Monday, January 20, 2020

The Curious Case of the Fish Doctor and the Man From Ashtar Galactic Command, Part III

" call came through claiming to be from Outer Space; the rather-stunned telephonist on the exchange put the call through to the only phone that 'happened' to be available - that of the Assistant Producer."
-Rex Dutta, Flying Saucer Message

The conversation on the night of January 8th, 1971 between a skeptical Assistant Producer of a London radio program and a mysterious man from Outer Space is recounted in depth in Rex's book Flying Saucer Message, which was released in 1972. He notes that the Assistant Producer had the presence of mind during the call to "a) to switch it through on internal studio loud speaker so that all the twenty or so of us in the area heard each word and b) to tape-record it. A copy of that tape exists."

Upon Steve's first visit to Rex's house, in late 1975 or early 1976 - well after Rex's last book about Flying Saucers - he and Rex were able to listen to the tape, courtesy of a radio station employee who snuck it out to them. The engineer who gave them the tape also provided some great technical insight - the call from Outer Space seemed to use every channel of the analog switchboard, blocking all other incoming calls.The show's Producer tried and failed to cut off the call. The voice seemed as though it had been "treated" in some way, suggesting that the voice was an automated message cutting directly into the phone line. Robert Short, in his book Out of the Stars: A Message From Extraterrestrial Intelligence notes, quoting Viewpoint Aquarius - "...the engineers were flabbergasted because there was no echo or feedback, i.e., nothing was registering on the dials in their transmitting stations, although the 'space voice' was clearly being heard by all in the studio. Normally, the needles on the dials rise and fall as a human voice is loud or soft, and electrical pulses register on the instruments. In this case, the needles were inert at zero. The 'voice' was clear. No earthling instrument was used. But unknown power was..."

Sadly, the whereabouts of the tape these days is unknown. We have only written accounts and recollections of the event to go by. This gets into Rex's derisive attitude toward the "Official Line..."

The "unknown power" referred to in the above quote was what Rex would have considered an Occult Power, which is natural for higher beings. In fact, the whole affair must have been very amusing (or frustrating, depending on your perspective), to Rex - through his Theosophical view, it was clear to him that the voice from space (and most visitors, Space Brothers, and extraterrestrial contacts) was an intelligence existing on a higher vibrational realm, a different dimension entirely. He's keen to explain these concepts in exhaustive detail in his books, and it's way too involved for me to explain here in this blog (supposing I even understand it properly); suffice to say, what you see in the transcript with Rex's notes is something akin to a language barrier. It's even worse than just language, though; Venusians in Rex's view possessed Whole Manas, and have evolved beyond the need for names, physical bodies, etc, thus lacking context for simple questions like "Who are you?" Their enlightened and Ascended status likewise came about as a result of altruism, so selfish reasoning and our Earthling anxieties and unwillingness to help ourselves - always looking for a savior - are anathema to the Venusians. 

The resultant confusion in the conversation between the Assistant Producer and "Voice" in Flyer Saucer Message lends itself to humor very well. It occurred to me reading it the first time that it could well have been a bit between Abbott and Costello, although I eventually decided it was surreal enough and, bearing in mind the language difficulties explained in the preceding paragraph, more like a bit between Groucho and Chico Marx. Some of my favorite moments:

AP: Why are you calling us?
VOICE: I have not phoned you. I am speaking by Thought-Transference Computer.
AP: What does that mean?
VOICE: It means how do you do.
AP: Very well. How do you do, Sir?
VOICE: Yes. Evidence of life in outer space is not visible to Earth eyes except the chosen few have celestial ability to appertain and to appreciate higher intelligences.

And, later, after asking the Voice's whereabouts:

AP: What are you doing there?
VOICE: I am speaking at the moment to you by Thought-Transference System.
AP: Why don't you speak to me face to face?
VOICE: I have no face. I am very sorry.

This leads to questions about whether space people look like us, to which the Voice explains that it is possible to take a human form for a short period of time. When asked why they would take a human form, the Voice simply says "Amusement". Finally, toward the end of the call:

AP: How could I contact you again?
VOICE: Call Outer Space sometime.
AP: How do I call you?
VOICE: Call me Sir.
AP: How do I call you, Sir?
VOICE: You call me Sir anyway you like. I don't mind. Any way, I must return to Outer Space.

The humorous element presented here, the absurdity and silliness, is among the most remarkable aspects about the Call From Outer Space. On the one hand, it bears all the hallmarks of a put-on. The confusion and inevitable failure to satisfactorily answer many of the questions seems like something a prankster would do, were it just a simple crank call. On the other hand, and bearing in mind the technical difficulties inherent in pulling off such a prank, these comical bits of dialog may actually also represent a genuine lack of understanding that goes both ways, between two intelligence entities very alien to each other. 

Most of the sentiment contained in the call that fascinated Rex was typical of contact messages of the era, in the sense that it warned us as a race to abandon war and nuclear technology. This main message, the titular Flying Saucer message, are interrupted constantly by the Assistant Producer's more mundane questions - typifying in Rex's mind the self-obsessed nature of the average man. One of them was the classic "Take me to your leader" type of question, where the man asks "Have you spoken to Mr. Heath?" referring to then Prime Minister Edward Heath. The Voice seems taken aback by Rex's estimation - "we rate men high, men of power;" he writes, "Saucers rate high men of 'pure aura' and such earthlings seldom reach Power / Authority, etc." Another concept, lost in translation. We ask why the spacemen don't just land on the White House lawn, when the answer it seems is that the occupants of the White House are just as remarkable (or less so) than any other human on the planet - other than the ones with 'pure aura'. To its credit, the Voice says he knows of Mr. Heath, but Heath is sleeping in another country... this, it turns out, was true - PM Heath was abroad on official duty and it would have been early morning hours in that time zone.

The Voice goes on to reveal that there are men among us who can help us, but we ignore them. When asked how the Voice intends to help, it responds:

"The only way you can be helped is not by doing for you that which you must do for yourself. But possibly by guiding the way, but indirectly not directly. It is not possible to say to man, 'You must do this,' because it is in the nature of man not to do this, but to do something different because there is in the nature of man perhaps a perversity which we observe. But never mind, it is possible perhaps if man uses only one thing - that is intelligence. The greatest danger in man is pity. Man has a strong feeling of pity for his fellow men, for suffering. It is good but it is not the highest good. In the universe, the highest good is balance, is justice, not pity. A very interesting thing but justice is the most important element in the universe. And if man will find justice, there is hope for man."

In Rex's view, the Venusians (or Saucers, you may have noticed that Rex makes no distinction between the Saucers and their occupants) are not so different from us here on Earth - they just seem alien because they serve a different purpose. When you understand what Rex means by "Oneness Is", you realize that he's talking about the whole of creation being so intricately connected that each individual thing or consciousness is but a part of a larger organism. The metaphor is made that Earthlings are the thumb, and Venusians the foot... both parts of the same cosmic body but distinct in their purpose and design. Underlying all of what appears to be disparate real and physical bodies exists the Lipika Webs, a network that "sub-stands all substance". It matters not that the 'thumb' might reject the concept of sharing cells and a body with the 'right foot', it's simply the truth... and a balance needs be secured that affects not just the people of Earth who ignore warnings from Saucers, but it naturally affects the Saucers, too. In Rex's view, it was down to the People of the Web to help restore this balance, and move us well into the Age of Aquarius. 

While Rex Dutta had been invited on the program as a representative of the Lunatic Fringe of Flying Saucer Fanatics, the irony is he may well have had a better idea of what was going on than anyone else present. The concept of contact with extraterrestrials via radio was far from a new idea - the aforementioned book by Robert Short (which I might add gives the fullest account of the 1977 broadcast interruption I've come across) talks about his early experiences as a Channel for his "source", Jon-Al, and his early days at Giant Rock with George Van Tassel. While Short primarily used Automatic Writing to channel messages from the stars, others at Giant Rock would employ ham radios. Van Tassel would go on to build the Integratron - a place that "concentrates and amplifies the Earth's magnetic field". Of course Rex would have been familiar with these concepts as well. Short describes the method of message delivery in his book as Translators or Tensors, which utilizes the Subspace Radio Network and UFOs to monitoring devices. From here the message can be picked up by Instruments or Translators... in his words: "These Instruments or Translators include human channelers, television devices, radio communication, vast distance communication, called radar telephonic, and lastly, through the mind's ability to send images over distances, called telepathy."

Van Tassel and Short are both also intimately connected with the origins of Ashtar Galactic Command's messages to Earth. While Van Tassel was the first to claim contact with Ashtar in 1952, Short founded a group called Ashtar Command shortly thereafter. Van Tassel eventually stopped using the name Ashtar in his writings. Incidentally, in 1977, the same year of the broadcast interruption, a woman calling herself Tuella took up the mantle of main channel for Ashtar taking it in a new direction entirely... but more on that next post!

In a way, the 1971 conversation with a Voice from Outer Space is a greater mystery than the ITV interruption of 1977. At least the internet has preserved the TV interruption, and it can be found easily enough on YouTube. The tape of the 1971 show seems to be lost to time, though I hold out hope that an mp3 file of it is archived online somewhere. The aftermath of the UFO show that January night was one of silence, of pretending it never happened or brushing it off as a prank. Steve's first visit to Rex's house makes him likely one of the few around these days who have heard the full recording. It's all part of this crazy story I'm slowly getting around to telling, and the following few years would bring (among other things) the broadcast interruption that started me down this rabbit hole. Sit tight, folks, we're in the home stretch...


Flying Saucer Message, by Rex Dutta
Out of the Stars: A Message From Extraterrestrial Intelligence, by Robert Short
"The Reverend Robert Short's Ascent to the Stars" (Chasing UFOs Blog) by Adam Gorightly
Ashtar Command (World Religions and Spirituality Project Entry) by Christopher Helland

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Curious Case of the Fish Doctor and the Man From Ashtar Galactic Command, Part II

"The Path has, absolutely has: to be forged, not merely followed; alone- quite alone; by the seeker."

- Rex Dutta, Reality of Occult / Yoga / Meditation / Flying Saucers

So who was Rex Dutta? During my early correspondence with Steve, I tried to find information about the man so I wouldn't have to admit that I didn't know who he was. It proved exceedingly difficult. I found his books listed online easily enough, and eventually bought all three titles of his that dealt with the Flying Saucer question - and read them all, but not in the right order. But finding biographical information or even a picture of Rex took a lot of effort. When I asked Steve questions, I could get a lot of personal details about him in regard to his personality - but Steve had questions as well, it seemed. I took it upon myself to find the answers, along the way wrapping my mind around his Theosophical interpretation of the Saucer phenomenon while at the same time building a friendship with Steve over meandering Fortean conversation - what he calls "whibble about dribble". It was clear from the start that Steve had a great admiration for Rex; in one of his many Above Top Secret threads he says "Rex was a personal friend and I guess, it's only in retrospect one realises how much someone took you into their "inner circle" and felt able to speak freely and at length about such subjects. Rex was the mature English gent to my 18 year old wildness and yet, he felt comfortable enough to take me into his confidence." The further I dug into research and the more I whibbled and dribbled about "wyrdshit" with Steve, the more interesting the whole story became...

Rex was born Reginald Sirdir Mohammed Dutta on July 11, 1914, in Lahore, India (modern day Pakistan). His father was Indian, his mother was British. He moved to England with her and his sister in 1926, eventually attending University College London majoring in French and History. He served with British Intelligence during World War II, losing part of his leg from a motorcycle collision during a recognizance mission in France. He claimed to have had lived past lives as a soldier, and this wound, along with his eventual evacuation with many others from Dunkirk, was a sign to him that in this lifetime he was meant to pursue a different path. That path, it seemed, was the rehabilitation and study of fish - his books on fish care are still considered among the best and he had clients all over the world from his business, Fish Tanks LTD. That is until, as mentioned in Part I, he received and read Flying Saucers Have Landed, and shortly thereafter joined the Theosophical Society.

He continued running his business on Blandford St, in London, while also running his magazine "Viewpoint Aquarius" from the same address. He seemed to dive into Theosophy wholeheartedly, while at the same time absorbing much of the contactee literature up to that point - Howard Menger, George Hunt Williamson, George Adamski and others get frequent mentions in his writings. The two subjects may seem very separate and unrelated - one doesn't necessarily picture Flying Saucers when someone mentions Madame Blavatsky - but when dealing purely with the contactees mentioned, Theosophic concepts like Ascended Masters and higher beings align neatly with Venusians, Saturnians, and all manner of Space Brothers. He wrote 23 books in total (there's that mystic number 23!) - 20 about fish, and three about Flying Saucers / Theosophy.

Rex's mentor in the Theosophical Society, the man he considered to be his guru, was Edward L. Gardner. Gardner was an influential writer and lecturer in the English Section of the Theosophical Society, serving as General Secretary in the 1920s. He wrote extensively on fairies, and notably promoted the authenticity od the Cottingley Fairies photos alongside Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He was also among the first to suggest that similarities in Fairy Lore and Flying Saucer contact cases denoted a common source. It's easy to see the direct lineage from Gardner's concepts down to Rex, who would become a well respected voice and subject matter expert himself. The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, a famous series of correspondences channeled by Madame Blavatsky, were held in a trust at the British Museum, and following the death of Chairman of the Mahatma Letters Trust, Judge Christmas Humphreys, in 1983, Rex took on the position. His contributions to the preservation and analyses of this manuscript was greatly appreciated by Theosophists worldwide, who benefited in their studies greatly from his efforts and lectures. 
E. L. Gardner with N. Sri Ram
In 1976 Rex was giving a lecture at City of London Polytechnic (currently City University) on the heels of publishing Reality of Occult / Yoga / Meditation / Flying Saucers, and this is where he met Steve. By Steve's account, Rex strode right up to him with a wide grin and shook his hand firmly saying "So are you psychic because of a natural ability or because of psychotropic drugs?" to which Steve replied, "Surely you should know." Rex burst out laughing and said "You'll do!" and thus began their friendship. The picture Steve paints of that era of UFOlogy and the investigation are strong motivators for me to get to work on a time machine so that I could be a part of it - "I will never forget the 4 of us visiting some country pub in Kent to interview a TV engineer about the incident. Quite what the locals made of two guys in leather jackets and waist length hair accompanied by two elderly and unbelievably well turned out, one was an ex RAF officer handle bar mustache and all, companions I will never know. At times, it was all very Sherlock Holmes and a little like something from a Hammer film." His lifelong interest in UFOs has sustained based on testimony from former military witnesses to phenomena they were never allowed to talk about - men who were honor bound to keep secret the bewildering experiences they had, who really needed validation from an outside source that they weren't entirely alone in these encounters.

Rex and Steve would soon begin investigating the 1971 call from outer space, just before the Ashtar interruption in 1977 occurred. They would investigate that as well! More on that as our story continues in Part III...

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Curious Case of the Fish Doctor and the Man From Ashtar Galactic Command, Part I

"For many years you have seen us as lights in the skies. We speak to you now in peace and wisdom as we have done to your brothers and sisters all over this, your planet Earth."

Unbeknownst to presenter Ivor Mills, a message from Ashtar Galactic Command was broadcast to viewers of the London Weekly News on November 26, 1977...
These two sentences served to introduce viewers of the National News on the evening of November 26, 1977, to Vrillon (or Grahama) of Ashtar Galactic Command. The odd, metallic voice had interrupted the news at 5:12 p.m. and continued for five minutes, overriding the transmitters for everywhere south of the Thames in England. At the very least, this would involve overpowering the signal for five transmitters - no small feat for hijacking pranksters. 

"It covered Kent Surrey Hampshire and parts of Berkshire as far North as Reading, South west to Portsmouth and East right over to Dover" - Firemoon on ATS, October 28 2010

The engineers at the broadcast stations were totally unaware that the signal had been hijacked. Their monitors showed the news broadcast as it should have been. The only reason those at ITV learned that a Flying Saucer Occupant had stolen the show was because of angry and confused viewers calling the stations. Engineers were unable to correct it, and when the representative from Ashtar Galactic Command had said his piece, the regularly scheduled programming returned. Amusingly enough, in at least one video of the event on YouTube, the message ends just in time for the beginning of the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Falling Hare" - the World War II era cartoon in which a gremlin gets the best of Bugs. 

At first glance, it seems like a great prank and a bit of a cultural curiosity. It's reminiscent of the "Max Headroom Incident", a broadcast interruption in 1987 perpetrated by a few industrious early hackers who managed to override the signal from the Sears Tower in Chicago during an episode of Dr. Who. Or so we're told... those responsible for that hijacking were never caught. Such is also the case with the ITV message from the Space Brothers. The other similarity, for whatever it's worth, is both events occurred in late November - the Headroom incident being on the 24th anniversary of the JFK assassination. Everything is significant - even the things that aren't!

But this was the second time British broadcast had been shanghaied by shifty alien beings - and the second time a certain fish doctor had been involved.

On the 8th of January, 1971, Greater London Radio featured a call-in show on the topic of Flying Saucers. Rex Dutta was a guest on the program, having recently published his book Flying Saucer Viewpoint. It is due to Rex that any transcript of this interruption exists - he managed to obtain the tape after the broadcast and a full transcript - along with his commentary - appears in his second book on otherworldly contact, Flying Saucer Message. The tape is long missing, but copies of his book still exist out in the world. And the transcript of the interruption of 71 has an added twist - in this case, the metallic alien voice called in as many listeners had over the course of the program. As opposed to the 1977 television interruption, an active conversation developed between a man only identified as "Assistant Producer" and a Space Brother who failed to give a name, confusingly settling on simply "Sir". (Rex Dutta explains in the book that due to laws regarding libel in the UK at the time, he had been advised against using actual names of the other people involved. It seems a sticking point for him that associating someone with the subject of Venusians, anomalous aircraft, etc, would be considered libel.) 

Rex would later investigate the 1977 Ashtar Galactic Command incident, in the meantime publishing a third book on the subject of UFOs Reality of Occult/Yoga/Meditation/Flying Saucers as well as editing and distributing a magazine called "Viewpoint Aquarius". He ran his magazine from his "bread and butter", as he called it - Fish Tanks LTD, located on Blandford St in London. 

Rex Dutta was a world renowned fish expert, having written 20 books on fish and fish care. In the above video, he is shown as a "self-trained" fish doctor with exotic equipment for nursing fish back to health. On the web page for this video in the Pathe archives, the description of it ends with
"Note: Rex Dutta and his wife Olive (?) Dutta appear in a few Pathe films - 
Who were they? -JH"
Who indeed, JH. Who indeed.

I was fortunate enough to follow this line of inquiry based on the accounts given by someone who knew Rex, and considered him a mentor. Known by some as Firemoon, by others as Rev, he's been known to respond to "oi, you!" and also SteveDoG. For my purposes here, I'll just call him Steve. Steve's invaluable firsthand account of his relationship with Rex Dutta and their joint investigation into the Ashtar Galactic Command broadcast heist led me down a road of curiosity to find out more about the enigmatic fish doctor, UFOlogist, and as it turns out, occultist, Rex Dutta. The interesting thing about the video above, is that it shows him at the precipice of a life-changing event - in 1954, his mother would give him a copy of Flying Saucers Have Landed by George Adamski and Desmond Leslie, and he would shortly thereafter join the Theosophical Society to which his wife and mother both were already involved members. Flying Saucers only make sense, he would contend, through the lens of Theosophy, and his three books on the subject expound this Blavatskyan interpretation of the phenomena in near exhaustive depth. His quirky writing style and enthusiasm make for a fun read, and his recognition of events such as the two broadcast interruptions as "cosmic jokes" allowed him a unique vantage point from which to share the message that "Oneness is". His books are dedicated to the "People of the Web" - designed to be read and understood by those "with eyes to see and ears to hear". 

Steve's investigation along with Rex into the 1977 event is recounted on various threads on ATS and I've spent the better part of the past year looking into the details of Rex's life, and this event in particular. You can read about the time Vrillon spoke to all of South England on various sites, but as Steve would say Rex had connections that allowed him access to people and information that most investigators of UFOs wouldn't get. Suffice to say, the idea that a few pranksters somehow overrode the signal for five separate transmitters covering an area of 1500 square miles would have required a great deal of power and equipment that the average person simply wouldn't have. In one engineer's estimation, according to Steve, "6 flat bed trucks worth of batteries" would have been needed without a commercial power supply. The official story at the time was that perpetrators from Hampshire were "caught and dealt with", but no record exists of such an arrest and their identities remain unknown. Engineers at the stations were told to say "no comment" if asked about the event, under threat of termination from their jobs. Broadcasting personnel that gave information to Steve and Rex did so under conditions of anonymity. 

So what exactly did happen on the night of November 26, 1977, at 5:12 p.m.? Why all the secrecy in both the 1971 and 1977 events? Was Max Headroom also part of Ashtar Galactic Command? I'll attempt to further parse these things out, and also get more into the life and work of Rex Dutta in a series of entries following this one. Our story continues in "The Curious Case of the Fish Doctor and the Man From Ashtar Galactic Command, Part II"...


"Fish Heart Beats" - 1953, Pathe films
"Flying Saucer Theosophist" - Pelletier, Rogelle, FOHAT Vol XI, No. 4, Winter 2007
"Hidden Mysteries - Alleged TV and Radio Broadcasts from Space" - Jon Hurst
"Rex Dutta - a Tribute to an Original Theosophist" FOHAT vol XI, No.1 Spring 2007
Flying Saucer Message - Rex Dutta, 1972

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Of Grumpy Cats and Alternate Realities

On Friday, May 17th, the news hit the internet that celebrity pet and meme legend Grumpy Cat had passed away, due to complications from a urinary tract infection. The famous grouch's owner, Tabatha Bundesen, made the announcement to the cat's thousands of fans through her extensive social media presence. The kitty in question, whose real name was Tardar Sauce, was 7 years old - and accomplished more in her short life than can be expected of most people.

But for some of us - this had all happened before. Some of us experienced a bit of a Mandela Effect moment...

 For my own part, internet memes - cat related or not - occupy little of my attention online. But I couldn't help but feel that I had heard of the passing of Grumpy Cat a few years ago; in fact, I had distinct memories not only of reading a headline, but of reading a short article that remarked on how her condition of feline dwarfism, which contributed to her classic scowl, had also decreased her lifespan. After tweeting this as a passing thought, attributing it to the Mandela Effect while rejecting the possibility that I might just be wrong about something, I found that I wasn't alone in having a memory of Grumpy Cat's demise. Grumpy Cat, for some of us, had died either several years ago or a few months ago... a quick glance at #MandelaEffect on Twitter gave me a better idea of how prevalent this memory is.

I have a distinct ambivalence about the Mandela Effect as a concept. My knee-jerk reaction has generally been that it's an outstanding example of arrogance inherent in Human Nature - that, rather than consider the possibility that some number of people is wrong about the spelling of a title of a children's book series, or how exactly an iconic movie line was delivered, there must by necessity be an alternate dimension or timeline, a temporal shift or some other time/space anomaly responsible. It would be hypocritical of me, however, to dismiss it outright. I've certainly considered crazier ideas. And I have to admit, finding out that Ed McMahon DIDN'T deliver giant checks to peoples' homes gave me a really eerie feeling. I was so certain that I remember seeing it in commercials while idly watching reruns of Gilligan's Island as a kid... To a lesser extent I felt similarly about Grumpy Cat.

One logical explanation for a shared memory of a celebrity cat's demise is that there have been a great many celebrity cats online, several of whom have died. Perhaps we were all remembering a different ubiquitous meme cat's venture into the great beyond? Another famously grumpy looking feline, Colonel Meow - the Guinness Book record holder for cat with the longest fur - died at the age of 2 in 2014. There's a longer list of celebrity or meme related kitties than this blogger cares to enumerate, many of whom have passed on. It's worth considering why the history of the internet (and social media, in particular) is so replete with cat photos and memes. One could argue that cats simply fulfill an archetypal need for our mental health in a data-driven world, wherein we find ourselves awash in a hopeless whirlpool of opinion pieces, bad news, and hoaxes, overwhelmed by the vast sea of information and misinformation that bombards us daily. Grumpy Cat certainly fulfilled this need for many people, who often used her image in memes expressing their dissatisfaction about any number of mundane issues. The image of, and mythology of cats has precedent in many societies throughout the world. It's not surprising that cats would hold such a powerful place within our collective unconscious - down through the ages, cats have occupied some level of metaphysical and emotional space as companions, protectors, and pets. Most obviously the ancient Egyptians held the cats in a place of reverence, and had a goddess in their pantheon named Bast. Bast was the daughter of Ra, and a protector deity.
In other cultures, cats portray a trickster nature and are associated with witches, vampires, and even genies. Black cats, according to superstition, can walk between realities, occupying a liminal territory between one world and another... and of course, in modern physics, there's the often misinterpreted thought experiment of Erwin Schrodinger, who used reductio ad absurdum to illustrate the problems he saw with the Copenhagen Interpretation - that being, when a particle is in an either/or state, it is considered to be both - known as a superposition - until it can be measured. In Schrodinger's example, a cat in a box with a radioactive particle and a flask of poison may either be alive, or dead, but without opening the box to observe, the cat retains equal chances of either state - and thus, according to the quantum view, is both alive and dead. (My apologies to any physicists reading this, I'm not a scientist but I do my best to understand these things...)

So is Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat, a modern Bast-like avatar of our era, one capable of shifting all of time and space, one who occupies a position both within the realm of the Living and the realm of the Dead?
Unfortunately, it seems that the solution to this inter-dimensional quandary is much more mundane, as so often regrettably happens. In 2016, a rumor of the death of Grumpy Cat went viral, leading many of us to believe that the iconic puss-faced pussycat had passed on. It wasn't the first time either; in 2013 pranksters on Twitter created a death hoax for April Fool's Day. It would appear that many of us were duped by misinformation either three or six years ago, creating an eerie deja vu effect upon hearing the news this time. In this age of being perpetually bombarded with both good and bad information at an accelerated rate, we can hardly be blamed for the occasional false memory. Of course, this tinkering with perception may very well be causing a rift in reality itself - perhaps the Mandela Effect in this case IS real, while simultaneously a simpler and more logical solution is true. One thing is for sure, we could all use a protector deity like Bast to protect us from a Temporal Rift...

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Some Other Sphere Podcast Appearance


It's my pleasure to announce that the episode of the podcast Some Other Sphere wherein host Rick Palmer interviewed me about Discordianism is now available for download or streaming wherever you get your podcasts! In a bit of Erisian synchronicity, the release date of May 1st, 2019 coincides with the 243 anniversary of Adam Weishaupt founding the Bavarian Illuminati... All Hail Discordia!

Rick is a great interviewer, and it was a genuine treat to chat with him about Discordian history and philosophy. His podcast is relatively new, but it's very well produced and every episode covers some unique facet of our bizarre reality. I highly recommend any of the episodes he's released!

So give it a listen, won't you?

Monday, April 29, 2019

Clowns to the Left of Me, Joker to the Right...

It's been a weird week, here at the headquarters of your humble Aficionado. I set out to write a nice little analysis of the Joker, of Batman comics fame, and got a bit sidetracked down a rabbit hole of research on the broad subject of clowns... it seems I opened a portal to the Clown Realm, inadvertently. Allow me to explain...

Firstly, I should establish here my personal thoughts on clowns. Growing up, I thought that coulrophobia was equal parts people who joked about fear of clowns, and people who were scarred by the TV miniseries It and its monstrous demon clown Pennywise. I never could relate to the fear of, or even the creep factor of clowns. To me, they're funny; a bit corny and outdated perhaps, but then again so am I. I have a fair amount of cartoons and art that I've drawn featuring clowns, and I'm sometimes dismayed when people think they're creepy. I have great respect for proper clowning as an art form, so if any clowns are reading this - I give you a 21 bicycle horn salute!

That being said, I set out to write about Joker, in anticipation of the anniversary of his first appearance in Batman #1 back in 1940. This triggered the idea for another post about the science behind creepiness with some Phantom Clowns thrown in for good measure. In the process I noticed a few clown synchronicities that I joked about on my Twitter account. Then they started to pile up... I wondered briefly if I should bother writing about this here on the blog late last night, and got an answer from the Clown Realm:
*sigh* Here goes nothing...

I started noticing odd coincidences in doing the research, in conjunction with the #OnThisDay posts I'm fond of doing on Twitter. Jack Nicholson (Joker in Batman, 1989) celebrated a birthday on the first day of really digging into the writing, April 22nd. April 23rd was the birthday of Ruggero Leoncavallo, the man behind the opera Pagliacci - which I was incorporating into a character analysis of the Clown Prince of Crime. On a whim, my creepiness entry included a picture of the creepiest smile I could think of - that of Mr. Sardonicus, the title character of a film by Gimmick King and thriller movie maker William Castle - and then found out Castle's birthday was April 24th.

On the 24th I had a moment of metaphysical hilarity in the form of greeting a woman at her place of work, only to have her ask - without glancing up from her smartphone - "Do you know where I could buy a clown car that leaves a trail of bubbles behind it?" I was a bit bewildered at first, and made sure she was actually talking about an actual clown car. I'm happy to say I think I managed to point her in the right direction, accomplishing my weird deed for the day.

My day-to-day life involves a lot of driving around, so I always make sure I have podcasts to listen to. One day last week, the episode of Aeon Byte Gnostic Radio that I was listening to ended with a discussion about world politics and this phrase - "Clowns run the world". The next day, I was listening to something a little less weird - WTF? with Marc Maron. Wouldn't you know it, during the opening neurotic rambling customary for his program, he read a fan letter - from a clown. The fan went into detail about the therapeutic benefits of Theatrical Clowning. Meanwhile I was in my truck saying to no one in particular "You've GOT to be kidding me!"

It didn't stop there, either, but it did seem to wind down a bit. The whole thing reminded me of an article I had read in an old issue of Fortean Times, by Bob Tarte and Bill Holm *, recounting his year of misadventure being plagued by synchronicity involving a clown named Bobo and the number 22. This sadly doesn't exist online anywhere where I can find it, but parts of it are included here for your perusal. Mr Tarte dealt with the nefarious and enigmatic Bobo for a full year - here's hoping I can avoid this fate and close the clown portal with this blog entry! Conspicuous is the fact that my first observed clown coincidence occurred on Nicholson's birthday - April 22nd...

Friday I went to the X-Filers United! Conference in Warwick, RI, and checked out Greg and Dana Newkirk's Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult. Greg and Dana are every bit as cool as I suspected they'd be; very welcoming, kind, and easy going. I was thrilled to meet them!
I was so thrilled to hang with them that ectoplasm blew out of my left ear. A little embarrassing, but these things happen I suppose...
I mentioned my clown synchronicities to them, for which I immediately felt a bit sheepish. But like I said, they're cool as Hell, and didn't seem to mind me continually coming back to linger at their museum and casually chat with them! The reason I mention any of this is that their collection included two items which caught my eye right away...

Each clown seemed to have a terrifying entity attached to it. Smiley, up top, terrorized college students with its attached "Dog-Eyed Humanoid" that would come out at night... While the clown below was found in a Chicago basement, wrapped in a picture of itself - this one seemed to make some skeletal creature that made cracking and popping noises manifest... Creepy stuff, indeed!

The traveling museum is really quite a wonderful collection of oddities and is worth going out of your way for. Every item inside was fascinating and wonderful. I spent a bit of time with a black scrying mirror, and was relieved that my reflection hadn't grown a clown nose...

That brings me to the weekend - of course I told my son about my clown troubles, which he found hilarious. Saturday afternoon the two of us were chatting with my mother through video chat, when she spontaneously put her phone down - only to pick it up again, surprising me by her and my dad wearing clown noses. Uncanny.

I also realized I had missed the series finale of the TV series Gotham, which aired on April 25th. I'm not sure if it was intentional on the part of the writers and producers of the show, but I suspect it was - that's the date of the anniversary of Joker's first appearance, the thing I set out to research and write about to begin with. And, fittingly enough, the episode - "The Beginning..." - revealed the Joker as we know and love him toward the end.

So now that this is all out there for the whole wide internet to chew on, hopefully these clowns can pile back into their phantom clown car and hit that cosmic freeway back to the Clown Realm from whence they came. I can close the Clown Portal and move forward, and write about something else next week. Anything else. Clowns never creeped me out before, but I gotta say they've been trying real hard this week!
Pictured: Clown College Drop-Out
* Bob Tarte has reached out to correct me on the attribution of his authorship of the article "A Circle of Clowns" from Fortean Times. He co-authored it with Bill Holm, who he says did the bulk of the writing. Weirdly enough, Holm also shared a birthday with Jack Nicholson - April 22nd! Bob is a real nice guy and the author of books such as Enslaved by Ducks and Kitty Cornered. Go check them out!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Joker's World

The original Joker - Batman #1, 1940
This year saw the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman, published March 30, 1939 in Detective Comics #27. Following right behind old Bats was the Clown Prince who would become his nemesis - The Joker first appeared the following year in Batman #1, published April 25, 1940. As villains go, you'd be hard pressed to find many as iconic and long-lived as the killer clown of Gotham - from his debut 79 years ago in which he was almost killed off to the upcoming feature film about him to be released in October, the Joker has been a pop cultural boogeyman who borders on the archetypal. This history is worth investigating, if only to give me an opportunity to be a fanboy for while.

One of the eeriest aspects of the Joker is conspicuous lack of information about him - although several backstories and identities have been devised for the character, it's much scarier and more fitting to his legacy that these remain potential origin stories, not definitive ones. In keeping with the multiplicity of the rogue's possible origins within the fictional world of DC Comics, the origin of and development of the character in pen and ink is ambiguous as well. For starters, up until recent years credit for Batman and associated characters had always gone solely to comic artist and writer Bob Kane; It's clear now that the development of Batman (and Joker) as we know them owe much to the contributions of writer Bill Finger, who now gets credited as a creator. One version of events has Finger and Jerry Robinson coming up with the iconic villain based on the picture of a jester on a joker playing card, while Kane maintained that he had been inspired to create a character by the terrifying visage of Conrad Veidt in the 1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs.
The Man Who Laughs is based on the novel by Victor Hugo, which features a carnival performer named Gwynplaine with a face disfigured into a permanent grin. It seems to be one of many tragic clown stories that were popular in the 19th century - it seems that when Ruggero Leoncavallo rose to notoriety with his opera Pagliacci he was sued for plagiarism by French author Catulle Mendes, who felt that the opera was too close to his story La Femme de Tabarin. He dropped his case when his play was compared with an earlier work by Don Manuel Tamayo y Baus. There's nothing new under the sun, I suppose, but the prevalence of dark tragic clown stories in the late 1800s is surprising to say the least. For Leoncavallo's part, he claimed ignorance to the works of Tamayo y Baus and Mendes, and claimed Pagliacci was based on a real murder. Whatever the case, it's an enduring opera that spawned films just as Hugo's grinning clown did - Notably Lon Chaney's eerie clown in the 1924 film Laugh, Clown, Laugh. That was Chaney's second clown performance - he was also a clown in the movie He Who Gets Slapped, based on a Russian play by Leonid Andrejev. It seems all around the world, clowns with violent and tragic backgrounds provide compelling stories, down through the ages...

The Joker in Batman stories is often portrayed in a similar way. One of the most iconic and controversial Joker tales is The Killing Joke, by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. In it, the back story of the Joker is revealed - the Joker is a small time comedian who can barely pay the bills, with a wife and a baby on the way. One very bad day involving a heist in which he plays the part of the Red Hood, along with the death of his wife and unborn child culminates in his transformation into the clown prince of evil. This hearkens back to a 1951 origin story for the Joker reveals him to have been the Red Hood, planning to steal from the Ace Chemical plant but being foiled by Batman and falling into a chemical vat, which bleaches his skin and colors his hair green. The chemical bath is a consistent theme in the Joker backstory, memorably portrayed in 1989's Batman with Jack Nicholson in the role. Ultimately, any backstory given for the Joker is considered just a possibility "manifesting itself in his fevered brain", as Bolland put it in his afterword to the Deluxe Edition of The Killing Joke.

It seems the pale face, the grin, and the madness in clowning has all the hallmarks of menace. I covered this bit already as a lead-up to writing this analysis of the Joker - but it's interesting to note that all of the characteristics of clowns that the average person finds unsettling, the Joker has in spades. He's chaos and mayhem incarnate, an unpredictable, mysterious, and psychotic fiend who's seemingly capable of anything, as long as it amuses him. This is illustrated particularly well in one single panel of the Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert story Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
Also interesting to note is the fact that while he may have been inspired by Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine in The Man Who Laughs, he has a distinctive gangster flair that makes him stand apart from tragic misunderstood European clowns of earlier times. That is, he may actually have been inspired by a simple jester image on a playing card - the Joker card, which is distinctly American. While playing cards trace their history back hundreds of years to China, then appearing in Europe in the 1300s, the addition of the jokers in the deck developed much later, during the American Civil War. In the game of Eucre, a game of trick card taking, an additional trump card or "Best Bower" was required - hence, the addition of the two cards to be used as wild cards. The American flavor of character traits displayed by the Joker is intrinsic to his personality and psychosis; the origin of the card seems a fitting allegory.

The earliest versions of the villain in Batman comics were violent and dark - the Joker was a homicidal maniac from the start. At the dawn of the Silver Age of comics, however, the violence had to be toned down considerably creating the more cartoonish, relatively harmless prankster version. Richard Widmark's performance as Tommy Udo in the 1947 film Kiss of Death is often compared to the Joker, and is not far from how the early Joker might have behaved. Uncited Wikipedia sources claim that Widmark based his character on the comic book Joker, and that Frank Gorshin based his 60s Riddler character on Widmark's Tommy Udo. Interesting, if true...
Of course, by the 1960s when the Batman series hit the air the Silver Age Joker was the standard. Cesar Romero's madcap adversary to Adam West and Burt Ward's Dynamic Duo was flamboyant, diabolical and entertaining - but certainly lighter fare than the killer of Batman #1. This "Theater of the Absurd" approach to the Gotham Rogue's Gallery is a particularly weird and wonderful one, as much as it may be dismissed by fans of the cerebral and terrifying Heath Ledger version from The Dark Knight. The aforementioned 1989 version, directed by Tim Burton, had Jack Nicholson needling between these two poles. He was certainly homicidal, but he was also pretty colorful and fun. Unpredictable and dangerous in the way only Jack Nicholson could be, 1989 Joker is the mean approximation of the sum total of the Joker's character. Nicholson said that the Joker "should have a humorous dark side to him", and that it was a part that he always thought he should play. This was in response to the Ledger Joker - Heath Ledger's final acting role, Jack seemed to find it heavy handed and too serious. I like both, honestly, for their own reasons. And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Mark Hamill's voice-over work for the animated versions of the Joker, without which we wouldn't have the criminal's partner in crime Harley Quinn.

Worth noting as well are the Jokers that never were - apparently, Frank Sinatra had expressed interest in the role for the 60s TV series and was crushed that Romero beat him to it. As far as the '89 Joker goes, contenders for the role included David Bowie, Tim Curry, and Robin Williams. Williams was reportedly offered the role only to have it taken away and given to Nicholson, which upset him badly enough that he refused the role of the Riddler years later.

So there you have it - a good long look at an iconic bad guy, a clown who can creep with the best of them and the number one contender for the Caped Crusader. Happy 79th Birthday, you big weirdo.