AFI-Docs: QA for “The Homestretch”, a film about homeless teens in Chicago public schools

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I recorded a lot of remarks by the panel after the screening of the film “The Homestretch“, sponsored by PBS, directed by Anne De Mare and Kristin Kelly.  The panel included a former official from the US Department of Education, now a principal in Baltimore, and a teacher from the Chicago Public Schools, as well as the two filmmakers.

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The film should air on PBS Independent Lens in the Spring of 2015, after a theatrical release.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Next video (Part 6) I talk about my own substitute teaching. Kids (in special education, or from underprivileged backgrounds) didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. But attempts to keep it impersonal didn’t work.


Part 7

Part 8>

(Published Monday, June 23, 2014 at 11:15 AM)

AFI Docs: QA’s from “Silenced” and “The Internet’s Own Boy”

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I saw four films at AFI Docs (formerly called SilverDocs) this weekend.

Two of the films dealt with the government, surveillance, leaks, overreaching prosecutions, and the like.  While reviews are on Blogger, I have many other videos from the QA to share.

On Thursday, June 19, “Silenced” played at the Naval Archive, directed by James Spione, told the story of CIA operative John Kiriakou, NSA official Thomas Drake, and US attorney Jesselyn Radack.

On Saturday, June 21, 2014, I saw “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz“, directed by Brian Knappenberger, at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring MD.  The film will be in general release June 27.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

This was an answer to my question, which involved the DMCA Safe Harbor, Section 230, and downstream liability protection, especially in connection with the SOPA bill in 2011, which Aaron’s protest help defeat in early 2012.

Jack Andraka, the teen who discovered a promising test for Pancreatic Cancer, discusses the problem of paywalls for scientific journals at about the 15:00 mark in the YouTube video of his Stanford speech in late 2013, youtube link here.

(Published Sunday June 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM)

“Titanium”: overview and treatment of my screenplay (2006); How an “alien landing” really would play out in the media

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Titanium” is one of my more important screenplay scripts.  I wrote it in early 2006, shortly after my debacle as a substitute teacher.  The screenplay is intended to be more marketable and provide fewer problems as to content evaluation or appropriateness (possibly even to get a PG-13 rating) than some of my other scripts, so it might be easier to fund., or to place in customary commercial markets if made.

This is also the first major screenplay where the story evolves through the eyes of a character other than myself.

The tagline is “She really went up.”

The logline is “A technology reporter’s pregnant fiancee disappears in a storm where UFOs are seen, and the reporter’s motives are questioned as he investigates; eventually he undergoes the initiation he is looking for.”

The setting is:  Texas (Dallas, and areas of West Texas or the Hill Country).

Justin is a 28-something handsome and popular technology reporter in Dallas.  He has dated Doreen, who is pregnant by him and the wedding is to happen soon.  He has met Doreen at the newspaper, where she works as a religion reporter, and has, at the consternation of the paper, moved away from traditional Bible belt churches to covering rurals cults, particularly near a West Texas town called Teglia (fictitious).   They’ve held off on marriage until Justin looks into one of their initiation rites himself, but she is perplexed.

The movie starts with a report of Doreen’s disappearance near the town.  The tracks simply stop.  There was a big storm nearby and a tornado, but the twister didn’t cross the path where she was jogging.  The town had some damage.

Justin gets stopped by police over the disappearance.  The cops seem to know he has dated another woman, Carla, who is black, and already has a mixed raced child, Pip, to whom Justin acts like a part-time dad.  Doreen knows about Pip, but not that Justin has actually slept with Carla.   Later, we’ll learn than Pip is the son of Frankie, who runs “The Academy”, a career re-education center in West Texas, near Teglia, that FEMA uses as a contractor for disaster preparedness training.   Carla is also into the occult (in a way that Doreen is not) and remote viewing,  She also works part time as a security guard at a big gay disco in Dallas,

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Justin wonders why the cops know so much about his life.  He wonders about NSA spying, for example..  He disobeys orders to stay around and goes out to Teglia to look for her, and finds a strange cast of characters, mostly likeable (these include a young couple, Toby and Shelia, Matt, and a nerdy teen Eric),  disfigured ex-soldier Ali with effeminate and questionable grown son Amos, and finally Frankie, who was Carla’s “boyfriend” earlier.  They find that some of the goings on match the contents of “Bill’s” manuscripts.  Justin learns that Bill has attended “The Academy” while Eric uncover’s Bill’s own family history, having started at the Academy after being “kicked out” after returning home to look after his mother because Bill’s writings had brought adverse attention to the home.  A lot of detail has gone on behind the scenes.

Justin learns about earlier disappearances, and finds evidence of the bizarre history of the Academy partly from an old Beta tape recovered from Bill’s old condo in Dallas.  The technology identifies the age, and gives a lot more material about Frankie, whom Bill learns he had once dated when living in NYC.

Justin then travels to the Academy, and prepares to go to the “Initiation” which will occur on a “Nighthike”.   Justin learns that some of the people will be chosen as “angels” (last post), and that Doreen was one of the candidates (an exception to my “rule” that in my scripts the angels are male — not here; there seems to be no discrimination!)   That’s why Doreen hasn’t cared too much that Justin had been seeing Carla, and proving himself more “capable” of sustaining an unusual heterosexual relationship indeed.

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The thunderstorms come back (“a few storms may be severe”), and after a complex sequence (including a drowning rescue), several of the characters, including Justin, are tested, and some bodies undergo changes.

They wind up on Titan, where the plans for an “invasion” of Earth by angels is revealed.  Toby,  Shelia, Justin, and Doreen all return to Earth.  There is a lot of publicity, with Doreen’s return, and a double wedding.  Just before the wedding, Justin and Doreen present proof that they have been “abducted” and returned.  As the film ends, the Earth waits for the massive UFO landings, which start to happen.  (That would lead to a sequel).

The entire story could be viewed as “here is how it could happen” if direct alien visitation ever occurred, and how the media would deal with it (since the story happens partly inside the news business).  My own premise is that the aliens are “angels”.  They don’t have to be, but that makes things interesting.

(Published Thursday June 12, 2014, 7:30 PM EDT)

Note also: I did present a condensed version of a pitch for this film at a screenwriting seminar in Washington DC in August 2006 at a hotel near Scott Circle.  I recall that someone from Fortissimo Films was there.  I remember there was a reaction from the class that there needed to be more of a sense of “crisis” at the opening.  A young woman’s mysterious disappearance, with tracks that end, would seem to be critical, as would the police suspecting Justin.

There was a case of a female jogger who “went up” in Wyoming in the summer of 1997.

I also presented some of the screenplay in another class in Arlington in 2007.

Classifying my angels

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One Sunday night in October 1983, I was returning to Dallas in my 8-speed Dodge Colt  from a weekend trip in Oklahoma (and as far as Springfield, MO), and had actually hit a dog who had run out in front of the car on an isolated road.  After crossing back into Texas, and driving somewhere around Commerce, I heard a sermon from a fundamentalist preacher, talking about what happens when you “die”.  An “angel” comes and accompanies you as you are processed for your judgment, he said.  He spoke about an angel as a real person, an idea which I found interesting.  Now, living in Texas then, I had gotten used to hearing a lot of car radio sermons arguing for post-tribulationism v. “Pre”, which is beyond me now.  “Pre” makes more sense.

There’s something intriguing to me about the number 144,000.  In Rev.  14:3-5.  One of the interpretations of this number is that it is a count of redeemed make “virgins”.  I’m not quite sure why they would need redemption (except that all of us do, in Christianity), but it sounds like there is something special, or permanent about these men.

In at least two of my screenplays, and in the main novel “Angel’s Brothers” that I will describe soon, the concept of an “angel” comes up , in a few different contexts.  I’ll lay out the “rules of the road” for them in this post.

There really haven’t been a lot of movies about the topic (outside specifically “Christian’ films like the Left Behind series).  One of the best is “Astral City: A Spiritual Journey”, by Wagner de Assis, from Brazil, a 2011 release from Strand.  Of course, we remember “What Dreams May Come” and “Reviewing Your Life” and even “Ghost”.  Some of the leading males in television series and comic book movies (ranging from “Smallville” to “Spiderman”) may be seen as having angelic characteristics.  There is a female angel who travels between Purgatory and Earth in the play “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.”

In the vision, I’m laying out, the characters comprise several kinds of entities:

(1) Biblical angel.  Such a person could be one of the original 144,000, if still alive (essentially immortal).

(2) Original angel,  Such a person would be born with the reincarnated memories of one of the 144,000.   Such a person would not have children.

(3) Ordinary angel.  Such a person has been elevated in such a way that he has some of the memories of one of the 144,000 but only through those of other people, transmitted to him through infection with a bizarre virus (dealt with in the later novel manuscripts). Such a person does not have children after “conversion”.

(4) New angel.  Such a person has memories of other individuals with whom he has had close contact.  He has also been infected by the virus in a superficial, non-symptomatic way.  The number of “new angels” varies with the number of those of the first three types lost in various ways.  The number tends to converge so that the total will be close to 144000. Susceptibility to the right kind of “infection” may result from some kind of supernatural contact early in life. Such a person may or may not have children at any time.

There are ways that angels can “fail”.  These would include

(1) Moral corruption, similar to ordinary human failing (call it “Satanic” if you like).

(2) Being challenged and failing the challenge. Failure can come from (a) not recovering lost appearance or function or (b) enjoying defeat in a morally inappropriate way.  But some angels are not challenged.

My manuscripts present only males as being angels (partly as a result of the “144000” idea).  In fact, the characters are depicted as white males., from Bill’s “world”  There is nothing wrong with the idea of female angels (as in the play by Andy Guirgis) or those of other races.  But in one of the screenplays, “Bill” will become involved in the process of “choosing” who can become a new angel, and perhaps who (among those already established) can be challenged and survive.  Bill, in a different sense, makes a similar choice in the novel (among a smaller set of people).

In “my world” (especially “Angel’s Brothers”), the rest of the population comprises

.(5) Old souls (“Bill” — although Ephram was called an “old soul” in “Everwood”).  Such a person can survive indefinitely but “intermittently” through a new angel, but usually must have children first. The old soul is not an angel himself.

(6) “Ordinary People” — and that was the name of a hit 1980 movie.

Infection is supposed to happen through a micro black hole or quantum mechanical black hole embedded in a retrovirus, with generally low but somewhat unpredictable transmission. The surface of the micro black hole would hold the information or track records of other people’s lives., sometimes even living people.

In general, the screenplays depend on various characters knowing the content of Bill’s later novels, particularly on the idea that “Angel’s Brothers” has been published and established.

Does the concept of an immortal or nearly immortal human make sense?  (In NBC’s “The Event”, the aiien humans could live ten times as long as us.)  It could make space travel a lot easier.  (In a couple of the screenplays, I’ve posed the idea that the angels use Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, as a base.)  On the other hand, entropy is part of physics, and a cycle of reproduction, procreating new beings with new instances of free will, seems to be a way for nature (or “God”) to counter entropy.

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There is something disturbing, however, about the idea that the character “Bill” has invested so much in identifying and nurturing angels or “superheroes”.  What about those who are not so gifted?  (Conservative columnist George Will has written about this issue in his own family, as he recognizes a divide between those who are gifted [like in sports, intellect, arts] and those who are no,; a discussion for another time.)  If it is acceptable to ignore them when they come knocking, then that can have very dangerous consequences for society (as history proves).  Perhaps for someone like Bill, a requirement to “pay your dues” is the only answer.   On the other hand, when Bill accomplishes and finds “what he wants” be becomes more generous with his time and attention.

 

(Published: Monday June 9, 2014 1t 3 PM EDT).

“The Signature of God”: this is a series of sermons (not a film) reconciling the Bible with cosmology, sort of

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The Signature of God” is offered on Netflix as a rental DVD (from Questar), running 81 minutes, dating from 2003, where Grant Jeffrey explains the physical and historical evidence that “the Bible is the Word of God”.
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In fact, it seems to be a series of sermons (there is an audience) about various categories of evidence for creationism and that the Bible is an authoritative scripture of the Word of God. The series accompanies a book which Jeffrey promotes here.
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There are some interesting ideas in the sermons. Jeffrey mentions entropy, as actually being noted in Genesis, as the idea that in nature things run down. One could say that a Creator can reverse entropy, but one can make the argument that it is life and reproduction (especially sexual reproduction) and the possibility of free will that counters entropy.
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He talks about physical evidence of the Tower of Babel in Iraq, underneath an artificial “mountain”, looking rather like a landfill, that covers the ruins of Babylon. All human languages, he says, comes from one root.
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He also talks about the billions of other galaxies, and about the idea that elements (including ice and water) are found in the far reaches of the Solar System, as evidenced by comets. Why would God create billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars and solar systems, without other civilizations?
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Our own civilization has made amazing progress in the past two decades in communications, allowing anyone to become a publisher and broadcaster and make his own reputation without having to navigate the previous modes of competition (or even form and preserve a family). It hasn’t made comparable progress with “man in space”, despite the initial promise of putting Man on the Moon in 1969. Perhaps that progress will come suddenly, with the ability to communicate with the Afterlife, and deal with wormholes or new experience of space-time. I don’t think it can happen in my lifetime, but maybe it will in the lifetimes of younger adults whom I pay attention to.


(Published Saturday June 7, 2014 at 12:45 PM EDT)

NBC “Surface” series, cut short after one season in 2005, resembles “Godzilla” franchise in concept

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The NBC series “Surface”, which aired for only one season, 2005-2006 (with an interruption for the Winter Olympics) presented a curious idea, at least distantly related to that of the Godzilla movies. Some previous unknown sea creatures emerge from the ocean floor, and have been studied by a secret government project. But a teenage boy Miles (Carter Jenkins) discovers one in an accidental surfing encounter, brings home an egg from a pod and winds up raising “Nim” secretly in his parents North Carolina home and bonding to the creature.

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The creatures begin to surface, causing a variety of bizarre catastrophes, finally leading to a tsunami that destroys Puerto Rico and heads for Wilmington, NC (home of a lot of film studios and a big film school).

There are also artefacts suggestive of Noah’s Ark, and of a lost undersea civilization.
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The series was cut short, so it’s hard to tell what the creators really wanted to say with it. But Jenkins was most impressive as the adventurous kid.

Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story” gives an example of what I am doing in a current novel manuscript

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One of the issues for a novelist, in doing a large work, is point of view. Many novels are written in third person from the viewpoint of an “omniscient observer”, who knows everything, and who can pull the puppet strings at will. Movies often show plot points from the private viewpoints of multiple characters, before the payoff at the end. In life, though, an individual knows what he knows (a tautology). You can expand this concept to “family”, but we know that doesn’t always work. *

I’ve had this issue in my own writing more recently. Earlier novels were always from the single viewpoint (almost) of “Bill” (with occasional interruptions, like with dream sequences, to show what others may know). In “TR II” I started telling the same sorties from the viewpoints of others (April 29).

There’s a well known horror novel that shows how established authors tackle this problem. I won’t even get into Steven King right now (although I liked “Dreamcatcher” particularly). The novel in question is the 1979 epic “Ghost Story” by Peter Straub, and author about my own age, so he wrote this novel when he was in his 30s.

I recommend reading the detailed plot synopsis on Wikipedia  if you haven’t read the novel. A major part of the setup is the four elderly men in the “Chowder Society” telling each other ghost stories. This method of plot development allows the transmission of various narratives from the viewpoints of multiple characters, with the idea that the plot threads can be interconnected. In fact, toward the end of the novel, we find out a horrifying connection, a crime that had been stuffed in a trunk and buried in a lake. But the narratives on their own are fascinating. Early in the novel Sears tells about his experience as a teacher and running into the consequences of possible intra-familial sexual abuse in the story of Fenny Bate. But the novel offers an extended middle section with the story of Anna Mobley, who had been the lover of one of the member’s twin brother, who also had been in a teaching position. The entire Mobley sequences was embedded in a “novel” by one of the authors of the Ghost Stories.

The idea that there are interlinked narratives with varying degrees of “truth” relative to the base timeline of a novel is well developed in “Ghost Stories”. Straub deals with the idea that people make up stories of narratives of things they might have done or might have a propensity to do. This issue caused a major issue when I had a substitute teaching job myself (link ). The 1981 film directed by John Irvin (Universal Pictures) cut a lot of the detail from the novel and was not particularly effective. I saw it in Dallas. I think this could make a good TV series, but would it be “brought up to date” technologically?

(Published Monday, May 19, 2014 at 4:30 PM EDT)

With “Rain on the Snow” I go back to the “Academy” scenario: an erotic crime, prison, escape, and alien abductions

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Before moving on to the next “novel” attempt, I want to mention a novel-movie outline, vague as it was, that came to me in a dream as I lay in the University of Minnesota hospital recovering from surgery to repair an acetabular fracture from a convenience store fall, in January 1998.

The unnamed novel was in two parts. Part I took the first 40% of the novel and ended with a mysterious “nighthike” leading to a ritual ceremony affecting various characters, including “me” (“Bill”), and various other young men whom I had “watched” or “noticed”. The idea of such an initiation is explored in the screenpkay “69 Minutes to Titan” which I summarized here March 4, 2014. Bill “goes up” and becomes a nighttime wood spirit, disembodied, able to watch over all his charges from above on autumn nights. In the meantime, in the second half of the novel, the young men who had negotiated the initiation have various outcomes. Some will become immortals and find they are angels. Others have to go through various trials again. Bill gets to play god, from his astral perch, with all the other men. I suppose I have to give this dream a provisional title. Call it “Puppeteer” aka “The Disembodied Anthropologist”.

In a dream, there is something comforting about a Book in Two Parts, rather like the two movements of the Beethoven Op. 111.

The dream probably did influence “Tribunal and Rapture 2” The “nighthike and initiation” is depicted as a flashback (in Chapter 8), and although nobody becomes a ghost, the course of various characters’ lives seems to be affected by the experience. There is a problem with a scene like this if it is in the middle of a movie or a book, the penultimate sexual humiliation and release, the whole idea that a personality can defend and then fulfill itself by enjoying its own desecration, an idea that drives a lot of homophobia, frankly speaking. If too much happens in the middle of the book, the rest of the story can seem anti-climatic. It’s hard to follow up with an even more climactic conclusion.
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Sometime after starting TR II while in Minnesota, I switched gears and started a “simpler” novel to be called “Rain on the Snow”, (conceptual video  to be based on the “Bill gets reeducated at an Academy” concept. I can recall a moment, after checking into a hotel in Toulouse, France while on vacation in early May, 2001 about which novel I would try to finish when I went back.

The novel supposes that “Bill” loses his job in Minneapolis (soon 9/11 would happen, and the layoff did occur at the end of 2001) but gets an “offer” of a job in Texas requiring several months of “training” at an Academy in West Texas (near Abilene). The idea is to become an “asset person” capable of helping the country recover after massive terrorist-induced calamity (and it’s curious that I had thought some of this through in the 80s, (“Rapture of the Believers”, April 4, 2014, and then the first “Tribunal and Rapture”, April 6, 2014). There is a certain work ethic, dealing with the idea that “the buck stops with me” and “there is no They”.

The “Academy” sets Bill up with an apartment in Dallas, and lets him “go home” ever few weeks. At a nearby restaurant, he meets “The Prodigy”, a young man named “Matt”, working in a restaurant. It turns out that Matt has some ties to the Academy, but Bill learns about this on weekend field trips to Oklahoma, somewhere around the Wichita Mountains. Gradually, some of the other characters (from TR II) begin to appear at the Academy, including Naomi, who may be Matt’s mother.

Bill’s encounters with Matt (a softball game, then a chess game) become more personal and borderline intimate. Bill is “invited” to meet Matt at a hideway in Arizona, on the Mogollon Rim, near the site of the Travis Walton UFO abduction in 1975. Bill hitches a ride there from another one of the young men at the Academy,

In a remote hut in the desert (looking like an out-of-place ski yurt) Bill and Matt have an intimate encounter, which is very satisfying to Bill. Suddenly, Matt dematerializes. Bill leaves the scene, and find he enjoys having Matt’s body (in David Lynch fashion) until he returns to Dallas. At that point, he is stuck with his own elderly male body again, and hears on the news that Matt’s dismembered corpse has been found. Bill goes back to see his mother in Virginia, but US Marshalls and police track him down, and he is arrested.

He is held without bond in Arizona, but introduced to a mystery woman named Tovina, who prods him into having sex when she gets into his jail cell. The state drops homicide charges for insufficient evidence, but it wants to prosecute him for prosecuting a minor, because Matt was supposedly 17 at the time, and the age of consent in the state in 18. There is a trial and Bill is convicted of misdemeanor charges and sent to a work camp. Tovina intervenes, and Bill is taunted by a fat prisoner named Oeter. Bill stabs Oeter in the gut at about the time aliens arrive in Arizona. Bill breaks out of prison, and goes back up north to a “nighthike initiation”, after which the world will know that aliens have landed.

The book was set up in 25 chapters, and there was a complete text by early 2003.

After I returned to Virginia, I hit upon the idea of developing a larger novel around the core, with the pre-histories of Matt, his mother, and of the characters who run the Academy (Frankie, who had earlier dealings with Bill, and a mysterious “fallen angel” named Femeri). Of some interest is an opening sequence where Naomi bought a condo from Bill in Dallas in the 80s, lost a husband and child, and then had another child, Matt, under supernatural circumstances. It was necessary to space the years of the pre-story properly so the “age of consent” issue could make sense.

 

Director of “Little Accidents” (look at a coal mining community) gives detailed remarks at Maryland Film Festival

IMG_9392 Sunday night (May 11, 2014) I went to a screening of “Little Accidents“, the new film about life in a coal mining community in West Virginia by Sara Colangelo, with tragedy and redemption. She had a lot of remarks about the writing of the script, with sponsorship from the Sundance Institute, based on her earlier short film of the same name in 2010. Part 1: Part 2: Jorge Ameer had expanded a short film with his 2006 suspense gay sci-fi film “The House of Adam”  (April 18 here). There was an after-party for the festival just north of the Charles Center area.

I “almost” see a fibbie (?) remote viewing center for ET’s; books and films on aliens; remembering Dan Fry and Understanding

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Yesterday, I was returning from Lynchburg, VA on US-29, and got curious about checking the “Monroe Institute” that is mentioned in the 1996 book “Cosmic Voyage: A Scientific Discovery of Extraterrestrials Visiting Earth”, by Courtney Brown, published by Dutton.

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The books describes a process called “remote viewing” with astral projection, which is accomplished by a variety of spiritual disciplines and meditation. It goes on to describe the idea that there was a civilization on Mars billions of years ago, before a tragedy (the planet lost its magnetic field and most of its atmosphere). They seemed to have some powers that we don’t have. I have some more detailed comments on my own DADT site here.

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Brown suggested in 1996 that the federal government and some private interests had set up a property called the Monroe Institute at Faber, VA. Now, it happens that country road 632, about 15 miles south of the Charlottesville bypass, is called Faber Road, and it leads to a baseball field and some unusual, secluded homes and estates. For all I know, there could be an “intentional community” there. However, I checked Google Maps, much more modern today than it was a decade ago, and found that the address given by the web site is actually on the west side of US 29 (on Roberts Mountain) and not on 632. The site has some photographs of the property, which you can view here. I’ll try looking for it again another time. It appears to be a private facility where you pay for extended stays (but that is how intentional communities, like Twin Oaks and Acorn, maybe 40 miles to the east (but still in the Piedmont) from there, work). It might be more like Lama Foundation in New Mexico (which I visited in 1980 and 1984 – origin of “Be Here Now” by Ram Das) but I’ll have to look into it further.

If in fact, humankind (and maybe all of life, or at least animal life) was seeded from Mars (or Venus before runaway greenhouse effect a billion years ago) or from any other solar system some light years away, it raises another question. If a person like “Clark Kent” really did exist, would he have all the legal rights of personhood? What it his DNA gave full human functionality and appearance (perhaps superior functionality in some areas) but could not produce a child when mated with a human? (Or perhaps he produces a “Rosemary’s Baby”.) Would Clark legally be human? Would he be protected by the law? The next time you see a teenager disappear (dematerialize) and reappear instantly in another location, ask yourself.

The “dadt” link above also reviews a book “The Day After Roswell” (1997, Pocket Books), by Philip Corso, who claims that the Cold War was really a guise for building a defense against aliens, like in the 1996 film “Independence Day” where a president Bill Pullman (a David Lynch actor) plays hero. Don’t forget that Paramount made a TV film of “Roswell” in 1994. And Minnesota-based director Timothy B. Johnson (whom I met in 2000 while living in Minneapolis) directed “Six Days in Roswell”.

In 1975, while living in New York City, I learned about an organization founded by Dan Fry, “Understanding”. I found out about it from a pamphlet at a vendor on 86th St as I left a movie theater. I visited the area in Arizona of Travis Walton’s abduction (Robert Liebeman’s film “Fire in the Sky” for Paramount in 1993) near the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, and met a journalist who totally believed the story. I tracked down the “saucer city” at Tonopah just off I-10 40 miles west of Phoenix and met the Fry’s. This was December, 1975, when it was unusually cold for low desert Arizona. I would attend conventions at Understanding in October 1976, 1977, April 1978, and (in Upton CA), the fall of 1979. The 1978 convention was called “Man in Space”. I remember a speaker who warned that one coke of coffee could destroy one’s psychic abilities. We believe we saw a real UFO at night in the 1978 convention.

The Understanding property seems to have disappeared; there is a cotton plantation there now.

Daniel Fry’s life and works are presented on a website in his memory, here.

His best known book (self-published) is “To Men of Earth”. (based on “The White Sands Incident”).  Fry claims that while he was in the military and stationed in New Mexico, he was abducted in the desert and introduced to a young man named “Alan” who would then appear on Earth and function like a regular person. “Alan” met messenger. Fry would get fake documents for him, and help him get a job. This could make an interesting film if someone wanted to try making it. It’s a little more subtle than “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (both versions).

Another book was “Atoms, Galaxies and Understanding”. Fry claimed that the results from the first 1976 Viking lander on Mars might really have indicated life.

I helped sponsor a unit of Understanding in New York City. In early May, 1976, about 40 people came to a meeting in my small apartment in the Cast Iron Building “between the Villages”. One member was transsexual (female to male) and claimed to have been abducted somewhere near Harriman Park NY (40 miles N of Manhattan off the Thruway) in the mid 1970s.

Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 10 PM EDT.  The third picture is a bizarre strip mine for sand east of US 29 near Faber.

Comparative media reviews on hot topics