• MT VOID, 06/23/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 52, Whole Number 2281

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jun 25 07:36:24 2023
    06/23/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 52, Whole Number 2281

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    Bell Labs News
    Mini Reviews, Part 26 (BABYLON, SAVING LINCOLN)
    (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper
    and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    THE THIS by Adam Roberts (audio book review
    by Joe Karpierz)
    Herman Melville (letter of comment by Richie Bielak)
    One Octopus, Two ??? (letters of comment by Paul Dormer
    and Gary McGath)
    This Week's Reading (proof-reading, CARDS ON THE TABLE,
    TAKEN AT THE FLOOD) (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Correction

    The last issue should have been Whole Number 2280, not 2260.


    TOPIC: Bell Labs News

    As reported by Citizens for Informed Land Use Preserve Holmdel and
    Friends of Holmdel Open Space:

    On Tuesday, June 13th 2023, The Holmdel Township Committee voted
    (unanimously) to approve resolutions that will begin the process of
    acquiring two of the three parcels that make up the Crawford Hill
    property, home to the historically significant horn antenna and the
    top of the Holmdel watershed.


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 26 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    This is the twenty-sixth batch of mini-reviews, films of
    particularly visual interest:

    BABYLON (2022): BABYLON is about the late days of silent film and
    the early days of sound film. It is somewhat of a remake of
    SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and in fact that film is referenced
    explicitly. But it is not the sweet family film that SINGIN' IN
    THE RAIN is. BABYLON is full of excess, orgiastic parties, deaths,
    foul language, animal cruelty, and general chaos.

    Nellie LaRoy is the Lina Lamont character. It's not her voice
    that's the problem, though, but her incredibly low-class, vulgar
    background. When she tries to "pass" as upper class at a party,
    she replies to a question about "Miss Julie" as if she is a person
    she has met, thinks George Eliot is a man, and tries to fake
    speaking French, only to have a real French-speaker respond.
    Meanwhile African-American trumpeter Sidney Palmer (an earlier
    version of Sidney Poitier?) is startling the guests by citing
    Scriabin as one of his influences, and not agreeing about how good
    race films are. Most of the main characters are fictional, but a
    few lesser characters are real historical people, or at least have
    the same names. (See
    <https://www.vulture.com/article/ babylon-real-life-hollywood-inspirations.html> for details on who's

    So, okay, it's more social commentary than SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and
    yes, the Oscar nominations for Music, Costumes and Production
    Design are well-earned, but as Lewis Carroll might have said, "It's
    too much of a muchness." Director Damien Chazelle is Baz Luhrmann

    And the film is over three hours long.

    For fans of early film, and those who enjoy lavish visual
    spectacles, this is a must-see, but it can't be recommended for a
    general audience. [-mrl/ecl]

    Released theatrically 23 December 2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    SAVING LINCOLN (2013): SAVING LINCOLN is a film by Salvador Litvak.
    Litvak was the co-writer and director of the Passover comedy WHEN
    DO WE EAT? (2005). (His wife, Nina Davidovich, was the co-writer
    for both films. Note: SAVING LINCOLN is not rated but is
    family-friendly; WHEN DO WE EAT? is R-rated.)

    WHEN DO WE EAT? had several sequences with striking visual styles.
    SAVING LINCOLN is also unusual visually. There are no sets to
    speak of. Rather all the scenes are set against a background of
    actual photographs from the time. The closest it comes to having
    sets would be a few pieces of furniture in the foreground.

    Look, it's not Steven Spielberg's LINCOLN, Tom Amandes is no
    Daniel Day-Lewis. But the visual conceit is unique. Some may say
    that is because it was not successful, and indeed it never really
    fools the eye. It is clear the backdrops are backdrops and not
    physically present sets. Then again, the scene in the taxi in
    CASABLANCA clearly has rear-projection in the back window, and no
    one expects a stage play to have fully constructed backdrops. So
    perhaps one should consider this a filmed stage play with far more
    settings than the average stage play.

    And Litvak covers a lot that everyone else seems to have ignored.
    Yes, he throws in all the famous quotes (e.g., Lincoln speaking of
    Grant, "I cannot afford to lose this man. He fights.") But he
    also has Mrs. Keckley talk about her son, who passed as white to
    enlist in the Union Army and was killed at Wilson's Creek. [-ecl]

    Released theatrically 13 February 2013. Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4),
    or 6/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:


    TOPIC: THE THIS by Adam Roberts (copyright 2022, Gollancz, 10 hours
    and 24 minutes, ASIN: B09KHLLG4S, narrated by Elliot Fitzpatrick)
    (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

    We live in a crazy media where social media is everywhere.
    Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Tumblr, Discord, just to name
    a few, have taken over the lives of many people. Many folks are
    addicted to social media; they can always be seen staring into
    their phones while walking down the street, oblivious to the world
    around them. Social media has been blamed for many of society's
    ills. Whether or not you believe that statement, I think it's fair
    to say that the world has changed immensely since and due to the
    advent of social media.

    So, what if you could communicate directly with someone else
    without a keyboard, using a "hands-free Twitter", as the novel
    describes it? The This, the new social media platform, is just
    the thing for you if that sounds appealing to you. The corporation
    that has created The This basically inserts a neural implant
    through the roof of your mouth that burrows into your brain that
    allows direct mind-to-mind communication.

    But really, did you think that the story actually revolves around
    The This? Well, yes, I guess it does, but as you might guess, the
    story revolves around the affect that technology has on humanity,
    and THE THIS is no exception.

    The story takes place on two separate timelines. The first is in
    what seems to be the near future, the other is in the future.
    Rich, our near future protagonist, takes side jobs for extra cash
    doing freelance interviews. He gets an assignment to interview a representative of The This. He is warned not to call The This a
    cult, but the more questions he asks, the more curious he is, and
    eventually does refer to it as a cult. The interview ends without
    incident, and he turns in his work. Not long after, he finds
    himself the object of an intense recruiting campaign by The This,
    which is something that they never do. While he is trying to
    figure all this out, he meets an elderly woman named Helen Susanna,
    formerly a "member" of The This. That encounter sets him on a path
    that will hopefully save humanity.

    I said "hopefully". In the future, to no one's surprise there is a
    hive mind made up of folks who joined The This. That hive mind is
    waging a war against baseline humans. They are trying to terraform
    Venus and use that as a base of operations for attacking the
    remaining humans on Earth. Adan, our future protagonist, is a
    layabout, living off his mother's finances and using his phone as a
    sex toy. Yeah, a little weird, but that actually is an important
    point in the story. Suddenly, his funds are cut off as his mother
    runs off to join a cult--yeah, that one--and ends up as a soldier
    on the front lines. His relationship with Elegy--that advanced,
    sophisticated sex toy--gets him special powers that allow him to
    survive attacks from the enemy. The military brass want to use him
    as a sort of kamikaze weapon (although that's not the right word,
    because he doesn't die), but as these things go events go in a
    different direction entirely.

    As I said earlier, the novel isn't really about The This. The
    story is about how The This affects humanity, and how a
    revolutionary new social media platform can change the future of
    mankind completely. Once I finished listening to the book, it
    became obvious that I should have seen the obvious--that The This
    was going to create a hive mind that would believe it was the next
    step in human evolution, and that there would be an inevitable
    conflict between baseline humans and the hive mind.

    While this all sounds straightforward, and the book really is
    readable, Roberts provides some weird and interesting scenarios and
    events that keep the reader engaged and focused. And the beginning
    and ending of the book, both of which take place in The Bardo, tie
    up together quite nicely. This is a pretty good novel, and has me
    interested in reading other novels by Adam Roberts. And that's
    what an author wants, I think.

    Elliot Fitzpatrick is a narrator that seems to fit the material
    exactly. I'm not sure that his style and tone would fit a lot of
    other things that I've listened to, but given the nature of the
    story I can't imagine anyone else narrating it. He is a good fit
    and made the story more enjoyable for me. [-jak]


    TOPIC: Herman Melville (letter of comment by Richie Bielak)

    In response to comments on Herman Melville in the 06/16/23 issue of
    the MT VOID, Richie Bielak writes:

    The first book I read by Melville was TYPEE. I really enjoyed it.
    I was surprised how modern Melville's observations seemed. This
    led to a realization that one of the reasons great works of
    literature are great, because they touch upon universal themes of
    human condition, that haven't really changed that much through the

    I had read MOBY-DICK as well, and liked that one too. I should
    probably read it again. [-rb]

    Evelyn adds:

    Don't forget my annotations at <http://leepers.us/evelyn/Moby-Dick_Annotations.htm>



    TOPIC: One Octopus, Two ??? (letters of comment by Paul Dormer and
    Gary McGath)

    In response to comments on the plural of "octopus" in the 06/16/23
    issue of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

    Chambers dictionary (2014 edition) gives:

    pl oc'topuses, (archaic) octo'podes (or /-top'/); oc'topi is wrong


    Gary McGath writes:

    I dislike "octopi" even if some dictionaries accept it. The word
    comes from Greek: "octo" (eight) + "pus" (foot). The "-us" isn't a
    Latin noun ending, which is the only reason it would be pluralized
    with "-i".

    I object to "platypi" for the same reason. [-gmg]

    Paul responds:

    Many years ago, when I was still working, some guy came to give a
    talk about a product he was pushing. He kept on referring to
    "stati" as a plural of status. Eventually I snapped. "It's not
    stati," I said. "The Latin plural is status, [pronounced
    "statoose"]. It's fourth declension."

    I never did Latin at school, and at the time, I didn't actually
    know what fourth declension meant, but it has been explained to me.
    Afterwards, my colleagues said it was the best bit of the
    presentation. [-pd]

    And Gary, apparently inspired by all this, writes:

    I've started working on a filk on the subject. Here's the
    tentative last verse:

    Though some may claim that "octopi"
    Is not the hill where I should die,
    I'll stand my ground against their forces
    And won't yield even to a "Dorsus".

    In case it isn't obvious, "Dorsus" is the reverse-constructed
    singular of "Dorsai". [-pd]


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

    In the 04/07/23 issue of the MT VOID, I complained about the
    decline of proof-reading, as evidenced by a 2007 book (PAST
    IMPERFECT by Peter Charles Hoffer) where there was a reference
    to "Edgar Allen Poe" and "Samuel L. Clements". But apparently it
    is not a new phenomenon; Bruce Chatwin's IN PATAGONIA, published
    almost fifty years ago (1977), has the same error. And Marion
    Turner's THE WIFE OF BATH: A BIOGRAPHY (2023) talks about
    "FINNEGAN'S WAKE", which should not have an apostrophe. According
    to "The Guardian", Thomas Flanagan, a professor in the English
    department at UCB, "the insertion of an apostrophe would presuppose
    that Finnegan is an individual and that he is dead (hence his

    Flanagan’s reading allowed plural Finnegans (a collective of Irish
    people), and the implied exhortation that they wake from their
    slumbers, precipitated by the weight of their history and the
    strictures of Catholicism." [The quote is from "The Guardian", not
    directly from Flanagan.]

    The misspelling of Poe's middle name is probably the most common
    misspelling of authors or titles in English. (I do not count the
    omission of the diaeresis over the "e" in Bronte (which I omit here
    in the ASCII text version)).

    I still think that proof-reading is declining, though.

    I have been watching the David Suchet "Hercule Poirot" series in
    broadcast order. I just watched the Suchet version of CARDS ON THE
    TABLE by Agatha Christie (William Morrow, ISBN 978-0-062-07373-0)
    (Series 10, Episode 2) and while up until now the episodes have
    been fairly faithful to the books and stories (with just the usual
    elimination of minor characters, and making others continuing
    characters through the series), this one really jumped the shark
    and several other marine animals as well.


    The original started with four murderers who had gotten away with
    it. The episode dropped one, but added another past murderer later
    in the show, changing a lot of the relationships and motivations as
    well. Recurring Christie characters are replaced by new characters
    to be able to make them suspects. One suicide subplot is dropped,
    but another one is added, as well as a burglary. Not one, but two,
    gay motivations are added (one might argue that one of them is
    implied in the novel, but not the other).

    Then they make two characters who are totally unrelated in the
    novel close relatives, and eliminates one murder, while adding an "incriminating photographs" subplot.

    As I said, some of this makes sense, but a lot of the changes don't
    seem to serve any purpose, other than to annoy those who have read
    the book.

    The next Poirot episode was AFTER THE FUNERAL, which seemed to hew
    closer to the novel. But TAKEN AT THE FLOOD (Harper Collins, ISBN 978-0-008-12954-5) came next and was massively changed. People who
    died in the book survived in the adaptation, murders became
    suicides, accidents became murders, more assaults were added, there
    were additional drug addicts and anonymous callers, and in general
    it was even less recognizable than the previous one. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    When I go to a bar, I don't go looking for a girl
    who knows the capital of Maine.
    --David Brenner

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