Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece!

DATELINE:  Raphael’s Young Man Abducted

For over 70 years, one of the premiere items from a Krakow art museum has been missing, plundered and stolen by Nazi terrorists in the early 1940s. The work, by Raphael, is the remarkable Portrait of a Young Man. Today, if it is located, the value is put at around $100million.

If you want someone with expertise and knowledge to be the centerpiece of a miniseries on Nazi Treasure Hunters,you would likely call on James Holland who also examined such diverse issues as Nazi pep pills.

You don’t need much incentive to go looking for a impressive Raphael Renaissance painting. It was one of three the museum owned: a Leonardo and Rembrandt were the others. It’s a small but extraordinary trio.

Only Raphael’s fey young man in a black beret remains lost.

Most interesting is the fact that elderly sons of powerful Nazi leaders are more than willing to criticize their fathers and their ruthless attitude. Hans Frank’s youngest son called his father “a cultured killer,” and he believed his mother sold the Raphael for food after the war when her executed husband left her to raise children without funds or help. He didn’t think much of his parents, as his mother called herself “Queen of Poland,” only half in jest during the Nazi occupation.

The painting was the victim of a tug of war between Goering and Frank for two years before Hitler tired of their bickering to send it back to Krakow—and a fate under the control of an art restorer who had rejected Nazism and was sent to Poland as a punishment.

As often happens in these shows, they have set up a public forum to flush out the lost painting. Maybe it will hit the news, but the picture may be in some attic in Silesia. Or it will be sold to a billionaire Saudi who collects private art, never again to be seen (sort of like the Leonardo sold at auction a few years ago)>

Another Tree Stands Defenseless to the Onslaught!

DATELINE: Witness to History   

 

Winchendon Springs, Massachusetts, has the worst record for not protecting history that I, as an author and historian, have ever encountered. Over decades, key buildings have been razed, and a cavalier attitude of a somewhat less than helpful historical society masquerades as a town body.

 

In the latest incarnation of sad anti-historical activity, the new owners of a location going back to the 1820s have routinely ignored the past in pursuit of profit. They have systematically dismantled the area’s past.

The Mill Circle Equestrian Center acts like it has the right to do whatever it wants. It is typically run by people with a chip on their shoulders—and horses to corral. 

In the past days, they took down a tree planted by Nelson White in 1850. Yes, the grand maple was 170 years old—and lately some limbs came off in bad wind storms.

We hate to see a living witness to history be taken down, limb by limb. The magnificent tree had some core rot at the top, but it was left standing upright. It deserved care and treatment, not execution.

Perhaps the coming seasons will bring new growth and resurrection. The tree once grew over the famed cold mineral spring that healed so many in the 19thcentury.

It oversaw the notorious murder of a peddler under its shade on the Fourth of July in 1826.  It was on the family property, near the gazebo where two victims of the Titanic once played as children.

Now the hulk stands denuded, not quite a stump, not cut to the nub. Yet, it is a pathetic reminder that time fells all—the deserving and undeserving.

Giddy new owners and neighbors seemed to revel in the tree’s demise. We were saddened to see it fall piece by piece. The neighborhood’s beauty has been diminished.

Albert Speer Finally Exposed

DATELINE: Out for a Walk.

So many of these so-called Nazi documentaries are secretly honoring the monsters of World War II.  With reluctance, we tuned into the last episode of The Last Secrets of the Third Reich.

This mini-series is not apology for Nazis and it rightfully exposes the evil banality and shenanigans of Himmler, Rommel, and Speer, a nasty Nazi trio.

This hour-long insight into Hitler’s architect and “best friend’, surrogate son, took Albert Speer apart, piece by piece. He was the only high-ranking Nazi not to be condemned to death at Nuremburg trials. He spent 20 years in comfort in prison at Spandau, and then made millions with his apologetic autobiography.

He was a clever man who manipulated people his entire life, from Hitler to judges, down to history. He never admitted his guilt in the Holocaust though he went to Auschwitz and used slave labor on his projects to prolong the war.

He also had a secret collection of stolen art-work that he hid for decades and sold at auction in 1981. He must have known he’d escape into old age.

From being Hitler’s likely successor to being a patrician German version of the “good Nazi,”  Speer spoke English like a Hollywood casting agent’s dream of a Nazi out of Stalag 17. He was reprehensible for being even more of a hypocrite and role model for Germans who didn’t know there were Nazis in their government.

Herr Professor Speer, as he was known among Nazis, owned about 30 fine artworks worth millions, and he also sold his personal sketches by Hitler. He made himself rich in retirement on the lies and dubious morality of being a contrite Nazi.

Speer spent the last free years of his life, doing a batch of interviews and rehabbing his reputation. Many bought his act, but this bio film does not let him off the hook. He was a revolting faker.

With clips of the stolen art collection, rare interviews and horrifying photos of Hitler and Speer cavorting as friends, this is one Nazi documentary that must be seen to be believed.

 

 

 

 

 

Humming a Tune

DATELINE: Tiny Speedster

 

The littlest birdie in the world is the hummingbird, and you have David Attenborough ready to spill the beans in the heartbeat in this documentary from 2012 called, Hummingbirds.

When in flight, their hearts beat around 1200 beats per minute. When they sleep at night, they go into a suspended animation that leaves their hearts beating 40 times per minute. It takes them half an hour in morning to wake up—and they are prime choice for predators in this condition.

They must eat every fifteen minutes to keep their prodigious lifestyle. Besides flower nectar, they go after little bugs. They avoid bees whose sting could kill them.

These remarkable mammals are the fastest, smallest, and most amazing of creatures: they came about ten million years after flowers and adapted to become the cold morning pollinator. Insects could not do the job.

The hummingbird also is the most acrobatic flier in the world: he can fly backwards and upside down, unlike any other bird. Though they seemed to be most closely tied to South America and Brazil, they moved into the Andes Mountains soon thereafter—and a micro-version went to North America.

They must eat every 15 minutes to keep up their energy, but there are so many mysteries about how they live, no scientist can say for sure.

They migrate thousands of miles to Texas each year—and then must fatten up to make a flight across the Gulf of Mexico where there is no rest, no food, and no information on how they do it.

But this film is stunning for the beauty of the birds that have iridescent feathers that explode in color when they are combative. Slow motion photography grants an opportunity to see what is too fast for the human eye normally.

 

 

 

 

 

  Machine That Made Us? Really?

DATELINE: Gutenberg, Not McLuhan 

Docudrama re-enactment from 1880s, not real scene.

A quaint British documentary made over a dozen years ago thrusts the premise at us that the Gutenberg Press is the most important invention of civilization. Hmm, we are skeptical as usual.

As host and presenter Stephen Fry notes, it may be more important than the car, the computer, or other accoutrements of the latest centuries. The little one-hour film The Machine That Made Us never mentions Marshall McLuhan, which is a shame.

Fry is a bibliophile, which is to say he loves books, though that is hardly historical or cultural expertise. He is also an excellent actor and charming as  host for a travelogue and investigation into Johannes Gutenberg and his invention.

There are no pictures or illos of Gutenberg or his press. One early image from Albrecht Durer of a press is 50 years later. So, all pictures and lithographs are actually re-enactments imagined, just like in today’s so-called documentaries.

There are those, however, who’d point out that books are fading fast. That includes authors who find that their sales are now comprised mostly of e-books. We print out of nostalgia for the most part.

Nobody really wants dust-collecting libraries in their homes or even in their universities. When Fry walks down miles of stacks of books, we think the cost of protecting them (miles and miles of books) is staggering. You could probably fit them all in a file cabinet of Kindles.

Fry is no technocrat—and he leaves the making of an original press to a woodworker, and the making of the actual letters to another metallurgist. Since it would take a few years to make one page of letters to print up a Bible, they send to America for pre-made, and use their one “E” in the print block.

Vellum too would mean the death of hundreds of cows, so paper is made the old-fashioned way of 1439 and it is cloth bits into pulp. You make Bible pages between the Black Death that gripped your pressings with old clothes.

There are only a handful of the original Bibles left from Guttenberg’s endeavor—and he never made money from publishing. That fell to his creditors. And, the beautiful illustrations in the margins were always hand-done anyhow.

It is fascinating to watch, but a tad dull—and we never see them actually bind a book or stich it together. When Fry thumbs through one of the surviving books in cotton gloves, you fear he might sneeze on the book and let water vapor take its course.

Author, Author: Go Away!

DATELINE: Unwanted Gifts

 Latest Affront to Gifting.

A friend kindly scoffed at me for a bad habit.

He claimed how I had a tendency to give away gifts to people who did not necessarily want them. He was referring to my bad habit to bestow a copy of one of my books to people who have been nice to me.

I usually inscribe them with thanks for some generic kindness. It is, I am told, not appreciated because I have given people something that they cannot repay or reciprocate.

Well, okay. I realize that not everyone can write a book and return a copy to me in standoff fashion. However, I thought that providing a free, gratis copy of a personal creation would qualify as an act of generosity, not as a slap with my velvet glove.

However, my friend argues that it is not that at all: it is a brazen show of ego.

Well, you can knock me over with a dust-jacket. I would never have thought that giving a personal gift would be construed as an act of selfishness. In fact, I always thought the creative process was something to be shared.

Alas, if you share it with those who have no appreciation, no interest, or no good manners, the writer of a book may well deserve to have the gift accepted without thanks or acknowledgement.

I often note that I give away my book as a token of my gratitude and not as homework assignment. I will not quiz the recipient on the book’s message or contents. If I did, we know the result would be a failing grade. We’ve seen enough of that in the nation’s body politic.

As a resolution, I have now promised my old friend that I will be more circumspect in sharing my books. Never give a page away that is not requested, or at least has some kind of interest expressed by another. It means I will save money on copies and postage.

It is an age when reading is a chore, not a pleasure, and the disrespected writer is a prophet without honor in any country.

 

Dr. William Russo is too prolific for his own good, and he has written many movie history books and biographies.

 

 

Triangulated Triangles: Identified

DATELINE: Unidentified: America’s UFOs

The use of triangle shaped craft by some entity seems to have gained traction on the series Unidentified: America’s UFO Investigations.

 

In the second episode of the second season, AATIP’s Luis Elizondo and Chris Mellen tackle the issue of mysterious black triangles now dominating the UFO scene.

For decades we have heard of saucers, then orbs, then tick-tacks. Now we find that the predominant military sightings are of silent, slow-moving craft of varying sizes, some as big as football fields. They are usually cloaked from radar. We can only note that most triangular shaped ships are designed by terrestrials here on earth.

Why would extra-terrestrials simply change their design in the past few decades? It’s illogical, if not unlikely. Of course, those saucers were crashing all over earth for decades. Perhaps the space creatures have smartened up and are designing safer space crafts.

Once again, notably, the witnesses are all highly reliable and credible military men who have retired and are now willing to come forward. It gives this show far more believability than so many others.

Mellen’s troubling conclusions are that, if unknown visitors are inspecting American territory, there is a big problem of national security and motives.

In the 1980s a massive sighting occurred over the Hudson Valley, not far from New York City. No one can fathom the legal and moral decision of the government to fly experimental craft over a populated area. It leads to a frightful conclusion: they are not US airships.

It is ultimately a distressing conclusion that these triangular ships could be like Cortes landing among the Aztecs. They had no idea how dangerous and deadly to their civilization this interloper would become.

Unidentified: UFO Investigations

DATELINE: Second Season UFO Investigations

 Elizondo.

You could surely knock us over with the return of this series. Now in a second season, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigations was certainly one of the interesting miniseries History provided last year. It featured two prominent former government officials: Chris Mellen, a defense minister and Luis Elizondo who ran the Pentagon UFO program that released actual UFO footage to great excitement.

We did not expect to see it again.

Luis Elizondo was in charge of the notorious AATIP program at the Pentagon.

The first show of the new season entails “UFOs in Combat,” though it only tackles living witnesses of the past fifty years, we know that orbs in World War II were inexplicable and thought to be Nazi weapons.

Now both men who are key hosts of this series have left the government to seek fame and fortune as informants of the UFO phenomenon. They are likely the most interesting, if not trustworthy, of experts these kind of shows present.

Elizondo interviews decorated American soldiers from wars of the past 50 years, going back to 1966 Vietnam. Here, in case after case, they witness these “tick-tacks” an allusion to the shape of the object. They are elongated or circular like an orb.

One expert calls them part of the 21stcentury technology or “angels” that are decoy devices around aircraft to deflect missile attacks. But this technology does not extend back 20 years, where it has been witnessed.

Another expert essentially questioned the mental stress of these patriots and claimed they were suffering from lack of sleep, fear, and other factors. The show’s hosts reject this out of hand.

The series seems to be covering the same ground as in the first season, but it is cracking open new testimony and information.

Dive Bomber Alert on Mill Circle!

DATELINE: Robin Bobbin’ on Squirrel

When a plethora of robins showed up this spring in my yard near the big tree, I thought—there goes the neighborhood. However, they started rummaging through last year’s flower stems. Each one was yanked out and taken to some unknown spot for a nest.

That’s when the first wave of bombers hit.

Under the eaves of my side-door porch, I saw birds flying toward the storm door. They never hit because they were building a nest, which I promptly discouraged.

So, the freeloaders went to the big tree not far from the dining room picture window. There, for the first time, they started their architectural work. As if for good measure, they regularly cleaned out the yard of ants and other crawling insects.

 

The good neighbor policy continued until I saw the squirrels and chipmunks arrive.

It was war.

A half-dozen robins attacked with all the ferocity of kamikaze flights. They chased the squirrels out of the tree and around the yard. I had never seen such nimble flight—and they worked often in pairs till the squirrels ran for cover.

Then, they began chasing the chipmunks out of the yard. Less inclined to climb the tree, the chipmunks were nonetheless not welcome in this yard anymore. They were attacked with zooming claws outstretched.

I thought I watched out-takes from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

You may have thought the hawk patrol had been replaced.

Regular bombing runs can be seen during morning coffee break whilst sitting at the window. Warfare never looked so natural.

Afraid of Nothing or Nothingness?

DATELINE:  Paranormal in Salem, MA!

 Director Robert Heske.

Bob Heske is a writer/director of low-budget stories, and his major documentary film is called Afraid of Nothing.Its appeal on some levels is all the small businesses associated with spirit life and death (from Ouija board historians and prosthetic mask shops to healers of all stripes who meet people for various paranormal purposes.

The film spent considerable time in Salem, Massachusetts, which is a hotbed of witchcraft and afterlife experts. Also included in the visits are East Bridgewater, Mass., and Gardner, Mass. All three locations are adjacent and contiguous owns where this writer lived.

As someone who lives in a haunted house, we are always curious about others and what they experience: to that end we meet regression specialists, healers and teachers of how to deal with death. The big wheel involved here is Jeff Belanger who created the Ghost AdventuresTV series and has cornered the market on paranormal topics in New England.

An actor from Los Angeles is at the crux of people here, as he lived a previous life in Salem—and has been drawn to return to the area of Salem Willows, an old haunt.

All these many individuals have achieved some level of connection to the great beyond—and all seem to have multiple talents to connect with both positive and negative forces. It astounds us—as we have only one spirit in the house, though he is a big one, a victim of Titanic.

We have learned late in life that we have some still unknown connection to this guide and mentor who is a guardian spirit. So, we hardly disparage all the kind souls who show up in Bob Heske’s little film. It is not frightful or horrific, but it is informative and fascinating for those with an interest in the hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Tapes Spur Lost Gold of World War II

 DATELINE: Look Out Below!

 You Got Bingo.

Having been given secret and allegedly dangerous tapes about the Marcos search for the stolen gold of the Japanese, the series seems impervious to any dangers. Lost Gold of World War II  may have danger lurking everywhere from anti-American haters to Japanese booby traps.

Not only that, we have the usual idiocy by the gold hunters:  they dig at a waterfall tunnel during a monsoon—and are surprised their equipment becomes mud-bound.

The solution to the search will be to do a certain kind of excavation, but John Casey rejects this because the technique will poison the town water supply for the locals. Yes, that would be bad public relations for foreign visitors, digging up the local area on an obsessive quest.

Talk about Ugly Americans: the new team seems a step down from last year’s older, but wiser crew.

Thankfully, there is Bingo Minerva back in the United States, consulting with real academic experts and learning what’s back in Luzon. He reports via Skype that only 20% of the stolen artifacts were recovered and that the treasure could be a compendium of diamonds and other precious stones,, all encased in metal tubes.

As for the so-called experts consulted in the area, they call themselves “historians” but never give degrees, titles, or university associations. These self-anointed experts throw out years of experience as Marines or other para-military soldiers. It is dubious to say the least. Their expert dismisses the idea that a discovered knife is from World War II. He places it from the 1980s. These treasure hunters are so off that we begin to wonder what else they have wrong.

Moreover, the tech team of twin bearded young men, Colin and Max, complain about the weather and terrain, while the father and son miners seem to revel in their condition.

An unusual expert, a woman tractor excavator, named Michelle, is one tough bird, but manages to become stuck in the mud. Only after a day of crisis management, ineptly by Casey’s younger brother, does she manage to wiggle the expensive equipment out of danger. No jokes about women drivers, please, because there is a dearth of women on these “boys’ adventures series.”

The series seems to hang on man-made error as the cliff-hanging routine of the season. Not a good start to a once promising series.

 

 

 

Mysteries of the Holy Sepulchre!

DATELINE:  Jesus as Shapeshifter?

 

Shroud Face with Jerusalem  Pollen 

Oh, no, not another Shroud of Turin documentary? Yes, and this one is from Italy. We were worried at first that it was taking an evangelical position, not a scientific one, but how wrong we were. This film provided information and new science that we had not seen applied to the mysterious shroud.

This has a misleading title called Mysteries of the Holy Sepulchre, but it is really about new scientific experiments on the shroud of Turin.

It is alleged to have been debunked as the shroud of Jesus years ago, but new pollen science from forensic criminal investigators have taken the information about pollen on the shroud to stunning levels.

It seems there are three kinds of pollen from plants that can only be found in the area of Jerusalem and Hebron.

Scientists of all persuasions from Italian universities weigh in on the subject. They even find dirt rubbed onto the shroud from knees and feet, and that too is native to Jerusalem.

One botanist notes that the blooming flowers placed on a body during burial in that culture only bloomed in March and April. By tying together with historical information, they conclude the victim died the first week of April during the middle years of Pilate’s reign.

Going back to the gospels to tightly parse the wordage, they glean that the description of the shroud was that it was in two pieces, found still tied together, but missing the body that had apparently evaporated. In fact, all the signs of what now is called shapeshifting are present: he left one form and took on another that removed his physical presence from the shroud. By leaving the shroud in a flash, he changed shape or morphed into something else. He may have become an orb.

It begs the question why these rather ordinary people in a backward country suddenly went out of their way to tell this story and keep it alive. It shocked them. The earliest surviving fragments of the New Testament are then traced to about 50 A.D. or about twenty years after the events explained.

As to resurrection and transfiguration, science now can replicate the coloration on the shroud through a combination of radon gas and radioactive UV light in a sudden burst. There are no machines now in existence that are powerful enough to put an image on cloth, but it is feasible theoretically.

So, did we come away from this documentary better educated and taken aback? You better believe it.

 

Oak Island Ends 7th Season with $ Whimper

DATELINE: The Price is not Right.

 Star is born.

When Gary Drayton is doing the History Channel promos for the last episode of the season, you know they have a new star on their hands.

It’s raw November as the season ends, and the digging time is over. The so-called Fellowship’s final dig becomes too dangerous and is curtailed because of collapsing tunnels. It is the worst news of the season.

Attention immediately shifted to the swamp. It was a docking area and a man-made site, and Dr. Ian Spooner brings the most interesting news. He dated tree branches and rushed to give them the dates of his findings.

The swamp was created in 1200 A.D. which seems to be Templar. It is a stunning historical event, though this is secondary to finding gold in most eyes.

Marty Lagina resisted any idea of the swamp being important, but now he has found that answers are there. If the swamp was made in 1200, you have something momentous, far earlier than the Columbus discovering America notion.

Human activity could include tunneling 800 years ago. There is a stronger sense that there were several treasure burials. A second group may have taken advantage of their knowledge about the early excavations.

If there is cold water, Marty Lagina has the right to throw it on this exploration. He now states that additional digging for the Money Pit may now tally into the tens of millions. At what point does the treasure wash out by the cost of retrieving it?

Should they dig down 250 feet and create a concrete circle in which you may find the treasure?  It seems beyond feasible. How much profit can you dig out of this series?

A memorial to honor Dan Blankenship was created immediately, no matter what else happens. Dan’s not able to be there, but his presence will remain.

 

Shatner & Shakespeare on Oak Island

DATELINE: Shatner Returns to Treasure Hunt

 Cold Day in November!

We know how much everyone enjoyed William Shatner on Oak Island, but he must have also enjoyed it because he has come back for the final night of season 7.

His theory is worthy of the UnXplained,and we fully concur with him.

There is a fairly sharp start that indicates that Shakespeare may have been borderline literate: his father and mother were illiterate and only middle-class. His own education was fair, not royal and not comprehensive.

So, Shatner takes some relish in debunking the Bard and suggesting the real writer was a man with credentials, like Sir Francis Bacon, member of the Elizabethan court. There may even be several authors, as Shatner hints.

Cyphers in the original folio have intrigued researchers that there is something that matches Nolan’s Cross on Oak Island. In fact, Bacon was connected to Knights Templar through Rosiecrucians—and he may have known of the secret vaults on Oak Island—and chose to bury his Shakespeare originals there.

One can find that The Tempest may be confessional in terms of Bacon burying “my booke.”  If overlaid on the final page of The Tempest, you find a spot that would correspond to the Eye of the Swamp on the Island.

We were amused when Rick Lagina called Bacon the Michelangelo of his day: if history is correct, they were almost contemporaries as Michelangelo’s death crossed the date of Bacon’s birth. Technically, he was right.

Parchment was found over 160 feet below the earth. Bookbinding material was found near the Money Pit deep down.

Even the Laginas seemed intrigued that Shakespeare’s first folio is there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eero Saarinen: More than a Crossword Name

 DATELINE:  Gateway to Modern Architecture

   Eero-port Terminal.

 American Masters did a one-hour biography of the notable architect whose name dominates New York Timescrossword puzzles. Of course, he is one of the most modern of all kinds of American architects (by way of Finland as a boy).

Saarinen is best known as the man who designed the St. Louis Gateway Arch, iconic like the Pyramid of Giza. He wanted something to last 1000 years—and his arch may well reach that grandeur.

This documentary is mostly narrated by his son Eric who is a noted film cinematographer—not following in his father and grandfather’s footsteps. He was alienated from his pater, but this film (he confesses) has changed him by seeing what marvels his father created: from a John Deere office building to Kresge Auditorium at MIT, or even a hockey rink at Yale.

His aides told him all hockey rinks were barns, so he designed one at Yale that is staggering in its Norse winter sports notions.

His father was hard to eclipse. Eero grew up with his father’s friends Gustav Mahler and Sibelius hanging around the house. He was bounced on Frank Lloyd Wright’s knee. Heavens, he was destined to create great buildings.

He made only one house—a glass marvel with stunning modern light. He is airier and brighter than Wright.

Yet, we must admit that these creative geniuses are not particularly good at being a family man. Eero was not an exception, but his second wife got him on the cover of Time—and the rest is history.

Shatner’s UnXplained recently claimed his great Arch is meant as a weather control system to deflect thunder and lightning. No such grandiose claims are made here—only breathtaking buildings and grounds, not to mention furniture.

He worked 60 years ago, but looks more modern than anything done today. This film also collects the withering criticism he took over his designs—by those who felt he pandered to 1950s American commerce. How wrong can they be?

We once heard an architectural critique as “nobody wants to live in someone else’s head.” Alas, most heads are devoid of creativity, individuality, or good taste. Thank heavens for Saarinen.