Category: History

Craig’s Best of 2020: Novels, Movies and Blog Posts

End of the Year lists are fun and so I decided to compile a few of my own. I hope you enjoy them.

Movies

In 2020, I watched 453 movies. Most were streamed. I usually see a little over 200 movies per year so retirement and the pandemic helped increase my viewing. My favorite films released in 2020 included:

  • Arkansas: An under-rated, quirky crime drama.
  • Dracula: Technically a 3 part mini-series, but the first two episodes were near perfect and the third didn’t ruin the experience (but did fall off quite a bit).
  • Extraction: A surprisingly well done action film that had heart.
  • Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: My favorite film of the year – the screenplay, acting and direction were top shelf. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom deserves a boatload of Oscars.Who’d have thought that two of my favorite films would star the Hemsworth brothers?

Books

In 2020, I read 34 books. I usually read about 20 – 24 per year so retirement and the pandemic also worked to increase my novel consumption. My favorites from this year included:

My Most Popular Posts of the Year

I always find some surprises in the most popular posts from the year. Here are the top ten for 2020 and some thoughts for each…

10. David Fincher’s “Mank” – The Poster and Trailer are Here! Fincher is always a fan favorite, and Mank’s poster and trailer were no exception.

09. Facts About Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”. The popularity of this post surprises me since it deals with a short story, but horror is always a favorite subject with many of our readers.

08. Peter Stults’ “28 Days Later” Starring Richard Burton. I love that this remains a top post. Stults’ alternative movie posters are a blast. He chooses great stars to recast in cool movies.

07. Jack Benny in “Casablanca”. This one makes me smile. I love that it made the top ten.

06. Sly Stallone Starring in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” Video! Sly Stallone makes the list!

05. TOP 10 MOST ICONIC HORROR MOVIE VILLAINS! I told you horror posts are popular.

04. Dracula Through the Ages. I wasn’t kidding. Horror posts are popular.

03. Jackie Daytona Commercial for “Lucky Brews Bar and Grill”! The popularity of this post surprised me. Sure, it has the horror connection, but mixed in is a great amount of humor. Add to that it is for an under-rated horror/comedy (that I hope you are watching) and we get our third most popular post of the year!

02. Louis Meyers: Evidence He Was the Zodiac Killer. Any post about the Zodiac Killer always get a lot of views. This one has even racked up the most comments. 

01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk”. This posts gets more hits than any other post on the site. It’s not horror, it’s not about a real life killer or Sly Stallone, but it is our #1 post again this year.

My All-Time Most Popular Posts

I thought it might be fun to close out with a look at our all-time most popular posts. Did any or most of 2020’s greatest hits make the all-time list? Let’s see…

10. The Life and Times of Deputy U.S. Marshall Bass Reeves. I’m glad that this post remains popular. Our post about Marshall Bass Reeves (a true life hero) went up years before a comic series and movie about him were made. Don’t you love it when we’re ahead of the curve?

09. Gadot & The Rock Strike a Pose. Of course two of the most popular movie stars in the world together in a candid would make our most popular list.

08. TOP 10 MOST ICONIC HORROR MOVIE VILLAINS! Our #5 most popular post for 2020 is our all-time #8 most popular post… and of course it’s horror.

07. Real Clown Or Horror-Movie Clown? This is creepy. Normally I don’t have a problem with clowns, but some of those real clowns were downright scary.

06. Joel Osteen in Jacksonville This has been popular one since it first appeared.

05. Steve Reeves as Superman Of course Steve Reeves never got the chance to play the Man of Steel, but if he had, he would have made a good one.

04. New Billy the Kid Photo Discovered This posts hits on crime and history with the chance of a new discovery. That’s a great combination of topics and popular with a lot of folks.

03. Zodiac Killer Code Cracked? Again we have crime, history, a new discovery and I would even argue horror to make for a popular post.

02. Louis Meyers: Evidence He Was the Zodiac Killer This was not only our #2 all-time favorite, but also the #2 favorite for 2020. And it generated quite a few comments and e-mails.

01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk”.01. Schwarzenegger in “King Lear” & Robin Williams in “Jack and the Beanstalk”. The #1 post for 2020 is also our #1 all-time favorite. 

It’s always interesting to see which topics resonate with fans and continue to be popular longer after the initial post.  I wonder how many of our all-time favorites will make the list in 2021?  Time will tell… and so will I…. next year!  

“My Name is Roscoe: The Life and Legacy of ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle” by Joe Ramoni

I love movies.  Because of my love of film I search out older movies.  Thanks to TCM that’s not as hard to do as it once was.  So whenever there’s an older film that I think I might like I check it out.

I’ve watched a lot of silent films.  I started with the horror films and then worked my way to comedies.  Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are considered the comedy kings of the silent film era.  As I began to watch and learn more about this time period, I was surprised to find that funny man Fatty Arbuckle wasn’t better known.  The films I saw with him were as good as any other comedian of the time.

When I came to learn that Arbuckle was the first comedian to be paid one million dollars from a studio, that Arbuckle had mentored both Chaplin and Keaton, that he started his own studio, that he wrote and directed films… well, I needed to know more about this man.  What I discovered was pretty sad.

Joe Ramoni has created an excellent overview of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle’s career.  It is worth a watch.

He mentored Charlie Chaplin, discovered Buster Keaton, and changed film comedy forever – before a scandal destroyed his career. His name was Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. Though you may recognize his name or face, few know the heartbreaking story of his life. This documentary short takes a look back at his controversial life & career to highlight what an instrumental figure he was in the evolution of cinema and why he should be more remembered today.

Written, Compiled and Presented by Joe Ramoni
https://twitter.com/joeramoni

Source: Mark Evanier.

FBI Confirms Zodiac Killer’s Coded Message Deciphered! Message is Here!

The Zodiac Killer’s most unbreakable code has been broken by an international 3 man team consisting of David Oranchak (American computer programmer), Belgian computer programmer Jarl Van Eycke (Belgian computer programmer) and Sam Blake (Australian mathematician).  After countless hours and hundreds of thousands of computer simulations the team discovered an error in the Zodiac Killer’s transcription which led to them breaking the code.  The FBI has agreed with their solution and confirmed the code’s message.

The video below explains the process used to crack the code and is well worth watching.

On December 3rd, 2020, an international three-person team of codebreakers made a breakthrough with the Zodiac Killer’s unsolved 340-character cipher.

By December 5th, the team finished cracking the cipher and sent the solution to the FBI.

This is the full message from the Zodiac Killer that was hidden in the 340-character cipher for 51 years:

I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME
THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW
WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME
I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER
BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER
BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME
WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE
SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH
I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS
LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH

The members of the team that cracked the code are:
* Sam Blake (Australia)
* Jarl Van Eycke (Belgium)
* David Oranchak (USA)

This video is my attempt to tell the story of this long overdue breakthrough. More details are reported in Michael Butterfield’s article here: http://zodiackillerfacts.com/news-and…
Credits: Music: Dave Miles: Movement (ZapSplat:
https://www.zapsplat.com/author/dave-…)
“Thanks” animation:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1whg… melissariveradesign.com Jim Dunbar show archival footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTJI4…

Mentioned in the video:
AZDecrypt code breaking software by Jarl Van Eycke:
http://zodiackillersite.com/viewtopic…
Peek-a-boo cryptanalysis software by Heiko Kalista:
http://www.zodiackillersite.com/viewt…
Zkdecrypto by Brax Cisco et. al.:
https://code.google.com/archive/p/zkd…
Mike Morford’s Zodiac site: http://zodiackillersite.com
Michael Butterfield’s Zodiac site: http://zodiackillerfacts.com
Tom Voigt’s Zodiac site:
http://zodiackiller.com http://zodiackillerciphers.com

We dedicate these efforts to the victims of the Zodiac Killer, their families and descendants. We hope that one day justice will prevail.

Source: SFGate.

“FBI/MLK” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

We have the poster and trailer for FBI/MLK.  I like them both and look forward to seeing the film.

Director: Sam Pollard
Starring: Martin Luther King

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered today as an American hero: a bridge-builder, a shrewd political tactician, and a moral leader. Yet throughout his history-altering political career, he was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies like an enemy of the state. In this virtuosic documentary, award-winning editor and director Sam Pollard (Editor, 4 LITTLE GIRLS, MO’ BETTER BLUES; Director/Producer, EYEZ ON THE PRIZE, SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I’VE GOTTA BE ME) lays out a detailed account of the FBI surveillance that dogged King’s activism throughout the ’50s and ’60s, fueled by the racist and red-baiting paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover. In crafting a rich archival tapestry, featuring some revelatory restored footage of King, Pollard urges us to remember that true American progress is always hard-won.

“Truth is the Only Client: the Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy” – The Poster & Trailer!

I really like the poster for Truth is the Only Client: the Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy.  The trailer ain’t bad either.

I was five years old and on vacation with my grandparents in Miami when President Kennedy was assassinated.  Like the rest of the nation, my grandparents (and therefore me) were glued to the television watching updates on the murder of our President. Then a few days later, the man accused of taking the President’s life was himself murdered while surrounded by police officers.  Conspiracy theories abounded.

Growing up I was always intrigued by who actually killed President Kennedy.  Was it a lone gunman or were other groups involved.  I read the Warren Commission Report.  I read books and articles. I tuned in to shows and documentaries.  Ultimately I came to the conclusion that it was indeed, Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone, who killed President Kennedy.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t be looking forward to checking out  Truth is the Only Client: the Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy. 

Trailer for the new documentary feature Truth is the Only Client: the Official Investigation of the Murder of John F. Kennedy, premiering November 17, 2020.

“Billie” – The Trailer is Here!

I want to see the documentary, Billie!

Billie Holiday had one of the greatest voices of all time and changed the face of American music. She was a woman of breath-taking talent and global popularity while also stirring controversy. She started a notable rebellion singing “Strange Fruit” which exposed the realities of Black life in America and earned her powerful enemies. Raw, emotional and brutally honest, Billie is filled with never-before-heard interviews from musical greats like Charles Mingus, Tony Bennett, Sylvia Syms and Count Basie.
Director: James Erskine

“Challenger: The Final Flight” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The Challenger explosion is one of those moments, like 9/11, that if you’re old enough, you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.  I was a second year science teacher in Holly Hill, Florida.  Although I’ve always had an interest in space exploration, being a science teacher in Florida made following the progress of our shuttle program a natural.  For the first time ever, a civilian, a teacher was riding along!

I had just taken my students to lunch and was heading in to the teacher’s lounge when the lift-off occurred.  Most of us went outside because we knew we’d be able to see the trail left as the shuttle headed up.  As we watched we could see what appeared to be a separation and two different trails forming.  Someone said what I was thinking, “This doesn’t look right.”  We all headed to the tv to learn that the shuttle had exploded.  We were stunned.  Afterwards, it felt like the nation was in mourning.  We had lost true American heroes.

I look forward to Challenger: The Final Flight.

Executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Glen Zipper, Challenger: The Final Flight is a four-part docuseries that examines the 1986 Challenger space shuttle, which tragically broke apart 73 seconds after launch as millions of Americans watched live on television. Incorporating never-before-seen interviews and rare archival material, this series offers an in-depth look at one of the most diverse crews NASA assembled, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who was selected to be the first private citizen in space.

The History of Our Universe in 13,799 Dominoes

Kurtis Baute makes videos about science and about the environment.  The one below explains in understandable terms the age and history of the universe.  Watching Baute telling us what is happening each step of the way and realizing that each domino (of the 13,799) equals one million years is mind-blowing.  And wait until you see the representation of how long humans have been around.

Well done, Mr. Baute.

Silent Films, Anyone?

I wonder how many reading this can name all three of the gentlemen above?  Probably just about everyone knows Charlie Chaplin (far right), but the other two?  The man in the middle is Buster Keaton and the guy leading the pack is Lon Chaney.  These men were the stars of their day, when movies had no sound.

My guess is we lost a few readers when they saw the title of this post and even more dropped off before getting this far.  If you’re reading now you’re hopefully either a fan of silent movies or are open to checking some out.  As for me, I’m a fan.  

Most folks who like silent movies started with the comedies.  There were so many made by greats such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel & Hardy and Fatty Arbuckle.  The great thing about silent film comedy is that most of the gags are ageless.  The first silent movies I remember seeing were comedies, but my enjoyment of silent film really took off with the discovery of silent horror movies.

Lon Chaney was the king of silent horror films starring in classics such as The Phantom of the Opera, The Unknown, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and so many others.  Chaney was equally adept in crime films and dramas.  Known as The Man of 1,000 Faces, Chaney created his own make-up for each role.  If you lean more to horror, crime films and dramas, then Lon Chaney is the star to look for.

If comedy is more to your liking, then I’d suggest checking out Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., The General or Sherlock, Jr.  Perhaps you want to go to the best known silent film star, Charlie Chaplin.  My suggestions for you would be The Kid, The Circus, Shoulder Arms or almost any of Chaplin’s work in silent films.  Charlie Chaplin is one of the few silent film stars who transitioned to talkies and continued to be successful.

TCM is a great source for silent films.  I recorded and have been making my way through many of Charlie Chaplin’s films that are new to me.  TCM runs silent films each week late on Sunday night and at various times throughout each month.  Check your listings and give some a go.  You, of course can also find great silent movies on other channels, streaming and dvd.

If you’re a fan of silent films or check some out, let me know your thoughts and send some recommendations my way.  Don’t be silent about your favorites.  ; )

The Strange Case of the Circleville Writer – A True Modern Day Mystery!

Until today, I had never heard of The Circleville Writer.  This true modern day mystery involves a mysterious person who sent multiple letters to people detailing their infidelities and advising them to confess. 

The Circleville Writer wrote about cheating spouses, child molesters and more.  The letters continued to arrive and then signs started appearing around the city making the same claims. Before it was over there was a murder, an attempted murder, booby traps and a prison sentence… but not for the Circleville Writer!  He/she was never caught and the allegations about the different people he/she wrote about were proved to be true!

For full details check out Top 10 Strange Facts About The Circleville Writer by Benjamin Welton posted at Listverse.

Remembering Burger Chef, Star Wars, Mike Kott and Me!

If you’re of a particular age, it is almost a certainty that you dined ate at a Burger Chef.  If you’re younger, then you may not have ever heard of the one-time fast food giant. 

Back in the 1970s, Burger Chef was second only to McDonalds as far as fast food franchises went.  Burger Chef was a hit and as a result their investors were earning returns where 50% wasn’t unheard of. 

Burger Chef’s popularity was because they served a comparable (some would say even better) meal than other fast food joints and Burger Chef was making innovative moves.  Burger Chef was the first with…

  • Funmeals: geared towards kids.  Each Funmeal came with a sandwhich, small fries, small drink and a toy!  Five years later McDonalds started serving Happy Meals using the same concept.
  • Works Bar:  Burger King said you could have it “your way”.  Burger Chef took things a step further with the Works Bar.  Each Works Bar contained everything you might want to doctor up your sandwhich!
  • Salad Bar:  Burger Chef offered a fully stocked salad bar and this was waay before the health craze hit.
  • Media Tie-Ins:  Burger Chef saw the importance of media tie-ins and so they made deals linking their food to kid popular franchises like Star Wars and The Brady Bunch.

I worked at a Burger Chef when I was in college.  I’ve shared this story before but if you missed it or would just like to revisit it, check out Star Wars, Burger Chef, Mike Kott and Me.

I have good memories of the folks I worked with and the food we served at Burger Chef.  It’s too bad the chain didn’t survive.  MeTV posted What ever happened to the Burger Chef chain? that explains their rise and fall.  Since you’ve read this far, you’d probably enjoy it.  

“Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father” / Z-View

Killadelphia Volume 1: Sins of the Father is a paperback that collects issues 1 – 6 of an on-going series published by Image Comics. .

Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Colorist: Luis NCT
Letters by: Marshall Dillon
Cover Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander & Luis NCT 

*** Beware – spoilers may be found below ***

Featuring the show-stopping talents of Spawn series artist JASON SHAWN ALEXANDER, and the writer behind such hit shows as Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Marvel’s Runaways, and Starz’s American Gods–RODNEY BARNES.

When a small town beat cop comes home to bury his murdered father-the revered Philadelphia detective James Sangster Sr.-he begins to unravel a mystery that leads him down a path of horrors and shakes his beliefs to their core.

The city that was once the symbol of liberty and freedom has fallen prey to corruption, poverty, unemployment, brutality…
…and vampires.

But the mystery goes even further when Jimmy’s investigation leads him to uncover the source of the outbreak is long-thought dead President of the United States John Adams–a man secretly biding his time as he builds an undead army to start a new and bloodier American revolution.

There’s a reason they coin a phrase, “you can’t go home.” Welcome to Killadelphia.

Collects KILLADELPHIA #1-6

Killadelphia is a book you should be reading if you like intelligently written and beautifully drawn horror comics.

Rodney Barnes’ idea of a modern day vampire uprising in Philadelphia led by a centuries old founding father is so audacious that we’re lucky Barnes took his story past the idea stage.   Killadelphia is a very cool, very creepy tale that paints a big picture universe introduced to us through believable characters who find themselves in an unbelievable situation.

Modern day vampires?  Yeah, right.  Read Killadelphia and you’re response will become: Modern day vampires?  Yeah!  Right!

Jason Shawn Alexander provides realistic art for Killadelphia which supports the story;  you believe what you’re seeing.  The characters look like real people (some of whom are vampires).  Alexander has drawn scenes that will creep you out and perhaps inspire nightmares… which is exactly what great horror fiction should do.  I hope that Barnes and Alexander stay together as long as Killadelphia tales are told.

Luis NCT’s colors provide nuance and emphasis that enhance each scene and his contribution to the success of Killadelphia shouldn’t be overlooked.

I thought that Killadelphia would be a good comic.  I underestimated it.  Killadelphia is an exceptional comic and one all horror fans should try.


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