Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I was watching the movie, "Bullitt" a few days ago on TV -- you know, the police drama with Steve McQueen, notable for that dramatic San Francisco car chase? It's been years since I saw the film at a theater during its initial airing. I still think it's a great motion picture, but what really kicked me into a time warp was a scene where Frank Bullitt shops at a grocery store and grabs some TV dinners -- wow, the darned things looked huge by comparison to today's TV dinners. I don't buy TV dinners and haven't since I was a kid, but I see them at stores and today's version looks snack-sized next to those. Things sure do change with time.
Apparently, like TV dinners, our impressions of famous people can also be downsized. There's a book hitting the shelves this week entitled simply, Cronkite, a biography by Douglas Brinkley. Rumored to add a bit of tarnish to the famed CBS-TV anchorman's well-groomed former image as the most trusted national TV news reporter in the country, Walter Cronkite's reputation (he anchored the CBS-TV Evening News from 1962 to 1981, and he died in 2009) is likely to get an unkind makeover in Brinkley's book.
We've discussed Cronkite previously on this blog for one reason: His affiliation with and narration of the May 10, 1966 CBS-TV special, "UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy." Okay, let me take a sec here to blow the suspense -- choose fantasy, option number three. At least, that's what the UFO subject looked like when CBS and Cronkite finished molding the clay reportage. What we didn't know then but know now is that the production of this "special" had some unofficial official help in the background via biased and agenda-ridden consultants.
Of course, 1966 was a premium year for UFO reports, and a biased, debunking national TV news program shooting the UFO issue all to hell before millions, with Uncle Walter's grandfatherly assurances and assistance, was a skeptic's dream. And Walter Cronkite and CBS did not disappoint the skeptics.
Much of the viewing audience checked in with a different response, however: Outrage. The May 28, 1966 issue of TV Guide featured three viewer comments, all of them negative toward CBS, and we may assume that because there were no letters on the other side that Cronkite's report received little but a sound drubbing among the national audience. Katherine McLaughlin of California commented to TV Guide: "What an unbiased report! Only four eyewitnesses to UFO sightings, none of whom can be classified as
knowledgeable on aerodynamics. Thanks, Walter Cronkite, CBS and the USAF."
From TV viewer John Lord in New Jersey:: "A one-sided report designed to give strength to those who fear to believe. Shame on dear Walter for being a part of it." And there was this from Joel Howard Marks of New York: "Aside from a quick review of the recent Michigan sightings, there was little mention of the many reliable and sometimes spectacular sightings which have been made."
The May-June, 1966 issue of NICAP's UFO Investigator quoted one of many newspaper columnists who slammed the CBS report's nonsensical approach.
The Michigan UFO reports were not the only UFO-related hoopla buzzing in the press that month. Just days before Cronkite's special, journalists latched onto revelations from a closed meeting in March where former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and essentially downplayed the importance or existence of UFOs. Trouble was, just a couple of days before CBS-TV aired its negative piece, results of a Gallup Poll were splashed upon newspaper pages across the country, indicating that five million Americans believed they had seen UFOs.
On the very day that "UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy" was to spew forth from TV screens all over the nation, the Associated Press and other news agencies reported that the Air Force was poised to award a contract to a private research entity to investigate the UFO issue (ultimately, that choice was the University of Colorado and Dr. Edward Condon -- enough said. . .sigh. . .sigh. . .)
Then, five days after the absurd Cronkite/CBS spectacle muddied the UFO story, the Sunday national newspaper magazine supplement, This Week, slammed back with a front page headline, "Return of the Flying Saucers," written by veteran radio talk show host "Long John" Nebel. Nebel's quirky history of saucer-related radio talk originated in the fifties, long before Coast-to-Coast AM was a glimmer in Art Bell's eye, and his May 15, 1966 article reflected as typical Long John. While he praised NICAP, Major Donald Keyhoe and important UFO encounters, he also wasted lots of print space recounting the ridiculous tales of favorite contactees featured on his radio show (Keep in mind that Nebel was, first and foremost, a broadcast showman, not a believer of tall tales -- in fact, he once hosted as a radio guest famed TV and motion picture star Jackie Gleason, a surprisingly strong, informed and thoughtful UFO proponent, who literally annihilated publisher Gray Barker's nonsensical UFO claims as Barker melted into an insignificant
puddle on the other side of a phone conversation.).
As Walter Cronkite's throne prepares for a bit of a dust-up with release of the new book, and I'm betting in advance that no mention of the infamous CBS-TV UFO report will appear, one hopes that journalists at all levels will educate themselves enough to realize that UFOs are not only newsworthy, their identity may be the top news of this or any century. What enterprising young news reporter wouldn't live to die for that story if, first, not something wicked this way comes?
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
How can there remain room for UFOs in a world gone nuts? Europe's economy teeters on the brink, and when/if a similarly unsurprising collapse happens here the U.S. will likely fall right into the same muck.
So who has time to care about UFOs today? Tomorrow?
Few events were crazier last week than the Facebook stock sale – faceless Facebook fanciers basically buying and selling stocks of thin air, pixelated ghostly communications of the Internet.
Back in the day when the U.S. was booming in the manufacturing industry, when useful things were forged of metal instead of ever-deteriorating plastic goo, you knew what you possessed, what you purchased, objects enduring. Now, recyclers beg for our metal so they can stuff it into huge ships and send it off to China -- China, currently one of the largest nationalistic vacuum cleaners on the planet, sucking up everything of value and necessity that India, Russia and other hysterical geographic entities can't get to or negotiate over first.
Facebook's circus atmosphere, attracting speculators and the press like a magnet a few days ago, was disturbing. The UFO issue maintains more stability and evidence than Facebook's very existence because Zuckerberg's lucrative plaything – Web-based plastic goo – could be gone in a flash. Social Web sites are transitory carnivals fired primarily by egos (though the commercial aspects are obvious), hope and boredom, seemingly rock-solid until The Next Big Thing wanders by, and that biggie, too, will be constructed only of interesting concepts imprisoned by gigabyte jailers.
Beware the Internet, despite its self-illumination of electronically reproduced bells and whistles. Cower under the bed before notorious social media swallows you whole, as its ego implosion brings the rest of the world together in the same way one scrambles an egg on the skillet. Isn't social media the best of everything? Isn't Facebook just the greatest thing ever?
We can hit the switch and unplug the computer, making all the electronic words and images retreat, and we can hit the “delete” key and transfer what was to what isn't, but a fair percentage of UFO reports, like metallic goods of days past, remain intact and pretty much incapable of deletion, even when you click the “hide” option.
With the "sinking" of "Battleship" at the box office, following the speedy demise of "John Carter" (which may as well have been called "John Doe"), one gets just that tiny sliver of hope that maybe someday the discriminating sci-fi audience will find the real UFO issue as fascinating as digitally created monsters. Those folks should have sworn off that stuff no later than when "The Day the Earth Stood Still" was re-made and Gort became disturbingly cartoonish.
Friday, May 4, 2012
On that note, it's also worth mentioning that Frank Warren has posted the You-Tube link to the movie on his UFO CHRONICLES SITE (see link).
FROM TIME TO TIME we read of UFO book authors or higher-ups in academia or the media who throw out little comments deriding UFO "enthusiasts" or "fans" of the fifties and beyond. While I absolutely understand how some from that period gave UFO research a very bad, if not downright crazy name -- and I profess no love for obviously bats**t bonkers contactees of the era -- nevertheless, these are the people who kept the UFO subject center-stage, while scientists by the ton who should have known better and assumed their role as, well, scientists ignored the subject en masse. I suppose it could be argued that the wild-eyed bunch were exactly the reason why men and women of science shunned the phenomenon's existence or importance, but it's much more likely that scientific ignorance became bliss simply because there was no room for the concept of UFOs in scientifically educated minds. It's kind of like what medical science has become today, unfortunately -- e.g., so many medical professionals bury themselves in computer screens and one-size-fits-all blood work values and ready-to-wear drug prescriptions during office visits that one logically expects that true anomalies could be easily missed (if not caused or encouraged!).
DINNER FOR THREE: Who holds the power in the United States? You? Me? Not so much anymore, and there's no finer example than the White House correspondents dinner. Who attends by invite only? Selected members of the mainstream media, the political class and, of course, the entertainment industry. No mere dinner, this. Indeed not, for this is a glimpse of those who and that which coagulates to run our lives, and neither you nor I truly have the ultimate voice in casting our fate to the wind. Honored representatives of contrived journalism, extreme government power, wild regulatory abilities and intellectual cattle prods for the masses come together at these affairs for purposes far beyond dinner and clowning around. The coziness and camaraderie of these entities disturbs and nauseates. There was once a certain distance maintained between and among opposing forces which, sadly, no longer stand or serve in opposition. To paraphrase from the old song, it's their party and you can cry if you want to.
DIGGIN' HIS WAY OUT OF CHINA: This is like some bad Hollywood script, and the ease of communication shown in this case appears ever so unlikely. Ya don't just get on the phone in China and call the U.S. Congress and other potential helpfuls. Sorry about the Chinese dude (there's nothing special about him in Chinese terms, other than plotting with contacts to make himself an international incident -- hey, join the club of dissidents everywhere) and his family, but the tragic fact is that the whole world would like to come to the United States -- and hordes often attempt to do so -- but some things are just impractical and the word "no" has to be used wisely instead of gaining global political points.. Meanwhile, the Chinese commies want the U.S. to apologize and they warn that we interfered with the country's internal affairs. Of course, they are correct -- we are involved in their "internal affairs" because they damned well own us and our vast, growing debt. The best way to divorce ourselves of China's "internal affairs" is to get a crash program going to once again manufacture our necessities so we won't have to purchase China's crap. If we didn't learn anything following the poisoned pet food and inferior dry wall capers (not to mention China blowing up an orbiting satellite, putting the world's space program in space junk jeopardy), then maybe we deserve a continuing onslaught of Chinese thugs, brutality and certifiably criminal dishonesty -- and don't look to the Obama Administration's expertise (if that's the word, and it's not) for answers. The Chinese dude? Of course he'll be packing up and moving his family to the U.S. under whatever pretenses upon which governments agree. And we, as always, will ultimately pay a hefty price for the misery of yet another international situation.