Art Bell died today. I missed Art on Coast to Coast am. I wish I had been in touch with things at the time so I could have listened (though more likely eventually downloaded) to the show. I was there for the Sirius Radio and Midnight In the Desert however, short lived as they were. I think it is truly impossible to judge the impact Art Bell had on paranormal talk radio, while he may not have completely invented it he certainly shaped it into the juggernaut it is today. Without Art there wouldn’t be any Coast to Coast, or Fade to Black or any of the other hundreds of shows and podcasts. Art was more than that though, at his very core he was a fantastic interviewer and reader of people. He was quick and knew when to push someone towards an answer and knew when to step back. So Art is gone and the airwaves will be strangely still for awhile. R.I.P Art.
On the night of October 1st 1978, at 6:19pm a 20 year-old Frederick Valentich took off in his Cessna 182lt, a light plane from Moorabbin in Melbourne on route to King Island. An island halfway from the mainland and Tasmania, and a round trip which should have taken him about three and a half hours to do. It was supposed to be just a training flight, Valentich having just clocked 150 hours of flight time and was eager to get started, it was after all going to be his first solo night flight. Now pilots don’t fly out straight out towards King Island, as that would mean that they would be out over water most of the time, so they they usually hug the coastline until they reach Cape Otway, which is the nearest point to King Island and cut across. Ask any pilot and they will tell you that flying close to land is a lot safer that across water so this line, though a little longer, is the main flight path that aircraft are want to take and it was the path that Valentich took.
The first part of his flight seems uneventful, at 7.00pm not long after the sun had set, he reported reaching Cape Otway and was turning away from the coastline and heading out towards King Island. At about 7.06pm he contacted Melbourne Air Traffic Control asking if there was any traffic in his area to which he was informed that there was no known aircraft in his vicinity. He told air traffic control that there was an aircraft above him and it appeared to be playing games with him. Here follows the actual transcript of the communication between Valentich and Melbourne Air Traffic Control.
Time (GMT) | From | To | Text
9:06:14 DSJ FS Melbourne, this is Delta Sierra Juliet. Is there any known traffic below five thousand?’
9:06:23 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—No known traffic.
9:06:26 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet. I am—seems (to) be a large aircraft below 5,000.
9:06:46 FS DSJ D Delta Sierra Juliet—What type of aircraft is it?
9:06:50 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—I cannot affirm. It is four bright … it seems to me like landing lights.
9:07:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. [This statement affirms to the pilot that the person on the ground heard
9:07:32 DSJ FS Melbourne, this (is) Delta Sierra Juliet. The aircraft has just passed over me at least a
thousand feet above.
9:07:43 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger—and it, it is a large aircraft—confirm?
9:07:47 DSJ FS Er, unknown due to the speed it’s travelling… is there any air force aircraft in the vicinity?~
9:07:57 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. No known aircraft in the vicinity.
9:08:18 DSJ FS Melbourne … it’s approaching now from due east~ towards me.~
9:08:28 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:08:42 DSJ FS //Open microphone for two seconds//
9:08:49 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet. It seems to me that he’s playing some sort of game.’—He’s flying over me
two—three times at a time at speeds I could not identify.’
9:09:02 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What is your actual level?
9:09:06 DSJ FS My level is four and a half thousand, four five zero zero.~
9:09:11 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet… And confirm—you cannot identify the aircraft.
9:09:14 DSJ FS Affirmative.’
9:09:18 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger… standby.
9:09:28 DSJ FS Melbourne—Delta Sierra Juliet. It’s not an aircraft’… it is //open microphone for two
seconds// [This duration measured as three seconds. No information appears to have been removed
from the tape.]
9:09:46 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne. Can you describe the…er—aircraft?
9:09:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet… as its flying past it’s a long shape’ //open microphone for three seconds
// (cannot) identify more than that. It has such speed //open microphone for three seconds //. It is before
me right now Melbourne.’
9:10:07 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. And how large would the —er—object be?
9:10:20 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne. It seems like it’s (stationary).
Transcript of Frederick Valentich’s Final Communications with Melbourne Air Traffic Control 2 of 2
[The author, Richard F Haines (USA) has determined that this word should be, ‘chasing me’, based on
special filtering]. What I’m doing right now is orbiting, and the thing is just orbiting on top of me also’ …
It’s got a green light,’ and sort of metallic (like)~. It’s all shiny (on) the outside.~
9:10:43 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:10:48 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet // open microphone for 5 seconds // [measured as 3 seconds] It’s just
9:10:57 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:11:03 DSJ FS Melbourne would you know what kind of aircraft I’ve got?’ It is (a type) military aircraft?’
9:11:08 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Confirm the… er—aircraft just vanished.
9:11:14 DSJ FS Say again.
9:11:17 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet. Is the aircraft still with you?’
9:11:23 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet… It’s ah… Nor //open microphone for two seconds// (now) approaching
from the southwest.
9:11:37 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:11:52 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet – The engine is, is rough idling. —I’ve got it set at twenty three—twenty
four… and the thing is—coughing.
9:12:04 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet—Roger. What are your intentions?
9:12:09 DSJ FS My intentions are—ah… to go to King Island—Ah, Melbourne, that strange aircraft is
hovering on top of me again //open microphone for two seconds// it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.
9:12:22 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet.
9:12:28 DSJ FS Delta Sierra Juliet—Melbourne //open microphone for 17 seconds// [A very strange pulsed
noise is also audible during this transmission.]
9:12:49 FS DSJ Delta Sierra Juliet, Melbourne.
End of official DoT transcript
— normal pause in communications (based on the first author’s flying experience)
… longer than normal pause (several seconds)
‘ upward ending voice inflection (such as an interrogative question)
~ downward voice inflection
Parentheses ( ) enclose words that are open to interpretation because they are not clearly audible
Valentich shortly before he disappeared
Fredericks final communication was at 7:12pm and 28 seconds. An alert was declared and a distress emergency declared soon after. After a massive search the search and rescue effort was called off and no trace of Valentich or his plane was ever recovered and an opened verdict of missing presumed dead was announced. The story made national headlines, indeed many people came forward saying that they had seen erratic green lights around the area where Valentich disappeared. An interesting point is that are also the same reports which had been made years before the transcript or any reports that Valentich had seen four green lights of the craft above him. In fact there is a long history of strange sightings around the area.
Now I would be remiss if I failed to mention the many (and there are many) sticking points to this story. There is a lot to make you sit back and reevaluate what you think you know bout the disappearance of Frederick Valentich. Firstly, he had lied to pretty much everybody as to what he was actually doing on the night he disappeared. He told Moorabbin that he was picking up a group of passengers but there were no passengers waiting to be picked up, he told his family that he was getting some crayfish but there are no crayfish at King Island. He also told his girlfriend that he would be back at 7:30, she was in fact waiting at her place for him to pick her up for a date, but there was no way he could have made it on time. He also had a history of breaking the rules when it came to flying, having strayed into controlled airspace above Sydney airport and twice flying into clouds though he was not yet rated to do so. Also, and the main one which plays on my mind is his call into Air Traffic Control is very similar to the opening scenes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (my favourite film), which was only released a year before. But I also have to ask that if a pilot was reporting seeing something above them wouldn’t that be the way it would sound? Frederick Valentich was also a man who while he may not have been the worlds most brilliant pilot, he studied hard (he would usually turn up to an airport hours before he was due to fly and study) and I believe he took risks because he was trying to make himself the best he could be. However, he had also applied twice to the RAAF but was rejected due to poor education qualifications, he had also been studying to become a commercial pilot but had failed twice all the five commercial license subjects. He was determined though, he kept studying and he also never stopped applying to take the tests. He was set on making his dream of becoming a pilot a reality. Some believe that it was spatial disorientation that caused his crash, that with to visible horizon and he simply became confused and crashed, that he staged his own disappearance (though he had a girlfriend who he loved and wanted to marry and was close to his parents this seems unlikely).
A couple of years after his disappearance an engine cowl belonging to a Cessna 182lt washed up on Flinders Island (another island in the chain) and it’s numbers belonged in the range of the type of plane that Valentich has been flying. Though said cowl has since gone missing or been misplaced. A man by the name of Roy Manifold was taking photo’s of the sunset the night when Valentich disappeared and he claimed to capture what he said was a UFO with a plane attached to it’s side leaking oil. Though, to me, it kinda looks like a bug.
It’s impossible to say what actually occurred that night almost 42 years ago. While there are so many things about him which are contradictory I think Frederick Valentich did see something in the skies with him and whether he was abducted or he simply panicked and crashed into the dark Bass Strait waters we may never know. In any case, Frederick Valentich remains one of our most baffling mysteries in our Australian Sky.
Seeking A Friend for the End of the World was a movie I avoided for a long time, I mean a long time. Do you have those movies which you come across and the little man in your head tells you that you’d probably really like but for some unknown reason you tell your little man to go to hell and you never watch it? It happens with hyped movies a lot for me, there are so many movies which people rave about but for some strange, more than likely emotionally unhealthy reason, I convince myself that I’ll hate it so I don’t watch it. At least for not a long while afterwards. I’ve got a lot of issues I know.
Sadly Seeking a Friend is one of those films which slipped straight through and onto the keeper. Until recently that is and all I can say now, having finally seen it is, what an absolute gem of a film. It is such a perfect little intimate tale of two lost, broken people who just happen to come together only weeks before an asteroid is due to hit the earth and destroy all life. The story is fairly simple (and yes there is spoilers ahead for anyone who has not yet seen it. But come on man it’s been out for years now so you can’t really gripe if I spoil it for you), the story opens with Dodge, played by the always wonderful Steve Carell, sitting in his car with his wife as they listen on the radio as news comes in that the final solution to the incoming asteroid has failed and in three weeks time all life will cease to be. Looking over at him she realizes that Dodge isn’t the man she wants to spend her last days with and in a panic promptly legs it out of the car and into the night, never to be seen again. Over the next week or so Dodge drifts along in a daze, still going into work as an insurance salesmen (seems even in the end of time people still want to know how much money they can get), attending a painful dinner party at his best friends house which results in an uncomfortable set up and everyone deciding this would be the best time to do heroin.
That is until he meets Penny, Keira Knightley, an English girl who has been living downstairs in his apartment block for the past few years but never has spoken to, though due to extreme laziness or apathy she has been collecting his mail which had from time to time been left in her letterbox mistake. After escaping the city one night when rioting erupts in the streets the two embark on a cross country trip desperate to find some sort of comfort at the end of the world. For Dodge it’s tracking down his childhood sweetheart and for Penny it’s finding a way home to be with her family, you know the story and can probably guess the outcome. For me the magic is in the players, Carell and Knightly work so well together and weave in and out of the side characters (also played by some very well known faces) and look mismatched but so believable as they come together at the end, which is truly the end which was another moment I enjoyed. It would have been so easy to have a happy ending (and it is in a way) but the way the film ends lends a gravity and beauty to these two people who decide that at the end of the world it’s just in each others eyes that they wish to be.
It’s a lonely film, a quietly beautiful film complemented by some great performances. I can’t wait to see it again.
When I was a boy in the early 80’s information, especially information on “fringe” topics was much harder to come by. I grew up in the era where there was no internet and the only computer that most of my friends had was the Commodore 64. Books on UFO’s were contained to one maybe two books in the local library shelf or perhaps late night tv special if I was lucky. To discover anything about the subject one had to be patient and grab anything that came along the line. Learning about UFO’s was kinda of a waiting game.
Luckily, I also grew up in the ear of In Search Of. As a child every Saturday afternoon at 5:30 you would find me sitting cross legged on our living room floor glued to the tv as Leonard Nimoy guided me through the world of the strange, the paranormal and UFO’s. I loved every second of it. I don’t know if this is where my passion for UFO’s was first sparked but it is certainly my first recollection of being exposed to the phenomena. As time went by I was able to get more and more information, I joined a local UFO group in my home state and received a booklet every month in the mail filled with sightings, articles and opinion pieces which brought me into a whole new area with stories of encounters in my own country. See as a young boy all I could find to read about were the American stories, Roswell, Barney and Betty Hill, Aztec New Mexico. I had little to no idea that my own country of Australia also had a rich history of sightings and contact and wouldn’t learn about them until much later. As time trickled by, and as I slowly grew, the way information was made available also grew. Above Top Secret by Timothy Good was released as was Communion by Whitely Strieber. UFO stories sprung up in newspapers and fluff pieces at the end of news casts. Even though I was only young I still recall the stir that the disappearance of Frederick Valentich made in our news services in 1978. So like a slow engine the UFO machine began to kick into life and suddenly there was half a shelf at the local library and even a couple in the bookstore at the local shops.
Then the Internet was born.
Websites were built, photos were shared, and a cacophony of voices erupted in cyberspace and everyone, everyone had their own take on the situation. What was a small trickle of the availability of knowledge became a flood which in turn, became an ocean. So where does someone who happens to discover all this begin their own journey? With so many personalities and so many differing opinions how do you find an opening and dive in? How do you differentiate between the people who truly believe and who truly want to share all they’ve learned from the charlatans and the hoaxes who, sadly, litter the field. There are a lot of them. One of the greatest things to happen to the UFO field in as a means to impart information my opinion is podcasts. They really allow you to listen to some of the best of the field has to offer, pretty much you’ll find a cast about any of the major stories and news and from there is your starting point. The trick is, as with any subject to separating the truth from the bullshit. And there’s a lot of bullshit. A lot of bullshit. There are many actors on the stage peddling their wares like a carny sideshow, from the absurd to the just plain stupid, all get their time in the sun and all get to peddle their wares. In a perfect world all these players would be pushing something they are passionate about, a theory or idea they truly believe in but in the realm of the UFO some are just out for money, or in some cases just to have their names in a spotlight. For every charlatan however there are ten people striving and doing their best find something tangible, a shard of truth in the quagmire of confusion.
Over the next few months I will be delving into a few cases which I find most interesting, starting with one of Australia’s most infamous cases, that of Frederick Valentich a young pilot whose encounter with something in the skies over Bass Strait forty years ago this year, ended with tragic results.
The return of the X Files has been a hit and miss affair to say the least but the latest episode of the limited series run finds the show again firing on all cylinders. Written by Darin Morgan and harking back to some of his finest work (Humbug, Jose Chungs from Outer Space and the sublime Clyde Bruckmans Final Repose) ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ stands up with some of the finest comedy episodes the series has done. In fact, it was such a good episode that there was even a rare spark of life behind David Duchovny.
I won’t go too in depth of at this point (I’ll delve more into the season as a whole after it completes its run) but this episode proves that when The X Files stands its strongest it is in the single story format. ‘Forehead Sweat” finds Mulder approached by Reggie Something, a grey suited man dripping with forehead sweat who tries to convince Mulder that someone is using the Mandela Effect (Or the Mengele Effect) to erase peoples memory and change the past. Indeed Reggie even goes in depth into previous X File cases in an effort to remind Mulder that in fact he, Reggie, was an original member of the X Files and he was there from the outset, even before Scully arrived. The banter back and forth between the three is fantastic, and the writing is at it’s sharpest in a long time. There is a lot to take in this episode and I won’t ruin the brilliant comedy here (plus one very bad pun) but it is one of those episodes that will need a re-watch to take everything in. It is a nostalgic piece and reminds me why I used to love this show so much back in the day.
I have never shied away from my dislike of the mythology of the show, each brick that’s placed into that wall just shows time and time again that there is no solid plan in place for the story arc. They are usually poorly written, convoluted and way too far up there own backside. The monster of the week has always been the series’s bread and butter but that doesn’t mean that there is no room for character development. In fact the underlining theme for the latest episode (in fact the last two) has been how Mulder and Scully are people out of time, that the world has moved on and the dark landscape of the conspiratorial that they moved through just doesn’t exist anymore. Just who are they now that they have gotten older, having given everything to the pursuit of the truth and now all they have left is each other, perhaps not even that. This will probably be the last run of the X Files and I do hope they focus on the two as they struggle to find a place in the new world around them. Sadly though I think it’ll end on more of the same but there’s is always room in the realm of extreme possibilities to be pleasantly surprised.
Anime can be beautiful. I’m not talking just about the stunning artwork that can be found in certain forms of anime but actual omnipresent beauty, and beauty isn’t something you find much in film of late. Indeed movies with beauty, with true beauty, with moments that capture our breath and leave us gasping, wide eyed and innocent at the screen are quite few and far between. Naoko Yamada’s ‘Koe no Katachi’ does this with a subtle grace that transcends its medium and becomes something truly memorable.
Shoya Ishida is in the sixth grade when he first meets Shoko Nishimiya, a young girl with a severe hearing disability who has just transferred into the grade school. From the outset Ishida begins to bully her and the girl is very quickly marginalized from the rest of her class. As much as Nishimiya is sweet and innocent, trying again and again to reach out to her fellow classmates for friendship and understanding, for connection, she is met only by cruelty. The opening of the film which shows the horrific bullying Nishimiya endures of a daily basis is raw and brutal. Ishida, as are his classmates, horrid, ugly and unlikable in the extreme as the film begins and things only get worse for the girl. One day Ishida pushes things to far when after he violently rips out her hearing aids, Nishimiya is quickly taken out of school. Everyone quickly points their fingers at Ishida as the person to blame. The boy is ostracized by his classmates, his friends turn swiftly on him and he is left to spend the rest of his days at school as an outsider and pariah. He learns to look down, to avoid contact and interaction and he learns to be alone.
As time goes by Ishida is haunted the memory of Nishimiya and after an unsuccessful suicide attempt he decides to seek her out. Ishida turns from someone who is so very easy to loathe into a person we feel for, a person we pity, a person we truly want to find happniess. As the story moves along and he is forced, rather bewildered, into making human connections with Nishimiyas little sister Yuzuru and a new best friend Tomohiro Nagatsuka, another outcast at school who instantly becomes devoted to him, Ishida starts to see the world again through the deafness of his lonliness. A Silent Voice is a story about redemption. It’s a story about the broken and the incomplete. It is about finding a peace with ourselves and those we choose to let into our lives and that while we cannot change the crimes of our past we can move on from them. The artwork is breathtaking, the use of space and movement are perfect and the sound direction and soundtrack are sublime. It is a movie to be experienced without expectation.
It is a love story, a story about us and who we seek to be.
Regeneration episodes are tricky beasts. When I was about eight years old I can recall sitting cross legged on my parents living room floor and watching transfixed as Tom Baker (my Doctor) regenerated into a dashing Peter Davison. They still really hadn’t got a handle on a natural fluidity of the regeneration process so each death was as different as the Doctor was who was regenerating. This year sees the end of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor and show runner Steven Moffat in Twice Upon A Time and as stories go it’s, well, it’s alright.
Capaldi is an exceptional Doctor who has been time and time again let down in the writing of his tenure. His first season was the weakest of all the new Who, yes there were some crackers like Listen, Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express but most of the season was lop sided and badly conceived. It was as if they had no idea themselves as to what this new Doctor was about. He was gruff and unapproachable. An alien and that was all they seemed to have. However, all that can be said of the seasons failing one of them is not Capaldi. He is truly brilliant and his own long history with the character, and the love he has for the role shines through in every scene and I wish that he had been given something truly magical, something a little more moving as his final run. While the 10th Doctor shared much of the same moments with both David Tennant and Russel T Davis jumping ship that version was given a long love letter goodbye and it truly is heartbreaking when he also regenerates against his will. “I don’t want to go” is a beautiful last line before the devastation of his change into number 11. Moffats own first go at a regeneration storyline when Matt Smith left. while not as emotive as Tennants. it did have some lump in the throat moments. Capaldi never got that level of feeling and I think that’s such a tragic end.
Twice Upon A Time finds Capaldi’s Doctor at the South Pole refusing to regenerate after battling the Cybermen and losing both Bill and Nardole. Here he crosses paths with the first Doctor (the always brilliant David Bradley) who is himself on the verge of his first ever regeneration and, in fear of not being himself anymore, also refuses to move on. Here they meet long time Who contributor and Moffat’s Sherlock collaborator Mark Gatiss as the Captain, Pearl Mackie returns as Bill (well kind of) and adventure ensues. Which is kind of the problem. The story is just not that memorable, it’s serviceable yes but it was written by the man who wrote The Day of The Doctor for the 50th anniversary which is a story that hits all the notes you could want. It showed thought, it showed love and it showed a true understanding of the characters. There was little to none of this here. Bradley’s Doctor was only there for the nostalgia and Capaldi’s wish to somehow have the first Doctor in his run, Bill wasn’t really Bill and Clara showing up had no point and meant very little and at the end of it all, 12 is left alone on the battlefield with everyone gone and nothing left. Once back inside the TARDIS he decides that maybe one more lifetime wouldn’t be so bad and stops fighting, and waits for the change to take him. Matt Smith had some awesome lines in his final moments as the Doctor and Capaldi should have been given something equal to sink his teeth into, to be able to show the depth and feeling of his Doctor but his lines were one dimensional and flat. The only line that had any true worth (apart from not eating pears) was his final line, “Doctor, I let you go”, which as much as elevens last lines of “I shall always remember when the Doctor was me”, was written as much for Capaldi as anyone else. So we are left, as the dust settles and Jodie Whittaker waits to fully take her place in the TARDIS and with moments of brilliance from the 12th Doctor, it is with true sadness we say goodbye to him.
Bring on 13!