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Briefly Surfacing…

I need to come up with some sort of rationalized system for regular posting here, I think…

The semester is almost over and, ahead of the deadline, I got the manuscript of my conspiracy/paranoia television book into the series editor’s hands. I now await feedback and catch up on everything else!

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There are now a number of television shows I don’t want to see for a very long time, including Dark SkiesHarsh Realm, and anything else having to do with virtual reality. I will say, however, that I have a new appreciation for Wild Palms–really interesting stuff that made no sense when I saw it on broadcast back in the early 1990s.

With this one out of the way, I can get stuck into the new conspiracy/history book for McFarland as well as polishing off a chapter for another television themed collection. Then I’m going to sleep for a long time.


Two more for the recommended pile


These were stuck in a bag in my car didn’t make it into yesterday’s post!

Watkins book on ley lines along with Kirk and Lang on what we might call folk tales and general fey-ness are crucial for understanding some of the cultural underpinnings of these phenomena.

Keep in mind I’m not saying these will reveal the answers to everything or that everything in them is necessarily true. However they have informed a lot of thinking about these subjects over the years.

They’re available from a variety of sources online, as I believe they’re both in the public domain.

Recommended Reading


Digging through the bookshelf this morning, I decided to think a bit about what books I would recommend as a starting point for those who wanted to dig more deeply into paranormal topics. Consider the following list a work in progress. Some of these are no longer in print and really hard to find although sometimes you can get them fairly inexpensively on Half or the like.

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…!

Remote Viewing, 1990s Flashbacks and Short Memories

If you remember back to 1996/1997, you may recall the Hale-Bopp “companion” hoax. A key figure in that was Emory University Poli Sci prof Courtney Brown and his Farsight Institute’s remote viewing of the alleged ship accompanying the comet, due mostly to his appearances on Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell.

Brown, et al’s culpability for things like the Heaven’s Gate suicides might be tangential.  It was still quite disturbing to me this evening to find that the Farsight Institute, under Brown, is still operating.

There’s a great part in Jon Ronson’s The Men Who Stare at Goats in which he interviews Brown, who displays a frightening lack of insight into the consequences of his claims back in the 90s. This resurgence of the Farsight Institute is just another example of the short memory of many involved in the paranormal field, sadly.

This little gem, from the current site, seems to be infringing on Richard Hoagland’s Mars gimmick.

What’s especially frustrating is that there is some amazingly interesting information and data about remote viewing out there (Ronson’s book is particularly good about some of the more bizarre instances of US government dabbling in this field).

Audio of my Appearance on “Where Did the Road Go?”

I was on Where Did the Road Go? Saturday night, a show which covers all aspects of the weird worlds I discussed in The Chaos Conundrum. My fellow guest, Mike Clelland, is a very knowledgable write and investigator.  The conversation ranged from UFOs, to near death experiences, to altered states of consciousness and a whole slew of other things.

If you’re interested in these topics, Where Did the Road Go? is a great show for you.  It airs Saturdays at 11:00 PM.

My thanks to host Seriah Azkath and Mike Clelland for a very fun 75 minutes or so!

Audio is at this link!

In other news, Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist cracked the top 100 UFO books on Amazon (at least the Kindle edition did!) and, while it wasn’t there long, I fully intend to refer to it as the “best selling Extraterrestrials and the American Zeitgeist from now on!  

Also, just a reminder, that The Chaos Conundrum is now available in Kindle format, at a lower price than the (already very reasonable) paperback edition.

Sabbatical, book project updates

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A cold morning here in Michigan, as it looks like they all will be for the foreseeable.  I’ve just about gotten used to it.

Of course, that means I’ve no excuse not to stay indoors and get work done.  So, for the purposes of enlightening all of you (and, more importantly, as an entry in what will hopefully be a good work diary of 2014 that I can look back on fondly when I forget what I spent the year doing), here’s what’s happening.

ENDLESS WEATHER, the history/education focused sabbatical project that has no actual name at this point is coming along well.  I’ve just about finished with the Early US course content, very nearly by my self-imposed deadline.  I anticipate that this will be the section where things take the longest—I’ve had a lot of instances where I’ve had to stop and admit that my initial ideas were not that great.  For example, there are some documents that are just too long for practical classroom use among students in a 100-level survey.  Thus, there’s some editing that I wasn’t anticipating.  I’m also rethinking the “document + assessment = done” model as there are a lot of sources across time and space that would work well together.  So, I think the early US section is going to take the most time and hopefully the lessons learned will make the rest go more smoothly.  The web-side of things is still up in the air, which is good, otherwise I’d be tinkering with website stuff and procrastinating on the content.

BLACK SCREWDRIVER–the book project for Rowman & Littlefield, Publishers—is in the massive research and outliningIMG 0510 stages.  I’m spending much more time on the outlining with this project than I have with previous ones (because it’s a lot bigger—at least it feels that way).  After looking around at outlining tools, I settled on Cloud Outliner because it’s cheap and it does what I need it to.  I’m also dedicated (at this point anyway) to doing the writing in Scrivener.  Niftily, Cloud Outliner will export outlines in OPML format readable by Scrivener, so that should save a step or two.  I’m currently doing paragraph-level outlines of chapters, which hopefully will pay off when the drafting commences in a bit.  The outline for the first chapter is actually at about 20% of my target word count, which is far more detail than I usually indulge in.   

Of course, the fun part of this project is getting to watch (and re-watch) a huge amount of 1990s SF television. 

It’s also allowing me to spend some quality time with the paranoid fringes of the Internet (and some of the older, non-Internet computer networks and BBS’s) as well as pondering on the significance of Omni magazine, which was a mainstay of my reading in high school.  Wonderfully, Omni is available in its entirety in PDF format from the Internet Archive.

I also need to finish up SIENNA SMOKE, which I now feel comfortable mentioning (since the program for the conference is up and I’m actually on it!).  it’s a brief (10 minute) lightning talk on storytelling and teaching for the LAND Conference, coming up next month in Bay City.  Usually I don’t write out talks, but since there’s a strict time limit, I should probably make sure whatever I’m saying comes in under the wire.

Quick reminder, I’ll be on Where Did The Road Go? this Saturday from 11:00 PM to Midnight, Eastern time.

Okay—this has gotten my typing fingers warmed up. Time to go to work.

Return Appearance on “Where Did the Road Go?”


This coming Saturday night, I’ll be on Where Did The Road Go? with Seriah Azkath.  Joining me will be co-guest Mike Clelland, who has written a great deal about a wide variety of paranormal topics (as well as supplying the wonderful illustrations in Mac Tonnies’s posthumously published The Cryptoterrestrials).  

In particular, Mike has written an intriguing set of observations about the presence and role and symbolism of owls with regard to the alien abduction phenomenon.  As Mike says, “This is a long format essay where I attempt to unravel the the mystery of why so many UFO abductees report weird owl experiences. There are reoccurring accounts of screen memories throughout the literature, but this is something much more elusive. Much of this reporting comes from my own direct experience.”  It’s a fascinating exploration. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Seriah used my beloved “Nanook of the North” selfie as my headshot on the WDtRG? website.

The show airs at 11:00 PM (eastern) on WVBR (you can stream from that site as well) and will be available for download afterward.  I’m looking forward to it.

In other news, projects ENDLESS WEATHER, BLACK SCREWDRIVER, and SIENNA SMOKE continue apace, though weather and seasonal illness have slowed my progress quite a bit.  I’ll have a bit more detailed discussion on some of this stuff a bit later this week.  In the meantime, have a look at this story about a supposed demon possession in Indiana. Deeply odd.

Stay warm!