Next World is Your Next Stop

DATELINE: The Futurist Bible

Kaku Bird

 Kookoo Clocked?

Machio Kaku hosts a re-tooled Japanese series about the future, all done in English, called Next World from the CuriosityStream.

The five episodes are short and artificially sweetened, purporting to tell us what life will be like in 2045, just around the corner.

Machio Kaku is more like Mucho KooKoo as the futurist host with his introductions spliced into the show. He sits or stands in a white room with Internet screens to segue to a morose narrator who does the heavy lifting. He may be a virtual entity.

What we learn about the future is that computer chips will be implanted in our brains, eyes, and bloodstream. We will be hooked into a great Artificial Intelligence. Heaven help you if you receive wrong info or have some political dictator hack into your head.

They don’t discuss that possibility in this series, filmed mostly at Harvard and MIT in their labs.

There is a great deal of optimism that hospitals will become obsolete, owing to chemical/computer implants that will hunt out disease and keep us young.

You will face a lifespan of 100 years, adding five hours every day, until we reach the Singularity.

Yes, that ugly word crops up repeatedly, meaning a time of major cultural and human shift, like the introduction of agriculture or writing. AI will change everything, as we will make political allies of robots and androids, even marrying them.

The most intriguing possibility is that there will be recreated lives online of famous historical personages, or even less vaunted ancestors, to whom we may converse and seek counsel (sort of like crying “Fire” on the Internet).

To transcend death, you may be able to put your consciousness into an android and live forever.

All this is predicted by 2045 when you can live on Mars or in a tower of Babel, now an island in the rising oceans.

It almost makes you want to go back to the caves.

 

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Lindsay Graham: “I’m not gay!” with Qualification

DATELINE: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much

Graham Demonstrates Technique It’s All in the Wrist!

Not two weeks after we postulated that Trump is blackmailing Senator Lindsay Graham for his support, Mr. Graham, the Cracker from Carolina, the recently emboldened supporter of Bone Spurs Trump, protested weakly,  “As far as it matters, I’m not gay.”

Whatever does that mean?

Let us try to clarify: in a nutshell, what it means, “As far as it does not matter, I am gay.”

That is Republican-speak for “I am in the closet, and don’t try to drag me out.” It also means he is worried that Trump will out him.

Graham may not be actively pursuing his interests or engaged in any relationship right now. That means it as far as it matters. We cannot imagine a threesome of Rudi Guiliani in drag, Bone Spurs Trump, and Graham Cracker. Well, we don’t like to picture it.

He is not marching in gay pride parades, beating a drum at the Stonewall, or supporting gay legislation, as far as it matters. We have seen Republicans in the past who were exposed for the same stance, or worse, or is that less?

What is Lindsay Graham so nervous about? Well, how about them voters in his home state? He also shared his view that calling someone gay, or outing them, is “belittling people” and he does not think it “funny as it used to be.”

As they say in England, don’t laugh at the Queen.

TMZ is not known for its frivolous exposes. Nor is the National Enquirer. They are sites that reveal sordid and salacious details that some want kept in the closet. Like Lindsay Graham.

Calling Graham gay is like beating a dead horse. Outing Lindsay Graham is like putting jimmies on your ice cream cone. You still have to do the licking.

 

 

 

 

Ian McKellan’s Best Parts

DATELINE: Playing the Part

McKellan with Milo Parker Mr. Holmes, of course!

When the Great Thespian gathers together his early autobiographical photos and files, you know you are in for a treat. Ian McKellan sits down for a life achievement interview. It’s called McKellan: Playing the Part.

Now he has been great fodder for TV laugh talk shows for years, mostly owing to his dry wit and coming out at age 50 as a gay man during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.

His great roles are in films like Gods and Monsters, Apt Pupil, and Richard III, though he is best loved for his superhero movies and Harry Potter junk. He is a good sport about the green screen stuff, but it’s not really acting to him.

We do see him in many rare behind-the-stage clips and playing Shakespeare on TV. He was quite a good-looker as a young man, though no one ever told him so, he admits.

He grew up at college with the likes of Derek Jacobi and Corin Redgrave. It was heady company. He admits his life has been one mostly of life in the company of strangers. Heavens, he must have relied on much kindness.

Like many middle-class Brits, he had to learn a posher accent and quickly discovered the best way to do it was hanging out at theaters. He started young, watching backstage, and appearing in any and every play as a teenager.

An interesting sidelight is that Milo Parker (costar of Mr. Holmes with McKellan) plays the actor as a boy. We presume Mr. McKellan had something to do with this casting. He thought he should have won something for Mr. Holmes—but forgot he already won a Screen Actors Guild award for something or other.

McKellan influenced many actors and stage people over the years. He has always taken some pride in that aspect of his life, which has been solitary without family or children, a conscious decision of a gay man. He has made the acting profession his family.

 

 

Michael Caine: My Generation is Not Yours

DATELINE: Swinging 60s?

Michael Caine Only Blowing Off the Doors?

Michael Caine, one of the great film stars, and under-rated actors since the 1960s, produces and presents a documentary that gives intriguing insight into the London influence of the 1960s.

That was the time of swinging London, Carnaby Street, and the Beatles. It was also when Caine first struck pay-dirt in his movie career.

Caine knows enough to start the documentary with his famous line from the Italian Job about blowing the bloody doors off the car, famously parodied in The Trip and The Trip to Spain by Coogan and Brydon.

You will see a few TV clips of his early performances, and he tells how he chose the name Caine for his career (based on an old Humphrey Bogart movie playing nearby when he was selecting). All this early detail is marvelous.

He even notes that he was a few years older than the group of Cockney stars that rose up in music, film, photography, and fashion. But he was there.

With ingenious clips of young Caine riding up in an elevator, and the old man stepping out, you have his memories coming out: he recalls going to a trendy dance club where every Beatle and every Rolling Stone was dancing; he figured this was the place to be.

Michael Caine converses with Roger Daltrey, Donovan, Joan Collins, Twiggy, Paul McCartney, and Marianne Faithfull, about the days when they were young. He is right there for most of this, but in the final segments, when drugs and LSD take hold, he is not really a participant.

As he points out, he kept his head. It is why he is still making movies fifty years later. He was far beyond London by the late 1960s and the drug scene there. It is alien to him.

The insights are fun and enlightening in his chats with those who transcended their Cockney roots. There is also a soundtrack of great 60s music from Kinks, Beatles, Stones, and Animals.

 

 

Mid-Trip Crisis

DATELINE: Coogan & Brydon in Italy

Italian job

The Trip to Italy is the middle piece of the trilogy of mockumentaries by Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The Trip to Italy is directed by Michael Winterbottom again, and he condenses the film to the best bon mots uttered during the two-week business holiday.

These minor British TV stars are on the verge of making it big in American movies, and they are thrown together for another series of adventures by the media. They are temperamental actors who seem not to enjoy each other’s company.

However, they are amusing together. It’s said that Abbot and Costello were not friends but were a business association. So, it is here. This is the business of growing older with wit and aplomb.

The conceit of the journey is to visit great Italian restaurants and trace the expatriates Byron and Shelley along the way.

Coogan and Brydon compete over everything, especially to show which one has more talent and is more successful. They do imitations of Hugh Grant, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, and Sean Connery, over dinners to die for in exotic coastal Italian tourist spots.

Not much is sacred here in their barbs, not even the dead at Pompeii.

You may not be used to intelligent conversation like this. You certainly wonder how they could not enjoy their mid-life crises while living La Dolce Vita.

Not everything is fun, as there is a downbeat inner core to the cavorting. They might die happy in one of these spots, but we doubt it. They sabotage their own trip, their friendship, and seem to have a grand time of indifference, their personal existential crises.

We are happy to have a chance to be a fly on the walls of their discontent.

 

More Spirit Activity on Mill Circle!

DATELINE: Titanic Ghost?

 scrabble in library

Photos:  September 13, 2018   and October 6, 2018

For those who have followed my odd paranormal adventures, let me post an update.

As you may know, I have written several books about my experiences in my home, once owned by two victims of the Titanic disaster in 1912. Based on several (now four visits) sessions with psychics, they agreed that the house is inhabited by at least one of those victims—and several others.

My latest book Chess-Mate from Titanic tells of the message of the psychics that explains weird activities in my library. Pieces on a magnetized chessboard have moved. They insisted that Richard, one of my ghosts, wants to play chess.

Well, he appears to have moved on to another board game. Perhaps he is bored by eternity! I set up the Scrabble board in hopes that spirits might find it more pleasant to spell out their messages than using a Ouija board. The psychics tell me that the library is a portal and a vortex.

My message was simple:  ‘HELLO’  facing the tiles that could be arranged in response.

I set it up on the anniversary of the Titanic disaster on April 15 of this year. When I visit the library, I always check for a response.

Today I found one.

As the enclosed photos show, someone or some thing has decided to move the tiles I set up in greeting.

The photos side by side show the board in September, and now in October. I presume the spirit is taking the “hell” out of “hello.”

Your amusing responses are always appreciated. Thanks for reading my latest. For more details you can always go to the ebooks on Amazon:  Tales of a Titanic Family, Ghosts of Mill Circle, and Chess-Mate from Titanic.

 

 

Brothers Warner, Not Karamazov or Marx

DATELINE: Double-down on Cain & Abel

 warner brothers

Cass Warner is the granddaughter of Harry Warner, and she is instrumental in pulling together this family history of an illustrious foursome of Hollywood that are not the Marx Brothers.

The documentary about the studio founders is called Brothers Warner.

Harry Warner was the oldest, the manager of the menagerie, and the most sympathetic in the eyes of the narrator who has an axe to grind. In the middle were two others—Sam and Albert—each of whom were peacemakers and hard workers—between the arch-sibling rivals of Harry—and the notorious and despicable Jack L. Warner.

Whenever cruel, nasty, ruthless, egotistical producers are cited, Jack Warner heads the list. After viewing this film, you know why. He makes Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold seem like misunderstood youth.

Despite a lack of education, Harry Warner was well-spoken and highly intelligent. He led the troupe out to California in the days before World War I. They were never successful completely until brother Sam, the creative one, pursued Vitaphone and pioneered sound movies.

It was a gamble that paid off—changing the industry.

Harry wanted to make entertainments with a message (biographical stories like Emile Zola, and political issue movies like Chain Gang). Their Bugs Bunny cartoons may be a highpoint for many. Not till the TV generation did Warners slip into something less grand, but still successful.

Yet, there was a growing rift between Harry and Jack, culminating with a hostile cheating takeover that pushed out Harry in the 1950s.

Flamboyant and unlikeable, Jack Warner even disowned his own son and had him removed from the business.

Resentful and punitive, James Dean makes a cameo by throwing change at Jack’s feet in one meeting (according to Dennis Hopper) to indicate what he thinks of the studio head’s ruthless pursuit of money.

Jack has his defenders, in the persons of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., of 77 Sunset Strip fame, and Debbie Reynolds, who seem to understand his nature. You may be less forgiving or understanding.  He was a monster.

Fascinating, the documentary may settle family scores, but it is great movie-theatrics too.

 

 

 

 

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker

DATELINE: Red Hot Mama!

Sophie & Tallulahwith Tallulah!

Without Sophie Tucker, you would never have her descendants in music and entertainment. She was the originator of the styles of Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Lady Gaga, and Mae West too.

She preceded them by decades. She first burst on the scene in 1903, and the loving documentary on her called The Outrageous Sophie Tucker was directed and written by people who never knew her personally. Yet, she left many people thunderstruck—and she knew them all in show biz from Jolson, Cantor, to Garland and Sinatra.

Sophie was the first and last of the Red Hot Mamas. She could do jazz renditions like Bessie Smith, leaving many black people to think she had soul. She was a Jewish girl from Hartford, daughter of immigrants who ran a kosher restaurant.

She ran through three husbands in short order, but also dominated three media—radio, television, and music recordings. Movies were a cameo away.

A full-figured girl, she made her size of zaftig a marketing bonanza. She could do self-deprecating humor with Berle, Durante, or Bob Hope. Sophie also believed that simply being friendly to fans was the best marketing gimmick in the world: she spent hours sending off notes and going out to dinner with local dignitaries on all her tours.

She told soldiers during World War II to write to her—like a mother figure she was, and she answered.

She was friends with Al Capone—and J. Edgar Hoover. Indeed, Hoover and Clyde Tolson came out to her. He asked for one of her sequin dresses—and she joked with him “You’ll never get into it.” She later swore off men—and had a series of female companions; perhaps platonic, perhaps not.

If you don’t know Sophie Tucker (she died in 1966) after a career spanning seven decades, you might want to spend 90 minutes reprising her life in this wonderful documentary.

 

 

 

 

Hollywood: In the Beginning

 DATELINE: James Mason & Kevin Brownlow

intolerance

Intolerance Anyone?

To find the 1979 Kevin Brownlow documentary series on the origins of Hollywood is a treat. With the stirring music of Carl Davis, adapted to so many styles over the episodes, you have Brownlow’s research to find many lost clips and footage. The limited series was called simply Hollywood.

Of course, for us, the best part of the series was the narrative voice of James Mason, lending a kind of grandeur to the proceedings.

The first episode, In the Beginning, does indeed have a Biblical echo. After all, film pioneer D.W. Griffith’s epics, like Intolerance, put Hollywood on the map.

The story begins with gangsters in New York and New Jersey disrupting independent filmmakers around 1903. These producers and studios were under constant threats as the Edison company wanted exclusivity.

This led to many film producers to look for a place far from the East Coast unions and controls. It took them to California, to a spot outside Los Angeles, where orange groves dominated the mountain backdrop.

They could find every conceivable film set location within a few miles: from snowy mountains, to deserts, to mountains, to oceans.

In addition, movies required sunshine, as most films were made outdoors (even indoor sets) with open roof for light. Since Los Angeles had over 300+ days of sunshine every year, they had found nirvana.

Within a few years, the world knew the streets of Hollywood from movie settings. It became more enhanced when movie star mansions became the Newport of a new aristocracy. Pickfair was the West Coast Buckingham Palace with Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as the ersatz American royalty.

If you want to see how the United States and its silent film industry took over the world of film art, you have Kevin Brownlow and David Gill to thank for this insightful series.

Other episodes looked at morals clauses in the budding business, stuntmen, Westerns, and comedians like Chaplin and Keaton and Arbuckle. If you love movies, Hollywood is the best series on its advent.

Sen. Cracker Graham Support for K-K-Kavanagh?

DATELINE: Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Blackmailed!

 Judge Roy Moore Any Judge will do it for Trump!

Some observers are wondering why President Bone Spurs Trump’s most ardent critic of the past two years suddenly had a change of heart.

Sen. Lindsay Graham suddenly became the attack dog for the Administration at the hearings for Judge K-K-Kavanagh. His spirited hissy fit at the hearing has all the makings of a man’s manufactured indignation.

If the lady doth protest too much, then what condition has prompted cracker Graham to represent his Carolina constituents with a banjo on his knee?

He even threatened to politicize his future dealings with the judiciary, overlooking the fact that the women justices he supported were not accused of harassing other women.

He seemed unfazed that the man who picks his clerks for their leggy credentials boasted that he will surround himself with a harem of law clerks as a Supreme Court justice. Old B-B-Brett seems unfazed at the pain he is inflicting on his family to satisfy his raw ambitions. On the day Bill Cosby goes to jail in handcuffs for using date rape drugs, Brett is on his way to the Supreme Court for a similar allegation.

Can it be that the latest Trump troll is acting out of the fear of something evil coming his way? For years the rumors have persisted that Graham is a member of Dorothy’s Friends, that amiable group of rainbow singing Munchkins.

Now we begin to wonder if blackmail is at the heart of Trump support. We have seen thugs purported to have made unkind suggestions to women like Stormy Daniels by Trumpist monkeys. Can it be that the voters in Carolina may be treated to a lowdown on the downlow of Lindsay Graham? Would Trumpites sink so low? You better believe it.

So, the man with no proclivities to support date rape of women may have proclivities that he would prefer you not cast a vote upon in future elections. It’s not likely that the LGBTQ community of South Carolina wants to think of what sits on Graham’s knee.

Or if he is on his knees to do something other than pray and to do the bidding of President Bonehead Bone Spurs?

 

Every Picture Tells: Fascinating Doc

DATELINE: Picture This, Part One

 Mr. & Mrs. Mr. & Mrs. Andrews

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak  makes great paintings accessible and stresses how they endure.

From its galloping opening credits, you know this is not Kenneth Clark pontificating. It is art with a large dollop of droll and snide insight. The host begins with a barrage of witty puns.

The mini-series covers a couple of disks with four major paintings and painters on each. Waldemar knows enough to start off the series with his aplomb dropping wit applied to Thomas Gainsborough.

You might think he’d do “Blue Boy,” but instead he goes for an unfinished masterpiece called “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews.”  He savages them totally in about 25 minutes.

In the host’s estimation, Gainsborough did not like Mrs. Andrews much—and the family cancelled the picture before it was finished. He wanted to show the hard-hearted Mrs. Andrews throttling a pheasant her husband just shot on their massive estate.

Gainsborough insights abound from the critic. He notes how the painter’s father was into satin manufacturing—and his artist son always makes his subjects wear the most gorgeous clothes.

As for the subject of portraiture, he did not favor it. The first episode is lively and wonderful. Succeeding pieces on Rembrandt, Giorgioni, and Boticelli, are less amusing, though he provides many startling facts.

You will find that Rembrandt enjoyed the lessons of dissecting human bodies, and Venus on the half-shell is more than an appetizer.

You can’t turn away from great art, or great education, and we look forward to what he has to say about Da Vinci and Caravaggio in the subsequent episodes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funny Face: Frothy, Light, & Fun

DATELINE: No Ginger Needed?

winged hepburn Winged Hepburn!


In 1957 came the last great Fred Astaire movie, and his dance partner and costar is Audrey Hepburn, not Ginger Rogers. Funny Face is as good as you’re likely to find with a homage nod to those musicals of the 1930s.

You may cringe to see almost 60-years-old Astaire wooing almost 30-years-old Hepburn. The old dance trouper is amazingly youthful, though at times he looks tired after all those acrobatic steps. He watches a few numbers (jazz interpretive stuff with Audrey and two beatniks) with askance.

The older woman Kay Thompson is the fashion magazine owner and editor (and Ginger could have played this but chose not to do it). And, Kay steals all her scenes, including a few dances with aging Fred.

Within a few years, Astaire would turn to dramatic acting in films like On the Beach, dismissing himself as too old to dance and be a romantic lead.

Yet, when he is called upon: Fred still has the magic, doing a dance with an umbrella and a raincoat that turns into a matador’s cape. Brilliant late career effort.

Though producers denied Audrey a chance to sing in My Fair Lady, she does so in this film—and her voice is distinctive, not bad.

Fred plays an arty photographer on the lines of Richard Avedon (who took the real pix in the pic). Hepburn is a bookstore worm transformed into a model that she disdains.

Early claustrophobic stage scenes contrast with the wide-open location numbers in Paris, leading up to the real Eiffel Tower. Director Stanley Donen provides some marvellous moments outside the studio.

Gershwin tunes abound, including the constant refrain from “S’marvelous,” that emerges only at the climax of the movie.

In some ways, the movie is trying too hard to be special, like dancing on raft in a stream with swans floating by. Yet, you must give it credit for providing us with legendary performers doing wonderful things.

 

 

 

Bend Unbroken, Stir Unshaken

DATELINE:  James Bond Satire

Chris Lew Kum Hoi Dr. Tu Yung

How amusing is a gay parody of James Bond? Well, if you tune into Matt Carter’s one-hour spoof, you may be more than pleasantly surprised. It is not too violent, nor too sexual.

It’s Jayson Bend: Queen & Country.

So, it falls into a Goldlocks world of gay cinema. And, thank heavens, it is not about teenagers with a coming out angst and done on videotape.

Some of it is heavy-handed, as it is always difficult to satirize a satire—and people often forget that James Bond was Ian Fleming’s satiric secret agent. He is taken too seriously.

Matt Carter seems to have his name and paws all over this little film. It stars Davis Brooks as Jayson Bend (not Bent), but it’s Jayson with a “Y”—and don’t ask.

We find the cute girls are replaced by cute boys—and Dr. Tu Yung is an adorable villain (played by Chris Lew Kum Hoi).

What may be a great surprise is that this film has a big budget look about it. The color is bright and bold, and the fast cars and special effects are just right. The only violence is at the start, and the sex is chaste: hints by kiss.

It’s safe for straight guys.

In Search of …Atlantis & Quinto

DATELINE: First Season Success

atlantis 

The grande finale of the Zachary Quinto series that has impressed us each step of the season is billed as a two-parter but is really merely an extended two-hour episode.

Sending Quinto off on the quest puts him squarely in the Mediterranean Sea. The stopovers include Greece, Crete, North Africa, Sardinia, and all spots that might be an island—or not.

We start, as per usual, with doomsday sayers and crack-pot experts, but Zak finds some level-headed researchers to set the course.

Once again the actor has a great adventure or two, diving into open sea when he really is not a fan of it. He climbs into old, dank tombs too. He is a gamer in the search, and we believe him that he really has an interest in these notions.

Atlantis is not an island, but an empire. There are 51 points of discovery that Plato offered researchers—and matching up spots to the clues is the name of the game.

Quinto learns along the way that the Atlantans may be the progenitors of Rh negative blood types. These folks have a bunch of characteristics, but he is most intrigued by the pointy ear theory (his only reference to Spock in the new series).

He is clearly fascinated.  And he is willing to learn he too has Rh negative blood, possibly an Atlantan. It is a good way to make the host and producer of the show truly a meaningful part of the formula.

Ancient ruins, recently excavated, indicate that meteors, floods, tsunamis, or other natural disasters could have buried Atlantis. It need not be under the sea, but under tons of earth.

For that reason, Atlantis might be a landlocked place, with rivers circling it, as in Morocco.

If you want to end the first season on a high note, the History show is the perfect coda—and likely will cause fans to demand another season with Zak.

 

 

 

The Wilder Sherlock

DATELINE:  Sherlock Takes a Bath!

 Stephens & Blakely

When master auteur Billy Wilder (who gave us gems like Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, One Two Three) gives us his take on Sherlock Holmes, we are ready for something unusual. So, we overly anticipated watching his film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

All that promise seems to go up in a cocaine dream as an overlong movie that could be half-an-hour shorter and more succinct, maintaining the early humor.

Wilder puts all your standard Holmes patter into the pot (Mrs. Hudson, Mycroft, and irritation with Dr. Watson’s stories). That stuff is quite amusing.

The first third of the film is filled with the kind of humor you expect from Wilder—sophisticated, sharp, and delightful. He raises the ugly specter that Holmes and Watson are consenting adults—and he makes more comprehensible, Holmes turning to his seven-percent solution.

Funny bits with the Russian ballet, and boring cases about midgets, make us think we are entering a funnier world than Conan Doyle envisioned.

Colin Blakely is a delightful Dr. Watson, and Robert Stephens protests too much about being a woman-hating fop. He plays Holmes with a tad flamboyance, disdaining deerstalker hats and women equally. He is more than a fop. We are almost in panty-waist territory.

Christopher Lee is around as a more peripatetic Mycroft, showing up in places other than the Diogenes.

Wilder cannot throw away a line. Midgets come back to haunt us, after one bad joke. And having Queen Victoria seem to resemble a Munchkin is over the top and under the height limit for small talk.

Throw in the Loch Ness monster of sorts, and you have something that would later be taken as gospel by the Robert Downey school of Sherlock acting and writing.

We wished the Private Life of Sherlock could have been taken for better, not for worse. We remain loyal in sickness and health, good and bad.