UFOs: The Secret History

DATELINE: (well, not so secret)

Be Still, My Earth.

Though it is billed as having new information, it really has only a new and amusing perspective.  The film is irreverent in many ways, through use of movie clips and the laconic narration of its clever director.

We are happy to report that, unlike many cheapskate directors who save money by doing their own voice-overs, this director is actually a fairly good voice and speaks with intelligence and drama. David Cherniak directs with aplomb. He also led the film for the recent look at Bob Lazar in late middle age, revisited. Don’t hold it against him.

UFOs: The Secret History  is indeed a history, but with few secrets. It does have a plethora of marvelous clips from classic sci-fi films as part of its narrative.

His hilarious insights that are new include the notorious “pelican” theory that Kenneth Arnold in 1947 actually saw pelicans flying in formation at 1700 mph and called them saucers.

Yes, a scientist tells us this with a straight face.

When it comes to more serious matters, director David Cherniak still chooses photos that are unusual, not ones you’d see on Ancient Aliens. He does give us a a fresh take on Orson Welles, Roswell, Project Grudge, and the usual litany of UFO incidents that brought us to a wholesale government coverup.

He also plays on the notion that seeing UFOs was psychological, part of the J. Allen Hynek approach, which was code for saying the viewer of such events had a psychological problem. Even Hynek was turned into a buffoon over “swamp gas.” Well, yes, being called a nutcase is distressing.

One turning point is hardly secret: abductions of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire, the template for lost time and sexual abuse by space creatures.  There is no secret about the Travis Walton case, but it grabbed worldwide attention, as did the appearance of elderly Jesse Marcel who was at the Roswell crash in 1947, blowing the whistle.

If there is a secret here, that may be the hybridization plan of aliens to take over the Earth in subtle fashion by genetics. Oh, that secret…

 

 

 

 

 

Current War: All-Star Bio-Bash

DATELINE: Threesome of Stars!

         Hoult, Cumberbatch, Shannon: Currency

 

The Current War  was withheld from release and largely ignored because it was produced by pariah and sex abuser Harvey Weinstein.

The shame is that the movie is actually extremely good with remarkable performances. All for naught, thanks to Weinstein’s behavior.

In case you missed it, like most movie viewers, it is the story of Thomas Edison and his nasty rivalry with George Westinghouse over the burgeoning electricity industry and light bulbs. Yes, it is quite a topic for an intelligent and well-directed film. The production is positively incandescent.

This is not dry history, but crackles when Benedict Cumberbatch tosses Sherlock under the bus and adopts a middle American accent of a low-brow creepy Edison. Forget the grand dignity of Spencer Tracy in the role way back when light biopics were the rage.

 

Cumberbatch plays Edison as a lying media hound in Trump proportions and the semi-great man stole many of his ideas whilst in his tyrannical Menlo Park lab from workers like Nikola Tesla who is called here a “futurist,” played by Nicholas Hoult (who has given us J.D. Sailnger and Tolkien performances in recent years). Hoult may be the new Paul Muni.

At the other end of the electric feud is George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as the dignified and aristocratic rich inventor who wanted DC electricity—and between the insults with Edison, the two men play backlit characters to the real star of the movie, Tesla in the person of Hoult.

You won’t be shocked to hear that this film is an actors’ dream showcase. We will resist calling the performers electrifying or even working in deep undercurrent.

It’s reasonably accurate in its history too, which is a plus. We have always had a soft spot for those classic matchup of actors playing off and against each other. This time we have a trio to add to the mix of Burton and O’Toole, Heston and Olivier, and Lancaster and Douglas, all in historical feud movies.

This film is the first to try the rivalry with three historical figures and three grand performers. Marvelous.

 

 

 

Biggest Bit Player in 20th Century!

DATELINE: Changing the World

 Shannon.

Imagine being one of the most important people to live in the 20th century and being unknown!

This documentary teases us with the notion that we are remiss to have missed Claude E. Shannon, the greatest inventor/scientist of the 20thcentury. He is called The Bit Player because he is the man who created ‘the bit” as part of the first “thinking machine.”

Yes. He’s right up there with Einstein, though no one has given him the time of day. His theoretics led to the iPhone, email, and all the other unquestioned intrusions into life. He rode a unicycle and juggled, and some thought he was a walking, breathing, thinking carnival barker.

Years ago we used to drive past his home in Winchester, Massachusetts, all the time, but only now do we recognize that a great man lived in that distinctive house. Had we known, we might have dropped in as unannounced as a text message from a stranger.

Eclectic, poetic, he was all you would never think was a scientist. He once invented a flaming trumpet for his high-school age son who was in a marching-band.

Growing up in the Midwest, he came to MIT after writing a stunning Master’s Thesis at age 21, years before Alan Turing’s seminal work. Shannon created codes, and in particular he made the binary code, and his two-number system meant that 1+1=1.  Uh-oh, that meant you were a nutcase in 1930.

Idiosyncratic sometimes makes you an academic pariah, but many of Shannon’s ideas were borderline science fiction and considered useless. If there was no personal PC, how could they be implemented or pragmatic?

How much call was there for a calculator that worked in Roman numerals? He loved to tinker and to let his mind wander the byways of opportunity, much like his pioneer grandfather.

When he spent a year at Princeton, Shannon used to wave every morning at Einstein as the genius walked to Princeton, but is vague about their meeting and interactions. He said he met Einstein but Einstein likely had no memory of meeting him.

It is characteristic of oddity in this biographical story.

With much derived from a filmed interview he gave late in life, we have evidence of a vibrant, ageless thinker that displays the power that must have been thwarted all too often in the earlier days of the 20thcentury.

This man gave Marshall McLuhan all the war and peace in the global village that he could muster. It’s always delightful to meet the most important people you never knew existed.

 

 

 

 

Unidentified Finale, Part 2

DATELINE: Biting Audience Hand

 Elizondo

The series may smell its own doom and climbs out of the box in which it has placed itself for two seasons:  instead of video footage of UFOs, the show switched to alien abduction stories.

Lou Elizondo calls abduction of Americans an “act of war,” and an attempt to regain audience support. Like John Casey on World War 2 Gold, Lou Elizondo may be pushing out his costars. He takes the reins completely in the final two shows of the season.

The victims of close encounters are all, of course, former military non-coms who have retired and now are willing to speak their stories. Nearly all are serving at nuclear facilities when they had their bad meetings and missing time.

At least one witness adds a new wrinkle: that the UFO was gaseous with no sharp edges and had changing colors. The witness was left with odd burns from the encounter, but military tests are never shared with him.

These vets often mention black-outs and sleep paralysis.

Host Elizondo talks to one expert, Dr. Susan Clancy, who completely shreds and debunks all these witness experiences as “false memory.” Elizondo readily accepts this.

She insists that the belief of these memories is important for validation for an individual whose life is devoid of meaning. She also takes a shot at Dr. John Mack of Harvard who came to accept abduction as real.

In a last-ditch effort to throw a sop to the fans who usually are faithful to these kind of shows, Elizondo claims there are real physical effects to these witnesses. It may be too little too late.

Elizondo notes that there are six billion earth-like planets in the galaxy and may have “brothers and sisters” of the human race. The final few minutes become a desperate plea to continue the investigations, but History channel may more than likely pull the plug on this series.

White Stone, Gold Finch, Good Fortune

DATELINE: Sweet Augurs

You may come to wonder how serendipity causes a trio of augurs to show up on your doorstep in one week.

Here, at my haunted home, there is never a doubt that serendipity is the direct action of some spirits from another dimension.

In the grand scheme of good portents of the future, we have been quite lucky to find these arriving:  the colors are as spectacular as the items. Gold and white: symbols of positive energy.

After a tropical deluge, we discovered a flat white piece of quartz sat alongside the driveway where it was not a day before. We might think it washed across a lawn and deposited itself in a visible spot.

We might think, like frogs dropping in a rainstorm, the small white stone dropped like manna from heaven, however un-gravitational the theory is.

We do know that 100 years ago a previous resident of my neighborhood was an inveterate rock collector at age 10.  He went seeking geological anomalies around the pathways. When he moved to Waikiki Beach in 1900, he went climbing Diamond Head searching for volcanic stones.

Percy was his name, and it almost feels as if Percy may have left his calling card in the flat white stone. It came to us like something from his collection.

If white quartz has any special meaning, experts of the occult will tell you it opens your mind to receiving and learning new ideas. It also has the power of patience in its feel and look; you will not be less than tactful in dealing with the world.

Above all else, you can thank white quartz, discovered by accident, to create situations not limited by stressful responsibilities.

These are the points of wisdom from centuries of soothsayers and fortune tellers. For an oldster, the white quartz likely will improve memory and concentration, not small feats.

Not long after came the next augur of something special.

We’ve never been one to believe in totem animals as our patron. Yet, having lived in urban areas for decades, to find Nature outside the window in summer has been illuminating.

We have never seen a gold finch in person and up close until now. And, twice in a week, the itsy bird with the black-tipped wings has flown up to the window as I sip coffee and gaze out.

The first visit he stayed longer and peered at me, and the next he seemed to check on my well-being later in the day.

Again, those purveyors of prophecy will tell you that the gold finch holds special symbolism.

The gold finch is known to bring with his visit the promise of brighter days and the insurance of achieving your dreams.

It seems the gold finch chooses you and presents you with his gift to appreciate beauty and art. If you are on your journey to spiritual well-being, you will find the talent to be what you need to become, no matter how old you are.

How can the appearance of these three augurs be an accident of fate? They seem part of a larger haunting spirit that stays in this enchanted home where I now live.

If ever I wondered why I found this place and why I am here, it no longer matters. A force has engulfed me in my new and final phase of life.

One moment seldom defines a lifetime unless you happen to be on the Titanic, at Gettysburg, or in the Alamo. Some spirits are enhanced by these fateful occurrences. If you are lucky, you may find a guide to take you along their mystical journey across time and space.

Earthquakes on Apocalypse Earth

DATELINE: Movers & Shakers

 1994, California.

The apocalyptic hits just keep coming. This week we find ourselves horrified and terrified by the notion that if volcanoes and tornadoes don’t get us, we will sink into the Earth during a quake on the doomsday series from History called Apocalypse Earth.

In fact, this is the best episode so far of the series, featuring only earthquakes in the United States. It is a catalogue of rare photos and film, going back to the earliest recorded damages. California is the main hotspot, with documented deaths and damage from the 1850s. The more famous events in San Francisco, are actually secondary to the continuing quakes in Los Angeles.

The 1933 event and 1971 event are compared to the 1994 Northridge shaker that brought down famously overpasses, crushing occupants in their basement garages or highways.

With about 100 quakes every day, most unfelt, the dangers of living along the California coast may be a warning from this program. However, like those millions living in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, the Los Angelenos are impervious and likely believe it will hold off for another generation.

Scientists intersperse the scenes with basic explanations of why buildings collapse and the underground topography.

We expected to see massive destruction at the old ball game in 1989, but when the reports came to New York and Boston, we took personal notice. In 1757 even Boston had a major earthquake.

After leading viewers to believe the special was about the US, you had scenes (horrific) of Haiti in 2010 and Mexico where primitive building codes never considered plate tectonics.

The climax is the New Madrid earthquake of 1811, the longest running, largest quake ever in the United States, lasting over a month with at least three major shocks and a thousand minor ones. With no cameras, only a few handwritten accounts survived. However, Memphis and St. Louis may be the heirs to a future bleak shock.

Staggering stuff, but there was no discussion of Alaskan quakes, and that was a great omission.

Unidentified Beats a Hasty Retreat from UFOs

DATELINE: Drones!

Unidentifiedis coming down the pike for a second season finale at two hours. It seems History Channel cannot end this series fast enough. The final two episodes are lumped together in one extravaganza.

Whether this series returns for a third year is dubious, as it has run the string of material and seems highly repetitive. In its swan song of season two, the experts tackle the recent (?) surge in UFO sightings.

We suspect that, if a UFO lands at the White House and abducts Trump not to return, this show may receive a reprieve.

The opening part of the finale mentions that there have been twice as many sightings of UFOs in 2019 than the year previous. This is attributed to the dominance of smartphone cameras being handy to document any and all odd scenes.

Of course, as the show points out, phone cameras are not designed for long distance pictures and their reliability is poor. Yet, red-orange orbs are seen regularly as blobs. Most of the newer UFO appearances are in places like North Carolina where a Navy training area is off-shore.

The theory is thrown out there that these could be drones: even Russian spy drones. These could be tests done by the United States, though the hosts want to discount this.

Other experts note that 60 satellites have been launched within the past few years, and they create a new conga line of strange lights in the sky at night.

These are not happy notions to those who have fought the Blue Book coverup put forth by the government for years.

Yet, Elizondo goes to New Jersey to find a runway of red-orange drones that fly in formation. These 130 drones create optical illusions of solid flying discs, tick-tacs, triangles or saucers,  Take that, believers.

Endeavour Winds Up and Down Season 7

 DATELINE: See Venice & Die.

 

Nearly everyone associated with the program Endeavour believes that season 8 will be the end of the series’ run. If so, it is not going to end well for most of the characters, apart from Morse who goes on to another life as Morse in late middle-age (already filmed in case you missed them with Thaw as old Morse).

The hostility and break between Thursday and Endeavour seemingly irrevocable and, in a future world, likely it is fatal.

We begin and end with the overwrought opera in Venice, and its ultimate plot is revealed to us as some kind of reconciliation to the future season. The end  tableaux  is exactly like the opera.

Playing at Mycroft, we were one step ahead of Morse’s Sherlock, but Endeavour’s red herrings were not stand-alone. We were irked by the endless mayhem. The clues were mix and match. We won’t spoil much by telling you that you have more serial killers in an Oxfordshire towpath than on the streets of Chicago.

The tale is overwrought like opera and stretches our credulity more than any previous season. It seems Morse’s fatal flaw is not a kiss of death, but a snobby arrogance. His Oxford background puts him above the flat-footed cops he works with, and he’s told as much several times. It is his hubris that causes a serial killer to use him as a “convenient idiot, or police pet,” by the equally brilliant A-train killer.

Ryan Gage as Ludo matches Shaun Evans as Endeavour, step by pulled out stop.

Reconciliations in some season eight may be hard to swallow if they even come. It seems that all the actors have played their parts on the stage, as Ludo tells us at the climax, and that may be enough.

On the Offence with Sean Connery

 DATELINE: Endeavour Predecessor!

Back in 1972, Sean Connery did not want to play James Bond: to arrange for him to do another film on 007 romp, Connery insisted he be allowed to play a disturbed police detective based on a dark and depressing play called The Offence.

The movie showed off Connery as a powerful actor, but was a box-office fizzle. Audiences were not ready to see James Bond in a dubious psychologically damaged role. The film remains topical and fascinating: it deals with a police sergeant detective in London who cracks up while investigating another hideous child molester case (shades of Jeffrey Epstein).

With its disturbing lead character finally at wit’s end, his response is police brutality and murder that is ripped out of the headlines of 2020 without the racial angle. It’s directed by Sydney Lumet, no less.

The film mirrors Endeavour, the PBS series, set at the same time of early 1970s, now dealing with police like Fred Thursday at the end of their rope, having to face brutality and violence day-after-day. Endeavouris accurate for the feeling and style of police work in those days.

One may have sympathy for these benighted knights of crime, but they have lost the ability to make good decisions.

Trevor Howard shows up to match Connery in an interrogation scene as the chief constable of Scotland Yard. Their acting in tandem is remarkable, but the film is depressing and unpleasant as it details the reasons why the police sergeant kills a child molester while he is in police custody.

If this is to be recommended for its relevance, it is to be watched with a barf bag handy. You will likely be unhappy to see Connery’s license to kill, in this role, is not for espionage fun. This is a dark, stark, cruel movie.

 

 

Franchise Detectives: Blanc and Poirot

 

DATELINE: TV or Not TV

As if one fiasco performance was not enough in Murder on the Orient Express,Kenneth Branagh has pasted on his giant fake mustache for a second Poirot adventure based on Agatha Christie.

Yes, he is sailing down and down: Death on the Nile. will render another horrible remake of the murder mystery. Put aside the diminutive expert work of David Suchet a few years ago, Branagh is a behemoth in the role (too big for his tiny mincing steps).

Why would Branagh chose to do a franchise murder mystery series on the bigger screen after doing every Shakespearean play that fit his mood on film?

Likely it is the same reason that Daniel Craig has given up James Bond’s franchise to play a cornpone detective named Benoit Blanc from New Orleans. As one character noted, it was CSI by ways of KFC. Knives Out  will be followed by Knives In and Out.

Craig’s character is not even clever, except as the writer lets him solve the crime. Bombast seems to highlight these new detectives who’d never cut it on TV weekly in the old heyday of McCloud and  Rockford.

All-star supporting casts seem to be a draw for these films now: you find faces (some old TV stars) that yearn to be back in the public favor, and you have a cast of suspects that is often highly amusing. Their biggest crime is wanting a comeback role.

So, we will have more of these franchise detectives. The roles are not exactly Prince Hamlet, but great roles often have been reprised by different actors. For almost a century Basil Rathbone was considered the be-all, end-all Sherlock until Jeremy Brett gave him a run.

Now we have new actors (well, very old actors) in new versions of old wine. We toast their hubris.

Norman Mailer: American Something or Other

DATELINE: Great Writers?

Norman, is that you?

We confess that we never had much regard for Norman Mailer during his lifetime. He was an Ernest Hemingway wannabe without style or class. He was the Nixon of writers.  He reveled in the cult of personality over writing talent. However, there was no denying he was a writer: he never wavered in writing novels, journalism, history, biography, and social commentary.

Unlike many writers, he was prolific and constant in his commitment. He loved writing from his days at Harvard and like Gore Vidal, he might have gone off track now and then as an actor, film director, or even candidate for political office. He always returned to writing.

He used his fame and fortune as a writer to open every door he could: he had six wives and a passel of children. He had the buzz off money that most people envy. He could tell anyone, big or small, famous or infamous, to go to hell. He did it his way. His success with The Naked and The Dead made him rich and famous, but he was a critical target after that. He became an insulting drunkard.

In a world where you might admire talent or special ability, he never thought much of any of it. He said and did what he wanted. He was independent and might stick a fork in a snarling lion if it behooved him. He stabbed his second wife, nearly killing her, and faked insanity and begged her not to press charges. What a tool.

Gore Vidal could berate him to face and he shrugged it off. He would bait a Dick Cavett audience and sneer back at their hostility. He was larger than life.

Should we admire him now that he was been gone 20 years or so? He wrote marvelous books on Marilyn and Oswald that stand up to researchers still.

He won a couple of Pulitzers for taking on capital punishment and the Vietnam War. He was fearless and cocky. We never liked him, but in his dotage we have come to recognize our own dotage. It does not change that he was reprehensible.

Pandora’ Box Contains Flying Dutchman

DATELINE: Legends Collide in 1951 

Director Albert Lewin only made a handful of unusual movies: most of them lost money. He directed and produced too, and even adapted one of his own novels to film (The Living Idol). His most idiosyncratic and stunning movie was the stunning and stupefying Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

Some critics called it “depressing,” which is like dismissing Hamlet for having a downbeat plotline. This film is now fully restored to gorgeous Technicolor—and it is hypnotic.

This film combined several legends about immortality and damnation. The Flying Dutchman was a sea captain doomed to travel on his ghost ship for centuries looking for redemption. Pandora opened a box of ills to the world, perhaps inadvertently.

When you cast brilliant James Mason as the Dutchman and Ava Gardner in her most beautiful as Pandora, you have something special. They are both at the tiptop of their youth and careers. The film is luscious, staggering in its Jack Cardiff color, lush, outrageous, and over the top in every way. Each scene is beyond anything normal.

When he is Humbert Humbert, Rommel, or the Flying Dutchman, James Mason delivers such a distinctive brand of stardom that he mesmerizes in every moment on screen. Gardner is tempestuous and infuriating, but totally watchable.

 

It takes place on the coast of Spain in 1930 when an American bon vivant (Ava) sees a mysterious yacht anchored in the bay. She is a vixen and monster, destroying men, until she meets Mason’s laconic legend.

Every scene is developed to meet the caricatures of the cast: you have the professor of antiquities who begins to discover Mason is immortal, and you have Marius Goring in a cameo as a drunken suitor of Gardner. You have a race car driver with reckless abandon, and a matador too full of bull.

With its flashbacks within flashbacks, it manages to provide a convoluted tale of 17thcentury fables and the rich of the 20thcentury at play.

How Lewin manages to cram all this beauty, brains, and fantasy into one movie is a marvel.

 

Apocalypse Earth on Tornadoes

DATELINE:  Terrible Winds

 1925

If you thought you had learned all you needed to know from watching the Wizard of Oz, you may find yourself well-informed on the subject of tornadoes after watching the second episode of the new History series on Apocalypse Earth.

You might find more than a witch on a bicycle being thrown skyward in one of the big tornadoes that hits the American Midwest.

The second episode of the Apocalypse series on History contains many facts and is quite informative. The United States, for example, has more tornadoes than any country on Earth. And these monsters can spin at 250 or 300 mph, doomsday in five minutes or an hour. Most tornadoes last about two minutes. Alas, the series continues to be repetitive and disjointed.

There are segments now and then called “Survivor Stories” but there is no difference with the rest of show. In fact, sometimes the heading is totally arbitrary and you hear from experts, not survivors.

We did learn about family outbursts (dozens of tornadoes coming out of one big system)  and that supercells and the F-category rating are fairly recent from the 1970s.

The worst place to be is Oklahoma, not Kansas, Dorothy.

There are rare historical photos from the 1967 outbreak in Oklahoma, or another bad one in 1974. They even go back to 1925 when the Tri-State tornadoes were the deadliest, but there is no chronology to these insights. Next, you will be hearing about St. Louis in 1896. Yet the info is compelling.

You can find yourself lifted up in a bathtub like one woman and tossed 300 feet. A piece of paper with identification was found 300 miles from where it was scooped up by winds of terror.

We did find this episode worth the time commitment of two hours.

UFO Cover Up on Unidentified

DATELINE: Mellon as Head of Ops

We’re not sure who’s covering up what and if you think you will have clarification on this series, Unidentified, which delineates military investigators and UFO cases, you will find yourself going down (or up) another rabbit hole.

Our intrepid hosts, insiders at the Pentagon, who are tied into the Navy release of actual pilot video of mystery craft in the sky, will not exactly give you the answer you want.

This series may have just realized it is poisoning its own audience with listening to UFO drivel (or alternative theories) it never believed to begin with: the experts cited continued to say that all UFO stuff is disinformation put out over their secret programs, including drones that now shoot out of submarines and return to their source under water. It explains submerged craft or USOs.

The military apologists also contend that the radar is now filled with technical ghosts, phantoms that appear on screen but are not real to hide the real aircraft.

And the AF is playing mind games with the US Navy, taking their information after eating them up with experimental encounters with mystery UFO-but really US top secret aircraft.

If the technology is far superior to anything belonging to the US government (as host Skip to My Lu Elizondo contends), we are in big trouble. The is now on the defensive or is that offensive, attacking the government who feeds it for hiding more videos.  Information at the Pentagon is now routinely confiscated by Air Force honchos, riding roughshod over other military branches.

So the series is fighting back to retain its unhappy UFO audience who are fervent believers. The hosts now claim that is is impossible that Area 51 is a base of fake UFO operations and saucers that are of this Earth, not so galaxy far far away.

We’ll see if this response is too little too late to save the series from becoming a coverup in itself.