Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Technocrats and Trojan Horses

Some of you might have heard by now of the so-called "Roswell Slides", the latest controversy concerning the alleged "flying saucer crash" of July 1947. In this case a couple slides were found of bodies in glass cases, and the holders of the photographs believe they are of the bodies of dead aliens long rumored about, said to have been transferred from Roswell Army Air Field to Wright Field, now known as Wright Patterson AFB.

The slides are hotly disputed even within the nuts-n-bolts community, with many decrying them merely as photographs of hydrocephalic mummies. That in turn is denied by claims that the physiology is entirely different and the bodies are too tall to be a hydrocephalic child, who usually die before they can grow long past early childhood.

I don't know what they are myself. My gut tells me they probably aren't aliens. I'm not a believer in the "crashed saucer" paradigm. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert in the field, but I'm not so sure that UFOs and aliens are entirely physical (or solid) objects as we commonly define that state of matter. I think we're dealing with something altogether more complicated than that.


You see, to me this slides business seems like the latest (or perhaps, last) attempt to colonize the UFO phenomenon, to control it. The whole notion of "UFO crashes" has always felt like a relic of the Cold War, extending American colonialism to the stars. It implies a sense that we could somehow dominate this phenomenon, that Divine Providence were casting angels out of the sky and into our laboratories so that we would know their magic.

The funny thing is is that I think something extraordinary did happen at Roswell in 1947, something that greatly alarmed the powers that be and something that changed this country in more ways we may realize. What it was exactly is something I've spent some time pondering but have yet to come to any conclusions, but I have a feeling it might have been even stranger than a "crashed saucer."

What we do have to ask ourselves though is this: say we did recover a crashed saucer at Roswell and were able to reverse engineer its technology, leading to the electronics and technology we now take for granted- was that necessarily to our benefit? 

Are we getting smarter or freer or healthier or happier because of all this technology? Or was it all a kind of Trojan Horse, ultimately leading to a Borg State? A Trojan Horse left for us by a race not unlike the Solid State Intelligence of John Lilly's most unhinged ketamine fever dreams?

I don't necessarily believe that myself but I do believe that we put far too much trust in technology. Increasingly too much, in fact. 

When idiots become so lost in their private reality show that they'll take giddy selfies at concentration camps or exploded buildings, we need to stop and seriously think where this technology is taking us.

In this, Roswell has become a kind of technocratic mythos, one that people have processed even if they don't in fact believe it literally. The deal with the Devil. And as usual, we come up short in the negotiations.


The real problem I ultimately have with nuts-n-bolts thinking is that its theorists don't really have a concept of what is truly "alien." They want to find reflections of themselves, intrepid space scientists on a solar scouting mission. Astronauts in a funhouse mirror.

The ETH proponents have always argued that aliens are some kind of research team, here on a surveying mission. Hence a few of them have even argued that the aliens have gone home, and did so some time in the early 70s.

However,  if you look at the phenomenon it looks not so much like a surveying mission than a surveillance mission. Hence the apparent tail-off in quote-unquote landings and close encounters is explained not by the "aliens" taking their thousand-year trip home, but simply adopting more stealthy methods of surveillance in the age of home video and cell phones, so that their presence is never anything more than ambiguous. 

If you study the history of espionage, you'll see that spies often made themselves known to their targets as part of a stratagem (not to mention police doing surveillance work) to modify their subject's behavior in some way. Yet this kind of argument would be heresy to an ETH guy.


What's more, ETH guys are slide-rule thinkers in an iPad world.

They tend to conservatism in an endlessly fruitless quest for respectability. But they will never, ever-- short of a major, unambiguous revelation-- ever be taken seriously by mainstream science. Scientists increasingly spend a lot of time talking about aliens and whether or not they should be contacted (why would they care if there was no chance of them ever getting here?), but the idea they've already contacted us is blasphemy.

So much of the rancor you see in UFOlogy is down to jockeying, guys trying to big themselves up by branding their rivals as kooks, not realizing that the official world sees it as a rhetorical debate in a madhouse.

In a weird way it reminds of the conflicts in the alt.rock scene in the early 80s. You had a schism within punk; some bands felt you needed to appeal to the mainstream, to play by its rules. These became the New Wave bands. Then you had bands who felt that the mainstream needed to be reformed, that it would come around if you stood your ground and stuck to your guns. These were the Post-Punk bands. 

The New Wave bands found more immediate success but nearly all of them collapsed under the weight of the compromises made. The Post-Punk bands took longer to achieve success, but found that the struggle to define themselves against the mainstream gave them a greater sense of mission and often led to these acts holding together while others split up.

It's an extremely inexact metaphor because the ETH is still the dominant paradigm by far in UFOLogy. But more and more people are embracing alternative points of view, such as the Ultraterrestrial school of thought put forward by John Keel, Jacques Vallee, Aime Michel and other theorists, ways of thinking that embrace some of the strange reverberations set off by the phenomenon, the synchronicities and high weirdness and so on.

The thing about the esotericist school of UFOlogy is that it has history on its side. When you really get down and read some of those myths you see on Ancient Aliens, they're a lot weirder and a lot less technological that Giorgio might have you believe. Not so much stepping onto a spaceship as stepping into another reality.


The Roswell Slides are a sideshow, but I think the UFO issue is going to heat up again (in fact has already begun to do so, as it always does immediately after it's declared "dead"), particularly as the drums of war are heard in the distance. The skies are indeed pretty crowded right now, but people are already tuning out the novelty of drones, lanterns and exotic aircraft. And for whatever reason, the UFO phenomenon tends to react to what's going on on the ground. 

Call it Jacques Vallee's "control system", call it black projects, call it "Blue Beam" or call it whatever you like, the fact remains that geopolitical trends are all pointing now towards a global conflagration of some kind. And if history shows us anything, it's that times of tension are exactly when strange things begin to fill the skies. Roswell might seem little more than footnote by the time the smoke clears.

SYNC LOG: Just had a weird UFO sync while going over this post. Ironically connecting with a famous case of UFO synchronicity. Go figure.

UPDATE: Fact or Faked star Ben Hansen breaks down the body language from Obama's Area 51 chat on Jimmy Kimmel.

UPDATE: The consistently unforgivably brilliant Gordon deals with our Faustian bargain with tech, this time the "disruption" delusion.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Church and the Black Swan

This was a grim week here at Secret Sun Central- a friend of my sons died in an accident and we attended his wake Thursday and my sons attended his funeral yesterday. He was one of the first friends my younger son made in this neighborhood. 

His family are the salt in the salt of the earth, a large and close-knit unit that I've always greatly admired. The kids all went to college, all got good jobs, all were active in sports and the community. People living the American Dream.

The turnout for the wake was astonishing. The parking lot for a large local church was filled- we had to improvise a spot. The receiving line wrapped around the enormous sanctuary. 

True to form, the family were solid, in good spirits, strong, gracious, warm and personable in their time of tragedy. I wasn't so much myself. I felt ashamed because I had a very hard time concealing my grief when talking to the family. But again, there they were; understanding, smiling, accommodating, stolid.

The family are devout Catholics, active in their local church. It appeared that a lot of the turnout for the wake were parishoners, coming to support a woman whom they love and value as an important member of the community. I couldn't help but think of the Roman era and how we are reliving it now, and how the love and support in a time of grief was such a powerful tool of persuasion in the spread of Chrisitianity.

Christianity wasn't alone in building bonds of community, of course. There was Judaism, which was an influential and widespread religion in Roman times. And you had a number of other religions, most notably that of the Mother Goddess Isis, which the Roman Church of today so resembles. 

But it struck me that in Roman times you had a powerful and evangelizing faith which atomized, rather than gathered. And that was the religion of cosmopolitanism, an umbrella under which all of the systems of disbelief such as Epicureanism and Stoicism coalesced. And of course, like today you also have Nü Atheism.

Nü Atheism is an adolescent movement. The adults who follow it have adolescent (or pre-adolescent) temperaments and personalities (Maher, Dawkins, Gervais, Myers etc) and it's grown in popularity since you have a large generational cohort reaching young adulthood and seeking to set themselves apart from their parents. But it's reactionary and petulant. A pose, not a philosophy.

The Christian churches helped it along by cynically allying themselves with partisan political interests of post-Cold War conservatism, ignoring that the so-called Mainline churches thought they too were surfing the crest of a wave by allying themselves with 60s liberalism. Didn't work out that way.

There are many in the Church who see this as a time of exile, many who see the current mood as a millennial shift, that the Church faces the same abyss the state cults of Rome did when Constantine began the process that brought the Church to power. This is absurd. Christianity is rising like wildfire in Africa and China, is reviving in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe and remains powerful in Latin America. 

It's in the graying, dying, shrinking precincts of Western Europe and North America where religion is in decline. 

Gee, you think there's a connection?

Many very conservative Christians (conservative theologically, that is) see this as a time of discipline for the Church, that God is punishing the Church for submitting itself to partisan and economic powers and neglecting its calling to evangelize and to serve the poor.

I don't know, it's no longer my fight. I left the Church for very complex and powerful reasons. Part of this was my disgust with the politics, with the aggressive partisanship of the 90s Southern Baptist and nondenominational ascendancy. I disdain Nü Atheism and its tributaries for the same reason, though in this case the politics are a mirror image. Same aggressive polarity, different party.

But I'm not one of those who are writing the Church's obituary. I think when the Millennials hit middle age they'll remember how nice it felt to be part of a community and will want to return to some kind of church. And to see the power of an institution that can provide such solace and support during the worst time of your life; well, what do the atheists have to counter that

Inevitably, the priest scandals come up, curiously often by the same people who ally themselves politically with people trying to mainstream pedophilia such as the BBC,  Salon.com and The Guardian. The priest abuse scandals were a total disgrace, there are no two ways about it. But at the same time the lion's share of the cases were decades old. Not that the damage is, however. The damage is often forever.

Yet he same people calling for the abolition of the Catholic Church because of the scandals and the cover-ups go suddenly silent when you point out that the worst of the Church's scandals are nothing in comparison to the sexual abuse of students committed by public school teachers. 

We are hearing cases seeming to pop up on a weekly -sometimes daily- basis from the public schools, and yet we don't see any movement from the Atheist movement to abolish the public schools. Why? Why the double standard? 

Science and math teachers especially commit rape, statutory rape and other forms of sexual abuse at alarming rates and yet the media seem to look the other way. 


It's a funny thing for me- I could never join the Catholic Church for reasons both personal and historical. But I respect it in many ways, as much as I decry its abuse of power. I'm not a joiner, I value my position as an outsider. But I do wonder if we're working backwards in a way, reliving late Rome but in reverse.  

I've written about the New Age, and how its power and influence is often unnoticed because it presents such a nebulous target. But it continues to grow and influence the mainstream religions in ways people don't quite yet understand. There are yoga cults most people have never heard of that have tens of thousands of followers.

And I do believe that without the monopoly of the churches -especially the intimidation and repression we often saw from the Southern churches towards any competition- that we will see interesting new religious movements flower once this adolescent rebellion burns itself out. 

We can't really guess at what they are yet. These things tend to follow larger streams of environment and event, meaning they arise in reaction to what is happening in the world and respond to the needs that present themselves to be filled. Social media may well be the medium in which the contagion may take root.

Whether or not they take the symbols of religion literally, people find meaning in them and the will to overcome adversity. They find community, fellowship, and support in time of trial. As our overclass becomes more antihuman and more psychopathic, those are needs I can only see increasing. Who will fill the void?

As powerful as the Church is I just don't think its symbols still resonate with people today. In that way it is like paganism in the Fourth Century, finding its neolithic vocabulary no longer resonating with a modern audience. The Bible was written for a time when families were companies and most of the population were slaves. You had limited technology and most people worked in menial labor until dying sometime in their 30s or 40s. 

Maybe the Church can reinvent itself. Maybe Islam will take hold, fueled by a disgust and utter fatigue with modernity and cosmopolitanism. But it's just as likely a black swan may arise, something we can't even imagine yet. Something that will fly under the radar, fueled by the technology of today. 

Aggressive atheism pops up from time to time and breeds itself out of the gene pool (I keep meaning to create a graphic using an old man mourning at a grave and write "Atheist Family Reunion"). It may be how Gaia or the Overmind cleans out certain social maladaptations in the body politic, I don't know. But already many- if not most- of the articles we see from atheists in the mainstream media are protests about how the author isn't like those atheists, the jerks. 

Heaven forbid.

Religion predates America and will exist long after America has disintegrated into a Balkanized collection of corporate serfdoms (which is to say 'in 30 years or so'). It serves a basic human need and has done so for millennia.  I see nothing of any real value or permanence filling that need in its absence. The only question in my mind is whether the old religions will revive or that black swan will take flight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On The X-Files Revival...

By now you've heard the news: The X-Files are returning to Fox for a limited series. David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson and Chris Carter have signed up. Best of all, the City of Vancouver has been enlisted as the shooting venue for the episodes.

Longtime readers know how badly I wished the series never left Vancouver, with its moody atmospherics and deep pool of talent. The series lost something vital when it left Canada after Season Five, and that may have a lot to do with losing executive producer RW "Bob" Goodwin, the man on the floor who made the magic happen.

I was watching some episodes in Season Eight (read my epic post on the season here), specifically the episodes I had given the lowest ratings to. And it surprised me how well they've aged and how obvious the effort to recapture the magic of Vancouver was.

I was just telling my wife how I seemed to tune in with Season Seven at the time (aside from crapfests like 'First Person Shooter' and 'Fight Club'), how some of the mystical themes seemed to synch up with my life at the time. But I feel that it's aged quite badly, that all the comedy and high concept may have been novel at the time but now it just seems like they were squandering the show's hard-earned mystique. It's actually my least favorite season now.

Of course, disenchantment had happened the season before, a season I definitely did not appreciate at the time. But I didn't know then that the producers were struggling to keep their star engaged in those seasons, even after he unilaterally forced the entire operation to move to Los Angeles.

But aside from some of the really broad comedies ('Rain King', 'Aqua Mala', 'How the Ghosts Stole Christmas') and the paint-by-numbers eps ('The Beginning', 'Alpha') I think there's a lot of high-quality work in Season Six, even if the show seemed hellbent on running away from itself (it certainly seems to be the favorite of a lot of fans online).

As I've said, Season Eight is by far my favorite season of the LA years and the truest reflection of what the show might have been had there not been so much creative interference coming from outside the writers' room (hence the record nine Carter/Spotnitz Mythology episodes)

But it's the Vancouver era where the magic really lies (particularly seasons Two, Three and Five). Even the weaker episodes (and there are no shortage of those) retain a certain charm because the machine was so well-tuned, so efficient at telling compelling stories.

I'm of mixed feelings about this reboot, not because I don't have faith that the people involved can't still do excellent work, but because of my alienation from the world it is reincarnating into. No matter what goes on screen there will endless bitching on the Internet. I am going to do my best to tune the negativity out, as I've tried to do since, oh, Season Two (I'm still totally mystified by the bitching about the second XF movie, which to me was a classic 1994-vintage standalone, replete with a host of familiar 1013 faces).

But part of me wants it to remain an indelible part of another age, a better age. An age when everything didn't seem so totally fucked-up. It's the same impulse you get when an old band reunites. Part of you wants them to remain as a totem of another time, not this time. As much as I want to see some new material, I don't know if I want The X-Files to be a part of 2015.

Or I only want to see The X-Files if it exists to defy 2015, with its superficiality, narcissism and Balkanization. Certainly the show is more relevant than ever but it will also be reaching an audience to whom "conspiracy" is a four-letter word, thanks to incessant media conditioning. I've already seen Millennials bitching about The X-Files' distrust of government and corporate power. Sigh.

But maybe The X-Files will strike a nerve once more and make it cool again to question authority. Stranger things have happened.

UPDATE: Excellent interview with Chris Carter where he takes some of his critics head on.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Novel Approach

I remember hearing a story on NPR once about how the survival of a language depended on literature, that if a certain tongue didn't produce a substantial corpus of literature it would eventually die out.

I think ideas are like that. You hear the phrase "predictive programming" thrown around a lot in conspiracy media-- usually in an incorrect context-- but it's most certainly true that Hollywood and other forms of entertainment media have shaped our culture in ways other institutions no longer can.

The entire extraterrestrial hypothesis owes everything to Hollywood. When flying saucers first appeared the general assumption was that they came from behind the Iron Curtain, or in some esoteric circles, were the war-weapons of a Nazi regime in exile. It was a barrage of flying saucer movies that cemented the association with Martians or Venusians or Reticulans in the public mind, when Crypto- or Ultraterrestrials would make just as much sense. Especially given the fact that what people were seeing looked like hovercraft, not like anything that could escape Earth's gravity.

The personal computer and hacker revolutions were most certainly accelerated by Cyberpunk, first the novels and short stories then the parade of terrible movies and TV shows. No one believes today that computers or the Internet will set anyone free, but there was that expectation back in the late 80s and 90s, which definitely fed the dotcom boom.

Religions are fed by art, literature certainly. Where would Christianity be without the soaring rhetoric of the Apostle Paul? The spread of Islam in the Middle Ages was done with both the sword and the word; the great poets of the Muslim world were often as powerful argument for their faith as their slavers and swordsmen.

And though we may not recognize it, we are in the middle of a Gnostic Renaissance, a time when more people are familiar with the belief system than any time in history. Can you imagine it without the novels of Philip K. Dick or movies like Dark City and The Matrix?

Is this new Gnosticism condemned to recede back into the tides of history, the same way the Syrian and Alexandrian sects did, the same way the Cathars and the Bogomils did? That all depends. Certainly it's difficult to imagine the kind of ecclesiastical backlash that destroyed the previous expressions of the Gnosis, given that the Church has its own crisis to deal with. There are plenty of other antagonists with annihilationist agendas-- the Islamic Wahhabis, the totalitarian "social justice" thought-controllers, the Nü Atheists, the Paleoconservatives-- but they seem focused on destroying each other (not to mention civilization, the humanities and culture in general) to worry about small potatoes like Neo-Gnostics.

If The Secret Sun is anything it could be called "Neo-Gnostic." I've detailed Gnostic themes (and AstroGnostic themes, especially) in several films and TV shows, but I have to say that job has gotten harder in the past 5 years. We're in a strange fugue state in the culture and in society and our art reflects that. Paleocons have been bashing Gnosticism lately because Gnosticism is a tabula rasa to them, a scare word that they can project everything they don't like about our post-postmodern, cosmopolitan, nihilistic culture onto.

Their definition of Gnosticism is amorphous and comes from Traditionalist Catholic and Evangelical apologetics, sources not known for their scholarly dispassion. But I think Gnostic ideas express themselves best in art and entertainment, which is why I've spent the past 8 years talking about them.

But as I said, I feel like I'm running out of interesting source material so I decided that it was time to start creating some of my own.

This is a sort of homecoming for me, since my earliest writing was fiction. I wrote fiction all throughout high school and later did a few comics projects. Those led to my spending a few years shopping scripts for movies around. I have to say that even though I didn't sell anything I had a comparatively cushy ride. I got a lot of interest from major independent producers before I'd written my first screenplay, based solely on my graphic novel.

I wasn't cut out for it, though. Even though I met some very nice people (I got a lot of help from Kevin Smith's* people at View Askew, for instance), I knew I was getting myself into a situation that I wasn't suited for, nor was it suited for me.

But I can't help but wonder if maybe I just was too impatient, that maybe I should have had a stronger stomach for it, given the fact that a treatment I wrote in the late 90s magically transformed itself into the 2011 Saoirse Ronan vehicle Hanna, by some bizarre quantum fluke in the space-time continuum.

A lot of people have asked me over the past 5 years when I was going to do a new book. To be honest I was so unhappy with the entire experience of the rock 'n' roll book I wasn't sure when I was going to write another. Sadly, my publishing career (with one major exception) has been marked by major issues with creative control over the work.

Page/word counts have been my nemesis since my very first project, and at this point in my career it's not something I am willing to compromise on anymore. It's like writing with handcuffs on. It's why I've published so much on this blog, several books work of material if you add it up. No restrictions.

The book market has changed drastically in the past five years. Self-publishing has gone from being a joke to being the gold standard for independent-minded authors. The only satisfying experience I've had so far in publishing was my book on The Clash, which was essentially self-published. I did everything on that book, from concept to layout to production, and handed the printer a PDF file. It was wonderful. It's an experience I intend to repeat.

So what this all adds up to is that I am up to my neck in a new book, a fictional work this time, a novel. I've got the entire story plotted and boarded out (literally- I've taken a page from The Matrix and have drawn storyboards for many of the events- it's an incredible tool for working out thorny storytelling problems). I've got about 90% of the dialogue roughed out. The other 10% then leads to the polishing and rewriting, a process that usually takes twice as long as the original writing itself.

What's it about? Probably what you might expect. I'm a big believer in the concept of "dance with the one what brung ya." I've spent the last 8 years blogging about the topics that most interest me so you can expect to see a lot of them in the book.

But there are a lot of surprises as well. I've been surprised by the process, amazed as characters reveal themselves to me in ways I'd never expect for and events arise that I could never plan for. Writing is truly a magical art when it becomes an act of discovery, when the characters take control of the process and tell you their stories.

So what brought this all on? Appropriately enough, a VALIS reread. Somehow it hit me at the right time, the idea that Dick chose to tell this magical story, that was only barely fictionalized and so ripe with power. Life-changing, world-changing power. How what some might see as the drug-fueled delusions of a handful of weirdos in Southern California in the early 70s was alchemically transformed through fiction into something possessing an indescribable power. You can't help but be struck by the audacity of it.

My story is entirely fictional, there's nothing of a kind like VALIS in it. But I'm trying to draw on that same energy to communicate ideas, to realize them, to transubstantiate them from fringe notions to experiences.

Since I'm doing this on my own, I don't have a deadline. It will be published when I feel that it's 1000% killer, that it's a world-beating, stone-cold classic (in my own humble opinion, of course). But I may serialize at least part of the story here. That seems like a logical progression, especially given the subject matter I'll be exploring. And it certainly fits The Secret Sun ethic as well.

Watch this space...

*Clyde Lewis told me Kevin Smith is a Secret Sun fan when I was on Ground Zero, a fact I'd long suspected.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Just Around the Corner"

Everyone is a skeptic and a believer, when you get right down to it. Everyone has their own set of beliefs and their own set of hopes and dreams. Everyone has had disappointments and experiences that teach them to be wary and untrusting. 

Oftentimes, you can scratch a skeptic and find a closet believer, and vice versa. Sometimes the difference between a skeptic and a believer is just a few drinks.

I once was a believer in Progress, the inevitable linear march towards the future. Now I am--maybe not a skeptic so much as a (very) cautious believer. Or maybe just a wishful thinker. I see Progress not as a straight line but a scribbly one. Things get better for some people and get worse for others. 

In my lifetime Syria, Iraq and Ukraine were modern, industrialized countries with educated populations. Now they are disaster areas. But by the same token the opposite can be said of many other countries who were mired in war and poverty 30 years ago but now are forces to be reckoned with. 

Like I said, it's not a straight line.

Industrial Progress was once America's surrogate religion. Gordon recently wrote about the late Edward Condon, a hero to debunkers but a man who had the professional ethics of a schoolyard meth dealer. 

Condon's religion- the religion of the "March of Progress"- was so existentially threatened by UFOs that he rigged the report, fired whistleblowers when his deception was revealed and then burned all his notes so no one could review his work. Had this been any other topic, Condon may well have been put up on charges (Uncle Sam was footing the bill). He certainly would have been disgraced by his peers; but his peers shared his religious beliefs so he was rewarded for his acts.


The Western world once believed in Progress towards heavenly salvation. The entire world was revealing itself and unfolding in such a way as to glorify Jehovah and lead to a paradise on Earth. With the Age of Discovery and the Industrial Revolution, these same exact expectations were merely transposed onto Science.

We have more sophisticated technology than ever before, but it hasn't led to Paradise, and most certainly not the stars. Silicon Valley isn't the engine of  Utopia, it's the engine of the new Feudalism that dominates California, which went from being a middle class paradise to being one of the poorest and most economically stratified states in the country, a place of grotesque inequality and near absolute-zero social mobility.


I'm old enough to have heard how the next world-changing technology is "just around the corner" but all we really seem to get are faster and smaller versions of things we already had. I remember seeing articles claiming that bionic limbs were "just around the corner" when The Six Million Dollar Man was popular. Virtual Reality was "just around the corner" 20 years, it's still "just around the corner" today. Hovercraft as personal transportation was "just around the corner" around the same time. 

When's the last time you saw a hovercraft?

Transhumanism was all the rage a few years back, but now it's somehow landed on the attack list for online skeptics. Desperate Singularitarian and Transhumanist true believers increasingly look electronics companies who went all in on the Betamax format. We were hearing how uploading our minds into robot bodies was the way to achieve immortality, but now Silicon Valley is going all in on medical (read: pharmaceutical) solutions for longevity.

Androids are supposed to be "just around the corner" but I feel like I've been seeing the same creepy Japanese fembot press conference on a tape loop since the Reagan Era. Sure, computers can beat grand masters at chess, but can they build a birdhouse and take out the trash as well? Artificial Intelligence is supposed to be "just around the corner," but I've seen a lot of serious skepticism about that as well.

Of course, there's also the "Disclosure Movement", which forever keeps the illusion alive that the government is going to reverse 70 years of policy and admit that not only do UFOs actually exist, but that they are extraterrestrial spacecraft. That's always "just around the corner" too. The Edward Condons of the world may feel threatened by the possibility of someone possessing greater technology than themselves but the government does so for an entirely different reason, believe me.

But for guys my age, space is the biggest disappointment. Star Trek electrified a generation of kids who didn't have a lot else to look forward to, and then of course there was Star Wars. But it seems like they're both in a galaxy far, far away these days.

The two success stories of the space program, the Lunar Reconaissance Orbiter and the Mars Opportunity Rover, are being unceremoniously defunded by the Obama Administration, who seem content to keep NASA alive as a mouthpiece for "global warming" propaganda (the New England area just received the most snow in recorded history, a headline we seem to be seeing a lot lately).  There's another probe being talked up for Mars but not much else. 

I can't help but wonder if all this Flat Earth and ISS hoax material out there is in some way a reaction to the broken promises of the space program and of the better-living-through-technology paradigm altogether. 

I have to say these videos are entertaining, and there are a lot of curious anomalies in the ISS footage, but the question you have to ask is why bother? Who really cared about the Shuttle, never mind the ISS? The Apollo hoaxes have a compelling motive; keeping a country together during a period of extreme crisis by creating a massive "feel-good" diversion. An ISS hoax? Who cares?

People my age grew up expecting there to be bases on Mars by now and certainly some kind of colony on the Moon. But what if the skeptics are right? What if outer space is an impassable hell of lethal radiation? (Radiation could certainly explain why we aren't picking up any coherent radio signals- they're being garbled as they travel through giant waves of radiation trillions of miles wide.) 

I'm not saying I necessarily agree, but certainly there are a lot of huge gaps in the orthodox position on space exploration.

Joe Rogan said, quite cannily I thought, that when the Apollo missions were done that no one could have foreseen the age of home video recording, to which I'd add they didn't foresee the age of image analysis being available to anyone with a decent computer either.

When challenged about whistleblowers, Rogan brought up Gus Grissom. He could have brought up several other astronauts and NASA employees who died violent deaths during that same time period. He could have also brought up the fact that there were whistleblowers, like Bill Kaysing.

It's not something I want to believe. want to believe in the March of Progress. The alternatives aren't very appealing.  I'd say most of the serious Apollo skeptics started out as serious space nerds. I'd also bet there are a lot of quote-unquote believers who are in fact skeptics, but are afraid to speak up. 

Technology has very often solved many of the existential problems of the human condition (see irrigation, agriculture, medicine, air flight, etc). But technology also has a tendency to empower the worst of us to do harm to the best of us. 

It's why as I wrote before we may see ever stranger expressions of dissent from the dominant consensus, which preaches Progress and the salvational force of Technology. What form they take and where they go will be something to watch, you can bet on that.  Social revolutions often spring from the most unlikely sources.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Power of Unreason

Gordon sent me a link to a Channel Four page (for those of you who don't know, C4 is the highbrow channel in Britain that brought you the pseudo-conspiratorial drama Utopia. A comedian- it's always a comedian- is doing a show on British UFOlogists that is set to air tonight in the UK. 

What the angle is is hard to tell from the interview with the host in question.  In fact the anonymous gatekeeper who conducts the interview seems downright offended the show isn't the usual BBC sneer-a-thon (UFOlogists are always a safe target for the British media).
You don’t try to debunk these theories. Why did you adopt that approach? 
That wasn’t the focus of the show for me. None of us wanted to make something that was laughing at these people. It was more a matter of going “Look, this is an actual thing that’s happening, and millions of people around the world believe in it,” and if you’re at a dinner party and you’re sitting next to one of these people, you can either say that they’re mad, or dangerous, or idiots, or you could have a good conversation with them. I’m more interested in just hearing from them what they think is going on and why. If you see a documentary with Richard Dawkins, you don’t have time to understand what the religious person thinks, because Dawkins is shouting them down. That’s in no way productive for a conversation.
Or maybe what's really happening is that as the Establishment becomes more and more contemptuous of the citizenry, strange ideas are beginning to well up out there. We hear a lot of Establishment cheerleaders screaming "anti-science" at all and sundry, but none of these seem to acknowledge that every scrap of science being done is ultimately controlled by the Military-Industrial Complex.

That the only way you can get the resources to do any serious science is to completely submit to some corner of the ruling class, otherwise you may as well futz around in the garage with your ant farm and your Sea Monkeys for the rest of your life, no matter how intelligent or ambitious you are. 

There are cliques and factions within the ruling class, which is why you might see some science being done that challenges prevailing orthodoxies, but usually the best-funded factions win. 

The so-called "anti-Science" people are generally more aware of the politics of science than the "pro-Science" crowd. Of course these terms are meaningless- or more accurately Orwellian- since "anti-Science" is simply used to attack people who don't mindlessly submit to every single press release that emerges from a corporate or governmental flack.*


One of the tricks the Establishment uses as these voices well up is try to defuse them with surrogates they believe they can manage. UFOlogists are downright moderate in comparison to some of the ideas brewing out there, one of which is the Flat Earth movement. One of the appeals of the movement is its preposterousness, in fact its proponents tend to acknowledge how ludicrous it sounds in their arguments.

The Flat Earthers are somewhat oblique in their presentations, but I am kind of getting a Gnostic, Dark City vibe from the material I've seen. They also dismiss the entirety of the space program out of hand as a hoax and I have to admit some of the ISS stuff is pretty curious. 

Will it grow past its curiosity value? There's a certain trangsressive appeal to it. I wonder if it could be a harbinger of a new trend, a way of saying "fuck you" to the technocrats. 

There's also the more problematic battle over vaccination, a battle that really moved from the far fringes with the emergence of Gulf War Syndrome in the early 90s. The media is unanimous in its opposition to this movement, but the movement uses that not as a liability but as an asset. Look at the recent controversies over tall tales told by anchormen like NBCs Brian Williams and Fox's Bill O'Reilly to see just how poor the public image of the news media is these days. No "anti-vaxxer" gives a shit what the media talking heads think of them.

Things have gotten so that Google has floated the idea of ranking websites by "truthfulness," using sites like the Democrat-partisan website Snopes.com as an authority. That will surely backfire. The people who gravitate towards unconventional scientific ideas generally rely more on social media and reflexively distrust authority. They'll automatically skip the top results and head for the back pages. 

If Orwellian tactics prevail and the material is excised from the web altogether, it will thrive via email and instant messaging. Indeed, official sanction usually acts as corroboration for fringe theories.

Science made its bed with the power structure- it didn't have any choice. But once those facing the erosion of freedom and opportunity stop being distracted by the shilling and strawmen, Science is going to have a serious PR problem on its hands. 

Maybe more than that, depending on what the endgame of this giant chess match is....

UPDATE: Gordon picks up the thread on the C4 UFO show...

*If people ask I describe 2015 America as a chunk of Weimar, with a dollop of 1984, a slice of Brave New World and a pinch of Khmer Rouge. Ironic that today's authoritarians are yesterday's "free thinkers."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cults of One

In his latest post, Gordon quotes Hansen and the relationship between the Paranormal and Religion. Let me just say that I read Hansen's book and enjoyed it but the whole "Trickster" thing gives me a headache, since it all too easily becomes a RAW-type way to say nothing and sound like you're saying something unbearably profound. 

Hansen himself often comes across as the Trickster, trying to skirt the edges of scholastic propriety while still playing with his paranormal toys. A cake-and-eat-it kind of proposition. There's a lot of that around, as you are probably all too aware:
The trickster unifies major, but seemingly unrelated, themes surrounding the paranormal. For instance, the paranormal is frequently connected with deception, and deceit is second nature to the trickster. Psychic phenomena gain prominence in times of disruption and transition. Tricksters are found in conditions of transition. The paranormal has a peculiar relationship with religion; the trickster was part of many early religions, and he was viewed ambivalently. The statuses of paranormal phenomena are typically uncertain or marginal in a variety of ways. Tricksters’ statuses are similar. [The Trickster and the Paranormal.]
Gordon, as usual, cuts out the bullshit and gets to the core of the matter:
Only rarely does the numinous, the extradimensional, appear in such a fashion that an operational framework can be built out of it. Attempts to scale what are effectively personal Mystery experiences into group structures always create monstrous, octoparrot abortions. Just look at Christianity.
To which I would simply add this: Which Christianity, though? Christianity was a boiling cauldron of mutually hostile sects until one of those sects- the one led by the so-called "Bishop of Rome"- was chosen to be groomed as the cult of state by the Emperor Constantine. It split into two in the Middle Ages and then into several Christianities during the Reformation. 

The Christianity practiced by Roman Catholics has undergone several major revisions over the past two millennia, so much so that the versions would be incomprehensible to one another. Even the practice of the Mass is changed. And you can be certain- without lapsing into Ehrmanian revisionism- that the Roman Christianity of the Fourth Century would be incomprehensible to the primitive Levantine Christianity of the First.

Gordon is spot on- it is almost impossible to create a group entity out of what is essentially a personal experience. The Mysteries themselves were content to provide a venue for shared personal experience- see Samothrace and Eleusis. It wasn't until the macho Mithraists rolled into town that things got all structurey, with ranks and poobahs and rituals of endurance. 

It's pretty hard to imagine the Bacchants taking roll or going through any kind of high ritual motions (high ritual being the kind of endless pageantry you see at the state cults, the deadly boring stuff you still see the European royals run through).

The other problem you have with coalescing along these shared experiences are the inevitable tourists and wannabes. I imagine this was/is a major problem with the abductee movement. People want to belong, people want to have unusual experiences. The fact that many abductees report their experiences as traumatic is no problem, you can find just as many others who claim they were angelic.

But any field of human activity is going to face the same problem, especially when it becomes fashionable. It isn't just occult groups that have to deal with internal dissension. Anyone who's paid attention to the ongoing civil wars in the skeptic community should realize that (you can add in other civil wars I'm missing in the comments). 

The sad fact is that groups are usually only successful when led by a strong, charismatic figurehead who has access to money. You can have one or the other but you really need both.

The Internet has made everyone a super-genius and expert at everything so getting anyone to join a group- in which they'd have to submit to the will and/or discipline of an organization and its leadership is almost unimaginable these days unless money is involved. 

Indeed, there are all kinds of phony "grassroots" groups out there, most of which are astroturf entities funded by politically motivated billionaires like George Soros and the Koch Brothers. Their "members" are pliable college grads who are either interns or wage slaves. And there are the usual pressure groups out there, which consist of a letterhead, a mailing list and a few slick operators who don't want real jobs.

Globalism and the ubiquity of the media have done a number on civic consciousness, which is really the prime motivator behind movements and groups. I think there was a genuine threat posed by the various Occupy movements- for about 5 minutes in 2011, but TPTB cannily unleashed the social justice warrior virus into the mainstream, which at this writing is well on its way to completely atomizing liberalism and liberal society into countless thousands of hostile nano-identities. They rolled out of prototypes of this after the Yippies caused trouble in the late 60s and again after the turmoil of the early 90s but I think they're playing for keeps this time.

The ironic thing about the paranormal is that once you peel away the cultural accretions you're dealing with the same basic types of phenomena. And as much as occultists and pagans hate to hear it and will scream and rend their garments when you point it out, UFOs have always been at the center of weirdness. Start at Babylon and work your way up- you'll soon see.

If there's another Fatima-type event (which is to say a mass paranormal event), I think all bets are off and all outstanding loans will be called in. You'll see an explosion of cults and sects such as the world has never seen. But in the meantime I think cults of one are what we'll be seeing for the time being.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Astronaut Theology: Unidentified Flying Architecture

Some of you are probably familiar with the curious Wat Phra Dhammakaya Buddist temple in Thailand, which has become famous for its unique design. It's really stunning to see the tens of thousands of worshippers praying around what most people would immediately recognize as a replica of a flying saucer. But it's part of a global trend in architectural design, a trend that includes some of the most significant organizations in the world. 

The flying saucer design of the temple might normally be a curiosity, but it's one of the largest active temples in Asia. The numbers are staggering:

The community living at Wat Phra Dhammakaya now numbers 3,000 monks, novices, laymen and laywomen - making it the largest temple in Thailand in terms of inhabitants. Congregations on Sundays and major religious festivals reach 100,000, which since 1985 exceeded temple capacity and influenced the temple's decision to expand the site to one thousand acres (4 km²) with the building of the World Dhammakaya Centre project.
There's also this arena in Shanghai, China, which Mercedes Benz- one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world-- currently has the naming rights to. You might be thinking it doesn't look as much like a UFO in the daytime, but perhaps we should look at it at night...

...there, that's better. What was this arena originally built for? For China's version of the World's Fair:

Expo 2010, officially the Expo 2010 Shanghai China, was held on both banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, from 1 May to 31 October 2010. It was a major World Expo in the tradition of international fairs and expositions, the first since 1992. The theme of the exposition was "Better City – Better Life" and signifies Shanghai's new status in the 21st century as the "next great world city".   

It had the largest number of countries participating and was the most expensive Expo in the history of the world's fairs. The Shanghai World Expo was also the largest World's Fair site ever at 5.28 square km.
That's the funny thing about this list here; superlatives like "largest" keep popping up.

In a stunning coincidence, Mercedes Benz also sponsors one of the original flying saucer megaplexes, the New Orleans Superdome. Speaking of superlatives:

Because of the size and location in one of the major tourist destinations in the United States, the Superdome routinely makes the "short list" of candidates being considered for major sporting events, the Super Bowl, College Football Championship Game and the Final Four.
Bonus Secret Sun Sync: the numerals of my birthday-- 7/01/66-- are also the zipcode of the Superdome.

As you can see the effect of the lighting of the Superdome closely resembles classic illustrations of flying saucers (it also kind of reminds me of that odd water tower in Pushing Tin).

What exactly is going on here? Aren't UFOs supposed to shut-ins and tinfoil hat types? Why are we seeing them used as design inspiration for these buildings? It's strangely reminiscent of the alien themes used in the Olympic Games, both overtly and covertly.

I suppose a UFO megaplex in Astana, Kazahkstan shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the futuristic architecture of that city. In this case the building is used for an unexpected purpose; the renowned State Circus of Kazakhstan. Of course, the "circus" in question is nothing like a traditional American circus, more like the Cirque du Soleil; a collection of acrobats, dancers and daredevils:

The circus staff is 320 people, most of whom are actors. The troupe includes both young circus performers who were awarded various prizes in Kazakhstan as well as honored masters of circus art, the winners of international festivals and competitions. Besides, within the frames of cooperation among creative teams, Astana circus performers tour in Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and Japan. 

Kazahkstan is an extremely interesting country, not only because it was rumored a few years back to be building an alien embassy. The country also plays host to the world's busiest spaceport:

Baikonur Cosmodrome is the world's first and largest operational space launch facility...It is leased by the Kazakh government to Russia (until 2050) and is managed jointly by the Russian Federal Space Agency and the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces ... Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian spaceflights are launched from Baikonur.

Reader Rick sent this mind-boggler- the Singapore Supreme Court building. What's the symbolism at work there?

Speaking of international games, Brazil refurbished this curious building (the Maracanãzinho) next to the stadium used for the 2014 World Cup. It now gives the impression of Jesus greeting a flying saucer. 

How about that for symbolism?

Also in Rio is the Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, which looks like the craft from the Betty and Barney Hill case.

Speaking of the arts, Reader Andrew points out the Century II concert hall in Wichita, Kansas, another extremely interesting design.

Gordon from Rune Soup reminded me of this building- the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, arguably the most important religious icon in Mexico. A classic, 1940s kind of design, like something you'd see in an American International picture.

The world famous Space Needle, the symbol of the City of Seattle, was openly modeled on a flying saucer and built at a time when Seattle was one of the most important centers of the aerospace industry. 

Today Seattle is a world leader in information technology but may soon be on the cutting edge of aerospace again: Elon Musk plans to base the Mars Mission division of SpaceX in Seattle. Will the city build a new monument to mark the occasion?

The Pacific Northwest is the birthplace of the modern Flying Saucer Age. Kenneth Arnold had his famous sighting in the Cascade Mountain range, an event which was predated by the controversial Maury Island incident, in which ring-shaped saucers ejected molten slag, allegedly hitting a salvage boat. 

That incident would eventually lead to the deaths of two Air Force officers and become the topic of heated debate in the endlessly contentious UFO community.

Perhaps the Maury Island incident is less controversial among the movers and shakers of British intelligence, given the fact that their nerve center looks very much like one of the UFOs witnessed at that event. It's also somewhat similar to the Mercedes Benz logo with the indication of the three-pronged fork. Isn't that an interesting coincidence? 

What's the purpose of this building?
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence and security organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces.
Oh yes, just a marginal bunch of UFO hobbyists, surely.

As it happens the future headquarters of Apple Computer shares a similar design, and has been called "the flying saucer" by many observers. Apparently the design was chosen by Steve Jobs himself. For those of you who need a reminder:

Apple is the world's second-largest information technology company by revenue after Samsung Electronics, and the world's third-largest mobile phone maker. On November 25, 2014, in addition to being the largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization, Apple became the first U.S. company to be valued at over $700 billion.[4] As of 2014, Apple employs 72,800 permanent full-time employees, maintains 437 retail stores in fifteen countries,[5] and operates the online Apple Store and iTunes Store, the latter of which is the world's largest music retailer.
I think the old expression needs to be revised: "Millionaires don't believe in flying saucers, billionaires do."

Toronto City Hall boasts a more traditional flying saucer design, more similar to that of the Superdome. Toronto is the most important city in this G8 country, a major hub for industry and finance:

As Canada's commercial capital, (Toronto) is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the headquarters of Canada's five largest banks. Leading economic sectors in the city include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism, and engineering.   Toronto is considered an alpha world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network and is placed among the Global Leaders in the Global Financial Centres Index.

Then there's this interesting detail at the entrance to Sony Pictures in California. Sony is another one of the top corporations in the world, manufacturer of the immensely popular PlayStation gaming console and several other varieties of consumer electronics. Sony Pictures is one of the major studios in the Hollywood system, having acquired Columbia Pictures and several other production companies.

So what's going on here? None of these choices are made lightly. In many cases consultants are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars just to offer their opinion on the design of corporate buildings. Why open their client to ridicule by choosing a design that is based in (an ostensible) marginal subculture?

Every one of these designs was approved by committees and board members and all kinds of important, well-paid individuals. These designs are chosen only after long, exhaustive processes and done so in order to express a message to the world about the entity it represents.

Think about that. Think very, very carefully about that.

UPDATE: Reader Bruno drops some links in the comments section, including this oddity in Brasilia, which looks like a still from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

UPDATE: Hesperia Hotel in Barcelona. Thanks to a reader.