Writer Richard Matheson — Sci-Fi and Historical Romance

From childhood, I’ve loved The Twilight Zone, the sci-fi TV show (1959-64).  Most episodes were only 24 minutes long, but with a different premise and characters in each, like the short stories in science fiction magazines of the time. Some of the stories were adapted for the show.

Richard Matheson was a prolific author whose writing included sci-fi short stories, but I first heard of him when I watched every Twilight Zone episode on Netflix, one per day.

Matheson wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” in which William Shatner sees a gremlin on the wing of the aircraft. This is sometimes spoofed, maybe because the creature looks like a man in a hairy costume, but the frustration felt by William Shatner’s character is what makes this a classic:  what if you saw impending doom, and nobody believed you?

You can watch Richard Matheson’s Twilight Zone episodes for free by clicking here.  They are easy to view — no signing up for anything. They have modern commercials.

Later, Matheson wrote the novel and screenplay for “Somewhere in Time,” a wonderful time-travel romance. Blending science fiction and a powerful romantic love, the film is beautiful, as are its stars, Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve (heart-breakingly beautiful to me because of his tragic real life).  Click here to see the trailer.  It was filmed on location at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Phenakistoscope: Moving Pictures

The phenakistoscope is an early animation device.

 

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Disc by Eadweard Muybridge (1893).

 

There were variations on the device, but the principle is of a spinning wheel with slots between the images, as you see above.   Note the hole in the middle where a handle attaches.

 

 

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Say you face a mirror and hold the disc in front of you. Spin the disc and look through the slots. You catch each image as it whizzes by, and the persistence of vision creates the moving picture.

 

The Ravens at the Tower of London

Here’s another video by Historic Royal Palaces, about the ravens and why they’re important.

Tower of London

The Crown Jewels, which I wrote about last time, are kept on display in the Tower of London. To see them, you pass through a doorway with open “doors” that look incredibly secure, like a bank vault, and I guess the rooms themselves are a very large walk-in vault. Yeoman Warders, nicknamed Beefeaters, keep an eye on you and the glass-encased jewels.

The Yeoman Warders give tours and look great in vacation photos, but they have other, more serious, responsibilities. All have had a distinguished military career that meets certain requirements necessary to become a Yeoman Warder.  Living in flats in the tower complex with their spouses and children, their duties are security and visitor safety in addition to shifts giving tours. One of the Yeoman Warders is a woman.

Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London. Photo by Arpingstone.
Guards, such as these at Buckingham Palace, also protect the Crown Jewels at the Tower.
Guards, such as these at Buckingham Palace, also protect the Crown Jewels at the Tower.

The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror and was completed by the year 1100.

DSCN1043 (1024x768)The photos above and below show the walled complex, much of it medieval, in the heart of a 21st century city with many modern buildings.

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What fun to suddenly come upon something you've never seen, yet it's familiar. Me at the Tower Bridge.
What fun to suddenly come upon something you’ve never seen, yet it’s familiar. Me at the Tower Bridge.

Here’s a link to a YouTube video by Historic Royal Palaces, about the Line of Kings (click on those words), showing royal armor and more on display at the Tower, and how and why this exhibit has changed over the centuries.

In the last blog post, I wrote about Frank Capra’s desert writing retreat, where he hit the jackpot, the five greatest Academy Awards, with this movie.  Here are two clips from this romantic comedy, It Happened One Night.

Here’s the link to the famous hitchhiking scene. It was filmed in the Great Depression. Do you know the reference to farmer’s daughter? He means a sexy joke.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/358189/It-Happened-One-Night-Movie-Clip-You-Mind-If-I-Try-.html

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert took home Best Actor and Best Actress Oscars.  She plays a runaway heiress, and he portrays a down-on-his-luck newspaperman following her for a big story.

In the following scene, they pretend to be married so they can split the cost of a room.  Remember, it is the Great Depression.  I heard Gable created a sensation when he took off his shirt and revealed his bare chest.  Men wore undershirts at the time.  Don’t miss this charming scene.

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/29309/It-Happened-One-Night-Movie-Clip-Every-Man-For-Himself.html

Magnificent Rome

I feel very fortunate to have visited Italy recently, and I am pre-empting my regular past-and-present period to move back two thousand years.

I had no idea many of the great sights of ancient Rome are right next to each other.  I was able to reach these on foot from my hotel in a beautiful neighborhood, Aventino, with lovely apartments with red-tile roofs and inviting terraces, and tall trees lining the hilly streets.  This is one of the seven hills of Rome.

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Between this Aventine Hill and the Palatine Hill is the Circus Maximus.  A sign posted there stated Romans raced chariots drawn by teams of four or six horses.  The races took place for NINE HUNDRED years.

There  was once a stadium here that seated 150,000 people.  Today, the track remains.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Circus_max_1978.jpg

The ruins on the other side of the Circus Maximus, shown in the upper right of the photo in the link above,  are the ruins on the Palatino, the Palatine Hill.  “Palatino” for “palace,”  and there are great, long arched walls of an ancient palace and other buildings.

This hill was the birthplace of Rome, both according to legend (Romulus and Remus were supposedly raised by a wolf here), and history. Archeologists determined people lived on this hill 3,000 years ago, about 2,000 B.C. (BCE).

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The Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum.

This video shows the Roman Forum, the few acres that were the center of Western civilization, of worship and government, for centuries.

Visitors to the forum can enter the ancient Senate, where Roman citizens governed until the emperors became more powerful. I was awed to stand here.

Roman Senate

In ancient times, there were a number of arches in Rome commemorating military victories.  There’s one beside the Roman Forum, and a larger one, the Arch of Constantine, across the street from the Forum and the Palatine Hill, beside the Colisseum.  As I said, it’s amazing how close everything is.  Here’s the Arch of Constantine, built in 315.

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That’s the Coliseum on the right.  After viewing the Coliseum, we walked past monuments, including a square designed by Michelangelo, on the way back to the hotel.  What a day.  What a walk.

The Hotel Del Coronado : A Beauty at the Beach – Part One

Image credit: coleong / 123RF Stock Photo

Let’s cool off. What better place than Coronado Island off San Diego, California? I had heard of a grand Victorian beach hotel a couple hours from my home, but when I saw Coronado Beach on a list of the top ten beaches in the United States, I had to go. Later this month, I’ll describe the past and present at the hotel – afternoons at the beach, famous visitors and astonishing events.  Yes, astonishing. I promise.

I’m excited to introduce this resort with a delightful video clip of a famous comedy filmed at the Del. The American Film Institute, based on input from many industry experts, ranked “Some Like It Hot” the number-one comedy of the first 100 years of American cinema.
“Some Like It Hot” stars Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis. Billy Wilder co-wrote, produced, and directed. Filmed in 1959, it takes place during Prohibition, when speakeasy musicians played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis witness the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. In order to flee Chicago gangsters, they must disguise themselves as female musicians. They join an all-girls band heading to a resort that is supposedly in Florida.

The clip shows the lovely Hotel del Coronado, where both Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe catch the eyes of millionaires. One of them, Osgood Fielding III, played by Joe E. Brown, flirts with Jack Lemmon.  It’s priceless.