Thursday, December 29, 2016

Chase Danner 3: Prisoners of the Trindando




No, there are no Sleestaks in this. There are, however, transparent stand-ins.


CHASE DANNER, renegade starfighter pilot on the run from Monarch, along with his android major domo, PLEX, crashed on the prehistoric planet, Brata 326. After tussling with one of the local dinosaur-like beasts, the duo found themselves at sword and spear-point, prisoners of lizard men...

His guts boiling with rage, Chase Danner yielded to logic. He and Plex were outnumbered by the reptilians. There was little choice but to submit to captivity...for the time being. Shackled, Chase and Plex sat on the backs of saurian steeds, being taken to who knows where.

"Got me riding bitch..." Chase grumbled, squirming behind what appeared to be the leader of the reptile men.

"You fly spaceships?" the leader growled and hissed.

"Ten years now," Chase said. 

"Trindando have no need of spaceships," he said.

"Trindando?" Chase asked,

"Us," the leader said with a wave to his companions. "My people."

"Trindando," Plex said from the back of his bipedal lizard. "And we now know the planet is actually called Zaslone. A most educational day."

They continued through the marshy  jungle. The oppressive heat caused sweat to roll down Chase's forehead and a general sense of fatigue came over him. Plex and the Trindando were fine of course. In time the green veil of plant life parted and the mountain range became visible again. 

And a city.

The buildings, a cluster of tall spires behind a massive wall, looked to have sprouted directly from the rocky soil. Part fortress, part metropolis, and all dotted with the same green, paradisical foliage of Zaslone, Chase knew not what awaited them there, but he dreaded it.  The Trindando riding point raised his wrist to his mouth and spoke into a device. 

"Excursion unit approaching," the Trindando said. "Open the gate."

As soon as they neared the wall the gate slid open. Chase and Plex's captors rode through the opening and into the fortified city. As they did, Chase caught sight of Trindando monitoring the group's arrival with computer-like devices and viewscreens. 

"You have technology," Chase said to his captor. "Yet you use swords and spears?"

The leader shrugged.

"It's our way," he said.

Chase and Plex were brought into a building and then through hallways that more resembled catacombs. They at last came to a stateroom with a couch, a chest, and a long table with chairs. They were unshackled and given water and fresh fruit. Chase sampled a gourd-like orb, jumping back in shock at the gush of red fluid when he bit into it.

"What is this?" Chase asked.

"Bloodfruit," a Trindando said.

No matter, Chase relished the cool refreshment after the hot and humid slog through the tropics. Then the Trindando stood to sudden attention as another of their own entered the room. This one stood regal with purple robes fastened to his right shoulder by a gawdy gold sigil. The others made soft, supplicating hisses at his arrival.

"I am R'kaxath," the Trindando said. "Lord of the Trindando."

"I am Chase Danner. This is my friend, Plex."

The ruler prowled a bit, studying the two visitors to his realm.

"How did you come to Zaslone, Chase Danner?" he asked.

"A man named Monarch," Chase sneered. "I could no longer stomach the rule of a tyrant thug who victimizes the poor and the disabled."

"I like him already," R'kaxath said.

All the others laughed the growly, hissy laugh Chase heard back in the jungle. 

"I'm not terribly fond of him," Plex. "And neither is he of my kind."

"Yes," R'kaxath said as he keenly studied Plex. "Yes. You are not flesh, are you?"

R'kaxath attempted to shove his bulk into Plex's space but Plex neither budged nor shook with any intimidation.

"I am an Art," Plex said. "An artificial being."

"And my friend," Chase said, getting face to face with the Trindando lord.

"Oh yes and I am Chase's. I do rather owe him much," Plex said.

The bulky lizard man hissed and flicked his forked tongue at Chase before walking away.

"We detest the outer galaxy," he said. "But you are both unique and handing you over to this 'monarch' may be profitable. Store them for now with our other guest."

Once more, Chase and Plex found themselves herded down honeycombs of corridors until they were brought to a metal door. At the push of a button the door slid open and the Trindando shoved their prisoners inside.

It was a circular cell made of stone and steel.

It also housed the most beautiful green-skinned woman Chase had ever seen.

TO BE CONTINUED.. 


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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Yes, there is life in space.








It was an article on exobiology I must have missed.

Time magazine published it back in February. It was by astronomer Jeffrey Kluger and it was called "Yes, There Is Life in Space--Deal with It."

Now with a title like that, how could I resist?

The link is at the bottom because I'm still writing these posts on my phone. Long story. Contact me if you really want to know.

The upshot of it is that life on other planets is no longer the majority position of exobiology, but of space science as a whole. As Kluger puts it:

"...life is out there, indeed it is everywhere, simply because mathematically and chemically it *has* to be."

The elements for life are everywhere in the cosmos and that's just for "life as we know it" as the saying goes. Water, hydrocarbons, you can't go that far without tripping over all of it. Kluger then segues into the math of the matter, stuff we've read or heard many times but it's no less valid. Our Sun is just one of many billions in the known universe and it's beginning to look like a star without planets is an anomaly rather than the norm. It would be specious reasoning to claim ours is the only planet where the process of life could happen.

He's right I'd say. Not that anyone would ask me. There must be other life in the universe besides what's on Earth. It might even be here in our own solar system on the small scale. None of this means, however, that said exolife has ever visited here. Not that Kluger argues that it has in the article by any means.

There is also no reason to believe this exolife would look anything like us. The bipedal, humanoid form is our own projection. I deliberately chose the Space Invaders image above for a reason. It's one of the first depictions of alien life that came to my mind that looks nothing like us. So even though it's an ancient video game, it therefore holds at least a hint of realism.

So what exactly would this exolife look like? I have no idea, but if you'll indulge me for a moment, I'd like to speculate. If it's life that has evolved enough to build a civilization, then it must have something resembling eyes. The advanced predators on our world have eyes that face front, a few with stereo vision. I know, I know, I'm going from a human perspective but what else am I going to do? 

It's also going to have something like hands, an appendage of one form or another that will allow it to manipulate its environment. Rather necesssry don't you think? 

After that, I really wouldn't hazard a guess. I sure would like to know for certain one day.

Not exactly holding out hope for it, though.

http://time.com/4234106/life-in-space/

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Chase Danner 2: Monsters and mouths




No this picture is not mine nor made for this story. It is meant only to set the tone. Let me know if it's yours and you want it taken down.
Renegade former starfighter pilot CHASE DANNER fleed the military forces of the evil Monarch. Along with PLEX, an artificial humanoid (an "Art"), he crash landed on the planet Brata 326...a prehistoric world from which no one has ever returned. As Chase and Plex now face a massive reptilian creature that just stormed through the jungle, they begin to find out why...

Its claws hit first.

The sharp blades raked across Chase and Plex's midsection in one swipe. The sting of a thousand needles burrowed into Chase's nerve endings. No time for that. He drew his blaster pistol from his hip with the hope of making short work of the dinosaur-like creature. The lizard beast held other ideas.

It came back with a hit from its front left limb, knocking Chase to the ground and the gun from his hand. Chase knew if he couldn't get back on his feet, he'd be a meal for the thing in no time. Only seconds to make this work. 

Chase launched himself forward with his muscular thighs. The move seemed to take thing by surprise. It was even more surprised when Chase landed on the back of its neck.

"Good show, Chase!" Plex encouraged from the sidelines.

In truth, Chase wasn't exactly certain what he should do next. He knew only that he needed to stay behind its head, away from the mouth and its rows of razor sharp teeth. Needing to make a move, Chase tried to get his flexed arms around the thing's neck. The scaly beast responded by tearing up and shaking, attempting to throw off its unwanted rider.

"Look out, Chase!" Plex said,

"Gun!" Chase grunted as he held on to the massive reptile. "Get my gun!"

"What's that you say?" Plex asked.

Again the dinosaur thrashed. Chase slipped and then struggled to climb back.

"My blaster!" Chase cried. 

"Oh yes, kick its ass, Chase! You got him now!" Plex responded.

Grunting and cursing, Chase looked around in desperation. He saw another toothy mouth in the foliage, but unlike his beastly opponent, it remained stationary. Flower petals and viny strings seemed to dangle from it.

Could it be a plant? Chase wondered. I've read of such flesh-eating plant life in other star systems.

Acting on a whim, Chase thumped his fist several times into the side of his would-be steed. This caused the creature to thrash violently in the direction of the hits. The movement also brought it nearer to the foliage...and the plant-mouth. 

At the edge of the trees, the vines stretched out like tentacles and wrapped about the attacking carnivorous creature. The thing fought back, struggling. But like the proverbial fly caught in the spider's web, the struggles were ultimately death throes. Chase let go and fell back-first into the thick grass,  just in time to watch the viscous flower eat the former opponent whole. Relieved and catching his breath, Chase crawled about, looking for his gun.

"We need to work on our communication, Plex," Chase said.

"Um? Sir?" Plex said.

"That's kinda what I mean," Chase said, eyes still on the ground and finding nothing. "Just be clear in what you're saying."

He stood up.

He also found that both he and Plex now had a dozen spears and swords pointed at them. The sharp-edged weapons all sat in the hands of saurian bipeds with metal armor wrapped around their loins. 

Lizard men.

"Your blood," the lizard men in front said through a hiss as he gestured to Chase with his sword.

Chase looked down at the thin, horizontal streaks of red dripping onto his already red tunic. The lizard man then poked his sword in Plex's direction.

"Not like his," the lizard man said.

A clear, mucus-like fluid dripped from Plex's own wounds caused by the beast,
"Because I am an artificial lifeform," Plex answered simply. "An 'Art'?"

The lizard men growled and hissed, studying their two finds.

"You are not of Zaslone," the leader said.

"What is that?" Chase asked.

"That?" said the leader. "That is here. This planet." 

Something moved behind the leader. That's when Chase noticed the other lizard men, mounted on two-legged reptiles as a sort of cavalry.

"No. We crashed here. Our ship is ruined," Chase said.

He waved over at his wrecked and beloved Stormfalcon.

"Awwww ship is ruined," the leader said in a singsong voice.

All the other lizard men responded with strident hisses in short and abrupt catches. Were they laughing?

"Bind them and bring them with us," the leader ordered his men. "They will make interesting additions to our other captive."

TO BE CONTINUED...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A very ESE Christmas



Science fiction has always been a part of Christmas for me.

Guess that's not surprising as it's woven into most of the rest of my life as well. 

I was a very lucky kid. I had so many wonderful toys given to me by my parents and grandparents, most of those gifts coming to me on Christmas morning. Nostalgic for happier times, I thought I'd share a few of my more cherished gift memories.



I had so many Star Wars toys, an embarrassment of riches, really. My fondest memory of such was getting the  Death Star playset. I think I genuflected after unwrapping it.



Ah, the Six Million Dollar man. Didn't have many of these, but I sure remember poring over the pictures in the Wish Book. By the way, if you've never seen the Christmas episode, "A Bionic Christmas Carol", boy are you missing out on fine cheese.



The Micronauts Mobile Science Exploration Lab. Again, didn't have many Micronauts but this particular set was extraordinary. My parents, however, bemoaned all the tiny parts.



Around the same era I got the Kirk and Spock Mego dolls from the Star Trek line. Along with my Star Wars action figures, it's one of the first times I can remember trying to emulate character voices and writing dialogue for them.




The Eagle. Any 70s kid will tell you this was the toy to have. It's still at my parents' house, although it's certainly seen better days. I do enjoy seeing my nephews play with it, though.



Last but certainly not least is Mazinga of the Shogun Warriors. Came to me on Christmas Eve when I was six. My favorite toy of all time. It eventually became my brother's favorite as well. We still have it. Not only is it still fun but it has extra value as it was a gift from our Grandmother. Blessed memories indeed.

Anyway, thanks for indulging my nostalgia. Hope I at least brought back a few happy memories.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Haunted computers


Of all the paranormal, ghosts just aren't my thing.

I've read a fair amount about them and even written a bit, but as phenomena go, they aren't my favorite. It's in part an evidence thing. Still, there are aspects of the phenomena that get through my humbuggery. For instance, I like how ghosts, an old facet of the human psyche, sometimes  hook up with high tech and jam.

I'm talking about haunted computers. I first heard of such things back in the 1990s. I used to live in a burb where they said the park district office was haunted by a previous owner (the office used to be a house.) Someone who worked there said that one day the cursor on her computer kept going to Print Shop (it was the 90s, yknow) and wouldn't move. The woman gave up, assumed it was the ghost's birthday, and made a birthday card. The cursor then moved freely.

So today I found the site for World ITC (http://www.worlditc.org/). They're an organization dedicated to "the new technology of spiritual contact." Sure enough, there are accounts of "messages from the other side" coming through in streams of texts or even in emails. Check out the claimed image of John Denver.

It's all rather similar to those who claim to have received phone calls from someone who has died. The recipient picks up the phone, hears mostly static, but also there's a voice they recognize as being that of someone who has passed on. Chilling. It would also suggest the phenomenon does have something to do with the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly if you're a fan of EVPs.

Now I remember why I don't research these things. Too creepy.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Hope you like it hot



Not my image. Let me know if you want it removed.

As I hope ESE readers know, I am quite concerned about climate change.

The cheesecake photo is meant more as gallows humor than anything else. The environment might be ruined but we will see plenty of cordate posteriors soaking in the rays.

Though we're going through day 2 of single digit or subzero temperatures here in the Midwest, 2016 will go down as the warmest year on record. Just one more reason to hate this year, but I digress.

Frigid temperatures tend to make people forget the difference between climate and weather. A few facts from Discover magazine (links at the end of the post):

"While polar blasts come and go in a matter of days, climate is something that takes place over a much longer time period. Climate is, in fact, the average of the weather in a particular area — or the globe overall — over years, decades, centuries and longer."
With that in mind, consider that September was the hottest September on record and November the second warmest of such months. In the case of this last November, it was only slightly edged out by November of 2015. 

So even though many of us are being subjected to a temporary swath of Arctic cold, that absolutely does not dismiss that massive amounts of data supporting climate change and humanity's contribution to it.

Remember me blogging about two degrees? Well here's an article about it:

http://www.cnn.com/specials/opinions/two-degrees

The idea is that if we can keep the global rise of temperatures to below two degrees Celsius, we might have a chance of mitigating the more disasterous effects of climate change. Even at the time of that article, I thought the headline proclaiming the end of the fossil fuel era was both presumptuous and ostentatious. As if to sadly underscore the point, the political landscape has changed considerably since the Paris Accords.

Now we'll be lucky if we can keep the increase under 3C.


http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/imageo/2016/12/15/might-not-feel-like-it-today-but-2016-will-be-the-warmest-year-in-the-surface-temperature-records/#.WFiHELVOLYV

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/imageo/2016/10/17/last-month-was-warmest-september-on-record/#.WFiG_LVOLYV





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Friday, December 16, 2016

CHASE DANNER 1: Planet of Leafy Green Peril




No, this isn't a story from Analog. The story is mine. The picture is meant only to set the mood. Let me know if you want it removed.

It is a dark time for the galaxy.
A wealthy, former pirate calling himself Monarch has established himself as tyrannical ruler of the galaxy, uniting star systems into what he calls “the Allegiant” by fostering a hatred of the poor, the disabled, and the “Arts”…android beings once created for hazardous duties but now despised for being artificial.
Unable to bear any more oppression, a young starfighter pilot named CHASE DANNER turns on the Allegiant and goes rogue. With an Art known only as PLEX at his side, Chase flees for parts unknown in his spaceship, “the Stormfalcon.”
But after being ambushed by Allegiant forces, the Stormfalcon is badly damaged and plummeting towards the mysterious planet Brata 326, a world from which no one has ever returned...   



Spiraling towards the surface of the green planet, Chase Danner fought the controls of his beloved spaceship.  He could smell the electrical fire beneath the front console as everything on the bridge just seemed to smolder. If he could just bring them into a sort of controlled fall…

“Sadly, the second engine is out, one left,” Plex said. “We’re heading into a spin.”

His polite phrasing and his precise pronunciation of every vowel would have been calming…in almost any other circumstance. He looked over at Chase and got no response. Chase’s square-jawed face and blue eyes remained locked on the planet growing ever nearer outside the bubble glass.

“That ambush was unfortunate,” Plex continued. “We were most unprepared for those Ravenfighters.”

“It was five to one,” Chase grumbled at last. “I got four of them.”

Chase ran a number of calculations through his head. No time to check them on the computer. The Stormfalcon’s saucer-shape might cause them to bounce back out into space if the wrong angle could not be achieved. That would mean a limping drift on one engine. Easy pickings for another contingent of Allegiant forces sure to arrive. The foggy obscurity and uncertainty of Brata 326 offered more protection…provided they survived the landing.

Sweat rolled down Chase’s forehead. His stomach tightened. The controls felt stiff in his hands and responsive only to the strongest tugs and pushes of his muscular arms. He steered and veered, hoping for the best. A green carpet became visible beneath them as a haze hung in the sky. A world unknown…

“On the left, sir,” Plex said without alarm.

As soon as Plex finished saying that, the Stormfalcon hit something. The collision knocked Chase and Plex toward the right and the whole ship careened into a series of barrel rolls.

“What the…?” Chase uttered.

“We strayed into a rocky outcropping,” Plex said. “I endeavored to warn you.”

Only seconds to work this out now. After that scrape, there was no telling how the Stormfalcon might hit the ground.

“Hold on…” Chase said through gritted teeth as his knuckles went white from clutching the yoke.

BANG!

The saucer impacted and went into a skid. Plex flew out of his seat and hit the deck. The cockpit bubble became eclipsed by an impenetrable cloud of shredded leaves and branches, the spaceship acting as a buzzsaw through whatever the foliage of the unknown world was. At last inertia gave out, as it typically does, and the Stormfalcon came to a stop. Chase heaved an exhalation. Once he could stand, he went to lift Plex from the deck.

“I’m quite all right sir,” Plex reported.

Without a doubt he was. Not a one of his short-cropped brown hairs looked out of place and his expression remained one of bemused attention on his pale skin.

“Let’s go see what we’re dealing with,” Chase said.

They opened the hatch.
Humidity hit them first. Chase remained in the blue flight pants and red tunic of the space force he no longer served. Plex still wore his worker’s jumpsuit, but he of course would not be feeling any of the newfound tropical heat.

And tropical it was. A field of green vegetation stretched out before the duo. Odd-shaped blossoms poked their way through this green, bobbing on the branches in the breeze that was thick and soupy with humidity. On closer inspection, the bark of the trees carried a sheen, a high polish on their smooth, black surface.Beneath the green and black there was red. Was that grass? A "lawn" composed of blades of fleshy red grass? Chase didn't know.
Birds, or that’s the closest Chase’s mind could classify them as, swooped in lazy arcs high on the near horizon, flapping their membranous, leathery wings. Chase pointed at them.

“My grandfather told me once of flying creatures like that on Tantive II,” he said.

Something moved and the foliage just off in the distance rustled. Tree branches swayed. The largest animal Chase had ever seen rose full up out of the jungle and strolled forth. Tremors sounded with each step of its trunk-like legs. It craned its long, snake-like neck but showed no obvious interest in the pair just crashed from the stars. The thing’s neck dropped, its thin mouth opened, and it bit into the leaves around it.

“Yeah, let’s hope that thing doesn’t like the taste of meat,” Chase said.

“Well even if it does, I will be all right,” Plex pointed out.

Chase grunted and turned to survey the damage on the Stormfalcon.

“My poor baby is a bucket of bolts now,” Chase said. “And I doubt we’ll easily find the means to repair her around here.”

“Might I point out that we did at least survive the crash,” Plex said.

Running a hand over the crumpled hull of the ship, Chase cursed under his breath.

“You don’t understand. I love this ship,” he said.

“I am merely saying it could be worse,” Plex replied.

 The jungle foliage around them split apart. A lizard creature the size of the Stormfalcon charged through the gaping hole, its ugly mouth wide open and brandishing four rows of razor-sharp teeth.  

TO BE CONTINUED...


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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cash-Landrum incident revisited



Blue Blurry Lines is one my absolute favorite UFO blogs.

Recently, they took a look back at the Cash-Landrum incident. I was immediately interested as I've always found the incident to be one of Ufology's better cases, one I remember hearing about from young, eager, tyro days of UFO interest.

The case involves Betty Cash, Vickie Landrum, and Landrum's grandson, Colby. All three were in a car traveling near Huffman, Texas on the night of December 29th, 1980. There in the sky they witnessed a fiery, diamond-shaped craft. Flames shot from the bottom of the object. Surrounding this UFO were 23 military helicopters, later identified as twin-rotor Chinooks. The travelers pulled their car to the side of the road and got out to watch. Colby grew most agitated at the sight of the UFO and demanded they get back in the car and leave. Vickie went back into the car with her grandson while Betty remained outside and watched the UFO and the helicopters pass over them.

Later, all three witnesses developed medical ailments. Vickie and Colby had "sunburn" inflamations on their skin and eyes. Betty had the worst of it, contracting nausea, hair loss, burns on her neck and scalp, and eventually breast cancer that resulted in a mastectomy. Medical specialists were called in and a few believed that Cash actually had radiation sickness. During the course of treatment, Cash and the others eventually confessed what they had witnessed. All queries to the military were met with outright denials. In 1986, Landrum and Cash sued the United States government for $20 million in damages. The court dismissed the case on the grounds that no such craft exists in the U.S. inventory.

Other witnesses of the UFO have come forward in the ensuing years. The problem is that it is all well after the fact. There aren't any (that I know of, mind you) corroborating reports of the UFO made in the days after December 29th.

That doesn't mean that something didn't happen. In fact, the medical evidence alone suggests these people saw something. What that "something" is remains unknown, thus making it a UFO. In Above Top Secret, Timothy Good reports rumors that what Cash and Landrum witnessed was an example of Project Snowbird...an alleged clandestine project to test fly recovered alien spacecraft. More likely is that the three witnesses did stumble upon a military test flight, but of an aircraft of terrestrial...even if exotic...origins. I say "exotic" because the illnesses contracted by the witnesses do indeed suggest exposure to radiation. The aircraft may have been nuclear powered and the description of it venting flames suggests that it might have developed trouble. Cash, Landrum, and Landrum were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And all three suffered because of it, Cash worst of all. The case remains unsolved. Blue Blurry Lines asks anyone who might have information about the sighting to contact them at the blog. It is especially hoped that someone from the military might at last step forward. After all, the presence of 23 of the military's largest helicopters would suggest that a great number of personnel were involved. Someone who was serving at the time and willing to talk would go a long way towards helping.

Cash and Landrum and their families deserve justice. Or failing that, they at least deserve to know what actually happened.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lynda Carter, Wonder Woman, and science fiction




If it wasn't for Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night on MeTV, 2016 would have driven me insane a long time ago.

It's also what got me to do that post on the Hulk a while back. This time, I will be focusing on Wonder Woman.

Yes, I mean the Lynda Carter series. I know, I know, Gal Gadot is hot and does a fine job in the role, but be honest...she's no Lynda Carter.

In re-watching the series on MeTV, I'm pleasantly surprised by how many science fiction elements the show had. My faded, youthful memories of the series had it being more of a "crimefighting" program, owing much more to the cop shows of its day than to comics. Not entirely so. With the help of a few online compendiums, I've selected a few of my favorite episodes that highlight these themes.

"Wonder Woman vs Gargantua"--This is from the first season, which was basically Wonder Woman fights World War II. "Gargantua" in this case is a giant gorilla that fights Wonder Woman. As a kid, I thought the name was a stand-in for Wonder Woman's enemy, Giganta. Instead it's a guy in a gorilla suit.  And John Hillerman...Higgins from Magnum PI...as a defecting Nazi agent.

"Judgment from Space"--this two-parter is essentially a riff on The Day the Earth Stood Still. An alien named Andros arrives on Earth with a message for humanity: World War II is a sure sign that humans are too warlike and are therefore a danger to the galaxy. If we don't change our ways, Andros will have no choice but to report to his alien council that Earth must be erased. Andros is played by Tim O'Connor, Dr. Huer of Buck Rogers fame. Also interesting is the fact that Andros brings up Japanese Internment as evidence that America isn't entirely on the side of the angels.

"Mind Stealers from Outer Space"---this was in the second season. By this point, the show was technically called The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and was set in the "present day" of 1977. Wonder Woman, in her secret identity of Diana Prince, worked in the U.S. intelligence service. There's a supercomputer named IRAC and its wheeled robot extension, Rover. They also ditched the lyrics to the show's theme song, so no more "in her satin tights, fighting for her rights, and the old red white and blue."
Anyway, this two-parter brings the son of Andros to Earth. This time there is an alien race named the Skrill that have infiltrated the Earth. They're here to steal the minds of humans and then sell them. They all seem to be covered in sparkly Nerf. These evil invaders do have a rather formidable weapon against Wonder Woman, a creature named Zardor...whom I can only describe as a cross between Darth Vader and Eddie, the Iron Maiden mascot. Yes, you can see the obvious Star Wars influence in the show, but it was 1977 after all.
But really. I can't get over how sparkly and "fabulous" the Skrill looked.

"Spaced Out"--Where else would you hide a stolen laser crystal? At a sci-fi con, of course. Guest starring Robby the Robot.

"Starships are Coming"--More aliens. Up to no good as usual. They also look very similar to the Skrill, but nowhere near as fabulous. Interestingly enough, Tim O'Connor guest stars once more. This time he's an eyepatch-wearing military officer who is an expert on UFOs.

I can't find the title for it, but I saw an episode last weekend where a Bond-esque criminal organization projects a hologram of a UFO to cause a Soviet fighter pilot to eject from his nuclear-armed plane. Borrowing from Thunderball, the bad guys recover the warhead and Wonder Woman must stop them.

Like most other superhero TV of the 1970s, Wonder Woman had her power levels taken down considerably. If she can't deflect a bullet with her bracelets, she could get shot and injured. She's susceptible to knock out gas and she isn't nearly as strong as her comic book rendition. Then again, a true adaptation would have been difficult if not impossible given the fx tech of the times.

Regardless, it's all enjoyable for sure. I look forward to more Saturday nights with Lynda Carter.

On the TV, I mean. Yeah. I'm that lame.



Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Becoming a machine




Image from Google. Let me know if you want credit/have it taken down.


Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan ran for president this year.

As you might have noticed, things did not turn out the way he might have hoped. Hell, the election didn't turn out how I hoped. Anyhow, what Istvan was able to do was to get ideas out into the marketplace of robust debate and discussion. His August essay "Why I Advocate for Becoming a Machine" in Motherboard is loaded with such ideas.

He speaks to how people tend to balk at transhumanism, equating it with a loss of humanity should we replace parts of ourselves with cybernetics. Well hate to break this to everyone, but we are already doing that to greater and lesser extents. Knee replacements, titanium rods in backs and bones, and artificial hearts are commonplace. Replacements for internal organs other than the heart are on the way. Why should we wait for something to go wrong before uprgrading ourselves to more durable forms?

Transhumanists don't want to stop being human. We want to get more out of being human.

Here are few points I've extracted from Istvan's essay at the link:

"When we propose electively replacing limbs, for example, most people feel something has fundamentally changed in the human being. A line has been crossed that cannot easily be undone. We may still have a mind of flesh, but our eyes tell us we are now partially a machine and something very different than before. And that freaks people out."

"The reality is that many transhumanists want to change themselves dramatically. They want to replace limbs with mechanical endoskeleton parts so they can throw a football further than a mile. They want to bench press over a ton of weight. They want their metal fingertips to know the exact temperature of their coffee. In fact, they even want to warm or cool down their coffee with a finger tip, which will likely have a heating and cooling function embedded in it."

"Biology is simply not the best system out there for our species’ evolution. It’s frail, terminal, and needs to be upgraded. In fact, even machines may be upgraded in the future too, and rendered as junk as our intelligences figure out ways to become beings of pure organized energy. “Onward” is the classic transhumanist mantra."

I just don't see anything wrong with that.

Well, there are few "upgrades" that Istvan doesn't mention that I'm looking forward to, most of them dealing with the brain. I'm enamored with the idea of chip implants that will allow the mind to take in and correleate vast amounts of information. More than that, I want complete and utter control of my emotions, perhaps even shutting them off altogether for stretches of time. I know I've been saying that for a while. 

I have no thoughts on what kind of president Istvan would make, but I sure hope he keeps pushing the ideas.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Midnight in America




In fairness, the art show was completed long before the election.

"Midnight in America" is an exhibition by Adam Pendleton that I came across in my weekly perusal of The Atlantic. While previously unfamiliar with Pendleton's art, I was immediately drawn to what I saw because of what it combined: visuals (spray paintings and silkscreens), language (renderings resembling pages torn from notebooks), history, and social struggle. His artistic manifesto describes the work as "Black Dada." He had my curiosity and then he had my attention.

The title of the exhibition is an obvious play on Reagan's 1980 campaign slogan, "Morning in America." The political overtones of the show are further underscored by titles of individual paintings, such as "Untitled (A Victim of Democracy in America," but Pendleton insists this isn't an exhibit of right and wrong mores. You can read the full interview with him, but I thought I would extract a few of the points that I found interesting:

" “Midnight in America” seems appropriate as it plays on Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America,” and I think with the tone and the dynamic of the recent election it seemed as though we were headed toward a darker place. This isn’t a binary that I’m setting up between light and dark, where light is good and dark is bad. It’s rather that we’re opening up to a different realm, a different sense of possibility."

"I’ve been using this phrase “Black Dada” to articulate my body of work in general. When Dada came about it had a direct relationship to World War I and how artists responded to that moment. I think there are many different ingredients that are utilized to make something of some kind of cultural worth, so I’m not going to make a direct connection. The exuberance I speak to is the fact that I respond to things visually. And I often refer to what I do as visual note-taking. So in saying there’s an exuberance in the work itself, it’s not necessarily me responding to socio-political dynamics that may cause or create the exuberance. It’s really me investing deeply in my project as an artist and asking myself perpetually, what does Black Dada look like? And each project, exhibition, or publication, offers an opportunity to better articulate that."

"I hope that artists realize that there are stakes involved in everything they do. No gesture lacks weight even when you want it to. It matters. Personally, as an artist, I always attempt to be as rigorous as I can, but I hope that I take even more seriously what I find to be a responsibility as an artist, as someone to look at something to think about it—to acknowledge it exists."

Pendleton is certainly right about one thing: these turbulent times present opportunities for artists. I don't mean "opportunity" in any American lucrative sense (although that's possible too, I suppose), but rather situations that cry out for reactions from the artistic community. For example, crying for mansuetude while the powers that be are vindictive and gradgrindian.

There I go again. Spending your 50 cent words in haphazard manner. That's sure to land me in one of the camps. I might as well paint a painting while I'm at it and really fit the profile.

Anyway, Pendleton's work is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Looks like I need to make a return visit.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Monday, December 5, 2016

1989: When we "nerve gassed" aliens




Above is from a Google Image search. If this is your art and you want credit or have it taken down, please contact me.


This UFO story comes from Nick Redfern at Mysterious Universe.

Here is the full article but I just had to blog about it myself. I'll explain why in a moment.

Redfern, one of the best paranormal investigators out there, was recently asked what he thought was the most "over the top" UFO case he had ever encountered. He responded with a case that first began making the rounds in November of 1989. A document found its way to the hands of several researchers, including Leonard Stringfield, a man known for his investigations of alleged UFO crashes.  But this 1989 account was different than most.

As the story goes, Canadian Defense Department radars picked up an orb-shaped object moving at high speed over Ontario on November 14th, 1989. Once over the town of Carp, the object stopped and then abruptly plummeted to the ground. A joint Candadian-American strike team responded in the form of a flight of AH-64 helicopter gunships accompanied by UH-60 Blackhawks. The Apaches spotted the glowing orb in a swamp and immediately opened up with missile fire. The missiles were said to be tipped with VEXXON nerve gas. All 16 missiles detonated 10 meters downwind from the landed alien craft.

The Blackhawks landed and troops disgorged from them. They entered the UFO through a 7-meter high, oval-shaped portal. No resistance was encountered. Three beings were found at the controls of the craft, already dead. Here's how Redfern describes them: "Three reptilian, fetus-headed beings, were listed as CLASS 1 NTE’s (Non-Terrestrial Entities). Like others recovered in previous operations, they were muscular, grey-white skinned humanoids."

As is par for the course with these stories, the bodies were packed in ice and then later dissected while the UFO itself was recovered and reverse-engineered. The document describing the case said that the UFO was unlike any other previously recovered by authorities in that it was a warfighter. Additionally, plans were found in the craft that "zombies," humans given alien implants via abduction, would soon rise up and cause a war among humans, thus making us easily conquered.

Like Redfern says at the conclusion of the article, this is all a "steaming pile of you know what." There's nothing to it. No evidence. Still, it resonates with me.

For one thing, I remember hearing about it in the early 1990s. It was right around when I encountered the Dulce mythos for the first time and this case gripped me for many of the same reasons. Here was an account of U.S. military forces directly engaging the Greys and doing so with a fair amount of success. This would be indeed be impressive if true. Here the Greys are supposed to be an advanced race that can cross the gulf of space, but we can actually go toe-to-toe with them. We might stand a chance against them and get them to stop abducting us in the night for butt-tubings.

Plus as stories go, it's nice and pulpy. Apache gunships nerve gas aliens and then spec ops swarm in to mop up. It's like someone was playing X-COM UFO Defense before that game even arrived on the scene. Actually, dropping VEXXON gas on the Greys would make for a formidable defense if their nervous systems are as sensitive and advanced as alleged. But I digress...

The final reason this sticks out in my mind is that I'm pretty sure it was featured on the old TV series, Sightings. Part of this whole mess was a roll of 35mm film anonymously turned in to National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa. The photos on the reel depict what looks like a landed UFO and also a grainy image of an alien holding a light.






Again, these images are from a Google Image search. I think the alien is from Pinterest. If you own these images and want them taken down, let me know.

I want to say this was a long-running story on Sightings, except I think it was a video. I could be wrong. I just remember a video very similar to the photo of the UFO. The blinking light at the top is particularly memorable, but I don't know if it was the same. Going to have to ask Armando about this.That Sightings video was from Canada too, I believe, and was eventually determined to be fraudulent.

Shocker. Because so is everything else about the Carp, Ontario case, whether it's the same one from Sightings or not. It didn't happen. It was even conjectured that the whole thing was created by government entities as disinformation.

Doesn't matter. Yes, I know how junk stories like these clog, clutter, and distract the field, making serious study all the more difficult. Those who make their living investigating UFO claims (and God love 'em for doing that) no doubt retch when they see such fantastic but baseless accounts. I don't blame them. At the same time, it was far-out claims that first brought me with wonderment to the subject of UFOs as a kid. Later, as I made my way through school and learned the ways of science, I knew to temper this wonderment with skeptical inquiry and evaluation of evidence. So these wild claims may serve as inspiration for others.

I just hope they follow through with that second part as well.


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Monday, November 28, 2016

So I have an idea...




Want to get a look at the secret place?

It's not nearly as salacious as it sounds.

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

It's an escape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So...any interest?

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


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

Friday, November 25, 2016

Space shuttle UFO incidents


Again, still reading Richard Hoagland's Dark Mission.

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

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

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

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

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets