Suspense

Expedition Unknown – Lost Mexican City – S02E25

imageFor this episode, Josh is trying to unravel the mystery surrounding and ancient and powerful civilization very few people have even heard of. We’re familiar with the Aztec and Maya, but what if those civilizations modeled themselves after an even more powerful and advanced society? Enter the Teotihuacan, an advanced society that predates the Aztec by several hundred years. They too were a culture with advanced mathematics, incredible buildings, a vast understanding of the universe, and apparently shared a penchant for human sacrifice.

Archaeologists have uncovered uncovered burial chambers where people were bound and sacrificed as well as jewelry made of human bones. It was originally believed the Teotihuacan were a peaceful civilization, but it’s now believed they were a role model for human sacrifice and bloodletting.

Cholula is a neighboring city that has an immense underground pyramid built by the Teotihuacan. In fact, it’s the largest pyramid in the world, you just can’t see it. It has five miles worth of tunnels covered with art that predates the Aztec. This same art can be seen within other cultures, suggesting the influence of the Teotihuacan was quite vast.

Josh visits another site called the Mountain of the Blades, which is an obsidian mine. The Teotihuacan used the obsidian to make razor sharp weapons. Normally obsidian is a type of black glass, but in this very specific area, the obsidian is green. The Teotihuacan believed the green obsidian held supernatural powers which only they could harness. These same green blades have been found within other cultures the Teotihuacan visited.

While they haven’t found any tombs of Teotihuacan rulers, they have found multiple temples. Josh is able to enter tunnels beneath one of them. Within the tunnels they’ve been able to find more obsidian blades, pottery and carved statues. They have also discovered the tunnel ends at a room that is under the dead center of the temple. From the artifacts found as well as the shape and usual style of the room, they believe it is a representation of the Underworld.

It would have been used for rituals as well as ceremonies. It is also believed their rulers would have been cremated in a room like this, which explains why there are no burial chambers. It’s possible the new ruler would have been taken to the Underworld to preside over the cremation of the past ruler. When the ceremony was over, he would return from Hell as their new leader.

While there is no definitive explanation for their demise as culture, they are rewriting what they know. The Teotihuacan culture was far more expansive that previously thought with the physical layout of the town extending miles beyond what they originally mapped. They’ve also disregard them as a docile and peaceful people. It appears their level of blood sacrifice rivaled anything that came after them. And they were an incredibly powerful and influential people. Relics, such as the obsidian blades, have been found hundreds of miles away and it was these supernatural blades that instilled fear and submission within others.

It’s quite a fascinating story, with plenty of evidence left behind. It’s amazing they have pyramids almost completely obscured underground. And the weapons they made from obsidian, look as deadly as anything made from steel. In fact, the obsidian they mined was the steel of the time period. A dangerous culture that will surely offer up more interesting stories as their structure and past are unearthed.

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Expedition Unknown – Shangri La Found – S02E22

imageFrom our previous outing, Josh has hooked up with Mark Aldenderfer who is documenting thousands of caves carved into the side of the mountain face. Within this remote region he has discovered temples and paintings left on the cave walls from hundreds of years ago.

But there are more discoveries ahead as Mark finds a rock tower that turns out to be a burial chamber. Inside are remains, bleached white by the sun. They are within an area described as a sky burial. The deceased is brought here and their body is returned to the earth as it were. The remains are left out until only the bones remain. It sounds a bit grim, but the practice and the location are still being used.

In Lo Manthang, Josh stops at a small temple to meditate. It is another remote location and the idea is to remove all external distractions. The idea of achieving peace and harmony is a common theme.

This is also the location Mark has been lead to with dozens more caves that haven’t been explored. Not only are they extremely remote like the others, but they are also 100 feet or more off the ground. Josh and the team have to use rock climbing gear just to get into them.
The others were dangerous, but these appear to be even more so.

What Josh finds is a series of interconnected chambers, a small city within the rocks. From the pottery and animal hides as well as the charred ceiling from cooking fires, this was a heavily occupied area. It’s conceivable that hundreds of people lived in these caves away from any form of attacks and dangers.

As Josh is heading back down, he makes an exciting discovery. Another wall of paintings using the same pigments and styles they’ve seen before. It turns out to be a Buddhist chant, one that has shown up on other temples in the area. Mark believes the people would live in the caves to preserve the small amount of farmland, which is set up as a series of terraces. They would use the land for crops, then store and protect it in the caves.

For their final destination, they are taken to an extremely remote temple. They have to use horses to make the final leg, but even the horses have to be lead up the incredibly steep and narrow winding paths they find.

And this is no ordinary temple as the location is kept a secret, known only to a select group of people who protect and watch over it. One of their party is a monk who literally holds the key to open the door.

The temple is a holy meditation shrine with vivid paintings on the wall, with masks and carved statues. It’s incredibly detailed and adorned for such a remote location. But the inner sanctuary holds even greater discoveries. They enter a room filled with carved deities, the protectors of the monastery. Each is painted in vivid colors and highly decorated. These deities are also holding weapons, armor, swords, shields and even crossbows. Each one is most likely hundreds of years old and a fantastic treasure on it’s own. It’s amazing that things exist in such a staggeringly remote location. And clearly many people have visited this shrine and left their mark on it.

So is this Shangri La? Is this Utopia? If your looking for something along the lines of the Seven Cities of Gold, then no. But, if the Utopia is that of meditation, enlightenment, one with nature and it’s surroundings, then I believe this to be the spot. It’s remote, away from war, away from distraction, disease would be minimal and it’s hidden among the clouds where a person can live simply off the land and meditate on their spiritual well being.

It may not be as glamorous as the tales make it out, but it fits the description pretty well.

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Hannibal returns for Season 3

imageI just had a chance to sit down and watch the season 3 opener of Hannibal. There was some doubt we would even get this third season, but this first episode has me intrigued as we learn all sorts of secrets about Hannibal, his former therapist Dr. Bedelia, and that Hannibal had Dr. Abel Gideon for dinner on multiple occasions and their discussion were quite revealing.

We catch up with Hannibal who has managed to escape from Will and Jack and has made his way over to Italy. He has started a new life for himself as a professor focusing on the works of Dante. How strangely fitting. But there is far more to this story. Odd how a position just happens to come open right when Hannibal is looking for a  job. Further, we see there is a whole lot more to relationship between Hannibal and Dr. Bedelia. Seems they were more than colleagues, more than doctor and patient and without giving too much away, they had much more than a passing knowledge of each other. It also comes out that Dr. Bedelia is quite aware of who and what Hannibal is.

As we look to the recent past, we see that Dr. Gideon and Hannibal had quite a few interesting dinners together. There was a lot of conversation about how Gideon wondered how Hannibal would feel when it became his time to be the hunted animal. I have to say, those scenes got a little more disturbing each time we meet up at the dinner table. Gideon looks worse and worse each time and something about him seems to be missing. I’ll let you chime in when you get to that point.

We also get a glimpse into how Hannibal seasons and prepares the meats that go into his recipes. He takes great care to marinade his cuts with sauces and spices and even shows how he grooms and feeds the snails he will later use in his cooking. There was some awkward moments with that one. And the way Gideon looks on at what he is going to be served actually makes you feel sorry for the guy.

Strangely, as Hannibal begins to settle in with this new job, a new visitor shows up on their doorstep. He gets invited over for dinner and Dr. Bedelia is actually shocked Hannibal, "lets him go". Ok, that is pretty grim business. Bedelia knows exactly what Hannibal is capable of and even makes the unusual comment that Hannibal "wants her to taste good" when a comment is made about the food she is eating. This makes for some raised eyebrows at the table and their guest begins to wonder what sort of party he’s been invited to.

But the new visitor is brought back and it seems Hannibal is back to his old tricks and Bedelia is right at his side.

I have no doubt this is going to be an eye opening, jaw dropping season. I think Hannibal is an incredibly suspenseful and dramatic telling of the Hannibal story that is far superior to the crap movies that Anthony Hopkins put out. That Hannibal was laughable and pathetic. Not once did he instill any sort of fear, nor did he ever come across as anything but a buffoon. When I first watched Silence of the Lambs, I thought it was a stupid movie and Hannibal was a joke. Why would anyone be afraid of this guy? He comes across with the mental capacity of an ice cube, not someone who is calm, calculated and always one step ahead in the game.

The Hannibal of the TV series is far more compelling. He is sophisticated, soft spoken, elegant, refined and hides all his misdeeds behind a wall of calm that keeps you completely on edge. Strangely, Hannibal from the series is someone you’d actually like to know.

Who knows where this season will go and if there will be a season 4. I really hope there is as I would love to see them remake the 3 movies as season long episodes. The previous movies would pale in comparison as to what this team would be able to pull together.

We are off to an extremely dangerous start and so much has already been revealed and set in motion. We haven’t seen Will or Jack yet, and we have no idea how many of them survived, but I have no doubt they will be back with a vengeance and will be hell bent to catch Hannibal and have their revenge. Just like the other seasons, this is going to be great and we are in for a treat full of deception, lies and misdirection. And even when we think we know what’s going on, more will be revealed that will completely throw us for a loop.

Who else caught the opening episode? What did you think?

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Lizzie Borden Took An Ax – Prequel to the Lizzie Borden Chronicles

imageIt was clear I needed to take a step back. I’d watched the Lizzie Borden Chronicles, but I hadn’t actually watched the Lizzie Borden movie. I’m not sure how I accomplished that, but I’m sure it took a special talent.

The movie came out in 2014 and although I made note of it, I was completely oblivious. Well, that has now been changed and I just finished watching. It’s a fictionalized account of the events that "could" have taken place in the Borden house on that fateful day. It takes some bits and pieces of the real events and weaves a tale of who might have committed the crime and how they might have gotten away with it.

Of course, the whole movie centers of Lizzie. It shows her with a strained relationship to her father and a less than ideal relationship with her step-mother. We sort of get the impression that Lizzie is overshadowed by the new mom and is no longer the center of attention within the family.

As we progress, Lizzie finds the bodies of her parents and then into the investigation we go. Of course, Lizzie is the prime and only suspect in the case. She was home or at least near the house when the murders took place, has a shaky story of her whereabouts and actions and gets a little confused when asked questions about the events.

When confronted about her relationship with her mother, she is quick to point out that Abby is not her mother. We then learn about the gifts the father had made to Abby’s side of the family, leaving his own daughters out of it. We hear about the family troubles, the barrage of axes and weapons in the house, Lizzie’s interest in poison to kill rats around the house, her contradictory testimony, the seeming lack of concern over the deaths and the burning of the dress she was wearing when the murders took place.

From there we get some insight into what "might" have happened. Did Lizzie plot the murders and lie in wait? Did she remove all her clothes then attack her parents so as to conceal the blood? Was she calculating enough to kill the mother first so as to not disturb the line of inheritance? Did she quickly bathe, clean and hide the evidence? Was the burning of the dress a cover up to conceal the blood which might have been mistaken for stew earlier?

Like the series that follows, we see Lizzie more as a plotter in the events rather than a hapless victim of them. We sort of get the impression she was tired of the step mom making off with the cash and took care of business so she could get the Maplecroft estate that she had her eye on.

So we are once again faced with a slew of questions about this murder. They are supposedly able to tell the time of the murders, but yet their evidence collecting is horrific. Lizzie was the only suspect and it seems the police didn’t look very hard for more clues or other suspects. Dozens of people trampled through the house, so no real preservation of the crime scene. And there’s a whole slew of other issues.

On the one hand it seems like Lizzie is in fact the prime suspect, but at the same time she doesn’t really seem up to the task. Was she really that good at covering her tracts? Was the evidence that lacking?

While it may not be award winning, it was still an interesting take on the Lizzie Borden story. It certainly paints Lizzie as the culprit and even in the final moments she whispers "the truth" to her sister. Who knows what was said, but do know that Lizzie and Emma had a failing out a few years later.

If you’re looking to waste some time and have a little morbid fun, this isn’t a bad movie to sit down to. It’s not revealing, nor insightful, but it does offer a couple of interesting bits and of course sets the stage for the Lizzie Borden Chronicles, which I thought was a wicked bit of fun to watch.

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