Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Atlantis Rising, Part 4: Beyond the Stars (UPDATED 8/31)

Cocoon was followed by the obligatory sequel in 1988, but the film went nowhere. Neither did this 1989 film written and directed by the author of the novel Cocoon was (loosely) based on, but it's a lot more interesting for our purposes here.

Beyond the Stars features Martin Sheen, and Christian Slater and Sharon Stone right before they hit the big time (it was released just before Heathers and Total Recall ) as well as Robert "Questor" Foxworth and Olivia D'Abo (who's been in a ton of genre roles, including voice work as Morgan La Fey in Justice League and a recent role in Star Wars: The Clone Wars). All of these actors have appeared in so many different things it's essentially redundant synching them up to the world of weirdness, since the multiplicity of hits tends to mitigate significance.

That being said it didn't escape my notice that Stone broke big in Total Recall and Sheen appeared in an episode of the extremely short-lived series Total Recall 2070, a spinoff that I don't think anyone but me has seen. Nor will I ever forget Sheen's role in of the most disturbing episodes of the original Outer Limits ("Nightmare") or his own star-making role in Apocalypse Now.

It's when it all comes together in a tidy little package that things start to get interesting. Sheen plays a former astronaut who served about the (fictional) last moon mission, Apollo 18. But the plotline is strangely paced- this isn't an space or a sci-fi film, it's a coming-of-age, my-favorite-summer story with an obligatory romance with Slater and D'Abo overshadowed by the relationship between bachelor Sheen and Slater (similar to Good Will Hunting in that fashion).

Then there's Sheen's necklace there which strangely reminds me of the crucified serpent icon.

But things get very interesting when Sheen takes Slater to the Marshall Flight Center, which regular Secret Sun readers should be well acquainted with, since it featured in the Amy Bishop saga earlier in the year. None other than Don "Stargate" Davis appears as an old colleague of Sheen's who shows young Christian around, even letting him take a spin in the flight simulator.

Sheen and Slater's relationship really doesn't make any sense at all. Neither do we get a sense of what's eating at Sheen's character, and why he went from space hero to recluse zero. But we do get a lot of manly displays of affection like this one here (especially when Sheen's character gets drunk and keeps telling his young friend how "beautiful" he is).

Then Sheen dies or something- I watched the film a while ago and it wasn't exactly burned into my memory. Something about a lunar radioactive cloud? Don't ask.

We learn though that while Sheen was on the Moon he discovered evidence of an ancient settlement (or expedition) on the lunar surface. So here we are yet again with the ancient astronauts, who of course are at the center of Cocoon. All of this really comes out of nowhere and has nothing to do with the rest of the film. In one of the film's many unintentionally hilarious bits of Freudian symbolism, Sheen gives Slater a screw- his lucky moonscrew, to be exact.

Slater and D'Abo then find a moon rock in Sheen's greenhouse. The rock has two holes one round and the other kind of slit-like (I know, I know) and Slater fits the screw in....

...and a big Cocoon-like psychedelic lightshow spews from the rock while Sheen's voiceover expresses great confidence in his young ward, even though the two had zero chemistry and we get almost no sense of their bond or anything. We get even less with Slater and D'Abo.

The entire sequence with the ancient astronauts and all of the rest of it seems like a total tack-on, an attempt to link it all to the Cocoon mythology, perhaps even to place it in the same universe. From what I've read that's exactly what happened- the studio meddled with the film and added in all of the sci-fi elements. Interesting what elements they chose to add in.

Then an old friend makes an appearance...

...Gus Grissom.

And there's that magic date- the same date Barack Obama chose to essentially close NASA down and privatize the space race. The same NASA that had such a difficult relationship with Grissom (as does Sheen's character in this film), and who was blamed by Grissom's family for his death. Rumors that Obama ended that January 27 press conference with "Grissom, thou are revenged!" cannot be confirmed at press time.

But how does this all tie back to Ron Howard and Cocoon and all of the rest of it? Howard had no involvement with Beyond the Stars, but he and his favorite leading man Tom Hanks have paid tribute to Grissom in several projects, some you'd expect like Apollo 13 and From the Earth to the Moon, and some that betray a cultish devotion, like the incongruous Grissom appearance in That Thing You Do.

And the Ron Howard/Obama links are by no means trivial- remember that Howard produced and starred in a longform infomercial for Barackobamun's campaign (which has mysteriously vanished from the Internet). Paranormal enthusiast Henry Winkler costarred as an aged Fonzie.

We've looked repeatedly at examples of the Hollywood Grissom cult, but what does the martyred astronaut have to do with ancient astronauts?

Ask the producers of the Ancient Aliens series, which superimposed a picture of Grissom over an ancient statue with frighteningly NASA-like accoutrements. Ask the producers of Star Trek III, in which the name Grissom is repeated like an incantation in a dying-rising astronaut narrative with a powerful demiurge subplot.

Even with the posts about Obama and Grissom, I'd have been predisposed to chalk up the Grissom connections up to Synchronicity if pressed hard enough.

Until this past January 27th, that is.

What began as a kooky hunch is now set in stone - there's something odd going on with this Grissom thing. And seeing it tacked onto Beyond the Stars, which had ancient astronaut theory tacked onto it as well, I can't help but wonder how the space hero fits into the unfolding narrative.

What we're looking at here is a pile of strange connections, all tied into the memes that have been emerging in the past couple of years. We started off looking at a bizarre quasi-Masonic ritual (with a crossdressing subplot, no less) on a TV show that was so bland as to be inert, but still produced two completely incongruous UFO-themed spinoffs (Mork & Mindy and Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang).

Henry Winkler went on to produce a primetime news show about UFOs and the paranormal (Sightings) as well as MacGyver, whose lead went on to star in Stargate SG1. Happy Days creator Garry Marshall played the UFO/Conspiracy nut role in Race to Witch Mountain.

Ron Howard broke through as a director with two films tying directly into this Atlantis/Sirius/Mermaid meme we've been studying, one of which had serious initiate/Mystery undertones. And if that weren't enough Howard's daughter had her own breakthrough playing a mermaid herself in Lady in the Water.

Aside from all of the space-oriented projects Howard's been involved with, he's also the director of the Dan Brown adaptations, which made esoteric symbolism mainstream.

UPDATE: A Scottish rite? Giant metallic mermaid- with four arms- constructed in a suburb of Glasgow. Thanks to an anonymous tipster.

SYNC LOG UPDATE: From the anonymous tipster file: The New York Post chimes in on the mermaid meme, apropos of absolutely nothing:
The red carpet at the 62nd annual awards was awash in mermaids, those sirens in figure-hugging dresses who once lured sailors (and Tom Hanks in “Splash”).
The article goes on to cite non-mermaids like Kim Cardassian, tossing in some loaded symbolism, yet ignoring the blue and gold of the red carpet backdrop:

Kardashian channeled her best Cleopatra in a white Marchesa with a gold jeweled collar. The goddess trend still hangs on for many in Hollywood, including Julie Benz from Dexter,” who looked striking in a one-shoulder Pamella Roland gown with a cut-out circle at the hip.

The best fashion comeback was Tina Fey, who jumped on the mermaid train and finally got it right with the help of Oscar de la Renta.

I did think it interesting that Temple Grandin walked away with the lion's share of the awards...

UPDATE: Reader Deb reminded me that Sheen was in the 1994 HBO movie Roswell, with Twin Peaks' Kyle MacLachlan.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Atlantis Rising: Initiation, Revelation and Profanation

Read parts one and two here

Ron Howard's 1985 Cocoon followed hot on the heels of his 1984 commercial breakthrough as a director, Splash. That film told the story of a mermaid who takes human form and takes up with a bachelor played by Tom Hanks. The film ends with the couple swimming to Atlantis.

In this regard, Cocoon can be seen as a sequel to Splash, since the story revolves around an alien rescue operation of hibernation pods from the ruins of Atlantis. As we've seen in the past few years, these memes of Atlantis, the mer-people (or Sirens), and aliens are bleeding into the pop culture and outside of it as well. A lot of this symbolism has revolved around Sirius - see the "Stairway to Sirius, Revisited" megapost and the field report of the Alexandria Harbor excavations.

The aliens in Cocoon don't hail from Sirius but from Antares, a star whose name means "Opposed to Mars." That connection is fascinating, given some of the Atlantis/Mars connections we've seen from some alternative researchers. Wiki states that "many of the old Egyptian temples are oriented so that the light of Antares plays a role in the ceremonies performed there."

Ron Howard is a major power player in Hollywood and his films have featured multiple esoteric thrulines, both hidden and overt (as in his recent Dan Brown films). With Cocoon he wandered directly into ancient astronaut territory, even though the film doesn't make a big deal of it like a Crystal Skull or Revenge of the Fallen does. Part of that might be the fact that's it not a franchise film with need for a mytharc, but it also may be that Howard travels in circles that take it for granted.

Either way, there's a whole host of memes very familiar to regular Secret Sun readers in the film, so let's first dispense with the obvious, plot first...

Cocoon revolves around a group of senior citizens living at a retirement community in Florida. The obvious allegory here is the Fountain of Youth, which was believed to be in Florida by Ponce de Leon (this is deeply-embedded symbolism to most movie critics).

Three friends, Ben (Wilford Brimley), Arthur (Don Ameche) and Joe (Hume Cronyn) try to keep spry and regularly break into a well-kept pool house (built in the style of a Roman villa) on an neighboring abandoned estate to swim. Unfortunately, a new group of tenants then rent the house.

These tenants, led by Walter (Brian Dennehy) and Kitty (Tahnee Welch), rent a fishing trawler captained by the hapless Jack Bonner (Steve Guttenberg). Jack tries to run a fishing tour business, but he's teetering on the brink of insolvency.

Walter’s group takes Jack out to a spot in the ocean where they recover several large rock-like pods, which they store in the pool on the estate. When the new tenants leave, the older men decide to swim in the pool even though the pods fill the pool. The effect of the pods in the water reinvigorates the men and they eventually bring their wives to experience the effects.

The film then follows the men and their wives and girlfriends as they are all physically, sexually and spiritually rejuvenated by the effects of the pool. Ben’s failing eyesight is restored and Joe’s cancer goes into remission. Ben and his friends then try to interest their friend Bernie to try it, but he's terrified of anything but the certainties of aging and death. Bernie also refuses to bring his wife to the pool, though she suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

On the boat, Jack peeps in on Kitty as she undresses and discovers that she's an alien. He panics, but he's outnumbered and out in the open waters. Walter then explains that they are a benevolent race that held an outpost on Atlantis before it sunk. They came back to recover several of their mates who inhabit the cocoons in a state of suspended animation.

Soon, Walter and his group discover the seniors in the villa, who in turn discover that the new tenants are aliens. The group comes to an agreement - Walter will let the men use the pool if they don’t reveal the aliens' mission.

Eventually, Bernie reveals their secret of the pool in the dining hall during an argument with Joe. A mob of seniors stampede to the villa and storm the gates. They deprive the waters of the life-giving force that the cocoons need to sustain their inhabitants. Walter and his group return to see several of the alien beings die within their pods. The rest need to be returned to Atlantis.

The AstroGnostic Rapture

Walter then offers Ben and his group a chance to come back with them to Antares, promising them that the Antareans have the means to prolong the seniors' lives. Jack takes a group of other seniors with them, but the Coast Guard is called when the seniors are reported missing and Jack’s boat is pursued by the authorities. Suddenly the great Antearean mothership appears and takes Walter and his team and the assembled seniors aboard and flies off into space.

The first thing about this film that fascinates me is the use of the villa for the pool. Cocoon's Atlantis subplot brings to mind another doomed ancient city, namely Pompeii. It was there that the Villa of the Mysteries was excavated, a ritual temple for the Dionysian Mysteries that boasted a series of breathtaking mosaics depicting an initiation, which was a ritual rebirth into the cult.

The word “cocoon” itself refers to the rebirthing chamber that caterpillars construct to complete their metamorphosis into butterflies and moths. Hence, cocoons were seen as symbols of rebirth, for obvious reasons.

Within the film's villa there is a statue of a water carrier, which is probably Ganymede. Tying back to the ritual androgyny of the Happy Days episode we looked at in the first part of this series, it's worth pointing out that the aliens in their true form here are themselves androgynous, something that you see not only in UFO lore but also in esoteric texts from antiquity.

The Initiation- The meeting between Ben and Walter has an strongly initiatory undercurrent, signaled by the vaguely Masonic decor of the room, with the checkerboard floor, and the three sunrise windows. It's interesting to note that the Ben character is losing his eyesight in the film and initiates are often blindfolded in these kinds of rituals. It's also interesting that the three older men are sworn to secrecy. But most importantly, the secret here isn't some vague, symbolic flibbledy-floo but a concrete and tangible knowledge and life-changing experience of the alien gnosis.

For reference here's another variation on the Stairway to Sirius first degree tracing board, showing the floor and the three columns, representing the Sun, Moon and Sirius.

The Profanation- The symbolism of the Baptism is unmistakable here. Ben, Joe, Arthur and their wives are essentially are a secret society in league with the aliens, and use their unworldly power towards their own ends. The mob of seniors who crash the villa represent the great horror of secret societies - the profaning of the Mysteries by the greedy, ignorant masses. Note that the profanation of the alien temple depletes the power, both for the aliens and the initiates.

This theme of the Mysteries lending eternal youth to the initiate - and the danger of profanation- is also the theme of Star Trek: Insurrection, another narrative jam-packed with very, very loaded symbolism (as are all of the Next Generation films).

And where there's a baptism there must be a baptist. Interesting that Jack's nemesis is "Kirk," a name meaning church.

More interesting details: ‘Jack’ is a pet form of John. And ‘Bonner’ is a simple anagramatical cipher for Oannes. Here’s how it works: take a letter from B and you get A. Then add a letter to R and you get S. BONNER becomes AONNES, an anagram of OANNES. Coincidence? Maybe, but this is representative of a very basic form of cipher.

And as usual, the mothership strongly resembles a mushroom cap with the heavenly beam acting as the stem (a common icon well familiar to Secret Sun readers). Again, we're square in the middle of AstroGnostic territory - the alien gnosis offering escape from the fallen world that sickens and kills good people, and deliverance to the higher planes where the power of the Demiurge and his archons is broken and the knower is given eternal life.

The real life parallel here is the exodus of the original hippies from habitats like San Francisco -where the counterculture had been commercialized and dumbed-down by later waves of wannabes - to communes and alternative communities in rural areas. But the problem of knowledge and technology - or cultures, even- being exploited and degraded by the greedy and egocentric is a very old problem, and one that shows no sign of correcting itself in the near future.


POSTSCRIPT: I can't help but think of this film- as well as Ron Howard's connection to The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons when I hear "The Stonecutter's Song":

Who leaves Atlantis off the maps?
Who keeps the Martians under wraps?

We do! We do!

Who holds back the electric car?

Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?

We do! We do!

NOTES: There are any number of headers I could have listed this post under. It certainly ties directly in with the themes explored in the AstroGnostic series, as well as the Alien Dreaming and the Widening Gyre posts. The next installment is going to take us straight in Gus Grissom territory.

One of the things I struggle with on this blog is how to present material in a way that won't bore regular readers but also won't completely lose new readers. Part of this kind of analysis relies on the sheer repetition of symbols in similar patterns, and you have to experience that to appreciate the effect.

I've followed back some links leading to this blog and have discovered that a lot of people have absolutely no idea what I'm doing here. A lot of them are your typical kneejerk reductionist/denialist types, whose opinion is important to no one but themselves. But at the same time there are a lot of people who want to grok this arcane constellation of connection and symbol and expand their own consciousness but can't always find a way in. That's a nut I've yet to figure how to crack.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Atlantis Rising, or Ritual Androgyny in the Strangest Places (REPOST)

Has it really been five months? I'm reposting this since I wanted to post part 3 and realized absolutely no one would remember what the hell I was talking about. I had planned to clear out the queue this summer, but it's been so hectic, symbol-wise.

Strangely enough it was an airing of Transformers 2 last night that brought this series back to mind, as well as the usual memetic background noise. I will also be returning to the Transformers issue as well, seeing as my second viewing of the film revealed a much, much different- and considerably darker and heavier- film than the one I saw last year. "More than meets the eye" indeed...

Before the long-running sitcom Happy Days gave us the term "jump the shark" it was one of the biggest hits on TV, offering nostalgic comfort food to a nation scarred by the convulsions of the Sixties, Viet Nam and Watergate. Its humor was extremely mild and gentle, revolving around a middle class, Midwestern family in the placid Eisenhower years.

It starred Ron Howard, the carrot-topped moppet of The Andy Griffith Show and now one of the most powerful men in Hollywood. It was also the last place you'd expect to find crypto-Masonic initiations, ritual androgyny and candlelit rooms filled with robe-clad secret societies. Well, at least back then.

In the first season episode, 'The Deadly Dares', Richie and Potsie strike out at a dance, then watch in horror as a paunchy schlub (played by an actor who looks around 40) picks up a hot blonde who is taken in by the allure of the schlub's Demons jacket (the Demons being a school fraternity with secret society pretensions). Interesting placement of schlub's head there, no?

Fonzie is an inactive member of the Demons and sponsors Richie and Potsie for membership. The Demons accept them, but first the two must undergo an series of hazing rites, most of which are cringe-inducingly lame. Mind you, this is a show that went out of its way to be inoffensive.

Which makes this scene all the more interesting: Richie and Potsie have to dress in drag and attend a sock hop. They can't leave until someone asks them to dance. Fonzie unwittingly slow dances with Richie and seems to be extremely aroused by his pal. Shades of Jimmy Olsen, which makes sense given Fonzie's later superhero persona. Every Hercules needs a Hylas, right?

'The Deadly Dares'- like the rest of the Happy Days series- won't be remembered as a masterpiece of comedy. The series was a palliative- a soothing balm for a wounded nation trying to relive those halcyon days when America was the only industrial power that wasn't crippled by the wars. In the context of the series, the episode is an aberration. In the context of Ron Howard's career, it seems downright prophetic.

After leaving Happy Days, Howard tried his hand as a director, working on low -budget fare for producer Roger Corman. His first two features were Grand Theft Auto (1977) and Cotton Candy (1978). In the context of this story, however, his third gig as a director is more telling.

Through the Magic Pyramid was a 1981 made-for-TV movie about a young boy named Bobby Tuttle who travels back in time through a magic pyramid and engages in all sorts of wacky hijinks with a young King Tut, the great restorer of the Horus throne. Pyramid starred Chris Barnes, best known for his portrayal of the foul-mouthed Tanner Boyle from the Bad News Bears movies. Pyramid also starred Vic Tayback as Horemheb, but the less said about that the better.

But Howard’s first big hit was Splash, in which Howard began a long and successful collaboration with Tom Hanks (their most recent pairing is the Illuminati-themed Angels & Demons). Splash is a spin on The Little Mermaid, in which Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid who comes to live on the surface world (note that Daryl is traditionally a man's name).

And of course, Tom Hanks is no stranger to androgyny himself (ritual or otherwise), having made his bones as a crossdresser in Bosom Buddies. All of which gives 'The Deadly Dares' a distinct taste of meta- almost as if we're witnessing some kind of initiation with these roles themselves, outside of the interior narrative. Speaking of Superman, I can't help but remember that Terrence Stamp's 90s comeback was kicked off by Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a film that also launched the careers of Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce (all of whom made for extremely unconvincing drag queens).

The mermaid was an important symbol to the Alchemists, who called her the ‘Siren of the Philosophers.’ More importantly, the Siren also brings us straight back to our old friends Oannes and the Nommo...the Sirians, in other words.

We'd meet those folks in Howard's next hit, Cocoon. A film which is also a lot deeper, subversive and symbolically loaded than it's usually given credit for- and which seems to be a kind of sub rosa sequel to Splash.

UPDATE: Kirk Ultra checks in with this absolutely mind-boggling video, replete with Alien Isis and anthropomorphic Anubis. Here's the lowdown from TV.com:
Inspired by the hit ABC-TV series Happy Days, this cartoon has Fonzie and the rest of the gang (Richie, Ralph, and the Fonz's dog Mr. Cool) spread cool fun as they travel in a time machine to different times and places throughout history. Their guide is Cupcake, a young futuristic girl who pilots the machine, which they repaired for her following her unscheduled landing in Milwaukee in 1957. The original cast members voiced their own characters. Voices included: Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Richie (Ron Howard), Ralph Malph (Don Most), Cupcake (DeeDee Conn), and Mr. Cool (Frank Welker). The cartoon began on November 8, 1980 and ran until September 18, 1982.
Moral of the story- There is often semiotic treasure in the worst pop culture trash, if you know where to look for it. Yeoman's work, Kirk.

NOTE: Kirk also reminds us that UFO/alien-themed Mork and Mindy was a Happy Days spinoff, though I'm still debating whether it's worth including in the series. Maybe I'll have to watch the episode where Richie meets Mork again. We will glance over Lady in the Water again...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dog Days: The Ground Zero Mosque

I made mention the other day of this shot from HuffPost pertaining to the "Ground Zero Mosque" debate surrounding Park51 or the Cordoba House or whatever it's being called this week. Knowing Huffpost's tendency to slip highly loaded symbolism into otherwise mundane stories, I made note of it but didn't dig deeper, seeing as how the story gives me a major headache. I know there's some weird hidden agenda hiding behind all of the controversy, I just can't figure out what the real story here is.

For those who aren't familiar with the story dominating the news media during the Dog Days, here's a short wiki primer:
Park51, originally named Cordoba House, and sometimes referred to as the "Ground Zero mosque", is a planned $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel community center and mosque in New York City. The facility's design includes a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, art studio, food court, September 11th memorial, and prayer space that could accommodate 1,000–2,000 people.
The whole story has an air of unreality around it and readers have pointed to the 51 number vis a vis Area 51 and 3x17. The 13-story thing is a bit strange, certainly more Masonic than Islamic. Those details nagged me but weren't much in and of themselves.

Despite the fact that the story is ubiquitous, I didn't think to look into it until a writer at The Daily Beast compared the Mosque to the Balloon Boy melodrama (a story that was closely followed here when it broke), arguing that at best the Mosque is more an idea than a reality.
With less than $9,000 raised and a chaotic PR strategy, the “ground zero mosque” is nowhere close to becoming a reality. Asra Q. Nomani on why the media frenzy is this summer’s Balloon Boy.

As debate rages over the “ground zero” mosque, the media has once again whipped itself into a frenzy over a story that doesn’t really exist. Without money, a nonprofit organizational structure, or a coherent PR strategy, the plan to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero, dubbed Park51, remains nothing more than a pipe dream.
Then there was also this odd detail about the planned development - the site was struck by a piece of Flight 175, which seems a bit peculiar to say the least.

But the thing that really struck me was the map there, since it introduced the Stairway to Sirius into the drama. What's the Stairway to Sirius? I'm glad you asked.

The Stairway to Sirius comes from the First Degree Masonic tracing board, which pictures angelic beings descending from the "Blazing Star" of Sirius. Sometimes the stairway is a ladder, but it usually leads to a Masonic lodge, presumably where these cosmic visitors from Sirius will reveal the secrets of the Universe to the initiate. However the Freemies themselves choose to interpret the image (and I've gotten some flak from some of them for this), that's what it shows.

The icon seemed to reappear during the 2008 Election. The logos of the two major Presidential candidates seemed to split the components of the Sirius hieroglyph and incorporated the stripes of the flag as steps.

Obama's logo also incorporated the circumpunct, or point in circle, which researcher Wayne Herschel has recently linked to the Sun of Ra, which we also looked at before the election. Whether or not the ringed sun is actually Sirius is still up in the air.

From the election forward I've been working from the assumption that the Stairway to Sirius is an important- if not definitive- symbol of this point time (all of this is in the ritual vocabulary that many other authors have documented, pertaining to the street map of Washington, DC and the rest of it).

Who exactly the symbol is important to is another question.

A joint appearance by McCain and Obama at Ground Zero on 9/11/08 got thinking again about the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan which also encodes the Stairway to Sirius, with the five faces of the cut pyramid corresponding to the pentacle and the step pyramid (designed originally as a "stairway to Heaven") corresponding to the stairway.

The Stairway played a major part in a series inspired by the Norway Spiral drama, a cycle which seemed to culminate in the revelation of the Sirius Stargate, represented by the excavation of the Gate of Isis from Alexandria Harbor on December 17 this past year.

The WFC now dominates the downtown skyline when faced from the Hudson River (which itself hosted a recent drama ripe with ritualistic parallels) and may well be the signature of Manhattan the way the World Trade Center once was.

But where the twin towers corresponded to the pillars of Solomon's Temple, the symbolism of the WFC takes us much further back, perhaps even to the Zep Tepi or "First Time" of Egyptian legend. We looked at that possibility in a major post called "Bringing It All Back Home," which summed up the symbolism thrown around during and after the election.

The palm-lined Winter Garden of the WFC also aligns directly with the so-called Millennium Hilton, a hotel explicitly based on the Monolith seen in Kubrick and Clarke's ancient astronaut/intervention manifesto 2001, A Space Odyssey. A pretty remarkable coincidence in light of the connection here to the Stairway to Sirius (as well as the fact that palms are in the Phoenix genus).

So what does this have to do with the Ground Zero Mosque?

Well, nothing except for the fact that the site for the Park51 building aligns directly due east with the pyramid of the World Financial Center, or the Stairway to Sirius...

...which you can see in this image, included in a MediaMatters gallery of the recent protests (from "Eye of the World") for reasons I'm not entirely clear on. Another nod and wink?

And of course politicians are inserting themselves into the drama, most famously Sarah Palin's call for Muslims to "refudiate" the mosque (which brought me back to this shot of Palin at the GOP convention with a blazing Sol and the circumpunct stand-in of the Ferris Wheel). And all for a project that doesn't even seem to really exist.

My question is is this controversy a distraction or yet another initiation into this ongoing symbolic narrative?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gods and Geeks in the Endless American Twilight

The interfaith website Patheos asked me to write a piece about the new gods of pop culture. I discuss the various memes relating to superheroes, Avatar, Twilight, Dragon*Con and much, much more. Here's an excerpt:

The cliché has it that there are no atheists in foxholes and a similar dynamic is at work in modern culture. As the wars, the Great Recession and all of the rest of our miseries grind on, people of all persuasions are finding a place to escape among all of the rich fantasy worlds of Geek Culture. Conventions are flouting economic trends and are growing at an astounding rate. The San Diego Comic-Con now draws upwards of 150,000 people, in a building a quarter-mile long. Besides rich fantasy worlds, Geek Culture offers something else in short supply these days: gods.

As I argue in my book Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes, superheroes are not so much like the heroes of the ancient world as they are like the gods -- the savior gods, to be precise. Ancient heroes like Ulysses and Achilles were out to achieve immortality through feats of courage and endurance; they didn't much care about anyone else. Hercules (a hero turned demigod turned savior god) is the most direct parallel to heroes like Superman. Creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster deliberately modeled Superman on figures like Hercules and his biblical counterpart Samson, with bits of back-story cribbed from Moses. In fact, gods like Horus and Mercury were explicitly used for heroes Hawkman and the Flash (as well as their many imitators).

If the gods once possessed ordinary people (think the Mysteries or Santeria), it's the other way around today...

Read the entire article here and weigh in with your thoughts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Children of the Flaming Wheel pt. 2: The Solar Phone

In the previous post, we looked at what reads like the minutes from an technoccult ritual in which young hippies contact alien artificial intelligences over the vast reaches of space using psychic projection. Jack Kirby seemed to like the idea so much that it included it in a contemporaneous story, starring none other than our old friend, Jimmy Olsen.

click to enlarge

Jimmy Olsen was Kirby's first assignment for DC Comics following his long and successful stint at Marvel, where he and Stan Lee essentially revolutionized American pop culture. Kirby dropped the reader straight into a totally new universe for "Superman's Pal," in which the pair encountered "The DNA Project," created by one Dabney Donovan. From Wikipedia:
Donovan had largely been accredited for the non-human creations of the Project, referred to as "DNAliens" (human beings cloned then genetically altered to discover superhuman potential while also giving them a more "alien" appearance)... there are also step-ups who call themselves "the Hairies," super hippies who have developed an evolved knowledge-base, and developed transport and defense technology beyond the understanding of modern day humans.
In this yarn Superman and his pal take a techno-trip via the 'Solar-Phone', a kind of precursor to virtual reality with serious psychedelic overtones. Kirby introduced the story with this breathless prose:
Strange names in a strange world which as evolved in a great natural cavern beneath modern America! This is the world of the Project- where the secret of the century has been kept! The harnessing of the DNA molecule! The breaking of the genetic code!
...or is that the DMT molecule?

Kirby presents us with an idea we recently saw in The Outer Limits - alien signals converted into musical tones - though here the tones then create psychedelic inner landscapes. In many ways this story is a sequel to the Children of the Flaming Wheel.

Kirby used the cut-up/collage technique to envision completely alien landscapes, ones not bound by the standard features you'd expect, like geometry, gravity, perspective, and so on. He began this while still at Marvel, with the Negative Zone and Ego, The Living Planet and so on.

The crappy comics printing never did the images justice, reducing psychedelic images like this to black and white, then overlaying globs of badly-separated color over them. It's amazing to think what comics readers (like me) used to put up with to get their fix.

Like this- another story originally intended for Spirit World but printed in Weird Mystery, delving into Kirby's obsession with UFOs. Kirby's non-comic art was largely focused on images of aliens, ancient astronauts and of course, the gods. He often used the collage method to imagine truly alien-looking spacecraft. After all, when you've drawn a few thousand comic stories dealing with the topic you have to do something different to break out of the old, predictable conventions, that have become so familiar as to not be very alien at all.

And much to the chagrin of a lot of older 70s fans, Kirby's alien fixation took over his comics work, as did his fixations on conspiracy, genetic manipulation, ancient astronauts, and so on. Spirit World seemed very much like a dry run for what was to come. Strangely enough, Kirby's work - so dreadfully unfashionable at the time - has aged a lot better than all of the pretentious pseudo-relevant, pseudo-cosmic fluff that was popular then.

Kirby originally did this Weird Mystery story about a psychic for Spirit World, that I can't help but think was autobiographical. Note the reference to a wartime incident linking "Burkel" to a "world beyond." I can't help but wonder what linked Jack himself to that world. Does that little burst in Burkel's head reminds anyone of the pineal gland, or have I just been reading too much McKenna today?