Amoeblog

Movie Myths 101-Vampires

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 3, 2008 12:49pm | Post a Comment


Whilst descriptions of vampires historically have varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead creatures which feed off of the life essence of the living, but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached its apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.

Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, "These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer."

There were a couple of famous vampire cases. I, unfortunately, couldn't find any good pictures for this bit.

In Serbia Peter Plogojowitz died at the age of 62. According to reports he returned after his death asking his son for food. When the son refused, he was found dead the following day. His wife claimed that he came to her after death and asked for his shoes. Plogojowitz was, reportedly, identified by nine victims who died shortly thereafter.

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Black History Month & Black Cinema

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 1, 2008 09:29am | Post a Comment
 

1915

Birth of a Nation was released. It was the most profitable American film of all time until Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (1937). In this critical darling, director D.W. Griffith dramatically depicts a mid-19th century south plagued by mulattos and abolitionists who scheme to keep the white man down and raise up the black man in what is, to its intended audience, an obviously grotesque perversion of natural order. In government sessions, the reconstruction-empowered black politicians (played buffoonishly by white actors) take off their shoes and feast on fried chicken. Luckily, the chivalric Ku Klux Klan rides to the rescue.

This version of history was angrily disputed (famously by
W.E.B. Du Bois, among others) but remained pretty much the accepted version of history until well after World War II. The NAACP, founded just five years earlier, organized nationwide protests. There were riots in Philadelphia and Boston. Cities in Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania refused to show the film. In Indiana, a white man murdered a black stranger and blamed it on having seen Birth of a Nation. However, the film received a special screening at the White House, where president Woodrow Wilson supposedly remarked, "It [the film] is like writing history with lightning. And my only regret is that it is all so terribly true." The quote was later argued to be from someone else but the film was still marketed as "Federally-endorsed."

Happy Australia Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 26, 2008 09:23am | Post a Comment
  
The Flag of Australia                                             The Australian Aboriginal Flag        The Flag of Torres Strait Islanders


Australia was discovered about 45,000 years ago when they either walked or made short sea-crossings from Papua to the north in what is now the Torres Strait. In Australia they grew into diverse cultures with around 250 languages spoken by nations such as the Koori, Murri, Noongar, Yamatji, Wangkai, Nunga, Anagu, Yapa, Yolngu and Palawah, who together may've numbered around 3 quarters of a million.  43,830 years later (give or take a few thousand) it was claimed, like a quarter of the planet, by the tiny, faraway island of Great Britain.


   
Initially, it served as a penal colony set up at Port Jackson on January 26, 1788, which is why it's Australia Day today. 50% of the indigenous population died from smallpox within the following years. Massacres and land seizures reduced the indigenous population another 30%. Often the convicts sent to Australia were charged with minor offenses. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush began and with it, an Americanization of the language. For example, "bonanza" (borrowed from Spanish) became "bonzer." By 1827, Australian English was already diverging significantly from British English. Author Peter Cunningham noted a distinct vocabulary and a non-rhotic accent that owed heavily to Cockney. It is typically divided into three accents which owe less to region than UK English or US English.

      Broad: Exemplified by larrikins Paul “g’day mate” Hogan, Steve “crikey” Irwin.
      General: The typical Australian of Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman.
      Cultivated: The British-sounding manner of Geoffrey Rush or Judy Davis.

None of the examples above probably say "shrimp on the barbie" since "shrimp" are called "prawns" in Australia.
     
Most of the wildlife and plant life is endemic. It's the flattest country on Earth, mostly desert and covered with the least fertile soil. It seems like wherever you go in the world, you run into loads of Australians. Luckily, they all have multizone DVD players.

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TV Shows On DVD

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 21, 2008 08:07am | Post a Comment
There are so many shows still not on DVD. For years there was a daily chorus of "Where's Martin!?" or, sometimes, "Where's Mar' in!?" So, as a DVD guy who's supposed to have the answer to all of life's most pressing questions, I went searching for answers. I found a website devoted to TV shows on DVD. It's called TVshowsondvd.com. If you sign up, they'll let you know ages before anyone else when a show is coming out. That's how I knew about Newhart way before any of the more reputable blogs.

So, sign up at www.tvshowsondvd.com and start crying out for your shows. With the never-ending writer's strike, now seems like a good time to start laying those golden eggs of yesteryear. Here are a few I've been pining for for a while now.



Highway Man
debuted in 1988 on NBC. It had a truck with a built in helicopter. I like the way both the travel of distance and time are conveyed in the credits by the passing of hitch-hiking skeletons and road signs. And, you may recognize co-star Tim Russ as Tuvok Shakur from STV (or Star Trek Voyager).



Max Headroom from Channel 4 was amazing. If you didn't watch it you probably think of Max Headroom as a shill for Coca Cola and little more. But this show from 1987 was much more. It made me want to be a (bigger) computer nerd. Suddenly, playing Sabotage on my Apple ][e wasn't enough. I needed to surround myself with wires and screens. And I "fancied" Amanda Pays to use a Britishism (you know, how real critics do when they're writing about British stuff).

The Seabiscuits

Posted by Eric Brightwell, January 15, 2008 07:16pm | Post a Comment
  
It's award season, which can only mean one thing: It's time for the Amoeba's 5th annual Seabiscuits! Let me back up for a second. For those who have never worked at Amoeba, our jargon can sound (in my Mr. T voice) confusing, confounding and sometimes downright curious. As a customer, you may have found yourself being told by one of our helpful staff to "check the 'hat' adjacent to the 'blueline waterfall' while I go check 'Wally',"  leaving you scratching your buzzing noggin in psychedelic wonder. Well, one of those jargon words we use is "evergreen" which, somewhat counter-intuitively, refers to titles that will always be in demand (and not to titles that will only sell on "the Green Tag Island," where we exile bargain titles to.

When Seabiscuit came out on DVD, right before Christmas of 2003, there was an audible buzz (or "nicker," in horse language). It was released in widescreen and fullscreen, a sign of its broad appeal to both film-lovers and people who "don't like it when they cut the heads off with those black bars." Several films attached themselves like filmic remoras to Seabiscuit's celluloid whale shark, hoping to feed off of the crumbs of interest -- or maybe to be purchased by the confused and functionally illiterate. There was, as there often is, debate about whether or not the film would be an evergreen. It didn't prove to be ... But let's go merrily back in time to the early oughts, back to 2003. It was the year a second space shuttle blew up, SARS was discovered, Bush landed on a ship flying a banner reading "Mission Accomplished," the last vocho rolled off the assembly line in Mexico, Gary Ridgway (the Green River Killer) admitted to killing 48 women and Jacko was charged with being a chester (again). And in the dream factory the year of the Sheep proved, in fact, to be the year of the horse.

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