Friday, April 29, 2011

Transformers 3 and Disclosure

The full trailer for the Spielberg-produced Transformers: Dark of the Moon is now online, and the concept of a black-ops space program and even extraterrestrial Disclosure itself are central to the film's plot.

For in-depth discussion of Hollyood's utilization of Disclosure-related discourse in the UFO subgenre, see my recent article on the subject, and for an overview of Spielberg's historical fascination with UFOs, check out Spielberg's Saucer Secrets.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hollywood and the Discourse on Disclosure

Does Hollywood really drive UFOlogy, as many sceptics suggest? What are the arguments for and against the idea that big screen entertainment fuels the UFO mythos? How has the Disclosure movement of the 21st Century influenced Hollywood's millennial UFO movies? 

Over at Bryce Zabel and Richard Dolan's A.D. After Disclosure site, I have a new article addressing these and related questions.

Happy Easter

I was finally able to catch up on a little work this week.  No ships or major weather events.  We had a group of photographers here again, but they really just like to go take pictures and don't need a lot from me.  It's been nice and sunny and a bit cool.  That's good for the albatross chicks because they won't dehydrate so quickly.  We also got a chance to go look for nets on the reef and picked up a couple of small net peices.  It was beautiful.  The water is finally starting to warm up, and was nice and clear.  I forgot to add a fish picture before I started typing my text, and this blog program is difficult with a slow connection, so I'll just have to put up a pic next week.  Alright, I'll keep it short this week and give you some pictures.   

I had a request to show the cross on the eastern end of Sand Island.  I'm not sure when the last time that there were actually Easter services here.  Here is what the plaque says:

I showed you a picture of 3 people cleaning the Monument Seep a couple of weeks ago and not getting done.  We brought back some reinforcements and finished the job.

 We pumped out all of the water and scooped out pretty much all of the muck to reduce the anaerobic conditions in which bacteria that produce avian botulism like.

 A Laysan albatross feeds its chick some squid (and probably a little plastic too).

 The chicks in the old parade field are doing pretty well.

The Short-tailed albatross chick is getting its adult feathers.

I saw the dolphins again today when I was coming back from Eastern Island today.

One of our canaries sits on a twig.  No story, just a nice yellow bird.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Exopolitics conference

I'll be speaking this August at the 3rd Annual Leeds Exopolitics Expo, where I'll be addressing the popular concept of the "Hollywood UFO conspiracy."

Lecture synopsis:

Highlighting the seriousness with which Washington has long regarded the potential of entertainment media to shape popular perceptions of the UFO phenomenon, this talk will bring together six-decades-worth of concrete cases in which the US government and military have attempted – often successfully – to shape the content of UFO-themed film and television products. In the majority of these cases, the government has sought to downplay the significance of UFOs and to massage its own public image in relation to the phenomenon.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the talk will challenge as simplistic the popular notion that there exists an overarching “Hollywood UFO conspiracy” designed to acclimate the populous to UFO reality, and will provide an objective assessment of the evidence both for and against the idea that the ever-elusive “THEY” are using Hollywood to prepare us for Disclosure.

This three-day event will be held at the University of Leeds, UK, and will feature talks by the likes of Richard Dolan, Stephen Bassett and Nick Pope, among others. For full details, see the conference's official website.

Friday, April 22, 2011

UFO movie montage

A huge selection of clips from UFO-themed movies and TV episodes has been put together by a YouTube poster who writes:

"I believe Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large has been instrumental in educating the public with the erroneous idea that Flying Saucers are physical craft piloted by alien beings from other planets. This montage will form part of a larger documentary I am completing exposing that UFOs and the 'alien beings' that pilot them are something entirely different and far more sinister."


Sinisterness aside, this seven-part montage makes for fascinating viewing and must have taken ages to compile. Watch it here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"Cowboys and Aliens" full trailer

The Spielberg-produced "Sci-fi Western" hits US cinemas July 29 (and UK cinemas in mid-August). The screenplay is by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Transformers, Star Trek, Alias [TV], Fringe [TV]).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Songkran

 Another slow internet day yesterday, so I'm a day late with the blog.  Our new Refuge Manager, Sue Schulmeister, came out to Midway last week.  It will be nice to have the extra person out here.  The person out doing the monk seal surveys found a couple of interesting things over on Eastern Island.  She found a small turtle buried in the sand on the beach.  Only its head and the tip of one flipper was out of the sand.  She thought it was dead, but dug it out anyway.  It actually was alive, and swam away.  It could have been there since the tsunami, or it could have been washed over later, but either way, it was probably there for a while and was good that she happened along.  Another thing she found was a bucket that was labelled "Laysan Island".  It was actually washed away from the camp on Laysan during the tsunami and washed up on the beach here about a month later.  Laysan is around 500 miles away, so it got here pretty quickly.  The Laysan seal crew had brought millet out for food, and it looks none the worse for wear.  I also found a message in a bottle on the beach (the second one I've found on Midway).  I opened it at a gathering we had one night, and let me just say, if you are planning on putting a message in a bottle, make sure it's sealed well, because paper doesn't last long in salt water.  Metal screwcaps don't seal that well so we could only make out a word or two, but it was written on Hawaii Outrigger Hotel stationery.

Last week we also celebrated Songkran, the Thai New Year.  Cleansing with water is part of the tradition, which means a lot of water balloons, squirt guns, and buckets.  At least it was a beautiful, sunny day, so a great day for a beach BBQ.
This is a recent photo of Eastern Island.  It's really easy to tell exactly where the tsunami water stopped.  The salt water killed most of the plants.
Here's John Klavitter giving a bike tour of the tsunami damage to our new manager, our head of Refuges for USFWS, and some visitors from Hawaii.
The tour also included the hydroponics garden, which has some good cherry tomatoes ripening.

Here's one of the more recent pics of the Short-tailed albatross chick.  We haven't seen the parents yet, but the chick is still doing fine.

I came across a masked booby nest over on Eastern Island too. 
Another interesting bird was this Laysan, Black-footed albatross hybrid.  I've never seen this guy (or girl) before.
This was the Songkran parade from the Chugach office up to Captain Brooks.
Captain Brooks Tavern was decorated nicely.

Here's one of the Songkran sand sculptures.  There was also a nice turtle and seal, but I can only show so many pictures.

John is getting a good hit on the ball.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Guest blogger: Nick Pope

Science Fiction, Ufology and Hollywood

By Nick Pope

The relationship between science fiction, ufology and the film industry is complex.  In this guest blog I want to do two main things.  Firstly, examine the relationship between sci-fi and ufology and secondly, take a look at the increasingly popular theory that the film industry (and Hollywood in particular) is part of an official campaign to acclimatise people to an extraterrestrial reality and indoctrinate them, by pushing certain key themes.

I write this article with three separate hats on: my Ministry of Defence background (mainly in relation to my time on the UFO project, but incorporating my more general knowledge of how government works); my position as a sci-fi author and someone who commentates on the genre in the media; and finally, as someone who works with various PR agencies and film companies to promote the release of new sci-fi movies.

Science Fiction Influencing Ufology

Skeptical ufologists have often said that sci-fi has a huge bearing on ufology.  At best, they say, it encourages people to believe any odd light in the sky is an alien spacecraft – the MoD received more UFO reports in 1978 (the year that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in the UK) than in any other year.  At worst, they suggest that sci-fi encourages people to make bogus claims of UFO sightings and alien abductions, inspired by the sorts of alien spacecraft and extraterrestrials that they see in various sci-fi films and TV series.  Do either of these theories stand up to scrutiny?  Yes and no.

Taking the Close Encounters of the Third Kind anecdote, this could simply be coincidence, but it’s impossible to tell whether there’s any connection between the movie and the number of UFO sightings reported to MoD.  How, short of re-interviewing every witness and probing their reasons for making a report, could you tell?  Does a sci-fi movie cause people to see a UFO?  No.  Might it make someone more inclined to think an unidentified light or object in the sky has a non-prosaic explanation?  It’s a possibility, but there’s no realistic way in which this could be measured.  

A more likely explanation is that a UFO-related sci-fi film will inspire various TV stations, radio stations, newspapers and magazines to run stories and features about the UFO phenomenon.  Indeed, such features are sometimes deliberately placed by film companies as part of a marketing campaign.  I’ve seen (and indeed written) numerous stories and features that begin with an introduction along the lines of “In the week in which X is released, we look into the UK’s best-known real-life alien encounters”.  Often, particularly in local papers, a UFO story will end with a phrase along the lines of “Did you see the UFO?  Have you had a sighting?  Call our news desk”.  What this does is create a more receptive environment than would normally be the case, making it more likely that someone who’s had a sighting will make a report (UFOs are under-reported, because witnesses fear they’ll be ridiculed or disbelieved, or simply because they don’t know who to contact). 

To summarise, sci-fi movies lead to more media coverage about UFOs and aliens, which may lead to a higher proportion of sightings being reported than would otherwise have been the case.  But measurement of any of this would be difficult, if not impossible.  One would need to do a comparative analysis using annual data on the total number of UFO sightings, and on the total number (and thus the proportion) actually reported.  But it’s impossible to quantify sightings that are never reported!  Moreover, one would need to somehow assign values reflecting the volume and impact of science fiction in any given year, and the volume and impact of associated media coverage, as well as determining the extent to which this impacted upon and influenced UFO witnesses.  Bottom line: there may be an influence, but we can’t be certain about this and could never measure it in any meaningful scientific way.

Ufology Influencing Science Fiction

It’s worth pointing out that the debate can be had the other way around.  Sci-fi writers and filmmakers have clearly studied ufology and drawn freely from material in the literature.  In many cases this is self-evident, as with films like Communion and Fire in the Sky, which are based on - though often take artistic licence with - testimony from UFO witnesses and abductees.  But other sci-fi films and TV series reflect a deep familiarity with the subject.  Movies such as Roswell and series such as Dark Skies and Taken clearly involved detailed research into ufology.  On a personal note, my two sci-fi novels, Operation Thunder Child and Operation Lightning Strike are as much techno-thrillers as sci-fi, blending material from ufology with government and military doctrine, tactics and hardware – to the extent that they needed to be officially vetted by the MoD, prior to publication. 

When making Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg used Dr J Allen Hynek as a consultant.  Hynek had been scientific consultant to the US Government’s UFO investigative program, Project Blue Book.  He even got a cameo role in the movie - for trivia buffs, he’s the guy with the beard, glasses and pipe, looking up at the mothership.  More recently, one only has to look at elements of The X-Files, both in terms of plot and visualisation, to see that Chris Carter knows ufology inside out.  I helped 20th Century Fox do some promotional work for the second X-Files movie and when I met Chris Carter at the UK premiere he confirmed that he was familiar with my MoD work on UFOs.  So while life imitates art, art imitates life.  There’s certainly a relationship between ufology and science fiction, but it’s a two-way street.

Science Fiction or Propaganda?

There are two interesting but contradictory conspiracy theories about sci-fi movies.  The first suggests that directors such as Steven Spielberg are ‘in the know’ about the existence of extraterrestrials and that their films are part of an acclimatisation campaign to get us so used to the idea that aliens might exist that it won’t come as such a culture shock and ego-blow when the President announces that we’re not alone - “Disclosure”, as many ufologists describe it.  It’s further alleged that constant depiction of hostile aliens (Independence Day, War of the Worlds, Battle: Los Angeles, etc) is part of a campaign to indoctrinate us to the idea that aliens are hostile.

The acclimatisation theory is difficult to debate with people.  Those who believe it are unlikely to be swayed by arguments to the contrary, or even by direct denials from those involved.  “He would say that, wouldn’t he?” would be the response.  The indoctrination theory, however, bears closer scrutiny and is easier to challenge.  After all, there are plenty of major sci-fi movies where the aliens seem benign.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Contact spring to mind.  If sci-fi movies are propaganda in an indoctrination campaign, we’re getting remarkably mixed messages.  Proponents of the theory might argue that this reflects a reality where there are malevolent aliens and benign aliens (and maybe some neutral aliens too).  But this is currently unknowable and in any case, the whole concept of good aliens and bad aliens is hopelessly anthropocentric.

The related and contradictory conspiracy theory that I mentioned earlier also involves collusion between Hollywood and the government.  But in this one, aliens don’t exist.  Rather, the powers that be want you to believe that they do, in advance of a “false flag alien invasion” (Google the phrase if you have any doubts that such an idea would have any degree of acceptance), which would be used to usher in a New World Order.

I have personal experience of this conspiracy theory.  As a sci-fi writer and in view of my background on MoD’s UFO project, I’m often asked to do promotional work for new sci-fi movies.  This work generally involves ‘straight’ interviews about the UFO phenomenon or the scientific search for extraterrestrial life (e.g. astrobiology and the SETI project), in which – within broadcasting rules – a plug for the movie is given.  I’ve promoted films that include The X-Files: I Want to Believe, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds and, most recently, Battle: Los Angeles.  As a result, I’ve been accused of being a part of this conspiracy theory myself!

Proponents of these sorts of theories point to the fact that the US government has sought to influence various UFO-related movies.  But I’ve done a similar job at the MoD and can say that there’s nothing sinister about this.  The point is that filmmakers often seek to use military resources (equipment, locations and personnel) in a movie.  Self-evidently, in such a situation the military and the government will negotiate with the filmmakers to ensure that if assistance is given, the military are shown in as positive a light as possible: well-trained and equipped, well-led, able, moral, courageous, etc.  This has benefits in terms of both PR and recruiting.  And it’s not unique to sci-fi, of course.  It transcends genre.  The MoD helped with the making of the BBC Scotland sci-fi series Invasion: Earth and with action thrillers like the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.  I was involved in the negotiations on both these requests personally and yes, our assistance was conditional on the military being portrayed favourably.  If you want our help, you play by our rules.  It’s not a conspiracy – it’s common sense.


Hollywood is not colluding with the US government to promote belief in the reality of extraterrestrial life, either as a prelude to Disclosure, alien invasion or false flag alien invasion.  Sci-fi movies are just that – movies.  It’s about being creative, it’s about entertaining people and it’s about making money.  Sci-fi movies – even the scary ones – are there to be enjoyed.  Don’t have nightmares; do sleep well.

Author, journalist and broadcaster Nick Pope used to investigate UFOs for the Ministry of Defence and is now recognised as a leading authority on the unexplained and conspiracy theories.  He has written two science fiction novels and commentates extensively on the genre in the media.

Nick Pope can be contacted through his website:

Silver Screen Saucers: guest blogger exclusives

Over the next few weeks, Silver Screen Saucers will be running an exclusive mini-series of guest posts by some of the biggest names in the UFO field on the subject of UFOs and entertainment media.

The aim of this mini-series is to provide a unique insight into how today's UFO researchers view the Hollywood/UFO relationship and to afford these researchers the opportunity to comment more personally on how particular UFO movies and TV shows may have influenced their own perspectives on the phenomenon.

When complete in a few weeks time, this mini-series of guest posts will be archived as a permanently accessible feature here on Silver Screen Saucers.

Kicking off the mini-series today is Nick Pope, who needs no introduction. See here for Nick's fascinating essay summarising his own perspectives on frequently-debated issues surrounding the topic of UFOs and Hollywood...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

MIB III back on track

The third instalment of the Men in Black franchise has seen its fair share of problems to date, chief among which has been Will Smith's dissatisfaction with the film's time-travel-themed script, which led to a substantial re-write in November last year - delaying the original shooting schedule by a month.

However, production of the film - due for release May 23, 2012 - seems to be back on track with Smith's new co-star Josh Brolin (playing a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones's 'Agent K') having made his on-set debut earlier this week.

For more details and on-set photos of Smith and Brolin, see here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

3 Ships

 Another exciting week as usual.  We've had 3 ships come this week.  The Robert C. Seamans is a Woods Hole Research vessel that does a semester at sea program where people learn to sail while learning oceanography, biology, or whatever the focus of the course is.  They visited us out on Tern Island last year with a University of Hawaii group.  The next ship that showed up was the Kahana, bringing us a load of fuel and will take back some of our waste.  The NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette also stopped by.  They are putting out teams on most of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to monitor the Hawaiian monk seals. That's along with the photography visitor group, the NOAA marine debris crew, a group waiting to take the Sette to Kure Atoll, and a team working on removing some contaminants from the island.  I'm sure I'm leaving out some good stuff, but that's good for this week.

 This is the Robert C. Seamans.  A 134 ft. brigantine rigged ship.  The weather has been cloudy lately, otherwise I would have had a better photo.  There's a better one on my Tern Island blog, let me just say, it's much nicer having piers than having to run small boats out to these ships.

 Here's another shot of the Kahana.

The Oscar Elton Sette is back for the first time this season.  

Dennis, Penny, and Joanna are cleaning out the Monument seep on Eastern Island.  We pumped the water out and scooped out a lot of the muck that harbors bacteria that produces botulism toxin.  We didn't quite finish up, but at least we got rid of the anaerobic conditions that the bacteria likes.  It fills back up with groundwater pretty quickly.

Another dangerous sinkhole opened up near the seawall due to the waves crashing over.  I had to get 6 birds out of there.  We'll get it covered up this week.

I told you last week that I moved into my new (old) house.  It was recently renovated.  There are still no blinds on the windows, but it's not bad.

This is a Laysan albatross chick.  They are getting big.  I was going to show you a picture of the Short-tailed albatross chick that I took today, but this blog program is acting goofy.  It's something for you to look forward to next week, I guess.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Major new article: UFO perception management

A major new article on the subject on government manipulation of UFO-themed media products is accessible from today as an advance publication for the Spring 2011 issue of 49th Parallel - a journal of North American Studies jointly run through the UK universities of Birmingham and Nottingham.

This is one of only a small handful of articles dealing with UFOs and entertainment-media-control ever to have been published in a peer-reviewed academic journal, and is all the more unusual in that it treats UFOs not as a mere cultural abstraction, but as a real, physical phenomenon of considerable concern to officialdom.

Of particular interest in this piece are revelations from the director of Disney's 2009 movie Race to Witch Mountain concerning covert and seemingly high-level CIA involvement in said production.

The article - co-authored by myself and Matthew Alford - is entitled: A History of Government Management of UFO Perceptions through Film and Television. It is accessible directly at the 49th Parallel website. It will also be permanently accessible here at Silver Screen Saucers in the 'Articles' section.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Getting Back to Normal

Things were about back to normal around here. Normal being great, interesting, and busy. I moved out of Charlie barracks and into a house. A group of our contractors that were working on renovations to the old officer housing left. Four NOAA employees came to help pick up derelict fishing gear from the reef and shoreline. The NOAA ship "Oscar Elton Sette" will come soon to take all of that away from here as well as all of the other islands in the NW Hawaiian Islands. I'll put in another plug for Chris Jordan and his group. They are doing really good work out here and I'm sure their film will be great from their shots so far. It's been really intersting watching them work. I've been picking up a lot of good photo tips from them. As you've likely noticed, I write a lot more about the things that go on around here every week, and they do a lot more descriptive writing, poetry, and artistic photography to give you the feel of Midway. and Emily's latest post at One of Chris's crew was here before on the team of another movie called "Bag it". We watched it last night up at Capt. Brooks. It's a good documentary on plastic use. John Klavitter (our deputy refuge manager and former wildlife biologist) and Matt Brown (former manager here) are both in it. The weather was a bit windy last week. We were going to go over to Eastern Island to clean out the duck seeps to try to prevent another botulism outbreak in the Laysan ducks. When we get a chance, we'll pump all of the water out, scoop out the mud/muck at the bottom and let it refill from the freshwater lens in the island. Alright, enough writing for this week. Life goes on. The parade field birds don't seem to know that there was a tsunami.
I don't know if the NOAA marine debris collecting group will have a chance to get any of these nets and ropes that washed up into the middle of Eastern Island. At least they are less of a hazard to marine animals up in the middle of the island, but they can still be a bit of a hazard for birds getting entangled.

This is one of the few Bonin petrel chicks left on Eastern. There weren't that many to begin with over there. There is a lot more hard packed ground over there.

This young Great frigatebird probably didnt' die in the tsunami. Since the tree is still there. It either didn't get enough food or got entangled.

This whale spine washed up on North Beach a few weeks ago. It's about 7 ft long. The skull was found nearby a couple of days later. I haven't had a chance to identify it yet, but I will one of these days.

I'll end with another white tern.

New 'Green Lantern' footage

Four-minutes of footage from Warner Bros.' forthcoming Green Lantern was screened this Saturday at the 2011 Wondercon in San Francisco. Obviously, this is first and foremost a comic book movie, but if you're unfamiliar with its source material or have yet to see the film's trailer, then this revealing footage demonstrates why discussion of Green Lantern here at Silver Screen Saucers is appropriate. The film hits US cinemas 17 June, 2011. 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

'Attack the Block' clips

Two new clips from the forthcoming British UFO movie Attack the Block are viewable now at Empire Online.

The film will be released in UK cinemas in May. No details yet on international release dates.