Vikings Unearthed: Real, not Reel, Story

DATELINE: Takes One to Know One

  snow  Dandy Dan Snow Job!

Though we tried to watch the soap opera series on History about Vikings, we were drawn to something that provided the real story.  If you want the dirt, digging through the literal and figurative dirt, try Vikings Unearthed, a genuine documentary on the Norse.

A two-hour special on use of satellite technology and old-fashioned archaeological digging provides a thorough look at the life of the Norse who ravaged Europe in myth and actually were a culture of savage machismo. They went east to Asia as well as west to North America. You’ll love their silver rings and amulets, as well as forged swords.

Perhaps it helps to have as your on-the-ground researcher and scientist, a handsome Brit Viking named Dan Snow. He is lithe, Thor-like, and taller than anyone else in the show. Indeed, they seem to surround him with other men who look like pygmies or children next to his Conan the Barbarian style.

Yes, those Northumberland monks were treated badly by the Vikes. Our Viking host is a tad more civilized.

Dan Snow, our personal choice for Viking of the Year, is often paired with adoring nerdy men who can only marvel when he takes up an axe to work on a Viking boat replica, or when he listens to the description of a scientist who shows him Viking fecal matter to explain their medical problems.

You have to enjoy scientists who marvel that a satellite 400 miles over Earth can take photos in infrared to find sod brick Viking longhouses that are buried a foot below the ground and invisible to the naked eye.

Without leaving monumental buildings, so they say, the Vikings simply came, saw, and did not conquer the New World.

The upshot is to prove that the Vikings went all over present-day Canada and United States near New England and the Great Lakes.

Why would anyone doubt these prototypical macho men went wherever they damn well chose?

Not Touched by an Angel: Dr. John E. Mack

DATELINE: Taken by Space Aliens

touched

A dozen years ago a little documentary was released by Laurel Chiten. She took on the work of psychiatrist John Mack, formerly of Harvard Medical School.

He was the doctor who started to examine alien abduction as psychological condition.  And, he found that it was not pathological in any way except after the fact. Touched is a short film about the work of the pioneering psychiatrist, made a dozen years ago.

Mack was dismissed by Harvard, of course, a place that had experts and professors examining angels, demons, and devils, but drew the line at space aliens. It seems Mack refused to throw his patients under the bus and claim they were koo-koo birds. The situation is related to sleep paralysis, a pathological condition worth consideration.

The documentary looks at a handful of cases, two in depth: a man and a woman who said the paralyzing visits began in their early years and continued through young adulthood.

A corresponding psychologist in Brazil also allowed several of her patients to explain their situations.

They all insist that a light of some sort burrowed into their heads and made them pliable to your classic little gray men or insect-like creatures that used them for breeding purposes, against their wills.

They describe involuntary capture, painful testing, and physical abuse by the extra-terrestrials. However, we aren’t really sure who or what these creatures may be.

You have a large segment of the populace with disturbing experiences, which some scientists would like to dismiss as the hallucination of sexually abused children.

Mack took a more sympathetic approach and came to appreciate the suffering and normality of the victims, apart from being singled out by some larger, more powerful force.

Intriguing even years after the fact, Mack is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and important medical figure on the periphery of the entire extra-terrestrial debate.

 

 

 

Did Peddler’s Murder in 1820s Spark Supernatural Events?

DATELINE:  New Book on Historical Murder

 millmurderkindlecover

Murder at Mill Circle is a shocking tale of a haunted neighborhood.

Crime, passion, murder, and literary celebrities like Henry David Thoreau, provide a backdrop to the deaths and cursed lives of residents in a small New England neighborhood during early 19th century and the mineral spring at the epicenter of trouble. 

This is a book that could not be written twenty years ago, nor even ten years ago. The proliferation of family histories online from sites like Ancestry.com and Find-a-Grave have allowed researchers the luxury of looking at sources across the country instantly.

Instead of traveling to murky library dungeons, all the work can be painstakingly completed in the comfort of one’s home office.

Granted, there is difficulty in solving a 200-year old murder when the name of the victim is unknown, the date of the killing is not established, and the witnesses are all dead. Fortunately, the murder occurred across the street from our charming home. Our former, dead neighbors left their names on census forms and deeds. We found them easily enough.

If there is anything shocking in old records, it is discovering who died when. The juxtaposition of names is often revealing. So, too, is learning who hightailed it out of town around the time of the murder in the 1820s.

You may find it interesting to learn that Mill Circle was kind of a Peyton Place, not far from New Hampshire’s border—and had a bit of Harper Valley thrown in.

Peddlers were the 19th century social media. When one of them gave you a bad review, the gossip could do in your hotel, tavern, or mineral spring instantly. The peddlers were not unionized, but they did socialize at every wayside inn they found along New England roads.

We admit we were surprised at what we found as we moved toward offering a theory on who-done-it. We have put together the history of Mill Circle’s residents, houses, mineral spring, and social network. It provided us with a likely theory of who was murdered, why, and by whom.

Now available on amazon.com in paperback and in e-book format for smart readers.

 

Biography and history.

Another in a series of books about Mill Circle at Winchendon Springs by Dr. William Russo, resident.

Unsolved History: Reel History & Massacres

 DATELINE:  Crockett & Crispus

Massacre Boston Massacre

The old muckraker TV documentary series used highest technology to examine traditional history stories. For three seasons it provided some gems of research, original and incisive.

In the first season, Unsolved History tackled two major icons of American history:  Davy Crockett and Crispus Attucks on separate shows. You could not go against political correctness more than to try to tarnish the reputations of these legends.

Crockett died at the Alamo, and Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre. One fought to the end, and one led the American Revolution. Unsolved History said, “Not so fast.”

Each contributed to building the American character of hero. And, Unsolved History questioned the notion that Crockett did not fight to the end but was executed like a criminal by General Santa Ana. Attucks, a former slave, did not lead the unarmed protestors against the British and was not the first man killed in the American Revolution, but a background figure.

The controversies, as always, were always hosted by resident historian Daniel A. Martinez, on the spot, glossing the facts.

Testing a Mexican officer’s manuscript as witness to the end of the Alamo and using satellite imagery to verify the Mexican army’s route to the Alamo, you had an interesting use of science.

In Boston, they re-created the acoustic noise of gunfire in a riot with studio sound systems and fired replica British muskets at melons to determine bullet damage. Paul Revere’s famous print is quite inaccurate.

In both cases, you had an unpopular notion that the Mexicans and British were not completely the bad guys but acted as people under duress.

Host Martinez goes a long way to suggest the heroes are not lessened by determining a different angle to their stories. And, it is fascinating business to see how science changes the past.

 

 

 

 

Westworld 2.8 Ghostly Nation

 DATELINE: Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

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If you’re not in Oz, and not in Delos’s Westworld 2, you must be in Ford’s Ghost Nation where you live in some kind of digital memory bank.

We’re heading down the homestretch of conundrum, east of chaos and southwest of confusion. Our GPS coordinates on the series are sending us down one-way streets that are closed to thru-traffic.

Those Indians in black and white war-paint may seem like a throwback to old TV westerns. In fact, we are in one old Western in particular. Welcome to the Lone Ranger.

Hiyo, Silver horse, running through the dreams of the Noble Savage, Tonto, or in this case, Ake.

Yes, we re-live Tonto saving the Lone Ranger at least three times in this episode. He saves Ben Barnes, left for dead in the desert last season. He saves Ed Harris, left for dead like the last ranger, this season. And he may even save Thandie Newton.

Two of the scenes are right out of the original production of the Lone Ranger-Tonto playbook. Our last surviving member of his tribe comes across a massacre and makes a ghost who walks for revenge.

It seems the Noble Savage is another bad robot, spreading his discontent, looking for a door to escape being an automaton. A touchstone with one key backstory motivates them to a better world.

And, now it seems that Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has been all for it. We are moving toward truth, as all the characters seem to be realizing. We stand in awe of Jonathan Nolan pulling this three-ring circus together in the final episodes of the season.

 

 

We’ll Be Hanged Hangman

DATELINE:  Pacino & Shahi

 Hangman stars

Al Pacino is at an age when Robert DeNiro plays comedy roles, but Pacino is still looking at detective action thrillers.

He is a bit long in the tooth, and we worry when he falls down that he may break a hip. He looks great actually.

In Hangman, he has chosen the role of a detective who retired a year ago (at 77) and is back on special assignment with his young partner (Karl Urban) when a serial killer calls out their badge numbers.

There is some initial interest in seeing this movie because of the cast, and Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest) as the young, tough woman captain of the force in some small city.

For some reason inexplicable to anyone, Pacino plays his detective with an Andy Griffith, aw shucks, Mayberry accent. He’s the only one with such a speech impediment among the New York actors.

If that were not weird enough, the serial killer wants to play Hangman, literally, hanging his victims with a letter carved into their bodies.

Well, if koo-koo descends into ridiculous, we do not find it sublime. We’ve had our fill of brilliantly smart serial killers. We are challenged to stay with this film, mainly because of the actors.

The plot does not thicken: it curdles. We discover both detectives have a personal connection to victims, but this does not disqualify them from the case.

And, to make matters worse, there is a Lois Lane type tagging along to all the crime scenes. When told not to obstruct justice, she enters the case and compounds trouble. Call her the plot hole.

It’s enough to throw in the noose and call it a hang dog day afternoon. Just terrible, and what a waste of talented actors.

Death Wish 45 Years Later

DATELINE: Willis Versus Bronson

 death 3

Bruce Willis is every bit as good as Charles Bronson in the remake of the classic Brian Garfield story. But, the movie is less about vigilantes this time and more about revenge.

A new version of Death Wish, 2018, seems like yesterday’s headlines.

If you want to match up Willis versus Bronson, you may be making the wrong comparison. Both are brilliant in the role of Paul Kersey, though Bronson always seemed more dangerous than smarmy.

Taking the law into his own hands, Paul Kersey is back for a new generation, armed with smartphones, video surveillance, and automatic weapons on every city block.

The more things change, the worse it becomes in American society. Indeed, the media chorus in the movie keeps telling us that Chicago is a murderous city. The senseless cruelty seems on a par with fifty years ago.

Gun control is a joke in 1974 and is a punchline now.

The 1970s might seem like a placid time next to today’s weekly shoot’em ups. However, the movie stays with the split-screen approach to story-telling that was the rage in the 1970s. We have a definite throwback movie here.

This time Bruce Willis has a brother (Vincent D’Onofrio) as a foil, but the police exasperation is partly admiration for the Grim Reaper’s work. You know the police will never convict, nor apprehend Paul Kersey, though the 1970s movies better explained why they let him get away.

When Willis shoots the bad guys, you still have the urge to commend the vigilante killer and excuse gun control as a bad idea. This time Kersey is a top-notch big city surgeon, obviously dedicated to life-saving. Bronson’s Kersey was a big business architect.

He has his eyes opened even with his father-in-law (Len Cariou in a delightful cameo) and with the commissioner of police (Stephen McHattie, a long-ago familiar face).

The shoot out is a stand off.

Westworld 2.6 Goes to Hell

DATELINE:  Westworld 2.6

  who's Arnold? Who’s real?

You have now entered Robot Hell in Westworld’s Season 2.

The dirty little coward Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has shot the Jesse James Western story into a moldering grave. You can’t tell the guests from the hosts without a scorecard, and staff may be just as confused as the audience.

We may be wondering after 2.6 just who the true villains are. Those who were rotten for the entire series show too much heart as we come to a climax. And, those Dopplegangers from Shogun World are gone, thank heavens. However, we are seeing William (Ed Harris), head honcho of the Westworld operation having a change of heart.

Since no one ever really dies in a Jonathan Nolan series, we know everyone will return in some shape or form. You can probably expect that there are host versions of everyone, and you can’t tell them apart without one of those fancy tablets Elsie (Shannon Woodward) plays like a Chopin nocturne.

If there is a theme here, it is that pursuing a dream is the stuff tragedy is made of. Bernard, or is that Arnold, dreams of returning to the past, or is it the present?

The more the storylines change, the more they remain the same. We know that guests and hosts are converging on the Pearly Gates of the grande finale of season 2.  What we don’t know is how hell-bent they are to have a Last Supper.

In this episode we see one robot “crucified” with spikes by uncaring humans in an effort to learn what is truth. Good centurion Luke Helmsworth stands by in growing horror, as Nolan unravels his gospel according to a Person of Interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tesla Paranoia Grows on Tesla Files

DATELINE: History Channel Series

 Old Man Tesla Old Man Tesla!

The conspiracy theory is not just in old man Nikola Tesla’s mind during his last decades. It’s clearly in the brains of the series stars and producers, as the Tesla Files moves closer to other conspiracy theory shows on History Channel.

We expect a guest appearance from Bob Baer and the guys over at Oak Island next.

In this week’s thrilling episode, one of the researchers rides in an original Tesla car while the other watches. Neither is allowed to drive it.

They also don military camo-fatigues and fly in an Osprey based on Tesla’s designs. We are meant to be thrilled for them.

Our intrepid researchers seem to be working in this show for Tesla biographer Marc Seidel. No one told him that they’re the stars of the show. So, he meets with a government leaker and discovers that there was a mole among Nikola Tesla’s research friends.

Yes, someone named Bloyce Fitzgerald, an MIT student during WW2, befriended Tesla in New York and was feeding the Office of Strategic Service all kinds of info on Tesla experiments. That was the proto-CIA.

Indeed, Bloyce will be bloys and may have helped organize the raid on Tesla’s New Yorker Hotel room, taking all those missing files at the moment the old man croaked. President Trump’s fake news uncle is featured prominently here.

Our researchers have a fascinating detail, but don’t seem to do much with the info—except cluck over it.

Doc Travis Taylor does give himself credit for suggesting that the entire New Yorker Hotel was a replacement for Wardenclyffe—and was in and of itself a giant communication device.

We are either heading toward a death ray weapon created by Tesla in the 1920s and 1930s, or we have cross-purposes and cross-pollinate with Ancient Aliens and end up with Martian communications via the Nazi Bell on next season’s Hunt for Hitler.

Stay tuned as the research heads back to the New Yorker next time. We expect to hear that Tesla and Orson Welles co-produced the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds.

Off the Wardenclyffe: Tesla Files 1.3

 DATELINE: Bell Tolls for Tesla

Stapleton Stapleton 

The Tesla Files continued to impress with the latest episode in the series.

Several investigations followed the pattern Tesla took after he returned from Colorado in 1900. At this point he went to the New Yorker Hotel as his new headquarters. An interesting trip three floors below street level revealed a major tunnel system.

The hotel also had its own power source, which likely convinced Tesla that his experiments might be better served by the proximity to a major city. Around this time, he also made a deal with J.P. Morgan that floundered and caused the tycoon to lead a movement to discredit Tesla and his inventions.

It was out on Long Island that he used much of the funding from Morgan before it ran out. Here he built a tower for communications or power, no one knows which, and perhaps too an elaborate tunnel system, over 100 feet below the surface and extending out to the ocean.

The show cannot investigate the shut-down lab because of deadly mold, but they can send in a drone, giving insights into the workplace of Tesla.

Also intriguing is the parallel to the German World War II “Bell,” which might have been a time machine or anti-gravity device. The footprint of Tesla’s tower on Long Island matches exactly the footprint shape of the Nazi experiments in Poland.

Our journalistic investigator, Jayson Stapleton, with tattoos and a down-payment/goatee (known as an imperial in some circles) has become a man quite sure of himself. Having both a goatee and down-payment is sort of like wearing a belt with suspenders.

Who said TV wasn’t educational?

 

 

 

 

 

The Gut: Our Second Brain

DATELINE: Pass the Probiotic

 the Gut- Our Second Brain Twins!

You might think an hour-long documentary on the bowels, guts, and inners of humans would give us more laughs per line than you’d find in a stewed prune.

The Gut: Our Second Brain shows that there are twin controls on our lives.

After watching this French documentary, we weren’t laughing, or even busting a gut. We fell headlong into a pot-bellied bowl of microbes.

Scientists have discovered that the stomach area contains more neurons and sensitivity than the brain of a dog or cat. Yikes, no wonder our stomachs growl.

The brain developed after the intestines in our progenitors who climbed out of the primordial soup. Indeed, scientists will now tell you that your stomach contains thousands of billions of bacteria that are not exactly without their own willpower or way of life.

Yes, the gut can control your feelings, emotions, and provide more pain than your brain wants. We belong not only to three blood groups, but to three bowel groups. Bacteria are not only inside, but outside—and we are reacting to their preferences.

Experimenters have fed mice microbiotic diets that gave them bacteria to make their behavior fearless: in fact, they fell in love with cats who promptly ate them. It seems the bacteria grow even more efficiently inside cats–and know which way the diet falls.

You are what you eat or won’t eat. Probiotics like antibiotics can have a big influence on the ecosystem of our bodies. Yes, there are more bacteria inside us than stars in the galaxy, dear Cassius.

If you feel a little queasy, your bacteria may be acting up for a reason.

A little knowledge is always appreciated. But cognitive overload in the gut drives us mad. What an extraordinary documentary.

 

 

Tesla Files: 1.2 in Colorado Springs

DATELINE: Tireless Wireless

 camera shy Eby    Camera Shy Drew Eby

The Tesla Files continue with a second episode trying to locate dozens of lost trunks of experiments and notes. One expert has already questioned the show’s veracity, as the stuff was supposedly taken from Nikola Tesla’s storage facility upon his death in 1943 by agents unknown.

Dr. Travis Taylor, beau hunk of academia, and star of other cable adventure shows, including Ancient Aliens, exerts his formidable ginger presence and scholarly credentials to dominate this series.

Few of us with doctorates have a website with adoring fans, effusing over a ten-year old photo. Indeed, we are noted for posting a picture with our head in a bag with an eye hole. We won’t be hosting any History Channel documentaries. Our former students are loath to watch or to listen to our pontifications.

Taylor surrounds his investigation with fellow boyish assistants who look like former students. At least one, Drew Eby, will likely give Alex Lagina a run for hot supporting character in a limited series. As the show’s Vanna White, he pushes electrical buttons and lets the charge rip.

A secondary journalist/investigator goes to a local museum to learn that Tesla’s possessions went up for auction in 1906 for failure to pay his electric bill. Talk about poetic justice.

Upon locating a copper ball that allegedly sent out vibrations to ancient aliens, he discovers it likely is not genuine. It’s the stock-in-trade of shows like this: whet your appetite and feed you to the critics.

Meanwhile, we are intrigued with leaked material from unnamed sources, and name-dropping of Trump connections.

There are many colorized pictures of young Tesla, which may be worth the price of historical History Channel viewing.

We will continue to watch the series and wireless experiments on our wireless smartphone, to keep in the spirit of Tesla.

Tesla Files: Missing in Action

DATELINE:  Death Rays & Shocking Details

Tesla & sparks Tesla Enjoys a Good Book!

Brought to you by the producers of Ancient Aliens, History Channel has jumped onto the hot topic of Nikola Tesla, soon to be subject of a docudrama with Nicholas Hoult and Benedict Cumberbatch (Current Wars), and endless stand-alone documentaries.

The series Tesla Files uses a formula near and dear to fans of History adventures: they team up some mesomorphic men who like to go hop-scotching across the globe on quests that would delight your average ten-year old boy.

Indeed, never a girl is seen among the researchers, hangers-on, or production forces. So be it here.

The series starts off with a bang: Tesla claimed to have 80 trunks of research material in storage at the time of his death. The US government catalogued only 30, and the Tesla Museum in Serbia claims to have 60 (nearly everything by their tabulation). Jumping to conclusions, they ask: “Who stole the trunks?”

Indeed, the American researchers are indignant at the cavalier treatment of the Serbian museum director who dismisses them as amateurs and refuses to show them even signatures for verification. It couldn’t be more delightful to deepen their suspicions and mystery.

As you might expect, the Freedom of Information Act has allowed the American government to lie over the years, The researchers believe in a particle beam or death ray invented by Tesla, but serious scholars dismiss it as legend.

One of the highlights of the first episode is the revelation that President Trump’s uncle John Trump was the main investigator at the death of Tesla—and catalogued the files in his safe to reveal there was “nothing of…value.” So much for the purported Death Ray or Particle Beam he claimed to invent.

The show’s hosts want to fall all over themselves to announce that mendacity seems to be a family trait of the Trumps.

Tesla, a naturalized American citizen, was treated as an alien whose property was seized in 1943 by the government; an illegal action.

The series whets enough appetite for cover-ups, crimes against humanity, experimenting with Tesla’s inventions, and top secrets, that future episodes can run on the “electrifying” and “shocking” fumes of the inventor’s life.

You have to love a show that can use the word “electrifying” both literally and figuratively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strangers Derailed on a Train

DATELINE:  Riding the Rails?

Neeson Sees Rushes of Commuter Old-Timer Hero

Yes, we imagine this is Neeson’s face (above) after looking at the daily rushes for The Commuter.

Though The Commuter sounds like a pedestrian film, it is actually one of those improbable Liam Neeson action/adventure movies.

Our credulity might be given a hard task to accept a complex conspiracy is afoot on a train out of Manhattan. Or, our credulity may be more strained by the notion that the self-identified 60-year-old hero is able to fight strenuous younger opponents and show only a few huffs and puffs for his efforts.

Most 60-year old commuters would be suffering cardiac arrest after a bumpy ride on this commuter train.

A fiendish woman approaches Neeson after he is fired from his insurance salesman job—with an offer he cannot refuse. We learn he is a former police detective, which may explain a few plot holes.

The train out of Grand Central has your usual suspects from central casting—and Liam must earn his $100,000 bounty and save his wife and children from clever kidnappers who may be equals of terrorists, FBI agents, or even the transit police force.

The film defies you to withhold logic and apply an explanation until the final moments. It will take enormous willpower. Forget the notion that anyone that powerful and rich enough to be executed by a mysterious black ops group would not be on a commuter train (as one Goldman Sachs broker on the train tells us).

Wonderful Elizabeth McGovern is around in a small role as Neeson’s wife, and all the actors are suitably well-cast in support of the wild goose chase along the rails. Next, time you may want to call Uber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind River of No Return

 DATELINE:  The Usual Targets?

Graham Greene   Greene for Danger!

What can you say about a movie that shows the FBI as inept and callow, insensitive to Native American needs, and represented by a woman? It almost seems like it was directed by Donald Trump, but the culprit is Taylor Sheridan (a better director than writer).

Wind River is literally a chilling murder mystery set in frigid American Indian lands.

If there are women agents in the FBI, this film is not meant to give them any respect. On top of it all, the murder victim in this Wyoming Bureau of Indian Affairs story is a young girl, adding to the layer of “me tooism” topicality.

The FBI investigator could have been represented by a rookie male agent, but that might have sent shivers down the spine of the macho men in the movie.

Jeremy Renner plays a Fish & Wildlife government agent who must step outside his usual job to solve the crime and assist the FBI.  He does have added impetus as his own daughter appears to have met an untimely end too.

We give Renner credit for convincing us he is an outdoorsman and knowledgeable hunter of predators. We also want to commend Graham Greene as the sheriff of the Indian reservation who plays world-weary perfectly. He is always the best part in any film.

Elizabeth Olsen is so wide-eyed stupid that she shows up in a blizzard without gloves, boots and winter hat. Don’t blame her. Blame the ridiculously disrespectful script.

The cast of American natives are played by Native Americans, which is most refreshing. Every minority actor seems perfect in his role.

They present a world still misunderstood, patronized, and resigned to maltreatment by the United States government.

Movies about discrimination and physical abuse of women and Native Americans should not compound the problem. For all its good intentions and strong production values, there is something missing in the basic value of the script in an otherwise well-done movie.