Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Scarlet Pimpernel

They seek him here...
They seek him there...
Those 'Frenchies' seek him everywhere;
Is he in heaven?
Is he in hell?
That damned elusive Pimpernel!
'The Scarlet Pimpernel' --the movie starring Leslie Howard as Sir Percy Blakeney, an 18th century English aristocrat who leads a double life, and Merle Oberon as Lady Blakeney. Leslie Howard portrays the 'undercover' English gentleman. It's a role that pioneers the use of a 'secret identity'.

As the 'Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy must keep secret his many rescues of French aristocrats during the French Revolution and takes the viewer into the very center of the London aristocracy. Sir Percy is even friendly with the King himself.
This novel depends on illusion but the hero depends far more on brains than brawn. The Scarlet Pimpernel is a master of disguise and misdirection, but he would rather take a beating (in order to escape his enemies) than deal one out. In the same way that the Scarlet Pimpernel tricks the doltish Frenchman, Orczy dupes us (her readers) with narrative tricks--designed to confuse and misdirect.

Orczy is a master storyteller, sustaining the tension until we reaches the climax of the final pages. Then, it seems impossible that the Scarlet Pimpernel could escape. The scenes are drawn with large brush strokes, and many of the characters are drawn considerably larger than life.

Orczy takes a large, complex historical background and reshapes it into a suitable background for a straightforward adventure story. The writing sometimes descends into melodrama, but the point of the novel is hardly its literary power. In The Scarlet Pimpernel, Orczy tells a fantastic story in a fascinating way, and we are drawn to the edge of our seats.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is a classic adventure story and one of the first to employ the device of a central character with a secret identity, but this novel is also a fantastic read. The book is exciting. Always interesting. The Scarlet Pimpernel holds an appeal that is still enormously strong today.

'They Live' Directed by John Carpenter

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

The release date of John Carpenter's film "They Live" dates to 1988 but seems more recent, like a commentary on today's news. It is, rather, a cautionary tale inspired by 1980s paranoia. To be sure, many had warned of the dehumanizing effects of mass culture, political propaganda, political agendas --right or left!

The temptation to see allegory is not merely justified; it is, surely, the filmmaker's intent. Like the earlier "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" this message is political, a cautionary tale. While "The Day the Earth Stood Still" depicted a potential invasion, it was Klaato's intent to warn us that unless we 'wake up' we may destroy ourselves in a nuclear holocaust. But other invasion tales were about malevolent aliens who had in mind our enslavement if not our destruction.

'The Invasion of the Body Snatchers' seems obvious in retrospect: the 'seed pods' are the American right wing, Republicans, narrow-minded bigots, authoritarians. John Carpenter's 'They Live' is both sci-fi and satire, both 'cautionary tale' and horror. Carpenter created 'aliens' disguising their origins and 'evil' intentions. Only the use of special 'sun glasses' reveals them for what they are: hideous death-heads with an attitude and an agenda: world domination. The viewer accepts the sun shades as a convenient plot device. Wisely, Carpenter does not slow down the action for lectures about how this kind of thing may be feasible. It's a device which moves plot and action to a riveting and inevitable conclusion/climax.

'They Live' is not only Sci-Fi. It's a horror film in which a dreadful future is the monster. And, like Frankenstein, the 'monster' is one of our own creation, in this case, the complicity of 'earthlings' with evil aliens.

Unlike many Sci-Fi movies and literature, the aliens of 'They Live' do not appear to have anything profound in mind. You may think of them as Republicans from outer-space. Like many earthlings and especially those benefiting from GOP tax cuts, the ugly aliens, resembling death heads when viewed through special sunshades, have, it seems, just one thing in mind: rigging the stock markets, acquiring great wealth and power, controlling the media. So far --the Republican party meets all their requirements. Here's another review which, likewise, spotted the political implications:
John Carpenter wrote and directed this science fiction thriller about a group of aliens who try to take over the world by disguising themselves as Young Republicans. Wrestler Roddy Piper stars as John Nada, a drifted who makes his way into an immense encampment for the homeless. There he stumbles upon a conspiracy concerning aliens who have hypnotized the populace through subliminal messages transmitted through television, magazines, posters, and movies. When Nada looks through special Ray-Bans developed by the resistance leaders, the aliens lose their clean-cut "Dan Quayle" looks and resemble crusty-looking reptiles. Nada joins the underground, teaming up with rebel-leader Frank (Keith David) to eradicate the lizard-like aliens from the body politic. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

--They Live, Rotten Tomatoes
John Carpenter directed but, interestingly, wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym: Frank Armitage, the name of one of the characters in the movie. I wonder why Carpenter chose to do this. In any case, the film (full movie below) is scary, challenging, and, if action is your cuppa tea, there is a memorable fight scene to end all fight scenes. The two characters are destined to be friends but we don't know that at the time. There is the possibility that one will kill the other though the audience is sure to find in each character traits with which it can identify.

Called part sci-fi, part horror, part dark comedy, it is, in fact, a cautionary tale. That it works on every level accounts for its enduring popularity.

They Live, Dir by John Carpenter

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Roswell: What Really Happened

by Len Hart

Years ago, I met up with an old college friend of mine. We played a round of golf and, over a beer reminisced about college days, hijinks and adventures. Having gone our separate ways, we 'filled in the blanks'. I caught him up and he, likewise, brought me up-to-date. He had gone Air Force and, as a result of his university studies found himself (not surprisingly) in Air Force Intelligence.

This is the part where the plot thickens: he soon found himself assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Between holes, he told me of his first assignment which was to read the documents on file including those labeled: classified or top secret. Some of those documents, he said, concerned a famous event that occurred in 1947, i.e, the alleged crash of two 'flying saucers' in the deserts of Southwestern New Mexico.

If he had told me no more, I would have been intrigued. But he continued: the story that alien 'bodies' had been recovered, he said, was true! I cannot recall his telling me how many bodies were recovered but, I was assured, the bodies were not only found, they were recovered, preserved and were still in existence (at the time of our conversation) at Wright-Patterson in Ohio.

Since that time, I have found much credible information that tends to confirm my friend's account. Unfortunately, I did not interview my friend and have no tape recordings of what was a casual conversation over several holes of a golf course in a wooded part of Houston, TX. One hopes that some of videos below will help fill in the blanks. One hopes that, one day, the U.S. government will make available for all of us to read the very documents that my friend claimed to have held in his hand and read.
Q: Gen. Clark, when you were running for President, you said you thought mankind would one day fly faster than light and visit the stars. My question is, when you were in the military were you ever briefed on the subject of U.F.O.s?

At this point Clark looked down for a moment and shook his head, perhaps somewhat chagrined at being put on the spot or thinking how he should respond, but then looked at me and answered:

A: I heard a bit. In fact, I'm going to be in Roswell, New Mexico tonight.

B: So you were briefed?

A: There are things going on. But we will have to work out our own mathematics.

In interpreting Clark's remarks, we have to realize that he was speaking in Washingtonian code on a touchy subject. He never directly admitted to receiving an official briefing, thus leaving himself a possible out. He could claim, e.g., that what he meant was he had heard the usual stories and rumors, just like everybody else.

But on the other hand, he never gave a simple, flat denial to the questions about being briefed, such as "No I wasn't." That would have put an end to it right there. Instead he dropped broad hints indicating that he was indeed briefed and that UFOs were real craft. Hence his comments about hearing a few things when he was in the military and "there are things going on."
--General Wesley K. Clark on UFO reality
Also see: Ex-CIA agent: Roswell, N.M., incident really happened
History of the Roswell UFO Incident

The Roswell story part 1 courtesy of Stanton Friedman

Roswell Part 2 courtesy of Stanton Friedman

Roswell part 3 courtesy of Stanton Friedman

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Big Bang Theory: The Origins of Our Universe in a Nutshell

by Len Hart

It was in the 1920s that the "red shift" was discovered. The 'red shift' refers to the 'spectra' of stars, best understood by analogy: the whistle of an approaching train 'shifts' to a lower frequency as the train passes those who watch its approach and passing. With respect to sound, it is called the 'Doppler Effect" named for the Austrian physicist Christian Doppler, who described a change in the frequency of audio waves that approach and recede relative to an observer. Likewise, the spectra of stars shift toward the red (the lower frequency) end of the spectrum as they recede. It indicates that distant stars becomes more distant with time.

When Hubble discovered this effect, it was concluded that because the spectra of all observed stars was likewise shifted, the universe must, therefore, be constantly expanding. In fact, all of the observable stars, galaxies and clusters are not only moving away from our own Milky Way Galaxy but from one another as well. Thus --space itself expands as if from a primordial explosion: the so-called 'Big Bang'.

A 'standard theory' evolved: space, time, energy and matter came into being with a 'big bang' estimated to have taken place some 10 to 15 billion years ago. The universe is not only expanding; it is cooling down. In the process, galaxies were formed in areas of denser concentrations of hydrogen (H) and helium (He).

Most smaller stars will slowly cool and fade. Some intermediate mass stars --up to some 8 times the size of the sun --will begin to fuse Helium. In some cases, a star's atmosphere is literally 'blown off' becoming an expanding ring, in some cases a planetary ring. Some stars become 'white dwarfs' at this point in their evolution.

Our own Solar System, is believed to have formed some 4.6 billion years ago from a cloud of gas and dust which slowly contracted under the mutual gravity of all of its particles. The cloud was made largely of hydrogen (H) with some helium (He) and small amounts of the remaining naturally occurring chemical elements. Like a spinning skater spins faster as she pulls in her arms, the initial rotation was accelerated. As the cloud became a disc, matter concentrated in the center. In the case of our own Solar System --the sun. Orbiting the sun, smaller clumps became planets. The Moon, however, is said to have come into being with a collision of an object the size of Mars with the Earth.

The smaller planets of our Solar system --Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars --are believed to have been too hot to hold the volatile gases that, at the time, dominated the Solar System. So-called 'terrestrial planets' consist, therefore, of metallic cores, silicate metals below 'thin atmospheres'.

We are, however, visited regularly by visitors from other words. And by that I do not refer to 'little green men' in saucer-shaped craft. Rather, we are visited by volatile materials carried by meteors and by comets.

The Earth cooled eventually but even now volcanic activity releases carbon dioxide, water vapor, and other gases into the atmosphere. In much earlier times, released water vapor condensed forming oceans. It was the oceans that made possible the evolution of life. Since that time, biological processes have given rise and have sustained our oxygen rich atmosphere over a period of some three and a half billion years.