City of the Dead/Horror Hotel, starring Christopher Lee, 1960

City of the Dead/Horror Hotel, starring Christopher Lee, 1960

City of the Dead/Horror Hotel, 1960

A film by John Llewellyn Moxey

A beautiful young student researching New England witchcraft checks into a hotel, recommended to her by her Professor (Christopher Lee) on a foggy night. What could go wrong? The film has some plot elements that lead critics to compare it with Hitchcock’s Psycho.

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The history of Saint Patrick’s Day

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! This holiday, observed world-wide, is an occasion to commemorate the arrival of Christianity to Ireland, and a de facto celebration of Irish culture in the popular imagination, but it’s ancient roots are a bit more complex, starting with Patrick himself, who was not Irish…

Video: TheWeekInDoubt/YouTube

Photo: available under CC BY-SA 3.0 unless otherwise noted.

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies at 76

Physicist Stephen Hawking dies

A great scientific luminary has passed. Physicist and science icon Stephen Hawking died quietly at his home on March 13. His ground-breaking work on black holes revolutionized our understanding of cosmology. As a man he was known for his sense of humor, playful character, and love of life and learning.

Prior to Hawking’s seminal work on black holes, much of which was done early in his career, physicists believed that nothing could escape the incredibly powerful gravitational well of a black hole. But he discovered that some energy, aptly named Hawking radiation, actually leaked back out. The implications for physics and our understanding of gravity are immense.

As his career progressed Hawking worked tirelessly to develop a “theory of everything,” attempting to unify the two great branches of physics, relativity and quantum mechanics, a task to which Einstein also aspired. The esteemed scientist held the same academic position as Isaac Newton, the father of modern physics, once did centuries earlier: the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University—-a great honor.

As a 21-year-old university undergraduate Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, a debilitating neurological disease that left him wheel-chair bound and almost completely paralyzed. Nonetheless he persevered, living a very full life. He fathered children, married twice, enjoyed a phenomenally successful scientific career, authored books, and reaped the rewards of international celebrity. ALS is usually fatal within a few years of diagnosis, but Hawking lived for an unprecedented 55 years following his diagnosis.

And he wrote best-selling books, including A brief history of time and a briefer history of time that informed and delighted the public. He made guest appearances on several popular television shows over the years, including Star Trek the Next Generation, The Simpsons, and The Big Bang Theory. His public lectures packed in the crowds, and he became one of the most recognizable and popular scientists of the 20th century.

In later years he advocated for some controversial but interesting views, like the need to establish human colonies on mars and other planets in order to make humanity a multi-planet species, and his concern that contact with an advanced extraterrestrial civilization would spell disaster for mankind. Both positions were well thought out and taken in order to maximize the survival of the human species over great spans of time.

Stephen Hawking was a true original, a scientific genius who made numerous contributions to science, popular culture, education and entertainment. And his very public struggle with ALS, and remarkable survivability, inspired millions battling life-challenging illnesses. He will be greatly missed.


Photo: By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Students Walkout over gun violence

Today is national school walkout day, as countless socially conscious high school and college students walk out of classes in a concerted effort to protest gun violence,  and demand gun control.

The student movement was catalyzed by the tragic events at a Florida high school one month ago, in which an 18-year-old gunman killed 17 students with an AR-15 assault rifle that he bought legally.

In recognition the students participated in 17-minute-long protests, with each minute representing a victim, intended to pressure congress and state legislatures to enact tougher gun control laws to combat the rash of school shootings that have plagued the nation.

The management team of Face Activities supports these students and approves of their aims.

Photo: Phil Roeder from Des Moines, IA, USA • CC BY 2.0

Daylight Savings Time: Let’s get rid of it!

The Party is over, Daylight savings time is back in the United States.

We had a brief reprieve, like a condemned criminal spared for a moment from trudging off to the gallows. But now it’s time to face the music: good citizens all across the country will “spring forward,” turning their clocks ahead tonight, and wake up tomorrow morning with one less hour of sleep.

Daylight Savings time is such a hassle. It’s just not worth the trouble. The readjustment period to the new time can be exhausting, and it’s even dangerous. We should get rid of this useless practice, and never look back.

It was originally proposed, early in the twentieth century, as a way to utilize more natural daylight, and cut electricity costs. But in our modern world, we run electrical devices nearly 24/7, so savings are negligible at best. And the aggravation of resetting all of our clocks twice a year is reason enough to drop the practice.

Who has the energy and inclination to waste time this way? And there’s always a clock or two that’s tricky to change; my car’s clock is like that, if I ever get around to bothering with it. Sometimes it’s even dangerous, like if you have to climb a ladder, for example.

There’s even medical research that changing the clocks can increase the frequency of heart attacks. But why is that? It’s because you  effectively lose an hour of sleep in the spring, when you set the clocks ahead. If you wake up at 5:00 am, then you are effectively waking up at 4:00 am, until your body readjusts to the new schedule (which may take several days). This wreaks havoc with the body’s circadian rhythm, our natural biological clock. Some even feel we lose 210 to 240 hours thanks to this disruption, over time.

This is stressful, since it interferes with the natural circadian rhythm of your body. And for people with health risk factors, it’s bad news. Even if you have the discipline and foresight to retire an hour earlier the night before, it still adds unhealthy stress.

Many countries have rejected daylight savings time, seeing no clear benefits, and many obvious drawbacks. I hope the United States joins their ranks!

Daylight Savings: it’s time has come, and gone (The Verge)


Photo: Alan Cleaver • CC BY 2.0



The Most Dangerous Game, starring Fay Wray, 1932

The Most Dangerous Game, 1932

A film by by Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Based on a classic short story, hapless shipwrecked souls, including the beautiful Fay Wray (King Kong), find themselves apparently safe, in a sumptuous castle on a remote island. But could their mysterious benefactor, Count Zaroff, have malevolent intentions?

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