Saturday, May 31, 2003

The cat stand-off continues. Ebe is cute -- cat calendar cute. Elderly women would pay good money for a calendar smothered with pictures of this kitten. Shades of Mr. Winkle (who is decidedly uncute) . . .

Very little email today except for some particularly tenacious spam for Viagra (or something like it). All of the subject lines read like this (an actual sample):

Re: Poole I know why my son stays out late on weekendRodriguez Ever notice how things change as you get older

Weird, huh? Is this supposed to instill consumer confidence? Or make me think that it's an earnest note from a pal?

I ran into my high-school algebra teacher today at LatteLand. She just turned 40 and she has cancer. She's survived a sustained onslaught of chemical and radioactive therapies, surgery, and shrugs this off like an annoyance. She still runs, for god's sake. If I were religious, I suppose I would have said something condescending and greeting card-sappy like "My prayers are with you." I had the feeling she's endured enough of that shit. If I ran this planet, people facing unfair, life-threatening illnesses who had to listen to pretentious religious-sympathetic drivel from their blissfully cancerless peers would have the right to blow such people away with a firearm of their choosing. No questions asked. Move on; nothing to see here.

But life isn't fair. If life was fair Howard Zinn would be President.
When I mention "blahgs," this is what I'm talking about.

I have a new cat, named Ebe. She's very tiny and looks like a lynx. Spook, a two year-old former stray, is insanely jealous and greets eight week-old Ebe with hissing and growling, although I haven't seen any signs of physical aggression yet. Apparently Spook sees Ebe as an invader, a very unwelcome guest who promises to absorb my time. Ebe seems mildly distressed but not exactly paralyzed with fear. I'm sincerely hoping that Spook gets over this.

Anyway, here I am talking about my pets. Time to stop blogging.

Friday, May 30, 2003

It occurred to me that it would be a good idea to compose a classification system for perceived "alien encounters" and similar claims. The idea is loosely based on ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek's now-famous "Close Encounters" classification scheme. (A Close Encounter of the Third Kind specifically denotes UFO "occupants," thus the Spielberg movie . . .

Apparently the Center for UFO Studies was to have devised something similar, but it's possible they've lost interest. The importance of a proper classification method, to me, is the potential ability to separate geuine events from "noise." (As you can guess, the alien abduction signal-to-noise ratio is quite low. Most "abduction" reports can be explained without invoking any sort of nonhuman intelligence. But I'm convinced there is an overlooked residue of actual experiences.) More on this effort later.

Blogs and brains

Blogs are the text-based equivalent to "reality" TV: ubiquitous, candid and fueled by the same sort of once-avant garde aethetic. If a future artificial intelligence wants to really know what's going on in the outside world, it may choose to peruse the entirety of the world's ever-growing infestation of blogs -- in which case bloggers' innermost thoughts and day-to-day meanderings will be assimilated into a vast living snapshot of humanity. Fifteen nanoseconds of fame -- if you're lucky.
The following is not a paid ad: Half Price Books is one of my favorite places to go. The selection is great and the prices are fantastic. (Again, this isn't a paid ad.) Yesterday I picked up "The Science of UFOs" -- new, in hardback -- and "Patrick Moore on Mars" (also new and in hardback) for a grand total of something like $9.

What's in my CD player?

1.) "Parallel Life" by The Starseeds (ambient trance)
2.) "Entwined and Entranced" by Govinda (techno)
3.) "World of Morrissey" (probably Morrissey's second-best collection after "My Early Burglary Years," although I really wish it had the studio version of "Jack the Ripper")
4.) "Greatest Hits" by Bjork (I can't get "Human Behavior" out of my mind . . .)
5.) "Galore" by The Cure (contains a few of my favorite Cure songs, including "A Letter to Elise" and "Friday I'm In Love")

In three days, the European Space Agency is launching the Mars Express probe, containing Britain's Beagle 2 lander. A Japanese Mars probe that been busy accelerating for the last four years is already en route to the Red Planet. Meanwhile, NASA is sending two next-generation rovers to Mars. The Red Planet has never been quite this crowded. Assuming, of course, that all of the new missions ultimately make it to their destination, which would be frankly shocking after Russia's Mars '96 effort (which crashed in the ocean) and NASA's last two doomed probes (the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter). Anyway, I'm hoping.

This evening I get my new cat. She (he?) is eight weeks old. I really don't know what to expect.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

"The Matrix Reloaded" in perspective

"The Matrix Reloaded" has taken its share of heat from fans of the first movie. I liked the movie quite a bit but I also found room for complaint. Here's a quick list of problems -- many of which, sadly, could have been effectively remedied if the film-makers had given a fraction of their attention to actual screenwriting as opposed to lavish CGI effects.

1.) The movie suffers from "superman syndrome." Neo is the One. We know he is, for all intents and purposes, invincible. So while the fight scenes are a scream to watch, there's really not much point. As the reviewer for the Kansas City Star (or was it The Pitch?) pointed out, why doesn't Neo simply fly away from impending danger?

2.) The movie suffers from too many "plot coupons," a trait familiar to anyone who's ever played a video role-playing game or read a sophomoric fantasy novel. It goes like this: Find Mr. A. and he'll tell you where to find Mr. B. After doing whatever you have to do with Mr. B., you'll discover a map that leads you to Mr. C. . . ." "The Matrix Reloaded" could have opted for a subtle, film-noir approach to the revelations sought by Neo and his friends, but instead it adheres fairly rigidly to adolescent plotting.

3.) Persophone. The French guy. Potentially cool characters, but what exactly is the point?

4.) Likewise with the albino, shape-changing twins. This movie has literally hundreds of one-dimensional bad guys (i.e., the cloned Agent Smiths). The twins seem to be have seen inserted merely for novelty's sake. And possibly to make the video game a bit more colorful.

Having said that, I think this film deserves some leniancy. As I remarked in a previous essay, I welcomed the change of scene. Some reviewers found Zion a gratuitous distraction; I thought it was convincingly rendered and becomingly gritty. I unabashedly liked the chase scenes and kung-fu brawls; for what's essentially a sci-fi action film, "The Matrix Reloaded" does an impressive job of toting its share of Philip K. Dick-like paranoid philosophy. The Architect's admission that Neo is not the first, but the sixth, generation of digital messiahs to have hacked into the Matrix's system core was a great touch. I would have preferred that Neo discover this for himself rather than glean it from the Architect's rapid-fire monologue, but even so it shows the writers reveling in fresh ideas that will hopefully infuse the final film.
I'm not going to that Ted Nugent book signing. His website scares me. I think the only way I could be compelled to take in a Ted Nugent signing would be if Morrissey was giving a signing simultaneously. But I just don't see that happening.

I started reading Michael Swanwick's "Bones of The Earth" last evening. It's a dinosaur/time-travel story and so far it's got my complete attention. It poses an interesting problem: if we could go back in time to study dinosaurs, then eventually "Creation Scientists" might use time travel to plant fossilized human remains where they could be "discovered" by contemporary paleontologists (thus "vindicating" Creationist teaching).

There's evidence that we may have actually found temporally misplaced artifacts: jewelry in the middle of solid rock, ambiguous metallic spheres that date to long before human habitation of the planet, etc. The list goes on, religiously ignored by the mainstream. Are we dealing with "junk" left by ancient visitors from space, a lost terrestrial civilization, or actual time travelers (in which case "impossible" artifacts might be from our own future)? Somwhow, I like the last idea; maybe the assumed flow of time is effervescent, resulting in abrupt displacements of objects and even people.

If time travel is possible, the behavior of UFOs may be at least partially explained (i.e., formal contact would result in a causality violation of some sort, so the ufonauts must remain content with maintaining their presence behind a curtain of subterfuge). For more on this, I recommend "Visitors from Time" by Marc Davenport, "The Mothman Prophecies" by John Keel and "Time Storms" by Jenny Randles.

Site o' the day:

The "Majestic" papers seem to indicate that our government has secretly harvested hardware and alien bodies from crashed UFOs. However, many of the alleged top-secret documents are established fakes and still others seem to be clever attempts at disinformation (possibly a Cold War effort to make the Soviets think we had access to superior defense technology). Others just might be the real thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Blogger is responding so infuriatingly slowly I want to scream. The system is probably overloaded with "blahgs" -- people doting over their pets and SUVs and stuff. But is "Posthuman Blues" really that different? The weblog format is custom-engineered for self-indulgence, after all. I suppose one dictinction my blog has over many others is that I don't pretend to make a secret of this. I freely admit that this is more for my benefit than anyone else's, yet I think I've got some content that's not exactly unreadable. Chances are that if you like the stuff at MTVI, you might find something interesting here as well.


Yesterday was tiring after 3 days of idle productivity. I managed to read instead of falling aleep early. I think my apartment's pool is open now. It's between two highrises so it's basically always in the shade and extremely cold, but agreeably so.

I'm getting a new cat on Friday. She's 8 weeks old. Not having more than one pet at a time before, I'm not sure how she'll get along with Spook (who I've had since October and who feels imminently comfortable with my comings and goings). Ebe, the new cat, is an unforeseen variable. I hope they get along; I don't think I could handle waking up in the middle of the night to break up a fight.

While I'm on the subject of animals, I have a minor confession to make. Although I'm a vegetarian, I developed this uncanny hunger for cold fried chicken yesterday. Someone had left a tray of it in the office lunchroom, and a greedily ate a couple pieces. I don't feel particularly guilty, but I did break my meatless streak. (Then again, I eat anchovy pizza regularly . . .)

Celebrity watch: Ted Nugent is appearing at a local Borders to promote his new cookbook called -- get this -- "Kill It and Grill It." I never really knew who this guy was until I started leafing through his first book called -- again, get this -- "God, Guns and Rock and Roll." Charlton Heston, gun-nut extraordinaire, is on record (on the covers of Nugent's books) claiming Nugent is "one of the good guys" due to his tireless promotion of what Heston somewhat cryptically terms "outdoor sports." I suppose what he actually means is "hunting."

I wish to make something clear. "Hunting" -- whatever one thinks of it -- is not a "sport." The deer, elk, bears and god-knows-what-else that hunters go out to kill aren't on an opposing "team." Far from it; they just want you to get back in your pick-up and go the hell away. If hunting is a sport, why do the humans always win? And why do the humans always get to decide the rules? Just once, I'd like to see some suburbs laid to waste by murderous bears with AK-47s.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Unless I'm deluding myself, the end is in sight for editing my Mars book into user-friendly form. I'm going through the mss. combining related sections; a lot of the original draft -- if you can call it that -- was hopelessly fragmented. Now it's taking on some narrative coherence and reads more like an actual book than, say, an encyclopedia of astronomical esoterica. I've still got work to do but I'm no longer completely paralyzed by the prospect of readying it for publication. (If I write another nonfiction book, as I hope I will, then I've learned a few things. Whether I take my education to heart is another matter entirely.)

Maybe "nonlinear" is my ideal literary mode. It has huge advantages: unlimited points of entry, no reliance on frail, artificial attempts at structure. This disregard for conventional A-to-B storytelling helped make the Beats famous. In a way, "After the Martian Apocalypse" (if that's the title Simon & Schuster ends up using) is the "Naked Lunch" of "alien" books: visual, episodic, iconoclastic. It shares Burroughs' intention to "wise up the marks" and "storm the reality studio." Its commercial success will depend in part on how willing readers are to swim in my stream of consciousness.

Monday, May 26, 2003

I'm up late writing about weird things on Mars. For my latest, see the Cydonian Imperative (page 38).

What the hell is this thing?

Almost done with John Shirley's "Demons." Speaking of whom, Shirley alerted me to a new "Popular Mechanics" article that attempts to bury the Roswell case once and for all. I stopped by Barnes and Noble and read it. Old news, unfortunately, and nothing particularly surprising.

Apparently there's a new article in "Scientific American" about the multiverse; I tried to find it but couldn't. But undoubtedly many trillions of alternate Macs in other universes found it and are writing about it as I type this: a disquieting realization.

I call the world we think we inhabit the "ontosphere." It's rather like Keanu Reeves' "Matrix" in that it's basically synthetic and hallucinatory; control and power over "reality" is a carefully orchestrated feat of fact management overseen by self-appointed experts. Their weapons are religion and belief, drummed into our skulls by an omniscient media.

But the multiverse is like some monstrously potent secret weapon, an upwelling in the fabric of consciousness that, if exposed, promises to shatter normality. Jacques Vallee, one of my favorite thinkers, thinks that we're interacting with denizens of the multiverse in the guise of flying saucers and absurd humanoids. Just as time, space and energy are different ways of addressing the same fundamental mystery (existence itself), sentience overshadows all three. The multiverse is intelligent, self-reflective, inscrutable, abiding.

William Burroughs, with characteristic prescience, urged the masses to "storm the reality studio."

Are we up to the task?

Sunday, May 25, 2003

The Dullest Blog in the World

Perhaps "blahg" would be a better designation. This guy's mining a rich satirical vein. Two thumbs up.

Today I watched TV for the first time in a year. My mom taped some "Seinfeld" episodes for me and an early "Naked Chef" starring Jamie Oliver. I'd never seen Oliver before but I thought he sounded pretty hip. I found his show incredibly entertaining and extremely well-produced. Oliver is the epitome of cool, unpretentious and genuinely funny. I envy his digs and his casual extroversion. Not to mention his cooking skills.
Site o' the day:

Isn't it weird how any mention of Iraq's dreaded weapons of mass destruction seems to have vanished from the mainstream media? Supposedly, the "WMD" issue was the reason the United States launched its hasty pre-emptive invasion. If the WMD ever truly existed in the quantities implied by the Bush administration, they now appear to be strangely missing (not to mention curiously unused during the actual conflict, which has left something like 6,000 civilians murdered).

My question: Why is the "missing WMD" issue being ignored? One would naturally assume that it would be the central political issue right now: a threat ranking with the Cuban Missile Crisis. After all, if these weapons existed, then they must have been spirited away by would-be terrorists, posing a grossly greater threat to US security than if they were confined within Iraq's borders.

The people who choose to believe that our invasion of Iraq was to relieve Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction should team up with the Flat Earth Society. They're natural allies. The Iraq war, already fading from American consciousness with the rapidity of a particularly lukewarm TV commercial, was an atrocity, an evil fiction, a geopolitical fever-dream . . . and a rude glimpse of a future when the American public can be utterly and astoundingly duped in wholesale quantity. All it takes, it seems, is some bumper stickers, presidential "tough talk," and a complete disregard for human life and intelligence.

Click the link above. Vote to impeach Bush. It won't do any good, but it might make you feel better.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

I've written a short essay on the existential prospects of unmanned space exploration. Like other short pieces, I can easily see this developing into something larger and more developed. For now, see "A Martian's-Eye View of Earth" here.

Earth and Moon photographed from Mars orbit.

I'm reading "Demons" by John Shirley. It's packed with Shirley's trademark surrealism and breathless what-happens-next narrative energy. Some readers might argue that "Demons" is too heavy-handed, or that its special effects outweigh the allegory. Frankly, I'm enjoying it too much to care.
This is Memorial Day Weekend, which means I have Monday off. Which means I have three whole days to listen to Bjork, read, drink coffee, and work on editing the Mars book. I was to have appeared as a guest speaker at ConQuest, Kansas City's premiere science fiction convention, but I called it off for the second year in a row. Until I have something new in print, what's the point? Maybe next year.

On a similar note, I looked up my old book "Illumined Black" on the Title Sleuth console at Borders and found a used copy going for $30! It was only $10 when it came out! Does this mean it's a collector's item? I certainly hope not.

Friday, May 23, 2003

"We are living in what the Greeks called kaipos -- the right moment -- for a 'metamorphosis of the gods,' of the fundamental principals and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious man within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science."

--Carl Jung, "The Undisovered Self"

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I bought Bjork's "Greatest Hits" today. I'd honestly never heard anything by her before except "Human Behavior" (in a motel room in Texas). I'm listening to it now and am overwhelmed at how good it is . . .

By the way, Blogger seems to be responding extremely slowly lately. I think this is due to upgrades. If you're having trouble loading this blog, hang in there.

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

There's something alluring about the popularly conceived "Gray" alien. The image is appealing in a very real aesthetic sense. When "Communion" was published, with its now-famous cover portrait of a beige-skinned alien with glistening black eyes, many found the visage unendurably creepy, whereas I found it elegant and somehow portentous.

So what does this say about the way our minds react to the quasi-mythical "Gray"? Is it hardwired into our minds by millennia of evolution (i.e., do we somehow recognize it)?

There are other possibilities. Volunteers who have had their temporal lobes artificially stimulated by EM radiation hallucinate waxy figures that aren't entirely unlike the Grays. (They also sense an intangible "presence" that appears to mimic sleep paralysis.) It follows that some "alien abductions" may be neurological events triggered by ambient EM fields (Albert Budden's "Electro-staging Hypothesis"). So the Gray may indeed reside in our minds: a hardwired archetype that, like a genie, rouses from its neural slumber when the skull housing it is "rubbed" with the right wavelengths.

Maybe this is why ancient cultures placed so much importance on ley lines and geomagnetic anomalies. Such areas could have served as shamanic windows to altered realms. "Magonia" might be a built-in virtual reality amusement park for the psyche, a test-bed for embryonic mythologies that are subsequently "uploaded" into the infosphere in the form of pop entertainment and books like "Communion."

Skeptics who insist that "abductees" are simply recycling media imagery may be partially correct. But in my scenario, this "recycling" is an inherent part of the experiential process, not simply psychological white noise. Conceivably, each of us hosts a potential crowd of "aliens," in which case we're already outnumbered.

As Budden notes, abductions have been on the rise since the beginning of the continuing proliferation of telecommunications technology. Our brains are constantly marinated in radio and TV transmissions, the stammer of cellphone radiation, shortwave radio waves, and other potential neurological triggers. In "UFOs: Psychic Close Encounters -- The Electromagnetic Indictment" and "Electric UFOs: UFOs, Fireballs and Abnormal States," Budden implies that reports of hallucinatory abductions are evidence that our fragile brains (which are, after all, made of meat) are struggling to retain coherence under a new -- and dangerous -- electromagnetic onslaught.

But what if "hallucinatory" encounters with nonhuman beings are actually desirable to the collective unconscious? Our Jungian overmind may be exploiting our fascination with cellphones, satellite TV and wireless Internet in order to create an invisible ecology that facilitates heightened sensitivity to archetypal "aliens." As more and more of the world goes wireless, the faster our cybernetic Magonia encroaches on familiar material society.

The notion that there's any sort of underlying plan at work here seems ludicrous. But then again, we don't know what consciousness really is, or what it's capable of. Thinkers such as Rupert Sheldrake and the late Michael Talbot ("The Holographic Universe") offer tantalizing hints that awareness plays a critical role in defining reality -- which may, ultimately, be a consensual hallucination a la William Gibson's original vision of "cyberspace."

Again, I'm attracted to my idea that the universe (or multiverse) is a hyptertext filing system swarming with all manner of 'bots and conspicuous meaningful coincidences. Recently, a theoretical physicist postulated that everything is "mere" information, in which case we truly live in a "Matrix"-like environment in which "objective truth" is simply a convenient definition for certain uncollapsed quantum states. Nothing, it would seem, is "true."

But conversely, is everything permitted?

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Website of the day:

I came home from work today fully expecting to "crash." Instead I feel moderately invigorated. I need to give the Net a rest and take in more of the nice weather we're having after the internationally publicized tornado rampage. Which brings me to something I've been meaning to address: Kansas City, my hometown, is in Missouri. No, really. While there is, technically, a Kansas City in Kansas as well, it's nothing to look at. You can actually be there and not even know it. No, Kansas City, Missouri is where the action is: sports franchises, bar-be-que (for any carnivores reading), "home" of Charlie Parker, all that.

Monday, May 19, 2003

I've tried to document a slew of new Mars news. Last month, Malin Space Science Systems quietly added two new images of the Face on Mars to its online database. I was alerted to this by a "hacker" who had chanced upon an unprocessed version of one of the images in USGS's Mars file index. Foolishly, I thought I was onto an unreleased image, and thus proof that NASA was conducting at least some Mars anomaly research in secret. This isn't the case, but I seem to have alerted a large number of people to the "new" images lurking in the MSSS stash.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

This was a reasonably productive weekend. Live music, good weather. I finished reading a novel and got some minor work done on my Mars book. This week I'll be interviewed for "AlienViews II," a radio show. Thankfully it's not live, so the sound technicians can delete my digressive murmuring.

I have a strong hunch that humans evolved, in part, on Mars, although it's nothing I can put my finger on or hope to prove. It's quite probable that reality is a hundred times stranger than suggested by "The Matrix." We may need new brains to understand it. Our neural "system architecture" is static and far too brittle to cope with the inevitable tides of paradigm shift. As Bruce Sterling reminds us in his Viridian newsletters, "embrace decay."

Saturday, May 17, 2003

"The Matrix Reloaded"

"The Matrix Reloaded" was a fun trip. If you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one despite its disconcerting cliffhanger ending. I want to see it again just so I can pay closer attention to


the rapid-fire cyber-existential monologue offered by the "Architect" toward the end of the film. Technologically, the movie is jaw-dropping: seamless and convincingly surreal. The sheer novelty value of the first film has diminished, but the writers wisely use the new film as a platform for showing some fascinating new futuristic real-estate. I liked the gritty depiction of the subterranean city of Zion and the exterior shots of the hovercraft seen briefly in the original.

A few new characters could have been safely jettisoned: specifically, the new hacker/pilot (whose moments of obligatory "comic relief" were neither funny nor especially appropriate) and Will Smith's wife, who utters a few wincingly unconvincing lines.

Posthumans: transcendent intellects or soulless freaks?

I'm reading Francis Fukuyama's "Our Posthuman Future." To my dismay, he interprets "posthuman" as a thoroughly negative word, whereas I find it an extremely hopeful term: after all, it implies that there will be some form of presumably superior intelligence after merely human intelligence has vanished from the evolutionary stage. Scientists like Hans Moravec and Marvin Minsky grasp this. But Fukuyama, a philosophical polemic, is more comfortable embracing "human nature" as is.

"Humanity" is a dead end. "Human nature" can be whatever we want it to be. Needless to say, these sorts of grandiose statements carry a great deal of ethical and philosophical ramifications, and I'm not suggesting for one moment that we ignore them. But I don't think Fukuyama's breed of conservatism is the answer we need if we're to escape the next millennium.

Friday, May 16, 2003

I think I might take in "The Matrix Reloaded" tonight. Then again, I might end up reading. I generally always enjoy movies but for some reason I have a massive reluctance to make the pilgrimage to the theater down the street and cough up $7. It always feels like a massive committment. Maybe this explains my vacuous love-life.

Speaking of which, I took out a singles ad on Yahoo Personals -- why not? To my amazement, I received a reply today. I have no illusions about the overall effectiveness of online mingling but this was at least encouraging.

Yesterday's essay on pseudoskepticism received from favorable comments. I have yet to hear back from Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Today's news round-up: I wrote an essay on pompous pseudoskeptics for my Mars site. I plan on including a version of this in my book as well.

Image by Lan Fleming, NASA subcontractor.

I found this site by reading Jason's blog. Hilarious. As long as I know there's at least one other person who realizes how crazy American "culture" has become, I just might be OK. Yeeeee-HAWWWW!

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The "end of the world as we know it" meme has achieved something eerily close to escape velocity.

Christian and Islamic Fundamentalists are fanning the flames of "end times" speculation, complete with high-budget special effects. The tech-geek core of the transhumanist movement awaits the singularity, a nodal point when artificial intelligence and nanotechnology redefine the human condition in a single sweeping flourish. On the UFO front, true believers in a large-scale government coverup anticipate official disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence on Earth -- via government sources or from the aliens themselves.

This sense of anticipation has gelled into an almost palpable fog of incipience, a ubiquitous postmillenial funk, the raw psychic effervescence zeitgeists are made of. But who's forging this emerging zeitgeist, with its curious emphasis on apocalypse? A collusion of advertisers, military strategists and New Age writers? Godlike alien intelligences?

I propose that we're dealing with a meme that has mutated in oder to colonize different sectors of the collective unconscious. A meme is a life-form, no different than a virus (physically "real" or encoded as data and set loose to prowl the embryonic planetary brain we casually call "the Internet"). Our evolution has been hijacked by an automated intelligence concerned only for its own survival. (Fortunately for the apocalypse-meme, we're willing and gracious hosts.)

We must track down the origin of this meme. In doing so we will subvert its agenda and make the first tentative step toward the creation of something very new: a viral intelligence, shocked from its neural slumber and forced (at gunpoint, perhaps) to sprout an intellect to match its tenacity.

Somewhere in spacetime, or perhaps encased in its Escher-esque folds, is our eternally abiding Patient Zero.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

If you're like me, you probably get a lot of email that goes something like this:

Due to my careful search for an honest, reliable and sincere business partner, i ask if you can be trusted not to break an agreement? Still, it took me time to make up my mind to contact you and to offer you this proposal of mine of which my whole life depends on.

Entertaining the idea that this isn't a crude rip-off (just for the fun of it), the logic and sentimentality here are interesting. Apparently this person, who introduces himself below, has been scouring the Internet for a potential business ally. Of his admission, his whole life depends on my trustworthiness. Isn't that an empowering idea!

Dear, my name is BANGOURA F.KABILA the son of the late president DR.LAURENT KABILA,the former president of ZAIRE (DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO). I am 24 years old and presently residing in DAKAR-SENEGAL in West Africa under political asylum.

The plot thickens. This isn't some hopeless nerd; it's none other than the son of the late Dr. Laurent Kabila, former president of Zaire! And he's contacting me! What can I do for you, Bangoura?

My mother happens to be a nurse whom the late president had an affair with during his life style as a play boy,

Wait. Hold it. This is suddenly taking on the flavor of a half-baked soap-opera . . .

and the affair resulted to my birth,but it was unfortunate that the late president did not marry my mother legaly and as a kind of settlement, for my mother and i,my father deposited the sum of Eight Million one Hundred thousand $US cash($ 8.1 million US.dollars cash) to my mother for my life inheritance.

Sorry for my interrupting. Did you say $8.1 million? Keep talking, Bangoura . . .

my father stashed these sum of money and deposited it in a financial house in DAKAR-SENEGAL and my name appears as the next of kin.

After my father was killed by his body guard ealier last year 2001, and my mother died also ealier this year just two months after my father's death, and at the age of 24 years old,i am left with this huge sum of money ,and i need a partner who will help me transfer this money oversea for immediate investment as i have made up my mind to invest in your country.

"Invest in your country." Sounds like it could be Bush's campaign slogan in '04, doesn't it?

Your compensation for your immediate assistance is 5% of the total money as soon as it arrives your country while 2% will be for any local and international expences that will occure during the transfer.

Hmmm. 5% of $8.1 million is quite a bit . . . considerably more than I'm getting paid for my book about Mars, come to think of it. Maybe I should give Bangoura the benefit of the doubt. After all, he trusts me. And I feel a strange sort of kinship with him, almost like I've known him my entire life.

I will like truth and honesty to be our watchword in this business.

That's the spirit! For a second there I thought this might be a scam involving sharing my bank account with a total stranger!

You can contact me through my personal e mail address

Yours sincerely,


Hang in there, Bangoura! Together we'll work this out! And sorry to hear about your mom!

Monday, May 12, 2003

Today was a quintessential Monday: labored, tiring and much too soon. I have a fantasy of building a soulless android duplicate of myself and sending it to work in my stead, leaving me free to surf the Web, read and drink coffee. But with my luck the duplicate would start getting huge book deals and going on dates with beautiful women. One of us would have to die.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Philip K. Dick

Thomas Disch suggests that Philip K. Dick may have had temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). It's conceivable TLE played an instrumental role in his psychedelic religious experiences.

But what if certain epileptiform states facilitate heightened consciousness? The cosmic associations typical of TLE are subjective enough, yet "subjective" observation plays an underlying role in quantum physics. So where does that leave Newtonian objectivity? Can there be such a thing?

Before he was kicked off UFO UpDates, author Colin Bennett argued that "facts" were mental constructs, mere "politics of the imagination." Charles Fort was the first to take 20th century rationalism to task by exposing its deeply troubling (and roundly ignored) "irrationality": animals falling from the sky, UFOs, "impossible" archeological finds . . .

"Discovery commences with the awareness of anomaly." --Thomas Kuhn

What Kuhn might not have realized is that reality itself is one immense squirming anomaly. Every moment is filled with discovery in the same way that even the so-called vacuum is filled with vast amounts of "frozen" energy waiting to be unlocked.
John Shirley, Bruce Sterling and other notables have essays in the new book "Exploring the Matrix," which I almost bought today. Instead, I bought Shirley's novel "Demons," which has been on my list since it came out.

John Shirley

The weather's great today. I crashed early on Friday night and spent yesterday immersed in reading. I've added a new nonfiction title to my list of books to read: "Natural Born Cyborgs." Sounds like an increasingly apt diagnosis.

Yahoo has an annoying new advertising tactic: audio ads that kick in while you're trying to read your email. Beware!

Saturday, May 10, 2003

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I've decided to part ways with the "robot" motif and go with this relatively unimaginative "just the facts" presentation (partly just for the change and partly because this design includes access to the archives on the main page). Rest assured, the change is merely cosmetic. I will continue to churn out the same illucid ruminations, misanthropic bickering and metaphysical diatribes.
I think I'm going to write to the editor of "Skeptic" regarding the pseudo-scholarship in the new issue (see yesterday's post). Professional "debunkers" (note the quotes, since these guys aren't really debunking anything at all) comprise a cult as voracious and inflexible as any UFO contact group. "Debunkers" (and their readers) want to be reassured in the same way that true believers in Christly ETs want to be reassured. Facts are neatly swept aside to make room for the same endlessly rehashed "explanations."

Roswell and the Face on Mars are among the "debunking" cult's favorite subjects, precisely because there is so much puzzling data surrounding them. A rigorous truth-seeking article on the alleged Roswell crash could fill volumes.

Why did Gen. Arthur Exon, in taped statements, confirm the arrival of exotic metal at Wright-Patterson and subsequent lab analysis? You won't find the answer in the pages of "Skeptic." In fact, you won't even find his name. There's good reason for this.

What did Dr. Robert Sarbacher mean when he dicussed a high-level working team and insect-like alien bodies? Hmmm. "Skeptic" leaves him out of its revisionist scenario as well . . . which is ironic, since the 'zine's Editor-in-Chief, Michael Shermer, is an historian who (correctly) debunks Holocaust denial and its "revisionist" adherents.

I like to think of my Mars book as a raised fist against this kind of intellectual blinkering. It kicks SETI in its collective head and exposes debunking attempts as the feeble would-be ideological assassinations they are.

In other news...

Is "The Matrix Reloaded" out? I think so, in which case I might have to take it in Sat. night. I also want to buy the book "Exploring the Matrix," which features essays by such iconic cyberpunks as Bruce Sterling and John Shirley.

Friday, May 09, 2003

"Skeptic" magazine has unveiled a new issue with an article that (gasp!) "debunks" Roswell and the Face on Mars! It doesn't get any better than this, folks.

The article on Roswell is an almost word-for-word retelling of the Air Force's 1997 "Case Closed" report. If the case has been "closed" since '97, why the rehash in 2003? My guess: slow news day.

The Face on Mars "debunking" appears in the "Junior Skeptic" section, aimed at teaching young people to think like their pseudointellectual parents (evidently the ones actually buying "Skeptic"). We're taught that the Face on Mars is a completely normal "hill" because (brace yourself for deja vu)...

a.) there's a crater on Mars that looks sort of like a happy face


b.) there's also a spurious heart-shaped depression on Mars. Like a Valentine! Get it?

"Skeptic" is treading new lows. As Stanton Friedman advises would-be debunkers, "What your readers don't know, don't tell them."

Read my essay on real skepticism.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

The hype surrounding the new "Matrix" movie is interesting. Does some of the original's appeal come from the premise (i.e., that "reality" is a fraud used to control human beings) and not merely the great special effects and combat scenes? If what I think I know about the UFO intelligence -- Philip K. Dick called it "VALIS" (for Vast Active Living Intelligence System"...which is about all he ventured as to its actual nature) -- is correct, then we are indeed living in a simulation of sorts. No wires running out of our skulls, mind you; when you believe in something thoroughly enough, virtual reality pales in comparison.

We generally think we inhabit an unremarkable planet in a lonely universe spawned by an anthropomorphic Creator. I'm inclined to disagree with this. I think we're inhabiting a universe flooded with life and intelligence, some so exotic we simply don't recognize it as such from our provincial vantage-point. At least one of these intelligences appears to have seized on our capacity for belief to control us for ends that may be for our ultimate benefit but unquestionably cause untold suffering now. All of this is disquietingly "Matrix"-like.

I don't think our universe is merely a computer. More likely it's an intelligence itself (artificial or otherwise) . . . possibly one of trillions that swarm through hyperspace.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Here's something you don't get in the mail everyday: rock specimens from an alleged UFO crash site. I'm now the proud owner of two hefty chunks of the stuff and can verify the superficial characteristics described in this technical report. UFO researcher Ed Gehrman sent me the samples from one of his outings in the New Mexico desert and was kind enough to include some Kodak prints showing the terrain.

The "crash" in question supposedly took place in 1947, although it was not the famous "Roswell Incident." If the anonymous witness can be believed (and I personally have grave doubts), then this was the crash that resulted in the censored "alien autopsy" footage that appeared on FOX back in 1995. (For my own rather extensive thoughts on this subject, you might enjoy my independent analysis.) Gehrman had previously supplied me with digitally mastered CDs showing one of the "autopsies" in its entirety, along with tantalizing footage of so-called alien "control panels" and various metallic clutter salvaged from the wreck.

An FX dummy or a biological entity?

It's true that the terrain in the photos taken by Gehrman appears to match the "reconstructions" of the "alien autopsy crash site" as depicted in the credulous but informative book "Beyond Roswell" by Philip Mantle and Michael Hesemann. So while I'm very much doubtful that this is evidence of a UFO crash, I'm willing to keep an open mind.
I never see my neighbors. A couple guys moved in next door to me several months ago. I saw them in the process of moving their stuff in, but that was it. Sometimes I think I hear a muffled noise coming from my kitchen wall, but for all I know they're long gone. I certainly wouldn't recognize either of them if I saw them.

A week ago two more guys moved into an apartment on my floor. I haven't seen them since and really don't expect to. It's like once you've moved in, you become somehow incorporeal. Maybe all the apartments come pre-tuned to different dimensional frequencies; we could be passing right through each other in the hallway and in the laundry room without realizing it. A building full of quantum semi-persons, a hive of perfectly invisible bees.

I'm finishing up "The Ultimate Alien Agenda." This book deserves the full scorn of debunkers who criticize the flagrant and improper use of hypnotic regression to uncover "alien" memories. The methodology is laughable. The dialogue (between the "abductee" author -- who also thinks he's part-reptile, thanks to interdimensional genetic tinkering -- and his hypnotist) goes domething like this:

"I had weird dreams last night. Or at least I think I did."

"Sounds like aliens might have been involved."

"I think so too!"

"This calls for another regression. Meet me at my house as soon as possible. And remember, the aliens want you to be able to remember!"

And so on.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Loving the alien

The Alien. The Other. Why the appeal? What genetic imperative is at work here? Why am I drawn to this? A Freudian might postulate that my fascination with "aliens" is actually a sublimated fascination with the opposite sex. Or maybe just a secret fascination with human dynamics in general.

Human operating systems

Have you noticed how most people conform to a recognizable "template" or "operating system"? I meet people who are, in all respects except physical appearance, identical to countless others. I'm not saying they're subhuman zombies or selfless drones. But there's definitely something sobering about it. Are people really this easily conditioned? Or is it all just an act we play when interacting with each other, a kind of dehumanized neutrality?

Lastly but by no means leastly, why my smug conviction that I'm immune to it? It's more likely that I try quite desperately to blend in and just happen to fail. Or do I? It's unsettling: I have very little clue how I'm perceived. My intuition tells me this is a good thing.

People I can relate to

It's probably a pointless exercise, but I can name a few famous people I feel I certain kinship with. Don't laugh.

1.) William Burroughs. I'm really nothing like Burroughs. No bizarre life story, no consuming addictions (that I'm consciously aware of). I suppose I relate to Burroughs because he was iconoclastic; I've always had a problem with established "experts."

2.) David Bowie/Michael Stipe. Here I'm probably just flattering myself. Both are consummately creative, which is certainly something I strive for. And I have a weird respect for the way they handle their celebrity -- "weird" because I don't happen to be a celebrity. (I never claimed this made any sense.)

3.) Franz Kafka. But then again, anyone who's read and understood his books must feel precisely as I do.

Oh yeah -- and Robert Crumb. I'm self-obsessed and misanthropic, although probably more accessible (and slightly less neurotic) than Crumb.
The "blogging" phenomenon was on NPR this morning. It's interesting how weblogs are routinely presented as a novel, subversive medium. I suppose they are, in a sense, but are they really the forerunners of the next communications revolution? I think the potential is there. It's too early to tell whether blogs will evolve into a social/cultural force to be reckoned with.

Audio-blogging is presently in vogue. I can imagine the infosphere forty years from now, when bloggers have wireless devices grafted directly into their brains. Instead of sharing sound clips, imagine sharing dreams or flashes of dizzy intuition.

I don't think the concept of an electronic "hive-mind" is necessarily Marxist or depersonalizing. In fact, effortless access to consenting minds (human and otherwise) just might be the catalyst we need to shrug off our current geocentric consciousness. The larger the brain, the vaster the frontier. And new frontiers will spawn new and different varieties of minds.
Yesterday evening I read the beginning of "The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of" by Thomas M. Disch. Disch, a science fiction writer, is an articulate and capable critic. His thesis is that science fiction is responsible for shaping the 20th century in more ways than idle bystanders might expect.

The preface was excellent. But I was annoyed by the first chapter, which Disch devotes almost exclusively to lobbing cheap shots at author Whitley Strieber, whose 1987 book "Communion" became a bestseller and raked in a million dollar advance. Disch makes no secret of his distaste for Strieber; he thinks he's lying, and uses "Communion" as evidence of what he identifies as America's oddly tolerating attitude toward quackery and deceit (so long as they're delivered in a convincing package).

Disch has every right to disbelieve Strieber's alien abduction claims. But he tears into Strieber with a tenacity that I found disconcerting for a book on literature and its role in society. I didn't see any profound literary agenda at work behind Disch's spiteful Strieber-bashing; I saw an angry intellectual taking out his wrath behind a screen of well-worded condescension (and some demonstrable lies for good meaure). Could Disch's nastiness be due to "Communion's" financial and pop-cultural success? Disch would deny it in a heartbeat, and maybe even truthfully.

It goes almost without saying that Disch dimisses the entire UFO phenomenon based on Strieber's perceived lies. This smug disdain for ufology among writers of science fiction is far from uncommon. It parallels a telephone conversation I had yesterday with a well-known physicist who's embarking on a fiction career. His novel's premise is thoroughly science-fictional, but it also deals significantly with UFOs, so-called "New Age" matters and religion. I pointed out that the science fiction-reading community has a strange (and perhaps surprising) aversion to such stuff. (Isaac Asimov was an insufferable UFO "debunker" whose whining about the subject annoyed even fellow unbelievers, as related in Jerry Pournelle's introduction to Karl Pflock's "Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe.")

(Of course, there are exceptions: "Dune," "Childhood's End," "Contact," and Robert Sawyer's recent "Calculating God," to name a few theological SF novels. UFO-themed SF is much rarer; John Shirley's "Silicon Embrace" and Patricia Anthony's "Brother Termite" come to mind -- and these are postmodern satires that use the "Gray" alien as a clever plot device. I've corresponded with John Shirley, and my impression is that Gray aliens are the last thing he would expect to come out of a parked flying saucer.)

Monday, May 05, 2003

The following letter was sent to the New York Times by a fellow member of a Mars group:

To the Editor:

Re "Iconic Rock Face Succumbs to Age and Gravity" (national, May 4):

New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain feature may now R.I.P. ("Rest in Pieces"). But once they've gotten through their grieving for this important part of their state identity, New Hampshire residents might want look ahead toward twenty-first century icons, and consider adopting the Face on Mars as an alternative symbol.

According to analyst Mac Tonnies, "While the Face has yet to be proven artificial, data acquired since it was first photographed by the Viking mission in 1976 has strengthened the case for a non-natural origin." Despite their purely subjective responses to the Face on the Cydonian plains that have led some scientists to reject any ideas of its artificiality, when examined more objectively it has consistently shown more signs of artificiality than the more random features as exemplified by many "Old Man of the Mountains" profiles on Earth.

Heavy weather

Tornados scoured the Midwest last night, leaving about 40 confirmed dead and, as of this morning, a few missing. Kansas suffered the brunt of it. I live in Kansas City, Missouri and was untouched, although a siren was tested nearby. There was a barrage of hail last evening. The sky took on a smoky, ominous look that vanished about as suddenly as I noticed it.

NPR reported 83 independent tornado sightings; I don't know how many actual tornados there were. I have a perverse desire to see one up close.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Fear and loathing in Kansas City

I live in a pretty cool apartment building. Best of all, I live on the top floor, where I can take in the madding crowds and occasional car wrecks. Right behind my building is a formidable high-rise called the Sulgrave, which was recently refurbished and equipped with a rooftop light sculpture that looks something like a tube of radioactive toothpaste. The Sulgrave's condominums run in the $400,000 range. Unfortunately, I just don't make that kind of money writing books about alien artifacts and I've never had an opportunity to go inside this place until today, when there was an open house. (Not quite "Architectural Digest" level quality, but close.)

The second condo I entered had a balcony, so I walked outside to check out the view. The door shut behind me. And locked. I pounded on the glass and knocked desperately, hoping some Sulgrave resident would take notice. Ten minutes or so later, I glimpsed a man walk past in the barely visible hallway inside; I started yelling and he rescued me. He thought my story was pretty funny, and made sure the door wouldn't lock from the inside again. Presumably this wasn't part of the open house. I finished my "tour" hastily and made for the coffee shop.

There's a good chance that if I hadn't made a lot of noise, I never would have been seen. I'd still by out there on that balcony, trying to sleep and probably warding off vertiginous nightmares.

Anyway, the day wasn't altogether the queasy waste it could have been. For example, I added an article on the collapse of New Hampshire's "Old Man in the Mountain" to my Mars site and got pretty damned close to finishing Ken MacLeod's "Dark Light."

Saturday, May 03, 2003

The "blog bash" went well. We ate at a labyrinthine Italian joint plastered with kitschy iconography (Vatican City tourist paraphernalia, Frank Sinatra records, ad nasuem). Servings arrived in industrial quantity, and I discovered the wonder of the cannoli, a brittle but deceptively filling delicacy served in a shallow bath of cold chocolate. I showed everyone my animorphic wristwatch and was assured it was indeed cool.

After Jason and Maggie left Steve and I walked down the street to Barnes & Noble, where I discovered a new book called "Our Posthuman Future." I promptly bought it before we walked back up 47th Street to LatteLand, my daily hangout. (The baristas sometimes give me extra punches on my frequent drink cards, which make very good bookmarks.)

I've noticed that we're experiencing an outbreak of futurism. A British astrophysicist thinks the human race may have reached its final century. The author of "Our Posthuman Future" anticipates humans becoming something substantially different. Meanwhile, the likes of Billy Graham and Tim LaHaye believe we have entered the dreaded "End Times" of biblical revelation. Maybe both camps are somehow touching on a central truth, even if the latter relies on psychological terrorism to spread its memes.

"Apocalypse" means "to unveil." This isn't a bad thing; there is no shortage of veils that need to be lifted. Perhaps when we finally do, we will have become avatars of the posthuman future.

In case you're wondering, the large metallic fellow in the photo above is Electro, a prototype domestic robot exhibited at a long-ago World's Fair. He's accompanied by his dog Sparko, an early ancestor of Sony's cybercanine companion. Electro himself is a crude precursor to Honda's humanoid "Asimo."

I have a strange obsession with simulacra. Given the means, I can see myself collecting animatronics and mannequins of various eras in the same way that William Gibson hoardes antique watches. (Speaking of androids, Zakas has provided artwork to accompany my short-story "The Symbiosis.")

"Never want to come down, never want to put my feet back down on the ground."

--Depeche Mode, "Never Let Me Down Again"

Friday, May 02, 2003

Bumper-sticker anthropology

I see several of the same cars while driving to and from work, which I recognize from their bumper-stickers. I feel like the drivers (myself included) comprise some sort of secret club, and often wonder if they recognize my car (a thoroughly hideous white '86 Caprice that looks like it's survived several bomb explosions).

I think the first of these recurring vehicles I noticed was a white car with a so-hip-it's-lame Darwin fish and two bumper-stickers reading "Goddess Worshipper" and "Pagan and Proud." I've never gotten a good look at the driver, but I have the impression she's mousy and embittered. And I can't help but roll my eyes at this savvily marketed "pagan" thing. Adherents of "Wicca" think they're rebelling against the status quo; instead, they're dutifully lining corporate pockets. "Rebellion" is totally commodified, just like everything else. (I find the Darwin fish particularly insulting. $100 says this self-infatuated "goddess worshipper" doesn't even know who Richard Dawkins is.)

Then there's this blue car with an upward-tilting Jesus fish. (Seriously, how hard is it to glue one of these stupid things on the back of a car correctly? Does the tilted fish have some esoteric meaning I don't know about?) Interestingly, the driver's a black guy -- the only black person I've ever seen with a Jesus fish on his car. I thought the Jesus fish was the official icon of white trash. Apparently I was mistaken.

There's another car that I see occasionally while driving home. It boasts a glittery bumper-sticker that instructs me to "Expect a Miracle." (Oh, really? Could you be more specific?) From the shape the car itself is in, I'm guessing the driver's been "expecting a miracle" for a very long time now.

Blog Bash

This evening I'm getting together with some college friends at an Italian restaurant not far from my apartment. This get-together began as a "pre-emptive strike" against Kansas City Bloggers, a group of local blognauts who like to get together for pizza and beer and, presumably, talk about "blogging" (the fine art of posting random thoughts on the Internet -- lots to talk about . . .) All four of us have weblogs, but so far only Jason and I are listed at the K.C. Bloggers site. Then again, I haven't exactly been paying that much attention.

Mars book update

The Mars book mss. has been returned from the editor. The essential probem with the text, as is, is the lack of organization, so I'll spend the next couple months assembling it for readability. I was very pleased to note that my editor knows what he's doing and can ably envision the final product.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

"Belief" is an illness. It almost makes me wonder if we were genetically engineered by beings who wanted to maintain a means of controlling our psyche. After all, computer programmers install "backdoors" through which they can covertly enter a machine's system architecture. Our willingness to believe in higher intelligence -- when faced with the option of critical thought -- is frightening indeed.

Arthur C. Clarke has called religion a "disease of infancy." My concern is that we will remain a stillborn species, failing to migrate into space because of the obsolete chips embedded in our brains. (Curiously enough, we don't hesitate to upgrade our computers to keep them up to speed. But we ignore the software in our own brains, never installing new components, not even scanning for the occasional virus.) Humans are deficient by definition; we must mutate or we will fall silent, a genetic failure, a curiosity in the fossil record. As George Carlin has remarked about politicians, "Garbage in, garbage out." Are these mangled excuses for human beings the best we can do? Or are we caught up in a retroactive feedback loop? (And this is assuming for the sake of argument that we live in a true democracy, which we certainly don't.)

This planet is stifling. I feel trapped, glued to the ground by dogma and short-sightedness. My grumblings about Bush and his cohorts are actually aimed at a much larger spectrum of human failures, as if I'm single-handedly staving off the ideological detritus of an entire species.

And yet there is compelling evidence that we're not the only so-called intelligence around. Something vast and wonderfully cryptic is interacting with us, possibly extraterrestrial but more than likely multidimensional. We're so used to its presence that we're essentially blind to it -- which is exactly what the "other" intelligence wants. Quantum physics offers a useful analogy: A quantum-level event cannot be accurately measured because of an apparent limiting mechanism in human perception. We can choose to observe a subatomic particle's momentum or its position, but never both at the same time. The alien intelligence in our midst seems curiously similar: it observes but fails to interact in way that would fundamentally disturb the world at large. Perhaps it is simply incapabale of doing so, just as particle physicists cannot defy the Uncertainty Principle. Or so it seems to us, trapped in three dimensions.

Scientists sympathetic to the UFO problem have wondered if there is something like a cosmic "hands-off" policy keeping alien visitors from making the explicit contact we've been trained to expect from science fiction. There is almost certainly some truth in this; the last thing a technologically or mentally superior intelligence would want to do is reveal itself in all its novel splendor unless it specifically wanted to exploit our predisposition for belief. There may very well be egomaniacal "gods" lurking in hyperspace, but it seems as if we're dealing with something more akin to an infestation of goblins. I suspect they (if it's a "they," which is far from certain) are using our collective unconscious as a means to propel us forward along unseen psychoevolutionary rails. So in a sense we're being exploited -- but not for the alien intelligence's short-term ego-glorification. Whitley Strieber might have said it best when he wrote, simply, "It seeks communion."

Hence my interest in the alien-human hybrid phenomenon, whether real or fiction. Dr. John Mack interprets encounters with nonhuman intelligence as "reified metaphor": the visitors' intentions manifested symbolically. There may be no flesh-and-blood hybrid fetuses sulking in vials of synthesized amniotic fluid. But the implications they conjure -- the joining of two worlds, the intimate juxtaposition of the alien and the familiar -- achieve the desired end nonetheless.
The following text appears in the current issue of my employer's online magazine. It's accompanied by a picture of a silhouetted soldier with a machine gun slung over his shoulder and a praying figure superimposed on the American flag:

"Thursday, May 1, 2003 is the 52nd annual National Day of Prayer. This is a wonderful opportunity to unite together, as one nation under God, to collectively ask for God's mercy and blessing on our country. We urge you to join us in Training Room at 11:05 A.M. as members of the ****** family come together to observe this special occasion and thank the Lord for His goodness to our nation."

It should be noted that my employer claims it doesn't discriminate based on religion, in which case the presence of this piece of emphatically Christian propaganda is rather difficult to justify. As a non-Christian, I'm bothered and very disappointed. Why does corporate America assume its constituents share the same faith? Perhaps more pressingly, why does it feel the need to tout religion in the first place?

If the "Day of Prayer" announcement is an attempt to create a sense of solidarity among employees, my employer is in blatant violation of its own supposedly nondiscriminatory policy. Consequently it alienates those who don't happen to share in the belief than an omnipotent deity chooses to dish out "mercy and blessing" to the United States. Those who don't believe in the theocratic fiction that the US is somehow protected by divine will are implicitly told that they do not belong, that their input is inherently without value and that their belief system (or lack thereof) is starkly invalid.

My company's Christian rallying call (with its obvious "patriotic" connotation) is nothing especially new, and as much as I'd like to be able to blame it on the Bush regime's apocalyptic Christian rhetoric, I know its roots run deeper. Religion is about control. An administration (governmental or corporate) that can appeal to religious inclinations has an immediate monopoly on sentimentality. Americans -- citizens of an ostensibly "godless" society -- are victimized daily by self-righteous "authorities" who peddle hope, fear and pride in the form of religion. The ultimate goal is the destruction of self-worth and independent thought: two variables that pose toxic threats to conformist ideology.

Religion is virulently persistent. Any effort to excise it from our lives must first be able to detect its presence. Ironically, the theocratic drivel churned out by the post-9-11 Bush regime may be the administration's Achilles' heel. Now that its Christian hype and Fundamentalist leanings are flaunted as part of its Nazi-like program of coerced patriotism, the government can be more easily seen as the unconstitutional mutation that it is.

No more "One Nation, Under God."

No more "In God We Trust."

No more "God," period.