Hope Diamond: 45 Carats & Down-graded

 DATELINE: Hopeless but Not Serious

Your Best Friend? Cold Ice!

The Smithsonian Channel ought to give us some interesting stuff to view. We anticipated that the Mystery of the Hope Diamond might be that bauble of historical documentaries. Instead, they try to debunk their own information.

Ostentatious beyond all blue diamonds, yet still mysteriously cut down after it was stolen in 1792, the Hope Diamond remains a big draw.  And that is despite its legendary curse.

Blue diamonds are considered the least happy for those who want a date with carbon facets. This one, purportedly, served as the eye of an Hindu goddess unceremoniously snatched by a thief.

Yes, like King Tut’s tomb, the Hope Diamond gives its owners a run for their lives, and their money. It cost Marie Antoinette her head as she so admired it.

There are gaps in its history—long disappearances—as we do not know who cut the diamond down to its present 45-carat size. It once weighed in at 70 big carats.

And we can’t say that fool who pared it down was toast soon thereafter. We presume so, based on this pedestrian documentary astutely narrated by Kim Basinger.

Of all the intriguing details that pop out of this 46-minute featurette, it is that in the 1960s, scientists discovered that ultra-violet light has a weird effect on the diamond:  causing it to glow in the dark like a red ember.

Size does not fit all curses: speculators think size makes the red shine last longer than most diamonds sitting in the dark after basking in ultra-violet light. Who knows when it comes to cursed stones?

The curse may take longer than six months to hit the owner, but when it does, look out. It’s a tough nut for sure, about the size of a cheap walnut.

Right now, the crown jewel of diamonds is housed in a bullet-proof and bomb-proof case at the Smithsonian, donated there by Harry Winston because you can’t get a good price for the damn thing on the market.

The Hope Diamond is named after a greedy banker named  Hope, not Bob, one of its cursed 19th century holders. It now is on display and has as many visitors as Mona Lisa every year. Look, but don’t own up to it.

The film falls on its own lightweight when it tries to prove the curse of the diamond is fake news. Their expert insists only old people (already apparently facing death) have expired upon owning it. This undercuts their own information about the young family members who were collateral deaths from ties to the diamond.

This diamond is nobody’s best friend.

Fabergé: a World Unto Itself

DATELINE: Walking on Egg Shells

easter egg

If you want to see one of the most sumptuous and stunning documentaries made, take a peek at Fabergé: A Life of Its Own.

We are seldom prepared for art for art’s sake nowadays. However, the makers of this little film show as much love for beauty as did the original Imperial Russian craftsmen who made the notable eggs for the Tsar.

We haven’t seen such colors since MGM’s heyday of technicolor masterpieces, and the strains of Russian music from Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Tchaikovsky, are more than suitable to the images of the Easter eggs made for the Tsarina and Dowager from the 1880s to 1914.

The obtuseness of the suffering of the people led to a Revolution that ended the dynasty of Nicholas and Alexandra but began an Easter egg hunt that is worth a cool $30m each.

Each egg (about five to ten inches tall) contained a surprise inside: usually a miniature bouquet of jewel encrusted flowers, tiny family portraits, or a model ship. We’ve heard of ships in a bottle, but never saw one in an egg.

Only 50 Imperial eggs were made–and finding them is more difficult than finding the Easter Bunny.

One of the last eggs was made to resemble and ice-encrusted ball with spring flowers within. Stunning.

Carl Fabergé luckily escaped the Revolution’s executions, but the Tsar did not. Fleeing royalty later sold their jewels for food and refuge. Only with the American marketers did the name of the great artist-jeweler become associated with Brut cologne for men, or even bug killer spray.

The Fabergé name is today being restored to dignity and jewelry.

You cannot miss the staggering aesthetics of this film, narrated by Samuel West. It is as rich as a pastry tray of goodies.

World’s Most Extraordinary Homes, s2

DATELINE: Are You Being Served?

piers & caroline Your Presenters!

They’re back, and they’re just as lovable this time around. Yes, the two presenters for the BBC series, Caroline and Piers.

The hosts are like Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Humphreys from Are You Being Served? No American show would dare to give the reins to a middle-aged zaftig actress and a slightly epicene architect.

Together they tackle four episodes of garish homes with their usual flattering aplomb. Caroline does admit in a few instances that she is less than charmed with the accommodations.

The houses are in Miami, Portugal, Switzerland, and Japan. All the homes favour spectacular views and ostentatious shows of moneybags.

Once again, the hosts seem unbothered by endless staircases and innumerable stairs. These are not houses meant for anyone with shortness of breath or arthritis in the knees.

And the open walls are out-of-place in hot, hurricane prone areas. Are there no mosquitoes? Often out of the house before nightfall, these extraordinary homes are denied mundane appearances. In the latest season, they seem to find houses with the best picture windows in the world, no mean feat in itself.

Piers has taken on a more rakish look this season, with pop colors and shades of different hues, and Caroline is more of the same. Together they are genuine and effusive, perhaps a bit too much, like a dotty aunt and uncle.

Nevertheless, we enjoy every moment provided by the presenters of the amazing places, Even if they turn out to be a pyramid of vanity.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens Returns with Two Hours & Two Heads

DATELINE:  Twilight of the Hosts

Giorgio & Ramy

Giorgio & Ramy, that’s who!

The hiatus of the popular series Ancient Aliens was short-lived.

However, they have put their nuclear option on the table: Giorgio of the hair explosion has now joined forces with Ramy Romany and his Indiana Jones fedora, another new rising star and quasi-Egyptologist on the show.

They are teamed up to go to Cairo for a two-hour tour, a new age version of Gilligan and the Skipper.

This is a power move after thirteen seasons and a midseason hiatus. The two most popular hosts are on the chessboard.

Let’s hope their arc of the alien covenant does not shut down in the Great Pyramid.

Ramy plans to take Giorgio into the bowels of Khufu’s power plant (it’s no longer considered a tomb).

This is one-upsmanship, as Ramy takes great pleasure in escorting Giorgio into the Great Pyramid. How he did this feat is revealed shortly when the great Hawass drags his ass into the picture. He’s a man who never met an Egyptian tomb he did not visit on TV.  It seems Ramy is related to national blowheart Zahi Hawass, and that explains a great deal about the great Hawass and the great Pyramid.

Through judicious editing, we never learn how much Hawass hates the ancient alien theory about builders of the pyramids. He likes to say the native peoples did it.

It’s also amusing to watch the facial expressions of Ramy Romany when he disagrees with some of Giorgio’s more outrageous theories. He never lets a sourpuss pass without notice.

Of course, it all comes to a head with the twin hosts sitting at dusk before the Great Pyramid, with Ramy smoking a waterpipe for great effect. Their profiles and agreeing to disagree is certainly the start of long and beautiful friendship, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Captain Renault ran off with Rick Blaine at the end of Casablanca.

 

 

Flush Twice: Unspoken Story of The Toilet

DATELINE: The Real Poop!

toilet 

After years of Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey, looking for a water closet, we find the BBC on the job and off the pot.

Yes, your upper-crust bathroom humor is alive and well.

A British documentary called The Toilet: An Unspoken History actually speaks volumes in a dry wit fashion, providing all the poop for your chute. Having a staid British narrator makes the puns about toiletry all the more eye-rolling.

Our host travels around ancient ruins, poking his nose into latrines and down old drop-offs, making more double-entendre than in a Mae West film festival. Those openings in the castle wall provided more than a draft. Yes, this is an eye-opening experience.

Jolly old England’s history of the Crapper and Queen Elizabeth’s elaborate john are all examined up close. In some manor houses, the chamber pot was kept in the dining hall—and you didn’t have to miss a morsel of your meal.

You may find a discussion and visual aid of urinals less watered down. In some cultures, the urinal has a center bull’s eye of a bumble bee: in Latin the word for bee is ‘apis.’ There’s a joke in there somewhere.

From ornate porcelain bowls, to the outhouse with three seats, of differing sizes, The Toilet makes for a Goldilocks of choices. No, families did not commune together, but you could find that one size did not fit all. Hence, you looked for the right dumping point.

After a while, you may begin to say TMI: too much information about privy moments and sanitary selection, up to and beyond the sponge on a stick, or colored pieces of wool with an aloe vera soothing texture.

Sitting on the serious part, the documentary explains how Bill Gates and his foundation are looking to eliminate use of water in toilets—turning waste into zapped gas power. And, Third World countries are still dangerous places, owing to poor bathroom facilities.

Yes, this amusing documentary is on streaming service for those with the wherewithal to expel the impurities, leaving you flush with the bloom of a water closet and relieved of laughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Not So Grand Finale on Civil War Gold

DATELINE: History Waterlogged

Hackley malignedMuch Maligned Charles Hackley!

As we come to the end of Marty Lagina’s substitute Oak Island gold hunt series, there is no joy in Michigan. We have come to the final episode of Curse of Civil War Gold for season one.

When last we saw Kevin Dykstra, he seemed to have broken a hip during a dive yet is released by the hospital a day later on crutches with a diagnosis of fracture and pain. That won’t stop him.

Wine mogul Lagina was not so sympathetic: he immediately suggested bringing in professional diver John Chatterton who was known as the buzz-killer on Curse of Oak Island.

The genuine disappointment rankles on Dykstra and his crew who sit glumly in their expensive chartered boat while Chatterton takes over. Dykstra even hesitates to accept the money man’s choice but knows better than to complain about millionaire backers.

In his own good fashion, Chatterton does not disappoint. He takes over and selects a different place to search than shown on the previous week. Dykstra’s boys sit on the boat like the proverbial monkeys, seeing and hearing and speaking no evil.

Of course, Chatterton finds nothing and returns to Florida with a shrug. It leaves Dykstra with egg on his face and a shell-case for a crutch.

No sooner had Chatterton left, suddenly Mr. Dykstra can do one more dive. Alas, his 80’ chartered boat shrinks to the size of something belonging to Captain Quint from Jaws.

One more dive before winter and bad ratings close in, the gold hunters take video that shows what they claim is a gold bar in soggy lake bottom. It is enough of an enticement to convince Marty Lagina that the series deserves a second season.

To whet our appetite, they suggest Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was behind the plot to steal the Confederate gold.

Whether viewers agree, only History Channel knows for sure.

 

 

 

Civil War Gold: Overboard and Underwhelmed

 DATELINE:  Gong Show Amateurs

Marty  Enter Mr. Moneybags

After four weeks of toying with the Civil War gold hunters, Marty Lagina comes through with a boat. We half expected he would provide them with the SS Minnow, as Kevin Dykstra tends to look more like the Skipper than Gilligan. Marty Lagina shows up as Thurston Howell, III, and brother Rick is a no-show as Lovey.

Welcome to episode five of Curse of Civil War Gold.

To our surprise, Lagina coughed up plenty to give them a state-of-the-art 80’ yacht with all the amenities of up-to-date sonar and research ability. They even have a captain who seems to know what he is doing, though that never stops the hunters from ignoring expertise.

Kevin Dykstra is hell-bent on diving, even in choppy seas. Much to our amusement, Marty Lagina showed up for the first dive, as if to check on how his money is being spent.

Of course, the first hit is not the right boxcar on the dice. After one of the gold hunters tells Lagina there can only be so many boxcars at the bottom of Lake Michigan, we discover there are at least two.

Strike one does not daunt Kevin Dykstra who is eager to don his wet suit as if posing for the ‘before’ pictures for Jenny Craig. Alas, not using experts continues to be the daunting issue here. During his second jump, Dykstra actually breaks a hip by hitting the diving platform. Curses, foiled again.

Though they were on the cusp of finding some kind of valuable metal, the entire operation is scrubbed because of the Chuck Barris Gong Show mentality.

If there is a silver lining, it means that a real diving team will have to finish the job: so Lagina will call in his old Oak Island stand-by to resolve the issue.

We are at the end of this season, with episode six on the horizon.

And, if there is any explanation of why the series has been called the Curse of Civil War Gold, we are hard-pressed to know what it is.

We don’t usually blame stupidity on curses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Utah & Back: Episode 4

 DATELINE: Curse of Civil War Gold

If you keep wondering when representatives of philanthropist Charles Hackley will sue the producers of this series for defamation of character, we are with you.  We are up to Episode 4 of The Curse of Civil War Gold and the defaming of Mr. Hackley continues full force.

The only curse from this series we see so far is the one put on viewers.

Gold panner Kevin Dykstra continues his unfounded assault on a 19th century banker who invested in a Utah gold mine, built a railroad, and according to speculation, brought Confederate gold out west to launder it.

There’s no gold like fool’s gold.

Evidence is in short supply, but conspiracy theory abounds. If you are wondering if this series can sink any lower, you should tune in next week when it literally hits bottom of Lake Michigan.

As for this week, what can you say about a group of grown men who drive 1700 miles to Utah and back in one week? Their excursion in the desert lasts about three days, and not one is apparently spent in a motel. Nor is there money for flying.

What’s interesting is how totally unprepared they truly are.

Indeed, they go out to Utah without a plan or previous research. When they get there, they ask passers-by for information. They never heard of the Internet.

Without any discernible information of reliable and valid import, they head out to the desert looking for railroad tracks. There is no local guide, no one with experience or expertise in desert conditions.

They have a gun and three campers and all-terrain vehicles to go looking for a needle in a haystack (their description).

Yes, they traipse through the mountains looking for old mine openings, no matter how dangerous or condemned.

One intrepid younger brother of Kevin Dykstra has the temerity to tell him not to enter a dangerous cave where a mountain lion has made its lair. (There are three brothers on this series, outdoing the Laginas by one).

Can this series deteriorate any faster?

Marty Lagina better give these guys food money, though not one looks like he is starved.

At hour’s end, they have no evidence for their efforts in Utah. They must go to Marty Lagina with only a silver coin found by old friend Gary Drayton.

Lo and behold, as they enter the palace of Marty Lagina, intimidating in itself, they discover he is not impressed with their lack of evidence. However, someone told him about the show’s ratings.  There’s gold in the History Channel audience.

He will finance another few episodes. Whether we have the interest to pursue them may be the bigger question. So many words, so little hard evidence. Ho-hum.

Civil War Gold: In Plain Wrapper

DATELINE:  History Channel’s Lack of Glitter

Those amateur gold diggers are still trying to impress Marty Lagina, no easy mark when it comes to wheedling his money out of his winery, on Curse of the Civil War Gold. The hapless hunters of the new series insist that Jeff Davis’s stash of gold was stolen and dumped in Lake Michigan.

Now, if only someone would believe them!

The latest episode, number 3, is called “In Plain Sight,” but nothing is obvious, except the lack of logic in the entire gold hunt operation.

Leader Dykstra never really tells us where his ideas come from: just old research. So, it’s hard to know why he is so convinced that there is a tunnel under a street connecting two banks, or why he mistrusts a 19th century Michigan philanthropist, accusing him of money-laundering, receiving stolen goods, and deceiving everyone.

When Mr. Dykstra gathers his amateur crew to take down a foundation wall under the old bank where he contends the gold was hidden, it nearly falls on them. Talk about idiocy. Marty Lagina has a moral obligation to either give them money, or have them locked up.

Oh, there was no evidence in the bank vault—and it didn’t belong to Al Capone either. Those who don’t remember Geraldo Rivera are doomed to repeat history.

We enjoyed Marty Lagina saying that the new cast reminds him of his own Oak Island searches. The big difference is that they are broke, and he has a gold business in grapes. Yep, Marty already has his millions and seems unwilling to cough up the moolah for these alleged researchers.

Of course, the old standby comes into play: yes, it’s those pesky Masons who have taken the Confederate gold, and left all kinds of symbols in the town architecture for treasure hunters where they hid the gold. These guys find a giant X right in the center of town.

We are exasperated with blaming the Masons for everything from Oak Island to ancient aliens. If our great Uncle John was still with us, we’d put his 33rd degree Masonic feet to the fire to see what he knew about this stuff.

Civil War Gold De-Railed

 

Drayton

DATELINE:  More Gary Drayton Please!

In the second episode of The Curse of Civil War Gold, we learn what it’s like to conduct a treasure hunt on the cheap in a show called “Right on Track.” Not even the narrative voice of Robert Clotworthy can save this mess.

Because Marty Lagina has not come through with funding, the alleged treasure hunters continue their amateur hour shenanigans. We presume Marty will cough up some bucks or this show will not be on much longer, or would not be on TV at all.

This series is apparently an exercise in what happens when people over-extend their reach. Without trust in real experts, these hunters make bonehead decisions—and seem to be lucky beyond belief. It’s anti-intellectualism in America writ big.

Of course, maybe the unwashed public loves this kind of fraud: High school teachers gone amok, and President Trump gone bonkers.

Kevin Dykstra is the leader with his brother, in a blatant imitation of the Lagina brothers, and he assembles a group of family and friends to excavate a beach along Lake Michigan in a truly ridiculous effort. Without real knowledge or safety, they begin digging in the sand. Most nitwits know this is a recipe for disaster. Dykstra’s minions cannot overcome the leakage into the pits they dig.

Information tells them that the stolen steam engine from 1869 is buried there, derailed after unloading Confederate gold into the lake. It may be feasible, but with plans like those excavation ideas, no one will find much of anything.

In the meantime, kingpin Marty Lagina sits in his palace with a checkbook, demanding more proof. If you love this kind of thing, you may be in your element.

A new style of colorized Civil War photos starts to look like comic book illustrations, also used recently on the Oak Island series. We are in familiar territory here. We doubt that can stretch this into a five-year plan, but History Channel works in mysterious ways.

We still say, give Gary Drayton, metal detective, his own show.

One Last Gasp from Oak Island for Season 5

DATELINE: Not Exactly a Cliff-hanger

pexels-photo-220994.jpeg Nothing here

Lacking the sonorous tones of Robert Clotworthy as narrator, another “clone” ersatz episode of The Curse of Oak Island came out of the ever-greedy History Channel.

A summary show about Digging Deeper had little of importance to add to the hunt, which is over for this season, but did not let series producers stop them from adding another hour of rehash and recap to the proceedings.

Their cheerleader is the same overactive and overeager puppy that has won the Lagina hearts over the past few years as the in-house and resident documentary interviewer. There’s nothing like having your own toady throw cream-puff questions to you and your friends. It sounds rehearsed because it is.

He is not part of the field crew, and never shows up for anything except to serve as a public relations tool. When Marty Lagina showed him an important “archeological find” that he was unable to explain during the slow season past because of “time constraints,” the host interviewer accepted the shocking information with cheery obtuseness.

He was literally dropped into a cordoned-off and filled-in shaft that may go back to the original digging in 1795. Why was this deemed too unimportant for the regular season incidents?

Where was the on-site expert, Laird somebody, the government forced upon the Lagina brothers? How did they find this and why did he not offer any insights? And why did they not continue to excavate the spot that first inspired treasure hunters?

This serious bit of history was shunted aside with red tape.

You won’t find answers here in this addendum episode. This clown narrator/interviewer declines to press on whether there will be an explanation ever.

You know that it is the insurance policy for another season.

It’s called a “teaser” in show business for those disgruntled fans who feel like they have been strung along for another year.

Grapes & Gold of Wrath: Civil War Curses

DATELINE:  Look Away, Look Away, Dixieland!

ClotRobert Clotworthy

If there is a revelation about Civil War gold in this new series, the big goldmine belongs to Marty Lagina. He has put his production company with Ancient Alien and Oak Island narrator Robert Clotworthy’s dulcet tones behind a new show, Curse of the Civil War Gold.

Marty Lagina admits as he exits Oak Island for the season, that he has money to burn. Why does he need a gold treasure when he already owns one? For the first time in five seasons on Curse of Oak Island, we are treated to a visit to his business on the new series, which happens to be a giant winery in Michigan.

There’s gold in them thar grapes.

So, Lagina finds a group of high school teachers with a penchant for getting rich slowly who come to him for funding. It is a surprise that Marty allows them into his inner sanctum boardroom. His office kingdom is right out of the movies, and these obsequious gold diggers beg for money.

The formula is the same:  two brothers, their close friend (also a history teacher in a Michigan high school). Since this is hardly the kind of eclectic, adventurous crew we find on other adventure reality shows, Marty Lagina throws them Gary Drayton, his Australian metal detective, the only real holdover from the Oak Island show.

Lagina will appear as a deus ex machina, or Professor Kingsfield, at the start and finish of each episode, putting down his cynical pronouncements.

When the Michigan high school teachers set off for Dixieland and Georgia where Jeff Davis was captured, we wondered how the locals will take to Yankee hunters wanting to find the Confederate treasure.

This is an enterprise borne out of greed and likely to be as unpleasant as suggesting that J. Wilkes Booth and Jesse James were members of a Masonic-style Knights-Templar wannabe group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle, behind the gold curse.

A bunch of pro-slavery advocates with gold to hide, the KGC and their gold cache should be justifiable confiscation, kind of a government asset forfeiture.

Will a bunch of mundane Michigan high school teachers take the prize? This series is betting you care. Marty Lagina is crushing his grapes before their time.