Bodysurfing the Apocalypse

Still from San Andreas, a movie about "The Big One"

Have you spent any time in the ocean? Have you spent any time dealing with the powerful, often invisible forces of currents, undertow, waves and the other irresistible forces of nature in the waters? 

If you do so as a child, you learn a very powerful lesson about the world and your place in it; you are one fragile, vulnerable creature facing overwhelming forces that are often imperceptible, and all the more powerful for being so.

In school we learn dangerous myths about social heroes and movements. Only later do the curious realize nearly all of these movements and heroes were puppets dancing on invisible strings, and that the illusion of heroism and individualism they represented were just carefully-crafted public relations propaganda. The tide is not so easily turned.

We're at a strange point in time when fear and mistrust are epidemic. We sense larger currents but can't quite see them through the endless blizzard of noise and distraction thrown up in everyone's faces. But you'd have to be asleep not to hear the wardrums on the distant horizon. Whether through incompetence or design, the NATO powers seem hellbent on cementing the Sino-Russian alliance and provocations seem to be occurring on a daily basis now. China slyly warns it's just a matter of time before America's aggression in the Pacific triggers an "unfortunate accident."

The Middle East is on the verge of total chaos as the Oil Wars continue apace. Saudi Arabia was willing to do enormous economic damage to the world's oil producing powers (Venezuela is on the verge of social collapse) to regain its primacy as the leading oil exporter, but that victory may turn out to be pyrrhic, if its clients in Iraq follow the traditional model and turn on their paymasters.

There's a lot more to be said about all of this and more. If this were a political blog I'd do so. I've been toying with the idea of starting an adjunct blog to comment on the global political situation. For now I'll refer you to this absolute must-read series over at Rune Soup. You can start with the latest installment and work backwards.

But while it's always important to stay aware I'm also not here to sell you illusions about "turning back the tide." I'd rather teach you how to swim. Or surf.

There are two sides to all of this escalating apocalypticism. And the side we'd do well to concentrate on is the unveiling afoot, since that is in fact the definition of the word (as most of you probably now). It should be remembered that the Gnostics were the great Apocalypticians of their era, as well as the great UFOlogists of their time.

I hope at this point in time you realize the two are inseparable. And I hope we've entirely dispensed with all of the Hollywood mythology about our elusive companions

As I wrote last year, the media's little "Death of UFOs" orgy was a certain signal that the issue would heat up again in 2015 and so it has. So much so that it's popped up in my own backyard, with no small amount of synchronistic/Kabbalistic resonance, I might add.

Then there is this epidemic of strange noises heard all over the world for the past several years. Several theories have been floated about them, none of them particularly convincing or compelling. As you'd expect, the least convincing (and teeth-grindingly offensive) theories are the ones floated by scientists, who act as if it's all perfectly natural, just like the recently invented "fireball season", that was conjured up out of pixie dust to explain all the heaps of slag falling from the sky at speeds a fraction of those of meteorites and so on.

As you'd expect we're also seeing Queen of Heaven apparitions, this time in beleaguered Christian communities in Iraq. These apparitions have a long and illustrious history in times of crisis, going back to the Punic Wars. The most famous of these is the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, Portugal in 1917 (the year of the Russian Revolution and while the Great War still raged), but there was also a remarkable apparition at Zeitoun, Egypt during the tumult of the late 60s as well. 

Aleister Crowley, arguably the 20th Century's first rock star, talked about currents in an occult context, the 93 current and all that. It's a concept that I think needs to be explored more deeply, outside of a Crowleyean context. We are seeing the convergence of a number of historical currents at present, but I'm not entirely sure that the men who are orchestrating so much behind the scenes are the masters of the universe we're supposed to believe. 

Currents have their own logic and find their own path. You can build dams and seawalls but there's always that black swan event, a practical inevitability. You can see the ruins of any number of great empires as evidence of that.

I can say without reservation that you can expect High Weirdness (and let's restore the "High" to its original perch as opposed to run of the mill weirdness) to rush back in with the tide. During the Cold War, the relatively serene flow of information (three networks, a relatively limited number of major newspapers and magazines) was able to control it, but today it's going to make its presence known in a way that only normality bias and ridicule will be able to diminish. 

Rather than some oddball pursuit, High Weirdness is going to intrude into our lives and demand a reaction. For most, that'll be denial or disbelief. But for you it will create subtle, powerful currents that can be used for your own purposes, if you're smart. It may often appear like those undertow warnings- an invisible power that swimmers often ignore or scoff at, because it can't be seen. But if you ever fought against an undertow, you take it seriously. And so it goes with the Weird.

I recently read some trolls on one of the BAD (born again debunker) UFO blogs crowing about how we don't hear about the kinds of close encounters we did in the Cold War era, and how that was proof it was all a big delusion, oh what fools we were. Of course the real story is that these encounters are usually no longer reported, and certainly not circulated by the mainstream media. 

But I think a lot of the activity we saw in that period- and I include poltergeist, psychic and other activity as well- was an inevitable byproduct of the now-forgotten existential fears of the Nuclear Age, as well as a possible running message that other forces were at work in the world. Crisis often manifests strange powers. As those existential fears return, as do the existential threats, I think we will see a new wave of High Weirdness, along with a new information-suppression effort about it that we're seeing already.

Either way, I'd say it's time to get those surfboards out of the shed and give them a good waxing. I'm seeing some swells curl on the horizon....

Sync Log: Intruders

Well, it's been an interesting week here. 

I've been very busy which is why I've been out of the loop the past few days. But as per usual, I've also had the usual backlog of posts in the queue that I can't seem to get any traction on. It's not a question of inspiration, the majority of posts on this blog were half-formed ideas that sat stewing for some time until I could get a handle on them. It's just the writing process.

Then there are those posts that seem to be written for you, or are the result of a series of improbable events that beg to be sorted out and commented on. 

Thursday was a typical day for me, until my daughter called me down to the living room. "What's that?" she asked, with a semi-panicked tone in her voice. Well, "that" was a rather enormous wolf spider, sitting there on the wall. 

How the hell it got in the house was a mystery, but I was more concerned with getting it out of the house without harming it or you know, myself.

My daughter took the photo on her phone and she's quite a bit shorter than I am so there's quite a bit of obvious perspective distortion here. Suffice it to say the critter was a good four inches, toe to toe. 

It may not seem all that intimidating here in this low-rez cellphone pic but in person-- and in your frickin' living room-- it gave more the impression of this....

Anyhow, I used a trick with a glass bowl and a piece of paper to get the little fella safely out into the wild, where he looked a lot less intimidating. It got me thinking about the Alien movies and how they are based in our natural revulsion of insects and other arthropods, which in turn got me to thinking how alien the natural world often seems to us, which got me to thinking...well, you know.

As fate would have it the UK Independent featured a story on Thursday (and a story I didn't happen upon until after the episode with Wolfie) about Australia, which is well known for its epic spider problems. 

I couldn't help be struck by the connection with "angels" and the rest, since I've been doing a lot of research into the roiling subculture of "UFOs as fallen angels" theology, a movement that seems to be picking up steam as traditional Evangelicalism wanes. That would turn out to be more than an idle revery, when my son came home and showed me this video, that he taped at work on Thursday night...

Detail from video, courtesy of Mike Clelland

... of your classic, hovering lights-type sighting. As he told it, the lights appeared about 15 minutes before the end of his shift at a local recreation facility and simply hovered there, not moving (they comment on the lights lack of movement on the video). They had to leave the grounds but apparently the lights were still there when they left. (SEE POSTSCRIPT)

The wind was 4-8 mph N/NW so you figure if they were flares or balloons there would have been some visible movement at that apparent altitude (the wind today is only 5 mph and there's a lot of movement in the trees as I type), even at that short duration. You can see the heavy, low cloud cover so it's unlikely they were stars or satellites. My son said they were very large. I doubt any kind of aircraft would be flying that low in formation. 

And of course, these lights weren't flying...

The area they are hovering over is forest as best I can tell. This facility is on a mountain, so it's possible they are something like the Brown Mountain lights or the lights of Hessadalen, earthlights as it were. 

Then again for all I know they could be daemonic orbs, heralding the coming Apocalypse. I simply don't know.

Because the point here is that the synchronicity of it all is what grabs me, especially in light of the weird intruder earlier in the day. 

My belief is that lights in the sky are just lights in the sky until they tap into deeper streams of meaning. And the conjunction of the uninvited guest and these strange lights in the night certainly coincides with a deeper current of discovery that has been revealing itself through a strange accumulation of evidence (some of it kind of creepy) over the past year or so.

Another detail from video, showing lights below clouds

Additionally, my son is the same age (22) as I was during my own strange light sighting (I call these UHLs rather than UFOs- unidentified hovering lights), though that event involved my older son.  But it should be noted that my own sighting also involved three lights, though in that case they were in motion. 

These intruders into mundane life reminded me how Synchronicity can impose itself even when you're occupied with other matters. It also got me to thinking how common these sightings have become, or at least our awareness of them. My son and his coworkers are caught up in this mystery now in some way, having had it intrude into the most mundane setting imaginable- their menial outdoor jobs.

It's funny, I was going to blog about the "Roswell Slides" debacle, but why drag myself through that mire? That whole Nuts-n-Bolts culture, with its codependent believers and debunkers, is so depressing, so exhausted. But it did get me to thinking why we so often see these episodes of evidence-manufacturing in the Nuts-n-Bolts world. 

It's because the actual evidence simply doesn't support their paradigm. As tiresome as I might find the Evangelicals' theology, they generally have a more interesting phenomenological conception of UFOs. 

Though maybe not as interesting as Alexander Leek's: "You noticed them and they noticed that you noticed them."


Of course all we have to look at is a 25-second video of rather poor quality (and the upload here is especially poor, thanks to Blogger's recompression- my apologies) taken in low light. We're hearing this absurd mantra from the skeptics in response to evidence like this, "A UFO! Quick- grab the worst camera you can find!" This simply reveals the roots of the skeptic movement in the arts of rhetorical deception. 

Most people don't have access to "cameras" anymore- they use their cellphones. The cameras on phones are fine for taking selfies and candids, but pretty useless for filming stuff in the sky or at night and most certainly in the sky at night.

But I'll tell you a secret: taking decent pictures or video of flying objects you aren't expecting to encounter is next to impossible, even with a good camera. Case in point: A few years back I was bringing the kids home from school and three giant red tails swooped into the yard, right above our heads. I got the kids in the house, grabbed our very expensive digital camera, got it out of the bag, got the cap off, turned it on and waited for it to do its annoying bootup routine and ran back outside. 

By the time I did all that the fucking birds were halfway down the street. I tried taking a picture of them but the god-damned autofocus didn't know what it was supposed to zoom in on and by the time I got it turned off, I snapped that masterpiece there.

Skeptics know this full well but are intentionally poisoning the well by casting doubt on evidence they can't emotionally deal with by working up snappy taglines.  Of course, by this point they're really only speaking to each other. Sad.

This recompress is unwatchable. Again, my apologies.

UPDATE: Boy, my son's workplace is quite the feast for the eyes- he says a bald eagle also nests there and tonight he showed us pictures of rather terrifying funnel clouds forming in the next county (we're under tornado watch tonight).

The Great Stagnation: When Futurism Fails

If you're on Facebook or Twitter you've probably noticed an uptick in messianic science headlines, which seem to imply we're finally on the verge of Jetsons reality. AI, VR, DNA editing, moon bases, asteroid mining, flying cars and all the rest are finally waiting in the wings, getting ready to change all of our lives.

Well, it may be true that robots might soon be putting a lot of people on the unemployment lines (though that too remains to be seen) but these headlines usually don't stand up to much scrutiny. I touched on the endless promises we're bombarded with in a recent post and I've long joked that DARPA consists of a fax machine and a Green Lantern subscription. 

It's kind of amazing to me that all the skeptics out there never give Bigfoot a rest for a minute or two to train their sights on the endless bullshit that emanates from the PR departments of Big Science. And by 'kind of amazing' I mean 'not even remotely surprising'. There is an ideology at work here.

Big Science, controlled and surveilled at every conceivable level by the Military Industrial Complex, has become a kind of substitute god for scientific illiterates who still imagine Science is the freewheeling pursuit of maverick humanitarians. 

Every authoritarian religion needs to allay the doubts of the faithful and Scientism is no different. But there are many who believe that all the low-hanging fruit of the scientific and technical trees have been picked (it's amazing to ponder how many technologies we use are over half a century old, conceptually), that we are actually mired in what is called "The Great Stagnation." This isn't a fringe theory, but it is most certainly something that is not encouraged as a conversation topic, for rather obvious reasons.

So miracles need to manufactured, the pump must continually be primed. It helps when your intended audience is inattentive, ideologically-motivated and worshipful. The micronic attention spans encouraged by social media speed the process along so every headline can become a hammer to wield against those Wreckers, those shadowy agents who are perpetually working to undo our Glorious Deliverance.

Here's a headline that's been getting a lot of shares: Warp drives that let humans zip around other galaxies may no longer belong purely in the realm of science fiction.
Nasa is believed to have been quietly testing a revolutionary new method of space travel that could one day allow humans to travel at speeds faster than light. 
Researchers say the new drive could carry passengers and their equipment to the moon in as little as four hours. A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens of thousands of years now, could be reached in just 100 years.
The system is based on electromagnetic drive, or EMDrive, which converts electrical energy into thrust without the need for rocket fuel. 
The way these press releases are written (and press releases make up a near majority of the crap you see in the news these days) is that the money shots are frontloaded and the cold dose of reality is buried at the bottom, since most of today's zero attention span readers don't make it that far. In this case, the wording for the inevitable disclaimer starts with a "hey, you never know, stranger things have happened" and ends with a slap upside the head: 
However, Nasa's official site says that: 'There are many 'absurd' theories that have become reality over the years of scientific research.
'But for the near future, warp drive remains a dream,' in a post updated last month.
Near future means "conceivable future," but it's still an interesting story in one sense. Why? Because it does put UFO skeptics in a jam, since although warp drive remains a "dream", the science has been done in a laboratory setting. Kind of hard to argue about those impossible distances-- if you believe the story, that is. But that's a topic for another day.

This story got a lot of play, and was stretched far beyond reality by some outlets. Why, I can't say.  The headlines have been reading something like this: Chinese Team Reports Gene-Editing Human Embryos
In an ethically charged first, Chinese researchers have used gene editing to modify human embryos obtained from an in vitro fertilization clinic.
That's all well and good, but I noticed a lot of variations on this report (NPRs, strangely) made it seem like the Chinese were fixing to start designing their babies from this day forward. I linked to Technology Review, since it's more likely to be read by more literate folks and include the inevitable cold water splash:
The team’s report showed the method is not yet very accurate, confirming scientific doubts around whether gene editing could be practical in human embryos and whether genetically engineered people are going to be born anytime soon.
Yeah, I thought so. I've seen this kind of thing for a very long time. Here's another pie in the sky headline: Gold nanotubes launch a three-pronged attack on cancer cells. Here's the lede:
Scientists have shown that gold nanotubes have many applications in fighting cancer: internal nanoprobes for high-resolution imaging; drug delivery vehicles; and agents for destroying cancer cells. 
But here's the inevitable disclaimer.  
The use of gold nanotubes in imaging and other biomedical applications is currently progressing through trial stages towards early clinical studies.
That's PR jargonish for "this technology is not even remotely close to application." How about this then? 'Fountain of Youth' Discovered? Scientists Might Finally be Able to Reverse Aging
Researchers from the Salk Institute in the U.S and the Chinese Academy of Science have discovered the deterioration of a specific set of DNA bundles called "heterochromatin" largely determines how fast or slow a person ages. 
"What this study means is that this protein does not only work in a particular genetic disease, it works in all humans. This mechanism is general for the aging process", said Belmonte.
Wow, really? Sign me up! Oh wait... Here's the "maybe possibly hopefully potentially" part:
"If we are artificially able to play around with these marks, we may be able to alter the process of aging."
Well, OK. I'm going to get old. But I can get old on the Moon! Hey, it's true- they're going to build a Moon colony! It's just around the corner!
Europe's Next Space Chief Wants a Moon Colony on the Lunar Far Side
 The incoming leader of the European Space Agency is keen on establishing an international base on the moon as a next-step outpost beyond the International Space Station (ISS).
Johann-Dietrich Wörner expressed his enthusiasm for a moon colony at the Space Foundation’s National Space Symposium, a gathering of global, commercial, civil, military and "new space" experts that was held here from April 13 to April 16.
Oh, wait: shouldn't they actually, I don't know, send a mission up there before they go and build a base? Maybe a few missions? The earliest we're hearing for that is around 2030 or so, so I guess I better take my vitamins. 

Well, in the meantime we'll be able to enjoy our telepathic Internet! Well, at least according to the article that was originally promising that soldiers would be reading each others' minds with their telepathic helmets:
Forget battlefield smartphones; the future of soldier-to-soldier communication may be electronic telepathy. A group of researchers in Europe have developed what they are calling the first “human brain-to-brain interface,” allowing people to communicate telepathically through the Internet without a surgical implant, bringing us closer to the day when soldiers behind enemy lines exchange information via sensors reading their thoughts.
But sure enough, it turns out maybe this isn't such a hot idea after all. But it probably has great potential for gaming and other peacetime applications. They're working on that, right?
Brain-to-brain communication over the Internet may never be the best solution for the battlefield, despite the millions of dollars of Pentagon research money that’s gone into exploring it (!) But the military may achieve interesting results with direct brain control over machinery, as several German researchers recently demonstrated via an experiment where subjects successfully steered simulated aircraft via an EEG interface. The commercial market for brain-based gaming systems, such as the NeuroSky console, while still small, has grown quickly enough to support multiple conferences and Kickstarter campaigns in just the last three years. 

Wait- this is in the experimental stage? It's funny, I remember hearing it was just around the corner 20 years ago. It was even mentioned in an X-Files episode ("Nisei").

Similarly, Artificial Intelligence is forever just around the corner. But maybe it won't ever materialize, not in the way we've imagined it. At least not according to this Economist article, "The dawn of artificial intelligence."
Powerful computers will reshape humanity’s future. How to ensure the promise outweighs the perils 
Such artificially intelligent beings are still a very long way off; indeed, it may never be possible to create them. Despite a century of poking and prodding at the brain, psychologists, neurologists, sociologists and philosophers are still a long way from an understanding of how a mind might be made—or what one is.
This is just a taste- now that you know what to look for you'll see this kind of thing everywhere. Big headline, small story.

The always-helpful Gordon sent me an article from Gizmodo, of all places, entitled "Why Scientific American's Predictions from 10 Years Ago Were So Wrong." It details some of the predictions made by scientists that never came to pass. 

It seems scientists are just as bad as psychics at predicting the future. 

Aside from a list of failed predictions, Gizmodo offers up a surprisingly sober assessment of the reality of Big Science, as opposed to the pie-in-the-sky fantasy you are subjected to in your Facebook feed:
Number one on the list was a stem cell breakthrough that turned out to be one of the biggest cases of scientific fraud ever. (To be fair, it fooled everyone.) But the list held other unfulfilled promises, too: companies now defunct, an FBI raid, and many, many technologies simply still on the verge of finally making it a decade later. By my count, only two of its 16 medical discoveries of 2005 have resulted in a drug or hospital procedures so far. The rosy future is not yet here. 
No, it's not. It seems that cancer is rampant, that autoimmune diseases are out of control and asthma and allergies and digestive disorders are at record levels as well. Science and medicine are great things in concept and much more problematic in practice. 

Worse, these kind of pseudo-stories might generate some fake excitement but the cumulative effect will eventually sour people on science and technology, associating not only with the many problems they leave in their wake (economic dislocation tops that list) but with silly, broken promises. The propagandists don't see that as a possibility or aren't thinking that far. 

Either way, unmaterialized miracles will eventually wear most but the most brainwashed  dripstain. I still follow science and technology news but I do so with an extremely jaundiced eye, having lived through decades of wonders that never seem to arrive.

As to the The Great Stagnation, it may be a reality. But I don't think it's a problem necessarily. There are other aspects of the human experience that have been shunted aside in our technocratic age, pursuits we'd do well to rediscover.

 If that means getting off the treadmill of false progress, then so be it.