• MT VOID, 09/01/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 9, Whole Number 2291

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Sep 3 07:49:21 2023
    09/01/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 9, Whole Number 2291

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    LONELIEST WHALE--THE SEARCH FOR 52) (film reviews
    by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    BARBIE (letter of comment by John Purcell)
    This Week's Reading ("The Musgrave Ritual")
    (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 4 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    This is the fourth batch of mini-reviews for this season, this time documentaries.

    Roy Lichtenstein is seen as one of the leaders of the "Pop Art"
    movement. His iconic paintings, based on comic book art, have sold
    for over $100 million. Hy Eisman and Russ Heath are practically
    destitute. Yet they are the artists whose original work
    Lichtenstein was inspired by--or rather, copied. David Barsalou
    (from my home town of Chicopee, Massachusetts) is the creator of
    the "Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein" project, which displays the
    original panels beside the Lichtenstein copies.

    is a documentary about Lichtenstein, Eisman, Heath, Barsalou, and
    others, covering both the history of comic book art as both low and
    high art, and Lichtenstein use of it.

    It is fairly clear that one can match up Lichtenstein's paintings
    with their originals, and that in many cases they are apparently
    merely tracings of the originals, with some changes in coloring.
    The question is whether what Lichtenstein did was "transformative",
    maing his paintings new works, or plagiarism.

    This is complicated by the copyright law of the 1950s and 1960s,
    when the original comic book artists worked. At the time, their
    work was considered "work for hire" and the copyrights were owned
    by the publishers. And the publishers had no interest at the time
    in going after Lichtenstein, since that was well before his
    paintings started selling for millions. But the documentary looks
    at the moral issues as well as the legal ones. (One might suggest
    that the Lichtenstein estate should pay some money to the original
    artists. However, that might lead to the artists claiming that
    this was in some way an admission of guilt. Perhaps a contribution
    to a fund for all comic book artists in need, in recognition of
    their "inspiration"?)

    What is revealing is how, for example, a museum curator who has a
    Lichtenstein hanging in their museum had no idea of the original
    source, or the original artist, and no interest in changing the
    information about the painting which hangs next to it.

    This is a documentary of interest to those interested in art, in
    the history of comic books, and the legal and moral issues of
    intellectual property.

    Released at a festival 9 December 2022. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4),
    or 9/10.

    Film Credits:

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

    THE LOST KING (2022): Having just written 1200 words on Winston
    Churchill's comments on Richard II, I ended up getting THE LOST
    KING at the library (because it finally showed up). And what's it
    about? Richard III, the Richard III Society (a.k.a. the
    Ricardians, or at least their main organized group), and the search
    for the grave of Richard III.

    Based on fact, Sally Hawkins plays Philippa Langley, who begins by
    seeing a production of Shakespeare's RICHARD III, and feeling that
    he was not treated very fairly. She discovers the Richard III
    Society, and when she mentions wanting to visit his grave, is told
    that no one knows where it is. And so begins her search for his
    grave. Throughout the film, she keeps seeing the "ghost" of
    Richard, serving to motivate and possibly direct her. I find it
    surprising that she actually managed to find the grave, or rather
    that no one else did, because all the clues were hiding in plain
    sight (as it were). It was, I suppose, more that person A knew one
    fact, and person B knew another fact, and person C had yet another
    piece of the puzzle, and it took Philippa to put the pieces

    A lot of the film is spent explaining the reasoning behind
    believing that Richard was much maligned and so on, and given that
    I had heard pretty much all of it before, I had to accept that was
    for the wider audience who has not read More and Churchill and
    various chronicles. So it's also hard for me to judge whether the
    wider audience would enjoy the film. I know I did. [-ecl]

    Released theatrically 24 March 2023. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4),
    or 8/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:

    WHALE--THE SEARCH FOR 52 is a documentary about a whale that calls
    at 52 hertz. This is a higher frequency than other whales, and was
    unique until recently when a second 52-hertz whale was heard.
    Alas, the documentary is like PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK--it sets
    everything up, but there is no pay-off. Okay, that may be
    accurate, but it makes for a disappointing film. (There is a
    possible sighting at the end, but it is not clear that the
    scientific community accepts it.) If you want a documentary that
    actually comes to a conclusion, this is probably not for you.

    Released theatrically 21 July 2021. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:


    comment by John Purcell)

    In response to various comments in various issues of the MT VOID,
    John Purcell writes:

    Good afternoon from the oven known as Texas. Of course, a huge
    chunk of the United States is under this heat dome that has been
    baking the country for two months now. Our forecast here in Texas
    is to expect temperatures either at or exceeding 100 degrees
    Fahrenheit through October--yup, right up to Halloween--which is an unprecedented stretch for us. The same forecast is predicting a
    wetter and colder winter ahead, possibly including lengthy
    stretches of subfreezing weather. Yes, snow and icy conditions are
    involved, so here we go again. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is more
    concerned about spending the 18 billion dollar state budget surplus
    on floating barriers in the Rio Grande River than
    repairing/upgrading the energy infrastructure of the state, among
    other pressing needs. You know, little things like making basic
    health care affordable, aiding the homeless, improving teacher
    pay... The list goes on. You get the idea. This summer's heat is
    making a lot of Texas's registered voters edgy, so you can imagine
    the rhetoric flying ahead of next year's elections. At any rate,
    Valerie and I hope that you two are doing well.

    Hard to believe that six years ago we had just returned from my
    TAFF Trip to the Helsinki WorldCon. My Facebook feed has been
    filled with daily "memories" of photos and commentary from that
    trip. It has all been a very nice retrospective for us. Mayhaps
    next summer we will be able to afford the Glasgow WorldCon. We are
    hoping to make that one. Otherwise, it's waiting until 2029 to
    vote for the Texas in 2031 bid. I'm not sure where that will be
    located, but my suspicions are Austin. That's a big city with
    large enough venues and hotels, to say nothing of lots of
    attractions, to host a 7000-member WorldCon. We shall see how that
    all plays out.

    Mark lists out some fun movies for September, including GODZILLA
    RAIDS AGAIN (1955) on October 1st. That's one of my favorites of
    this lengthy series. All those great Hitchcock flicks on September
    10th are a wonderful way to escape the heat, as are many others
    listed. As always, lots of classic films. One of my all-time
    favorite horror movies is listed, too: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
    (1958). The first time I saw that it scared the bejeezus out of
    me--and that was on television when I was about ten years old.
    It's a great movie.

    That review of Tobias Buckell's novel A STRANGER IN THE CITADEL
    sounds really interesting. Lately, Valerie and I have been on a
    reading jag of books from our local library--about two miles from
    our house--so I'm putting this on my "to read" list should the
    library get a copy. If anything, I can put in an inter-library
    loan request for it. In case you are wondering, some of the books
    we've been reading this summer are pretty much all series'.
    Valerie has breezed through the Witcher books, N. K. Jemison's
    "Broken Earth" series, and the "Riftworld" series by Raymond E.
    Feist, of which I am now on book two. Myself, I cranked through
    all nine of the "Expanse" novels, and now await a copy of MEMORIES
    LEGION, the collection of eight short stories and novellas set in
    the "Expanse" universe, except for "The Last Flight of the
    Cassandra". Don't worry: that one is easy enough to snag from
    online sources.

    We have watched AVATAR--THE WAY OF WATER and sort of fell asleep
    during it due to that film's length. It really is beautifully
    done, but I found it dragging a lot. Now, OPPENHEIMER I really
    want to see; this appeals to me a great deal because I really enjoy
    movies based on historical people and events, especially if they
    are based on strong, well-developed characters while allowing for
    dramatic embellishment to appeal to the audience. I have read
    quite a few positive reviews of OPPENHEIMER despite its running
    head-to-head against BARBIE. I might even watch that movie, too.
    It sure sounds like it's pushing all the right buttons.

    Well, that seems to do it for now. Many thanks for the latest
    issue, and take care of yourselves. [-jp]


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

    "The Musgrave Ritual" by Arthur Conan Doyle is considered one of
    the best Holmes stories, but it is actually seriously technically
    flawed, and the ritual itself is the problem.

    First of all, there are two versions of the ritual. The original
    one in the Strand was:

    'Whose was it?'
    'His who is gone.'
    'Who shall have it?'
    'He who will come.'
    'Where was the sun?'
    'Over the oak.'
    'Where was the shadow?'
    'Under the elm.'
    'How was it stepped?'
    'North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five, south by two
    and by two, west by one and by one, and so under.'
    'What shall we give for it?'
    'All that is ours.'
    'Why should we give it?'
    'For the sake of the trust.'

    When collected in the British edition of THE MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK
    HOLMES, the following was added as the third question:

    'What was the month?'
    'The sixth from the first.'

    At least until recently the American editions still omitted it.
    However, both William Baring-Gould and Leslie Klinger *do* include
    it in their annotated volumes.

    Holmes says the starting point must be the end of the elm's shadow.
    Clearly one needs to know the date to perform the ritual.
    Stonehenge and other primitive structures are constructed so that
    the sun shines between two pillars, or down a tunnel, only on a
    specific date, so it has been known for millennia that the sun rises
    and sets in different spots every day, and hence is positioned
    differently every day when it "sets" on the oak (or "rises"--how
    does Holmes know that he is supposed to use the afternoon sun?).
    So even specifying the month does not fix the end of the shadow,
    because there is still some movement of the sun that will have the
    shadow moving slightly.

    And Professor Jay Finlay Christ (in "Musgrave Mathematics") asks
    how Holmes knew where to stand to see this setting sun over the
    oak, since he could not stand where the elm was already occupying
    space. Actually, these are two aspects of the same problem; on
    different days the viewer can stand in different places to see the
    sun over the oak, and hence start their pacing from different spots.

    But it's even more complicated. At the time of the ritual there
    were two "first months": the new year officially began on March 25,
    but January 1 was also considered the start of a new year. And is
    "the sixth from the first" the sixth or the seventh? (The BBC
    Clive Merrison version drops the question about the month entirely, re-introducing the ambiguity.)

    Again, the ritual dates from the mid-17th century, so by then both
    the oak and the elm must have stopped growing taller (since that
    would throw off when the sun is over the oak in the future--one
    assumes this means it is "touching" the oak--and also affect the
    length of the elm's shadow)--and somehow the writer of the ritual
    knew this. (Actually, the writer probably figured the ritual would
    be performed shortly after its creation, rather than several
    hundred years later. He was just lucky that the trees had already
    reached maturity, and that Reginald Musgrave had happened to
    measure the elm as part of his trigonometry lesson.)

    A. D. Galbraith points out as well that at the time the ritual was
    written, a magnetic compass pointed to true north, but in Holmes's
    time, it pointed 20 degrees west of north, so the Holmes would be
    walking in a totally wrong direction.

    Sherlock Holmes is over six feet tall, so when he paces off "ten by
    ten", wouldn't he have paced off a greater length than, say,
    Charles I, who was only five feet four inches? And why such
    precision for pacing in the front hall, when in fact they needed to
    move away from the final spot to find the stairs to go down?

    And what about those "three rusty old discs of metal" that are
    mentioned at the beginning of the story? "'These are coins of
    Charles the First,' said [Holmes], holding out the few which had
    been in the box ..." and one presumes that also applied to the
    discs in Holmes's possession--except the coins would be gold,
    silver, or copper--none of which rust. Yes, silver tarnishes,
    but it seems unlikely Watson would mistake tarnished silver for
    rusted iron. (And it's most likely that a treasure being hidden
    would be in gold rather than silver or copper.) [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining
    your code will be a violent psychopath who knows
    where you live.

    --- SoupGate-Win32 v1.05
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