Good news, everyone! You will be able to watch me on TV on Monday, March 2 at 10 PM ET when the American Heroes Channel debuts the “Ancient Astronauts” episode of Codes and Conspiracies, which will examine the history of the ancient astronaut theory and some of the shady elements of Erich von Däniken’s criminal past. I shot commentary for the show back in September, and unless producers were happy to throw out all the money they spent coming out to Albany to film (and pay) me, I should actually be in this episode.
Here is the episode description:
This morning I did an interview with a production company making a documentary about the Caucasus Mountains for BBC Radio Three. We talked about my book, Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages and the role that the Jason myth played in framing the Western understanding of the Caucasus. We also discussed the way pseudoscientists have attempted to rope the Caucasus into everything from Bible giants to the ancient astronaut theory to Noah’s Ark.
I don’t know when the program will air, but I’m supposed to get a head’s up before it is on later this year.
Speaking of Jason and the Argonauts, did you know that the Jason myth is still really profitable? I didn’t until I learned this week that you can now go on a two-week Legendary Voyage of Jason and the Argonauts cruise to visit the supposed route of the Argonauts (apparently the one proposed by Apollonius of Rhodes) for the rock-bottom price of between $8,000 and $12,000 per person. The cruise ship has 26 rooms, of which 24 are double occupancy, yielding a gross of at least $500,000 each way since they are running the ship from Greece to Georgia and back again for two cruises. A million bucks is a pretty nice prize for a month’s cruise. Obviously, after expenses the cruise won’t profit a million dollars, but I imagine expert consultants Nina Tumarkin (an expert in Russian and Soviet history) and Mary Lefkowitz (a Classical scholar) will come out the other side with a pretty hefty sum for essentially a paid vacation.
I’m in the wrong line of work: My Jason book has made me virtually nothing in royalties; in fact, the biggest payout I got from the book was licensing one of the maps I made for its website to another publisher. A single photograph earned me more than writing and selling the book. On the plus side, I still have another eight months as the only major recent study of the Argonaut myth; Classical scholar Helen Lovatt’s In Search of the Argonauts, originally scheduled for publication last year, has been delayed until October. It will be interesting to see how her book does or does not agree with mine.
While we’re on the subject of scholars, I saw an interesting article about resident Ancient Aliens folklorist Sabina Magliocco, who admitted Cal State Northridge’s Sundial that she knows Ancient Aliens misrepresents her and her work but thinks that the twisted truths on the show still serve to educate audiences. Magliocco told the newspaper that she knew from the first episodes of Ancient Aliens in 2010 that they were intentionally twisting her words to make her look like she supports the ancient astronaut theory. She says she raised objections but has continued participating for five years anyway, reminding them each time that she doesn’t believe in the ancient astronaut theory:
This is something that I have told them on camera a million times but they never put it in. […] I am completely opposed to the show’s theory. As an anthropologist, it’s important to understand that our ancestors were as smart as we are today. There are all kinds of symbolic explanations for pictures and representations that don’t have to involve aliens.
Magliocco added that she loves being on television. “When I find a producer that I like to work with, I will consider doing more television.” After five years, it’s pretty clear she likes Ancient Aliens and its producers despite her opposition to the very core of the show.
It’s something I can’t quite understand. How can someone be “completely opposed” to a media product, know that its producers will twist and misrepresent you to support a preconceived agenda you claim to loathe, and still spend five years contributing to that show?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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