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Nolan Pop Culture Review, 2003!
This week's
La Floridiana
Movie Review
Digital Divide
Matt's Rail
Mike's Rant

On the CF Homepage:
Florida Filmmaker Update

  Number 155  (Vol. 4, No. 11). This edition is for the week of March 10--16, 2003.

I'll admit I went a little maudlin last week about the Orlando MegaCon, but the fact of seeing my old childhood TV heroes so fossilized in old age reminded me too much of my own mortality, I guess. Funny how, exactly one week later, I would be put to the test once again as, last Sunday night, I faced "Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt", a CBS 2-hour TV-movie starring Adam West and Burt Ward, Batman and Robin, respectively, from the original 1960s TV series.

Adam West
From the diner scene: Adam West, in search of the Batmobile, stops at a diner for a rest. He looks up to see...
Lee Meriwether, playing a waitress who still sports the special autograph he gave her decades ago. Which comes as a shock to...
Burt Ward, who sits slack-jawed at the revelation.
Outside the diner, the duo plot their next move. Here you can better appreciate Ward's weight gain since his "Robin" days!
Meanwhile back at the set: believe it or not, this is a recreation of the Bat-set used by Brewer and Marsden to imitate West and Ward.
Ignoring the implausibility of it all, this takes "suspension of disbelief" to new heights. I believe this was produced by the same team who gave us the similar "Gilligan's Island" thing last year. The similar theme being the original cast is reunited for some weird plot device and in a series of flashbacks--played by younger actors-- recall the foibles of producing a hit TV show.

In "Return to the Batcave", Adam West and Burt Ward appear at a function where, I think, the original Batmobile is being auctioned off for charity. (The Batmobile is a thing of beauty and timeless. Designed by George Barris on a modified 1957 Lincoln Futura prototype, to me nothing since then compares. The movie Batmobiles are another type of creature I'll discuss some other time.) Suddenly, the lights go out, and despite the fact the duo were sitting in the car, it has now vanished! The two actors are mysteriously in charge of recovering the one-of-a-kind car. They hit then road together in Adam's car, altho Burt seems to wind up paying for everything. Along the way, they recall several anecdotes about the series including how they were cast (Lyle Waggoner was also screen-tested for the Batman part), doing publicity (where the younger West is seen autographing a girl's breast), and other paths they could've taken (West was offered the role of James Bond for "Her Majesty's Secret Service", but turned it down feeling the character should remain British. Burt Ward was offered the lead role in "The Graduate" and laments that today HE "might be Dustin Hoffman"). Between scenes, there's a narrative voice-over that sometimes Adam hears, sometimes they both hear.

At a stop at a diner, the waitress (Lee Meriwether) offers to pay for their meal, and displays her reason: her breast still has Adam's autograph from 35 years ago ("you were right..it was a permanent marker!").

Interesting casting, where the guy playing the younger Batman (Jack Brewer) and Robin (Jason Marsden) are arguably better actors than the originals, and have to sort of "dumb down" for the parts (LOL). Marsden is MUCH shorter than Brewer, tho, and makes Ward look comically midget-like. The real-life Ward has his own problems. I'm sure I'm not the only viewer who went slack-jawed at how much weight he's gained. Believe it or not, I believe he's 56 years old---and wouldn't look that bad if he wasn't so fat! And Adam West is, I think, 72, but for a man of his years, holds up pretty well. The action scenes including them are a bit tough to take, tho.

The actors playing the younger Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith as the Riddler and Penguin, respectively, are very good at getting a close approximation, particularly Gorshin. He's got that high-pitched squeally laugh of The Riddler nailed.

The real-life Gorshin and Julie Newmar show up in a couple of cameos. Newmar has aged very gracefully. But Gorshin..oh god...talk about cadaverous. I felt sorry that they got him out of bed for this. The poor man must be close to 80 and infirm. Just barely getting his lines out, and not even attempting to do his "Riddler laugh", he reveals he is the "madman" behind the theft of the Batmobile. Something having to do with jealousy over not being recognized as a great actor despite being the only one from the cast to receive an Emmy nomination!

The Batmobile is returned to the showroom. As the stars mingle with well-wishers, that mysterous voice-over appears. Adam and Burt trace it to a sound booth where...Lyle Waggoner is standing in front of the mic and comments to West, "That show would STILL be on the air if I'd gotten the part!" After a double-take at this, someone screams that the Batmobile has been stolen again! Adam and Burt agree to continue the chase.

Don't get me wrong. It's hard for me not to like something like this that contains so many dear memories from the past---but I'm sure my memory of this movie will wind up being better than the actual experience of viewing it.

The Batmobile and me
Standing next to the legendary vehicle at MegaCon, this time I'll guard the darn thing! ---Nolan

(The distinctive image of the Batman chest emblem I used in the title section is a trademark of DC Comics and Warner Bros Studios. The vid-caps are from the CBS broadcast. All are used here for editorial purposes only. ---Nolan)

The Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Influential Books of All Time.
Welp, Mike Smith has done it again. In last week's "Mike's Rant", he mentioned that the Science Fiction Book Club had recently come out with its list of the Top Ten Best Sci-Fi books of All Time. Mike then suggested we do our own Top 10 Challenge of same. Like an idiot, I thought no one was paying attention. WOOPS! Following, are the first lists, three of which I received within 48 hours of uploading last week's Mike's Rant. Guess everyone IS paying attention, good for you! You'll also notice that some responders took some liberties with the subject by including non-Sci-Fi material as "influential", but it's still mostly sci-fi. Hey, what the hell, we're always breaking rules around here. For anyone interested in participating, please review the original list in Mike's column for background, then write to me. --Nolan

First off, the "SF/Fantasy Bookclub" is just like "Columbia House", or "Recipe of the Month club" or one of those get ten for free when you buy five way over-priced items clubs. To me, they don't carry a whole lot of weight, or have any credibility. I have read several of the titles listed on this list, but I certainly wouldn't call them top ten material.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was a pretty good book, but the changes they made in the screenplay for the movie [adaptation] Blade Runner improved the story considerably.

The Lord of the Rings, I wholeheartedly agree with that being on the list. It's one that I have enjoyed, over and over. I attempted Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, and just couldn't get into it. His Robots series is far superior, but got ignored by their "top ten". Dune I attempted a couple times in high school, and couldn't get past the language; but I have enjoyed the movies so much that I will probably read it sometime. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke, was very good, but it is not my favorite by him. Farenheit 451 we read in school and I liked it enough to re-read it later, I guess as a classic, it would deserve to be on a "top ten", just like Childhood's End. Mists of Avalon I've never attempted, but I did like the television miniseries adaptation, but I guess that doesn't count. The others I've looked at in the store, and they did not seem interesting and I considered them forgettable and not worthy of being on the "top ten" list.

Now, just as they did, my "top ten" list is personal, and I just can't stay in the one genre, when choosing my favorites. I'm sure they wouldn't agree with my choices either and I'm not saying that their list sucks, I'm just saying we have very different opinions.

1. The Lord of the Rings/the Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien. I can't stop re-reading them.
2. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke (2 "b": The whole Rama series, which he later finished with Gentry Lee). Same thing with this series, I just keep re-reading them. By the way, it's a close call between Rama and the 2001 series.
3. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. This one always reminds me of how bad I wish I could teleport.
4. Jumper by Steven Gould (not to be confused with the late Stephen J. Gould). More teleporting. A very fun read.
5. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. I put this one, because it was the first one I read, and though I re-read them all, this is the one I re-read the most.
6. The Godfather by Mario Puzo. A fantastic book; I wish he would have continued the stories in novel form, and not just screenplays for movies. But then I wish they also had never done Godfather 3.
7. The Oz books by L. Frank Baum (and later continued by Ruth Plumly Thompson). I know they're kid's books, but they are just adorable and so fun to read.
8. Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. I've liked everyone in this series but the first one is best. She tended to get a little Romance-novel-like, in the others.
9. The Stand by Stephen King. Stephen King is a strange author. I would consider some of his stories classics, like The Stand, Green Mile, Different Seasons, Misery; but then there are so many others of his books that just aren't worth the time.
10. Several ties. I would probably list about 10 other books, but I'll just say Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett This had me laughing out loud, a lot of the time. I would also include the Robot Series by Isaac Asimov, because in a top ten, I think he has to be in there, somewhere. I would also include The three Star Wars novels by Timothy Zahn, (in lieu of the new movies, Timothy Zahn proved he knows way more about making Star Wars work than its creator does). And one more classic would be Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, just to step out of the SF/F genre one more time.

I know I'll think of more later, that I'll wish I had included; but these are the main books that I think of, when I think of my favorites.

CountPoffula :)

"Information is not knowledge/Knowledge is not wisdom/Wisdom is not truth/Truth is not beauty/ Beauty is not love/Love is not music/Music is THE BEST!"
             --Frank Zappa 1940-1993

Just like my dear Count Poffula, I have to take issue with the list proposed by the SF/Fantasy Book Club. They have picked from a list of books that, while as old as time, in my opinion, exist on the list solely for their age. In my opinion, 90% of their list is crap. Who, in God's name, takes Cyberpunk seriously? It's a good read if you want something fun and fatalistic, but hasn't time proved the Cyberpunks wrong? We do not, for all their hope, live in the world of Blade Runner, and therefore, as I suggest, these works should not be taken seriously, as they speak of nothing remotely plausible to our world, suspension of disbelief aside. A list such as this should, in my mind, contain books that say something. It was also sad to see that certain authors, here, are not as important as said authors believe themselves to be, or if they were, they blew all respect I might have had for them, when they opened their mouths. Some of these titles are simply mediocre, at best, while, on the other hand, one or two on the list (only one or two) have had the power to stand the test of time, and should hold a slot on any bookworm's shelf or to be read list (such as, say Dune). Nor do I think we should have thought so narrowly to just include one genre; SF/Fantasy strives (or should) to move beyond such narrow thinking.

I would, therefore, propose we rethink the list. As an extensive reader, my suggestions are wide-ranging as well as relevant to the given narrow categorization, so please bare with the indulgence.

My pick of the top ten SF/Fantasy/Classic works of all time are as follows:

1. The Eternal Champion by Michael Moorcock. Now, this a complex thing, Michael's Eternal Champion, and I speak not of the early works concerning John Darker as we have them from the recent anthology titled the Eternal Champion, but rather of Mr. Moorcock's trio of heroes: Elric of Melniboné, Corum and Ulrich von Bek, three of the four incarnations of the Eternal Champion. The books concerning these three (among them Elric of Melniboné, Stormbringer, the Vanishing Tower, Knight of Swords, Queen of Swords, King of Swords, and War Hound and the World's Pain) are rich in imagination, history, and philosophy. A recent read of War Hound and the World's Pain reminded me so much of why I love these heroes. Certain threads of philosophy, of a different form or reality of gods and their relationship to the Eternal in life pop out so vividly in these books and are treated so exquisitely, that I cannot help but see in life what Moorcock laid out in his version of reality. For instance, the War Hound and the World's Pain holds a very funny and different version of Hell that I just adored; a Hell that is nothing like the valley and lakes of fire we're taught to envision, but more like your average 17th century town; a place where (among others) a no doubt very surprised Martin Luther finds himself. The Eternal Champion is like that; at every turn there's some new way of looking at things that makes his readers (or me) fall back in love with him, every time.
2. Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf. Virginia Woolf is often misunderstood, by the casual reader. She is often seen as a bizarre woman, at best or a raging feminist lunatic, at worst. But Mrs. Dalloway shows Virginia's genius. That she could take one day in a life of an aging homemaker in London and weave it through the life of a disturbed WWI veteran wandering a park with his wife is brilliant. What Clarissa and Septimus deal with, in this one eight hour slot is amazing. Is Clarissa's party going to be a success or failure? Should she have married Peter instead of Richard, where are her old friends? And Septimus, poor man, with his delusions of persecution at the hands of the pigeons, or Dr. Holmes, whichever they may be, was exquisite. Viriginia's art was to weave all this together, and it is for that, that I place it so high on the list.
3. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burkhardt. This is the quintessential study on the Italian Renaissance, its rulers, its art, its people and troubles. Though written in 1860, this book provides one of the best overviews of the Italian Renaissance that I've yet found.
4. Gold by Isaac Asimov. As my dear Count Poffula pointed out, Asimov deserves to be represented on any best of list of books. Gold is one of his lesser known titles; it is a collection of essays he composed dealing with his personal theories, trials and tribulations along his path as an author. I am still struck by his dream of heaven, in which he was crushed to find, though he was admitted, regardless of his atheism, that he would no longer be permitted to write. And yet, this is but a taste of the psychology he lays forth in this astounding collection. Each essay is a gem. I would highly recommend it to any aspiring author.
5. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf. Her quintessential "Feminist" work goes far beyond that paltry little label, in my opinion. This work speaks to the troubles aspiring authors face from all sides, most notably, from themselves. I've just finished reading this and will soon be placing a full review of it, on my homepage. No criticism here. It's Virginia Woolf! If Michael Moorcock is GOD, Virginia is his rightful Goddess!
6. The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. Certainly not the first or last AR book I've ever read, but it is definitely the best. This is our tortured hero, par excellence. This is what I think one envisions when they speak of vampires. How could one resist Lestat? Aside from her stellar and charming main character, Ms. Rice's treatment of the 18th century alone is enough to bring me back to Lestat's first full tale, time and again.
7. The Hobbit/The Fellowship of the RIng by J.R.R. Tolkien. The first two novels of the classic series. A triumph of the fledgling genre, in my opinion, and deserving of a spot on any list. His treatment of the Norse myths alone is worth the read, and heck, this is just one fun read. This is what Fantasy should have been.
8. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot/Carmilla by J. Sheridan LeFanu. These two were hard to place. Daniel Deronda was my first introduction to the works of George Eliot (lo, a long age gone by) and it is one of the best ltreatments of the waning of the Victorian Age, and the prejuidices thereof, that I've yet to find. As for Carmilla--well, this is what Dracula wished it could have been. Given the two, Carmilla is light years ahead of Dracula, in every conceivable way. One can feel for the main characters here, their lust, their terror, their fascination, much better than one can with the characters of Stoker's tome, who feel flat as the paper their written on, by comparison.
9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley/Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Frankenstein is one of the oft-misunderstood and mis-interpreted books of our time. On the surface of it, it works as the horror story Shelley envisioned it to be; but once again, the underlayer is what so intrigued me. This book is about creativity, pure and simple, and the agony thereof (plug again). Jane Eyre, then, is the female answer (so to speak) to George Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda. Jane Eyre showed, in all its gorey detail, exactly what was wrong with the place in which women found themselves, in the mid-1800s, and it has yet to find its equal.
10. With A Tangled Skein by Piers Anthony/Hamlet by Shakespeare. A giant in the field this is but one volume of his Incarnations of Immortality series, taking the reader from a typical picaresque Fantasy setting, into a living portrait of the Greek gods, in a sense. It was one of the first titles of his, that I had read, and it shows what Fantasy could be, but what it has yet to achieve. And can I place one more? On any top list of literature, a spot should always be held for The Bard, himself. Shakespeare's Hamlet has the intrigue, cunning, mystery and "fantasy" of any of the foregoing genre pieces, and it has, where others have yet to prove, far surpassed the test of time. Hamlet has always been, and will always be, the great Anti-hero, come what may; this is what all characters aspire to.

OK, Mike Smith, I'll bite. If you're challenging with the Top Ten Science-Fiction and Fantasy books, here's mine. Mind you, a lot of these are old school. I've read a lot of more recent novels, but these are the ones I grab and re-read (out of our stacks of around 5000 books in our museum) just about every year. Personal, perennial favorites. In no particular order:

Hobbit/Lord of the Rings Trilogy: I lumped all these together as one,because they are crucial to one another. OK, I'll throw The Silmarillion in there,too,because it provides a lot of background. One of the classics I grew up on.
Alas, Babylon - by Pat Frank: Kind of like "On the Beach" but set in Florida. Great tale of people surviving in a small central Florida town after nuclear armageddon. Tampa gets nuked,they can see the flash as MacDill gets toasted. Great read.
Martian Chronicles - by Ray Bradbury: I love everything that Bradbury does, but this stands out as a classic. Sad, brooding, ethereal and sometimes funny interlinked stories of man's colonization and commercialization of Mars. I also have to throw in "S is for space", "R is for rocket", "Fahrenheit 451", and "I Sing the Body Electric". All excellent.
The Andromeda Strain - by Michael Crichton: Truly eerie book that spans five days after a satellite lands in a small town, and the biological terror that ensues. Made into a great movie, too.
1984 - by George Orwell: Well, 1984 has come and gone, but this strangely prophetic book still holds true today, in our post-9/11 world. Ignorance is Strength, baby.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley: Same as above, dealing more with the science aspect than the political, frighteningly getting closer to reality.
A Clockwork Orange - by Anthony Burgess: The book had a glossary to help you navigate the language, which was helpful. A little more powerful than the movie, but both the movie and the book are in my top 10 of everything I have ever experienced. "Viddy well,my droogs."
The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat-by Harry Harrison: A collection of three novellas, it has one of the most engaging characters ever written. The stories feature a charming rouge con-man who gets turned into an agent for the elite Special Corps. Smart and funny. Where's the movie for this?
Foundation Trilogy & I, Robot - Isaac Asimov: Both of these belong in any science-fiction library.
Dune - by Frank Herbert: I don't even know where to begin on this one. I'll just assume that everyone has read this masterpiece, and has their own reasons for liking it. A true classic, it even transcends the genre of science-fiction because of its universal appeal.

Well, that's mine, PCR Gang...Look forward to seeing everyone else's... I'm always on the lookout for fresh reading.

Richard Sousa

As usual, I'm crushed for time with work, so I'll have to enter my Top 10 sans commentary. I really thought about where these would fall in order, and when I was first done, I was pretty happy with it. Of course, now that I've taken the time to write this that you're now reading, I see some adjustments I could possibly make. But let's face it, isn't that the way it is with every Top 10? So, in order, but no particular order, except for Lord being number 1, here is my top 10.

1. Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
2. The Time Machine - HG Wells
3. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley (hey, it IS about a scientist!)
4. Conan the Barbarian - Robert E Howard
5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Jules Verne
6. Tarzan of the Apes - Edger Rice Burroughs
7. The War of the Worlds - HG Wells
8. Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
9. The Land That Time Forgot - Edgar Rice Burroughs
10. Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

Valis by Phillip K. Dick -- a paranoid exploration of the nature of reality/realities, perception, religion, and perspective.
The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester -- a super slick, rocket-paced sci-fi detective thriller.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester -- a fast, hot, superb operatic epic. Hard to believe no one has turned Bester's work into films.
The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard -- apocalypse of the mind and the planet: by water and jungle.
Vermillon Sands by J. G. Ballard -- poetic landscapes where dreams come true while reality shifts with the sands.
Tales of Known Space by Larry Niven -- tremendous ideas about space, math, society and luck.
Colour Out of Space by H. P. Lovecraft -- space is eeeeevil.
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie -- satirizing a major religion can get you in big trouble. Fantastic images from Indian mythology.
Nortstrilia by Cordwainer Smith -- a gorgeous epic.
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov -- Asimov invents the robot, and then puts him through hell.

--Scott (Andromeda Society) Gilbert

I'm so glad that many readers took my top 10 book challenge to heart. Before I list my top 10 favorites, let me add that I really wasn't a science fiction junkie as a kid. I've read a few novels and would have to list "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" as a personal favorite. Anyway, my top 10 influential books are:

1. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller by E L Konigsburg - two children decide to live in a New York museum. One of those books that you read over and over as a kid.
2. Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - an excellent choice by Richard Sousa. I think this was required reading at Plant. And yes, it was weird to imagine MacDill being nuked.
3. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - one of the first true crime novels. I was so captivated by the book that I ended up in Kansas primarily so I could visit the Clutter farm. Imagine my joy when I learned that a friend of my father in law was a witness at Dick and Perry's execution!
4. Jaws by Peter Benchley - Yes, I read it after I saw the movie. Another book to read over and over again.
5. The Godfather by Mario Puzo - I must admit that as a kid I only read the part where Sonny bangs his girlfriend against the wall. However I eventually did read the whole thing! One of the greatest examples of story telling ever.
6. Carrie by Stephen King - the first King novel I ever read. Who in high school didn't identify even a little with Carrie White?
7. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Also required reading at Plant. I've since read it at least 50 times.
8. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen - While hanging around the set of "Tin Men," I struck up a conversation with Bruno Kirby. He recommended this book and I found it to be an invaluable resource to me as an actor.
9. The Making of........... - pretty much any behind-the-scenes book on the making of a particular film. Back before DVD and director commentaries this was the way to get the back story. Special kudos to Carl Gottlieb and his "Jaws Log."
10. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi - What a read! The story of the Tate/LaBianca killings as told by the prosecutor who put Charles Manson and his followers away for life. A vivid memory: just finishing up the chapter where the family is "creepy crawling" a house and the light in my bedroom burns out!

(The above list also appears in this issue's "Mike's Rant". ---Nolan)

OK, major disclaimer here. And it's very embarrassing, but here it is for the millionth time. Altho I'm an avid fan of Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror, like Michael Smith, it's been mostly from television and the movies and (somewhat ironically) I haven't accumulated all that much of the printed word under my belt. Not to say I'm not a devotee or never read any, that's not true. But I'm a HUGE non-fiction reader, from the dubious/spurious ("The Day After Roswell", "Communion"), to merely informative ("How-to...", "Javascript for the Web...", "Making-of...", "My Life as a....") to the more cerebral ("A Brief History of Time", "Mismeasure of Man", "Why People Believe in Weird Things", "The Age of Reason, Parts 1 & 2"), and currently find my nose buried in video production magazines or movie scripts (a type of fiction, that). It's been hard to find time for fiction reading strictly for entertainment value. But, when I did, my tastes tended toward short-story mags (Amazing, Analog/Astounding, Galaxy), compilations, graphic magazines (Heavy Metal-type), and occasionally, yes, full novels. Re: epic tomes like The Lord of the Rings, Dune, and The Foundation Trilogy---altho I started all of them, and am intimately familiar with all their major plot points and characters (in fandom you can't escape them if you wanted to), I was too intimidated by what looked like several years' investment in reading, so I never finished them, and I can't legitimately count them. (My main regret is a resultant weak position I have to take on how the novels compare to their movie counterparts--I have to rely on others for guidance.) The lion's share of full-novel category reading was done in my younger years, so, like Matt, may come off as "required reading"-like, which is NOT intended. For a period I enjoyed the occasional movie novelization, but that faded quickly. The ones most outstanding in my memory of those were "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Star Trek: the Motion Picture", and "Jurassic Park". The best of those will start off my official novels list:

1. 2001: A Space Oddysey by Arthur C. Clarke. Movie or novel, novel or movie, is it both is it neither? Can one exist without the other? (Terence would argue that one must exist without the other.) Modern-day humans discover evidence that we've been visited before and, more to the point, enhanced by alien vistors millions of years ago. But are we ready for the next step in our evolution? The movie, written by Arthur C. Clarke (loosely based on a riff from Childhood's End, according to Clarke) and Stanley Kubrick (god knows what he was thinking), and directed by Kubrick, initally scorned by many confused critics and loved by curious pot-heads, has since been hailed as a modern classic.
2. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne. Entering multiple titles in a single number in these lists is a bad habit I started, and some argued that it devalues the list. I don't exactly agree with that when there are so many criteria to listing "favorites" or "the best". So, while I resisted/doing the/slash thing, I must mention that, among the first books by this genius author to truly immerse me include From the Earth To The Moon (where Tampa was a prime location), and A Journey to The Center of The Earth. All read cover-to-cover and worth every minute.
3. Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. A huge, strange object enters the solar system and nears Earth on an apparent trajectory towards the sun. But why is it here? Who built it and what is its purpose? Another suspensful and thought-provoking tome from Clarke.
4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Unfortunately spoofed to death in the media for close to 100 years, especially since the classic Karloff thriller of the '30s, and countless cartoons since, the younger generation may fear this as a quick pulp read of a bygone era. I know I did until, on a lark, I actually read it in the '70s. This masterpiece is absolutely required reading for every serious student of the genre. In fact several genres, sci-fi, horror, science-fiction, philosophy, it covers everything.
5. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum . Among the first things of the genre I ever read, and very influential. I must've read this every year in grade school. The 1939 movie remains fun and watchable and totally un-remakable unto this day.
6. The series run of Heavy Metal magazine from 1976--1996. And I have almost all of them. The early Heavy Metals showcased the best of the best, but in later years got too "Euro" for my taste. The 1980 movie, based on the most popular strips, remains to me, a classic. The 2000 movie was a disappointment, despite adding computer animation. But, I digress...
7. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. Like Jules Verne, a timelessness pervades all of Wells' work. Also read The Time Machine, later the foundation for the George Pal movie (and the latter-day remake). The 1939 radio show based on Well's book sent shock waves through the country. I forget how many of these things have been made into movies.
8. The Time Tunnel by Murray Leinster. An obscure title I have never been able to get out of my head. I read this in the 60s and was allegedly what gave Irwin Allen the idea to do a like-themed TV series. The novel is NOT like the TV show, the tunnel is more like a cave-tunnel leading to an old western town in the 1800s.
9. Fantantic Voyage by Isaac Asimov. Sorry for another movie-related item, but I loved this adaptation to death.
And my non-Sci-Fi entry for most influential:
10. Learn to Draw with Jon Gnagy. This is my non-Sci-Fi, MOST influential book of all time. I had been drawing comics since the early 60s and my maternal grandmother gave me this learn-to-draw kit sometime during my grade-school years (late 60s). Altho my poor parents paid hundreds of dollars to enroll me in the Famous Artists Course (in 2003 dollars that would translate into thousands), this dime-store kit really got to me. Jon Gnagy was among the first--or was the first---TV "how-to" artist with a program that started in, I think, 1949. The Jon Gnagy kit-with-instruction book-and-art supplies instilled habits and techniques I have used to this day. I studied that book until I thought my eyes would burn a hole through it. And yes, I still have the kit.
Honorable mention: Monster Make-Up by Dick Smith, available in the late 60s, was gotten by me about 10 years later. A pioneer in teaching, Dick Smith is an award-winning special-effects movie make-up artist. I ordered this book (actually a magazine) from Famous Monsters' "Captain Company" section. That's also where I got the Fantasy Film Scrapbook by Ray Harryhausen, another real mind-blower whose timing was just right.
Honorable mention for Top Sci-fi/Fantasy work: Without getting everyone's panties in a bunge, I must include
The King James Bible, particularly the Book of Matthew. My inner circle knows how I feel about this. Admittedly, Steve (below) reminded me to include it.

Here, in no particular order are mine....

1. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
3. Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
4. 1984 by George Orwell
5. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
7. From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne
8. The Communion by Whitley Streiber
9. War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
10. The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkein
11. The Holy Bible by various writers (scribes?) is the most
sci-fi/fantasy/influential book (to the masses) of all time, however NOT to myself.


Birds of PreyWill Moriaty and I would like to remind readers there's a website you can go to if you wish to participate in the "bring back the Birds of Prey" TV series campaign: http://www.birdsofpreyonline.com/campaign/
And, oh yes.....a new Schlock! (delayed for the last couple weeks...my fault). Will Moriaty has contributed, I have uploaded, and we now present for your entertainment his side-splitting review of 1954's Female Jungle!

La Floridiana
This week's issue
La Floridiana by William Moriaty
FLORIDA NEWS........UPDATES...... .................Click here for more.

Matt's Rail
This week's issue
Matt's Rail by Matt Drinnenberg
FM TRADEMARK UPDATE........MOVIE MADNESS........ .................Click here for more.

Movie Reviewmovie review
This Week's Movie Review:

Bringing Down the House  review by Michael Smith

The Digital Divide
This week's issue
The Digital Divide by Terence Nuzum

This week: In Concert with Interpol

Mike's RantMike's Rant
This week's issue
OSCARS ON THE HORIZON?........ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE - AND A DVD PLAYER........ BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!........ .................Click here for more.

Letters to the EditorWe welcome your feedback.

Readers: the coverage of the Orlando MegaCon '03 in last week's issue was something I am extremely proud of, got dynamite response to, and I send thanks to all involved. Unresolved was the issue of unanticipated hurdles Byron Rocher had with the Michael Rosenbaum (Lex Luthor on Smallville) autograph reservations. What follows is his letter of complaint to MegaCon. --Nolan

To: info@megacon.com
Subject: Celebrities?

I paid admission for Saturday and had a great time at the show, but because your top headliner celebrity was only on Sunday, I foolishly paid for admission for Sunday too, thinking that I would have a fairly good chance at having a couple of things signed. Next time I will only pay for the day that you have somebody interesting enough to sign autographs for. It would've made more since for you all to pre-register for signing opportunities and maybe charge a minimal amount like $3 - 5 so that you could process that line quicker and not have people waiting around from 6am just to wait around in another line for his/her autograph. If that doesn't sound appealing then you should've had more signing periods so that people could still enjoy the show Sunday instead of waiting forever, since we did pay for another admission fee. Maybe sign autographs 9am-11, hour break, 12pm-2pm, hour break 3pm-5pm.

Why couldn't he be available Sat?

Byron [Rocher]

(I sent an email to them about the ridiculous need to wait 2 hours in line to pick up a signing availibility ticket only to spend another 3 hours to wait in Michael Rosenbaum's line for his next autograph session ---- needless to say I didn't wait because 1) his autograph is not worth $20 a pop and 2) Definitely not going to wait in the ticket line from 9am to 11am, just to wait in his booth line till his next signing time at 2pm, only to be near the end of that line hoping that it clears out by 4pm.
Attached is their response, below. --- Byron)

From: Beth Widera
To: Byron Rocher
Subject: Re: Celebrities?

I apologize for the long lines and your displeasure with the show Byron. Every year we try a new system to see what works. However, unfortunately yes, when you do have a headline celebrity, lines do tend to become outrageously long simply because people are so excited and want to ensure that they be the first in line. And yes, you are correct about people starting to line up at 6am. That is pretty much when the convention center itself starts opening their doors. We have no control as to what time fans choose to start lining up, obviously some chose to wait, some don't. As for the signing schedules, it is actually Mr. Rosenbaum and his agent that inform us of their signing availability. He was unavailable to do a Saturday signing.

Thank you.

Tiffany Moncada
MegaCon Assistant

And lest you think Mike Smith has finished giving Delta Airlines hell for their atrocious service and lame customer support (documented here in Mike's Rant PCR #151, then in PCR lettercols #152 & #153), READ ON. ---Nolan

Ms. Sterioff:
I am in receipt of you latest reply and again I find it unsatisfactory. In your letter you state:

"Normally the order of accommodation is determined on a first-come, first-served basis. The priority code and the designated time, not the order of arrival at the boarding gate, determine the order of accommodation. However, the nature of travel, such as death and emergency, or passengers inconvenienced from previous flights are given priority classifications. A higher or more expensive fare is not the primary factor in determining the order a passenger is added to the standby list"
This may be the company line and perhaps you even believe it. However, if passengers inconvenienced from previous flights are indeed given priority then that poor family of 6 would not have still been sitting in the terminal when I finally left. And if, in fact, a higher or more expensive fare is NOT the primary factor, then I must request that the supervisor, who I have already named in a previous letter, be reprimanded for telling me that.

But what really upsets me the most is that, not once in our many correspondences, have you ever asked what Delta could do for me to make up for their lousy service. You've never said "I'm sorry that my companies incompetence caused both you and your son to miss a day's work, and, subsequently, a day's pay." It's obvious by the repeated canned answers you keep sending that you have no idea what the term "customer service" really means.

I would welcome the chance to hear from one of YOUR supervisors and discuss this matter further.

Thank you for your time.
Michael Smith

Their response is below. I love this: "Yes, we have failed. All we can say is we are sorry." Once again, they are saying "fuck you!" --Mike

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for your most recent e-mail message.

The airline industry is very competitive, and the goodwill of our customers is important to the lasting success of our company. We are keenly aware that Deltas success depends on our ability to please our customers, and we strive to maintain the highest possible standards in all areas of our operation. Consequently we share your disappointment about the problems you encountered. Your travel experience indicates that we failed to provide the quality service for which we have always been known.

Again, I would like to emphasize that we are extremely sorry for the situation that you experienced, and that our position on the matter has had such an impact. We have tried to apologize in the sincerest manner possible and with the best of intentions in mind. We clearly recognize that we cannot become complacent, and we are actively and aggressively seeking ways to improve all areas of our operation.

If you wish additional communication, you may contact our Customer Care Department at 1-800-335-8241. Select prompt 1 for the Delta Administrative Offices, followed by sub-prompt 6 for Customer Care.

In addition, you may direct additional correspondence to Ms. Valerie Henry, Director - Customer Care. Her mailing address is as follows:

Delta Air Lines, Inc.
Customer Care
P.O. Box 20980
Atlanta, Georgia 30320-2980

Mr. Smith, thank you once again for writing. We will always welcome the opportunity to be of service.

Regina R. Sterioff
Customer Care



ED and Adam
ED's first autograph attempt with Adam West years ago did not go smoothly...
I'm sure you didn't think I could let anything involving my "old chum" and nearly impromptu sparring partner Adam West go by without a few comments. I have to admit I enjoyed "Back to the Batcave" a lot more than I thought I would so that is saying something. First off I think you are dead on about the Gilligan's Island connection. If you notice, Batcave was produced by Dawn "Mary Ann" Wells. I guess she got tired of making quality films like "Return to Boggy Creek" and "The Town that Dreaded Sundown" and decided to become a producer. I have to nitpick you one point in favor of the movie. Contrary to your statement, Adam and Burt were not in the Batmobile when it was stolen, they were only standing next to it. (Mea Culpa, my friend. Truth to tell, my ancient VCR chose Sunday night to malfunction, and I did not see the first ten minutes of the show, which is how I also missed the production credits. In an effort to be complete, the part about the auction was described to me second-hand, verbally, by a heretofore reliable source. I stand corrected.--N) Bottom line is you only had to suspend belief by about 98% in that scene to believe someone could take the keys from Adam and drive off that quickly, in the dark no less, and not the full 100%! I do agree with you on the casting though, the actors were dead on and it was great to see the old-timers again. While Frank Gorshin does look a little cadaverous these days, I have to remind you he NEVER looked young, even in his youth! Check out "Invasion of the Saucermen" if you don't believe me. (Point taken.--N) I had the opportunity to meet him a few years ago at a Jacksonville dinner theater. He gave an outstanding performance in the show and then performed a very well tailored and hilarious stand up routine for over an hour. He still gets around pretty good for his age and was very appreciative of the fans.

I actually got the full story on the aftermath of Byron's Megacon adventures by reading it in your letter column. (See "Celebrities?", above --N) I called him up afterwards and told him that I noticed two very interesting points in Megacon's reply. First, and most obvious, for all their apologies there is no mention of a refund of his Sunday admission or a discount to next year's show. I say put your money where your mouth is if you really care about the fans' feelings. Second, and most disturbing to me, is the statement "Every year we try a new system to see what works" made by the representative from Megacon. Doesn't this mean that in all the years Megacon has been held they have never gotten the celebrity autograph situation right? (Chris Dumais of Legion Studios made the same comment during an IM session we just had.---N) Last time I checked, and back when I was promoting shows, celebrities were PAID to attend them and lend their names to the publicity for the event. Within reason, any celebrity I ever hired, and their representatives, were told where to be and how long to be there. Once I paid the expenses to bring them to the show and their fee for being there, I essentially owned them during the hours of the event. That is not to say that I did not treat them very respectfully but I made sure they fulfilled the purpose they were being paid to perform. It seems to me that Megacon would be better off including a signed photo of their top shelf celebrity guests with the price of each ticket and then let the fans decide if they want to stand in line to have it personalized.

Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed! Roger, ready to move out!

- ED [Tucker] -

Even though the MegaCon situation described by ED, Byron and myself and the Delta Airlines situation described my Michael Smith, both in this lettercol, are totally unrelated, they both share one common element: frustration with inept or ambivalent customer service. Up to now that could make or break an industry. In these hard economic times, is this what we're expected to live with and accept?
I'm glad Frank Gorshin is more robust in real life than he was shown during "Batcave". I guess the shift of blame for those scenes should go toward the director. ---Nolan

To send an email to Letters to the Editor write to: Crazedfanboy1@aol.com.  Any emails sent to this address will be assumed intended for publication unless you specifically instruct me not to. I can and do respond privately, if that is your preference. Frequently, it's both ways.---Nolan

"Mike's Rant" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    "La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty    "Matt's Rail" is ©2003 by Mathew Drinnenberg    "The Digital Divide" is ©2003 by Terence Nuzum    This week's movie review of "Bringing Down the House" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith    Thanks to all who participated in the "Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Most Influential Books of All Time challenge"    Add'l thanks to Byron Rocher, Michael Smith, and ED Tucker for their input in "Letters"      All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova

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