Cursed Oak Island 6.5: Treading Water

DATELINE:  Hold Your Horses & Other Pauses

avast there, matey! Buried Treasure ?

We now interrupt this empty episode for more commercial messages on Curse of Oak Island for the fifth episode of the sixth season.

Yes, there is no golden banana under the drilling. The core samples seem to indicate that there are wooden beams over 100 feet down in two new segments for the drilling. No news is not bad news.

This is a no-show week, with progress reports on various angles of treasure hunting, including putting in a retaining wall at one of the coves. It is an eyesore for sure, but will allow excavation to learn if booby traps were placed at this point for a tunnel system throughout the island.

However, this week’s show is highly repetitive, with self-congratulations and fat middle-aged men in repeated hugs with each other. Don’t snack while watching this episode.

There is a preponderance of endorsements. A company donates “temporarily” a prefab house to serve as the repository of the donated papers of a recently deceased researcher. She has willed the materials to Rick Lagina who has a house converted to a library. No librarians, please.

Also, another author of Oak Island tales calls in to announce his new book will be forthcoming—and he will show up to give them an autographed copy (for free). The rest of us pay.

No wonder that Marty Lagina is mostly absent from this episode, phoning in his comments.

The sole true find of the week belongs, again, to Gary Drayton who locates what appears to be a hat insignia from a French dragoon who was on the island, oddly enough, in 1740s or so.

It was when a legendary soldier of fortune from France and the Templar mode brought treasures from the Holy Land. Is it true? You’ll have no answers this week.

 

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Oak Island 6.4: A-Ha Moment or Not?

 DATELINE:  Curses, Foiled Again.

Alex Alex Lagina, just for Luck!

Once again, we bought into the Lagina Brothers’ claim that we are about to have that notorious “Aha!” moment.  Well, in Season 6, episode 4, that may be only partially true.

We felt more like a “Bah, humbug,” moment at this time of year.

Despite all that expensive seismic testing, they began to drill down to the usual 170 feet, and instead of finding a treasure or vault, or even a searcher tunnel, they hit bedrock.

Hit the snooze button.

Among other highlights, or depressing lowlights, one of the few women to be heard on the show, had passed away at age 88, but she left her research papers on the Knights Templar to Rick Lagina. He and his nephew Peter drove from Nova Scotia to Manhattan in a U-Haul truck to pick up the loot.

Despite throwing money around like crazed millionaires, they usually eschew flying and drive. Last week they drove a couple of thousand miles to Alberta. Penny-savings seem to be the way to go.

They also spent some time on last week’s big find by Gary Drayton:  that bolt shaft for a crossbow. They initially thought it was Medieval—and took it to one university for analysis that suggested it was iron with magnesium (older than suspected).

It was an antiquities dealer who shocked them with the news that they were 1000 years off. The bolt was dropped on Oak Island closer to 2000 years ago. It raised questions for sure.

We could be accused of saying, “Aha,” at this moment, but finding something doesn’t make it an artefact that was dropped by a Roman centurion as he buried the Silver Chalice of Jesus.

We’ll tune in again, whether you say “aha,” or not.

Oak Island 6.3, Not Exactly Revelations

DATELINE:  Not Unforgettable

arrow

We have been asked where is our Curse of Oak Island assessment for 6.3.  And, we feel like responding, let sleeping dogs lie. Some weeks it may be best to allow us to ignore the treasure hunters.

In the third episode of the sixth season, we begin to feel like chapter and verse is out of synchronization. Oak Island is beginning to feel like an enforced work camp.

The onerous tones of the narrator continue to insist that death is around the corner as payment for any discovery.

Seismic results show a bunch of oval shaped anomalies under the ground on colourful maps. We were unmoved. Some voids are only fifty feet down, above water level. Since they found key stuff last season at nearly 200 feet, it seems a tad odd to believe that significant finds are so shallow.

Yet, the explosive technology reveals caverns and voids, not so deep after all.

It appears the five elders of the Oak Island crew (minus 94 year old Dan Blankenship) drove 2000 miles to Calgary, Alberta, to receive this result. If so, this may well be the most revealing detail in five years. Do we have a fear of flying among our foibles?  Most of the younger guys are out to lunch here, as if the next generation has been frozen out of true discovery.

They have been eliminated from most of the episodes so far in season six.

In the meantime, Gary Drayton’s instant analysis on the rocky shore of the island, digs up a thin and deadly metal crossbow shaft. It is a small weapon that is meant to piece armor and chain-mail, not e-mail. He is utterly thrilled, believing it is Templar age.

In another revealing moment, it almost seems as if Rick Lagina’s enthusiasm at the discovery is muted, understated, and diminished. Has the search finally wore out his thrill of the expensive efforts? Or is he just a bad actor for these re-enactment scenes that are filmed for the show?

We are again and again puzzled by absences of regular cast members: the list seems to have expanded as to who’s no longer present and much of a factor in the show.

 

 

 

Oak Island 6.2 & 700 Years and Counting

DATELINE: Exciting Discovery

seconds.jpeg

 

We are all aging rapidly as the sixth season moves along for Curse of Oak Island. You can see it in the faces of the Lagina Brothers, and even in their young hotshot heir apparent, Alex.

As we proceed deeper into the sixth season, the scope of the enlarged budget for treasure hunting is impressive. Now, technology that has heretofore been ignored, is dropped onto the small island.

Seismic scanning with a dozen experts setting off small explosions will render a seismic map of what is below the surface at 200 or 300 feet. That alone may be revealing in ways nothing before in five years of episodes has shown viewers.

However, this season’s discovery of a second brooch by metal detective Gary Drayton proves again to be the shocker.

Taking it to experts as far away as Calgary, Marty and his son Alex receive some stunning news. Though the red ornament inside the setting is glass, it could be 700 years old.

We are always first to throw cold water on the hyped discoveries. Just because it is made around the time of the Templars (or earlier) does not mean those folks were on Oak Island around 1300. The item could have been dropped, lost, or buried anytime in the past few hundred years.

However, it does not alter the stunning news that something is happening, though it is still not clear. We’ve stuck with the show and its padded episodes because we have kept faith that a mystery will be solved.

It may take a few more weeks for revelations to be dumped into the series, but we are constantly impressed at how this team manages to keep its secrets for months before shows are aired.

 

Return to Oak Island for Sixth Season

DATELINE: Bobby Dazzler Dayton

Drayton Bobby Dazzler Himself!

Drawn back to a sixth season of The Curse of Oak Island, we start with a big two-hour opening show. There is surprisingly little of the usual repetition featured in previous seasons. The episode tells us that, at long last with the Lagina Brothers, money is no object.

Like Sherlock Holmes adventures, the latest series is just like the previous seasons. It’s a formula for History Channel Success, and they aren’t messing with it. However, they have gone BIG.

Expense is the bottom line: new headquarters, new transportation around the island, and a cast of technicians that could find a pyramid, if not build one.

There are grandiose plans, making this the biggest season and making the series the new Money Pit.

Draining swamps is merely a bagatelle.

The star is again Australian Gary Drayton with his ability to hone in on treasure with his metal detectors—and then his impressive knowledge to instantly identify in detail something the so-called expert archaeologists can only confirm with less insight.

Within a day, the treasure hunters find a large two-penny from 1797. Gold is promised, but we fear it may be a gold filling from Marty Lagina’s tooth. They are actually now looking in areas never before explored on the small island.

The slow-arriving results remain part of the show’s ponderous slow-poke approach. There may be many of these episodes, dragging out the scientific findings. Lead isotopes may reveal a cross found last season is ages old from Europe.

On the downside, heart-throb Alex Lagina only makes a small cameo in the two-hour start, and Dan Blankenship, the 90-something explorer, looks younger than ever.

 

We’re back for every episode.

Scanning the Great Pyramid

DATELINE: Don’t Scan Zowie Hotass!

 Zowie Hotass

Here’s a documentary that you won’t see on Ancient Aliens.

Scanning the Pyramids is actually a misnomer about Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Oh, they do a quick test on the bent pyramid, but the real focus is on the extraordinary discoveries they make. This is a joint expedition with scientists from France, Japan, and Egypt.

Using new technology, they want to break ground without moving a stone. Yep, they can look inside the pyramid with something called muon scans. These little items come cascading in from space in a straight line, meaning they can photograph them on plates.

This new x-ray system should tell scientists whether there are more chambers inside the Great Pyramid.

The more sensation-seeking fans of ancient astronauts and genius architects in ancient Egypt will not be happy. Indeed, our favorite media hog and Egyptian Antiquities Queen of the Nile, Zahi Hawass, aka Zowie Hotass, shows up with an entourage, sputtering his disdain for science over Egyptology.

Nothing receives a green light in his dark vision. He thinks small pebbles may be inside the new pyramid void.

Unfortunately, Hawass Hotass is a political kingpin or is that pharaoh-pinhead? He is the stamp of approval scientists must face down.

He is, shall we say, skeptical of the findings, or even of the methodology.

The Japanese physicist who pioneers muongraphics looks like a teenager, which doesn’t help. However, all three countries confirm their findings that about 2/3 up the north side, where you see a pyramid notch, there may be another great chamber. It takes two years for this research to reach fruition, but it is worth it.

No one knows what may be inside the newly discovered great void, or even what shape it takes, but it is the first major discovery in 1000 years at the Great Pyramid. It is compelling evidence and fascinating science, unless you happen to believe in the Flat Earth like Hawass.

Leonardo: the Mystery of the Lost Portrait

DATELINE: More Da Vinci Uncoded

Leo Mess Portrait

An Italian production, but with American voice-overs to make it more palatable to English-speaking audiences, the latest Leonardo documentary puts a focus on a newly discovered “Lost Portrait.”

Indeed, the quest by the art historian is to put the interesting self-portrait through its paces. It looks, at first, too good to be 500 years old. Only when a restorer took off the varnish and repairs, it began to show its age: cracks and scratches over the face.

We think someone tried to scratch Da Vinci’s eyes out in a cat fight.

Experts are lined up from Salerno to Naples to Madrid, each specialist offering some different angles. Facial recognition experts try to determine if all extant self-portraits (and one portrait by a Da Vinci friend) are the same person.

This latest discovery is the Lucan Leonardo, thought for a long time to be a picture of Galileo.

Still, was the wood-based picture really done by Leonardo?

He looks about 50 and one test proved the feather in his cap was added in the 19th century: wrong kind of paint. However, the rest seemed authentic to 1500 or so.

This film features some unusual and unique techniques never done previously:  police detectives actually find thumb prints on the paint and match them to fingerprints on Leonardo’s manuscript codexes.

Forensic artists use all self-portraits to create 3-D versions of his head, and forensic handwriting experts decipher the backwards words in Latin on the obverse of the painting.

There’s something odd about the eyes, but…this one is worth your time.

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.