I have a few random odds and ends for today…
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on correcting the page proofs for my anthology Foundations of Atlantis, Ancient Astronauts, and Other Alternative Pasts. I find the corrections to be frustrating, both because it forces me to confront my own typographical errors and also because it reminds me that in today’s publishing world, no one actually proofreads anything, and even the most ridiculously obvious typos stand until I correct them. Anyway, in checking some of the text, I have a conundrum that I hope someone reading this may be able to help solve.
Pedro Pizarro, the cousin of the famous conquistador, described the Chachapoyas of Peru as being white-skinned, and this led to many claims about a Caucasian race in Peru. In his description, he gives the following sentence: “Esta gente deste reino del Perú era blanca, de color trigueño, y entre los señores y señoras eran mas blancos como españoles.” In translating the text in 1921, Philip Ainsworth Means rendered the line this way: “The people of this kingdom of Peru were white, swarthy in colour, and among them the Lords and Ladies were whiter than Spaniards.” The trouble is the word “than.” The original Spanish seems to say that the lords and ladies were “whiter, like Spaniards.” But the punctuation doesn’t seem to agree. In modern Spanish, como means “like” or “as.” I can’t find an example of it being used to mean “than.” (For what it’s worth, in botching his translation, Philip Honoré gave it this way: “Most of the great lords and ladies looked like white Spaniards.”) Can anyone with expertise in sixteenth century Spanish tell me whether “than” or “like” might be the better translation?
But at least this is a relatively straightforward problem. I’m sure many of you have seen the more confounding issue of the so-called Roswell Slides. The story has been bouncing around for a while now, and yesterday Nick Redfern weighed in with a collection of words that approximated an article on the subject despite having no new facts, little purpose, and a laxness in its writing that can charitably be attributed to a need to stretch the story to fill a word count: “Maybe we will get the truth of Roswell. Maybe we won’t. Or, maybe, we will get what Ufology always gives us: more questions, more enigmas, and nothing 100 percent solid.”
Redfern’s piece is simply a summary of an earlier press release by Anthony Bragalia asserting that on May 5, astronaut Edgar Mitchell and a bunch of ufologists will take to the stage in Mexico City to show a series of Kodachrome slides taken by a Texas geologist that Bragalia asserts depict an extraterrestrial being. According to Bragalia, an unnamed expert verified that the slides were exposed in 1947 and therefore the humanoid depicted on them is one of the Roswell aliens from the saucer crash:
This humanoid is not a deformed person, mummy, dummy, simian or dead serviceman. It is not a creature that finds its origin on Earth. And given that the slides of this creature were taken the very same year as the Roswell UFO crash; that the appearance of the creature matches the reported appearance of the Roswell crash aliens; and given that the person who was in original possession of the slides was a geologist working the New Mexico desert throughout the 1940’s, it is not a jump or stretch to then conclude that these slides indeed show the corpse of one of the creatures found fallen at Roswell.
I don’t follow the logic, frankly. Is it possible to verify that a slide was exposed in 1947 and not, say, 1948? (According to Bragalia’s later comments, the expert only dated the film stock to 1947, not the image shot with it, but he feels no one would likely use film more than a year after it was purchased. Ha! My grandmother used to stockpile film for decades.) But even if it were, it doesn’t stand to reason that the slides were made in July, at Roswell, or in New Mexico. Nor, frankly, does it follow that a humanoid creature, even if real, would be from another planet and not, say, a genetic freak, a bizarre science experiment, a fairy, or a monster from the civilization within the hollow earth. It’s amazing to see how many people are already looking for ways that the slides could have been fabricated before ever seeing whether the image on the slides (if there even is one) warrants such a conclusion.
Frankly, if I had the only known photograph of a space alien, I might have found a way to get the information and the image to the public a lot sooner, rather than turning it into a months-long circus. But then again, I’m not a famous Mexican paranormal promoter who stands to make a mint off of the media circus, like Jamie Maussan, who is paying for the event.
But speaking of the 1940s: Did anyone watch Marvel’s Agent Carter on Tuesday? I’m lukewarm on the show, which I like in theory a little bit more than in practice. In this week’s episode, Agent Carter and a team of good guys find themselves behind enemy lines in Russia, when they come across a film projector. The projector shows about five seconds of a cartoon that has been altered to include subliminal messages. Since I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Looney Tunes (blame cable in the 1990s for showing Looney Tunes about 10 times a day across the Turner networks, USA, and Nickelodeon), I instantly recognized the brief flash of footage as a scene from the 1942 Merrie Melodies short The Dover Boys at Pimento University, a parody of the Rover Boys book series.
It was an inspired choice because it carefully foreshadows events with the girl the team discovers and provides a mirror for Peggy Carter’s own journey, since in the cartoon those pillars of manly virtue Tom, Dick, and Larry Dover fail to rescue damsel in distress Dainty Dora Standpipe from the evil Dan Backslide, and Dora rescues herself with some serious street-fighting skills while pretending to be a helpless maiden.
What I wondered, though, is why a Marvel Studios production, part of the Disney empire, would use a Warner Bros. cartoon. A little research found that United Artists, which controlled the short after acquiring it from Associated Artists, which in turn had bought the pre-1949 Looney Tunes from Warner, failed to renew the copyright in 1967, and the film slipped into the public domain. (As for the Looney Tunes, after Turner bought UA and folded into Time Warner, they were eventually reunited with the cartoons Warner Bros. kept.) I suppose this accounts for how a Warner cartoon ended up on a Disney show.
Anyway, I appreciated the added bit of enjoyment recognizing the cartoon provided to the episode.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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