Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'Signs': UFOs, TV, and Hyperreality


By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Hollywood was slow to catch onto the ‘crop circle’ craze. The often spectacular formations (most common in the South West of England) had been making international headlines for over two decades and the theory that they were of extraterrestrial origin had been widely discredited in the mainstream media by the time director M. Night Shyamalan made Hollywood’s first – and, to date, only– crop circle blockbuster. Signs(2002) was the industry’s first major UFO film since the events of 9/11 and its fear-based narrative situated the alien threat directly within the American family home. Inspired by speculation in the UFO community in the 1980s that crop formations were alien navigation coordinates, Signs draws broadly from the UFO mythos and, in one of its more comical scenes, has three of its characters huddled together in tinfoil hats, wracked by paranoia. Beyond such cliché, however, Shyamalan’s film exhibits a deeper -- perhaps subconscious -- awareness of the UFO phenomenon and the effects of its mass-mediation in post-modern America.

In the film, the lives of a farming family in rural Pennsylvania – headed by old-fashioned priest and widower Reverend Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) – are thrown into turmoil when a crop formation appears overnight in their corn field. From blanket TV news coverage we learn that hundreds of similar crop ‘signs’ have appeared suddenly and simultaneously around the world, baffling experts. Graham is quietly concerned and seeks to distance his family from the inexplicable events unfolding around them by refusing them access to the media circus now spoon-feeding the hungry masses. “See, this is why we’re not watching TV,” says Graham, “people get obsessed.” For Graham, despite the undeniable physical reality of the ‘sign’ in his corn field and his own gut instinct that something strange is afoot, it is only through their mediation by TV news reports that the bizarre events can assume a sense of the ‘real’. Discussing Baudrillard’s notions of hyperreality, John Storey notes that, “Representation does not stand at one remove from reality, to conceal or distort it, it is reality”;1implicitly aware of this, Graham opts to sever his own access to media representations of the events, leaving him free to interpret them as he chooses and to continue to inhabit his own secure, albeit emotionally stagnant, reality. It is only when Graham catches a glimpse of an alien in his corn field one night that terror prompts him to submit to his family’s desire to be mediated (“Okay, let’s turn on the TV”). It is Graham’s submission to television that plants him firmly in the “present age” to which Feuerbach refers in The Essence of Christianity: an age “which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, the appearance to the essence...” For Graham, the grieving widower and priest faced with an incomprehensible threat to his family, now more than ever, “Illusion only is sacred, truth profane.”2
Glued to the screen: The Hess family.

As the family watch “live” footage of numerous UFOs over Mexico City, Graham’s brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), in reference to the generic UFO believers he had mocked in an earlier scene, quips: “the nerds were right.” Shyamalan’s decision to have the alien craft arrive over Mexico City is clearly inspired by the real-life mass-sightings of UFOs over this same locale during the solar eclipse of July 11, 1991 when hundreds of people witnessed what appeared to be a number of hovering, metallic, disc-shaped objects. At least 15 people filmed the objects from different locations and, despite their thorough investigation by the Mexican media, the sightings were never explained and have since become a text-book case for UFO researchers.3Signs again draws from the UFO mythos during a scene in which Merrill reacts with horror as the TV news runs grainy, daylight footage of an alien prowling the backstreets of Paso Fundo, Brazil. This is an oblique reference the famous ‘Varginha incident’ of 1996 in which three teenage girls claimed to have been traumatised by a daylight encounter with an extraterrestrial in the Brazilian city of Varginha.4
Several scenes later, the whole family has succumbed entirely to the transcendental, reality-defining power of their television as they stare passively at the numerous “lights” now hovering over Washington DC and over hundreds of cities worldwide. Such is the magnetism of their TV screen that, rather than driving to the nearest city in an attempt to see the lights for themselves or even simply stepping outside to glance up at the sky, the family considers it more natural to watch the events on television and, most importantly, to record them. “We have to tape this,” urges Graham’s son, Morgan, “this is very important... the history of the world’s future is on the TV right now,” telling his younger sister Bo (Abigail Breslin), “We need to record this so you can show your children this tape and say you were there.” Clearly, the Hess family understand that the postmodern media do not simply provide, “secondary representations of reality; they affect and produce the reality that they mediate,”5and that, “all events that ‘matter’ are media events.”6

As the saucer-shaped lights twinkle overhead, the anchorman informs viewers that “This image has not been adjusted or enhanced in anyway. What you’re seeing is real. It’s unbelievable.” Later in the film, Graham asks himself, “Is this really happening?” Such dialogue points to an awareness on Shayamalan’s part that the literal existence of UFOs is, for many people, difficult to accept; not because of what UFOs may represent (alien life), but because of how the phenomenon has been mediated (i.e. ridiculed) for over 60 years. Shayamalan’s concerns along these lines are expressed subtly in his decision to confine his UFOs and aliens securely to his characters’ TV screen as objects of media scrutiny for all but a few seconds of the film’s total running time.
Terrifying and comforting: ET on TV.
The extent to which the family’s perceptions of UFOs have been historically mediated is also effectively illustrated through their inability to envisage what horrors might be unfolding beyond the four corners of their TV screen. When both their television and radio cease to function as a result of the unseen invasion outside, in the total absence of media to guide their perceptions, the Hess family are lost, as demonstrated when a terrified Merrill asks: “What’s going on out there?” A question to which Graham can only respond: “I can’t even imagine.” Indeed, in an earlier scene, when Merrill does attempt to make use of his imagination, he can’t help but fall back on iconographic imagery conjured by classic UFOlogical fiction, describing the scenes on TV as being “like War of the Worlds.”

During the film’s climax in which an alien intruder holds Morgan hostage in the Hess family’s living room Shyamalan again chooses to objectify the aliens through television – this time quite literally. When Graham finally sees the alien up close it is in the form of a reflection in his TV screen, and, again, when the creature is defeated and lies dying on the floor we see only its reflection in the glass of the television. Are aliens real, or do they exist only as media constructs? In Signs Shayamalan seems to answer the question with a question: “in today’s hyperreal society, does it make a difference?”

Signs differs from most films in the UFO subgenre in Shayamalan’s bold decision to engage with the UFO subject through the intellectual framework of spectatorship and hyperreality, and, as a meditation on UFOs as a media abstraction (viewed most comfortably through the filter of television), the film serves as a reflection of popular attitudes towards the phenomenon today, demonstrating that, when it comes to UFOs, even Hollywood in its mass-mediation of the phenomenon is acutely aware that, “There is no longer a clear distinction between a ‘real’ event and its media representation.”7

Copyright © 2012, Robbie Graham

1. John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction (Fourth Edition) (University of Georgia Press, 2006), p. 136.

2. Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity: Translated from the Second German Edition by Marion Evans, 1890, xiii, in Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967, Marxists Internet Archive.

3. Dolan, UFOs and the National Security State: Volume 2, pp. 559-560.

4. Matt Moffett,Tale of Stinky Extraterrestrials Stirs Up UFO Crowd in Brazil,’ The Wall Street Journal, 12 July, 1996. Available at:

For a popular accounting of the ‘Varginha Incident’, see Roger K. Leir, UFO Crash in Brazil: A Genuine UFO Crash with Surviving ETs (California: The Book Tree, 2005).

5. John Fiske, Media Matters: Everyday Culture and Media Change (University of Minnesota Press, 1994), p. xv, in Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, p. 135.

6. Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: An Introduction, p. 135.

7. Ibid.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Aliens next door: "Shouldn't Obama know about this?"

Silver Screen Saucers

Aliens -- Disney just can't get enough of 'em. The House of Mouse will launch its latest alien visitation-themed project this September through TV subsidiary ABC. Here's the official blub (and scroll down for the trailer)...

"How well do you know your neighbors?

Meet the Weavers, Debbie (Jami Gertz) and Marty (Lenny Venito). Marty, in hopes of providing a better life for his wife and three kids, recently bought a home in Hidden Hills, a gated New Jersey townhome community with its own golf course. Hidden Hills is so exclusive that a house hasn't come on the market in 10 years. But one finally did and the Weavers got it!

It's clear from day one that the residents of Hidden Hills are a little different. For starters, their new neighbors all have pro-athlete names like Reggie Jackson (Tim Jo), Jackie Joyner-Kersee (Toks Olagundoye), Dick Butkis (Ian Patrick) and Larry Bird (Simon Templeman). Over dinner, Marty and his family discover that their neighbors receive nourishment through their eyes by reading books, rather than eating. The Weavers soon learn that the entire community is comprised of aliens from Zabvron, where the men bear children and everyone cries green goo from their ears.

The Zabvronians have been stationed on Earth for the past 10 years, disguised as humans, awaiting instructions from home, and the Weavers are the first humans they've had the opportunity to know. As it turns out, the pressures of marriage and parenthood are not exclusive to planet Earth. Two worlds will collide with hilarious consequences as everyone discovers they can "totally relate" and learn a lot from each other.

The Neighbors stars Jami Gertz (Entourage, Modern Family, Still Standing, Ally McBeal) as Debbie Weaver, Lenny Venito (Bored to Death, Men in Black III, Person of Interest, Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Marty Weaver, Simon Templeman as Larry Bird, Toks Olagundoye as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Clara Mamet as Amber Weaver, Tim Jo (Glory Daze) as Reggie Jackson, Ian Patrick (Wanderlust) as Dick Butkis, Max Charles (The Three Stooges, The Amazing Spider-Man) as Max Weaver, Isabella Cramp as Abby Weaver.

Guest starring are Mitch Rouse as Real Estate Agent and Doug Jones as Alien. Co-Starring are Bruce Green as Angry Man and Mary K. DeVault as Angry Woman.

The Neighbors was written by Dan Fogelman (Cars, Tangled, and Crazy, Stupid, Love) who is also an executive producer with Aaron Kaplan, Jeff Morton (Modern Family) and Chris Koch (Workaholics, Modern Family). The Neighbors was directed by Chris Koch and is from ABC Studios."

The Neighbors premiers Wednesday Sept. 26 9:30|8:30c.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

UFO Secrecy, Deep Politics, and the Batman


By Jack Witek

Image credit:

It was the worst of times and the best of times for the opening of the final film in the magisterial Dark Knight trilogy, a film inspired by A Tale of Two Cities. What had inspired James Holmes to murder? Culture Wars commentary points the finger at the films themselves and the nihilistic ‘culture of death’ as Alex Jones calls it, or it blames the 2nd Amendment. Was Holmes a patsy set up or only partly involved, as the alternative research community is arguing? Is the fact that he seems drugged out of his mind in court proceedings an indicator of anything? Or that he was once a star neuroscience student at a university complex once owned by the Army, and a hundred other oddities springing up like mushrooms?

At the beginning of Chapter Three in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens observes:

‘A Wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this. No more can I turn the leaves of this dear book that I loved, and vainly hope in time to read it all. No more can I look into the depths of this unfathomable water, wherein, as momentary lights glanced into it, I have had glimpses of buried treasure and other things submerged. It was appointed that the book should shut with a spring, for ever and for ever, when I had read but a page. It was appointed that the water should be locked in an eternal frost, when the light was playing on its surface, and I stood in ignorance on the shore. My friend is dead, my neighbour is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life's end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?’

Commenting for heraldonline James Carroll writes:

‘Apocalyptic fantasies have been a staple of creative expression at least since the Book of Revelation, which, in the West, defines much of the language of the genre: salvation through destruction, cities under attack, angels versus devils, the end of history, and so on. ”The Dark Knight Rises,” with a plot hanging on the detonation of a nuclear bomb, efficiently follows the ancient form, with a 21st Century resonance. We bring our real-life anxieties into darkened theaters, so why shouldn't movies pluck dissonant chords tied, consciously or not, to nuclear dread or 9/11? Perhaps bringing such doomsday anxieties into movie houses is a way of not unleashing them on the world.’

Carroll goes on to conclude:

‘It seems clear that, across the globe today, barriers to inhuman behavior that was once unthinkable have been weakened. Mass shootings are a sign of this — children expressly targeted in Norway last year. So is the plague of suicide bombing that has befallen the Middle East, the self turned into an indiscriminate weapon. Innocents not seduced but destroyed. Blurred distinctions between fantasy and reality, between watching and doing, between war and detached manipulation of technology: These are marks of a precious psychological barrier being lowered. A dark night falling.’

I will be addressing this awful, insulting and borish criticism in more depth at the end of this article, but before I get even further ahead of myself, a word about UFOs and classified energy and propulsion technologies, as after all is this not the cult website Silver Screen Saucers I am very happy to be guest blogging for? To wit, Bruce Wayne, Wayne Enterprises and the Batman embody much of the contradictions, power dynamics and symbolism inherent in the image of the UFO cover-up that we in ufology have formed over the decades. In A.D. After Disclosure, Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel push the edges in making a map of the world with conspiracy drawn in and Disclosure played out, and in blogging on the official website in an article titled Breakaway Civilisation, Richard notes:

The Dynamic Duo: Zabel and Dolan.
‘With a secret fleet of vehicles utilizing field propulsion and able to explore beyond Earth’s orbit, it is easy to see how the cadre of people involved in such a program would develop new vistas of experience and imagination.

Such a group would continue to be funded secretly and covertly by a combination of public and private funds. In effect, it would constitute an invisible empire, with technology superior to the rest of the world, able to explore areas of our world unavailable to the rest of us. It would probably have a significant built infrastructure, possibly underground and “off the grid” in important ways. It might even have interactions or encounters with non-human intelligences behind the UFO phenomenon. Most certainly it would be concerned somehow with managing the problem of “others” here on Planet Earth. All of the above would indicate that the group members would have deeper scientific and cosmological insights.

Yes, this might qualify them as a separate, “breakaway,” civilization. 

Such a group would have great independence from the established system of power and control, although I would doubt its members would live in a completely separate environment all the time, like some Alternative 3 scenario. Most likely they would need to work in “our” world, if for no other reason than that Earth is where the action is. They would probably move back and forth between the realities of their deeply classified world and the official reality that the rest of us inhabit. Undoubtedly not an easy life.’ 

Not for Bruce Wayne, not for them, one can hypothetically imagine. As an ironic wink, in The Dark Knight the police have a photo of Batman tacked to their ‘Most Wanted’ board, next to a still from the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film, and I’m sure John Keel, author of the Mothman Prophecies would have got a kick out of Batman and his glowing red eyes swooping over the hallucinogen induced terrors in Gotham in the first film. But Christopher Nolan, his co-writer brother, and his producer wife, set out to strip the pomp and cartoon from the franchise, like the effects of the Scarecrow’s psychotropic weaponized hallucinogen from Batman Begins, as with ayahuasca which the blue flower compound is reminiscent of, they purged the franchise, reflecting back some of society’s basest elements, most terrible shadows and most transcendent hopes and fear.

In A.D. After Disclosure, Richard and Bryce postulate that what began with the likes of a Majestic 12 within the military as it was then, has since become a private esoteric and corporate affair, the conspiracy of silence, which translates to the League of Shadows and, of course, Batman himself. The interface of old and new money, basically. Directly analogous to the question of classified ‘free energy’ technology and the implications for Disclosure and the UFO, the plot of the third film revolves around the clean energy fusion reactor that Wayne developed and Bane turned into a bomb, the bomb module itself being evidently directly designed to conform to the dimensions of the Trinity test site nuclear device, known as the Gadget. Richard and Bryce argue in After Disclosure that one of the main factors in the policy of UFO cover-up is the possibility of reverse-engineering recovered craft and working out the energy systems that drive them. This presumes of course there are any nuts and bolts systems driving these or that it was an alien disc that crashed in Roswell or anywhere else, and not something entirely different, even if it was ‘nuts and bolts’ as Joseph P. Farrell will attest. Of course it needn’t even be that they directly reconfigured alien technology, they could simply have been inspired by it to figure it out for themselves. Nick Pope has said as much himself, while also flatly denying the possibility of recovered craft. In an articleby Lee Spiegel on the Calvine UFO photo that the MoD had secreted away: ‘Naturally, we wanted the propulsion system,’ he added. ‘And if we couldn't get it, we wanted to at least try and understand the principles on which it might work because that might play into research and development.’ Christian Lambright makes an interesting case for the US military being inspired by alien technology in his book X Descending, which also chronicles the psychological operation known now as the Bennewtiz Affair. Were they hiding Bat crafts of their own at the Manzano weapons storage facility? Richard and Bryce argue that the fear of the weaponization of such ‘free energy’ technology, or the fear of starting a new arms race after you yourself have weaponized it and losing your monopoly of power, could well be the crux of the secrecy.

Ufology began pragmatically, more or less. The pool had yet to be unalterably muddied by the contactees, by channels, by abduction, crop circles and mutes, by the Bennewitz Affair or Exopolitics. This early groundedness was not least of all owed to the fact that the first ufologists were from military and intelligence backgrounds themselves, even chairpersons of whole civilian UFO groups. One of the earliest and to this day staunchest rational advocates of the subject, Jacques Vallee, pointed out in Messengers of Deception, as his military intelligence source ‘Major Murphy’ warned him, that in some cases this was no doubt not accidental. Like any good scientist, with some prodding, Vallee collated his suspicions and paid attention to the uncomfortable details swept aside in the rush to the utopic Disclosure and alien contact. He has never swayed from his stance that the UFO is a physical object manifesting intense energy of a physics known or unknown. Where he departedat the end of the ‘60s from almost everyone else was that he could never take it for granted that in every case or even in most cases they were literal physical aliens from an exoplanet. As Arthur Koestler said to him, hearing the accounts of experiencers left him with the same feeling one has after a bad seedy joke.

Has the UFO been used as a cover for groups on earth, military intelligence operations, perhaps? Mind control experiments? This is again reminiscent of the blue flower compound from Nolan’s Batman films that is used by the League of Shadows. Peter Robbins notes that somewhere, there is a factory that makes the legless block tables that are always encountered in regression accounts despite leading questions, such as ‘describe how many legs the table has’. Well, perhaps. But that in and of itself doesn’t account for the pathological, the goofy, the downright absurd that is a lot of the abduction and contact accounts. In Batman Begins, Ra's al Ghul counsels Bruce that: ‘If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, then you become something else entirely.’ Which is? asks Bruce. ‘A legend, Mr. Wayne’. And on his private jet, a conversation with Alfred: ‘People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can't do that as Bruce Wayne, as a man I'm flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.’ What symbol? asks Alfred. ‘Something elemental, something terrifying.’ Bane, in The Dark Knight Rises: ‘Theatricality and deception, powerful agents for the uninitiated. But we are initiated, aren't we Bruce?’

And that word on violence and meme propagation, on the invidious accusations from Alex Jones that these films are psychological conditioning. Alex Jones, a man who I nonetheless respect greatly, has said on his radio show review that he walked out halfway through the film in disgust at its acclimatising police state propaganda. Apparently the film is nothing more than a giant corporate mind job to vilify protesters, Occupiers, as terrorists and violent anarchists, that it lionises the police and the militarised corporate security state in Wayne Enterprises. Well, in brief, it appears evident Jones was not watching the same film I was. I mean, of the police in the film, the ones on the bridge are depicted essentially as fascists who were ‘just following orders’, the Commissioner is disgraced as a liar, before atoning nearly with his life, a young rookie tries to shoot Batman, and the other senior cop who refers to Blake as an irresponsible ‘hothead’ and thus ensures Bane’s surprise siege, is himself a careerist dolt who abuses his bloated force for celebrity. And Jones says this film lionises the police?

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) in The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

It bespeaks the tunnel vision that befalls great martyrs to causes, like Jones, the very kind of martyr that is encountered in the trilogy on a grand scale. It seems to deny the role of the artist, which is primarily to make art. Yes, it is a giant Hollywood funded production with extensive corporate sponsorship, but does that invalidate Christopher Nolan’s vision and the work of his family and the creative geniuses he surrounds himself with? Corporations don’t care often about the message, as long as they can make money off of it, co-opting it in the process. But Nolan, I feel, is beyond that. Apparently Nolan and co are all paid agents, or unwitting dupes, but what is this based on? The story arc of this final film is perfectly continuous with what was began in 2005, so do we then surmise that they foresaw Occupy and paid off Nolan years in advance? This is pathetic and absurd. And after all, does Max Keiser not fill auditoriums and TV studios to the full with people who cheer his message of ‘Let’s hang some bankers’? I’m not comparing the two, but Iran has just announced it will hang four defendants on charges of two billion dollar banking fraud, perhaps as scapegoats for internal corruption. Selina warns that: ‘There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.’ Also, the argument that these films glory in violence is rather weak, and reflects more on the mindset of the antagonists in the Culture Wars than it does on these films, where all of the worst violence isn’t even shown in-frame. Compare to Inglorious Basterds, or the Saw films. The true violence explored in these films is psychological, spiritual. It is all about the dark night of the soul. The comic book inspiration for these films also lies heavily with Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum and Alan Moore’s Killing Joke. I remember that David Fincher’s Fight Club gained the same criticism from media commentators, that it encouraged anarchist violence, which always completely ignored the fact that the films, like the Dark Knight trilogy, are a meditation on violence, on movements, on secret societies, of how they become the mirror of that which they are fighting. Interestingly enough, one of the prisoners in Gotham’s Blackgate is seen reading Mein Kampf, with a big fat swastika on the red cover. In Jon Ronson's Them: Adventures With Extremists, the book that chronicles his infiltration with Jones into Bohemian Grove, of his own separate adventures with the Bilderberg group, and other organisations and ideological movements, he comes to the conclusion that while these secret societies do exist, people like Jones – and here he does indeed unfairly and unsparingly and untruthfully lump Jones in with the KKK and other groups – however righteous they may be, are only the extreme mirror of the same groups. I always felt this was an interesting if very overstated insight, but in some ways I think it is indeed applicable, not that you won’t have already heard this same criticism of course. But I am not here to bash Jones, simply to criticise some of his statements. After all, like the ‘gang of psychopaths’ that Wayne refers to the League of Shadows as being, as Ronson found out in his later adventure with The Psychopath Test: ‘This - Bob was saying - was the straightforward solution to the greatest mystery of all: Why is the world so unfair? Why all that savage economic injustice, those brutal wars, the everyday corporate cruelty? The answer: psychopaths. That part of the brain that doesn't function right. You're standing on an escalator and you watch the people going past on the opposite escalator. If you could climb inside their brains, you would see we aren't all the same. We aren't all good people just trying to do good. Some of us are psychopaths. And psychopaths are to blame for this brutal, misshapen society. They're the jagged rocks thrown into the still pond.’

Chalk it up to passion: director Christopher Nolan during the the filming of the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

Jonathan Nolan said: 'A Tale of Two Cities' was, to me, one of the most harrowing portraits of a relatable, recognizable civilization that completely folded to pieces with the terrors in Paris in France in that period. It's hard to imagine that things can go that badly wrong.’ In The Dark Knight Rises, you have the orphan child drawing with white chalk Batman wings onto walls, which later John Blake adopts, as it were, and this symbolises the dual nature of the beast, in contrast to Bruce Wayne’s blacked out lone wolf, er, bat. Gotham’s version of the Canadian student movement’s Red Square, or Anonymous’ V mask. What Steve Bassett calls the ‘Truth Embargo’ has been ongoing for generations now, and trust in the state has not only been abused, it has been used as a weapon, if Jacques Vallee and Dr. Joseph P. Farrell are right. People are looking elsewhere for their truth now, even to irrationality and cults, fleeing ‘from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.’ But certainly to the mythic.

Now, some people want to be swept away by the UFO, but do they appreciate the shadow it casts into the past, into our future, of the masks and the marks, and what they are really asking for? ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.’

Jack Witek is the 'James Bond of Ufology', or so Richard Dolan insists, but you can take it up with him. Jack is a full time dilettante in aforesaid, and generally a reasonable chap. He Needs to Know, and feels you do to. He lives by the sea in Plymouth, England, with his insufferable alien-hybrid cat, Adramelech, or Adra for short. 'Adra, PUT that Man in Black down, NOW!' et cetera. You can catch him in one of the city’s many fine drinking establishments sipping herbal tea and nibbling quinoa crackers with his head buried in the latest UFO book, trying to look inconspicuous yet mysterious and strangely attractive.

See more of Jack's work at his blog site, Unidentified Flying Media.

Monday, August 13, 2012

F-18's Part II

Our Marine Corps visitors are still here this week.  A crew of marines came out on an Air Force C-130 to finish repairing the F-18, so now they are ready to go.  Other than that, it's been kind of a quiet week, meaning not a lot of new things are going on.  That doesn't mean it's not busy though.  We've had a few Laysan ducks with botulism, so we're checking all around every pond, every day for more sick or dead ones.  We've still got our lead paint remediation project going on, there is still a crew here sealing cracks on the runway, and there's still a construction crew here renovating the housing so we have enough space to put everyone.  

I'm going on vacation for a few weeks.  But I'll be back the first week in September.  Aloha.

Here's the Air Force C-130 with the F-18's.  It looks almost like the photo last week of the USMC C-130.

The west side of the island looks like a jungle.  There are big Indian almond trees, sea grape trees, a lot of ironwoods, and still a lot of verbesina.  We won't be removing the verbesina from that side of the island for a while yet.

The Sooty tern chicks over on Eastern Island are starting to fledge, so they'll still be around for a couple more months.

We're still taking care of the White tern chicks that got displaced during the lead paint remediation project.  Some of them are flying now, too.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hollywood's 'Mars curse' explained

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Over at The Secret Sun, Christopher Knowles provides a fascinating, nuanced reading of Disney’s recent Mars movie-disaster John Carter.

If I’m being nitpicky, though (which I am), I’ll have to take issue with the suggestion that John Carter was “sabotaged by outside forces.” To be fair, this suggestion comes not directly from Chris Knowles, but from Richard Hoagland, who Knowles refers to in his article as having highlighted (on Coast to Coast AM) the fact that celebrated director Andrew Stanton’s name featured scantily in Disney’s marketing for John Carter: “As Richard C. Hoagland pointed out, his name was nowhere to be seen in the promotion or advertising of the film. Very strange,” writes Knowles. 

Actually, not strange at all. Disney didn’t want audiences to actively associate the live-action and thematically mature John Carter with Andrew Stanton’s name, which previously had been linked exclusively to animated productions suitable for very young audiences (A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E). It was a marketing strategy on Disney’s part. Simple as that.

But no marketing strategy, however daring, could have saved John Carter from box-office oblivion, contrary to what Richard Hoagland has suggested. The movie was simply too damn odd to succeed. It showed no interest in conforming to generic convention. It doesn’t fit the blockbuster mould. Ponderous and literary, the movie is faithful to the point of slavishness to the dense mythology of its source material -- material that today, in comparison to the likes of Tolkien’s most famous work, is outrageously obscure.

What killed John Carter was the Martian Curse, which is not in any way conspiratorial or mystical, but is a cultural spectre risen from our collective disinterest not in Mars itself, but in science-fiction movies about the Red Planet. Paradoxical though it might sound, we are simultaneously fascinated by Mars as a scientific curiosity and bored senseless by Hollywood’s imaginings of it. So much has been written about Mars from a factual standpoint that it seems almost as familiar to us as our own moon (and last time I checked there’s not a thriving sub-genre of moon movies).

Science fiction as a genre is infinitely bigger and more exotic than Mars, and given that we are so frequently told by officialdom that Mars is almost certainly lifeless (an assertion that will likely be proved hollow sooner rather than later), it seems unrealistic in the extreme for Hollywood executives to expect us to queue round the block to see movies about a dusty red rock which, in cosmic terms, is just across the street from us. For fans of the science-fiction genre -- and for cinemagoers in general -- Mars simply feels too close to home. Sign me up anytime for a trip to a galaxy far, far away... but Mars? Been there, done that. Sorry.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spielberg's E.T.: "He's an alien -- that makes him a bad turd"

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

"Aliens come to Earth; they mess things up, and then ultimately humans prevail over their evil Martian enemies. It's a done deal."

This spoof E.T. movie pitch from Above Average Productions effectively sums up Hollywood's long-held and rather depressing attitude towards potential extraterrestrial life...


Reagan Wasn't Joking, and Spielberg Knows it

Spielberg's Saucer Secrets

Friday, August 10, 2012

The (bad) science of Mars movies

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

With NASA's Curiosity rover being all, well, curious on Mars right now, io9 has posted a generally quite cool video feature examining the "bad science" of three of Hollywood's Mars movies: Total Recall (1990), Mission to Mars (2000) and Red Planet (2000).

io9 refers to the above titles as "the worst Mars movies ever," which any Mars movie connoisseur knows not to be true. While the original Total Recall is no 2001: A Space Odyssey or Alien, in Hollywood's extensive historical Mars mission log, it's a shining beacon of artistry -- the Godfather of Mars flicks, if you will.

Anyway, here's the video...

For an overview of Hollywood's most notable Mars movie-bombs, read Hollywood and the Curse of Mars.


'John Carter' gives Disney boss the boot

Thursday, August 9, 2012

UFO movie news round-up (9 Aug. 2012)

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers 

The Watch reviews

The critics’ consensus on new Ben Stiller sci-fi comedy The Watch– don’t watch it.

The Avengers TV series & sequel

Marvel and ABC to team-up for Avengers TV series?

Joss Whedon to write and direct Avengers 2.

Avengers end credits ‘Thanos’ alien scene now online in high quality...

Man of Steel

Superman’s alien nemesis General Zod photographed on Man of Steel set. Here’s the teaser trailer... 

Masters of the Universe

I HAVE THE POWEEERRRR!!! Well, Adam of Eternia (a.k.a. He-Man) does, anyway, and Sony Pictures has the power to greenlight a new live action film about the 1980s cartoon and toy character. It couldn’t be any worse than the 1987 Dolf Lundgren version...

Carl Sagan on Contact

Want to know exactly what Contactauthor Carl Sagan thought of Warner Bros.’ 1997 big screen treatment of his source material? Read his letter to the studio (clue: he’s not impressed!).

Monday, August 6, 2012


There's always something interesting going on around here.  On Friday we had two F-18's land when one of them had a mechanical problem.  A C-130 came late in the day with some parts.  Here are a couple of news stories about it.  

 This is one of the F-18's landing on Friday.

Here's the C-130 with the 2 F-18's.

Finally, the last power lines are coming down.  We've had a lot of birds die by hitting power lines over the years.  Most power lines were put underground years ago, and now there are no exceptions.

I needed one more photo for you, so here's a surge wrasse that I saw this week.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

‘They Live’... again! Cult alien invasion movie to be rebooted, de-radicalized

By Robbie Graham and Matthew Alford

They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it. They Live!

John Carpenter’s cult classic They Live is headed for special edition Blu-ray and DVD this November. The announcement comes amidst ongoing speculation that the movie is to be remade -- or rather rebooted -- in the near future by Cloverfielddirector Matt Reeves.

Based on Ray Nelson's 1963 short story Eight O'Clock in the Morning, Carpenter’s 1988 movie depicted a blue collar drifter (played by Roddy Piper) who finds a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the stark reality of corporate America, where shops are covered with subliminal signs that say “Submit,” “Stay Asleep,” and “Do Not Question Authority.” The world is being secretly run in this Orwellian fashion by invading aliens who are allied with the US establishment -- the human elite having been promised tickets off-planet when Doomsday arrives.

Carpenter pulled no punches in describing the film's politics. “I looked at the country and thought we were in really deep trouble. This seems like fascism to me, the rise of the fundamentalist right and the kind of mind control they're putting out, the kind of presidency Reagan has had. We haven't got a chance.” 

Unfortunately for Carpenter, his film’s searing vision may have been a key contributing factor in its undoing at the box-office. They Live was pulled just two weeks after its November 4th, 1988 release date. While Carpenter blamed audiences who “don't want to be enlightened,” co-star Keith David had a more conspiratorial take on the film’s failure: “not that anybody’s being paranoid,” said David, “but it was interesting that They Live was number one at the box office... and suddenly you couldn’t see it anywhere -- it was, like, snatched.” 

They Liveopened at number one at the US box office and easily made its $4m investment back over its first weekend. By the second weekend, it had dropped to fourth place but still made $2.7m. It also received good reviews, with the notable exceptions of the two newspapers at the very centre of power -- the New York Times and the Washington Post.  

It’s easy to see why Keith David was suspicious of higher level involvement. As part of the film’s marketing campaign, the distributor, Universal Pictures, published an advert that showed a skeletal alien standing behind a podium in suit and tie, with a mop of hair strangely similar to that of the Vice President-elect of the United States -- the much maligned Dan Quayle -- who Carpenter elsewhere called “a prototype: mindless.” The ad was headlined: '”I know human beings. Human beings are friends of mine. You sir, are no human being!'” The Presidential election had taken place just a few days prior on November 8th prompting one major US paper to comment: “If the new administration is starting a list of enemies, Carpenter may have put himself at the head of the line.”

Regardless of the circumstances of They Live’s abrupt termination, it is clear that it was way out in the blue yonder politically, leaving it exposed and defenceless. Sponsors were unwilling to provide product placement, including Rolex, who Carpenter had asked to be associated with the wrist watch used by the aliens as a two-way radio. “We tried to use real advertisements; I wish I could get a little of that,” Carpenter said, “but it's a film that's anti-advertising; no one wanted to give their permission.”

So, will Matt Reeves’ rumoured upcoming They Live reboot face similar obstacles? Unlikely, as the director seems to be opting for a de-radicalized take on his source material, telling Deadline:

“I saw an opportunity to do a movie that was very point-of-view driven, a psychological science fiction thriller that explores this guy’s nightmare… Carpenter took a satirical view of the material and the larger political implication that we’re being controlled. I am very drawn to the emotional side, the nightmare experience with the paranoia ofInvasion of the Body Snatchers or a Roman Polanski-style film.”

A disappointing approach, perhaps, but a logical one. If the radical politics of Carpenter’s original vision struggled to breathe in the corporate Hollywood of yesteryear, today they wouldn’t stand a chance.

They Live Special Edition arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on November 6. For details, see here.