15 May 2008
By Matthew B. Tepper, Scribe
The chatter in the room got louder and louder, then softer and softer as President Marcia Minsky made a determined face and called us to order at 2010. Under Special Orders of Business, CL first eulogized Danton Burroughs, known to some of us here as archivist and detailed cataloguer of the works of his grandfather, Edgar Rice. Also recently departed was actor John Phillip Law, "who now gets to reprise his role as an angel, if he was a good boy." His best-known movies include "Barbarella," and "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad." Another deeply felt passing was that of cartoonist Will Elder, one of the founding zanies of Mad. A moment of silence was observed for these three individuals.
Just then, to show that there could also be good Special Orders, your humble Scribe confided that it was the birthday of LASFS member Clare Lasby, who was in attendance that evening. Members were invited to help her celebrate by assisting in eating a very large birthday cake that had been placed on the freebie table. Members were very obliging, and the cake disappeared into the group subconscious, or maybe stomach.
Patron Saint of the evening was the delightful Tom Digby, who had been a regular attendee for many years before his move to the Valley of the Silicon. Hare Hobbs celebrated Tom for his humor and strange jewelry, as well as his polite and soft-spoken nature. Milt Stevens recalled how Tom had come up with "practical" applications for fantasy ideas, such as coin-operated crypts for traveling vampires, as well as the famous frog/prince perpetual motion machine. A conversation with Tom was "like explaining things in our dimension to friends and family in another one." CL reminded us that Tom’s home had been a sometime locale for the LASFS during its travelling years before the Clubhouses. Tom had an assortment of wall clocks, no two of them displaying the same time; these included one which went backwards, and one which moved a random number of minutes ahead or back, at random intervals. Tom was "the sort of person who would live around the corner from a place that would sell dill pickle ice cream … and he did!" Karl Lembke noted that Tom’s webzine Silicon Soapware contained what he called "observations from a slightly parallel universe, well worth reading." Michelle Pincus hadn’t known him in the olden days as some of us had, but when she finally met him a few years ago, she found him "a pleasure to be around." Doug Crepeau said Tom had claimed to have been hired by a group providing habitats for non-human sentients, which turned out to be the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, or Minbari. Almost. Dr. Jerry Pournelle said that Tom was famously the inspiration for the central character in Larry Niven’s "What Can You Say About Chocolate Covered Manhole Covers?" "Fortunately," Dr. P. added, "Niven found a lot to say." Jerry said he had once asked Tom why he wore that thing through his nose, and Tom answered, "Why does anybody wear jewelry? To make themselves attractive." Here Jerry added, "I did not dare to ask the next obvious question." Joe Zeff had seen Tom last year at Westercon, wearing a green sari leaving half of his chest exposed, and also did not ask Jerry’s question. Scratch Galloway remembered Tom’s novelty song, "Little Teeny Eyes." Karl opined that it is now old enough to be a traditional drinking song. And your humble Scribe hauled out his tired old story of Tom Digby being the first fan he ever met at a fan convention, helpfully suggesting that "That man over there might know where Larry Niven is." (As it happened, that man over there certainly did know where Larry Niven was!) We saluted St. Tom Digby with three cheers "and a bubble machine."
Registrar Michelle Pincus said the drought was over, and we had 4! Count ‘em! 4 guests! These were Clare Layendecker, a makeup artist by trade (you could tell from her sapphire-blue hair), interested in social networking, time travel paradox and cyberpunk. There were also three very technically-skilled visitors from JPL and Caltech: Ratatosk Lamar, Jeremy Yager, and Eric Chi. Also with us again was Diane Lass, who used to attend regularly back in the 1980s.
Word was passed to the front of the room from Treasurer Elayne Pelz to the effect that we had $88,687.22, with the usual admonition.
Michelle Pincus had for us a Moment of Science, an article asking the musical question, "Where are the Milky Way’s missing supernovas?" Dr. Pournelle scoffed at some sloppy phrasing in the article claiming that some astronomical object in the center of the galaxy was 140 years old, when what was really meant was that it’s been 140 years from the time we first observed it. Diane agreed.
Committee Reports: Arlene Satin, Marketing Committee, had some welcome news: The Reading Rocketeer’s first voyage was to be piloted by Shawn Crosby. She will talk to him about "caping up," and he will be bringing his famous "H-Wing," a Honda del Sol customized as a "Star Wars" X-Wing fighter, because it’s what he travels in. David Okamura created all of our logos, including one for the visors, and Arlene made him stand and accept applause from the room. Also, "The Other Scott" had designed one of the bookmarks, so she thanked him as well. We will have a booth at the West Hollwood Book Fair, September 28th, in a tented outdoors area, and volunteers were requested for set-up and tear-down. She will be sending out invitations to various area authors, so we will have a presence there beyond our booth. See her or Tadao if you are able to help make it a success, and keep in mind, there will be t-shirts for those who volunteer!
The aforementioned Tadao Tomomatsu strode to the front of the room and gave his spiel for La La Con 14, our annual relaxacon, this year scheduled for the last weekend in June. Membership is a mere $20, plus a further $6 for the optional banquet, so spread the word. There will be all the usual fun program items, video sweatlodge, a lemon-tree-watching marathon, and of course, an auction.
Milt Stevens’ labors had brought forth the latest issue of De Profundis, living a sort of papery life in a cardboard box on the Treasurer’s desk. If you have a copy that’s waiting to go home with you, why not pick it up and save the club some postage?
A Money Gouge included a printer and a teddy bear with a lei. For some reason, they were very easy to tell apart.
Under Business (and your humble Scribe is not certain whether to count this as Old or New), we heard from Michael Donahue. As you may recall from previous chapters, he was responsible for the Library remodel 15 or so years ago, and has lately been speaking with building contractors in order to get estimates for various substantial building improvements that could be made on this lot. Wouldn’t you know it, there are legal limitations on what we could do – we can’t change our stated purpose for existing, so we’ll have to operate a science fiction club, not a taco stand or anything else. (You don’t want to know what sort of a business Dr. Pournelle asked about.) We are allowed to build up to 5,000 square feet, so long as we have a suitable amount of parking. He laid out several of the possibilities, some of which include enough space for lounges, libraries, bathrooms, kitchenette, etc., and so forth. Bill Ellern’s face lit up with an evial grin: "Does this mean that instead of buying two parking spaces every month, I could buy four?" Mike showed off a jar for cash donations toward this project. The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests had already been sounded out, and was potentially interested in some sort of capacity with funding if possible. CL had made a drawing on the whiteboard depicting a locale in Anaheim that he thought would be ideal for various S.F., Fantasy, and Western-themed areas, or "lands," and has plenty of room we could work with, if we could rid it of all those pesky mice, ducks, bears, and so on. Bill Ellern had the capper, from a fannish tradition of long ago: "Do we still get to put a tower on top?" Mike replied, "Only if we have the money for it." Don’t ask how, but Bill’s gleam suddenly got, well, gleamier.
Announcements: Doug Crepeau had some favorable news about his health, in that a clinical trial had thusfar allowed him to reduce his weight from 265 to 239 pounds. He also introduced his friend, Mrs. Pamela Culshaw, who is recuperating after surgery. Qarl Lembqe reminded us that there is a convention coming up in November. He is running the Con Suite, and is looking for able bodies and weak minds to help him run the thing. He said he intends it to be really nifty, and could use some help.
CL relayed a message from Tom Safer, who wanted to say that his Tom Safer Presents Cartoons series (Saturday morning at 10:00, according to a helpful Whiskey) will be running some film or other which can’t be mentioned here under pain of seriousness. Also, CL added that he has responded to requests and produced a list of his 150 favorite motion pictures, and hopes to have it as a web page if you are interested in seeing it. Send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll send it to you. Hare Hobbs, not to be outdone by Doug, had some news of his own, namely that he has received a mostly clean bill of health.
Reviews: CL, that movie-watchin’ fiend, had gone to see "Iron Man" and was pleasantly surprised to note that it did not offend him for messing up the characters. The picture had many good things about it, except for one bit of business at the end, which he found racist. The film was accompanied by a trailer for "The Incredible Hulk," which looked very realistic – until you saw the Hulk, who looks all CGI and very fakey. (See your humble Scribe’s remarks of 11 years ago, in which the mini-series "The Odyssey" was described as having "the best cheesy CGI griffins I’ve ever seen.") The trailer for the new "Indiana Jones" movie looks exciting, even though it reminds him of "The Mummy Returns." Qarl said that he and Kevin enjoyed "Iron Man," as well as a "triple-wide" trailer for "Prince Caspian," which makes him really want to see it. Hare Hobbs was one of the lonely few who had seen "Speed Racer," and noted that the little brother and chimp have what he called "The Jar-Jar Syndrome." Still, it’s a "wonderful eye candy movie," and he does recommend it. CL was reminded of "Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure," in which Cheetah is told at the beginning of the picture that he has to stay behind, and is never seen again. The audience cheered in wonderment that such a thing could have happened. Ah well, those were the days of old.
Richard Costas had gone to see the Very Large Array, and was very impressed. By luck he even got to film them moving one of the 27 telescopes. Krystal Raines bought a DVD that she thought people might like to see. Jerry Pournelle wrapped up the "Iron Man" critiquing for now, saying he had liked it a lot, particularly for "the way they found 35-year-old Gwyneth Paltrow to be an ingenue … but then she’s probably one of the best actresses in the business."
Faanish Committee Reports: We still couldn’t shake the "Iron Man" references, as Doug reported that Sarcos Inc. has built an exoskeleton which can multiply its wearer’s strength and endurance 20 times, and yet weighs only 150 pounds. Charles had received an article from Greg Bilan about a Swiss pilot named Yves Rossy who jumped from a plane, using a jet-powered wing to fly solo and perform stunts over the Alps. "That was to impress the girls," Rossy said afterwards. Dan McCarthy was impressed by the film footage he saw on TV, which really looked like a flying man. His flight time was nine minutes, much more than you can get with a JetPack. Hare Hobbs had an addendum to a previous report, that safety in stock car collisions has been helped by a sort of artificial rock, made the same way as styrofoam. Your humble Scribe noted that Honda’s ASIMO robot had been programmed to conduct at a recent concert of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. This would make it the first robot to perform in public with an orchestra, that is if you don’t count Anthony Daniels or Glenn Gould.
Miscellaneous: Milt asked the assemblage to recommend humane ways for dealing with gophers. Your humble Scribe suggested, "Watch ‘Caddyshack.’" Charles Lee Jackson, the Second told the room, "Don’t forget, elections are coming next month." Marcia noted that while we had no program tonight, that for the 22nd will be a showing by Tom Safer of cartoons about pirates and sailors, while Michelle will have a program for us on the 29th, a presentation of "The JPL Story."
And with that, there was no place to go but out, so we did that, adjourning at 2130.