When I was eight years old in 1989, my two favorite TV shows both happened to feature similarly drawn anthropomorphic ducks who traveled the world having adventures inspired by pulp fiction. The first of these was Count Duckula, whose British humor and Gothic aesthetic were a major influence on me. The latter was DuckTales, about a globetrotting Scottish tycoon and his grandnephews. Both shows led me to where I am today by repackaging classic genre stories and offering kid-friendly versions of ancient history, myths, and legends. While DuckTales, which aired from 1987 to 1990 and in reruns thereafter, was a great series for little kids, its most important impact on me was introducing me to the classic Uncle Scrooge comics, particularly those drawn by Carl Barks, which I have loved ever since. DuckTales, however, like so much juvenilia, is something I remembered better than it was.
Last year I translated the fragments of Abenephius, an otherwise unknown figure quoted in the works of Athanasius Kircher. As I discussed at the time, he was claimed to be a Jewish author resident near Cairo during the early Middle Ages, but no evidence of his existence or proof of the authenticity of his writings exists. Nevertheless, some of the fragments are clearly derivative of Classical sources, and it is to one of these that I’d like to return today to point out something I didn’t highlight very well last year but returned to my attention while doing some research this week.
Netflix’s algorithm doesn’t quite have a handle on what I might like, and I am constantly surprised by its steadfast insistence that I will enjoy the lesser works of James Franco, particularly the ones about porn and sex. I can’t quite figure why. But for the past two weeks, Netflix has been recommending that I watch The Hollow, an animated mystery series that debuted on June 8. The family-friendly series, from Canadian producers Slap Happy Cartoons, the creative force behind Cartoon Network’s Unikitty, tells the story of three teenagers who awaken in a strange fantasy land with no memory of their past lives and must work together to survive. I successfully avoided the show for two weeks, but I finally gave in and tried it for one reason: Episodes ran under half an hour and fit in my schedule this week where Netflix’s bloated dramas and their hour-plus episodes did not. I’m glad I watched it, but man, oh man, was the ending disastrously bad.
Most of you reading this probably think that I watch TV shows simply to hate them. That’s not the case, and I go into every show with the assumption that I’m going to like it. This leads to a lot of disappointment, of course. But in this case, I was so pleasantly surprised by The Hollow for the first three quarters of its season that I fully expected to give it an enthusiastic review.
Fair warning: If you click through to the full blog post, I will be discussing the show’s ending. If you haven’t seen the show and plan to watch it, you may want to wait and read this post after you’ve finished the ten-episode series. Most of my review will be spoiler-free and can be read safely as a complete review on its own. I will mark where I dive into spoiler territory near the end.
Reboots are the biggest trend in entertainment right now, with a mixed bag of results. In Search Of is a program conceived in sin, so to speak, tainted by the elements of its own DNA. Ages and ages ago, a German film adaptation of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods was nominated for an Oscar, and TV producer Alan Landsburg and Twilight Zone host Rod Serling recut it for American television in 1973 as In Search of Ancient Astronauts. The special attracted 28 million viewers on NBC and spawned 250,000 news sales of Chariots in the first 48 hours after broadcast, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. It was the most successful ancient astronaut TV broadcast ever. After a series of such specials promoting credulous views of UFOs and ancient astronauts, Landsburg decided to produce an ongoing syndicated series to be hosted by Serling as a spinoff from the specials. Serling died before the show went to air, and Leonard Nimoy stepped in as the host of In Search Of… which aired from 1977 to 1982. The new series spread beyond ancient astronauts to cover the full range of subjects generally classified as “mysterious,” from cryptozoology to UFOs, from Hitler to Nostradamus, and from poltergeists to Atlantis.
Another Bizarre Claim from the Bigelow / To the Stars Team, This Time about Underground Humanoids and Mind-Altering UFOs
From time to time, I am sorry that the story of the so-called “alien” metal under investigation by Bigelow Advanced Aerospace Space Studies and To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science ever fell into my lap. It’s my own fault, really. I first encountered Tom DeLonge nearly two decades ago, in my freshman year of college, when I spent long, lazy evenings hanging out with the school’s football team in their overheated dorm rooms watching MTV. (It was not my choice.) I couldn’t possibly have guessed that the goofball parodying boy bands in the video for “All the Small Things”—inexplicably a favorite of my friends, presumably because of its juvenile humor—would someday become the avatar of modern ufology.
I Spoke with the New York Times Reporter Who Broke the Pentagon UFO Program Story. It Wasn't What I Expected.
As many regular readers know, I recently discovered that some of the evidence the Hal Puthoff of To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science used to support the claim that metal with supposedly unearthly composition and properties from flying saucers is in their possession has been previously studied and determined to be earthly, most likely industrial waste. After hearing ufologist Richard Dolan speculate idly about the New York Times’ coverage of the such topics, I thought that the New York Times, which broke the original story credulously mentioning these metals, should know about this in the name of accuracy and integrity. Over the past two days, I have been in conversation with Ralph Blumenthal, who co-wrote the December 16, 2017 story revealing the existence of the Pentagon’s UFO program and the claim of Luis Elizondo, the program’s onetime head who joined Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, that billionaire aerospace contractor and ufology buff Robert Bigelow was examining unknown metals, described as being metal recovered from the ships of space aliens. It has been strange.
A couple of days ago, Giorgio Tsoukalos from Ancient Aliens appeared on KTLA’s weekend morning newscast to promote Alien Con. The fawning local anchors were overjoyed to be speaking with Tsoukalos, praising him effusively and giggling with excitement to be speaking with him. “You have your own meme!” one anchor, Lynette Romero, gushed. “I bet everybody wants to sit next to you at the dinner party!” she added later. Her co-anchor, Mark Mester, had trouble taking the whole thing seriously and at one point skipped his turn to question Tsoukalos and just laughed quietly.
Richard Dolan Interviews Peter Levenda about Nazis, "To the Stars," and the So-Called "Alien" Metal Fragments
Last week Ancient Aliens talking head and ufologist Richard Dolan interviewed Peter Levenda, the writer on occult matters who is definitely not an occultist (despite participating in the occult scene for decades) and definitely not the author of the fake Necronomicon known as Simon (despite telling the U.S. Copyright Office otherwise). In the interview, Dolan and Levenda discussed Levenda’s work writing Tom Delonge’s ancient astronaut book for To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science and Levenda’s views on the former rock musician’s efforts to disclose the truth about space aliens by profiting from it.
Skeptical Inquirer Publishes Another Reflection on the Skeptical Movement, But Is Still Dwelling in the Past
The other day, I received my copy of the July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer, and usually there are a couple of stories worth talking about. This time, I really struggled to find anything that really merited much notice, except for the oddball editorial choices in the current edition. Three separate stories covered a CBS News report about U.S. government efforts to investigate remote viewing, tied to the release of a new book about the subject, which the skeptical publication found insufficiently critical because it did not include sufficient numbers of skeptical rebuttals. That’s terrific, but the report aired in March, and by the third story, I sort of got the idea. It also didn’t help the magazine’s own credibility that it mixed up CBS Sunday Morning and CBS This Morning Saturday. I get that the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry is outraged by the 10-minute report, but given the sheer volume of fraudulent nonsense put out by the media, often in one- or two-hour blocks at a time, devoting three reports to this one segment grossly overstates its importance. No one, for example, holds expensive fan conventions around the world with tens of thousands of attendees apiece for CBS Sunday Morning the way they do for Ancient Aliens. No offense to Jane Pauley, of course.
The Spring 2018 Edition of Alien Con Finds "Ancient Aliens" Stars Musing about Humility, Opening Star Gates, and Disclosure
It’s a bit of a cliché that reviewers and audiences misunderstood Starship Troopers and didn’t realize that it was a satire of fascism. All the same, I’m not quite sure how to react to the news that not only does America have internment camps for children now but that Pres. Trump has also ordered the creation of a new “separate but equal” military service branch, Space Force, to fight battles in outer space. I’m torn between thinking our world has drifted into The Man in the High Castle and thinking we’re now in Starship Troopers. Either way, there will be Nazis on the moon.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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