Sunday, December 31, 2006

Paul Kimball Gets Too Wild During Birthday Bash;
Special Law Enforcement Agent Called In

[ PHOTO: ]

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Two Questions

Recently the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal has announced it is changing its name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. So CSICOP is becoming CSI.

When referring to the organization by its original name, some would pronounce the abbreviation CSICOP as sie-kop (Psi-Cop). Ergo, one could pronounce CSI as sis-see.

So if someone representing CSI acts petty and irritable, could that person be called a pissy Sissy?

Also, if a CSI representative keeps tirelessly repeating the same dogma over and over, creating a minor commotion that doesn't change your mind, could you call him Sissyfuss?

[Note: Ray X will be appearing at the Purple Elephant Comedy Club this weekend.]

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Air Ship From 3000 C.E.

Mac Tonnies has stirred up some controversy with his CTH - crypto-terrestrial hypothesis - over at his blog, Posthuman Blues. Other UFO theories have been mentioned by commenters, including the idea that UFOs come from our future, i.e., mankind advances to the point that it discovers how to travel through time.

Of course, the argument has been made that time travel could never be possible because of the paradoxes involved. For example, you couldn't go back in time and kill your grandfather before your father was born because you would never exist in the first place.

I just left a comment at Mac's blog and I'm also posting it here so that it's less apt to be lost in the insurmountable sea of information that is the Web.

= = =

Here's my speculation on time travelers and UFOs:

In the future time travel is possible as long as you don't try to change history. As soon as a time traveler attempts to affect a past event, they are negated, cease to exist.

So a time traveler must fit into what already has happened. He would check the historical record and then morph his time machine into what has already been reported. If he wants to check out the USA in the 1890s, he could make his machine look like one of the mysterious air ships spotted during that period. And if there's a report of an air ship crew talking with someone, the time travelers could dress for the occasion and just say their lines from the historical "script."

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= = =

This comment via email:

You’re overlooking the many worlds interpretation of space/time.

With the many worlds or multiverse interpetations you don’t have to worry about paradoxes such as what happens if you accidentally change history or anything because every possibility at every instant of time exists such that a time traveler can go back in time and kill his grandfather and not impact the timeline the time traveler came from. The bad part is that the time traveler would probably never be able to get back to the exact timeline he left from due to the uncertainty principle. Of course this doesn’t really matter since all you need to do is get close enough to your original universe so that everything is the way you remember it.




But if too many time travelers kept creating alternate universes / timelines, wouldn't that create instability after a while and the whole mess would either blow up or collapse in on itself?

Of course, this is all speculation.

ThanX for your comment.


Friday, December 29, 2006

Counting Electrodes Instead Of Sheep

How many?

One on my chin. I think two or three in my hair. The rest come in pairs, one for the right, one for the left: legs, behind my ears, right next to my eyes. No wonder I have all sorts of color-coded wires running from my body into the wall.

There are also wired belts wrapped around my chest and stomach. A strap encircles my head to keep my mouth closed. Additional straps keep the nose mask in place. Increased pressure is being pumped into me to keep my airways open. A technician is the next room is monitoring me, not just through the electrodes glued all over my body, but also with an infra-red camera looking down at me. The system is a hi-tech Argus.

I did sleep, maybe for three hours, despite being plugged in and spied on. But now I can’t sleep.

I hear a disembodied voice – not God – from the ceiling say: “You’ve been awake for an hour and a half. Do you want to end the study now?”

I force the chin strap open. Air rushes out. “Another half-hour,” I manage to say.

I lie there, trying to relax. My sleep pattern has never been normal. The diagnosis is sleep apnea. This sleep lab study #4.

I try to relax, almost becoming drowsy. But I can’t fall asleep. Thirty minutes are soon up.

Following the directions of the disembodied voice, I end the study the way it ended: checking out all the connections.

“Close your eyes. Open your eyes. Blink fives times. Raise your left foot. Now put a big smile on your face…”

* * *

So that’s how my visit to the sleep lab went the other evening, the night right after Xmas. I won’t bore you with the other details, like washing globs of glue out of my hair. You never saw anyone on Star Trek have to do that after a medical sensor scan, did you?

I see the doctor on January 2nd. Another post-holiday event, all part of what I call fun with sleep apnea.

I tried using a C-PAP machine before but was having problems. Apparently, from the way the first doctor yelled at me, those problems were my fault.

But I’m seeing another specialist who treats me like a person. I don’t know if the technician gathered enough data from my last visit. The readings are used to determine the pressure level for the C-PAP. At the right setting my breathing won’t be interrupted by constricted airways while I sleep. I will go into a deep, restful sleep.

Some people can never adjust to a C-PAP. And then there’s what I call the Star Trek Syndrome. You watch shows set in the future and see how things could be, like being monitored by sensors that don’t have touch your body. Glue? Forget it. You also wonder if what is considered a medical breakthrough today might be regarded as a nostrum tomorrow.

I have a 1928 issue of the “Scientifiction” pulp magazine, Amazing Stories. Ads litter the back pages, some promoting dubious products. One shows an illustration of a man with a device attached to his nose, held firmly in place by rubber bands running behind his head. This device was called “Anita’s Nose Straightener.” Embarrassed by your crooked nose? Anita has the answer!

No, I’m not saying that my doctor is a quack. He’s a good man, doing his best. But sometimes discoveries are made that up-end established facts in health care. Remember the controversy when a researcher stated that a certain type of bacteria caused most ulcers? Even though the medical establishment said it was impossible - “Bacteria can’t live in stomach acid!” - antibiotics are now used in treating ulcers.

I just hope my C-PAP doesn’t prove to be as effective as Anita’s Nose Straightener.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

UFOs And The Belt Of Orion

A few people were at the lakeside park, waiting for the slo-mo celestial event. My camera atop tripod was ready. I had a small flashlight to check the camera’s settings and also some reference notes for changing the exposure as the event progressed.

It was a warm night. At least I wasn’t standing outside, alone, in the snow as I had done on another similar occasion, trying to keep warm while recording the darkening moon.

As the event progressed, a young man, a college student, asked me if I knew much about the night sky. I told him I was somewhat familiar with it, having taken amateur astronomical photos before.

When the moon was in total eclipse, the stars appeared brighter, thanks to the drastically reduced lunar “light pollution.” I pointed out to the college student the prominent stars in the Orion constellation that form his belt, a trio of radiant diamonds, seemingly perfectly aligned.

The student was caught off guard. Apparently he had never paid much attention to the heavens. If my memory serves me, he said he had moved from a big city to Plattsburgh to attend college. Unlike the generally rural environs of the Plattsburgh area, a metropolitan beehive is encased by manmade light pollution. Its night sky is obscured, even hidden. Seeing the belt of Orion for the first time, so clear against the black sky, startled the big city transplant.

“Are you sure those stars are always like that?” he asked me a bit nervously.

Between the dull red moon and Orion’s belt, he acted as if he was witnessing a sign of the Apocalypse. I reassured him that there was nothing supernatural about the alignment of the star trio.

Most likely he had been conditioned by television and movies to think of the stars as random light points that never formed a pattern. How many times has a cheesy sci fi show or movie portrayed the universe as a sheet of black velvet dotted with pinprick holes held up in front of a strong light? The points of radiance are all the same intensity, forming a sloppy pattern that really doesn’t match what someone observes while scanning the clear heavens during darkness.

But that college student’s reaction didn’t surprise me. I had witnessed a similar reaction years before in college. This time the college student was a friend. The two-year college we attended was located in the middle of rural nowhere. To pass the time I would watch the cows grazing on the hillside out my dorm window.

One freezing winter evening I stopped by my friend’s dorm. I found him at the end of the hallway, staring out the large window. I inquired what he was looking at. The sun had set, its last rays still illuminating the horizon with bluish light. He pointed at a couple of intense lights hovering in the distance. They seemed to be spinning, changing color.

I told him that it was a couple of planets, Venus or Jupiter, whatever. The lights seemed to be spinning due to turbulence in the upper atmosphere.

“Those aren’t planets!” he declared. He didn’t utter the term, but I knew what he was thinking: UFOs. As in alien spacecraft.

I mentioned to him that the two lights weren’t moving, they seemed to be remaining in the same place, just like planets. If there were any movement, it would be from the planets slowly following the sun, setting behind the horizon.

But my friend wouldn’t buy my explanation. So I left him there, staring at what he thought was extra-natural, not of nature.

So when skeptics say that many UFO sightings can be explained by observer bias and a lack of awareness about the night sky, I would have to agree after what I’ve observed.


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Monday, December 25, 2006


Over at the Posthuman Blues blog [link] Mac Tonnies mentioned that he wasn't a big fan of Xmas. A few comments from his readers also reflected this POV.

One of the commenters, Paul Kimball, who was probably making an observation in jest, caused me to write a knee-jerk reaction comment. Anyway, for those who don't frequent Mac's blog, here's my observation today on this so-called Holiest of Holidays.

= = =

Racism. Sexism.

Well, I love Christmas you grinches and Scrooges.

And let me coin a new term: holidayism.

If someone enjoys the holidays, that's fine by me. But don't criticize anyone who doesn't share your enthusiasm. Individuals are entitled to like, not like, hate, or love anything they want -- assuming that they're not infringing upon someone else's rights.

This Grinch-Scrooge label, even in jest, smacks of one thing I hate the most: conformism. It's not funny or annoying: just tiresome.


= = =

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Purple Elephant In The Room

Just in time for the Xmas holiday: there has been some debate on a couple of other blogs in regards to religion and faith. Well, such issues need a unique perspective and so I telepathically interviewed that Ultra-Deity Pachyderm, The Supreme Supreme-O, Purple Elephant. He appeared in my living room for a short chat about the Meaning Of It All.

Ray X [RX]: What is existence?

Purple Elephant [PE]: Existence is vaudeville. Death is a cream pie in your face.

RX: What is the purpose of existence?

PE: Leave it to you humans not to appreciate a good thing. Most of you are doing OK, but you have to look for a hidden meaning in the universe. Everything has to be a little bit better; it can’t be taken at face value. You act as if you’re consumers trying to hunt down the best deal. Only humans would look for “value added” with reality.

RX: But people can’t accept that senseless things happen at times.

PE: So don’t make “sense” out of it. Shit happens on every scale: sub-atomic, personal, cosmic. Why worry about something you can’t change or control?

RX: It seems that you’re saying that everyone has to be self-centered, each individual should watch out only for himself.

PE: Sure, be self-centered. You’ll sink yourself with everyone else in the rowboat. If you humans spent more time pulling together and less time trying to push yourselves apart, you wouldn’t be looking for deeper meaning in the toilet universe. You’re all just one flush away from non-existence.

RX: That fact is supposed to reassure us?

PE: Hey, it works for me. Got any beer and pretzels?

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(I think my lava lamp is defective.)

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

An Intriguing Offer

Where else but downtown Plattsburgh, NY?

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

SW Factoid: Suicidal Chickens & Your Health

Welcome to the Wild West of Ideas: U.S. domestic shortwave broadcasters and the freethinking radio programs they promulgate.

Case in point: today I was listening to a program on WWCR (Worldwide Christian Radio) called Stairway to Health. When I tuned in (12.160 MHz, 2:30 PM Eastern Standard Time), the woman host was ranting about bad meat, particularly the meat produced by chickens raised in cages on large farms. She advocated eating free range chickens, saying that you paid more but it was better for your health.

You see, caged chickens are adrenally stressed to the point of being suicidal. In a classic case of you are what you eat, kids were committing suicide and adults were suffering from depression due to the consumption of these tainted birds.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Schlock Corridor

Spawned in 1963, Shock Corridor is described on the back cover of the video box as both “camp” and “a brave new art form.” Sorry, there ain’t much art in this stupid movie.

Imagine if Ed Wood had a bigger budget and some actors who could act. Basically, Samuel Fuller, the writer/producer/director behind Shock Corridor, has created a more sophisticated edwoodian disaster.

Good actors can only do so much with an overblown, over-the-top script. There’s nothing wrong with the basic plot: a reporter, Johnny Barratt, goes undercover as a mental patient to solve a murder at an insane asylum. But that germ of an idea is mutated into an insane virus of a screenplay.

While undercover, the reporter has to ferret out from three different witnesses, all patients, the identity of the murderer. The patients are introduced one at a time. This set-up makes it obvious that Fuller was trying to make Important Social Observations relevant to the early 1960s by using each patient as devices to “delve into the American psyche,” to use a line from the video box.

Patient #1 is a good ol’ boy from the South. He thinks he’s fighting the Civil War. During a rational moment, he reveals that he was an American soldier captured by the enemy during the Korean conflict and was brainwashed for a while by the commies. It was easy to go over to the commie side because, as the good ol’ boy explains, he was ashamed that his folks fed him bigotry for breakfast and ignorance for supper.

Patient #2 is a black man who hates “niggers.” (Hey, I didn’t write the screenplay; take it up with Fuller.) When he has a rational moment we learn that he was a student integrated into a white college down south and that he couldn’t handle the stress. Patient #2 likes to steal pillowcases, transforming them into KKK hoods. At one point he dons his homemade Klan hood and incites a race riot on the ward.

And to wrap it up, there’s Patient #3, a government scientist who flipped out because he was working on the atomic bomb and other terrible weapons, as we discover during his rational moment.

Have you noticed the pattern? At some point a patient is sane enough to accomplish two goals: give some back story to show Fuller’s liberal concerns and also provide another clue for the reporter in regards to the murder. This ham-fisted plot contrivance causes the reporter to hang around each patient, waiting for that window of rationality. I know mental health professionals will tell you that such things do occur, especially three times in a row in the same ward. In fact, sane moments can be predicted like lunar and solar eclipses.

Ed Wood was noted for padding – I mean enhancing – his movies with stock footage that was a lot cheaper than filming original scenes. Shock Corridor uses the same cost-saving device, but in the most jarring manner.

The film is in black and white, except for the stock footage inserts. For example, just before the black man who hates blacks snaps out of it for a few minutes, he has a dream about being a young boy in a tribe in the Amazon jungle, going through a rite of passage. Suddenly some documentary scenes in blazing color are thrown in. Then the POV cuts back to the black patient in black and white (Artsy, huh?) who says that it’s strange that he always has that dream in color, how it brings him back to sanity.

So maybe that’s the answer to mental illness: have a patient wear special glasses that filter out all colors, only allowing a B&W view, and then have the monochromatic lenses taken off to show the patient a documentary filmed in Japan in full color, featuring a Buddha statue, an amusement park, trains, and Mount Fuji (what the good ol’ boy patient sees in his dream).

The great Ed Wood was also known for this insightful dialogue. Fuller also provides sparkling gems, such as “Johnny, you have to be crazy to want to be committed to an insane asylum to solve a murder.”

And let’s not forget:

“I’m fed up playing a Greek Chorus to your rehearsed nightmare.”

“You’re in a hopped-up, show-off stage. Get off it. Don’t be Moses leading your lunatics to a Pulitzer prize.”

“Do you think I like singing in that sewer with a hot light on my navel?”

“If he doesn’t come through with that question, I’ll fall right on my typographical face.”

Yup, Shock Corridor is indeed a brave new art form: psycho-comedy.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Vaporized by Blogger Beta?

Looks like The Orange Orb blog lost its older posts when it switched over to Blogger Beta. You can find The Orb here at its new Beta home.

According to The Orb, others have also suffered problems when switching from Blogger Original to Blogger Beta. Apparently Blogger subscribes to this principle: If it doesn't need fixing, let's break it.

Me, I'm going to stay here until with BO they kick me off. I don't know if I'll ever switch to BB. Blogger is convenient -- when it works the way it should. My website isn't as easy for posting and archiving, but it has been more dependable. I might start using it more often with its blog-like section called "X-Rays." So make a note: If this blog should suddenly vaporize, you will find me there.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it seems some comments to this blog have been lost or blocked. Probably part of the Beta nonsense. If you can't comment via Blogger, please use my email address linked below.

We bloggers have to stick together and get the word out, especially when the feces strikes the air circulation propeller. I'm glad to pass along the word that The Orange Orb is still with us. If we keep each other informed on what is going on, we should stay ahead of the problem, communicating with few interruptions. After all, communication is what this is all about.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fun With Sleep Apnea: Sleep Or Teeth

To get a good night’s sleep, I might have to give up my teeth.

No, that doesn’t mean that I need to have my teeth surgically removed so that I can breath properly while sleeping. Let me backtrack.

Thanks to some bad advice given to me by a dentist years ago, I have receding gum lines due to improper brushing. Dry mouth can aggravate the problem.

When I first tried the C-PAP machine, I would wake up with a parched mouth. A water unit to add humidity was included in the system and that did keep my mouth moist while sleeping. But one night I woke up and found my head filled with moldy miasma, even though I had carefully changed the water and cleaned the C-PAP hoses and other accessories. I have a severe allergy to molds; that ended my C-PAP use.

Yesterday I was talking with a friend who has sleep apnea but successfully uses C-PAP. He said he also had a mold problem when he used the water unit. He doesn’t use the unit anymore, putting up with dry mouth.

I can see it now: I get proper sleep but my teeth go to hell. Time marches on and I end up as a well-rested but toothless old man.

Anyway, there might be another answer. Round Two in the sleep lab is scheduled the night after Xmas and then a visit with the new doctor right after New Year’s Day.

In the meantime, I’ll keep properly brushing my teeth while half-awake.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I’ve noticed lately that I haven’t received any comments to my posts. One answer could be that I’m annoying or boring everyone Out There. Or everyone is busy with “the holidaze.” Another answer is that leaving a comment via Blogger is stopping a few opinions from getting through.

I know that Blogger can act quirky at times. When I want leave a comment, sometimes I have to post it twice. And with the big push to Blogger Beta, I wonder if things are really quirky to the point that comments are lost along the way. Also, to leave a remark at this blog, you have a join Blogger, an option that some people would rather skip.

I do value feedback. If you don’t feel like commenting, OK, that’s the way it goes. But if you’re not making a comment because Blogger is too bothersome, let me offer an option: email.

Yes, I know email has its own problems, such as spam, over-filtering, whatever. But it seems to work easier and better than using the comment option here.

So from now on I’ve listing my email address at the end of each post. Also, there’s a link to it on the right hand side of this page under LINKS.

I will add your remarks, if appropriate, to the post that you’re commenting on. If you don’t want your email message published, then please let me know. I won’t include your address when I print your comment; that should help to cut down on the spam for you.

Of course, by putting my email address up repeatedly, I’ll be the one who will probably see an increase in spam. So that I don’t think your email is spam, put RX COMMENT in the subject heading with the title of the post. ThanX.


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Saturday, December 02, 2006

A New Saucer Smear Editor?

In the latest edition of his zine (11/20/06), Supreme Commander Jim Moseley mentions that while he is “doubtlessly immoral,” he isn’t immortal. Now 75, he has been considering who should carry one with the world’s best ufooligical newsletter.

He states he has been in contact with “an intellectual/academic type fellow who seems really enthusiastic about taking over the ‘Smear’ desk when the time seems right.”

Gee, I didn’t know that Henry Kissinger was a saucer fiend. I wonder if Henry the K’s humor can be as penetrating and as irreverent as Jim’s. (As for the issue of immorality…)

Anyway, if you’ve never read a hardcopy issue of Saucer Smear – and seeing it on a computer screen isn’t the same – then it’s time to send a SASE business envelope and a couple of dollars to Mr. Moseley at P.O. Box 1709, Key West, FL 33041. Eschewing all things digital, Jim still creates his newsletter with a typewriter, scissors, and glue. It’s that handmade fanzine quality that adds to the infotainment experience.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Xma$ Strikes Again

Dustin over at OddThings has a great Black Friday rant that ties in to what I've posted here recently about Xma$ - or, to be more accurate, eXcessMas. Good job, Dustin!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

LAWDNKI – A Notational Review

Title: Life As We Do Not Know It. Subtitle: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life. A non-fiction book by Peter Ward. First published in 2005 by Viking Penguin.

About the author: “Peter Douglas Ward is professor of biology, professor of earth and space sciences, and adjunct professor of astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle.” (Cover jacket, inside back flap.)

-- Glacial metabolism? We might be slow to notice it as life.
In discussing the concept of Silicon/carbon clay life (pages 77 – 80), Ward mentions that such a life-form might exist here on our planet, but its changes are stretched over long periods of time and so we wouldn’t think of it as being alive. I like how our limited human perspectives – in this case, our perception of time – can keep us blind to the reality around us.

-- If it don’t work in da lab, then it don’t work at all.
On page 80, Ward talks about plasma life, a life form existing as the fourth state of matter (not solid, gaseous, or liquid). He mentions that physicists in Romania “produced small spheres of plasma that just might show lifelike characteristics.” Created by “sparking” with gas argon plasma, the proud human progenitors noticed that some spheres took on more argon – eating, if you will – and grew. Others reproduced by splitting. Sounds lifelike to me.

But not to Peter Ward. Why? Life has to evolve and the spheres failed that basic requirement.

I think Ward is a little hasty dismissing plasmoid beings, or what Eric Frank Russell called Vitons in his SF novel, Sinister Barrier. What happens in a lab isn’t necessarily what can occur Out There in the mind-boggling vastness of the universe. The artificially created spheres indicate that there is potential for plasmoids, even if the lab can’t make them evolve. I hope a Viton doesn’t float up to Ward and sink its charged “fangs” into his meaty gluteus maximi.

-- Chapter 14 is entitled “A Manifesto: Send Paleontologists to Mars and Biochemists to Titan.”
So how about sending proctologists to Plattsburgh?

Anyway, Ward thinks that traces of life on another worlds in the solar system should be done at the microscopic level. The best bet for finding any evidence of Martian life will be fossils. Hence, a paleontologist would be better qualified than a microbiologist. In the case of Titan, Saturn’s moon, a biochemist would serve better to detect life, maybe even silanes or silicon-based critters.

The seven-or-more-year trip to Titan would be probably one-way. But to see Saturn’s rings and to make a major biological discovery, says Ward, should mean that volunteers will step forward. He observes: “Scores of terrorists blow themselves up yearly. Surely we can ask the same sacrifice for a better cause from our scientists, especially the older ones.”

Really. I’d like to see Ward spend seven year or more years living here in Plattsburgh. I mean, we’re talking about hostile, alien environments, right?

Or maybe he would prefer sending a remote-controlled probe with an empathic feedback system? Remote viewing and interactive perception via cybernetics. All in the comfort of your own home world.

SWillings: Dubious Statements Heard On Shortwave Radio

Abhor the Pope? I don’t, but if you do, you can find like-minded bigots on shortwave radio.

Major governments used to dominate shortwave radio: the Voice of America, Radio Moscow, BBC, etc. But in the USA there has been the rise of domestic broadcasters, stations funded by private enterprise. Some of these stations offer superpatriotic / superreligious views way outside the mainstream.

I caught one such broadcast last night – or I should say early yesterday morning, after 5 AM. I came in late to the broadcast. The reception sucked, fading and noise, but I was able to hear most of it.

The host was going on about one Pope who molested kids back in his home country when he was a younger man. Apparently this pre-Pope molester used to volunteer to watch the kids of fellow workers at a factory. But the word soon got out and the other workers threw oily rags at him.

The anti-papist host went on to imply that the Vatican was the Fountainhead of All Evil in the world. In fact, there are demons lurking with the Catholic Church.

You anti-Semitic? I’m not, if you tune around the shortwave dial, you will probably encounter a domestic SW program saying that the Great Jewish Conspiracy is the Fountainhead of All Evil. The Jews control the media (except for shortwave radio, apparently).

It’s all about God and conspiracies. Some program hosts rail on about the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), how it’s keeping cures for cancer and other killers from the public. But don’t believe the evil FDA; try one of the products being hawked by the program host, natural, God-Blessed cures.

If you like nostrums, you can buy a device that locks into the frequencies of each disease in your body, canceling each one out. Or put a patch on your arm that will give you renewed energy without puncturing your skin. Or try magnets: there are all sorts of magnets for all sorts of diseases, just order the right one for your ailment.

And if these cures don’t work? Well, you didn’t love God enough or the Conspiracy got to you too soon.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sagan’s Folly

We all make mistakes.

Even the late, great Carl Sagan.

I’m reading the non-fiction book, Life as We Do Not Know It, when author Peter Ward talks about Cosmic Carl’s disappointment when the equivalent of Martian polar bears didn’t stroll into view of the first Viking lander back in 1975. The Viking’s camera, designed to detect large critters, didn’t even find footprints. (Chapter 10, Mars.)

Carl had a “recurring fantasy,” as he called it, that footprints would be found after the sun rose on Mars, evidence of nocturnal animals visiting during the night. (Maybe he thought such animals would be marking their territory on the Viking lander.) The total weight of the space probe set limits on what could be included. Choices had to be made. Carl wanted lights to detect beasties making their nightly rounds and so other equipment, small but sophisticated, was left off.

But the night lights had nothing to illuminate in the way of Martian polar bears. Barsoom was bust for big beasts.

Then again, Ward points out that Carl Sagan did have a great influence on the decision to stress biological over physical science equipment with the Viking probes. So while in retrospect his decision to search for large ET life forms on Mars was overoptimistic, at least Carl quickly settled the debate over the issue.

Assuming that all the probes that NASA sent to Mars didn’t happen to land where Martian bears don’t live.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

XMA$: The Meme of Materialism

Back in September a few stores had Xma$ crap on display. Then more stores joined in a week before Halloween. Pushing that Holiday $pirit.

Tomorrow is Black Friday, so-called because most stores make so much money that it puts them in the black for the year. Actually it’s a black day because human lemmings, all suffering from commercially induced mental illness, throng to the malls like greedy rats.

The doors open early; shoppers race in, trampling the less quick underfoot. They fight over that Perfect Toy that Johnny or Jane needs or the kid will feel completely unloved. Mind-controlled consumers who put into practice the themes of the season: Peace On Earth; Good Will Towards Others.

And as shoppers spend beyond their means, they become poorer while the rich just rake in more loot.

It’s OK not to like Xma$. In fact, it’s a sign of sanity to hate it.

Don’t be a lemming. Or a rat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

From The MailboX: No NUFOC This Year

I received another “confidential” postcard from that ufological gadfly Jim Moseley, perpetrator of the zine Saucer Smear. He only reads my thoughts via my snail mail zine, The Ray X X-Rayer, eschewing the "Dreaded" Internet. Since Jim can say it best in few words, this is what he had to share. (NUFOC refers to the National UFO Conference.)

= = =



Dear RX:

I really enjoyed your [Ray X X-Rayer] #50 more than usual, especially as it was mostly about UFO-related things, with a little sci/fi thrown in. Too bad Kimball lost $'s with his con; As U will see in the next "Smear," The San Diego NUFOC has been mercifully cancelled. I called the hotel awhile back + was told that 100 rooms had been set aside. I asked how many had been taken so far, + and the reply was none! (That was a clue!) I wish I could hold a con with U as the featured speaker. You could appear with a bag over your head if necessary. Print this (if U dare!)

Jim Moseley


Too much. Or too little.

Fighting off the logy fog hanging over me. I can sleep eight hours straight but not feel completely rested. I can sleep most of the day and still need recharging. I have a few hours of activity, followed by the strong pull to take a long nap.

Sometimes I have insomnia. It’s as if I have to make up for all the lost time I’ve spent being half-awake or dead asleep. Actually, I don’t mind the insomnia that much because I can get a few things done.

I know what the problem is. Actually, I should say problems. It’s that time of year with short daylight periods and even then those periods are usually dismally overcast with innervating cold saturating the air. I need light and warmth. It’s easier to get out of bed in the morning when the bright sun is beckoning through your window.

But the main problem is sleep apnea, a condition that keeps me from getting a good, deep sleep. I had one doctor who prescribed a C-PAP machine, a unit that increases pressure in my airways to keep them open so that my breathing isn’t interrupted every minute. Ever try to sleep all night with a hose and facemask clamped onto your head?

I had problems with the C-PAP, especially one night when I woke up with swamp miasma filling up my head, despite the fact I had kept the machine clean.

I told my doctor about this. Apparently he hadn’t been getting enough sleep. He yelled at me, saying that I would drop dead from a heart attack if I didn’t use the machine. And if the machine didn’t work, he would give me a tracheotomy and I have to risk infection with that manmade hole the rest of my life.

Nice guy. I left and never went back.

So I’m trying another specialist. Doctor #2 is reasonable. Apparently I’m not the only person who had trouble with Doc #1. Some people who worked with Doc #1 now work at this other doctor’s office.

Once again I’ve gone through the sleep lab routine, trying to fall asleep on demand. At least I knew what to expect: the long, trailing cyborg wires glued onto my head and other parts of my body to monitor my various functions. But sleeping with those wires is a lot easier than being hooked up to a C-PAP machine, even though your movement is restricted even more.

Next month I have another sleep lab study, to fine tune the C-PAP machine settings. In the meantime I just work through the cycles of half-sleep and limited wakefulness. And maybe I can be alert enough at times to get a few things done, like write a somewhat coherent blog post.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Scene From My Upcoming SF Movie

Hillbilly Heaven

Recently I joined, invited by Paul Kimball. So far I haven't done that much with my site over there. Paul advised that I should put up a photo of myself or a least a picture of my "lovely hometown."

Well, here's a snapshot of an inspiring spot in my town. I thought I should share it with all my "fans" here at blogspot.

All that is missing is the broken washing machine and the rusted-out car sitting on cinderblocks.

Actually, the rest of the neighborhood is OK, but for some reason the city and the neighbors just let this frontyard faux pas slide. The owners do pick it up for a while, only to place new old stuff in a different arrangement. Maybe it's really some sort of art project. (And maybe the Pope is an atheist.)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

eXclusive Links

I hate HTML. That's why it's taken me some time to update this blog and add some hyperlinks to other voices out there in the blogverse. Somehow my brain was working just right so that I could finally handle the template section and create a new section of links.

If you take a look at the right-hand side of the screen under eXclusive Links, you'll notice the name Greg Bishop of The Excluded Middle. He just started blogging, despite the fact he could have done it much sooner, indicating an aversion to this newfangled medium. Well, at least he isn't as bad as my favorite Luddite, Supreme Commander Jim Moseley, he eschews all things computer and still creates his zine, Saucer Smear, with a typewriter.

Man, I'm surprised when a UFO buff avoids or outright rejects new technology. How would such a person react if he was picked up by a flying saucer, whisked off to another planet, and then had the opportunity to explore a technologically advanced civilization with all its wonders? Would he say look out at the amazing world before him and say: "Take me home. This place looks too complicated."

Hey, I'm no great fan of computers. Especially when I have to fug around with stuff like HTML. But somehow I put up with it because it does pay off in the end.

Another link I want to mention is David Greenberger's Duplex Planet. No, he doesn't deal with UFOs or sci fi type of stuff. I came across his print zine years ago and was impressed. He records the oral histories of senior citizens, slices of life from days long ago. It's down to earth material, something I need when I'm thinking too much about UFOs, paranormal events, and fringe theories of every stripe.

Website Updates

Besides this blog I also maintain, a place where I archive my many eXpressions as short articles and in zine form. Under the section designated "X-Rays" I've added an article that appeared the latest edition of my print zine, The Ray X X-Rayer, outlining its evolution. For inclusion in "X-Rays" I changed the title a bit to "50 Issues: A Brief History."

If you look under "The Zine Zone" you will see links for X-Rayer #50, a choice of MS Word format or plain text. I no longer create a webzine version in HTML because it just duplicates what is already on my blog. Also, I'm assuming that most readers have MS Word or a compatible wordprocessing program to access (and to print out, if needed) the print zine version.

Unless I hear otherwise from my readers, I will only archive my zine as a Word file. And if suitable, I will also save it as plain text. Issue #49 was too much of a mix with text and images to work as an ASCII file. Ergo, I only uploaded a Word version. X-R #50 turned out not to have any images, except for the masthead logo, a detail not needed for a plain text version.

I'm trying to keep my work accessible to most readers: that's why I still have a photocopied snail mail version. I use Word to create that version. After an issue is printed, it's no problem for me to upload the Word file to my site and create link to it. So if you're at work and the boss isn't around, now is the time to print it out and stick it to The Man.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Misc. UFO Con Updates

No, I'm not referring to ET scam artists. The "con" refers to conference, such as the 2006 New Frontiers Symposium that was held on October 14th, up there in Halifax, Nova Scotia (in Canada, eh?).

Over at his blog, The Other Side Of Truth, Paul Kimball explains that while his conference didn't draw great numbers (and ended up losing money), he will press on with another New Frontiers Symposium, probably in late spring of next year. LINK

The next symposium might feature a modern way of reaching the masses. To quote Paul:

"I view the 2006 Symposium as a trial-run for things to come. Will Wise and I were bouncing some very interesting ideas around after the Symposium about how we can move forward by using the Internet, and concepts such as live streaming of symposium video, which would allow people from all around the world to 'attend', and, hopefully, even interact with the speakers. More on all of this in the days and weeks to come."

In contrast, my favorite computerphobic Luddite, James Moseley, just announced in the latest issue of his meatspace zine, Saucer Smear (Oct. 5th, 2006), that there should be a NUFOC for 2006, even though it had been previously announced that we would be NUFOC-less until 2007. As Supreme Commander Moseley delineates, he received a phone call from Lisa Davis, executive director of the NUFOC (National UFO Conference), who told him she decided not to skip this year and that a conference would be held on Dec. 1st thourgh the 3rd at the Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego, California. Moseley added that as Smear was going to press, he still hadn't received any updates regarding the last minute NUFOC.

I went to the NUFOC site and the only info that I found beyond the item in Smear is the hotel room rate. The page states: "More details will be added very shortly." (To reach this page, click on "Conferences" in the upper right hand corner on the NUFOC homepage, then click on "2006.") As the Supreme Commander observes:

"It's a bit late to advertise a convention for early December, but we'll see what happens. Your 'Smear' editor expects to be there!"

And all I can add is: Wheee!

Flash Gordon B.S. (Bad Science)

OK, I ain’t a scientist. But I can smell bad science a light year away.

Case in point: an episode of the live action Flash Gordon TV series from the 1950s entitled “The Lure of Light.” (At first I thought the episode was called “The Lurid Light,” but that would have been more appropriate for another character, Flesh Gordon.) In this episode earth scientists have discovered a way to make a spaceship travel faster than the speed of light.

A bit of background info for Those Not In The Know: this Flash Gordon TV series takes place in the future where travel between planets can be accomplished in a matter of hours, except for long hauls that may take a few days. Our hero Flash works for GBI – the Galactic Bureau of Investigation – that operates like an interplanetary FBI, enforcing the law throughout the galaxy. Operating out of GBI headquarters on earth, Flash takes off in an old-style sci fi fuel-powered rocket, complete with a fiery exhaust, to fight various thieves and tyrants.

OK, this was a low budget show from the early days of TV. I can cut it some slack – up to a point. Apparently to save money the show was shot for a while in West Berlin. You can detect that German accent with some of the supporting actors. In fact, it’s really noticeable when a bad guy is portrayed by a West Berliner (“Vot is dis? Flash Gordon!”) It reminds one of those one-sided WWII movies where brave American soldiers fought evil but stupid Nazis.

But I’m not here to discuss the history of jingoistic entertainment. Let’s get back to the “science” found in this episode.

I must admit I only seen a few episodes of this TV series, but I’m pretty sure that such concepts as tachyon drives, wormholes, or hyperspace weren’t used to explain how Flash got around the galaxy so swiftly with his fuel-powered rocketship. So if earth has just discovered FTL travel, how has Flash been traveling to other planets like Saturn within hours, not months or years?

But there’s more B.S.

Take the FTL rocket, complete with its fiery exhaust. During a demonstration the unmanned rocket achieves faster than light speed via remote control. As it nears the speed of light, it is shown stretching in length as viewed from earth before it disappears. I thought Einstein’s theory of relativity states that an object would shorten in length, contracting to the size of a dot at near light speed. If it somehow attained light speed, it would then have infinite mass, needing infinite energy to keep going.

Anyway, Flash volunteers to travel on board the remote controlled FTL rocket, despite the unknown dangers. In the meantime, his fellow GBI agent, Dale Arden, is abducted by an evil queen on another planet. This queen is trying to learn the secret of FTL travel. Flash uses the experimental rocket to travel to where Dale is being interrogated, but he arrives too late: she’s dead.

So he jumps back into the super rocket and with GBI HQ on earth remotely controlling it, he travels faster than the speed of light, hoping that he will move backward it time. At hyper-light-speed he watches the clock on board his ship race in reverse; he gains about three hours and then tells earth to cut the FTL drive. Using the extra time he arrives earlier to prevent Dale’s death.

OK, that opens up that can of worms called Time Travel Paradoxes. But let me pick on the most obvious problem regarding the theory of relativity.

As stated in the show, the FTL rocket is remotely controlled from Earth. Flash watches the onboard clock, waits to gain enough time, and then tells earth control via radio to cut off the light speed drive.

From what I remember of Einstein’s stuff, as a spaceship approaches light speed, time dilation occurs. Relative to the planet earth, time on the ship moves slower, even though the crew on board doesn’t notice any changes from their POV. So how can Flash be on his ship just before it hits light speed, communicating with earth without any time dilation effect?

And better yet, there’s this time travel paradox: how can Flash be in contact with earth three hours earlier than when he originally left?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Whatever Happened To Morton M. Zeitlin?

I’m poking around the used books shop when I stumble across an interesting little publication. Decades old, its pages are just beginning to yellow, taking on a brittleness that will eventually give way to complete disintegration.

It was a stapled literary magazine published by the pupils of Watertown High School, Watertown, NY, back in April of 1930. I open up this edition of The Owl, flip through its pages, and I spot an interesting title to one short story: “The Retreat from Mercury.”

Science fiction? Yup, but it’s more like early SF, i.e., scientifiction.

The story opens in the year 3509 at the Astronomer’s and Spaceflyer’s Club in the city of Dragonum, a thriving futuristic metropolis that sits on the site of an ancient city called Chicago. The narrator tells his friend, Ralph X2AFXW53, that he believes it’s possible to take a trip to Venus.

“We have made calculations,” the narrator tells his friend, “and believe that there is sufficient air to support life. Even if there is no water there, we can draw it from the surrounding fog bank.”

At this point the narrator interrupts the story and speaks directly to the reader, throwing in some history. He explains that ordinary last names have disappeared, as he has shown with the name of his friend Ralph. Back in the year 2756 everyone was individually “ticketed.” The first letter in a ticket indicated the country where the person was born, accompanied by a number designating the district within that country. The following letter combination was the name assigned by the world’s government and the last number showed his standing in the community of 1000.

In 3143 birth control was established; too many people, not enough room. And in the year 2471 the “earth-men” finally traveled to Mars. They discovered a few hundred Martians were still alive and to save them from extinction, these survivors were brought back to the earth. But conditions on earth didn’t suit them and so the Martians died out. (Mac Tonnies, please take note.)

Even though it’s the year 3509 and earth-men have been to Mars, no one has made it to Venus. The narrator explains that back in 1991 a Professor Robert E. Alguire tried to rocket there but missed by several millions miles and ended up plunging into the sun.

But despite the challenge, the narrator and his buddy Ralph decided to go, but not via rocket. As the narrator explains:

“My machine was not the usual type of space-navigating contraption but rather of the old-type cabin aeroplane but fixed in a manner so that if a runway of two thousand miles were provided we could rise from the earth’s gravitation.”

December 21, 3509. On this fateful day the narrator and his crew begin their voyage to Venus, using the long runway starting in Dragonum. At this point the narrator explains:

“We maintained a speed of such an immense rate that almost before we knew it I told Ralph to turn towards Venus, which I pointed out to him by writing the directions. As we wore oxygen masks, we could not hear each other speak.”

But disaster strikes. The steering gear jams and despite the mechanical skill of Bob and Hal, the two engineers on board, the aeroplane crash-lands on Mercury less than a day later. The air is breathable but the heat is infernal. To keep cool the stranded crew digs a large and deep hole. On the advice of Ned, the chemist, they dig ten miles into the Mercurial surface and find water. Fifty miles down they find gold, an important find because the substance could be used to fix their ship.

Repairs are made and the aeroplane takes off from Mercury. (Apparently there was enough smooth surface on that planet to act as a two thousand mile runway.) The crew returns safe to earth.

Two years later, after the adventure on Mercury, the narrator meets his friend Ralph in the library at the Astronomers’ and Space-flyers’ club. Ralph looks up from his book and greets him. During their conversation Ralph mentions he sort of misses Mercury because it wasn’t crowded, there was plenty of elbow room there. But he adds: “But gosh, the steering gear might jam and we mightn’t be so lucky.”

The narrator agrees and so the story closes.

Morton M. Zeitlin, class of 1932, wrote this story. Now here in the year 2006 it’s so easy to point at the technical mistakes and bad predictions in “The Retreat from Mercury.”

But have you read science fiction from the late 1920s/early 1930s? Check out an issue of Amazing Stories, the pulp magazine published by Hugo Gernsback that introduced many readers to stories of “scientifiction,” helping to inspire SF writers like Isaac Asimov.

I have an issue of Amazing Stories dated 1928. In it an inventor travels to another planet by means of a propeller driven ship that uses the medium of ether that exists in space. Maybe the aeroplane in Zeitlin’s story also made it to Mercury thanks to ether. But since he doesn’t mention this detail, it seems that his ship just built up tremendous inertia during its mad dash down that two thousand mile runway.

Anyway, Zeitlin’s “science” is no worse that what was appearing in Amazing Stories at that time. Obviously he read that pulp title because of his character, Ralph X2AFWX53. Hugo Gernsback once wrote a story called “Ralph 124c 41 +.” (In Gernsback’s case the “ticket” was a play on words: “One to foresee for one.” The story is set in the year 2660; it predicts the creations of inventions such as the “Language Rectifier” and the “Telephot.”)

And as for predicting the future –- well, no computers exist in Zeitlin’s future, but at least libraries with books are still around. That’s good news for someone like me who enjoys reading a book more so than a computer screen.

I wonder if Morton M. Zeitlin continued with his writing, even trying to sell a story to Gernsback. I’ve Googled Zeitlin’s name but no leads. (Maybe he dropped his last name for a “ticket?”) I would like to see a Watertown High School yearbook for 1932 with a picture of Zeitlin. I imagine that he looked like the shy, studious type, tall, lanky, stuck with eyeglasses, the perfect victim for bullies.

The way I was when I was an aspiring SF writer in high school.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lack Of Air To Dvorsky’s Brain Affects His Thinking; Doctors Rush To Place Oxygen Line Up His Backside

George P. Dvorsky is a bigot.

Recently at his blog,, he took some cheap shots at Mac Tonnies and everyone who has a serious interest in UFOs. LINK

To quote him: "Trouble is, however, a significant and burgeoning segment of society doesn’t believe this to be true – the so-called UFOlogists. You know, the folks who talk about flying saucers, little green men (or is that grey men?), crop circles – the whole X-Files bit. Today, an entire sub-culture exists devoted to these topics as if they were matter of fact."

It's so easy to stereotype a whole group with one sweeping statement. I don't consider myself an ufologist, but I am interested in the topic. Apparently, in Dvorksy's eyes, I believe in "flying saucers," "little green men," and all sorts of kooky stuff. Never mind that he's invoking the saucer nut stereotype of the 1950s, jamming us all into the space brothers/contactee fringe pigeonhole.

Yes, there are kooks in the UFO field. But I'll bet if you dig deep enough, you will find a few scientists or skeptics with "kooky" beliefs.

And to quote The Great Dvorsky again: "And I also know that Mac Tonnies over at Posthuman Blues links to my articles from time-to-time. Posthuman Blues often deals with transhumanist and other future issues, but Tonnies’s legitimate content is offset by his misguided focus on UFOlogy. As a result, the transhumanist movement may have a harder time gaining public acceptance and support with this kind of negative association."

As if the transhumanist movement won't have a hard time gaining acceptance with bigots like Dvorsky and his kind of negative outlook.

I don't agree with Mac on everything -- occasionally I find him a bit downbeat and too "bluesy" - but at least I respectfully disagree with his viewpoints. Anyway, he runs his blog the way he wants. I would never tell him what to say or think, unlike The Great Dvorsky.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Startling, Psychedelic (But Non-Hallucinogenic) Origin of Ray’s Purple Elephant

It started with a comment by noted skeptic Martin Gardner.

Gardner is considered one of the founding fathers of modern skepticism. His most famous book, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, takes a few good jabs at people who hold irrational beliefs. He criticizes others for believing in what can’t be proven by the scientific method.

But then I read that he believed in God. He admitted that there was no reason to believe in a Supreme Being, that was no logical or scientific proof, but he found it reassuring. He invoked the term “fideism.”

My dictionary defines fideism as “exclusive reliance in religious matters upon faith, with consequent rejection of appeals to science or philosophy.” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.)

During an interview published in The Skeptical Inquirer, Gardner said: “Shortly before he died, Carl Sagan wrote to say he had reread my Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener and was it fair to say that I believed in God solely because it made me ‘feel good.’ I replied that this was exactly right, though the emotion was deeper than the way one feels good after three drinks. It is a way of escaping from a deep-seated despair.” (A Mind at Play - An Interview with Martin Gardner By Kendrick Frazier; SI March/April 1998.)

So if it feels good, it’s OK to believe in it? Couldn’t the same rationalization be used by people who believe in astrology, miracles, ESP, and other targets of Gardner’s debunking? Wasn’t Gardner just engaging in philosophical acrobatics to justify his own nutty idealism?

I was thinking about this contradiction when reading a comic book version of a Conan the Barbarian short story, “The Tower of the Elephant.” Then it struck me. If Gardner could attack other people’s belief systems, saying that there was no evidence for any reality behind such systems, while at the same time having an “irrational” belief in a godlike being that made him feel good – well, I could do the same thing.

So there’s this invisible god-presence in the shape of a purple elephant that I consult from time to time. He’s a supreme being of truth who spans across all dimensions and multiverses, but can still fit into my small apartment when He makes an appearance. My Purple Elephant.

Now how can He be invisible and purple at the same time?

It’s all about fideism, pal.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Meanwhile, Back At The Dot Com…

For the last few days I have been having problems with Blogger. Apparently some of it is beyond their control, such as spammers messing up the system.

I’m not a very energetic person with a surfeit of mental power. That’s why I blog; I can handle one or two short items at a time.

So when I’m ready to publish, I can’t afford to waste time, trying to get my computer/ISP/hosting service to work properly. On a couple of occasions I could publish faster on my dot com than trying to get a post up here.

I do like Blogger. It’s free and so I shouldn’t be complaining. But I’ve been spoiled by the quality of their service. But when I want something done, I get impatient, wasting energy that could be spent elsewhere.

Anyway, I needed an eXcuse to revamp my dot com, . So now it includes a half-ass blog section called “X-Rays.” I’ve only written an intro to the new section. If I publish anything notable there, I’ll mention it here. And if something bad happens here at Blogger, My Purple Elephant forbid, I’ll have a backup. You may call me a control freak, but I’m someone who doesn’t have time to deal with bullshit. I already have enough, thank you.

My website also has an archive of my works in zine form. I do like blogging because I can work on short pieces and then pick among them what I want to format into a zine.

A UFO Conference Without Tinfoil Hats?

Call it a New Frontiers Symposium, with the subtitle of “Extraterrestrial Life, Space Exploration, & The Future” and maybe “they” will stay away.

As you work your way along the spectrum of human activities, straying away from the norm, you’re more apt to encounter “personalities” and “characters” than you would at more mainstream events. So I’m less surprised to find an eccentric at a comic book convention than I would at a writer’s conference. Comic book fans are more apt to dress up in outlandish costumes than aspiring writers – but even that isn’t a hard rule.

In his book, Shockingly Close To The Truth, Jim Moseley describes some of the notables who used to show up at the Giant Rock flying saucer conventions held in the Mojave Desert from 1954 through 1974. For example, there were Princess Negonna and Prince Neosom from the planet Tythan. And let’s not forget Connie Menger who claimed to have lived on Venus in a previous life. To borrow an appropriate phrase from Supreme Commander Moseley: Wheee!

Documentary filmmaker Paul Kimball wants to sponsor a more mainstream event with his 2006 New Frontiers Symposium. And I don’t blame him. While everyone is entitled to an opinion, no matter how “out there” it may be, Paul wants to move beyond a Giant Rock kooks-in-the-hot-desert-sun circus and show that ufology, despite its bad press, can be a topic for serious debate.

The symposium will be held in a couple of weeks on Saturday October 14, 2006, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. More info can be found at .

I have seen one of the scheduled speakers, Stanton Friedman, who spoke at Plattsburgh University a while ago. And from I know about the other speakers, it should be an interesting conference.

Just leave your tinfoil hat at the door.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bad TV Blast From The Past

Now here’s a memory trigger.

William Wise, over at his blog Rational Geek, mentioned that episodes of Project UFO are available for downloading from the Web. I hadn’t thought about that TV show for years –- and for good reason.

Project UFO followed the Sisyphean adventures of two bland investigators for Project Blue Book, the US Air Force department that handled flying saucer reports. Never mind that Blue Book was no longer in operation when the series was broadcast in 1978. The movie, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, was a hit at that time and so producer Jack Webb, Mr. Dragnet himself, could sell this turkey to NBC-TV.

And talk about special effects. One of the investigators recalled how he was aboard a bomber one time and the crew spotted an UFO. The plane chased after it. A crew member described the object during the pursuit, observing that the UFO was saucer-shaped with a metallic silver surface, no openings such as jet exhausts or windows. I noticed the guy didn’t mention the four white strings holding up the cheap model against the rear screen projection.

My favorite Project UFO episode: A married couple meets with the Blue Book investigators. They’ve had a terrifying experience. One foggy night they glimpsed something from their high-rise apartment. Eventually it comes out they saw bipedal aliens inside a spacecraft with horse-shaped heads. The husband exclaims: "So that's why we couldn't look at this!" He goes over to a painting hanging on a wall, the image hidden by a small sheet of cloth draped over it. He pulls off the sheet and –- DUM-DE-DUM-DUM (Dragnet music) -- there's a painted image of a horse's face!

Or so I remember. It's been a while, but I think I got the gist of the two episodes I’ve described. Anyway, it was a stupid series. They could never reveal anything, just leave it a mystery, week after week, slight variations on the same plotline: someone sees an UFO, Blue Book investigates, and it usually turns out that something weird is going on. That routine wore out quickly.

The opposite extreme to Project UFO and its one-plotline-for-every-episode was The X-Files where it just kept adding to the mystery, piling on more details regarding a great conspiracy lurking in the background, until it was a complete mess. All it needed was horse-headed aliens thrown in.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Devil In The Details?

Some conspiracy mongers believe that the presence of the Illuminati can be proven by the symbols it employs. When he was alive, radio personality Bill Cooper used to rant about how such symbols were hidden in plain sight, from the All-Seeing Eye on the dollar bill to a pyramid-shaped rooftop glimpsed during the opening credits of David Letterman’s late night talk show.

While visiting the state fair in Syracuse, NY, I noticed the detailed archway to the main entrance at the John Deere Horticulture Building. I wonder how Bill Cooper would have interpreted the sweeping, repetitive bands of flowers and bluebirds, what evil esoteric meanings lurked within their apparently innocent designs.

Let’s see, bluebirds. UN soldiers wear blue helmets. And the UN is a “wing” of the Illuminati that will be used to enslave the world under a New World Order. And as for the flowers, well, poppies, opium, drugs to keep the sheeple asleep. It all fits, don’t it?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Museum Of The Earth

The other day my friends took me to an interesting museum in Ithaca, NY. Of course, while I was there I took a few traditional journalistic images, but I also tried a few "artsy" shots.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who’s This VIP?

So I’m hanging around the state fair in Syracuse one day, up on the second floor of a building where some artwork and photography was being displayed. I noticed a few people were looking out a window, excited that someone was going to make an appearance.

I waited for a while, finding a window that also looked out on the same spot. Then this middle-aged white-haired guy came out and was escorted through the crowd with a contingent of New York State Troopers and a special security force.

Hmmm, this visitor looks familiar but I just can’t place him. Must be because the window was kinda dirty and I didn’t get a clear shot with my compact digital camera. Can’t be anyone really important because no one hassled me about taking photos.

Does this guy look familiar to you? Maybe he was a judge for the Miss New York State Fair contest.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Smiley Simulacrum

I’m away for a while from Plattsburgh, NY, escaping its provincial environs for a week or two. During my trip I had to transfer to a second bus in Albany that would take me to central New York State. I got on the bus early and while I was looking around, I noticed a pattern on one of the towers in the distance. No, I didn’t create this in Photoshop; what you see is what I saw. OK, it has a crooked grin, but it still looks like a smiley face to me, albeit one a bit pixelated. It appears to have been created by weathering on the wall. Once again Nature likes to play with our pattern-seeking heads.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Better For Whose World?

I just read a great book, but I’m not ready to write a full-blown review. At the same time, I do think the book is worth reading, even though I can’t get all my thoughts together.

So here are some bits of knowledge I gleaned from “Better for All The World” by Harry Bruinius (2006). These random items should intrigue you to pick up the book. If not, well, I didn’t waste my time writing a regular review.

The sub-title, “The Secret History of Forced Sterilization and America’s Quest for Racial Purity,” should clue you in on the subject matter and the fact this is non-fiction (even though parts of it read like fiction).

---“Eugenics” was the reason to sterilize the genetically “unfit” during the early decades of the twentieth century. By 1927, 8,500 indigent and poorly educated citizens were forced to undergo sterilization, the number rising to 65,000 as time went on. Yes, there was a human cost but within three generations all genetically based problems – from alcoholism to pauperism – would be eliminated under such a program if followed through to its final solution. Or so declared the proponents.

---Targets for sterilization included women deemed to be “morons,” “imbeciles,” or some other subjective term created by eugenicists. The motto, “Three generations of imbeciles is enough,” justified the method. As Bruinius explains, a third generation “imbecile” was adopted by a good family and ended up as an honor student in grade school. Apparently this genetic business wasn’t fully understood by those promoting racial purity.

---The targeted women, residents of mental institutions, prisons, and other state-run establishments, were told that by law they had to undergo sterilization. In other cases doctors sidestepped any potential legal challenges by not informing the women that they were being sterilized. The surgery, they explained, was only to remove a bad appendix.

---A leading eugenicist, Harry Laughlin, in 1936 was invited by the University of Heidelberg to have an honorary degree bestowed upon him for his work in “race hygiene.” Of course, Hitler and company was really interested in such hygiene. For some reason eugenics fell into disfavor after World War II.

---Eugenicists proclaimed that they had the best of intentions. After all, if they had their way, such disorders as epilepsy would be wiped out. As mentioned before, one of the leading voices behind the movement was Harry Laughlin. It should be noted that he kept a secret: he was an epileptic, one time suffering a seizure while driving a car. But that had to be overlooked because even though he was one of the “unfit,” he wanted to keep the Nordic race untainted and let the other lesser races fall under the control of the genetically superior.

---In the 1930s the state of Virginia took eugenics very seriously. In one county the sheriff rounded up some mountain folks, men and women – poor white trash – and hauled them off to the hospital so that racial purity could be maintained.

Of course, we in this modern, enlightened world won’t repeat the mistakes of the past with scientific breakthroughs such as genetic engineering – right?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Another UFO Over Plattsburgh, NY

Hey, I must be getting lucky like Billy Meier. Here’s another UFO I captured, a classic saucer-shape, just before it dematerialized into another dimension. Compare this to my other UFO photo in the previous post.

Once again, I only used Photoshop to create enhance the complete image.

Monday, August 14, 2006

UFO Winks Over Plattsburgh, NY

I snapped this photo yesterday, just before the strange object winked out of sight.

This actual digital photo has been reproduced with relatively minor adjustments using Photoshop. The adjustments were made only to enhance details.

Now some might criticize the veracity of this image. For example, the perspective of the old courthouse building doesn’t match the object in the sky. The building seems to be taken with a wide-angle lens: its lines evince some keystone distortion, bending away from the camera towards the middle.

But the strange object doesn’t show any signs of such distortion, as if it was taken from a second image made with a telephoto lens. The UFO looks flat compared to the building.

And the angle of the sunlight striking the object doesn’t match the illumination falling on the courthouse.

Well, as you may see, the UFO is surrounded by an unearthly aura, indicating transdimensional flight. The reason why its lighting and perspective don’t match the building is because we are seeing the object as viewed in another dimension. In the other dimension the sunlight is at a different angle and the perspective is flatter.

Of course, the aura around the object couldn’t have been produced by using the “feathering” effect in Photoshop.

I am hoping the object will return and land so that I may meet its occupants. Mac Tonnies at his blog has been going on about his adventures with beautiful space women, carrying on the fine tradition of Professor George Adamski.

But since this is Plattsburgh, I won’t be surprised if the occupants are neither beautiful or women.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Here We Go Again (Maybe)

Fortunately a terrorist threat has been stopped in time, saving many lives. I’ve never doubted that there is a problem with terrorism.

But another problem is overreaction. OK, maybe all liquids should be banned from airplanes for the time being. I have no quibble with that. Yet, as it has been demonstrated before, some authorities might start down that slippery slope towards a state of strict control that violates the rights of the people while not stopping acts of terrorism.

And in a while we become more like the undemocratic states that support terrorists.

There has to be a balance. I’m concerned that fear might tip the response too far to one side, at least on local levels, if not nationally. The Noughties become a repeat of the Sixties, polarization and violence.

Photography, writing, blogging –- all forms of personal expression might be threatened if you don’t “get behind The Program,” i.e., agree with everything dictated from The Authorities, don’t complain, don’t question.

And if it comes to that, try not to bleat too loud on the way to the “relocation center.”

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Photography As A Criminal Activity

I enjoy photography as a hobby. But my hobby might one day get me arrested.

For example:

--White Plains, NY. March 17, 2006. Freelance photographer Ben Hider notices the flags outside the county courthouse waving in the wind. When he takes a few shots of the flags, he ends up being hauled in by court police officers. The zealous officers frisk and interrogate him. Hider, a British citizen with a green card, is threatened with deportation.

--July 2006. Philadelphia. A man is arrested for taking a photograph from his backyard with a cell phone. The subject of his imaging: police cars in the street during the arrest of a drug dealer in the neighborhood. The cell phone photog, Neftaly Cruz, a college senior, was grabbed, cuffed, and taken to jail. A neighbor says she heard the officer tell Cruz that he should have went into his house and minded his own business instead of taking pictures.

--August 7, 2006. New York City. The New York Civil Liberties Union expands its federal lawsuit in regards to NYPD officers unlawfully detaining and threatening photographers. The filing expands on a lawsuit on behalf of Rakesh Sharma, a documentary filmmaker who was detained last year for the act of being on a sidewalk and filming taxi cabs.

And I can also state that even a podunk like Plattsburgh, NY has had incidents of the city police leaning on someone just for taking a photograph. The officers have ordered the photographer to stop shooting and move along and also have even blocked his view. This is a violation of a little thing called the First Amendment.

Also, officers have demanded to see images taken with a digital camera via the LCD screen, a violation of a little thing called the Fourth Amendment.

What is going on? Don’t give me that terrorism crap. Most of these cases involve photography taken from public property of a scene or an event in plain public view.

Let’s use a bit of common sense: a halfway intelligent terrorist wouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb while taking photos to be somehow used for a violent act. He would take shots on the sly, using a concealed spy camera.

And with the way the police are acting towards photographers, it will turn out that only terrorists will end up with photographs, not law-abiding citizens.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Junkbox Gems: Those Women!

As regular readers are aware, I try to rescue books one step away from the landfill, checking out the FREE BOOKS box outside the used bookstore downtown. Unfortunately, some books have received rough treatment and end up in the freebie box because even the landfill won’t take ‘em.

Case in point: A copy of the classic paperback novel, The Sucker, by Orrie Hitt. The copy I found is unreadable for the most part, binding dried out, missing pages, and the pages that are left are browned and crumbling away. But I picked up the remains because of the front and back covers. After all, Art must be preserved, even if it’s only saved digitally with a flatbed scanner.

According to the cover blurb, the protagonist has figured women from every angle – except one. Considering how he’s figuring the gal on the cover, I can’t imagine what angle he hasn’t tried.

And check out the back cover copy. What’s a pseudo-Lesbian? (If you find the copy hard to read, click on the image for a larger view.)

But I did find another paperback in much better condition: How To Be Outrageously Successful With Women. I haven’t read it yet, but the back cover copy does promise to reveal the new approach to the new woman – circa 1975, that is. I find self-help books to provide unintended humor because when such a tome comes on the scene, it’s The One Book With The Right Answers. Then a year passes and someone else writes The One Book. Seasons cycle, time marches on, and all of these One Books end up in the junkbox.

One would think that at least one of The One Books would be The One and that there would be no reason to buy any other titles. Apparently The Right Answers have a limited shelf life and New Right Answers have to be found – even though most of the time what passes for “new” is the same old bullshit dressed up in a modern crock.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The MailBoX: Message From A Floridian Luddite

Just received a bit of snail mail from Jim Moseley, perpetrator of the zine, Saucer Smear (PO Box 1709, Key West, FL 33041). Jim is not one to get caught in The Web (to use the appropriate pun). I’ve always contended that one of the signs of the Apocalypse is the reception of email from Supreme Commander Moseley.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from his handwritten missive dated 7/24/06:

“I now see more clearly than ever how good it is that I never allowed myself to be sucked into the Internet. Identity theft, scams of every conceivable kind, viruses, etc. – I just don’t have the fortitude to be up with it. All I get now is telemarketers, and I just hang up!

Keep ‘em frying!


Well, Jim, the Internet is like dating: you have to be wary of some women or you’ll get your identity stolen, and also end up being scammed out of your money. And let’s not talk about viruses! (My perfect woman would be one with a “Restart” option.)

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s ironic that you're not taking advantage of the great tech from the Roswell crash.



Sunday, July 30, 2006

Do You See What I See? Take 2

OK, let me try another one. This image has been Photoshopped, but only to remove the distracting background and to smooth the edges of the subject. For some reason this looks darker than it did in Photoshop. If it's too dark, let me know and I'll zap the brightness and contrast some more.

So, does anyone see what I noticed in this tree trunk?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Do You See What I See?

Sometimes I like to shoot abstract images. Admittedly this is a photo of a freshly painted wall reflecting a large window and colored lights. But to me it seems to form a pattern. I’m wondering if anyone else sees the same image within the image.

No, this isn’t a put-on. I will share my take on this shot later to find out if anyone agrees with me.

A Different POV

I respect Mac Tonnies and his views over at his blog. But occasionally he becomes a little too pessimistic about global warming. He picks articles and images that imply the world is going to concurrently burn up and flood over.

Yes, we’re facing a problem with climate change. But I’ve lived a little too long to accept the worst forecasts without question. During the Cold War the end-of-mankind doomsayers predicted the superowers would inevitably wage World War III, radioactive craters dotting the earth’s surface. In the 1970s the environmentally-alarmed doomsayers proclaimed that the planet would be blanketed by a sea of air pollution before the 21st Century, that by now we would be choking on our own wastes.

The problems of nuke warfare and pollution remain with us. But the worst forecasts have proved so far to be wrong. There’s a difference between worry and concern. Worry is the onus of the pessimist. He has decided the game is up and the clock is ticking down the final seconds.

Concern, on the other hand, is the viewpoint of a realist. He does agree that there are far-reaching problems. While there is no guarantee of complete success or failure when dealing with them, such problems should still be acknowledged and acted upon within reason.

While the argument is over in regards to global warming, no one can truly say how bad its effects will be. There will be effects, of course. But are they so dire that we might as well give up living?

Anyway, before global warming or pollution or nuke warfare destroys mankind, a planet-killer asteroid might make any such doomsday scenarios beside the point. [G]

So while I share some concern with Mac in regards to climate change, I have a wait-and-see attitude in how severe it will be. Maybe civilization will wise up and be able to stave off the worst results. Maybe the earth will resist mankind’s efforts to screw it up, providing an unexpected surprise. Who knows? Or maybe I’m being too optimistic and we’re all gonna die. Either way, at this time, I’m not worrying about it.

As a respectful counterpoint, let me offer one of my photos and a pithy observation. I took this image yesterday after noticing a posthole in the sidewalk where a street sign once stood.

Despite mankind’s most damnable efforts, life thrives.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

When UFO Ain’t UFO

Search engine. Keyword: UFO – as in Unidentified Flying Object.

Now here’s a story on the Web saying that 60% of Brits saw an UFO last year. OK, take a look and find out that UFO in this case means unforeseen financial occurrence. It’s a business news item, talking about people who become strapped for cash when something bad happens like a boiler breaking down. Not an article related to strange objects in the sky.

Try again. Here’s a hit about former NBC-TV News Anchor Tom Brokaw talking about an UFO. Strange title: “The UFO Hovering Over 2008.” Access the hit, peruse a piece about the next presidential race, people speculating on who will run and win. But Brokaw says it’s too early to say how the race is shaping up because one key event can change the whole political landscape. UFO, explains Brokaw, is short for the unforeseen will occur.

Politics is an alien subject to me. Try again. What’s this? A woman has a pile of UFOs in her house? Yup – except this woman isn’t an ufologist, she’s a stitchologist. Stitching projects that have been tossed aside are called UFOs – unfinished objects.

So let me coin my own phrase for UFO: unrelated, false hit – Oh, shit!