Monday, August 31, 2009

Astronaut Theology: Invasion

I picked up a DVD of Invasion, a 1997 TV miniseries based on the novel, written the same year by Robin Cook. I didn't hold much hope for it- the cast wasn't filled with heavy hitters (Luke Perry, Kim Catrall and Rebecca Gayheart are the leads) and the production values on these sorts of things were rarely cinematic, to put it mildly.

That being said, Invasion is a must-see for Secret Sun readers, since a lot of the memes we've been puzzling over the past year and a half or so are all over this film, not the least of which are the 17 enigma, the Stargate and the Green Sun. This review is lousy with spoilers, so I'd recommend you track down Invasion and come back if you want to be surprised. However, the plot itself is pretty rote, so there aren't really many surprises to spoil here.

Here's your first hit- the action takes place entirely on the 33rd parallel, opening in Phoenix (which is on Interstate 17), taking a short detour to Atlanta, and then ending back up in the Arizona desert. Given the theories about the Babylon Stargate- also on the 33rd parallel - I'll drop a major spoiler here and let you guys know that the plot of the film revolves around the construction of a Stargate (though in Invasion it's called "The Gateway").

Here's another hit- the sunrise, which I've often wondered isn't a symbol representing the return of the alien gods. And strangely enough, we see a sunrise when Luke's character is first infected with the alien virus, beginning the process of colonization.

In Invasion, Luke Perry's characterº is the first to be infected with the alien virus, so he becomes the unlikely leader of the alien awakening. His girlfriend is played by Rebecca Gayheart, who was at the peak of her doe-eyed deliciousness circa 1997. The 17s are everywhere in this film- note that both 917 and 4049 add up to the Magi Number.

In fact, the invasion officially begins at exactly 00:17:00. How about that? (I'll be a wiseass and point out that 1+1+15 gives us the Magi Number as well).

Apropos of absolutely nothing, there's this sequence where we zoom in on a falcon, and then pan down and zoom directly into Luke's eyes. Strangely enough, I was just thinking about the Eye of Horus representing a flying saucer not a few hours before watching Invasion, and here we see this trenchant bit of symbolism. It's one of those moments where I realize that I pick this stuff up because I've been studying it for so long, but it's probably not put in for my- or the average viewer's- benefit.

And wouldn't you just know it? Cook is also the author of Sphinx, which dealt with an artifact from the time of Pharaoh Seti I leading to the discovery of a lost tomb. Seti should ring bells for a lot of you, especially given our recent look at the founder of C-SETI, Dr. Steven Greer. I should mention that Robin Cook is also a doctor.

This is another interesting coincidence; remember those shiny black rocks from Knowing? The ones that led the children to the cosmic arks that will help them escape Earth's destruction? Well, guess what...

...they're also featured in Invasion. The black stones are the vectors that carry that the alien virus that awakens our extraterrestrial DNA, implanted within us in prehistoric times. It turns out the aliens have been cultivating this planet for billions of years, waiting for the biosphere to finally produce a species capable of constructing the Gateway.

Which sounds a lot like the Black Oil virus from The X-Files. And sure enough, Invasion also deals with human-alien hybrids. I have no doubt that Cook was influenced by The X-Files, and in turn, the ever-ravenous Chris Carter nicked some ideas back. As we learned in the I Want to Believe post, everything connects to something else with Mr. Carter, so it shouldn't surprise us that the actors who portrayed two key players in the XF AAT mytharc were first in Invasion- John Finn (Kritschgau from "The Sixth Extinction/Amor Fati") and Neal McDonough (who played Robert Comer in "Provenance" and "Providence").

McDonough plays a Bill Gates-type character, whose wealth is being used to acquire the land and materials necessary to construct the Gate-way. A decommissioned air base is selected for the project.

After the infection of Phoenix is successful, the alien spores are released all over the world. We see them raining over four different cities; Washington (with a beauty shot of the Washington Monument) New York (with the WTC there) London and Rome. Fascinating selection there, particularly for all of you parapolitics researchers out there.

People who have rh-Negative blood can't handle the alien virus and they are sent in 28 Days Later-type rages before succumbing to massive coronaries. That's what happens here, but I thought the timecode was interesting nonetheless.

The plot is pretty thin- a team of doctors try to develop an antibody to the alien virus in order to disinfect the hybrids at the Gateway and delay the inevitable colonization. That being said, I thought that little signifier behind Kim Catrall's head* was pretty amusing in light of the connections between alien experience and hallucinogens.

The team succeeds but the lead doctor- who's been treating his own infection- succumbs to a deadlier effect of the virus with 17 minutes left in the story. Bangs you over the head with the 17s, this movie does.

Green is the default color signifying aliens in movies, but I thought it a bit prescient that the alien ship engaging the Gateway strongly recalls a green sun. One might even interpret that this symbolic green sun is ringed, just as the sun of Ra was.

True to form, the invasion is repelled- but don't worry, they'll be back. A setup for a sequel, or something a little more Sirius? Maybe to answer that question, we should take a deeper look at Mr. Cook. He's an incredibly fascinating character.

Aside from being a doctor, a protege of the late Jacques Cousteau and a successful novelist (shades of the late Michael Crichton), Robin Cook is also on the Board of Trustees of the Wilson Center, aka The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Cook sits on the board with Obama Cabinet members Hillary Clinton and Kathleen Sibelius. That's what you call connected, son.

What's fascinating here is the mix of alien identity and esoteric symbolism in Invasion, coming from the pen of a heavy-hitter like Robin Cook. This ties directly into my monster manifesto from last year, Bringing It All Back Home, where I said this:
When you read the ancient texts - particularly the Sumerian and Egyptian- a picture becomes very clear- the gods descended from the heavens, created men and taught them the arts of civilization and then returned to the stars. Over time, scholars have seen all of this as metaphor. That's scholars for you. Everything is a metaphor.

But what if your business was power? Government, religion, the culture industry, the military- if you could somehow ingratiate yourself to these "gods" to the point that somehow they decide to align themselves with you, well, that would be the ultimate advantage. Wouldn't it? The question becomes how do you even contact these beings?
Now, there are a lot of theories about the periodic explosion of alien memes in the media, of which Invasion was part of. For my part, I don't know exactly what the agenda is behind it, but having lived through a few waves of UFOmania, I'm not much convinced of anyone else's theories either.

But I will say this: when you see an alien invasion movie, that's one thing. When it's embedded with all of this bizarre occult symbolism you see over and over and over again, that's another. When it's written by a guy plugged deep into the power structure, that gets my attention.†

I do think there are a lot of people out there who would very much like to contact alien beings and share in their power. But I still don't see any compelling evidence that anyone down here has, at least on any appreciable scale. But we certainly seem to rushing headlong towards something, and with Barackobamun there seems to be particular attention being paid to covering all of the right ritual/semiotic bases. What that adds up to, I can't rightly say. If you got a couple beers in me, I'd say that the symbols and the psychology tell me that the power players are expecting something big, and I'm not sure if they're sure how it will all go down.

I'll have more to say about Invasion in the future. In the meantime, I'd like to hear what you guys out there think. If you haven't seen it yet, drop what you're doing and get your hands on a copy.


º Luke Perry's name is interesting- Luke is related to Lux (light), certainly appropriate in this film. "Perry" is of multiple origin, but my pet theory is that it could also be an Anglicization of Bereach, meaning "blessed."

*This is the second time in my life I've spent more than 5 minutes watching anything with Kim Catrall in it. I'd rather eat thumbtacks than watch Sex and the City.

Cook also spends a lot of time writing about infectious disease, which is the main plot device of Invasion. If that isn't grounds for a bit of worried speculation, I don't know what is.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Week in Review: Back to the Garden

It's been really busy around Secret Sun Central. And as such, it's been all I can do to keep regular updates. I could just as easily put the site on hiatus, but I feel it's my responsibility to keep the fires burning here. September looks to be an extremely busy month on the day job front, but I will do my damndest to keep up with all of the semiotic insanity we are swimming in. I'll try to catch up on responding to the comments if I can, but never fear- I read them all. Keep 'em coming.

Now, let's take a look at some of the recent absurdities in the news...

We just saw the release of a terminally-ill Libyan, convicted in the Lockerbie bombing. Victims' families were outraged, but as ever realpolitik trumps everything. From the NY Times:
On Friday, Lord Trefgarne, chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, said Mr. Megrahi’s release had opened the way for Britain’s leading oil companies to pursue multibillion-dollar oil contracts with Libya, which had demanded Mr. Megrahi’s return in talks with British officials and business executives.
That aside, those 9s are certainly eye-catching, no? Makes you wonder. This past week we also saw the news that Libyan dicator Mohammar el-Qaddafi wanted to set up shop in New Jersey for his confab at the UN next month. New Jersey? Now I know the man is insane.

Speaking of the ongoing oil wars, here's a fascinating juxtaposition of imagery with a story on the "9/11 mastermind" (sic) and his schooldays in North Carolina, the sarcophagus of Tut and a glowing obelisk advertising the Outer Banks of...North Carolina! Ah, Huffpost- second only to Yahoo News when it comes to zany semiotic spell-casting.

And speaking of the endlessly-scheming aristocracy, there are a lot of breathless rants out there warning us that Prince William is being set up to be the "Antichrist." OK, all well and good- I'm as entertained by bed-wetting Fundamentalist hysteria as much as the next guy. But don't you think the Dark Overlord of the Stinking Infernal Abyss could conjure little Billy up a decently demonic weave or at least some hellish hairplugs? And how is it that Harry's kept a big bushy head of fiery red hair?

And speaking of royalty, we also saw the final act of the American Camelot as Teddy Kennedy joined his brothers in the Great Beyond. Here's a stunningly-candid candid from the funeral- Bill and Hill and W and Laura and Barackobamun sitting around chatting like the very close-knit family that they are actually are. Joseph Cannon has a blockbuster post up detailing Barack's CIA ties and his parent's involvement with the Company in the 60s. Definitely worth a read- click here.

Speaking of the 60s, this week brings us Ang Lee's Taking Woodstock. I just did a big post on Woodstock and I am ashamed by my sloppiness- how did I miss that Yasgur's farm was on Route 17B, a side road off of State Route 17? Well, I've been busy, that's my only excuse.

Speaking of 17 - I watched a movie last night with the missus that shook me out of a somewhat jaded attitude I'd been taking to all of this alien symbolism we've been bombarded with. It's not even a recent film- it's from the last wave of UFO media hype in the mid-90s - but the symbolism just totally blew my brains out. What will probably be the first of several posts on this movie will go up on Monday. You don't want to miss this one, believe me.

In the meantime, don't forget my interview with Greg K on Occult of Personality.

Have a great weekend (someone has to).

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Secret Sun on Occult of Personality

I had a great talk with Greg from Occult of Personality a few months back and the first part of it is up on the site now.

In podcast episode 68, we’re joined again by Christopher Knowles. Chris is the author of the Eagle Award-winning “Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes,” published by Red Wheel/Weiser and co-author of “The Complete X-Files: Behind the Series, the Myths, and the Movies,” published by Insight Editions. This time, Chris joins us for a very in-depth discussion about the themes explored in his blog, “The Secret Sun”.

Chris describes his research as modern mythology, alt-history and pop-cult symbology. We begin our conversation as he describes the Sun from a variety of perspectives, including scientific, symbolic, mythological, and religious. He traces some of the beginnings of solar symbolism and how these origins informs his work. By examining current events with a focus on symbolism and synchronicity, his work uncovers many interesting correspondences.

Chris describes his research as modern mythology, alt-history and pop-cult symbology. We begin our conversation as he describes the Sun from a variety of perspectives, including scientific, symbolic, mythological, and religious. He traces some of the beginnings of solar symbolism and how these origins informs his work. By examining current events with a focus on symbolism and synchronicity, his work uncovers many interesting correspondences.
Greg and I also did a separate talk on Carl Jung which I believe he will be making available to subscribers. Occult of Personality promotes positive, counter-cultural esotericism, which is very important indeed in an environment where these themes are increasingly a part of our cultural conversation. I know a lot of you out there are on Greg's wavelength and may not be familiar with his podcast, so this gives you a good introduction.

UPDATE: Men Who Stare at Goats trailer here. Looks very funny, but McGregor's wavering accent is a bit distracting.

UPDATE II: This is the book by Cheiro I was talking about.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Here's an interesting-looking trailer- Surrogates, which is based on a graphic novel I've never heard of. Which isn't saying much, these days people are producing GNs purely as storyboards for Hollywood pitch meetings. This kind of an interesting twist on Second Life, with the requisite Calvinist sadomasochism that Hollywood loves to serves up. Puritanism is still very much part of the American psyche, which is why so much money is spent on hedonistic actors and expensive computer effects to create films that inculcate us with Luddite messages against human progress and Calvinist messages against human pleasure. Maybe it's the frisson brought on by those innate contradictions that makes it all so exciting.

This reminds me a bit of Total Recall as well as The Sixth Day, but that's not surprising given the constant feedback loop between the comics world and Hollywood, now celebrated at that former comics convention held in San Diego every summer.

The irony of the title is that the comics subculture has been a surrogate for Hollywood creativity for the past 10 years or so. Comics were such a rich source of creativity for so long because no one was paying attention. Now that we have even obscure GNs becoming Bruce Willis movies, I'm not exactly sure how long that will last.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dr. Steven Greer and the New Age of UFOlogy

Aside from the re-emergence of the abductee material in the media, the big news in the world of UFOlogy recently was the heated debate between Dr. Steven Greer and Kerry Cassidy of Project Camelot over Greer's remarks to the Barcelona Disclosure conference that all alien races in contact with Earth were benevolent.

I'll admit I've never been nearly as impressed with Project Camelot as they are with themselves. They lost me during their interview with Richard Hoagland, for which neither Cassidy nor her partner Bill Ryan seemed even remotely prepared (and you could tell Hoagland wasn't happy either). And it's a bit rich to see Cassidy going after Greer hammer-and-tongs when she treated Clifford Stone with such kid gloves, who seems every bit as starry-eyed as she accuses Greer of being.

That being said, I just listened to Tim Binnall's interview with the always-engaging Timothy Good, and I get the feeling he's not terribly impressed with Dr. Greer either. He was his usual diplomatic self, but he did make some dismissive remarks about people talking about benevolent aliens and free energy, so it's not hard to guess who he's talking about. Good - who's been pretty scathing about Stone in the past as well - himself talks about things that a lot of people might find ridiculous, but always qualifies his information as being what he has been told, and not necessarily what he knows or believes.

Good puts forth a scenario of alien races jousting over the ultimate fate of this planet, a theory which you will see Greer attack in Barcelona talk as being part of a "Project Blue Beam" kind of scenario on the part of what he identifies as a "cabal" within the government. Greer doesn't name Blue Beam (there's no evidence that any program by that name ever existed) but it's obvious that he feels that kind of scenario is plausible, and mentions Von Braun's theories of a staged series of ET provocations meant to turn people against the aliens and/or weaponize space. From my understanding space is pretty well weaponized, so I don't much see the need for further provocation. But what the hell do I know?

Greer's talk is very interesting because it presents a kind of quasi-religious take on UFO/ETs that I thought went out with Bo and Peep. Not only that, but Greer is obviously well-connected, well-off and presents an extremely seductive view of ETs as our psychic space brothers, standing by and waiting to welcome us all into the great Galactic community in the sky. With people becoming more and more disgusted with traditional religions, I could very easily see a charismatic speaker like Greer quickly attracting followers, particularly as our would-be messiah Barackobamun shrivels to irrelevance before our very eyes. Judging from the barrage of criticism PC took for their Greer interview, maybe he already has.

Now, I have no reason not to believe Greer isn't sincere and well-meaning, but I've watched one too many episodes of The X-Files not to find all of this a bit troubling. In fact, I'm almost tempted to whip up some XF fan fiction with a character loosely based on Greer who's actually an alien supersoldier (which the muscular Greer certainly resembles) lulling us all to sleep before the big invasion. Again, no judgment at all on the man himself, but any sci-fi fan can see where I'm coming from.

As for Good, his work interests me since I'm not necessarily looking to "believe" in UFOs (they either exist or they don't), but to find out what others believe about them, specifically those in positions of power. It's that information that I look for in order to plug into this entire matrix of symbolism, parapolitics, and Synchronicity which in turn is used to interpret all of the weirdness we're seeing in pop culture, especially this year.

In that regard, Good's claims of warring alien races certainly lines up with what we're seeing with films like Star Trek, Terminator 2 and GI Joe, as well as this constant theme of alien identification in films like District 9. Not to mention some of the anomalous sightings of flaming debris falling from the sky, or ships disappearing or colliding or planes being snatched from the sky. All of this could very well be part of the show Greer warns about, but all we can do is speculate at this point in time.

Where do I stand on all of this? I stand on the sidelines, scratching my chin in contemplation. I've not seen truly compelling evidence for either Good's or Greer's theories. I find both gentlemen intelligent and fascinating (unlike PC), but as I said before ETs are just part of my overall constellation of interest. As to Greer's warnings, I do think that any kind of fakery would have to be pretty damn grand to impress jaded folks these days, and I also think that people will quickly lose interest in this latest wave of UFOmania unless someone starts putting some good, solid proof on the table.

I'm old enough now to have been through all of this before and while I find this wave of daytime photos emerging pretty compelling, the problem is that there never seems anything much you can do about it. Greer seems to anticipate that, and is making audience participation a big part of his pitch. His presentation ends with some rituals that his group has held, allegedly summoning UFOs.

Which, of course, makes me a bit nervous.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Newsweek: "Aliens Exist"

The article isn't as definitive as the headline, but it's certainly interesting to see Timothy Good's drip-drip Disclosure theory playing out on the cover of a major newsweekly. Click here for details.

UPDATE: Jack brings up District 9- yes, I saw it and found it extremely worship-worthy. It's the kind of film James Cameron would make if he were still young and hungry. And Sharlto Copley takes the Steve Carrell conceit to places you can't even imagine- a star-making performance if ever there was one. Make no mistake- this is the Golden Age of Geek. More on District 9 when the Muses will it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Watchmen and the Digital Apotheosis

OK, I finally watched Watchmen. When it came out I was super busy, and was admittedly a little put off by some of the bad buzz. And since I've been busy since the DVD came out, I haven't had time to watch a two and half hour movie, which translates into a four hour experience with all the pausing and snack-fetching around here.

But watch it we did, and I frickin' loved it. Hot diggity-damn. I may get eaten alive for this but I vastly prefer it to the comics, or graphic novel as it exists today. The thing is, you see, that I was buying Watchmen as it came out, and to say it's publishing schedule was erratic is an existential understatement. To make matters worse, the pacing of the story was pokey (to put it kindly), and by the time the giant squid shows up I and many other readers were going, "huh?" And Dave Gibbons' competent but extremely conservative art wasn't what I was looking at in the late 80s.

So, for years my reaction to Watchmen movie rumors was "meh." Until I saw the trailer for Zack Snyder's version, which had me drooling and panting. Then, as I said before, the buzz wasn't that great and I was putting in sick hours and decided to wait. Since I'm such a contrary bugger, hype can really color my enjoyment of a film so I waited out both the theater and DVD release hype ( I should have waited to see The Dark Knight as well- the hype sickened me). That way, I could try to figure out why Watchmen wasn't the smash hit it should have been. That was a no-brainer.

Ultimately, what did this movie in was the sex and violence. This is a very hard hard-R. Critics may not want to admit it, but they- and a lot of other people- don't want to see graphic rape scenes and compound fractures in a superhero movie. The violence in Watchmen is frickin' brutal, and Snyder lingers on the gore a bit too long for most people's liking.

I appreciated the ironic quality of it- for 70 years superhero comic books have sold a bloodless kind of ultraviolence and a distinctly variant sexuality without the bodily fluids. Snyder rips away the censor's bar and shows you what is really resonating in the subconscious, particularly with the Golden Age comics that Moore was taking the piss out of.

Another strike against Watchmen is the lack of A-list stars. People tend to harsh on genre movies if they don't do gangbusters, but stars still open a movie, especially with an extremely esoteric quantity like Watchmen. Jackie Earle Haley was a bit hammy, a bit scene-chewy, but overall I thought the acting was solid. I read some not-nice things about Malin Akerman which I was mystified about, especially since she's so insanely hot. Carla Gugino didn't really pull off the aging-drunk bit, but she didn't disgrace herself either.

Another criticism was that Snyder was over-faithul to the source material, but there's a damned if you do, damned if you don't proposition if ever there was one. IMO, he cut all of the right stuff out, and the denouement of Ozymandias' plot made a lot more narrative sense than it did in the comics. Snyder also did a great job recreating the visual magic that have made comics so compelling for so long. Particularly in the titles, which you can see for yourself up top. Strangely enough, it was when the Watchmen comics came out that I really began to see superheroes and comic books as destined to diverge, and it took 20-odd years of digital processing advancements to complete that process. Maybe the bean-counters ain't feeling it yet, but Watchmen proves that superheroes belong on the screen.

As to the Synchromysticism or whatever, this is an Alan Moore story. There's no difference between text and subtext (well, maybe a bit of difference, as this writer claims). On a more macro level, Watchmen is just another upping in the ante of this process of manifesting the Ubermenschen, for lack of a much better term. Two great geek obsessions- superheroes and digital technology- are converging into a new kind of apotheosis that will eventually transform movies into something even Welles would never have anticipated.

It was a truism that comics did a lot of things well, but did superheroes best. I don't think that's true anymore. Comics are much more suited to quieter and more intimate kinds of stories (Allison Bechdel's The Fun Home is a perfect example) while superheroes and related genres make digital storytelling truly come to life. It's become difficult for me to retreat back into that comic book reality after seeing films like Watchmen and Iron Man or cartoons like Justice League or the Doctor Strange DVD, apart from the old school comics I've already acclimated myself to.

There's a much more important issue at work here: The more compelling and immersive these scifi and superhero tableaus become onscreen, the less satisfied the younger generations are going to be with our present limitations- gravity, mortality, assorted laws of physics, you name it. Whether this will result in a transhumanist revolution or a revolution in which the boundaries between mundane reality and virtual reality are blurred- or even erased- remains to be seen.

The point is that this- right now- is the Golden Age of Mythology,
because we are nearing a point where we will have the tools to make those myths come true. Once we cross that line, the myths might not seem so important anymore.

UPDATE: Thoth Pavel links us to a great interview with Alan Moore.

A quick side note on that train of thought: Scientists now believe that alien abduction phenomena is the result of sleep paralysis, usually preceded by a feeling of being shocked or electrocuted. That's all well and good, but what if the resulting narrative isn't the result of cultural conditioning but in fact the reflection of a reality - a kind of alien virtual reality. As we evolve alongside our technology, will we bother to physically travel to distant stars, or stay safe at home and send digital recreations of ourselves via remote satellite or even truly esoteric technology like neutrino beams? If we can conceive it, how can we say someone else hasn't acheived it?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Process of Elimination

If you're in the LA/SoCal area, you might want to check this out- an event put on by Feral House promoting their book and the upcoming documentary on the notorious Process Church. Being nowhere near LA, I'll have to miss it, but will definitely be checking out both the book and the film.
In celebration of the book "Love Sex Fear Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment," Feral House, Process Media, and Sound At One Records present A Sabbath Assembly Ritual ...a preview will be shown of William Morrison's documentary feature about The Process, after which Adam Parfrey will interview Mr. Wyllie, who will also respond to questions from the audience.

Services begin at 6 pm on Sunday August 23, 2009, at the Silent Movie Theater, 611 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles [323] 655-2510.
For my part, I still believe that a lot of these 60s/70s cults were actually intelligence operations in which control techniques were developed to be later introduced in the Fundamentalist and megachurch movements. Matt Taibbi's expose on John Hagee in Rolling Stone chillingly details how cult techniques are being used today.

And certainly the paranoid, apocalyptic mindset of cult leaders like the Robert DeGrimston and Jim Jones has inspired an entire growth industry, with well-funded radio networks, publishing houses and websites. Make no mistake- Fear is big business.

PS: Here's an interesting article refuting the The Process Church's links to the Manson Family.

Friday, August 21, 2009


...what do you guys think of the Avatar trailer?

UPDATE: This looks kind of interesting.

Not your average Joe...

Blessed by Dionysus, cursed by the Harpies. Joe Strummer brought shamanism back into Rock and Roll, channeling a distinctly Celtic variant of the frenzy that possessed Iggy, Jim Morrison and the MC5 in the late 60s. Drugs, politics and ambition eventually doused that flame, but those who were there felt an energy the Clash's records barely even hinted at.

Joe would have been 57 today. I saw him a few months before he died and I can say that the spirit was as strong as ever, even if the flesh were feeling the effects of all of those endless Bacchanalias. We could use a few more where he came from.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wishing a Horrible Birthday to Howard

Ten Thirteen Addenda: Touched by an Alien

When I began working on my analysis of The X-Files: I Want to Believe, I was a bit hesitant. What I was writing about dealt with abduction phenomenon, something I am resolutely agnostic about and also something that hasn't had much resonance in the Memestream lately. But since I posted the first part of the X-Files article last Monday, abductions are suddenly in the media again. I was wondering why I'd put off talking about the film in detail for so long (it's been out over a year now) but maybe I was subconsciously waiting for the right time. Either way, the synchronicity of it all is fascinating.

Since then, the trailer for The Fourth Kind has garnered a lot of attention and ABC aired a special Dateline on abductees/experiencers (I haven't watched it yet) on Tuesday night. As I mentioned, I was struck by the owl symbolism in TFK trailer, given that a posting on owls sparked a lot of discussion here in July. And though Touched has been out a few months now, it just caught my attention now.

Is this all being orchestrated? It's certainly possible. The interest in abduction is usually how the media responds to UFO flaps. On one hand, reporting on abduction humanizes the issue, but it also allows generous servings of fear and ridicule to be injected into the whole UFO subject (meaning those who don't fall for the fear angle will buy into the ridicule, and vice versa).

Abduction phenomenon is deeply personal and subjective, whereas the waves of sightings and photographs are not. There's nothing for the media to argue about, outside of the usual shills lecturing us that there are tens of thousands of UFO hoaxers out there faking it all. The media might hype things like the UK opening its UFO files, which sounds impressive until you realize the material released is usually ridiculous. Five minutes on any reputable UFO website will blow these so-called "disclosures" out the door.

And it must be said that while I believe that many abductees/experiencers are sincere, intelligent and honest, too many are not. And those are the ones that the mainstream media will eventually focus on, which ends up humiliating genuine experiencers and discouraging others from coming forward with their stories.

UPDATE: Well, I watched the ABC special and it was pretty much what I expected. If I were a committed skeptic on the issue, I would come away completely unshaken. There were the usual media tricks- obvious hoax photos and footage cross-cut with cartoons and toys of Greys and the usual amateurish drawings. I did find the sleep paralysis explanation interesting, but am always frustrated that no one ever stops to ask if this itself is part of some sort of remote contact. One of the subjects I found to be completely non-credible, others seemed sincere but not particularly compelling.

In short, it's specials like this that very skillfully claim to be objective but actively promote skepticism through selective presentation, juxtaposition, subtle ridicule and poor follow-through.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ten Thirteen: I Want to Believe, part 2

Abstract: The so-called "Mythology" of The X-Files centered on alien abductions, colonization and genetic experimentation. The feature film The X-Files: I Want to Believe did the exact same thing, only in a symbolic, allegorical fashion. Why the reverse-metaphor? What is the film trying to tell us? And what connections does this mysterious Mythology have with the mythology of the ancient Mysteries?

Read part one of this series here.

In I Want to Believe, the exiled Mulder and Scully are called back into the FBI by a young agent named Dakota Whitney and her skeptical partner Agent Drummy, who are searching for an abducted female comrade named Monica Bannon. In the midst of their search, a self-styled psychic named Father Joe cold-calls the FBI and leads them to a severed arm buried in a frozen West Virginia lake.

Despite the fact that Father Joe was a notorious serial pedophile, Mulder wants to believe that his psychic powers are real (if to vindicate his X-Files work, if nothing else). Joe then leads the task force back to the frozen lake, in which the severed body parts of multiple victims are encased. Another woman, Cheryl Cunningham, is abducted by Janke, a Russian emigre working as a courier for an medical transport service. He is working with a team of rogue scientists using abductees for grafting experiments in a grim, fenced-in compound.

Consumed with the care of a critically-ill boy named Christian Fearon (fascinating name), Scully begs off the case. She verbally attacks Father Joe upon meeting him, but later saves his life. Mulder and Scully are also growing apart, a situation not helped by Agent Whitney, who is boosting Mulder's ego in order to lure him away from his long-time partner (Whitney plays the Nephthys-seductress role here).

In classic X-Files "sympathetic villain" fashion, it's discovered that Janke and his employer Franz are lovers, and the abductees are being used in experiments to save Franz, who is dying of cancer. Using advanced stem cell technology, the doctors are trying to graft Franz's head onto the abducted women. The FBI's agent's body didn't take, so Cheryl is now being prepared for the transplant. Mulder follows Janke to the remote secret lab where the operation is being performed, but is taken down. With Mulder missing, Scully enlists Skinner's help and they discover the lab and rescue Mulder and Cheryl.

Not exactly a nail-biting plot, and if you're not familiar with the series (particularly the early seasons, of which the story draws upon extensively for mood and plot points) it won't mean all that much to you. Given the pitch black mood of the film and the thorny social and sexual issues raised by it, it's no surprise it got mowed down by The Dark Knight. But this is The X-Files, and all of the action in the film is beneath the surface. And there's a hell of a lot going on down there.


Now, let's cut to the core of the matter: some fans had complained that the film didn't deal with the show's Mythology- aliens, abductions and colonization- but in fact, it's about nothing else.

Janke's aerial POV signals alien identity

Skeptics have long dismissed alien abduction phenomena as the compensatory fantasies of victims of human abuse (particularly repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse*). Reflecting that, IWTB reverses the Mythology and sets it back in the real world. But are we merely looking at multiple layers of metaphors, masking one another?

Meaning: "I'm an alien."
We do see an alien conspiracy - Russian aliens, who have set up a colony to create hybrids.

These aliens are abducting people, and using their bodies for advanced genetic experimentation.

• In a gruesome twist on AAT, the aliens are trying to literally graft their alien "consciousness" onto the native women.

• All of this is going on in West Virginia, Ground Zero of the human/alien hybridization database in the original series.
We see other symbolic reminders tying back to alien identity from the previous Mythology:

The image of the dead woman's face trapped beneath the ice hearkens back to the images of abductees trapped in glass tubes in Fight the Future, equating the abduction metaphor in IWTB to that explicit motif. That ship was in the Arctic Circle, another tundra environment.

Just as Whitney and Drummy are Reyes and Doggett, Christian is obviously a stand-in for William. This circumvents having to retrace the tortured Mytharc of the final season. The actor even looks a lot like a cross between David (his coloring, hair) and Gillian (in the eyes, especially). Christian is dying of a brain disease (interesting metaphor there, itself), just as Mulder was before his abduction/death/resurrection.

Mulder's disease was the result of exposure to the radiation of the Godship, which William could control telepathically.† His bedsheets offer another clue in this context...

...the sky pattern reminding us of William's control over the star/planet mobile. Christian also seems to be psychic/intuitive. He realizes that Father Ibarra wants him to die, and later that Scully is afraid the treatment for his disease won't work. One of the results of exposure to the Godship radiation was psychic powers.

Also note basketball, sunflower seeds and jawbone (!)

Aside from "I Want to Believe" poster with the famous Billy Meier photograph that gives the film its title, we see little visual cues here and there, such as Mulder's large and ostentatious desk lamp, which just happens to be in the shape of a classic flying saucer.

And thrown into the midst of this is Father Joe, who represents the state-sanctioned institutionalization of mythology on one hand and the systematic perpetration of child abuse on the other. But he also is psychic, which in XF parlance is the primary indicator that a person's innate alien DNA has been activated. As co-writer Frank Spotnitz said of The X-Files, “all episodes are Mythology because mankind is part-alien.”

Pitted against him are Mulder and Scully, UFO believers who are themselves genetically alien (or immortal, as in Scully's case). Both sides of the argument as to the source of the alien abduction phenomenon- reality or repressed memory of abuse- play off each other in the frozen wasteland of post 9/11 America.

Which is the allegory?

Added to the strange, symbolic retelling of the Mytharc is the traditional use of ancient mythology within the X-Files Mythology. The Eleusinian Mysteries are the core narrative in IWTB, just as the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was the core of Fight the Future and the Mysteries of Isis informed the AAT storyline in Seasons 7 and 8.

Monica Bannon is Persephone, abducted and brought down to Hell. Persephone is associated with Spring and was spotted by Hades while picking flowers, so accordingly Monica defends herself with a gardening tool. Given the exoteric narrative of the film, it's probably not an accident that the agent who plays Monica showed up before in Chris Carter's previous Frankenstein riff, "The Post-Modern Prometheus." That just shows you how he thinks.º

Cheryl is Persephone as well. Here we see her abducted amidst giant rolls of hay, tying back into the agricultural motif of the Mysteries. The constant backdrop of snow neatly parallels the barren earth of endless winter following Persephone's abduction.

Janke is Hades (with a bit of Set thrown in for good measure). The iconic shot of him underwater parallels Hades' place in the Underworld, looking up and spying Cheryl/Persephone. Janke is played by Callum Keith Rennie, who first appeared in the X-Files Universe in "Lazarus," an episode that also deals with consciousness being grafted onto another body (the title also references Osiris). The symbolism goes even deeper with this character...

...such as his menacing Ford pickup that makes a nice stand-in for Hades' chariot, and hence plays a major part in abductions. Cheryl drives a Subaru Outback, which opens a whole other can of worms.

Janke also has a two-headed dog, a gene-spliced modern version of Cerberus. Mulder encounters the dual-domed beastie after hopping the fence to the Russian compound, a Hell-on-Earth if ever there was one.

Inside the compound, we see Cheryl submerged into a vat of ice water, again symbolizing the descent into the Underworld. She's about to take her place as the Queen of Hell, once her head is removed and replaced with that of Franz, that is.

So what about our stars? Mulder repeats his role of Demeter seeking Persephone from the Samantha storyline, which Scully helpfully reminds us when she tells Mulder "this is about you trying to save your sister." We get some semiotic tips feminizing Mulder in the first half of the story, such as when enters "the woman's side."

Scully too is Demeter when she and Skinner rescue Cheryl/Persephone from Hell. Demeter was known as mater dolorosa in Eleusis, which means- you guessed it - "Our Lady of Sorrows."

Now what about Christian? In this scene the hospital staff decides to stop treating Christian and ship him off to a hospice to die (Father Ibarra claims it's God's will). Scully objects, saying his condition can be treated with stem cell therapy, but another doctor objects. Is "putting the boy through hell" another clue?

Like Isis, Demeter worked as a nursemaid during her search for Persephone and treated a sickly young boy by burning away his mortality. In both cases, their treatments ("putting them through hell," essentially) were opposed. And it goes with out saying that Isis is associated with Sirius, so DNA Scully must be Demeter here.

Here are the only characters Chris Carter acknowledges as symbols- the nuns are the Three Graces. It's worth noting that these scene takes place as the snow is melting outside, and Cheryl and Mulder have been rescued.


Modern scholars like Gordon Wasson and Terence McKenna have shown that the "mystery" behind the Mysteries was the use of powerful hallucinogens like LSA and amanita muscaria, which led to rituals including everything from wild dancing to group sex. Wasson has argued that Dionysus cultists actually used an admixture of powerful hallucinogens and herbs as their "wine," not the usual mix of fermented grapes, and that the kykeon of the Eleusinian Mysteries was made of rye ergot, itself a hallucinogen.

As we've seen in the "Alien Dreaming and the Widening Gyre" series, hallucinogens and alien contact seem to be connected in ways we don't yet understand. The liturgy of the Mithraic Mysteries- generally believed to be the most sober and conservative of the ancient sects - includes some pretty startling X-Files-type encounters with angels and snake-faced humanoids inside flying discs, which have doors and exhaust and artificial light fixtures and all of the rest of it. All of this follows the ingestion of a bitter mixture of herbs and other plant derivatives by the initiate. And strangely enough, the return of The X-Files after a six-year absence preceded an absolute explosion of UFO sightings all across the world...

As mentioned before, X-Files episodes that delve into AAT and alien identity were always preceded by unconnected stories about hallucination or hallucinogens, a pattern too consistent to be random. We don't have any explicit reference to either in I Want to Believe, but we do have a lot of parallels to several Mystery religions, the Eleusinian Mysteries being the most obvious. And what's more, there is an implicit connection to hallucinogens in the film's central message, "don't give up..."

While promoting the film in 2008, Chris Carter claimed that IWTB was initially inspired by a lecture he attended given by Huston Smith. The idea for IWTB was sketched out sometime in 2001, not long after Smith published Cleansing the Doors of Perception, a book of essays on Smith's experiences with entheogens. I'm not sure if the lecture Carter attended coincided with the book, but the timeline there is fascinating in light of the connections in the series itself.

I still haven't put the final pieces of this film together. The combination of the reverse-Mythology and the standard mythic allegories means something, but maybe not something that can be reduced to a soundbite. There's definitely a power in some of the myths that seems to speak to our unconscious, non-linear mind and the same certainly holds true with the UFO phenomenon.

I'd be perfectly happy if I Want to Believe is the final chapter of The X-Files, but if another sequel is due for 2012, I'd really like to hear something approaching a definitive answer regarding the strange connections we've been poring through around here. Well, as definitive as allowed within the Ten-Thirteen milieu.


* The only time skeptics will acknowledge recovered or repressed memory of childhood abuse is when they are trying to explain alien abduction phenomena away.

† William may well have contracted such a disease because of Spender's magnetite injection. His adoptive family lived in Wyoming, not far from Calgary where the second Godship was found.

º From an article on Marco Niccoli, who plays Christian- Adding to the film's enigmatic nature, Benedet said she doesn't know why Carter specifically wanted someone with cerebral palsy. She added that Marco's character doesn't have the condition in the film; he's just "terminally ill."

"But with Chris Carter things are always related. Like Mulder, that's his mother's maiden name. And his production company, 1013 Productions, that's his birth date. So I am wondering why, but I'm sure gonna ask him."

Monday, August 17, 2009

From the Fifth Element to the Fourth Kind

In a year jam-packed with alien-themed movies, this trailer seems to have hit a certain chord. The Fourth Kind certainly gives off a strong X-Files vibe, similar to The Mothman Prophecies and The Forgotten, so you know I'm there. But I'm not exactly sure why it seems to be so resonant- it's not like abduction phenomena has been circulating in the culture lately.

It could just be that The Fourth Kind looks like a solid scarefest, Close Encounters meets The Exorcist. But it could also be that added AAT dimension (or the suggestion of it, with the cuneiform) is beginning to seep into the collective consciousness, no matter how desperately some still try to laugh it all away (the Brookings Report seems more and more prescient every day).

I was fascinated in the whole owl motif, seeing how we just discussed that here on the Sun. And I'm impressed with the leads, semiotically speaking: Milla Jovovich (certainly for her role in The Fifth Element), Will Patton (from Mothman) and Eleas Koteas (from The Prophecy, Crash and Exotica). This looks to be a solid genre outing, not a cheeseball horror cash-in. It will be interesting to see how it resonates after its release.

UPDATE: Liza turned us on to this ad campaign, which I noticed today as well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woodstock and its Aftershocks

So much has been written about Woodstock, it's an open question whether anything of value can still be taken from it. In reality, it was the death knell of Aquarian idealism as we understand it.

It was also the last, great explosion of a truly Dionysian counterculture. A lot of these great musicians got their start playing all-night raves in small dancehalls and clubs- a truly underground phenomenon. In San Francisco and other cities, the music was the spear's point of a multimedia experience that united a relatively small, well-educated and culturally-aware vanguard who were just naive enough not to see the wolves at the gate, or to realize that many- if not most - people don't want to be enlightened.

Personally, Woodstock wasn't really my scene- I would have rather been at Monterey Pop. That was before all of the really bad vibes set in; the bad drugs, the assassinations, the Mansons, the Weathermen and the Angels, you name it. At Monterey, kids still felt that if only the rest of the world could feel what they felt in their music, then their lives too would be changed. Of course, this was the naivete of a generation that knew no real hardship, and to this day sees itself as the apex of American civilization. But once the Establishment started to push back in '68, things changed. And Woodstock was soon followed by the horror show at Altamount.

From what I've been told, Haight Street and Sunset Strip were nightmare zones by 1969, besieged by runaways and thrill-seekers, quickly followed by an army of thugs, sickos and pushers ready to feed on the sheep. Acording to Mikal Gilmore's article "Summer of Loss," it had been headed that way since 1967. The Diggers, who represented the original SF freaks, went so far as to declare "The Death of Hippie" mere weeks after the Summer of Love ended.

It's become a truism among certain Conspiranoid sects that it was all a setup from the start, but that's not how it works. The countercultures that resonate arise from a handful of marginal types who can't find a place in the popular culture of the time. They coalesce and build it all up from scratch. Several attempts at doing so have failed, but the ones who succeed often become easy targets for the ripoff artists. And if they're really unlucky, fodder for the spooks.

At the very least, yesterday's rebels often become today's superstars and tomorrow's establishment. Those are just the facts of life. If you're smart and talented and charismatic, someone is going to try to make a buck off of that. Very few artists can resist the siren call of success forever. Particularly when they have expensive drug habits to support.

Much has been made out of the military and intelligence lineage of a lot of these artists, overlooking the fact that the entire country was militarized 20 years before, and nearly everyone's father was in the military. If your father was smart or media-savvy, he ended up in intelligence or in the officer corps. This argument also overlooks the obvious reality of generational rebellion- certainly true in the case of Jim Morrison, who was completely estranged from his family.

Which is not to say that they were not wolves set among the sheep- that's been going on since countercultures first appeared. But the whole "Sixties Counterculture as psyop argument" comes originally from the extreme right wing (Birchers, LaRouchies, etc), and their attitudes are predetermined by their hatred of anything progressive or liberal. And unfortunately, a lot of these types are still out there, posing as counterculture rebels while peddling regurgitated disinfo.

Of course, LSD was at the center of all of this, which is a whole other story.
There can be no reasonable argument that Gottlieb and his MK Ultra boys weren't involved in LSD experiments, and were possibly using the drug to send the various youth movements off the rails.

I never liked LSD but a lot of people took it responsibly and have been enriched by that experience. It could well be that those positive experiences were the threat, so the experiments and the bad drugs (like STP and angel dust) flooding the streets were part of a kind of aversion therapy meant to turn people off to whatever revelations the drug could offer.

But it could also be that there a lot of stupid people out there who can't control themselves. As Robert Anton Wilson said, in the Sixties the positive drug revolution in the colleges was derailed by the idiot drug revolution in the streets. Which, one could argue, was the idea all along. Whatever the case, the media were certainly always on hand to whip up hysteria.

When I was a young punk rocker, I was extremely resentful of Woodstock and the whole generational mythology around it. It seemed like a great big party that didn't bother to pick up after itself- and left behind a whole lot of trash. And being a student of counterculture history, I was always irritated that the Baby Boomers acted as if they created all of it, when they merely consumed what the media provided them.

The musicians were largely war babies, a different breed altogether from the 50's born Boomers. And they were drawing on musical idioms created before even they were born. For my money, the people who I felt really laid it down in the Sixties- Kubrick and Kirby and Roddenberry, to name just a few - were of a different generation altogether. And previous countercultures like the Dadaists and the Victorian occultists were a lot more rigorous in their rebellion, and risked a lot more than their 60s descendants.

And most of the vaunted social experiments of the time ended in failure. The lip service paid to starry-eyed idealism (and flat-out bullshit) you see everywhere in the Woodstock documentary is as wince-inducing as seeing these kids roll around in septic mud. And tragic, in light of where it often led.

The nightmarish end to the hippie dream- Jefferson Airplane at Altamount

But for better or worse, the "Sixties" equal "counterculture" to most people. And maybe the last gasp of it, since what we see now are endlessly mutating subcultures. But there were a lot of ideas that followed in the aftermath- the personal computer movement, alternative communities, health consciousness- that are still viable. The next steps we need to take will follow in that example, never mind 'revolution' and the 'masses' and the rest of it. That has always led to disaster and always will.

In the end, the Sixties left us a lot of great music, and not just the hoary old standards you hear on classic rock radio.
I've been listening to a lot of Sixties Psych, and the depth of talent even in bands I'd never heard of is mind-blowing. We'll probably never see that kind of embarrassment of riches again, but it's worth working towards a building a culture that at least has the potential to do so. And to get there, I think we all need to build strength in mind, body and spirit. And perhaps at some point, begin to create intentional communities along loose cultural affinities, just as countercultures have always done throughout history.

Egypt, Egypt Everywhere, pt. 9,734

A reader sent in this pic- a Playmobil display for their new (and quite well-researched) Egyptian playset. Check out the big Anubis there, that's a bit unusual. It'd be pretty cool if one of the sets came with a flying saucer.

Porky Pig and Daffy Duck bring their wacky hijinks to the ancient world on this cover for an upcoming adventure of Looney Tunes Adventures. That Daffy, I bet that madcap mallard has something screwy up his sleeve!

Now even toddlers can get in on the robotic thrills and spills with this special Mr. Potato Head from the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen toy line. This reminds of a comic book idea I once had- it was called "Bagboy and Spud"- it was about a teenage grocery clerk whose best friend was a potato from outer space. Well, what are you waiting for, Hollywood?