Coronavirus or COVID-19: Return of Black Death?

DATELINE: Past is Prologue

 Resurrected London Victims!

To try to gain a perspective on the historical viral earthquakes in society, we went back to a 2014 British documentary called Return of the Black Death.

It gave us a non-comforting and chilling perspective on what is happening today. The archaeologists and virologists involved in this little one-hour film made it clear that the Black Death was no fluke: we can have another plague at any time. Viral decimation is more than ever a possibility, owing to our worldly incompetence.

And, in case you were unaware, the exact DNA of the original plague of 1349 is doing quite well in Africa right now. It’s in the rats and their fleas.

When excavating in London for a new subway five years ago, they encountered an old cemetery from the days of the Black Death. It was uncovered and a dozen or more bodies were disinterred to give some answers about what happened. Believe it or not, they really don’t know because records and medical info was not exactly scientific in those days.

The news is that 60% of Londoners died within 9 months. The Black Death came swiftly from Europe in November and stayed until summer. Since people were already ravaged from bad famines and poor nutrition, they were sitting ducks for the plague.

Burials were key: through funerary rites and procedures, the survivors took comfort. Bodies were laid out, stacked like lasagna (their metaphor in the doc), but the care for the dead buoyed spirits of the living.

These viral horrors can do devastation for the unprepared: but isolation helped in 1349—and it may today, but this could be far worse, owing to jet travel, viral passengers on everything and everyone. It could end up being an annual horror story.

Will 60% of us die? With inept leaders and shoddy politics at the cutting edge, we may be looking at a Black Plague that is more genocidal than anything Hitler devised.

Skinhead or Skinwalker Ranch Dressing

DATELINE:  More Lulus from History

 Desolate, but more?

Just call this one, “Spookyworld.”

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranchis supposed to be the gold standard of paranormal, or at least the vortex to another dimension. And, even if you never heard of it, it’s about to be the next big paranormal, supernatural, UFO twister.

Perennial mystery astrophysicist, Dr. Travis Taylor is brought on board by the usual cadre of tough guy male platoon. Arrogant billionaire Brandon Fugal (are there any other kind?) has spared little expense and travels in fast sporty car to a supersonic helicopter where his brother is the chauffeur. You may become a little unsettled when the pilot needs to say a prayer because he fears for his safety.

On ground, Skinwalker Ranch (named after the 200-year old legendary shapeshifter whose skin changes), the desolate location has been spared no expense with cameras, security, automatic rifle toting guards, barbed wire, state-of-the-art command centers, and so forth.

Considerable resources have been dropped onto the Utah property—and there must be some reason to throw such money around that usually the purview of black budget Pentagon types.

History Channel has done so many specials on this lately, we feel like it is a rerun.

The oldest, abandoned homesteads are known for the most peculiar, paranormal, UFO-centered phenomena. Travis Taylor is ready to dive in, though we are never sure why he is invited, except to be a TV host. His scientific methods could be handled by several people already on site.

When Taylor discovers that there are dangerous levels of microwaves floating about, he proposes doing a few experiments to map out the conditions and uncover the cause. One of the hard-nosed, non-scientific types, states there can be no digging on the ranch. It causes unspoken dangers.

Taylor seems miffed rightfully that stuff has not been revealed to him—and only with permission of billionaire Brandon Fugal can he be told why they cannot dig anywhere. This mystery sets the table for future episodes.

One of the ranch managers ignored this advice and had some nearly lethal skull damage that doctors could not explain. Travis does learn that radioactivity from nuclear testing in the 1950s might be a contributing factor.

It seems a big deal to digest when research methods are circumvented.

Shopping for Food in the New Age

DATELINE: Shopping as the Microbe Hunter!

 Deadly bug lurking in supermarket!

After weeks of being hunkered down with food deliveries from hapless UPS and Fed-ex drivers, we decided to brave the new world and go to the local supermarket chain during Senior Hour.

Yes, for three days a week, they have set aside one hour in the pre-dawn darkness for the old vampires to go out and do their shopping. Apparently, the belief among CDC fanatics is that people under 60 won’t be up yet.

No one checked ID cards on the way in—and we suspected a few of the spry ones were under 60.

Marketers are apparently correct. We went out in the dark, and were shocked to see the parking lot full. Not auspicious for recluses who want to avoid people. However, we were delighted to find that shelves were stocked with our favorite junk foods and comfort snacks. We passed on those, and they tend to take years off at one end of the scale.

We grabbed a couple of disinfectant wipes to use to open freezer doors to find the necessities to keep us away from this place for two or three weeks. Welcome to a new cultural phenomenon.

As we traversed the aisles, only one person wore a mask, and nary an oldster blinked. He wasn’t there to rob the joint, only looking for bargains.

We must say that we have not seen so many seniors gathered in one spot since they discontinued Bingo Night at the nursing home.

We wondered how many of these old folks were as terrified as we: worried that some unknown microbe was ready to leap into our nostril and kill us within days. Thanks, corona corona believers who say that it’s the fake flu. Oh, they tell me Trump’s ratings are improving—because lies are always sweeter than the truth, and old bears are never stung until election day.

Radius, or Radiation?

DATELINE: Instant Classic!

 Klattenhoff acts puzzled!

An independent film made in Manitoba has the distinction of being a fascinating fantasy-sci fi-thriller of most unusual quality.

Radiustakes its simple plot and never exceeds its tight grasp on the situation.

Supernatural? Science fiction? Fantasy? This film defies categories and transcends all of them.

Radiusmanages to hold our curiosity and shock us with a lack of monsters, UFOs, or other junk you’d expect. Special effects are minimal, but have a fascinating power that reminded us of those 1950s sci-fi thrillers.

Two people with amnesia are hopelessly tied to each other. If they go outside of a parameter of fifty feet, one emits a deathly energy that kills any living creature.

Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan are the essential two-actor cast. All others are doomed to some mysterious death ray almost immediately. Klattenhoff also served as producer on the picture.

Trying to figure out what’s going on never violates your intelligence quotient. It grows steadily—and the revelations are more and more disturbing. If there is a paranormal, inter-dimensional connection, it has provided justice and redemption for the main character. It is morality coming from some esoteric alien force.

We cannot stress enough how surprised we were at the high-quality production, direction, acting. Some viewers were apparently bothered that the film did not devolve into the usual clichés.

We enjoy such discoveries and love to share them. Take in this film.

 

Shatner on Oak Island: Beam Him Down

DATELINE: UnXplained Star Visits 

 Shatner at Oak Island!

Well, if you travel across the universe and end up with the UnXplained,you will surely make a pit stop to visit with the Lagina Brothers on Oak Island. William Shatner, not slowing down at 90, is there to see what all the commotion is about.  One fan called this appearance “epical.”

He is there to interview each of the key people about what is going on: he is intrigued, but the people in the so-called War Room are in awe of Captain Kirk in their midst.

There will be no revelations, but there are insights into the past of key people like Gary Drayton who is not used to turning over the findings to the Nova Scotia government. He has a history of being a modern pirate: keeping the spoils.

Yet, Shatner is cynical enough to tell them that the metal of the lead cross, apparent Templar, that was dropped not 600 years ago, mined back then.

They show him the swages that likely made the massive structures of 1741 that indicate that no Europeans were not supposed there—but really were.

Shatner tries hard to find the logic of the mystery of Oak Island, but he needs the late Leonard Nimoy’s Spock to give him the explanation. Marty Lagina tries to play the role of the man explaining the UnXplained.

It will be interesting to see how the same interviews come out on the other History Channel show.

Shatner drives at the key question, what is the curse! But he believes that the Shakespearean manuscripts sounds most plausible, hidden by Sir Francis Bacon.

Captain Kirk digs hard at the notions of mythology and magic, and for that we give him much credit as a journalist. He is intrigued by their notion that the latest technology always renews interest in solving the mystery.

Tractor and big equipment operator Billy Gearhardt is quite eloquent in answering. His new found fans will be thrilled that he stands up to Captain Kirk in this cross-pollination of History channel hit shows.

 

 

Democrats Self-Destruct in Nevada

DATELINE: Debate of Loser Status

 Hands Up!

What did we learn at the Democrat Nevada debate? Well, we learned most of all that the new candidate is not even on the Nevada caucus ballot this week. So much for voter input.

Beyond that, we learned too too much in all likelihood about what unpleasant people are running for president.

We learned that these candidates are filled with animosity, if not outright hatred, of Mike Bloomberg. And, we learned that they are so petty and set in their ways that not one of them will defeat Donald Trump.

You can start with Warren who showed her true colors, that of an ambitious person so angry that she would likely geld most men in the nation.

We saw an aging, demented Sanders who chokes on the idea that he is a millionaire who pretends to be a socialist. He also hates anyone with more money than he. He also hides his medical records like he has Trump’s tax attorney.

We saw some smaller candidates like Mayor Pete and Amy who have no chance in hell of being taken seriously. And we watched Joe Biden continue to go down for the third time, about ten times.

What a small-minded and unpleasant bunch.

And, they are prepared to attack, like the conspirators of Cassius, the billionaire who might actually win. The other billionaire never took such heat—and Tom Steyer wasn’t even allowed on stage this week.

Apparently, the Democrats have one fixed rule: only one billionaire at a time.

What a fiasco.

 

Many Years Ago at Marienbad

DATELINE: Classic Movie Requires Another View

 

The amazing classic French “art” film called Last Year at Marienbad was a tremendous influence on TV commercials. It was too esoteric to do much else for dumb audiences.

Well, the film has been re-mastered—and is stunning to see. The rococo corridors we saunter for long ambling walks are fresh with elegant details.

The narrator with ennui seems even more parfait for the job. And, you cannot find a more stylized actress than Delphine Seyrig. She couldn’t follow up this act with any other film performance, which is a career defining acting job.

You soon are staggered by the actors who wander the hallways making the same comments repeatedly. They never blink. It is rather disconcerting, but Resnais never let them blink in a scene, and most of the time they are moving at a snail’s pace.

We loved the cameo of Alfred Hitchcock to set the tone in the first 15 minutes.

Is it Marienbad or Frederiksbad? The grounds outside the hotel are so bizarre as to fit the nature of the tale.

And, the tale is a ghost story. Long before Stephen King took us to a Colorado haunt, the Marienbad location is even more horrific without one shred of blood. However, there are mysterious deaths. Who shot whom? And who fell off the balustrade?

The game with matchsticks is maddening—and fate.

The characters often refer to seeing phantoms or not being alive. Well, yes, they are all dead, reliving that hideous season when the lake frozen over in 1928, or was it 1929? They have lost track of time for good reason. They keep reliving every creepy moment.

This is a hypnotic and truly overwhelming movie that will be beyond the attention-deficit audiences of today. Watch in small doses. You will fall back under its influence almost immediately—and you will re-live every moment at Marienbad forever. Years will not matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Book Kidnappings & Mutilations

 DATELINE: Date Night at Drive-In

 

Richard Carlson in a cameo.

If you wonder how realistic theProject Blue Book episodes are, you only have to watch Dr. Hynek and his wife out at the drive-in (without their kid who has disappeared in season 2).

They are watching Richard Carlson in one of those 1950s movies. She knows about which crash it is supposedly depicting, and he hardly watches at all. It is not exactly the kind of concentration you expect from the government leading investigator.

The show also features on this episode a trip to Area 51 that is under CIA control, though our heroes do not know what this agency is. When the captain in civilian clothes meets them, they are taken aback that he is a black man. It allows Mike Malarkey’s character now to display some classic 1950s racism, but muted.

As the black agent notes, the CIA picks people for positions that you would least suspect: and he was such an example taking Dr. Hynek and Captain Quinn into the fenced in desert with snipers everywhere.

Ths episode also features something beyond an alien abduction. One young corporal who has gone missing is found in a state usually reserved for cattle mutilation victims. He is eyeless, and has been eviscerated systematically.

We also have our traditional heroes finding a mountain open up and a base within, allegedly under the control of the Air Force. Trying to escape, they are pursued by orbs—and are pulled up into a craft with a beam.

Of this they have no memory, and it likely will be a plot device over subsequent shows. They are also summarily kicked out of Area 51.

In the meantime, the Russian spies are ending the show at the drive-in. This time it is not It Came from Outer Space, but a western with Brandon de Wilde called Shane. The Russians (or whatever they are are beautiful cold women). They are planning some dastardly stuff.

It’s not too often the guest stars on TV are Richard Carlson and Brandon de Wilde.

Death on 8 Legs

 DATELINE: Ouch!

A documentary on scorpions is not for the faint of heart.

With 1500 different species, these venomous biters are among the most feared insects—and not just by humans. They are prolific in desert, jungle, dry and wet country. Scorpions: Death on Eight Legsis how disaster strikes in small ways.

Though they can kill a horse in five minutes with a bite, they only have enough venom to last one bite every two weeks or so. You could luck out.

Unwary mammals who are nocturnal can find themselves bitten. Little mice might run, but cardiac arrest will soon stop them in their tracks.

These creatures are, we learned, photophobic: the vampires of the insect world. They must hide, not from heat, but from radiation in sunlight. Shade, caves, old shoes, anything that can give them refuge will be sought—and makes your old boot something to be shaken before inserting foot.

Scorpions are cannibalistic; they will suck the life out of anything, including their family members. Their natural enemies are hedgehogs (who chew with care) and the ever-threatening praying mantis.

The documentary is narrated by a Brit named Stephen Martin with funeral irony and understatement. And, one of the highlights is a fight between a yellow scorpion and a black one in Africa. Their armor makes a fight to death not an easy kill, and they seem particularly incensed by their own kind.

One re-enactment is showing how Bedouin campers are potential victims. Cutting open the bite may help bleed out, but not often enough. Sweating profusely, foaming at the mouth, and great discomfort usually precede your nervous system shutting down and your heart going into arrest.

Sex for scorpions is a 400-million-year dance in which a truce is called for perhaps a few hours. Babies are protected and stay on mother’s back for several weeks before going off into the darkness.

We are glad we don’t usually see any scorpions.

 

 

 

 

Boys from Brazil: Where the Nuts Are

DATELINE: Hitler Clones 

 Peck as Mengele!

Back in the day, Ira Levin was one hot writer. He was knocking out Broadway and movie hits with aplomb, and writing novels too. He was entertainment and controversy, wit and delight. Apart from Death Trap, he gave us Boys from Brazil.

One of his least favorite set-pieces was the novel and movie about Josef Mengele. How short-sighted they were back in those days. The main criticism centered on Atticus Finch, the hero of all things American, being done up as a pasty and hideous looking Mengele. Yes, sir, that’s Gregory Peck in the lead role, horrifying.

He is magnificent, but back then he was stung by severe criticism. His performance may be one side of over-the-top , but when you ae playing one of the evilest fiends in history, it’s hard to pull back.

The cast is utterly astounding

Playing the old Jewish Nazi hunter whose efforts have gone past relevance is Laurence Olivier. Even Peck’s Mengele has no respect for the old-timer who warns young and hunky Steve Guttenberg to get out of Paraguay before there is one less nice Jewish boy. In an early role, Guttenberg is a sacrifice to plot, replaced by his clone John Rubinstein.

James Mason, who always accounted for Nazis of varying stripes, plays a Prussian aristocratic Nazi. Every nuance of his performance, especially with Peck, is a subtext of delight. And, you have to stand back in sheer horror at a gala soiree of Nazis in Paraguay in the 1980s.

Throw in a passel of well-known character actors—from Anne Meara and Uta Hagen to John Dehner and Denholm Elliot—and you have a hoot of acting. What other movie features two 70ish stars in a dirty, knock-down fight to death at the climax?

Yes, Ira Levin knew how to entertain and write a film that was 40 years ahead of its time.

What brought the fiercest criticism was the crypto-science of the age: genetic research! The public could not accept Mengele’s theories that he could clone humans—and create a new Master Race leader. How silly they were back then! It would only take 30 years to make the story less crypto.

The boys back in Brazil were hardly your run of the mill Nazi party members: Mengele was after the big fish. He had enough DNA from Hitler to make a bunch of them from now until kingdom come!

Today, that is cutting edge. It’s quite a movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts of Cannibal Islands!

DATELINE: Papua Horror!

 Killer Ostrich

No, it’s not what you think!  Someone gave this sober documentary a title right out of the worst tabloid movie horror. This is an hour-long episode about the Bismarck Archipelago in New Guinea.

However, the sensational title is not far off the mark. The masks made by the descendants of families of former cannibals are practically copyrighted. They are singular and unique horrific expressions of spiritual power. Ghosts of Cannibal Islands is a rather surprising little documentary.

The islands were under German control until after World War I, and many of their missionaries were eaten by the natives. The German hosts of the show are quick to explain the blond haired natives as not the result of the German influence, but some unknown group from the continent. Yeah, right.

However, that good German engineering is evident when they must drive over 100 year old wood bridges, built by the colonials. These marvels will last for another hundred years.

The islands are volcanic and still spewing from a major eruption 30 years ago. Little streams are boiling, and the ground is warm. If you go into caves, you will roast from the underground vents of heat.

The natives have abandoned the major city that is now under ash, and the dust makes the place look apocalyptic. Yet, there are still animals in the jungle.

One of the most dangerous is a form of ostrich that is a man killer, standing nearly as tall as a man, and with claws that are like spikes if you are kicked.

There is an isolated group of men who lived apart and are considered “taboo.”  Women are not allowed to look upon them when they sail past the community, and their lives are highly secret. Men can join if they want.

What we have here is a jaw-dropping look at a place where extinction seems around the corner, and the flora, fauna, and surviving creatures are something out of science fiction.

This film is utterly intriguing and mind-blowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PATRIOTS RECEIVE THEIR COME-UPPANCE

DATELINE: Shot Down at the Not-Okay Corral  

Many Patriot haters have waited 20 years for the moment. The parallel in history may be the Fall of the Roman Empire: the barbarians are at the gate, and Belichick and Brady are fleeing the chaos.

The Mighty Patriots have struck out. Cue Jim Morrison to sing “This is the End.”

There is no joy in Mudville or Foxboro. The Pats have lost their bye week—and probably their souls.

If anyone is stunned by the Dolphins beating the Pats, you have not been paying attention. For weeks now Tom Brady has been playing like a man who will be at quarterback until he is 50—in the sandlot league.

Bill Belichick is like one of the magnificent Ambersons: he is receiving his come-uppance.His vaunted defense looked like Swiss cheese and most of his players will leave in free agency. Even Brady is expected to go out with a bang elsewhere.

History runs in cycles, and the Patriots have been top dog for a couple of decades, but now they are heading back to the rubbish pile years of the 1970s. They may spend the next two decades as outliers in the AFC.

We expect that Josh McDaniels and Julian Edelman will jump ship. Already the Florida authorities are emboldened to file new felony charges against owner Robert Kraft for human trafficking, however preposterous that seems.

Now they will feel Miami is on a roll.

On the eve of an ice storm in New England, the New England Pats may be entering a new Ice Age. The berg has hit their flank—and the unsinkable franchise has sprung a leak.

Don’t cry for the Patriots, Argentina. Tom will be playing there next season.

Master of Dark Shadows: Dan Stevens or Jonathan Frid?

DATELINE: Halos For All?

  Stars Jonathan Frid & Joan Bennett

 Perhaps it is more than amusing that the production company of Dan Stevens actually produced a documentary about Dan Stevens and his ground-breaking soap opera, the gothic Dark Shadows.

We expected that you’d have full participation of the original cast and crew—and the treat, or horror, is to see these young actors in their twilight years. Yet, it is fun too.

Many are gone of course: like Frid, Joan Bennett, and the marvelous Grayson Hall (barely mentioned).

Stevens himself was an ad-man who went to producing a golf show—and had a dream for a gothic serial. Never did he expect it to be a daytime hit for kids with sympathetic vampires, tormented governesses, and cross-time crossover storylines.

Who really made Dark Shadows a hit? Was it the producer with the classic hard edge or the gaunt actor who played the reluctant vampire? Well, you know who produced the show and produced the documentary. Frid did not join the cast until nearly a year had passed, but with him it zoomed to cult status.

There was recently a fiftieth anniversary shindig with survivors like David Selby, Lara Parker, John Karlen, Jerry Lacy, and so many other favorites. They all grew up as actors on that show as much as their audience grew up. The show had bad sets, primitive special effects, and sometimes awful plots badly acted. It was of no consequence to fans.

Frid and Stevens ultimately came to loggerheads, and Stevens was better able to move on to Winds of Warand other films. It is a trip down memory lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting on Fifth Ave?

DATELINE: Outrage Unleashed!

 Garrett Needs a Roy Cohn?

Forget your Easter bonnet for the big Thanksgiving parade. Donald Trump and Myles Garrett are leading the parade of felonious media freaks.

On a day when Donald J. Trump intimidated a witness at a Congressional hearing, we recall his comment that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and no one would give a fig.

Since then, the candy bar has come into Renaissance, and the New York mayor claimed that they would indeed arrest Mr. Trump. However, if you are a Republican in Congress, your job is to re-load the weapon, as if the POTUS were a shooter in your typical American high school. Trump likes to kick Sandy Hook in our collective faces.

Now, we have a case in parallel where Mason Rudolph, a QB of the NFL, has assumed that violence will be done unto him on the playing field. And now, Myles Garrett has taken that presumption and done a deed that is comparable to Trump’s boast. Lock and load that helmet, fans.

QB of the Steelers, Rudolph, did not die and was not seriously injured, though his vanity may be fatally overexposed. It is Myles Garrett who has achieved the ultimate notoriety: he is the Trump of football.

He can shoot a helmet to the head of an opponent and be guilty of felonious assault but get away with it. His action has been called “embarrassing” by some teammates and coaches. There will be no arrest and trial. This is not hockey, a sport of immigrants from Canada. Trump might threaten a wall to prevent those Canadians from bringing sticks to the game. 

Trump plans to continue to call for the ban of Colin Kaepernick but likely will call for amnesty and pardons for Myles Garrett.

Attempted murder on national television is more than embarrassing, and the Cleveland Browns are intimidating NFL fans with it’s “just a game,” mantra.

There is nothing just here. Justice died on Fifth Avenue, in Congress, and at pep rallies held by Trump.

Inhuman Heiroglyphs!

DATELINE: Worst Episode in Series History 

 

An empowered creature?

Reaching its most squeamish and unpleasant episode in a dozen years, Ancient Alienstackled the big issue of human self-mutilation: tattoos and body modifications practices. They are definitely scraping the crusty bottom of the alien pie plate.

If you are of an older generation that eschews such practice and are horrified by the endless human billboards walking around society, you may be turned off here. These people are called “Human Hieroglyphs,” as opposed to petroglyphs.

Of course, those Ancient Alien theorists think this is deep-rooted habit from the desire to show connections to space creatures who were those gods of yore.

Painful and ugly body transformation may be a right of expression, but it seems a stretch mark to call it inspired by outer space connections. Our typical Aliens hosts, all devoid of tattoos or other distinguishing marks, speak blandly about a habit (or obsession) to put ink stains on every part of the body.

You will be subjected to seeing people covering their skin with unsightly designs in order to appear more extra-terrestrial. Perhaps the most appalling is the praise for a young man who colored the whites of his eyes black to look like a gray alien.

Then, they claim the Internet has inspired this “creativity.”

It’s more like a fad of depravity.

We decided to shut down this episode and its rationalization of creative impulse to be other worldly. When one clown called this activity “empowering,” we knew we were on another planet. Perhaps these oddities will be the first to go to Mars, or the first to be sent there when it becomes the Devil’s Island of the 22ndcentury.

This may be the single-worst episode in the history of the long-running series.