Thursday, 22 January 2009

Year of the gentleman.

I think I'm having an early mid life crisis. No really I am. It all started this morning when I worked out that not only did I not know what the number one record in the country was at the moment, I also have no idea what any of the proceeding number one's were for the past year. I'm vaguely aware of someone singing about an umbrella at some point, and some woman talking about a brief lesbian interaction. Apart from that though I really don't have a clue.

So here I am in a state of panic with the UK's top 40 singles list in front of me. A creeping sensation has started to work it's way up the back of my neck and the realisation is setting in that I've only heard of one in every five of the artists featured on this list (Gee Note: Prompting such exclamations as "Ne-Yo!!! Who the hell is Ne-Yo?!?!"). Worse, the only song I actually have any prior knowledge of is Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, which was originally released 14 years ago.

There comes a time in everyone's life when they must look at themselves and realise they're simply not as cool and with it as they used to be. I'm afraid that my time might be now. Maybe I should just chuck in the towel and go buy a pipe and a pair of knee high socks.

It wasn't always like this my friends. Oh no, I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons in my early teenage years sitting next to the stereo, headphones pressed against my ears, finger poised on the record button ready to tape any song I might like on the top 40. For a short while, thanks to the influence of my sister who was determined to mould me in to some kind of mini red haired bohemian, I had the best taste in music of anyone I knew.

Now I've hit my mid twenties and I get the strong sense that I've lost my youth. I haven't stepped foot in a nightclub in, gosh, ages. The last time I went for dinner with some friends I only had two glasses of wine. I actually had the chance of going on a wild trip across the country which would have been choc-a-bloc full of adventure, women, and song, and instead decided to stay at home to catch the beginning of the new series of American Idol (Gee Note: I know, but I'm a sucker for reality TV shows where I can shout my ill informed opinions at the television. It's the reason I love Masterchef. For those not in the know Masterchef is a program here in the UK where amateur cooks duke it out to find out which one is the best according to a bald glorified grocer and a meat loving Australian chef. It is the greatest example of reality television in the known universe, for the simple reason that the viewer has no idea how good the food actually tastes. Therefore one has to go off what the judges say, typically something along the lines of "That stew is simply bursting with flavour". Now one would think that having no means to form an opinion with, you would watch the program and take it as read that the judges are right. Well someone obviously forgot to send me that particular memo as I end up shouting at Masterchef more than any other program. "They picked Bill?!? What?!? Why?!? Obviously Julie's scallop dish was much better! Sheesh, these people are IDIOTS!").

In short I've become old. Old and boring. Mind, I guess I can take some solace from the fact that I'm not hearing voices.

Allow me to explain. Yesterday I decided to conduct an experiment with my old Dictaphone (Gee Note: Old joke time. Secretary: Sir, do you use a Dictaphone? Boss: No, I use my finger). Having just watched a marathon of Most Haunted on the television I decided to try my hand at a bit of paranormal investigating myself, namely in the field of EVP.




Electronic Voice Phenomenon has long been used by mediums and the like in the attempt to prove the existence of ghosts. Basically the idea is that during periods of static noise recorded by electronic equipment, sounds that weren't audible at the time of the recording can be heard. More often than not these sound like spoken words, which mediums and other paranormal investigators attribute to spirits.

It is, as with everything that goes bump in the night, a highly controversial practice creating believers and sceptics in equal measure. Many plausible explanations have been presented as to what the phenomenon could be caused by, from hoaxes to interruption from radio frequencies to Apophenia (Gee Note: Which is when the human brain sees patterns in random or meaningless data. Such as the Devil face in the 9/11 smoke. Or when you get a plate of Birdseye Alphabites and you laugh because the letters spell out a rude word. That kind of thing.)

Bizarely enough EVP first came to prominence thanks to the Catholic church. The Vatican, being more like a government than an actual religious body in some respects, employs all sorts of folk to carry out God's will including a vast number engineers, scientists and researchers. In 1952 two of these able men named Father Gemelli and Father Ernetti were given the task of recording some Gregorian chanting. (Gee Note: By the way I used to go out with a girl who loved Gregorian chanting. No really, she had tons of the stuff on CD. Strangely we didn't last long. Trust me, coming home after a hard days slog to be greeted by some robed bastards belting out Spiritus Domini can be enough to push anyone over the edge.)

Amazingly when listening to the playback for the above mentioned chanting they noticed that Father Giuseppe sounded a bit flat a strange whispering could be heard in the background that had not present during the recording. Gemelli was quite surprised that the voice sounded remarkably similar to his deceased father. Not sure if they were dealing with a technological malfunction or some such, Gemelli and Ernetti re-recorded the chanting, only to hear the voice again, this time saying with remarkable clarity "Dude, can't you get them to sing something a bit more lively? Something by Perry Como perhaps?".

Nah not really. It actually said "But Zucchini it is clear, don't you know it is I?", Zucchini of course being Gemelli's childhood nickname. Now completely convinced that they were dealing with Gemelli's dad's ghost, they took their findings to Pope Puis XII. The Pope, depending on who you believe, either chastised them for wasting his time with nonsense or welcomed their discovery hoping it would help build people's belief in the concept of the afterlife.

Whatever the case, if the Vatican did continue their research in EVP it was never made public knowledge. But not to worry, folks like American photographer and medium Attila Von Szalay picked up the baton. Von Szalay had been experimenting with recording devices in the 1940's, hoping to capture the sound of ghosts in order to legitimise his photographs of spirits. It wasn't until 1956 when he started using a reel to reel tape recorder that results started coming in. (Gee Note: By the way at some point today Von Szalay's entry in Wikipedia was edited and he was renamed Itchbad von Nutsack. No really it was. Some people have way too much time on their hands.) Distinct voices, it is claimed, could be heard on the recordings such as "This is G!" and "hot dog art". Three years after that Swedish painter Friedrich J├╝rgenson was recording some birds singing in the early morning. Upon playing the tape back he was surprised to hear his deceased father's and wife's voices calling his name. J├╝rgenson went on to make various other recordings over the years and claimed that he could hear spirits talking to him on a regular basis, including at one point a message from his mother (Gee Note: If it was my mum it would be something like "Hi love! It's mum. Just wanted to let you know I saw a really nice dinner table in the Argos catalogue that I think would look great in the kitchen. Just thought you'd like to know. Bye").

However EVP was shunned by those in the scientific community as either downright hoaxes or something that was easily exlpainable. Therefore while numerous examples of strange sounds being picked up by tape players and the like were recorded, very little serious study was made.

Regardless EVP still managed to attract notoriety. For example, 1982 rolled along, and a pair of chaps named William O'Neill and George Meek held a press conference announcing the arrival of the Spiricom. O'Neill, an amateur medium, was apparently contacted at some point during the 1970's by George Mueller, a NASA scientist who died in 1967. According to O'Neill George's ghost wanted to help the spirit world and us regular folk communicate in harmony. Mueller's spirit then passed on specifications for a machine to allow us to do just that. O'Neill enlisted the help of retired industrialist Meek and together they set about putting together a contraption to allow life and the afterlife to freely chat with each other.

And so together, following the instructions of Mueller's disembodied voice, they built the Spiricom. Prior to it’s world wide unveiling in 1982 O'Neill claimed to have recorded over 200 hours worth of conversations with those who had shuffled off this mortal coil by using the device, a testament Meek was eager to confirm. The Spiricom's recordings with Mueller's ghost can be found here, the spirit's voices transmitted electronically making them them sound like the backing vocals off a Kraftwerk album. And unlike most examples of mediums contacting the departed, these recordings actually sound like conversations, rather than some badly dressed, middle aged crackpot shouting "If you're here can you bang this table?" at the top of their lungs.

Now as people who follow this blog regularly will know this isn't all that an uncommon practice. Someone claims to have made a device that allows you to talk to the dead/ captured the Loch Ness monster/ video taped an alien playing The Entertainer on a piano, holds a press conference, and announces to the world that they too can experience such an event for a hefty fee. This past year alone two notable examples in Stan Romanek's “Peeping Tom alien” and the Georgia Bigfoot hoax have used this very tactic to drum up some cash.

Except, and here's the thing, O'Neill and Meek released the schematics of the machine for free. In fact anyone who's interested in building a Spiricom of their own can do so this very day simply by typing in the relevant information in to a search engine and following the instructions.

Here's one we made earlier. (Gee Note: By "we" I of course mean "someone else on the internet.")



Of course the bloody thing doesn't work. But Meek and O'Neill claim this may be down to O'Neill's ability as a medium helping "complete the circuit". Me I disagree. I think that it's a load of old nonsense. Simply because of this recording.

It's the end of the recording where the electronic voice states "Oh those cigarettes again" that makes me go, well, hmmmm. There's clearly distortion there with the plosive "C" in "cigarettes", as if some one is standing too close to the microphone. The very same distortion that's recorded seconds earlier when O'Neill is speaking. Now I don't know the ins and outs of the spirit world, but unless ghosts communicate with us using a mic and an amp that goes all the way up to 11 then I can't help but feel that the distortion simply shouldn't be there. In fact it's really hard to shake the feeling that O'Neill is using a voicebox and talking to himself. Like a child with an imaginary friend. Or a big fat phony.


Despite this and other setbacks, EVP remains immensely popular with ghost hunting enthusiasts and is used liberally on television programs such as the previously mentioned Most Haunted. And so yesterday having watched 12 episodes back to back and with nothing better to do, I decided to give it a whirl myself.

According to the whole five minutes of research I did on best practices when trying to catch spooky sounds, the idea is that you set your equipment to record and then proceed to ask questions out loud. After that you playback the message to see if anything has "responded" to the questions.

Now it should be pointed out that at no point have I even remotely considered that my house may be haunted. Vindictive yes, judging by the number of times the damn boiler's leaked in the past three years, but not haunted. And so the following results aren't really all that surprising. Here is a transcript from the recording.

Me: Hello?

Playback: Silence

Me: Is anyone there?

Silence

Me: Anyone who may be from the spirit world please say something.

Silence

Me: If you're there please say something.

Slight crackle on the line followed by, yep you've guessed it, silence.

Me: (Getting slightly bored by this point) Do you keep up with current affairs?

Silence.

Me: What do you think of that Barack Obama getting elected as United States President? That's a turn up for the books eh?

Noise! Yes genuine noise! Sadly it's not a ghostly voice, just the guinea pigs in the background fighting over a slice of apple. (Gee Note: Seriously hell hath no fury like a squeaker scrapping for a piece of fruit.)

Me: So, ummm, do you think the Watchmen movie will be any good?

Silence

Me: See I'm kind of divided on it myself. I hope it works but, you know, having seen the trailer and screen shots and stuff, I'm not really hopeful.

Silence.

Me: Ok I gotta know…Is Elvis with you guys?

At this point my Robot alarm clock bursts in to life with "Hey guys! How are you today?". Now some people might connect that to some sort of paranormal activity, but the truth is my Robo-Alarm has the weirdest motion detector in the world. No really, you can do the watusi in front of the bloody thing for hours and it won't budge, but scratch your head while sitting on the sofa and it goes bananas.

Me: Say you might be able to answer this….

The doorbell goes and this is followed by approximately three minutes of me thanking the postman for dropping round my newly purchased Shield Season 3 DVD.

Me: Hey I'm back… can't remember what I was going to say. Ummm. No. It's gone. So, er, what's new with you?

Silence.

At that point I decided to give up, partly because I felt a bit silly talking out loud in an empty room, and partly because an episode of the A-Team came on television. (Gee Note: Man I love the A-Team. Remember the one where there was a taxi cab war and Murdoch spent the entire episode wearing a tea towel around his neck and calling himself "Captain Cab"? That was ace. Also it had a great theme tune. Dah dah daaaahhhhh dah dah dah. Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dah dahhhhhhh).

So there we have it. Irrefutable proof that my house isn't haunted. Which is one less thing to worry about I guess.

Now if you'll excuse I'm off to get my left ear pierced and buy Ne-Yo's album.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said... By the power of Greyskull!

Have you ever seen that Simpson's episode where Homer becomes a sensation in the modern art world? Basically Homer tries building a barbecue that goes horribly wrong and at some point, out of sheer frustration, he attacks the resultant rubble while exclaiming through clenched teeth, "Why. Must. Everything. Be. So. Hard!?!".

Which I completely empathise with. It's hard being as inept as Homer and I. Not a day goes by in fact where I don't screw something up. Sometimes these are epic, all inclusive, relationship that's going really well ends up falling apart because you've been an insensitive asshole kind of screw ups. More often than not though it’s a basic inability to do something simple like making a piece of toast without burning it three times in a row. For example, the other day I was on an important phone call when my cell phone battery died. I, of course, immediately rushed up stairs to find the phone charger, caught my foot on one of the steps, prompting my body to lurch forward and my forehead to bounce off the stair bannister with a thunderous bang. This kind of thing happens all the time.

Now maybe I've got used it over the years, but I've kind of learnt to accept that there's certain things in life I will never achieve because of my ineptitude. For example, I will never be graceful enough to perform a physical activity that would require any degree of skill of coordination (Gee Note: So if I ever meet you in a party and claim I'm an expert rock climber, I'm pretty much fibbing), nor will I ever be presentable enough to walk in to a room full of people and command their attention with a smile. Now I could definitely grab a room's attention by walking in and immediately destroying a priceless antique vase or something. But a smile? Not a chance.

So when looking for success in my life I've decided to take a minimalist view. Sure you failed to get that promotion that you've worked hard for all year, possibly because your boss over heard you calling him a "mentally incompetent buffoon" at the office Christmas party. But have you managed to set fire to your shoes today yet? No? Then consider this a good day.

It's that kind of thinking that gets me through life. Of course I still have ambitions, like making this blog a success, gathering enough money to buy a Caribbean island, convincing the woman of my dreams to marry me so I can hire a bunch of 1980's British Z list celebrities like the Krankies or Bob Carolgees to act as ushers or something (Gee Note: Oh c'mon now. How amazing would it be to arrive at a wedding only to be greeted by a cross dressing sixty year old Glaswegian midget and a fake dog that spits at you? The wedding photos alone would be priceless). But, you know, if I fail at all of the above then it won't be that bad. Well with the exception of the wedding. If I don't accomplish that before I shuffle off this mortal coil then I'll be very grumpy in the afterlife let me tell thee.

Sadly not everyone shares my view on life, and some find it impossible to cope by themselves. Constantly we hear stories of impressionable people getting dragged in to cults and the like. Your life sucks right? Well give up all your worldly possessions to us and we can promise you a much better time on our plantation. Not being able to rationalise all the bad things that come our way is predominantly the reason why folks like David Icke gain such a following. The pressures of everyday modern life are so great that it must be somebody's fault. If you’re a follower of Icke then it's 9 foot shape shifting reptilian aliens who are to blame.

The reason I bring all this up is that today I was looking up something or other and randomly clicked on a link that led to the website of a Dr. Fred Bell. (Gee Note: I really should learn not to click on random links. I once got in to all kinds of trouble by accidentally clicking on an adult dating website at the very moment that my girlfriend walked in to the room. Sadly the excuse that "I was trying to find out who did the voice of He-Man in the cartoon series!" really didn't hold sway. The resultant argument was so vicious that I swore on that day if I ever met John Erwin, the man who did actually voice He-Man in the cartoon series, I'd demand an apology. Or kick him in the nuts. One of the two.)




Dr. Bell is an interesting character. He claims to be related not only to Alexander Graham Bell and Ethan Allen (Gee Note: So an expert in guerrilla warfare and the man who stole the idea for the modern telephone and patented it for himself. That's a heck of a lineage there doctor) but also to Allen Bell who, according to the website, "brought the London Bridge over from England and put it in the middle of an Arizona desert. Later he built a city with a pond around it, today called Havasu City". Which I'm pretty sure is news to the family of Robert P. McCulloch the man responsible for, er, buying the bridge and building Havasu City.

Questionable ancestry aside, Frederick is quite a stellar chap himself if the biography of his website is to be believed. A prodigious scientific mind, he worked with the University of Michigan at the age of 14 on nuclear energy projects, during which time he built the world's first time machine, which allowed the subject to travel in to the future in increments of microseconds (Gee Note: I can accomplish the same thing by blinking. Where the hell is my doctorate?)

The biography carries on in much the same vain. Bell allegedly worked on the Philadelphia experiment amongst other things, before moving on to the army and later the air force. It was there that he was given access to top secret technology salvaged from UFO crash sites. This led to Bell becoming instrumental in developing projects for the military including Star Wars (Gee Note: The Regan era missile based government initiative that is and not the film. Not even George Lucas would be daft enough to hire someone who's blatantly insane. Mind the man did think that Jar Jar Binks was a good idea, so I guess any thing's possible). After that he joined NASA and was involved in designing landing systems for the Apollo missions as well as developing "early detection" radar system for possible extra terrestrial activity.

In fact the biography reads like a check list of conspiracy theories. Name any supposed government cover-up in the past, ooooh, fifty years and Bell was either there, or was involved in developing projects in the aftermath of those cover-ups. He's like the conspiracy nut's version of Charles Widmore (Gee Note: My Jim Robinson, how you've changed).

Then at some point Bell leaves his work to go and study under the Himalayan Masters (Gee Note: One thing worth noting is that the biography never gives any exact dates. Also it doesn't specify which Himalayan Master Bell studied under. Which cynical people might want to suggest is because that way no one can do a wee bit of research on the good Doctor and suggest he's making it all up. Not me though. Oh no. I reckon that our friend Dr. Bell just doesn't deem it as important. I mean who would be interested in finding out the exact date that UFO technology was used to advance Human civilization? No one, that's who). While there Bell claims he was contacted by a race of humanoid extra terrestrials known as Pleiadeans.

Now Pleiadeans are supposedly a highly evolved, benevolent species who "travel" to Earth to bestow wisdom and joy upon us. The reason I use quotation marks is because, according to the piece of new age fluff that is "Comes The Awakening" by Lia Shapiro, Pleiadeans don't actually travel by spaceships but instead connect to us by "conciousness". Now having never been contacted by conciousness personally I'm not entirely sure what this would entail. My guess is though that if you're having a dream and alien pops in to tell you about a mystic cosmic force that can change the world for the better then you might not want to take it too seriously. After all last night I dreamt that I went to the zoo to see some monkeys only to discover that one of them was Jennifer Love Hewitt in disguise. Now while I would love to believe that Jen has finally got around to getting in touch about our future relationship, I'm pretty sure she could find an easier way to do it. Like an email. Or a phone call even.

Anyway these Pleiadeans departed their knowledge to Fred, and Fred duly came up with THE NUCLEAR RECEPTOR. Which as far as I can tell is a necklace. Not just any necklace mind. According to the website's blurb:

This unique piece of pleiadean technology conditions your body to process negative energies, thereby expelling them.

In general the Nuclear Receptor is a consciousness repairing tool for the entire body structure. It detoxifies the body and produces consciously controlled transcendental feelings.

In a transcendental environment, the person involved has an inner feel for connecting to that person's higher power. The Amazing Pyradyne Nuclear Receptor re-educates, the body mind and spirit connection. For that reason the Nuclear Receptor is an amazing tool.

Now I've read that a good four or five times now and I still do not have a bloody clue as to what it actually means. Is re-educating the body's mind and spirit connection a good thing? Well if you believe the website Ken Norton thinks it is. Ken Norton is a hall of fame boxer that in 1973 shocked the world by beating Muhammed Ali. Norton was a 7-1 outsider, and despite heavy press speculation that Ali would win convincingly, Norton broke Ali's jaw during the fight and won on a split decision from the judges.

Now Bell's website suggests that Norton's remarkable turn around in fortunes was due to the Nuclear Receptor he wore around his neck. Except at no point does it mention that Norton owned such an item when he fought Ali. Ali would go on to avenge his loss against Norton six months later, which was then followed by Norton getting demolished in two rounds by George Foreman after that. Fact is Norton's victory over Ali and his membership in the boxing Hall of Fame is simply because he was a hell of a fighter, not because of alien wisdom. To say otherwise is to demean the man's accomplishments.

Regardless the nuclear thingy and other such wonderful tools with which to change your life are all available from Dr. Bell's website. Now considering the benevolence and wisdom of the Pleiadeans who bestowed this wondrous information upon Frederick, one would think all you would have to do is sign up and get one sent to you right? Well yeah you can, if you're willing to pay $17 a month for the privilege of course.

Now let's suppose that Pleiadeans do actually exist, woovy berserk conciousness connecting powers and all. Suppose that they have imparted knowledge that could make everyone on this planet, every man, woman and child, achieve their potential and reach a state of happiness usually reserved for lottery winners and mental patients. Would they honestly want some one to charge money for this info? Seems slightly counter productive to me. I mean if the overall ethos is to make the human race better, only making it available to those that can afford it is a contradiction in terms surely? It's either that or the Pleiadeans are actually more like Republicans at heart. (Gee Note: Zing! Oh I'm just waiting for that call from the Daily Show to grace them with my wondrous wit.)

Or Fred Bell is a charlatan.

And this is kind of the point. It's down to what you believe. Highly evolved extra terrestrials may or may not exist. I don't have a definitive answer in regards to that. But if you are thinking that your life is so bad that you have to pay some nut job a monthly fee so that you can re-align your negative ions or some such jazz, ask yourself this question.

Have you set fire to your shoes today?

No?

Then do yourself a favour and save your money. You're doing just fine as you are.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

You frightened me so much, I'm spilling my tea.

You know there's an upside to everything. Take the global economic crisis for example. Businesses are collapsing, jobs are being lost, and prices for essentials such as food and gas are still rising. Not a day goes by without reports coming in of yet another victim of financial difficulty. What really hammered it home for me was last week when our local Woolworths closed it's doors for the last time. Having been a focal point of my home town for years, seeing this venerable retail giant shut up shop really did effect me in a way I didn't think was possible. Woolworths was where I bought my first record as a kid, and even these days I would regularly stop by to check out the DVD section. Passing by the empty building this morning, signs in the window screaming "Closing down sale!", the usually bright sign a dull grey, has all conspired to leave me feeling slightly sad about the whole affair.

Not to worry though, as the British media has the answer to wipe away the doom and gloom. Realising that thoroughly depressed people probably don't want to read about thoroughly depressing news, newspapers nationwide have been finding "alternative" stories to publish. This has led to all sorts of weird and wonderful tales gracing the morning's printed page in an effort to allow the reader a route to escape from the world's financial infrastructure collapsing around them. Stories about Australian's trying to escape the police while, er, exposing themselves, or a 140 year old lobster being released back in to the wild after a two week stay in a New York restaurant's tank have become the norm. As far as the newspapers go, it's silly season.

At the beginning of last week, the Independent newspaper published a news item about big cats in Britain. Every three years the Forestry Commission, a government organisation who deal with all things wood like, head off to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to study some deer for a bit. These deer surveys last from three to four weeks, with the deer being filmed in their natural habitat and with all sorts of useful information, such as population growth and feeding habits, being gathered during this period. Thanks to the Freedom of information act, the results of the 2002 and 2005 survey were recently published.

Meet Rob Guest. Mr. Guest is a deputy surveyor for the above mentioned Forestry Commission. One day in 2002 on the outskirts of Churchill enclosure, east of Parkend, Rob and a colleague were filming some deer doing deer like things (Gee Note: If Disney are to be believed this includes making friends with rabbits suffering from an Attention Deficit Disorder and learning to skate on a frozen lake) using thermal imaging cameras. It was here they spotted something moving amongst the deer that appeared to be a large cat. Due to the nature of thermal imaging (Gee Note: All white blobs on black backgrounds. Like an Aryan fat camp standing in front of a massive version of Spinal Tap's "Smell the Glove" album) the identity of the creature could not be established as few of it's features were distinguishable. But, claims Guest, judging buy its movement and body shape it was most definitely a big cat.

Then in 2005 he spotted another one, again with a colleague and again via thermal imaging, this time on the southern slopes of Staple Edge. Apparently the area was home to a lot of rabbits at the time, which might explain why a big cat was kicking around Gloucestershire in the first place. Either that or it had signed up for one of those "Dick Whittington tour" type package holidays and then been removed from the coach after being recognised as a panther or something. (Gee Note: "I'm sorry sir I can't let you on to the bus." "Awww man, why not?" "Er, because you're a dangerous beast sir. It's against health and safety regulations." Cue the inevitable article in the Daily Mail about political correctness gone mad accompanied by a photograph of a big cat looking sad and a quote along the lines of "All I wanted to do was take some photos and have a story to tell when I go back to Brazil. Now I have to go back embarrassed.").

Now all this is thoroughly interesting, and at the beginning of the week I planned to do a lengthy post on big cats in Britain using this as my lead in. I also planned on doing a lengthy rant on how if there was a freakin' huge wild animal wandering around the Forest of Dean then why the hell wasn't this made public knowledge at the time? I mean, you know, folks who live in the surrounding areas might have been interested in finding out that they were neighbours to Lion-O and the rest of the Thundercats.




(Gee Note: OK if I'm being honest with you, and I think we've known each other long enough now for me to be, the truth is I only wrote that as an excuse to post a picture of the Thundercats. Because, you know, Thundercats are great. Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! Ooooooooh! Yeah that takes me back. You know, Mumm-Ra used to terrify me when I was a kid. Still does if I'm honest. The dude was blue and had snakes for hair for God's sake. If that doesn't freak you out when you're six years old you might as well sign up for the marines there and then.)

Unfortunately all this will have to wait until another time, because with it being silly season it didn't take long for a much more interesting story to surface.

Have you ever seen something so ridiculously large that your brain struggles to process it? Well that happened to me not so long ago. I went away for a romantic weekend to Reading a while back and ended up staying in a hotel opposite a wind farm (Gee Note: I should also point out that the "romantic weekend away" was really an excuse for me to go and watch a game of rugby in a nearby stadium. Couple that to the fact that the view from the hotel was a series of metallic windmills and it's a wonder I wasn't found dead on the hotel floor with an ice pick sticking out of my chest. Ah romance, thy name is Gee).

Now only having seen a wind turbine from a distance before I thought that they were going to be about the size of a three story building. Big sure, but not overly massive. However upon arriving at the the hotel and being face to face with these alternative power generators for the first time my jaw hit the floor. These things are huge. I mean like King Kong, monster from Cloverfield, Richard Gere's ego huge. Amazed at the sheer magnitude of it all I immediately forgot about what I should be doing, namely finding somewhere to eat that night, and instead spent the next two hours on the internet looking up the history of these magnificent structures. What I found out was that wind turbines are generally between 200 - 300 ft high, with 65 - 130 ft long blades, making them significantly larger than a three story building. Unless of course you're a giant that is. But then I'm pretty sure that giants live in caves.

Anyway to cut a short story long, about two days after the big cat report our friends at The Sun had a front page splash about a damaged wind turbine. On the eve of January 7th residents of Lincolnshire started reporting strange lights in the sky. A local county councillor named Robert Palmer (Gee Note: "You can't eat oooh, you can't sleep oooh, because there's oooh, a great big alien spaceship in the sky oooh") claims to have seen "a white light - a round, white light that seemed to be hovering. That is the only way I can explain it - it wasn't a flare-like light - it was just round, white light with a slight red edge to it that seemed to be over the wind turbines."

Then at some point in the early morning this happened.



The turbine lost a 66 ft long propeller while another was bent out of shape. No other physical evidence outside of the damage to the turbine was immediately apparent. Dale Vince, an employee of Ecotricity the company that owns the wind farm, was quoted as saying "We don't have an explanation at the moment as to what the cause was." And quicker than you can say "All of your base are belong to us" some bright sparks put two and two together and came up with the idea that it must have been a UFO. Coupled with the odd lights spotted in the area that night it was enough for the Sun to lead with the story on it's front page that aliens had crashed in to the turbine and then like a drunken Hollywood celebrity, panicked and sped off without filing a police report.

It's amazing watching these things unfold in real time simply because of the polar opposite camps observers and commentators divide themselves in to. You're either a staunch believer that the Lincolnshire wind farm is a UFO crash site or your not. Those you aren't scoff at those who are. Those who are make light of those who don't attempts to rationalise the wreckage. (Gee Note: By the way, at what point would an alien aircraft, one that would presumably have to travel faster than light in order to get from A to B in space, get itself in to such a mess that it crashed in to a bloody huge wind turbine? Did they let the college kid drive for a bit? "Excuse me Kronos, aren't you supposed to be flying the ship?" "Hey man, back off. I've been piloting this hunk of junk for three days now. So I decided to give Zorg a go." "You gave ZORG a go!!!" "Yeah man, what's the worst that could hap….")

Now I'm not going to spend a ton of time on the UFO aspect of all this simply because the last time I posted about aliens an IP address registered to the Ministry of Defence, Britain's version of the CIA for all you overseas readers, came by and checked out the blog making me paranoid that the “spooks” were on to me. Well OK maybe not, but the hit from the MoD was real enough and it was a lot of fun doing very poor impersonations of Gene Hackman from The Conversation for half an hour or so.

Anyway here's what we can say it wasn't. It wasn't Godzilla (Gee Note: The lack of footprints and terrified Japanese people is a dead give away) or any other type of animal. It wasn't vandals, as the turbine is some 290 ft high. Now while I have faith that the youth of Britain wouldn't think twice about destroying a wind turbine, I'm sure the planning involved in such an act would have the average hoodie looking for the nearest car to key instead.

So what did cause all this damage and hoo-hah? Well one of the most plausible theories outside of aliens is ice thrown from one of the other turbines. Britain was subject to seriously cold temperatures last week and so should ice have built up on one of the turbines blades and then become dislodged as the wind picked up the resulting collision from frozen water and metal may have caused the devastation shown. Problem with this theory is that the wind turbines are designed with this in mind, and so if ice develops on the blade the internal sensors will pick this up and automatically shut the turbine down. And even though they have been known to occasionally fail, ice is thrown so rarely from turbines as to be an almost unheard of event.

The second theory is my personal favourite, which also involves a frozen liquid. Now if I was to say that urine had all but destroyed a wind turbine you might be forgiven for thinking me slightly barmy. But bare with me on this, because it's not as insane as it sounds. Well not quite as insane as it sounds.

“Blue ice” is an aviation term used to describe frozen material formed by leaks from a plane's waste tanks. A combination of human waste and liquid disinfectant, which gives the substance a blue colour, freezes at high altitude. Now while planes are not allowed to dump their tanks mid flight, leaks from the tanks can and do occur. On October 20th 2006 a couple in Chino, California were victims of such a leakage when they were amazed to find a hole in their roof the size of Gibraltar.

(Gee Note: “Blue Ice” is also the name of a terrible film starring Michael Caine. Sometimes Hollywood just doesn't do itself any favours. I mean if you are going to make a bad movie, wouldn't you try and choose a title for it that wasn't a by word for poo? Unless of course you were being intentionally sardonic. Sadly they weren't.)

So there we have it. Aliens? Ice? Frozen wee? Amazingly the story still has legs, as only yesterday the wind farm was sealed off by police much to the delight of The Sun. So it may be a while before the truth comes out. If it ever does that is. Stories like these have a tendency to burst on to the scene, make a huge splash, and then are quietly forgotten about.

But that's the beauty of silly season. It's not about proving that extra terrestrial life exists, or that aliens walk amongst us. It's about escapism, distracting the public from the real horror of every day life. And if it can raise a smile and get people thinking about something other than being horrendously in debt for twenty minutes then I think it should be saluted.

So here's to you big cats, UFOs, monsters, and all of the rest of the crazy, barmy, brilliant stories that have and will greet us over the coming months. Long may it continue.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Now, Ross, don't be rude. You look like a pink weasel to him.

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I managed to catch an episode of Quantum Leap over the Christmas period. The episode in question involved Sam leaping in to the body of "Futureboy", a television star and side kick to "Captain Galaxy" in one of those 1950's Saturday morning serial type programs. The show revolves around Captain Galaxy and Futureboy travelling in to the future where all manner of adventures involving aliens and laserguns await them.

The problem with things like the above mentioned show is that they never get the future right. I mean being both lazy and kind of stupid when it comes to things that might be dangerous to my health, the self tying shoe laces and hoverboards from Back To The Future Part II seem an ideal way to get rid of a lot of bothersome fiddling, coupled with a great opportunity to break my neck while trying to "cut a flip" in an effort to seem cool and with it. Sadly we're rocketing towards 2015 and there's still no sign of either on the market place. So in six years time I'll either be jumping in to a pair of Cons, hoping on to my board and whizzing on by in one fluid, sexy, aerodynamic motion, or I'll be swearing profusely at my sausage-like fingers inability to tie a knot before moaning about having to walk all the way to the bus stop. Only time will tell I guess.

The good news is that although we're without all the fancy gadgets that the 1980's promised us, the machines have also yet to rise up against us (Gee Note: Unless you count my Windows XP laptop which I swear to God takes perverse pleasure in torturing me). In fact the year that Skynet was supposed to become self aware and launch a shed load of nuclear warheads on major cities before creating a series of murderous cyborgs to mop up the rest of the world's population, as according to the Terminator movies, has passed without incident. Which is a blessing really, as if it came to a war between us and the machines I'm pretty sure I'd be one of those guys in Star Trek who wear red shirts and get capped off in the first 30 seconds (Gee Note: "So it's settled then. Captain Handsome, Norma Luscious, and Doctor Nicesmile will all head out and investigate the sun blessed poppy filled meadow. Gee, you go and take a look at the abandoned abattoir in Deathsville. See you when you get back.")

I guess the moral of this story is that it's pretty hard to predict what the future will hold in store for us (Gee Note: Well that and you've got a better chance of surviving the apocalypse with you hang with Captain Handsome). Unless of course your name happens to be Morgan Robertson.

Morgan Robertson was a writer of short stories and novels who was born in September 1861. By all accounts he suffered from many of the demons that afflict creative types, and died in a hotel room in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1915 from an overdose of protiodide. Despite being relatively successful and quite well known in the literary world he died as he had lived, dirt poor. Add to that the fact that he looked liked a member of the fictitious race of supervillains from Doctor Who known as the Sontarans and you do start to feel really sorry for the guy.



(A Sontaran)




(Morgan Robertson)


Robertson was an interesting character. He claimed to have invented a prototype periscope and wrote a novel called The Submarine Destroyer in 1905 in which periscopes were used freely by submarines. The periscope had in fact been invented in 1902 by a pair of chaps called Lake and Grubbs, three years prior to Robertson's novel. However the periscope wouldn't become a common submarine instrument until years later. So the question is did Robertson have inside knowledge of this, or did he genuinely put his mind to work an envisage something that future generations would find invaluable? Well seeing as the majority of Robertson's work was based at sea then it's not unlikely that he had contacts within the U.S. Navy that would have been aware of Lake and Grubbs work. So it's more than possible that a well place source could have given him the nod, and maybe even some specifications for a prototype periscope.

But, and here's the kicker, Robertson was a dab hand at accurately predicting the future in his fiction.

In 1914, Robertson wrote a short story called Beyond the Spectrum about a future war between Japan and America. In the story Japan does not actually declare war but instead launches a sneak attack on US Naval ships off the coast of Hawaii. At the conclusion of the story the hero prevents an invasion of San Francisco by stopping the Japanese fleet using a weapon very similar to an atomic bomb. On December 7, 1941 in the midst of World War II Pearl Harbour on the island of O'ahu in Hawaii was the victim of a surprise attack by the Japanese military, forcing the U.S.A in to joining the war. Japan surrendered on August 15th 1945, after America had dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In the same volume this short story appeared in was a reprint of Robertson's earlier work entitled Futility. Two years previously on April 15th 1912, the world had been shocked over reports that the unsinkable RMS Titanic had, er, sank on it's maiden voyage after colliding with an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Because the ship had been designed with the aesthetic rather than practicalities in mind, there were only 20 lifeboats on board, able to carry a maximum of 1,178 persons despite the ships maximum capacity of 3,547 souls. All in all over 1,500 people lost their lives when the Titanic went down.

The story of Futility mirrored the Titanic's in many ways. An unsinkable ship travelling between New York and Southampton strikes an iceberg in the North Atlantic and, er, sinks, killing most of the passengers on board. Physically the ship is described as almost identical to the Titanic, sharing three propellers and two masts. Both were launched in the month of April, and when both met their demise they were travelling too fast, the Titanic at 23 knots, the ship in Futility at 25 knots. Robertson's ship was even named the Titan.

Now to the observer it would appear that Robertson had simply used a well known and highly reported naval disaster as the backdrop to a piece of fiction. Which isn't uncommon by any stretch of the imagination. Hell James Cameron did the exact same thing by introducing a ridiculous love story in to his film version of the story of the Titanic. (Gee Note: Hmm. I don't know. We've got the greatest non war time naval disaster ever, the backdrop of the Atlantic ocean, and a ship being torn apart by a bloody great big piece of ice. Which don't get me wrong is all good stuff. But I can't help but think that we're missing something. Wait! I've got it. How about, guys come here, how about we get some irritatingly bland Canadian to sing an awful song, while Leonardo DiCaprio doodles Kate Winslet's nipples badly in chalk? Whaddya think?!?!)

Except Robertson's story was first published in 1898. A full 14 years before the Titanic set sail.

Spooky huh?

So was Robertson a latter day Nostradamus or just a guy who history made look a lot smarter than he actually was? Well he differs from Nostradamus in one key aspect. Michel de Nostredame's predictions are so vague as to be rendered useless (Gee Note: Typical Nostradamus prediction: “There's this dude who has a yellow jumper. He will do something that will cause many people to get upset”. Honestly that's about as detailed as they get.) while Robertson was almost so on the money in regards to the Titanic that it's kinda scary.

Now the chances of Robertson being able to foresee the future are pretty slim. But some of the world's most creative and brilliant minds have attempted to set stories in the future and came nowhere near to matching Robertson's accuracy.

So maybe for once, just once, the truth is actually stranger than the fiction.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Bananas are good.

State of mind is everything. For example yesterday I found out that David Tennant, the Doctor in world's longest running Sci-Fi show Doctor Who, is to step down from the role and to be replaced with 26 year old Matt Smith. My initial reaction was "who hell he?" followed by much discourse along the lines of "He looks too emo. He's too pretty. How can a 26 year old play the Doctor? Bah this is rubbish. I hate him. I'm never watching the show again."





But then that was yesterday. And yesterday was a bad day. Through a combination of tiredness due to having travelled the country in the most ludicrous train journey to get from point A to point B (Gee Note: You ever seen the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"? Well yesterday that was me. Except, you know, without the laughs), and some other issues clogging up my over worked brain, I was grumpy and slightly melancholy. And so you could have told me that David Tennant was being replaced with, oh I don't know, that monkey out of "Every Which Way But Loose" (Gee Note: No not Clint Eastwood. The orang-utan Clyde. Tsk, you're just making up your own jokes now) and I would've still complained about the new Doctor being too pretty.

So I woke up this morning, stomped in to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee that I instantly forgot about and rediscovered two hours later stone cold, stomped back in to the living room where, exhausted by all the stomping, I collapsed in to the chair and turned on the breakfast news. At this point I should note that I love breakfast news. In America breakfast news is seen as a venerable institution, all gloss and shine. In Britain breakfast news still comes across as if it's run by a bunch of college kids. Regardless of which channel you choose to watch, there isn't a half hour that goes by before something gets screwed up. Whether it be an interview with no sound, or the weather person stumbling over the word "swooping", turning on the breakfast news every morning is like waking up next to Buster Keaton. I mean back in the day. Not now obviously. Waking up next to the decaying corpse of a former silent film star would just be weird.

Anyway this morning they showed an interview with Matt Smith talking about taking over as the new Doctor. And maybe it was because the lead anchor had introduced the segment as "Meet Matt Smith. The new Doctor Wha… Er… Who." which started me giggling like a child before the actor had even appeared on the screen. Or maybe it was because the glass of wine with dinner last night was still working it's way through my system. Whatever the reason, the interview started and something very strange happened. After approximately thirty seconds I was completely turned around on the idea.

See the thing is Matt Smith is quirky. And I don't mean quirky in the Jennifer Aniston kind of way (Gee Note: I've actually started using "Jennifer Aniston quirky" as short hand for "My husband left me years ago for some woman with big lips, and since then my career has floundered and the only way I can get any kind of publicity is by dating guys who obviously hold no interest for me other than using them to get my picture in the National Enquirer under headlines such as "Jen! New Love/Heartbreak!" which is not as good a being famous for making a good movie or anything but it's better than nothing I guess"). I mean in a weird speech pattern, random hand movements, intense eyes kind of way. He's also quite funny, and seems to be genuinely excited about the prospect of playing the Doctor. So yeah, he's pretty much won me over. And I'm now looking forward to the next series proper when it all kicks off in 2011.

Strangely enough all this has got me thinking about Bigfoot. On the excellent Cryptomundo blog a couple of months ago Loren Coleman posted an item about the discovery of a Sasquatch fingerprint in North Carolina. Now it needs to be remembered that Loren Coleman is good people, and that I have the utmost respect for him and his work. He represents everything that's good about Cryptozoology and should really be admired. He's intelligent and dedicated and one of, if not the, finest in his field.

But I have to admit, I rolled my eyes when reading the above mentioned post and immediately dismissed it as bunk.

Here's the story. There's a family in North Carolina that has some cats. One of the cats was a precocious little scamp that used to wander around the neighbourhood chasing squirrels and picking fights with dogs. Then one day the cat met a family of bigfoot (Gee Note: According to the interwebz the plural for bigfoot is actually bigfoot. Like sheep or fish. And not, as I thought previously, bigfeet. Thank you Yahoo answers, once again you have stopped me from making a tit of myself). This family unit consisted of a daddy bigfoot, a mummy bigfoot, a teenager bigfoot (Gee Note: Sadly it's never explained how they know that the third bigfoot is a teenager. My guess is it wears black T-shirts and listens to angry metal music) and a baby bigfoot.

The human family caught on to the fact that the cat was sneaking out to meet some sasquatches (Gee Note: Probably after finding some small bowling shoes and a jacket with "Team Furry" written on the back") and set up a feeding area for the bigfoot. They hid some recording equipment around the area hoping to catch the hominids on camera. Alas, despite the bigfoot enjoying the free food regularly, they'd only eat there when the camera equipment was turned off. As such the only video evidence is a brief glimpse of father bigfoot's arm and one of the younger bigfoot's hand.

There is, however, physical evidence. One day in May 2008 the alpha male bigfoot took an interest in human's pick up truck, and pressed his nose to the windscreen with his hands on the bonnet (Gee Note: "Wow, is that REAL leather interior? This I gotta see.") leaving a thumb print on the hood of the car. The humans called a local police officer, who took a print of the markings, a picture of which you can see here. The officer refused to date or sign the fingerprint because "He knew what we had" and didn't want his name to be associated with it.

OK. So. Where to start...

Well how about this? I think it's safe to say that if the above is true then bigfoot are vegetarians. Because if they weren't then one would assume that to a sasquatch a cat could make a tasty aperitif. I mean you don't get many stories of cats befriending wolves or bears for that very reason. Mind you don't get many stories of cats making friends with anyone who doesn't feed them, so either the bigfoot clan have a stack of “Kitty Chunks” cans lying about or this cat thinks it's a dog or something.

Then you have the recording equipment saga. The idea that the bigfoot could mystically detect that the cameras had stopped rolling isn't actually as silly as it sounds. Well not if you take in to account the idea that they may be able to hear on a different frequency to us. If they do then theoretically it's possible that a bigfoot could tell if the equipment was running or not by the sound it makes. OK it still sounds a bit silly, but it's a bit more plausible than “bigfoot's a wizard and he can sense if cameras are off or not by magic” which really is the only other explanation.

No what bothers me about the whole camera thing is this. Why the hell would bigfoot care if they were being filmed or not? I mean no other animal in the known universe cares about being caught on tape. It's not like gorillas spot David Attenbrough and his crew camping out in the jungles of the Congo and grab some balaclavas. So why would a bigfoot give a toss? Especially considering one all but did a cartwheel for the Patterson-Gimlin film.



And what about the fingerprint? Well again the obvious thing to say is that it looks an awful lot like a human thumbprint. But then primate fingerprints are an awful lot like human's in many respects. Heck a koala bears fingerprints are indistinguishable from a humans even under microscopic conditions. So I guess it is possible for Bigfoot's to be remarkably similar too. For me though the question remains about the police officer who supposedly took the print. Bare in mind that this was before the Bigfoot hoax fiasco in Georgia last year, and so the officers hesitation to put his name or date the print really doesn't make any sense. If it turns out to really be a sasquatch then this guy is going to be laughing all the way to the bank when the media finds out. If not then he's not doing anything untoward, just doing his job.

And that's the entire problem with this situation. There's too much of it that doesn't add up. And even if you can stretch your imagination to explain away certain aspects there's still too much that, for me, is left unanswered.

So despite being able to say that I can change my mind on a matter it apparently doesn't happen all that often. Especially not when it comes to stuff like this. Because sadly I still think the bigfoot fingerprint is bunk.

Unless of course Matt Smith was telling the story. Then I'd totally buy it. I don't know. I'm a sucker for weird speech patterns and crazy hand movements.

Damn I'm depressed. I really thought that the whole new Doctor thing would inspire me to look upon things in a new light. Instead I'm still as cynical as I've always been. It may be a new year but sadly it's the same old story. I need something to cheer me up.




Yeah that'll do it. I really need more sock puppets in my life.