Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
In the movie, Twilight, the gimmick is a group of nice teenage "vegetarian" vampires, who survive on animal blood, but still have to fight the urge to dine on their human neighbors. They are also unusually attractive, stylish and spend most of their time sitting or standing around artificially posing. The only time in the movie they showed any personality, other than pouty or brooding, was when they played baseball in the woods. They each have a different ability (hmm, anyone thinking Heroes?), such as fast speed, ability to tell the future, super strength, whatever, and they can go out in sunlight, but prefer not to, as it makes their skin glow like it is coated in diamond dust, and people would figure out they are "different," and then they would have to move again, and it would be all so inconvenient.
I don't care what you've done.I love you anyway.I know you won't hurt me.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
T***, whose mother died in a car crash when she was a little girl, had two stories to share. First, she told us that her aunt claims that as she was sitting drinking at the kitchen table, her dead sister came and sat across from her and spoke to her. T*** also shared that she had gone to sleep in her parents' bed. She woke up thirsty and asked her father to get her a drink of water. After he left, her mother appeared next to the bed. She screamed, and her father dropped the glass and it broke.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The Bucky Burro Band.
There are a lot of things in this world that deserve attention, but these examples of wishful thinking are just sad. Long story short, the gullible will frequently be fooled by pareidolia, the random shapes that appear naturally, and seem to our eyes to contain faces or look like what they are not. There's a wonderful collection of them at this website: Things that look like other things.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Ah, golden October with all its glory has come round once more. Once again, for a couple of weeks the hills blaze with color in a yearly reminder that time marches on in a circle. Round and round and round we go, round the sun, round the seasons in a never-ending spiral of life and death, of beauty and decay. And here in October, nature celebrates life with bursts of color and rich fruits ready to be harvested.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to . . .
. . . well, that's the point, isn't it. The verse seems to be about doing things at the right time, but what it is equally about is time. Time comes and time goes, and when the time to do something is gone, it is gone. There will be new flowers next season, but they won't be the same ones. There will be new life, but it will be someone else's.
Time, it seems to this porch stoop philosopher, is the one constant that no one is able to escape. The wheels turn, the seasons come and go, the blooms drip, the boobs droop, the hair thins. The skin creams go on, but the wrinkles form anyway. We think when we are young we can avoid the ravages of time, but we learn better. *Ha, ah, ah (evil laugh)* The joke is on us.
We ignore the passing of time to our peril. Even though we are constantly admonished not to worry about the past or the future, but to live in the present, we can look at time passing, and he seems to be running away from us like a mischievous street thief who has just lifted our wallet. "Too late," he taunts as he turns the corner and disappears from sight, along with every opportunity we have let pass.
Time is not the only constant we need to reckon with. The other one that wrecks carefully laid plans and plays havoc with our deep seated need for security is Everything Changes. No matter how comfortable we get or how carefully we plan, sooner or later the transmission fails or someone gets sick or the job goes south, and we have to scramble to weather the storms created by the changes in our lives. Pandora opened the box and added the element of chaos to our lives, and we all must deal with it.
Enough about us. Here's the question I was puzzling on lately. What about ghosts? What about spirits? Are they affected by the laws of time and change? Are they unaffected by time? My guess, is they can't avoid the forces of the universe any better than we can. They may be in a different place, seemingly existing under a different set of rules, but even they can't change the laws of physics. They cannot stop the sun in the sky any more than we can. So, no matter how long a ghost has haunted a crumbling castle or treeless moor, their season of haunting may be longer than the average, but it will end, just like everything else, and something else will take their place.
Oh, did I mention? Another universal truth . . . we are all replaceable.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Watch the video and click on the title of this post to see more of Andy's art.
I don't have the artistic talent in my whole body Andy Goldsworthy has in his little finger, but I enjoy seeing what he does partially because I also have an appreciation for the beauty of individual feathers, rocks and leaves, enough that I often pick one up and bring it home; not all of course; most are best left where they are, but some that will not be missed and will remind me of where I have been. I like the shapes, the colors, especially the rounded smoothness of river rocks, the speckled colors or ribbons of alternating layers.
The beauty of the earth and the temporary nature of much of that beauty is a spiritual thing. It reminds us all to appreciate each breath, each day, each opportunity, and to be present and mindful. When we make our world ugly, when we fail to create beautiful spaces to live in, something inside us weeps in frustration. The outer reflects the inner, and one way we bring peace to the inner is by putting ourselves in the way of beauty.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The word "rapture" is not found in any English translation of the Bible, yet some creative entrepreneurs still manage to sell the concept to the credulous. I read one of the Rapture books once because someone left it in the teacher's lounge as a free giveaway. I read the book with something best described as extreme distaste, especially at the images of Jesus carrying a sword marching at the head of his army, his formerly white robe (symbol of purity), turned red with the blood of his enemies. Now that's a Jesus I can't get behind. Hmm, reminds me of the bloodthirsty priest Amrish Puri pulling the hearts out of the human sacrifices to Kali in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before sending them down to a fiery hell. After I finished reading, having searched in vain for anything even vaguely redemptive in the book, I quietly chucked it in the parking lot dumpster, then went and washed my hands, thoroughly.
When it comes to being left behind, I'd just as soon. Here are some reasons. I'm sure there are others I haven't thought of. Feel free to add yours in the comments.
•Because I don't want to miss the next episode of The Middleman
•Because there'll be shorter lines at the gas station, bank, the multiplex . . .
•Because some of the people driving gas guzzling behemoths will be gone . . . easing global warming!
•Because the people who insist on teaching abstinence instead of how to prevent unwanted pregnancies will be gone . . . easing overpopulation
•Because there'll be enough money in the Social Security fund for my retirement
•Because, unlike the potential heavenly floaties, my eyes still focus
•Because all the really interesting, creative people will still be here
•Because all the really annoying people will be gone . . . I think, . . . wait, will there still be Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on my door?
•Because I'll save $40 a year not leaving e-mails to my family and friends, thumbing my nose at them, and explaining what boobs they were for not believing
A couple of hypothetical conversations overheard after post-rapture e-mails get sent out pre-rapture:
What I really hope happens? There's a major screw-up at You've Been Left Behind and the e-mail messages get sent out BEFORE the rapture. Oops.
––You sent one to me? Why, didn't you think I was good enough? Do you think you're better than me?
The idea of the rapture is nothing more than the extremely old concept of the "deus ex machina." The phrase is Latin (meaning "god out of a machine") but comes from ancient Greek drama and refers to any hopeless or unresolvable situation in which an improbably contrived ending is engineered. For example, an angel or wizard or magic genie or Jesus appears and "poof" fixes things, or, remember when the whole Who Shot JR? thing on "Dallas" was solved by having the whole season turn out to be just a dream? It worked in the Wizard of Oz, as well. Superman usually flies backwards around the earth real fast and turns back time. Anyway, the idea has been around a long time. It's just being repackaged and sold under a new brand name with a purpose no nobler than to fleece the flock.
––What bank account in the Grand Cayman Islands? Any other secrets you've been keeping?
The concept of the Rapture is for those who have given up on fixing the earth. Those who see no hope for humanity and themselves and just hope a god/angel/Jesus/deus ex machina will swoop down like Peter Pan and rescue them (and fly them off to Never Never Land?). I suppose it's one way to keep despair away. But the part where they come back, hiding behind Jesus' skirt, er, robe, and kick ass on all their enemies (such as everyone who ever made fun of them in high school?) . . . that's just sick. While it would be nice, not to mention convenient, to be rescued from our financial and personal troubles, most adults understand that the only way out of this boggle is to keep working away to fix the problems we, humanity, have created. It's our mess. We made it. It wouldn't be nice to run off and leave someone else to pick up after us.
Pollution? War? Inequality? The rich too rich, the poor too many? These are fixable, if we only dig deep and find the will, the love, the strength of character and the resolve. Rapture wannafloats? Gutless quitters without the focus and determination needed to succeed in the real world. If their time comes, let them go. But, if you see anyone floating up in the air, perhaps on a beam of light, there might be aliens up there picking up a six-pack at 7Eleven Earth. I suggest hiding under a rock. It might, ironically, turn out to be a rock of salvation.
P.S. Can I have your iphone when you're gone?
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Self-help books tell us how important it is to think positive thoughts, but truth is, the negative ones come more easily to mind. Someone asked recently whether there is anything to voodoo, in particular, to the power of hexes. I don't know much about voodoo except that it came to America with African slaves. Like any other religion, I'm sure it has changed and evolved through the ages and has its positive aspects. However, like most non-practitioners, when I think voodoo, I think voodoo doll.
I've been tempted to poke a few holes in one in honor of a particularly irksome person or two. But, I know I could not do it, not because I believe in curses, but because I believe in the power of negative thoughts. It's not just that I don't want to be responsible for one of my bad thoughts hurting someone else, but that I believe that whatever I put out into the universe is what I will get back. I have enough problems. I don't need one of my random bad thoughts scooting around the world and coming up behind me and saying, "Gotcha!" when I'm not looking.
All kidding aside, can you be hurt by a hex or a curse? Not unless you believe in the power of the hex or the curse. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it. It's all about psyching out the other person. I suspect that letting the hexee know that he has been targeted may be advantageous. If one goes to go to the trouble of getting the voodoo doll together and poking those pins in just so, it must be frustrating to see the victim stroll around obliviously unaware of the ill feeling that is supposed to be hurting him. Surely leaving a noxious band of dead weeds in a strategic location would speed up the process. Add a deceased cockroach, something black and sticky, tie it up with a black ribbon, and voilà, psych!
I read a great article by someone who calls herself "Madame Splash" about the power of negative intuition which expresses quite well the essence of the effect that negative thinking has on our bodies. Please click HERE to read the whole article and check out her other articles. There's also a link in my LINKS box.
Close your eyes and think of two contrasting people, one somebody you adore and another that you intensely dislike.
Think about each person in turn, and pay attention to what occurs in your body, particularly observe your emotions, your feelings, and other areas of tension.
If you became aware of the changes within your body, you had what we call a metaphysical "intuitive" experience, simply by "observing" your primeval reaction.
Remember the last time you could have "cut the air with a knife" with a sulker, or felt "completely stupid" around a person who treated you as such. How about a person who didn't trust you, for no good reason at all? Can you recall how you "felt" on the end of this kind of transmission?
Every individual who has experienced rejection as a result of racial, societal or belief structures has experienced this form of silent rejection, and this begins to explain what we mean by "negative intuition".
All dominating and condemning thoughts are intuitively broadcast to a recipient, and you don't need wax dolls and pins to emit harm. Gather a group of people together with the same objective of slander, gossip or ridicule and the result is merely Voodoo*!
Well said, Madam Splash. I could not have said it better . . . hence the quote.
Well, this has not settled the curse issue, so much as pointed out that negative thinking does have an observable effect on the body. If you allow yourself to be psyched out by the idea of someone cursing you, then yes, you could be hurt, but it will be you hurting yourself.
My advice? Shut the psychic door! Close the intuitive window! Let all the bad vibes coming your way bounce or slide off. Water off a duck's back. Smooth. Visualize all those bad vibes flowing around you and zipping around the world and biting your nemesis in the butt. Now that's an image I can get behind! Anyone putting a hex on you is an idiot who deserves to be laughed at, and laughter is the very best medicine for what ails you.
Want to buy a voodoo doll? I suggest one of these from The Chocolate Store.com
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?" sing the tenor and alto in Handel's Messiah.
"Once you accept your own death, all of a sudden you're free to live." -- Saul Alinsky
Christians seem to me to be a rather anxious lot. Although, as a group, they claim to have overcome death through Jesus Christ, I find most Christians to be preoccupied with death and apprehensive about it. I've never really understood this. They aren't just interested in keeping themselves from dying, either. The extreme ones spend a lot of time fretting over other people's unborn children.
Some of them see God as a Santa Claus who will give them what they ask for if they are just good enough, pure enough, faithful enough and pray hard enough. Some see God as an accountant, keeping track of every sin in preparation of making them pay. No surprise that group is anxious to avoid death. Some see God as a teacher and life as a never-ending final exam with lots of trick questions. Others see God as a spiritually perfect condition that each of us strive to reach so that we can be one with him and experience joy. I tend to the latter belief, but the problem is, I doubt I can reach that condition in one go.
But, what bothers me most is the assumption by the majority of Christians (but not all!) that we only get one shot at life incarnate on earth. This, I believe, is the source of the anxiety and fear that Christians try to hide behind beatific smiles and lofty songs praising Jesus for defeating death. The promise held out to true believers is EVENTUAL RESURRECTION at some undetermined time, perhaps nearby, more likely, very distant. The reward or consequences of a life lived well or poorly arrives instantly at the moment of death and remains in place more or less permanently. Two choices: Heaven or Hell. No one seems sure where the cut-off line is between the two. Hence, the need to proselytize and baptize as many souls as possible before they die unshriven and find themselves sinking down into the abyss.
Does this make sense to you? It has never made sense to me and I'm a Christian. It offers nothing for those who die young, or live encumbered by disability, disease or mental illness. It doesn't give a fair chance to those who die in war or in a school collapsed on top of them by an earthquake. Where is the justice for the innocents? Where is their chance? It just isn't fair. God, unfair? That can't be right.
We are told that we are made in God's image, that he is our father (I use the masculine gender as a familiar convenience) as we are parents to our own children, and loves us even more than we love our children. So, let me ask you, what do we tell our children when they fall off their skateboard-roller skates-bicycle-horse? Do we say, You fell off? Too bad, you only get one chance? No, we tell them, Dust yourself off, get back on, and try again.
But most Christians believe in a God who does just that. The pared down, simplified version is God loves you just the way you are, but you only get one shot at this. Don't mess it up, or you go to hell. The truth we all know in our heart of hearts, is that none of us is perfect. We are all sinners. We all have dark places in our souls, and we are not going to get it right the first time, any more than we are going to be able to ride a skateboard on our first attempt or shoot the hoop from the center line of the basketball court with only one shot. The pressure to succeed is enormous. The consequences of failure dire. The angst is buried deep under hymns and smiles and fellowship. But, it bubbles to the top as a fretful fear of facing death and finding out whether one's one life was good enough to face God's judgment.
But, is that the way of it? I don't think so. I'm not saying we aren't judged, but I'm betting that the judgment is loving and that we do most of it ourselves, that we will come face to face with our successes and shortcomings in a place where nothing is hidden and draw our own conclusions. Heaven and Hell and whatever lies between are most likely self-generated by our own conscience and self-awareness. There is ample evidence in history, experience and scripture that you and I have lived many lives and will live many more, that our spiritual journey involves many chances to get on the horse and ride it and not fall off. My God loves me as I am and wants me to succeed, or so I believe. I hope to make progress in this life toward spiritual perfection, but can see that it is still a long way off. Death, I believe is something we are all better off accepting, not fearing. Knowing that I have come this far and will be given the opportunity to pick myself up, dust myself off and try again is a comforting thing.
If you would like to learn more about the other alternative to the one-shot at life: reincarnation, try out some of these links.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
What is not so clear, nor is it ever in time of war, is whether such a tactic can ever be allowed as humane or justified. The world has gone to great lengths in the years since to avoid a repeat, but it is the Damocles sword that hangs over our heads and of which we do not speak much, except with much finger pointing at other nations.
I've seen photographs of Hiroshima and the mounds of rubble and skeletal trees, and wondered where were all the people. Were they all vaporized? I even remember seeing a photograph showing the outline of a woman against a wall, all that was left.
The reason for this post is the release of 10 never before released photographs of the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing. The undeveloped film containing these photographs was discovered by a US serviceman in a cave outside of Hiroshima. The photographer is unknown. The soldier's family donated them to the Hoover Library and Archives (which has been collecting first hand accounts of historical events since 1919) with the stipulation that they not be released until 2008. These photographs are not for the squeamish, because they illustrate in a graphic way the human cost of the bombing. I think we have an obligation to remember the past, to remember the suffering, because as the philosophers say, those who fail to remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
You may view the photographs by clicking on the title of this post.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Click on the title of this post to go to Clay Shirky's website.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
For some reason, last night I was thinking about the Villisca Axe murders. It is an uncomfortable haunting to think about, because it raises so many questions about loss of innocence, parents helpless to protect the children in their care, and extraordinary evil. There must be a tremendous amount of residual sorrow and inconsolable pain in that house. I've listened to EVP's taped in the house in which you can clearly hear the murderers laughing about the crimes they have committed and are about to commit, and the children whispering as they hide from the murderers, whom they know will be coming up the stairs to kill them next. It's bone-chillingly horrifying.
This morning as I began my initial research, I discovered a full-length feature film on the topic of the Villisca murders has been produced and was being shown yesterday, the same day I felt compelled to think about it. Is there a connection? I've had many experiences that carried a sense of serendipity with them and believe that ideas, once tossed out into the universe, bounce around and are picked up by others, so that people seemingly completely unconnected may find themselves thinking on the same things.
Here's what I found. Please click on the link under the title of this post and you will be able to learn more about the film, the documentary of the making of the film and when it may become available for viewing. It has won the "Silver Eddy" award at the Cedar Rapids Indpendent Film Festival.
Inspired by the unsolved 1912 Villisca Axe Murders and the present day paranormal investigations of the J.B. Moore Home, Haunting Villisca was shot on location at the crime scene and at the historic Montgomery County Courthouse where the trials took place, as well as in several other Iowa locations.
Haunting Villisca features well-known Hollywood actor, GregAlan Williams (Remember the Titans, Be Cool, Old School, In the Line of Fire, The Sopranos, The West Wing) and actors Michael Cornelison (Lost in America, Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life, The Final Season ) and James Serpento (White Boyz, Iowa, The Final Season, Duck Farm Number 13) in addition to many other actors who now reside in the Midwest.
The award-winning behind-the-scenes documentary, A Ghost of Chance: The Making of Haunting Villisca, by Jill Jones, Elizabeth Hixenbaugh and Kaitlyn Busbee, three college film students known as JEK Films, will also screen on Sunday April 27 at noon in Reunion Hall.
A Ghost of a Chance follows the process of making Haunting Villisca and features interviews with cast, crew, filmmakers, and historian Roy Marshall, writer of the book, Villisca. The documentary also chronicles an overnight stay in the infamous Villisca Axe Murder House and evidence of paranormal activity in the Moore Home, including video footage and E.V.P.s ("ghost voice" recordings known as Electronic Voice Phenomenons) by the paranormal investigations group, P.R.I.S.M.
I share this information with you now, as I don't want to delay getting the word out about this movie. If anyone has seen it, please post a comment and let us know what you thought of it.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Many thanks to Mother Nature for finally shooing Spring in. Persephone was unnecessarily tardy in exiting from the Underworld and kept us all waiting rather overlong this year.
This is a busy time for me at school, so not sure when I'll get another post up. Still waiting for inspiration. My focus right now is on the real world, rather than the virtual one. But, I assure you the spiritual world still holds its fascination for me and will still be there when I have a moment to think about it.
My interest in ghosts has always been about spirit, about the cycle of the seasons, about growth and relationships and how we all fit together in the universe.
Happy Spring, everyone. I wish you all peace and love.
Breathe deep, spend some time outside where the fresh air can hit your skin and the sun can do its healing thing.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Characteristics of bullies
Research indicates that adults who bully have personalities that are authoritarian, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a deficit in social skills and a prejudicial view of subordinates can be particular risk factors.
Further studies have shown that while envy and resentment may be motives for bullying, there is little evidence to suggest that bullies suffer from any deficit in self esteem (as this would make it difficult to bully). However, bullying can also be used as a tool to conceal and boost self esteem: by demeaning others, the abuser himself feels empowered.
Researchers have identified other risk factors such as quickness to anger and use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions.
Like dragons, bullies are self-centered, solitary, greedy creatures, kings and queens of their own mounds, unwilling to share, demanding loyalty and deference from those they deem to be lower than themselves, and in return for all this, they may not eat you . . . if you are lucky.
According to Canadian educator Bill Belsey, it involves the use of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, cell phone and pager text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal Web sites, blogs, online games and defamatory online personal polling Web sites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or group, that is intended to harm others.
—Cyberbullying: An Emerging Threat to the Always On Generation
I've just been banned from a forum by the owner who yesterday posted a thread in which she claimed that two rival forums were sending out trojans (Trojan: A program that appears legitimate, but performs some illicit activity when run. ) and warning her members not to visit the two sites.
word has it that 2 paranormal sites on the internet are sending out trojans from their site, and indeed i clicked on one of these sites, and my antivirus immediately flagged and killed a trojan....the 2 sites in question are...*here she named two websites* ...so beware if you visit those sites regularly... great way to encourage people to visit your site....not... I am not even going to provide the links for you guys cuz it might encourage you guys to click on it and see...so if you really want a trojan to attack your computer...you will have to find these sites yourself...as i am not linked to them.....and for a good reason now...
Her unhappiness with me surely stems from my asking whether she had notified the owner of the site, my insistence that the owners of both named forums be notified and asking for more details of her experience. Well, apparently that just isn't the done thing. She was clearly only interested in trying to get a rumor mill going to discourage people from visiting those sites. I got in the way.
*NEWSFLASH* There are no trojans or viruses at the other sites. This was simply an effort to defame two sites with which she is in competition and her action fits the definition of cyber bullying listed above.
Another characteristic of bullies is that they blame their victims. After slandering these two sites, she took objection when the owner of one managed to get into her site long enough to lodge a protest. Here is the bully's response to the owner's complaint. This is just a snippet, by the way. She rambled on a bit. I swear, I haven't changed so much as a comma.
Here is the lowdown....NOT everyone likes you, NOT everyone will like you.....you CAN'T MAKE people like you......them is the facts....
so why dont you just take a valium, gather up the 16 different personalities in your head, and move on..... You put so much negative energy out there by attacking anyone and everyone who says something about you....its no wonder you are gettin it all back. in spades....
quit trying to police the internet, tracking down people who don't like you. Just avoid them
maybe if you put all that pent up frustration into your website, you would have more than just the ABC's of this, that and the other to offer people
Some information on the paranormal might not go amiss... But if you just carry on gossipping and slandering people....well....I said it before....you will only get that back.
Now, if that isn't crazy, I don't know what is. She used gossip to slander this woman's website and then turned around and accused her of "gossipping and slandering." And all that other stuff in the middle, absolutely out there. I hope she was standing in front of a mirror, because this is a talk she should be having with herself, not throwing at other people who would have been ignoring her if she hadn't targeted them. Wow. For what I really think, check out this list: HERE.
And then she closed and locked the thread with,
and now that all that is said...and it being MY forum....I shall have the last word....
this topic is locked....and you and police woman judy are banned.
Can't say its been nice knowing either of ya...
Queen of the mound, acid drooling, sounds like a dragon to me. I got to be the police woman! w00t! In other words, I drug her deed, done in secret, visible only to her minions, out of the dragon's lair and into the light of day where everyone can see it. Badd, badd apple. I'm not going to identify any of these forums or the author of the malicious posts. But, if you see that thread or similar unfounded accusations being made against a competitor's website, tread carefully. Dragons are dangerous creatures.
If you are a reasonable person who expects better behavior from adults, join the crowd. There are many forums on the Internet and room for them all. They are all different: different styles, different members, different topics, and different owners. Take your pick. Don't let the watchdogs, who gave this bully five bones, tell you what sites to like. Remember, you're good enough, you're smart enough, and Badd Apple likes you, but watch out for hot and heavy breathing on the back of your neck. You, too, could be come the target of a hungry dragon.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The participants are cast members, just like cast members of any other show. They have rolls they play and their rolls are partially scripted, which is most obvious at the beginning and end of the shows, and some places in the middle, too. Make no mistake, there's a lot of direction going on. You can still enjoy the shows, but don't have to believe everything they say is true, like Donna has done all this great research . . . right, Donna went out and "found" this stuff all on her own, NOT! The research is done by the production staff before they ever decide to film the episode, and whoever is wearing the researcher hat that week gets to take credit for it on the show. (P.S. I really like Donna Lacroix. She's on Ghost Hunters International where the only problem is she's once again being bossed around by the men who always seem get to be the leaders . . . Hmm, I sense a blog on sexism in ghost hunting. MUAH, Donna!)
This shouldn't stop you from enjoying the actual ghost hunting segments, during which the cast sometimes have freaky experiences, collect video or EVP evidence, or not. It's still the next best thing to being there. My only complaint, you can't always tell what is actually going on with the spooky music and sound effects added to the footage later. Latest personal peeve? The fake heartbeat added by Ghost Hunters. Cut it out!
The first of these shows I was exposed to was Most Haunted, the British show, but I quickly found the star, Yvette Fielding, to be extremely irritating. That and the obvious fakeness of the medium, Derek Acorah, provided a quick turn-off for me. There have also been accusations of fakery, such as Yvette sighing and then saying, "Did you hear that?" DUH! Yvette and her husband are the producers of the show.
Ghost Hunters is a very popular show, starring the very likable Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes, who supposedly work as plumbers during the day and hunt ghosts at night. They are also the producers of the show, which is built around The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), which they founded, but is now a marketing bonanza with a spinoff series, Ghost Hunters International and other certified TAPS teams. They have built a huge following in large part due to the fact that they act from a skeptical position, trying to determine what is actually causing observed phenomenon and looking for natural causes that will rule out the paranormal. They only accept a paranormal explanation if they are able to gather physical evidence to support the observed phenomenon. They also come across as very sincere with their clients and as very comfortable in their relationship with each other. Trustworthy is the word for these guys.
That said, the show is still highly scripted and stiff during the segments that set up the beginning, the ride to the site, and the end. If they are sitting at a table or riding in a vehicle, you can almost see the cue cards. There's a lot of repetitiveness here, the same kind of information given over and over and over again ad nauseum show after show about what they do and what an EVP is. It eats up air time, but doesn't provide any new information for old viewers. My most unfavorite thing they do is compliment someone on how well they did during an EVP session, as though it is hard to learn to say, "Is there anyone here who would like to talk to us?" or "Could you please do something to prove to us you are here?" How hard is that? Can I have my diploma now? The tech stuff . . . that takes some knowhow, but still, we aren't talking rocket science here.
You also need to be aware that there is a great deal of editing being done and it isn't being done by the cast, but by the production staff, who decide what it is that you and I, the audience, will get to see. It includes highlighting personality quirks of the cast members or whose wife is having a baby, who is scared of spiders, etc. Connecting the viewers to the cast members is key to maintaining interest in the show, since you can't always count on the ghosts to manifest themselves. Sometimes these machinations are so obvious that I can't imagine the audience doesn't know what is going on, such as when Kris Williams, the pretty one who is often used as "bait," was supposedly trapped inside a room she'd had to use a chair to get into and couldn't get herself out of. She called on the walkie talkie for Jason and Grant to come help her . . . only she was being filmed by a cameraman who was clearly in the same room with her. He couldn't give her a leg up? Grant "had" to crawl in and lift her up and then was filmed by the same cameraman jumping up and squirming out. So, who helped the cameraman out? They are never truly alone. There is always a sound guy and a cameraman, who seem remarkably calm. I wonder where they find these guys?
The final show that I have watched is a new one, Paranormal State. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like this show, because right off the bat they were talking about demons and exorcisms. They also threw around a lot of holy water. It's basically a one-man show, built around student, Ryan Buell, with a couple of doe-eyed coeds, one Wiccan, and a tech guy. But, the focus is on Ryan (who comes across as steady, mature and experienced) and whichever medium they decide to call in. But, it's almost laughable when Ryan says something like, "I decided to call in so-and-so" to come help us and POOF they appear. It's all been planned ahead of time. Nobody's too busy to come, and even if they live across the country, they are there johnny-on-the-spot shortly after he declares they are needed.
I'm not knocking this little series. Remember, they are all scripted to some extent and the story line has been determined by the producers ahead of time. But, what the producers cannot script on any of these shows, and what keeps the viewers coming back again and again is the actual experiences they have . . . the unscripted parts of the show. You cannot fake the emotions of a scared teenager who is seeing the ghost of a murdered girl in her room, or the reluctance of a dog to enter a room, or how one of the investigators squeals like a girl and runs when touched by something that isn't there. They also occasionally capture a video or EVP that is compelling and some sounds that are unexplained may be heard audibly by the audience, as well as the investigators.
What I like about Paranormal State, assuming that it is true, is that Ryan claims on several occasions that he and his team are there to help the family with whatever the problem is. That may include counseling and medical interventions. They stick around a site for a whole weekend, not just one night, and don't leave until they have determined whether it is safe for the family. Whether you or I believe that holy water, rosary beads or saint's medals will keep a bad spirit away is probably irrelevant. I think it is the energy generated by the people present and their belief that matters. The rituals probably help them focus that energy.
To sum up, each of these shows has a hook, a gimmick, which the viewers can expect.
Ghost Hunters is science-based. Their goal is to look for proof (period). Their gimmicks are to go "Lights Out" and spend exactly one night at the site, which more and more seem to be famous historical sites, and have "The Reveal" at the end (sitting around a table, of course). Whether they find anything or not, they leave. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am. We had a good time. Good luck with your situation. They say they can be called on again, but we have no idea if anyone actually goes to them for more help with their problems. There's no follow-up.
Paranormal State is medium-based. They set up some instruments to gather evidence, and use them to verify paranormal activity, but their focus is on communicating with whatever spirits linger and helping them either to pass on or live harmoniously with the current residents of the home. Their gimmicks are "Dead Time" and the "Director's Log" which narratively carries us from scene to scene. They seek to resolve the problem of the haunting at the end. They stay for at least a couple of days, a couple of nights, and include psychological assessment of the people involved, as well as research including interviewing former residents of property. The places they investigate are often the homes of regular people. And the help they provide seeks to heal the whole family and provide some resolution to the problems they are having. They provide some follow-up information at the end of the show.
As long as they can keep their sincerity intact and be honest with their audiences, both of these shows may continue to experience success. I know I'll be watching.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I've been puzzling on this one and am wondering if the car really was rolling uphill or if this is one of those places where people have trouble telling. I know, that seems incredible, but apparently sometimes people think they are going uphill, when they are really going downhill. This seems even worse that not knowing your left hand from your right.
I would like to see a better test than the one in this video, which would be to go out to this road when it's raining, or fill a big cooler with water and go pour it on the road and see which way it flows. Water flows downhill, so if it flows toward the railroad tracks, the car was actually going downhill, and the locals are using the story of the children to get a bigger thrill out of their illusory experience.
If it flows away from the tracks, the car was being pushed by some unknown force, and that would be very interesting. If anyone from San Antonio has observed the direction of the water flow on this road or is willing to check out my theory, please let me know how it turns out!
Thanks to an alert Paranormal Surroundings forum member for finding and pointing out the facts on this one to yours truly. It turns out the bus accident cited in the video happened in UTAH, not TEXAS, and most of the road leading to this crossing is a downhill grade, with just the last bit going up. It is long enough that most cars build up enough oomph to get across the tracks. Click on the link to get the details from the North Texas Skeptics.
They used a lot of technical equipment to get the grade of the road figured out. I still think my plan would have worked, less technical, but water always runs downhill, so not high on numbers, but pretty reliable data, nevertheless.
So, whatever happened to responsible journalism? Are we reduced to "human interest" stories where journalists look for an "entertaining" story, rather than looking for the truth about one? Are more news channels going to suggest that they report and we decide, rather than they research and let us know what they uncover? I addressed this sad issue in my blog: The Truth, the Whole Truth, and the Relatively Real Truth.
I don't believe in multiple choice truth. Our news outlets shouldn't be excused for passing off fabrications as truths because the reporters and producers are too lazy to look below the surface for it.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I'm a mature woman now, but I work with teenagers, and often remind myself that I had just as hard a time as many of them with the whole logical reasoning thing. We are not born with this skill. It does not come naturally to most of us. We are emotional creatures. We have to learn how to set our own desires and prejudices aside when seeking the truth of things.
I had forgotten about the argument from ignorance fallacy until I ran across mention of it recently.
Argument from ignorance
The argument from ignorance, also known as argumentum ad ignorantiam ("appeal to ignorance") or argument by lack of imagination, is a logical fallacy in which it is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proven false or is only false because it has not been proven true.
The argument from personal incredulity, also known as argument from personal belief or argument from personal conviction, refers to an assertion that because one personally finds a premise unlikely or unbelievable, the premise can be assumed not to be true, or alternately that another preferred but unproven premise is true instead.
Both arguments commonly share this structure: a person regards the lack of evidence for one view as constituting proof that another view is true.
You see this viewpoint held by some posters on forums and websites devoted to the paranormal, but not by everyone. I have to emphasize that. There are intelligent people out there who are interested in looking for evidence of the existence of ghosts, either due to personal experience or out of intellectual curiosity. They may be called skeptics, because they insist that there be reproducible impartial evidence that will stand up to independent scrutiny. It's a much tougher stance to take than that of some, who sadly believe that everything they see is evidence of ghosts.
Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk may have come to represent the opposites, emotion and reason, but to say they cannot exist in harmony would be . . . illogical. There is no rule that says turning on your heart means you have to turn off your brain, so it is likewise, not necessary to turn off the logic circuit in your mind to believe in the possibility that ghosts exist.
Here is a list of the fallacies . . . My, my it's quite a list. If you've never had the opportunity to become familiar with them, I suggest going to the website listed at the bottom of the list. On the website, you can click on each one and learn more. Just reading the titles, may elicit a nod of understanding. You don't have to be Mr. Spock to come to a logical conclusion, as Captain Kirk often "proved."
Ad Hominem Tu Quoque
Appeal to Authority
Appeal to Belief
Appeal to Common Practice
Appeal to Consequences of a Belief
Appeal to Emotion
Appeal to Fear
Appeal to Flattery
Appeal to Novelty
Appeal to Pity
Appeal to Popularity
Appeal to Ridicule
Appeal to Spite
Appeal to Tradition
Begging the Question
Burden of Proof
Circumstantial Ad Hominem
Confusing Cause and Effect
Guilt By Association
Ignoring A Common Cause
Poisoning the Well
Two Wrongs Make A Right
The Nizkor Project
Sunday, March 23, 2008
•Do vampires really exist?
•Certainly! They are all around us. We're surrounded by vampires.
•Is that one over there?
•No, not the teenage girl in black with the multiple piercings and black lipstick hiding behind her bangs making pouty faces. She may be a vampire wannabe. But no matter how much she wishes otherwise, she's just another case of teenage angst.
•What about that young man in the long black coat?
•No, he's just watched the Matrix a few too many times, although I wouldn't go near him. No telling what he has under that coat!
The vampires with the long fangs who suck blood are nothing to be afraid of. Generally, they only come out at Halloween in search of candy. Statistically speaking, it is impossible for them even to exist. According to physicist, Costas Efthimiou of the University of Central Florida, based on the way movies and books portray vampires, if they ever existed, they would have replaced humans in short order. Since vampire victims become vampires themselves and launch their own blood-thirsty attacks on the helpless humans around them, their victims would have become vampires, and their victims' victims, and their victims' victims' victims, and the number of vampires would have grown quickly in a process known as geometric progression.
“If vampires truly feed with even a tiny fraction of the frequency that they are depicted to in the movies and folklore, then the human race would have been wiped out quite quickly after the first vampire appeared.”Math vs. vampires: vampires lose
Efthimiou supposed that the first vampire arose Jan. 1, 1600, around the beginning of a century during which some of the first important modern writings on vampires appeared. The researchers estimated the global population at that time, based on historical records, as 537 million.
Assuming that the vampire fed once a month and the victim turned into a vampire, there would be two vampires on Feb. 1, four the next month, and eight the month after that. All humans would be vampires with in 2½ years. “Humans can not survive under these conditions, even if our population were doubling each month,” which is well beyond human capacities, Efthimiou said.
The vampires you really ought to be worrying about are the ones commonly disguised as family and friends.
That's right, they can suck the life right out of you and not leave a mark.
How do you spot them? The vampires among you expect you to do much for them, with them doing little in return. They are the friend who constantly needs you to do them a favor, but always manages to avoid being the helping hand you need in return. They are the teenagers who feel comfortable bringing home D's on their report cards and still expect you to do their laundry and clothe them head to toe in the latest baggy pants style with matching tennis shoes at a cost greater than anything you have in your closet. They are the mother, mother-in-law, husband, teenager, boss, co-worker or (fill in the blank) ____________ you will never be able to please.
These monsters only exist if we enable them. You are NOT, I say this emphatically, allowed to put a stake through their hearts, except metaphorically. Stop caving in to them. Recognize them for the energy sucking vampires they really are, and step back and find ways to cut them off from their energy source. They may curse you, but they will also stop treating you as a victim.
Why am I writing about vampires on Easter Sunday?
Bunnies. The Easter Bunny. Bunnicula. Vampire bunny gargoyles. And last, but not least: Cherub, the Vampire with Bunny Slippers.
(Oh dear, my link doesn't work any more. I think they've moved the show to itunes as a podcast, but when I went there, I got the message that it wasn't available in the U.S. (and I'm in Germany, so what do they know!). If anyone knows where to go to watch these episodes, do so, and let me know.)
It looks like you may be able to watch them here, and there's a good review, too, but I miss the old site. It was so nicely organized (sigh). I have only myself to blame for not keeping up with the show.
In the meantime, enjoy Episode 1 from Season Two.