A recent discussion held this week at Cryptomundo made think about some of the aspects I dislike the most about the 'skeptical' movement, and people who like to use that term but are in reality as fanatic in their denial as the true believers are in their blind faith.
You see, it's not only the problem that 'skeptics' claim the onus is always on the side of the ufologist/cryptozoologist/ghost-hunter/whathaveyou, even if they never bother to give solid arguments to sustain their refusal to merely entertain the possibility of something truly anomalous, no matter the amount of evidence gathered to support a particular case. What good is evidence --from the Latin word evidentia, implying it's clear and for all to see-- if you don't have the disposition to even look at it with an open mind?
How many of you have fantasized with your favorite skeptic being the actual witness of a UFO landing, a Bigfoot encounter, or a ghost apparition? how many of you have wished them to be on the other side of the experience for a change?
Well, I've got news for you: it wouldn't matter anyway.
Even if something truly anomalous would happen to them, not only would they find plenty of 'resons' to doubt their own subjective experience --Michael Shermer is very fond of saying that trained observers are just as bad as regular Joes when it comes to interpret the things registered by their crappy mammalian optical nerves (think about that next time you take a flight trip) in order to easily dismiss the evidence presented by researches like Leslie Kean without breaking a sweat-- chances are they would probably not register it into their conscious memories anyway!
Either that, or it would be swepped away into their mental 'meh' cabinet file, the same place most folks keep their weird anecdotes so they can focus instead on their day-to-day problems.
When thinking about this, I remembered the ending of the movie The Perfume [spoiler alert] and how Jean-Baptiste Grenouille manages to escape his public execution by exposing the mob to his magic perfume, causing a wonderful massive orgy right in the middle of the town's square:
After the sated peasants come to their senses and quickly gather their clothes, the narrator tells how instead of agreeing never again to discuss their forbidden debauchery, they simply erase it from their memory as if it had never happened. This, I think, is a great allegory of how the human mind usually deals with extraordinary experiences, as a control mechanism that permits a person to keep a preferred belief system even at the face of something that challenges it.
The will to believe is just as strong as the will to deny.
So what would prevent someone from dismissing the anomalous as a simple mental abherration? I guess the answer is: if the anomalous left an indelible trace in the person's life. Consider for example the tale of one Saul of Tarsus, a man who had a deep grudge against a new cult sweeping the ranks around the people of Israel, and was committed to hunt down these dangerous fanatics who called themselves 'Christians'. On his way to Damascus, he came face to face with something remarkable:
And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.
This account, which despite the source's credibility might just be based on a true event (and for the sake of argument let's assume it does) is relevant to the discussion not because of its religious connotation, but because Saul has no choice but to accept the objective reality of what happened to him... on account of him being blinded by it!
Granted, someone reading this could easily point out that everything I've written could easily be switched to the other side of the argument; that true believers' refusal to acknowledge evidence that debunks their favorite cases show the same type of bias and near-sightedness.
What I want to do is appeal for the middle road: being open to all these possibilities, yet remain emotionally impartial and unwilling to fully commit to neither. Accept that there is compelling evidence that suggests the factual existence of anomalous phenomena, but agreeing that so far the evidence does not constitute incontrovertible proof.
Because here's the thing: in their stubborn denial to acknowledge the possible validity of some of the cases presented thus far, and in their stead-fast insitence that the pile of evidence keep rising & raising until it becomes undeniable, I fear the skeptics are not considering the nasty side-effects this behavior causes in the end: the longer we refuse to change our cultural paradigm, the harder will it be for most of us to adjust to that new reality; and the more unpredictable the dominant institutions will become.
Just as the Classical philosophers in Rome and Alexandria never bothered to deal with the irrational currents coming from the Middle East, until they found the world as they knew it ceased to exist and was forgotten for a thousand years, the modern 'skeptics' should acknowledge they are not doing a service to Science by simply dismissing all the accounts given by honest individuals, wishfully thinking that if they heed no attention to them eventually they'll cease to exist.
The longer you stay in the dark, the more you'll be blinded by the light.
A humble construction worker from Guadalajara seems to have received the answer to his prayers, in the form of a tiny figure he alleges is an actual fairy.
José de la Luz claims he found the etheric femunculus after it fell off from a tree. According to him, the little lady was still alive, but later she fainted and died. He then proceeded to put the little body in a glass with formaldehyde. [News source 1] [News source 2]
What's surprising about this strange news is not the actual claims of José, but the HUGE response it has received on his little humble community! Flocks of people are willing to wait hours on a line just to get a short glimpse of this magical corpse... after they pay a small fee to the proprietor, of course
By now it should be obvious to anyone reading these lines that the 'fairy' is nothing but a cheap plastic figurine, quite possibly one depicting Pixie, a somewhat-obscure character in the X-Men Marvel Universe. But what prevents all those fervent neighbors to realize the obvious?
Is it perhaps that the psychological tension caused by the constant bombardment of blood-soaked news and economic warnings brings people into a state of 'altered reality', in which anything seems possible --including sylphs and fairies and other denizens of the subtler realms?
Or maybe it's the need to believe in something --ANYTHING-- that might bring some pale shimmer of hope lest one fall into utter despair when standing at the brink of the precipice.
Whatever it is, this should be an interesting case study for any student of the Paranormal; for it seems to be an example of how in an environment heavily charged with anxiety, the strangest belief systems can rise & flourish --say, belief in the superiority of the Aryan race in Germany during the Depression years, for instance?
Mexico & the world face a plethora of difficult challenges ahead, and no amount of clapping is gonna fix them for us --Now, if you'll excuse me, Mr. Smee summons me to the deck... later.
Amid all the violence caused by government's war on drugs, it's strange to come across news of another radical group, but with a very different agenda.
Last Monday the Mexican TV media announced that two academic researchers working for the Monterrey Technological Institute had suffered injuries caused by an explosive device inside a package. A few days later it was known that an extremist group known as 'Individuals Tending Toward the Savage' --Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje (ITS)-- claimed responsibility for the bomb, and it is believed they are also responsible for the attack against another researcher occurred months earlier in a different technological school.
Their motive: to protest against the social & ecological damages caused by modern technology, and to warn against the dangers of nanotechnology, which has the potential to enslave mankind, and cover the entire planet in grey goo, as can be read by their manifesto, published on an extremist blog named Total Liberation.
"When these modified viruses affect the way we live through a nano-bacteriological war, unleashed by some laboratory error or by the explosion of nano-pollution that affects the air, food, water, transport, in short the entire world, then all of those who defend nanotechnology and don't think it is a threat will realize that it was a grave error to let it grow out of control."
The manifesto mentions and applauds the actions of Neo-luddite Theodore Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber, who is currently serving a life sentence for the mail-bombing spree that killed 3 people and injured 23 others.
Their motto: "Nature is good. Civilization is evil."
As oddly as it may sound, anarchist groups in Mexico with eco-extremist tendencies are nothing new. For the last few years sporadic reports of small home-made explosive devices targeting a McDonald's restaurant or an ATM have been claimed by anarchists who support animal rights and are against the economic system.
Added to their same M.O. they also share a penchant for colorful names: Earth Liberation Front, Eco-saboteurs Brigade for Non-forgotten Revenge, Animal Rights Militia, Clandestine Mexico, Eco-anarchist Cell for Direct Attack, and so on.
Authorities had regarded the statements and actions of these groups --who might very well be one and the same--- as little more than annoying pranks... until now, that is.
With all the more 'analogical' problems affecting the world right now, it is somewhat odd to deal with a group of young people --and their ideologies and methods seem to suggest we *are* dealing with young middle-class college-level individuals-- who have a deep grudge against modern technology... although not so deep that it prevents them from using it to spread their manifesto through the web! but congruency is something every terrorist organization seems to lack.
Personally, I find myself sharing many of the concerns that scientific research focused on profit might bring, yet that would never justify in my eyes the use of direct violence --not to mention that it is stupid, plain and simple.
Also, it seems that these 'individual savages' are basing their ideology more on Sci-Fi woes than in actual hard facts.
Nanotechnology has the potential to benefit humanity in ways we can hardly imagine right now, granting us access to incredible new materials, more powerful computers and cleaner energies.
Like all technologies, it could also be abused in detrimental ways; but that has less to do with technology per se, and more with human nature.
Yesterday, as I came home from the office, tired but happy to begin a short & long-needed vacation, I started reading my copy of Jacques Vallee's Dimensions: A Casebook of Alien Contact [Amazon US & UK], when I suddenly found a rather startling paragraph, in light of the recent events transpiring in the global scene.
In the first chapter, Ancient Encounters, Vallee writes:
Celestial phenomena seem to have been so commonplace in the Japanese skies during the Middle Ages that they directly influenced human events. Panic, riots, and disruptive social movements were often linked to celestial apparitions [emphasis mine]. The Japanese peasants had the disagreeable tendency to interpret any "sign from heaven" as strong indications tat their revolts and demands against the feudal system were just, and as assurance that their rebellions would be crowned with success.
Naturally this paragraph caught my attention due to the current circumstances of disturbing riots occurring on several capitals of the world, specially on London. And then I remembered the highly-commented public disclosure by Mike Sewell, one of BBC Radio 5's sports reporters, in which he (rather grudgingly) confessed his personal shock caused by the sighting of a large disc-shaped object on the morning of August 4th, while he was driving to Stansted airport.
And then I started to wonder: could the UFO sighting be connected in some mysterious way with the London riots, which have amazed the whole world in part due to their rather abrupt eruption?
Granted, Sewell seems at the moment to have been the only person that observed the mysterious craft --aside from another motorist he claims was in that road at the time-- still, adding to all the examples Valle includes in his book chapter to illustrate the incidence of 'celestial phenomena' with popular insurrection in medieval Japan, there are a great deal of UFO sightings that have occurred during wars and battles, and not just in modern times but also in early antiquity.
Also, thanks to Google maps, one can compare the distance from Stansted airport --where Sewell was heading-- to the initial areas of the London riots. To a foreigner like me, they look pretty damn close!
Maybe the Ufonauts' interest is drawn toward the areas where social unrest and instability increases... or maybe I'm just too influenced by pop culture and Sci Fi? Let's not forget that in the first sequel to famous Predator franchise, the events unfold during massive riots in the streets of Los Angeles, a move no doubt intended to make use of the actual riots that exploded in LA during the 90s.
Of course this is purely speculative from my part. But even if I'm wrong, there's no denying that at its very core, the UFO has always been a symbol of change, and even if we now laugh at the 'deluded' claims of the Contactees of yore --or the Expoliticians of today-- UFOs have often functioned as a motor of social reform and the search for a new paradigm; something researchers like Jacques Vallee have pointed out again and again since the 1970s.
What matters here is the link between certain unusual phenomena --observed or imagined-- and the witnesses' behavior. These accounts show that it is possible to affect the lives of many people by showing them displays that are beyond their comprehension.
That's why the UFOs, even if they were nothing but cultural constructs, have always been so dangerous to the status quo.
In closing, I would like to direct your attention to the image shown below (which I found here) during my research of this blog post.
Yes, I know this is in all likelihood the image of an airplane captured by a low-quality cell phone camera... but it's still pretty darn evocative, don't you think?
Fox has just announced the green-lightning of a sequel to Cosmos, the award-winning TV show that launched the late Carl Sagan as iconic image of Science for an entire generation. Seth MacFarlane, the man behind such shows like Family Guy and American Dad, will be teaming with Sagan's widow, Anne Druyan, to produce the 13-episode series:
Envisioned as a successor to the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning original 13-part program, which was hosted by Sagan, the new Cosmos series will be hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Underscoring MacFarlane's commercial appeal, Cosmos will air on Fox in primetime, something pretty unprecedented these days for a science documentary series on commercial American television. (The original series aired on PBS.) Fox will air Cosmos: A Personal Voyage in 2013, which is also when the network will launch MacFarlane's Flintstones reboot
Kind of an odd pairing, if you ask me; probably influenced by the prospect of Billions and billions... of dollars. Let's just hope it doesn't end up looking like this:
I've become a huge fan of TNT's Sci-Fi drama Falling Skies. I like both the plot scenario and the characters showing the struggle of Humanity to survive in a post-apocalyptic Earth invaded by aliens.
The last chapter broadcasted here in Mexico took the show on an interesting twist, which seems to suggest the producers are taking inspiration on memes spawned inside Internet forums.
To understand what I'm talking about, first a little background: The story is set in the not-so distant future, where civilians organized in resistance guerrilla groups are fighting a horde of alien invaders that have utterly destroyed the infrastructure of all the world governments, and are systematically plundering the Earth's natural resources; among those resources, the one the aliens seem to be most interested in are human children, who are routinely captured and mentally-controlled via a bio-mechanical device called 'the harness'.
Up until now the aliens comprised of two main groups: the Skitters, and the Mechs: The Skitters are hideous multi-legged biological entities —a clear homage to H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, the shows' main inspiration— that are in command of the Mechs, which are advanced AI battle droids.
However on episode 7, "What Hides Beneath", the main characters catch a rare glimpse of another type of alien, a tall humanoid-type entity they assume is part of the actual commanding elite of the alien invasion. What's interesting about all this, is that the new tall alien is eerily reminiscent of the Slender Man, an urban myth that is said to prey upon unsupervised children:
The Slender Man was created at the Something Awful Forums in a thread entitled “Create Paranormal Images.” He is described as wearing a black suit strikingly similar to the visage of the notorious Men In Black, and as the name suggests, appears very thin and able to stretch his limbs and torso to inhuman lengths in order to induce fear and ensnare his prey. Once his arms are outstretched, his victims are put into something of a hypnotized state, where they are utterly helpless to stop themselves from walking into them. He is also able to create tendrils from his fingers and back that he uses to walk on in a similar fashion to Doc Ock, the Spider-Man villain in the Marvel Universe. The superhuman stretching ability could also be seen as a similiarty between himself and Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. Whether he absorbs, kills, or mearly takes his victims to an undiclosed location or dimension is also unknown as there are never any bodys or evidence left behind in his wake to deduce a definite conclusion.
Not only do we have the tall lanky form, and the main interest (children) but there's also the mind-control component (the harness).
Unfortunately, there's still no image available on the web that I can show to illustrate my theory, and I will be th first one to admit it's all an unconclusive speculation on my part; yet it wouldn't surprise me that the producers of the show appreciated the huge potential this Internet meme had to offer, not only from an aesthetically point of view, but also because it would help blur the boundaries between fiction and reality —something TV and film is always seeking to accomplish as of late.
Plus, there's the advantage that you don't need to worry about copyrights when it comes to Internet memes!
It will be interesting to see how the story further develops during the remaining of the season. So don't miss another episode!
China, the largest holder of United States debt, said last Saturday that Washington needed to "cure its addiction to debts":
“The U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone,” read the commentary, which was published in Chinese newspapers.
Memo to Obama: You've got two options, dude: either cut the Pentagon's credit cards, or next time, let Bart handle it.
With the economical landscape turning darker and darker, it came as a surprise to discover Mexico has become the #1 buyer of gold in the world:
The spot price of gold has risen by more than 17 percent this year to a record $1,672.65 an ounce, driven chiefly by investor concerns over the impact on the developed world's economy of its debt burdens and sluggish growth.
Mexico has been the largest buyer of gold in the year to date, with $5.3 billion worth of purchases, or 98 tonnes of gold, followed by Russia, which has bought 48 tonnes, worth $2.6 billion at current prices.
I know this is supposed to be a cautionary measure in case America hits a (new) recession, but instead of just hoarding the bling inside some dark vault, why not get creative with it? This is OUR gold after all!
2012 is just around the corner, people. Let's live a little!
MTV is 30 years old.
Are you old enough to remember back when it was, you know, relevant?
For all you UFO buffs who like to speculate about alien life that is not based on Carbon chemistry, and whether we would be able to recognize it —let alone detect it— I give you... Darkest Hour
This is appealing to me for several reasons: First, it seems to explore the possibility that there could be alien life based on plasma —the 4th known form of matter, along with solids, liquids, gases, and Bose Einstein condensates for the hyper-nerds among you— rather than 'normal' organic molecules.
The second thing is that, whether a deliberate move from the producers or not, it relates to numerous reports where UFOs have been seen close to power lines and electric centrals, which suggests these objects —usually assumed to be artificial piloted craft, even though some could very well be autonomous probes, or even actual living sentient entities— are extracting (feeding off?) energy from the electrical grid. To give just one example, the famous 1965 North East city blackout has been explained by some researchers as the result of direct intervention by unexplained lights observed near the Niagara station; and there's also UFO researchers like Robert Hastings who have investigated UFO sightings on USAF Nuclear bases where the missile systems have been rendered inoperable due to unexplained causes.
And finally, I like how the movie suggests there might be all sorts of ethereal non-human intelligences all around us that pass completely undetected because they do not fall between the limited range of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes are capable of perceive —something that was firstly suggested by none other than Lovecraft himself with his short story 'From Beyond'
I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness...
All in all, Darkest Hour promises to become a much-needed relief from the usual Michael Bay's CGI Explosionama alien genre, where space visitors from faraway stars never forget to follow the bilateral symmetry —let's hope it really delivers.