Friday, December 31, 2010

First impressions upon first listen to Liz Phair's 'Funstyle'

I tend to disown my previous decade's favorite music. Like others change wardrobes and wives, I change Favorite Music. In 1981, I rejected Classic Rawk and embraced (in turn) New Wave, post-punk, and alternative. In 1991, I embraced hip-hip, then grunge, then post-grunge. In 2001, I turned my back on commercial radio entirely and fled to free jazz, which, I predict, I will never reject. But I don't listen to much of my fav, pre-2000 music.

(Okay, I flirted briefly with Latin pop, and you might catch me still listening to Shakira.)

So, it was with GREAT reservations that I bought Liz Phair's 'Funstyle.'. "Career suicide"? Um, no thank you; I have enough of that in my own life, and besides, can she ever write anything as brilliant as "Greased Lightning," which, characteristically, was never issued on LP?  She, the shining star of my fav '90s music? It can only turn out bad.

Well, turns out that 'Funstyle' is good for all the right reasons; i.e., not for her "blow-job queen" lyrics that tricked out her initial revenge-of-the-nerdcore audience, and not for her sub-par (but still listenable) Aughts efforts. There is something about Liz Phair that has always managed to appeal to me: we are simpatico on a fundamental level--we are polarizing figures. We are loved and loathed in equal measures. Hard to know how to respond to such a world. What should we give it?  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.  So, ultimately, you're tempted to say "screw it," return to your roots and from this screwedness toss your audience a 'Funstyle.' This is what we have with Liz's latest effort. It can't be niched, and it can't be forgotten. But I predict I will be listening to it again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A miscellanea of things...

I noticed that David Jacobs has appeared on Coast To Coast to offer a defense of his practice in the face of "attacks" and "criticisms" of his work (as per the blurb on the C2C website). In fairness, I probably ought to listen to what he has to say, but I don't think that anything he could say would convince me of his side of the argument. I stopped paying attention to the standard abduction argument about a decade ago. Dr. Jacobs in particular bothered me with some of his more conspiratorial alarms concerning alien encroachment of, and gradual assimilation of, the human race by a presumed extraterrestrial species. While I won't rule out his scenario completely (there's always a chance of it happening), the evidence he musters in his defense is highly flawed. In essence, both he and Hopkins have constructed an elaborate and detailed model of "alien" and human interaction from flawed methodology and highly questionable evidence. Hard to believe that both he and Hopkins had me scared shitless about twenty years ago with these theories--which just goes to show that the demons of our imagination are far scarier than the real ones. At the time, I remember thinking that Phil Klass was incredibly naive for labeling Budd Hopkins as the "Typhoid Mary" of abduction research. Phil Klass?? The arch debunker? Turned out... he was right.

Which should demonstrate that while you are not obligated to apply the scientific method to a pseudo-scientific venture, it doesn't hurt to borrow what are the best aspects of science when studying the paranormal: objectivity, collection of evidence, repeatability (I believe that paranormal phenomena can be replicated), and above all, emotional detachment from "your" theories so that if your theories are proven false, you can easily discard them.

Which, in a nutshell, means that if you collect evidence in the wrong way (either ethically or procedurally), if the evidence is demonstrably flawed, I'm not going to bother to listen to any theories you construct on that evidence. And that's the bottom line. That's how science works. We did not drag ourselves from the dark ages of superstition and fantasy, to reach the height of technological achievement of being able to blow up several worlds based on what a supreme being tells us what to do, for naught.

The second thing I want to mention (unfortunately, I have no segue for this), concerns "sleep paralysis." This topic has come up quite a bit on paranormal shows and forums. Usually, "sleep paralysis" is offered as the scientific explanation of the various visions and experiences that experiencers associate with "abductions." While usually much of my writing addresses subjects that I know diddly squat about, I actually do know a bit about "sleep paralysis." Anyone who has experimented with out-of-body experiences is very familiar with the sleep paralysis stage: It is an in-between state where the ego consciousness begins to lose awareness of the physical body and transfers this awareness to (for lack of a better term) the "astral" body. I always know when an OOBE is about to happen: my physical body feels paralyzed. At this stage, you have essentially two choices: you can either push on out and try to launch yourself beyond your body, or you can try to reactivate the physical body and terminate the OOBE. This sleep paralysis state is frequently accompanied by various sounds; the most common sound is of rushing wind. Other sounds that I have "heard" include something that seems to be radio broadcasts, low-frequency rumblings, and--music. I really don't know why these sounds happen, or what they mean. They may not mean anything--they may just be an aspect of the out-of-body experience. But what I'd like to do for the next few blog entries is write about some of the things that I've encountered. I think that this is important because many people have experienced the paralysis state, accompanied by unusual sounds, right before the stereotypical "alien abduction." The skeptic points to this aspect and says, "Ah ha! You weren't abducted--you just had sleep paralysis." But for me, "sleep paralysis" is a validating experience--it indicates to me that you were undergoing a tangible experience, albeit non-physical, and that your encounters afterward were very "real."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Thoughts on David Jacobs' defense re: Emma Woods

Dr. David Jacobs has just posted a response to charges leveled by Emma Woods (or at least I just now noticed it). I found it on the George Knapp section via the Coast To Coast iPhone web app, strangely enough, which I almost never use. I don't follow the abduction subject in its current context and no longer have much of an interest in it. I'm not a party to any particular group advocating any specific approach to it. But the Emma Woods story is compelling on many levels, particularly as it illustrates (in my opinion) an apparent abuse of power by someone with the cloak of academic authority.

The gist of Dr. Jacobs self-defense can be summed up as: "Emma Woods is a very unstable individual who acted in a bizarre manner and who attacked me. She is probably mentally ill."

Of course, the paucity of this self-defense is apparent to any fair observer, as it was made by a person of some authority in academia (and in the intellectually incestuous world of UFOlogy) who stepped outside of his role as "oral historian" and humble reporter for the "Daily Planet" and became, instead, a super psychiatric therapist who quickly found himself out of his depth in dealing with very complex behavior. I've been there; I know the temptations, and I know the dangers. And I know that as someone who is barely qualified to deal with my own conscious problems, I might be tempted to think that I can help someone else navigate the truly scary world of the unconscious realm--but I cannot. Dr. Jacobs should have realized this immediately and acted appropriately. And that, in my opinion, is the bottom line of the Emma Woods story.

In a side note, I have dealt with someone who I believe suffered from borderline personality disorder. BPD is, from what I can surmise, a diagnosis in some debate among therapists. But as a pattern of behaviors, it seems well-defined to me. The person that I was involved with was online, so the "dealing with" aspect of it was very difficult. During the course of this involvement I researched BPD extensively and, after months of turmoil, found the tools that allowed me to break out of what was a very intense and destructive relationship. I, however, was not trying to be a therapist, and aside from the intensive negative feedback loop of the relationship, I don't see anything about Emma Woods' behavior to suggest Borderline Personality Disorder. Instead, my gut sense is that she is behaving as someone who has been repeatedly traumatized by something--the nature of which is unknown, and perhaps unknowable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Dreamland" on the Gateway Experience

Just finished listening to the recent Whitley Strieber Dreamland with Marla Frees describing her experience at the Monroe Institute. Robert Monroe is, of course, the father of modern OOBE studies and truly one of the greats in paranormal research. I stumbled upon his "Journeys Out Of The Body" as a college freshman, and this as well as his later works had a major influence on my personal philosophy. His approach was objective, devoid of mystical mumbo-jumbo, and completely divorced from mainstream religious philosophies (the same qualities that attracted me to Robert Butts' calm commentary throughout the Seth material). I wonder if Whitley elaborates anywhere on his discussions with Monroe. According to Strieber, Monroe had a galley copy of "Communion," and while we aren't told exactly what Monroe thought of the book, he did warn Whitley that he was in serious trouble for publishing it because the US government was deeply involved in the UFO phenomenon.

This particular theme--government and/or military involvement with the UFO phenomenon--has been hijacked by the conspiracy and "disclosure" movements (deliberately, perhaps, to discredit it), but that doesn't mean it's not there. It's not unlikely. No thinking person of the Republicratic party can't help but look at our government and be just a little bit afraid right now.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fiona Apple and Nick Redfern

No, the title is not meant to mislead; I'm trying to save time by writing about two things. I am on a quest for Fiona Apple bootlegs. As various people online have noted, they aren't easy to find. (Any sort of bootlegs aren't easy to find.) By "easy," I mean "free," as bootlegs ought to be. No one should make money off them. I actually do have a one-of-a-kind Fiona Apple bootleg that no one else in the world has, because I recorded it myself. But I would like more of her stuff from ten years ago or so. It's out there. I just have to find it.

I got around to listening to the excellent Nick Redfern being interviewed by the equally excellent George Knapp on Coast To Coast. There aren't too many new ideas in UFOlogy, which is why I stopped paying attention to the field a decade or more ago, but Nick Redfern has one... his research into the "Collins Elite" highlights a strain in UFOlogical thought that associates UFOs with "demons." Particularly, he mentioned the concept that the beings who appear as "aliens" are actually inter-dimensional beings who harvest human souls (cattle genitalia was not specified). Whitley Strieber has mentioned this idea, as well as the link between Aleister Crowley with the birth of contemporary UFO sightings. The theory, in a nutshell, is that Crowley attempted to contact inter-dimensional beings, and he succeeded to such a degree that he opened a "portal" that allowed these entities to come through. It's an interesting idea, and I've never quite heard it articulated like this by other UFO researchers. The reason that I find it interesting is that I personally suspect that the universe (both physical and what we regard as non-physical) has quite a bit of consciousness crawling around it. There's certainly abundant anecdotal evidence of this. And if this is true, we're liable to encounter all sorts of paranormal entities from, practically, anywhere.

My personal gut feeling is that the manifestations that we call "greys" might be associated with mythological archetypes that our ancestors called "demons." The nature of the entities is unknown.

In my youth, my family and I had a number of UFO sightings. Much of the UFO literature during this time was neutral on the nature of these phenomena. Interestingly, though, the dreams (or rather nightmares) that I had concerning UFOs during this same period depicted these manifestations as distinctly malevolent (which is not the same thing as "evil").

Redfern also notes that the "Collins Elite" speculated that these entities sought to be perceived as "real"; that they could only manifest in our reality when we focused on them and "believed" in them--another Strieber idea.

Who knows? Perhaps in a couple of centuries, we humans might have advanced enough to haunt another reality and become "aliens" ourselves.

Now, having said all that--if you have any Fiona Apple bootlegs to trade, let me know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The paranormal paradox

I've been pondering a truism that I sort of coined... that while paranormal phenomena are undoubtedly "real," the most vocal and visible proponents of said phenomena are frequently exposed as fraudulent.  I think that this paradox can be understood only in the context of a self-regulating system. What better way to enforce conformity to the accepted laws governing our physical world, than by the punishment of miscreants who try to peek behind the metaphorical curtain?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thoughts on the "Catherine" EVP

I'm by no means an audio engineer--not even close--but I know my way around audio files, and I've spent the past few days listening to the Catherine EVP, hoping that something would jump out at me. My gut impression is that the recording is a valid EVP, primarily because if someone wanted to fake an EVP, he could have done a better job of it. The recording is very primitive and downright strange. Its strange tonal quality reminds me of the EVP presented by Brendan Cook and Barbara McBeath of the Ghost Investigator's Society. Genuine EVP sound slightly mechanical--almost computer-generated. If you've ever heard speech converted to audio by a cheap transcription program, you know what I mean. And I do get hear that "mechanical" timbre in this file.

Not having to software to analyze the file, I did something that I often did to audio files when I was a teen--I listened to the file slowed down to approximately half speed. A couple of things stand out. First, the music: I don't recognize it. It would be interesting if anyone could identify it. (It would also be significant if it *couldn't* be identified.). It almost sounds like music captured by an external microphone from a low-fi source, like a radio. Such a "recording of a recording" adds a slight but recognizable layer of noise that audiophiles can pick out; but I can't hear it here, which is a bit unsettling. Slowed down, the music practically disappears and I hear instead a loud and oscillating vibrational monotone.

At the three-second mark there is a very noticeable artifact that sounds like an externally generated "bump," like the sound of someone jarring a table while recording with an external mic. At half-speed, however, this artifact is noticeably louder and sounds more like a "break," electronic in quality, like the electrical noise created when microphone is plugged to a recorder while recording.

The voice of a woman (Oh, Catherine") intrudes at the last second and is cut off in mid-word. Slowed down to half speed, however, I notice something interesting. The "oh" is at normal pitch even at half speed, and the pitch drops rapidly during the "Catherine" portion. So the speaker starts at a very high pitch (above the audible range) and rapidly modulates downward in pitch. This rapid drop in pitch would be difficult to produce in a natural recording.

I'm not saying that all this "proves" that the recording is an EVP, or that this is even distinctive. But having been a careful listener all my life (going to far as to run my turntable backwards to incontrovertibly hear "Paul is dead" on the White Album), I think it's interesting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Intriguing EVP

Tennyson, originally uploaded by an0nym0n0us.

I came across an interesting and, potentially verifiable, bit of EVP. It can be found on Jeffrey Long's site, After Death Communication, which I regard as credible. I visit it several times a week. Dr. Long posts testimonials from people who have experienced what they consider to be communications from deceased relatives or loved ones. Accounts such as these are practically universal; taken alone, they are intriguing; taken together, the weight of their evidence almost compels any except the most materialistic skeptic that after-death communication exists.

What is interesting about Catherine's account and attached EVP is that it was apparently generated by the deceased and sent to Catherine via Yahoo! Messenger, from the decedent's Messenger account, after death. I know of no known example of this form of EVP occurring, with the resultant file available for the public to analyze. (Yes, I know all about Spiricom, but Spiricom has been debunked.) I've heard of individuals receiving after-death phone calls, and have heard of people receiving digital communications from the deceased, but again--I'm not aware of the files being made available for public analysis.

As an aside, Catherine states that she tried to contact prominent New Agers John Edward and Carolyn Myss with this information and was ignored.

I've tried to find what I can about the file by downloading some audio analysis software, but haven't been too successful. However, according to iTunes, the EVP is a 34 KB .mp3 file encoded at 32 kbps mono (low quality) with the author indicated as "adough_girl" (apparently, the Messenger account of the decedent). I don't use Yahoo! Messenger and am unfamiliar with the audio codecs used. I know that at one time, Messenger encoded (compressed) audio files with the DSP True Speech codec, but I honestly don't know.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An olive branch to the New Age movement

Yesterday I wrote a long diatribe re: the New Age movement, but I didn't post it; I try to write when I'm dispassionate. Otherwise I come out sounding dumber than usual. In the past months, I did have several posts trashing some recent guests on Coast To Coast, but I've withdrawn those, too. I don't want to fight anymore. I don't really enjoy attacking beliefs. The New Age is not a philosophy; it's not a science; it's not a perspective: it's a belief. People are entitled to believe what they want without harassment. As a Progressive who voted for Mr. Change, that is the credo I live by.

Science is all about debate, proving and disproving. Philosophy involves critical examination of viewpoints that, to an extent, can be weighed and tested. Beliefs can only be affirmed or attacked.  "So what," I think, "if Bruce Goldberg appears on Coast To Coast and claims to be a time traveler from 10,000 years in the future, what's the harm in that?" If people want to believe this rubbish, let them.

My love-hate relationship with the New Age movement goes back years.

At this stage of my life, however, I want to extend the New Age an olive branch. I won't ridicule your silly beliefs any more. After all, I was once one of you. I've attended New Age conferences and read Shirley MacClaine. I ended my subscription of "Fate" magazine in 1999 because I was convinced that the world would end soon after and I didn't want to squander my money. I've dabbled in bunches of stuff that most New Agers aren't aware ever existed. Remember biorhythms? I studied those. I have a grand trine AND a grand cross in my horoscope, from a horoscope that I charted on paper before there were computers. I've handled crystals.

So, what happened?  Well, for one, the world didn't end. Disclosure didn't occur. Sylvia Browne was exposed as a fraud--on Coast To Coast, no less! Hillary stopped going to seances.  It wasn't one thing, but many little ones, over the years, to the morning when I rolled out of bed, looked in the mirror and said, "I don't believe."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kim Carlsberg on Paratopia

Some preliminary thoughts...

I haven't listened to the post-interview portion yet, but I was struck by one significant aspect of the Kim Carlsberg experience--the two-dimensional quality to it. It's the same two-dimensional quality that I found in the string of "abduction" episodes that the Paracast recently, and inexplicably, aired. Even Coast To Coast, which strives to be the modern equivalent of a traveling county fair medicine show, features abduction accounts that rarely depart from the script.

When I first began about these accounts in the early '80s, beginning with Budd Hopkins' "Missing Time," these abduction scenarios intruded into my psyche with brutal chilliness. Practically everyone who studied these accounts (except maybe Phil Klass) were likewise terrified. The Human Abduction Syndrome (as it's now called) was possibly our worst human nightmare, and it brought forth a new breed of researchers (Hopkins, Jacobs) to confront them.

What's remarkable to me now--beyond the lack of terror that these accounts evoke--is that these abduction account all sound alike now, and they no longer strike me as being "real." Which is not to say that they are total confabulations; just that they do not come across as flesh-and-blood, time-and-space experiences. Sorta like the Wicked Witch of the West, after she's had some water tossed on her. The accounts are strangely uniform, which does not make a lot of sense. Physical experiences are messy, prone to mistakes. They disrupt; not only should they leave traces, they ought to leave gaping holes, particularly after thirty years of mass abductions.

One aspect of the abduction experience that goes largely unnoticed now is that, at the time, there was a specific timetable mentioned by several abductees. Several abductees pointed specifically to the year 2000 as the time when the "aliens" would accomplish their tasks. This dovetailed nicely with date cited by a slew of New Age prognosticators who foresaw an "axis shift" and a general worldwide calamity that year (which might still occur, in any event).

It's possible that when 2000 came and went without a crisis (the election of George Bush notwithstanding), we stopped paying attention.

But I think something else is going on.

There were--and still are--core experiences of a few people that take the appearance of "abductions." These core experiences resonated with a large segment of the Western public, creating a sort of mini-hysteria, and an empathetic response by anyone who has suffered some psychic trauma.

Or, to interpret it in "Sethian" terms, there was an intrusion in the mass consciousness of an event that was essentially non-physical, but quite profound, and reverberated in the dreams and nightmares of quite a few people for a number of years.

(I noted that Ms. Carlsberg had read "Seth Speaks," but unlike her, I am very skeptical of "channeling.")

Ms. Carlsberg defended herself by saying that whole swaths of the human experience (such as love) are very real, but also intangible and non-physical. She is correct, but she curiously does not apply this insight to her own abduction experiences.

If she and other abductees were to dig a bit deeper, we might be able to advance our understanding of the Human Abduction Syndrome.

Despite this, I am actually believe that progress is being made in understanding this phenomenon. We can be reasonably sure what the phenomenon is not--it is not a mass human breeding program conducted by biological entities from another physical planet. It is not a conservation attempt at saving the human race in advance of a planetary disaster. (It *might,* however, be a type of forced evolution of the human race, a sort of accelerated evolution, but it may not be physical in origin.)

Epic history changes in human history are likely presaged by all sorts of psychic manifestations and trauma; we only understand these changes much later, long after the fact. We may, in fact, be well down the path of change and simply not know it.

Future developments in the human consciousness will, I believe, explain (or allow us to understand) the Human Abduction Syndrome... what it actually is, what it actually means. Just as today, we no longer see it as terrifying; perhaps tomorrow, we will no longer regard it as alien.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Raymond Moody on Coast To Coast and Dreamland

Caught Raymond Moody on "Coast To Coast" earlier, and am currently listening to him on "Dreamland." Everyone, of course, is familiar with his seminal works on "life after life," which I've read over the years. I also have some of his more obscure books. Despite the fact that he sounds like Dannion Brinkley (both are Southerners), I have always found him credible. Being a credentialed physician adds heft to his theories (although this academic gloss cannot begin to redeem Bruce Goldberg, Steven Greer and the like).

Dr. Moody has a unique and (IMO) important perspective on the NDE subject--he believes that within five years, we will be able to logically establish the validity of life after death; not by scientific evidence, but by a shift in thought and the employment of new logical methods and tools. Of course, where the mind goes, technology soon follows, so it may not be long before we develop the mechanical interface with this "other world." This is, I think, what Whitley Strieber is suggesting in his recent postings, and it agrees with what I've read by other credible thinkers.

This shift in awareness will, over time, fundamentally change not only our relationship with physical earth, but also with each other. What we will be left with is a direct connection with the greater reality that is, according to many thinkers, our true home. It can't happen soon enough, and if we are lucky, it will happen just in time. Here's my drop into the ocean of hope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Almost thou persuadeth me to believe in the ETH

Timothy Good, Coast To Coast, August 30, 2010

Timothy Good is a proponent of the old skool "extra-terrestrial hypothesis" who nevertheless I've always enjoyed listening to. He always *sounds* credible, although I have not done the homework necessary to verify the volumes of information he presents--which, I think, would be required before the serious student of the paranormal invested too much belief in it.

I've learned to filter out the dubious stories and the exopolitical-type buzzwords: "hybrids," "disclosure," "cover-up," which cropped up regularly in Good's interview. Usually, in fact, I stop listening when a researcher drops these words because they have become owned by the exopolitical movement. Still, I won't dismiss outright the notion of hybrids or a cover-up; I just think that the evidence for these things is not as solid as ETH schoolers think it is.

Regarding hybrids, for example. I have always thought the Bill Chalker "Hair Of The Alien" story to be very intriguing. Ingo Swann also mentioned hybrid-type beings in "Penetration: The Question of Extraterrestrial and Human Telepathy." It's hard to prove a negative.

Whole swaths of Timothy Good's information is, as he disclaims, over twenty years old, and he is no longer current on exopolitical jive. What remains of his claims are so fantastic as to be unfathomable. The notion, for example, that Vice President Dan Quayle vetted Ringling Brothers to assemble a traveling exhibit of crashed alien paraphernalia. Mr. Good claims to have been invited to oversee this enterprise but could not participate because he could not get a connecting flight in time.

Still--still, there was some stuff he mentioned that I thought significant, and I wished I had the time to delve into. "Everyone," of course, knows that George Adamski was a fraud, but Mr. Good finds him credible on the basis of his alleged meetings with the CIA and one meeting with President Kennedy. Presumably, Adamski's family confirmed these meetings. If, in fact, the meetings can be proven (or disproved), we can finally write Mr. Adamski off. (I do remember hearing an interview with George Adamski's son and concluded that the son was no more credible than his father.)

And significantly, Good mentions the Aztec crash. Forget Roswell--I think that the Aztec "crash," and the vehicle presumably recovered from it, might be the best hope to substantiating the ETH.

While I think that there is a huge paranormal dimension to the UFO experience, I believe that we are probably observing many different phenomena, having different causes. I think that location-based paranormal phenomena (like Gilliland's ranch) might be archetypal in nature--ancient phenomena that seem to follow rigid patterns, while still responding to the unconscious beliefs of the experiencers. We shouldn't assume that "we" have been the only advanced race to inhabit this planet; there might have been others, and they might have left mechanisms at various places around the world that appear, to us, to be conscious, supernatural beings. We also can't rule out the extra-dimensional theories--mostly because they are so handy at explaining a lot of stuff that our current physics can't. And, I still believe, we can't rule out the ETH. After all--it just takes one crashed saucer to prove it.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

other-worldly scene

20100928 007, originally uploaded by an0nym0n0us.

Many who view photos of the carillons at the Nashville Bicentennial Mall are appropriate spooked by them. I do not buy the William Henry notion that there's some sort of occult symbolism behind the layout of this mall, but I will concede that these bells would make a nice UFO landing pad.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cool new HDR iPhone app

IMG_0611, originally uploaded by an0nym0n0us.

The app is called HDR Pro and is available in the Apple app store for about a dollar. I discovered it while reading a tech analysis of iPhone's iOS 4 HDR function (which is okay but no great shakes).

I am admittedly not a good photographer, so I have to resort to trickery to get my photos looked at on Flickr, where I've forked over $36 annually for a pro membership for five years. (I quit posting shots of women in bikinis a while back, to the chagrin of most of my Flickr followers.)

I like to experiment with different photo methods in an attempt (so far, a vain one) in translating into pixels what I actually see in my head. And HDR impresses me.

We all know about "orb" photos and various other attempts to capture the unseen with photography. We all know that the bulk of paranormal photography can be explained conventionally. But I believe that the invisible can be photographed, with the right equipment and, perhaps, with novel methods such as HDR--which is essentially a composite of two or more shots of the same scene framed at different exposures.

I have taken maybe two--perhaps three--genuinely paranormal photos in my life. But I hope that with HDR I might capture a few more. Why? Because HDR manipulates both light and time to create the composite. And the paranormal "likes" to play with both.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Paratopia moving to a subscription model

Was a bit surprised that Jeff and Jer are moving to a subscription model for their podcast / forum. But it's this sort of audacious, DIY ethic that has propelled their enterprise. And I think it's a smart move. If only a fraction of their downloaders subscribe, they should be able comfortably finance the podcast. I'm also looking forward to the private forums. I don't really participate in public forums, for several reasons... a.) I don't think I really have anything to say, and b.) the nothing I have to say, I don't say well. (True, I blog here, but fortunately, no one reads it.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nazi UFOs?

An idea that I'm seeing gain increasing currency on the paranormal talk shows is the concept of "Nazi UFOs," specifically, the argument that the Roswell crash was not "alien" but instead contraband Nazi equipment, piloted by either the Nazis themselves (from bases in South America) or by Americans.

It's almost as if we have to replace an unlikely theory (the ETH) with an absurd one.

I've never read any of the books arguing the Nazi UFO connection. And no, it's not a case of don't-bother-me-with-the-facts-my-mind-is-made-up.

It's just that I'm a fair student not only of World War Two history but also of twentieth-century technology in general. Not only is there no evidence in the official histories that the Third Reich came anywhere near approaching the capability of mastering the physics involved--not a hint--but there's much to argue against it.

Indeed, the Nazis blundered greatly in their anti-semitism and opposition to non-classical physics by causing not only Albert Einstein to flee Germany but other prominent scientists as well.

You could argue that Hitler *might* have won the war but for this tragic and moral flaw; but the Nazis' persecution of the Jews stemmed from a skewed moral as well as scientific sensibility.

The Nazi UFO proponents get around this by hinting at the even more bizarre notion that Himmler and gang consorted with eastern mystics and dabbled in black (but non-Jewish) magic, as if a practice that barely can find you a vacant parking place will get you a UFO.

I see more than a hint of revisionism in all this Nazi UFO talk. I don't want to see philosophical and political overtones in it, but I do.

The nice thing about the ETH is that when you apply it to the UFO puzzle, you gotta admit, most of the parts fit. No, they don't fit well, but as a placeholder theory, it has it's advantages.

Throw it out--throw out Hopkins and Jacobs--and what are you left with? A wide open mystery, begging to be researched, and a fertile ground for some dark conspiracies.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meditation on a fragment of the Seth material...

One recurring theme in the Seth material examines the development of the modern human ego, and its deliberate separation from 'nature.' This concept is difficult to wrap the Western mind around, since we have difficulty imagining any state of consciousness other than the 'default' one. Yet, Seth argues, the modern ego is an artificial and (relatively) recent development--an experiment that has been largely successful. Through the objectified conscious ego, mankind (and womankind) has created the material world that we know--the iPods, the mass transit (except in Tennessee), the literature, the music, the edifices, the politics, the religions--the trappings of modern life.

So immersed we have become in our objectified reality that we assume that it is all that is. When intrusions from other realities--other states of consciousness--pass across our awareness, we mark these intrusions as alien, or demonic, or supernatural.

If we study these intrusions, however, we can be reminded of the greater reality that encloses our contemporary one. So.... where others see a UFO, or a haunting, or (even) angels, I see something else. I see these as an invitation to fashion an awareness of a different reality.

It is here that Whitley Strieber's writings dovetail with the Seth material. Seth states that it was part of the "grand design" that humanity, after creation of the objectified ego and elaborate material world, would ultimately return to the unity with nature. We would reach a point in our physical world where we could travel no further in our current path. The road would end. We must evolve--or die as a species.  I think that most objective commentators would agree that we are starting to hit quite a few "road endings" in our physical world. We have exceeded capacity and can go no further.

It is at this juncture that signposts would appear for a return to 'nature' (or as Seth would define it, the greater reality that supports the specialized Western ego consciousness).  This is what I, personally, see these anomalous occurrences as representing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Powerful enemies, powerful friends

Remote viewer Joe McMoneagle was once asked if there was a singular cause for the development of remote viewing abilities in children. He paused, then said that in almost all cases, there had been a history of childhood abuse or neglect.  For me, this statement became one of my personal touchstones in approaching the paranormal; it became a core truth.

Does abuse or neglect in childhood mark the individual as a lifelong target and victim?  I think so.  I live in constant awareness that someone, somewhere--without warning--will attack me, unprovoked. I was marked as a victim at an early age, and no matter where I go, or what role I am playing, predators will read my victim sign--visible only to them--and move in for the kill.

I have never succeeded in ridding myself of that early mark. Fortunately for me, however, I find that I have inner resources that rise to my defense. I see in advance that a attack is coming. I discern the thoughts and plans of my attackers. Hunches will guide me to take one path instead of another.  And through my experiences I have learned to trust that inner guidance, knowing that while we may have powerful enemies, we also have powerful friends.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top Ten reasons why Liz Phair is cool and deserves to be cool again.

10. Funstyle. I was about to spring for the digital copy, but I discovered yesterday that it's being issued as a double CD with some Girlysounds demos for a not-bad price.

9.  Her demos and rough outtakes are superior to the final studio product.

8.  Her live shows are on par with, if not superior to, her studio work. The true test of a musician is how good he/she is. live.

7. She dissed Capitol records.

6. She embarrassed some Jehovah's Witnesses in 1996 who came to the door while I was playing "Chopsticks" on the stereo.

5.  She is a fan of Soviet art and once declared herself a "Russian girl."

4.  That photo-shoot she did in the desert.

3. David Byrne gave her a good intro on "Sessions at West 54th."

2.  Yeah, she made some sucky commercial albums, but you gotta admit that, by commercial standards, they weren't bad.

1.  She made her sucky commercial albums in the suckiest decade of all, the '00s.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


It's been a little over two years since I've been raised a Master Mason. I can't think of any system of thought that has had a more subtly profound influence on my life than Masonry. To those who are active in it, you know. To those who aren't, I invite you to check into it.

Some join Masonry for limited reasons--the illusion of "personal advancement," or for monetary gain, or for power. I joined because a series of events and coincidences dropped bread crumbs in front of me, and I followed them. In retrospect, I realized that Freemasonry was placed in my path by forces that understood that this was the very doctrine and discipline I needed to turn my life around.

Since joining, I've devoted myself to a study of the ritual. The Masonic ritual is quite ornate and is undoubtedly ancient. In it, there are echoes of death-and-rebirth ceremonies that pre-date Christianity. Did the historic Masons cleverly appropriate these practices for obscure reasons? Or is Freemasonry, in fact, a contemporary manifestation of a ritual that has survived, in one form or another, since the beginning of our current civilization? And is there still transformative power in that ritual? I won't divulge my answer. But if you would like to find your own answer, I invite you to check out Freemasonry.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My grandfather describes the after-life in a dream from 1987

....My grandfather was there, a fact that astounded me, since he is dead. The scene was vivid and life-like. No one seemed to see my grandfather except me. I got the impression that he was appearing to me because of my interest in the life-after- death state. We had a long conversation. His main point was that he was staying at a place that was very much like the physical earth. He stated that often the newly deceased will rearrange small, personal items of symbolic value in the homes of relatives to gain their attention and to prove that they are in a state similar to those who are alive. He stated that the dead coexist with the living on the physical earth, that they are aware of the living, but that the living cannot see them. I remarked that his plane must be a very big place, for there are more dead than living, but then I realized that I had read the reason for this elsewhere. Another major point was that the dead and living share the same physical landmarks and features, but they are used by each in different ways. Amazed, I asked whether in his world there was a Canada north of the US, and he smiled as though I had missed his point.

Dream of the after-death state from 2001

This morning I dreamed that I was visiting the after-death world. This was a long and elaborate dream; in the main part, I was hanging around some people, asking questions. There were several people that I was asking. The gist of the information is that in this particular level that I was in, the world was pretty much identical to the physical world. I asked about marriage, and they said that you remain married to the person that you were married to in life. I realized that this is the origin of reports that I had gotten about extended families being close-by after death. A woman said something about not doing something or she would get hurt, and I asked what happened if the body in this after-world got injured or severely damaged; she said that it would have to be "burned" but it would be replaced. I got the impression that there were physical distances of a sort to be traversed; there were locations, etc., which would explain the difficulty in the dead to travel to, and communicate with, the living. However, I got the impression that I could visit this area without difficulty.

Finally replaced the smoke alarm battery

The smoke alarm went off about a month ago; we had to remove the battery to stop it. There was no fire or even smoke. Simultaneously, in another house, another smoke alarm went off at the same time. We think it was tripped by the restless spirit of a woman who died violently in a car crash a couple of weeks earlier. After her death, bedsheets were moved without cause, and children saw her image at a local playground. I have read (somewhere) that an entity has three days after death to "go to the light," and if this does not happen, the entity is trapped in the near-earth astral plane for an indefinite time. I would like to hope that this is not absolutely true. However, the gruesomeness of her death, the vivid signals that she left afterward, and, finally, the smoke alarm, convinced me that she was not only a powerful spirit but also very unsettled, and I have been afraid to tamper with whole experience until now.

After all, what is to stop her from tripping the smoke alarm again?

Monday, September 6, 2010

In defense of Monica Holy

I'm currently back-listening to the Coast To Coast episode with Ian Punnett and Monica Holy. I always enjoy listening to Ms. Holy. I purchased and read her book and probably ought to re-read it; I didn't absorb much from it on first read, which means that I should give it a second look.

However, whilst Googling "Monica Holy" I stumbled upon a blog critiquing the "unholy Ian Punnett" and (by implication) even less holy Ms. Holy. The writer seems quite affronted by the New Agey-ness of Ms. Holy, and the apparent enabling Ian Punnett (who, in my opinion, is the most thoughtful of the C2C hosts by leagues, even when I don't agree with him).

I guess I'm finally too old to become angry over the opinions of others. A writer that I particularly admire, Christopher Hitchens, is bothering to defend atheism by debating a non-athiest in Birmingham tomorrow. I say that he is "bothering" to debate the issue because, sooner rather than later, he will likely find out whether he is wrong or right on the God issue--as so we all shall. I mean, this is just an incontrovertible, inarguable fact. He will find out. And so what his opinion is on the matter is not really important. I think he should be allowed to have his opinion, if it inspires him to continue to write as well as he has. I disagree with him, but I enjoy his writing.

It is for that reason that I've removed several of the "debunking" entries to this blog... those were the entries that were getting all the hits, and debunking is not what I'm about. Most people with a high-school equivalent education can sort out the frauds for themselves anyway, soon or later.

Ms. Holy would probably characterize herself as "New Age," and she references several New Age personalities, which does not add credit to her work. Sylvia Browne has been debunked into the ground; Alison Dubois likewise, though not as publicly; just check out the Phoenix New Times article referenced in her Wikipedia article (which should be required reading for anyone venturing into this field). I remember reading Wayne Dyer's "self-help" books in the '70s, and it seems to me that he is just hitching his wagon to the New Age field in the 00s because this is what sells books now. However, just as I am not bothered by the opinions of others, I try to differentiate between credible actors in the New Age field and those who are mercenary shills. And I find Monica Holy credible. The "fringe-dweller" activities that she describes in her nocturnal experiences has been well-documented in the esoteric literature. I've experienced it myself as well. And for me, the acid test always is personal experience. So... my recommendation is to keep an open mind on the issue. And I will write more later on some of the experiences that can be had in the "fringe."

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Been thinking a lot today.  No, not about one of my fav Ben Folds songs; about dreams. In a recent Paratopia (not sure which one, but it was recent), Jeremy Vaeni went to some length downplaying the entertainment value of dreams. He's touched on this a few times before, so I imagine that it's a pet peeve of his. And everyone has a pet peeve. (Mine is Ramtha.)

Regrettably, he's probably right. The dreams of most people are boring because, well, the minds and lives of most people (I won't exclude myself) are boring.

Having kept a fairly complete dream journal for, well... a long time, I can think of only a handful of my dreams that would interest the general public.

Which is not to say that I haven't learned a lot. It's just that dreams--and here is my Joseph Campbell moment--essentially compose a personal mythology, and personal myths rarely translate well for anyone else but that person.

The paucity of merit that plagues much New Age-think is down to that--some Joe Schmoe who, a time or two, had a supernatural insight and thought to parlay this into a universal revelation.

Add that to the fact that most minds--conscious or otherwise--are largely unexamined, and we have a lethal combination of inexplicability masquerading as revelation.

Even brilliant writers fall prey. As many excellent words as have been pinned by Whitley Strieber, my first thought on completing "The Key" was that he should have taken a step or two away from the subject matter and written something better.  Because, to me, much of what his mysterious stranger attempts to reveal, really doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and the part that does, causes me to disbelieve him.  "The Key" is a personal revelation that may, or may not, have universal application.

This is all very subjective, I realize. I've spent years studying the Seth material because I find value there. Many people dismiss the Seth material as indecipherable.

The handful of my personal dreams that I think might be interesting fall into two categories: My precognitive ones, because they prove (to me) that the concept of time that we are taught by classic science is very flawed; and my dream encounters with the dead, because the information that I've been given in them proves (to me) that consciousness survives.  Would these dreams interest anyone else? Maybe.

I can say, however, that in my extensive dream study, I have had to radically adjust my beliefs about physical life and how our world operates, and I think I can persuade skeptics who are wedded to the classic materialistic worldview that there is an alternative.

Just like every other New Age-think person.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Well! Looks like it's possible.

While I'm at it, allow me to weigh in on the iPhone 4 debacle.

I went ahead and purchased the iPhone 4 with full knowledge of the external antenna "issue." So, I bought a simple case-type covering for it. I've had zero issues with the iPhone 4, with or without the case. I've tried to hold the iPhone the "wrong" way and had no decrease in signal strength. And I've had no other issues with the 4.

We have short memories. The first gen iPhone, which I bought in '07, was plagued with glitches. The most serious, for me, involved the failure of the device to switch back and forth from headphone mode. What this meant was that, for me and thousands of others, if you unplugged the Apple-issued headphones, the iPhone did not switch back to regular mode, and you were unable to make calls. You could hear the caller, but the caller could not hear you. This was a major bug; various remedies were posted (one YouTube showed you how to clean out the headphone jack with a q-tip), but nothing worked. I has an appointment at an Apple store to swap out my phone. The morning of the appointment, I had a dream that my iPhone had started working. I woke up, checked the phone, and the dreaded "(headphones)" designation was gone. (A subsequent firmware patch fixed it finally.)

And have we forgotten the crappy 3G reception of the iPhone 3G? Apparently... because I never see it mentioned anymore. Point is, every initial iPhone run has had some sort of issue. But not until the 4G did these bugs become matters of cosmic importance. I'm not a Mac fanboy... My everyday box is Ubuntu, which I like a lot. I have a really good Dell with Windows 7, which is also a good OS. But for mobile, I prefer the iPhone... And likely always will. Naysayers argue that Apple just refined the innovativions of others, but I disagree. The iPhone was a radical device in '07. Steve Jobs went out on a big limb: the "no-keyboard" keyboard... the "walled garden" of iTunes being the primary software interface... the App Store. They've all worked. And the iPhone has gone from being a revolutionary device to a very good, solid, and useful device (even with still-crappy battery life). So if you are leaning toward getting one--get it.

Posting to Blogger by iPhone and mobile Safari...

Possible? Or impossible? I'm about to find out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some initial thoughts on John Gillanders (Paratopia episode 73)

I skipped ahead to hear this one (still haven't listened to the prior two, or the "curtain call"), mostly because it's a subject that people in the paranormal field talk around alot, but rarely discuss in detail: the subject of OOBEs, and how (or if) the experience is different from that of "sleep paralysis" or "lucid dreams." So I have to give John Gillanders cudos for putting himself out there in that way. It took him a while to get started, and there was a bit of reverb in his recording, but once he got started, he had some interesting points to make. Haven't heard the classic Jeff and Jer after-chat yet, so my initial impression is untainted, as it were.

A slight criticism: There's a reason that the two-host paranormal podcast is better than the usual one-host--the "other" tends to keep the "one" grounded. And Gillanders probably would have benefited from some grounding. But he made some salient observations, and I have little doubt that he has experienced genuine OOBEs. (In any case, I don't have the guts to do a podcast like he did, so I have no basis for criticism.)

I got burned online about a decade ago while discussing OOBEs; it's a long story, but short story is that I got ridiculed in a very public forum for broaching my experiences (after I was sharply attacked personally), so I've never written about them since.

Nonetheless, whereas most of us may never see a UFO, or a ghost, most of us can have an OOBE, once a few basic techniques are learned. So this is the easiest (and probably the safest) gateway into an altered framework that a human can experience.

Like Gillanders, I was initiated into the craft by the late, great Robert Monroe. Surprisingly, I found his "Journeys Out Of The Body" in clear view, in my college library. I don't remember him elaborating on any techniques, but if I tried anything he mentioned, I did not have an OOBE.

I actually did not become a repeat-OOBE'r until I read Seth / Jane Roberts' "Dreams and Projections Of Consciousness" in 1986, and like Gillanders's experience, once I had cracked open the book, I had my first vivid OOBE that very night. It was as if some part of me was triggered by the book, and my conscious-aware part granted the other part permission.

Since that time I've had a number of OOBEs, which I have documented through the years. Not only have I been "observed" by others while out of the body, I've found verification for some of the more puzzling aspects of the OOBE phenomenon--such as projecting through a room and seeing, not the room as it actually physically appears--but, instead, a reverse-mirror image of it. I've traveled back (and forward) in time (though nothing quite as dramatic as Whitley Strieber's recent experience). I've put my hand up to walls and felt the slight resistance that many experiencers feel, only to feel my hand break through to the other side of it.

In a nutshell, I've had many OOBEs, and I've remembered them, and I've gathered enough personal evidence to demonstrate to me that the experience is "real." It is not a dream; it is not a hallucination. The experiences that one has in a valid OOBE are just as objectively "real" as one has in physical life.

Personally, I think that tremendous knowledge of the edges of our physical reality can be gained from observing the out-of-body experience. And once you've had a vivid OOBE, your essential orientation to physical existence is altered--because you realize that consciousness is, essentially, non-physical... and from this awareness, you can begin to question many of the root assumptions that govern our politics, our religions, and our sciences.

Hopefully this episode will be one of many.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bart Ehrman on Coast To Coast March 13 (thumbs up)

Just got around to listening to this episode and really did not know what to expect; Ian Punnett has hosted some strange guests with some questionable opinions of late; but a show on Biblical textual criticism is right down my alley, and I enjoyed it.

I was surprised that Ian Punnett, who is an ordained minister, would invite a guest who argues agnosticism from a post-Christian perspective. I didn't listen to the call-in portion, but I can imagine that it was a bit hot--just as you don't question the principle tenets of Islam in Saudi Arabia, you don't question Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. of A. But what interested me about the show is how my life path mirrored, in a very superficial way, Ehrman's life path. He started out as a committed fundamentalist (or, perhaps more accurately, a strict constructionist of the Biblical writings), to a period of equivocation where he tried to reconcile his beliefs with the contradictions that life experience presented him, to, finally, agnosticism. (Though I have passed through my agnostic phase.) The show was, at the very least, a useful antidote to the extreme religiosity that characterizes much of American life (on the surface, at least). I've seen the pendulum swing several times in my life, so perhaps it's swinging back around again.

As someone who believes in an afterlife and, in a non-specific way, to entities and forces higher than myself, I wasn't really bothered by Ehrman's agnosticism. It didn't threaten my opinions. But then, I think that most Americans are reared with an automatic sense of entitlement to telling others what and how to think (and bombing them if they resist); and if life experience does not succeed in knocking this out of us, then, perhaps, episodes like this might cause us to begin to backtrack, if only marginally.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An introduction to my brief early UFO experiences

Beginning at about the age of 10, and ending a few years later, I witnessed quite a few objects in the sky above my rural Tennessee home that I could not explain. I actually went through the trouble of drawing the objects at the time, but I have no idea where the drawing is, now, or if it is even relevant. Many people witnessed these objects in those days; one could make the argument that my local area was a bit of a hotbed of UFOlogical activity.

Though the subsequent decades have caused me to second-guess my experiences, I am left with one vivid memory of a series of sightings from the early '70s: that of the ubiquitous metallic disc, floating--and on one occasion--falling, though the crisp blue Tennessee sky.

A recent Paracast interview with Scott Ramsey regarding the "Aztec Crash" (or landing) actually caused me to make a connection or two with my experiences. I bothered to listen to Mr. Ramsey because he struck me as extremely level-headed, diligent, and--most probably--correct in arguing that the object that descended over Aztec, New Mexico in the late '40s was nuts-and-bolts in nature. But it was his singular description of the object that resonated with me--the metallic, circular object falling like a leaf from the sky. Because this is exactly what I saw. Once seen, it's never forgotten.

Any student of the literature knows that this was a common description of UFO behavior in those years. Despite the peculiarity of this behavior, it's also quite tangible and consistent in a field where there's little consistency.

So for every argument that can be made that most UFO sightings are "most probably" non-physical manifestations (because they leave no physical trace and behave in a distinctly non-physical way), I still believe that what I saw those years ago--and what many others also saw--were arguably physical objects (I hesitate to use the word "craft"). If, indeed, one of these landed in Aztec, and was scooped up by the "military," so much the better.

This was neither the beginning, nor the end, of my relationship with the UFO subject, but I consider it the nexus. I stopped seeing unidentified objects around the age of fifteen. For a long time, I wondered why they no longer appeared. My rational mind assumed that with the growth of Nashville, and the increase in aircraft in the area, the UFOs simply were afraid to show up. I finally realized that the UFOs were probably still "there"--I just could no longer see them.

As a side note, I'm just now finishing up theblackfridays podcast with Jeremy Vaeni. I think that his kundalini-type experiences are common; I've had them, and I've read of many other accounts. But I think that Jeremy is smart to re-contextualize his early religious experience in light of his later kundalini encounters. Most people who encounter these types of forces or energies don't stop to critically examine them, but rather allow themselves to be imprinted with their first impressions. Hence, the experiencer who encounters the extreme bliss state while reading Ramtha might fall headlong into Ramthaism, or whatnot. Many converts to charismatic branches of Christianity became adherents for this reason. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me, I have the happy experience of having been disillusioned a lot by belief systems, so I always find myself saying, "This is quite an interesting experience; and I think it's real; but I'm not ready to 'believe' in it, and I'm open to being persuaded, later, as to what it might mean." And in this field, I think that's the only way to ride.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

In praise of George Hansen

One major regret that I will have for the (apparent) pending demise of Paratopia will be the lost opportunities to hear George Hansen again, at least in this type of forum. He's been featured on Paratopia three times, and each time, his ideas seem to make more sense to me. Perhaps if I were in my mid-20s, I would have "gotten" him more quickly, but I'm glad that Jeremy has had the foresight and patience to stick with this line of inquiry for three very good episodes.

Lately, I've decided that theories of the paranormal don't really work. They fall apart on scrutiny. The whole field is like this, be it crop circles (no pun intended), animal mutilations, ghosts, leprechauns, hybrids. Instead, what I've decided is that the best paranormal theorists offer, instead, models of reality. Some models are more encompassing than others. Others work in a very limited way, and seem to explain some of the phenomena, but not all. The ETH might explain a few UFO sightings, but not most; whereas the "inter-dimensional-time-shifty" ideas don't explain the arguably very nuts-and-bolts sightings (and crashings).

In a nutshell, however, George Hansen's trickster model just fits. It fits it all. It acknowledges the reality of paranormal phenomena without feeling compelled to explain it; it predicts the phenomena's behavior; it predicts (and explains) our reactions to it; and it explains the chaotic effects such phenomena have on the lives of those who pursue the paranormal. Perhaps it's because Hansen is a sociologist, not a psychologist, a physicist, or a psychic; he is a true outsider, looking in. It would be really cool if a paranormal researcher took Hansen's trickster model and ran with it.

BTW, I was glad to hear Hansen acknowledge academia as the most status-conscious hierarchy there is. I dropped out of academia as a youthful 24-year-old, disillusioned by the cut-throats and the back-stabbings, the compulsion to succeed at any cost. And I was just a lowly English major at a land-grant university. He reminded me of why I left. Or perhaps, why I never had a chance of fitting in to begin with.

So, I have two and a half more episodes of Paratopia left on my iPhone, and I should finish them just about when I get my new iPhone 4th gen. While I expect to hear more from Jeff and Jer in the future, I will not be surprised if it's not soon. In a little over a year, they have smartly cleaned UFOlogy's clock while extending their line of inquiry about as far as it can go, for the time being. I can truthfully say that there hasn't been a paranormal podcast that has been as enjoyable. As partial payback, I am still planning to write about my modest paranormal experiences / sightings. although finding the time to do so has been difficult lately. So Jeff and Jer, if you're reading, thanks for all that you have put into the show. Have a good one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A partial review of my partially-read, totally first Kindle book, "Memories Of The Afterlife," by Michael Newton

Does the human personality survive physical death? The New Age set assures us that it does, unconditionally; organized religion says "yes," conditionally--you have to obey, first. Humanists, along with materialists, generally say "no." Paradoxically, you can be an atheist and still embrace the survival hypothesis--survival, by itself, does not require a supreme being.

The survival hypothesis is unproven and likely will remain so for a while, but confirmation of it would lead to shifts on many levels. The unspoken assumption that underlies most of our scientific and philosophical beliefs is that cognition, intelligence, awareness, can only be biologically-based. Evidence outside of this assumption is ignored, or relegated to pseudo-science.

But step outside that framework just a little bit, and ponder the possibilities of a universe that can be perceived and experienced outside the biological container, and you begin to realize that everything that you physically know and have been taught is now questionable.

So this has been a peculiar and personal pursuit of mine--to see what evidence there is for the survival hypothesis.

I start at ground zero: We have no proof, but we are left with empirical clues and compelling anecdotal accounts, suggesting several competing scenarios.

One school of thought envisions an after-death environment of careful and intricate organization, defined rules, assigned roles, with meaning and purpose. For my money, the most convincing advocate of this scenario is Michael Duff Newton, who has written two hugely influential books, Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives and Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives, that purport to examine reincarnational memories, as well as details of that interstitial period between lives. Dr. Newton uses (and teaches) a unique method of deep hypnotic induction that seems to differ from those of other researchers. I admit that the use of hypnotic induction, particularly to retrieve past or "hidden" memories, is becoming controversial, but Dr. Newton causes me to suspend my skepticism by his skilled, nuanced, painstaking, and assured navigation through the various narratives that arise from his patients. He's a qualified professional who is intellectually rigorous, yet compassionate and spiritual. I can't say the same for other researchers on the hypnotic regression dog-and-pony circuit.

I'm about half-way through "Memories of the Afterlife," the latest in his series, and I admit that I am enjoying the book--mostly because I had already bought into the basic framework set forth in Newton's earlier books: that after death, the human personality survives mostly intact, is met with "guides," is escorted into various realms where the process of learning continues. But "Memories" is not Dr. Newton. Instead, the LBL (life-between-life) hypnotic inductions were conducted by students of Dr. Newton, and the quality of the narratives varies.

I have one, mild, criticism. Some of the narratives seem better than others. The suspect ones seem somewhat two-dimensional, almost cookie-cutter imitations of the accounts presented in Dr. Newton's two books Others are contaminated by dated New Agey references (allusions to vague "earth changes," crystals, "light" healings, Reiki therapy, etc.). I was puzzled by one individual who claimed direct and constant communication with her "spirit council." The disciple will say, "These accounts must be true--they confirm what Dr. Newton has already discovered." But the skeptic knows the danger of this path. Are we always met by our "guide" at death? Are we always whisked shortly thereafter to meet with our "spirit council" composed of approximately three vaguely paternal elders? I don't know. Our entrance into the physical world is fraught with complexity; I somehow think that our exit would be also. So this is my one criticism of some of the accounts; I would have liked the researchers to go beyond what has already been mapped out, rather than simply "confirm" it.

If there is an afterlife--and I personally believe that there is--then echoes of our experiences there would filter through our culture, religions, and beliefs. Those familiar with Christianity can already see the origin of certain beliefs in these after-death accounts; including that ubiquitous and annoying "light at the end of the tunnel" metaphor. Every time "Coast To Coast AM" features a medium, I try to listen, and invariably there will be at least one Christian Fundamentalist call in to chastise the guest, or fret that a loved one has gone to Hell. Beliefs are powerful--and often dangerous--things. So I applaud Dr. Newton and his students for at least trying to objectify what, still, is the biggest mystery our our existence.

One echo of these accounts that I find most intriguing is the idea of a central repository of personal histories of every life that has been lived (the so-called "Akashic Records"). This one concept has reverberated through our Western culture and turns up in the most unlikely places. The Star Trek episode "All Our Yesterdays," for example, has always reminded me of this. This episode centers around a library that holds CD-looking discs containing historical data; when activated, a time portal is opened up, and an individual can be transported to that era. The virtual reality "holodeck" in the second generation Star Trek seems to describe certain experiences described in the afterlife, particularly the "place of choosing" where the individual goes before the next incarnation, to try out different potential lives. Indeed, you can carry these analogies further by arguing that piratically every technological advance of the last century has been an attempt to replicate, on a material level, experiences of the post-human state.

I was very happy to find that a Nashville researcher was featured in the book: Nancy Hajek, who actually does not live very far from me. I contacted her in 2004 about undergoing a LBL regression. I was going through a major life change, and I thought that a LBL session might be helpful. Unfortunately, as my life is wont, my life began to crumble in a very dramatic way shortly after this communication, so I never went through with it, and it's always bothered me that I never got back to Ms. Hajek. A similar life upheaval hit me several years earlier, after I had digested much of the Seth / Jane Roberts material and set about trying to apply what I learned. Students of the paranormal, particularly if you are a Paracast listener, know quite well this experience--attempting to step too far outside of the boundaries of our consensus reality will get you slapped. I think I would be terrified, now, to even attempt a LBL session. So I applaud the executive, the "energy worker," the teacher, and all the others in "Memories Of The Afterlife" who had the courage to go through that door. For me, I'll wait my turn to find out what's on the Other Side.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Further thoughts on the Leask interview

Well, I got halfway through the Paratopia episode at exactly 12:12 today, and spent the remainder of the day focussed on a major tech event that happened at 1:00, so I'm still not finished. But I wanted to mention something that has been gnawing at me a bit: the concept of "free energy.". Although I think that most of the proponents of "free energy" are maybe on the wrong path, and the whole movement has been polluted with hucksters--still, I think that this is one of the few areas of UFOlogy that, surprisingly, we will see some remarkable breakthroughs in.... an argument that I hope to flesh out tomorrow. I do actually think that there's a "there" there.

There's a Brad Steiger book that came out in '71, I think... I have the original pulp paperback, describing incubi and succubi (did I spell that right?), which describes astral reptillian entities... A very good read. Also know someone who has encountered these beings. This is a whole genre of experience which I think is valid and which might masquerade as an abduction experience. These encounters are probably common but are usually kept private. But the caveat that I would give on OOBE experiences is: we really don't know where these experiences come from... Are they subjective projections? Archetypes? Thought creations? Actual conscious entities? It's difficult to say, since our culture has so little acquaintance with the non-physical. But I'm inclined to think that it's not ET.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Posting by iPhone?

How will this work? We shall see; I'm surprised that Google doesn't have a Blogger app yet; there is, to say the least, no app for that. But then, "the Google" and Apple aren't on the best of terms nowadays. And Google has never really cared about Blogger anyway.

I am halfway through the Paratopia interview with Chris Leask and I thought I'd post a few thoughts. I'm not sure what the Paratopians will think of Mr. Leask (I'm averse to attention and I don't go to forums very much). They may not dig his free energy concept. Can't blame them. Leask's blueprint for a free energy device (two counter-rotating metalic spheres) is prominent in UFOlogy as being the supposed mechanism of UFO propulsion. Many experiencers through the years (moi included) have imagined such a device being used. I even drew this up in a diagram that I wanted to mail to NICAP, but didn't, for want of a stamp (my father wouldn't give me one and, at age 11, had none of my own). This object sounds similar to the bell thingie that the Nazis supposedly had. While Leask was describing his device, I was trying to imagine how it might work. I really don't think it can--or could. From a sociological standpoint, however, I think it's significant that "free energy" appears as a major archetype among the experiencer community, so it has to mean something. But we have to remember that these are the same ETs who assure us that vinegar cures cancer.

The OOBE portion, however, is something that I can write about, when I hear the rest if the interview. I've had a lot of experience with this and, beyond the late Robert Monroe's writing, there's not much out there that's substantial. In other words, this pool is not totally contaminated. One thing I think I noticed Leask doing was, in introducing his "machine," he begins to describe it as a waking encounter, then qualifies it as being a "dream," and then further qualifies it as an "awake" (or lucid) dream; which may, or may not, be an OOBE. All experiences in that twilight state of initial OOBE can be subject to contamination; when you are in this state, you can't automatically distinguish between objective and subjective imagery.

Anyway, another cool Paratopia and a lot of fuel for thought.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I think I like the word "esoterica"

I heard Tim Binnall use it; I wasn't really sure it was a word, but, apparently, it is. So I'm going to start using it.

Most students of esoterica are jaded by UFOlogy because the subject seems to recede and lose focus in direct proportion to the amount of attention that we devote to it. As such, it's hard to argue that the phenomenon as a whole isn't, as Vallée and Jung argued, of terrestrial origin, arising from some powerful source that escapes our conscious perception. And those who dabble too much in UFOlogical waters find their lives cursed, relationships trashed, livelihoods ruined. About the only thing that serious researchers can agree on is that we haven't learned a damn thing more about UFOs than we already knew in, say, 1960; indeed, we may know even less. So the serious researcher can be forgiven for throwing in the towel on the whole rotten field.

Fortunately, there are other more intriguing areas of esoterica inquiry. My personal favorite is after-death communication. While most people may never see a UFO their entire lives, most will have some encounter with either a "ghost," or have some other para-physical experience with a deceased personality. It is a universal, but largely hidden, human experience.

Unfortunately, this particular "pool" has also been polluted--not by "the government," but by deliberate fraudsters and hacks who know that this is a easy way to make a living on the gullible. Sylvia Brownes are, unfortunately, the majority. It is best to assume that most self-appointed mediums, channelers, and "psychics" are phony--unless and until they can make a substantial and convincing case otherwise. As a result, some of the best research goes unheard; it's simply lost.

One case that I think is probably valid involves a Danish girl named "Janne" who, after her death at age eighteen, managed to communicate with her family by various means. What impresses me about this case is that it is, as far as I know, fairly obscure. I've visited the website several times but even though the site has been online several years, I appear to be visitor number "3031." The entire case can be read in a free e-book which anyone can download at "Janne Beyond Life." I'd be curious to read what others might think of this case.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's easy to capture "orbs"...

faux orb photo, originally uploaded by an0nym0n0us.

if you know what you are doing. In this case, my "orbs" are frozen ice crystals illuminated by my camera's flash at night. I took several of these shots and could easily see the ice crystals the moment that the flash went off. I've seen many photos posted on the web not unlike this, purporting to be genuine spirit photos.

Friday, January 1, 2010

musings on Coast To Coast, Paracast, and Paratopia

One New Year's resolution is to revive this blog a bit. I have another, earlier blog that is essentially a mirror for this one, and it gets lots of hits, mostly because of a post that I made concerning Mellon Thomas-Benedict, who I haven't thought much of since writing about him. And I don't think he's been on "Coast To Coast" again, either. (That post is mirrored here but gets few hits from this blog.)

I do listen occasionally to "Coast To Coast" but I'm very selective in what I listen to. While it *can* be a good source of paranormal investigation, it's important to remember that "Coast To Coast" is a money-making vehicle for the franchise that produces it (as well as the "buy gold" advertisers who support it), and so accuracy is not necessarily their goal. Like most commercial broadcast entities, the program is subliminally manipulative; it seeks to create a sense of unease and insecurity in the listener, who will then (hopefully) patronize the program's and website's advertisers, who capitalize on that insecurity. This, in my view, tarnishes much of the material that they examine.... even though a good chunk of it is undoubtedly valid and worthwhile.

As a result, I have largely turned my attention to two self-financed, shoe-string podcasts that are largely mirror images of each other: the Paracast, and Paratopia.

The hosts of both podcasts have had a falling out that, to the best of my knowledge, began with a hostile Paracast interview with Bill Birnes, who is a friend of one of the hosts of Paratopia.... but likely started a bit earlier for reasons obscure. I can't really disagree with the Paracast's treatment of Birnes. Since the publication of "The Day After Roswell," which Birnes apparently co-wrote, researchers have highlighted a number of problems with Phil Corso's story that Birnes did not really address during the episode. However, instead of moving on, it appears that the Paracast has made a number of un-called-for digs at Paratopia and continues to snipe at the competing podcast for no good reason.

In truth, listeners to both podcasts will immediately recognize that while Paratopia started out as a bit of a copycat of the Paracast, Paratopia has quickly evolved a completely different approach to the paranormal which I think is both intriguing and potentially fruitful. I think of the show now as a sort of "Whitley Strieber Lite," exploring many of the same topics that Unknown Country examines, but in a much more credible manner. Believe or disbelieve in crop circles, for example, you still could not help but be intrigued by their recent episodes on the subject. And their examination seems to be hinting at a causality to the phenomenon that other shows have completely missed. (And no, I don't think that ET is behind the crop circles.) And whereas a recent Paracast examination of EVP bogged down in a skeptical rebuttal of practically every recent example of EVP, the hosts of Paratopia take an open, "let's see what we can discover" approach to the subject. Two separate approaches; both probably valid, but Paratopia's approach is more likely to actually uncover something new.

It is this openness to discovery that causes me to recommend Paratopia to the beginning paranormal student. There's no doubt that Jeff and Jer do not follow the scientific method, but Paratopia best embodies the spirit of scientific discovery: an openness to new data, a willingness to discard theories that don't fly, and the sense of adventure that comes with learning something new.