Expedition Unknown S01E09 “Mayan Apocalypse”
In my continuing quest to find something interesting to say about Expedition Unknown I keep finding myself coming up short. Once again, this week’s episode was interesting, occasionally amusing, and in places quite beautifully shot on location among the Maya ruins of the Yucatan. Josh Gates toured various ruins and descended into the underground limestone caverns known as cenotes that the Maya used as both sources of fresh water and as ritual spaces thought to connect to the Underworld, Xibalba. The show did not exactly break new ground in suggesting that the Maya engineered the fall of their own civilization through deforestation and the consequent decline in rainfall and the water supply, but it provided a thoughtful and nicely illustrated tour through some of the evidence for how scholars reached those conclusions, including giving time to members of the Maya culture as well as archaeologists who work on questions related to the Maya. It is a welcome contrast to the ongoing hype about the fictitious “Ciudad Blanca” that some are trying to map onto genuine archaeological material in Honduras.
Also last night the USA network launched its new ten-episode “event series,” Dig, from Heroes and Touch creator Tim Kring, and one of the brains behind Homeland. The show warrants mention here because it follows the now-standard ancient conspiracy narrative in which ancient prophecies and archaeology serve as vehicles for a globe-spanning churning of dark forces centered on bringing about the Biblical end of days. The show begins with the birth of a red cow, and the gasps of Orthodox Jews who declare it the fulfillment of prophecy, citing I suppose Numbers 19. However, the cow’s birth isn’t really an ancient prophecy fulfilled as much as a modern one—some Jews believe that the appearance of such a cow for the first time since the destruction of the Second Temple will signal the construction of the Third Temple in Jerusalem since the ashes of such a cow are essential to achieve the purity needed to serve in the Temple. Meanwhile, the breastplate of the Temple high priest (which communicates with God!—I imagine based on the divination stones Urim and Thummim, here confused for the breastplate itself) is unearthed, and there is some babbling about the Ark of the Covenant being excavated beneath the Temple Mount.
Dig is very clearly a Tim Kring production, sharing with Heroes and Touch far-flung international locations, a penchant for subtitled dialogue, and contrasting scenes that don’t quite add up and only gradually intersect. The pilot episode was somewhat interesting, but it reads a lot like Heroes and Touch, two shows that were respectively unfulfilling and boring. It remains to be seen if Dig will follow either route, but the pilot seems to follow its predecessors in imagining a world in which a supernatural force is hiding beneath the surface of everyday reality. Unlike the superpowers of Heroes or the vague mysticism of Touch, this time it’s just Yahweh, a more mainstream choice, but with all the different Bible and Bible-themed miniseries, movies, and shows recently--The Bible, Noah, Exodus, A.D., etc,—I’m getting Bible fatigue.
The Roswell Slides
I’m sure that many of you remember the story of the so-called “Roswell Slides,” some Kodachrome slides allegedly depicting a dead alien in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. The slides are due to be released later this year at a press event in Mexico hosted by a famous Mexican mystery-monger and some other ufologists. Earlier today, Nick Redfern announced that he has changed his mind on the slides and now considers them to be misrepresented.
Redfern viewed images of the slides available online and concluded that they do not depict a dead alien but rather show a mummified human corpse on display at a museum in a glass case. His reasoning is as confusing as ever, though the foundation is solid enough: He concludes, rightly, that it would be massively foolish to display a dead alien in an insecure way where there would be a significant risk that the audience might be exposed to an extraterrestrial pathogen. He compares the imaginary handling of the “alien” body to the known care taken in securing and disposing of the bodies of plague victims in New Mexico in 1947. Redfern cites this to FBI files on the plague deaths (which he says speculated on Japanese involvement via balloon), but this is hardly new. Redfern doesn’t tell readers that he’s been pushing his plague research for years—he previously used the same documents to suggest that cattle mutilation was due to biological warfare. He also declines to note that while it’s true that he has these documents, he did not discover them. The Memory Hole requested and posted them in 2006, but I can’t link you to the files because The Memory Hole isn’t working.
But what’s interesting is how defensive (and overwritten) Redfern becomes near the end of his piece in which he is forced to confront the fact that his readers want to believe, even when the facts are against them:
Do I apologize for changing my views, now that I have had the opportunity to see the images online, at various sites and blogs? No, of course I don’t; such a thing would be completely and utterly ridiculous and is totally unwarranted, too. Rational debate and argument is vital. And both can often lead a person to alter their stance. Which is what has happened with me. Like it or like it not; that’s how it is.
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: My appearance on Codes & Conspiracies Monday night earned me two of the three lowest-trafficked days on my website all year. Readership fell more than 25% on Monday and stayed the same on Tuesday before bouncing back to my 30-day average on Wednesday. It seems that far from getting new visitors from being on TV, my appearance actually served to keep 25% of regular readers away.