Anthony Fokker was a rather dislikeable young man who built and flew his own airplane just five years after the Wright Brothers built and flew theirs. Though he was Dutch, that was in Germany, where he'd been sent to train as an auto mechanic. Always with an eye to the main chance, Fokker not only stayed in Germany when it went to war but became a citizen in order to sell warplanes to the German air force. His "three-decker" fighter was one of the best of its generation, and he topped off his work on the wrong side of the First World War by building the first warplane whose pilot could fire a machinegun through the whirling propeller without hitting it. Postwar, he quickly reclaimed his Dutch citizenship and headed for the United States. Altogether, I found him a rather sleazy character, who managed to survive the Crash and the Great Depression as a multi-millionaire, though after coming to the New World, he never again designed a really successful airplane. Available now for release on April 3. Published by Smithsonian Books, which oddly prices the Kindle edition in the same range as the hardcover, sigh. When will they realize that an ebook just doesn't have the same value as a book you can put on the shelf, loan to a friend, or donate to the library?
Darkest Hour is a great flick that the better class of film critic seems to dislike for all the wrong reasons. Never mind that Gary Oldman, who is six years younger than Winston Churchill in 1940, is made up to look like a man twenty years older; never mind that the prime minister never rode the Underground, let alone took advice from a ten-year-old; never mind that the Dunkirk flotilla wasn't really his idea, but that of Admiral Ramsey at Dover Castle.... I could go on, but it's not the myths that bother the reviewers, but the fact that Churchill is offered up as someone for us to admire! That a crusty old reactionary should be admirable, in the era of Donald Trump, apparently sticks in the throat of the Good People. The Motion Picture Academy finessed the problem by giving the Best Picture award to a fish story, while handing an Oscar to Gary Oldman, as if it were he that made the movie, rather than the other way around. Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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