Sunday, April 30, 2006

One in five UK adults 'illiterate'

I found this part appalling:

The UN's Human Development Index takes account of income, education, life expectancy and health care when judging its 'quality of life' index.

The report found that the US had the highest level of "human poverty" - relating to life expectancy, illiteracy and unemployment - among industrialised nations, followed closely by the UK and the Irish Republic.

Then again, what do you expect from a country that refuses to consider socialized health care? Shame on us.
Hey, everybody! It's time for . . .

The Me A-Z Meme

Accent: Midwestern. Kind of regionally anonymous, I think, although I couldn't pass for a Southerner or a New Yorker.

Booze: None. The heaviest thing I drink is Corona, which isn't too often.

Chore I Hate: Filling the basement with Gray Poupon mustard.

Dog or Cat: Cats, cats, cats, cats. And ferrets.

Essential Electronics: My laptop and cellphone.

Favorite Cologne: Why must men feel compelled to smell a certain way? Aren't our senses bombarded with enough useless information? I'm clean and well-groomed. If that's not good enough, then too damned bad.

Gold or Silver: Chrome.

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri.

Insomnia: Occasionally.

Job Title: "World-Famous Author." ;-)

Kids: Aside from having been one, and perhaps still being one in some respects, I don't have anything to do with them.

Living arrangements: Far, far from adequate.

Most admirable traits: Self-deprecation, stylishly understated eyeglass frames, nice ears.

Not going to cop to: I don't know what this means. Does "cop to" mean "own up to"?

Overnight hospital stays: None so far, thankfully. Knock wood.

Phobias: Centipedes and other big, meaty bugs that may or may not be capable of inflicting harm.

Quote: "The cryptoterrestrials are among us!"

Religion: No thanks.

Siblings: I'm an "only."

Time I wake up: As late as possible.

Unusual talent or skill: I know the difference between "its" and "it's."

Vegetable I love: Beans, because of their versatility.

Worst habit: Aspiring to my personal best.

X-rays: Dental, cranial, chest, etc. No anomalies worth mentioning.

Yummy foods I make: Red Baron microwave pizza.

Zodiac sign: Leo.

(Encountered at Busy, Busy, Busy.)

Is that . . . coffee?

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Very gray, forbidding weather lately. The sky is a leaden ceiling; the subliminal murmur of gestating tornadoes like a vibration in the bones.

Random Smiths lyrics of the day:

I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday
I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday
'Cause you're evil
And you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad
(But I won't cry)

Loved and lost
And some may say
When usually it's Nothing
Surely you're happy
It should be this way?
I say "No, I'm gonna kill my dog"
And: "May the lines sag, may the lines sag heavy and deep tonight"

I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday
I've come to wish you an unhappy birthday
'Cause you're evil
And you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad
(But I won't cry)

Loved and lost
And some may say
When usually it's Nothing
Surely you're happy
It should be this way?
I said "No"
And then I shot myself
So, drink, drink, drink
And be ill tonight

From the one you left behind

Take a close look at these fashion pictures. My eye bypassed the girl and zeroed in on the funky UFO-shaped house in the background. Corroborative evidence of my dramatic encounters with spacewomen?

(Found at Unity of Multi.)
Here's a new image of a conspicuous square mesa that appears possibly artificial. (I devote a lengthy commentary about this feature and nearby formations on my Cydonian Imperative site and in my Mars book.)

The square mesa could be compelling evidence that symmetrical "platforms" like that beneath the "Face" are produced through natural processes. Or it could be further evidence of artificial construction on Mars' surface. It's an intriguingly elliptical problem, and one that I don't foresee going away in the near future.
I'm thinking of launching a CafePress store. (Would you wear a Posthuman Blues T-shirt? I would!) If any designers want to submit their wares, feel free.
Meet Hammerhead - The Lego CD Thrower. Do they make a car-mountable version?

(Thanks to Boing Boing.)
Asexuals Unite

"Sexuality is like any other activity," says David Jay, AVEN's 23-year-old founder. "There are people for whom skydiving, chocolate cake and soccer are their world. But some people don't like skydiving, chocolate cake or soccer. There's no reason to focus your energy and attention on something you feel no reason to do anything about."

(Via Aberrant News.)

I'm not asexual. But sometimes I aspire to be.

Ten Jews Cooler Than Jesus Who Died For Your Sins

The title pretty much says it all.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Terrorist or UFO Truth Seeker?

To the United States, he is a seriously dangerous man who put the nation's security at risk by committing "the biggest military computer hack of all time."

But Briton Gary McKinnon says he is just an ordinary computer nerd who wanted to find out whether aliens and UFOs exist.

The NSA should hire this guy, show him what he wants to see (real or otherwise) and exploit his expertise.
Today was really tough. My duly chronicled existential funk is threatening to become something uncomfortably close to clinical depression. Fortunately, as someone pointed out to me last night, I'm too sane to crack up; I take cold comfort in the fact that "losing it" probably isn't anything I need to lose sleep over.

Oh, the unforgiving Midwestern blight. Oh, the authorial angst. Oh, big goddamned deal.

"I often wish there was a hell-hound on my trail!"

--Zippy the Pinhead
'Bug-eyed' lens takes a broader view

The eyes of insects such as bees and dragonflies are made up of tens of thousands of tiny components called ommatidia. These all point in different directions to give the insect a very wide field of vision.

Inspired by this, Luke Lee and colleagues developed an artificial compound eye consisting of a moulded polymer resin dome filled with thousands of light-guiding channels, called waveguides, each topped with its own miniature lens.

The artificial eye could be used to create surveillance cameras, cellphone cameras, and surgical endoscopes with a much wider field of vision, the researchers say.


I wonder of the "Grays" make use of something similar to this. Once you concede that

a.) they physically exist


b.) might be manufactured beings

you have to wonder. Researchers have noted that the eyeballs typically depicted in pictures of Gray aliens are too big to fit inside the skull without crowding out the brain. This suggests we're dealing with exaggerative caricatures. But it could also mean the ubiquitous slanted black "eyes" are prosthetic devices.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Xenoarchaeology: a blog after my own heart.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

More "cryptomania":

The Indigenous Hypothesis doesn't necessarily entail a global civilization of nonhumans. In fact, I find the possibility that the cryptoterrestrials have managed to remain socially intact throughout the millennia especially tenuous. Witness reports and common sense alike point toward a more likely scenario: that the CTs are wildly variant, at different levels of sophistication. While in possession of remarkable abilities -- not the least of which is the capacity for stealth -- some CT communities might even qualify as "primitive" in some respects.

[As of this writing, I'm looking into the possibility that "pygmies" reportedly captured by the Japanese during WWII were later used as fodder for medical research. That such an action might arouse the ire of the larger CT "community" practically goes without saying.]

Some CTs appear eminently comfortable among technologies that, historically, seem just beyond the human state-of-the-art. The pilots of the "mystery airships" of the 1890s, for example, seemed to have anticipated our own dominion of the air at least as capably as Jules Verne. Betty Hill's eerily accurate description of amniocentesis has been cited as another case of "alien" technology seen in action shortly before its implementation in the human realm. Again, this isn't what we would expect of an arbitrarily capable extraterrestrial civilization. Rather, it suggests a technology surprisingly like our own, another indication that the beings' casual allusions to outer space should be taken with a dose of healthy skepticism.

(Although we shouldn't presume that some CTs haven't succeeded in gaining a foothold in space, making them a novel kind of ET. Maybe the term "post-terrestrial" best describes this offshoot, to which I'll return in a later chapter.)

Unfortunately, reports of technologically savvy entities have all-but eclipsed equally credible reports of less sophisticated beings. After all, advanced beings promise a welcoming future, if only indirectly. If we should detect a genuine extraterrestrial civilization, whether through an instrumented search like SETI or via direct visitation, hopes for our own continued existence stand to reap enormous rewards. Consequently, we yearn for "others" who are both wiser and more capable.

The attractive human-like "aliens" who contacted the likes of George Adamski and Howard Menger were hailed as veritable messiahs, their disdain for reckless atomic experimentation reiterated in the fiction of the day. To a somewhat lesser extent, today's Grays -- though harsher and more pragmatic than their glamorous predecessors -- convey the same message, exposing their subjects to scenes that appear to predict impending apocalypse.

In a world suffering from pronounced greenhouse effects and record-breaking extinctions, these images couldn't come at a more opportune time. Either the CTs are studiously exploiting our deepest fears as part of some far-ranging psychological experiment or their concerns are quite real. But is it our world they care about or their own?

The existence of "primitive" CT communities leaves us no choice but to willfully deflate our confidence in the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis -- especially when the gross resemblances to alleged ETs are so pronounced.

For example, I have a reliable first-hand report of "little people" at large in the American Northwest. My source encountered a small congregation of these beings in a wooded area. Human-like in all essential respects, the beings were nevertheless small, like normal people in miniature. Although the encounter was brief, my source was able to glean some important information. The "little people" claimed to predate known North American cultures and possessed their own language. As in so many other accounts of meetings with ufonauts or "paranormal" entities, they appeared Asian (again inviting speculation that they originate from a "lost" community that has opted for a peripheral role, effectively hidden from the mainstream).

According to the beings' spokesman, they remain hidden largely by virtue of our narrow perceptual focus, even able to pass among us disguised as children. (I'm reminded immediately of Bruce Lee's bookstore encounter with apparent Grays wrapped in scarves.) Supposedly they lead an almost hobo-like existence, without recourse to the sort of technology associated with UFOs.

While this all sounds innocuous enough, my source qualified his story by stating that he felt that his meeting had been arranged not so much for his benefit as for theirs -- an unsettling idea that brings to mind a surveillance program of potentially epic scope. Abductees sometimes report visits by curious human-seeming interlopers, or even symptoms consistent with electronic eavesdropping (up to and including so-called "implants," but just as often strange hissing on the telephone or the sudden onset of "electrosensitivity," rendering witnesses unable to operate delicate electronics). One abductee I know is plagued by seemingly sourceless beeping -- a phenomenon encountered as early as the famous Hill abduction.

If I'm correct and "down to Earth" cryptoterrestrials and "ETs" are aspects of the same phenomenon, we should expect certain parallels. Moreover, we should never believe what the others tell us without taking into account their obvious need for secrecy. One may argue that the mere fact that they initiate open contact with humans at all reeks of misdirection, and perhaps that's the point. But they could just as easily genuinely need a network of human contacts, a foothold in our world to fall back on in times of crisis.

If nomadic CTs are forced to adopt a marginal role in our world, it's unlikely they have easy access to the communications infrastructure we take for granted; maybe it's no coincidence that my source is a computer programmer. Or the truth could be markedly less conspiratorial. Maybe they simply crave a sympathetic ear. If they can successfully masquerade as children and homeless people, why exclude the occasional "pop-in" visit?

This site advertising brain transplantation makes for some delicious reading.

A sample:

BrainTrans, Inc located in Asian Region. We don't disclose our location before clients are completely ready for procedure and signed all necessary paper. We employ the best professionals in medical fields from all over the world. Our neurosurgeons have the best experience, and made this all possible.

The question you should be asking yourself: Would you entrust the transplantation of your brain to an outfit that can't even conquer JPG compression?

Having gotten past the initial guffaw, it's fun to pretend this might be for real. Could there really be a high-tech clinic somewhere in the "Asian Region" capable of sawing open your skull, lopping off your spinal cord and relocating your wetware to a fresh young frame?

If so, where the hell is it getting its raw material? Perusing the selection of designer bodies is oddly prurient, like ogling the merchandise at a slave market. Judging by the, um, "quality" of the shots, some of which seem cribbed from Calvin Klein advertisements, I think we can rule out grave robbery. (If you just experienced an unwelcome flashback to "The Island," starring Ewan McGregor as a witless clone, you're forgiven.)

Then there are the requisite stock photos of intimidating equipment and satisfied customers, as meaningless as the visuals pharmaceutical companies ceaslessly employ in their quest to rid the world of sleeplessness, impotence and "restless leg syndrome."

Good lord, people -- this is good stuff!

(Thanks to Mythropolis.)
So I'm inevitably wondering if I'll ever date again. If it's worth the effort. (The process is very much like interviewing for a job, although I never know exactly what kind of job; dates are like episodes from a Franz Kafka novel, tinged by a sense of intractable defeat and desperation.)

Right now I don't see it. I can imagine many trajectories my future might take -- at least when I'm feeling moderately optimistic -- but romance seems particularly elusive, like some dim, distant sun we have no hope of reaching without the convenience of wormhole travel.

Of course, you never know. Maybe something will happen (although I'm certainly not rearranging my life around the prospect). The problem is that I'm exceptionally solitary, so the odds of a chance encounter becoming something meaningful are almost impossibly remote. And chance encounters are just that -- chance encounters; they may very well never happen.

Finally, I'm left to confront the very definition of "romance." Does it contain some inherent worth or is it a rationalization for desires we avoid speaking about for fear of sounding cold, clinical or hopelessly detached? I can't help but wonder because, justifiably or not, I've been accused of all those things.

More than anything, I'm perpetually intrigued by how casually relationships seem to come to others. It's a constant study in alienation, unnervingly mysterious. I can only stand in slightly glazed wonderment, taking it in with the reserve of an astronomer happening across some rare celestial phenomenon.
Cellphone towers, gaunt and strident against the gray sky, the carcasses of accidental robots.
I made it as far as the banana.

(Thanks, Jason!)
I watched this video of Jaime Maussan's presentation at the 2005 UFO Congress the other night. Maussan strikes me as well-intentioned but appallingly credulous. And the myriad "spheres" taped in Mexico's skies . . . is it just me, or do they look (and behave) just like goddamned balloons? Curiously, Maussan never ventures this rather obvious possibility, even to discredit it.
New legs, Japan, new legs!

There are already a number of bipedal or bipedal-like bots, exoskeletons, suits, assists, and devices, but Atsuo Takanishi's team at Waseda University, in conjunction with Japanese robot superpower tmsuk, unveiled their new WL-16RIII walkbot. We know they'd be a huge boon to the handicapped, elderly, lazy, and anime-obsessed the world over, but seriously, could you imagine actually walking into a grocery store or a job interview with this thing?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In idle moments I like to imagine ways I might get off the planet in the near-future. So far, none of them are especially probable. One idea that continues to tantalize (despite its fatalistic implications) is convincing NASA to send a one-man "experimental" mission to Mars, ostensibly to study the effects of prolonged microgravity and radiation on human physiology.

The subject? Me, of course.

I'm not asking that much, really. Just a modest capsule with life support and a way of navigating the Martian surface, even if it's just an augmented spacesuit and an inflatable tent. Once on Mars, I could continue sending NASA data on my condition, not to mention carry out geological and exobiological investigations. Given the tools and a minimum of scientific training, I figure my efforts could eclipse those of the current Mars Exploration Rovers within weeks.

The elegance of this mission, from a financial perspective at least, is that I wouldn't necessarily be coming back, sparing mission planners the need for a return vehicle. I'd wander the landscape and keep myself alive and healthy for as long as possible, awaiting eventual relief from a more robust crewed mission. It's quite possible I could "live off the land" indefinitely, giving me enough time to really take in the sights: the soaring slopes of Olympus Mons, the labyrinthine fractures of Valles Marineris, the enigmatic massifs of Cydonia.

Would I miss Earth? Certainly. But probably not enough to conscience coming back until at least a few years of pure, unimpeded exploration; it's not everyday one has an entire planet to oneself.

I hereby volunteer for a one-man "reconnaissance" flight to Mars, fully aware of the risks. How about it, NASA?
Super Nerd!

Last Tuesday I decided to combine World of Warcraft with exercise, so I brought my music stand down to "The Laboratory" and set up the laptop while I peddeled for 45 minutes.

This experiment failed on both levels in that I played a crappy game because I had to keep adjusting the music stand, worried it would topple, and I wasn't paying attention to my cycling form and subsequently over used my dominant leg resulting in an off balance soreness.

Cap'n Marrrrk: tirelessly taunting the barriers of the possible so the rest of us don't have to.

We might actually discover other civilizations by extending our first wormholes to the black hole at the center of our galaxy - only to find that the polar jets have already been staked out by a dozen or more other species - not that there would be any risk of overcrowding at the black hole energy well. Black hole polar jets might be able to accommodate an almost limitless number of energy-tapping wormholes. And if not, you could just invest enough energy to loop a wormhole through a big enough arc in spacetime to intercept the polar jet at a sufficiently distant point in the past before anyone else's wormholes hog the particle stream.

Chew on that.
I've seen the future and the future is bald

In sci-fi films, bald women have conveyed a number of things in addition to desexualization, including masculinity, sexual ambiguity, dehumanization, youthfulness, and innocence. And paradoxically, bald women have also been used to portray an enhanced sense of sexuality and control.
Researchers Use Tongue as Interface

Perhaps you've already tried 3D goggles and virtual gloves. And you might know about innovative new interface technologies that put full keyboard functionality in just a single hand. But now, if researchers are able to commercialize a new project, you might also be using your tongue to interact with your PC.


I saw this coming; way back in college I started a short-story featuring deep-space astronauts that controlled their spaceship via mouthpieces pretty much like the ones described above. I thought the idea was more surreal than practical. Little did I know . . .

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dumbing Us Down: An Interview With John Taylor Gatto


The primary objective is to convert human raw material into human resources which can be employed efficiently by the managers of government and the economy. The original purposes of schooling were to make good people (the religious purpose), to make good citizens (the public purpose) and to make individuals their personal best (the private purpose). Throughout the 19th century, a new Fourth Purpose began to emerge, tested thoroughly in the military state of Prussia in northern Europe. The Fourth Purpose made the point of mass schooling to serve big business and big government by extending childhood, replacing thinking with drill and memorization while fashioning incomplete people unable to protect themselves from exhortation, advertising and other forms of indirect command.

I first encountered the work of John Taylor Gatto in "Meshuggah!," a New York zine that published some of my early stories. If you haven't read "Dumbing Us Down," I highly recommend it. It will make you mad. It will positively terrify you. But you'll be the better for it.
Oops! Looks like I've mistakenly claimed credit for the term "cryptoterrestrial" when in fact it was proposed by "Mr. Ecks" in a comment appended to this post.

Sorry, "Ecks"! And thanks for the catchy neologism.
Baby walruses cry out amid melting ice

Sea ice offers foraging walruses a place to rest. Mothers leave their calves on the ice while they dive to feed on animals on the sea floor such as crabs and clams. But rising ocean temperatures may be forcing the walrus mothers to abandon their young as they follow the rapidly retreating ice edge north to colder waters, the study said.

(Via Dr. Menlo.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Here's a very stripped-down "selected bibliography" for my book (whatever I end up calling it). Note that some are reprints.

Colin Bennett, "Looking for Orthon" (Paraview Press, 2001)

Marc Davenport, "Visitors from Time" (Greenleaf Publications, 1994)

Richard Dolan, "UFOs and the National Security State" (Keyhole Publishing, 2000)

John Fuller, "The Interrupted Journey" (Souvenir Press Ltd.)

Timothy Good, "Alien Base" (Harper Perennial, 1999)

Budd Hopkins, "Intruders" (Ballantine Books, 1997)

Budd Hopkins, Carol Rainey, "Sight Unseen" (Pocket Star, 2004)

Patrick Huyghe, "The Field Guide to Extraterrestrials" (Avon Books, 1996)

David Jacobs, "Secret Life" (Touchstone, 1993)

John Keel, "The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings" (Tor Books, 2002)

John Keel, "The Eighth Tower" (Signet, 1977)

John Keel, "The Mothman Prophecies" (Tor Books, 2002)

John Mack, "Abduction" (Ballantine Books, 1997)

Ivan Sanderson, "Invisible Residents" (Adventures Unlimited Press, 2005)

Ivan Sanderson, "Uninvited Visitors" (Spearman, 1969)

Whitley Strieber, "Communion" (Avon, 1988)

Richard Thompson, "Alien Indentities" (Govardhan Hill, 1995)

Jacques Vallee, "The Invisible College" (Dutton, 1975)

Jacques Vallee, "Dimensions" (Ballantine Books, 1989)

R.A. Wilson, "Cosmic Trigger" (New Falcon Publications, 1991)

For more titles, click here. Reviews of selected titles can be found here.
I may have come up with a decent working title for "the book":


Indigenous Humanoids and the "Aliens" Among Us

Whaddaya think?
In "Transformation," Whitley Strieber's follow-up to his best-selling "Communion," he relates an unusual encounter between Bruce Lee, a colleague in the publishing business, and two "people" with their faces obscured by scarves, hats and sunglasses.

The beings, short in stature, were rapidly thumbing through copies of "Communion" and commenting on it. Intrigued, Lee asked them what they thought of the book, which had just hit bookshelves. Only then did he notice that, despite attempts to conceal their features, they appeared not unlike the iconic "Gray" featured on "Communion's" cover.

I asked Strieber about this incident in an online chat, curious if the beings Lee had supposedly seen were big-eyed Grays or more human-like, perhaps fitting the general description of "hybrids." Strieber insisted the people in the bookstore were identical to the creature on the cover of "Communion"; further, he was convinced Lee had told him the truth. Strieber added that he had personally seen human-looking beings working with the Grays, but didn't elaborate. Given his more recent musings on the nature of the abduction experience, one is left to wonder if the humans seen in the midst of apparent nonhumans are themselves alien in some crucial respect -- or else nonhuman beings in exceptionally clever disguises.

Of course, many dismiss Strieber. Some of his assertions, while governed by a curious internal logic, seem too outlandish -- or simply too frightening -- to conscience. But similar episodes have been recounted by others. Taken together, these accounts paint a bizarre picture of "aliens" in our midst -- some predominantly humanoid in appearance, others conforming to the "Gray" archetype.

Regularly described as frail or even sickly, these little-remarked visitors play a quiet but important role in the cryptoterrestrial agenda. They behave skittishly, as if painfully aware of the possibility of detection. Paradoxically, they can also act with surprising confidence, establishing a deep rapport with "normal" humans . . . and disappearing just as mysteriously. Like the fairies of Celtic mythology, these "emissaries" are enticingly liminal, at once worldly and wary. While they seem entirely physical, their home turf seems to be a Keelian interzone, as if their passport to our domain forever hovers on the verge of expiration.

Despite differences in appearance, commonly reported traits suggest a common origin. Cryptoterrestrials, like the Grays typically encountered in altered states or aboard evident vehicles, tend to have long fingers, pointed chins and large heads. Their complexion, usually pale or ashen, has also been described as olive or even sun-burned. Perhaps most revealingly, their eyes are almost always described as slanted and Asian-like, begging the possibility that, in an abstruse way, they are Asian, perhaps descendants of some lost colony that diverged from the genetic mainstream tens of thousands of years ago. Ever-reclusive, their successors may thrive below-ground or beneath bodies of water. (Geologists sometimes complain, with justified exasperation, that we know more about the surface of the Moon than the topology of our home planet.)

Incidentally, the "little people" of folklore are regularly sighted emerging from underground communities -- a thread that we rediscover among recent accounts of alien abduction and even the enduring conspiracy lore of the American Southwest, where spindly beings from Zeta Reticuli are said to have established subterranean cities in conjunction with human scientists.

Visitation from the sky is at least as common. In "The Invisible College," Jacques Vallee points out that all known creation myths involve beings from above. Anthropologists attribute this to our innate fascination with the Cosmos just above our heads, which plays such a pivotal role in the formation and sustained existence of our communities. But it's just as possible that some of these mythical accounts stem from actual encounters with airborne "gods," posing the notion that the cryptoterrestrials, despite their maddening ambiguity and disciplined stealth, may view themselves as our benefactors.

Indeed, ancient accounts of nonhuman intervention throw the modern spectacle of UFO abductions and sightings of humanoids in a disorienting light; while to all appearances it's the "others" in dire need of us, there's at least some reason to think we owe our existence to them. As we continue to sort through the subterfuge and misdirection, we find ourselves in a troublingly Escher-like territory, our own genetic legacy abruptly lost in the depths.

We find ourselves treading an existential ledge, wondering what role we ultimately play. The trite dichotomy of "humans" and "aliens" is revealed as inadequate; the truth is metamorphic, and so ancient that our co-existence with indigenous humanoids has become oddly invisible, a monstrous secret kept just out of conscious reach.
Climate change could affect tectonic plates

The erosion caused by rainfall directly affects the movement of continental plates beneath mountain ranges, says a University of Toronto geophysicist -- the first time science has raised the possibility that human-induced climate change could affect the deep workings of the planet.
This just in from Paul Kimball:

The Magical Mystery Tour

While it might not have the global impact of Reagan - Gorbachev, Mac Tonnies and I will finally get a chance to meet each other in person on May 17th, when Findlay Muir (my ace Director of Photography) and I stop by Kansas City on Part 1 of what I'm dubbing our Magical Mystery Tour for Best Evidence, now that we're finally ready to begin filming.

This will be fun. I figure the only difficult part will be extricating ourselves from the inevitable hordes of female admirers.
I finally listened to Morrissey's "Ringleader of the Tormentors." Delightful. Moments of great under-the-radar wit, an authentic sense of tragedy and stirring instrumentals to boot. "You Are the Quarry" was just a warm-up.
Where does the dildo end and the robotic fuck-buddy begin?

Humans like to fuck. It's a fact few of us can ignore, and even fewer of us would like to change. But, as with most activities we undertake with vigor, automation, mass production and media manipulation have turned sex into the commodity of cultures.

Realistic robot sex dolls interest me because, in a future that increasingly defies accurate description, they're one thing I think we can virtually count on. It's a manner of when, and how faithfully roboticists will reproduce an actual sexual experience.

Then again, consumers will likely reject mere simulations as soon as they realize sex with robots can be made to surpass sex with fellow humans. Newer, better bots will find their way into our homes. They'll be sexier, but they'll also be smarter.

Eventually we may have a new species on our hands. Let's hope they're friendly.

Update: After posting the above, I ran across this at Boing Boing . . .

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I'm writing this in a coffeeshop (not Starbucks). They're playing this incredibly cheesy keyboard instrumental rendition of "Brazil."

The horror . . .
Whatever happened to ... UFOs?

A more obvious explanation for fading interest in UFOs is that the craze has simply run its course. "The internet killed it off," says Mr Lake. "And it's been overshadowed by other events." The internet has also given support to myriad conspiracy theories. Why worry about extraterrestrial life when down here on earth you can concern yourself with whether MI5 murdered Princess Diana, Nasa staged the moon landings and Jesus had a bloodline that can be traced to Leonardo da Vinci?

(Via The Anomalist.)

This article fails to mention that interest in anything of importance is on the wane. We're become idiot savants incapable of textured thought. A disciplined interest in UFOs is simply too taxing, just as fighting back against a corrupt administration is now perceived as ill-advised and misguided.

The Earth continues to burn and we ignore it, content to swallow false reassurances that we're not to blame, that everything will be just fine if we only wait. Patience.

It's no wonder we've become so appallingly acquiescent. We're overwhelmed. We want it to go away. We don't want to risk sighting any scary insects by looking under any rocks.

Melting ice caps? Why bother when we've got "Grand Theft Auto" and MySpace? Mass extinctions? Who cares as long as espresso keeps flowing at the nearest Starbucks? Why fret over nonhuman intelligence when human intelligence is so obviously lacking?

Attempts to "debunk" the Apollo Moon landings are especially telling. They demonstrate with abrasive clarity that too many of us have reached the end of our intellectual tether; we can't believe the triumphs of the past because we've allowed our future to become a barren caricature. It's easier to seek out inane "conspiracies" than risk confronting our species' potential.

If the proverbial mothership should land, it's probable no one will notice because we'll all be too busy watching "C.S.I." Which isn't entirely bad, because at least the aliens won't be missing anything.
I suppose the reason I wanted to go to graduate school was because I assumed I'd be around "smart" people -- a decided improvement on my typical daily situation. But now, upon reflection, I'm wondering just how "smart" these hypothetical fellow students would have been. All the evidence points toward "not very."

True, I'm biased because of attending a truly foul undergraduate school. Maybe I'm being too harsh or too eager to vilify what has become a threatening social milieu. (Because when you're alone -- truly isolated and cast adrift -- reality becomes scary, defined by encounters with indifferent strangers.)

I wonder what consensus reality would look like if it could assume a human persona. I'm guessing a sharp-dressed corporate glad-hander with gleaming teeth, fastidiously coifed hair and a discrete Promise Keepers emblem pinned to his lapel. You look at him and he smiles a gamma-ray smile, eyes glazed and aimless in their sockets. And everyone else smiles in unison, because everything's OK.

I'm at one of those points where I risk becoming gravely tired of myself. I suspect my blog is far more interesting than I am. Then again, the suburbs are fertile soil for self-loathing; everywhere I look I see incipient decay and phenomenally stupid people. I need to get the fuck out of here as quickly as possible before I keel over from sheer indignant fury.
I got a padded envelope from a television producer in the UK today. I assumed that it contained a DVD of my forthcoming (?) Discovery Channel appearance. No such luck; the envelope was empty. So I'm going to email them and request a non-imaginary copy.

(I'm assuming my appearance hasn't aired, but maybe I'm wrong. If you're watching Discovery and see a pale bald guy in a black shirt and glasses talking about Mars, chances are it's me.)
Check out this brilliant new site by Nadia (who designed the PB masthead). Tantalizing organic imagery, original comic art, poems, Mars, and the promise of more to come.

Friday, April 21, 2006

How's this for phildickian head-tripping: Maybe I'm a cryptoterrestrial! Maybe I'm on their payroll. Maybe my book-in-progress is yet more misdirection, a mass of lies sprinkled with nuggets of truth to mislead bothersome humans.

Or maybe I'm an extraterrestrial espousing the Indigenous Hypothesis in order to draw attention away from the real alien menace.

Or perhaps I'm playing the cryptoterrestrials against the extraterrestrials from the comfort of my Area 51 office, eating grapes from the hands of supermodel-secretaries! (Is Brooke Burke in on it?)

Or . . . or maybe I sincerely believe I'm just a writer/blogger from the Midwest when in truth I'm a nonhuman with implanted memories! Maybe I don't know what side I'm on. Maybe all is duplicity and scheming and endless mind-games and we're all held helpless in some insidious alien grip quite beyond human comprehension . . .
Wake-up call on alien visits

"It all seems very real and it's very, very frightening," French says. "But what is happening is that people are still in a kind of REM sleep - the kind associated with dreams - which is coming through into consciousness."

Most people who experience sleep paralysis shrug it off, but a fraction are more concerned about the experience. In some cultures, the phenomenon has been thought of as a sign that evil spirits or other nasties have taken over your body.

Nothing you haven't heard before, but it gives me an excuse to reiterate my exasperation with "bedroom visitations." Obviously, I can't prove some of them aren't genuine visits from nonhumans, but I find the venue highly suspect; I think most, if not all, bedroom "abductions" are instigated by little-understood psychological phenomena. Some of my conviction stems from my having experienced "weird" sensations while asleep or half-asleep. (Strange noises? Check. Sense of presence? Check. Temporary paralysis? Check.)

Of course, some readers will assume that I'm an "abductee" in denial. Or, worse, out to belittle people who've endured truly inexplicable episodes. There's a seldom-spoken suspicion within the paranormal community that interest in the strange and unusual directly implies a history of (or predisposition to) reality-bending experiences. Since I'm working on a book that postulates nothing less than aliens in our midst, maybe I should issue some sort of cautionary statement.

I'll leave it at this: I've never had a run-in with aliens. Alas, not even a nocturnal light. However, given the opportunity, I'd love to meet representatives of these "cryptoterrestrials" I've been writing about. (Given, of course, they're friendly.)
Wikipedia on Richard Shaver, whose mythos shares some general parallels with my own "Indigenous Hypothesis":

Palmer wrote to Shaver, asking how he had learned of Mantog. Shaver responded with a 10,000 word document entitled "A Warning to Future Man." Shaver wrote of tremendously advanced pre-historic races who had built cavern cities inside Earth before abandoning Earth for another planet. Those ancients also abandoned some of their own diseased offspring here, who degenerated over time into a population of mentally impaired sadists known as Dero--short for detrimental robots.

And yes, I plan on "going there": underground bases, space colonies, etc. Shaver's audacity certainly hit a nerve, even if we're loathe to admit it.
Breaking Natalie Portman news!

Posthuman Blues: "You Hear It First!"

I like this one.
It's tempting to wonder what technologies the cryptoterrestrials might possess, aside from their obvious penchant for stealth and misdirection. The "hybridization program" encountered in books on the abduction phenomenon implies an advanced knowledge of genetics. But if "they" are really an unacknowledged aspect of our ourselves, their genetic prowess needn't be in advance of our own. It's likely we're genetically compatible -- certainly an unnerving prospect given the many references to strangely mannered humans seen in the wake of UFO sightings.

In "Sight Unseen," Budd Hopkins ("Missing Time," "Intruders") and wife Carol Rainey argue that interbreeding doesn't rule out the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. By noting recent developments in transgenics, they show that different species can be paired in the laboratory, resulting in chimeras: animals with the traits of two (or more) species, offering support to the notion that ETs could successfully "mate" with us.

In fact, the near-future biotech economy promises a harvest of chimeric species, some exceptionally novel. Within a few years, pigs with human organs may become commonplace back-ups for people needing transplants. Understandably, ethicists are increasingly unsettled by the specter of animals with human-level intelligence. Assuming a geneticist rises to the challenge of becoming a latter-day Dr. Moreau, the medical community will be forced to grapple with the very definition of "human."

The future of "Blade Runner" is highly illustrative. In the film, police officers must track down and kill fugitive "replicants" -- genetically engineered androids intent on bypassing their built-in expiration dates. "Blade Runner's" replicants are flesh-and-blood, and share their genetic heritage with their "creators." While one may argue that they're synthetic and hence mere machines to be utilized, their complex emergent behavior belies any such trite definition.

Hopkins and Rainey maintain that it is indeed possible for aliens to reproduce using human genetic material. While their research is often fascinating, they fail to address the anthropology of the encounter experience. More importantly, in terms of determining whether "they" are from here or come from somewhere else, "Sight Unseen" limits its focus to a mere handful of reports, excluding folkloric evidence that might undermine its arguments. The result, as readers of Hopkins' previous books can imagine, is highly readable but committed to an exclusively extraterrestrial interpretation. (Unable to disprove a negative, I have no choice but to concede that some UFO encounters may originate from space. And it would be the height of arrogance to proclaim that the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and the Indigenous Hypothesis are mutually exclusive.)

Extrasolar aliens or not, the transgenic angle allows for an illuminating reassessment of the Indigenous Hypothesis. Cryptoterrestrial hybrids may be "replicants" tailored to survival-oriented tasks, such as infiltrating human society. This raises a most interesting question: If close encounters typically involve more human-like CTs, such as the Grays, who's to say there isn't a rogues gallery of progressively stranger beings lurking behind the curtain? We could be dealing with a vast, intricate genome with no obvious "roots." Depending on the specimen, casual scientific examination may give the false impression that a given CT is terrestrial; conversely, it may be hailed as "proof" of extraterrestrial life.

Maybe the CTs comprise a hive-mind, with humanoids at only one end of the spectrum. At the other end we might find more exotic beings, such as the mantis-like "leaders" sometimes seen presiding over abductions. Ultimately, could the CTs be insectile? The prospect is deeply ironic, given humanity's buried fear of the insect world. We're conditioned to accept "bugs" as miniature grotesqueries to be swatted or stepped on. Discovering we're at the mercy of their larger, more capable cousins would be more upsetting than finding that the answer to the CT riddle is "merely" a disenfranchised offshoot of our own species.

In any case, we won't know the true face of our elusive residents unless we undertake a thorough review of "occupant encounters," both in modern ufological literature and in world folklore. Even a superficial reading shows that we're likely dealing with a sister species of incredible tenacity and a chameleon-like sense of invisibility.

But if I'm correct, we mustn't be too enthralled by their abilities. Seen up close, the CTs are more than a little sympathetic, governed by a fear of extinction and determined to persist despite our ever-encroaching global civilization. Their seeming infallibility is a studious pretense triggered, in part, by the advent of the nuclear era. It's no coincidence that the modern UFO era blossomed in the aftermath of the world's most destructive -- and geographically intrusive -- war.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Climate change will cause mass extinctions: Study

Climate change will cause the extinction of tens of thousands of species in coming decades, says a study in the scientific journal Conservation Biology.

The study predicts a disastrous thinning of life in the world's biodiversity "hotspots" -- places like the tropical Andes or the Caribbean basin, which contain a disproportionate wealth of species.

The authors estimate that 39 to 43 per cent of species in these regions -- 56,000 plant species and 3,700 vertebrates -- would likely disappear with a doubling of carbon dioxide from pre-industrial levels.

"These (hotspots) are the crown jewels of the planet's biodiversity," lead author Jay Malcolm of the University of Toronto said in an interview Tuesday.

"Unless we get our act together soon we're looking at committing ourselves to this kind of thing."

Or, as The Chimp would say, "Stay the course!"
Site of the day: Europe Underground

(Thanks to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)

Potential lairs for vagrant cryptoterrestrials? Well, why not?
Impact of Floods in Southeast Europe

The Danube and other rivers in southeast Europe have swollen to record highs and broken flood defences, swamping large tracts of land and forcing thousands from their homes. Thousands have been evacuated in Romania, while Serbia has seen the worst damage to agriculture. Bulgaria has escaped serious damage, but will be alert as waters stay high and threaten to erode flood defences for at least a week more.

(Via Beyond the Beyond.)
Building an Antimatter Spaceship

Previous antimatter-powered spaceship designs employed antiprotons, which produce high-energy gamma rays when they annihilate. The new design will use positrons, which make gamma rays with about 400 times less energy.

The NIAC research is a preliminary study to see if the idea is feasible. If it looks promising, and funds are available to successfully develop the technology, a positron-powered spaceship would have a couple advantages over the existing plans for a human mission to Mars, called the Mars Reference Mission.
Watching the brain 'switch off' self-awareness

The team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task -- only becoming "human" again when it has the luxury of time.

Ilan Goldberg and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of nine volunteers during the study. Participants were shown picture cards and told to push buttons to indicate whether or not an animal was depicted.


Can you say "Voight-Kampf"?
Climate Visions: RenewUS,, Dimming the Sun and An Inconvenient Truth

It's a very cool project, but it uses the futurism wrapper essentially to argue for a set of actions we ought to take now, rather than help us imagine what a climate-friendly future might in fact be like. That's a shame -- not because we don't need to mobilize public action (in this case buying green energy) -- but because we have a far more pressing need for visions of the future worth fighting for, and this was a perfect opportunity to create such visions. Still it's great to use a sweeping future-historical setting as a means of showing people why their individual actions are part of a grander story.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I purchased "Ringleader of the Tormentors" this afternoon but haven't had a chance to give it the listen I suspect it deserves.
I just listened to Rudy Rucker read "Chu and the Nants." Very funny story.
I alternate between grave misanthropy and chomping-at-the-bit optimism. If the human species is destined to fail -- wiped out by its own toxic excesses or slaughtered by warfare -- I see no real point in continuing; an extraterrestrial biologist could argue that we're simply taking up time in which the planet could excrete a new biosphere from which a more promising intelligence might arise.

But of course we don't know where we're headed. So we make educated forecasts and hope that our warnings are heeded before it's too late. All too often this seems like an exercise in futility. Sometimes I fear that we've reached a critical threshold, that the human population will be decimated before we can ensure a meaningful, abundant world for ourselves and our descendants (who may well not be human in the contemporary sense). For Earth and its teeming billions of passengers, the end is always nigh; for too long we've relied on blind luck and narrow escapes. Despite brushes with cataclysm and the rigors of evolution, we've survived -- but only barely.

Although I harbor serious reservations about humanity's ability to make the evolutionary cut, I'm not without hope. I sense great things in the making. I enjoy experiencing this dire, ever-accelerating point in our species' history; our potential as genuine cosmic citizens challenges the imagination and stretches conceptual boundaries to dizzy extremes.

I'm willing to embrace transcendence or endure extinction. I must perpetually concede either possibility, no matter how dramatically different, regardless of how exciting or dismal. I walk a fine existential edge, fearing and cherishing, enlivened by a vertiginous sense of astonishment and horror.
On my to-read list:

Click cover for more information!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brooke Burke: crypto, para, or ultra?

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm suddenly coming to grips with the fact that I've neglected to purchase Morrissey's new album, "Ringleader of the Tormentors." Something has got to be done about this -- and fast.
Jason (Busy, Busy, Busy) is back with a scathing indictment of PETA.
Ultraterrestrial? Schmultraterrestrial!!

Over at Posthuman Blues Mac is still pondering what term to use instead of ultraterrestrial and is settling on cryptoterrestrial. Although I my not be agree with some of the ideas he throws out (Hell I don't agree with some of the ideas I throw out!!) there is always something that gets me thinking. This time about the best name for the Other.

It makes a great party game, too!
Although my book is coming along well, I've yet to give it a title. Any ideas?
Biomimetic Amphibious Robots

Since the water strider robot cost just $10 in materials (though models with sensors & brains would cost more), this little beast would be a perfect candidate for a swarming robot. Cheap, distributed sensing across bodies of water could map effluent plumes from factories, temperature gradients, oxygen or other nutrient levels, toxic spills, any number of things.
Man, the Union of Concerned Scientists sure is nuts. If they're not joining forces with the Marxist climate change conspiracy, they're fear-mongering about radioactive fallout in the Mid-East. How about a little patriotism, fellas?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Of course, cryptoterrestrials don't preclude extraterrestrials or "interdimensional" travelers. We could be experiencing a veritable pageant of entities hailing from many locations, both within our known universe and from universes linked to ours.

Candidates for the latter possibility include the insect-like creatures described by "trippers" who take DMT (the alleged "spirit molecule"). The consistency of DMT experiences invites the possibility that it literally allows access to another reality. I'm reminded of an off-hand reference to white, mantis-like entities offered by Philip K. Dick years before the popularization of the archetypical bug-eyed "Gray." Could Dick, via his experimentation with psychedelic drugs, have happened across the domain of beings similar to those described by abductees?

These questions beg for a taxonomy of the otherworldly. While many UFO abductions involve insect-like creatures, it's unclear if the "Grays" are directly related to the beings encountered in the psychedelic realm. Confusingly, many "abduction" accounts feature mantis-like "leaders" operating in liaison with more human-like Grays; some reports suggest the Grays are a subservient species, perhaps even genetically engineered drones. The ever-controversial Whitley Strieber has described inert alien bodies coming to life, likening them to "diving suits" used for dealing directly in the material world.

Given the vast number of out-of-body and near-death experiences, I find it difficult to reject the prospect of "nonlocal" consciousness; perhaps a sufficiently advanced technology can manipulate the "soul" as easily as we splice genes or mix chemicals in test tubes. If so, encounters with "extraterrestrials" may help provide a working knowledge of how to modify and transfer consciousness -- abilities that seem remote to the current terrestrial state-of-the-art, but may prove invaluable in a future where telepresence and virtual reality are integral to communication. Already, the capabilities of brain-machine interfaces are tantalizingly like the popular perception of telepathy, often thought of in strictly "paranormal" or even "magical" terms.

If we're sharing the planet with cryptoterrestrials, it's feasible they've anticipated breakthroughs in our own embryonic "technology of consciousness" and may even rely on such techniques to perpetuate the prevailing wisdom that they originate from the far reaches of space. Contactees and abductees alike describe the interiors of "alien" vehicles in curiously cinematic terms. The insides of presumed spaceships often seem like lavish props from never-filmed sci-fi dramas. The aliens don't fare any better; they behave like jesters, dutifully regurgitating fears of ecological blight and nuclear war but casually inserting allusions that seem more in keeping with disinformation than genuine ET revelations.

After intercourse, the big-eyed succubus that seduced Antonio Villas-Boas pointed skyward, implying a cosmic origin. But the mere fact that she appeared thoroughly female -- and, moreover, attractive -- belies an unearthly explanation. Further, one could argue that the clinical environment he encountered aboard the landed "spacecraft" was deliberately engineered to reinforce his conviction that he was dealing with extraterrestrials. (If cryptoterrestrials are using humans to improve their genetic stock, it stands to reason they've seen at least a few of our saucer movies. As consummate anthropologists, they likely know what we expect of "real" ETs and can satisfy our preconceptions with a magician's skill.)

However, it's possible they make mistakes. Whitley Strieber, for example, described the inside of a presumed vehicle as downright messy and seemingly unclean, complete with discarded garments -- certainly not the typical expectation. Could his "visitors" have been in a rush? If his account is to be accepted, the "aliens" operate in an almost military fashion, carrying out their agenda with the economy of insects. This suggests time is of the essence, consistent with an indigenous origin. While we might expect an alien intelligence millions of years ahead ourselves to casually elude detection, the rushed nature of many abductions is more in keeping with an Earth-based task force.

Further, the assumed spaceships that play such a central role in the ET mythos are often observed behaving in a manner consistent with an only moderately advanced technology. Indigenous humanoids intent on convincing us we're dealing with interstellar propulsion might utilize surprisingly primitive devices, perhaps even stooping to specially modified balloons or "smart blimps" designed to evade capture for limited periods. Such a campaign would be cheap, capable of capturing the attention of hundreds if not thousands of witnesses, and -- most importantly -- further polarizing the UFO controversy among proponents of ET visitation and career "skeptics."

The device that crashed near Roswell in the summer of 1947, whatever it was, featured properties at least superficially like the high-altitude balloon trains ultimately cited as an explanation by the Air Force. Debunkers have, of course, seized on the lack of revealingly "high-tech" components found among the debris to dismiss the possibility that the crash was anything but a case of misidentification; not even Jesse Marcel, the intelligence officer who advocated an ET origin for the unusual foil and structural beams, mentioned anything remotely resembling an engine or power-plant.

The Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis offers a speculative alternative: Maybe the Roswell device wasn't high-tech. It could indeed have been a balloon-borne surveillance device brought down in a storm, but it doesn't logically follow that it was one of our own. Given the top-secret projects underway in the American Southwest in the late 40s, one could hardly blame inquisitive cryptoterrestrials for wanting a closer look. And in the midst of grisly human radiation experiments, secretive eavesdroppers might have understandably opted for an unmanned device lest they lose a crewed vehicle to an accident . . . or human aggression. Upon happening across such a troubling and unexpected find, the Air Force's excessive secrecy begins to make sense.

The Roswell incident may have been the US government's first direct evidence of an indigenous intelligence. Indeed, subsequent policy decisions can be interpreted as a response to a perceived nonhuman threat.
If any of you happen to be in the area, I recommend checking this out:

Rudy Rucker and John Shirley - 7 pm APRIL 18 at SF in SF: A Monthly Series of Science Fiction Readings and Discussions at New College of California in San Francisco Curated by Adam Cornford and Terry Bisson New College Valencia Theater, 777 Valencia St., San Francisco ($4 at the door, free to New College community)

(I'd go, but the Posthuman Blues LearJet is in the shop. Tell Mr. Shirley Mac sent you.)
I've been using the term "ultraterrestrial" to denote secretive humanoids living in our midst. I should note that this term was coined (to the best of my knowledge) by John Keel, a maverick thinker on UFOs and Forteana. Keel's ultraterrestrials (described in "The Eighth Tower") are essentially denizens of parallel universes; Keel posits an electromagnetic "superspectrum" populated by various intelligences, some of whom downshift to our level and proceed to wreak paranormal mayhem on mystified humans.

While I'm intrigued by the implications of parallel worlds -- whether Keel's superspectrum or something more in keeping with contemporary cosmological thought -- "my" ultraterrestrials are local. While they might possess "paranormal" abilities, they live right here on "our" Earth. So I'm respectfully disposing of the "ultra" label and replacing it with "cryptoterrestrial," which carries less Keelian baggage. And unlike "cryptohominid," another term I've batted about, it doesn't immediately bring to mind large, hairy primates of the "Bigfoot" variety.
The search for Salome's secret

To Western scientists and medical researchers, Salome is a human specimen of potentially incalculable value. Despite plying her trade for more than two decades in a country ravaged by Aids, she has never contracted HIV, and every credible study of her case points towards her being immune to it.

(Via The Anomalist.)
The cyber-roos are coming!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

This picture doesn't have a thing to do with my current obsessions, but I think we need more of them around here.
Here's a pretty dreadful new image of the Face on Mars and nearby formations. It's extremely grainy and washed out. No doubt some pseudoskeptics will seize on the poor image quality to once again "debunk" the Face. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Please note that this image is NOT map-projected (Malin Space Science Systems' emphasis). Hence the features are grossly distorted.
Dig for ancient pyramid in Bosnia

On Friday, a team of rescue workers from a local coal mine, followed by archaeologists and geologists examined the tunnel, thought to be 2.4 miles (3.8km) long.

The team found two intersections with other tunnels leading off to the left and right.

Their conclusion was that it had to be man-made.

"This is definitely not a natural formation," said geologist Nadja Nukic.
Here's a preliminary draft of the introduction to the book I'm working on:

I began this book pursuing the commonalities between the UFO phenomenon and the equally bewildering spectacle of our emerging technological future. I was especially intrigued by the prospect of humans becoming something other than strictly biological, increasingly viewed as a necessary evolutionary step in the wake of an imminent "Singularity": a moment in history in which our intelligence, augmented and disseminated by machines, transcends the imaginable.

My working hypothesis -- that alien visitation was best viewed in cybernetic terms -- remains an essentially valid paradigm for interpreting the arrival of an alien intelligence on this planet. But the more I read and contemplated, the more my "postbiological" theory seemed lacking; while I could readily envision a global "invasion" directed by an unseen machine intelligence, the enduring nature of the UFO spectacle forced me to rethink my assumptions.

Like ufologist Jacques Vallee, I viewed our response to the "paranormal" -- specifically, the appearance of apparent nonhuman vehicles in our skies -- as the work of deliberate psychological conditioning (probably but not necessarily benevolent). Contrary to popular perceptions, UFOs are far from a recent occurrence; written and oral accounts point to an experience of exceptional age and patience. If "alien encounters" were the work of some godlike artificial intelligence, an omniscient pacemaker sowing memes in an effort to ensure our evolution conformed to some unknown alien ideal, then we might reasonably expect it to remain "hidden."

This would neatly account for the lack of "hard" evidence that would force the UFO question out of theoretical limbo and into the mainstream. A postbiological overseer -- something along the lines of the inscrutable black monolith in "2001" -- would have a vested interest in obscurity. As biological beings, we might even lack the perceptual acumen to properly discern its presence. This, I reasoned, explained the UFO phenomenon's recurrence in world folklore; perhaps it had succeeded in insinuating itself into our collective unconscious. As abductee Whitley Strieber has suggested, "alien" contact -- whatever "alien" might ultimately mean -- might be what the process of evolution looks like to the human mind.

The primary challenge to this mythological approach was the explicitly biological nature of so many encounters -- including, but by no means limited to, the relatively recent epidemic of "abductions," in which witnesses report being kidnapped from workaday surroundings and subjected to novel medical tests. This seemed remarkably crude for an intelligence as subtle and abiding as the entity I had imagined. If recent developments in our own technology are any indication at all, we will probably harness much less instrusive techniques within the next few decades; for an intelligence thousands or millions of years superior to our own to stoop to such clinical levels struck me as absurd.

Of course, the very idea of an artificially emplaced psychosocial conditioning system hinges on absurdity. Vallee and researcher John Keel, author of the paranormal masterpiece "The Mothman Prophecies," have written extensively on the nonsensical element that accompanies so many accounts of assumed extraterrestrial visitation. This absurdity only makes sense if the phenomenon isn't as it seems, but rather appealing to our collective unconscious (for reasons we can only guess).

Or so I thought. Finally, I wondered the unthinkable: What if the antics of the "absurd humanoids" documented by Vallee weren't the work of some overarching intelligence? What if they happened just as reported, without the need to invoke externally imposed psychosocial thermostats?

This notion struck me as deliciously ironic. It suggested that the encounters with nonhumans that haunt our folklore were real, not necessarily projections preying on our gullibility. Could "fairies" and "elves" -- and all their mythical successors -- be distorted representations of an actual species?

While curiously appealing, the idea seemed totally orthogonal to science. Psychologists maintain that legendary "little people" are beings of the mind, the brain's instinctive attempt to populate the darkness. They're also quick to point out that modern accounts of spindly gray aliens are almost certainly due to fantasy-prone personalities, poorly trained therapists and hallucinations experienced during episodes of sleep paralysis.

This analysis is attractive on several levels. It neatly does away with the specter of the "other" we repeatedly encounter in myths. It assuages our fears that our world might be fair game for dispassionate ET scientists, with their glittering probes and omnipotent saucers.

Alas, it fails.

This book documents a most unconventional slant on the enduring UFO mystery. In [insert title here], I attempt to reconcile mythological and contemporary accounts of "little people" into a coherent picture. In many ways, the image that emerges is at least as frightening as my original cybernetic premise: it's much closer to home, vastly less abstract, and -- tantalizingly -- amenable to scientific testing.

I propose that at least some accounts of alien visitation can be attributed to a humanoid species indigenous to the Earth: a sister race that has adapted to our numerical superiority by developing a surprisingly robust technology. The explicitly reproductive overtones that color many encounters suggest that these "indigenous aliens" are imperiled by a malady that has gone uncured throughout the eons we have coexisted. Driven by a puzzling mixture of hubris and existential desperation, they seek to perpetuate themselves by infusing their gene-pool with human DNA. While existing at the very margins of ordinary human perceptions, they have succeeded in realms practically unexplored by known terrestrial science, reinventing themselves at will and helping to orchestrate a misinformation campaign of awe-inspiring scope.

For too long, we've called them "aliens," assuming that we represent our planet's best and brightest.

That is precisely what they want us to think.
I just joined the Betterhumans community as "Mac Tonnies." Looks fun!

I watched Natalie Portman in her SNL "gangsta rap" skit today. She's welcome to swat me with a chair anytime.

Here's a succinct and entertaining radio interview with Rudy Rucker. I'm taken by his idea of using natural processes, such as the falling leaf he mentions, and utilizing them to power "postsingular" computers. And you've got to respect a guy who feels entirely at ease calling William Gibson "Bill."

Friday, April 14, 2006

This evening I swung by Macaroni Grill for dinner. The food wasn't bad. But the great part was the paper tablecloth and actual Crayola crayons (not those waxy, ineffective crayons like you get at California Pizza Kitchen).

I drew one of my signature aliens; it's amazing how something this simple and effortless fucks with people. Sticking it to the normals!

My waitress asked the requisite question: "Are you an artist?" Which, of course, depends on one's definition of art. I told her I liked to draw.

Here's a previous alien drawing, done in an actual crayon store:

Venus probe returns first images

Experts had previously suspected the south pole might have a vortex feature; a vast vortex with an unusual double-eye feature has already been observed over the planet's north pole.

But the south polar region has scarcely been observed.

"We can see there is a twister here that is similar to that which we know from the north pole," said mission scientist Horst Uwe Keller.

(Via Remote Central.)

See, this is the problem with planetary scientists: They find weird features, such as this polar vortex, and they want to observe them so they can figure out what's causing them.

If only they were aware that Richard Hoagland already knows! Hoagland knows everything!

Just think of the time and money that could be saved if space scientists simply forwarded their queries to Hoagland. Within a couple years, we wouldn't even need any more space probes. Because the answers are in -- and by divine fiat, Hoagland is privy to every single one of them.

Polar vortices on Venus? Easy. They're caused by hyperdimensional physics and clandestine scalar weapons research.

Next, please.

Update: I swear I didn't know about this when I wrote the above.
This explains everything.

(Thanks to Mondolithic Sketchbook.)
Have you ever broached a "weird" subject with a "normal" person and experienced the disorienting feeling that you're talking into a vacuum? That the "listening" party has automatically tuned out?

I'm slowly becoming hip to Timothy Leary's advice, which I read long ago and haven't yet been able to find via Google. Leary's remedy to the "communication with normals" dilemma was elegant and simple: Don't bother trying. Because the effort is doomed from the first syllable and you'll only frustrate yourself. (At least that's what I remember him saying; maybe I'm confabulating.)

In either case, that's my new operative wisdom. I'd rather deal with a certain degree of isolation than risk ostracizing myself. At this point, three decades into my life, I simply don't see how the benefits of ceaselessly trying to make my point understood compensate for the accompanying frustration and sense of inadequacy. Above all, I don't want to risk rendering myself into a caricature -- because, in all likelihood, others will beat me to that anyway.

That ends today's bit of elitist sermonizing. I feel better already.
I've been asked to be a speaker at this year's ConQuest science fiction convention despite never showing up to last year's. (They'd scheduled me for a panel on Sunday, when everyone's typically busy packing their bags to leave, and I didn't think it was worth the drive. Plus, I find SF conventions ironically intimidating. I love good science fiction, but in general I prefer to stay away from large congregations of "fans," whose preconceptions and geeky genre biases tend to make me feel more alienated than "football fever," "W" bumper-stickers and holiday shopping frenzies; at least with the latter I can adopt clinical detachment and enjoy the absurdity. Science fiction, on the other hand, is too close to home. I don't like to see my home turf trampled by strangers in silly costumes.)

But I guess I'm willing to see what sort of itinerary they have in store for me. If it's at all inviting, I very well might sacrifice my Labor Day weekend.
Hacked signs for next ten miles

I'm guessing this prank - by a bunch of techno-literate campaigners in Toronto, Canada - got plenty of people enraged, amused or just plain mystified. Would it make you leave your car at home though? The signs usually advertise events at the University of Toronto, but have started doing their bit to save the planet.
Japanese robots in space

According to Pink Tentacle and NS Technology Blog, Robo-One which organises a remote-controlled robot combat event held in Tokyo every year plans to launch in space a mini-satellite carrying small humanoid robots in October 2010.

Tokyo will have 10-minute windows of communication with the satellite 4 times per day as it passes overhead. Battles will be conducted in the space surrounding the ROBO-ONE satellite during these 10-minute periods.

Which poses one burning question: How long until Hello Kitty goes suborbital?
Last night I downloaded an update for Mozilla Firefox, my browser of choice. Now my Yahoo! Mail screen is severely messed up. I'm assuming there's a connection to the Firefox update but don't know for sure.

Has anyone else had the same problem?

Update: The problem seems to have resolved itself. Knock wood.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Autotelematic Spider Bots

There seemed to be some teething problems with batteries running low - the bots didn't seem to want to stay at the feeding station to charge themselves up - I guess all the people waving things at them was kind of distracting. The bots themselves are amazingly elegant in their motion - more so than organic spiders that have that 'alien' quality to them.

In some ways it feels like we have unknowingly stumbled into some kind of street theatre were the actors undergo constant costume changes and appear to be improvising the plot as they go along - changing it nearly as often as they change their costumes. How much more disturbing this would be if they suddenly fondled your most private parts!!
Brighter sun adds to fears of climate change

"The enhanced warming we have seen since the 1990s along with phenomena such as the widespread melting of glaciers could well be due to this increased intensity of sunlight compounding the effect of greenhouse gases," said Professor Martin Wild of the Institute of Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich, Switzerland.

(Via Unknown Country.)

Good god, are we ever in a world of hurt.
Boing Boing on the Martian "Happy Face" crater:

Happy Face on Mars

It's not quite as dramatic of the famous Viking photo of the "Face on Mars" taken in 1976, but I really like the subtlety of the Happy Face crater.

I, for one, find the "Happy Face" very unsubtle. As Stan McDaniel has pointed out, it fails to pass muster even as a cartoon. Contrastingly, the "Face" in Cydonia shows some truly provocative facial subtleties, not the least of which is a developed "eye" -- right where an eye should be, if the Face is by some chance the work of intelligence.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I'm still pursuing the "ultraterrestrial" angle for my new book. I had thought I might devote a small chapter to the "alien autopsy," but given the latest news I think I'd be chasing phantoms.

Weirdly enough, I've been made aware of declassified Air Force documents indicating official interest in (presumably) indigenous "little people." (It stands to reason that the AF would at least look into the possibility, just as it examined the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis and its bearing on the UFO question.) The "kidnapping" theme is -- once again -- prevalent. Whoever these people are (given that they're "real" and not enduring psychological projections), they have an explicit interest in us; in some sense we're a big part of their raison d'etre.

By virtue of Occam's Razor, the genetic angle -- that they need our genes to replenish their population and/or keep disease at bay -- strikes me as the most probable. Intellectually, this takes some getting used to. I'd long interpreted the succubus/fairy/alien reproductive theme as a persistent metaphor; after all, what better way to illustrate our collective fascination with the "other" than having sex with nonhumans?

Dr. John Mack

In "Passport to the Cosmos," the late John Mack takes this approach, although he's careful to use the term "reified metaphor." In other words, the encounters recounted by "experiencers" are real, but colored by sexual imagery in order for us to make sense of something otherwise incomprehensible.

All the more reason, in my view, to transcend meat-based biology. The "others" might utilize techniques we might label "transhumanist." As flesh-and-blood entities, our ability to interact meaningfully with a "transcended" intelligence is liable to be severely stunted and cluttered with neurological biases.

Our sensory organs are incompatible with reality; while we're able to function in the narrow consensus world we've created for ourselves, we've denied ourselves the landscapes just outside our walls. Augmenting our brains is one way we might reclaim this territory.
I've received some good-natured ribbing for maintaining that the recently debunked "alien autopsy" might still harbor surprises.

To clarify: I've never accepted the story that the footage had anything to do with the alleged Roswell incident. At best, I thought we might be seeing a leaked documentary of secret government testing. My hunches that there might be more to the AA than the mainstream consensus would accept (or allow) gelled upon publication of "Body Snatchers In The Desert" and subsequent email dialogue with author Nick Redfern, who confirmed that the Air Force experimented on progeria victims in the time frame suggested by the "autopsy."

Now that a special effects artist has claimed to have hoaxed the footage -- and, more importantly, appears to have reproduced the being itself -- the mystery certainly seems to have come to an unspectacular climax. Predictably, at least one commentator refuses to accept the "hoax" verdict: clear evidence, in my opinion, of the enduring "will to believe" (although, to be entirely fair, accounts of how the AA was hoaxed are at least as contradictory as those describing how it was acquired; further, one can't automatically dismiss a profit motive for "backtracking" on the AA's origin).

Personally, I find the "hoax" explanation the most tenable. But I don't think ufologists should stop asking questions quite yet, especially in light of the "alien's" unnerving resemblance to victims of progeria.

To be sure, basic resemblances between progeria and the stereotypical "Gray" alien are clear enough. Humans with progeria tend to have disproportionately large, hairless heads and are short in stature, traits found again and again in UFO/close encounter literature. But the being in the AA -- hoax or otherwise -- possesses a number of subtle, secondary traits less commonly known. These include oddly positioned ears (in decided contrast with the absence of ears commonly attributed to ETs), sunken jaw (with possible lack of teeth), apparent absence of a naval, lack of subdermal fatty tissue, and predisposition to polydactyly.

Taken together, these traits suggest an unusual -- if terrestrial -- explanation for the AA; I think a substantial case can be made for the alleged dummy in the footage having been specifically modeled to resemble a human with progeria.

But why would an FX artist, asked to construct a commercially viable alien, take pains to make sure his creation resembled a person with a specific genetic disease? And why would a hoaxer produce two such "aliens" when one dissection would never even be seen outside a group of insiders? (The current confession also asks us to dismiss credible claims by film investors to have viewed the AA -- or related footage -- as early as the 1980s.)

Could the answer have a connection with the general scenario detailed in Redfern's book? (It bears mentioning that even the "alien" black eye lenses have a counterpart in the annals of secret government experimentation.)

To conclude, I agree with the majority of the UFO "community" that the AA is probably a hoax, although I find the conflicting accounts given by Ray Santilli and John Humphreys, the self-confessed FX perpetrator, worthy of follow-up.

But the link to Air Force experiments, however circumstantial, continues to interest me. In our understandable rush to divest ourselves of the AA, is it possible we've sacrificed leads that might point us in other, non-ufological directions?
You know where I'd like to be right now? Aboard a crowded airplane. At night. Before take-off, listening to the whine of idling engines, the sursurration of passengers as they fumble with their overhead nightlights, the never-quite-loud-enough tunage of airline "radio" through cheap headphones.

I close my eyes and we take off into the deep anonymity of night.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm not sure I know what I'm looking at here. But I'm sure that somewhere, somebody -- quite possibly high on modeling glue fumes -- is fastidiously building one . . .

(Found at Aberrant News.)
I probably would have headed to the coffeeshop after work, but the last time I was there they were playing country music. In a coffeeshop. I'm running out of places to write, folks.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Getting Evolution Up to Speed

"People like to think of modern human biology, and especially mental biology, as being the result of selections that took place 100,000 years ago," said University of Chicago geneticist Bruce Lahn. "But our research shows that humans are still under selection, not just for things like disease resistance but for cognitive abilities."

(Via The Anomalist.)
In Search of the Vortex Vibe in Sedona

A few years ago, USA Today called Sedona the most beautiful place in America. At sundown, that doesn't begin to cover it. And it's not just the views. There's a vibe in the air, something not quite audible, a kind of metaphysical dog whistle that calls people out to have a look around and to try to feel something that, if you're not a committed New-Age pilgrim, is hard to put into words. Nowhere else in this country does a natural setting feel so much like the inside of a soaring pantheistic cathedral.

I second that.

This library has me filed with actual astronomy/exobiology books instead of with "New Age." Take that, Barnes & Noble.

Taking self-portraits in public restrooms is a rewarding pastime. You just have to give it a chance.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb" if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."

The only legacy will be millions dead from radiation and hospitals filled with babies afflicted with serious birth defects. "Courage" doesn't enter the equation. No one is going to be "saved." This is pure "Dr. Strangelove" lunacy.
How the hell did I miss this?

Chevy's 'Make Your Own Tahoe Commercial' idea not exactly going as planned

Rather predictably, however, certain surfers have been using the spot-building website for purposes that don't exactly put Chevrolet’s newest in the best light. Unfortunately, GM's webmeisters appear to be asleep at the wheel, as we can't imagine these derogatory ads staying up on purpose.

Click here for more!
Alas, no more email from the girl in Russia.
From an article documenting the similarities between progeria sufferers and the "Grays" of abduction infamy:

The symptoms of progeria seem to be exaggerated in the Greys [. . .], suggesting that Greys have a much more severe form of the disease. They have obviously found a way to treat it, because some of them grow up to be pilots and scientists and live beyond childhood, but how can they control a disease which is always progressive and always fatal in human children? Are all Greys healthy? If the Greys have progeria, can all Greys control their disease? Most reports from UFO abductees suggest that the Greys have an advanced medical technology. Can this advanced medical technology help all the Greys control their progeria if they have this disease? If they cannot cure it, can they stop its progression?

Another clue to the "indigenous humanoid" riddle? Incidentally, today I received a first-person account describing an unusual person fitting at least some of the criteria for a human-ET "hybrid." The description included a tantalizing reference to accelerated aging, consistent with progeria.

I'm increasingly convinced that at least some "aliens" represent an unacknowledged and genetically impoverished "sister race" possessing some truly remarkable abilities.
I'm suffering from a computer-transmittable malady characterized by an acute longing to visit Europe and view high-concept po-mo art, just like that lucky bastard Bruce Sterling.

While there is no known cure, my only hope of obtaining treatment is to amass the funds necessary to fly to Sweden, laptop in tow, and upload dispatches to the Net. Donations welcome.
Here's the transcript of my chat.
Here's a video of a giant centipede attacking and devouring a mouse. And here we have a clip of concept artist Yoko Ono allowing audience members to gnaw away at her clothing with scissors.

A mash-up is clearly in order; I'd rather spare the mouse and let Ono deal with the centipede.

(Both links found at Boing Boing.)