Sun, at noon,
    Right up above the mast did stand,
    No bigger than the Moon."

    If you think about how a solar eclipse works, it works because the
    sun and the moon are the same apparent size. The sun is actually
    400 times the diameter of the moon, and 400 times farther away.
    (Coleridge is clearly not talking about absolute sizes, but
    apparent ones.)

    Coleridge also writes:
    "Till clombe above the eastern bar
    The horned Moon, with one bright star
    Within the nether tip."

    The "horned Moon" is the crescent moon, and if there is a "bright
    star within the nether tip", you would probably think someone has
    built a base on the moon and turned on all the lights, because the
    part of the moon between the tips of the horns is still there, even
    if not visible. (Actually, quite often it is visible, because
    "earthshine" partially illuminates it.)

    However, this has been seen by various people, and even has a name:
    "the Coleridge Effect". One explanation is that there is an
    optical illusion that makes the tips of the crescent moon seem to
    encompass more area than they do, and the star is just next to the
    moon. Another is that at least some of these viewings were of
    meteor showers or asteroids passing between the moon and Earth.


    Mark Leeper

    Most of the time growing up I never heard in the news
    the word "billion".
    --Mark R. Leeper

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
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