Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

We have a few more black-footed albatrosses are hanging around, and 2 Laysan albatrosses just showed up today.  We are just about done with all of our projects that have to be done before the birds come back en masse. Speaking of that, our lead paint remediation project is going well.  The workers will be able to work for only about 2 more weeks before there are too many albatrosses around.

You may have also heard that a lot of the tsunami debris from Japan is making its way toward Midway and may be here sometime this winter.  There are a lot of articles about it, but here's a link to a good one:  http://news.discovery.com/earth/tsunami-debris-floating-fast-towards-hawaii-111025.html

This was the only Black-footed albatross I saw on Eastern Island last week.

 This is one of the early Laysan albatrosses.   

 I strung some new cable to our remote cameras on Eastern Island.  This camera monitors the ducks at the Monument seep. 

 Anthony, Leann, and Anette are weeding the Short-tailed albatross plot so we can put the decoys in.

 We haven't seen the Short-tailed albatrosses yet this season, but the decoys are freshly painted and enough of the verbesina is gone to allow easy access for the birds.

Clyde and Lynn from NOAA came out to do some work on the tide station.  They gave a tour of their gear and a short presentation.  I learned a couple of new things.

 As I posted last week, Sak is leaving the island after almost 29 years.  This is the line of people saying goodbye to him.

We had a Halloween party last night at Capt Brooks' Tavern. 

Patty got rid of some expired light sticks for her costume.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Guest blogger exclusive #10

Leading conspiracy writer Kenn Thomas returns for the tenth instalment of the Silver Screen Saucers guest blogger series.

In this, his second guest article for SSS, Kenn explains how an almost-forgotten story from one of the more bizarre chapters in UFO history provided significant inspiration for the 1956 movie Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers

There’s also a Roswell connection… and cloudbusters! It’s a fascinating article. Read on...

Guest blogger: Kenn Thomas

Earth Vs. Flying Saucers With Cloudbusters

By Kenn Thomas

Critics skeptical of the Roswell flying saucer crash story often claim that interest in the event dropped off immediately after its initial media flash in 1947, only to be revived in the 1980s by unreliable UFO researchers seeking to profiteer from a myth of their own making. I have often contradicted this assertion by pointing out that the scientist Wilhelm Reich paid a visit to Roswell in 1955 and made clear references to aliens in relation to the town in his final book, Contact With Space. It is an unusual book primarily documenting Reich and his assistants using beam cannons to clash with flying saucers--in real life, not on the silver screen.


Researchers have slowly been accumulating Roswell references in movies and other pop culture forms to support the idea that the incident had more of a cultural impact on pre-1980s pop culture than previously has been presupposed. The little Roswell grey aliens appear in a mid-1960s episode of the anime cartoon Prince Planet, for instance. Recently, a 1951 wristwatch ad from the Hamilton Corporation was discovered that referred to the weather balloon explanation for flying saucers, an explanation offered only for Roswell in 1947 until adopted by the Robertson UFO investigation panel of 1952. Another obvious example often escapes notice; however, that again ties the tale back to Wilhelm Reich. It involves the famous 1956 Ray Harryhausen movie Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers.

Roswell-like alien in Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers.
In that movie, aliens attack the earth in flying saucers and in a few instances the aliens hobble out onto the surface. The creatures look a bit like roll-on deodorant cans with stiff arms and legs. The costumes were used briefly in one other movie, 1961’s The Creation of Humanoids, most recently broadcast following an episode of cable TV’s The Walking Dead series. In Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, the costumes’ rounded helmets with no features conceal the aliens’ real form until one is killed and his roll-cap removed. The alien looks like a Roswell grey.

Wilhelm Reich had Ruidoso, New Mexico as his destination in 1955 for an overnight stay on his way to Tuscon, Arizona. Passing through Roswell—and Stanton Friedman often makes the point at lectures that few just “pass through” Roswell’s out of the way location—Reich clearly was looking for signs of aliens. In Contact With Space, he writes: “Although it was very hot as we neared Roswell, New Mexico, no OR flow [OR was Reich’s abbreviation for orgone, or natural earth energy] was visible on the road, which should have been shimmering with ‘heatwaves’. Instead, DOR [Reich’s abbreviation for “deadly orgone radiation”, which he believed came from the exhaust of UFOs].”

Some of Reich's assistants, including his daughter, Eva, with a cloudbuster gun mounted on a truck, circa 1955.

Reich’s concern about the environmental impact of UFOs stemmed from experiences he had in his lab in Rangeley, Maine called Orgonon. In 1951 he first discovered the DOR business by putting a milligram of radium into one of his orgone boxes, an invention of his designed to harness the natural earth energy. It resulted in highly polluted air around the lab, causing fauna to wilt and animals to become ill. Strange red UFOs appeared in the sky over Rangeley. In response to all this, Reich came up with another invention, the “cloudbuster,” a cannon mounted on the back of a truck that concentrated and redirected orgone, which was aimed and fired at the UFOs, causing them to disappear. In the following years, he brought these devices with him to Tucson, Arizona, passing through Roswell, and did battle with UFOs there.

That happened in real life. It’s an obscure story to many now but apparently a paradigm for the major Hollywood science fiction of the time. Reich’s cloudbuster battles with UFOs are virtually reproduced in Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers. Instead of orgone, earth's scientists develop a sonar canon, but they are mounted onto trucks and directed at the space ships in the same way Reich did it. And the movie was released just shortly after the end of Reich’s desert UFO adventure, so it can’t be said that Reich took his ideas from a fanciful movie. In fact, it seems quite the reverse.

Scenes from Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers, including cloudbuster-like cannon (upper right).

The controversies about Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers in the UFO community relate to Donald Keyhoe's request that his name be removed from the credits following his discovery that it would be a “fictional” movie (see here for details). But was it fictional? The movie may have had little relation to Keyhoe’s book at the time, but did it have another uncredited real life analog?

Kenn Thomas’ essay, “Wilhelm Reich, Eisenhower and the Aliens” appears in Secret and Suppressed II: Banned Ideas and Hidden History into the 21st Century, Edited by Adam Parfrey and Kenn Thomas, available at feralhouse.com. Mr. Thomas’ current book, JFK & UFO, is also available from Feral House. Thomas’ web site is steamshovelpress.com.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest blogger exclusive #9

The ninth instalment of the Silver Screen Saucers guest blogger series is a sort of whistle-stop tour of American UFOlogy by way of the movies, and our guide is Robert Barrow, a gentleman who on more than one occasion has been described justifiably as an unsung hero of UFOlogy.

Barrow’s six-decades-worth of memories are infused with all things UFOlogical – not least of all big and small screen UFO-themed entertainment products. Of particular interest to me are his recollections of seeing one of his self-penned UFO articles appear in Spielberg’s 1977 classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind:

I felt peculiarly rattled that my speculative article regarding the real UFO phenomenon had been subjugated into the realm of cinematic fantasy, creating a blurred image of something taken out of place… suddenly I saw my work transformed into pop art for the sake of theater popcorn munchers.”

And with that to whet your appetite, read on...

Guest blogger: Robert Barrow

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is a Strange Line:  Reflections Through the Retro Looking Glass 

By Robert Barrow

Science fiction & fantasy films and UFOs. The chicken and the egg. Apples and oranges. Here and there.  This and that. Simplicity and complexity. The known, the unknown. The filmed attraction, the digitalized spectacular. The laws of chance.


Do science fiction and fantasy motion pictures influence one's long-term interest in the UFO phenomenon? I guess so, at least in my case, but that snowball started rolling down the hill of mystery long before my observations of the silver screen. As a very young child in the early fifties, I vaguely remember lounging about in my sister's bedroom, listening to radio serials. A youngster living with a futuristic family on a planet somewhere in the universe was instructed to go outside and bring back "a bucket of air," as apparently oxygen was running out inside the old abode, and the solution merely involved filling a pail from an oxygen well.

Wright King with Johnny Jupiter
By 1954 I was captivated by a TV program and character named Johnny Jupiter. On Sunday afternoons, for a brief run, ABC-TV presented this children’s program featuring, among puppets and human characters, "Reject," a robot that could travel to Earth from Jupiter, rendering itself invisible, and my child's mind remained resolutely spellbound as windows opened and closed by themselves with the entrance or exit of the unseen robot. Johnny Jupiter provided my first encounter with televised science fiction "drama" of sorts. According to a notation at imdb.com, "JJ" even poked a little fun at the concept of 3-D during those early fifties.

An uncle introduced me to astronomy, as well as his telescope and a large library of books about UFOs and the paranormal back in the fifties; the UFO accounts were impressive. I was hooked -- no less so when said uncle took another nephew and I to see The Wizard of Oz at a downtown theater. How I wished I could travel the skies inside the bubble that comfortably encapsulated the "good witch."

As time went on, various sci-fi motion pictures began showing up via the early black-and-white television medium, and even lame drive-in favorites such as The Man From Planet X (1951) and Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957) influenced my interest in possible extraterrestrials as a kid. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) kept me thinking. A Saturday theater matinee (admission tickets cost 35 cents) featuring  This Island Earth (1955) on the big screen was perfect teenage extraterrestrial eye candy, and this and other movies of the era helped foster an appreciation for motion picture soundtrack music.  Forbidden Planet (1957) and integral character Robby the robot (another robot!) fired my imagination.

If UFO intrigue starts in one's youth, as so often appears the case, science fiction novels and movies are aided no less by the existence of NASA and space program adventures. Put all of that together in the sixties and you have the movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964). I recall the warm June day when my final school year hours were counting down, and I rushed to the city in the afternoon to view not only the new motion picture, but also to see starring-role actor Paul Mantee and his co-star, "Mona the Woolly Monkey" live on stage. The studio publicists got it all right -- as I remember, both Mantee and little Mona wore official-looking flight suits, enhancing the otherworldly cinematic atmosphere tremendously as Mantee answered, primarily, teenagers' questions from the audience prior to the film's airing. There they were, actor and monkey, representing Hollywood, NASA, space flight, the mysteries of Mars and the incorporation of Daniel DeFoe's great old novel, transported as it was into the concept of our future in space.  "Crusoe" was touted to have been produced with genuine scientific care and guidance by NASA.


While my interest in real UFO reports stemmed particularly from reading an uncle's literature, there can be little doubt that TV and movie science fiction bolstered my curiosity. However, it might surprise some, even me, to learn that I disliked TV's Star Trek (1966–1969) from the very first episode, and more recently I didn't care much for The X-Files (1993–2002). Nor did I take to Great Britain's UFO TV series (1970–1971), and was stunned almost 30 years after seeing my negative letter about the series printed in TV Guide, when Canadian journalist Mark Phillips tracked me down for an update on my long-forgotten missive, and he actually wrote a few paragraphs about our encounter in a 2006 issue of England's TV Zone.  Nevertheless, I never missed an episode of The Outer Limits, The Invaders or Way Out, shows of similar vintage.

The movie "based on" Keyhoe's book --
Keyhoe was not pleased.
But television networks in the sixties and seventies were offering another kind of programming from time to time -- specials about UFOs. Much of it, intended basically for ratings, wasn't very good. Many American viewers were outraged, for example, when CBS-TV aired UFO:  Friend, Foe or Fantasy (1966), which we now realize had some official backing to insure its extreme and absurd negativity toward the UFO topic. This program instantly acquired the notoriety previously endured by CBS-TV's Armstrong Circle Theater from the fifties, a program I vaguely remember seeing as a child, where UFO investigator Donald E. Keyhoe was cut off when he varied from a carefully rendered "script" regarding UFOs (I met Keyhoe in the sixties, and of special interest to Silver Screen Saucers readers, the 1956 motion picture Earth vs. the Flying Saucers was supposedly based on Keyhoe's book, Flying Saucers From Outer Space, but when Keyhoe realized the film was pure fiction he demanded his name be removed from the credits).

Significantly, the 1960s became sprinkled with excellent and well-witnessed UFO reports. The Socorro, NM (patrolman Lonnie Zamora) case and incidents in Michigan sired newspaper and magazine articles all over the world, and when stories of "alien" abductions began proliferating in the seventies there was no shortage of media coverage (so prevalent were impressive sightings and close encounter incidents that I easily wrote and narrated a UFO-packed news program as a final project for a college class in 1967). By the mid-sixties I was a member of UFO organizations NICAP and APRO, and had developed a rabid fondness for a 1956 under-appreciated documentary motion picture making the rounds on TV stations entitled UFO: The True Story of Flying Saucers. In fact, I would go on to research the movie, following  a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, believing it to be perhaps the most important motion picture ever produced (my private efforts also helped gain substantial college credit), and eventually wrote several articles about "UFO" and its production background as years went by. I think my interest in the film could be nailed down as a place where I began to consciously or subconsciously blend UFO documentation into that strange, yet revealing world of science fiction movies. In some ways, one became dependent upon the other.

Look, for example, at the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Fantasy, yes, but based upon actual UFO reports, so much so that even former U.S. Air Force UFO consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek accepted a walk-on role (he told me, as I recall, that he was paid about 800 dollars for the effort).

Robert Barrow's article (above) appeared
in Spielberg's Close Encounters (1977)
For me, however, the motion picture had another meaning. A friend who saw the spectacle before I alerted me that one of my Argosy UFO magazine (now defunct) articles had been used as a prop in Spielberg's epic. Sure enough, among a brief shot of the main character's collection of UFO news clippings is a black page with a large white circle and the term “UFO” displayed inside.  This was the title page for my 1977 piece, "How to Conduct Yourself Inside a UFO."  The article itself was forgettable, yet its inclusion did impact me.  I've often joked that Spielberg owes me (more likely the Argosy UFO art department) residuals for its use, but at a deeper level I felt peculiarly rattled that my speculative article regarding the real UFO phenomenon had been subjugated into the realm of cinematic fantasy, creating a blurred image of something taken out of place.  My writing, to be honest, isn't "deep" and I'm just a regular guy (um. . .), and that particular article was probably one of my worst, but suddenly I saw my work -- though, yes, pleasantly surprised about its inclusion -- transformed into pop art for the sake of theater popcorn munchers. There's a joke in there somewhere.

Of course, along with Close Encounters and Star Wars, the extraterrestrial theme in movies and television yet flows endlessly from the cinematic spigot.

If you happen to be more "into" science fiction and fantasy movies than the ubiquitous UFO arena, it has probably gone unnoticed that many of the private UFO investigators, researchers and organizations have passed into history, and even the dramatic UFO encounters, hallmarks of the fifties, sixties and seventies, seem to have diminished greatly, at least publicly. Maybe some of this involves the fact that all manner of conventional but weird-looking objects fly overhead now, and fewer people bother looking skyward beyond the personal digital devices which routinely entrap one's attention on par with a scene from the original movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers; except I-pods, not malicious extraterrestrial pods, might be the culprit. Perhaps a plethora of sci-fi movies have helped transform societal views toward UFOs into one giant yawn. Inversely, there are too many "gee whiz" people who unassumingly make flying saucers out of every light in the sky, and they don't help the search for truth in any way. Some science fiction movie fans love the concepts on screen, but wouldn't entertain UFO documentation for a second. 

Forty years ago I regularly received lengthy letters from a man on the West Coast who swore that "satellites" controlled his every move. Sounded crazy then… but today, who knows?

Because, for some odd reason, inquiring minds usually associate UFO researchers with extraterrestrials, we are often asked our opinions about our future in space. What do I know, I'm no astrophysicist. However, as I get older my enthusiasm for the space program drifts back to us as an entity. I believe it's very likely we came from some other place, and I sometimes wonder why we wish to go back "out there." Yes, we humans have the urge to explore, but will the space program, whatever its ultimate face, simply end up taking us around in a circle? Maybe the recent controversy about faster-than-light travel will result in exploratory methods yet undreamt so we can find out the ugly truth before, sadly, we disappear as a species, so some other critter can have a chance to be number one on Darwin's (or Charles Fort's) heaping piles of temporary conquest. 

But no, I'm the wrong person to consult in regard to such questions. Far better to ask the experts, and since there don't seem to be a lot of those around, more is the pity that it's far too late to direct all extraterrestrial inquiries to Johnny Jupiter and his pal, Reject the robot. In the meantime, UFO sightings will continue, movies about UFOs will endure, and -- you know what? I really should close now so I can go outside, watch for falling satellites and, not to forget, grab a bucket of air. I'm fresh out.

___________________________________________

Robert Barrow became actively interested in UFOs as a Central NY teenager in 1963. He went on to become a member of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) in 1964 and a field investigator for the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO) in 1965, and joined with organizations such as the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU) and the International Fortean Organization (INFO). He is a past member of the International Platform Association. In his early research years, Barrow wrote and received replies about UFOs from political figures such as Gerald Ford when he was House minority leader, Sen. Robert Kennedy and Sen. Everett Dirksen.

Barrow's first local newspaper letter-to-the-editor about UFOs appeared in local newspapers in 1965, with many more to come over the years, along with numerous regional radio and TV interviews.

Barrow enlisted in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era, from 1968-72, where he was trained as a medic and then as a physical therapy specialist, a critical field which produced only about 30 graduating airmen a year. Following education at the Air Force Medical Service School, he served at the large Sheppard Air Force Base hospital in Texas, and for the last 1 1/4 years of service Barrow operated his own independent duty physical therapy clinic at Moody AFB, Georgia, a pilot training base.

While stationed in Texas in 1970, Barrow wrote an article, eventually printed in The A.P.R.O. Bulletin (Mar-Apr 1971 issue) following scientific review, regarding the possibility that some UFOs may utilize ultrasonics as part of their function. He developed this theory based upon his observations and use of ultrasound to treat clinic patients. 

In 1976, Barrow entered the world of national magazines when his expanded article on the UFO ultrasound theory appeared in the May issue of Official UFO. For the remainder of the 1970s his articles continued to appear in Official UFO, Argosy Magazine's Argosy UFO and True Magazine's True Flying Saucers & UFOs Quarterly.

Barrow's articles and media reviews since the 1970s have appeared in Pursuit, journal of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained, the UFO Research Newsletter, and, more recently, in the International UFO Reporter, journal of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. 

Also in the late seventies, Barrow created and taught several sessions of one of the USA's first (non-credit) courses about UFOs at Onondaga Community College, Syracuse, NY.  He called it "UFOs:  An Introduction."

In recent years, Barrow has donated numerous reel-to-reel and cassette recordings re UFOs to Wendy Connors' Faded Discs project (New Mexico), her goal being the rescue, digitalization and preservation for posterity important UFO-related broadcasts, government interviews and case reports.

Barrow’s primary wish at this point is to encourage interest in the 1956 United Artists documentary motion picture, "U.F.O." He has written extensively about this rather obscure film and it is his firm conclusion that "U.F.O." may one day come to be seen the most important movie ever made.

A few of Barrow's older articles, recent web posts and items related to him may be found via his blogs: http://robert-barrow.blogspot.com/ and http://ufothemovie.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scarlett Johansson in ‘Under the Skin’: first look


Credit: In Case You Didn't Know
Celebrity news site In Case You Didn't Know has posted the first pictures of Scarlett Johansson on the set of her new alien movie Under the Skin.

Taking her direction from Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast), “Johansson plays an alien on earth, disguised as the perfect aesthetic form of a mesmerizing woman. She scours remote highways and desolate scenery looking to use her greatest weapon to snare human prey -- her voracious sexuality. She is deadly efficient, but over time becomes drawn to and changed by the complexity of life on earth. With this new found humanity and weakening alien resolve, she finds herself on a collision course with her own kind. Taking her point of view throughout, the film presents a unique look at our world through alien eyes.”

Under the Skin is due for release sometime in 2012. More details as they emerge here at Silver Screen Saucers .















Above and right: Scarlett Johansson as
an alien seductress in Jonathan Glazer's
forthcoming sci-fi Under the Skin (2012).

Monday, October 24, 2011

UFO movie news round-up (24th Oct. 2011)

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

A Hollywood remake of the 2011 UK alien invasion flick Attack the Block may be on the cards according to the film’s director, Joe Cornish, who tells Empire magazine he’s “also had approaches for a [TV] show to spin off it." However, Cornish adds that “it’s very early days” yet and that he might “like to do something different” for his next project. That’s unlikely to stop Hollywood bigwigs from pressing forward with their stateside version, though.

It was also reported last week that Transformers 4 and 5 are in the works with Ehren Kruger (Dark of the Moon) on writing duties. Paramount plans to shoot the two movies back-to-back in a move that will apparently save on production costs. However, Shia LaBeouf will not be returning as Sam Witwicky and – best of all – Michael Bay will not be helming the projects, despite initial rumours to the contrary. The movies are still only in their early conceptual stages and are unlikely to hit cinemas for at least a couple of years.

On the subject of Hasbro toy line movie spin-offs, Paramount is also to oversee the production of Micronauts, which will be produced by J.J. Abrams (Super 8) and written by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland). “Micronauts was an American name for a line of toys that originated in Japan in the late 1970s. For those who don’t remember them, Collider recalls that “The toys were sold as individual figures that had interchangeable parts. They were short-lived, though the franchise experienced two resurrections in the 2000s… the Micronauts are simply a toy line and have no overarching story from which to draw inspiration for a script.”

It is worth noting that the movie’s plot will likely have an extraterrestrial element to it as alien characters featured prominently in the Micronauts toy line.

Finally, Battlestar Galactica is to undergo a Hollywood reboot at the capable hands of director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X Men) and writer John Orloff (Band of Brothers, Anonymous). The Ancient Astronaut-themed TV series of 1978 and 2004 have a strong cult following and so there’s much at stake with the Hollywood movie, but screenwriter Orloff assures Deadline that he’s definitely the right man for the job: “I have wanted to write this movie since I was 12 years old, and built a Galactica model from scratch out of balsa wood, cardboard, old model parts and LEDs… I love BSG, and I would pass on the job rather than frak it up.” Singer also is delighted to have the opportunity to bring Battlestar Galactica to the big screen – something Deadline notes the director has “been interested in doing for at least a decade.”

Lead Paint Work & Retirement Party

We should be seeing the albatrosses coming back any day now.  I think I forgot to mention it, but the first Black-footed albatross was seen over a week ago, but didn't stick around long enough for anyone to get photos.  I'm guessing that some will be back by next blog.
 
The lead paint work is going along well.  The buildings are being treated and the ground is being covered by shade cloth so that the albatrosses won't nest in those areas with the most lead paint.  That should save a lot of chicks from dying of lead poisoning. 

We also had a retirement party last night for Sak Phosri.  He has worked on Midway for almost 29 years.  We've never heard of anyone else being here for that long anytime in Midway's history.  We'll lose a lot of island knowledge when he leaves. 

 This is the old machine shop.  The shade cloth will keep the birds from nesting here while the work is going on. 
 Remediation of the old torpedo building (or parachute building) is almost complete.

 A lot of people wonder where we get our drinking water.  Well, this is it.  This is our rain catchment area next to the runway.  The ducks like it a lot.

 This is some nice marine debris artwork made by Susan Scott in Honolulu.  She writes a weekly column for the Honolulu Star Advertiser as well.  The birds are all old cigarette lighters and the blue and green areas are small plastic pieces that washed up or that albatrosses brought back to feed to their chicks.

 This is the other "Lighter art" piece that Susan donated.  Thanks, Susan!

 We had a full house at the All Hands Club for Sak's retirement party.

Here's the guest of honor, in the dark shirt, as well as Toy, Kamwang, Prajim, and Anthony.

Someone had a lifesize photo of Sak made for everyone to take photos with.  The golf bag, which everyone signed, was a retirement gift from the island.  The cutout will stay on Midway, but Sak will take the golf bag. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Duck Bands and Kahana

The Kahana showed up this week and brought some supplies for the lead paint remediation.  The plane also brought 16 people up for that project and they'll be here for 5 weeks.  They are a good bunch of guys and seem like they're liking Midway so far. The Chugach band played last night at the All Hands Club, but had to quit early due to electrical problems.  It's been a while since they played since a few of the band members were off island for a while.

Michelle and Chris have been catching a lot of ducks and replacing or putting on new bands.  We've already been spotting the new ones in the field and they are much easier to read.

People have been seeing a Northern harrier (formerly known as a Marsh hawk) around the island.  It's apparently really easy to spot because there's normally a big flock of white terns or noddies harassing it.  I haven't seen it yet, but I'll try to get a photo of it for positive ID.  I hope it leaves before it eats too many birds.
 
We've been getting a lot of rain this week, and it's not quite as warm.  But it's still beautiful.

 This duck has a new band.  You can see the 9 pretty easily.

 The Kahana brought fuel and the lead paint supplies.  And stayed about 2 days. 

 The white tern chick in my yard finally left yesterday.  It's been able to fly for over a month, but hung around anyway.  It's a nice bird, so I hope it comes back to visit now and then.

We did a sunset duck survey over on Eastern Island last night.  The sunset wasn't the most colorful, but it was nice watching it on the really smooth boat ride back to Sand Island, which you can see on the horizon of this picture. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Spielberg's 'A.I.' as alien communication allegory

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers
Haley Joel Osment and pal in Spielberg's A.I. (2001)
Over at the Daily Grail, recent Silver Screen Saucers guest blogger Red Pill Junkie shares some very interesting UFOlogical musings on Spielberg’s 2001 ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ sci-fi epic A.I. Artificial Intelligence (personally, I love it – and so does Red Pill Junkie).

Hollywood to revisit ‘The Twilight Zone’ in 2012

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Cloverfield director Matt Reeves has been selected by Warner Bros. Pictures to direct a new movie based on the classic TV series, The Twilight Zone, which originally ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964 and later underwent two revivals (1985–1989 and 2002–2003).

According to Deadline, a script has been penned by Jason Rothenberg, and life-long Twilight Zone fan Leonardo DiCaprio is onboard as a producer. This won’t be the first time The Twilight Zone has received the silver screen treatment: in 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie (directed in part by Steven Spielberg) flopped at the box-office due to bad publicity stemming from a helicopter crash during filming that killed three of the movie’s actors. Even without the blight of this tragedy, the episodic structure of the movie -- as well as the jarring styles and sensibilities of its multiple directors -- made it decidedly hit-and-miss.

The new Twilight Zone is being described as a "big science fiction action movie with a single freestanding story." No further details have yet been released by Warner Bros., however, online speculation suggests that the movie may be based on the classic TZ episode ‘To Serve Man’, in which a race of seemingly benevolent nine-foot-tall aliens lands on Earth and proceeds to solve humanity’s most pressing problems, including hunger, energy, and the threat of nuclear war. Soon, many Earthlings are volunteering to visit their alien saviours’ home planet where --oops-- they learn that they are ingredients in an alien cookbook titled... To Serve Man!

Warner Bros. aims to start shooting in summer 2012, which means the movie won’t hit cinemas until sometime in 2013. Whether or not the new Twilight Zone movie will actually be based on 'To Serve Man' remains to be seen, but an alien-themed story of some kind seems likely given the current popularity of the UFO movie at the Hollywood box-office.

Incidentally -- and perhaps more intriguingly -- Deadline also notes that director Matt Reeves has “a deal at Universal to write and direct a film based on the Ray Nelson short story 8 O’Clock in the Morning, about a man who awakens with the realization that aliens are all over the place and control society.” 8 O’Clock in the Morning, of course, was the story on which John Carpenter’s brilliant 1988 movie They Live was based. Universal has just released a prequel to Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing to poor reviews and disappointing box-office returns. Silly Universal -- leave the Carpenter classics alone!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

'The Thing' opens to frosty reviews

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers



The Thing has opened in US cinemas today with critics failing to warm to the Antarctic-set sci-fi horror prequel. John Carpenter’s 1982 movie of the same name is regarded as a classic of its genre - a perfect movie - and so a frosty critical reception for this new version was to be expected.

Variety notes that, “Apart from [Mary Elizabeth] Winstead's flamethrower-toting paleontologist, bravely battling an extraterrestrial menace that hides inside its human prey, this unfrighteningly icky "Thing" is memorable mainly for illustrating CGI's gross deficiencies relative to old-fashioned makeup f/x.”

Slant Magazine was also unimpressed, finding the movie to be sorely lacking the tension of the 1982 version:

Rather than attempt to recreate the precarious mix of psychological tension and gore struck by Carpenter's version, The Thing favors the latter, maintaining a sideline interest in suspense but no real devotion to prolonging it.”

The filmmakers can take solace in Salon’s review, however, which describes the movie as “a lovingly constructed tribute and companion to Carpenter’s 'Thing,' not a knockoff or a replica. It’s full of chills and thrills and isolated Antarctic atmosphere and terrific Hieronymus Bosch creature effects, and if it winks genially at the plot twists of Carpenter’s film, it never feels even a little like some kind of inside joke."

Not terrible, then, by any means – but perhaps a little redundant. Check back here at Silver Screen Saucers in a few days for a box-office report, and for more critics’ reviews of The Thing, head on over to Rotten Tomatoes.

Disney's Mars movie "excellent" says test audience

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Disney's forthcoming Mars-based epic John Carter has been well received by test audiences according to the film's director, Andrew Stanton. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Stanton (who directed Pixar hits Finding Nemo and Wall-E) said that a two-hour cut of John Carter was screened in July for an audience in Portland, Oregon, with 75% of attendees scoring the movie either "excellent" or "very good", despite it being largely unfinished and distinctly lacking in post-production polish.

It has not all been plain sailing for Stanton, however. When the director screened a nearly-three-hour rough cut of John Carter for his Pixar colleagues last December the reception was far from enthusiastic. The opening scenes in particular were said to be "rather drab" and the movie as a whole lacked the "personal touch" seen in Stanton's previous movies. As a result, back in April, Disney agreed to fund 18 days of reshoots. The director didn't take it personally, though. “Reshoots should be mandatory," he said, "some of the Pixarness we’re trying to spread at Disney is ‘It’s O.K. to not know, to be wrong, to screw up and rely on each other.’ Art is messy, art is chaos—so you need a system.”

 

Stanton says the movie's new opening will "launch viewers immediately into a battle [on Mars] between Zodangans and Therns, before cutting to Earth where we first meet John Carter."

John Carter is due for release in March, 2012, and, with a budget approaching $300 million, it will need to do some serious business at the box-office if it is to become the franchise that Disney hopes for.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guest blogger exclusive #8

In the eighth instalment of the the Silver Screen Saucers guest blogger series, well known Fortean blogger Red Pill Junkie (a.k.a. Miguel Romero) draws our attention to a little-known Spanish UFO movie...

Platillos Volantes is notable for a number of UFOlogical reasons - not least among which is its bold exploration of what RPJ refers to as "UFOlogy's ugly bastard son - the Contactist (or “contactee”) movement." Even more intriguing is that the movie is based on a true story - one with a bizarre and tragic ending. Read on...

Guest blogger: Red Pill Junkie

Platillos Volantes

By Red Pill Junkie (a.k.a. Miguel Romero)

Terrassa, Spain, 1972: On the railroad tracks near this industrial Catalonian city, agents of the Civilian Guard make a ghastly discovery – two male bodies, neatly dressed in black suits and white shirts, their heads cleanly severed by the locomotive that rolled over their necks. With no apparent signs of struggle or foul play, the guards suspect some sort of suicide pact, which is later confirmed after they find a handwritten letter in one of the men’s jackets. The note reads:

The Extraterrestrials call us. We belong to the Infinite.

Thus begins the movie Platillos Volantes (Flying Saucers), written and directed in 2003 by Oscar Aibar, starring Jordi Vilches & Angel de Andrés, which tells the story of Juan Turu Vallés & José Félix Rodríguez Montero, two blue-collar workers living in the last years of Franco's regime, joined together in an odd friendship by their passion for – or rather obsession with – interplanetary craft and their yearning to call their benevolent occupants. The men’s friendship ultimately leads them to attempt the ultimate test: discarding their mortal vessels – their bodies – in order to make the trip to Jupiter.

The film is both social commentary on the oppressive atmosphere suffered in Spain after 40 years of the Generalisimo's rule, as well as the dramatization of a true event which signalled a loss of innocence in the public’s enthusiasm for UFOs and the chance they offered us to look up to the stars and dream of a better world. But more than this, Platillos Volantes stands out in the history of cinema because of its rare portrayal of Ufology's ugly bastard son – the Contactist (or “contactee”) movement.

Indeed, the Space Brothers – and the folks who claim to be in contact with them – have never sat well with most UFO researchers, so eager to bring to the field the respectability that will finally grant them the prodigal-son-like welcome into the halls of Academia of which they've always dreamed. They want to focus on the physical traces, the burn marks, the radar signals and the official reports; but messages of universal love sent by Venusians? Nothing but tabloid fodder and New Age freak shows, they complain.

And yet long before the world became amazed by flying saucers and the possibility of interstellar travellers, there were individuals attempting to channel the wisdom of superior intelligences beyond our earthly realm. At the core of every religion is the idea that such communication is not only possible, but worth pursuing. The Contactist movement reminds us that this phenomenon, whatever its true origin and intentions, chooses to appeal to the strong irrational undercurrents of the human psyche. Some people will never care about irrefutable evidence or peer-reviews; they long for something more basic and ancestral: Salvation.



Platillos Volantes could not be further from the typical Hollywood treatment of UFOs. Not only does it not rely on flashy special effects or CGI to carry its story, but, unlike many movies that claim to be based on real cases, the historical events which inspired it are very well documented and its script is largely faithful to the facts. The Ufological accuracy of movie is due at least in part to Iker Jiménez – one of the most prominent Spanish Ufologists today, who was hired by the producers as an on-set consultant. This arrangement, of course, brings to mind Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), which benefited from the advice of the late Dr. Hynek, who also made a brief cameo in Spielberg’s movie. Like Hynek, Jiménez also had his chance in front of the camera.

But there are other reasons why the serious Fortean researcher should consider adding Platillos Volantes to their must-see list:

· The Apocalyptic overtones which have always been predominant in the Contactist discourse, along with the belief that only a few 'chosen ones' will be saved from the final holocaust to become modern Elijahs and be transported to the heavens.

· It shows how governments might have a tendency to investigate UFO groups, not necessarily because they fear that the UFO buffs will discover some dark secret protected by alphabet soup organizations, but because often times the political and moral beliefs of the people who are attracted to the mystery of life on other planets would be perceived as 'radical', 'subversive' or down-right 'communist' – especially with the paranoia of the Cold War when an innocent plea for nuclear disarmament would inscribe your name in the black list (not to mention the student protests and union strikes in Spain heralding the winds of change, which were being fiercely repressed by the old guard).

· It details some particular aspects of the Contactist belief system, such as the use of 'automatic writing' as one of the most favored methods to channel the messages of the Space Brothers; as well as the strict ascetic regime which was considered necessary in order not only to keep open the 'channel' with the UFOnauts, but also to induce an actual physical mutation on the Contactees themselves – indulging in simple pleasures like a good salami was strictly forbidden. Such ideas are just the new iteration of the ancient hermetic tradition which seeks enlightenment through abstinence.

· Finally, with the bizarre demise of the two protagonists, it underscores why we should all have heeded Jacques Vallee's warnings detailed in his book Messengers of Deception, which have might averted tragedies such as Heaven's Gate mass suicide – tragedies that are very likely to be repeated during the final countdown to 2012.

If what you seek in a UFO flick is a constant bombardment of CGI effects, humongous explosions à la Michael Bay, and scantly-dressed sexy girls working out their vocal chords during each close-up shot, then you should probably steer clear of this film. However, for the smart movie-goer who is also intrigued by the history of Contactism – and who's not challenged by screen subtitles, as are 99% of the American movie audience – then Platillos Volantes is a film you might want to add to your Amazon Xmas wish list... maybe as a gift to that annoying New Agey cousin of yours who never stops yapping about the Pleiadians and the Brotherhood of Light.

Red Pill Junkie —a.k.a. Miguel Romero— is a 38 year-old interior designer by trade, and student of paranormal phenomena by calling. He's been interested in weird mysteries for as long as he can remember. When he's not searching the web looking for his daily fix of Forteana, he can be found blogging, fooling around, & offering his services as news administrator at The Daily Grail.

His residence in Mexico City will grant him front seats to the return of Quetzalcoatl in 2012 — scalpers willing.