Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Alternative 3

In all of conspiracy lore, this is one of my absolute favorites.
It all started with a documentary film aired on the BBC back in the late 1970s.  The initial purpose of the program was to investigate the so-called "brain drain," the glut of mysterious deaths and disappearances of individuals in the fields of science and engineering.  A bit of detective work ensues, unraveling the details of just where these scientific minds have ended up...and into what insidious plot they've become involved.
Apparently, both U.S. and Soviet (at the time) officials determined that the planet Earth was not long for this universe. Pollution, overpopulation, climate change, and the resulting natural disasters would soon leave the surface of our world nigh uninhabitable.  A series of solutions were then formulated.
Alternative 1 involved the detonation of nuclear weapons high in the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing the world population.  The explosions would open holes for heat and gas to vent into space and a few engineered viruses would tidy up the excess of the herd.  This was deemed unfeasible.  
Alternative 2 was to commence construction of massive underground cities ("Mr. President, I vould not rule out ze possibility uv preserving ze human race.  At ze bottom uv our deepest mineshafts.")  that could house the wealthy, the powerful, and the genetically desirable ("seleczhun zould be made on ze basis of youth, health, vital skills, und sexual fertility.")  For whatever reason, this wasn't green-lighted either.
That left Alternative 3.  In this scenario, a colony would be constructed on Mars via a way station on the Moon.  Something that, according to the documentary, had been going on for decades.
The journalists eventually find a U.S. astronaut named "Bob Grodin," who claimed that while walking on the Moon, he accidentally came across the domed cities of Alternative 3.  What's more, a video tape is provided that shows the first human landing on 1962.  In the footage, Russian and American voices excitedly celebrate their achievement, then something stirs beneath the red Martian soil....  

It should go without saying that this was all a big joke.  The BBC admitted as much, saying the documentary was intended to be an April Fool's spoof in the tradition of Orson Welles and War of the Worlds, only without all the unsightly panic and the cops in riot gear.  The discerning viewer probably didn't need the announcement however, given such tip-offs as no astronaut named "Bob Grodin" ever went on a Moon mission and that the film's music was provided by Brian Eno, legendary for his work with U2, Roxy Music, and Talking Heads. 
Despite it all, there are researchers who maintain that strong elements of the Alternative 3 film are true, masked amidst a documentary that is meant as disinformation.  Jim Keith and the late Bill Cooper can be counted among them (although the ringing endorsement of Cooper is not exactly something I would have wanted have.)
There are two things that I really like about Alternative 3.  First of all, the fact that people still buy into it even after it was outed as a deliberate put-on.  Secondly, it reads like fun, X-Files-style fiction, complete with government secrecy, witnesses afraid to talk, purloined evidence, and secret space travel.   I even incorporated it into Supernova, a novel that I worked on with Graymalkin.  
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

David Icke: Threat or Menace?

Every field of study needs its mavericks.  Progress is made by those who continually challenge the accepted, who shake the pillars of conformity and resist stagnation, sometimes through wild theories of pure speculation and conjecture.
But there's a definite line between esoteric and crazy.  I leave it to you to decide upon which end of the continuum David Icke falls.

Meet David Icke.  Icke is a former soccer player and journalist from Britain.  In 1991, while on a visit to Puno, a pre-Inca burial site in Peru, Icke claimed to have had a mystical experience.  Fast-forward a few years and he begins to publish books, books that claim to tell exactly who and what are running the world and to what nefarious ends.  To Icke's way of thinking, humanity is the product of a breeding program set forth by the Annunaki, a race of reptoids from the planet Draco.

Quick aside: "Reptoids" have indeed been reported by those claiming to have had alien encounters.  This race of alien is said to be more malevolent in nature.  There are sporadic reports of people sighting bipedal reptile creatures or "lizard men" as in this dubious case in South Carolina.  An illustration of a purported "reptoid" appears at right via Wikipedia.  

These aliens have the human race inside a three-dimensional hologram that appears to us as a "five-sense illusion."  The only reality is the Absolute, a realm of intentionality, reincarnation, and multiple worlds traveling on similar but different frequencies. 
There is a shadow government that rules the world, composed of nefarious and Luciferian entities such as the Royal Family, The Bilderberg Group, the IMF, the UN, the Tilateral Commission, The Council on Foreign Relations, and maybe the Girl Scouts (that last one is my own addition, but there's just as much evidence for it as what he argues.  But I digress...)  These rulers are in fact, reptoids in disguise, capable of shape-shifting at will.  Icke is critical of religion, reserving special disdain for Christianity and offering a thinly concealed hatred of Jews.
Well if that isn't just an "everything and the kitchen sink" stew of conspiracy and Fortean phenomenon. Let's try to break this down, shall we?  
Reptoids: sure, they could exist.  If one accepts that one alien race is visiting the Earth, why not more?  Bipedal reptiles are not a far leap.  Scientists have speculated that such a race could have arisen right here on our world if the dinosaurs had not gone extinct.  Plus, they're a good choice for an antagonist in a myth arc.  People are scared of reptiles like snakes and with good reason.  Several of them are poisonous and an aversion to them is probably hardcoded into our DNA as a means of survival.  Just look at all ways in which art has drawn upon snakes as symbols of evil.  The entire mythology of the dragon probably arises from this.
Then there's the notion of "a matrix."  It's not too difficult see how such a thing could exist, as a metaphor if nothing else.  Societal norms, religion, government, they all serve to squeeze the individual into a matrix of "how things should be."  If you have attributes or inclinations that go beyond such parameters, you being to feel that something is not right.  This leaves you open to people like Icke.
I cannot see inside the man's mind or soul, so I cannot say for certain whether or not Icke really believes in what he is saying...or if he just found a product to market.  Because that's how he seems to me: a huckster, a Madison Avenue ad exec watching the cultural trends to see which product to pitch next, an opportunist looking for rubes, a New Age televangelist not too far afield from Jim Swaggert or Jerry Falwell.  If anything, he is reminiscent of Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult, many of whom committed suicide upon the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet as they believed it a sign that a spacecraft was coming to pick them up.  I certainly hope that Icke's "ministry," "campaign," "ad blitz" or whatever you want to call it, does not have such destructive ends (and it should be noted that there is no indication thus far that it could.)
Say what you want about him, but I believe Icke really knows how to spot a business opportunity.  The late 1990s were a perfect time to launch his conspiranoia empire, what with UFO subjects back on the front burner thanks to pop culture memes such as The X-Files.  With glossy, eye-catching covers, Icke got his books out not just to "tell the truth," but to give the public a bit more of what they wanted.  Case in point: In 2001, Icke released his book Children of the Matrix, hot on the heels of the hit movie.  What does the cover of that one feature?  Green binary code scrolled down a black background...identical to Matrix movie posters.  Between book sales and public appearances, Icke sure has raked in the cash.  All while damaging those that wish to take endeavors such as UFO studies seriously.  
We live in troubled times.  People are out of work.  People are tussling with the ravages of mental and spiritual depression.   It would be great to pin the majority of our societal ills on evil alien overlords who look like reptoids and are all out to get us.  Rather convenient, really, providing a single, fixed target for the source of our afflictions.  I believe that this notion would especially resonate with the sick and with the disenfranchised young.  I think that Icke knows this. 

If you want to indulge in his baseless paranoia, be my guest.  Check his web page, read the material, and make your own decisions.  
Personally, I won't be impressed until he has his own theme park like von Daniken.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, June 28, 2010

Of membranes and stickybuns

I am verklempt.  Befuddled.  Bamboozled.  My understanding of physical laws has been turned upside down.
Seems I've been putting off my brushing up on modern physics for far too long.  You see, I've heard the phrase "string theory" bounced about the ether, but the text accompanying it always seemed to have enough density to generate its own gravitational pull, so I would constantly put off the reading. 
Now my head is paying for it.
I was educated in the "particle model" of the universe; that all matter breaks down into discreet bundles of bits that were always graphically represented as looking like marbles even though no one has ever seen one.   After catching a program on the Science Channel, I've learned that the particle theory has been left behind in favor of string theory, that (if I understand it) all matter springs up from the vibrations of tiny strands that make up the fabric of the universe.  The metaphor used to illustrate this was the plucking of a guitar or a cello string.  In this model, the universe is not made up of four dimensions, but ten.
Take that a bit further.  Membrane theory, or M-theory as it is often referred to as, adds yet one more dimension to string theory.  In this line of thought, all things are connected to and extensions of a universal membrane that is the unifying string, the 11th dimension.  This construct has been represented as something akin to a doughnut, or a stickybun, or maybe a Cheerio.  The Cheerio Model may indeed be a useful construct as there apparently can be infinite membranes representing infinite universes (a multiverse!)  And like all other things in nature, these membranes are in motion.  The moments when they come into contact with one another could be the spark that Big Bangs are made out of.  Just imagine Cheerios floating in milk, colliding and bouncing off each other.  Although the milk may be where my metaphor breaks down as it implies a medium and there doesn't seem to be such a thing, even though nature abhors a vacuum.  >exhale<
Ok, I consider myself a fairly intelligent guy.  Without trying to sound conceited, I'm a slight bit above Joe Six-Pack in the brains department the same way a marathon runner is above me in fitness.  I have a Masters degree, I scored high on the GRE, and I've never been to a NASCAR race or a WWF match in my life.
But I have no idea what any of string or membrane theory really means.  And I've been trying to parse it all.  Then I think back to the particle model and how no one has ever really seen an atom.  It makes me wonder if this is just our own heads trying to assign shape and meaning to things that we can't see.  We might get close to the reality, but we can never seem to see the whole thing, not unlike Plato's allegory of "the cave." It could be our minds performing a sublimation of intersticing patterns born of our own narcissism, our own pleading need to understand, to give shape to things that might not have any shape.  Is it all perception and psychology?
If anyone can explain these theories to me in a way that this physics flyweight can understand, I'd be grateful.  Perhaps via something that I understand, say...rhetorical theory or Victorian literature?

Speaking of reading, I'm still burrowing my way through Above Top Secret.  I'll write a review once I've finished. 

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Film Review--The Fourth Kind

starring Milla Jovovich, Will Patton, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, and Whitley Streiber as The Beav.

A psychologist (Jovovich) presses on in Alaska after the murder of her husband.  She begins to treat patients who all report the same thing: horribly disrupted sleep cycles and visions of an owl at their bedroom windows.  Through hypnotic regression, the patients begin to relate experiences that drive the townspeople Nome into the abyss of the insane and the extraterrestrial.

This alien abduction film made me glad that I am a scholar of rhetoric.  Jovovich appears at the onset sans character, informing the viewer that what follows is "based on true events," but the names and the professions of those involved have been changed to protect their identity.  Then in true Blair Witch style, allegedly "true" video recordings of psychoanalysis sessions as well as police dashboard cameras are interwoven into the film to add to the documentary-style feel.  So the logical question becomes, "why change the names if you're going to show their faces?"  Don't care if I'm a spoiler, but ain't none of it real, folks.  Through a bit of "rhetrickory," the film can accurately be labeled as "based on true events."  There are people who have indeed claimed to have been abducted by aliens and portions of the film play out according to these reports.
But the cases portrayed in The Fourth Kind never happened.  Period.  If it had, I guarantee that everyone would know about it by now because abduction researchers would finally have the hard evidence they've been so sorely lacking for so many years.  Don't you believe it.  Sensationalized, manipulative, and bereft of ability.  It is inaccurate as documentary and ineffective as thriller.  While I am not yet convinced of the phenomenon of alien abduction, please don't anyone base their decision on the reality of the reports based on this movie.

On the plus side, it was a nice touch to have the aliens speaking Sumerian.  Ancient Astronaut theorists (which I am not, not really, anyway) have long held that humanity's first recorded contact with extraterrestrials was in Sumeria.  Having the language be the aliens' own tongue was a bit of insight that I had not expected.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hodgepodge Lodge

No real map for today's territories.  I am afraid you're about to be treated to another instance of me going off extempore into the crevices and ravines of our shared reality.

Went to a used book store today (Frugal Muse for those in or visiting the greater Chicago area. I recommend it to any bibliophile.)  Amongst my haul was The Day of Creation by J.G. Ballard.  Now for a moment of shame.  I've never read Ballard before.  Like a typical American, I did see a film based on his work, Empire of the Sun and I enjoyed it.  That's been the length and depth of my exposure to this author.  I now aim to correct that.  Also picked up Communion by Whitley Streiber.  I had read it wayyyy back in high school and thought I would look upon it with a fresh set of eyes now that I'm getting serious about Ufology.  And the absolute steal of the day was a Grendel: Black, White, and Red trade paperback for a mere $3. To celebrate I had tacos.

I long for Nevada and not just to see Area 51 or the bright lights of Vegas again.  The dry heat would be welcome right now, that is if I must have heat at all.  Chicago is taking on more of a Gulf Coast feel these days, complete with 90 degree heat, underwear-soaking humidity, daily thunderstorms, and a thriving mosquito community.  Let's hope we're not graced with the oil to match.  I've been listening to The Bangles cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter" to mentally induce the cooling of my core body temperature.  Might have to watch an old football game to seal the deal.

Gave ice cream to my dogs today.  First time ever, believe it or not.  Got them two miniature dishes of vanilla from the DQ and brought them home to their bowls.  Things rapidly degenerated from there to an episode of Wild Kingdom, as my two beasts mauled the "frozen pudding" as Monty Burns calls it, leaving behind only cracked plastic that was dry to the touch.  Hate to see what they'd do with a squirrel.

I've started a new short story called "On Gossamer Wings."  I can only give you the set-up right now: "He's found the perfect woman.  All she needs is a body."

The G20 summit is underway in Toronto. The nuclear facilities of both Iran and North Korea sustained a massive barrage of harsh rhetoric that surprisingly did minimal damage to either program.  North Korea was especially singled out for its all-but-proven sinking of a South Korean naval vessel last month.  The G8 attack came in the form of more verbal slaps on the wrist, a tactic employed once more since it has always worked in the past.  I'm just hoping we can make it through the summer without the Korean Peninsula glowing in the dark.

Then again, a group of psychics that guested Coast-to-Coast AM predicted "explosive military actions" for August, so maybe that means a strike on either North Korea or Iran.  I'll go out on a limb here...with two major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan not ending any time soon, I will predict "explosive military actions" for each of the coming months of the year.  Call me crazy.

Speaking of the G20, I have a message for the mobs of protesters.  I understand your ire towards the industrialized nations of the world as they both oppress and marginalize developing nations in their own way.  You have every right to vocally oppose this.  But try to leave Toronto in good shape.  I love that city and there's a few restaurants I'd like to get back to.  Thanks.  Appreciate it.

Seriously, if you've been watching the news coverage like I have, you might have no clue why there are always protests other than to have an outlet for emo kids.  Small wonder as the media has focused almost exclusively on the violence in the streets as that brings in the viewers.  This page gives a thorough dissertation on just why these protests are taking place.  Agree with them or not, it's nice to at least know what's going on.

So when in blazes is that new Duran Duran record coming out?  We're well past mid-May and that's when Nick usually sets as a target date.

Yes, I feel old because I still call them "records" or "albums."


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Lady Who Fell to Earth

I caught this a long while back and really had nowhere to go with it.  Now, thanks to Strange Horizons, the world can share in this ET-inspired fashion show that was featured in Vogue UK last Fall.

Lindsey might not have noticed the "slippery when wet" sign, but who needs cognitive reasoning when you're dressed in this fetching, wool, Pantone checkerboard
skirt combo by Christian Dior?  Sure to be a hit this fall, it's perfect for any Earthside shindig.  Astute alien watchers will notice that Lindsey is of the "Nordic" race, which means that hunky blonde men are on their way to get her saucer out of the ditch.  Mee-ow!  You go, girl!

Port of call: Kansas!  Ashley is ready to stir up the locals, first with a buzz in her UFO, then with her stunning body suit by Donna Karan.  Designed in part by Lady Gaga, the shoulder pads were based on Rodak from the Japanese TV classic, Space Giants.  Farmers, better lock up your sons!  Ashley has crossed the rainbow bridge and is on the prowl!

Only three words for this grass-green jacket by Chanel: dee-lish-us!  Ashley chose the outfit herself, excited by how the contours brought out the angled features of her human/gray hybrid face.  Whether she's stalking for a butt to probe on the Moors or just going out to mutilate the cattle, Ashley is dressed to kill.  Don't tell this extraterrestrial hottie you want gun control, Obamabitches! 

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Week Links

Curious news items I've come across in the past week.

Artificial Intelligence continues to evolve

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top 10 Best UFO Sightings

Whitley Streiber posted this link a few days ago.  It is to a short film ('round 45 minutes) that gives a rundown of the Top 10 UFO sightings based on quality evidence (ranked by whom exactly I have no idea.)
After reviewing the clip, I have the following thoughts on it:

What worked:  It was refreshing to see someone compile a list such as this based on the amount of evidence, not sensationalism or "World's Most Shocking UFO Sightings" (and yes, "shocking" should be in an electric or otherwise "extreme" font.)  The cases are given depth by respected investigators in the field of Ufology, such as Stanton Friedman, Nick Pope, Bruce Maccabee, and the late great Mac Tonnies.  The witnesses are not the kind that are interviewed in The Weekly World News.  They are astronauts and military officers.  
On the whole, the selection of cases is fairly solid.  Entries such as the RAF Brentwaters case, the Tehran UFO, and the sighting by the crew of the RB-47 are crucial to understanding that there is plenty of evidence when it comes to the subject of UFOs, no matter what skeptics have to say.  But then again there could never be enough evidence to convince a hardcore skeptic, so it's all a bit like pushing a rope uphill isn't it?  I am very glad that the story of Malmstrom, AFB was included.  Back in the 1960s, a UFO appeared and then hovered over a nuclear missile base in Montana.  The launch control systems for a good many of the missile silos were somehow disabled.  Retired USAF officers attest to this.  The Air Force maintains that the occurrence was really no big deal.  The security of our nuclear weapons?  Most destructive firepower we know?  The things we're deathly scared of shady men in turbans getting their hands on?  Nah, of course not?  Nothing to worry about.

What wasn't that great: Like any "top 10 list," there will always be objections over entries included and worthies omitted.  This one is no different.  I would liked to have seen the 1991 mass sightings of triangles in Belgium on the list.  That case has actual recorded evidence from F-16 cockpits.  Likewise, I would have thought that the 1952 mass saucer wave over the U.S. Capitol would have warranted at least a mention.  And why include a 16th Century wood carving as any kind of evidence?  It's art and as I say repeatedly on Strange Horizons, art is wholly dependent upon interpretation.  On that point, there is a lack of any other viewpoint on the matter.  While I do find the majority of the cases solid, I would be curious to hear if there is anyone with alternate explanations (beyond the hokey Blue Book ones, I mean.)
One other distraction is the obviously Canadian narrator's propensity to mispronounce the word "nuclear" as "nuke-u-ler."  That's something that has always grated upon this English scholar's ears and was only made worse by the political climate of the past decade.  Sorry.  If you read my blog, you'll be subjected to my political views.

Mac Tonnies sums everything up quite elegantly.  There is compelling evidence for UFOs and evidence to the contrary is not always entirely dissuasive.  The 10 sightings (as well as the other three or four that I would lobby for inclusion) are worthy of scientific inquiry.  If for nothing else but to study how our minds perceive things and how this affects culture. 
But we are still a ways away from that happening.  What scientist is going stake their professional reputation on UFO studies with the popular conception of it the way it is?  Even SETI has wondered about this very obstacle.  If an astronomer actually did stumble across a broadcast from outer space, would they even take the chance of announcing it?  If proven wrong, they'd become a magnet for ridicule.  If proven right, it would most likely be covered up anyway and they end up looking at best incompetent and at worst ignorant.
Social norms are powerful things.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Taos Hum

Have you ever had tinnitus?  It's a constant ringing sound inside one or both of your ears.  This can be brought on by long exposure loud sounds, e.g. rock concerts, or being congested due to a cold or sinus infection.  I have a very mild case of it and can usually hear the ringing at the fall of night when all is quiet (I hope) and I'm about to drift into a deep rem sleep.  For others, it is the product of a loud evening and the sound usually goes away in a day or so.
You can imagine that if this internal noise were louder or more constant, it could disrupt one's life and maybe even drive a person near madness.  That is exactly what has been happening in Taos, New Mexico.  
For years now, a few residents of that town have reported a low, droning hum in the background of their hearing.  It is constant, able to be heard anywhere at any time, but most likely to be heard while indoors.  Many hum experiencers report the hum actually getting louder depending upon where they are geographically in the town.  One enterprising "hearer" (as they call themselves) managed to make a recording of this noise via the use of special audio gear that can pick up very low frequencies.  The hum, which sounds to me like a diesel truck idling at the end street, peaks at a frequency of only 56 hertz. 
To say the least, hearers of the hum have lost sleep due to the noise, been harassed by its incessant presence, and doubted their own sanity after asking everyone they know "Do you hear that?  What do you mean you don't?"  And there's the rub.  Why have only certain people in the town been able to hear the hum?  Group psychology undoubtedly plays at least a small role.  If you ask someone "do you hear that?" you have already pre-positioned them to search for a noise, any noise. Plus, the nature of the town complicates for some the ability to believe the reports.  Taos has become a sort of unofficial hub of the New Age movement with many crystal devotees and people claiming to be spiritually in-tune with the frequencies of nature.  Add in the meme dispersal of the Taos Hum and you've got a winner.  
Still, a good many people who hear this hum are regular, work-a-day folks who just want the noise to go away.  Many studies have been conducted by Federal, academic, and civil groups.  Here are a few of the explanations that have been offered:

Tinnitus: While it sounds like a tidy explanation, this condition really doesn't work for the hum.  For one thing, it does not account for how the hum gets stronger in various locations.  Plus, the hearers have not been exposed to the type of noise necessary to cause tinnitus.  Many of them don't know one another and "group tinnitus" usually happens to people who were exposed to a loud sound together (again, think rock concert.)

Colliding ocean waves: Scientists have come across a set of infrasonic hums that were the result of ocean waves crashing together.  The sound travels into the seabed and is therefore transmitted across the Earth.  Bit far-fetched, but I guess it could happen.

ELF: Extremely Low Frequency.  These are communication signals that, as the name implies, inhabit the low end of the frequency scale.  The United States Navy uses ELF in order to communicate with submarines that are deeply submerged. Seawater conducts electricity and therefore submarines are too shielded to receive EM transmissions.  The exact extent to which ELF is utilized is classified. 
People exposed to ELF transmissions have indeed reported the type of hum encountered in Taos as well as bad headaches.  Curiously enough, some people seem to be more sensitive to ELF than others.  And there are numerous military installations throughout New Mexico.  My money's on this one.

Alien transmissions: An elite few residents of Taos have been chosen by the aliens to receive messages beamed directly into the cranium.  We humans just can't understand the packaging of the message, so our minds discard it as a monotonous hum.  Yeah, I'm leaving this one alone.

Other locales of the world have heard people complaining  a low hum, places such as New Zealand, Britain, and beautiful Kokomo, Indiana.  In the case of Kokomo, the noise was found to be from a cooling tower at the local Daimler-Chrysler plant.  The tower would tend to vibrate and send out a 36 Hz tone.  No such industrial facility like that exists in Taos. 
Whatever the source of the "hum,"  I hope that the people who keep hearing it will one day have relief and be able to reclaim the peace and quiet that we are all entitled to. 

Post Script: New Mexico's got it all, doesn't it?  I mean, if you're a Fortean researcher.  Corona, Los Alamos, Soccoro, Dulce, and of course, Roswell.  You could write a book on that state alone.  Any Strangers up for a road trip?  I'll have to see what kind of writing grants are out there...if any still exist in this economy.

Addendum: As ff the hums weren't bad enough, there is now a community that is experiencing random vibrations for no reason.  Underground military activity is suspected.  This from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Nuke your favorite (or least favorite) town!

Just enter the name or address into the Google Maps applet and pick your weapon.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

It's artificial...and it's approaching Earth

Saw this article in The Daily Galaxy and it has since been picked up on other news sites.
Apparently, NASA has spotted an object on a trajectory towards Earth. Based on spectral characteristics, this is no meteor or asteroid and it has been demonstrating none of the other hallmarks of those types of space bodies. In fact, there are astronomers who have noted that it has actually changed direction a few times of its own accord. This lonely traveler has been designated a spacecraft...most likely the booster stage from one of our own deep space probes.
See how I did that?  I stole the motif of the linked article, deliberately bringing every geek reader to a heightened state of arousal, only to toss cold water into the proverbial groin with the more mundane truth.  Still, even if the tracked object is an ASC (Alternative SpaceCraft) as they are said to be called by those "in the know," do you think they'd tell us? I don't.

Which brings me to a related story on inbound astronomical bodies and authorities being less than candid. I've been reading that if an asteroid large enough to cause an Extinction Level Event is found to be headed towards Earth and cannot be stopped, the policy is simply to not tell the world.  This leaves me most ambivalent.
On the one hand, why live out our final days in panic?  And it most certainly would be. I do not relish the thought of wading through madness in the streets, fending off rapists and looters, and my family dying any sooner than they have to.  Why not live out our final days in blissful ignorance before the asteroid leaves nothing left alive except for bacteria?  Aside: I know that's not entirely accurate.  I know there are nearly 7 billion souls on this world and it would be difficult if not impossible to wipe us all out.  There would have to be stragglers.
Then again, would you want to prepare?  Try things you've never done before?  Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones?  Say things you've been meaning to say to people, even if it's just goodbye?  Go to church if you want?  Come to terms with the inevitable?  I even think it might be sickly humorous to watch cultists commit suicide (what, they can't wait?) or Glenn Beck-ers trying to stock their basements with food, gold, guns, and Bibles, thinking they can actually weather out the impact.  Oh what to choose?
So how about it, Strangers?  Is it better to know...or to not know?  For it may be a case where G.I. Joe is wrong and "knowing is not half the battle."

The photo is from NASA's JPL, found on Coast-to-Coast AM's site via George Knapp.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, June 21, 2010

Jondroid revisited

I have been reflecting upon my previous post about the “Jondroid.”  I realize that it might come off with more than a soupcon of wide-eyed optimism regarding the convergence of humanity and technology.  It is a familiar refrain: “the future will be brighter and technology will make it so.”
I’m aware of the troubles that are leeched onto that statement like suckerfish holding on to a whale.  First of all, technology has its limitations.  We are indeed quite a ways off from constructing the virtual, online paradises I alluded to and I know that.  Secondly, it does not preclude all problems.  In fact, such a virtual environment will bring on complications that we haven’t even thought of.
While walking the dogs this morning, I tried to envision what these issues might entail.  Consider what I call the “Heaven on Earth” scenario.  What if a blissful state could truly be constructed online, one tailored to the needs of the user?  True Heaven.  The kind that humans could establish right here, right now in the real world if we only wanted to live as one, or more to the point, were able to fully evolve past our survivalist instincts.  Who would control access to such a world?  Could this give rise to entirely new religions and dogmas?  Could our gods become composed of zeroes and ones?  Face it. Religions have cropped up over far more dubious premises.  Can you imagine the new wave of evangelism? “Follow the way, do as I say, and gain entry into the digital kingdom where your troubles will be no more.  Follow the way not…and you are damned.”  Scary.  I need to re-evaluate transhumanism and to try to see the other possibilities, both positive and negative.  Not giving up.  Not by any stretch.  Just trying to be realistic.

This goes for the concepts of UFOs and extraterrestrials as well.  Throughout my reading on the topic (32+ years as I said in my debut post), I’ve always presumed that genuine, unresolved UFO encounters were instances of alien contact.  Need they be alien?  Why not extradimensional? Time travelers?  Perhaps even complex psychological manifestations, or even concepts far more “out there” than those.  I’m now willing to let go of my preconceived notions and take a more “postmodern” approach to paranormal phenomena than I ever have before, even if it seems bizarre and alien (pardon the pun) to me.

Also, I did not mean to bash Luddites.  If you are a Luddite or a Luddite enthusiast, you are well within your right to be so…although if you’re opposed to the Internet, you probably didn’t read the post anyway...or this one.  My targeting in the previous post was one certain individual whom I do not wish to name but has made hypercritical and quite honestly, woefully formulated allegations against our current age of technology.  There is such a thing as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  I for one do not recommend it.

In postscript, Whitley Streiber will be on Coast-to-Coast AM tonight.  Even if you disagree with him, you should still find him interesting to listen to.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Is it live or is it Jondroid?

"The Internet is the LSD of the 90s."
That was a quote from the late Dr. Timothy Leary.  He said that of online activities and of course he said it back in the 1990s.  I am just now coming to discover the "truthiness" of that saying.  In my two months of daily blogging, researching and surfing, and steadfast Tweeting, I've come to enjoy my online life far more than my real one.  If not for my wife and dogs, what would be my incentive to return to the so-called "real world?"  Pay the bills for electricity and online connection of course, but beyond that?  It is such a near-perfect hallucinatory state and without the side effects of LSD.  Of course Leary might have said that side effects were half the fun.
We are all dependent to greater and lesser degrees on this digital connectivity.  And don't listen to what the Luddite says (the Singularity approaches, you chump!  Get in or get left out!)...this is not a bad thing.  Why wouldn't someone want to retain their cyber connection?  You can create the world here to your desires and it is no less "real" than the one you come from.  Here there are no criminal neighbors, no expectations I've failed to meet, and no dread-filled jobs.

Which got me thinking.  What if I could invent a gestalt?  A robotic extension of myself that I would name Jondroid?  It would go to my job for me and earn the paycheck.  What would be unfair about that?  Jondroid would be my property and the employer would essentially be renting it out from me for services.  If there were critical decisions it needed to make, perhaps there could be a neural interface where I would pop in from time to time and call the shots.  Then I could go back to what I want to do, like writing, reading...or more likely, staying online. Better yet, Jondroid could be given a multi-terabyte, self-evolving, neural network that would make all of its decisions in my best interest.  I could even have it fake emotions and do all of the stupid people networking and schmoozing for me.  Jondroid would then return to me at the end of the day to recharge and reprogram, then the whole thing would start over again.  Jondroid would be available for many other such acts of mindless drudgery, such as errands, visits to the DMV, and get-togethers involving my wife's friends.  This is all quite fanciful of course, but oh the time it would give me to read.

Speaking of reading, I spent this Sunday morning doing what I always do: reading and drinking coffee.  Heaven!  Oh yes, despite the disgusting, nearly post-apocalyptic heat, I still drink coffee.  I looked over all the books I have yet to read and find myself growing impatient.  As I've stated in previous posts, I wish I could jump in and consume them all at a rapid rate, but one at a time is all I really have time or ability for.  I've got science fiction I want to get to, such as William Gibson's Pattern Recognition and a space opera called Yamato that I picked up at a used book store.  I doubt that latter book as anything to do with the classic anime, Starblazers, but I'm still enthusiastic for it...for now.  On the UFO side, Friedman's Top Secret/MAJIC-12 and the Corso/Birnes collaboration of The Day After Roswell beckon to me. 

Father's Day marches on.  Yes, I celebrate it for I have a son and a daughter.  Granted, they both have four legs, excessive hair, and speech impediments, but I'll put their brain synapses up against the majority of the morons I meet any day of the week.  I've been drinking beer and watching the Cubs play.  Remarkably my team is doing quite well today, despite their schtooping of yesterday.  Yes, regardless of all my metrosexual geekiness, I do still have testosterone.  Later we will go to dinner with my father-in-law.  I should get a vegetarian pasta dish but darn it all if a grilled meat product isn't calling my name.  I wish it were not so and more than that I wish I were stronger to fight it.  I'll let you know how it goes after I get back.
But will it be me or will it be Jondroid??

P.S. Read through my usual Sunday Chicago Tribune and my outrage at BP was once more stoked by Hayward's Rio-esque yacht excursion (wait, that's giving him way too much credit.  Duran Duran have talent...and a conscience.)  I have a list of big businesses to boycott as they are all owned by BP.  I'm having second thoughts about publishing it though, as it could adversely affect the jobs of people who had nothing whatsoever to do with the oil spill.  Then again, there were innocent women and children adversely affected by the invasion of Afghanistan, but I wouldn't change my mind on that call, either.  I shall mull it over a bit more, dear Strangers.  When I'm ready to launch the strike, I'll post the list. 

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Night siege in Hopkinsville

Another curiosity that reads like fun fiction to me...but has a small chance of being true.

AUGUST 21st. 1955
It was evening at the Sutton homestead.  It was hot.  One must remember that certain areas of Kentucky and West Virginia did not have indoor plumbing until the latter half of the 20th Century.  Billy Ray Taylor, patriarch of the Sutton family, went to a well to get drinking water.  According to his account, that was when he saw a UFO land in the woods near the house.

Upon returning to the house, he was quite excited about his sighting.  Other members of the family were not so sure.  They accused him of over-exaggerating a "shootin' stahr."
Not long after that, strange noises arose from the woods.  The family dogs barked aggressively, then ran and hid beneath the house.  Both Billy Ray Taylor and Elmer "Lucky" Sutton loaded their shotguns and stood on their porch to investigate.  That was when they saw an alien creature emerge from the wood, a being that investigator Jerome Clark describes as a "luminous, three-and-a-half-foot-tall being with an oversized head, big, floppy, pointed ears, glowing eyes, and hands with talons at their ends. The figure, either made of or simply dressed in silvery metal, had its hands raised." 

It could be that the alien intended this gesture as one of peace.  But the men were understandably disturbed by its appearance, perhaps even fearing a home invasion, and they opened fire.  What they heard next was a noise they claimed sounded as "bullets bouncing off of steel drums."  The supposed alien flipped backward from the force of the impacts and then fled into the trees.
Believing their intruder to be wounded, the men stepped off their porch to track it down.  When they did this, the hair of both men was grabbed by "taloned hands."  Looking up, they saw another, identical alien creature on their roof.  In self-defense, they shot this creature as well.  Again the men heard the metallic, rattling noise and the alien fell from the roof.  It ran away, apparently unharmed.
The men went back inside, alarmed by what had just happened.  That was when they heard the scream of Elmer's brother, J.C.  They raced into a bedroom of the house and saw another alien face at the window.  Once more, the men opened fire.  Once more, there was the sound of "bullets hitting a metal bucket."
Again and again the aliens approached the house, skulking up around doorways or windows.  Each time, a member of the Sutton clan shot them.  Each time the results were the same: the supposed ETs would flee, moving with an odd hip-sway motion and propelling themselves with their arms and hands.  Indeed their legs seemed to be inflexible and atrophied, and the aliens did not look to rely upon them.  When one of them would be shot from a tree or the roof, they would not attempt to stand or orient themselves vertically, they would merely float to the ground.  This just kept going on.
In the hours before dawn, the Suttons got into their cars and fled the house, heading for the Hopkinsville Police Department.  Duty officers testified that the family members were sober and had indeed experienced something distressful.  Police returned to the house and found nothing, save for blown out windows and piles of spent shell casings.  With nothing left to do, the police left.  And the aliens returned.
Twice more the creatures approached the house and each time they were shot, only to scurry away just as every time before.  By morning light, the aliens were gone.
The US Air Force investigated the incident via Project Blue Book.  Oddly enough, Blue Book did not have an answer.  Not even one of their pat, "light from Venus bounced off of a weather balloon and refracted through swamp gas" acrobatic feats of logic.   No one was able to come up with an answer.  The only thing that police, Air Force, and UFO investigators could all come up with was that the family members were "sane and sincere."  One interesting corroboration of the story comes from a Kentucky State Trooper.  This trooper stated that on the same night as the Hopkinsville siege, he witnessed several "strange lights in the sky" and heard booming sounds like that of "artillery."
Shortly after this story broke in the news, the family was accused of brewing homegrown moonshine and spinning a goofy yarn.  Sick of the ridicule, the Sutton family moved away.

So what happened that August night?  When all things are considered, there are three categories of possibilities.

Misidentification: Billy Ray, Elmer, and the rest of the Suttons saw something completely natural, but given nighttime conditions and a growing state of paranoia, they believed it to be something else.  Joe Nickell of The Skeptical Enquirer suggests that it was several Great Horned Owls that the Suttons encountered that night.  Granted, this does not account for the claim of silver body suits or bullets bouncing off metallic hides, but that could perhaps be attributed to heightened emotional states and bullets bouncing off of the metal siding of the family shed.
Still, you'd think that lifelong residents of rural Kentucky would know an owl when they saw one.

Hoax: In the end, what evidence is there?  Spent shells, broken windows, and Sutton testimony.  Could they have made all this up?  Sure.  But I'd argue that it backfired on them as they made no real money on the deal and any attention they received was in the form of insults and ridicule.  Plus, you must factor in that Kentucky residents have a reputation.  True, they are known for poverty and a somewhat lacking educational system, but they are honest and hard working.  Hard working people such as the Suttons seldom have the time or the inclination to come up with stories like "attackers from outer space."

Aliens: It really all played out as the Suttons testified.

I'm trying not to be snobby, but it all does sort of sound like Aliens vs. The Beverly Hillbillies and there just isn't one shred of evidence that supports these fantastic claims, even though it is an amazing story.
There is one aspect that I find interesting.  The descriptions of the aliens are rather different from those of the stereotypical "grays."  This description is so unique that it has been given its own name amongst Ufologists: The Hopkinsville Goblin.  Here is a picture of the entities, an actual sketch that went along with the Hopkinsville report:

Each member of the Sutton clan described the same alien, except for Billy Ray Taylor who insisted that the things had "beeping antennae."  I find Billy Ray's assertion to be rather telling.  The description of the Hopkinsville Goblins more closely resembles that of a 1950s bug-eyed alien from b-movies than it does any serious UFO occupant sighting.  Still, what did all these people have to gain from making up such a story?


 Picture is from Wikipedia
Additional information from Jerome Clark's "The Unexplained."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, June 18, 2010

Past week's links

Notion of The Singularity makes it to The New York Times

Exoplanet found in star debris disc

Sighting of the New Jersey Devil

Jupiter impact mysteriously lacks debris

Dark matter might not exist...and what was their first clue?

Betting it all on alien DNA

Are there multiple "God particles?"

The Singularity: Artificial cornea set to go

No place weirder than the Denver airport

Carvings of dinosaurs found in Peru?  The fundies will love this

Many thanks to Coast to Coast AM

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

And yet more on the Men In Black

Yep.  Did more MIB research last night.  Here are a few more fragments, this time a combination of Keith's book and entries in Jerome Clark's The Unexplained.

This from a newspaper in Britain, 1905:
A man in black appeared suddenly in the bedroom of "an exceptionally intelligent young woman of the peasant stock."
What's more astounding?  The MIB encounter or the vast difference in journalistic sensibilities over the past 100 years?

John Keel, Fortean researcher and author of The Mothman Prophecies and UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse, had several personal dealings with MIBs.  He told of keeping "rendezvous with black Cadillacs on Long Island, and when I tried to pursue them they would disappear impossibly on dead-end roads."
Keel warned that MIBs should not be approached as they seem to be able to use hypnosis.  As one UFO witness said after an MIB encounter, "I never saw them blink."

Perhaps the most interesting of MIB cases investigated by Keel or by anyone else for that matter, is that of Indrid Cold.  In 1966 in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a man named Woodrow Derenberger was driving his panel truck home after a hard day of work.  As he crested a hill, a strange craft came up from behind him and then swerved around to block the road.  A door slid open and a man with "dark hair combed straight back" and "heavily tanned skin" emerged.  He was grinning broadly and continued to do so throughout the encounter.  He communicated with Derenberger telepathically, asking him all manner of strange questions about this planet and identifying himself as "Indrid Cold."  Then the strange entity told Derenberger that he would him visit again and got back into the vehicle and left.  Derengerger was then subject to several strange phone calls, each with no one on the other end of the line, save for a series of electronic tones.  All of this was during the spat of sightings in the area of the creature known as Mothman.
If you ask me, Indrid Cold would make a good story antagonist.  Something of a less malevolent Cigarette Smoking Man from X-Files.

In an apartment building in New York City, residents kept seeing the apparition of a tall man in a long black trenchcoat and a black, wide-brimmed hat pulled down low over the face.  Investigators theorized it was the ghost of a spy from the Revolutionary War.  Further research proved this to be highly unlikely.  One thing however, did turn up.  The building was once home to Walter Gibson.  Gibson sat in his apartment for hours on end, writing multiple installments of The Shadow.
Could a physical manifestation of The Shadow have been brought about as a result of Gibson's considerable expenditure of mental energy on one single image?  If that is the case, then could all (or many) MIB incidents be gestalts of our own psychological dreads given physical form?  Straight from the id?  I wonder...

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, June 17, 2010

"Here Come the Men In Black..."

I have an enormous collection of books.  While I have found that the best method is to read one at a time straight through, I sometimes get impatient and begin thumbing and perusing through the others just for fun.  Last night, I did just that with Casebook on the Men In Black by Jim Keith.  
Interesting stuff.  While Keith draws upon a number of sources (most notable of which is The Mothman Prophecies by John Keel), the research just boils down to "some guy told me that [fill in the blank]."  And it should be noted that Keith never pretends it to be otherwise.  In what follows, I would like to "spit out" a few bits of information on the Men In Black phenomenon that I found interesting.  Not necessarily valid, but intriguing.  As usual, the stuff mostly speaks to the fiction writer in me.

First of all, get the Will Smith movie out of your head.  While most reported MIB encounters do involve men wearing black suits and ties (naturally), driving black cars such as Cadillacs, that's where the similarities end.
Most MIB encounters are with men (or beings) that are swarthy or olive complected, with Asiatic features such as slanted eyes.  They are said to walk stiffly, almost mechanically.  A few are tall while others are barely over 5 feet.  Many are said to have oddly elongated fingers.  They frequently wear an insignia on their lapels of an eye inside a triangle (according to Keith, p. 221).  They most often identify themselves as "government agents" or "officers in the US Air Force," although when challenged to produce IDs, they either refuse or show identification that is later found to be fraudulent.  Most cases of MIBs occur as visits to those who claim to have sighted UFOs.  These witnesses are often threatened into silence.

MIBs are not new.  One historian claims that a mysterious Man In Black was present during the design of the U.S. flag in 1775.  He was known to colonists only as "the Professor" and he spent most of his time reading and translating ancient texts.  Thomas Jefferson is said to have met a "mysterious, dark-complected stranger wearing a black cape" while walking in his garden one night.  This man gave Jefferson the design for the Great Seal of the United States.  John Keel has argued that the seal is actually a representation of the city of Petra in Jordan.  This is a city that is called "half as old as time" by Arabs.

In the 1940s, MIBs were big in Haiti.  They were called "zobops" by the locals and thought to be black magicians.  They rode around the countryside in black cars called "auto-tigres," which projected bluish beams that disabled victims for abduction.  Most of these reported abductions took place in or near the town of Mirabal.  I was in Mirabal back in 1991.  I was not abducted.  Just setting that straight.

Louis Farrakhan claims to have been brought aboard a UFO to speak to Elijah Mohammed.  During one mass sighting of saucers, Farrakhan said he watched the discs (or "wheels" as he called them) be chased by black, unmarked helicopters.  "The Army followed the planes (UFOs) in helicopters or whatnot and reported this..."

The first labeling of "Men In Black" occurred when UFO researcher Albert K. Bender published his research into the Maury Island Case, a UFO incident in 1947 that actually predates Roswell.  These self-called "government agents" stalked witnesses, threatened them into silence, and were even suspected in the theft of supposed physical UFO evidence.

MIBs have trouble eating.  There is a curious case of a MIB in a Virginia diner.  He claimed to be very hungry but didn't know what to do.  The waitress suggested a steak.  The meal came out and the MIB had no idea how to eat it, so the waitress had to teach him to use a knife and fork.  When asked what he did for a living, the MIB said that he was a Lt. Col. in USAF.  Another patron happened to be a retired Air Force officer and struck up a conversation.  The MIB could not even answer the most rudimentary questions about the service.  When dessert came out, the MIB attempted to drink his Jello. 
There's a short story in there somewhere.

I can't say much as to the veracity of these claims.  But if on the off-chance that these MIB encounters are actually happening, then these are clear cases of perhaps our own government harassing and violating the civil rights of its citizens, citizens that have committed no transgression other than to speak of seeing something that they did not understand.  And THAT should concern us.

Pic is from Wikipedia, file created by RadioKirk at en.wikipedia

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Evolution of Starship Design

Found this nifty posting on IO9 It shows the transformation of tastes and sensibilities in designs for spaceships in science fiction films. So why do they all look like flying bugs the more recent you get?
Here's one of my all-time faves:

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

The Strange Case of the Solway Firth Spaceman

In 1964, a fireman named Jim Templeton took his daughter on an outing to Burgh Marsh in England.  According to Templeton, they were alone that day save for a handful of cows and sheep in a nearby pasture.  He took a few photos during the outing.  You might not recall the days before digital photography, but it used to be that you would to take your rolls of exposed film to a developer and wait for them to be returned.
Templeton did just that.  When he picked up the finished photos, the developer commented, "that would have been a real nice photo of Elizabeth if that man hadn't been standing back there."  Templeton didn't understand what that was supposed to mean until he saw the picture.

They saw no one else around in the entirety of the marsh, but the Templetons somehow caught the image of a man in what can only be described as a spacesuit, lurking about.  Needless to say, Jim Templeton was disturbed about the proximity of this hitherto unseen "spaceman" so close to his little girl.  He describes his next course of action: 
"I took the picture to the police in Carlisle who, after many doubts, examined it and stated there was nothing suspicious about it. The local newspaper, the Cumberland News, picked up the story and within hours it was all over the world. The picture is certainly not a fake, and I am as bemused as anyone else as to how this image appeared in the background."
After the publication of the photo in the newspaper, Templeton claims that two men showed up at his home.  He described them as being dressed in what is now known as the stereotypical "Men In Black" look.  They claimed to be agents of the British government but refused to produce any identification.  They referred to themselves only as "#9" and "#10."  They drove Templeton to the area of the marsh where the photograph was taken and asked him to describe the day to them, paying particular attention to weather conditions and "the behavior of area birds."  That done, the two MIBs insisted that Templeton merely photographed a passerby.  When Templeton continued to express disagreement with this assertion, the MIBs grew noticeably angry and drove off...leaving Templeton in the marsh with nothing but a bewildered feeling and a five mile walk home.
It gets weirder.  There was a factory in the area by the marsh.  This factory built, among other things, rockets and missiles.  One of the models manufactured there was the Blue Streak missile.  When this missile was going through tests at the Woomera Test Range in Australia, one launch had to be aborted when two strange figures appeared on the otherwise deserted firing range.   When technicians at the test site later saw Templeton's photograph in an Australian newspaper, they recognized the "spaceman" as having the exact same size and appearance as the suited figures they sighted on the test range.
To this day, the Templeton photo remains unexplained.
So what was it?  Who was it?  This was long before the time of Photoshop, so that lends credibility.  What's more, the Kodak Camera Company examined the film and pronounced it to be authentic not tampered with.  Could this all be an elaborate hoax on the part of Jim Templeton?  After all, we have only his word about there being no one else being at the marsh that day as well as for the visit from the MIBs.  But if it was his own concoction, what did he gain from it?  A bit of fame that was short-lived.  Any monetary gain he had was slim if not non-existent.  If anything, he probably had to endure more ridicule than benefit.  Then there is the added weirdness of the Australian missile test.
So what are we dealing with here?  A few UFO researchers were quick to claim this as an alien visitation.  Not so fast, say I.  The appearance of the spaceman flies in the face of the more common descriptions of aliens and that really is all we have to go on. 
I'm beginning to wonder if we're being visited by time travelers. 

Photo is from Wikipedia.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why Do Grays Look Like Us?

NOTE: This post is written from the (unproven) perspective that there are extraterrestrial, or otherwise foreign to this world, visitors to this planet and that they look like the popular conception of an alien.  If you do not believe this or do not care for an exercise in conjecture, this might not be a good post for you.

If you ask someone to draw an alien, whether that someone be a young child or middle aged adult, you'll probably get something back like this.

A large head that is bulbous and bald.  Almond-shaped eyes that are solid black and at an angle.  Diminutive stature.  Gray skin.  This has become the standard, accepted image of what an alien looks like.  There are many reasons for this.  One would be pop culture images, such as the aliens shown at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind or the cover of Whitley Streiber's Communion.  Both of these images became infused in our collective consciousness...but both were based on descriptions given by people who had claimed to have actually seen aliens and in the case of Communion, it was Streiber's very own purported experiences with abduction.  In fact, descriptions of the alien type now known as "the Gray" go back at least as far as the famous abduction case of Barney and Betty Hill in the 1950s.
Skeptics have poked at these uniform descriptions of aliens, citing how improbable it is that intelligent life would have any kind of humanoid appearance.  So why then do the Grays look like they do?  Here are a few theories:

1.) It's just how life goes.  Bipedal humanoids with large craniums might just be the most logical form for intelligent life to take.  It allows for speed, dexterity, the construction of tools, and many other advantages that could place a lifeform at the top of its ecological food chain, thereby giving it enough time to evolve and commit to massive undertakings, such as the construction of spacecraft.

2.) We are them.  An Ancient Astronaut theorist will argue that aliens added in their own genetic material to the DNA of our most distant ape-like ancestors.  Humanity is one big alien colony and that is why we have the same basic shape as they do.  But why would the aliens do that?  To gain slave labor?  An army?  A "farm" of genetic material?  Those are questions without solid resolutions, but a great many abductees report medical tests, the harvesting of tissue samples (the nefarious "butt probe"), and even crossbreeding experiments.  That could point to our "use" for the Grays.

3) They are us.  Anthropologists once speculated what humans might look like after another million years of evolution.  Here are a few of their musings:
-We would have less need for hair as we wear a great deal more clothes than our ancestors did.
-We would shrink in size as we tend to do less physical labor on the whole.
-We would have larger heads as we (hopefully) grow more intelligent and have more information to process.
-We would have larger eyes as we would be taking this information in from multiple viewscreens.
I don't know about you but that sounds like a Gray.  Are the Gray aliens actually humans time traveling from the far future?  As stated previously, abductess report a harvesting of genetic material.  Has human DNA weakened somehow in the future and they need ours?
The one area that this does not jive with anthropological speculation is skin color.  It is thought that as societal taboos breakdown, there will continue to be more interracial relationships.  It is no longer unheard of for say, a white man to fall in love with a Hispanic woman.  Offspring from these kinds of relations will go on to reproduce with others of mixed race.  This could eventually lead to all of humanity being one color, a sort of "coffee with cream" look, not gray.

4) Panspermia.  Somewhere in the vast reaches of space, an alien civilization sent out probes that seeded many lifeless worlds with the DNA of their own species.  This civilization happened to be humanoid, therefore there are several planets of intelligent, bipedal aliens.  Why would aliens do this?  Perhaps they were dying and wished a way to live on.  Maybe they were laying the groundwork for eventual terraforming later on.  Sound crazy?  This hypothesis was originated in part by Dr. Francis Crick, one of the co-discoverers of DNA.  And yes, there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation about this.  Pretty good one, too.

5) Drones.  Like I said in a previous post, the Grays might be biomechanical probes or drones sent by aliens.  Maybe they were constructed to look the way they do because we already have that image lodged in our psychological subconscious?  That way they could more easily interact with us?  Meaning, conduct lab tests on us?  If abduction accounts are to be believed, someone has definitely taken an interest in the genetic make-up of our species.

6) Cryptoterrestrials.  The Gray aliens are not aliens at all.  They are an offshoot of humans and they live hidden somewhere on our world.  This is a hypothesis developed by late, great Fortean researcher, Mac Tonnies.  He published a posthumous book on the subject and I will write more on this theory once I've actually done the reading.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, June 14, 2010


Today has been a strange day at the office.  My day job (the name and nature of the place shall continue to go unspecified) hurled yet more contradiction, aggravation, and inanity at us in a way that has further convinced me that I live in an augmented reality program.  I told a co-worker that I just don't care anymore.  He said that is the wrong way to live.  I replied, "it is remarkably easy,"   to which he retorted that "easy living" is usually a sign that you're doing something wrong (paraphrase).
Of course I see his point.  Caring is perhaps the most critical action to undertake in order to bring meaning to existence.  It can be that one nice thing you do a day, that cause you devote even a modicum of time to that just might make the world a better place. 
But it seems to be just as easy to "care" as to not care.  I have a few favorite examples of this.  One of them is the glut of magnetic yellow "support our troops" ribbons that emerged on cars everywhere after the invasion of Iraq.  Now I certainly have nothing against the act of supporting our armed services.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I have always been a strong supporter of the military and that one of my closest friends is a veteran.  My problem with the ribbons is twofold.  First off, as an English scholar, I can tell there is an unspoken, understood phrase that goes before "support our troops" and that is "you had better."  This makes the caring and support for our service men and women into a purely political statement.  Secondly, I wonder just how the driver of the car in front of me chooses to support the troops?  I mean, aside from slapping that ribbon on their car?  Do they write letters?  Have they adopted a unit to send care packages to?  Have they gone to a funeral for a fallen soldier that they didn't know but were somehow connected to by extension?  I'm not saying that they haven't.  I just have my doubts.
You can just easily see the same kind of principle at work on the other side of the political fence.  Take your average "peace protest."  How many of those people consider themselves to be "politically and socially active" just by showing up to one of those things?  I once was in an art supply store. Two college age kids staffed the place while chatting with a few of their friends.  One of the visitors said, "Hey there's a protest rally in Washington D.C. this weekend.  Want to go?"  "What's it for?" the kid behind the counter asked.  "To free Leonard Pelltier," he was told.  "Yeah, sure," was the decision.  The college kid took maybe a beat to think about it.  The tone of his response sounded like one of "guess there could be a few awesome tailgate parties and cute girls."  
Finally, I'm just as guilty as anybody.  I am a supporter of Bono's One Campaign.  I wear a white bracelet from time to time, I bought a Red t-shirt from the Gap, I donated to get antiviral drugs to HIV patients in Africa, and I have written a couple letters to Congress to supporter thrid world debt cancellation.  Have I been to Africa to get my hands in the dirt and help?  No.  Even if I had the means I'm still not so sure that I would do it.  I am outraged by what BP has done to the Gulf of Mexico.  What have I done?  I added a "boycott BP" logo to my Twitter feed, signed an online petition against further drilling, and I avoid BP gas stations like the plague.  Do I do anything positive?  I am down in Louisiana, scrubbing oil off of pelicans?  No.
Apathy is a contagion.  It hops from person to person like any germ.  It spreads from brain to brain like any viral video on the Net.  It can start with a bad customer service experience at a store, be reinforced by an overall sense of futility at your stupid day job, and really explode after taking a look at the overwhelming amount of problems our world faces.  It might even be part of a larger plan, a subroutine in a larger control mechanism.  The superimposition of a rigid societal and religious framework is enough to make most free-thinkers feel like they're up against it and that to act contrary to expectations is tantamount to ramming your head into a concrete wall.  So why do it?  Because if enough people don't care, it will be easier to push forward certain agendas.  So hands up.  What do you do?
"I don't care" comes very easy to me.  Yet if that is too frequent of a response, what will be left to care about?  The only way to halt the cycle, to "break free of the matrix" as it were, seems to be through tiny, altruistic acts. That and staying educated about what's going on.  That kind of education is one of my goals here with Strange Horizons and it is an education for myself as much as anybody.  I hope that you, dear visitor, may find it as such also.

Speaking of caring, President Obama is to address the nation one of these nights on the status of things in the Gulf.  Here's to hoping he actually does "kick the ass" of BP.

Thought I'd add my playlist from "Nothing Left But The Cockroaches:"

"Wild Boys," Duran Duran
"The Playboy Mansion," U2
"Zeroes and Ones," Jesus Jones
"Zero," The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
"American Idiot," Green Day

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to destroy a civilization using nanotechnology

Apologies for the gap in posting. Was out with Bernard all day Saturday, seeing the new "A-Team" movie (fluffy fun for the mind. I recommend it.) Sometimes my commitment to daily posting makes me feel like Newman on Seinfeld:

Anyway, here are today's thoughts...
Sure, we've all heard about the deadly outcomes that could ensue from melding humans with nanotechnology; "gray goo," et. al.
But perhaps worst of all would be allowing a chump such as this to get a hold of it:

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nothing Left But the Cockroaches

Here is a satirical piece that I am working on...

My name is Cameron “Candy” Prince.

I am a cockroach.

I’m not insulting myself and I don’t mean it in that Franz Kafka kind of way, either. To really understand how I got this roachy bod, I suppose we need to go back to the year 2016.


I used to live at my Mom and Dad’s house in Indiana back then. Even now I can smell the chlorine of the swimming pool and the magnolias around the tennis court. Yeah, my Dad was loaded. Mitt Prince II made a killing with hedge funds in the first decade of the century and then went into defense contracting. With his hard-earned profits he built our family a palatial estate to the north of Indianapolis, complete with an entryway that was lined with 12 gold crosses. Sometimes on summer nights we’d all sit on the back patio and watch the light of sunset turn funny colors in the smoke of Dad’s LandDroneTM and ROV plants.

My Mom, Elizabeth Grosselin-Prince, was a true beauty queen. No, really. She was once a Miss Indiana and before that she was a Miss Pork Queen. And she kept her looks. I’d keep getting older but she’d still look the same with that bronze skin and sunshine blonde hair. Every now and then I’d hear Daddy thanking Jesus for stuff like liposuction and Botox.

I grew up a happy kid. When I was little I smiled all the time. That’s why the family gave me the nickname “Candy.” “Aw, ‘eez sweet as candy!” someone like my aunt or grandma would say. “If ya’ll don’t look out, I’m a gonna steal all ‘eez sugar!” And then they’d run their noses all over me while making pig noises. The nickname stuck with me, mostly because I really am a heckuva nice guy.

It’s not like I didn’t have to take a bit of ribbing for it from other kids. “Candy” is after all, usually a name for a girl. I don’t know how many times I’d get “do you melt in the mouth or in the hand?” or “heard you got a girl pregnant and she’s gonna have a Baby Ruth.” But all that was nothing compared to the accusations that I wasn’t my Mom’s son. Some miscreant got it in his head that I was really born to Penelope, our maid from Tijuana, Mexico. Sure, my skin’s always been a bit on the olive side, neither one of my parents have black hair like I do, and every once in a while I crave chicken mole like you wouldn’t believe, but that’s got nothin’ to do with nothin’.

One day I went to a NASCAR race with a few other kids. They wouldn’t let up on the entire Penelope thing so when we got back I finally asked our family Pastor if my Daddy would ever do such a thing. Pastor Longson stuttered in shock. “Not really,” he told me, just before he said he had to go tap a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon. That what was good enough for me, in fact I think I freaked poor Pastor Longson out just by making him think of my Dad with any woman besides my Mom.

Like any good ol’ American boy, my love was always the girl next door. Or the next mansion over, anyway. My dear Jennifer Lynn Kane. I held so many dreams in my head for us. Getting married and taking her name so I could be “Candy Kane,” a house of our own bought with my Daddy’s money, going to hear Tobey Keith belt out “Let’s Bomb Europe” every time he played the Jasper County Fair, and the peaceful, easy feeling of falling asleep together every night to Fox News. But we had the whole deck stacked against us it seemed.

You see, Jen demanded to be called “Razor.” She put a ring in her nose, wore a spiked dog collar, and colored her spiky hair half pink and half purple. Often times she’d get citations from the police as she violated the Public Appearance Law, running up quite a tab for her folks. They even had her committed at one point, but word round the campfire was that she scared the psychologists so much that she was summarily released. Once back in public, well… that just meant more PAL violation fines for Ma and Pa Kane.

Hang on. I probably need to back up. Bear with me as I digress and explain that last bit via a series of twists and turns. First off, I was homeschooled. My parents kept me out of the public school system because they wanted “a quality education” for me. I asked my Dad once why I got to stay home with a private tutor while every kid I knew slogged off to crumbling buildings and to watch movies on how to select the right bubble on standardized tests. “Son, those kids have parents who just don’t work hard enough,” Daddy told me. “If they did, they’d be getting what you’re getting.”

My live-in private tutor was a brilliant man named Dr. Richard von Schweenson. He was the one who taught me that in America, “we live in the best of all possible worlds. America is a nation of strength unparalleled in human history. And not since the halcyon days of Gerald Ford has our economy been so strong.” He also taught me to “always make my words about America sweet, else they become the bitter seeds of treason” and that “taxes were born of copulation between Satan and Lenin.” “Every American is born with an inalienable right to everything under the sun, but under no obligation to pay for it with taxes,” he furthered.

Not only was he good with words but he was also a brilliant guy to boot. I absorbed all I could from my conservative master. I was Neo to his Morpheus. His knowledge of history and philosophy inspired me at one point to want to study Humanities.

“Like hell you will!” my Dad told me like he just found me humping a fish.

Anyway, I was lucky to have Dr. von Schweenson around to explain everything to me when the Great Compromise, Part Deux came about.

There was great political turmoil during my late teens. Dr. von Schweenson explained that society decided that we could no longer continue until the divide between the Red and Blue States was healed. Unable to come up with a vaccine, they went for a tourniquet. State governments were given greater leeway to govern as to how they believed their constituents demanded, even if it conflicted with that old Constitution from time to time. “Imagine a couple who know their marriage is a candle drowned in its own wax, sleep in separate rooms, but stay married for the kids,” was how the great Doctor put it. “It’s win/win.”

So that’s how we got things like the Public Appearance Law (“your PAL!” as the social marketing campaign went) in Indiana. “Razor,” with her short and multicolored hair and her combat boots, kept getting into trouble under the “promoting lesbianism” provisions of the law, even though I knew she couldn’t really be one.

But rattling the cage wasn’t something I wanted to mess with. Learned that the hard way. Once I went out coon hunting with one of my Dad’s AK-47s. I didn’t bag any critters that day, but what I did find in the woods was a worn out copy of Penthouse. I snuck it back to the house under my camo field jacket.

Just as I was working my way through a layout of Ann Coulter (who still looked pretty good for 54), I heard my door open and my Mom scream.

My parents came at me like a pair of wild howler monkeys on crank.

“Do you have any idea what this is?” my Daddy hollered, waving the nudey book at me. “This is illegal in the state of Indiana! You could go to jail! Our family name would be ruined!”

He dragged me into the basement. To administer corporal punishment, I presumed. Like a man to the gallows I went to down the stairs. “Don’t kill him, Mitt,” my Mom bawled in the kitchen behind us. Just when I thought Dad was reaching for the same baseball bat he used on me in grade school, he flipped a switch. The basement wall slid away, revealing a pair of metal elevator doors. Daddy ushered me in.

We went down into a level of the basement that I never knew we had. I about fell from a heart attack when I saw the vault, all shiny like a gun barrel of chromium steel. Dad opened the door to it and I looked upon rows and rows of DVDs with titles like Beaver Patrol and Indepanties Day. What was more, a 21st Century Real DollTM leaned up against a corner, all decked out like Sarah Palin…right down to the glasses, the rifle, and the moose head. Daddy tossed a box of Kleenex at me.

“You’re welcome down here any time,” he said. “But don’t say a word about this room to your Mom.”

My Dad was a brilliant man. Surpassed only perhaps by Dr. von Schweenson.

Anyway, that was all a bit like hitching up an RV trailer to your Hummer just to drive from Brook to Monon, but at least you know why Razor caused such a din. Didn’t matter to me. My heart still did flips the day she stumbled into our yard.

It was November and the weather had already turned colder than Hillary Clinton’s nethers. I went round the back acres of the house, looking for Dr.von Schweenson. He was late for our game of “Name That Conservative” and I was concerned. The eaves of the house moaned as the wind picked up, howling like coyotes at a dead moon. Or at least that’s what I thought the moaning was. I mean it was windy, but…

When I found Dr. von Schweenson, he was in the tool shed with Penelope. They were… “engaged in an act of love” would be the best way to put it for mixed company (and I feel I need to because, heck, I don’t know who’s reading this. It’s called “loss of primacy” in writing.) But that wasn’t what shocked me. It was the fact they chose the tool shed on such a cold day. Also shocking was the funny, warm feeling I got watching them despite the chill.

As if on cue, I saw Razor come stumbling down the slope to the backyard. She wore black tights that ended in combat boots and nothing but a fastened leather vest for a top. By that point in life, I’d been to enough Amish barn raisings to know a drunk when I saw one and in my heart I already knew the cause. She’d been to church and got a little greedy with the wine once the Spirit got into her. I asked Razor what she was doing and she just laughed. Then she made a beeline for me and wrapped those tattooed arms around my shoulders. Her heavenly aroma of Wild Turkey tickled my nose hairs.

“You know what, you dumb boy?” Razor said with a hiccup. “You’ll do.”

She kissed me and my entire mind, body, and soul came to life. I returned her kiss with unchained lust. The spike in her nosering stabbed my cheek, but I pressed on undaunted. My hands wandered across her body and somewhere I heard the angels sing.

Then all hell broke loose.

Ice pelted us from the sky. The wind gusted and I heard the crack of tree limbs. Dr. von Schweenson darted out of the tool shed, still pulling up his pants. He demanded an explanation. I threw up my hands and was about to mutter a “darned if I know,” but I didn’t get a chance. The ice kept coming. Each pellet a bullet sting to the cheeks.

All of us raced for the house. The asphalt path was already a sheet of ice. Many times I stopped to recover the fallen Penelope or the tripped and cackling Razor while Dr. von Schweenson led the way far before us. He reached the house first and found the patio door sealed from the ice and cold. After I yanked the handle a few times, each under the wise direction and encouragement of the Doctor, the door snapped free and we got inside.

Reports from the Weather Service warned of winds up to 100 mph. Sparks of light came from outside along with the sounds of loud cracks. The computer went dead and all the lights went black. Daddy yelled out that the power lines were down from the ice. A massive blast of wind hit and our entire manor shook. We could hear the roof tiles tearing off above us and then watched them slam dance in the gale.

In time the ice turned to snow. At the rate of three inches per hour it came. All around us turned to white. The wind showed no intention of lightening up either as I watched it drive enormous snowdrifts swarming down the country lane to our house. Shaken from the fear, I asked an unholy question.

“Is this from Global Warming?”

“Get behind me, Satan!” Dr. von Schweenson snapped back. “I told you there is no such thing. This is the very wrath of God sent down upon us for your having kissed a lesbian!”

Everyone in the room turned to look at Razor. She was on the floor in a corner, rolling back and forth singing, “Coo-coo-ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson.” My Dad clenched both his jaw and his fists as hellfire burned in his eyes. I panicked.

“I caught Dr. von Schweenson messing around with Penelope!” I blurted out.

“I was giving her a lesson on techno erotic paganism!” he protested.

A stomach-turning squeak and rasp came from the ceiling. Weakened by wind and ice, the roof could no longer support the weighty pile of snow now upon it. I watched in horror as it collapsed, sending a hail of wood, drywall, snow, and fancy crown molding down upon us. We were going to die. And my last acts were to let down my family, insult my beloved teacher, and lose Razor forever.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets