Happy Friday the 13th!




Hello to everyone who might read this post.  If you are worried about bad luck on this day, Friday the 13th, please relax. This date is no more dangerous than any other; people simply notice when bad things happen and connect it to the date.

If, however, you are a member of The Knights Templar, The Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, and the year is 1307, then you probably are not going to have a very good day.  A great deal of mystery surrounds the actual events concerning The Knights Templar, and as such, has become a fertile soil to grow the roots and trunks of many a mystery and thriller novel.  We do know, however, that King Philip the IV, sometime called “The Fair,” although today that would be more ironic in judgement of his actions than an accurate portrayal, needed money.

The Templars had discovered something in Jerusalem during the Crusades–again no one is sure what that was–and they became powerful and expanded rapidly.  Their power became so strong that they created the first real banking system in Europe and protected, for a fee, the money of their depositors.

Philip, coveting their funds, ordered their capture under cover of night. The day this happened, of course was Friday the 13th, 1307.  For the next few months, torture and burning at the stake was visited on the leaders and many members.  What is also strong material for writers is that the bulk of the fortune was never found, and many escaped, leaving questions: what happened to the escapees? where did their fortune go? and what had they discovered?

So yes, if you lived in 1307 and were a member of this order, it would have been prudent to be careful on that day. Today though, it is simply another day.



My suggestions are enjoy yourselves today, have a treat, go to a movie, read a book, spend time with your loved ones, and simply live life!

Have a great Friday the 13th!




Science-Fiction Films of the 1950s: The Day The Earth Stood Still




The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) was a brilliant science-fiction film that set the standards, in many ways, for other following films.  One of the great strengths of the genre of science-fiction as well as horror and fantasy is its ability to comment on direct issues in contemporary society.  In this 20th Century Fox film, the director, Robert Wise uses the arrival of an alien spaceship on earth as a cautionary message about the potential of the human race to cause its own self-destruction through atomic warfare.



The core plot element is that beings from advanced civilizations on other planets have found people on earth have developed both nuclear weapons and a space program. They have sent an emissary, Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, to deliver a gift and a warning to the people of Earth.  The gift, a small box, was destroyed by a frightened soldier who thought it was a threat. In reality, it was a device that would have allowed humans to study the universe. With the gift gone, what is left is a warning that if human beings insist on bringing their atomic weapons and violence into space with them, then earth and its inhabitants will be destroyed utterly. This message is a quietly subversive challenge through what was seen as just a movie to the nuclear states of the world.



A staple of science-fiction, both cinema and television is the robot.  This kind of machine will figure into film in many ways from the earliest days to recent film.  The Day The Earth Stood Still has such a machine in Gort, a robot that serves as an aide  to the alien Klaatu.  Earth people view it as a threat, as they do everything alien, which is yet another point to the movie.  Xenophobia and bigotry, unfortunate human capacities, were at the forefront of American society in the late 1940s and 1950s.  If someone was different from the so-called norm, then they were somehow bad and immoral.  This will be the main point of the next movie I will examine in this series: Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The Day The Earth Stood Still was a critical success and has been named by several film organizations as one of the most important films of American cinema.  If you have not yet seen this movie, and I am NOT talking about the remake, then I recommend it highly.


Dining With Characters: Part 3


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It has been a while since I have made an entry to this series, so I thought it was definitely a good time to do so. As before, I am imagining what it would be like to invite a few fictional characters to a dinner and have conversation with them.



(This is the first page of the extant original copy of Beowulf, written in Old English.)


Today’s guests are Beowulf, King Arthur, and Aragorn, all kings from British epics: Beowulf, Le Morte d’Arthur, and The Lord of the Rings. These books range from the Dark Ages, circa the mid 800s to the Middle Ages, circa 1485 to the contemporary world in the mid 1900s. These texts are all important to me, both as a reader and as a teacher, because I have used all of these books in different college classes. While covering a very long historical range, they all deal with the difficulties faced by leaders especially when the fate of their kingdoms rests in their decisions and actions.



(King Arthur and his knights)

For this entry, we would dine again at a traditional British pub, and we would be seated around a fairly large, wooden, round table.  This seems appropriate, given the attendees.


“Aragorn300ppx” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aragorn300ppx.png#/media/File:Aragorn300ppx.png

I would like to ask these three kings what it was like to lead soldiers actively into combat. Unlike the leaders of contemporary armies, they faced death directly with their fellow fighters. I would also ask them what they see the main responsibilities of leaders to be. I would also like to ask them if they consider fate to be real, or are they in control of their own destinies?  Given the variation in optimism and pessimism that ranges in their attitudes, their approaches to facing the difficulties of life and death would be fascinating to explore.

I would certainly be curious to see how these three warrior kings spoke with each other. I think a checking of the swords at the door might be a very good idea.



What questions would you ask these leaders?