Spooky Titanic’s Northern Lights

DATELINE:  Geo-Magnetic Anomalies

Today as I sit in my home office writing these words, I can look on the Internet to find the exact latitude at which I can be located: it is 42.695652 (within a thousandth of a degree).

I will feel no difference if my position were 41.6 or 43.6. The place is an arbitrary point on a map to help find me if I am lost or unconscious. My smartphone is a beacon of that information to a world of technological marvels.

In 1912, the passengers on the Titanic likely had no idea exactly where they were when the ship hit the iceberg. Their compasses and rudimentary radio communications systems had an idea. Crew members and radio operators did send out appeals for help. Yet, for over seventy years the exact location of the wreckage was not precisely known.

Something had thrown off the numbers, or the inexactitude may be attributed to primitive technology. Today we know that the Titanic wreck is at approximately Latitude 41.72. It broke into pieces and they scattered over a ten-mile area. The ship may have hit the berg within a range somewhere between 41.5 and 42.5 latitude. We cannot be sure how much the ship drifted during its two-mile descent to the ocean floor.

I live in a house at 42.69 latitude once owned by two of the victims who died on Titanic. The ship hit the berg and sank ten miles north or south of this latitudinal location. Their home was directly west of the spot of their deaths. Directly.

New theories have emerged that solar flares and geomagnetic factors could have contributed to the sinking of the Titanic. conditions on Earth.

Mila Zinkova, a retired computer expert, explained that she discovered that more than a few witnesses reported seeing the Northern Lights around the time that Titanic made its voyage across the North Atlantic.

Usually the Aurora Borealis  can be seen above or at 55°N geomagnetic latitude. In a particularly strong geomagnetic storm, such sights can fall to the lower reading of 45 to 55°N. It seems highly unlikely that victims on the ship, fighting for their lives, in a state of shock, would be watching the sky for a beautiful display of Northern Lights. Some might regard it as a paranormal omen of doom, and others might ignore the phenomenon for the same reason.

Zinkova states: “Most people who write about Titanic, they don’t know that northern lights were seen on that night.” In fact, she goes beyond that to postulate:an ejection of charged particles from the sun may have caused the crew to make navigational adjustments that led the Titanic along a slightly different course. “Even if the compass moved only one degree, it already could have made a difference,” says Zinkova.

Besides crew member James Bisset and Officer Joseph Boxhall, at least three Titanic survivors reported seeing the aurora borealis that night. “The fact that so many people saw the aurora makes me confident that there was a space weather event happening,” concurred one scientist from England.

 Apocalypse Earth as Frozen Popsickle

DATELINE: Doomsday Glacier

  

Now blizzards are something we can warm up to. The latest doomsday show starts off with the 1300s and the Little Ice Age, which was bad for a 100 years but lingered until almost 1900.

If the series is correct, everything from the Black Death to the French Revolution could be traced back to failed crops and angry people. And, the worst may be about to return.

It’s enough to make you want to colonize Mars where it’s cold, but there is no snow. This is another of those compilation from the lost burial ground of snow documentaries.

Smack in the middle of discussing ice ages, there is a sidebar in which climbers of a Himalayan mountain barely escape an avalanche. It is adrift from the rest of the show, under the odd heading of survivor stories. You mean there was no one who could speak to the Blizzard of ’78 and how hard it was?

Not in this oddball pastiche.

The best part of the show came in the final 30 minutes or so when glaciers and hailstorms came under discussion. Rock gouges indicate that there have been a dozen glaciers coming and going over the past million years.

One glacier may have been four times as high as the Empire State Building over New York City.

Another shocking moment was the home video of a family home in Oklahoma being decimated by softball size hail. It is terrifyijng, and this few scenes make up for the drivel also poured over the audience.

These “specials” from History are hit or miss, every other week. And they are hit and miss within their own hour or two. The final episode of the “season” will be shown next week on the topic of tsunamis, again with no particular order or progression of development.

 

 

 

Off on the Wrong Bigfoot?

 DATELINE: Not Again?

Topless Bigfoot.

You cannot expect originality all the time, so with its recent reincarnation, Monsterquestreturns to the thrilling days of Bigfoot. Yes, we are back to Sasquatch, Yeti, and all things worn out by fakes, re-enactments, and grainy old photos. The show takes on Bigfoot, again, for all you déjà vuenthusiasts.

This may be a cannibalized show, taking from other recent Bigfoot studies. There are some newer bits of information, like there have been 50,000 Bigfoot, Yeti, etc.,sightings.

The Native American folklore begins to resemble modern American folklore:  You should never look Bigfoot directly into the eyes because it sets him into a rage. We have heard recently the same said about Ellen DeGeneris.

They also recommend that you do not whistle at night in the woods. This is not quite the same as a dog whistle from President Trump, but it can get you into trouble.

The FBI has also broken its rule and taken on testing some evidence considered Bigfoot DNA. They have tax-payer money to burn, and they report in 2019 that the DNA is apparently belonging to deer. Oh, dear.

The same can be said about hairs that test as elk or deer, and recorded noises are thought to be coyote or elk.  Our Monsterquest  tteam of experts finds nothing, but as usual, they are undaunted. Never inter the remains of a cryptozoologist.

We found most intriguing the notion that Bigfoot, like your gray aliens, is being accused of abducting people. Mostly, they abduct men, not women. We presume this is because they run into more men in the woods, unless there is another element we are missing.

A few scientists conclude he once existed, but is now extinct.

 

Speaking of which, there are no reports of missing time associated with Bigfoot, unless you count the 1000 years of cave painting and rock carvings.

 

All in all, we were left where we were at the start of the hour-long show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  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.

Monster Quest Returns

DATELINE: Favorite Back After Hiatus

“Serpentine Creatures,”  is the new special from the old classic series Monsterquest  that concluded its four-year run a few seasons ago. You can’t keep a good monster down, unless he is hiding under water.

Since Loch Ness has been done to death and debunk, the show moves on to other copycat sea creatures that have become landlocked in lakes since the dawn of prehistory.

We always liked the old series that took a serious attempt to uncover the stories behind some outlandish reports. And, now it has returned for a limited time on History Channel. Catch it for a mesmerizing few shows.

To investigate newer phenomena, the show does a ping-pong between the two coasts of Canada, ignorning Nessie and Champie entirely. We are given relatively new information about Ogopogo in British Columbia and Cressie in Newfoundland.

The theory espoused by more reputable scientists, not those who call themselves crypto-scientists, is that these are giant eels about twenty or thirty feet in length—and still ferocious.

Ogopogo is highly active with a half-dozen sightings every year still—and the show’s producers think their best chance to catch something is here. At least one expert wants to extract a tissue sample for DNA. Good luck, there.

Perhaps the best expert is author Arlene Gaal who has written three books on the subject and sounds down-to-earth and reputable.

The Monsterquest teams seem highly inept. They know what they are supposed to do, but helicopters do not arrive when called—and divers mysteriously go silent in the deep. Perhaps it is part of fake suspense for the audience, but the real result is sheer contempt for the half-baked efforts.

Oh, nothing is found—but they promise to return because you know there is a creature hiding there in the underwater caves and sinkholes. And, yes, we will likely return to watch again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UFOs: The Secret History

DATELINE: (well, not so secret)

Be Still, My Earth.

Though it is billed as having new information, it really has only a new and amusing perspective.  The film is irreverent in many ways, through use of movie clips and the laconic narration of its clever director.

We are happy to report that, unlike many cheapskate directors who save money by doing their own voice-overs, this director is actually a fairly good voice and speaks with intelligence and drama. David Cherniak directs with aplomb. He also led the film for the recent look at Bob Lazar in late middle age, revisited. Don’t hold it against him.

UFOs: The Secret History  is indeed a history, but with few secrets. It does have a plethora of marvelous clips from classic sci-fi films as part of its narrative.

His hilarious insights that are new include the notorious “pelican” theory that Kenneth Arnold in 1947 actually saw pelicans flying in formation at 1700 mph and called them saucers.

Yes, a scientist tells us this with a straight face.

When it comes to more serious matters, director David Cherniak still chooses photos that are unusual, not ones you’d see on Ancient Aliens. He does give us a a fresh take on Orson Welles, Roswell, Project Grudge, and the usual litany of UFO incidents that brought us to a wholesale government coverup.

He also plays on the notion that seeing UFOs was psychological, part of the J. Allen Hynek approach, which was code for saying the viewer of such events had a psychological problem. Even Hynek was turned into a buffoon over “swamp gas.” Well, yes, being called a nutcase is distressing.

One turning point is hardly secret: abductions of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire, the template for lost time and sexual abuse by space creatures.  There is no secret about the Travis Walton case, but it grabbed worldwide attention, as did the appearance of elderly Jesse Marcel who was at the Roswell crash in 1947, blowing the whistle.

If there is a secret here, that may be the hybridization plan of aliens to take over the Earth in subtle fashion by genetics. Oh, that secret…

 

 

 

 

 

Current War: All-Star Bio-Bash

DATELINE: Threesome of Stars!

         Hoult, Cumberbatch, Shannon: Currency

 

The Current War  was withheld from release and largely ignored because it was produced by pariah and sex abuser Harvey Weinstein.

The shame is that the movie is actually extremely good with remarkable performances. All for naught, thanks to Weinstein’s behavior.

In case you missed it, like most movie viewers, it is the story of Thomas Edison and his nasty rivalry with George Westinghouse over the burgeoning electricity industry and light bulbs. Yes, it is quite a topic for an intelligent and well-directed film. The production is positively incandescent.

This is not dry history, but crackles when Benedict Cumberbatch tosses Sherlock under the bus and adopts a middle American accent of a low-brow creepy Edison. Forget the grand dignity of Spencer Tracy in the role way back when light biopics were the rage.

 

Cumberbatch plays Edison as a lying media hound in Trump proportions and the semi-great man stole many of his ideas whilst in his tyrannical Menlo Park lab from workers like Nikola Tesla who is called here a “futurist,” played by Nicholas Hoult (who has given us J.D. Sailnger and Tolkien performances in recent years). Hoult may be the new Paul Muni.

At the other end of the electric feud is George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as the dignified and aristocratic rich inventor who wanted DC electricity—and between the insults with Edison, the two men play backlit characters to the real star of the movie, Tesla in the person of Hoult.

You won’t be shocked to hear that this film is an actors’ dream showcase. We will resist calling the performers electrifying or even working in deep undercurrent.

It’s reasonably accurate in its history too, which is a plus. We have always had a soft spot for those classic matchup of actors playing off and against each other. This time we have a trio to add to the mix of Burton and O’Toole, Heston and Olivier, and Lancaster and Douglas, all in historical feud movies.

This film is the first to try the rivalry with three historical figures and three grand performers. Marvelous.

 

 

 

Biggest Bit Player in 20th Century!

DATELINE: Changing the World

 Shannon.

Imagine being one of the most important people to live in the 20th century and being unknown!

This documentary teases us with the notion that we are remiss to have missed Claude E. Shannon, the greatest inventor/scientist of the 20thcentury. He is called The Bit Player because he is the man who created ‘the bit” as part of the first “thinking machine.”

Yes. He’s right up there with Einstein, though no one has given him the time of day. His theoretics led to the iPhone, email, and all the other unquestioned intrusions into life. He rode a unicycle and juggled, and some thought he was a walking, breathing, thinking carnival barker.

Years ago we used to drive past his home in Winchester, Massachusetts, all the time, but only now do we recognize that a great man lived in that distinctive house. Had we known, we might have dropped in as unannounced as a text message from a stranger.

Eclectic, poetic, he was all you would never think was a scientist. He once invented a flaming trumpet for his high-school age son who was in a marching-band.

Growing up in the Midwest, he came to MIT after writing a stunning Master’s Thesis at age 21, years before Alan Turing’s seminal work. Shannon created codes, and in particular he made the binary code, and his two-number system meant that 1+1=1.  Uh-oh, that meant you were a nutcase in 1930.

Idiosyncratic sometimes makes you an academic pariah, but many of Shannon’s ideas were borderline science fiction and considered useless. If there was no personal PC, how could they be implemented or pragmatic?

How much call was there for a calculator that worked in Roman numerals? He loved to tinker and to let his mind wander the byways of opportunity, much like his pioneer grandfather.

When he spent a year at Princeton, Shannon used to wave every morning at Einstein as the genius walked to Princeton, but is vague about their meeting and interactions. He said he met Einstein but Einstein likely had no memory of meeting him.

It is characteristic of oddity in this biographical story.

With much derived from a filmed interview he gave late in life, we have evidence of a vibrant, ageless thinker that displays the power that must have been thwarted all too often in the earlier days of the 20thcentury.

This man gave Marshall McLuhan all the war and peace in the global village that he could muster. It’s always delightful to meet the most important people you never knew existed.