Apocalyptic Stories

I enjoy books and movies with apocalyptic themes.  The cause may vary from zombies, to alien invasion, to a plague, or even a nuclear war; however, the stories tend to share certain characteristics.

The characters are ordinary people accomplishing great things in order to survive.  They display courage and determination in the face of dire circumstances.  They overcome great odds and attempt to build a better world.

That’s why I love apocalyptic stories.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

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For the next six weeks, the Huntsville Library is showing classic science-fiction movies from the 1950’s.  This week we watched The Thing from Another World, which hit the big screen in 1951.

The movie is about a flying saucer that landed near an Arctic research station.  The pilot of the spacecraft was a plant based advanced life form.

The lead scientist at the research station, Dr. Arthur Carrington, wanted to befriend the alien creature.  He hoped to establish a mutually beneficial relationship.  He believed this would lead to huge advancements in science.

Unfortunately, the alien rebuffed Dr. Carrington and killed him.  In the movie, the scientist appeared stupid and naive.

Caption Patrick Hendry was the leading Air Force officer at the research station.  He believed the alien should be killed in order to protect mankind from the possibility of being destroyed by a powerful race of extraterrestrial creatures.

Caption Hendry and his fellow soldiers fought bravely and used electricity to kill the alien.  Caption Hendry was the hero of the movie.

In the early 1950’s, America was facing a growing communist threat.  There was a lot of fear concerning the Soviet Union and many believed America might be invaded by communist.

There were a lot debates on how to deal with this threat.  Should Americans use diplomacy and find a peaceful solution?  Should Americans use military might to stop the spread of communism?

This film used science-fiction to entertain and address culturally significant issues.  The movie is listed and persevered in the National Film Registry, because of it’s cultural significance.

I enjoyed watching the movie.  The plot was clear and concise.  The characters were well developed and often engaged in witty dialogue.  It is worth watching, especially when you know the historical and cultural significance of the film.

George Romero – Zombie Guru

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George Romero passed away yesterday, due to lung cancer.  He was 77 years old.

In 1968, George Romero directed the film “Night of the Living Dead.”  His film quickly became a classic and is credited for launching the zombie genre into the mainstream.

The movie also featured an African-American man in a leading role and portrayed him as a hero.  Ben (played by Duane Jones) was resourceful and level headed, unlike several other characters in the film.

George Romero decided to cast Duane Jones as Ben, because he displayed great skill and was the best actor for the role.  George Romero was willing to go against cultural norms, placing a non-white actor in a leading role and as a hero, was simply not done in the late 1960’s.

In many ways, George Romero was way ahead of his time.

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Rabid – A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

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This book is unique, because it takes an in-depth look at rabies and how the virus influenced human history and our culture.

There is a historical section that describes treatments used in the middle ages.  The infected person would have the wound cauterized and blood would be drained from their bodies.  Various herbs and spices were also used in an attempt to purify the body.

Louis Pasteur developed a vaccine that could save victims if administered before they showed signs of the disease.  However, some physicians of that time did not believe in germ theory and felt the vaccine was dangerous or would be ineffective.

There is another section that explains how the virus is transmitted and how it kills the victim.  It also talks about the viruses ability to spread quickly within a geographical region and which animals are most likely to be carriers of the virus.

The final section of the book discusses how rabies has influence our culture.  Victims of the rabies virus displayed shocking symptoms, which influenced the folklore and helped develop stories about werewolves, vampires, and zombies.

Rabies also played a role in popular literature and in movies, for example:  Cugo, The Rage, and Old Yellower.

I enjoyed the book, because it was informative and I learned a great deal about the rabies virus.  I was also impressed by how much this virus influenced culture, literature, folklore, and movies.

Happy – A Documentary

“The constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself.”  Benjamin Franklin

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This documentary is available on Netflix.  It takes an in depth look at what makes people happy and how we can improve our own happiness.

Here are a few things from the documentary that I found to be interesting:

  • Dopamine is a chemical in the brain and it is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy.  Physical activity releases dopamine, so engaging in exercise is a natural mood booster.
  • Events have a limited impact on our happiness.  When something good happens, we may feel ecstatic.  However, those feelings will dissipate quickly.  When something bad happens, we may feel devastation, but those feelings will also dissipate.
  • A key ingredient to happiness is being able to recover from adversity quickly.
  • Once our basic needs are meet, an increase in income has a limited affect on our level of happiness.
  • You will always be able to find somebody that has more money than you or that has something you don’t have.  A constant desire for more will have a negative impact on our happiness.
  • The more people focus on money and image the less happy they feel.
  • The more people focus on relationships, personal development, and community service the happier they feel.
  • Changing your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have that you can share, will promote happiness.
  • The building blocks of happiness are play, new experiences, and relationships.

Take time to do something that makes you happy today.

 

Arsenic and Old Lace

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Cary Grant is the lead actor in the movie Arsenic and Old Lace.  I have seen the movie several times and I have seen it done as a play twice.  It’s a good story, either way you watch it.

The story is hilarious, yet disturbing at the same time.  There are two old ladies, which are serial killers, they come up with some of the most outrageous ideas.  You will find yourself laughing, even as they administer deadly poison to some unwitting older gentleman.

If you have not had a chance to see the movie, I highly recommend it.