Saturday, January 10, 2009

Contemplations on the Ultraterrestrial Theory

In another instalment of paperback scans on mysterious topics, let's look at the topic of UFOs from the "Ultraterrestrial" view.

In short, the ultraterrestrial view was, early on, popularized by John Keel, taking up the torch from Charles Fort, who once wrote, "I think we're property." Basically, the source of the UFO phenomenon isn't STAR TREK-type aliens jaunting around in their (physically real) space ships.

Keel sifted through thousands of reports of weird encounters and noticed patterns and spikes in UFO sightings on certain days, or times of days. Now, he wondered, how would aliens from the planet Kwatloo know to keep showing up at 9PM on Thursdays? They don't have a copy of the Farmer's Almanac.

No, to Keel it seemed apparent that these weirdos were weirder than that. The fact that the ships could vanish from radar or make impossible 90-degree high-speed turns was evidence that perhaps the things weren't strictly physical.

Keel's books are filled with insights and observations and analyses. Perhaps the space critters weren't from Out There, but from a place like e e cumming's "universe next door" or Another Dimension, Beyond That Which Is Known To Man (to quote Rod Serling).

Read Keel's UFOs: Project Trojan Horse for an insight into his discoveries. Heck, read ALL his books! (The paperback title for UFOs: Project Trojan Horse was Why UFOs .)

Thus the term Ultra-Terrestrial. Not a physical reality, but perhaps a metaphysical world whose inhabitants could appear and de-materialize, or take various physical forms. They could slip next-door into our world, stir us up like a kid with a stick plays with an anthill, and then slip sideways back to LuluLand.

The sad ending of Keel's writings was the hard-to-find The Eighth Tower, published by Signet in 1977. My used paperback copy cost upwards of $50. The cover blurb above the cover illustration sums it up: "Are we all biological robots ruled by a cosmic force that exists beyond space and time?"

Keel's gloomy conclusion is yep, we are. It's as if the history of man is dictated by telepathic broadcasts that run in a great cycle, spurring receptive humans to great thoughts arising in great cultures or civilizations, and then sowing dissident images and thoughts to tear it down and start again.

But, to Keel, it seems that the record being broadcast is stuck in the same cycle. Perhaps if the record didn't skip, we might be spurred to greater things, and perhaps transcend our "Radio America" origins.

But no, Keel feels, either the radio station is abandoned, or the DJ is locked out of the control booth. We're all stuck in an endless cycle of civilization and madness and decay, and being mere biological robots, all culture, all human history, even Keel's observations, are meaningless.

Wow, how cheerful!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Book Review: Vampires: Encounters with the Undead

This book, "edited and with comentary by David J Skal," is pretty good. Here's my "official" review...

You can't fault Mr Skal for his selection of stuff -- fiction, nonfiction, excerpts from longer works. All that material is on-target and really a wonderful portmanteau of Vampirian lore.

But, despite the tagline on the cover, "edited and with commentary," the commentary is, at times, rather thin gruel.

I would have hoped for commentary specific to the selections, more like annotations, or explanations of this or that thing that appears in the story or article. Instead, in the sidebars, we often have excerpts of other stories that were published at the same time as Story X, or interminable lists of decades of vampire movies or lists of vampire books, etc.

The amount of actual commentary, compared to this "padding," is a small percentage.

It's also ironic that, in the acknowledgements, Mr Skal thanks his copy editor. Now, nobody's perfect, but in this book I came across a few dozens of simple misspellings, letters dropped from words, etc; paragraph indents at the tops of pages when we were continuing a sentence started the previous page; and so on.

And what's with the sudden change in type size for just one word, or one line? This happens more in the sidebars than in the main text, but for some of us it's kind of jarring.

These little irritants keep this book from being A-Number-One, for me at least. If these things don't bug you, then run -- do not walk -- to dive into this anthology.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Latest Book with Many Pictures and Little Text

Howdy, folks, and check out this book.

It's called DC Comics Covergirls, with text by Louise Simonson.

Just like it says ... It's fun because of the big reproductions of many covers. The author being female, she does make the obvious observation about how hyper-exaggerated and pneumatic many of the female forms are drawn.

Since I'm a white-bread kind of guy, it is a little disturbing to see a few of the images from the chapter on the Vertigo and Wild Horse-type books. For that matter, Brian Bolland's cover with Batman body-pressing Catwoman while her whip is wrapped around his neck ... admire the craftsmanship; shudder at the image.

Anyway, this book is a lot of fun, and ONLY $14.98 cover price( at Borders anyway). Wow!
All original content
© by Mark Alfred