21 January, 2008


Xenomorphs aside, little green (and often times grey) men have played a large role in my formative years. Although a skeptic at heart (though not in the philosophical sense), I am a very curious individual. The unsolved mysteries of life have always intrigued me, including aliens, ghosts, and all forms of cryptozoology. Despite Steven Spielberg's capitalization on the alien theme (with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T., both of which were a little before my time), it was the harsher characterization of aliens, like that in Fire In The Sky, and all the popular TV specials about UFO's and alien abduction stories, that formed my impression of intelligent extraterrestial life. To my young mind, these were very real possibilities, that both frightened and intrigued me.

It should be no surprise that The X-Files is one of my favorite TV series of all time, with its exploration of these themes, focusing on aliens and the government conspiracies that relate to them. I remember when The X-Files first started. I didn't watch it then, but I remember seeing commercials for it - specifically the episode where Mulder arranges a bunch of papers from a fax machine along the floor, then climbs a flight of stairs and looks down on the arrangement to notice that the random binary characters form the shape of a face. At first I thought The X-Files was a movie, but when the commercials persisted, I realized it was an ongoing series. I still didn't start watching it, but my older brother did. I remember him making comments over the phone to one of his friends, as they each watched it in their respective homes.

Like with most things, I was a late bloomer in my fandom for The X-Files. Between the fourth and fifth seasons, I learned that FX had arranged to air the first four seasons of the show nightly, in their original running order. The moment was ripe, and I realized this was my chance to finally jump into The X-Files. So I started watching it on FX, and when the fifth season started up, I taped the episodes to watch them after I had caught up, which I think occurred somewhere around the middle of that season. Turns out the first four seasons was the best of it, but it was nice to catch up and be right on the ball when the movie came out. That was an exciting moment for me. Then, the series continued to decline, and when Mulder dropped out, I lost interest. One day I'll make a point to watch those last couple seasons, but I'm in no particular hurry. I'm even more interested in going back and re-watching the first four seasons, since it's been a while now. I remember trying to collect the series on VHS. Luckily I didn't get very far, as DVD is totally the way to go, and worth waiting for. I saw the X-Files DVD Boxset at Best Buy recently. That's definitely the thing for me, but considering there's like, what, nine seasons? - it's rather expensive, and would represent quite a time commitment. So again, I'm not in a major hurry.

Getting back to aliens - like ghosts, my belief is that *something* is happening to give people these genuine experiences, but it's not necessarily what it appears to them to be. Just like Scully, I try to look for a rational and scientific explanation for these things. A great example is a flyer I got in my chemistry class in high school, debunking sightings of the Loch Ness Monster as nothing more than atmospheric conditions (it was a pretty convincing read). But I don't think every situation is that easy to explain.

One question that intrigues me endlessly is the notion of government conspiracy, like that in The X-Files. Area 51. The Roswell crash. Has the US government had contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence? Have they performed alien autopsies? Do they have remnants of alien spacecraft in some secret hangar somewhere? Were some of the inventions we use today inspired by extraterrestrial technology? Naturally, my skeptical mind finds all of this rather hard to believe. A very convincing argument is the realization that many important government "secrets" don't remain secret for very long - think of Watergate, and I'm sure you can come up with many more examples. Now, if the government did know something about aliens, do you think they could have actually kept it secret this well for at least half a century, if not longer? It's rather hard to believe.

And yet, the idea of it is fascinating, and you want to believe that if it was something this huge, they would go to extreme measures to keep it secret. Still, I tend to believe that it's more a dream than a reality. The fourth season cliffhanger to The X-Files - the Believe The Lie arc - fascinated me. And it was major - it even got Mulder to doubt his own faith in the existence of extraterrestrial aliens for a time. The idea is that the government indirectly fuels the alien conspiracy myth. They'd be fools to step right up and admit (falsely) that they have had contact with aliens (not to mention that they'd be lying outright). But instead, when their denials and cover-ups fuel rumours of these things, they like to encourage it in a roundabout, untraceable fashion. The reason is that, as long as people are postulating alien possibilities, the real truth of the government's top secret programs goes unnoticed.

That's why Mulder got as far as he did. If the government really had secrets to cover up, they would have eliminated Mulder had he ever got as close as he did all those times. But instead, Mulder was very important to the conspiracy. It's a two way street. If somebody claims to know of some connection between the government and aliens, they can easily be dismissed as a loony, their story discredited. But this doesn't convince the believers - in fact it only encourages them to believe that the government is trying to hide its dealings by appealing to people's sense of what is too bizarre to be true. So carefully orchestrating situations where a person like Mulder can witness something profound, while not realizing he's been set up, gives fuel to the believers. And that propagates the lie behind which the government hides the much more mundane, but still secret, truth.

But then you have to ask yourself how deep the government will go? Is the operative that revealed this scheme to Mulder just another one of their tricks, to get him to disbelieve because he got too close? It's a spiralling argument, and you soon find yourself in the midst of a game of wits against a Sicilian, with death on the line. And perhaps that confusion is another part of the strategy. Whatever happens, there's always some room for speculation. The truth is out there, somewhere.

And then there's the topic of alien abductions. How do you explain this phenomenon? I happen to be very skeptical of hypnosis. I don't really know all the details, but what separates a dream from a memory? Still, I believe there are people that have had experiences they can recall, to some extent, without hypnosis, so you have to believe that something is going on. I have heard citations of certain conditions created by some kind of magnetic, or perhaps electromagnetic, field disturbances - this sounds like something worth further research and experimentation. If we could reproduce an alien abduction experience in the safety of a medical lab, that would be a breakthrough.

Traumatizing as it is, I can believe something like an alien abduction experience can be entirely within the head, induced by any number of physical and psychological factors, but not involving any real aliens at all, or even necessarily the victim leaving the bed. There's a phenomenon called sleep paralysis, which I've actually experienced, that goes back a long way in history, where a person partially awakens while their body is still in a state of paralysis. This experience is accompanied by the feeling of a presence in the room, visual and auditory hallucinations, and extreme terror. During my experience, I actually questioned to myself if this was an alien abduction, which is something I feared the chance of experiencing all throughout my childhood. But no, I looked at the face of the figure kneeling beside my bed, and it looked more like the faceless assassin in The X-Files than your typical grey. And there was no medical experimentation.

Whether or not this phenomenon could have something to do with alien abduction experiences is worth looking into. I believe there are probably other factors, though. I love the idea of associating the alien abduction experience with the historical 'revelation', where a religious person might experience a visit by an angel, and maybe even be taken on a tour of heaven. Although one is decidedly divine, while the other rather terrifying, can there be some connection? Again, worth exploring. I've always been fascinated with psychology and brain states and the barriers between reality and illusion. Dreams most definitely included. Fascinating stuff. Learning how the mind works is a lot more insightful than learning the laws of nature, ultimately. I mean, if more is possible by imagination than by reality, then wouldn't it be more interesting to learn the laws of that world instead? I certainly think so.

I had a somewhat interesting experience last night. I got up from my chair, and I looked back at it, and I noticed it was turning ever so slowly. If I didn't know better, I might attribute the motion to some sort of poltergeist. I stared at it amusedly for a few moments, resisting the urge to push the chair and spoil the experience. Postulating the idea of the existence of a ghost in my room was somewhat frightening, and when I moved my arm toward the chair, wondering if I would feel a "cold spot", my arm got quite tingly. Of course, this was just a side-effect of allowing my mind to accept such an idea. Like the feeling you get when you're sitting in the dark and you start thinking about the things that could be hiding, and then your blood runs cold and your skin tingles. It's not evidence of anything more than your own thoughts. But it's interesting that you can think yourself into such a vulnerable position. Most times I walk through dark rooms, and even through the yard at night, without a second thought about those kinds of things. But the moment I take a minute to think about what ungodly things might be lurking in the shadows, the entire arena changes form, and suddenly I feel scared. Maybe a lot of this hokey pokey has to do with people projecting their emotions onto their environment. Some would argue that this very thing is a legitimate method of conjuring certain types of attention, by loosing one's aura and energy into the air. But that itself is questionable, I think.

In any case, the genesis of this strain of thought was the realization that Area 51 is in Nevada. Burning Man is also in Nevada. Obviously, Area 51 isn't quite a tourist destination that you can just take a tour of, but I *have* long been intrigued by the idea of driving down the Extraterrestrial Highway, and staying at (or at least visiting) the Little A'Le'Inn. And what better chance? Honestly, when's the next time I'm gonna be in Nevada? It would be a shame to pass up the opportunity. I'm thinking that on the way to the festival, we'll be anxious to get there on time, while on the way back, we can pretty much take our time getting home, as long as we have provisions (remembering that money *can* buy food and shelter outside of Burning Man).

Wow, one thing I'm noticing is that the western states are HUGE. It's almost like the surface of the Earth expands as you move westward across the country. And there's bound to be a lot less people, out in these desert-y and mountain-y parts, compared to the urban concentrations of the east coast. I wonder what the population density is like. Sure enough - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/USA-2000-population-density.gif. You'd think a little trip from Reno to Rachel, from one side of Nevada to the other, would be like a few hours drive at most. But it's like 6 hours. Still, if it means an extra day of traveling, I think it would be worth it. And a 6 hour drive the day after the festival is probably better than going for like 10 hours or something.


  1. I kinda miss the alien specials of old. I feel like they had more bite to them. And that goes for the cryptozoology specials too. Maybe I was just younger? I mean, yeah, I was definetly younger (ha), but was that why they had more bite? Shows that are too skeptical take away the fun, but conversely shows that aren't skeptical enough just leave me scoffing. I remember that flyer about Nessy, btw.

    I find that over time my interest in ghosts has waned to almost none. Ghosts used to scare me as much as anything, because they can come to you at any point with no restrictions. But those specials don't seem freaky anymore, I kinda feel too out of touch, like "what can a ghost do? He's just standing there, so what?" History or some channel has a series called A Haunting which is kinda interesting but the episodes I have seen featured people who clearly were schizophrenic and the show just tried to pass it off as legitimate ghosts.

    The glory stuff would be shows like Sightings (of course), Beyond Bizarre, and Real Scary Stories which I think suprisingly was on Fox Family... Beyond Bizarre had good episodes like the one about real life African zombies, the church made entirely out of human bones, and the vendors selling the bodies of the tiny creatures which had helped Buddah on his quest. The atmosphere for that show was amazing, and it seemed very real. I also remember a great Real Scary Stories episode about the Jersey Devil. In hindsight, Real Scary Stories was clearly a fake & staged show, but it was exciting.

    Alien abductions are of course the scariest thing for me but I don't see much about that on TV anymore. My favorite thing is cryptozoology because I feel like that's actually quite possible. I'd love for there to be some dinosaurs living in Africa, that would be epic. I also love the idea of the pygmies on that one island in Greece or wherever, they were this species of man that were all tiny, smaller than midgets, and it is said that they had language and that they may have survived long enough to interact with our historical ancestors. To me there is something so awe-inspiring about a real-life legend like that, about the notion of our ancestors communicating with a seperate species of man, and about common legends of tiny people in that area coming from legitimately existing unique human beings.

    I wouldn't be very suprised at all if I were to go under hypnosis and profess to have been abducted. So I ain't never going to do that just in case. I think it's creepy how aliens can get you regardless of factors, just like ghosts can. Which suggests to me that it's not real aliens because how can they just beam you up out of nowhere? I guess that's what they're SUPPOSED to be able to do but it doesn't seem likely to me. I heard in one show that the highest number of alien abductions happen in high apartment buildings in places like New York City. But if there were UFOs flying all around New York City, people would see them. If there's a UFO hovering outside this guy's bathroom window, where are the 30 other people on his floor, and the people on the 30 other floors to witness it? NYC is a city that never sleeps.

    I love to think about my sleep paralysis event... It was terrifying but not all that much because I thought it was just dad. I 'woke up' and someone was bounding the hell out of my door, and I figured it was just like how when my alarm doesn't go off dad would knock on my door when breakfast is ready. Then I found out I couldn't move, and that it was 5am (almost 2 hours before breakfast) and that was when I thought I was in for something terrible. But the paralisys negated and I woke up again despite being already awake and I looked around the hall and everything but nobody (or thing) was around. I wonder why the presence was auditory and outside as opposed to inside the room... I've really had several strange mental occurences although no other ones have been as intense as that. When I'm lying on the couch my mind frequently falls asleep, often while my body is still awake, and it's unlike anything I can get when I actually intend to go to sleep. One time when I was trying to catch up on Catch-22 that was due for class the next day I kinda started to fall asleep a little bit and then I closed my eyes and saw a train coming toward me and I thought I was gonna die, which shocked me out of my sleepy state and I became intensely awake (as is always the case when I accidentally fall asleep), the fucked up thing was I actually heard a train off in the distance. I dunno, maybe there are trains around here, but I've been up at all hours of the night and that was the only time I ever heard a train around here.

    I've said it before but I still believe that dreams are the gateway to all kinds of things. I've played real virtual reality games on several occasions, it's just that I don't have power over when I get to do that. I've played Resident Evil virtual reality games, astoundingly awesome Jurassic Park virtual reality games, and even a Feast virtual reality game; that one was the weirdest of all. Our mind has powers that are hard for us to even concieve, but they aren't hidden away anywhere. These are powers that our minds are showing us every single night. The real problem is the fact that if we harnessed that power, human civilization itself would cease to exist because everything you want out of existence could be generated by your own mind. Naturally I don't mind that happening, but I'm afraid government organizations will suppress the mind-harnessing and virtual-reality machines when they are made so that society can continue.

    Oh and I'm totally up for the detour to Area 51. Maybe they'll have a brothel!

  2. oops, "Bounding" the hell out of my door? What does that mean? I meant banging.

    Also forgot to mention how some people think virtual reality can never be totally real... but I know from pure experience that virtual reality can seem more real than actual reality ever could, because it's dealing with your mind. If my mind tells me it's real, then it's real. The mind is the decider of all things.

  3. I used to be interested in aliens, then I sort of grew out of it. The problem with it for me is that it's been so sensationalized by the media that it just doesn't seem like something worth focusing on; the real thing is probably going to be so much more realistic and mundane than all of the media scares.

    I don't know if that even really makes any sense at all.

    The eastern states are smaller because they were explored and founded in the late 1700s... after the 1800s, when people really started moving west in droves, the government encouraged it by allowing people to buy up huge chunks of land. Not only that, but technology allowed people to move farther and farther out more easily, especially across the midwest, where there weren't any real mountains to worry about. So that's why the states out there are so much larger.

    As for the X-Files, Mulder does come back. Some interesting stuff goes on without him, then he comes back with some scars (mental and physical) and some stuff that goes on for a while. It's a really interesting twist on the series, actually... the show itself turns into an X-File. You should look it up sometime.

    You could always try downloading from Season 4 to the end, and then watch them on your computer... ration them, do two a day or something.