Monday, November 28, 2016

So I have an idea...

Want to get a look at the secret place?

It's not nearly as salacious as it sounds.

It's a corner of my mind that engages during truly difficult times.

It's an escape.

It's the writerly equivalent of dumping out everything in the toy box and just playing. Cowboys with dinosaurs. Universal monsters in the Star Wars cantina.

I give no thought to how saleable the story is or if it's conforming to everything I've learned in grad school, workshop, or Writer's Digest. You see, creating good literature or art is hard. It requires great depth of thought. I just can't do that right now. This election, my Grandmother's death, problems at work, and personal exigencies of the highest order leave me with only enough mental bandwidth to teach my classes...and sometimes I wonder if I even have that much. No, as much I live life in service to the intellect, I must turn it off for now.

There's seldom anything new that germinates from this creative process. In fact it's downright derivative as I play in other people's sandboxes without acknowledging the properties by name, Sometimes the writing comes into a fully-formed and readable text. Most other times its notes, sketches, and research spat out in "diary of a madman" style. Things only I can read. But I enjoy it because sometimes I think planning and researching are the most enjoyable part of the writing process. You know, when everything is new? But I digress...

So would you like to see what I'm playing with? I could post it in episodic installments here on the blog. I suppose your answer depends, and justifiably so, on just what "it" is. I can tell you a few attributes that I have in mind right now. I'll pitch it to you in bulletpoint form with each point accompanied by its inspiration (read: ripped off source):

-This is going to be a sweeping space opera of the pulpiest sort. Just look at the pic I've included at the top of this post. Visually, it says it all. There will be bubble-shaped helmets on spacesuits and spiky rocketships. And laser guns. Lots of splodey laser guns. If you want another stylistic inspiration, take a look at DC's Adam Strange.

-Star Wars. Man, will there be a lot of Star Wars. I can't even begin to relate how much Star Wars will be in this toy box.

-Our lead character will owe a heavy debt to both Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Of course both of those characters played off of one another in various respects so mentioning them in tandem should not be surprising. This guy will be a great athlete, a swashbuckling fighter, but also a keen intellect. Basically he's everything I'm not. I once wrote an old pulp story with a James Dean-like character named Chase Danner. I think the name fits here too. Chase it is.

-He has a sidekick, natch. A major domo, a "his man Friday" that serves as his Alfred or his Dr. Watson. Only this time the character isn't human. He's an artificial being like a Replicant a la Blade Runner. He's on the run with Chase because the galaxy hates artificial lifeforms and is forcing them to register.

-Oh yeah, both of our heroes are on the run from a tyrannical empire that has taken over the galaxy. The guy now in charge of the known universe is an orange-skinned former pirate who amassed a fortune and took leadership. What's more, all of his lowbrow cronies are now governors of individual star systems.

-Fleeing this tyranny for having run afoul of it somehow, Chase and his major domo crash land on a planet that bears an uncanny resemblance to prehistoric Earth. That means dinosaurs. Lots of 'em. I see it being equal parts John Carter of Mars and Land That Time Forgot, both of which written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I don't know what the humanoid life will be like on that planet, but they will carry swords.

-Apes. I'm a sucker for ape people. Get ready for a whole city of them,

-Our heroic duo are going to meet a small, green-skinned member of a quasi-samurai organization called The Order. The membership of this sect has been broken by the new government and most of them are in hiding. They're sort of a mix of Vulcan and Jedi.

-You know how everybody seems to hate the Ewoks from Return of the Jedi? I mean, that was of course before we were assaulted with Jar Jar Binks. After that they looked positively glorious. My idea? The cute, teddy bear-like creatures are engaged in a woodsy facade. They're really covering up a highly technological civilization planning for galactic dominance.

-There's another rival for the orange tyrant. A criminal. A product of genetic engineering just like Khan. Except in this case I'm thinking more the Bennedict Cumberbatch version because I wouldn't want to sully the perfection that was Ricardo Montalban.

-I once saw a documentary on cuttlefish that featured my cousin Josh. I thought the fish would make a great basis for alien beings so I might as well toss them into this stew.

-There will be a large ship full of refugees similar to Battlestar Galactica. I may or may not draw upon non-Western Earth cultures as my inspirations.

-In their adventures, Chase and currently unnamed sidekick accumulate more adventure companions. This is in keeping with other space operas such as Message from Space and Battle Beyond the Stars. Who will I ripoff for them? The Gil Gerard-era Buck Rogers (Twiki!)? Battlestar Galactica? The Micronauts? Who knows. That's the fun part. I just know it will be a merry band of warriors. "Stronger together," right?

-There's going to be a giant robot. Something like a Shogun Warrior.

-Chicks. Really hot chicks. That's part of pulp. Of course I debated whether not to include this as it seems insensitive (yes, I thought I was going to stop thinking for this, but it ain't so easy.) Then I heard an interview with Carrie Fisher today on NPR where she talked about how great of a character Leia is and how she became a part of her. I can try to emulate all of that...and still put characters in metal bikinis.

So...any interest?

Hell, let's crowdsource this shit. What do YOU want to see?

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, November 25, 2016

Space shuttle UFO incidents

Again, still reading Richard Hoagland's Dark Mission.

While it's not a "UFO book" exactly, it does operate from the premise that NASA has been concealing evidence of alien life. This has inspired me to look into, however cursory in method, allegations of other NASA cover ups related to aliens, particularly in regard to former space shuttle flights. Here are a few:

-February of 1996. STS-75 was a space shuttle mission intended to launch a tethered satellite system. A 12-mile long tether line was deployed from the shuttle cargo bay. The line broke and the satellite was lost. Video footage of this test shows circular objects in the vicinity. They do bear a resemblance to classic "flying saucers" and UFO proponents argue that they are indeed extraterrestrial spacecraft or anomalies at the very least. NASA says the objects are ice particles and space debris (there is a LOT of junk orbiting Earth,)

-In November of that same year, Columbia was again in orbit, this time on STS -80. There's an interesting bit of video footage from that mission that has made the rounds over the years. In it, a circular object comes to a stop over Earth, hovers, and then descends. Again NASA argues it's ice particles that nothing unusual was observed on the mission.

-I'm sure I'll get called a schlockmeister skeptic, but I'm actually comfortable with the explanations of ice particles and space debris. But there's one case that still has me intrigued, though. It happened on a Discovery mission in September 1991. In video footage from the mission, a point of light approaches Earth's atmosphere. There is a flash of light and the point charges direction.What looks like a missile then shoots up and into space from the Earth. Of course NASA says it's ice and debris particles knocked all helter skelter  from the shuttle firing its attitude thrustsers. That's where the flash of light came from. My problem with that explanation is that the shuttle should have moved. Therefore, the angle of the shot should have changed. It doesn't. The particles themselves don't appear to behave in the way you might expect from a thruster burst. I'm thinking primarily of the "missile" coming up at steep angle st high speed. There are those who say the video reflects a sort of "space defense" system against aliens. I'm nowhere near prepared to go that far. I don't think the video shows any aliens. I simply have questions.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Oh I hope NASA has a stargate

So like I said, I've been reading by Dark Mission by Richard Hoagland.

It's getting even weirder.

I can't really get into it all right now as I don't have the time to do it justice. Additionally I'm still mulling over what it all means. Here are a few tidbits I've gleaned:

-Hyperdimensional physics. Yeah, better that you read it for yourself.
-NASA is obsessed with all things Egyptian. This may be because the Egyptians made it to the Moon first through a sort of "stargate."  Yes, you may proceed with all manner of movie comparisons.
-Inspired, I went to visit Hoagland's website, The Enterprise Mission (yes, I believe it's a direct Star Trek homage) to learn more. Upon visiting, I learned that episodes of Tom Corbett: Space Cadet and
a few View Master reels may have been part of a conspiracy to desensitize us to the idea of finding artifacts on Mars.

While that latter point is enticing, I'm still stuck on the idea of a stargate. Fiction is obviously repleat with such conveyances, from the movie of the same name to the device used by Jodie Foster in Contact (pictured above and a great film if you haven't seen it.) So if, as Hoagland, is arguing in this book, with such savoir faire I might add, that NASA is hiding the truth about so great many things, might a logical question be "so what else are they hiding?" Could a stargate be such a secret? I won't deny I'd be thrilled if such a thing actually existed. Certainly doesn't seem any less likely than anything else Hoagland argues for in the book (again in fairness, I have not finished reading it.)

Anyway, I Googled "NASA" and "stargate" and came up with this. While it probably is just a wind tunnel getting torn down, the romantic in me chooses to believe it's a classified device capable of generating an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.

Until such a point where Richard Hoagland tells me different...

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Richard Hoagland's "Dark Mission"

Thanksgiving Break is upon me and I'm reading a few books.

One is Cormac McCarthy's The Road. As I blogged earlier, I think it will get me in the mindset of the next four years of Trump. Also, I checked out Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA by Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara, the latter writer you may know from multiple guestings on Ancient Aliens. As the back cover reads, Hoagland writes to clear away NASA's "squeaky-clean image of technological infallibility."

After Challenger, Columbia, and a few botched Mars missions, I'm not sure where he gets the "infallible" part, but it's clear Hoagland is arguing there is a conspiracy afoot. But just what kind of conspiracy?

For one thing, Hoagland believes in Cydonia. Longtime ESE readers are no doubt familiar with this famed "city" on Mars...or the remains of one...that features pyramids and the infamous "Face." He argues that the Cydonia "complex" has a geometric pattern to it that could not have arisen through erosion or other natural means. There are also, Hoagland asserts in the book, other artifacts of civilization on Mars as well as "crystal towers on the Moon." Despite the thrilling nature of these discoveries, NASA has kept them all quiet. As Hoagland says, he began to wonder "what did NASA know...and when did they first know it?

Why the secrecy? Hoagland claims that goes back to the Brookings Report which prior to our landing on the Moon argued that any evidence of an extraterrestrial presence should be withheld from the public. Hoagland and his fellow researchers believe otherwise. Pages 12-13 of the book describe Hoagland's frustration at releasing his findings on Cydonia, the "barrage of ad hominem criticism" he experienced and how pointless it was to attempt publication through the "NASA controlled peer review press."

Hoagland also claims that for all its ties to science, NASA is quite steeped in the occult and ancient religions. To emphasize this, the cover of Dark Mission features Buzz Aldrin flying a Masonic flag on the Moon, Yes, the Freemasons are laying claim to outer space. There's also a nifty hierarchy chart that shows how many higher-ups and actual astronauts in NASA were Freemasons. Allegations about Masons aside, I can see where he may be getting part of this "occult" tinge. There were, after all, bona fide Nazis working in NASA and then there was Jack Parsons, whose own dabblings in the occult are well-documented. Be that as it may, I still don't see how this makes NASA an evil organization with a "dark mission." Then again, I'm not finished with the book yet, but I'm still not holding out hope for a plausible answer. The most I'd be willing to accept at this point is that the organization is a bloated and dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Oh and there's a whole chapter on Kennedy's assassination! Can't wait to see how that all fits into this mess. Oddly enough, the assasination occurred on this very day in 1963. But I digress...

I'm not done reading Dark Mission, so I suppose I should hold off judgment and give it a fair shake. It's just so hard to do when you know that much of the scientific community regards Hoagland's arguments as bunk. You can go to Phil Plait for but one of many refutations of the contents of Dark Mission and other Hoagland offerings. Then again, you might only need to find a copy of the text and flip through all the color images of the Moon and Mars provided. I have a very difficult time seeing the things that Hoagland and Bara see in them and that might well be the point: we all see what we want to see.

More to come...

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, November 21, 2016

Warren Ellis and online privacy

A while back, my good friend Dorkland posted tips from writer Warren Ellis on online privacy.

I thought it would be a good idea to repost it here on ESE. We are facing days of political uncertainty. Be that as it may, we have actually known about issues of online privacy for a while now so these really are a good idea no matter who is in office or what your persuasions are. And once you read this, I'm sure you'll agree that the writer of Global Frequency really does know his tech:

"If you have access to a Windows machine, there's an excellent Twitter archive eraser called Twitter Archive Eraser, haha.  All you have to do is request your archive from Twitter, install Eraser and feed your archive to the machine. I mean, if you don't want to delete your Twitter account entirely, which I totally understand, but.

"(You may want to do something with your LinkedIn account for similar reasons.)
Also, iMessage and WhatsApp are okay, but get Signal. If you're going to organise, try to form IRL spaces and try not to use Facebook right now.
Keep an eye on Safecast - as they build out their systems, their open environmental data may prove very useful in the coming years.

"You may want to consider private newsletters - Tinyletter is a very good free option if you intend to speak to less than a few thousand people - and, despite being Facebook-owned, a private Instagram account may be better for you than a public one right now."

Sadly, I'm having a few technical difficulties this week. Ellis provided many links to the apps he wrote of in the post but I was unable to copy them over because the app I'm using has gone buggy. You can find many of those links at the Dorkland link.

Welcome to the resistance.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Battle Beyond the Stars

In down times, I turn to "comfort science fiction."

That's something of a term I invented (or maybe I didn't...should check the interwebs) to describe purely entertaining science fiction films from my youth. Many of these were produced on the cheap and were blatantly attempting to cash in on the massive success of Star Wars. They have no serious message and don't pretend to and that is by no means to their detriment.

I recently watched Battle Beyond the Stars. It's a Roger Corman feature from 1980 that actually featured special effects work by a young James Cameron. It definitely borrows pages from Star Wars but also deliberately from The Magnificent Seven (and thereby Seven Samurai).

Akir is a peaceful planet (whose inhabitants are known as the Akira in a nod to the director of the aforementioned Seven Samurai.) But it's getting hassled by Mardor the Conqueror (played by John Saxon, a staple of 70s/80s scifi) who leads the Malmori army and a couple creepy, freaky sycophants. So a young boy named Shad (played by Richard Thomas...that guy from The Waltons) needs to head off into space in search of mercenaries to help defend his home. Fortunately, he picks up a love interest from Hephaestus Station (a space station where androids are repaired...and yes, there will be many more parentheticals in this post) who happens to own a hammerhead-shaped spaceship with a wise-cracking computer named Nell.

During their search, they acquire a wealthy assassin named Gelt (played by Robert Vaughn), a really cool reptilian alien named Cayman who has a personal vendetta against Mardor, Saint Exmin of the Valkyrie (played by the ever-voluptuous Sybil Danning) who flies by the motto "Live fast, fight well, and have a beautiful ending," five hive-mind clones called the Nestor, and a couple aliens who communicate by sharing heat. Best of all, there is George Peppard as the Space Cowboy (I'm not kidding), a hard drinking, space-rig driving sort that I swore would say "I love it when a plan comes together" at any given moment. The seven, each in their own respective ships, fly into battle against Mardor and the Malmori.

And it's pretty cool.

Seriously, I wish they made either toys or models of the spaceships. I can see myself sitting down on the floor and replaying all the space battles with no shame at all. Well, maybe a little. Nah, that's not true. I've got none left. Better yet, I wish there were comic books that filled in the back stories on the rag-tag group of heroes fighting against the, Malmori. I might be alone in these desires but what the hell. I'm used to that.

You owe it to yourself to check this out. Guaranteed to get your mind off your troubles. Also might inspire you.

I mean, plucky band of misfits against a steamrolling tyrant and his army? Nice.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets