I spent part of yesterday meeting with my lawyer again after I received a multi-page letter from the attorney representing the same occasional cable TV figure who has made legal demands against me for the past four years. This time, he is claiming that I am involved in a “civil conspiracy” to defame him. Anyway, it’s a long, involved thing, and that has sadly limited my time for writing today. Therefore, I will share two brief stories that are interesting, but about which there isn’t a lot to say.
The first season of the four-episode French science fiction romantic drama Il était une seconde fois aired on ARTE in September but made its international debut on Netflix last month under the title Twice Upon a Time. (A second series is in the works in France.) Like all but a few of Netflix’s foreign language imports, this one passed under the radar of most critics, and the few that did review the series really didn’t like it, while several French critics (though not all) praised its atmospheric moodiness and impressionistic storytelling, while conceding it’s artsy elements weren’t for everyone. Perhaps surprisingly, I had a quite positive reaction to the moody miniseries. I think that most of the critics in both languages misread it at a foundational level.
Archaeological Institute of America Takes Cash from Cable Purveyor of Pseudoarchaeology Shows and Helps Make Josh Gates Look Good
This is another one of those blog posts where I make enemies by pointing out that corporate cash is corrupting. This past weekend the Archaeological Institute of America, a respected nonprofit archaeological organization, held ArchaeoCon 2020 in Washington, D.C. This event, which occurred alongside the AIA Annual Meeting, was intended to promote archaeology and to “showcase” both the AIA and American archaeology for a public audience. So why was the main attraction a lecture by Expedition Unknown host Josh Gates, a man who went on TV and on the radio to tell America that he was pretty sure space aliens were involved in building some archaeological sites? That answer explains quite a bit about the destructive but symbiotic nature between powerful organizations and money.
The Return of Holy Russia: Apocalyptic History, Mystical Awakening, and the Struggle for the Soul of the World
Gary Lachman | May 2020 | Inner Traditions | 448 pages | ISBN: 978-1620558102 | $32.00
Occult histories can be interesting, provided that we don’t take them over-seriously. It is a rare occurrence when occultism takes the wheel and steers history toward mystical ends, though it is less rare to find powers and potentates making use of occultism to drive their policy goals. For Gary Lachman, however, occultism is the secret stream of knowledge animating all of world history. His last book, Dark Star Rising, tried to envision Donald Trump as a literal chaos magician harnessing supernatural forces to enact an evil agenda. Continuing to mistake incompetence and arrogance for supernatural genius, Lachman’s new book, The Return of Holy Russia, casts the whole of Russian history as a centuries-long conversation with occultism about Russia’s supposedly unique place in the world as the embodiment of Christian virtue (hence, holy) and occult power.
The new version of Dracula airing on the BBC and Netflix this week comes to us from Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, whose previous collaborations on Doctor Who and Sherlock share more than a little DNA with the thematically muddled but intermittently interesting three-part vampire drama. Like Sherlock, their Dracula aims to reinvent Bram Stoker’s novel, but the result is more of a pastiche of a century of Dracula adaptations spiced with a superficial gloss on toxic masculinity and feminism and wrapped in a veneer of pseudo-camp and linguistic anachronism that cut hard against the vestigial Gothic horror the miniseries retains from the source material. British critics loved the series, but I wonder if it doesn’t play more to a British sensibility than to an American one. I have a hard time buying any Dracula who quips like a Batman villain as a timeless supernatural menace.
Happy New Year! As we start the new year, it’s time to take stock of a few odds and ends left over from the month that just passed by. First, I will share my unalloyed joy that the offensively incompetent Unexplained + Unexplored on the Science Channel hit a series low of just 299,000 viewers on Sunday for its painfully awful effort to find the Fountain of Youth. The show has steadily lost viewers for the majority of its eight weeks, according to the Nielsen ratings, which is typically the kiss of death for a cable show. It lost 10% from its lead-in and barely squeaked by the ratings for mid-afternoon reruns of Dr. Pohl on NatGeo and the middle of the night reruns of Married to Medicine on Bravo. Of course, it’s also a show about history conspiracy theories, and cable networks love to renew those because they are considered “evergreens” that can be rerun, repackaged, and resold around the world for years to come. And it did manage to outdraw original shows on other cable channels in its 10 PM timeslot, including Oxygen’s lineup.
Perhaps more than any year in recent memory, 2019 was the year in which fringe history stopped being fringe and went completely mainstream. This year, we saw pseudohistory and conspiracy theories top the literary bestseller lists, multiply across cable channels like mushrooms on a rotten log, and attract record crowds to traveling carnivals masquerading as pseudohistory “fan” conventions. It perfectly captures the tenor of the times for the post-truth era that the very notions of fact and fiction ceased to have meaning. This was a long, hard year, both for the world and also for me personally. After dealing with family health problems, buying and selling a house (and still not being able to close on selling the old one until early 2020, nearly half a year after the sale), writing two books, and a knot of lawyers for many different developments, I am ready for this unpleasant year to end. Let’s look back in anger:
Jacques Vallée Claims to Have Proof CIA Faked Alien Abductions as "Psychological Warfare," Refuses to Let Anyone See It
A few months ago, Jacques Vallée, the longtime UFO researcher and scientific advisor to space-demon-hunting billionaire Robert Bigelow, published the fourth volume of his diaries, Forbidden Science, covering the 1990s. In that book, Vallée made the shocking allegation that the CIA staged fake alien abductions in Latin America and that there were documents that supported the allegation: “I have secured a document confirming that the CIA simulated UFO abductions in Latin America (Brazil and Argentina) as psychological warfare experiments.” Vallée did not provide support for the dramatic assertion in Forbidden Science, which prompted Jack Brewer of The UFO Trail blog to ask him for his evidence. The answer was… exactly what you’d expect: a mixture of arrogance, incuriosity, and buck-passing in place of actual proof.
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities.
Terms & Conditions
Please read all applicable terms and conditions before posting a comment on this blog. Posting a comment constitutes your agreement to abide by the terms and conditions linked herein.