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MT VOID, 02/02/24 -- Vol. 42, No. 31, Whole Number 2313

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Evelyn C. Leeper

Feb 4, 2024, 10:23:48 AMFeb 4
02/02/24 -- Vol. 42, No. 31, Whole Number 2313

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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Arno Penzias Obituary
Mark Leeper's Top Ten Films of 2023 (comments
by Mark R. Leeper)
Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) Awards Announced
QUANTUM SUPREMACY by Michio Kaku (book review
by Gregory Frederick)
This Week's Reading (Howard Waldrop)
(book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Arno Penzias Obituary

"Physicist Arno Penzias, who co-discovered the cosmic microwave
background, helping to confirm the Big Bang theory of the
universe's beginning, died on Monday at age 90.

In the 1960s, Penzias and colleague Robert Woodrow Wilson were
working at Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., on a new type of microwave
antenna shaped like a giant horn. They planned to use the
ultrasensitive system to study radio emissions from the Milky Way.
What they eventually found instead was a signal that originated
from outside our galaxy that turned out to be the smoking gun proof
for the Big Bang theory."

Full article at <


TOPIC: Mark Leeper's Top Ten Films of 2023 (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I rated OPPENHEIMER a +3 and the others either a high +2 or just +2
(-4 to +4), so they are listed alphabetically.

OPPENHEIMER: There is a lot of substance to the film, but there is
a lot of style as well (it is after all a Christopher Nolan film),
and the style sometimes gets in the way of the substance.

BARBIE: Everyone has talked about how the movie makes some salient
points about sexism, patriarchy, and consumerism in the real world
in the movie, but it seems to overlook the same issues with the
sexism, matriarchy, and consumerism in Barbieland (which is yet
another parallel world, though unlike most films, in BARBIE we have
characters traveling from the world of the imagination to the real
world, rather than vice versa). While in the real world, we have
scenes of toxic (and non-toxic) masculinity, one can argue that in
Barbieland, we have scenes of toxic (and non-toxic) femininity.
There are two notable monologues: one is Gloria talking about the
problems women face in the real world; the other is Sasha telling
Barbie why she is basically evil.

CLOSE TO VERMEER: This documentary covers the planning of a major
Vermeer exhibition in the Netherlands, including disputed
paintings, the layout of the exhibit, and even merchandising. This
is a documentary art lovers won't want to miss--and it doesn't
require a lot of background knowledge to appreciate it.

more a chronicle of the period of the 1950s and 1960s and is a
history of that period by clips from films, discussion of film
makers, and Warhol-esque art than an analysis of the film MIDNIGHT
COWBOY. There is some discussion of the effect MIDNIGHT COWBOY had
going forward, but writer/director/producer Nancy Biurski
primarily looks at how the film came to be at all.

Agatha Christie's HALLOWE'EN PARTY, but it also has elements from A
CARIBBEAN MYSTERY and NEMESIS. Somehow Kenneth Branagh does not
come up to David Suchet as Poirot.

THE HOLDOVERS: THE HOLDOVERS is worth watching for the performances
(Paul Giamatti, Dominic Sessa, and Da'Vine Joy Randolph), but
otherwise a fairly standard story.

THE INVENTOR: THE INVENTOR is a combination of stop-motion
animation and hand-drawn animation. It is a biopic of Leonardo da
Vinci, but it concentrates more on his scientific pursuits than on
his artistic ones.

"Twilight Zone" episode; in fact, the story has not one but three
episodes it has connections to (and a Ray Bradbury story to boot).
But it is original in its approach.

MAFIA MAMMA: We watched MAFIA MAMMA primarily because Toni Colette
is the lead actress, and we think she is great as a comedy actress.
And this film doesn't disappoint in that regard; Colette plays a
woman in a boring job who suddenly inherits a Mafia empire (and a
vineyard) from a grandfather she never met. Some elements of the
film may remind one of TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL, but with a twist.

THE MONKEY KING: THE MONKEY KING is an animated film that is a
prequel to the classic "Monkey King" legend, "Journey to the West",
or perhaps more accurately, a secret history. Because the film is
a prequel, it requires no prior knowledge of the Monkey King in
viewers, though the final scene assumes some recognition.



TOPIC: Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) Awards Announced

Best Picture: Oppenheimer
Best Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
Best Director: Christopher Nolan - Oppenheimer
Best Actor: Paul Giamatti - The Holdovers
Best Actress: Lily Gladstone - Killers of the Flower Moon
Best Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr. - Oppenheimer
Best Supporting Actress: Da'Vine Joy Randolph - The Holdovers
Best Original Screenplay: The Holdovers
Best Adapted Screenplay: Oppenheimer
Best Film Editing: Oppenheimer
Best Cinematography: Oppenheimer
Best Original Score: Oppenheimer
Best Production Design: Barbie
Best Costume Design: Barbie
Best Visual Effects: Oppenheimer
Best Debut Feature: Celine Song - Past Lives
Best Film Not in the English Language: Anatomy of a Fall
Best Documentary Feature: 20 Days in Mariupol

Technical Achievements

Culinary Direction - The Taste of Things
Original Song ("I'm Just Ken") - Barbie
Original Song ("What Was I Made For?") - Barbie
Stunt Coordination - John Wick: Chapter 4
Stunt Coordination - Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1

Lifetime Achievement Awards

Jodie Foster (actor)
Gene Hackman (actor)
Gale Anne Hurd (producer)
Hayao Miyazaki (animator/writer/director)
Thelma Schoonmaker (editor)

Special Achievement Awards

Ben Model, for his work in restoring and releasing silent film

Fran Drescher, president of the Screen Actors Guild, for her
diligent negotiation on behalf of working actors in the 2023
SAG-AFTRA strike.

Members of and President Meredith Stiehm of the Writers Guild of
America for persisting in their strike to ensure that the
rapidly-changing American film industry will remain a viable source
of livelihood for artists

Best Non-US Releases

Bad Living (João Canijo, Portugal)
Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry (Elene Naveriani, Georgia)
Close Your Eyes (Victor Erice, Spain)
Dear Jassi (Tarsem Singh Dhandwar, India)
Explanation for Everything (Gábor Reisz, Hungary)
The Girls Are Alright (Itsaso Arana, Spain)
I Love You, Beksman (Perci M. Intalan, Philippines)
The New Boy (Warwick Thornton, Australia)
Samsara (Lois Patino, Spain)

Founded in 1997, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) is a
professional association for online film journalists, historians,
and scholars with a mission to further the growth of an informed
film audience, to promote awareness of the Internet as a source of
news and commentary, to provide a forum for the OFCS members to
communicate and discuss ideas about journalism and cinema, and to
encourage a high standard of journalism across the online media.
The OFCS consists of nearly 300 members around the world; nearly
one third of the organization’s membership are based outside of the
United States. The Online Film Critics Society explores the nature
of film from historical, sociological, political, emotional,
technical, and other perspectives and appreciates film as a medium
for art and a mode of entertainment. Learn more at


TOPIC: QUANTUM SUPREMACY by Michio Kaku (book review by Gregory

In QUANTUM SUPREMACY, Michio Kaku, a leading figure in theoretical
physics and science communication, delves into the groundbreaking
advancements and potential of quantum computing. With his
characteristic clarity and enthusiasm, Kaku takes readers on a
journey through the complex realm of quantum mechanics, explaining
the fundamental principles behind quantum computing and its
revolutionary implications for the future.

Kaku masterfully navigates through the intricate concepts of
quantum mechanics, making them accessible to readers of all
backgrounds. He begins by unraveling the mysteries of quantum
physics, laying the foundation for understanding the profound shift
quantum computing promises to bring to our technological landscape.
Digital computers use digital bits that can carry only one piece
of information at a time (either 0 or 1) but quantum computers use
qbits which can carry much more information. Qbits are atoms that
that can be either 0 or 1 or any value in between these 2 states.
Also at the atomic level objects can exist in multiple states at
the same time which is called superposition. So you can now have
exponentially faster computations leading to the potential for
solving currently intractable problems in fields such as
cryptography, drug discovery, nuclear fusion, understanding the
Universe, better batteries to store solar power, folding of
proteins, understanding aging, and artificial intelligence, Kaku
paints a vivid picture of the transformative power of quantum
supremacy. If, for example, we understand why proteins need to
fold in certain unique ways then we would understand much more
about how to prevent disease.

Throughout the book, Kaku balances scientific rigor with
captivating storytelling, seamlessly weaving together historical
anecdotes, cutting-edge research, and visionary speculations. He
explores the race among tech giants, research institutions, and
governments to achieve quantum supremacy and the geopolitical
implications of this technological arms race.

While QUANTUM SUPREMACY is intellectually stimulating, it remains
highly accessible, thanks to Kaku's talent for elucidating complex
ideas without sacrificing depth. Whether you're a seasoned
physicist, a tech enthusiast, or simply curious about the future of
computing, this book offers a captivating exploration of one of the
most revolutionary developments of the 21st century.

Overall, QUANTUM SUPREMACY is a thought-provoking and enlightening
read that showcases Michio Kaku's unparalleled ability to make
cutting-edge science both comprehensible and captivating. It's a
must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of technology,
physics, and the future of humanity. [-gf]


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

In these times it is worth remembering that Texas has produced some
people worthy of praise, and one of these would be Howard Waldrop,
described by the Austin Chronicle as "a mainstay of Austin's
literary scene, a leviathan of sci-fi short stories, ... and a
beloved mentor to many in the city and the wider literary sci-fi
scene." And from the existence of that quote, you have probably
realized that Waldrop has just died.

He wasn't a Texan by birth, but having been born in Houston,
Mississippi, gave him at least the opportunity to claim (quite
truthfully) that he was born in Houston, and leave it at that.

One often sees recommendations of the form "if you liked author X,
you will probably like author Y," implying a similarity. With
Waldrop, a more accurate analogy would be "if you meet one person
with autism, you've met one person with autism." (Not that Waldrop
had autism; it's an analogy.) He was, as they say, sui generis.
The only other science fiction author of whom I've heard that
description is R. A. Rafferty, who came from the neighboring state
of Oklahoma. Is it something in the air there? If I were forced
to pick a similar author, it might be Terry Bisson, who also died
recently. At Readercon 15, Catherine Asaro said that Waldrop had a
lot in common with such writers as R. A. Lafferty, Carol
Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, and Michael Chabon, not that his
writing was similar to any of them, but that they were all unique
voices. Something about a set of elements who are similar in that
they are all different sounds very odd.

(Ellen Datlow once said that as an editor she never wanted to see
another "Sherlock Holmes meets famous person" story--unless it was
by Howard Waldrop.)

Rather than try to review some of Waldrop's work, I will observe
that he is one of the few science fiction authors who made his
living at it solely from short fiction. (He did write one novel,
THEM BONES, and co-authored another, THE TEXAS-ISRAELI WAR: 1999,
with Jake Saunders.) Again, at Readercon 15, a panel on ambition
which included Waldrop and Barry Malzberg was asked by moderator
David Alexander Smith what their earlier ambitions were and whether
they felt they had succeeded. Malzberg said, "To make a living as
a science fiction writer, and no, I didn't." Howard Waldrop then
said, "Barry stole my thunder, but I'll go him one better. I tried
to make a living in science fiction writing short stories."

And I will recommend all of Waldrop's short stories. The best
COMPLETE HOWARD WALDROP (1989, Legend, ISBN 978-0-099-64440-8),
which is itself an omnibus of HOWARD WhO? (1986) and ALL ABOUT
STRANGE MONSTERS OF THE RECENT PAST (1987). Old Earth books did a
couple of collections in 2007 and 2008 (one of shorter works
1980-2005, one of longer 1989-2003) for those looking for something
more recent.

Admittedly the stories in STRANGE THINGS IN CLOSE UP are
thirty-five years old, but these include most of the classics for
which Waldrop is best known: "Ike at the Mike", "Mary Margaret
Road-Grader", "God's Hooks!", "The Lions Are Asleep Tonight",
"Flying Saucer Rock and Roll", "Heirs of the Perisphere", and, of
course, "The Ugly Chickens". (Just as the prolific Robert Bloch
will forever be "the author of PSYCHO", Waldrop will be "the author
of "The Ugly Chickens", or more likely "that chicken story"). A
bigger problem is its rarity/cost, and this applies to the Old
Earth short fiction volume, and the Subterranean one as well. The
sad fact is that the Old Earth long fiction volume seems to be the
only (paper) collection of Waldrop's fiction that is readily
available for less than $40. The good news is that many of his
collections are available free electronically from least some
libraries through Hoopla. [-ecl]


Mark Leeper

Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?
--Phyllis Diller
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