And Chinese New Year Too

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1288)

So, jacarandas,
Empurpling above, below,
Your season begins.

It’s LASFS (L.A. S-F Society) custom to raise a little money by auctioning the privilege of naming the previous meeting’s minutes.  For the minutes noting the loss of Ursula Le Guin, I won the auction, and named them “Ged” (A Wizard of Earthsea ch. 1, 1968).

The northeast corner of 4th & Hill Sts. down town is vacant. A subway station below put a concrete wall a few rods (1 rod is about 5 m) east.  One afternoon I found a dozen drummers drumming, seated by the wall with hand-drums, of many a shape and size; one flautist in the back whom if I tried hard I could hear.  I should have counted them, so I could tell you more exactly twelve, or maybe eleven, as you may have sung early last month.  I’d call the rhythms Latin; I’m a little acquainted with Nigerian drum, which I didn’t hear, nor the beats-of-unequal-length rhythms of Southeast Europe I do know.  I saw no hat to drop money in (for which purpose the “hat” could be a basket, or a pillbox, or a suitcase, or a bathtub, or a schooner), nor any higher or lower motive.  I pushed and shoved a quarter-hour from my day to stand and listen.

César Ritz (1850-1918) died a hundred years ago this October 24th.  Born the youngest of thirteen children to a poor Swiss family, and told The hotel business takes a special knack, a special flair, and you haven’t got it, he nevertheless rose to establish the Ritz hotels in Paris (1898) and London (1906) – both associated with Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935); M. Ritz, the king of hoteliers and the hotelier to kings – as Escoffier was roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois and before him Marie-Antonin Carême (1784-1833) – is said to have first formulated The customer is always right, and to have invented the king-size bed.  He is the eponym of the song ”Puttin’ on the Ritz” (I. Berlin, 1929) and its movie (E. Sloman dir. 1930); also the Ritz-Carlton hotels; possibly Ritz Crackers, invented 1934 and today advertised with “You’ve got the stuff to make life rich”.

In Paris, George of the Ritz was Georges Scheuer, who tended bar and thus much else there forty years; in London, it was George Criticos, forty years the hall porter and even more the factotum – Criticos! could he have been – yes; he was a Cretan, Georgios Fafoutakis, who left a memoir, George of the Ritz, as told to Richard Viner (1959), which I’ve just read, and commend to you.  Why?  Because Cross-cultural contact is homework for science fiction.

Worth what some folks say –
“Each to their own” for themselves,
“I can’t stand your taste”
Resounding in their deeds –
Daring what seems good to us.

                                            

Chinese New Year was February 16th; the season runs through March 2nd.
Pillbox, suitcase, “The Whale” made popular by Burl Ives

Speaking of Hopkins

By John Hertz:  In a note celebrating the 40th anniversary of File 770 (January 6th) and 10th of File770.com (January 15th), I mentioned Gerard Manley Hopkins and even quoted him, but I didn’t bring him to you (or should that be the other way around?)

Since then he’s been on my mind. Did I do him a disservice?  Or you?

My mother introduced me to a New York cousin, Selma Jeanne Cohen (1920-2005; we were thus also related to SJC’s uncle Benjamin V. Cohen), whom I met while living there, and knew as the editor of Dance Perspectives; at length she found a publisher for her International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford Univ. Press, 6 vols. 1998), I even helping with a few articles.  I never knew, I stupidly never learned, she too had been enkindled by Hopkins.  He was the subject of her doctoral dissertation.

Hopkins, a superb poet and one of the most original, was a Jesuit priest, in whose devotion poetry and religion were mutually illuminating, I think I may say inseparable; which SJC, no more a Christian than I am, indeed just as little, found no more daunting than I (nor maybe you, I dare hope, if you happen not to share Hopkins’ faith; if you do share it, may such conjoined inspiration never fail you).

As SJC says beginning “Hopkins’ ’As Kingfishers Catch Fire’” (1877; superb poem, and superbly Christian), a 1950 Modern Language Quarterly piece (v. 11 p. 197), “to consider Hopkins’ lyrics only as restatements of doctrine is to neglect a part of the art [surely an intended chime; see her article] of poetry as he conceived it,” going on to alliteration, internal rhyme, and his coruscations of sound and sense, not neglecting to quote Duns Scotus (MLQ v. 11 at p. 201 n. 17).

Earlier, in the lead article of the January 1947 Philological Quarterly (v. 26 p. 1), “The Poetic Theory of Gerard Manley Hopkins”, she quotes his “Poetry is speech framed for the contemplation of the mind by way of hearing or speech framed to be heard for its own sake and interest even above meaning” (PQ v. 26 at pp. 18-19), going on to sprung rhythm (as he called it).

In case you don’t know Hopkins here’s the start of another fine poem, “The Windhover” (also 1877).  Marking each metrical foot and accent would illustrate what he meant by sprung rhythm, and its extra unstressed syllables he called outriders; even without, by the second line you’ll see.  These eight lines are the octet of a sonnet: but what a sonnet!

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind.  My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

I once told a friend The greater the reality, the better the fantasy.  Or should that be the other way around?

                                            

Much of this material appeared in Vanamonde 1284.

How to Comment on Jay Kay Klein Photo Identifications

JJ Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Science Fiction Librarian at the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy, tells how to use their recently-added Disqus capability to comment on photo identifications.


JJ Jacobson: When we created the Klein Photo info-form, we did so to give fans who aren’t on social media (or at least not on Facebook) a way to tell us about the photos, and to make our metadata-improvement process scalable, knowing that there are another 58,000 photos to come.

However, a few folks continued to post information on the Eaton’s FB page, and we noticed that there were lively conversations taking place in the comment threads. Folks seemed to be having such a good time reminiscing together that we started looking for a way to make more of those conversations about the photos possible. So we decided to experiment with a  threaded-commenting function right in Calisphere.

We’re using a 3rd-party app called Disqus, which a few other digital and Special Collections libraries have been pleased with – much faster for our experiment than building one out in Calisphere. It’s now live. The short description and explanation are now here, along with a commenting policy.  Here’s a longer community fact sheet, for those who want it: https://tinyurl.com/KleinCFS4fen

Brief directions on the Klein Photos in Calisphere:  Use the new commenting feature now available on Calisphere for this collection (to access commenting select an image and click “Join the Discussion”).

It Could Happen to You

By John Hertz: One-third through Henry Hardy’s monumental four-volume Letters of the monumental Isaiah Berlin (IB 1909-1997; Flourishing 1928-1946, Enlightening 1946-1960, Building 1960-1975, Affirming 1975-1997, some 3.000 pages, completed 2015), I came across this innocently-presented footnote (Enlightening p. 197 n. 3).

The Siena Musical Week was founded in 1939 to introduce to wider audiences undervalued composers of the past, starting with the then little-known Vivaldi.

_____________________________________________________

One cannot accept Dr. Hardy’s modesty about these notes, they’re wonderful.

About the subject, on the next page is a 1950 letter to Bernard Berenson, in which IB says, helplessly (if you will allow me to say so) self-referential, “my head in a great whirl with all the ideas, images, glimpses of persons & relationships, forms of life which, if you will allow me to say so, you scatter with so prodigal & unreckoning a hand.”

CompuServe SF Forums To Be Deleted

CompuServe (CIS) was the first major commercial online service provider in the United States, the dominant brand of the 1980s. It was known for its online chat system and message forums covering a variety of topics, including the CIS SF Literature Forum.

You may not have realized any of these Forums were still around – and they soon won’t be. Users have been served notice —

Dear Forum friends and family,

We regret to inform you that the Forums will be removed from the CompuServe service effective December 15, 2017. For more than two decades, the CompuServe Forums paved the way for online discussions on a wide variety of topics and we appreciate all of the participation and comments you have provided over the years.

CompuServe was taken over by AOL in 2003, and in 2009 all CompuServe Classic services, including OurWorld Web pages (File 770 used to have one) went away. Now the Forums are being shuttered,

Danny Sichel says they’ll be wiping the archives clean. “A lot of the stuff has been backed up on archive.org, but who knows if it’s all the stuff.”

George Brickner

While he was following a trail of links to information about the story, Danny came across the residual web presence of the late George Brickner, one of the most active SF Forum members (under the handle Dupa T. Parrot) who died in 2010. His YouTube channel remains, where he uploaded videos of SF Forum meetups at NASFiC in 1987, and Chicon V in 1991.

Danny says, “It’d be fascinating to know who any of the people in the videos are; perhaps File 770’s readership might have some answers?”

  • 1987 NASFiC CIS SF Literature Forum Party

This is the CompuServe Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum Party at the 1987 NASFiC in Phoenix, AZ. I’m the guy near the computer who waves at the camera. Video recorded by Jim Schneider.

 

  • 1991 CIS SF Forum Party at Chicon V

This is less than five minutes from the CompuServe Science Fiction and Fantasy Forum party at Chicon V, the 1991 World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago (Aug 29 thru Sep 2). My hand-held technique is pretty bad as I got more chests than heads.

 

{Thanks to Danny SIchel for the story.]

Tolkien: An Unexpected Sainthood

Interest in pursuing Catholic sainthood for J.R.R. Tolkien has lately been re-energized by a special Mass and a new social media campaign.

On September 2, the first mass for the canonization of J.R.R. Tolkien was held. Matt Showering described the service in “A Slightly Unexpected Gathering”, quoted by Reddit’s  r/Catholicism section:

On Saturday 2 September, a Traditional Low Mass was held at the Oxford Oratory to mark the anniversary of the death of world-renowned Catholic writer & philologist JRR Tolkien (+ 1973). The Mass was offered, however, not for the repose of Tolkien’s soul – but rather praying for his Cause for Beatification to be opened.

… The Mass itself was fittingly celebrated in Tolkien’s old parish church (dedicated to St Aloysius) with his granddaughter among the congregation. The Provost of the Oratory, Fr Daniel Seward, spoke in his short homily of Tolkien’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, describing it as “the great romance of his life – though I’m not sure what Mrs Tolkien would’ve made of this!”

And in the weeks that followed the closed Facebook group Cause for the Canonization of JRR Tolkien, administered by Tolkien fan Daniele Pietro Ercoli, and the original Cause for Tolkien Facebook group, have been augmented with a new public Facebook group with the same name as the latter:

This is all very early in the long journey towards sainthood, and we’re still learning the canon law process, but from what we can tell the first step in petitioning for the opening of a Cause for Beatification and Canonization is to form a group, called an Actor Causae, which will submit a formal request for an investigation to the bishop of the diocese where John RR Tolkien died.

Also, a website:

The official website of the Actor Causae for John RR Tolkien’s Cause for Sainthood in the Catholic Church.

Catholic Tolkien fans in Brazil have been actively following the campaign – the Tolkien Brasil site has covered it in a number of articles (in Portuguese). A post dated October 20 tells how several years ago Daniele Pietro Ercoli contacted the Archbishop who would start the canonization process for Tolkien and got back this answer in 2015:

According to the Wikipedia (which is not necessarily infallible in matters of faith…) there are four stages in elevating someone to Catholic sainthood:

  • Servant of God” (“Servus Dei“): A bishop with jurisdiction, usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried gives permission to open an investigation into the virtues of the individual in response to a petition of members of the faithful. …Normally, an association to promote the cause of the candidate is instituted, an exhaustive search of the candidate’s writings, speeches, and sermons is undertaken, a detailed biography is written, and eyewitness accounts are collected. When sufficient evidence has been collected, the local bishop presents the investigation of the candidate, who is titled “Servant of God” (Latin: “Servus Dei“), to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints of the Roman Curia, where the cause is assigned a postulator, whose office is to collect further evidence of the life of the Servant of God.
  • Venerable” (“Venerabilis“; abbreviated “Ven.”) or “Heroic in Virtue“: When sufficient evidence has been collected, the Congregation recommends to the Pope that he proclaim the heroic virtue of the Servant of God; that is, that the Servant of God exercised to a heroic degree the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance). From this time the one said to be “heroic in virtue” is entitled
  • “Blessed” (“Beatus” or “Beata“; abbreviated “Bl.”): Beatification is a statement of the Church that it is “worthy of belief” that the Venerable is in Heaven and saved. …For a non-martyr, all of them being denominated “confessors” because they “confessed”, i. e., bore witness to the Faith by how they lived, proof is required of the occurrence of a miracle through the intercession of the Venerable; that is, that God granted a sign that the person is enjoying the Beatific Vision by performing a miracle for which the Venerable interceded. Presently, these miracles are almost always miraculous cures of infirmity, because these are the easiest to judge given the Church’s evidentiary requirements for miracles; …
  • “Saint” (“Sanctus” or “Sancta“; abbreviated “St.” or “S.”): To be canonized as a saint, ordinarily at least two miracles must have been performed through the intercession of the Blessed after his death…

Here is the text of the Beatification Prayer used at the Mass on September 2.

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having graced the Church with John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and for allowing the poetry of Your Creation, the mystery of the Passion of Your Son, and the symphony of the Holy Spirit, to shine through him and his sub-creative imagination. Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession of Mary, he has given us a living image of Jesus the Wisdom of God Incarnate, and has shown us that holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary Christian life and is the way of achieving eternal communion with You. Grant us, by his intercession, and according to Your will, the graces we implore…,hoping that he will soon be numbered among Your saints. Amen.

Full of Quotations

By John Hertz:  I’m not sure if it’s a classic of science fiction.  But it reminds me of the fellow (in 1875?) who said Shakespeare was full of quotations.

By the time I got to Stephen Vincent Benét’s “By the Waters of Babylon” (1937) I’d read a lot of post-apocalypse stories.  The title recalls one I think is among the best, Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon (1959).

“By the Waters” has Dead Places which are forbidden and a religion of caretakers.  Its boy narrator coming of age finds on a journey a lost place of great riches.  The god who lived there must have been a powerful god.

There was a shattered image of white stone, a man or a god who wore his hair tied back and whose name, on the cracked half of a stone, was ASHING.  You can supply W and TON and so could I.

The boy wants to tell everyone but his father, a priest, says “Truth is a hard deer to hunt.  If you eat too much truth at once, you may die of the truth.”  Perhaps, thinks his son, in the old days people ate knowledge too fast.

Look at the date.  Benét’s story came two years before the Einstein-Szilárd letter, a year before the Hahn-Strassman-Meitner-Frisch discovery of nuclear fission; four years before Heinlein’s “Solution Unsatisfactory”, seven before Cartmill’s “Deadline”.

Scholarship says, as I understand, that Benét was probably moved by the bombing of Guernica, 26 Apr 37.  Picasso finished his painting in June.

“I like the Carpenter best,” said Alice, “if he didn’t eat so many oysters as the Walrus.”  “But he ate as many as he could get,” said Tweedledum.

We’ve anthologized “By the Waters” repeatedly over the years, starting with Wollheim’s pioneering Pocket Book of Science Fiction (1943).

Benét was a fine and maybe a great poet.  During his life he was better known than T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens.

Some prose is poetry.

Help Identify People in Jay Kay Klein Photos with New Online Form

Jay Kay Klein at Bucconeer (1998).

Everyone interested in helping identify the writers and fans in Jay Kay Klein’s photos taken at Worldcons in the Sixties should use the new online form activated this weekend.

Two weeks ago, the California Digital Library and the UC Riverside Library made available for viewing nearly 6,000 digitized photos, with more to come. Many of the photos had incorrect identifications, or none, and there was a surge of interest in getting them corrected. Last week, as a stopgap measure, information was being taken via Facebook.

Now J.J. Jacobson, the UCR Library’s Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, has announced they’re ready for people to start using their form, which is here: https://library.ucr.edu/klein-info-form

In order to assure that information is properly associated, they ask that everyone submit a separate form for each photo being annotated.

Jacobson also says:

Although the form doesn’t allow the kind of commenting back-and-forth that we’ve seen on the Eaton Facebook page, it will help us a great deal by organizing the info in a way that’s very helpful for applying and managing metadata at this scale. We’re already thinking beyond this pilot to how we’ll collect information and manage the metadata for the remaining ~55,000 Klein photos.  We’re also working on putting robust crowdsourcing and commenting functions in place,  looking forward to the time when all the photos and digitized and available – not the work of a moment – because we know this conversation will be going on for a long time.

Here is a screenshot of the form:

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars Review

I was determined to see Fathom Events one-night showing of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, for reasons that were not fully clear before I went, and are practically, um, unfathomable now. Maybe it was to compensate for having viewed the eclipse in isolation earlier in the day, something that proved to be a much more important social event than I expected. However, I wouldn’t say that being part of the audience of five people at the late-night showing I attended made up for failing to connect with eclipse watchers in the morning….

This is the 20th anniversary of the original. As I recall, Willard Stone and I lit out of work to see the first Starship Troopers movie on opening day in 1997. Although I objected to it as an adaptation of Heinlein’s novel, the years have softened the memory to let me appreciate the film’s delicious cultic awfulness (which many of you argue is a satirical master stroke.) Troops standing shoulder to shoulder like Napoleonic infantry armed with assault rifles, blasting away at huge bugs that seem to take about a thousand bullets apiece to kill, was just the beginning of the list of tactical absurdities that characterized the film.

And over the last 20 years the makers of the sequels – Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars is the fifth of its ilk – have carefully distilled those elements of the original. There’s the tactical nonsense, of course, as incredible spaceborne marines with ginormous guns are deposited by vulnerable landing craft amid myriads of ferocious, giant arachnids, whom they spray with automatic rifle fire until things get desperate enough for them to unleash more powerful weapons that could easily have been delivered from orbit. But there’s also traditional storytelling about the camaraderie of a small infantry platoon, the important relationships of close friends, and war-doomed romances.

For this one-night event, Fathom preceded the film with an introduction by writer Ed Neumeier and star Casper Van Dien (who with Dina Meyer reprised – as voice actors – their 1997 roles). Van Dien’s energy was enjoyable – the volatile actor knows just when to drop in his signature line, “Come on, you apes. Do you want to live forever?” There was also behind-the-scenes footage of the director, motion capture specialists, and CGI animators to explain why the finished product is so lifelike, and how technological progress since the last movie made it possible for them to add action scenes they realized should have been there all along, like mobile infantry moving “on the bounce.”

Then the main feature rolled.

In “STARSHIP TROOPERS: TRAITOR OF MARS,” Johnny Rico has just been demoted and sent to a small satellite station on Mars whilst the Federation attacks the bugs’ home planet. While trying to train his new recruits on this remote quiet station, the bugs show up in a surprise attack but the Federation’s Fleet is too far away to help. It’s up to Rico and his Troopers to save the planet and uncover how the bugs made it so close to home.

While the opening sequence of the film made me feel like I was trapped inside a video game – and for good reason – most of the time I was impressed with the convincing dimensional depth of this 2-D animated format.

I also appreciated how the screenwriter found a plausible way to put Johnny Rico (Van Dien) and Dizzy Flores (Dina Meyer) back together again in an extended sequence, and that it was skillfully edited to avoid the feeling that rapid-fire action had ground to a halt.

And while Johnny has a lot of mileage on him by now – scarred, and wearing an ostentatious eyepatch – it’s still his connection with high school chums Carl (in intelligence) and Carmen (a spaceship captain) that makes all the difference in the outcome of the story.

Despite the Heinlein questions in the quiz screened before the show began, these movies have only the most evanescent connection to the namesake novel. They are their own thing now, a vividly colorful gun show knit together with mild media satire and nostalgic romance. I can’t deny all the artistic talent that has been invested in bringing these elements to the right audience – except those fans seem to have been somewhere other than at the AMC theater in Arcadia last night.