Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

12/04/20 -- Vol. 39, No. 23, Whole Number 2148

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, * *

Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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Speed (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) (film retrospective

by Mark R. Leeper)


by Evelyn C. Leeper)

The Utah Monolith (Possibly) Explained (and Other Comments)

(comments by Evelyn C. Leeper and letters of comment

by Joy Beeson, Keith F. Lynch, and Gary McGath)

Edward Gibbon and China (letter of comment

by Joseph T. Major)

This Week's Reading (THE GREAT KOSHER MEAT WAR OF 1902)

(book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Speed (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

When you get older, slow is the new fast.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) (film retrospective by

Mark R. Leeper)

Trivia question: what day of the week is "The Day the Earth Stood

Still"?  Answer later in the article.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is a sentimental favorite among

Fifties science fiction films.  It is certainly good but not nearly

as good as its reputation would make it.  What you have is a story

of militant pacifists from outer space who come to Earth to say "be

nice and don't fight or our robots are going to kick some ass."

This has never been my idea of an inspiring message.  And the mere

fact that it isn't the aliens themselves but their robotic police

does not make the message one iota more palatable, at least not for

me.  I think that the concept that aliens were going to come down

and keep peace-or at least limit warfare-like some sort of super-

parents is less than appealing.

The film begins with a subjective sequence showing an approach to

Earth from space.  Once again we see that the 1950s' fascination

with flying saucers is used in a film, in fact more than some of

the films that just had references.  Here the flying saucer which

we saw the first sequence actually lands in a park in Washington

D.C.  The military immediately surrounds the craft.  From the

saucer comes a mysterious alien, Klaatu, who is almost immediately

shot due to paranoia on the part of the military guards sent to

meet him.  The saucer again opens and out comes a nine-foot-tall

robot who destroys all the weapons aimed at the saucer, then turns

himself into a statue.  Klaatu is taken to a hospital but heals

himself faster than Earth medicine could.  He requests an audience

with all world leaders and is refused.  He escapes from his

hospital to find out for himself what humans who are not

politicians are all about.

At a science fiction convention I attended, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD

STILL was used as an example of a science fiction film that is not

also a horror film.  That seems to be the general perception by

most fans, yet I think looking at the film there definitely is an

element of horror in the film.  I see this in two aspects.  First

is the way Klaatu is handled in the early parts of the film.  Often

his face is hidden or we see him from behind or in shadow.  This

combined with Bernard Herrmann's menacing music is clearly intended

to make Klaatu seem threatening.  And certainly the robot Gort is

intended to be frightening.  He kills when he has to and stands

implacably the rest of the time.  On subsequent viewings one

realizes that Gort kills only two soldiers in the course of the

film and then only because they are threatening him with rifles.

Patricia Neal is in love at the beginning of the film and discovers

she doesn't really like her intended during the course of the film.

One of the things she does not like is his assumption that he

should be a dominating male.  In some ways this film is years ahead

of its time.  The other major lead and certainly the only Earth-

person of much real interest value in the film is Sam Jaffe as

Prof. Barnhardt, a thinly disguised imitation of Albert Einstein.

Jaffe was a great character actor who seemed equally at home

playing German scientists or Gunga Din.  The generation who was

growing up seeing The DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL may who have come

to think of him as Dr. Zorba on the TV show "Ben Casey".

There are a number of nice touches in the film.  Several well-known

news commentators of the period agreed to appear as themselves

adding an air of authenticity.  Names like Elmer Davis are not

familiar now, but were certainly so at the time of the release of

the film.  We also get a feel for the contemporary Cold War

paranoia.  Helen Benson jumps to the conclusion that Carpenter is a

spy.  Also the Christ symbolism is a bit blatant.  Klaatu, who

takes on the name Carpenter (initials J.C.), is hated in spite of

his message of peace.  He is killed but returns from the dead to

meet with people and then to ascend into the heavens.  Imaginative

visual touches include Gort's strange death-ray lens and a rather

interesting set for the internals of the saucer.  It has been

suggested that, as in the short story "Farewell to the Master" (on

which the story is based), the robot is really the boss and not the

human.  I see no internal information that is conclusive either

way, but the film is marginally more interesting if Klaatu is

actually running interference for the true master Gort.

Trivia answer: And what day of the week was "The Day the Earth

Stood Still"?  It was a Tuesday.  Bobby did not have school the day

he went to Prof. Barnhardt's house but did have school the next day

so presumably that was a Sunday.  That night Klaatu returns to the

house and tells the professor that the demonstration will be two

days hence.

Some impressive scenes with Gort and the score by Herrmann give

this film most of what is good about it.  I give it a high +1 on

the -4 to +4 scale.

Turner Classic Movies is running this in a prime slot on

December 9, 8:00 PM, as part of their salute to Bernard Herrmann.




C. Leeper)

BEYOND THE VISIBLE--HILMA AF KLINT: This documentary is about the

first abstract painter, Hilma af Klint.  Hilma af Klint came before

Vassily Kandinsky or Piet Mondrian, and for years it was thought

that her abstract work was never displayed during her lifetime.

However, the filmmakers discovered that there had been an exhibit

in London in 1928.  (Her first modern exhibit in the 1980s drew a

million visitors.)

Another puzzling question is why many of Hilma af Klint's paintings

seem to have been copied by artists such as Kandinsky, or Mondrian,

or Andy Warhol (demonstrated in a side-by-side sequence).  If it

was believed that there had never been an exhibit before these

other artists had painted, how could one explain this?  It turns

out that Rudolf Steiner had photographs of many of Hilma af

Klintt's works, and also that Steiner knew Kandinsky, so it was


Hilma af Klint was ignored by the art world both during her

lifetime and after her abstract paintings were displayed years

after her death.  This is attributed to several factors.  The

obvious one is that women artists are often ignored by the art

world.  (One statistic cited is that the Modern Art wing of the

Metropolitan Museum of Art has females representing 5% of their

artists, but 85% of their nudes.)  One indication of how little

regarded she was in her lifetime is that she doesn't even get her

name on the gravestone of her family, which contains only her

father's name.

The second factor is the apparent unwillingness of the art world

ever to rewrite its history (at least according to the art experts

interviewed for this).  Once Kandinsky and Mondrian have been

declared the first abstract painters, it is next to impossible to

change that pronouncement.  (One interviewee said that modern art

is about making money and maintaining the history as written.)

And lastly, at least one expert says that the current reticence to

recognize Kling stems from the fact that Sweden is a very secular

country and Hilma af Klint's work had a strong theosophical basis.

Even during her lifetime, her work was discounted with the excuse

that it had a mystical basis, conveniently overlooking that the

vast majority of male artists also showed a spiritual basis in

their work.  Some of her early semi-abstracts are similar to

paintings by William Blake, and his work certainly had a mystical


One result of these three factors was that when the Moderna Museet

Stockholm was offered the collection of her work (over 1200 pieces)

they turned it down, apparently without even looking at it.

The film obviously shows a lot of Hilma af Klint's work, but it

also intersperses these with shots of nature which are often filmed

in such a way as to seem like abstract art themselves.  Even a shot

of shelves of her boxed paintings and journals at first looks like

an abstract painting.  And there are the usual "talking heads", the

primary ones being Josiah McElheny (artist), Iris Muller-Westerman

(director of the Moderna Museet Malmo), and Julia Voss (art


Obviously this is a must-see for anyone interested in abstract art,

or in the history of women in art.  The only caveat is that for

those of us not well-schooled in abstract art, the meaning behind

the paintings is often not clear.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: The Utah Monolith (Possibly) Explained (and Other Comments)

(comments by Evelyn C. Leeper and letters of comment by Joy Beeson,

Keith F. Lynch, Gary McGath, and Dorothy J. Heydt)

From **-


"[Reddit users] were able to isolate the monolith's approximate

location, tracking the flight paths of Utah Public Safety's

helicopters in order to triangulate a rough area near Canyonlands

National Park and the Colorado River.  Once the approximate

location was narrowed down, the internet sleuths took to Google

Earth to isolate the coordinates and figure out when the monolith

first appeared.

"Historical imaging data reflected that the monolith arrived

sometime between August 2015 and October 2016, leaving open a

fairly significant gap.  Roughly around that time, the epic sci-fi

drama WESTWORLD was filming in a nearby location, so the best bet

at the moment is that someone on the crew either didn't pack up

properly or maybe even used the metal to play a longterm Kubrick-

inspired prank on the world."

The location of the monolith was briefly labeled on Google Maps as

"Utah Monolith", but apparently Google has removed that so as not

to encourage people to head out into the back country to see it and

end up needing rescuing, or to cause damage to Native American

sites and artefacts.  [-ecl]

Joy Beeson writes:

It annoys me no end that every single reference to the stele calls

it a monolith.  There is no lith in it, and I've not seen any

suggestion that its mono, rather than pieces welded together.


Keith F. Lynch responds:

The pieces were riveted together, not welded, and nobody (except

its unknown builder) knew what was inside.  It could have been

solid rock inside.  Or a portal to another dimension.

It's gone now, as mysteriously as it arrived.  [-kfl]

Gary McGath explains:

It collected its data and returned to the homeworld. Probably we'll

be invaded soon. If it's on Christmas and they attack London, the

Doctor will save us.  [-gmg]

Dorothy J. Heydt updates:

And a new one has surfaced in Romania,


And, since I last looked, has disappeared again.  [-djh]

[More responses may be found at




TOPIC: Edward Gibbon and China (letter of comment by Joseph

T. Major)

In response to Evelyn's comments on Edward Gibbon's MEMOIRS in the

11/27/20 issue of the MT VOID, Joseph T. Major writes:

Evelyn writes, "Gibbon also is a bit weak on Chinese history,

writing, "... the posterity of Confucius having maintained, above

two thousand and two hundred years, their peaceful honours and

perpetual succession."  There were nine dynasties in that time, and

it was not always peaceful."  [-ecl]

The descendants of Kong Fuzi/Kung Fu-tse have succeeded peacefully,

even as the dynasties changed.  The current senior descendant Kung

Tsui-chang is Sacrifical Official to Confucius, a senior official

of the Chinese (Taiwan) government.  He is the 79th in descent from

Confucius, and he has a son, Kung Yu-jen.

A less distinguished, but more powerful, descendant of Confucius

was H. H. Kung, Kung Hsian-hsi, Chiang Kai-shek's prime minister.



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


RIOTS THAT SHOOK NEW YORK CITY by Scott D. Seligman (University of

Nebraska/Potomac, ISBN 978-1-640-12358-8) covers more than just the

protests over the increase in the price of kosher meat.  It also

looks at those as the beginning of a series of protests over food

prices, rents, and labor conditions, as well as the women's

suffrage movement.  But the book begins with a very detailed

explanation of the supply chain from animal to butcher shop,

especially the particular restrictions on kosher meat and the

cultural importance of meat.  I found it an informative read, but

my suspicion is that unless you are already somewhat steeped in the

Lower East Side culture or the social movements of the early

twentieth century, this book will have more detail than you are

interested in.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          All models are wrong but some are useful.

                                          --George Box