Idiot’s Delight (Again)

DATELINE: Learning Curve Bends Light Waves!

Laird Cregar

The Internet seems to teach us the impossible is not improbable, Sherlock Holmes notwithstanding.

We just read that Prince’s memoirs will be published posthumously. You mean he is not a vampire?

Another article tells us that Twitter is not America. Well, we already figured that out when 33% of our followers on Twitter are from Turkey and apparently do not speak English.

A new study on the concept of BS has proven to be overblown. Rich guys tend to exaggerate their abilities. Having more money apparently still does not make up for having little confidence and less talent. We even wonder if self-designations like “rich” are suspect.

We also found a journalistic piece that states that Twitter fuels anxiety. Well, that is one explanation for the Twitter-storms of Donald Trump.

A business named “mailchimp” claims to make marketing easy. Monkey see; monkey may do, as long as you have the money to pay the monkey to dance to the organ grinder’s tune.

Some people believe that slave-owner and man who turned down Lincoln to save the Union, one Robert E. Lee, was a kindly soul and gentle man. We call them white nationalists, but General Lee is not just a motor vehicle in a hick TV series. He is down by the levee with Kate Smith, watching their statues be torn down by the new majority in America, the Minority.

After watching the History Channel TV series, Project Blue Book, the United States military has decided to junk the term UFO and call those flying saucers, “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but a rose by any other name will still be high-flying space creatures.

Low-income people are apparently more devastated by scams on the Internet than rich people. When you’ve got nothing to lose, you lose everything, according to experts.

The latest notion of pollution is microplastics, which seem to be so small that they are floating around cities and landing in lakes, though you can’t see them. It is no longer smoke that gets in your eyes.

Ten minutes on the Internet has undermined all knowledge you thought you had avoided in school.

Slaughter-House 5: Major Disappointment

 DATELINE: So it goes!

michael sacks    Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim. 

It sounds like a sequel to itself, and that’s how it goes. Billy Pilgrim of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novella is a man unstuck in time.

Slaughter-House 5 goes nowhere repeatedly and quickly.

It might have been a traditional sci-fi fantasy, but author Vonnegut achieved some kind of immortality by dealing with timeless repetitive living by a man abducted by aliens—and “forced” to randomly re-live his hideous life, from surviving plane crashes to surviving the horror of Dresden’s bombing in 1945.

Michael Sacks plays Billy Pilgrim, an all-seeing optometrist and is the epitome of what you’d want in the actor: he is timeless and can play callow youth, and middle-aged crazy. Yet, Sacks provided mostly promise unfulfilled. He never rose above this, his greatest role. He became stuck in the mud as much as anything else.

Other names in the 1972 film became more household:  Valerie Perrine, Perry King, Eugene Roche, Sorrell Booke, Ron Liebman, John Dehner, and on and on. The film is a litany of familiar faces of the age.

Music provided by Glenn Gould is Bach on harpsichord and limited to the alien scenes, which seems par for the course of the universe.

This was meant to be a great film based on a great book, but it’s not.

You might forget the movie if you don’t realize what the stakes were:  Michael Sacks borders and teeters in his lead role from wide-eyed innocent to bewildered twit. He seems perfect for abduction and living in a zoo on another planet.

Billy goes from hapless POW to hapless toy for creatures from a fourth dimension. He slips from a Lion’s Club speech to a POW camp assembly in a blink. He goes from here to there in a hop of time travel that Einstein would envy.

“So it goes” was the existential motto and motif for the book Slaughter House 5, but you will never hear it once in this film. That may tell you the failings and inadequacies of the movie. So it goes, indeed.

A Picture Worth a Billion Jokes!

DATELINE: DEADLINE

Hole in One Your Inevitable Singularity?

Black Holes, unite! You have only your invaded privacy to fall back upon. Yes, the secretive monster of the universe has been exposed, or perhaps over-exposed.

Scientists think they have a black hole in one, but the hole is in their proverbial heads.

Einstein was right. The ultimate emoticon is smiling at us.

Smile, you’re on Candid Camera, you self-important denizens of Earth.

Scientists have taken a gleeful approach to the first photoshop of a black hole. No, this is nothing like the Black Hole of Calcutta. This is the laughing visage of universal death.

We see no reason for joy in Mudville or NASA.

To our poetic eyes, we see the metaphor of a Grim Reaper in the throes of the biggest smiley face of history. He will devour you.

Yes, it’s true:  scientists call it spaghettification.

That’s the process in which you are brought into the Black Widow’s orbit, never to escape, and as you sink in to the Singularity, you become one long noodle strand until you break up in the smile of the Black Hole.

Apparently, the shadow of your smile is not just a pop tune. That black edge you see in the photo is actually the shadow of some tiny center of nugget that has neither height, weight, or normal dimensions.

The only die-mention is your demise.

So, while science puts on a happy face over the first picture of their bouncing baby Doom, we feel that to look into the one-eyed Cyclops of Death with his broad grin is too fateful for fun, or ready for Funny or Die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sy-Fy Life After Non-fiction Death

DATELINE: The Ultimate Special Effect?

Forry Forry J Ackerman.

In this fascinating study of what normally is paranormal, an intelligent consideration seems to indicate that physics is alive after death. Paul Davids provides the thinking man’s answer to The Life After Death Project.

The focus is entirely on a most unusual man named Forrest J Ackerman, no period after his initial. He was as necessary to Hollywood horror movies as a monk to a monastery.

As a Pied Piper, Ackerman spent over 90 years charming, enticing, educating, and befriending young filmmakers, actors, writers, and hangers-on. They all loved him for his wit and insights. As a Hollywood para-professional, there are bountiful film clips and photos of Forry to spice up this film.

When he died, an avowed atheist, he did what Harry Houdini could not: he began sending weird technological and personal messages to his friends, including director and writer Paul Davids.

Among the Friends of Forry were Richard Matheson and Whitney Schreiber, no slouches in the sci-fi sweepstakes. They all seemed to find he was somewhere in time. Astrophysicists and academic PhDs offer their insights into the messages. These are not phony experts: they are scientists. Hours and hours of expensive research lab time goes into their study. Davids has connections that transcend the usual crack-pot discussions.

Of course, noted skeptic Michael Shermer shows up to give No-Nothing, Ignorance is Bliss types their due. Yet, Dr. Gary Schwartz is hardly to go on a fool’s errand, and his insights into light study as a technology of communication is fascinating.

Yet, the amazing coincidences from Forry tend to indicate someone is out there (the mysterious theoretical “white crow”)—and the other side is bigger than we thought. A painting he commissioned a few years before his death featured Poe-like images, including a clock that showed three minutes to midnight, the exact time he died a few years later.

As a punster and humorist, much of Ack’s messages from beyond have a distinct sly quality. If you knock on his crypt, he will indeed answer his friends. The best brains and money of modern science has not laid Forrest J Ackerman to rest.

Terminator: Not a Dead End

DATELINE: More Arnold Around Corner!

Arnold No Spring Chicken, He’s Back in 2019!

If they ever make a musical version, it will feature the tune, “the Cyborg Couldn’t Say NO.”  The first Terminator movie is now 35 years old, and it’s holding up well enough that Arnold is returning this year to reprise his role in a new 2019 movie, reunited with his waitress target, Sarah (Linda Hamilton).

In the original, Ahhnold was catapulted to fame beyond his wildest hopes. In a monosyllabic role that gave him a range up to 3 monosyllables, he simply snarled his way through James Cameron script as the bad robot.

Interestingly, Michael Biehn had second billing. He was one of those good-looking cookie-cutter actors of the 1980s. He belongs in a new movie, but where is he now?

The film starts with a bang: beautiful naked men come raining down out of lightning bolts. It was dishy to see Arnold naked, though he later claimed it was not he. What a pity. He is young and quite attractive here.

As for the 35-year old movie: it features phone books, phone booths, and wide-open gun shops where you can pick up assault rifles of your choice.

There are no PCs, let alone GPS.

Police in Los Angeles are dumbfounded, if not struck dumb, when a woman named Sarah Connor is repeatedly murdered. Well, every Sarah in the book. They missed the unlisted ones.

It seems the cyborgs from the future (like all AI to follow) believe it’s time to rid the world of that problem: human beings. The future in this movie is 2029, and we better start counting our blessings.

The movie features a shoot-out in a disco nightclub, which is quite contemporary, and it features too an office massacre when the Terminator goes into a police station and kills 20 to 30 policemen.

Of all the distinctive qualities, it most resembles a film made a decade earlier called Westworld, wherein the cyborg goes on a rampage, is burned to a cast- iron skeleton and still keeps going.

It also features a female hero survivor in the person of the director’s ex-wife, Linda Hamilton.

 

 

 

 

History of Time Travel: More or Less

DATELINE: Time, Relatively Speaking!

time bottled   At least in theory!

We admit to having a soft-spot for those mockumentaries that can fool us with their close imitation of traditional documentary form.

When you enjoy a steady diet of history through re-enactors, you certainly can grow complacent.

We tip our cap to Ricky Kennedy, director and creative force behind History of Time Travel, an ingenious little film that manages to weave a connection between reality, history, and outright fiction. He does it seamlessly and with a flourish of subtlety.

The historical overview is utterly perfect, but the focus on one “scientist” and his sons with an obsession for tripping up with a time machine takes on a large focus. Yet, that too is a sharp decision for pop appeal.

Not only are the conventions of movie-making and re-enacting spoofed, so are the so-called experts who seem both vapid and convincing: he cites professors from Harvard, Yale, and MIT, and throws in a couple of fake best-selling authors to spout their insider knowledge.

Interviews are interspersed with “home movies” from the 1940s. Oh, the technology existed, and that does ring truthful, but a few glitches in costumes and set will tip off the anachronistic lark to careful viewers.

We half-expected Dr. Strangelove to show up on the MIT faculty, and we are always receptive to a setting of Cambridge, Mass., our ancestral home.

People who like to find continuity goofs receive their come-uppance at the hands of this director. Without selling the store, we would advise any time travel theorist to pay attention to moveable props. We enjoyed the coffee mugs and backdrops: the doctor’s coffee pot is an amusing target.

Short and pithy, this 2014 film would be on the highlight reel of any proud film writer and director.

Madonna & W./E. Against Us!

DATELINE: Material Girl Directs!

Andrea Riseborough Andrea Riseborough as Duchess of Windsor!

If you are looking for Madonna in her 2011 movie W./E., you won’t see her. She was behind the camera, directing it.

The film is everything you might expect—and is also totally unexpected. It may seem like Downton Abbey in Material Girl terms, but it is really a solid case of Woody Allen’s Play It Again Sam meeting Henry James and The Aspern Papers.

Two women named Wallis, 70 years apart, have what appears to be a paranormal encounter.  They are unsympathetic protagonists, but what the world hates, Madonna loves.

Back in 2011, the movie was widely castigated by critics as an overreach and under-achievement. Those tuning in to see the iconic woman will see only her stand-ins: the two Wallys.

Now with a few years passed, we can see W./E. as something far more interesting and poorly judged by audiences and the anti-Madonna contingent. The film is beautifully constructed and under-appreciated.

A modern 1998 woman is obsessed with Wallis Simpson and her husband, the one-time King of England.

Here the legendary singer stretched her wings to make a film about a woman researching the legendary love affair of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Wallis advises her modern counterpart, as both women are rapacious and obsessive.

Madonna seems intent on showing the Duchess of Windsor sacrificed far more than her husband.

In Madonna’s hands, this tale becomes a curious parallel to the Henry James story called The Aspern Papers. The conceit is that Wallis Simpson has left some letters that explain the affair in more comprehensive terms of the 21st century. It seems the King may not have given up the throne for the woman he loved exactly as advertised. He made his wife a glamorous prisoner.

Madonna’s modern woman is flawed greatly, intense and refusing to be denied: much like the Duchess of Windsor and the Madonna of music.

Intriguing Abbie Cornish is the modern Wally, and Andrea Riseborough is the brilliant version of the Duchess Wally. This is a fascinating film on many levels. You need to re-discover it.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdum-dum

DATELINE: Another Pratt-Fall

New Rock Rock Hudson Redux?

Every generation has its own Ice Station Zebra, and this one belongs to the latest rip-off of Jurassic Park/World. This movie seems to be produced by Carl Denham while looking for Numb-Skull Island and the Eighth Wonder of the World.

That’s not to say it is watchable. It is execrable, but the cast is stellar: Chris Pratt returns as the action hero with the deft sense of comedy timing. He reminds us of Rock Hudson, the last of a classic type, though we doubt that Pratt will appreciate the comparison.

This special-effects bonanza is overwrought with silly dinosaurs—and sillier characters. Nevertheless, we must note that James Cromwell, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Geraldine Chaplin, as well as Jeff Goldblum lend their presence in throwaway roles that must have paid well. An actress named Price Dallas Howard or something like that plays Supergirl in a revisionist twirl.

Sam Neill turned them down, money be damned.

The plot features non-stop coincidence that defies logic but moves so quickly that you are on to the next improbable moment. Pratt is not George Reeves or Christopher Reeve, but he resembles Superman, even outrunning a pyroplastic flow down the mountainside.

Among his talents, Pratt is again the dinosaur whisperer—and the reptilian characters are tied to him like elephants to Tarzan. They bonded way back when.

If we gleaned anything, it is that the genetically recreated monsters are being left to die in a Darwinian economic move that resembles Mathusian Trump commerce. The government won’t spend a cent to save them, and once again we are at the mercy of billionaires who throw money away like an Elon Musk or Tom Steyer.

We don’t buy it. Let the buyer beware.

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.

 

Between Two Worlds: Fantasy Ship to Heaven & Hell

DATELINE: Netherworld for Ossurworld?

betwixt & between

Betwixt & Between!

When Warner Brothers decided to make a World War II movie about the afterlife, they went back to the 1920s and took a Sutton Vane play as their vehicle, updating it.

Gathering together a back-lot cast of marvelous character actors and a couple of bigger stars of the studio, they fairly much put ten people on a mysterious, foggy super-liner going to both heaven and hell, which are the same place.

Ten people end up being the only ones aboard, including two suicides.

John Garfield and Paul Henreid were the drawing cards, with Faye Emerson and Eleanor Parker as the ladies. The film was entitled Between Two Worlds.

However, it was the supporting cast that seemed heavenly:  Edmund Gwenn as an obsequious ship steward (the only crew member on board) and the notorious Examiner at the end of the journey, in his standard white linen suit, Sydney Greenstreet. He is a hard judge for sure at the end of one’s life.

The story quickly sets up a death that no one remembers, and then a one-class byplay of rich and poor in the same main salon, eating and drinking together and coming to realize they are not bound for the United States after all.

Henreid is a suicide who recognizes his mortality before the others. They are meant to learn the fate slowly,  in their  own time and way. However, hot head  John Garfield makes short work of that notion.

The final judgment and reckoning are apt and harsh. You cannot buy your way out, and it’s too late for anything but a just reward, or punishment. This is one of those Warner Brothers movies to savor from the mid-1940s. It is a timeless tale of eternal damnation that would surprise Faust.

 

 

 

 

In Search of Time Travel

DATELINE: Your Time Slip is Showing
time
Zachary Quinto’s series continues to impress—with a general dollop of skepticism among his research in the latest intriguing episode of In Search of…. We are sent scrambling with no time to waste in time travel.

Taking on the notion that Einstein felt relative confidence about, Quinto talks to a man who claims he has indeed time traveled under the secret government program started by Nikola Tesla.

Yes, there are more Tesla coverups than versions of H.G. Wells’s Time Machine or The Philadelphia Experiment.

Quinto knows of what he speaks. After all, he did two movies in which, as Spock, he time traveled to meet Leonard Nimoy who also hosted this same series in the distant past.

We already feel like we have gone back to the good old days.

Quinto travels to Liverpool where incidents of “time slips” have sent individuals to different times and places momentarily. This apparently is caused by infra-sound (low frequency noise that harms or effects the brain). Theories abound in terms of paranormal, suggesting everything from other dimensions to ley lines. Ghosts may be time travelers, joining us, or causing us to join them.

Time, we learn, is an unknown, even moreso nowadays with the LHC and quantum physics changing the landscape of the universe.

Fear or strong emotion also has an impact on time’s passing—as Zachary discovers upon jumping out of a plane (with chute).

Of compelling episodes, this one manages to be scientifically based, even with one man claiming he was sent out under Tesla’s early work, and another who is locating places where the time slippage is commonplace.

Portrait of a Fantasy Classic

DATELINE: Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie

Brackman Jennie Brackman Painting Used in Film!

Portrait of Jennie is unusual movie fare by any standard—whether it is today or when it was released in 1949.

Back then, audiences were better educated for sure. The movie starts out with quotes from Euripides and Keats on mortality and the philosophy of death. As if to prove you are not in Kansas, the film uses the stunning music of Debussy’s “Nuages,” with an assist from Dmitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann. Phew!

You don’t have music like this as background audio nowadays!

Unsuccessful painter of landscapes, Eban Adams (Joe Cotten), cannot find a plug nickel for his work in 1934. When he begs art dealers Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway to buy one of his pictures, they take pity on him. However, the price is to be told there is no love in his work, in critique by a spinster art collector.

When he meets a turn-of-the-century little girl in Central Park, she tells him she will grow up fast to marry him. Lo and behold, when he sees her again, she is older, and then again older. He is enchanted, and forced to do detective work to find her.

The twosome finally conclude that there is some error in the time-space continuum, no mean feat considering when the movie was made. They are not supposed to cross paths, let alone find the love of their lives, of all time.

You know that something is afoot when the screen goes garish green toward the climax.

The actual prop portrait of Jennifer Jones, breathtakingly beautiful, was actually done by Robert Brackman—and kept in the library of producer David O. Selznick, married to Miss Jones at the time.

With another gallery acting job by Joseph Cotten—and an assist from Ethel Barrymore, the old lady with a crush on him, you have an instant classic—and more.

Throw in Lillian Gish and Cecil Kellaway—and the film noir photography of Central Park at night, and we can forgive any logical weirdness in the storyline.

You owe yourself one romantic fantasy in a lifetime. This should be it, and never let drowning in a tsunami stop you from going to Land’s End on Cape Cod.

 

 

Last Call to Titan, All Aboard

 DATELINE:  Earth’s Next Home

 Titan

 It only looks like Mars.

Not to be confused with remembering the Titans. We are now talking about the Titanians, a group of people who will be scientists and adventurers to colonize the Titan Moon of Saturn.

This little documentary, made in France, but is international in flavor—using scientists from the United States and NASA, as well as ESA with experts from England and France.

Last Call to Titan is a riveting little documentary.

From the odd perspective of a narrator telling the story of how Titan was discovered and colonized, we have a different approach to a science documentary. It works on its own strange planetary level.

Leslie Clack is the British narrator who is obviously speaking to us from the perspective of 200 years hence. He is from a place that is far removed from Earth and has its own laws and culture. Those who move to Titan will never be able to return to Earth because the changes to the body by gravity would kill anyone who dared to come back.

Most will be born there and not want to come here.

Titan has an opaque atmosphere, mostly methane, and extremely cold (180 degrees below zero).  Yet, with diving suits, not space suits, people would be able to move around more effortlessly.

The early photos and exploration of Titan by the Cassini-Huygens mission are the real call of this hour-long show. It is a fascinating place with oceans, lakes, rivers, and a coastline worthy of a European spa town.

New propulsion systems are under creation that would cut the trip to Titan to six months. However, you still need to be slightly anti-social to survive the loneliness—and being stuck with a bunch of weirdo scientists as your boon companions.

Last call indeed.

 

 

 

 

Mummy Dearest

DATELINE:   Tut-Tut!

Mummy Dearest Karloff!

Of the Quartet of Classic Horror from the early 1930s, the fourth entry in the series is often relegated to the bottom tier. The Mummy follows the legendary Frankenstein, Dracula, and Invisible Man. But he is no also-ran.

Unfortunately for him, we learn in the first few minutes of the 1933 film that the mummy is actually a misnomer. He is not mummified at all, having been buried alive.

So much for false advertising.

Beyond that, we have a whale of a movie—not James Whale: the director was famous cinematographer Karl Freund in his first directing effort.

As star Lita Johann said, he was a nasty guy—to her. Exotic star Lita was married later to John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield to you). Whatever he did to her during their 23-days of filming, she is marvelous as the reincarnation of a Pharaoh’s daughter.

As for Karloff, what can you say? He is so tall in his scenes, we think he was wearing lifts under his rakish robes. He looks like a bag of fragile bones, as the mummy-come-to-life.  His face is dustier and has more riles than a Moon crater as he plays Im-Ho-Tep (not to be confused with IHOP).

The biggest special effect is Karloff’s eyes, which is impressive indeed.

Scenes of a second unit, or stock footage, of Egypt, surely gives us a sense of the pre-Howard Carter King Tut world. And, audiences in the 1930s knew what a mummy’s curse was, which is played to the hilt.

The climactic scene is when the Mummy relates his unfortunate murder by the Pharaoh’s men. Juicy and grotesque horror!

As a love story, this is thriller covers 3700 years and incantations about the dead, which transcend undying love.

What a treat.

 

 

Is Anybody Out There?

DATELINE:  Phone Home!

SETI@home No Robots Need Apply!

When we ask if anybody is out there, it sounds as if we are wondering whether anybody actually reads these blogs. Some may say that our outreach indicates there is no intelligent life behind the message.

The question and answer is somewhat bigger. A documentary about intelligent life in the universe raises some traditional questions about whether we humans are alone in the universe, and it runs through the SETI organization for the most part.

In case you have been hiding from ET, SETI is the acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It sounds like an oxymoron, not an acronym.

We don’t even have intelligent life in college faculties, let alone the entire planet.

The hour-long recap of info deals with the Drake Formula and the Fermi Paradox. One tells us how many intelligent planets there could be in the Milky Way (only a fraction of the universe), and the Fermi pessimism stated that all intelligent life forms have come and gone by now. We are indeed all alone.

If there is one point of interest from the doc, it is that there is something out there called SETI@home, which is a means that all of us, everyday idiots, can scan the skies for a phone call from ALF.

In 2010 Stephen Hawking warned against trying to reach out and touch an alien. SETI dismisses that idea.

We noticed on the application form that robots are not allowed to join SETI@home.

We prefer not to have furry aliens living in our garage, or mind-controlling our children, but it would break up the monotony of daily existence for the vast majority of intelligence-challenged humans.

You should watch this little science kindergarten show-and-tell because education has to start somewhere.