9000 Year Old Painting of Volcano Linked to Real Eruption…

This is the type of stuff I absolutely love to read about: An ancient painting of an exploding volcano has been linked to a real-life eruption that happened in and around that same time in Turkey:


The bottom line is that the painting is about 9000 years old and scientists have been able to determine that the Hasan Dag volcano erupted “8,970 years ago, plus or minus 640 years, according to a new dating technique that analyzes zircon crystals in volcanic rock“.

Which means that the painting was probably made in and around the same time the volcano actually erupted.  Therefore the painting may well be our very distant ancestors making a note of something they personally witnessed!

Fascinating, fascinating stuff!

More on the War of the Worlds Broadcast…

Yesterday I linked to an article from Slate magazine that explored the reality of the “panic” created by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938 (you can read about that here).

Here’s another interesting article by Michael Roffman for Time magazine concerning the broadcast and its effects on culture.  As with the Salon article, I agree with many of the points Mr. Roffman makes.  Even if the so-called “panic” that supposedly resulted from the broadcast was probably more myth than reality, this does not negate the huge impact the broadcast had on the media, both then and -yes- up to and including today, even if many may not realize this.

Just goes to show, that Orson Welles fellow was pretty damn clever and anticipated many  of the things to come…


Two Sentence Horror Stories…the redux

A while back (you can read it here) I found an interesting bit on io9.com regarding two sentence horror stories.  Several of the ones featured in the article were genuinely chilling.

Salon.com has now presented twelve examples of the same, two sentence (very) brief thrillers/chillers.



The Myth of the “War of the Worlds” Panic…

I’ve always had this nagging suspicion that the stories of the panic that followed the broadcast of The War of the Worlds for radio by a young, pre-movie stardom Orson Welles and based on the equally famous science fiction novel by H. G. Wells (no relation) were exaggerated.

Granted, all this happened a long time ago -1938 to be exact- and mass media wasn’t quite as overwhelming as today so most of the stories I read furthered the idea that the broadcast did create a panic.  Yet I couldn’t help but think for this to have happened, we had to believe people back then were, bluntly, rubes.  Easily swayed.  Easily fooled.

But let me back up a moment.  The story of the radio broadcast of The War of the World goes like this:  The radio-play was presented as a “newscast” and it was the nature of the serious “reporting” within the play itself that fooled many people into thinking the events unfolding were actually real, that Earth/New Jersey was being invaded by Martians at this very moment.  Naturally, this was what supposedly caused the panic that followed.

Again, the question I (and others of course) asked was exactly how much of this panic was true?

In honor of 75 Anniversary of the transmission, Jefferson Pooley and Michael Socolow offer a fascinating article for Slate.com exploring the myth and reality of what actually happened when Orson Welles and company staged their infamous radio play, and the reality of the “panic” that followed:


At the risk of ruining a big chunk of the article, the authors state there is scant evidence there was any “massive” panic at all (the article goes as far as saying almost no one was “fooled” into thinking there was a genuine invasion and what panic there was was so minimal as to be “immeasurable”).

Which brings up the more intriguing question: Where did this panic story come from and why?

I found the answer to that one of the more fascinating things in the article and, no, I won’t give it away here.

Give the article a read, it offers a fascinating window into myth making.

For Halloween…

Two lists.  First up, 10 Scariest Movies You May Have Never Seen, at least according to Time magazine:


I’ve seen seven of the listed films and, for the most part, their inclusion on the list is good.  However, I would disagree about at least two of the items: the original Evil Dead and the 1922 Nosferatu.  I suspect many people have seen at least bits of either film and certainly they’re well known.

In a list like this, I expected more oddball/unknown features.  In this case, the one that most intrigued me was the French film Inside.  Sounds pretty creepy…

Next up, Time Magazine again, this time offering a list of the 10 Greatest Stephen King movies:


Once again, a decent list that few will probably argue with.  If there is one film on the list I might not include it is The Secret Window.  Much as I enjoyed Johnny Depp’s acting in the film, to me the movie unraveled when the revelations came in the climax.

Then again, that’s me.

This Is The End (2013) a (mildly) belated review

Dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.

Now this is a tough one to grade.

On the one hand, there were many scenes in This Is The End, the Seth Rogen/James Franco/Jay Baruchel/Danny McBride/Jonah Hill/Craig Robinson film that had me laughing out loud…

…yet there were an equal number of moments that tested my patience.  Eventually I had more than my fill of the movie and turned it off perhaps a half hour before its end (no pun intended!).

Once I shut the film off, I didn’t think I’d return to it.  That’s how tired I was of the whole thing.

Nonetheless, I knew there wasn’t much left to see so I decided to finish the film off.  Lo and behold, I greatly enjoying the movie’s climax/last act.  I’m certain the one day rest away from the film greatly helped as I found these parts fun and very funny.

The moral of the story?  Watch This Is The End in at least two sittings.

So that’s the crux of the movie’s problem:  While quite humorous at times, the film feels way, waaaay too long at 107 minutes.  The film’s concept, by the way, is this: Seth Rogen and his Hollywood friends play Looney Tune versions of themselves and while partying at actor James Franco’s house the Apocalypse hits Earth and their numbers dwindle as they ineptly fend for themselves.

Had the boys brought a good editor with them, s/he might have trimmed down the film’s excesses while sharpening the admittedly funny jokes and giving us an overall better product.

A good example of this is the sequence involving Emma Watson beating the boys up and stealing their food/water supplies.  This sequence, as presented in its abbreviated form in the theatrical trailer below, is hilarious.  In the movie, we get this extended -and not as funny- bit where the boys let Emma Watson back into James Franco’s house and then get into a discussion of the fact that she’s the only female in this house full of men…and of course the dialogue gets into the potential for one or more of them getting the urge to rape her.  Emma overhears this conversation and this is why she ultimately splits.

But the joke, to my mind, works better in the abbreviated form of the trailer: Emma breaks into the house, intimidates and beats the boys up before stealing their supplies and they lament the fact that they got their asses kicked by “Hermione”.

As I said before, the film does have its share of very humorous sequences.  The problem is the film is way too overindulgent and could have used more judicious pruning.  A shame.  Had the film run perhaps 90 minutes or so it might have been far better.

Lou Reed…

…rest in peace.  Many have noted the big hits he was involved with, the most memorable being his Velvet Underground work and, of course, his biggest hit, the album Transformer.  Loved them too, and greatly enjoyed these songs, from one of his lesser remembered ones, the 1984 album New Sensations.

To you, Lou…

5 Movie Deaths…

…that should have been really easy to avoid:



Was particularly amused by the first entry, regarding the death of the villain in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.  I never thought of it that way, though the author makes a terrific -and accurate- point.  I suppose in my defense I was enjoying myself so much in the movie that I didn’t even realize how silly the premise of what he does is.

(And, yes, they do mention the ridiculous death-by-rolling-starship in Prometheus).

The things you find on the internet…

…how about a fascinating article by Rebecca Onion for Slate magazine which offers examples and a link to a book of criminal slang from the 19th century?


If this has you interested, check out the link to the full book on 19th century (more specifically circa 1850’s) slang:


Some random words I came across in the book:

“Easy” = Killed

“Fork” = A pickpocket

“Frog” = A policeman (interestingly, “Pig” was also used as slang to describe a policeman, and this very insulting term remains used today.  You can find plenty of references to animals and many of them, like “Pig”, remain familiar even today.  “Pigeon”, for example, retains its meaning from the 1850’s, ie a criminal who may engage in a crime and then inform on his partners to the law.  A “Rat” remains a cheat).

“Jilt” = A prostitute who “hugs and kisses a country-man” while her accomplice(s) rob him.

“Pin-Money” = Money received by a married woman for prostituting herself.

“Roper-In” = A man who visits hotels and other places for the purpose of ingratiating himself with persons who have plenty of cash and little prudence…and then luring them to gaming houses, presumably to cheat them out of said cash.

“Shadow” = First class police officer.  Wonder if that was one of the original reasons why the name was chosen for the famous pulp character of the same name?

“Vampire” = A man who lives by extorting money from men and women whom he has seen coming or going out of houses of “assignation”.

This one is really fascinating: “Whip-Jacks” = Men who pretend to be shipwrecked sailors!  I imagine enough people pulled off this trick for this term to merit inclusion in the 1850 book, but I can’t help but wonder why people would pull that particular con in the old days.  In other words, what were they hoping to get for creating this story?  Sympathy?  Ill-gained charity?  Or perhaps lying their way onto cargo ships and a “real” job?

Fascinating, fascinating stuff.

27 Insane (But True) Early Versions of Famous Characters

Fun list from Cracked.com featuring both early concepts and originally considered actors for some truly memorable roles/characters:


Some of the early actor considerations, like Burt Ward (TV’s Robin) originally considered for the role made famous by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, was known to me.  But John Travolta for Forrest Gump?  Interesting!  (I’ll repeat for the umpteenth time my favorite bit of original casting: Frank Sinatra as Dirty Harry!  Reportedly a painful finger injury made Mr. Sinatra bow out of the film as he didn’t think he could handle firing that massive 357 Magnum.  The role was offered to many other interesting names with various degrees of interest/disinterest, from Burt Lancaster to John Wayne to Robert Mitchum.  Eventually Clint Eastwood took over the job and Dirty Harry the movie and character arguably became the most famous/iconic role he ever played!)

Also like the revelation that Krusty the Clown was originally supposed to be Homer Simpson himself!  Makes sense as he did originally look an awful lot like Homer and the idea that Homer was secretly the character might have been an interesting concept for a few episodes.

Just goes to show that the creative process is rarely a very direct one.  People can come up with concepts and ideas but they are refined and changed over time and circumstance…sometimes giving far, far better results than were originally conceived!