Friday, February 27, 2015

Scientificiness

I got this interesting tweet the other day, sent to my @markoconnell_1 Twitter account:
If you do not live in Mexico you can also join #beWITNESS. Scientific evidence of alien life bewitness.mx
When I saw that Mexico was involved, my first thought was that this tweet had something to do with the big "Roswell Slides" reveal coming  up this May 5th in Mexico City. Then I read the bit about "Scientific evidence of alien life" and I knew I was wrong, because of course the "Roswell Slides" reveal has absolutely nothing to do with "Science" or "evidence" or "alien life." 

Needless to say, this piqued my interest. Could there be another spectacular UFO event coming up in Mexico? That would be pretty wild!

Then I clicked on the link and discovered that this was, in fact, nothing more than a pitch for the "Roswell Slides" reveal. What a disappointment... Still, there I was, at the website, staring at a headline announcing "May 5, The Change of The History," so what could I do put plunge forward and try to understand the true scientificiness of this landmark event? 

I am so glad I did, because I watched the slick video on the website, and here's what I learned:
  • "Confirmation of the existence of beings from other planets" is going to be hard to walk back on May 6th
  • The supposed aliens come from not just one planet, but "planets"
  • The slides will be presented with "holographic technology," just like the scientists use
  • "For me, this is a climax," says undoubtedly poorly-translated promoter Jaime Maussan
  • There will be "10,000 witnesses" on May 5
  • The graphic of the crashed saucer looks suspiciously like the crashed saucer image from the 1963 Twilight Zone episode "Death Ship," which in turn used the C57-D spaceship prop from the 1956 movie "Forbidden Planet" -- 'cause it's all about provenance, you know
  • Edgar Mitchell took a wrong turn on his way back from the moon
  • Tickets to the event are available through Ticketmaster
About that last point... I was in so deep already, I didn't see any harm in clicking the Ticketmaster button to see how many greenbacks it would cost me to get a front-row seat at this once-in-a-lifetime event.

A lot. The nosebleed seats are too expensive for me. They're going for a cool $360. The front row seats will set you back a cosmic $1,570. That's a $1,210 premium to sit about 80 feet closer to the scientific evidence.

I ran these numbers past my wife and, after I performed the Heimlich maneuver on her due to the fact that she started choking on her lunch, she said, "No wonder these guys hate it when you make fun of Roswell. It's the goose that laid the golden egg!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

UFOsplaining

There's been a lot UFOsplaining going on these days; seems like every day there's a huge new UFO news item being touted by one expert or another telling us whatever it is we need to know about UFOs: first it was the CIA taking credit for over 50% of the UFO sightings reported in the '50s and '60s, then it was the "news" about the "declassification" of the Project Blue Book files, then it was the "smoking gun" Roswell Slides, and today we even have TV evangelist Pat Robertson telling us that God has absolutely not created life on other worlds because He's got His hands full here on earth...

And yet, for all the blather, none of those things have yet to explain anything about the UFO phenomenon at all...

I have had it up to here with all this UFOsplaining. And so it came as a welcome relief when I sat down today to listen to an interview with one of the few UFO grown-ups in the world, a man who can talk clearly and intelligently about UFOs like no-one else. That man is Dr. Jacques Vallee, who was interviewed a few nights ago on Coast to Coast AM by host George Knapp, and who said more interesting things about UFOs in his two hours on the air than most of us will say in a lifetime.

The interview was of special interest to me because of Vallee's close relationship with Dr. J. Allen Hynek, and because he rarely talks publicly about UFOs these days. He's speaking now because three of his classic UFO books, "Passport to Magonia," "The Invisible College," and "Messengers of Deception," have just been reissued, and that's good news for all of us.

The conversation was ostensibly about "Passport to Magonia," and so there was a lot of fascinating talk about that book's preoccupation with the connections between UFOs and folklore... Here are some of the highlights:
  • "Flying saucer" is not a new term at all: about 700 years ago, Japan was plagued with "flying earthenware"!
  • In the creep me out department, West Virginia's famous Mothman bears some striking similarities to the historical figures of terror Springheel Jack and the Skinwalkers.
  • The Invisible College has returned! A group of scientists around the world has spent the last 12 years very quietly studying the historical aspects of the UFO phenomenon.
Dr. Vallee had some interesting thoughts about the recent UFOsplaining as well:
  • He marveled at how anyone could claim that the Project Blue Book files had only just been declassified
  • He was dismissive of the Disclosure movement, asking "Tell me again what it is we're going to be disclosing?"
  • On the state of UFO research in general, he said, "I think there's a big misconception that when you have a lot of data, you have knowledge."
All that was extremely entertaining, but the best quotes have to do with the deeper meanings of the UFO phenomenon...
  • "It is as if the phenomenon can manipulate space, time, and the thoughts of people."
  • "Every culture has a tradition of people who can do magical things."
  • "We have to face the fact that whatever the phenomenon is, it has access to a greater knowledge of reality, a greater knowledge of the universe, than we do."
Best quote of all? It had to be Vallee's statement on the value of laboring at a task when there is little reward and little hope that it might achieve its goals:
"If we can contribute to helping science build a model of reality, of physical reality, we will have done a good job, even if we don't solve the UFO problem within our lifetimes."
Second best quote? It was related to the best quote. While talking about the origins of unidentified aerial phenomenon, Dr. Vallee simply said,
"It doesn't have a beginning..."

*Whew*

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Roswell Slides Fever!

I'm working an big, big case for MUFON this week; it's ruffled feathers all the way up to the big man himself, MUFON Director Jan Harzan!

You'd never know from reading the initial report from the witness that this case would be such a big deal:

"I set up a Moultrie M-880i Digital Game Camera for the 1st time in a spot to see what I would get pictures of. The location is at my Moms place. I set the camera for 8MP and to take 3 shots 1 second apart when motion is detected. I got 1 Amazing Picture! At 1st I thought it was a large bird like a Turkey Vulture. After looking at the picture zooming in and out by far the most I have ever examined a picture in my life there is nothing that tells me that it is a bird of anything other than a UFO. Several others believe pretty much the same. At the time I was home sleeping and my Mom was at home in the house. But where anyone was at the time doesn't matter. All that matters is that the camera got 1 Amazing Shot. I am completely amazed by this picture. I sure wish I would have gotten a 12MP camera. As far as a witness goes is it safe to say that the Camera is the 1? At this time I am not going to submit the picture. I want to 1st find out if it is worth $$$. I 1st want to get a response from MUFON. And I swear on a stack of Bibles that this is not a Hoax. I hope to here from you soon"
I talked to the witness -- okay, he's not really a witness, is he? -- I talked to the owner of the camera, and he said the image showed a 6' blimp with short fat wings, about 5' off the ground, in front of some trees that are about 400' feet away from where the camera was placed.

Unfortunately, that's all I can give you, 'cause that's all I've got. Because this gentleman is so sure his picture is worth "$$$," as he so quaintly puts it, he will not give out any more details or show the photo to anyone.
SHRIMPY BLIMP: MUFON will not purchase this or any photo for $$$, so don't even ask.

I call this phenomenon "Roswell Slides Fever," and I'm afraid it could reach epidemic proportions between now and May.

Still, I have my duties, and after talking with the gentleman I wrote to my state director Mxxx to ask if MUFON had any protocols for dealing with such an odd situation. Unfortunately, I made it sound as though the witness was hoping MUFON would buy what I am now calling "The Hartford Photo," and that sent alarm bells all the way to MUFON HQ. The word quickly came down from the new STAR TEAM director himself: MUFON does NOT purchase photographs!

"We certainly don't buy photos and least of all trail cameras which are fraught with problems. The optics are less than we would like, the frame rate is slow and generally yield strange effects from moving objects like a car that can make the car invisible yet reveal things like headlights. 

"This witness is not the first with a trail cam image. I have one gentleman who sent me over 50 images that yield nothing but plays of lights and shadows. 

"If this gentleman has a photo of a landed disc with an alien emerging from the object and waving , it might be a bit stronger. Even as we see with the best photos, no one considers these as proof. 

"Photos and videos do nothing but support a witnesses story. In this case the witness did not see it. The camera caught a photo anomaly and the guy is trying to capitalize on it."
Well, by this time I was feeling pretty bad, because I had never meant to indicate that the owner of "The Hartford Photo" (R) wanted to sell it to MUFON. If that had been the case, I think he only would have said "$" or maybe "$$" in his report. The fact that he said "$$$" indicated to me that he was aiming higher. Much higher...

Not willing to chuck the whole thing as my STAR TEAM Director seemed to be, I made the owner of "THP" (R) my best offer: I could ask the MUFON photo analysis expert to take a look at the image and give his opinion. The owner, perhaps sensing that his bluff had been called, in a manner of speaking, indicated that he might be open to that.

So today I got in touch with MUFON's crack photo analyst and asked if he would take a look at the "The Hartford Photo" (R) if the owner would agree. He said yes, but only if our Fearless Leader, Jan Harzan, didn't object. Seemed prudent to me, so there it stands.

Will "The Hartford Photo" (R) reveal a landed disc with an alien emerging from the object and waving, as the STAR TEAM leader hoped? Will it trigger Disclosure at last, followed quickly by A.D. After Disclosure? Or will it just show a sad little blimp with short, fat wings? Or will Jan just say no? I, for one, hope to find out.

And I hope to find out well in advance of May 5th...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lost in the Stars

"Saturn as seen from Titan" (1952) by the incomparable Chesley Bonestell

A friend sent me a great link this morning to the works of Harvard Astrophysicist Avi Loeb and his musings on life in the universe. This recent article is so full of fascinating ideas about the possibility of life on other planets that it's going to take a few days of pondering and puzzling for me to sort it all out... Fantastic reading for anyone who considers him- or herself part of the WANA crowd (that stands for "We Are Not Alone," and unless I'm very much mistaken, I just now created that acronym).

 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/science/avi-loeb-ponders-the-early-universe-nature-and-life.html?_r=0

I find it very comforting to know that even as the raging storm of stupidity over the so-called "Roswell Slides" continues to grow, there are serious people like Avi Loeb thinking about alien life in ways that are inspiring, not embarrassing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It Happened On Route 3

You know what's a damn shame?

It's a damn shame that the 1975 TV movie "The UFO Incident" doesn't seem to be available on DVD or streaming video. I just got done watching the movie, about the Betty and Barney Hill abduction case, on YouTube, and YouTube sucks. The picture was crap, the audio was crap, there were gaps and skips galore, and yet...

And yet, the movie still kicks ass. I haven't watched it for years, and it still gives me the chills. The script, based on the John Fuller book, "The Interrupted Journey," is tight and literate and cleverly constructed. The directing is understated and confident, with long, long tracking takes that allow the tension to build and build and build. The portrayals of the aliens and their shadowy UFO are chilling in their simplicity. And the performances of the leads are fucking amazing. James Earl Jones as Barney Hill. Estelle Parsons as Betty Hill. Bernard Hughes as Dr. Benjamin Simon. These three are virtually the entire cast of the film, so they're on screen constantly, and they all rock.

Somewhere along Route 3, New Hampshire...
It's still terrifying to see Jones as Barney Hill pleading under hypnosis, "I want to wake up... Please, let me wake up!" rather than have to remember what happened along Route 3 that night. And those shots of the "men" approaching the Hill's stalled car on the deserted highway, and that plasticky hand slowly reaching in through Betty's window to take her out of the car... damn, still terrifying after all these years. Even the voice-over narration makes an impact, as it's delivered by the sonorous voice of Vic Perrin, who provided the creepy "Control Voice" at the beginning and end of every episode of "The Outer Limits" in the early 1960s. Classy and effective. And the sweet love story between Betty and Barney hits just the right note... a safe refuge for two people terrified that they are losing their grip...

So why why why is this brilliant little movie not available in a watchable format? "Fire in the Sky," the only other movie I know of based on an actual alien abduction case, is available in HD everywhere, and, with all due respect to Travis Walton, it sucks. It makes being abducted by aliens seem like being trapped for two hours inside somebody's nose. Somebody with a sinus infection.

I've checked Universal's website, and I can't find any indication that "The UFO Incident" is or ever will be available in any format. Amazon lists the movie, but says the DVD is "unavailable." I mean, I'm grateful that a few people have posted even crap versions on YouTube, because a crap version is better than no version at all. But still...

This sucks.

About the "UFO Quote of the Day"

A few weeks ago, inspired by the wonderful Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA, I decided to start posting a new feature on twitter that I cleverly call the "UFO Quote of the Day," aka:
#UFOQuoteoftheDay 
aka:
@UFOqod
I could have done a "UFO Picture of the Day" feature, but I feared it would be nothing more than picture after picture of fuzzy, blobby bright lights in the sky, and who needs more of that crap? Quotes, on the other hand, if curated properly, never get dull or repetitive.

That decision made, I set about establishing my methodology, which took about one and a half seconds. Here are my guiding principles for the selection of quotes:

  1. The UFO Quote of the Day must be something interesting that someone said about or relating to UFOs.

That's it. I don't care whether the quote comes from a believer or a skeptic, from a scientist or a pig farmer, from a human or an alien or a hybrid. I don't care whether it's phenomenally brilliant or astoundingly stupid. I don't even care if it's a bald-faced lie. If someone said it (or wrote it, or telepathically projected it) and it tickles my fancy, I'm going to use it.
Perennial UFO troublemakers Betty and Barney Hill, as featured in @UFOqod

But there are a few important points I want to make about the quotes I do choose. These all come about from recent comments and suggestions by reader Terry the Censor. Terry never fails to bring up important issues, and I love that he is such a close and careful reader, and I figure if Terry is bringing something up, then it's likely something that a lot of other thoughtful readers are wondering about, too. So, here goes...

  1. While I am drawing from material that is familiar to a lot of UFO buffs, such as the Project Blue Book archives or UFO books that we all have on our bookshelves, I am also drawing from a mountain of material that I've dug up in the process of researching my biography of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. That means that many of my quotes will come from interviews I've done with people you may not have ever heard of, some will come from dusty university archives, or collections from small-town historical societies, or from ancient news clippings, or from the CUFOS files scattered about in basements in the Chicago area. So, while you may not recognize the quote, I can assure you that it's still a real quote. I'm never going to make shit up. There's such an immense wealth of material from which to choose, why would I ever need to?
  2. Just because I use a quote, that doesn't mean I agree with the quote, or that I'm trying to push an agenda supported by the quote. For example, when I recently quoted the polygraph operator who performed a lie-detector test on alleged UFO abductee Charlie Hickson, it was because what he had to say was really interesting, NOT because I endorse the science of polygraphy (The polygraph operator said of Hickson, "I'm not saying he saw a spaceship, but when he said he saw a spaceship, he wasn't lying" -- that's a damn good quote, no matter what you think of polygraph tests, and I got it from an interview I conducted with Joe Colingo, the attorney who got involved in the Hickson & Parker abduction event and was present when the polygraph test was conducted). The fact that there are differing opinions on the efficacy of polygraphy does not make the quote any less interesting, or illuminating, at least not to me. You are free to disagree.
  3. While I appreciate quote suggestions, I will probably not use them, at least not anytime soon. The selection of the quotes is what makes this fun for me, so why would I give that up? Now, it's always possible that at some time in the future I'll feature some of my favorite suggestions to @UFOqod, but, as I've only just gotten started with this, that probably won't be happening anytime soon. I'm having too much fun digging up quotes on my own, doggone it!

Finally, some thoughts on the accuracy of my quotes. The other day I quoted the "alien leader" from the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction case as asking Betty "Where are you on the map?" after showing her the "star map" that he/she/it used for navigation. Terry quickly pointed out that, according to the Betty Hill hypnosis transcripts in the John Fuller book, "The Interrupted Journey," the exact quote is "Where were you on the map?" I've checked, and dammit, he's right, as usual. And because Fuller's book has long been considered the definitive account of the Hill case, it's hard to defend my error.

Nonetheless, I will. There are, in fact, numerous sources that quote the alien leader as asking "Where are you on the map?" including the 2007 book "Captured! The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience," written by UFO stalwarts Stanton Friedman and Kathy Marden, who happens to be Betty and Barney's niece. Because of this, I don't feel that I've erred very badly, if at all. Also, when you read the hypnosis transcripts in full, it's very easy to see how Betty's recollections of the experience under hypnosis frequently changed tense, and how Dr. Simon, the hypnotist, rather arbitrarily added quotation marks to comments that could well have been Betty simply paraphrasing the leader's statements. Also, it would make very little sense for the alien leader to have asked the question in past tense in the first place, unless that's an idiosyncracy of alien syntax, but how would we know?

So... I think I have some legit wiggle room here.

But, in the end, does one word really matter? Yes and no, but mostly yes. In the world of UFOlogy, more accuracy is always better, and Terry the Censor is to be commended for always keeping that in sight. The challenge we all face is figuring out what is more accurate.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go make up a quote for today -- j/k!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Invisible College

Once again the International UFO Congress -- the Guinness World Record holding largest UFO convention -- is upon us, and once again I am not able to attend. But it's ok, because I'm pretty sure the lineup will be the same next year...

As I was looking over the schedule today one session coming up this Saturday caught my eye:
1:00 – 2:15 PM: Jeremy Corbell – The Invisible College
I thought that was pretty cool because The Invisible College is a fascinating topic to me. It came about in the early 1960s, when Northwestern University Astronomy Professor and Project Blue Book scientific consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek was able to slowly and stealthily gather together a group of scientists who were interested in studying the UFO phenomenon, even it meant doing it in secret... In 1975 one of the ICers, Dr. Jacques Vallee, wrote "The Invisible College," about his adventures with this group of thinkers, and it remains one of the best, most readable UFO books out there.

How cool, I thought, that the UFO Congress is going to devote some time to this fascinating chapter in UFO history! It's about time someone paid homage to this group of courageous pioneers.

The Invisible Man got his degree from The Invisible College
Then I read the bio of the presenter, Jeremy Corbell, and the overview of his Saturday session, and I got confused. Aside from a single, virtually context-free mention of Dr. Vallee's name, there is really nothing there that sounds at all like The Invisible College.
In this multi-media presentation, Corbell will seek to weaponize your curiosity and provide a blueprint for dismantling the Immaculate Deception imposed by the irrational mind and blind faith of the resolved believer, and the skeptic alike. You will experience never before screened footage from a number of Corbell’s upcoming films, and explore the shadowy and mysterious hallways that compose what Jacques Vallee called, The Invisible College.
I'm not sure what shadowy and mysterious hallways he's talking about here. You see, The Invisible College wasn't a college college, with buildings and lecture halls and classrooms and desks and dorms... It was a bunch of scientists -- about a hundred of them in five or six countries, according to Vallee -- who corresponded and had conference calls and gathered in Hynek's house whenever a few of them could manage to get to Evanston. At least the presenter didn't make the all-too-common mistake of thinking that Hynek, Vallee and their colleagues had perfected an invisibility device. I believe that was part of the original plan, but they never even came close to making it work, and they didn't want to call themselves The Translucent College.

So, in the end I'm not feeling too bad about missing this. Still, I kind of like the idea of this guy weaponizing my curiosity, even if it makes him sound just a little scary...