Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sheesh! More Planet X Doomsday Speak

In reading a recent Coast 2 Coast newsletter post, I was annoyingly struck by a phrase that I wish would be banished forever. It's a variation on the classic cover-up line: Researcher X believes/knows/has proof that [insert government agency] knows all about [insert topic dujour] but is covering it up [usually for power, sometimes to quell panic, but mostly the reasons are never divulged], yet Researcher X has little to no evidence to support his/her claim.

In this most recent case, it's about our old friend Planet X (known by some as Wormwood, surely because of the hallucinations it would take to conjure such stories). "Eriksen maintained that NASA is aware of Wormwood's presence through their satellite data, but is covering it up." It's that old Chicken Little, the sky is falling obsession that some have on predicting the END OF THE WORLD (echoes out).

I've posted about Planet X and the human fascination with our own demise before. It still baffles me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tunguska Explained!

ScienceDaily (June 25, 2009) — The mysterious 1908 Tunguska explosion that leveled 830 square miles of Siberian forest was almost certainly caused by a comet entering the Earth's atmosphere, says new Cornell University research. The conclusion is supported by an unlikely source: the exhaust plume from the NASA space shuttle launched a century later.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Selman's Summer Bat Watch

The humid night is palpable, thick with anticipation as the sun dies in the west. Its last golden rays set the red rocky outcrops aflame like bonfires on the savanna. Setting aside their trepidation, scores have arrived to wait eagerly for the black torrent, a sinuous eruption of nocturnal carnivores to come streaming forth from the bowels of the earth.

For more than a decade, the Selman Bat Watch has been an exciting staple of warm summer nights in northwestern Oklahoma. Many gather each night at the Selman Wildlife Management area as millions of Mexican Freetail bats emerge in a writhing mass from caves at the Selman Wildlife Management Area, a 340 acre preserve near Woodward. The bats travel as much as 1500 miles each spring from their homes in Mexico to feast upon tons of Oklahoma insects each night.

The Watch is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in an effort to raise awareness of the important roles bats play in a healthy eco-system. The bats are very beneficial to local farmers and ranchers. Each night they feast upon tons of mosquitoes, moths, and beetles.

Oklahoma is home to 22 bat species, including the official "State Flying Mammal", the Mexican Freetail. Sadly, in recent decades many of these species have seen sharp declines in population. In fact, Oklahoma's Indian, Gray, and Ozark big-eared bats are on the federal endangered species list.

Each nightly viewing can only accommodate 75 persons, so pre-registration is a must to insure you get a spot on the night you want. Adult tickets are $10 and youths under 12 pay $5. For more information about this fascinating and thrilling spectacle, visit HERE.

Solstice Sees Record-Breaking Pagan Gathering At Stonehenge

Did you miss the party? Click here to read more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Proof Lakes Once Existed On Mars?

The (Shotgun) Wedding

A curious spectacle was presented to those who witnessed the inauguration ceremony for the first Oklahoma governor on November 16, 1907 - a wedding, of sorts.
Symbolizing the unions of Oklahoma and Indian Territories were a bride (Mrs. Leo Bennett, a Cherokee) and Mr. C G. Jones, a prominent businessman. The two began the day, along with the Governor-elect, in a parade like none before seen in the region. Carried in sixteen carriages were prominent territorial officials and leaders from the "Five Civilized Tribes", including some who wore spectacular headdresses. A marching band beat out the tattoo to which mounted police and Army cavalry trotted. Finally, the parade ended at the steps of the Carnegie Library in Guthrie where the mock wedding began.
In the ceremony, which was officiated by Judge Frank Dale, the groom is referred to as a young, but stalwart man of only 18 years, being born in 1889 - the year Oklahoma Territory was established. When speaking of the bride, however, the speech takes on a sadder tone. "Despite the unhappy circumstances of her youth, which have cast a shadow of sorrow over (her) face... this beauteous maiden comes to him as the last descendant of the proudest race that ever trod foot on American soil..." He then goes on to say that she is bestowing upon her husband a dower of rich in fertile soil and productive mines.
Couple the sad and defeated words spoke to her with the fact that she was dressed not in native wardrobe but in the fashion of the time, and a surreal sort of shotgun wedding begins to form in the mind. I'm picturing a woman that must look like she's just been sold off into marriage.
But history is rarely generous in corroborative data and so we've little to go on but the words of others. The sole picture I could find of the event was taken from what must be 300 feet away. It is easy to get swept up in our own 21st century ideals when judging the past. For all we know, she might have been grinning from ear to ear, and feeling quite beautiful in what was described as floor-length lavender satin dress in a princess style, topped by a large "picture" hat.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are Strange Explanations Looking Less Strange?

After more than a century of reported sightings and at least fifty years of hunting, proponents of the legendary beasts collectively termed Bigfoot are no closer to solving the riddle than they were when they began. Now, as then, there are only a scattering of intriguing tracks and a few curious but inconclusive odds and ends of data. It should come as no surprise then than more and more Bigfoot researchers are turning to alternative explanations for the creature's elusive behavior.

There was a time when those who professed seeing flying saucers, interdimensional portals, and vanishings in conjunction with Bigfoot sightings were ridiculed as fringe kooks. After all, Bigfoot - if it existed - was a flesh and blood animal, likely a primate. If reputable scientists such as Grover Krantz, Jeff Meldrum, and even Jane Goodall were weighing in on the topic, it had to be fodder for serious zoological inquiry. Right?

Not any more. While a certain core group (among which the devotees of the aforementioned scientists can be found) will always hold fast to the flesh-and-blood, terrestrial theory, other respected investigators are looking toward other fields to explain what was once dismissed as bunk. Suddenly, quantum physics mingles with exobiology in a strange melange that looks to incorporate data that are equally weighed, leaving no stone unturned but more than a few heads scratching.

Some wonder if this isn't a last-ditch effort to hold onto a belief structure that, at the dawn of the 21st century, can seem quaint - especially in light of some embarrassingly public hoaxes. The New York Times may have once declared 'God Is Dead,’ but the new millenium prefers killing off Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
It makes sense, in a way. In order to progress, societies often kill off the past: rulers, myths, customs. Do Bigfoot and the like represent a naivete and nostalgia that a world weary from economic downfall, incessant war-mongering, and social decay can no longer find endearing?
By embracing cutting edge, theoretical physics to explain why we can't bring home the bacon when it comes to these fantastic creatures, are we essentially grasping at straws? Is the Bigfoot community clinging fiercely to something that simply isn't there?

On the other hand, could there be merit to multiverse explanations of creatures that exist in more than one dimension, explaining why we can't always see them? Are reports of hallucination-inducing subsonic vibrations true? And what are we to make of those who say that previous reports of unusual objects or lights in the sky around the time of Bigfoot sightings should be taken more seriously?

Who can say for certain. However, I predict that in moving forward more and more researchers will begin to look toward these fringe theories and alternative explanations in their further quest to prove the existence of these enigmatic creatures. As ground-breaking work in physics (such as that taking place at CERN) brings us ever closer to understanding just how truly weird our universe is, we might just find ourselves rethinking what we once thought odd. A flesh-and-blood unknown primate? How boring!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Schooling Sci-Fi On A Better Class Of Films

With all the garbage the Sci Fi Channel offers up (Alien Apocalypse, Yeti, Rock Monster) where we are invariably forced to see bad CGI run amok, it is refreshing when they air truly well-crafted films. And I wonder why they can't do it more often.

It's not just the bad acting and crappy special effects (just because your monster is made in a computer doesn't make it Jurassic Park), the writing plays a big part. That's true for most films. Even if audiences can suspend disbelief and forgive less-than-stellar performances, the film will fail without good writing and direction. It's a complex orchestration with all parts needing to pull their weight to achieve a successful project.

Yet, time and again, the various production companies upon which this network relies are all-too-satisfied to proffer up scripts riddled with holes, lacking motivation and without any thought to what makes a strong character. They rely too much on blood and CGI gimmicks, which aren't well executed. FYI, the reason the first Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween films were effective is because they didn't show you the monster. You keep it half-hidden. The reason isn't only to disguise limitations, but to understand that fear exists in the spaces between. Yes, the cinematography can be decent and visual moods are usually well established, but that won't matter one bit if that former porn star (because, let's face it, they often hire pretty over talent) can't choke out a line or two from that horrid script with enough conviction to suspend your disbelief.

Now that I've unleashed my vitriol, let me applaud those projects that Sci Fi should look to as the bar to which they should hold all future series, miniseries, and films.

Taken (2002) - This Steven Spielberg-produced epic alien abduction miniseries, which spans five decades and three families, won both the Emmy and Golden Globe for outstanding miniseries in 2003. At a staggering 15 hours long, it made other miniseries seem like YouTube shorts. Stars Dakota Fanning, the Blair Witch Project's Heather Donahue, and Saturn Award-winning actress Emily Bergl lent gravitas to the well-crafted script that follows a complex hybridization process involving human and alien lineage. Why does it stand out? Well, excellent writing, directing, and special effects don't hurt, but ultimately it is because they understand that the story is about people and not little green men or CGI marvels. After all, it is understood that in the Aristotelian Unities, character IS plot, in that one's motivations are what ultimately drives his actions. In Taken, we aren't bombarded with fancy alien abduction scenes that cost millions to fashion in post-production, we see the struggles of identifiable human beings as they attempt to understand why this is all happening to them.

The Lost Room (2006) - Oh, but let us not discount the power of plot either. A well-crafted science fiction plot is a rare gem, indeed. We find such a beauty in the cleverly-wrought and well-directed miniseries, The Lost Room, starring Six Feet Under's Peter Krause and ER alum Julianne Margulies. When a strange event in an old roadside motel room rips a forgotten hole in the universe, the objects therein find themselves imbued with strange powers to alter reality in various ways. For forty years, various cabals have sought the items and their powers, but when a police detective loses his daughter in the room, he will stop at nothing to get her back. The series isn't without its detractors, though. Some have pointed out logic errors and plot holes, but most feel the "holes" actually resulted from the fact that this was meant to be a series. Unfortunately, it got the ax before it got the chance, leaving us to settle for what amounts to a long film. The series was executive-produced by Richard Hatem (The Dead Zone, Supernatural, Tru Calling, The Mothman Prophecies) and Laura Harkcom.

Rose Red (2002) - Rising from the mind of horror master Stephen King, Rose Red stars Nancy Travis, Julian Sands, and (among others) a young Emily Deschanel (the eponymous character on FOX's Bones) in what had to be the best haunted house work since Poltergeist. While King's story seems almost formulaic in its Legend of Hell House plot involving a group of paranormal researchers and psychics who attempt to ferret out the supernatural mysteries surrounding a sprawling mansion known as Rose Red, the master still manages to take dem old bones and give them new life. The only thing more sprawling than the ever-growing manse (it continues to build onto itself - in more than one dimension) was the depth of its back story. In fact, the barely hinted-at back story was eventually turned into a film as well. We understand in every frame of this film that King had LIVED here for quite sometime. His deep understanding of the world he has created lets us share the space intimately with the main characters. Chief among these is Prof. Joyce Reardon (played occasionally too over-the-top by Travis), a controversial and self-serving psychologist hell-bent on proving her theories correct. Countering Travis' sometimes shrill performance is the artfully subtle and thoroughly enjoyable Julian Sands who plays a powerful telepath. However, in trying to "awaken" the dormant forces at work within Rose Red, Prof. Reardon is banking it all on the powerful mind of a young autistic girl (Kimberly J. Brown).

The Triangle (2005) - Helmed by Dean Devlin (producer behind Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Librarian, Eight Legged Freaks, and the new series Leverage) and Bryan Singer (the X-Men films, Superman Returns, and FOX's House), The Triangle presents a solidly (if occasionally plodding) miniseries about a group of scientists (and one journalist?) who are charged with solving the mystery of the Triangle to the satisfaction of a billionaire shipping magnate who has lost too many vessels to the strange forces said to lie within its boundaries. What prevents this story from being another Trite-angle fiasco is its clever twist, which I won't give away. Eric Stoltz, Catherine Bell, Bruce Davison, Sam Neill and others lend good acting chops to roles that would seem campy in lesser hands. The well-crafted writing helps with that, too. Even if the we-are-three-dimensional-characters back stories seem forced at times. Lou Diamond Phillips also shows up in a B-plot role that seems pointless, relevant to nothing and headed nowhere. But all this is, ultimately, forgivable because the overall film is solid enough to weather the worst the Triangle has to offer visitors to its mysterious depths.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Boy's Past Life As A WW2 Pilot Subject Of Book

For those who believe in reincarnation, it is possible for the soul (or some part of it) to live on by inhabiting a new body. While some mystical traditions require that the soul move up through lesser organisms before once again inhabiting human form, not all believe this is requisite. Some, like Dr. Ian Stevenson, a Canadian psychiatrist, believe past-life memories, especially among children, represent reincarnated souls who often seem bent on reconciling past conflicts.

At the age of two, James Leininger began reporting vivid, disturbing nightmares of World War II dogfights involving fighter pilots shot down and consumed by flame. The boy recounted highly detailed elements of the dreams, including intimate knowledge of aircraft from the period - knowledge, it seemed, he should not have possessed.

James' parents were deeply concerned and confused. When his grandmother suggested that perhaps the boy was reliving a past life, his mother, Andrea Leininger, began to wonder.

From his dreams, James often recalled how his airplane was shot, crashed, and caught fire, trapping him inside - a horrible vision for any 2 year-old to suffer. However, he seemed to have taken the visions in stride after a while, as evidenced by responses to some of the many questions asked of him. Early on, as his mother tried to ferret out more information, she once queried whom exactly had shot down James' plane. In typical 2 year-old fashion, James rolled his eyes and replied in exasperation, "the Japanese", as if the answer were obvious.

While his mother had warmed to the concept of past-life memories, James' father was harder to convince. Yet, when many details James had supplied regarding the specifics of his dreams (names of ships, where he crashed, names of fellow pilots) began to coalesce and jibe with recorded fact, his disbelief sublimated also. While a frightening possibility, increasingly it seemed to the Leininger family to be the only plausible explanation.

Together, the family began researching the salient details of the boy's visions and the picture they ultimately assembled shocked them beyond belief. His statements matched with astonishing accuracy the details surrounding the life and demise of US Navy pilot James M. Houston, who had been shot down over Japan some 60 years before. Eventually, the Leininger family met Houston's relatives and were able to confirm everything James had been dreaming.

James and his family then headed to Japan. There, near where Houston died, they held a quite memorial service in honor of the fallen pilot. Since then, James' nightmares have faded like bad dreams.

Andrea Leininger has published her story in hopes that other parents faced with similar inexplicable situations will understand past-life memories and reincarnation are possible.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Phoenix Lights Make Daytime Appearance?

Ghost Caught On Security Camera?

The alarm at Twisters restaurant in Williams, AZ was tripped one night after hours. Surveillance videos recorded an amorphous, translucent blob (it's SLIMER!) flitting about the restaurant.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MY TWO CENTS: Avoiding the demise of UFO Hunters

With ratings so slumped as to make a slouching teenager appear upright, The History Channel's UFO Hunters may be facing the Ax Men.

In an op-ed piece on newsblaze, Robert Paul Reyes questions why the show belongs in the History Channel lineup alongside other, more relevant programs such as Cities of the Underworld and Digging for the Truth. But The History Channel has often strayed from the theme of historic documentary with series like Monster Quest, Ax Men, Expedition Africa, Ice Road Truckers, and Life After People.

What do any of these shows have to do with History? Why does SciFi air Ghost Hunters - or better yet, wrestling? Why does Discovery air Cash Cab (even though I love that show)? Why is TLC (The Learning Channel) turning into nothing but a vehicle for exploiting different people like a turn-of-the-century Freak Show?

If anything, of all these shows on the History Channel, UFO Hunters and Monster Quest are the only ones that DO deal with history, by examining historic UFO cases and monster sightings.

I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of either show. I find them both sensational, biased, and unsatisfying. Despite the introduction of Kevin Cook to UFO Hunters (the only one with a head on his shoulders), I am still annoyed by Bill Birnes' believe-at-any-cost approach. He is not out to investigate UFO sightings, he's out to PROVE that UFO's are extraterrestrial space craft. And don't get me started on his annoying habit of restating what someone has just said as if it were his own thought. Doesn't he realize this makes him look insipidly unoriginal? And the less said about Pat Uskert, the better.

But I've also been intrigued by both these shows at times. And I think that's the rub: I hate it because I know it can be so much better. The same with Monster Quest. I would like to think that those who watch the History Channel are a fairly intelligent breed. So, why are the shows getting more and more dumbed down to cater to the Joe The Plumber crowd? "Look, Billy-Bob! There's a marathong about the show that pits UFO-abducted sharks against monster trucks and then uses 3D graphics to see who would win in a fight against the DaVinci code!"

So, while I agree the show should have a better network (SciFi would be good, but I've always thought a new paranormal-themed channel would be great), I don't think it is yet time to chuck the baby out with the bath water. It's time that its fans demand more from the show. Better science, better history, better investigation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Vancouver BC UFO Video

Unidentified aerial phenomenon recorded on video in Vancouver, BC on May 31, 2009 from the balcony of a hotel.

Die Glocke - Kecksburg Connection

UFOlogists often go on and on about incidents such as Roswell because they seem to support theories of extraterrestrial life. However, it is likely that MOST UFO cases are not, in fact, of extraterrestrial origin. They are simply unknown aerial craft. To wit, cases like Kecksburg - with its ties to Nazi Germany's "Die Glocke" and the United States' "Operation Paperclip" - are far more compelling mysteries. Just how many UFO's were actually German, Japanese, and even Russian spy craft? And did they, as some claim, gain their inspirations from otherworldly vessels?

"Die Glocke" or "The Bell" was reportedly born from the minds of Nazi scientists during World War II when the tide was turning against the once-almighty German forces who became desperate for a final solution. Much energy and money was expended on more and more outlandish (some would say crazy) research and expeditions, often involving the Third Reich's strange obsession with occultism and paranormal phenomena.

Deep within an underground compound in Poland known as "Der Riese" (The Giant), the Nazis reportedly crafted a metallic, bell-shaped instrument that stood nearly 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide with odd markings along the lower rim. Within was a strange substance known as "Xerum 525" that glowed strangely violet when excited and gave off strong levels of radiation. Many of the scientists working on the project died either from radiation sickness or at the hands of SS officers bent of maintaining the projects secrecy.

The Bell's purpose remains unclear. Some believe, the intense radiation was capable of manipulating time-space for the purposes of time/space travel or to produce anti-gravitational fields.

Sadly the reason so much speculation surrounds the device - if authentic - is because its story is only known because of one man: Polish writer Igor Witkowski wrote about the device in Prawda O Wunderwaffe, his little-known book published in 2000. He claimed to have seen secret documents compiled from the interrogation of SS General Jakob Sporrenberg. The story was picked up in the English-speaking realm by British author and journalist Nick Cook who wrote about it in his 2003 book The Hunt for Zero Point. But, sadly, much of the facts are uncorroborated and outlandish claims of a design process using clairvoyants makes it hard to swallow - even factoring in Nazi eccentricities.

Other factors, such as the purported test facility known as "The Henge" (proved to be the foundation of a cooling tower), were debunked in short order.

However, that's not to say there are not still some strange facets to the tale. While the veracity of The Bell's existence may not be anything to bet one's life on, it is well-known that in the aftermath of World War II that German scientists were recruited by both the US and Soviet Union. One of these individuals, the Nazi scientist responsible for Germany's ground-breaking early rocket efforts (such as the V2), later worked his way high into the ranks of the US space program in the 1960's.

Then on December 9, 1965 a fiery object was reported to have crashed to earth in the woods near Kecksburgh, PA. When local authorities arrived on scene, they were struck to find an acorn (or bell) shaped object about the size of a small car, circumscribed with strange markings at its base.

Witnesses later testified that the army arrived, loaded the object onto a truck, ordered the civilians to clear the area, and then later disavowed any knowledge of the incident. Speculation abounded: UFO, Soviet satellite, meteor...

While it is hard to say what actually happened (some astronomers dispute that the object seen over several states could have crashed in Pennsylvania), it is curious to note two things. First, the strong resemblance to The Bell (albeit such knowledge only arose in the year 2000, prior to Kecksburg). Secondly, the fact that a former Nazi scientist with ties to the Die Glocke era was heading up components of the US space program at the time. It might be possible that these early Nazi experiments had continued on into the space age as the US continued to seek the edge throughout the cold war.

While in my gut I think "The Bell" is a total ex post facto construct, conveniently using the Kecksburg template to work backward to a secret Nazi invention, it could still be that this mystery has a better chance at resolution than Roswell ever will. If fabricated, it would only take the destruction of Witkowski's claims. After all, if he saw these transcripts then they must exist and could be tracked down. For him to claim only he saw them and they will never be seen again, is a sure sign that another work of UFO fiction has been penned for the eager to lap up thirstily.

However, there remains the outside chance that, while still mired in more crap than a pig farmer, there exists some truth to this Nazi super weapon. Even if it turned out to be nothing more than a failed attempt at a satellite weapon, rocket, or flying bomb, it would have further proven that UFO's can often be explained by far more terrestrial means.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

History is, like, so OLD or whatever

Recently, I was watching TLC's Clean Sweep, a show that tackles the cluttered lives of various homeowners, forcing hard choices on what to keep and what to toss. On the surface, it seems an innocuous enough premise: get rid of the detritus. However, I was dumbfounded by what self-proclaimed organizational therapist Peter Walsh had to say to one couple regarding some treasured family items.

Wielding pop psychology like a sledgehammer, Walsh relentlessly chipped away at the emotional bonds and sense of legacy one couple holds for their family's antique furniture. At one point he even pantomimed a strangle-hold around the woman's neck. Walsh intimated that these heirlooms have been choking her emotionally and that it might be better if she chucked them to the curb and made room for... That's right. The crew's own cheaply-constructed MDF monstrosities! Lacking character and warmth (much like the show), this veneered particleboard has been a staple of nearly every TLC home makeover show since the trend began. I mean, c'mon, how can solid oak or maple compare to that, right? Somehow I'm reminded of the remodel in the film Beetle Juice.

As each beautifully wrought piece was carted off by nameless crewmen, the tears began cut rivulets down the homeowner's face. Regret had sunk in. It began to look less like family-friendly TLC and a more like Sophie's Choice. "Take my dresser!"

I wonder if this isn't what we do with other cherished old things that "clutter" the American landscape. Is history simply biding its time until another cheap prefab McMansion can sprout like a weed in the wake of its demise?

Apparently those hard lessons learned from "Urban Renewal", which reared its ugly head in the wake of postwar housing booms in the middle of the 20th century, have yet to sink into the hearts and minds of some. How many more historic treasures will be lost in time simply because they're, like OMG!, so old and stuff?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

UFO Materializes During Documentary Shooting

As the camera trains on famed UFOlogist Stanton Friedman for a documentary on abductions by Canadian filmmaker Adam Gray, strange lights appear in the dark skies beyond.

"It was a really bizarre set of coincidences," Gray admits. "It was the first day of shooting, 47th anniversary of the abduction event, we're at the site, and just as we were starting to interview, these strange lights appeared. The cameraman just sort of kept rolling and we just sort of stood there in awe, like what the hell is this? We still don't know what it was, but we know it wasn't a star or planes...We thought maybe that it might be military flares at first but the Air Force people (we spoke to) didn't think that's what it was."

Read More Here