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Take Me To Your Laughter

By | Movies, Ramblings, Reviews, Science Fiction, UFO, Video | No Comments

TV aliens have always been funny, which is not to say the shows were always very good.

We had My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy, and the Great Gazoo, and while they were entertaining to some degree, the aliens were little more than wish-fulfillment props that could just as easily have been genies, witches, or superheroes.

But I’m seeing a new trend: humorous aliens who could only be aliens.  No longer props for funny line delivery and wacky fish-out-of-water stories, they are specifically linked to the true-life tales of alien contact.  Take, for example, this short from Chris and Jack:

 

And then there’s People of Earth, an underrated show with a quiet brilliance.  The plot revolves around reporter Ozzie Graham (Wyatt Cenac) as he travels to upstate New York to report on an alien abduction support group called StarCrossed.  At first, he is completely baffled by the stories the group tells him, until he starts to remember his own experiences.  Though not hilarious, the show is consistently charming.  The creators are clearly familiar with what actual Experiencers describe, exploring topics like screen memories, alien implants, multiple alien species, positive vs. negative encounters, and even the fact that “experiencer” is the preferred moniker, as opposed to “abductee.”

As Executive Producer David Jenkins says, it’s the Larry David version of The X-Files.  Here he is discussing his idea behind creating the show:

While The X-Files wasn’t (usually) humorous, it introduced pop culture to the Grays and alien abduction, giving aliens their own distinctive TV mythology.   Some credit is also due to Twin Peaks, with its explorations of Project Blue Book and the idea of screen memories.  The famous line “The owls are not what they seem” echoes stories Experiencers tell of seeing giant owls, deer, or rabbits after abduction encounters.  People of Earth uses a screen memory of a talking deer as a regular motif.

The aliens of PoE are not ethereal or otherworldly, but quite human in their tendencies to be deeply flawed and petty.  Jeff the Gray is all about procedure and getting things done.  Don the Nordic is innocent and loving. Jonathan the reptilian is manipulative and obsessed with his looks.  While these characterizations are funny on their own, they have their roots in typical abduction tales: grays are the worker bees, Nordics (as described my many Contactees) spread new age messages of peace and love, and reptilians are menacing shapeshifters who secretly control the world.

The Experiencers, ironically, are more alien; ostracized from society because of their bizarre beliefs in aliens, they struggle to maintain relationships in a world that doesn’t believe them.  The show portrays them sympathetically and never mocks them or trades compassion for cheap laughs.  PoE is unique in alien television in that it mines the real life stories of alien encounters for its humor, rather than just saying “aliens can do ANYTHING”.

Great show?  No, but eminently watchable.  I’d much rather watch this than a little green be-helmeted Martian granting wishes.  I am sure there are many who would argue that there are better comedies with aliens in them, but I feel this is the first one that stands on its own as an alien comedy.  Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.

 

 

Fear the Flying Saucers

By | Contactees, Ramblings, UFO, Video | One Comment

This past weekend, my California friends were peppering my Facebook feed with videos and photographs of a UFO in the sky.  It hit the national news as a comet-like object coursed over the skies of Los Angeles and beyond.  In the absence of any definite information, it was in fact an unidentified flying object.

You can hear the confusion in the video above:  “it’s a star or something” and “a blimp.”  A truck driver is concerned about a “bright light hovering in the area.”   Seeing something like this, without any context or expectation, is a terrifying thing.  I know this, because it happened to me a few years ago in Los Angeles, but back then, the fears were totally different.

It was 2001, not long after September 11.  For several days, the only airplanes in the sky were the fighter jets that occasionally flew over the city, and in the months following, the fear of the next attack was in the back of everyone’s mind.  And then one night, I heard a commotion outside my apartment, and stepped out into the courtyard to see what everyone was talking about. Then I saw it: an iridescent blob hanging in the western sky, slowly changing shape.  The group gathered there nervously threw ideas out there, much like the nervous voices in the video above.  “is it a gas attack?”  “What about a dirty bomb?”  Some of us wondered if it could have been a nuke out at sea.  Like those people in California this past weekend, we had no idea what it was, but we were fairly sure that the only reasonable explanation was that the terrorists had struck again. No one said anything about UFOs.

Then, as now, the military came out and said “Oh, uh, whoops, our bad.  That was just a missile test.  I guess we should have mentioned something.  Sorry guys!”  Sadly, I don’t have a photograph of this, because we were all too stunned to think of taking a photo.  (Which, interestingly, is a phenomenon often reported by UFO and bigfoot witnesses.)  However, I came across this article which has a photo that is somewhat similar (though far less dramatic) to what I saw all those years ago.

Now, while this new missile test looked a bit different, more comet-like and less cloud-like, it also reminded me of the “Norway spiral”, which people went nuts over in 2009.

Unexpected celestial events tend to highlight the sharp divisions between the various factions of believers:  the hopeful will say it is the opening of a new age; the fearful will say it’s an alien invasion; the conspiratorial will say it’s Project Bluebeam.  Some can’t seem to make up their minds and say it’s all of the above; but ultimately, the answer is almost always what would be exciting in any other context: A missile test, bolide, or other celestial phenomenon.

Our fears often dictate what conclusions we’ll jump to, and with time, narratives form.  In the wake of 9/11, strange lights in the sky meant that the terrorists were back, but 14 years later, the immediacy of the Twin Towers collapsing has diminished, and we look outward to the stars for our bogeymen.  A similar effect happened in the late ’40s through the ’60s.  Immediately after the war, strange lights in the sky signaled atomic bombs or secret Soviet weaponry.  But by the 50s and 60s, when the immediacy of the war had died down, the explanations deepened; strange lights became alien spacecraft.  As years went on, the logical progression followed, and narratives appeared around those alien spacecraft: Beings came from those craft to speak to humans on Earth.  The Contactees were born.

Whatever you think of the Contactees, whether you think they made it all up or they had real experiences or somewhere in between, their stories reflected the fears that people felt back in the day.  Or rather, their stories reflected the hopes that people had back in the day.  We as humans were on the brink of destroying ourselves, and the Contactees offered a narrative that there were powers far greater than our own that were here to help.  It’s a reassuring thought, much like the idea of the Norway Spiral being an announcement of the coming of Maitreya.  Even the theories that declare these lights in the sky to be the result of government conspiracies offer us a chance to seize our freedom.

These narratives, true or not, are reflections of our fears as human beings.  The Contactees, like the frightened teens uploading videos of this latest missile test to Youtube, were seeking comfort.

Carl Sagan and Contact

By | Contactees, Filmmaking, Movies, Religion, Reviews, Video | 5 Comments

Over the course of making They Rode the Flying Saucers, one movie has kept coming to mind: Contact.  I mean, duh.  It’s right there in the title.

The original novel on which the movie is based was written by one of the purest scientistic minds ever: Carl Sagan.  A brilliant astronomer, he was fascinated by the idea of alien life and alien civilizations.  He was a staunch advocate for SETI (The Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence), a scientific effort to find alien civilizations elsewhere in the universe, and fought against its cancellation by Congress in the ’80s.  Despite this, he was highly skeptical of the UFO reports, on the basis that they did not have sufficient verifiable evidence to support them.  “Extraordinary claims”, he said, “require extraordinary evidence.”

In 1980, PBS aired Sagan’s series Cosmos.  In one episode, he directly addressed the idea of UFOs, and one gets the sense that he did it just to get it out of the way, because if he didn’t address it, people would ask annoying questions.  In this segment, he used what was at the time considered the case with the greatest verifiable evidence for its truth, the Betty and Barney Hill encounter.

As a scientist, he felt the only way to discuss the validity of this case was to look at the only evidence that could be verified, as opposed to the anecdotal reports and psychological tests.  This amounted to a star map drawn by Betty Hill, which she claimed she saw aboard the alien craft onto which she was taken.  This map included stars that were as yet undiscovered in the 1960s.  Sagan, in the clip above, describes exactly why this evidence is useless for verifying the Hill case–namely, the dots she drew could easily be a random pattern of dots that one could find in many areas of the sky if you looked long enough.  While he disregards many of the other compelling aspects of the Hill case, I give him credit for remaining open to the idea that her story is true:

For all I know, we might be visited by a different extraterrestrial civilization every second Tuesday.  But there is no support for this appealing idea.

But what of the classic Contactees? To many die-hard UFO believers, the Contactees were outcasts; to skeptics, they were absolute lunatics.  To them, Contactee stories were absurd, simplistic, and worst of all, absolutely devoid of supporting evidence.  Even Sagan seemed downright annoyed by them, as you can see by his tongue firmly planted in his cheek when he speaks of them in this clip:

 

 

So it appears that Sagan was open to the idea of aliens, and even to the idea of alien visitation.  In a book co-written with I.S. Shklovskii called Intelligent Life in the Universe, Sagan even addressed the possibility that aliens may have visited us in the ancient past–that’s right, Carl Sagan was an Ancient Astronaut Theorist.  Unlike the likes of Tsoukalos and Von Däniken, however, Sagan pointed out that this was entirely speculative, but not impossible.  But I think it’s notable that he did not automatically dismiss the idea.   Compare that to many of the (to paraphrase Greg Bishop) “evangelical skeptics” today, who have apparently re-defined skepticism to mean “if it can’t be proven true, it’s necessarily false.”

And this is what makes the film Contact so interesting.  I would say “spoiler alert,” but if you haven’t seen this movie by now, you need to get on the ball.  The story was presented in a dryly scientific way…the first hour of the film establishes Jodie Foster’s character Ellie Arroway, a brilliant astronomer fascinated by the idea of alien civilizations.  (Sound familiar?)  It establishes her conflict with her peers, personified in the character of David Drumlin (Tom Skerrit), who thinks she’s throwing away her talents on a hopeless quest like SETI.  But when Ellie actually discovers an alien transmission, Drumlin the skeptic becomes Drumlin the I-Knew-It-All-Along.

The alien transmission is written in mathematics, the only truly universal language, and includes instructions for creating a wormhole-generating device that will allow a single passenger to travel to the alien world and make face-to-face contact.  To not go into too much detail on the plot, suffice it to say that Ellie eventually does this and meets an alien being.  This being scans her mind and takes the form of Ellie’s deceased father, as a way of making it easier for Ellie to understand the being.  After a brief conversation, Ellie returns to Earth, where only a fraction of a second has passed, though eighteen hours has passed for her.

With no evidence other than her word, no one believes her.  But she has had an a-theistic religious experience, and will never be the same–not unlike a typical Contactee experience.  Perhaps Sagan was inspired by them, at least in part.  The Contactees were men and women who offered no evidence but told wild tales.  The beings they met were almost always human in appearance, and could read minds, and were kind and relatable–much like Ellie’s experience in the film.  The only thing missing in Sagan’s tale is a tour of the spaceship and a warning against nuclear weapons.  And yet that message is implicit in the story, from a scene earlier in the film in which Ellie says that the one question she would ask an alien being, if she was given the chance, was how they made it through their technological adolescence without destroying themselves.  (Ironically, she does not ask this question when given the chance.)

I think it’s surprising and yet somehow fitting that a towering figure of scientific rationality like Carl Sagan was willing to admit that not everything is scientifically verifiable.  That even though a story of alien contact may sound unbelievable, it is not necessarily untrue.  While this is a work of fiction, I would say that it has a scientifically sound grounding in reality and to some degree spoke of Carl Sagan’s beliefs.

Perhaps the Contactees were not so simplistic after all.  Perhaps their experiences were projections of a sort, much like in the movie.  Perhaps the beings they met took forms that would be easy for humans to relate to.  And the fact that they had no evidence does not mean that their experiences were necessarily false, no matter what the skeptics say.  Their experiences changed their lives in deep and profound ways, transcending concrete scientific fact to address human spirituality and potential.  In other words, the Contactees stories had an inner reality that science cannot discover or probe, yet is perhaps no less true.

 

The Aetherius Society and Operation Starlight

By | Contactees, Filmmaking, Religion, Video | No Comments
Charging Mt. Baldy with spiritual energy

Charging Mt. Baldy with spiritual energy

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be invited along on a pilgrimage to Mt. Baldy with the Aetherius Society.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with them, the Aetherius Society is a group founded in 1957 by Dr. George King. Among their beliefs is that there exist on the Earth numerous holy mountains charged with spiritual energy, and Dr. King, through Operation Starlight, was able to make the energy of 19 of those mountains accessible through human effort.  (The others operate on a spiritual level that is beyond us).  Mt. Baldy, near Los Angeles, is one such mountain.  From the Aetherius Society’s website:

Spiritual energy is no less real than electricity and operates according to natural laws. It can help to heal, inspire, guide, bless and protect whoever it is directed to.

We can all learn to invoke and transmit this light energy – this love energy – to help ourselves, individuals in need, and most importantly, the world as a whole.

What is spiritual energy, exactly?  It’s too involved of an answer to go into here, but according to the Aetherius Society, it can be directed, like electricity, toward certain specific targets in order to generate healing.

In times of crisis, the Society directs this energy toward the affected areas.  For example, during this particular pilgrimage, the healing energy was directed primarily toward the victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal.

The height of the Contactee era was, not coincidentally, the height of the Cold War, and as such, the entire planet was in something of a constant crisis; nuclear war loomed like the Sword of Damocles, and Dr. King founded the Aetherius Society, in part, to deal with this.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the Aetherius Society believes that there was a fifth planet in the solar system named Maldek.  This planet was destroyed in a nuclear explosion, and is now the asteroid belt.  

They believe that prior to the destruction, Maldek was a highly advanced culture, but “the disease” came–a lust for power.  The advanced beings of Maldek turned their knowledge and power to developing ever more powerful weapons, until they managed to destroy their planet entirely.  But some beings from Maldek traveled to Earth and established a colony there, named Lemuria, or Mu.

This society flourished for centuries, but they fell victim to the same lust for power, and destroyed their society a second time.  The survivors established a new paradise, this one called Atlantis.  But the same fate awaited them.

And now in our modern era, we’ve achieved heights of technical prowess unmatched for millenia, and once again, we have the power to destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the space brothers are watching this time, and as such, issued “The Command” to Dr. King, telling him that he was to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament on Earth.

He founded the Aetherius Society, which in turn serves as a front lines of defense against this “disease” from taking over and destroying humanity once and for all.  For those in the Aetherius Society, it is essential to send this healing energy out into the world, in order to prevent such a thing from happening.

And I, for one, feel comforted knowing they are doing just that.

 

World UFO Day

By | Ramblings, UFO, Video | 3 Comments

Apologies for the long silence on this here blog.  I’m back in the saddle, and so these posts will come with better regularity now.

Today is World UFO day.  You can see a video summarizing the history of this day, as well as a summary of the UFO phenomenon in general here.

It’s always interesting to see what happens when the UFO subject goes public, as it were, beyond the realm of the specialty blogs and into the mainstream media.  Generally, there is X-files music and lots of puns about things being out of this world.  That’s why today, when I saw this article, I was pleasantly surprised.

In that article, Cambridge University Professor Simon Conway Morris suggests what I was postulating in an earlier post myself.  Namely, that the concept of humanoid aliens isn’t necessarily all that far fetched, because evolution works via principles of efficiency and physics.  When you take that into consideration, a lot of the same patterns come up over and over again.  He puts it well when he says:

Certainly it’s not the case that every Earth-like planet will have life let alone humanoids. But if you want a sophisticated plant it will look awfully like a flower. If you want a fly there’s only a few ways you can do that. If you want to swim, like a shark, there’s only a few ways you can do that. If you want to invent warm-bloodedness, like birds and mammals, there’s only a few ways to do that.

In other words, if a creature is evolving the ability to fly, odds are likely that it will evolve a symmetrical wing system.  There are other possibilities, of course, but the point is that we shouldn’t be surprised when we see it.  This is a phenomenon called convergent evolution; the idea that various complex characteristics can evolve independently and in a nearly identical form in different species.

Contrast this with Carl Sagan, famed astronomer and author of the book Cosmos, in which he says:

But the Darwinian message is clear: There will be no humans elsewhere.  Only here. Only on this small planet. We are a rare as well as an endangered species.  Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious.  If a human disagrees with you, let him live.  In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

An amazing sentiment from an amazing thinker.  And curiously close in many ways to the Contactee message, which I think is fascinating because he is in that short quote rebuking the notion that humanoid aliens could exist elsewhere in the universe while simultaneously saying something that could have come out of Orthon’s mouth.

So who is right?  I don’t think it’s important if there is a convergent line of human evolution somewhere out there in the cosmos.  What is important is that wherever it is and whatever it is, it is precious.

How to Talk to Spacepeople

By | Contactees, Ramblings, Video | One Comment

Should you ever find yourself confronted with a man or woman from Venus, how would you communicate?  The contactees described any number of methods.  Adamski’s first encounter with Orthon the Venusian involved lots of communicating as one would with any foreign visitor: speaking slowly and loudly while gesticulating wildly.

Conveniently, however, the space brothers and sisters also have telepathic abilities, according to many of the contactees.  Almost every one of them, in fact.  Now that I think about it, I don’t know of any who didn’t report telepathic communication.

In the interviews I conducted for my documentary, a number of contactees described such telepathic encounters to me.  This troubled me deeply…it’s one thing to hear someone speak of flying saucers and their occupants in some sort of abstract way, but voices in the head change the whole ball game.

Consistently, they described it like a voice they heard out loud, and only on realizing that the visitor was either too far away to hear or wasn’t moving their lips did it become clear that actual sound communication wasn’t going on.

Perhaps it was their imagination, or perhaps they are operating under some kind of delusion.  Perhaps it actually happened.  As I’ve said earlier in this blog, I am not concerned with proving or disproving any claims made by the contactees.  That said, I am fairly certain, at least in the cases with which I have firsthand experience, that they were not making it up.  They were telling the truth, at least as they saw it.

And that’s why hearing these stories unsettled me so much.  What an incredible violation of privacy it would be to have someone pulling thoughts out of your head and shoving their own in.  One could even say that it’s incredibly rude on the part of the flying saucer occupants.

Fortunately for the telepathically squeamish like me, the visitors can also apparently speak in English so fine as to put Ronald Colman to shame.  And not only English, but any language known to man: Rhinehold O. Schmidt said that the beings he met spoke perfect German, and Adamski said that though they generally spoke in English, they also flipped into Polish at times, as if to show off.

As if telepathy and a mastery of all human languages wasn’t enough, the visitors spoke a universal tongue that all the planets shared.  A few words trickled down via the contactees now and then.  For example, from Van Tassel’s I Rode a Flying Saucer:

Shan denotes the Earth.
Blaau is the name given to the Fourth Sector of the sector system of Vela, into which our solar system is moving.
Schare (pronounced Share-ee) is the name of a saucer station in space.
Ventlas is what the “saucer beings” call their “saucers”.

– Franklin Thomas, from the foreword of “I Rode a Flying Saucer.”

Another common phrase was “adonai vasu baragas”, which, personally, reminds me of this one.  This phrase was used by many people, including Richard Miller, a man who claimed he was channeling a number of extraterrestrials via “tensorbeam” (as opposed to Van Tassel and his “omnibeam”).  Every one of his sessions ended with “adonai” and occasionally the full “adonai vasu baragas.”

Literally, the phrase means “farewell, good brothers”, which you may recall is also the title of another documentary about the Contactees.

So that’s how one talks to space people.  Whether you’ll get the chance is another issue altogether.