That’s Dah-veed to You, David!

DATELINE:  Bloody Marat!

David & Death of Maratmarat

 

Jacques-Louis David may be at the top of a short list of great French painters of an ilk.

Alas, this documentary pegs him all too accurately for the slime-ball he was, despite his fabulous technique. Be warned: this documentary is in French—which makes the sleaze sound all the more elegant.

David & the Death of Marat deals with the most famous painting of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. You know, the period where they chopped off heads with aplomb.

David was one of the ring-leaders, voting to kill King Louis and his wife Marie Antoinette. He was a political advocate of assassination—unless it hit too close to home.

It seems Jean Marat, the journalist agitator, was a friend of David. He was upset when a monarchist defender, Charlotte Corday, knifed the writer in his bath (he was soaking his rotting skin).

She was, of course, another historical victim to be handed her head.

David took a while for his propaganda to coalesce. Most painters wanted to depict the rotting corpse of the martyr Marat. David was smarter, and portrayed a man serene in his death, writing for the masses.

It was a brilliant work, leaving out the more sympathetic Corday and putting focus on dead Marat with his carotid artery spliced with a dagger.

Simplicity ruled, and the picture became famous, but David’s hypocrisy for the little people seemed misplaced. He became Napoleon’s court painter—and later hid his works among his aristocratic friends (the ones he did not vote to behead).

This extraordinary documentary shows contemporary French art experts delighted with the guillotine even today. Illuminating little hour.

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Holiday Cheer for Trump Limited to Bronx Cheer!

 DATELINE: No Smocking Zone

Graham Demonstrates Technique Beat It!

There’s a smocking gun in Donald Trump’s pocket. And he’s glad to give Season’s Greetings to Stormy Daniels if she has $300,000 for him.

The National Enquirer apparently knows that “peanut stuff” can be elephantine for the fat cat president who happens to be the biggest bath tub filler since William Howard Big-Boy Taft was in the White House.

The writing is on the wall and the walls are closing in, which certainly describes a penthouse for Putin at Trump Tower.

Trump only has a vague recollection of doing business “somewhere in Russia.”  We suspect he was thinking of building gulags out in Siberia for his Fox and Friends.

We have come to realize that Mr. Trump does not know what the word “collusion” really means, which is not surprising for a self-styled genius with learning disabilities.

Next thing you know Trump will insist that payments to Stormy and friends were not champagne contributions. We’ll drink to that.

If you want to work in the White House, you have to be in line for Tom Sawyer’s whitewash fence job, according to an unimpeachable source named Tom Steyer.

Where there’s smock, for Trump, there may be a muumuu for prison garb. If the muumuu fits, it’s smocking hot.

If you want to work at the White House, you need an NDA, especially if you don’t have a big bank account on hold.

Hitler had his Big Lie, but Trump has a Bigger Denial.

The witch hunt Trump most enjoyed was when Samantha went looking her mother Endora on Bewitched.

Don, Jr., has gone missing this week. Reports have surfaced that he is Big Game Hunting for reindeer at the North Pole.

When you consider a $50million bribe to Putin to be “peanut stuff,” you have a Colossus of crime on your hands.

Napoleon was sent into political exile on a remote island for his crimes, but Trump will be sent to Gilligan’s Island for his antics.

Silence Patton: Victim of Assassins?

DATELINE:  General Nuisance?

Patton

As the supposed first casualty in the Cold War, General George S. Patton is the subject of a 2018 documentary that raises the theory that he was murdered in 1945. He was about to return to the States as a whistle-blower on the ineptitude of the war strategy. This intriguing documentary is called Silence Patton.

A military truck, driven by a drunken soldier, hit the limo with Patton in it, as he prepared to return to the United States. He was left in a state of paralysis and soon succumbed (some say poisoned) in a German hospital.

What are we to make of this? Patton himself, as he was pulled from the wreckage of the accident, insisted that no soldier be blamed. He called it an “accident’”. He seemed intent of leaving this verdict. It seems a bit peculiar.

Why would anyone want Patton killed? And why?

The film certainly finds no shortage of enemies for the officer who slapped a soldier for cowardice (one, it appears, of many, as he used this as a morale technique). Stalin and the Russians hated him for his virulent anti-communism, and perhaps they wanted him dead. He wanted to expose American weakness for allowing Stalin to run amok.

He was prepared to expose Gens. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley as incompetants who let the Stalin forces take over half of Europe in the waning days of the war. He was horrified that the Russian soldiers raped and killed large numbers of German women in a genocidal take-over.

Yes, there is plenty of unpleasant actions behind and around the death of the great, opinionated officer. He was boorish, brave, and outrageous. It was his guts, but someone else’s blood that he shed. Yet, he was a man of his soldiers. The meandering quality of the documentary is unforgivable.

A steady stream of Patton apologists feel he has been wronged by history and by his contemporaries. How much can be believed? It an age of fake media and a blustery president, there may be some revisionism here. Trump’s name is never mentioned in this film, but he seems to loom over the proceedings as a disciple of Patton.

 

Wyatt Earp: Brave, Courageous, and Bold?

DATELINE:  American Experience PBS

Not the Real Earp

The American Experience TV series on PBS did not delve into the hundreds of film portrayals of Wyatt Earp during their hour-long documentary. That might have extended the show to two hours. It is simply the life of Wyatt Earp.

There are no clips from the TV series, or the John Ford movies. The OK Corral stuff is covered, probably because it could not be avoided. It’s given no emblematic quality, nor meaningful symbolism, other than as a chaotic gunfight.

You might be more surprised at how often his name was misspelled over the years in print.

The biography features many, many photographs, many of which may never have been seen by fans of the Western hero.

He was one of those legends who walks on both sides of the law, and it may be hard to excuse his vindictive streak. He went after enemies with obsession.

Ultimately living until 1929 in Los Angeles, he wanted a movie to exculpate his reputation. These would arrive in spades, but only after he died a disappointed old man.

The final decades of his life were spent in endless travel—from Alaska to the middle-America, where he tried his hand at running saloons. That was not far from his youthful endeavors, when he was bouncer at a series of brothels and took up with an endless supply of prostitutes.

Handsome, taciturn, and a loner, he invariably had fallings-out with family, brothers, and even Doc Holliday. He was a hard man, exactly what you might expect from the epitome of a Western hero.

The documentary is not moving, nor special, with the usual

Calling All Earthlings

 DATELINE: Post-Tesla Scientist

van tassel Integratron Shell

No, it’s not Ancient Aliens—which leads us to wonder how they could have failed to do a feature on George Van Tassel, the 1950s UFO-logist who held fabulous meetings out in the desert near Twenty-Nine Palms and Big Rock with 10,000 UFO followers.

California koo-koo birds have flocked to the deserts of California for decades. As the movie Calling All Earthlings indicates, many are still there.

Foremost was George Van Tassel, a US Defense Department weapons expert from Lockheed who also worked for Howard Hughes. He became disenchanted with nuclear warfare games—and moved his small family to an underground residence at Big Rock.

In the early 1950s, he began receiving messages and instructions on how to build a time machine, which he called the Integratron. It is still there, a marvel of creation that looks like a work from Frank Lloyd Wright. Made from the best lumber supplied by Howard Hughes.

How he built such an expensive, amazing structure can be explained by the folklore:  Howard Hughes flew in regularly with satchels of cash.

What Van tassel worked on was not a standard time machine. His was a walk-through that would cut 30% off your age.It was not recommended for those under 18. Even as a shell today, its acoustics are oddly perfect.

After 25 years of work, just as Van Tassel was about to start up, he allegedly suffered a major heart attack and died in a motel near Los Angeles. Some thought he was murdered. All his notes and research went missing—and his Integratron (always under FBI surveillance) was looted and rendered useless. Van Tassel wrote a few books, including I Rode in a Flying Saucer.

Director Jonathan Berman’s idiosyncratic documentary is nearly as weird as the inhabitants of Big Rock, but this makes for a fascinating exploration of a man after Tesla’s heart and Howard Hughes’ wallet.

A Grand Lady Passes Away!

DATELINE: Milestone at Mill Circle

po

Virginia and neighbors hold original 1888 signage.

Ironically, during a national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush with all US Post Offices closed, one of its postmasters—Virginia Hardy—passed after years of declining health. She was 91.

Virginia was the keeper of the Mill Circle flame at Winchendon Springs. Her abiding interest in the most important family of the community—the White family—and its ties to the Titanic disaster—made her a unique historical resource. Her interest in the town Historical Society was special and she donated many artefacts to the town.

She kept abreast of all the developments near the Virtuous Spring of lore, a few yards from her home. Her life spanned the last years of Julia White Castle (born in 1849), one of the original family pioneers, and she lived in the house next to the White mansion until her death. Between Julia White and Virginia Hardy, there was an unbroken chain of nearly 180 years.

Julia lived in Honolulu where a hospital now is named for her at Diamond Head, but always came back to Mill Circle for vacations. Virginia knew all the details.

Virginia’s role as Winchendon Springs postmaster put her in a special role. She was featured prominently in the book Village Post Office at Mill Circle and was present when the office closed in 2012.

Her extraordinary knowledge and insights are now lost to history, but those who knew her are greater for having a chance to bask in her presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When a Mouse Sees a Ghost

DATELINE: Paranormal Spirit Cat

humane mousetrap Humane mousetrap?

What happens if a mouse meets a ghost?

In our haunted home, psychics who visited this summer told of detecting a spirit cat who prowls the house. He once belonged to a guardian ghost who stays in our home.

We have seen the spirit cat only once in the den. Out of the wall next to a bookcase, the large black shadow cat slowly crawled out.

We watched as he pranced into the kitchen. When wits were gathered, we went to see where he went. It had disappeared.

This week we had another odd experience when at 7am with all lights on and light breaking through the window, we found a single mouse sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor.

Instead of running like a bullet to some portal of entry, he just sat there, moving only a few inches as we stood over him.

He wobbled like a drunk. There are no poisons in the house, so we retrieved a humane mouse trap and put it before him.

Stunned, he stepped part-way into the little cube. We nudged him all the way with a gentle push of the foot. He was taken outside to be released into a field of snow. He ran off with speed, as far from the house as he could.

What had terrorized him and left him in a state of shock?

Well, of course, we thought of our ghost cat. He once belonged (psychics tell us) to a former resident who died on the Titanic. Richard White was only 21 when he perished, but he too guards the house near his birthplace—and final resting spot–here in Winchendon Springs.

Had this mouse seen the spirit cat of my resident ghost? More than a few friends insist it is likely.

William Russo has written several books on paranormal activity in his home, including Chess-mate from Titanic and Living on Mill Circle. Both are available as e-book and paperback works from Amazon.com.

 

Oak Island 6.3, Not Exactly Revelations

DATELINE:  Not Unforgettable

arrow

We have been asked where is our Curse of Oak Island assessment for 6.3.  And, we feel like responding, let sleeping dogs lie. Some weeks it may be best to allow us to ignore the treasure hunters.

In the third episode of the sixth season, we begin to feel like chapter and verse is out of synchronization. Oak Island is beginning to feel like an enforced work camp.

The onerous tones of the narrator continue to insist that death is around the corner as payment for any discovery.

Seismic results show a bunch of oval shaped anomalies under the ground on colourful maps. We were unmoved. Some voids are only fifty feet down, above water level. Since they found key stuff last season at nearly 200 feet, it seems a tad odd to believe that significant finds are so shallow.

Yet, the explosive technology reveals caverns and voids, not so deep after all.

It appears the five elders of the Oak Island crew (minus 94 year old Dan Blankenship) drove 2000 miles to Calgary, Alberta, to receive this result. If so, this may well be the most revealing detail in five years. Do we have a fear of flying among our foibles?  Most of the younger guys are out to lunch here, as if the next generation has been frozen out of true discovery.

They have been eliminated from most of the episodes so far in season six.

In the meantime, Gary Drayton’s instant analysis on the rocky shore of the island, digs up a thin and deadly metal crossbow shaft. It is a small weapon that is meant to piece armor and chain-mail, not e-mail. He is utterly thrilled, believing it is Templar age.

In another revealing moment, it almost seems as if Rick Lagina’s enthusiasm at the discovery is muted, understated, and diminished. Has the search finally wore out his thrill of the expensive efforts? Or is he just a bad actor for these re-enactment scenes that are filmed for the show?

We are again and again puzzled by absences of regular cast members: the list seems to have expanded as to who’s no longer present and much of a factor in the show.

 

 

 

Two Great Directors Pass, & Hardly Anyone Notices…

DATELINE:  The Men Who Tango & Fall to Earth

Performance

For movie fans of a certain generation, this has been a watershed week.

Two famous names of the past, great directors from the 1960s and 1970s died within days of each other:  Nicholas Roeg and Bernardo Bertolucci.

We are not surprised at how many people will say, “Who in hell were they?”

If you did not write, direct, or produce a blockbuster cartoon like Superman, Batman, or one of the other Justice League jokers, you likely are not a household name in the 21st century.

In their day, these two men were considered thought-provoking filmmakers. Each started as an apprentice cinematographer under one of the titans of old Hollywood:

Nicholas Roeg worked with David Lean, notable for Lawrence of Arabia.

Bertolucci worked with one of the giants of Italian 60s cinema: Pier Paolo Pasolini.

They managed to step out of the shadows to their own highly recognized movies: Roeg took several music stars and transformed them into movie icons. We think of Mick Jagger in Performance, one of those weird mythic blurring of music and movies. He followed up with a science fiction think piece, The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie, no less.

Bertolucci seemed to take sexual politics as his nest-egg. His biggest film was the notorious Marlon Brando movie, Last Tango in Paris.

How quickly these two directors seemed to fall from fashion. In recent years they might have been thought to be dead for decades, not days ago. They never sold out to Hollywood blockbusters or TV miniseries. And, that may be their anonymous curse in the summaries of their lives.

 

Johnny Cash Meets Nixon

DATELINE: Man in Black & Man with Black Heart

cash on the house

Likely inspired by the various documentaries and movies about Nixon and Elvis, there was in 1970 another significant meeting between Richard Nixon and a music star. Conservative, religious, patriotic Johnny Cash, sometime rebel, was invited to the White House to give a command performance.

A short documentary telegraphs its feelings with the title:  Tricky Dick & The Man in Black. Though the film gives some balance, it is primarily told through the Cash perspective with intensive interviews with Johnny’s son and sister.

Nixon was not a fan of country-western music as his taste ran more to pop classics, like Richard Rogers’ Victory at Sea music, or the show tunes from South Pacific. However, those handlers in the White House felt besieged by youthful protests against the war in Vietnam.

Nixon’s advisors—Haldeman, Pat Buchanan, primarily—felt they needed a antidote to the protests and drug users of Haight-Ashbury. Cash was their man. When he noted on his TV show that he wanted peace with honor in Vietnam, it won him an invitation to perform in the East Room of the White House in April of 1970.

Alas, Nixon’s men did not do their homework. Johnny Cash was not only an advocate for prison reform, but he had created a music album on behalf of Native Americans and visited Wounded Knee.

When the Nixon White House asked him to sing “Welfare Cadillac” to appeal to the redneck supporters, Cash was taken aback. It was not his song or his style. No one told him what to perform. And, he had just returned from visiting soldiers in Vietnam, turning him into a dove with claws (in his own words).

The performance made Nixon uncomfortable, as Cash made him passive-aggressive points. Two weeks later came the college massacres at Kent State, and only then did Cash release his famous song, “Man in Black.”

A highly worthy insight into Johnny Cash, it may surprise many non-fans.

Outside the Lines: Fake or Fortune

DATELINE: Art for Art’s Sake

fake or fortune gang Culprit Among Art Gang!

Though it sounds like a bad game show, the Netflix series from the BBC about art detectives is quite intelligent and fascinating too.

The show’s misleading title Fake or Fortune does not do justice to the subjects or the experts. Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould work as a marvelous team. They are joined by historian Dr. Bendor Grovesnor who always seems to find key clues.

In essence, someone has a problem painting, without provenance or paperwork, and they cannot prove its true value, or actual artist. In comes the sharp and smart team of experts to track down the truth.

Inventive and dogged, the three detectives manage to find all kinds of evidence to show that Winston Churchill painted a scene in France, or that L.S. Lowry did a couple of small primitive works using unusual pigments.

What is most maddening about the series are the forces or powerhouses in the art world. As you might expect, these snobs are never satisfied with proof, tangible and common sense, if it undercuts their privilege and power.

As a result, many of the brilliant logical discoveries of truth are rejected by those who are threatened in their smugness as owners of definitive art houses.

Heaven forbid that you learn these pompous egos who run the art world are threatened by upstarts and those who are not rich collectors. This is a closed world of dilettantes and snobs.

The combo of scientific and technology with the historical legwork in libraries and archives makes for a pleasant and happy hour in this short series (only four episodes). You may be tempted to send a nasty email to David Coombs, Winston Churchill expert, but it won’t do any good with these inveterate know-it-alls.

 

Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen?

DATELINE: The Reporter Who Knew Too Much

Killed Kilgallen? Heroic Woman Ignored Again!

This week is the 55th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963, which began a cascading of bad events and cultural deterioration in America.

One of the forgotten victims and researchers from the earliest conspiracy days of the Kennedy Assassination was a muckraking journalist named Dorothy Kilgallen. She was a Broadway gossip columnist and star of the TV game show called What’s My Line, which probably contributed to a sexist dismissal of her work.

In November of 1965, she was found dead in her luxury New York apartment—and her ground-breaking research and manuscript was missing. She had interviewed Jack Ruby privately twice and was preparing a second trip to New Orleans

Her death was suspicious, but not investigated by police. Author Mark Shaw’s original book on the subject, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, spends half the work on her biography—and the second half of the book on lining up suspects and trying to determine what she had uncovered. Many people are still burying her research.

There is no cooperation from Kilgallen’s three children, for some unknown reason. Shaw’s work is thorough and compelling, all the moreso because most “serious” books on the assassination of President Kennedy ignore her mysterious death and hard work.

Kilgallen’s enemies were numerous, as might befit a gossip columnist with a poisonous style of indictment. Frank Sinatra and J. Edgar Hoover loathed her. She knew many of the mobsters who were enemies of the Kennedy family and felt betrayed by patriarch Joe and brother Robert.

Shaw loves Kilgallen even more than her family and is intent on restoring her value and importance in history. If she indeed was a murder victim who came too close to the truth in the early days of conspiracy theory, then she needs to be recognized as a pioneer of the truth-seekers.

It is a fascinating story told by Mark Shaw, though you will suffer the bane of murder mystery: she was not able to identify the culprits before her untimely death–and neither is author Shaw.

 

Love, Cecil: Move Over, Truman, Noel, and Andy!

DATELINE: Save the Queen!

Bright young Beaton Bright Young Beaton!

It’s pronounced Seh-sill, not Sea-sill.

He rose from humble middle-class British life to starring role in every art scene of the 20th century. He was an inveterate snob.

Cecil Beaton was a force to be reckoned with in life—usurping the gay flighty worlds of Warhol and Truman Capote. Though he loathed Noel Coward, he matched them every step of the way down the gay runway.

Billed as the tastemaker of the 20th century, his vast collection of films, photos, designs, and assorted images, make up the compendium. He also gave many interviews. Yet, he still comes across as a social climber and proto-gay libber.

Beaton was always impressed with royalty, being one of those commoners from England. When he came to America, he instigated controversy everywhere: comparing British women to American.

However, he nearly destroyed his career with a careless and stupid anti-Semitic design in Vogue. He claimed to have been careless and thoughtless, as was his entire youth. Deep down, he was shallow.

The other key event in his life was becoming a war photographer during World War II. It redeemed his reputation.

His Hollywood ties include an infatuation with Garbo—asking her to join him in one of those arranged “friendship” marriages, as he preferred boys and she, girls.

By the 1950s and 1960s, he was taking pictures of all the most famous people: Marilyn, Warhol, Mick Jagger, and on and on. He was slight, epicene, and queenly, before it was considered stylish. If anything fit better, he was the natural heir to Oscar Wilde and Serge Diaghilev.

He also played a prominent role in Scotty Bowers’ documentary, Secret History of Hollywood. This Zircon is narrated by Rupert Everett.

 

What Red Sox Teammate Stalked Moe Berg?

DATELINE: Cold Spy

Real Moe Berg Real Moe!

Being of a certain generation, we have been asked about some of the accuracy of the movie The Catcher was a Spy.

Paul Rudd plays Moe Berg, an enigmatic athlete who finished his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1939.  Pushing 40, he was pushed out of the locker room to make room for more rookies. And, the Sox had a few.

In the film, one rookie looks in the locker room with suspicion at Berg and notes his reservation about sharing a shower stall with a man with unclear sexual tendencies. Another veteran player (Lefty Grove?) tells him to keep it to himself.

Yet, this player seems to stalk Berg and follow him to some clandestine gay bar of 1939 in Boston. When he comes out (and we do not see what happens in this odd locale), he knows he is being followed—and confronts the young rookie.

He slugs him several times. The player is identified as the fictional Bill Dalton. No one by that name was on the Sox roster.

So, who was the offending rookie stalker?

The Red Sox had several notable rookies in that season with Berg:  Ted Williams was the most famous (also known as the Garbo of the Dugout for his reclusiveness) and Bobby Doerr, one of Ted’s close friends, and Johnny Pesky, all future Hall of Famers.

Was it one of them who had a confrontation with Moe Berg?

You will be hard-pressed to find out something that was kept in the shadows by all concerned. Berg would never talk, and neither would Ted Williams. Berg reportedly offered Ted advice and insights on the greats he played with (and he told Ted he was most like Shoeless Joe Jackson of Field of Dreams).

If the incident is true, and we have no doubt about its veracity, you can now play To Tell the Truth.  Alas, the real stalker will not stand up years after all have passed.

We put our money on Teddy Ballgame. The other two were amiable sorts and often thought to be mediators and peace-makers.

Spy, Catcher, Red Sox Journeyman

DATELINE:  Moe Berg

Rudd:Berg at Fenway Rudd/Berg at Fenway!

Move over, Mookie Betts: another Red Sox player is sharing the spotlight this year.

The Catcher was a Spy is the true story of the mysterious Boston Red Sox player who joined the OSS (early CIA) and was given an assignment to assassinate a Nazi scientist when he visited Switzerland.

Once again, Paul Rudd answers the call to the bullpen, and he manages to play Moe Berg, a Jewish American athlete. He is beginning, however, to look a little frayed around the edges.

If you grew up in Boston with baseball fans of your grandfather’s generation, the legend of Moe Berg was well-known. Now, it is available for all to see.

Berg was a secretive man by nature. Indeed, the first 15 minutes of the movie intimates he was gay and a closet figure of the 1930s. The movie must give us an R rating with a sex scene with his girlfriend after all that.

Moe was a .235 career hitter (though he says .245 later in the movie). He goes to Japan before the war with Babe Ruth’s all-stars to play exhibition games—and already is doing spy work on his own.

No one is able to slip under his radar. A stellar cast tries, including Jeff Daniels as his superior at OSS, Guy Pearce as his military associate, and Paul Giamatti as a scientist on the mission.

Berg spoke 12 languages fluently, went to Princeton and studied at the Sorbonne. No one they called him the Professor among his high-school drop-out teammates. Later, Dom DiMaggio played for the Sox and was also called the “Little Professor,” after Berg.

The scenes at Fenway Park in 1940 are quite accurate, and the film gives us a convincing world of 1940s in turmoil. It is not a great film, but certainly a worthy effort of the true story of the heroes of World War II, though Berg refused any commendations after the war.

He stayed reclusive to the end, and in character.