All posts by AJ Gulyas

They tell me it’s April…

That’s where I am right now on BLACK SCREWDRIVER. SLEDGEHAMMER GOLDEN, the conference presentation on roughly similar topics is currently sitting the “to be done” soon pile, as that needs be ready to go in a week or two.

Lots of traveling this month—just got back from Chicago for a thing that didn’t have anything to do with history, flying saucers, television, or education. It was strange. Below is evidence that I worked on this trip (that’s my low-end, road warrior Thinkpad on the Amtrak Blue Water line).

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I’m in Indiana on family and friend business from tomorrow, back to Chicago for the aforementioned conference the week after that. Blessedly I get to avoid aircraft and their attendant hassles for the foreseeable future, as all my personal and business travel is achievable with cars and rail.

The sabbatical project (ENDLESS WEATHER) is entering the final push to completion (or at least complete enough to inflict on students when I start teaching again next month). It will be good to have that completed. On top of that is the administrative stuff involved with getting back to work on campus. April will be busy.

This is coming up as well, on campus in a week or so. It will be fun, and I will have copies of The Chaos Conundrum to sell and sign. Light refreshments as well!

Aaron handouts pub

I should get back to work now.

Suburbia and Saucers

Salon has a reasonably good piece up entitled Weird suburbia: How atomic bombs and UFOs created modern America, which is an excerpt from Welcome to Mars: Politics, Pop Culture, and Weird Science in 1950s America by Ken Hollings. It’s a nice introduction to the relationship between suburban growth, the military-industrial complex, and the RAND-style thinktank culture that dominated the postwar west. A snippet:

The Atomic energy Commission and Project RAND are soon studying the flying saucers, AeC chairman David Lilienthal going so far as to make a public statement discounting any direct relationship between such sightings and the effects of atomic radiation. However, the main connection between the saucers and the emergent military-industrial complex will inevitably be supplied by the United States Air Force: an organization that has had to wait until now for an Act of Congress to bring it into being. The 1947 National Security Act does as much to recalibrate the American war machine as von Neumann and Morgenstern’s Theory of Games and Economic Behavior. 

I will be interested to read Hollings’s book, not least because there might be (should be?) some overlap with my Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist: Alien Contact Tales Since the 1950s. The 50s seem like they’ve been done to death by historians and pop culture scholars, but the overwhelming view of the era as Leave it to Beaver seems to persist for the general public.   

In any case, Hollings’s book is now on my to-read list. I hope I remember to look at my to-read list at some point…

Hat-tip to The Anomalist for pointing me to the Salon article.

Podcasts, Doctor Who, Writing

Another quick podcast appearance to note, this time on Reality Bomb, a very well-produced magazine-style Doctor Who show. My role was as part of the “Gallery of the Underrated” segment, where I defended the 1983 story “Terminus” which featured the best 1980s Doctor, Peter Davison. It’s a great story and my defense of it garnered me a brief Twitter mention from its writer, the prolific Stephen Gallagher:

If you’re interested in writing and/or the ins and outs of television production, his account and website are worth keeping an eye on.

Gallagher is also a novelist. His The Kingdom of Bones is very good and I’m currently reading the sequel, The Bedlam Detective and enjoying it.


Despite it being the weekend, I’ve managed to get some work done on the new book. I’m currently slogging through the opening chapters while outlining some of the later ones and simultaneously doing some quick fact checking on the ins and outs of the American TV industry in the 90s. Also, this new convention of one space after a period is really difficult to cope with.

And I’ve still got this lot to get through in a bit:

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That’s not even all of it—there are the second two excellent seasons of Millennium as well as old episodes of Kolchak and In Search Of… as background viewing.

Project ENDLESS WEATHER continues apace—due to weather and illness my initial timeline for completion has had to be completely reworked but I’m still in good shape.

EIGHTH WRENCH is in the early planning phases. Unless procrastination or disaster strikes I should have that project taken care off long before its September deadline (which would make the people who need it very, very happy).

Sabbatical time is winding down and I’ll be back in front of students in a bit over a month, so I have to add syllabi creation and class prep to the task lists.

 

Archaeoacoustics and Lithophonic Stone

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I see from a post on the Radio Misterioso Facebook Group Page that WNYC’s Leonard Lopate show has a new episode up right now on Lithophonic, or “singing” stones such as those used to build Stonehenge. 

If you’ve read The Chaos Conundrum or listened to my recent interview with Tim Binnall, you know that I’ve discussed this sort of thing before.  

It’s very exciting to see this sort of research start to break through to a wider audience.  While I think there are some interesting applications for the investigation of hauntings and the like, the historian in me is really excited about the archaeological implications of this.

I will, hopefully, be posting a bit more over the weekend—this week was fairly hectic with non-work considerations and I’m slowly getting back into the groove of being productive.  Whether posting to my blog is “productive” or not is still under consideration.

On a semi-related note, the recently posted Radio Misterioso conversation between host Greg Bishop and Nick Redfern (who kindly wrote a great foreword for The Chaos Conundrum) is very good and, as usually with these two, essential listening.

Some Interesting Recent Stories

The other day, I discussed MUFON and their attempts to use statistics and the like. Unknown to me at the time, MUFON has embarked on a television series with H2, one of the History Channel…um…channels. These are, by and large, devoted to Nazis and aliens, of course. The show: Hanger 1: The UFO Files.  I haven’t seen it yet and, like many pseudo historical things on the History channels, I don’t have to. Jason Colavito, blogger, writer, and skeptic watches them for me and reviews them with a critical and thoughtful eye.

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Of Hanger 1, he says:

Seriously: This is the absolute worst H2 “documentary” I have yet seen. It actually makes America Unearthed look responsible and Ancient Aliens seem accurate.

Think about that. Then consider the course upon which MUFON  has embarked. Then cry a little.

Robert Sheaffer’s blog brought this story to my attention.


Nick Redfern, author of too many books to count (as well as the foreword to The Chaos Conundrum) wrote a bit over at Mysterious Universe about The Cryptoterrestrials and the late Mac Tonnies. It’s a good précis on the subject, one that has been known to divide the UFO/Flying Saucer community, mostly because it dares suggest that ETs might not be the answer to every weird sky thing (that’s a pretty rough summary, right there).

Both of these stories came my way via Paul Kimball.  Thanks!


With that, it’s Friday night which means it’s not time for flying saucers, it’s time for anything else! Have a good weekend.

Return Bout on the Bruce Collins Show

It was released yesterday, but it’s been a busy day. Here (link!) is a new conversation between Bruce Collins and me for the Bruce Collins show.  This one was about Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist, so if you heard that book mentioned on my recent Binnall of America Audio appearance, this is about that.

One thing that I like about appearing with Bruce is that there’s a bit more space to discuss the some of the religious aspects of the paranormal (and this often comes up when looking at Contactees). So this interview comes from a more distinctly Christian point of view than some of my others.

But if you’re not Christian, or any other flavor of religious, this is still a great interview (at least I think so!).  Check it out.

Statistics and What They’re Good For…

Every so often I get an email from MUFON about something or other, despite not having given them any money for many years. The screenshot below is from the most recent of these missives.

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If you’ve listened to my recent interview with Tim Binnall for Binnall of America, you will have heard my opinion that there might be some interesting and useful statistical analysis to be done of paranormal type subjects.

I’m not entirely entirely sure that the above is the best type of statistical information.  What this tells us is that 84% of sighting reports in February were from the United States.  Telescoping out, we find that 90.4% were from the countries of North America (USA, Canada, Mexico).  Around 94% were from largely Anglophone nations (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Bahamas, American Samoa, and Guam). The majority of the nations from which sighting reports arrived were (broadly) part of the “western” world.  To a lesser degree, the Northern Hemisphere dominated, with the global south less well represented.

This is not to discount the substance of the sightings, nor of the efforts of organizations like MUFON in collecting them. It does, however, suggest that these statistics, this collection of sighting reports does not tell the whole story.  And, as well, more than a merely quantitative analysis is fundamental for fleshing out these numbers. Crucially, MUFON makes details of these reports available for more qualitative analysis.

But these geographical breakdowns do show that there is—at least—a disparity in where reports come from, not necessarily where odd things occur.  This sort of data is useful to a point. The meat, I suspect, is in the stories, with the geographical data providing a useful framework for developing a grander view of scope.

On the other hand, I tripped and fell while running and hit my head the other day, so these thoughts may be as unfocused as I suspect they are…!

Paul Kimball on “The Paranormality of UFOs”

This is a worth-while read by Paul Kimball [disclosure (heh!): Kimball was the publisher behind my recent book The Chaos Conundrum].  While Kimball was responding to a specific comment (and its author) from a previous post, the following is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind:

Until aliens reveal themselves to be the cause of the UFO phenomenon we are left with are a lot of interesting stories that may or may not be true, and that are by their very nature ‘paranormal’ – very strange, and not explainable by what scientists currently know about nature and our world. If these aliens really are well in advance of us, then it will be a very long time before our science manages to catch up to them… by which time they may well have moved even further away from us.

They, if they exist, are not like us.  In TCC, I ruminate on the possibility that ET might be “post-linguistic,” and unable to communicate with us in any useable way.  I wonder if Anthropology is the science which would yield the most information about our possible visitors.

Regardless, science (or scientism) is a cultural construct.  The natural world, of course, is an actual thing but the way humans attempt to understand it (and conceive of their attempts to understand it) is a product of human society and culture. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is something that must be borne in mind when we rely on science to answer questions that it may be unsuited to asking.

Read the entire Kimball post, linked below.  It’s full of interesting thoughts.

(Via The Other Side of Truth: The Paranormality of UFOs)

New Interview- Binnall of America

2014-03-08_10-18-22.pngMy epic, awesome interview with Tim Binnall (of Binnall of America) is now available HERE.  It’s over two hours of great conversation, as Tim is one of those fellows with whom one can just talk, which I did.

This was a huge amount of fun, and it’s a testament to my respect for Tim as a host that I struggled into my campus office while on sabbatical just so he could interview me over a phoneline rather than Skype.  I don’t do that for just anyone…!