Hoover Dam on the Colorado River

The Hoover Dam is an engineering marvel, truly one of the great monuments to American ingenuity and strength. Like Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, I couldn’t help being struck by the sheer size of the dam. It was a massive project on an unprecedented scale, like the ancient pyramids. An entire city was built to house the thousands of workers.

The Hoover Dam spans the Black Canyon on the Colorado River, between Nevada and Arizona. U.S. Route 93 used to cross the dam, but a bypass was opened in 2010 to divert traffic away from the structure. The steel and concrete bridge, called the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, is impressive in itself. The bridge is 1,900 feet long and 900 feet above the Colorado River.

The dam was built between 1931 and 1936 and cost $49 million ($700 million today). It was originally called the Boulder Dam, but Congress changed its name in 1947 in honor of former President Herbert Hoover. It rises 726.4 feet and spans 1,244 feet.

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War of 1812 Artillery Demonstration

War of 1812 artillery demonstration at Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site, New York, August 5 and 6, 2017. Gun is a small naval cannon mounted on a wooden carriage. Sunday’s weather was much better and less windy – you can probably tell which shot was filmed on Saturday! Watch in HD for full effect.

Battle of Cranberry Creek

The Battle of Cranberry Creek was a small but dramatic part of the War of 1812 in Upstate New York. Southeast of Alexandria Bay, Cranberry Creek flows into a branch of the St. Lawrence River leading into Goose Bay.

The St. Lawrence River, as the border between the United States and British Canada, was a vital waterway that saw dozens of naval battles as each side sought to control it. Both sides attacked vulnerable supply shipments being ferried up and down the river.

In late July 1813, the American Navy learned that several British bateaux loaded with munitions, salt pork, pilot bread, and other supplies, escorted by the Spit Fire, were bound up-river for Fort Henry at Kingston, Ontario.

Two privately-armed schooners, the Neptune and Fox, were dispatched from the naval base at Sackets Harbor to intercept them. Major Dimoch of the Forsyth Rifles commanded approximately 72 riflemen and militia on board.

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Annabelle: Creation – By the Numbers Horror

A group of orphans and a nun battle a demonic force personified by a creepy-looking doll in this latest installment of the The Conjuring UniverseAnnabelle: Creation is a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014), a fictional account of Ed and Lorraine Warren’s battle with an allegedly possessed Raggedy Ann doll. This film departs entirely from reality, imagining an origin story for the doll. Both critics and audiences seem to enjoy it. Overall, it had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well.

Annabelle: Creation was written by Gary Dauberman and directed by David F. Sandberg. Both Dauberman and Sandberg are relatively new to their craft. Dauberman is known for previously writing Annabelle (2014) and the low-budget Swamp Devil (2008), and Sandberg has directed several short films and Lights Out (2016).

The filmmakers’ inexperience is probably why this movie doesn’t take any risks. It is a strictly paint-by-numbers modern American horror film. It is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes. Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.

Also, someone should tell the filmmakers that Catholic nuns can’t hear sacramental confessions. Only a validly ordained priest or bishop can hear confessions and absolve sins.

Though Annabelle: Creation adds nothing new to the genre, its popularity shows this is what horror audiences want to see. It opened at the top of the box office, pulling in approximately $35 million its opening weekend. Anecdotal evidence also attest to the film’s popularity. The theater was packed when I went to see it, in stark contrast to Detroit (a far superior movie).

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First Impressions of Annabelle: Creation

I watched Annabelle: Creation this weekend, a prequel-sequel to Annabelle (2014). It’s the first horror movie I’ve seen since last year, and I read several reviews praising it for improving on the original. Honestly, I never saw the original and I’m not a fan of the “The Conjuring Universe” (although I did enjoy The Conjuring). Overall, Annabelle: Creation had a few eye-rolling moments, but it had a few genuinely scary ones as well. Here are some of my first impressions:

  • Annabelle: Creation only warrants an ‘R’ rating for a handful of gory scenes that could have easily been toned down to make it PG-13. In other words, if your movie is going to be rated R, make it rated R. This prequel-sequel relies primarily on thrills; it isn’t gratuitously violent, has no nudity, and there isn’t even any swearing in it.
  • The movie is filled with obvious bloopers, like Samuel Mullins “tickling” his daughter’s feet when she’s wearing shoes.
  • Contemporary horror cliches abound, including an isolated, creepy old house, an unrealistically large stone well, contorting body parts popular since The Ring (2002), and police who seem strangely indifferent despite horrible crimes having been committed.
  • Religious imagery, prayers, and exorcism/binding only seems to work when it’s convenient for the plot.
  • Lulu Wilson, who plays a courageous girl named Linda, was also in Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), which just happened to be the last horror movie I saw in theaters. She’s a talented young actress who I hope eventually breaks out of the horror genre.
  • The film reminded me of the most terrifying episode of a children’s show I’ve ever seen: an episode of Webster called “Moving On,” which aired just after Halloween in 1984. Webster explores an old Victorian house with a room that’s always locked. Inside, there’s a life-sized doll sitting in a rocking chair. It scared the shit out of me as a kid.
  • Did Annabelle need so many characters? At least two of six orphans are kinda just “there” and don’t contribute anything to the plot.
  • I did appreciate the inclusion at the end of a Raggedy Ann doll that looked like the real Annabell doll, as opposed to the sinister, wooden prop used for most of the movie.

Look for a full review coming soon!

14th Annual Marilla Civil War Reenactment

On July 29 & 30, Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days at Marilla Town Park. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. At Sutlers Row, vendors sold Civil War memorabilia, flags, books, and uniforms.

Each year has something a little different to offer. Previously, the event featured barn burnings, ground charges, and falling trees and buildings. Saturday’s reenactment was more conventional.

Participating units included the 1st Tennessee, 4th South Carolina, 21st Georgia, 42 Virginia, 138th New York, 200th Indiana, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, and more.

Maxwell’s Battery was one of the Union artillery units to participate in the reenactment. They hail from Canisteo in western New York and are unique in that they re-enact both sides of the conflict.

As a Union outfit, they represent Battery K of the 1st U.S. Artillery. When Confederate, they are Maxwell’s Battery of the 1st Georgia Regular Artillery. Historically, Battery K was a horse artillery unit, meaning its crew traveled on horseback for rapid movement.

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All-American Diner Tour: The Gem Diner in Syracuse, New York

Located off Spencer Street near I-690 in Syracuse’s Lakefront neighborhood, The Gem is a 1950s-style or rock ‘n’ roll-themed diner that also has an impressive beer menu featuring local breweries.

The Gem was founded by Henry “Hank” McCall in 1950 as The Little Gem Diner. In 1997, Francis “Doc” Good bought the Little Gem and renamed it Doc’s Little Gem Diner. In 2003, the State of New York banned smoking in most public places, and Doc estimated he lost 40% of his customers.

Then, in September 2007, a fire ravaged the diner and it was closed for repairs for over two months. After years of financial trouble, he sold it in 2011 to Len Montreal and Samuel Flatt. Doug LaLone leased the Gem, renovated, rebranded, and built an addition that expanded its seating from 47 seats to 130.

As an interesting aside, in 2009 Doc’s Little Gem Diner appeared in an episode of Jesse Ventura’s TruTV show Conspiracy Theory. The diner served as a backdrop for an interview with 9/11 conspiracy theorist Mike Bellone of Seneca Falls.

The Gem’s breakfast menu is heavy on the meat. You can get a 6 oz. Filet Mignon with two eggs, home fries and toast for $17.95, or a New York strip steak with two eggs, home fries and toast for $11.95. They also offer a cheeseburger breakfast, or if you want to cut right to the chase, just a half pound of chopped ground beef with with two eggs, home fries and toast for $9.00. You can also smother it in grilled mushrooms, onions, and peppers for a dollar.

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