Saturday, July 31, 2004

An Automobile With Feelings

"Eyebrows and eyelids would be created by lights appearing above the headlights, and a 'tear' would be displayed by another light installed below the headlights. The patent says any of the lights can remain on for a period of time, blink on and off, or fade from bright to faint. The eyelids can close in any direction - top to bottom, bottom to top and diagonally. The eyebrow shape can change, and the brows, lids and tears can be featured in different colors, the patent says."

So basically you're behind the wheel of a two-ton petroleum-fueled emoticon.

I can see it:

BMWs with vain, condescending smiles; fickle Minis with eager grins; slit-eyed Hummers chewing chrome cigars; disdainful Porsches . . .

At this rate, the 22nd century will resemble an episode of "The Teletubbies" (sans greenery).
I'm reading Jim Keith's "Saucers of the Illuminati." I haven't finished it yet, but so far his "revelations" seem blindingly obvious.

The creepiest element is probably the inevitable mind-control stuff. The declassified, published papers on government experimentation with radiological control of human subjects is frightening enough; I can scarcely imagine where such research has led in recent times, assisted by "black ops" blank checks.

(No, I take that back; I think I actually can imagine it. Oh, my.)

I have this vague theory that human consciousness is being somehow altered by the proliferation of wireless technology. UFOs might be part of it; perceived aliens might be another aspect. Remember that the modern UFO era began shortly after the widespread use of radar. If we inhabit a "superspectrum" of co-existing terrestrial intelligences, as suggested by John Keel, then our EM leakage may have disturbed the pecking order. (When "aliens" warn us of the dangers of nuclear weapons they may be quite sincerely concerned, although for purely selfish reasons.)

Meanwhile, we're busily -- heedlessly -- wrapping our planet in a veritable fog of EM pollution. Cellphone towers, for example. How much do we really know about the long-term effects of cellphone transmissions? In any case, it's probably too late; we're marinated in a flickering stew of pointless dialogue. (Victorian factory workers obliviously breathing lungfuls of soot . . .)

We could be hastening a new ecology -- call it the "electrosphere," although surely someone's beaten me to the term -- that interacts with the conventional biosphere in potentially strange -- even psychedelic -- ways. Albert Budden ("UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters -- The Electromagnetic Indictment") has made similar cautionary remarks . . . and seems to have been carefully ignored.

And all of this is excluding outright malicious intent. We hear more and more about microelectronics and "nonlethal weapons"; I think we're at the threshold of an age in which effective lobotomization of "the enemy" is deemed preferable to actual killing.
Remember zines -- those innumberable, cheap, joyously eclectic Xerox indie magazines that predated the Web? I do. I miss them. My first full-length story ("Pulling Strings," about a neurosurgeon who suffers a psychotic breakdown while in the OR) appeared in "Meshuggah," where I shared page space with the likes of Simeon Stylites (editor of FEH! Press) and "Blaster" Al Ackerman -- whose legendary "mail art" has since appeared in galleries.

Drawing by Al Ackerman.

I discovered zines in high school. No email, no websites . . . just a far-flung network of similarly minded anti-establishment types who reveled in oddball humor, literary esoterica and comix. This was before Googling, so you never knew where your memes were taking root. I remember receiving a cassette tape from England; it turned out to be a spoken-word small-press review (Andrew Savage's "Super Trouper") containing, among many other things, a musical rendition of my poem "Elvis In My Pants," which had originally appeared in "FEH!: A Journal of Odious Poetry."

The last I knew, "Meshuggah" had changed editorship and had moved from New York City to Athens, GA. This was in the early 90s, and I had hopes that some member of R.E.M. would chance across it at a local bookshop.

I haven't exactly checked lately, but I imagine zines are still a thriving industry. But the Web has stripped them of their once subversive status; I suspect they're less "samizdat" than badly penned self-indulgence.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all the hip blogs I monitor are missing out on some fundamental vibe; maybe electronic publishing can never precisely outgun the sheer memetic impact of a cheaply stapled zine, with its shoddy typography and anarchic leanings . . .

Strangely, the names I remember from the zine era (of which I caught only the tail end) don't seem to produce too many Google results. Did "Super Trouper" take its act online? Is Blaster Al still furiously grinding out pen-and-ink mail art or has he traded in his arsenal of envelopes for a wi-fi enabled laptop?

Friday, July 30, 2004

Cosimo has upgraded its website. The page on Charles Fort's "Lo!" features my introduction:

"Charles Fort was an intellectual adventurer, a deep-dyed scholar of the weird whose work paved the way for generations of researchers. Writing in the early 20th century, Fort pursued unexplained phenomena with feverish intensity and a rare sense of humility.

"Fort's Lo! is a classic work of studied iconoclasm, a restless ensemble of anecdotes that produces a singular sense of unease mingled with awe, gape-jawed amazement -- and a pang of existential fright. Fort's parade of scientific anomalies frames the larger anomaly that is human existence. Lo! is a book with the capacity to rewire brains and sculpt new lenses for seeing the unexpected, the unexplained -- and perhaps for glimpsing our own role in Fort's mystifying cosmic scheme.

"This book is a singularity, a focal point so rich with heretical memes that it's infected an entire century with its bizarre implications and sense of the inexplicable. Perhaps if Charles Fort had never existed, we would have been forced to invent him, or someone like him. But it's doubtful we could have improved on him. Lo! is something new and correspondingly startling: a crack in the veneer of orthodoxy and an impassioned plunge into the deep black waters of a most enigmatic planet."

--Mac Tonnies, author of After the Martian Apocalypse and Illumined Black

And it looks like they're going to republish Donald Keyhoe's "The Flying Saucers Are Real." Looking forward to it.
George Orwell Lives On In Political Buzzwords

"'If this trend continues,' Schmidt fears, 'our language will ultimately be useless to express the ideas that form the basis of rational political discourse in a healthy republic.'"

(Which is, of course, the whole point . . .)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

We don't see What's Really Going On. Here's an example.

Definitely at the top of my nonfiction stack: "The Trickster and the Paranormal" by George P. Hansen.
Voronezh Scientists Turn Blood into Coffee, Milk, Chocolate

"Scientists at the Voronezh State Technological Academy have developed a method for processing blood and turning it into food products such as milk, yogurt, chocolate, and coffee, Interfax quotes the academy's administration as saying." (Via Technoccult.)

Jesus! Can't a vegetarian get a fucking break? (Coffee, of all things!)
Short reviews of Robert Charles Wilson's "Blind Lake" and Robert A. Heinlein's "Farnham's Freehold" posted.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The exact significance of this photo eludes me. Either the reader took it in the process of falling asleep -- heaven forbid -- or else reading "After the Martian Apocalypse" induced a state of lucidity so pronounced she was obliged to capture it with her digital camera.

Or maybe she just wanted to show off her legs.
I had an interesting hallucination last night. I had just woken up and was lying in bed. I felt fully awake -- but of course when you're sufficiently tired your mind can make you feel or think just about anything. For what seemed to be about three seconds, two massive, soundless, forking bolts of blue lightning appeared outside my window -- absolutely archetypal lightning bolts that lasted much longer than the real thing, defying the relatively clear night sky.

At first there was no doubt in my mind that I was observing some weird meteorological phenomenon. I wasn't scared, precisely, but I was shaken -- those brilliant blue stalks looked close, and they were unlike any normal lightning I've seen. They looked more like special effects than real lightning, and the lack of thunder made them doubly surreal.

Within moments I was questioning if I'd actually seen them; a few seconds later I'd comfortably filed the "sighting" away as a brief waking dream. But for all of three seconds they'd seemed menacing and all-too-real . . .

I remember once, years ago, waking up to a particularly red dawn sky and, for a paralyzed moment, absolutely believing there had been a nuclear explosion.
Hot new blurb!

"Mac Tonnies goes where NASA fears to tread and he goes first class. This Mac-martian knows how to write. Do yourself a favor and buy his book -- you won't be disappointed."

--Peter A. Gersten, Citizens Against UFO Secrecy
To me, the two hemispheres of the human brain look oddly like wizened fetuses packed together in an inflexible envelope of bone. Siamese twins. An incestuous dialogue of chemicals and electrons.
The Virtual Multiverse Theory of Free Will

"Some aspects of consciousness can be understood by thinking about the virtual multiverse models that parts of the brain construct, in order to model the brain as a whole. These virtual multiverse models are used to help guide the dynamics of the whole brain (on a slow time scale), and they are also continually updated to reflect the actual dynamics of the brain (on a faster time scale, occurring within a single subjective moment). The feeling of consciousness is in part the feeling of events in the whole brain being rapidly reflected in the changes in the virtual multiverse models maintained in parts of the brain . . . and these changes then causing further virtual-multiverse-model changes which then feed back to change the state of the whole brain again . . . etc."

The brain models itself in order to understand itself. OK. But could there be an infinite regress of internal simulations -- models of models of models, etc.? If so, then perhaps our brains have been obliged to evolve protein microtubules in order to tap the vast computing capacity of the multiverse.

Of course, other universes may not be governed by quantum mechanics, in which case any intelligent inhabitants would necessarily exist in a permanent state of Gurdjieffian autism.

Then again, what does consciousness truly "feel" like? How do we know we're conscious? We might be automatons lulled into a contrived sense of self in order to keep ourselves marginally sane . . .

Another result using the same criteria:

Note the appearance of the number "23," infamous for its seeming tendency to appear in the context of synchronicities (Jungian "meaningful coincidences" that some think may represent glimpses of the multiverse's deep quantum structure).

Chapel Perilous' Bsti with signed lemon-yellow advance proof of "After the Martian Apocalypse." The envy you're feeling is perfectly natural.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

This Alex Chiu is quite an accomplished fellow! And so modest!

And to think I've been considering having my brain frozen in liquid nitrogen when all I need is a magnet . . .
Heating up a cold theory

"Virtually all of Hagelstein's problems stem from his study of cold fusion, a type of nuclear reaction that -- if it exists at all -- might have the power to create unlimited, clean energy, essentially on a tabletop. Fifteen years ago, two University of Utah chemists claimed they created such a reaction, an announcement quickly denounced as quackery. Today, cold fusion is as scientifically scorned as UFOs."
I actually want this hooded Blogger sweatshirt. Especially with cooler weather coming.

Does this make me a geek? And do you actually think I care?
Check out some of these anonymous "found photos." You'll find your brain obligingly providing characterization and commentary until you ultimately arrive at Sartre's inescapable conclusion: Hell is other people. (Via Chapel Perilous.)
The Cactus Project

"The cactus project is a transgenic artwork involving the fusion of human genetic material into the cactus genome resulting in the cactus expressing human hair."

Transgenic art is my favorite kind.
Solar storm 'could spark catastrophe'

"Scientists are warning a 'perfect space storm' that occurred 144 years ago could happen again at any time with catastrophic consequences."

Something weird is going on below us

"This forthcoming revolution is a reversal in the Earth's magnetic field, an event that occurs every 500 000 years or so."

Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom!

Monday, July 26, 2004

Cool site of the day: Society for Neural Interfacing.
The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare

"Though triggered by warming, such change would probably cause cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, leading to longer, harsher winters in much of the U.S. and Europe. Worse, it would cause massive droughts, turning farmland to dust bowls and forests to ashes. Picture last fall's California wildfires as a regular thing. Or imagine similar disasters destabilizing nuclear powers such as Pakistan or Russia -- it's easy to see why the Pentagon has become interested in abrupt climate change."

And I feel fine.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Two (almost certainly related) science news items, courtesy of Posthuman Blues UK correspondent Bill Eatock:

High-altitude light show in focus

"Fresh data on sprites, jets and elves - strange flashes of coloured light in the Earth's upper atmosphere - is being returned to Earth by a new satellite."

Spacecraft views Earth's outer gas shell

"The first pictures from Nasa's Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Exploration (Image) spacecraft are showing for the first time the global ebb and flow of hot, electrified gas (plasma) around the Earth as it is wafted by the solar wind."

What if atmospheric "sprites" and "elves" are a form of electromagnetic intelligence or components of an elusive planetary "brain" . . . ?

Notorious 'outsider' has his say

"His crime, in case you were wondering, was to have a shattering success with his first book, The Outsider, published in 1956 when he was 24. A tour de force tracing a tradition of artistic savants from Rabelais (his original hero) to van Gogh and by implication himself, it sensationalized literary London. Like Byron, he woke up to find himself famous, but unlike Byron, he then blew it, even though on paper he seemed to have everything required to make it in the swinging sixties."

I think I might have to spring for this one in hardback.

"And so because of the alien threat from outer space the nations of the world unite and through the UN elect the first president of the newly formed one-world government. The world president, now having dictatorial powers, gives the order that all alien saucers that violate the earth's air space be shot down using the newly developed, multi-megawatt SBL ALPHA LASER DEATH RAY. Sixty-six saucers are shot down and crash to earth because of this new technology. The alien commander is surprised and filled with awe and respect because of his adversary, the UN President (antichrist)."

You know, there's a market here. I, for one, would love to see a translation of the Bible with "Alpha Laser Death Ray" included.

As part of my efforts to usher in a post-verbal vocabulary, some of my posts might start taking the form of cryptic computer-generated images like the one above.

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

I just saw "I, Robot," which was essentially what I expected from a near-future suspense-thriller starring Will Smith. Not that it's a bad movie; it's just that I spent most of it roaming over the CGI scenery and taking only peripheral interest in the actual goings-on.

The successes in "I Robot" are minor triumphs in post-"Blade Runner" visual futurism: the artful decrepitude of antique 'bots going about servile tasks; the subtly arresting motion of clockwork behind the robots' translucent skulls; the consummately ergonomic contours of futuristic cars (Smith drives a fetchingly believable self-driving Audi).

At least one reviewer has stupidly commented that the future society depicted in the film is "dystopian" -- far from it. Slender color-coordinated robots do humankind's dirty work with perpetual hardwired smiles; the Chicago skyline, unlike the smoke-clotted industrial hell of "Blade Runner's" cyberpunk Los Angeles, is as bright, sunny, and fundamentally optimistic as "Futurama." We can only hope 2035 is really like this.

The humans, perhaps unavoidably, fail to elicit any real interest. They function solely -- and possibly even appropriately -- as foils for the robots, and allusions to their personal histories invariably come across as cliches. Will Smith's detective, Del Spooner, is likeable but disorienting: Is he a brooding policeman (a la Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard) or an affable wise-ass who just happens to wield a cool-looking electronic badge? At one point in the film, a minor character informs us that Spooner has a history of psychiatric problems -- could have fooled me. (That future Prozac must be damned good stuff.)

"I, Robot" itself suffers from a dose of cinematic schizophrenia. Is the robot theme intended as commentary on ethnic barriers, the commodification of nominally useful handheld gadgets, or a carnivalesque monument to technological hubris?

Robots are a challenging subject; just because they can be convincingly rendered in a digital studio doesn't mean they can be expended as props. "I, Robot" doesn't exactly waste the potential inherent in simulacra, but it's mainly content to casually strip-mine it instead of really digging.

Go see it. Enjoy the sights (those new 'bots really do look like iMacs). But expect a narrative with the same brittle, unsubtle tone of the Asimov short-story collection from which it took its idealogical cues.
Investigating digital images

"Farid and his students have built a statistical model that captures the mathematical regularities inherent in natural images. Because these statistics fundamentally change when images are altered, the model can be used to detect digital tampering."

Bad news for UFO photo hoaxers? Or is this just the beginning of a digital arms race that will end only when the distinction between illusion and reality is rendered meaningless?
The next time you're at the bookstore...

The new Mysteries magazine is out; included is my review of William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition."

Also, Cosimo Classics has just republished Charles Fort's classic "anomalist" text, "Lo!", featuring a new introduction by me. The book sells for $14.95 and might not yet be officially "out." If interested, ask your local bookstore to order a copy.

End self-promotion.
'Multiverse Theory' Holds That the Universe is a Virtual Reality Matrix

"He even suggests that a glitch in our simulated cosmic history may have already been discovered, by John Webb at the University of NSW. Webb has analysed the light from distant quasars, and found that something funny happened about 6 billion years ago - a minute shift in the speed of light. Could this be the simulators taking their eye off the ball?"

Maybe inexplicable disappearances, "time warps" and other Fortean anomalies are also "glitches" in our ontosphere. Encounters with apparent aliens might be "processing errors" . . . or they could be leading the way to the "source code" by which we can ultimately storm the reality studio.
New musical purchase:

So far the first and last songs are my favorite. Robert Smith has proclaimed that if you don't like "The Cure" then you don't like The Cure, or something to that effect. (Robert Smith also detests Morrissey, so as bright as he is, he's obviously capable of misjudgment.)

My preliminary take is that "The Cure" is a far cry from "Disintegration," but quite possibly an improvement on "Bloodflowers" (which I think is excellent).

A few defining Cure songs:

1.) Charlotte Sometimes
2.) Lovesong
3.) A Letter to Elise
4.) 100 Years
5.) Close to Me (both versions)
6.) Siamese Twins
7.) A Chain of Flowers (if you can find it...)

Friday, July 23, 2004

Well, I'm addicted. The digital collages above were produced using typoGenerator, a fascinating program that trawls Google for source imagery, which it subjects to heavy randomizing.

I think of the final products (which take several seconds to generate) as snapshots of the Web's collective unconscious, secret windows into a fitful embryonic mind of unseen circuits: raw data suddenly crystallized into tangible form. TypoGenerator's images are distinctly Gibsonian, with a definite nod to Burroughs.

(Discovered at Chapel Perilous.)
Bush Administration "Guidelines" for Postponing or Canceling the November Presidential Elections

"Secretary Tom Ridge has said that he is 'against the guidelines.' What he does not say is that various procedures have already been carefully worked out by Homeland Security analysts, who have simulated precise red code alert scenarios including situations, implying the cancellation or postponement of elections."

Yeah, I know -- another political post. I said I wouldn't do it. I'm appalled, yet can't look away.

It's a lot like gaping at a particularly bloody car accident.
1,500 Homing Pigeons Get Lost During Race

"Organizers of a race for homing pigeons were still scratching their heads in wonder Thursday after about 1,500 of the birds, famous for their ability to find their way home, went missing during the contest."

First those worryingly absent pelicans; now this . . .

"One of these days, out of the blue, the Internet will be used for launching a devastating terrorist attack on the United States. Somehow, this cyberattack will cost the lives of scores of American citizens. In order to avoid more damage, the government, putting to good use the recently approved anti-terrorist laws, will shut the Internet down and ban the use of the Internet as we know it."

True story: While I was preparing this post my Internet connection inexplicably died. "Kiss Your Internet Good-Bye," indeed.
We'll All Wear Glasses Soon

"Does reading make you need glasses or is near-sightedness in your genes? Researchers say that watching TV, working on the computer and reading all cause changes in our eyes which make us near-sighted. If you know someone who doesn't wear glasses, they may be carrying a book, but they don't really like to read."

I've been wearing glasses since junior high -- and probably needed them before that. Strangely, neither of my parents wear glasses. I wonder if my near-sightedness and my life-long bibliophilia are related.

What's playing:

1.) Reveal (R.E.M.)
2.) Natalie Merchant Live In Concert
3.) Remain In Light (Talking Heads)
4.) Vauxhall and I (Morrissey)
5.) Tears Roll Down (Tears for Fears)

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Science fiction author M.M. Buckner emailed today asking if I wanted to review her new novel, "Neurolink." I was quite flattered. And embarrassed that I haven't yet read her debut, "Hyperthought," despite having had it on my shelf for a year.

Meanwhile, "Blind Lake" has my full attention.

Hey, this is fun!
Breakthrough yields simple way to make microscopic electronics

"In a breakthrough that could lead to dramatically smaller memory chips and other electronic components, Princeton scientists have found a way to mass produce devices that are so small they are at the limit of what can be viewed by the most powerful microscopes."

Nanotech, quantum computing . . . steadily, the raw ingredients for no-kidding artificial intelligence are stacking up.

ET will phone us 'within 20 years'

"Dr Shostak has long been a believer in finding alien life but once said: 'You're not going to see them in person. To go from here to the nearest star is a project requiring a 100,000-year trip.

'And that's longer than you're going to want to sit there eating airline food.'"

Good one, Dr. Shostak!

Is this guy really this dumb? He's taken anthropomorphic thought to positively comical extremes. This isn't to say we won't hear from ET civilizations within 20 years -- but I'm confident that if we do, it won't be because of the limitations Shostak has imposed on them.

Funny how you never hear a word about "SETI believers."
What I'm reading:

Man, this guy is good -- probably one of the top five science fiction writers alive today. Chilling, jaw-dropping stuff.

Of course, by proclaiming Robert Charles Wilson one of the top five working SF authors, I'm obligated to point out the other four (in no particular order):

1.) Michael Marshall Smith
2.) Greg Egan
3.) Ken MacLeod
4.) Peter Watts

More . . .
Stephen Hawking revamps black hole theory

"Famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking says black holes, the mysterious massive vortexes formed from collapsed stars, do not destroy everything they consume but instead eventually fire out matter and energy 'in a mangled form.'"

The bad part about this is that, according to Hawking, black holes can't be used as portals to parallel universes; I'd hoped that some black holes might function as "emergency exits" when the universe begins to die (whether through runaway expansion or the reverse pyrotechnics of the "Big Crunch").

I still haven't quite given up; I leave the task of migrating to other universes to posthuman ingenuity.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I would be remiss in my duties here if I didn't plug Dr. Brian O'Leary's New Energy Movement.

Incidentally, if the U.S. space program had continued in a meaningful sense after the Apollo Moon missions, it's quite likely O'Leary would have been the first human to set foot on Mars . . .

In 1985.
I developed this weird nervous tick about a year ago. It faded over a period of months; now it's back.

You know how sometimes when you're under strain or tired one or both of your eyelids will flutter uncontrollably? It's like that, but amplified and near-constant. It feels like there are delicate wires running through the skin around my right eye, and that some sadistic homunculus is randomly tugging at them as if to wrest control of some cyclopean marionette.

You can actually see it if you look closely: an oddly reptile-like nicitating. Christopher Walken would be envious.
Quantum Computing, Secure Communications Closer to Being Reality; UCLA Scientists Control Single Electron's Spin

"'We have measured a single electron spin in an ordinary transistor; this means that conventional silicon technology is adaptable enough, and powerful enough, to accommodate the future electronic requirements of new technologies like quantum computing, which will depend on spin,' said Eli Yablonovitch, UCLA professor of electrical engineering, director of UCLA's Center for Nanoscience Innovation for Defense, member of the California NanoSystems Institute and co-author of the Nature paper."
Bush Says: 'I Want to Be the Peace President'

"After launching two wars, President Bush said on Tuesday he wanted to be a 'peace president' and took swipes at his Democratic rivals for being lawyers and weak on defense."

"Peace President"? Sorry, dickhead; you're already on record saying you're a "War President." Can't be both.

Alien mannequin abducted from downtown attraction

"Fred, a 50-pound mannequin designed to look like a gray space alien, was stolen around 4:30 p.m. from the corner of Main Street and Eighth Street near Alien Encounter's front entrance. Fred was reclining in a wheelchair on the sidewalk -- where he sat every day for months as part of the local tourist attraction -- when, according to owner David Baumann, two men parked a white and brown pick-up truck by the curb, rolled him and his wheelchair into the vehicle and sped away toward Virginia Avenue." (Via The Anomalist.)

So now I suppose "Fred" is on the black market. I guess I should start keeping an eye on eBay . . .

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

'World ends on Sept 29'

"Dr Johnson says an earthquake will take place in Guadalajara, Mexico and as it happens a giant spacecraft will slam into the fault line and start a global chain reaction that will result in the ultimate destruction of the planet."

I think practically every blog on the planet dealing remotely with "weird" stuff has linked to this by now. But I'm posting it anyway, while going on the record that I want the world to end. A giant spaceship setting off planet-killing earthquakes sounds great to me right now. A real change of pace. I'm already getting impatient.
I just read "Above Black," a short expose by a guy named Dan Sherman who claims to have worked as an "Intuitive Communicator" for a secret government project devoted to alien contact. Interestingly, the book's tone is hardly sensationalistic; Sherman seems genuinely intrigued and confused by his brief, restricted glimpse into the government/alien cover-up.

Sherman claims that his extraterrestrial communications were telepathic. Oddly, he never questions the ET nature of his unseen contacts. Assuming Sherman is recounting real events (and for all I know he's been exposed as a fraud by now), could his experiences be more likely attributed to a perfectly terrestrial "black ops" mind control experiment?

For reviews of this and similar books, see my UFO Book Reviews.

The secret formula for going to the moon

"Between now and then, the grim statistics of the actuarial tables suggests that despite the hopes and wellwishers and the best efforts of medical science, Earth may well lapse back to a demographic situation that had ended on July 20, 1969, when nobody living on Earth had ever been to the moon. It would be nice of any Apollo moonwalkers lived long enough to see new footsteps on the moon, at least for cultural continuity -- but it may not happen."

"On the day after the attack, the memo claims, city test results from the corner of Centre and Chambers streets and from the corner of Spruce and Gold streets showed asbestos concentration at about twice the level considered safe by the EPA."
Couples' nervous system linked by implants in limbs

"In what they billed as the first direct link between nervous systems, the couple had electrodes surgically implanted in their arms and linked by radio signals to a computer."

I'm jealous.
World's Appetite for Tuna Threatens Supply

"Marine biologists say not only bluefin tuna but also other fish stocks are plummeting across the world, upsetting delicate natural food chains. Some fear irreversible damage has already been done."

Ecopalypse is breathing down our necks . . . I've been giving the human species ~300 years until it simply becomes too late to relocate; we will have become yet another failed evolutionary experiment.

I'm beginning to wonder if I was being hopelessly optimistic. When stuff starts happening to the oceanic food-chain, I get scared. The oceans are the bedrock of life as we understand it. One extinguished species might be all it takes to turn the biosphere against us.

And we just keep pushing it.

We're like locusts, forever gnashing our mandibles while the world disintegrates around us.

My gravitational tether is stretched taut; the Earth is a fading blue pixel.
Apocalypse Now: Why the Book of Revelations is Must Reading

"Unless it's demystified, prophecy is one of the spookiest and most powerful elements in religion, and can be deftly deployed to play upon fears and earnest expectations alike. James Warren Jones, architect of the Jonestown Massacre, convinced his followers that he was the Second Coming of Christ. Aum Shinrikyo guru Asahara Shoko could persuade very sophisticated, intelligent Japanese people to randomly gas others in the Tokyo subway by manipulating bits and pieces of Christian, Buddhist and Hindu prophecy about the end of the world. Far more sophisticated and well-funded religious leaders can draw upon faith in a foregone future to get people to abet that future's fulfillment---for example, by supporting administration actions in the Middle East believing they portend the Second Coming."

I figure if we're going to end civilization, we might as well know who's doing it and why.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Depleted Uranium: The Trojan Horse of Nuclear War

"The use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States, defying all international treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on earth including the human species, and yet this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its destructive potential."

Hyperbole? Certainly. But there's no denying the main point: Depleted uranium is exceedingly dangerous and will take its toll.
Professor exposes the aliens among us

"Dr. Trundle paints a virtual 'Men in Black' picture of the ET scene in which several species are visiting the earth, most in a human form. But why?"

I was impressed by the basically sound approach the journalist used when discussing this guy. That's not to say I agree with Trundle; not having read anything by him, I really don't know where he's coming from. But at least the Post didn't give him the usual "true believer" treatment.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I keep returning to John Mack's notion of "reified metaphor." The "aliens" may not be what they seem. Of course, to most, they don't seem like anything . . . except perhaps a useful portal into aberrant psychology or pop-culture run riot.

The "conventional wisdom": Gray aliens are harvesting us for our genes. It's possible. But Mack's reasoning (which is admittedly elliptical) suggests there's something else going on -- something that transcends mere genetics. We latch onto the "genetic harvesting" scenario because it makes sense to us; we live in an age of exponentiating biotech, so it seems sensible to assume that extraterrestrial visitors will be obsessed with similar concerns.

But a careful look at world folklore reveals that "aliens" have always been with us in one form or another. There are two immediate explanations:

1.) Extraterrestrials have been here for a long time and humans have tended to address them in terms of their own techno-mythological vocabulary. Thus the "little people" of Celtic myth were perfectly real but not "supernatural." (Arthur C. Clarke: "Any sufficiently advanced technology would appear indistinguishable from magic.")

2.) Humans have simply been projecting their fears and hopes onto the collective unconscious; yesterday's faeries and kobolds are today's aliens. We simply use what we know to define the notion of the Other; it's inevitable that a technological society like our own would latch onto a scientifically informed vision of alien geneticists -- even if the model rings hollow upon close inspection.

This was how Carl Sagan left matters in "The Demon-Haunted World," grossly misrepresenting Jacques Vallee's "multiverse" thesis, which posits that we are somehow involved with an unseen intelligence that camouflages itself to fit the reigning zeitgeist. According to Vallee, both "aliens" and "faeries" are equally misleading labels for something that can't be properly addressed using a single-universe model.

Are our perceptions so fragile that our brains are forced to manufacture new and better diguises for our visitors? Is the "visiting" intelligence (given that it exists) responsible for its apparent cultural camouflage, or do we effectively hide its true nature from ourselves, as reflexively as we might swat at a bothersome fly?

Mack's concept of "reified metaphor" might help to excavate something real from the desert of illusion. Perhaps human consciousness exists on several levels at once. "Reality" -- the world we think we inhabit -- might represent a relatively low level of awareness, a crude virtual reality designed to keep us from over-taxing our seemingly meat-based brains.

The computer I'm writing this on may only be a shade more "real" than the "My Computer" icon on my screen's desktop. In the same way, genes might be mere symbols -- elements in a "Matrix"-style consensual hallucination.

So what are the "aliens" trying to tell us? We're told they extract ova and semen; that they're keen on "punch biopsies" and nasal implants. Is there an intelligible symbolism at work behind the forever-rippling veil of sensationalism?

If so, can we even hope to decode it?
The grotesque irony about the imminent Fundamentalist "Rapture" ("imminent" now for a couple thousand years) is that aficianados believe that it's an entirely physical event.

For the uninitiated: The "Rapture" is when Jesus appears and the bodies of righteous Christians are physically levitated into the sky, sans clothing -- a distinctly stomach-turning notion in itself. For believers, ascending into the sky is synonymous with ascending into heaven. So I can't help but wonder what would be in store for these poor bastards if the Rapture actually occurred as scripted.

Firstly, you can only "ascend" so far. Then the air starts getting really thin. Before you know it you're in outer space, and by then you're quite dead. Does one's corpse continue to "ascend" once beyond Earth's atmosphere? I mean, how far does it need to travel to reach the "kingdom of heaven"?

Not that it matters -- by this point, Fundamentalists will be nastily suffocated and disfigured from exposure to hard vacuum. And in any case, there's no "up" or "down" in space. So, based on my careful study of gospel tracts and the rantings of sidewalk preachers, I've deduced that the naked, bloated bodies of True Believers will begin a short-lived orbit around the planet.

Why "short-lived"? Because I figure that once Jesus (who, after all, initiated this whole misguided pageant) realizes that his faithful are messily dying instead of rejoicing in heaven, will abort the spectacle ASAP. So, just like the space-junk they are, the millions of righteous cadavers in low Earth orbit will plunge back into Earth's atmospheric envelope within a matter of hours, illuminating the sky as they burst into flame.

(Meanwhile, those of us "left behind" get to watch.)

Jesus and Jihad

"These are the best-selling novels for adults in the United States, and they have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. The latest is 'Glorious Appearing,' which has Jesus returning to Earth to wipe all non-Christians from the planet. It's disconcerting to find ethnic cleansing celebrated as the height of piety."

Read that first sentence again. Think about it for a moment. And possibly you'll understand why I'm prone to not-infrequent bouts of misanthropic torpor.
Crash mission to deflect Earth-bound asteroid

"An impact with a large object from space 65m years ago helped wipe out the dinosaurs. Even a much smaller object could cause widespread devastation. But so far, the interception of asteroids has happened only in Hollywood disaster movies."

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Research shows oceans are becoming more acidic

"The world's oceans are absorbing an unprecedented amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), which is increasing their acidity and possibly threatening the survival many marine species, especially calcifying organisms including corals, shellfish and phytoplankton. According to research presented recently at a symposium organized by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Council for Science's Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), this in turn could disrupt marine food chains and alter ocean biogeochemistry in ways that are not yet understood or predictable."
Anna Kournikova played tennis below my building today. I had half an urge to wait outside the court complex just to see her walk to her car -- and simultaneously realized the utter futility of it.

Plus, it just would have been too "stalker." I'm not a tennis fan, let alone a Kournikova devotee; I'm quite convinced my passing desire to catch a glimpse of her had a lot more to do with the sheer allure of fame than personal infatuation.

So I settled for coffee and book-browsing. My immediate "to-read" list (fiction):

1.) Blind Lake (Robert Charles Wilson)
2.) Picoverse (Robert A. Metzger)
3.) A Friend of the Earth (T.C. Boyle)
4.) The Number of Infinity (A.K. Zander)
5.) Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake)
6.) Crawlers (John Shirley)
7.) The Scar (China Mieville)
8.) The Wall (J.E. Hall)
9.) To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts)

Friday, July 16, 2004

Melting ice: the threat to London's future

"He said that the realisation of the scale of the crisis was what prompted him to say in January that climate change was a bigger threat than global terrorism. 'We are moving from a warm period into the first hot period that man has ever experienced since he walked on the planet.'"

I don't know; the idea of touring Europe in a gondola has a certain charm . . .

The Cydonian Imperative has moved! New updates will appear here instead of here.
Will the New Biology Lead to New Weapons?

"The revolution in the biological sciences is making it possible for biology, especially medical and pharmaceutical sciences, to become a full-fledged military technology. This raises the specter of a new generation of biological and chemical weapons, as well as a sophisticated capability to manipulate the physiology of human beings for military purposes."
"Eternity" Stone Resembles Old Woman's Face

"A stone called 'Eternity' is displayed at the China Rare Stone Expo in Beijing. The natural stone, resembling an old woman's face, is worth 96 million yuan (US $12 million)."

More ammunition for Face on Mars debunkers, I suppose. Frankly, I wouldn't pay $10 for this -- too creepy, like a deformed fetus in a jar . . .

(Thanks to Sauceruney for the tip.)
Just got this gem in my in-box:

Used to check in with you new content...but your new book sure gets center self serving...cant you see?...see ya..,..

Boy, I love fan-mail.

I started Robert Heinlein's "Farnham's Freehold" tonight. I've been itching to read this since I read about it in Thomas Disch's "The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of." The cover bills it as "Science Fiction's Most Controversial Novel"; I'm pretty sure I've heard the same claim applied to "A Clockwork Orange," "Brave New World" and probably twenty others.

Heinlein's dialogue -- oy. Truthfully, I almost didn't finish "Stranger in a Strange Land." What an annoyingly unsubtle book.

On a totally unrelated note, Blogger's editing tools have ceased to appear above the text-entry window; I've emailed them about it. Is anyone else having this problem?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The ESA's Mars Express shown with its failed Beagle 2 lander.

Ammonia on Mars could mean life

"There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes."

Mars Scoop: You Heard it Here First

"Ammonia has been discovered on Mars, and because it survives for only a short time in the Martian atmosphere, it must be constantly replenished. Only living microbes can do this, so the conclusion is inescapable: there is life on Mars."

My own thoughts? The conclusion is indeed inescapable: There is life on Mars.

I somehow doubt there will be a definitive announcement for some time; the issue of extant life on Mars is hopelessly mired in the politics of "fact management," and it's likely the only reason we've heard about the ammonia discovery at all is because of the efforts of the European Space Agency. From NASA/JPL's viewpoint, conceding Martian life -- however primitive -- is almost as heretical as SETI pundits admitting that UFOs pose a legitimate challenge to science.

For a plausible preview of where we go from here, you could probably do worse than read "After the Martian Apocalypse."
Rockefeller Obit You'll Only Read Here

"Laurance Rockefeller died on July 11, 2004 at the age of 93, after a brief illness. Mr. Rockefeller was of exceptional importance to UFO research. Between 1993 and 1995, he supported Dr. John Mack's Center for Psychology and Social Change in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1997, he funded a discovery initiative spearheaded by long-time friend Marie Galbraith, designed to inform world leaders of the validity of the UFO issue and to increase pressure for disclosure of government files."

My mistake: Deinococcus radiodurans has already been gene-mapped!

(Thanks to Patrick Huyghe.)
'Happy gene' could solve mystery of depression

"Scientists have discovered that a change in one 'letter' of the gene can have drastic effects on an enzyme that controls levels of the mood chemical serotonin in the brain."

"Happiness," "depression," "ecstasy," "ennui": neurochemical veils, all-too-transient perceptual illusions.

Here's a good comparison between the "Mandelbrot UFO" (see earlier post) and its mathematical namesake. (Thanks to Zakas.)

I read Hermann Hesse's "Siddhartha" today, inspired by Colin Wilson's treatment of Hesse in "The Outsider."

The conflict I encounter with books on Eastern thought is the presumed need to permanently dispense with the Self. Can't one somehow have both? How to reconcile the ego (William Burroughs' "excess baggage") with the need to become as one with the Cosmos, obliterating the illusion of time and plunging into David Bohm's "implicate order"?

Being philosophically omnivorous doesn't help matters. I like Ayn Rand and Timothy Leary; Nietzsche and Gurdjieff. As Hesse's Siddhartha would have said, each route is an equally valid -- if limited -- way of understanding.

I sympathize completely with Burroughs' efforts to "rub out the word." Words, for their pragmatic beauty, are a stumbling block, a transitory phenomenon to be overcome.
Terrorism and the Election: California is the Target!

"If the pre-election internal tracking polls and public opinion polls show the Kerry-Edwards ticket leading in key battleground states, the Bush team will begin to implement their plan to announce an imminent terrorist alert for the West Coast for November 2 sometime during the mid afternoon Pacific Standard Time. At 2:00 PST, the polls in Kentucky and Indiana will be one hour from closing (5:00 PM EST -- the polls close in Indiana and Kentucky at 6:00 PM EST). Exit polls in both states will be known to the Bush people by that time and if Kentucky (not likely Indiana) looks too close to call or leaning to Kerry-Edwards, the California plan will be implemented. A Bush problem in Kentucky at 6:00 PM EST would mean that problems could be expected in neighboring states and that plans to declare a state of emergency in California would begin in earnest at 3:00 PM PST."

Then again, we've been living under so many "terror alerts" since 9/11/01 that it's just conceivable that we've become too jaded to care. So maybe declaring a "state of emergency" would fail to keep potential Kerry-voters safely at home in their duct-tape-lined fallout shelters.

No, what's really needed to scare the American people now is a real attack.
Naturally decaffeinated coffee plant discovered

"A naturally decaffeinated coffee plant has been discovered. Coffee from the new strain could be tastier than existing decaf brews, which can lose flavour compounds when caffeine is extracted with solvents."

If you ask me, this "decaffeinated coffee plant" is an evolutionary abomination. Concerned citizens should arrange to have the stuff permanently weeded from the biosphere.
Teleport lifts quantum computing

"Teleportation is based on the strange phenomenon of entanglement, which links the traits of particles like atoms and photons regardless of the distance between the particles. When one of a pair of entangled particles is observed, it assumes a definite state, and at the same instant, the other particle assumes the opposite state."

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Don't even think about it

"This nation, which already ceded far too many liberties in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, needs to demonstrate its resolve and fearlessness. America's message to the world should be: We're prepared to vote on Nov. 2, no matter what."
Daytime UFO's Video Taped.

"This object was a 'cluster' type UFO. It consisted of around 5 individual orbs attached together. There were white/pink orbs with black to dark khaki coloured 'spheres' attached and clearly protruding off the whitish orbs. The whole 'cluster' rolled and tumbled about during the observation."

Is it just me, or does this particular aerial configuration look like the Mandelbrot Set?
Tonight I wandered to my apartment lobby and perused the "library" -- a few shelves of dusty paperbacks and arcane reference materials. Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka's 1984 novel "Warday" was there; I remember plowing through it while riding buses in Florida on the way to the Space Coast. It's a simply told chronicle of life after a "limited" nuclear exchange with the USSR; strangely, it seems as frighteningly topical in the 21st century world of suitcase nukes and fundamentalist political leaders as it was during the actual Cold War.

So I sat on one of the lobby's new chairs, my back facing the entrance, and reread Strieber's uncanny depiction of a nuclear attack on New York City and Washington, D.C. And, quite frankly, found myself deeply afraid . . .

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Where did all the pelicans go?

"Instead, it's a scene of baffling desolation, a plain of baby chick carcasses and hundreds of never-to-hatch eggs left behind for the snacking pleasure of hungry coyotes and gulls. The world's largest breeding colony for one of the largest birds in North America is eerily, strangely vacant."

The biosphere can only take so much abuse. Then things start to die. It begins with a few anomalous disappearances and baffled zoologists.

Then it gets worse.
Scientists horrified by Bush's Bad Science

"The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), in a new report, has again expressed its feeling of 'embarrassment and disgust' over the way the Bush administration uses - or misuses - science when making policy decisions. The scientists have found that the administration often ignores the recommendations of advisory panels and 'suppresses, distorts and manipulates' scientific work. In particular, the group is concerned about Bad Science affecting environment, emergency contraception and endangered species policies."

I love the irony. Bush -- a born-again "pro-life" right-winger who converses personally with Jesus -- is ignoring ecological concerns that promise to render Earth unliveable at the same time he hinders attempts at contraception. Evidently we wants today's children to inherit a ravaged, polluted shithouse of a planet.

Bacteria tested in Mars simulator

"In an attempt to explain its astonishing resistance, a group of Russian researchers has even suggested that Deinococcus may have evolved on Mars."

Gene-sequence that sucker pronto!

Astronomers uncover mystery at galactic core

"A group of astronomers has come up with a new theory to explain the X-ray glow in the centre of our galaxy. The only problem is that in their search for answers, they've stumbled on a bigger mystery."

Maybe this is evidence of the sort of "exotic matter" needed to prop open the throat of a "wormhole."
"We had a born-again Christian President, a Pentecostal Attorney General. These men believed in the Apocalypse and the Second Coming. They wanted it. Movies like 'The Day After Tomorrow' were playing in the theatres. The Pentagon had released a report saying that a climate disaster was inevitable. People wanted Americans dead. The Mayans had predicted everything would dissolve by 2012. It was pretty obvious that something was around the corner."

This guy knows what's in store. Or does he? Take a look at The American Book of the Dead.
The Mike Murphy show was a lot of fun. No condescending questions about spiders on Mars. In fact, Murphy was very much in his comfort zone discussing the Face on Mars and related subjects; he helped to popularize Richard Hoagland's "The Monuments of Mars" and has had plenty of iconic "paranormal" guests (as it turns out, Roswell maven Stanton Friedman took my place on Friday).
UFOs, Do they Smell? The Sulphur Enigma of Paranormal Visitation

"Witnesses of paranormal activities today and in centuries past have consistently encountered a common trait. Indeed, since the prophets of the bible spoke of the judgement of the Lord with fire and brimstone, has sulphur smells been associated with paranormal manifestations."

"Got an Altoid?"

Epileptics of various kinds report burning smells prior to seizures. (Alien abductees sometimes report cigarette smoke, leading some to believe that the "Grays" are nicotine freaks.) The smell of sulphur that accompanies some UFO experiences might be a neurological side-effect, perhaps caused by electromagnetic fields.
'Billboards' that walk, talk, and even flirt a little

"'When a beautiful girl walks up to you, and she's wearing the TV commercial on her chest,' says Hollander, 'you just can't get away from it.'"

Animated media and clothing will invariably merge -- this is just the start. I foresee contact lenses with customized video loops; clothing that ripples and flashes with movie clips and commercials (think of the "flicker cladding" in Rudy Rucker's Ware novels); accessories that automatically adopt the wearer's mood and broadcast them to passersby.

You think that car with the thumping bass stereo is annoying? Wait until flatscreens become flat (and durable) enough to be molded to the bodies of cars. In time, every available surface will writhe with video imagery of every conceivable variety. The work of hackers and digital graffiti artists will proliferate.

It's possible that the written word will begin to decline in importance; people will rely increasingly on ubiquitous televised "e-glyphs" to conduct business. Nonverbal communication will become more dynamic and expansive; entire dialogues will take the form of rapidly changing footage projected onto clothing and even skin in much the same way that online conversation is (arguably) facilitated by the use of animated "smilies."

We may even begin to think differently. William Burroughs feared the power of words because they were, at best, artificial stand-ins for real experience. A predominantly visual vocabulary will have massive ramifications for linguistics and aesthetics as we know them.

If a beautiful woman with a TV emblazoned on her chest ever approaches me, you can be sure I'll tell her this.

Monday, July 12, 2004

US 'may delay vote if attacked'

"US counter-terrorism officials are examining what steps would be needed to permit a delay, Newsweek reports."

We all knew this was coming.

Duck and cover.
Neil Armstrong: The Awful Truth

"In 1969, Neil Armstrong made history by becoming the first man to walk on the moon, uttering the immortal phrase, 'One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.' Or did he? Previously suppressed footage discovered by blogjam shows that Armstrong's reaction was a great deal more uninhibited than history suggests, and that a hasty editing job was needed to prepare the astronaut's moment of glory for broadcast." (Via Peter Robbins.)
I just coined a brand-new term that, as of a minute ago, didn't appear at all when I ran a Google search. The term is "neo-extropianism." I wonder what Max More would make of this.

Sauceruney came up with a good one not long ago: "nanotechnicality." As in, "That minor snag qualifies as a nanotechnicality."
Breaking news!

Holy mother of god -- Kansas City radio fixture Mike Murphy is going to have me on his show tomorrow morning! Despite the foul-up discussed earlier! Here's the weekday schedule for those of you within broadcast distance.

And yes, you can listen online.
The Ossuary in Sedlec. Does this remind you of anything?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

This looks like it might be worth a walk up the street.
Prince Charles Fearful Over Nanotechnology-Paper

"Unbowed, Prince Charles insisted scientists must listen to the worries of interested parties like himself."

I've never understood why the British put up with these "royal" morons.

Solar storms may have torn away Mars water

"Solar storms, like a big one that affected Earth last year, might have torn away the water that used to cover parts of Mars, NASA scientists said Thursday."

Not a bad theory -- but once again we're treated to NASA's ineradicable bias that Mars' demise was slow and gradual instead of sudden and catastrophic.

Wow -- Ken MacLeod blogs!

Click here for my unauthorized (and far from complete) fan-page.