Monday, July 6, 2015

Film review-Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull


starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, and Jeremy Clarkson as The Beav.

Once more the legendary archeologist Indiana Jones must return to action as the Soviets are seeking the source of the power behind a set of mysterious crystal skulls. As is the case with each of the other films, this power source is not of this Earth...but in a way Indy has not faced until now.

As you might know, I have been flattened by depression of late. This is due to a few difficulties in my personal life and I can only hope those will be resolved soon. Anyway, I spent much of last week on my couch, unable to do anything much more than blog on my iPhone and watch TV. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the old couch now has a deep dent in it from my morose and immobile form. As I went through the channel guide of endless dreck and empty palaver, this installment of the Indiana Jones series called to me. I saw it on its opening night back in 2008 and remember being disappointed...just as much of the rest of the moviegoing public had been.

I liked it much more this time. Harrison Ford continues on with a fine sense of this character. I've read several viscious reviews of the acting in this film and I find them unfounded, even in the case of LaBeouf. What people seem to forget is that these films were based on pulps and adventure serials. Acting was never really a prime concern. Rather it was action.

On that end of things, the film succeeds admirably. Yes, there is an especially weak sequence in the Amazon Jungle featuring Shia LaBeouf swinging with a horde of monkeys, but that's as deficient as the action got for me.

I know I might be biased because this particular Indiana Jones is steeped in UFO lore. The power and telegnosis of the skulls the film, anyway...exactly what Giorgio and everyone at Ancient Aliens claim it to be. What's more, there are references to Roswell, Area 51, and other goodies.

It just makes sense. Somebody like Jones would have been called in to examine wreckage from the Roswell crash, most particularly in regards to deciphering the alien language. Something else I really liked was that the origins of the ETs are not alien but extradimensional. An alternative view? Yes!! That is needed. It might have been one of the reasons I didn't care for the film back in 08, but fortunately my knowledge base has expanded since then. 

I'm trying to figure out just why this film was so derided. Maybe it's because many had unrealistically high expectations just as I did. Is this film as good as the first one? No. Then again, the franchise isn't as fresh as it once was.

But this one deserves big props for trying to do something different and step out of the mould of what preceded it.

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Are we wired to believe?

A nice guy commented on an Instagram pic I posted about Dulce.

(BTW I'm @esotericsynapticevents if you want to follow me in Instagram. See all my inane pics and such.)

"Is that the actual base?" he asked about the pic of Mt. Archuletta in Dulce. "What are the coordinates?" 
I replied that the pic was from Google Earth and that in truth, there probably isn't much of a "base" there.
"Yeah," he said. "I hear most if it is underground."

Not what I meant but he raises an interesting point. Even if I presented all of the evidence to the contrary, is there a subset of the population who would still cling to stories of alien firefights and "Nightmare Hall?" I came across an article that suggests the answer might be "yes" and the reason being has its roots in neurology.

The article dealt with people in Hawaii who claimed to have been alien abductees. This has long been part of the UFO mythos, including experiencers who maintain that their brains have been "chipped" to send and receive messages and direction from the alleged ETs. The study found that these patients did indeed share physical commonalities.

Each of their brains showed abnormalities in the parietal lobe. This is the part of the brain that takes what we see and hear and synthesizes it into higher order thinking. In fact, the brainwave activity of these patients bore similarities to other patients who had suffered traumatic injuries to this lobe of their brains. The leader of the study was quick to point out that he could not definitively say this is what happened to the self-confessed abductees, only that the brain patterns were similar.

Now I am aware that I am somewhat comparing apples and oranges here by applying this particular study to popular UFO stories in general, but I can't help but do it anyway. What could there be in our brains that continues to hold on to stories like Dulce even after being presented with all the evidence to the contrary? Why? What propels someone like me on such quixotic endeavors? Because it's fun? Because it grants us a participatory role in modern folklore? That last point certainly intrigues me but I'm drawn right now to how the actual construction of the brain plays into this phenomenon and how we may (or may not) perceive it.

Since I've been reading and listening to the work of Terence McKenna, I find myself now delving into accounts of encounters with "discarnate entities" while experiencers have taken hallucinogens such as LSD. Are these cases of an awakened brain brought to a higher state of consciousness or a brain entirely scrambled and distorting every perception due to drugs?

As always, more to come on this story.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dulce: it's on

So I guess this Dulce thing is finally happening. I mean really happening.

The flights, hotels, and rental car are all booked. I have interviews lined up. I leave July 12th and return on the 17th.  Even spoke to representatives of the Jicarilla Apache Nation today about times for an interview and looksee. The main thrust of this work of literary/gonzo journalism is my seeking an answer to "why are people so drawn to the Weird?" By "people" I mean me, you since you're reading this, and the American public in general if current TV offerings are any indication. Juxtaposed against all this in Dulce are real people living real lives with real needs and carrying on rich cultural heritage.

I know that I have written about my interest in Dulce before, particularly the allegations of high strangeness. Since it's been a while, however, I thought that I would once again offer a brief (and I mean very brief) primer on the story that drew me to that corner of New Mexico in the first place.

Editorial note: much of what follows can be found in the book Project Beta by Greg Bishop.

The story of Paul Bennewitz is probably as good of a place to start as any. He was a businessman who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1979, he began witnessing strange lights in the sky and picking up odd transmissions on his ham radio gear. Believing the sightings and sounds to be evidence of alien visitation, Bennewitz felt duty bound to bring his findings to nearby Kirtland Air Force Base. There, he met with an intelligence official named Richard Doty. 

Doty realized that what Bennewitz had been hearing and seeing were clandestine military tests and operations. Rather than discourage Bennewitz's interest in the matter, Doty and the Air Force fed the fire. They put on an elaborate show for Bennewitz, giving him classified "software" that could decode alien languages (dragoman to the stars!) As Bennewitz carried out his "specially assigned mission," he learned of an astonishing secret lurking inside Mt. Archuletta in Dulce, New Mexico.

The story went that there was a top secret installation inside the mountain. It stretched many levels deep into the ground and housed horrors beyond imagination. A joint cadre of government and extraterrestrial workers conducted experiments there on live human subjects. At one point, the various aliens (there were said to have been multiple species in residence) broke their end of whatever agreement was made and took over the base, carrying out even more nefarious experiments. A team of special ops soldiers went in to reclaim the base. A firefight ensued and casualties mounted on both sides.

Bennewitz soon went to Dulce to see things firsthand. Around Archuletta he found props left behind by intelligence operatives to keep the ruse going and while flying over the mountain in his private plane, Bennewitz even photographed the remains of a crashed spacecraft (just what that wreckage was is still subject of contested opinion.) The story of Paul Bennewitz is ultimately a sad one, however. In time his "special mission" and the baloney fed to him by Doty and the Air Force consumed him. Paul's family had him committed to a mental institution and he died shortly thereafter.

Yet the story of "Dulce Base" persists. Why? It is rather well established that this was equal parts disinformation operation, modern folklore, and classified government operations, but the alien angle is still going strong. In fact, a quick Google will show you that the rabbit hole is deep indeed, involving a cavalcade of characters, among them being Tom Costello, Cherry Hinkle, Greg Valdez, Edmund Gomez, Phil Schneider and more. The weirdness does not stop with aliens or even cover ups and conspiracies. There are cattle mutilations, allegations of psychic phenomena, and even accounts of intelligent, non-human beings living deep beneath the earth. That last facet being reminiscent of Mac Tonnies' Cryptoterrestrials and the work of William Michael Mott with his book Caverns, Cauldrons, and Concealed Creatures. Do we share this world with another intelligent civilization? Are accounts and sightings such as those purportedly in Dulce nothing more than an update of what people once called elves, trolls, gnomes, and djinn?

Probably not, but it's fascinating to think about.

There is much more to tell and I will be uploading posts prior to my departure and during my excursion. If you would like to help fund my research (and believe me I could use it) please see my Fundrazr page. I have rewards for all levels of investment and I thank you for even considering a donation.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Black dog" back again

A gap in posting. Can only mean one thing: depression.

Yeah, it happened again. My "black dog" as Churchill called it seems to like visiting in spring and summer. As is typical, it stems from something I did to myself and just wasn't aware I was doing it. Problems at home. Sadness. Fear. Loneliness. I have come to greet summer with fear and loathing.

I'd like to think I'm a decent writer. As such, I'd also like to think that I can communicate my thoughts in an effective manner. But anyone who knows me in real life, I mean really knows me, is aware of a contradistinction. When it comes to how I feel and what I am thinking, I seldom confide in others. Even those closest to me.

I see myself as a submarine. I'm deep beneath the water, somewhere remote, operating on total silence. Run silent, run deep, indeed. That often results in unpleasant surprises for those around me. They just plain don't know what's going on because I don't let them in on things.

That, I believe, is due to a cocktail of nature and experience. I come from a long line of men on both sides of the family who "run silent, run deep." I don't know how the women of the family ever put up with them. Sad truth I'm finding is: "not very well." That natural tendency became intermingled with my own grim experiences at the hands of other people. So the quiet one got quieter, the sad one got sadder.

This is the point in a bout of depression where I automatically compare myself to everyone else I know and invariably see myself as coming up short. At least by society's standards. After all, I have chosen paths and interests that are wholly unpalatable to society, not to mention even those closest to me. When you step so much outside "the norm," a natural consequence is alienation. Why the hell did I do that to myself? Short answer I suppose is that I like them. They inspire me and it perhaps is a copout but in the end you just can't help who you are. Despite that, what if it just seems to keep damaging you? Sure, drugs like alcohol (which has no bearing on my current situation, I am happy to report) will make you feel great. For a while.

Then they start killing you.

Is that what my interests are doing to me? Or does it have more to do with my deeply flawed self? Maybe it's depression. Maybe it's all of the above.

Speaking of drugs and society, I've been watching videos of talks given by Terence McKenna. I have never taken any form of hallucinogen so I don't necessarily endorse his stance on those drugs, but what he says about the lives we lead and reality itself rings true to me. I mentioned before that I don't feel that I measure up to society. I don't think that is an accident and it is actually indicative of weak-mindedness. Sickens me to admit it, but there it is.

In many ways, I have allowed myself to be tricked...and I just keep letting it happen. I'm not the only one landing somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety and that's no surprise. There is a lot of money to be made by keeping people in anxiety. McKenna talks about that and how our lives are pretty much an artifice. Scabs on open wounds but not of our own making.

I'll let you check him out for yourself:

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Hey Mad Max, who says the apocalypse can't be cute?

Fear not. I promise that ESE is not turning into a cute animal blog.

Yesterday, Armando and I saw Mad Max: Fury Road. If you're a long time reader, then you know how much that series of films, especially The Road Warrior, had an effect on me in the 1980s. I would imagine myself in that post-nuclear war aftermath, scared to death. This current film is quite good and very much keeps the spirit of those films alive and with heavy connections to Duran Duran videos (yes I know, you can't really tell exactly who is ripping off whom when it comes to that and I love it.) That's a subject for another post perhaps because, once again, I digress...

I drove home on a hot day here in the Midwest. I worried about my own financial survival. I looked out at eroded storefronts of businesses on hard times. Crazy drivers would cut me off. Men driving "war rig" SUVs and pickups attempted to compensate for what is no doubt a cruel bestowment of small genitalia. It hit me, in an actual and visible way. I wasn't that far from living in Mad Max times. That's probably what led to the deranged dream I had.

Out of a sea of multicolored styrofoam blocks, I emerged into a shopping mall. It was mostly in rubble. Suburbanites wearing the hodgepodge armor style of Mad Max wandered as zombie mobs through the spectacle, picking up consumer items they once valued greatly but I got the distinct impression they wouldn't do much good at that point. Then again, maybe so. There was also a distinct Blade Runner feel to things.

Acid rain fell through a broken skylight onto the dingy floor. The nomads winced at it. A few people in this future appeared to be genetically modified and everyone carried digital devices of one sort or another. Including me. I used mine to write down everything I saw. Figures, right? You can see me in the aftermath of war, typing away on my mobile, shouting out at the survivors, "Suffer slower. I need to describe this." Detached from it all, it seemed to take everything I had to keep from crying out "I told you this would happen." As I watched someone step out of the metal skeleton that was once the mall elevator, I suddenly stopped writing. A terrible thought kicked me in the nuts.

My dogs. I had people I cared about. Where were they? Were they okay? In a panic, I ran into the wastes, no longer smugly detached from the horror and the pain.

Then I woke up.

Not tough to see where that dream came from. There's Mad Max of course, there are my personal financial worries, I was in a shopping mall last Tuesday, and...let's face it...I tend to think of these kinds of things quite a bit anyway.

Makes me long for Bearville.

What's that? Well, it's a story my Mom would tell my brother and I when we were very little. She would tell us that our stuffed animals, mostly bears, built a wonderful, idyllic town somewhere green. There were a lot of trees, sure, but they also had every modern convenience. I mean, there was no way my brother and I were going to conscience an existence without TV as we were yet to matriculate into the mental giants you now know. (cough cough) The inside of the animals' homes looked something like the box cover of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea. Everyone in Bearville got along and things were happy. Indeed I must admit, it's still sort of my "happy place" that I visualize when things are truly overwhelming. I can't speak for my brother, but I know it's what I do.

Even at such tender young ages, we kids had to wonder. The world is not a nice place and it is full of mean, predatory people with self-aggrandizing agendas. What keeps them from overrunning Bearville? "Well," my Mom said. "That's why the bears have a sizable military force."

Yep. War is a reality. Even as children we learned that. Mom never went into all that much detail as to what these forces consisted of, but I'd like to think they looked a bit like the art of Evan Palmer. Which brings me (finally!!) to the title subject of this post.

Evan Palmer creates images of a post-apocalyptic future that you just want to hug. Pigs, dogs, cats, and other animals pilot giant, mecha battle machines. You can see that there's a bit of animosity there, but nothing too serious. Palmer has said that he's considering turning his drawings into a graphic novel series. Why stop there? I'd say make a cartoon out of it. It beats anything else currently being shown on the numerous cartoon channels. You know, if I run for President (and why not, everyone else is it seems), I'm going to commission such a series. Maybe because it reminds me of my mother's imaginary vision. A peaceful, happy, socialist society (that actually works) and everything is just fine.

But we're also a war machine that's armed to the teeth so don't mess with us.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Talking cat videos

Animal videos pretty much fuel the Internet.

At least it seems that way.

I mean, it started with the mass phalanx of cat pictures and memes. That has since become pentimento to the videos we have now. I never saw myself as ever spending the time to actually watch one of these videos (not that I'm overly averse to a few animal stories, mind you), but SteveCash83 and his cat Sylvester had other ideas. 

Steve Cash is a musician who has produced a YouTube series called "Talking Kitty Cat." It features his black cat Sylvester as the focal point, a cat that mind you can voice his own thoughts. Many of the vocalizations are in interactions with Steve's other pets, a black dog named Shelby and a pale cat named Gibson. Gibson can talk as well, but seems to be able to express only two words, "help" and "Todd" (the latter term referring to a mysterious man seen only once in a junkyard, but each cat seems to want to get to his crib.) Shelby the dog can likewise speak, thanks to a device Steve cobbled together and placed on her collar.

But central to each video is Sylvester and his reactions to situations. Typically they're simple, one word responses. "No." "Why?" And my favorite, "fuuuuuuck." While the "grumpy cat" meme is already trite and redundant, Steve Cash somehow keeps it fresh. I think this is partly due to the fact that there is a legit narrative arc to these videos. You want to see what happens next. They're recursive in that they refer back to previous videos. 

I also think that Sylvester is a cat who says what everyone is thinking. Or at least what we have all thought at one point or another. Most appealing of all though is that he does not remain stuck and grouchy. No, in a true Nietzschean will-to-power, Sylvester acts. He finds a way through the window screen. He posts a Craigslist ad to give away the dog. 

More than anything, Steve Cash truly has great insight into the minds of animals. Anyone who has lived with dogs or cats has probably, either aloud or as dialogue in her or his own mind, imagined these responses from the furry members of the family.

Steve just had the good sense to turn it into a video series. Check out an episode here:

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