Archive for Charlton Heston

Awaiting the Apocalypse with a Bowl of Popcorn

Posted in Rotten with tags , , on December 28, 2008 by davehurwitz

I woke up Christmas morning with a bloody eye.  No, I didn’t duke it out with the in-laws Christmas Eve.  This wasn’t a black eye.  And no, it wasn’t the webby pink of too much time spent staring at screens.  This was a big bloody splotch clouding the white just west of my iris.  While a far cry from a full on eight ball hemorrhage, something had clearly popped where things should not be popping.  I have my usual holiday cold.  One of my more vigorous coughs probably jacked my blood pressure high enough to burst a capillary.  That, or I need more fiber in my diet.  Either way, not the best of omens for the coming year.

Which brings me to today’s topic, the End of the World.  Frankly, gentle readers, I’m running out of good ones.  I could use your help finding more.

Allow me to clarify.  For the past nine years I have hosted the annual End of the World Film Festival in my living room on New Years Eve.  It started as a joke, when I insisted on watching Strange Days on New Years Eve 1999/2000.  (Don’t get the joke?  Then you need to watch the movie.)  Ever since then, I’ve been exhibiting films where civilization comes to end, has already come to end, or is at least threatening to come to an end.  The guest list is short, my TV is tiny, and I don’t even serve alcohol.  None the less, I it’s a tradition I’ve come to enjoy.  Trouble is, after nine years, I’m running out of decent movies.

That’s where you come in.  If you can think of a good End of the World movie that isn’t on the list below, I need you to tell me about it via the comment button on this page.  Please note, all suggestions should be suitable for “mixed company” as they used to say.  Meaning no gut-gnawing, no graphic sex, and no Charlton Heston.  I know this disqualifies a lot of great films, but them’s the rules, folks.

The End of the World Film Festival Roll of Horror:
1999/2000:  Strange Days
Hands down, my favorite performances by Ralph Fiennes.  Never mind the goofy sci-fi premise.  Watching Ralph agonize over his lost love, potential city destroying riots, and the state of his wardrobe is the real joy here.

2000/2001:  The Last Wave
A lawyer discovers he’s destined to destroy civilization.  Go figure.

2001/2002: Death Race 2000
The original, not the Running-Man-with-a-car remake.

2002/2003:  Reign of Fire & Slipstream
I can’t drink, but this double bill made me wish I could.

2003/2004: Last Night
A quirky black comedy with a nice cameo by David Cronenberg.

2004/2005: On the Beach
A great film, almost fatally marred by a score that consists entirely of different arrangements of “Waltzing Matilda.”  No, I am not making that up.

2005/2006: The Last Man on Earth & Nausicaä
The first screen version of the Richard Matheson classic, with Vincent Price in the roll most recently played by Will Smith, and an environmental fable from the so-called Walt Disney of Japan, Hayao Miyazaki.

2006/2007: Silent Running
Silent, except for my exasperated muttering.

2007/2008: Planet of the Apes & Invaders from Mars
Okay, I managed to sneak in one Heston flick.  The latter is a low budge prototype for Invasion of the Body Snatchers, largely a stock footage parade.

roadwarriorAnd this year?  I’m planning my first triple feature: Logan’s Run, The Road Warrior, and I Am Legend, presuming we can stand to watch them all.  After that, it’s up to you.  I’d like to keep this thing going, at least until the Mayan calendar rolls over in 2012.

I leave the End of the World in your capable hands.

Dave Hurwitz

Will Ants Eat Your iPod? (The Empire of the Rasberry Ants)

Posted in Random Weirdness, Rotten with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2008 by davehurwitz
The 1977 film "The Empire of the Ants"

The 1977 film

The answer is yes. Especially if you live in or around Houston Texas. Seems a new breed of ant has invaded the shores of Yellow Rose state. Authorities speculate that they may have hitched a ride on a freight ship from the Caribbean. Now these tech eating ants have bred in the billions and conquer more territory at a rate of half a mile a year (unless they thumb a ride, California will be safe for another 2000 years).

These tech munching critters have been dubbed the Crazy Rasberry Ants after the exterminator who first identified them, Tom Rasberry. They are crazy because of the seemingly random pattern they move in, as opposed to the regimented lines typical to ants. They swarm as though attacking, even when simply moving from place to place. They have not be identified to any specific ant species. Currently they have tentatively been labeled as Paratrenicha species near pubens.

The ants are attracted to electrical equipment, which they destroy by sheer weight of numbers. They have ruined pumps at a sewage facility and are marching toward NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “The Russians are concerned,” said Frank Michel, spokesman for Bill White, the mayor of Houston. “I got a call from Moscow wanting to know if NASA was safe.”

Crazy Raspberry Ants attacking your electrical outlet

Crazy Raspberry Ants attacking your electrical outlet

The ants may be attracted to electronics because they make great nests. Species like the Crazy Rasberry ant are constantly adapting to new environments, and will actively seek out new homes. In the wild, these ants might nest under a pile of fallen leaves or inside the branches of palm fronds. Electrical switch boxes, gas meters, or your computer make ideal homes because they are dry and have small, easily defendable entrances.

The ants can’t actually eat the wires inside electronics. Only leafcutter ants can do that, and they don’t care for electronics. Instead, the Crazy Rasberry ants chew on the softer insulation around the wires, causing electrical shorts. The live wire then electrocutes the ant. It releases a chemical alarm pheromone that attracts its nestmates, who further attack the wires. The buildup of dead worker ants continue to hinder the electronics.

These ants are extremely difficult to control. Conventional over-the-counter poisons will not kill the little buggers. The Rasberry Ants are similar to other invasive species and have multiple queens. This allows them to reproduce at an alarming rate. It also makes it nearly impossible to kill the whole colony. Even when attacked with powerful insecticides with fipronil and chlorfenapyr, the survivors turn their dead comrades into an escape route. They pile up the dead bodies to create a bridge over the poison-treated area.

Joan Collins mauled by a giant ant

Joan Collins mauled by a giant ant

The Crazy Rasberry ants kill more than your plasma screen T.V. They also devour fire ants, a long time pest in the Texas area. They outcompete fire ants for food and reproduce faster. However, these unstoppable pests also suck the moisture from plants, and feed on precious insects like ladybirds the Attwater prairie chicken grouse. Variants of the species found in Colombia have been known to asphyxiate chickens and even attack cattle. They swarm over the eyes, nasal passages, and hooves.
Two “ant invasion” movies come to mind when I consider the Crazy Rasberry ants. The first is the 1977, Joan Collins flick, The Empire of the Ants. This beauty has Joan, playing Marilyn Fryser, selling phony real estate in Florida. They soon discover that a species of giant, and quite intelligent, ants have invaded the area. They have already taken over a small town with a sugar refinery. The queen douses her human workers with pheromones to control them. This movie is based on the 1905 H. G. Wells short story by the same name. The film will be remade in 2010.

The Naked Jungle

The Naked Jungle

The second film is the 1954 Chalton Heston classic, The Naked Jungle. Here Heston plays a cocoa plantation owner, Christopher Leiningen. He knows of an upcoming attack by army ants, the Marabunta, in a few days’ time. Instead of evacuating, he resolves to make a stand against these unstoppable predators. He is joined by Joanna (Eleanor Parker), his New Orleans bride. The tagline for this flim is: He feared only two things on earth…the MARABUNTA…Nature’s deadliest force, and his fiery New Orleans bride!

Chris Kalidor

For those of you searching for the Crazy Rasberry ants, you might have misspelled it the way I did: Raspberry. See Ingrid Kast Fuller’s comment below.