Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Archive for April 3, 2012

Whitechapel Murders – Jack the Ripper

The Whitechapel murders were committed in or near the impoverished Whitechapel District in the East End of London between 3 April 1888 and 13 February 1891. Eleven women were killed; the crimes remain unsolved. At various points some or all of the killings have been ascribed to the notorious, unidentified serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

Most, if not all, of the victims – Emma Elizabeth Smith, Martha Tabram, Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, Mary Jane Kelly, Rose Mylett, Alice McKenzie, Frances Coles, and an unidentified woman—were prostitutes. Smith was sexually assaulted and robbed by a gang. Tabram was stabbed 39 times. Nichols, Chapman, Stride, Eddowes, Kelly, McKenzie and Coles had their throats cut. Eddowes and Stride were killed on the same night, minutes and less than a mile apart; their murders were nicknamed the “double event”, after a phrase in a postcard sent to the press by someone claiming to be the Ripper. The bodies of Nichols, Chapman, Eddowes and Kelly suffered abdominal mutilations. Mylett was strangled. The body of the unidentified woman was dismembered, but the exact cause of her death is unclear.

The Metropolitan Police Force, City of London Police, and private organisations such as the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee were involved in the search for the killer or killers. Despite extensive inquiries and several arrests, the culprit or culprits evaded identification and capture. The murders drew attention to the poor living conditions in the East End slums, which were subsequently improved. The enduring mystery of who committed the crimes has captured the public imagination to the present day.


James Cameron to Direct “Prometheus” Sequel

James Cameron has said he wants to direct the follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Cameron, fresh from his solo voyage to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, spoke at the Titanic 3D premiere about his involvement in a sequel to the Alien spinoff. The Guardian UK reported: “There’s a gap of a few years between Prometheus and the original Alien,” he said. “That gap is meant for me to answer all the questions raised in Prometheus.”

If Cameron signs on for the sequel, it will be the second time he has inherited one from Scott. The director was at the helm for Aliens, the 1986 sequel to Scott’s 1979 original Alien movie. He said the idea of him making a second Prometheus movie was first mooted when he spoke with Scott during the making of Avatar.

“Ridley came to me, and he saw what I was doing [with Avatar] and the ideas I was exploring,” said Cameron. “We sat down and talked about Alien, and saw that there’s big ideas hidden in these stories. Where do we come from? What does it mean to be human? This was something that Ridley saw as original and something he wanted to be a part of.

“I’m not sure if Ridley changed his mind, because the movie [Prometheus] turned out fantastic, but it was during those early talks when he brought up the idea of me stepping in to direct a follow-up.”

Prometheus, originally planned as an Alien prequel, is now described as a film based in the universe of Alien, which will involve the discovery of the origins of the alien race that the crew of the Nostromo face in the original film. Scott’s film will see a group of scientists land on a strange planet inhabited by a lifeform that may hold the secret to the origins of mankind. But the shrieking and wailing at the end of the film’s latest trailer would suggest that – like Alien – the promise of the scientists’ discovery quickly turns sour.

There’s no official word from the studio behind Prometheus as to if or when Cameron will be officially attached to a second film. “Right now I’m working on Avatar 2,” he said. “So if Fox wants to wait … we’ll see what happens.”


Washington Irving

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer and historian of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”, both of which appear in his book The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of George Washington, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus. Irving also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846.

He made his literary debut in 1802 with a series of observational letters to the Morning Chronicle, written under the pseudonym Jonathan Oldstyle. After moving to England for the family business in 1815, he achieved international fame with the publication of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1819. He continued to publish regularly—and almost always successfully—throughout his life, and completed a five-volume biography of George Washington just eight months before his death, at age 76, in Tarrytown, New York.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, was written while he was living in Birmingham, England, and first published in 1820. The story is set circa 1790 in the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town, in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow. It tells the story of Ichabod Crane, who is a lean, lanky, and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecicut, who competes with Abraham “Brom Bones” Van Brunt, the town rowdy, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. As Crane leaves a party he attended at the Van Tassel home on an autumn night, he is pursued by the Headless Horseman, who is supposedly the ghost of a Hessian trooper who had his head shot off by a stray cannonball during “some nameless battle” of the American Revolutionary War, and who “rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head”. Ichabod mysteriously disappears from town, leaving Katrina to marry Brom Bones, who was “to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related”. Although the nature of the Headless Horseman is left open to interpretation, the story implies that the Horseman was really Brom in disguise.

The story has been filmed in various guises over the years, but rarely as it was written. As usual with these things, Hollywood seems to think it knows better than best-selling authors.

Irving, along with James Fenimore Cooper, was among the first American writers to earn acclaim in Europe, and Irving encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville and Edgar Allan Poe. Irving was also admired by some European writers, including Lord Byron and Charles Dickens, high praise indeed. As America’s first genuine internationally best-selling author, Irving advocated for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement.

On the evening of November 28, 1859, only eight months after completing the final volume of his Washington biography, Washington Irving died of a heart attack in his bedroom at Sunnyside at the age of 76. Legend has it that his last words were: “Well, I must arrange my pillows for another night. When will this end?” He was buried under a simple headstone at Sleepy Hollow cemetery on December 1, 1859.


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