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October 2018

1698 Scottish settlers made landfall in Panama, establishing the ill-fated Darien colony. The Scots hoped to export haggis, bag pipes, and wool to Central America, having denounced evidence of the climate there as false facts. The Scots had decided they needed an empire to rival England.
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1868 New Zealand became the first country to adopt a standard national time. Local time was gone.
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1922 The Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service (Qantas) established its first regular passenger air service (between Charleville and Cloncurry). Pictured is its first passenger. Customer service has remained unchanged since.
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1948 Despite unanimous predications and polling Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in the United States presidential race. Truman was gracious in victory and Dewey was dignified in defeat. So different from today. There is plenty of video on You Tube.

1960 Penguin Books was acquitted of the charge of publishing obscenity -- the use of four letter words -- in the case of D. H. Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover.' The trial was the best free publicity this overwrought and boring novel ever had. The defence was 'literary merit' per an act written, introduced, and steered through by Roy Jenkins.

1512 St Peters in Rome was opened to the public to view Michelangelo’s artwork on the ceiling. They are still viewing it.

1755 An earthquake followed by a tsunami and then a fire destroyed much of Lisbon, killing as many as 90,000 people. We have been to Lisbon and saw some markers of the extent of the flooding.
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1914 The first convoy of Australian and New Zealand troops departed from Albany in Western Australia for the Great War in Europe. These men were all volunteers. Little did they know what they would find in Belgium.
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1982 Honda opened a factory in Ohio, the first Asian automobile company to manufacture in the USA. The first automobile is pictured below. We had a Honda Accord for years, but ours was made in Japan.

1986 The first case of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) -- mad cow disease -- was diagnosed in England.

1517 Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg Castle Church. The Reformation was ignited. Erik Erikson’s psycho-biography ‘Young Man Luther’ (1958) is none too flattery. I read it in graduate school.

1587 Leiden University opened its doors after its founding in 1575. I was affiliated with it for a semester to use the library while at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies.
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1913 The first trans-continental road for automobiles — the Lincoln Highway — was dedicated, passing through Kearney Nebraska, where there is a monument over I-80 we have visited.
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1941 Mount Rushmore monument completed after 14 years of work. We have been there but James Mason was nowhere to be seen, but there were plenty of cornfields nearby. With Doane Robinson, Gutzon Børglum conceived and executed the monument. His Danish parents lived in Nebraska. A Trump tower will overshadow it in the near future.
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1984 Indira Gandhi (no relation to Mohandas Gandhi) was murdered by her Sikh bodyguards. Because of disturbances among Sikhs, they had been re-assigned to other duties but she countermanded that order with this result. Her father was Jawaharlal Nehru an acolyte of the Mahatma and she knew him from her childhood.
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1811 A lady published ‘Sense and Sensibility;’ she was Jane Austen. It was her first published novel.
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1838 Oberlin College (Ohio) admitted women, the first higher education institute in the US to do so. The sky did not fall. It remains an excellent school.

1938 Halloween. Twenty-three year old wunderkind Orson Welles broadcasted his fake news adaptation of H. G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ on CBS radio to the consternation of millions. See Hardly Cantril, 'The Invasion from Mars, a Study in the Psychology of Panic' (1940). This radio broadcast is discussed elsewhere on this blog.
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1973 The first bridge over the Bosporus opened, linking Europe and Asia. There are three now and a tunnel. We saw this one from a ferry in 2015.

1995 Quebec voters whispered ‘Non’ (50.6% to 49.4%) to sovereignty in a turnout of 94% of eligible voters, i.e., about 5,000 votes from nearly 4 million. It was the third referenda on this theme since 1980 and the closest vote. Polling beforehand indicated ‘Oui’ would win comfortably and that prediction galvanised more voters to the polls to vote ‘Non.’ Another referendum must be overdue.
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1863 The Red Cross was founded at a meeting in Geneva, stimulated by businessman Jean-Henri Durant and lawyer Gustave Moynier. There were eighteen government delegations from Europe and many individuals. These two men influenced the Swiss government to host and sponsor this and future meetings. We donate blood whenever we have any to spare.
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1923 Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared Turkey a republic (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti). I discussed a biography of this remarkable man elsewhere on this blog. We spent a fascinating two weeks in this museum of the world.

1945 Gimbel’s department store in New York City (1897-1987) sold first Biro ballpoint pen for $12. About $170 today. In Argentina Hungarian refuge László József Bíró found a way to get the ink to flow yet be dry on paper. It first went on sale in Buenos Aires as advertised below. A version of this was the (Milton) Reynolds Rocket sold by Gimbels. Its sales matched its name, selling a thousand in one day. (Marcel Bich bought the patent and now we have BICs.)

1969 First computer-to-computer link was established in ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), forerunner to the internet. The aim was to combine computers to magnify the computing power available at any one place for research. Below is the log of the first successful message. Contrary to legend it was not designed in the hope of withstanding a nuclear war.
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1982 Alice Lynne Chamberlain was convicted of the murder of her child with circumstantial evidence. The media frenzy was a grotesque tsunami of bile. The dingo had more defenders than Ms Chamberlain. The stronger she was in the face of adversity, the more the media attacked. Decades later the conviction -- produced as much by trial by media, as by evidence -- was quashed, and she was paid compensation for a ruined life. Meanwhile, the mediaistas gave each other awards for their unscrupulous sensationalism.
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1636 Harvard College was founded. It was the first institution of higher learning in United States. Spent a semester there, deep in the basements of Widener Library.

1793 Eli Whitney applied for a patent for the cotton gin, ushering in the planation and slave economy of the south in the United States. He got the idea from seeing a cat scratch at its fur to get burrs out. When cotton could be cleaned efficiently and effectively, then large scale production made sense.
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1916 First Australian referendum on conscription for military service in the Great War was defeated. The event is so encrusted with later appropriations and self-serving distortions it is hard now to grasp the issues as they were seen at the time.

1919 United States Congress passed the Volstead Act to enforce the 18th Amendment which had been ratified by 36 States. President Woodrow Wilson had vetoed the act earlier and it took Congress but three hours to override with a two-thirds votes. It was repealed in 1933.
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1998 Glen Murray was elected mayor of Winnipeg, population 600,000+. He was homosexual and said so. He later held several provincial cabinet portfolios until retiring in 2017. The sky did not fall. Been there for a conference once upon a time.
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IMDB meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 6 minutes, rated 6.2 by 77 cinemitizens.

Genre: Old Dark House.

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Verdict: Much better without the sheriff.

Henry Gordon is a marvellous bad guy, who reeks malice and laughs as others fall down. In short, the fraternity brothers warmed to him immediately. His great fortune came from a mine in South America.

He lives with his sister who has two adult children, too lazy and stupid to move out, a very young William Lundigan who made the mistake of trying to act, and a very fey Nan Grey whose acting was irrelevant. She has taken up with the very pleasing Donald Woods, who for once plays the lead. Then there is the kindly doctor, Holmes Herbert, who is much in attendance.

One look at the greasy Gordon and we know he got the mine by foul means. He knows it, too. When a black voodoo doll lands on his desk, he gets the message.

Then he get a sharper message in the back. To know Gordon was to hate him in the words of the song, but who got to him first? That is the question. The business partners he cheated out of the mine? The sister that he keeps captive? Her son, Lundigan, who owes gamblers money? The butler whom Gordon has treated with contempt for years? The pet canary that has been caged since forever? Nan, the niece, who wants free of the past Gordon represents? A boy scout doing a good deed? A stranger off the street? Or none of the above?

Pop quiz! Remember who was much in attendance above?

Nan has a picnic with Dan, and they play detectives with the pet Westie. There is another brilliant scene when Nan runs through the rain, and really does get wet, to find Dan and runs into the villain….

Regrettably, as the local sheriff Edgar Kennedy almost ruins it all. Don’t blame him. He was woefully miscast and systematically misdirected. Yet he dominated the second half. The fraternity bothers are never comfortable with authority figures, but Edgar they accepted, since he had no authority, no gravitas, and no brains. He took over the dumb-as-a-post duties often assigned to black stereotypes or women in films of this time. For that we owe him thanks.

IMDb meta-data is runtime of 1 hour and 46 minutes, rated 6.3 by 191272 time wasters like me.

Genre: Sy Fy and Self-Indulgence

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Verdict: Cut! Cut! Cut!

‘The Martians are coming!’ ‘The Martians are coming!’ ‘The Martians are coming!’

Got it.

What is worse they are just like the fraternity brothers, stupid, cruel, rude, ugly, and relentless. About twenty minutes too relentless.

One fine day an ensemble set of characters from a big cast list discovers that ‘The Martians are coming!’ and react to that in different ways. That is the first half. Some are afraid. Others hopeful. Some don’t notice. Others don’t care. Scholars rush to speculate. Talking heads do.

Then the Martians come and exploding heads follow. Many exploding heads. Many, many, many. And then some more. Second half.

In the first half a weak-kneed liberal president concludes they are coming in peace, though no one wonders why it takes so many of them to come in peace. Every courtesy is extended including overlooking the slaughter of the first welcoming party. There follows more slaughter and more forgiveness. Is there a parallel to the weak-kneed native indians who kept trying to cooperate with the white man and got slaughtered for their trouble. It seems an obvious comparison but it is not made here.

In the second half it is all out war. Except none of the weapons Earthlings use do any good. Not even the method acting of a geriatric Rod Steiger which killed any interest the fraternity brothers had in the film. Fortunately, the Martians are none too smart and it takes them a long time to murder everyone. What losers!

There are tropes from a host of other Sy Fy movies, including the bulbous noggins of the Martians and the flying saucers over D.C. A few of the vignettes are amusing; most are not.

While the actors are uniformly good, they have very little to do. The script after all was derived from bubble gum trading cards. The characters betray their cardboard origins. Viewers will long for the depth of insight of a comic book.

Martin Short as the slime-ball press secretary is great. That Jack Nicholson is president seemed a welcome relief in 2018 since he gives the role gravitas. Pierce Brosnan never looked more sure of himself than when he was totally wrong time after time. Perfect. Annette Bening lit up the screen. As always, Jim Brown brought dignity to the Las Vegas Egyptian costume (which one dolt, a professional reviewer at that, said was Roman) and Pam Grier evidently thought it was a drama and gives a fine performance that should have been in another movie. 'I'ts not unusual' that a big chunk of $70 million budget must have gone to the performers. The writing is less than Ed Wood standard. Much less.

On the plus side no one thinks the response to the Martians’ assault should be prayer. Regrettably Whit Bissell is nowhere to be seen at a lab bench concocting a double whammy to lay those Martians low as he did in so many 1950s Sy Fy films. On the minus side it is a long list but it always comes back to one thing: the lack of a narrative. We don’t care about the characters because they are so cardboard, and the situation is repetitive, and the denouement is nice but much, much too long time in coming. Way too long.

There are many loose ends. The apocalyptic opening scene with the stampede of burning cattle is never resolved. It occurred long before the first Martian left Mars. It seems to have been forgotten by the director, along with much else.

We never do find out why the Martians came. Sure, just for fun, but why then? Why not in 2016 when we really needed a diversion.

Are Kansans really as deplorable as they appear to be in this movie?

We have a lot of camera time with the first daughter and then she is seen no more. Moreover, she would seem to be more like a grand-daughter to the geriatric president.

Did Jack Black have to be in this movie at all? (This is always a question worth asking.)

The Martians seem particularly to dislike birds. Why? We’ll never know but a point is made of establishing it.

What colour socks do the Martians wear? (One of those searingly insightful media questions.)

As to any and all of the above, who cares?

1275 First recorded mention of the village of Amsterdam. Been there many times and read Geert Mak's 'Amsterdam: a Biography' (2001).

1659 Quakers William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevens who fled England in 1656 to escape religious persecution were executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy. Good Christians everyone.
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1838 State of Missouri ordered the extermination of all Mormons in the Missouri Mormon War. The survivors went upriver to Nauvoo and there followed the Illinois Mormon War. They then went west to Utah, where followed the Utah Mormon War. Good Christians everyone. N.B. Etienne Cabet bought Nauvoo from the Mormons for his Icarian followers. Been there a couple of times on the very Big Muddy.
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1938 DuPont Corp announced the new synthetic fibre, nylon. It was used for toothbrushes at the start, replacing hog bristles. Shortly thereafter it went into stockings, and it had a patriotic patina because the silk for silk stockings came through Japan. Choosing nylon rather than silk was the American choice in that trade war.

1954 ‘Disneyland’ premiered on television, which included Frontierland and Tomorrowland. Watched it every Sunday night for years. Read a biography Walt Disney which is reviewed elsewhere on this blog: Michael Barrier, 'The Animated Man' (2007).

It has also been published as ‘Planet Plane’ and ‘The Space Machine’ under the name John Beynon.

Genre: Sy Fy

GoodReads meta-data is 189 pages rated 3.23 by 525 litizens.

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Verdict: What a relief, it has punctuation.

In far distant 1981 there have been Moon orbits but no landings. Why bother, there is nothing there but moon rocks. George Soros has put up millions as a prize for the first flight to and from Mars. Some have tried and failed. Pundits are sure spaceflight is impossible, and publish their opinions as facts on Faux News where Soros is likened to satan since both words start with ’S.’ It was ever thus.

Dale Curtance of the Boeing family builds a rocket in his backyard to win the prize. He is motivated by glory since he already has enough money to build as many rockets as he would like.

Dale is every director’s leading man, fearless, chiseled chin, handsome, genial, sexist, and quick with a shooting iron. He assembles a crew. There is an ageing doctor, an annoying journalist, a navigator who has never been out in space before, and an engineer who is permanently angry, and a stowaway they soon learn. What a carefully picked crew! The doctor will study the flora and fauna. The journalist will keep a factual log. (Fiction to be sure.) The navigator does nothing. The engineer sulks. Dale is fully occupied with chin maintenance. Then the Gloria Mundi blasts off for three-month trip to Mars where they will land and from which they hope to return.

The stowaway is Joan who has come to help. Help? How? By translating Martian. Huh? It seems is a six-legged machine showed up at her father’s farm and she learned Martian from it. Well, so she asserts since no else but Joan and Dad saw the contraption. Those two were sure it was not of this world. That it was intelligent. That….. It did not communicate and yet it did. So goes the circle. Then it vaporised itself. (If only Faux News would do that.) They were convinced it is/was an ambassador from Mars. Having studied the markings on the machine, Joan now feels qualified to translate from Martian. She qualifies for President Tiny's cabinet with that grasp of facts.

The 1930s sexism is piled on without remorse. Joan is belittled, assaulted, patronised, insulted, and still expected to clean the coffee cups. In fact, this oppression is so detailed, a reader might begin to suspect Wyndham of irony. Or is that too long a reach? Hmmm. See below.

Mid-flight there is a seminar on the relationship between man and machine, and that is man, not woman. It is superficial, vague, and unfocussed enough to be one of those panel discussions on the ABC. They never once refer to the spaceship in which they ride as a machine. Indeed, there is no reason for them to blast off if this is all they have to talk about. Though it becomes relevant, sorta when they get to Mars.

Mars is almost entirely populated by AI machines because the human-like Martians are dying off. There is a declining birth rate, no doubt due to Hillary Clinton, and ever lower resistance to disease, thanks to the anti-vaxxers among them. The remaining Martians see the continuation of the machines as the natural order of evolution and accept it. One tries to explain this attitude to an Earthling, who goes all Luddite and chews an Opal card. This is the most interesting part of the book, but Wyndham had not yet hit his stride and it is talky, talky, and talky. In it, however, Joan is proven right about much for which earlier she was ridiculed by the blokes. That is why I wondered if there was irony in the way the misogyny was laid on. (Albeit there are loose ends, i.e., I never did figure out who sent the machine to Joan's farm.)

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris
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was the son of a barrister. After trying a number of careers, including farming, lawyering, and advertising, he started writing short stories in 1925. This book was fifteen years before ‘Day of the Triffads’ (1951) and nearly twenty years before ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ (1957), which became the film ‘The Village of the Damned’ (1960). In these he certainly hit his stride. Each is unique and unforgettable.

1825 The Erie Canal of 363 miles opened, connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean via the Hudson River. It produced an economic boom along its route and made Buffalo a sea major port for products from Chicago and points west as well as from Canada. It is often forgotten that the United States has northern and southern sea coasts. I have been to Syracuse and Utica on the route.
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1905 Sweden conceded independence to Norway in a peaceful though rather fraught conclusion to tensions. Pictured below is a monument to that event. Been to Sweden a couple of times but want to go to Norway to see the giant paper clip. Yep.
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1922 Gertrude Bell (1868-1926) was appointed Head of Antiquities in Baghdad, one of her very many claims to fame. In this job she organised the systematic identification, documentation, and preservation of the human heritage to be found there. She also did some of the finding. She was here, there, and everywhere in the Middle East.

1958 Pan Am began flying passenger jets from New York City non-stop to Paris in a Boeing 707 which made the world smaller, and smaller. There was a brass band send-off. I flew with Pan Am once.
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1986 Bill Bruckner entered Baseball's Hall of Infamy. Mookie Wilson ran out the ground ball, as few millionaire players do today while the white ball eluded Bruckner's glove and the Red Sox found another way to lose. Members of the Red Sox nation have forgiven but not forgotten this error. Seen the Green Monster with my own eyes.

1415 Henry V at Agincourt prevailed over a French force five times larger with the long bow made from Welsh Yew wood. The elasticity of the yew gave the bow a range greater than anything else, making it the artillery of the day. Its arrows struck with sufficient force to penetrate a knight's armour. It was good night for the knights. Hundreds were killed before they came within range of their weapons. Hundreds more were killed after surrendering.
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1616 Dutch sailor Dirk Hartog became the first recorded European to set foot on Australia's western coast, and he left a message at Cape Inscription, Western Australia.

1854 At Balaclava the Light Brigade by mistake charged into death and legend.

1955 The Tappan Stove Company sold the first microwave oven. It was wall mounted and in today's US dollars cost about $12,000. It weighted about 700 pounds. The wall and the weight were insulation.

1971 United Nations seated People's Republic of China and to expel the Nationalist government of Taiwan.
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1861 Western Union sent the first telegram coast-to-coast in the United States from San Francisco to Washington D.C. The message had to be repeated along the way.

1889 New South Wales Premier Sir Henry Parkes called for federation of the Australian colonies at Tenterfield in NSW. He continued to argue the case for unity thereafter. He was the first, loudest, and most consistent advocate of Australia as a single entity on economic, defence, and moral grounds.
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1897 First newspaper comic strip appeared in the New York Journal, ‘The Yellow Kid.‘ This rag was a Hearst newspaper printed on yellow paper, as the Financial Times today is printed on pink paper, leading the Hearst press being called Yellow Journalism as short hand for the Fox News of the day.
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1929 Black Thursday – the first day of the stock market crash which began the Great Depression. Thus began the Great Depression that lasted for a decade. So far Hillary has not been blamed for this.
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1946 The U.N. charter was ratified by the then 5 permanent members and 46 member states. The agencies of the UN have done much good since then.
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IMDb meta-data: 1 hour and 2 minutes (it seemed much longer than that) and rated a generous 3.3 by 686 dopes.

Genre: Sy Fy and Bore.

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Verdict: Two good things about it are: It does not star John Agar and Robert Clarke keeps his shirt on.

The stooges kidnap an heiress and head to the high Sierras for a spot of ransom. Sounds far better than it is. While this is played out in slow motion, or so it seemed, a flash of light in them thar hills occurs and then a woman in a skin-tight body suit with exaggerated eye brows walks from the woods to the out of focus camera. She stays out of focus. She walks like she has the OED balanced on her head. Carefully.

The inference is that she is an alien emanating a blurred aura. The fraternity brothers like the skin-tight part but not the blur. However the blur was probably necessary to get the picture aired in the time of the Hollywood code.

To sum up, she wanders around the woods killing everything and everyone she meets. A dog, a man, a bear, a woman, a butterfly, a fox, another man. Obviously she is an American diplomat come to make the peace of the dead. I kid not. Read on.

Meanwhile the three stooges have holed up in the aforementioned Robert Clarke’s mountain cabin where he practices taking his shirt off and on away from prying eyes in readiness for his performance -- is that the right word? -- in 'The Incredible Petrified World' (1959), reviewed elsewhere on this blog. Two of the stooges have gats and Clarkie has little choice but to comply. He complies. At times they combine to fend off Skin-Tight, but she picks them off one by one, until….. Spoiler coming.

The pollution in Earth’s atmosphere kills her. Whew! Thank you H. G. Wells for suggesting that in 1891.

But wait there is more!

The locket Skin-Tight wore was not an intergalactic fashion statement after all for it contained a message written in copperplate English handwriting, declaring her to be an ambassador who has come in peace! Pause.

Just think, someone got paid — not much we may hope — for writing this.

How will the home-world react to the death of this ambassador. Will another come? A bigger, a badder, a meaner one? The End. Was a sequel planned? Does it exist? Can it be avoided?

Does it sound like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' (1951) without the depth? Yep a derivation which these days is called 'reimagining,' i.e., trivialising with CGI.

Nota Bene. This ambassador made no effort to communicate but her touch was fatal to everything. The opening voice over went on about cosmic retribution which was heard by the minority paying attention, but this is never squared with the peaceful mission revealed after the body count at the end.

The young heiress looks about fifty. The two goons and their moll look retarded. The direction looks zero. Once the actors are on their floor marks, they stand still to retain camera focus. There are voiceovers which indicate the lack of a sound engineer. Perhaps 90% of the film is in one nearly bare room. Cheapo. For the drive-in market where no one would see it.

Robert Clarke grew up in Oklahoma movie struck from a young age. He tried hard and seems affable enough on screen, and much more alive than say John ‘Oak’ Agar. Clarke's other credits include ‘The Man from Planet X’ (1951), ‘The Incredible Petrified World’ (1959), and ‘Beyond the Time Barrier’ (1960), which are reviewed elsewhere on this blog. What a Sy Fy CV. He never made it in movies and like many other B-movie actors he went into television where he compiled many credits.

The fraternity brothers talked me into watching this one and they will pay for that when I read long passages from Martin Heidegger to them while they eat. Indigestion is sure to follow.

When What

1760 The first Jewish prayer book was published in North America. A milestone in religious tolerance.
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1915 25,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in NYC for the vote, this gathering became the League of Women Voters. I worked for the local branch of the League a few times when in high school and then college.
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1956 The Hungarian revolt against Soviet domination began with a large and peaceful protest. The peaceful protest led to reaction, reprisal, and repression and a Hungarian diaspora. There were many in Edmonton.
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1963 Dr Who aired with William Hartnell. Still airing. Who'd a thunk it!
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2001 Apple released the iPod. [Words fail me.]
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IMDb meta-data is run time of 1 hour and 46 minutes rated 6.8 by 5011 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy FY, Empathy

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Verdict: one of a kind. Roger Ebert liked it and that is always enough for me.

A being in a B movie space suit frantically hits controls as a craft steaks to a crash in New York harbor.  In shredded clothes the being comes ashore on Ellis Island where millions of other immigrants preceded him. He looks like a black man.

In the nocturnal silence we find out some things about him. He lost a foot in the crash and hops around but seems to find this loss only an inconvenience.  On the remaining foot are three enormous toes.  Later he will be referred to as ‘a three-toe.’  More important, he has psychic powers for when he slumps against a wall or sits on a bench he hears in the air words spoken there by others in the past in a jumble as though recorded on the surfaces. He is frightened by these voices.  But then as always he is mute.

After sleeping on the floor, in the morning mist he sees the city across the harbor and somehow gets on a scow that takes him to Harlem where he hops around.....until his foot regenerates.  He observes the animal life on the streets of Harlem, and proves to be a quick learner with some survival instincts and an NBA jump.

We also learn that he has a way with machines, cash registers, pin ball games, video arcades devices, and so on.  He meets a great many people most of whom ignore him.  He takes refuge in a bar where some of the bar flies are willing to help a brother through hard times.  A social worker finds a place for him to lodge, and gets him work repairing machines.

Brother discovers Earth women and.....   No spoiler.  

Then the men in black appear, just as strange as he is.  They are after Three-toe, as they call him.  I was never sure if this term applied to him in particular or was a reference to his kind as a whole.  They, too, have to adapt to an alien environment. However, they speak though not too well and are white-bread. 

There are some marvellous vignettes.  Two attendees at a communication workshop talk to Brother for hours without realising he is mute.  An administrator intimidates the men in black with endless forms to fill out.  At the moment of truth the bar flies go for it on fourth and one.  

Loved that Brother looks for messages in street graffiti, and finds one!


It has to be said that the denouement is limp.  Finding an end to this ride would be a challenge to anyone.  

It polarises the opinionators on the IMDb with many ones and fives.  The one-givers complained about all the things I liked about it.  Slow pace, no shot ‘em up.  A divergence into the world of drug users and suppliers, for whom ODs are an interruption to cash flow.  The opinionators did not seem to mind Brother’s vigilante justice, though I did.  One such opinionator went on about the gimmick with Brother’s eyeball, denouncing it as unrealistic.  Well, don't try it at home, that is for sure. But really...it is science fiction Mr Inane.

John Sayles wrote, directed, edited, and swept up afterward. He is also one of the men in black. He financed the production with the payment for his dreadful script for the dreadful ‘Battle Beyond the Stars,’ reviewed elsewhere on this blog.  Forgive but don’t forget.

Director and writer John Sayles is a rarity, an intellectual in film-making. Moreover, he is a utility player, as they once said in baseball, he acts, he writes, he directs, he paints sets, he produces, he edits. He learned the craft and the values of economy and versatility from Roger Corman. Sayles often hires himself out in one capacity or another to raise money for own projects like this one.

IMDb meta-data is 1 hour and 19 minutes, rated 5.3 by 435 cinemitizens.

Genre: Sy Fy

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Verdict: Mixed. Good moments but no whole.

Two journalists mistakenly enter the Democracy of Gudavia and soon wish they had not done so. They are an odd couple, Brit Leslie Phillips is the photographer who plays the effete skirt chaser he made his own and burly and blunt and brash Paul Douglas is the American wordsmith.

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They discover that once in Gudavia there is no way out for in the alpine castle is a mad scientist trying to develop super humans by dousing them with gamma rays.  He wants no publicity from these two. One of his prodigies is the piano playing Hedda who resists by being creative, and the other is the martinet Hugo.  These two are both about twelve years old.

They also find Eva Barton; that convinces them to stay.  ‘Amen,' sighed the fraternity brothers.  

There are some nice scenes of the mountains on travelling mattes. A few scary moments with zombies from the mad scientist’s failed efforts. For, as he notes, mindless zombies have their uses, in a remark that anticipates the Tea Party. There is another scene that anticipates ‘The Village of Damned’ (1960).

But Hugo steals the show.  He is the super-kinder who does the Mad Scientist proud. His weakness at the end is finely judged and effective though his subsequent transformation is saccharine.  But the turning point is well done. He is played by Michael Caridia who was fourteen at the time.

The screenplay draws on many tropes, the micro state of Gudavia that appears on no maps, the mad scientist in the hilltop castle playing god, his hollow-eyed zombies, the Hitler youth uniform Hugo wears, the loving grandfather...... It has so many loose ends that none of them are tied. It is partly farce as with the comic opera military of Gudavia, and deadly serious when Hugo is a piano critic.

Eva helps Dr Mad in his experiments without a qualm until the journos arrive, and then goes all distressed. See, here is the evidence, and get a load of those condensers.

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There is a nice scene in the telegraph office where the official is the perfect bureaucrat. Ever so polite and ever so pointless.

The project had a vexed production and at some point a young Albert Broccoli with Irving Allen took over production.  Yep, them.  Looking back from Chubby’s later career, one can see first drafts for scenes used later in the Bond films.  

It was made in England. Douglas was there with his wife Jan Sterling who was playing Julia in production of ‘1984’ (1955), which has its own version of little Hugo. '1984' and this film were released as a double bill at the end of 1956, one dead serious and one not.

There are comments on Paul Douglas’s career in the review of ‘It Happens every Spring‘ elsewhere on this blog and also on Eva Bartok’s in the review of ‘Spaceways’ elsewhere on this blog.  He quit a successful career in radio sports journalism to try his hands in movies at age 42. She had more drama in her private life than in any movie she made, escaping Naziis and then Communists, and then a great many men.  

Genre: fiction and biography.

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GoodReads meta-data is 368 pages, rated 3.7 by 4,857 litizens.

This book is a novel about the life and times of Varina Howell (1826–1906). Who? Varina Davis. Huh? Mrs Jefferson Davis. If it is still a ‘Huh’ go back to Angry Birds on the Smartphone. I read it as a biography of this First Lady. First Lady? Read on.

As a girl Varina was too tall, too serious, too dark, too talkative, too well read, too interested in the wider world, too big, too judgemental, too…. At seventeen her family was only too glad to see her wed Jefferson Davis, more than twice her age.

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Jefferson came with baggage. He had married for love years before. It was a match not sanctioned by either family and the couple eloped. She was the daughter of a future president, Zachery Taylor. It was the time of the anti-vaxxers. On the honeymoon she died. Jefferson went into mourning and stayed there for seven years. N.B. Her parents did not want her to marry a soldier as Davis then was, not that there was any objection to him personally. They did not blame him for her death.

His family was an older brother, Joseph, who by primogeniture owned and ruled the family plantation with a whip in hand. The much younger brother, Jefferson, had nothing but the sufferance of Joseph. There was little of that. To get Jefferson out of the way, Joseph gave him a property to manage, but he retained ownership.

He pushed Jeff into the army to get him out from underfoot, and later pushed him into politics for the same reason. He disapproved of the first marriage because he wanted a dowry out of it, and when the couple eloped there was no dowry. The later marriage to Varina was arranged to suit Joe. Jeff had been moping around for seven years after his first wife’s death. In this telling Joe simply wanted to get Jeff settled. Not that he felt sorry for him, more annoyed with his constant gloom.

Old Joe had met Robert Owen, when the latter was on a tour in the United States, and Joe tried to realise some of Owen’s philosophy on his planation, adapting it to the slavery that — in Old Joe’s terms — united capital and labour. His descriptions of this arrangement are ridiculous but have the sort of inner logic that appeals to an autodidact. He had the words but not the substance of Owen’s practice per New Lanark, which we have visited.

Davis served first in the Black Hawk War in which few shots were fired in anger (where he may have crossed paths with Abraham Lincoln) and then in the Mexican War with distinction, and traded on that record to enter politics, pushed at every step by Old Joe. He become a Senator and then Secretary of War. He and Varina lived for years in Washington on the D.C. and no doubt he had a case of Potomac Fever. She liked the life there, entertaining and being entertained. The soupçon of Europe ambassadors brought. The access to northern merchandise unknown in Mississippi. The aura of history made and in the making. All of this appealed to this very young woman.

In ‘Varina’ there are several accounts of close personal relationships between owners and slaves. These are very nicely done. Jefferson had a body slave named Pemberton who went with him everywhere and who came to run the planation in all but name. They drank from the same cup; talked each morning and evening of the work. Yet occasionally when Jefferson was irritated a sting came into his voice, and Pemberton went quiet. Master and Slave were well aware of each other’s place.

In another instance there was a young women who grew up with a slave companion. They gossiped together; giggled together; picked out clothes together. They were like sisters, but not quite. Then one day when the white woman needed money she sold the slave’s ten year old child for the money to buy a new dress. The slave woman was heartbroken. When she wailed and cried, she was beaten…into submission.

Getting back to the book at hand, the story is told in flashback. Varina is interviewed long after the war. Much of her story concerned April 1865 and after. The evacuation of Richmond and the long flight south toward the El Dorado of Havana. In the course of this flight she observed the ruination visited on the Carolinas, and Georgia.

More often then than not doctors prescribed morphine for women, and Varina mixed hers with red wine, a lot. Doped up and docile seems to have been one goal. The name ‘Varina’ is a variant from the Greek for Barbara, referring to those who do not speak Greek.

Toward the end of her time, she edited and finished the memoirs that Jefferson could not complete. This seems an act of financial necessity in these pages and nothing more. The memoirs were an asset to be realised in difficult times.

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There are vivid descriptions time of life along the Mississippi, sometimes easy going and at other times deadly.

It starts slowly and is written in the present tense. This latter is enough to put me off but one night for the lack of an obvious alternative on the Kindle I persevered, and it got more interesting and the present tense faded. Equally irritating is the absence of conventional punctuation, like quotation marks to set off and identify statements by the characters. Grrr!

After reading much about Jefferson Davis I wondered how anyone, wife included, could put up with him - pompous, prickly, proud, and worse. In both Allen Tate's ‘Jefferson Davis: His Rise and His Fall’ (1929) reviewed elsewhere on this blog and Eli Evans's ‘Judah Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate’ (1988), reviewed elsewhere on this blog, Variana figures as a player in the tragedy of the Confederacy.

Benjamin was one of the very few Richmond politicians who got along with Davis and he did so in good part by working with and through Varina, but none of that figures in this account, which is weighted to her life before and after the Confederacy, not during. That is too bad because my impression is that she exercised a moderating influence on the generally intractable Davis.

Which parts of the story are fact and which are fiction? I cannot say but the author seems scrupulous and includes a short bibliography.

Ch Frazier.jpg Charles Frazier

Side Bar: Fanny Wright likewise tried to apply Owen at Nashoba Community in the 1820s Tennessee. Her aim was to teach slaves to earn their freedom through work so that emancipation would come at no cost to owners. While the rhetoric was high, the reality was not. I visited the locale in Memphis and did some library work on this community in Nashville a time ago. It was celebrity vanity at work.

1721 Peter the Great became emperor of all the Russians, and a quite few others. I once found this statue referred to as depicting Catherine the Great in a book by two journalists. Thus was confirmed many of my suspicious of the fourth estate. Seen it with my own eyes.
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1884 Twenty-six countries adopted Greenwich Mean Time as longitude zero, with 24 time zones, at conference in Washington D.C. Greenwich was the focal point of a great many nautical charts and maps and was chosen because of that.
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1938 Chester Carlson (1906-1968) invented the photocopier in the family kitchen. He tried to sell the machine to IBM, RCA, Kodak and others, but they see no use for a gadget that makes nothing but copies. He called it xerography meaning literally dry writing as distinct from the wet process of mimeograph. He made several fortunes out of it and gave most of it away, including a good deal to the United Nations. Below is the first exposure he made.
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1975 USAF gave Sergeant John Matlovich a General Discharge because he had publicly declared his homosexuality. This charge denied Matlovich pension and health entitlements. A court later found for Matlovich. The medals were for killing, and the GD was for loving, he said.

1978 Pope John II was inaugurated. Polish born, he held on until 2005. He galvanised the papacy like few others and became a world leader in more than name.
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When What
2137 BC Two Chinese court stargazer, Hi and Ho, made the first extent record of a solar eclipse. Hi and Ho? Irresistible.

1790 The French Revolutionary Government chose the Tricolor to replace Bourbon standard as the national flag. Red and Blue were the colours of the patron saints of Paris, Denis and Martin. The Marquis de Lafayette suggested adding the white as a traditional colour of France. Seen many of them.

1854 Florence Nightingale went to Crimea with 38 nurses during the Crimean War. We passed by one of her hospital sites in Istanbul once upon a time.
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1879 Thomas Edison demonstrated the first commercial light bulb.
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1944 The Provisional Government of Charles DeGaulle enfranchised French women.
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480 BC Greeks defeated Persians at Salamis in a naval engagement. Accordingly all those Greek words related to politics entered into Europe, e.g., democracy.

1097 Members of the First Crusade arrived at Antioch (Antakya) and set about destroying any and everything. Such was their Christian enlightenment. It is in that part of Turkey that lies between Aleppo Syria and the Mediterranean Sea.

1820 The United States bought Florida from Spain. The insects came at no additional cost. Been there.
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1947 The House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) targeted Hollywood. Elia Kazan, Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor (of Grand Island), Walt Disney, and Jack Warner happily named names like Katherine Hepburn and Edward G Robinson among others as dangerous radicals. N.B. that Ronald Reagan steadfastly refused to name anyone. David O. Selznick was one of the few major figures in Hollywood who resisted HUAC. Members of HUAC loved the publicity that came from ruining lives and careers. It was the unacknowledged monster that roved Hollywood for a decade.

1973 Queen Elizabeth II opened the Sydney Opera House. Work had begun in 1958. When looking at it today remember it was done by slide rule, hand, and eye. Most the cost was born by a lottery run for years. Been there many times.
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202 BC Roman general Scipio Africanus defeated Hannibal at Zama, ending the Second Punic War. Scipio prevailed against Hannibal where many previous Roman commanders had failed. Scipio was an innovator. He greatly simplified commands, delegated authority downward, and overcame the elephants by letting them pass through the lines with the lines closing behind them against the Hannibal's infantry.

1812 Napoleon began the retreat from Moscow. What defeated him were General Typhus and General Hubris. General Winter deliver the coup de grace. Elsewhere on this blog there is a review of Andrew Roberts's excellent biography of Napoleon that goes into more detail about his Russian campaign. The graphic shows the advance and retreat as diminishing resources, from the brilliant Edward Tufte's book 'The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.' It is often cited as the most elegant and intuitive presentation of a mass of data at a glance.
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1917 Salvation Army Officers Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon delivered doughnuts to front lines American troops in France. They carried weapons and sported gas masks, along with the doughnuts to give to the dough boys. There were hundreds of Salvos in rear areas doing the cooking and packing. What if any relationship there is between this nickname -- doughboys -- and doughnuts is much discussed on the inter-web.
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1943 Streptomycin was isolated by researchers. It became the first antibiotic effective against the scourge tuberculosis (which the anti-vaxxers wish to bring back). The researchers thereafter engaged in a long and torturous legal battle over the subsequent the glory and gold. Penicillin was the first antibiotic, and this was the second.

1954 Britain ceded Suez canal to Egypt by treaty and withdrew the 80,000 troops it had there. In a last spasm of colonialism two years later Great Britain went back into the Canal in one the most catastrophic foreign policy blunders of the ages. The irony is that the blunder came from the hand of one of the most experienced diplomats England ever produced.
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When What

1888 Thomas A Edison patented an Optical Phonograph (movie) projector.

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1907 The Marconi company began commercial wireless service between Nova Scotia and Ireland.


1912 Serbia and Greece declared war on the Ottoman Empire over Macedonia. This was the First Balkan War and a prelude to World War I.


1949 Work began on the Snowy Mountain Hydro-Electric project, one of the wonders of modern engineering. It was built by post World War II immigrants and it is still powering the east coast of Australia. It was in part social engineering.

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1973 OPEC embargoed oil sales to USA and other Israeli allies.


1648 The Boston Shoemakers create the first trade union in North America. Why is no sporting team in Boston call the Shoemakers? Huh? Answer me that!


1851 Herman Melville published 'Moby Dick.' For reasons now lost, I read it both in high school and college. The student edition I had was abridged to delete much of the whaling and sailing detail.


1909 New South Wales surrendered 2,400 square kilometres of land for the Australian Capital Territory. In the field pictured below the planned city of Canberra arose. Been there many a time and hope to go ago in December to see an exhibition from the British Museum.

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1929 English Privy Council ruled that women are persons in the law. The Premier of Alberta had named Emily Murphy, a municipal court judge for a decade, to a Senate vacancy. She had been the first woman magistrate in the British Empire. The Federal Government rejected the nomination and the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the authority of the Government of the Day to do so. Murphy and four associates, all member of the Alberta Legislature, pressed the case to the Privy Council in London, which in time ruled that women were persons and so qualified for the Senate. After 1949 such an appeal was no longer possible. Sometimes it is nice to have a higher authority on the job.

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1954 Texas Instruments marketed the first transistor radio. I listened to many a ball game on a transistor radio (sometimes under the covers). It was another step in the miniaturisation of communication.

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When What

1901 A Congressional vote to censure President Theodore Roosevelt failed by one vote. The cause? He had invited Booker T. Washington (1856–1915) dinner at the White House, saying that Mr Washington was a great American. He was an emancipated slave. I read Edmund Morris's three volume biography of the remarkable Teddy some time ago. I read Washington's 'Up from Slavery' as a boy.
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1916 Margaret Sanger opened the first American birth control clinic in Brooklyn. A police arrest followed. A biography of her is on my long reading list.
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1934 The Long March began; it lasted 368 days and covered 6,000 miles. As many as 50,000 died en route. From this ordeal Mao emerged as the unquestioned leader of the Communist Party of China.
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1970 The October crisis deepened with the declaration of the War Measures Act. There were 8000 armed troops on the streets of Montreal and Gendarmerie royale du Canada made 500 arrests without habeas corpus. Minister of Labor, Pierre Laporte was murdered in retaliation. Strangled with his crucifix chain by one of kidnapper while the others watched.
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2002 Bibliotheca Alexandrina opened in commemoration of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity. A smoker did not use the ashtrays provided.

1529 Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire folded his tent and abandoned the siege of Vienna and retreated before the winter struck, so much wiser than either Napoleon or Hitler. I am told his tent can be seen in the Arsenal in Vienna and we hope to see it soon.

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1917 The French Army executed Dutch woman Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (Mata Hari, 'eye of the day' in Malay) by firing squad at Vincennes. When stupid French strategies were repeatedly defeated, there could only be one explanation. Witchcraft! Some things never change.

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1928 After a four day trip the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin landed in Lakehurst, NJ, ushering in a new era of lighter than air luxury Trans-Atlantic travel. That is what the posters said. We saw some specially designed lightweight luggage for Zeppelin flights at the Handbag Museum in Amsterdam.


1935 Il Duce's Italians invaded Ethiopia. The League of Nations proved unequal to the challenge this war brought. Haile Selassie made a remarkable plea in Geneva for intervention. There are clips of it on You Tube. Frank Moorhouse's 'Dark Palace' (2000) recounted some of this drama. I once spend a couple of days in the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva reading index card records.


1964 Nikita Khrushchev was ousted as secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR. Leonid Brezhnev and Alexei Kosygin took over. It was a frightening time of uncertainty on the Platte.

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When What

1066 William of Normandy defeated King Harold in the Battle of Hastings (not on Platte or Hudson). 'Foyle's War' made it all better until Christopher got all holier-than-everyone-else.

1890 The man from Abilene (Kansas) was born: Dwight David Eisenhower. Been to the house where the six boys grew up.
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1926 A. A. Milne published ‘Winnie the Pooh.’

1947 Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in Bell XS-1. A milestone on the way to space flight. Immortalised in Tom Wolfe’s ‘The Right Stuff.'
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1962 USAF U-2 reconnaissance planes photographed installations of Soviet-made missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads in Cuba. In school we trooped to the basement and did duck and cover drills just like this.
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13 October ……..

When What
54 Nero became emperor of the Romans. The rest is history.

1792 George Washington laid the cornerstone of the White House, which was completed eight years later. John Adams was the first president to occupy it. Seen that.
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1933 Sydney's first 'electromatic vehicle actuated controller' (traffic light) was installed at the Intersection of Kent and Market streets. Waited there. (In 1965 Canberra got its first set.)
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1958 The bear was found in Paddington Station. Been there but no bear was sighted.

1983 Back when greed was good the first public cell phone network began operations in Chicago using the Motorola DynaTAC phones the size of a brick. The company was Ameritech. Mine's smaller than yours!

When What
1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue to the Bahamas. The date was first celebrated in the United States in 1792. There are many memorials to the Genoese in Spain. Seen this massive crypt in Sevilla.
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1576 Rudolf II became Holy Roman Emperor. Rudy II dabbled in alchemy, the occult, and automata. He had little interest in imperial duties but loved the laboratory and workbench. One result was the Thirty Years War over religion, as Protestants and Catholics murdered each other to prove they were Christians. Occasionally united in the desire to murder Jews. We walked through his Prague palace on that hill which later had far more unsavoury residents.
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1918 Norman Lindsay published ‘The Magic Pudding.’ It came with mother's milk for generations of Australian children.

1823 Charles MacIntosh began selling raincoats in Scotland. The ‘k’ came later. The image is an 1892 model. It took much trial and error to get to the contemporary versions. We bought ours in Dublin from a man with an Italian name and an Irish accent.

1984 The Vancouver SkyTrain was completed with 64 kilometres of track. World’s longest automated light rail. It is one of the lasting benefits of the Vancouver Expo. Almost all of it is elevated. I rode on it once when in Rain City. Did it inspire the ill fated Sydney monorail which is now long gone?

IMDb meta-data is a speedy run time of 1 hour and 43 minutes, rated 6.4 by 20,994 misers.

Genre: All, including Sy Fy.

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Buck is a brain surgeon, rock star singer, and scientist extraordinaire, among other things. He can drive a car through a mountain, perceive the aliens amongst us, and sing up to New Jersey standards with the Hong Kong Cavaliers. Get it?

One of the aliens is there to help, but most aren’t. Did I mention satire? Shoulda.

The major defence contractor building the newest, fastest, most invisible warplane is in fact Aliens Incorporated which is using the appropriations to build a spaceship to blast the earth as they leave in it. Dastards! They have been there for years voting for ever large defence budgets. Obviously Republicans.

Dr Emmett Brown leads the alien field unit, while John Lithgow blows the lights out as Emilio Lizardo, the brains behind the operation. Did I say brains? This man can p r o j e c t.

It all centres around Grover’s Mill in New Jersey which still doesn’t exist. Turns out Orson Welles was right all along. To prove it Citizen Kane puts in an appearance.

Lithgow's speech rallying the aliens to one final effort will remind viewers of many political speeches, but it is funnier, wittier, and delivered with more conviction than most.

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The result is a pastiche and homage to Sy Fy films from the opening credits to the closing ones: ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Them,’ and many points in between. Hey, John, don't forget 'Terminator!' Even Vincent Canby of the ‘New York Times’ seems to have stayed awake through this one. It bombed at the box-office. Such a genre mash-up is impossible to market, say the oracles.

No comment is sufficient without some vinegar: It is fast but not fast enough. If it had been edited more tightly it would reduce to 90 minutes, the length of feature film intended by Apollo. It is especially slow at the beginning, as if waiting for the audience to be seated. There are some dead spots later, too, that serve no purpose. One less punch-up would have been no loss.

The two women get vituraly nothing to do. One opens the door, twice. The other mopes around. Ellen Barkin demonstrated athletic ability in other films around this time, but here she just sits and chews her lip.

1899 Second Boer War began as the Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State declared war on Britain to gain control of mining areas. The conflict lasted three years and ended in the annexation of the Boer Republics into British South Africa. (The First Boer War was 1880-1881.) The Netherlands whence came the Boers remained neutral in both conflicts. About 20,000 Australians took part, including Harry Morant who killed unarmed and defenceless Boer prisoners and a clergyman who had witnessed these murders. He became an Australia hero. Below are Boer irregulars at Mafikeng.

1939 FDR read Albert Einstein’s letter about an atomic bomb. It is a terse, short letter of less than two pages. Little Boy and Fat Man followed in 1945.

1950 CBS began colour TV broadcasts in limited areas. A set that received colour could not receive black-and-white and vice-versa. CBS marketed its own receiver for a time.

1987 An extensive sonar search did not find anything in Loch Ness but empty beer cans. The search went on for three days and cost more than a million pounds to truck the equipment in and out and employ the technicians. Facts convinced no one, just like today.

2001 The Polaroid Corporation began descent into bankruptcy. Edwin Land made the first instamatic in 1947 as a toy for Christmas. The hundred or so at Bloomingdale's sold out instantly (ha, ha) and it went into mass production in the next year. It was so successful that it became the corporation. I used one in the office for years to take pictures of students.

GoodReads meta-data is 296 pages rated 3.8 by 28 litizens

Genre: Biography with lots of natural science and some history.

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Karl von Frisch (1886 – 1982) made a lifelong study of honey bees. He was cursed to live in interesting times and his story is as fascinating as the lives of the bees he observed until the week before his death. In 1973 he was awarded a Nobel Prize.

He was born to the comfortable circumstances into a Viennese family of learned and cultured cosmopolitans. He proved to be a naturalist even as a lad, collecting creatures, plants, objects galore, and he kept doing it thereafter. Some specialise in beetles or butterflies but not young Karl. Some grew out of this interest, not Karl.

He was a good student and went into medicine but the natural world called to him.

He answered the call first by studying fish in tanks to determine sensory perceptions. The experiments are ingenious, and that became a hallmark of his work. The experiments were also meticulous in execution. Another hallmark that continued. But the fishtanks were in the basement of laboratory and he found that boring, though he was never bored.

Then conversations with others led him to the perceptions of colour and scent in bees, and that led him to the waggle dance. The waggle dance? Yup. Why do honey bees engage in this dance. It had been observed since Aristotle without any interpretation. It takes time and energy and serves no apparent purpose. Yet it must.

This dance became an obsession to Frisch and from 1922 on he joined the dance. He trained bees and studied how they related to other bees. Trained bees? He would capture some scout bees, those that leave the hive first, and then put them in the presence of a shallow dish with sugar syrup. Yum, yum. This was all done in a meadow on a card-table. Many details and permutations follow, including draping dyed sheets over poles to make the bees easier to track.

In time he installed glass walls in hives to observe the inner workings of the hive.

He was an early adapter of movie films and began to record the experiments and observations which he used in teaching and at conferences. There emerged another hallmark of his work - the clear and simple expositions. He was glad to teach anyone and everyone about bees from school children to Nobel winning scientists. He attracted battalions of graduate students who carried the word of Karl far and wide.

Karl_von_Frisch.jpg Karl von Frisch doing what he always did.

He needed them, because in 1940, much to his surprise the Naziis declared him Jewish. By then he was at Munich University where the Rockefeller Foundation had funded an institute for him. As a state employee he had to register with the regime and he did. In that time and place, nothing was ever done and in time the Registry Office found a marriage certificate of a Great Grand Mother that indicated that he had converted to Catholicism. That was enough. The inference was that she had been Jewish and converted. Nazi racism, perhaps it has to be said, was not about religious faith but race, and someone born Jewish never can stop being Jewish.

This discovery was a surprise to him and to his brothers. Frisch was classified Quarter Jew, and put on lists, forcibly retired from his university position, and denied the pension due to him. He was also suspect because to the Nazis the Rockefeller Foundation was a Jewish front. Hard to believe but there it is.

Many scientists came to support him, including a panoply of German Nobel scientists to no avail. An ideological hack replaced him.

Among his host of students many had gone into agriculture and apiary. Frisch’s supporters turned to these applied scientists to write letters and make representations about the practical and applied value of Frisch’s work to the agricultural authorities. They did and because agriculture was regarded as crucial to the Nazi war effort, these authorities advocated his case. The compromise was to make him emeritus and allow him after hours access to the laboratory facilities that Rockefeller money had built for him.

During the war he continued his research with bees. Munich was bombed flat. His home was destroyed and with it his personal library and all possessions. The Rockefeller laboratory was likewise flattened. He and wife moved to a meadow in the uplands of Austria and he continued studying bees.

When Nazi greed imported the Nosema virus by stealing tons of beehives from Russia and railroading them back to the Reich. Among the bees in those hives were carriers of this virus. In no time, millions of bees died. One of J. Robert Janes's krimis concerns this plague, 'Beekeeper' (2001 ).

Bee research now became a priority. In that meadow he had a group of about twenty, students, assistants, and colleagues. Most of them had been in the war in one way or another. Most of the men were invalided out of the war, many with amputations. The women were often also carrying injuries from bombing. Yet there they were in the meadow with sheets, nets, saucers of sugar syrup, and the like.

As the war ground to an end, Patton’s army got to them before the Russians. After a day of watching tanks roll by, there cam a knock at the door. Gulp! At the door the American officer took off his hat and asked politely in German for Professor Frisch. He was on a list of German scientists to be located, identified, and recruited.

In time he became a good German, and rehabilitated and the Rockefeller Foundation once again supported him. The irony is that this good German was regarded as essential to the Nazi war effort and the Nazi regime funded his search during the war. He had only one interest and that was bees. He was not a German nationalist, or a Nazi. He lived for, in, and through science.

He found that bees communicated through the waggle dance, that they used polarised light in the sky as a reference point, and that they evolved. The scouts reported on the location and distance of food. There are videos on You Tube, including one by Frisch himself from 1926. The link is:

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Tania Munz weighs and measures all of this with care, pulling no punches and glosses over nothing. It is an exemplary study of the man and his work.

Interspersed within Frisch’s story are vignettes about bees and other bee-obsessives that are delightful, and are integrated into the larger fabric. They add a dimension to the story.

The bees are almost always referred to as animals, not insects. Frisch is consistently called von Frisch though the Nazi regime stripped the von from names in the name of equality, breaking with the aristocratic past. Technically he lost his von.

In retrospect I cannot recall why he escaped Word War I. One of the limitations of the Kindle is flipping pages to find something like this.

I heard a reference to this book in 'Exact Thinking in Demented Times' (reviewed elsewhere on this blog) and found it intriguing.

1886 Dinner jacket worn to a ball in Tuxedo Park, NY becomes known as a tuxedo. Tuxedo Park was and is an enclave of the rich on the Hudson River. Pictured is one such estate.
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1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in Great Britain.

1957 U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower invited Ghanaian foreign minister to dinner at a public restaurant in Washington D.C. to apologise after he was refused service in Dover Delaware.
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1970 La crise d'octobre a commencé au Québec. The Federal Government declared a state of siege and put the army on the streets of Ottawa, Quebec Cité, and Montréal.
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2013 Canadian Alice Munro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She wrote mostly short stories, a lot of them, and won all the literary prizes there are in Canada. The mint struck a commemorative coin on the occasion.
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768 Charlemagne crowned himself King of the Franks. He went on to unite most of Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the Roman Empire. He came to be called the Father of Europe because of that.

1000 Leif Ericson landed in Vinland in North America, perhaps I'Anse aux meadows in Newfoundland. Been there.
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1635 Massachusetts Bay Colony expelled Roger Williams because he had opposed punishing religious dissension and confiscating Indian land. He went on to found Rhode Island as a haven for religious freedom. Ironic, isn't it that those seeking religious freedom in the new world defined that as the freedom to punish others on religious grounds and to steal. Never been to Rhode Island.

1779 Ned Luddite led riots against spinning cotton machines in Manchester. His relatives today eschew ATMs, the Opal Card, and self-check with lame excuses. Drove through Manchester once.

1874 The General Postal Union Treaty was signed by twenty-two nations, agreeing to deliver each others' mail. It became the Universal Postal Union. Have licked many stamps but no more.

314 Emperor Constantine became Great by defeating his rival. Big Connie moved to Byzantium to consolidate this victory. We have been there and saw lots of images of the big guy. The city on the Bosphorus became known as Constantinople for the next two millennia, though it was never officially so named.

1840 An Hawaiian constitution was declared in Honolulu. Been there (often, but not often enough). It was done to show the British that Hawaii could govern itself and to lure investment from the United States.
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1873 O'Leary's cow got blamed for the Great Chicago Fire. Who spoke for the cow? Not Elsie. The fire burned for three days in wooden Chicago, killing at least 200 people, and it consumed Abraham Lincoln's hand written copy of the Emancipation Proclamation which had been on display along with other Lincoln memorabilia.

1897 Franz Jospeh I named Gustav Mahler director of the Vienna Court Opera. The appointment was bold because of the toxic anti-semitism of Vienna. In fact, the position made Mahler a target for the venom.

1956 Don Larson. That is all that needs to be said to a baseball fan. The journeyman Larson reached a pinnacle that no one had done before that day and which no one else has done since. He pitched a perfect game in the World Series. It remains a unique achievement. I watched on television with my dad.

1806 Ralph Wedgwood patented carbon paper in London. Carbon paper? We pay deference to it every time we use the CC address line in an email.
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1913 The Highland park Ford factory started the first assembly line on a conveyor belt carrying the automobile chassis past work stations.
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1959 The Soviet spaceship Luna transmitted the first pictures of the far side of the Moon. No doubt there are pinheads who deny the reality of either the pictures or the far side, or both.
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1999 Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed Adrienne Clarkson Governor General of Canada. All previous GGs had political or military careers. She was a journalist. All previous GGs were white-bread. She was Chinese. I met her once at a political science conference in TO. Her husband was on a panel with me. He probably didn't think of it that way. Snob. This posed picture came from the Canadian Nation Library web site.

2003 The Terminator became the governator: Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California. After the comic opera of the Gray Years in California I welcomed the coming of the Terminator, much to the muffled irritation of Bubbles and Curly in the outer office. I hope that they now know better.

A dose of history, right here.

1781 Siege of Yorktown began in a joint Franco-American operation. This led to the final American victory over the British. It was a combined land and sea operation with a French fleet and Alexander Hamilton's artillery.

1847 ‘Jane Eyre’ was published by Currer Bell. Huh? Yes, Charlotte Brontë used a masculine pseudonym so that snowflake he-men would not melt.

1876 American Library Association was founded in Philadelphia, a fount of learning since Benjamin Franklin set the precedent. The ALA raised and spent money on books for public libraries, and lobbied Andrew Carnegie for more.
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1903 Australian High Court convened for first time in Melbourne. It required a great deal of nit-unpicking to free it from the London Privy Council.
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1973 Yom Kippur War started. It brought the United States and the Soviet Union into a confrontation that derailed President Richard Nixon's long and carefully contrived policy of Detente.
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IMDb meta-data runtime 1 hour and 3 minutes, rated 7.0 by 35 cinemtizens.

Genre: fictional docudrama. (You read it here first.)

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Verdict: Unique but unavailable.

As Europe teetered on the brink of a great war, a large flaming object struck a forest in Bohemia. Investigators disappear. More are sent in. More disappear. The attack began. In no time Germany disappeared into the rubble. Then the giant and impregnable Martian war machines turn west. The Great Martian War was on!

The film uses archival footage (some of which was staged for propaganda films at the time) from World War I and integrates strategies and events from the Great War and its aftermath into this story of a Martian invasion that united humankind (except for Faux News viewers). It includes retrospective interviews with survivors and historians chewing it over in the 1970s and later in French, English, and German. There are also re-enactments contrived to look like original film from World War I. It is parsed like a typical documentary but with the fictional elements blended it nicely.

Just when things seemed hopeless, the remnant of the German army using the Schlieffen Plan with Kaiser Bill in the lead reinforces the French line in the North. While President Woodrow Wilson counted the votes, former president Teddy Roosevelt raised a volunteer force to pitch in. Wilson kept counting as long as no Martians landed on his voters.

There is no effort at communication by either Martians or us. Nor is there any praying.

European High Command’s efforts to fight the Martians were counterproductive. The frontal attacks, the massed artillery barrages, the tank support, these all exhausted and depleted humanity while feeding the Martian’s war machines, most of which were made on Earth out of the ordinance fired at them. Irony is inter-planetary.

There is a sting in this tail right at the end, but no spoiler on that here, but it winds its way back to the beginning.

Watch the sky! Indeed.

It borrows from H. G. Wells’s oft recycled ‘War of the Worlds’ in large and small ways, but offers a fresh and distinctive take on it. Chapeaux! It can also be viewed as satire on the stupidity of World War I and all others.

The History Channel (Europe and Canada) produced it. The You Tube version is hard to watch because it has reversed images, helium voices, and uses only one-third of the screen. This sort of thing is done to avoid copyright claims. The irony here is that the film is NOT available on DVD, Amazon Prime, iTunes, or any other provider within my ken. I did track down a better version on the internet.

Predictably the pygmies attack it for being — wait for it — unrealistic. Perhaps that is why it is called fiction.

A subsequent television series, one presumes, gave it the Hollywood treatment: trivial, inconsistent, derivative, puerile, hysterical, and inaccurate. Wait, that could be ABC news, too.

1582 Gregorian calendar standardised in Catholic Europe. It's on the wall. We have been leaping every four years since. It replaced the Julian calendar which had to be reset every ten years. For calendar fun see my previous post on the French Revolutionary Calendar. Tuesday will never seem the same again.
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1789 Women from Paris marched on Versailles (been there) to demand bread. And Marie said….
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1880 Alonzo Cross patented the first ball-point pen. Used (more than) one.
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1947 First televised US presidential speech by Harry Truman. It was about food conservation and the Marshall Plan. He asked for meatless Tuesday and poultry-free Thursdays and one less slice of bread a day. I know we complied. It was a bipartisan appeal. Former President Herbert Hoover joined it.
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1984 Mark Garneau became the first Canadian in space (since Jean Drapeau landed). Monsieur Garneau crewed on a Challenger space shuttle flight.

History is just one thing after another.

1537 William Tyndale published an edition of the New Testament Bible. It was the first English translation based on early Greek and Hebrew texts and the first English translation to be mass produced.

1797 The first Spanish merino sheep's back arrived in Sydney. They came from Escorial. (Been there.) The MacArthur's developed Elizabeth Farm. Been there.

1883 The Orient Express started. Been to the places named on the poster and once rode on a leg of the Orient Express from Munich to Vienna. Not the grand train of legend but the everyday service from one end of the line to the other.

1927 Work began on Mount Rushmore monument. Been there. The Crazy Horse monument will look like the image in white in the foreground. Expect a Trump Tower to blot the landscape all too soon.
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1957 Sputnik launched. I heard its beep beep in the junior high school auditorium where we were gathered to hear Walter Cronkite put on a brave face this accomplishment for (Red) mankind. No I cannot link sound recordings to these entries, though I have tried. It can be found on You Tube.

1863 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the fourth Thursday in November to be a national day for Thanksgiving. He was prompted by the Union victory at Gettysburg. It has remained thus since. The previous practice of Thanksgiving had been ad hoc and on various dates across jurisdictions, and not a national holiday.
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1906 An international conference on telegraphy in Berlin established SOS as the signal of distress. Three dots three dashes three dots, ergo: ...---... It does not stand for anything, but was chosen because it was distinctive.

1927 A trans-Atlantic telephone call between Canadian Prime minister McKenzie King and British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin occurred.

1935 Tasteless egg whites were dubbed Pavlova after Anna.

1952 The British explode an Atomic bomb on Monte Bello Island in North West Australia. Britain is still paying compensation to the aboriginal people who were there exposed to radiation.
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GoodReads meta-data is 292 pages, rated 3.7 by a paltry 9 litizens.

Genre: Non-Fiction

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Verdict: All hail, Nerdboy!

The title says it all. Thomas Miller has compiled, annotated, watched, summarised, and commented on every movie (in the English-speaking world and more) that features Mars and some that do not and others that should. He includes cartoons, animations, documentaries, shorts, serials, and features. Did I say comprehensive? Comprehensive.

Miller’s telling is personal and there are asides and tangents but they, too, add to the overall impression of our fascination with Mars and the way it is manifested in art and life, including his own life. He climbed trees as a boy, looked at the stars, marvelled at stories of spaceflight, and became determined to work for NASA, and did. However, on with the show….

I was surprised at the long list of movies included. Many of the feature length fictions were familiar, but there were surprises even so. There is a chronological list at the end. The chapters are thematic: voyages to Mars, invasions from Mars, life and living on Mars…… But strangely nothing on Mars Bars.


It was a shock to find out how many versions there have been of H. G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ after the 1953 inaugural. I have lost count but typing that title in the IMDb will yield quite a harvest of literal remakes, and then there are those with slightly altered titles, and still others with different titles but the same storyline.

Just as B movies used to be turned out in ten days or less to capitalise on the success of A movies, so today made for television, steaming, or DVD movies are produced as clones. And just as some B movies are far better for being simpler and more direct than the bloated A movies they imitate so some of the straight to DVD movies are better than the big ego productions of Hollywood.

Consciously the author’s scope seems mainly the USA. There are few references to England, apart from H. G. Wells as above, and less still to films originating in other parts of the world. There is no mention of the Mars mission portrayed in 'Murder in Space' (1985) from Canada. It may be that the paucity represents reality and if so, that itself might have borne comment. Why are Americans more fascinated with Mars than others.

Miller ridicules many critics who pan movies. His suspicion is that many critics have to earn their spurs by being negative, and so will deride a movie on flimsy ground. And once a major critic does this, the herd follows in the tracks of the bigger beast. Really? Would self-respecting professional film critics for such prestigious mastheads as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Colliers, and so on be that lazy, arrogant, and stupid. Really!

Can there be evidence for such cartels? Miller lists in chronological order nearly word-for-word repetitions in reviews from dozens of critics, one repeating the other, it would seem, unless there is a mighty busy god of serendipity. He even shows how mistakes in the first major review, say a typo in a character name, are reiterated in the flock that follows. Amen, Brother Thomas, lay on the wood.

What is surprising are the times - two are documented in these pages - when a producer dams his own film as it goes on release. This damnation may be explicit or implicit, and perhaps represents some corporate pathology being played out in public. Yes, dear viewer, even the snow white Disney Corporation has been known to denigrate its own product.

Less informative is Miller’s fascination with the opening credits of movies. He cannot fathom why critics do not comment on the scene-setting effect of opening credits, citing some examples of very effective opening credits, like those of the 1953 ‘War of the Worlds’ and some very ineffective ones. Point taken. He then repeats the exercise. He then refers to it again, and again. And reverts to it at the end. I believe him when he says he sometimes puts in a DVD and watches only the opening credits before moving on to something else. I also believe him when he says his wife finds that annoying.

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Did I say Nerdboy above, or what.

Another of his pet peeves which gets ground into the eyeballs by repetition is the lag in communication back and forth between Mars and Earth. He nails this of course, but then pounds it in and in and in. Yet at the same time he waxes lyrical about a completely inaccurate and anti-scientific account of Mars, including sunbathing, of ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1964), discussed elsewhere on this blog. Instantaneous interplanetary communication will condemn a movie to the sin bin in his eyes, but sunbathing on Mars with a monkey will not. Go figure.

GoodReads meta-data is 480 pages, rated 4.17 by 107 litizens.

Genre: Non-Fiction.

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Verdict: Only for the cognoscenti.

The Wiener Kreis was one of the engines of Twentieth Century science, including philosophy and mathematics. It began as a loose discussion group and evolved into a more tightly knit and organised group with satellites. The Kreis - Circle - waxed and waned with the circumstances and fortunes of its members until reality kicked in the door in 1938.

Those associated with it comprised a Who’s Who of intellect, e.g., Albert Einstein, Kurt Gödel, Hans Reichenbach, Carl Hempel, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Richard von Mises, Karl Menger, Moritz Schlick, Ernst Mach, and more. Chaps all if it has to be said. Bertrand Russell and other English-speaking intellectuals beat a path to its door. As a whole the Kreis published monographs and the journal 'Erkenntnis' (Knowledge). Springer continues to publish it to this day.

Its members together offered logical empiricism though many preferred to say logical positivism, because the empiricism was made of air. It was the big bang that created analytic philosophy that dominated English-speaking philosophy in the Twentieth Century. Its exemplars include A. J. Ayer, Hans Kelsen, Karl Popper, Willard Quine, Frank Ramsay, and Lord Russell himself and all who followed his star.

They were united in a holus bolus rejection of metaphysics and often suspected one another of just that tendency. Some of the descriptions of seminars sound rather like Communist Party cell self-criticism sessions. Of course, there were many intellectual differences among the members. This book also gives weight to their personal and social similarities and differences. Many were Jewish and that made life increasing difficult for them and those around them in Mitteleuropa.

Many of these folk were oddballs, indeed, but the Emperor of Strange had to be Ludwig Wittgenstein who has sometimes been worshipped as a saint in philosophy and at other time derogated as the selfish malcontent that he was. Whoops, my objectivity slipped on that one.


Heir to a vast fortune, he lived like a vagrant. Some find that admirable. He was perhaps born to be a stylite. (Look it up.) He did not use the fortune to any good purpose and in time much of it was seized by the Naziis for their purposes. Even so he always had money available though he seldom spent it.

When acolytes appealed to him for financial help, he dismissed them on the ground that poverty was ennobling. Thanks, Ludi, they all said with a smile. Some of these appeals came from very desperate people, sometimes Jews who had been his students, in the 1930s. There is no record that he ever did anything to help another person. This saint attended only his own soul. He also managed to ruin the careers of more than one acolyte, but that is too complicated to explain here.

The times were indeed demented as illustrated in the case of one of the more sober and sane members, Moritz Schlick, who ran the show for years. A disaffected student blamed Schlick for all his woes and festered on this belief for years, sending him threatening letters, stalking him, accosting him on the street. The forbearing Schlick endured this burden for some time until finally he reported it to the police. Once the police became involved the student blamed Schlick even more for his troubles.

Now get this. The student got a gun and tried to shoot Schlick. He bungled it and was arrested, founded insane, and locked up….for eighteen months when he was released. Got another gun, and tried again. Another bungle. Arrested again. Locked up again. Released again. Got another gun, and third time successful. If that reads like a bad plot, sit down, because it gets worse.

The murderer was tried and sentenced but by this time time no one cared. He served a few years in a prison and then was released whereupon he became an ardent Nazi and later served as a guard in a death camp for Jews. After the war he was whitewashed, as were so many Austrians. In Germany a German with that record would have been barred from public service. Not so in Austria. (Indeed some Germans relocated to Austria because of that difference.)

He became a post-war bureaucrat, prospered, and retired on a state pension. When a biographer of Schlick wrote that he had been murdered by a deranged student without giving his name, the murderer sued for libel and won. It sound like something that Fox News would do today. The dead victim became of the villain and the villain became the victim!

One of the most attractive figures in the constellation of the Vienna Circle was Otto Neurath, and we pay tribute to him most days. Go to a public men’s room and on the door is a pictograph representing a man. Pointing the way to the train station is a picture of a train engine, not a letter T. A sign indicating a traffic turning-lane shows a car over a curved arrow. Look at the pictorial icons on the smartphone screen. These are downwind traces of Big Otto. Having given up on Esperanto, he tried to create a pictograph language with 800 words and a grammar of isotypes. Big Otto worked closely with his wife Marie on this. She was one of the few woman around the Circle. His personal and often repeated motto was 'We must improvise.' The more so they did when on the run from the Naziis.

While these thinkers argued to the death over protocol sentences and other esoteria, the world around them caught fire and took some of them completely by surprise, while others had seen it coming and fled. They spread the seed of logical positivism far and wide in the English-speaking world, though at the end of the war Austria did not want them back. Rather it preferred to appoint and promote people like Schlick’s murderer. The example is the effort made to block Kurt Gödel’s return to Vienna. Grotesque but true. Austrian university authorities went to great lengths to insure he did not return to Vienna. Yet every mathematician in the world -- apart from those in Austria -- regarded him as THE Genius of the ages.

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 5.47.12 pm.png Karl Sigmund near the building where the circlers circled.

I went to Grad School because I wanted to study Plato and Aristotle and their kind. Instead, I got ‘Language, Truth, and Logic’ and other such tomes. Through five years of graduate work I never did read Plato for a seminar. But Ayer, Russell, Popper, Hemple, Quine, and [see above]. Looking back on it, it was a form of discipline, rather like learning a dead language (Latin or Greek), in which form triumphed over content, process over product. It was a time when philosophers and hence we cousins in political theory were trying to be scientific.

The PhD was the hardest thing I have ever done. The coursework was hard. The oral exams were hard. Writing the dissertation was hard. The defence was hard. It was all hard. It’s been downhill since!

I listened to this book on Audible and found it entertaining though some of the expositions were hard to follow. The reading is most accomplished. The difficulty was following the abstract and abstruse thoughts without seeing the words.

1492 Spanish drove Moors out of Granada. Been there. Napoleon ordered the destruction of the Al hambra. It survived that order and that man. Seen that.
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1866 J. Oosterhout patented a tin can with key opener. Eaten some sardines from such a tin.
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1903 President T Roosevelt closed the post office in Indianola MI because citizens had attacked Minnie M. (Geddings) Cox (1869–1933), the post master because she was a woman, worse, a black woman. She had been appointed in 1891.

1919 Cogadh na Saoirse: Dáil and Sinn Féin outlawed. Seen the pock marks in the central Post Office.
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1947 Mahatma Gandhi marched for peace in East-Bengali to reduce conflict between Muslim and Hindi. Neither of these camps were as amiable as the British.

IMDb meta-data is runtime 1 hour and 24 minutes rated 7.2 by 28542 raters.

Genre: Sy Fy

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Verdict: Classic

In the hills of California far from Grovers Mill a large, flaming meteor lands with a mighty wallop. It starts a forest fire and the locals turn out to quell the fire, and marvel at the object. It’s big; it’s hot. Nearby reading the script is Top Scientist (perhaps on his way from ‘Atomic City’ [1952] and counting down to ‘The Twenty-Seventh Day’ [1957 ], both reviewed elsewhere on the blog).

Top puts on his professorial glasses. The yokels gasp in awe. Top figures out the meteor came from Mars. Probably he read the luggage tags on it.

Then the meteor hatches the first Martian weapons tripod. The three stooges approach it in peace with a white flag as they do in the westerns and are cindered from their trouble. A sky pilot muttering the Lord’s Prayer is likewise toast. More meteors arrive. More tripod war machines appear and lay waste to everything, houses, roads, baseball card collections, churches, tanks, firetrucks, cannons, vending machines…. Nothing is spared, not even World Series tickets!

These tripods did not come in peace. They are landing all over the world, Dubuque, Indianola, and elsewhere.

In desperation the ever reliable Lee Tremayne nukes them. Kaboom. Yet the tripods, now shined by the radiation, keep coming with their red heat rays.

There follows a flight, and a reunion, and the Martians die. Seems they were anti-vaxxers and had no shots before travelling to Earth.

There are some marvellous scenes, as when the first Martian is glimpsed through the window of a wrecked house, and then the tendril that reaches out later. There is an effort at science as Top and his colleagues at the Pacific Smarty Pants Institute examine the evidence.

There is satire of the media. When the Martians start to appear, the journalist wants to know what colour their socks are. As always getting right to the point is the press. The trivial and childish initial responses of the media are realistic.

None of the formidable weapons the Yankees can bring to bear even dent the Martians tripods. Not even Little Boy. They are powerless against this invader.

The panic is likewise realistic. The mob destroys the very science that might save them. Has a contemporary ring to it, doesn't it.

Thanks to the science at Pacific Smarty Pants we know the Martians are unvaccinated puny little stick figures in latex. Hence when exposed to the pollution, FM radio, smog, haze, advertising, pollutants of California, they croak. The end.

What every one remembers who saw the original on the wide screen is the tripods, the periscopes, and the creatures, all and always in threes. Three eyes, three tendrils, three tripods, tripods. Made the fraternity brothers wonder what else they had three of.

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The special effects were indeed special. They remain gripping even in the iTunes version I watched. The wire work was great, though over the years transfer from the original film stock to other media has revealed the wires at work in some versions. This has given a new generation of nitpickers no end of sanctimonious fun.

Producer George Pal included but did not himself understand the irony and satire in the original, e.g., the priest, the bacteria, the media frenzy, the rigidity of officialdom when faced with something new, and the irrationality of the anti-science response. He repeated the jokes without understanding the humour. He then overlaid these with a superficial, stiflingly, and sappy veneer of Christianity. When the local priest walks into the heat ray it is sheer stupidly in the original story, in the film is a noble sacrifice, pointless though it is. And so on.

Pal’s Sy FY curriculum vita is rich and varied, starting with ‘Destination Moon’ (1950). He is described as a happy soul who was also naive in the extreme. In his hands this satire became a warning of a Communist invasion that can only be stopped by praying and singing hymns. It also keeps the tigers away.

By the way the love interest for Top was included at the insistence of the studio executives, and so Pal complied. That late and forced inclusion may explain why she has so little to do.

That wizened H. G. Wells combined with the wunderkind Orson Welles made an enduring franchise out of ‘The War of the Worlds.’ Typing the title ‘War of the Worlds’ into the search box on IMDb will produce a confusing list of hits. Captain Nerd, that is, Thomas Miller, in ‘Mars in the Movies’ (2016) has counted more than a dozen direct replications of ‘War of the Worlds,’ and notes other more tangential derivations.

1815 The Congress of Vienna started. It brought stability to Europe for nearly a century. A precursor of the United Nations and also the European Community.
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1847 Maria Mitchell became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The first woman to be inducted. She was a stargazer, a Massachusetts Quaker who taught at Vassar.

1850 The University of Sydney was founded. It preceded Cal 1868 and the LSE 1895. It followed Toronto 1827.

1867 Karl Marx published the first value of 'Das Kapital.' He preferred seat G7 in the Reading Room of the British Library. Sat there.
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1946 A dozen major Nazi leaders were sentenced to death at Nuremberg. No comment necessary.

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