I have three short book announcements I want to share with everyone, and for a change it’s good news!
I admit to being somewhat surprised that my discussion yesterday of zombie narratives and race generated such a response, including Steve St. Clair’s claim that I was “race-baiting” in order to distract my audience…from what, I’m not sure—apparently the truth about the Sinclair world conspiracy. Since Halloween is coming up anyway, perhaps it’s worth some time to outline why I read The Walking Dead in terms of historical racial narratives. To do so, we need to go back to the beginning an understand the rise of the zombie in terms of the exotic racial Other.
After reading this today, I can’t let it go without a brief notice. Fox News medical pundit Dr. Manny Alvarez warned in a column last week that The Walking Dead is government propaganda aimed at turning children into socialist zombies. I don’t usually watch or read Fox News, so I wasn’t aware of this until the Onion’s AV Club shared the story.
Alvarez claims that even though he may be “paranoid and misinformed,” he fears that zombies are desensitizing children to violence and serving as government propaganda to ease the transition to socialism.
This week Ancient Aliens asked PZ Myers to appear on the show, which implies that we are in for even more episodes beyond the upcoming season order. I’m a bit jealous: I’ve never been asked to be on the show, and surely I must be the leading skeptical expert on ancient astronaut questions at this point. But as Myers said, that’s probably why they haven’t asked me…
Ancient Aliens S06E04 “Magic of the Gods” is quite obviously predicated (without acknowledgement) on Arthur C. Clarke’s famous maxim, his Third Law, that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The show, however, commits the logical fallacy of assuming the converse is true, and holds therefore that “Any ancient mention of magic is proof of advanced technology.” This is roughly like saying “all oranges are fruit; therefore, all fruits are oranges.” But the show does not care because: wizards! Also, the long-dead Philip Coppens says that some ancient people were essentially He-Man and mastered “the power of the universe.” Somehow, then, magic is both high technology and also the power to manipulate physics using the mind.
Weird Roundup: Angels Drive UFOs, Ufologist Runs for School Board, and Graham Hancock Redates the Neolithic
The world is cracking up, and I am left speechless by some of what I’ve learned today.
This morning’s email brought another bizarre email that makes me despair for the future. Written by a Christian pastor who is also a civil rights activist with a regional media profile in the south, the email told me that the pastor is a “practicing ufologist” as well as a “historian” and “scholar.” He wanted me to call him to discuss ancient astronauts and his recent UFO sighting because he wants to join “my colleagues” on Ancient Aliens. His name is Franklyn V. Beckles, Jr. of Augusta, Georgia, and to avoid any potential libel issues, let me note that he publicizes his ufology interests himself in interviews with the press. Yes, I have checked him out, and yes he is a real person who runs a church and a private school, and he is running for the school board in Richmond County, Georgia as part of a campaign to become school superintendent in 2014, according to local reports. And yes, he also has mistaken me for an ancient astronaut theorist.
What’s worse: creationist school board members or ufologist ones? It must make for an interesting time trying to decide who the “designer” is in the intelligent design curriculum.
I had hoped when Atlantis debuted that it would provide an interesting view on Greek mythology and something to talk about each week by looking at what it maintained and what it changed in the world of Classical myth. Sadly, the show itself doesn’t seem even half-interested in developing a coherent take on Greek mythology, or even its own mythology, and this is very disappointing.
Episode 4 “Twist of Fate” plays out exactly as you’d expect, but if you haven’t guessed the identity of the baby Jason and Pythagoras discover in the woods, stop reading now.
The Paradigm Symposium, a gathering primarily of alternative historians, ancient astronaut theorists, and other assorted New Age types, is taking place in Minnesota, and yesterday PZ Myers attended Scott F. Wolter’s lecture on Mary Magdalene’s secret Oreo cookies recipe (it features partially hydrogenated soybean oil and Holy Blood) and was dumbfounded by Wolter’s “revelations,” which are old news to regular readers of this blog after I reviewed Wolter’s Akhenaten to the Founding Fathers a week ago.
This wasn’t one of my better mornings. It started out with an internet outage that has put me many hours behind on the tasks I needed to finish today. It got worse when I received my mail.
Remember how I wrote recently about how copyright laws are wreaking havoc with the ability of authors to illustrate books? Well, it turns out that it’s not just copyright causing the trouble. My publisher sent me a letter (yes, in the mail—directing me to reply by email, no less, so they don’t have to wait for response) informing me that they would not allow me to use almost half of the images I provided for Jason and the Argonauts because the publisher says that having the photographer’s permission to use the photograph is not enough; I need to be able to demonstrate in a court of law that the photographer obtained legal access to the art in order to photograph it.
The BBC seems to have a hit on its hands with Atlantis, its fantasy about Greek mythology that bears little direct connection to Plato’s allegorical city. Naturally, Atlantis seems to be having yet another moment for the first time since Disney’s Atlantis movie coincided with the “lost civilization” alternative history movement more than a decade ago. The screenwriter behind the hit movie Gravity announced his next project is going to be The Lost City, yet another “new take” on Atlantis, while Fox announced its own Atlantis series, this time about two brothers who take off on a quest to find the sunken city and uncover deep sea mysteries in weekly installments—a soggier Supernatural by way of SeaQuest.
I am told over and over again that there is no danger to crazy theories being broadcast on television since these ideas are just entertainment. And yet last night as the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reopen the government, a House stenographer had to be forcibly removed from the floor after she became enraged and shouted that the U.S. government was a Freemason conspiracy to mock God, for the Freemasons who wrote the constitution “go against God.” While the stenographer’s ideas are more along the Christian conspiracy track, it is nevertheless unhelpful that we currently have had several cable TV programs, notably Brad Meltzer’s Decoded and America Unearthed, pushing the same Freemason conspiracy line, feeding this paranoia.
Ah well, let’s move on to a different kind of crazy: aliens! Yesterday Scotty Roberts suggested that I had misrepresented his views when I described his appearance on Ancient Aliens Monday night as supporting a connection between the Anunnaki and the Nephilim.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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