Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An ESE reader asks, "Are they among us?"

Cryptoterrestrials by Mac Tonnies

When you write about UFOs, you sometimes meet odd people.

I'll pause a moment to let you get over that shock.

The stories they want to tell you might be as mild as having seen a strange light in the sky to being as involved as a full-on abduction or even their prolonged communication with aliens. In the end they're just stories and as engrossing and entertaining as they might be to me, they lack any kind of solid evidence with which to verify them. So as you know from previous posts, I'm rather dismissive about such stories.

Little did I realize how much I'd backpedal on that stance when the wild story came from someone I know.

A former college classmate and follower of the blog contacted me. I'll call her "Claire" even though that's not her real name. She asked me if I knew anything about "aliens walking among us."

You mean have I met any? No. Not that I know of. I mean there's a few that the jury is still out on, but that's still nothing I can prove.

In all seriousness, Cryptoterresterials by Mac Tonnies (pictured above) is a great theoretical exploration of the notion and I recommended checking it out. Of course the research for my book on Dulce Base, however skeptical of the whole mythos I might be, also deals significantly with alien-human hybrids. Legend has it that the lower levels of that alien snuggery are involved in all manner of genetic experimentation, certain ones more hideous than others, but at least a few with the end goal creating "hybrids" that could masquerade among human society with little difficulty. Clandestine genetic experimentation of this kind supposedly has its genesis in a 1954 meeting between then-President Eisenhower and representatives of the Greys. As the lore goes, this meeting resulted in the Greada Treaty, where...

Yeah, it was right about there that Claire told me to cut to the chase. I asked what prompted the question. That's when she told me about her "encounter" in Hawaii.

While on vacation on the island of Oahu, Claire walked past a cluster of Asian monks having a conversation with one another in a hotel hallway. Bald heads, saffron robes, the whole package. This is not an especially odd occurrence in Hawaii, but one of the monks stood out to her. According to Claire's description, he was Caucasian, at least seven feet tall, and possessed of a prominent, square jawline and high cheek bones. Claire said that she had been reading about aliens hiding among us and began to wonder.

Wait a minute. Claire, you were never into this cool stuff back in college. Or if you were, you never told me. What gives?

Once more, she reminds me to stay on task. Right.

Anyway, Claire said that in her reading she came across the concept that alleged alien beings are highly telepathic. Thinking there was nothing to lose and that it might be fun, she clearly said the words "Welcome to Earth" in her mind.

To her shock, the Caucasian monk immediately ceased his conversation with the other monks and looked straight up at Claire.

She didn't quite know what to do. Except keep walking.

I must admit, I didn't know what to think. I mean, I've come across all manner of "I've had telepathic contact with aliens" claims. There are several sites dedicated to "the Arcturian Message", self-professed psychic mediums that say they are channeling messages from highly evolved beings that only want to help us out. I started to feel trepidation. Was Claire going to tell me that this odd-looking monk passed along a message of this sort to her?

"No," Claire said. "I had the impression that he was trying to blend in. To assimilate. But I also got the deep sense that he wasn't fully human. Related to us, but somehow...alien."

Here is where I become a victim of my own bias. In most any other case, I would politely and warmly tell the teller of the tale that I don't disbelieve them, but I'd need to see more evidence. Maybe their perception of what happened is somehow obscured. Perhaps he was genuinely odd in appearance, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Maybe the monk in question heard a noise somewhere down the hall and happened to look up at just that time or another similarly prosaic explanation?

But this is Claire. I have known her for 27 years now. She is a sweet woman whose word and integrity has always been beyond reproach. Never once have I known her to be prone to hyperbole. I had to wonder...could there be something to this?

Vallee, Keel, and Tonnies all more or less endorsed the idea that the UFO phenomena uses a "space people" facade as a masquerade. As Terence McKenna more eloquently put it: "We are part of a symbiotic relationship with something which disguises itself as an extraterrestrial invasion so as not to alarm us." Might there be other intelligences or entities of pure consciousness, adapting themselves to human perceptions and expectations, and sometimes mingling among us while other times walking out of silver saucers and looking like bug-eyed Greys? Are encounters with these beings frequently of the more subtle kind that Claire described rather than abductions or craft in the sky? Could Claire have seen a highly evolved being hanging out with Buddhist monks because they were closer to his own mental and spiritual level?

I am forced to consider it...and I honestly wouldn't be if the account hadn't come from someone I trust.

There are worse possible scenarios, of course. Somebody like David Icke might say that the odd monk was one of the shape-shifting Reptoid race in disguise. You see in 1934, there were all these caves and tunnels discovered underneath Los Angeles. These treasure-filled catacombs were constructed by Lizard People, an indigenous subterranean race who have existed alongside humanity but just out sight and...

Oh. Right, Claire. Off topic again.  

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, May 2, 2016

That guy at the Trump rally

Tomorrow is primary day in my home state of Indiana.

It is said to be Donald Trump's triumphant moment or Ted Cruz's last stand or John Kasich's...I don't know what. In light of that, I am compelled to write once again about Donald Trump, but it has nothing to do with Indiana. Rather, I am hearkening back to a campaign stop Trump made on April 25th in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I happened to catch a bit of his stump speech while I was eating dinner.

That's not entirely true. Trump's speech was not what caught my eye. It was one young man in the crowd behind Trump off to the left of the screen. He wore an American flag bathrobe, something like what Apollo Creed wore in one of the Rocky movies (which one I have no idea). Because what could be more patriotic and than wrapping the American flag across your bare body?

I searched around and found this video of the speech on YouTube, uploaded by a user named "Patriotic Populist"...who gave the 50 minute plus footage an opening music bed of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries." In re-watching the speech, I noticed I wasn't watching Trump half as much as I was this guy in the flag bathrobe. After all, he was even more animated than Trump. Since I don't know the young man's name, I started calling him Flag Robe Guy or FRG for short.

Most of FRG's motions were fist pumps and cries of "Yes!" similar to what you might see at an NFL game or a Motley Crue concert. One of those "Yes" moments seemed almost sexual in nature when Trump alluded to "knocking an opponent on his ass." FRG then took a quick pause to snap a selfie of himself, making sure to capture Trump in the background. He grows positively misty-eyed at Trump's mention of Sheriff Joe Arpaio then gives his friend a big hug during chants of "build that wall!" This emotion swells to a lusty display of his tongue when Trump mentions Ivanka.

It is not all rock concert good times for FRG, however. He grows positively dour as Trump names his litany of "countries taking our jobs." FRG responds with a bellowing "boo!" and thumbs down motions. Things pick up eventually though as Trump turns to face the supporters behind him. FRG shouts "I love you!" and makes a "heart" gesture out of his two hands.

I can't really talk. I think I did something similar when I saw Erin Gray of Buck Rogers fame at a sci-fi convention back in 2001. Anyway...

Then comes the culmination. Towards the end of the clip, Trump pledges that he will protect our Second Amendment rights. In response, FRG dabs (see Cam Newton).

I don't say any of this to mock the young FRG. I mean, I don't know anything about him or his story. Any criticism is unfair. He's probably not a bad guy. So why the fascination? Well, I'm envious of him.

That's right. I envy his certainty. I envy his seeming ability to look at the world and say "this is right, this is wrong, and there just ain't no in betweens." He can also look at a political candidate and say "They are absolutely the right choice! No question!" I can't.

Especially Trump. I suppose I might be able to if Trump ever made a solid statement about what he's going to do in office. I mean, I know he says he's going to "build that wall," but that might actually be the only concrete plan of action in his platform. I listened to his speech on foreign policy and only came away with inconsistency. Trump says he will "work closely" with our allies but ditching NATO is certainly on the table. He's going to cut spending but spend more on the military at the same time. He's going to stop China from "raping us." "We're going to turn it around, we have the cards, don't forget it."

How that will be done without trade conflicts and just what those cards are were not divulged. Maybe vagueness is the Trump campaign platform.

I feel so much uncertainty when I examine political matters. What is a fair immigration policy that won't rip families apart but will provide sensible security? How do you have any of the benefits Trump is touting from federal services, such as preserving Social Security and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, and have a lower tax rate? Oh and isn't anybody else feeling the unsettling historical echoes upon hearing Trump's "America First!" rhetoric? At every turn I'm tripped up on logic and factual accuracy, preventing me from buying in with the same wholehearted fervor.

So I'm envious. My jeremiad could go on for screens and screens, but the upshot is I just can't be as cocksure as Flag Robe Guy. I mean, I'm not certain at this point in my life that I can ever tell someone I love them again. This guy can shout it out at Trump no problem. It's something I just can't do.

No matter how appealing blind faith and simple binary thinking might be.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, April 28, 2016

In memorium: Prince

Once again we've lost a music legend and I just don't know where to start.

A week has gone by and I still don't know how to adequately write about what Prince meant to me. Guess I'll just take it from the beginning.

It was somewhere towards the end of middle school. My eventual Prince fandom was something of a nuclear event. His hits just kept piling up until they reached critical mass with me and it all blew up. I had been on his periphery for a while as R&B wasn't quite my thing, but I started to see that the guy could also rock. I mean just shred the guitar. I think that's what ultimately hooked me in and got me to buy his music. Purple Rain was actually the fourth record I ever bought and I did so based on the title track. Only after listening to it at home did I realize just how much of a disservice the radio edit was and I found myself screaming at DJs "No! You need to play the whole thing! All seven minutes! The entire guitar wail!"

In retrospect I suppose it was a natural fit. After all, my love for Duran Duran was already in full swing. How could I not follow an artist who combined guitar with synthesizer and embraced gender fluidity with long coats, frilly shirts, and heels? It just fit. Pretty soon, I was scrawling "Prince and the Revolution" (in the same stylized font as the record cover, naturally) next to Duran symbols on folders and school desks.

I stopped following him for a while after "Kiss" was released. After all, I was going metal or at least that's what I wanted myself and the rest of the world to think. That didn't last long and found myself returning to my alternative (whatever that means) roots with Nine Inch Nails in the early 1990s. One day I was reading the liner notes to Pretty Hate Machine and saw that Trent Reznor mentioned Prince as an inspiration. Why would that be? I read around a little more and found that like Reznor, Prince did almost everything himself in the studio. The composing, the arranging, and the playing of damn near every instrument. This inspired me to return to the Prince catalog with fresh ears and eyes, to look past the butt-less chaps, the controversy, and the hypersexual content and to really listen to the music. I began to discover how truly intricate it was and how it mashed up nearly every style there is. As someone who loves slamming seemingly disparate genres together, I began to appreciate the artist on a whole new level.

Then in 2004 I was fortunate enough to see him live. It remains as one of the greatest concerts I've ever seen. The consummate musicianship, the showmanship you just couldn't take your eyes off of, the little surprises like his version of "Nothing Compares 2 U," you just couldn't ask for more. But he gave it anyway. He stretched that night from his R&B funk off of Musicology to rocking out with "U Got the Look" and then crooning an equally powerful acoustic version of "Little Red Corvette."

I'll put it this way. When the second song in your set can be "Let's Go Crazy" and then not have a low moment after that, you know you're the dope. This man who was notoriously short and thin in physical stature held an arena full of people completely in the palm of his hand by his pure presence alone.

Then exited the stage in an equipment crate.

What did Prince mean to me? After mulling that over for the past few days, I'm continually noticing the parallels he held with Bowie. Like David Bowie, Prince was not only immeasurably talented and gifted with an artistic sensibility that places him well within the realm of genius, he was also genuinely fearless. He was going to do what he was going to do and he didn't seem to care what people thought of it. Eff your gender standards of what a man should be. Prince was going to embody the sexual personas of both genders at once and if your redneck mentality couldn't handle that, that was your problem.

"I'm not a woman
I'm not a man
I'm something you'll never understand"

As we find ourselves embroiled in ridiculous arguments over public washrooms and bigotry against people, Prince's artistic statements resonate stronger than ever.

In addition to amazing music, a spectacular concert, and his true genius...as if all that wasn't enough in and of itself...I think that's the main thing I will always remember about Prince. Fearlessness. I can only hope to be the same in my own creative endeavors. In fact, that might be the only way to get anything real and authentic done. Maybe that was part of his message to us.

I sure will miss him. I would have sprinkled YouTube clips of his songs throughout this post but...well, you know how it is.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

My time travel argument

It was around this time of year in 1989 when I got into a stupid fight about time travel.

Only I could do that, right?

It was in physics class. I brought up an argument that Stephen Hawking made right around then. Hawking said something to the effect of "Time travel is not possible. If it were, we would be talking to people from the future by now." My friend Brad said, "You're wrong on that point." Even though it wasn't really "my" point, I stupidly took umbrage with it. Brad said, "If someone told you they were from the future, would you believe them?"

What did I say? "Someone believed Marty McFly...and they even made a movie about it."

Like I said. Stupid. Especially now that I consider that Brad was rather more on target than Stephen Hawking. Would you believe them? Now admittedly, if the right hottie in a coffeeshop tells me she's a time traveler, I'll pretty much believe that...or anything else...she says. It does however beg a question. It would be tricky, but if the would-be time traveler were careful and savvy enough to avoid interactions that might negate his/her own future, why couldn't they be among us? In fact, keeping to themselves might not only be desirable but vital to the process.

Now that says nothing about how one might actually execute such travel. But even that is getting slightly less theoretical. Only slightly, but it's a start. If wormholes are possible, then all bets may be off. Besides, there's all manner of anachronisms that keep the evidence piling up, right?

See? Ancient Greece...and that's obviously a laptop. So, yeah case closed.

I kid, I kid. Seriously though, time travel might be a possible explanation for UFO activity or at least a portion of. That is Charles Penniston's rationale, for better or worse, for what he claims to have experienced in Rendlesham Forest. It would also explain why such incidents might be covered up as the government would not want us to know about time travelers than they would ETs.  

Time travel is not a subject I care for much, either in fiction or Fortean contemplation, other than the occasional one-off piece. The point of it all though?

Brad? If you're out there reading, know this: You can now brag about kicking Stephen Hawking's ass.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

More on Planet 9

I keep finding more articles that deal with the hypothetical "Planet 9."

This one is from PhysOrg. It recapitulates much of what I've said before in terms of how astronomers began to speculate its existence to begin with. These are factors that include the tug and pull on the movement of Kuiper Belt objects. There are, however, a few interesting new tidbits. Well, new and interesting to me, anyway.

One of the astronomers who is a proponent of Planet 9's existence is Mike Brown. He was actually one of the scientists who was instrumental in downgrading Pluto's status as a planet, in fact puckishly once declaring that "killing Pluto was fun." Now here he is buying into the idea that there is yet another planetary body out there. Nothing really wrong with that. It's just an interesting turn of events.

Another point that I failed to think of in my last post is why hasn't this planet been seen by our powerful telescopes? It should be big enough (ten times the size of Earth, about Neptune-size) and therefore bright enough to at least amount to a dot in the black. That's just it, though. First of all, we don't know exactly where to look. The evidence right now amounts to mathematics, the behaviors of other objects at the edge of the solar system. Without knowing where to look, it's hard to find the right bright spot...particularly in a universe that is full of them. Another factor could be that Planet 9 may be in an orbital plane that often brings it past something very bright, like the Milky Way in the background. It would be difficult to pick this spot out without an informed guess.

One last point I was glad to see was that astronomers are still trying to drive home the fact that Planet 9 is not going to kill us. There has long been this speculation, supposedly based on Sumerian myth, that another planet lurks out there and will one day eventually collide with us. Either that or it exerts another sort of occult force upon us...or something. Fun to think about, especially if the paranormal grabs you. But the truth is that if it exists, Planet 9 has been around for billions of years. It occupies an orbit far beyond that of Pluto and really has very little to do with us. It's not going to collide with us or even come towards us.

We don't even need to have that, though. This is just one indication of the many bizarre mysteries still awaiting us in the universe. I seemed to remember speculation about an object called "Santa" from sometime round ten years ago. What happened with that?

Maybe we'll know more about Planet 9 once Cassini data comes through.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, April 25, 2016

30 years since Chernobyl

Tomorrow will mark 30 years since the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.

A piece in today's Chicago Tribune looks at what plans there are for the remaining husk of the reactor, but it was the gallery the paper ran yesterday (which I sadly cannot find a link to) that really got me. It was a showcase of the people who still live with disease.

That's right. Disease, birth defects, and other ailments directly attributed to massive amounts of radiation released in the disaster still plague Ukrainians 30 years on. As Nadiya Makyrevych, a Pripyat resident at the time of the reactor explosion, says in the article:

" "By the time we were evacuated, we had been exposed for 36 hours," Makyrevych said in an interview in Kiev last week, her speech interrupted by a hacking cough. "My entire family has been affected by this. We are all sick. My daughter, my son, my husband and me." "

I remember it all on the news at the time. The Western nations clearly knew something was wrong but the then Soviet Union was typically taciturn, denying all offers of help. Denying, that is, until only after enormous damage had already been done. I will admit to an ugly first reaction to it, what with it being the Cold War and my fear that the Soviets would one day be the ones to launch a first strike. "Ha! Serves the commies right!" my 14 year-old self likely said or some such obscene variation on repulsive jingoism. Looking now at the human toll, both those dealing with disease and those firemen and engineers who gave their lives trying to stop the thing, I'm even more disgusted with myself no matter the ignorance of youth.

Over the years, Pripyat itself has become something of a macabre fascination. The town in what is now the Ukraine is an example of a place left "frozen in time." This is due to the fact that the evacuation required people to drop everything and just leave. The abandoned and decayed buildings still have instances of feeling "lived in." Among the more chilling examples of this that I have seen are children's toys left on a floor as if waiting for their owners to return and pick things up where they left off. Everything remains as it was due to the fact that the area had to be cordoned off for obvious reasons, demarcating the region as an "exclusion zone," or alternatively a "zone of alienation."

I think I like that latter term better. Listen to it: "Zone of Alienation." It sounds like something Camus or Sartre would have thought of. Better yet, it could be the title of book or short story, likely written in the style of William S. Burroughs. Don't leave this creative endeavor to me. I'll probably go the vapid path and just use it as a band name. But I digress...

Despite the levels of radiation, nature has ultimately reclaimed the Pripyat. Trees and shrubs are sprouting and growing through roads and buildings. The Trib link has a whole gallery of mammalian life such as deer and boars that have not only survived there but thrived. Biologists are still crunching the data, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised if there might actually be new forms of life there on the microbial level. Maybe not. I don't know.

Soon, the temporary "sarcophagus" around the infamous ill-fated reactor will at last be sealed within walls resembling a massive hangar. Robots will then go inside and disassemble what's left of the reactor and dispose of the sludge-like waste that is filled with uranium. While the wreckage is removed, the scars remain. So will the lessons, I hope.

Chernobyl needs to be a lesson. It pertains directly to our infrastructure and how it is managed. It speaks volumes as to how both cities and nations should generate the power they need. More than ever we need to invest in power sources that are clean, renewable, and safe. Safe-r, anyway, as I do have the adult understanding that nothing is ever 100% safe.

If only it were.

A book I'll need to check out and I suggest you do the same: Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich. In that text she quotes a survivor:

"The nights are very long here in the winter, We'll sit, sometimes, and count: Who's died?"

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets