A Couple More Reviews

I don’t get around much anymore, but I do get on line, reading, writing and watching videos. In some ways, this telepresence is wonderful: saves gas (trips to the library) and gives me access to the whole universe of human information, fake news and all. In other ways, it’s a pain in the ass, which is why I got off Facebook, plus Zuckerberg’s politics are Fascist. But what was I getting at? I can’t remember, so herewith some more reviews.


Witness of another world - Movie Poster

Witness of Another World, a film by Alan Stivelman

Most documentaries assume a point of view, then show you a bunch of images to convince you they’re right. A good example would be Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 film Blackfish. I studied documentary film in college and kept an interest in it all my life; it is infinitely more interesting to film a documentary, where you never quite know what will happen next, versus a feature, where you are shooting, piece by piece, a structure, following a script, and trying to get everything right (i.e. no jets overhead, no telephone poles projecting from the actors’ heads, etc.).

Blackfish is the most influential documentary I’ve ever seen; I am convinced that film alone “ruined” a visit to SeaWorld for hundreds of thousands of people, cost $ millions at the box office and brought about the organization’s newfound commitment to quit breeding and exhibiting orcas when their current stock dies off.

Like I said, a very successful documentary.

Witness of Another World is equally moving and convincing, but in a different way. For here we have a boy, Juan Perez, who was by his own story taken aboard an unidentified flying object 40 years ago, and has never felt at ease with himself since. He has grown into a man not so much shunned by others as shunning them, because they mock and humiliate him and his experience, because they do not understand that he has seen something supernatural, something metaphysical, something genuinely mysterious.

In a video flashback, as the 12-year-old Juan is being questioned on live TV as to what he saw, he suddenly freezes, then presses his hands over his eyes and breaks into tears. He cannot put the experience into words, and if he could, who would believe him?

Sound familiar?

Finding a UFO encounter with that depth of time and footage behind it is extraordinary, but what makes Argentinian director Alan Stivelman’s film even more remarkable is the entrance of Franco-American UFO researcher Dr. Jacques Vallee, who interviewed Perez way back when, and now re-emerges offering some hope.

Stivelman isn’t one to stand aloof from is subjects, like a nature documentarian filming a hunting lion. From the first frame he admits his involvement, saying he stumbled across Juan’s case and wondered what became of him. Now, he determines (somehow, it’s not made clear) that Juan is from the Guarani tribe, ancestrally. Perhaps the tribe has some wisdom to help him?

Indeed they do, and the film features the gnarled faces and sage advice of two tribal elders. The Guarani culture has recognized the spirit world for generations, and Juan’s bizarre experience fits right in.

Other documentaries try to persuade you of the reality of UFOs with fuzzy photos or jumpy films. Witness of Another World presents a human being, changed and remolded as new interpretations of his experience reveal themselves. It is, in its own way, much more moving and effective.

This is what the UFO does: it alienates us from our own debunking, scientific, materialistic world. It is perhaps, as Vallee  suggests, the breakthrough of the irrational, like some uber-quantum particle, into the rational world; or rather, the temporary dissolution of the rational world in something like a dream-state, where the laws of reality allow you to meet your grandfather again, these many years dead.

Do I need to say that Witness of Another World is one of most remarkable documentaries I’ve ever seen? It needs to become the new touchstone of the supernatural film, bringing compassion and humanity to a subject has long been argued on a digital, yes/no basis. I urge you to to view it, buy it, and share it with other like-minded people. Do it today!


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Reality Denied: Firsthand Experiences with Things that Can’t Happen — But Did. Non-fiction by John B. Alexander, Colonel U.S. Army (Ret.)

I remember, before my teens, my father would from time to time take us out to The Viking Smorgasbord in Ardmore, a suburb of Philadelphia near Radnor, where we lived. It featured a vast, rotating table, covered with all kinds of Scandinavian delights, but what I remember most clearly (and oddly) are the spiced, pickled plums. I’ve never tasted anything like them.

Of course, the most important part of visiting a smorgasbord is to remember not to eat too much of any one item. This leaves room for more variety. On the other hand, only having a taste or sample of an item — variety itself — sometimes becomes boring, and you want to eat something (think ice cream or chocolate cake) in depth. Unfortunately, you are stuck at the smorgasbord.

Such is the fate of the reader of Reality Denied, a lack of any depth. Author Col. John B. Alexander devotes at most a chapter to each subject and a brief synopsis of what was obviously a complex event. This is simply insufficient, but my criticism of this book doesn’t end there.

I bought Reality Denied for one reason, to read Chapter 3, “Speak To Me,” where the colonel finds that his (now ex-) wife is conveniently telepathic while in the Bahamas to research dolphins. What does he do with the remarkable link to an alien, literally extra-terrestrial intelligence? Why, he orders a pod of dolphins to swim hither and yon, like a platoon of soldiers on a parade field. Having thus proved the utility of human-dolphin telepathy in the wild, he carries it backward to a captive dolphin whose most perceptive comment about his living arrangements is that he can’t jump twice like they wanted, the ceiling is too low. (“Look up!” is the exact transmission.) So he agrees to bob twice. Problem solved!

Do I need to say that I AM ASHAMED BY THE LACK OF IMAGINATION SHOWN BY THIS HUMAN BEING?

I mean, Alexander had the brightest minds in the ocean at his beck and call, and he never asked them about their lives? How bio-echolocation works? How they breathe while sleeping? How they fend off sharks? Do they dream? Can they make things up, i.e., lie, tell stories, invent religion… What are those big brains so preoccupied with?

If Alexander did any of this, he doesn’t write about it here. He makes communicating with another species sound about as exciting as reading a train schedule. He goes on to chronicle other unbelievable adventures, such as “spoon-bending parties” where telekinesis is exhibited, and… that’s all I can think of now. There’s plenty more here, I’m only halfway through the book, I’ll probably finish it someday, I might as well get my $9.99 Kindle fee out of it. But there’s no real impetus to do so.

AM I THE ONLY HUMAN BEING WHO HAS USED HUMAN-DOLPHIN TELEPATHY TO TRY TO ENTER (be it ever-so-hesitantly) THE DOLPHINS’ WORLD?

Apparently so. Why, or why not? Is it even of interest to anybody else, what dolphins on the high seas think and feel as they go about their extraordinary lives?

In answer, all I can say is it became very important to me 48 years ago, and it has never stopped being important since. Colonel Alexander, you should be ashamed for writing such a dull book about such exciting subjects!


 

 

 

 

A Bunch of Reviews

I may have been mostly sitting on my butt lately (it’s the vertigo), but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been mentally active (I hate double negatives, don’t you?)! I’ve been reading books and watching movies, and here are my brief opinions of a bunch two of them.


 

The Current War

This larger-than-life story pits two 19th Century titans of industry against each other AND the forces of nature! It has the added feature of being mostly true.

On the one hand, all-American inventor Thomas Edison, whose sweatshop-cum-laboratory has given the world the wonders of the victrola and many other inventions, with direct current (DC), which usually won’t kill you but can’t be transmitted very far. Edison’s solution: what do people living in the country need electricity for, anyway?

George Westinghouse, having invented the air brake for railroads and thus made his million, sees the potential in this mysterious stuff, electricity. When his senior researcher is killed in a predictably avoidable accident, Westinghouse recruits the weird Serbian Nikola Tesla, who has been digging ditches since being fired by Edison’s lab for advocating an alternative to DC, the vastly more transmittable but also more dangerous alternating current (AC). There’s also the little matter of the $50,000 bonus Edison promised Tesla and then welched on, saying “You don’t understand the American sense of humor.”

Thus is engaged the The Current War, which lasted from about 1890-1904. Edison demonstrates the dangers of AC by electrocuting an incredible number of stray and unwanted animals, only the first of which is shown, fortunately, and off-screen. Tesla responds by letting millions of volts of AC cacade over his body at the 1893 Chicago Exposition with no ill results.

Overall, the film is gorgeously filmed and very, very believably acted by all those involved. Female characters, mostly in the form of the two inventors’ wives, are represented. It was reportedly a troubled production, with portions re-shot after a test screening at a film festival, but if so, the result doesn’t show on the screen. (Thanks, Martin Scorsese, who as a co-producer insisted on the right of the final cut!)

We take electricity and the light, warmth and power it gives us for granted. This film reminds us that we shouldn’t, that it was the work of hard-nosed businessmen that brought those wonders to us. I wish all historical films were this good!


 

Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare

a novel by Michael Greenwood

In 1978, when I briefly worked for newspaper heiress Margaret Scripps Buzzelli, she flew me to Moorhead, Minnesota, where I interviewed a very withdrawn and forlorn Michael Greenwood. He was a civilian scientist who’d just served as a source for the influential 1977 PENTHOUSE article “The Pentagon’s Deadly Pets,” which pretty much blew the whistle on the U.S. Navy’s use of dolphins at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. (Note: I can’t find the original article on the Web. It should be. I think I have a copy in my files, I’ll OCR it and put it up here.)

Of course Greenwood, who shows remorse for his dolphin deeds similar to Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry, says the dolphins at Cam Ranh were weaponized with syringes that injected enemy swimmers trying to mine the U.S. warships with compressed air, causing an instant and fatal embolism. The U.S. Navy has said it never weaponized dolphins, finding them to be to unreliable in targeting as a weapons platform, and anyway a live enemy swimmer is more valuable than a dead one, because he can give you intelligence.

I spent a couple of days interviewing Greenwood, smoking dope to control the weirdness of what I was hearing while he consumed an inhuman amount of cheap beer. He talked about dolphins and more, about distant communication with submerged submarines using ultra-low frequencies and about being able to send them a self-destruct signal should they fall into enemy hands. And about a tell-all book he hoped to write on the subject, then tentatively titled The Dolphin Machine.

It was a very heavy interview. I still have the tapes, and I have tried to listen to them to edit them into something I can put on line. But Greenwood’s elliptical, looping, self-reflexive way of speaking defeats me every time. He is incomprehensible and hypnotic, and that’s a bad combination. I went home feeling depressed.

So now we have the promised novel, only it’s titled Peter Fisher’s Odyssey: Marine Mammal Warfare. I think it may take the cake for longest gestation time for a literary work, even beating my own Wet Goddess, which took 37 years to finish, or 24, if you don’t count the 13 years I put it aside because I was emotionally too close to the story. For the record, I think the earlier title, and probably the earlier draft, were better.

Greenwood has written a novel just like he talks — elliptical, looping, self-referential — and very confusing to read. I have gotten 81 pages into it, and I can’t bring myself to pick it up again. It’s sad, because THIS IS THE ONLY NOVEL, AND PROBABLY THE ONLY WORK OF ANY KIND, ON THE OBSCURE SUBJECT OF MARINE MAMMAL WARFARE!

But here’s what I’ve been able to glean so far: The title character is leader of a Navy S.E.A.L. team, The Hounds of Hell, doing a dirty mission in Vietnam. Then he comes home, goes to college, and asks his professor a bunch of obvious, didactic questions like “What is a scientist, Max?”  Cut to Peter, now a novice professor of psychology, lecturing his first class… and he flashes back to the time years ago when he, several human collaborators, a bunch of dolphins and a couple of pilot whales, infiltrated a Chinese harbor and fucked-up a bunch of Chinese whales.

At least, that’s what I think is going to happen. Peter Fisher finishes teaching the class before he finishes the flashback, and then… he dies. This is revealed on page 84. I’m sure that his story continues somehow, because the book goes on for a total of 666 pages. All of them as self-referential as an actor speaking to the camera.

There’s an old dictum in writing fiction, or non-fiction for that matter: Don’t tell the reader what you want them to know, show them. Greenwood never seems to get this, and thus we are subjected to a novel that reads somewhat like a corporate board meeting: Greenwood clues us in on what he’s going to tell us; then he tells us; the he explains what he just told us. It’s insane and boring as shit to read, but I really want to finish the book because I know Greenwood personally (albeit superficially), I can tell he went through something traumatic with dolphins, and I admire what he was able to do and learn about them. He’s also responsible for the release of one, a female Tursiops named Dolly Phynne, from the Navy’s Key West facility, without orders to do so. For which, I gather, he got in trouble. But Dolly Phynne is a another story.

(Greenwood also tells an incredibly funny and poignant story about a dolphin’s blunt response to open-ocean work, but that too is another story.)

Well, this book has a bunch of 5 star ratings on Amazon, so I guess somebody must like it. But now that I’ve put it down, I can’t pick it up again. You try.

(More reviews to follow in a separate story)

 

Why I wrote “Wet Goddess”

Prologue

(Above: Dolly, my dolphin lover. © 2010, Malcolm J. Brenner)

Let me make something abundantly clear: Wet Goddess was not written to promote bestiality or zoophilia, although I knew if I told my story it would probably come down to that.

I wrote Wet Goddess to share my experience with a creature that I found to be remarkably sophisticated, intelligent, aware, loving and worthy in every way of the designation, “non-human person.”

And she didn’t come out of some alien spacecraft. Her kind exist here on Earth, as they have for millions of years before we appeared, surviving ages of fire and ice in the arms of Mother Ocean.

In the decades since my experience with Dolly, science has, in many ways, caught up with my impressions and anecdotal experience. Now cognitive psychologists and others have explored the mind of the dolphin and arrived at the same conclusions I did in 1971: dolphins are self-aware individuals, able to recognize themselves in a mirror, experiencing a vast range of emotions and behaviors, language users and capable of employing “theory of mind,” the ability to calculate or imagine what another creature is thinking.

We should be devoting a large chunk of our resources as a species to understanding these creatures who have survived so much longer on this planet than we have. What are we doing instead? Some nations still slaughter them en masse in tuna nets, while others conduct murderous drive hunts and butcher them with glee. Some nations take the prettiest ones and commoditize them and sell them into enslavement, where they are forced to perform stupid tricks for our amusement. And we are polluting their environment at such a rate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. I despair for their future.

My zoosexual love story with Dolly the dolphin is what has attracted most attention, but if I’d had sex with a barnyard animal or a household pet, do you seriously think I’d have spoken up, exposing a practice that most people find viscerally revolting?

Of course not. Zoophiles may still have to keep their sexuality a secret in most situations, but they are humans and accorded certain rights by law. Dolphins are considered chattel, or property, by the same system. I am advocating for changing that and giving dolphins rights under a framework that recognizes their status, as acknowledged by science.

And that, folks, is what I mean when I say “I didn’t write Wet Goddess for zoophiles, I wrote it for dolphins.”

Sorry I had to spell it out for those of you who so perceptively pointed out that dolphins can’t read.

 

Review: The Shape of Water

A few days ago, I was contacted by writer Ashley Feinberg, with the Huffington Post, who asked my opinion of the movie “The Shape of Water.” I hadn’t seen it yet (I’d been wanting to, on the recommendation of friends), but I was glad to go the next day (one of the pleasures of being retired).  Rather than mess it up with any kind of introduction, I’ll just link to the story: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-shape-of-water-malcolm-brenner-dolphin-sex_us_5aa17482e4b0e9381c169b7a

And I’ll tell you I’m very happy with the way the interview went and the resulting story. Many thanks, Ms. Feinberg!

 

“Dolphin Lover” takes best short documentary award

It has just been announced by the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival that Dolphin Lover took the Best Short Documentary award.  The 15-minute film, directed by Kareem Tabsch and produced by Joey Daoud, recounts the true story of writer Malcolm J. Brenner’s romantic and sexual love affair with a bottlenose dolphin at Floridaland, a low-rent amusement park, in the early 1970’s.  Brenner’s experience became the basis for his 2010 novel Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover.

“Dolphin Lover” to play L.A. Film Festival

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The short film “Dolphin Lover,” about Malcolm J. Brenner’s relationship with Dolly the dolphin, will play at the prestigious 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival.  Screening time is 8:45 p.m. on Monday, June 15 at the Regal Cinemas Live as part of the Shorts Program 1.  For information about future screenings, please return to this web site.