I know I've complained about the History Channel's excrable Ancient Aliens series, but I have seen stupidity tonight that I have never before witnessed. On a rerun of a recent episode, David Hatcher Childress stood before a cabinet of Native American skulls and claimed they belonged to giants. They may look perfectly normal, he said, but viewers can see that they belong to giants when one compares the jaw bones of the skulls to a "modern dental impression." The robust jaw bone is twice the size of the tiny, thin dental impression; therefore, even though the skulls are the size of human heads they must actually be twice the size of human skulls and belong to giants, the result of alien genetic engineering.
Oh. My. God. Is it possible that anyone can be so ignorant as to think a dental impression--which records only an image of teeth and gums--is the same as an entire jawbone? Of course the whole jaw is bigger than a dental impression. Unless Childress's dentist knows techniques that defy biology, there is no way to make a cast of the jaw bone from a living--and flesh-covered--head. That Childress can't tell the difference is disturbing; that the History Channel let such blatantly false misinformation onto its airwaves--including the Childress's claims that the archive holding the skulls is engaged in a conspiracy to "hide" the giants (funny how he had unimpeded access)--without even a token rebuttal or fact-check is an affront to knowledge, to honesty, and an insult to the intelligence of anyone unfortunate enough to mistakenly watch the History Channel.
Here's a fun blog post at the Dead Pictures blog that uses my Cult of Alien Gods to review the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society's Call of Cthulhu DVD.
I've also been listed as a reference in Dina Khapeava's article (full text behind paywall) "Unfinished Experiments on the Reader: Nikolai Gogol's Petersburg Tales" in Russian Studies in Literature (46.2 ). I take issue with Khapeava's argument that "for want of a more insightful definition" I and others have apparently "christened" a "horror genre" out of the monstrous offspring of the Gothic. The horror genre is not the creation of scholars; "horror" became a genre in the 1930s, as a term for the complex of pulp fiction and monster movies focusing on thrills and chills. The term is coequal and coeval with the era's other "genres"--the Western, the detective genre, the romance genre, even the railroad genre. The "horror genre" therefore owes more to the economics of entertainment and Depression-era marketing than it does to any imagined scholarly conspiracy.
The psychic experiment conducted at Cornell University that claimed to show that present events could transmit information backward in time is receiving a great deal of press this week as the paper by Daryl J. Bem goes to press in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Outlets such as the New Scientist and MSNBC's Cosmic Log have covered the story this week, and both report that at least one attempt to replicate the experiment failed to reproduce the original experiment's results. Bem notes that the replication attempt was made online instead of in-person, potentially compromising results. Nevertheless, more replications are underway, and we shall soon know whether there is anything to the claim that events in the present can affect the past. My money is on "no," but hey, you never know.
Last night AMC aired the first episode of its heavily-promoted new high-concept zombie apocalypse series, The Walking Dead, based on the comic book series of the same name. Critics generally gave the show high marks, and I agree that Walking is gorgeously produced, viscerally violent, and eerie in its use of silence and emptiness to underscore that strangeness of a landscape where very little is left alive.
That said, the show also seems wedded with bond of iron to the zombie apocalypse stations of the cross. There is little in the pilot that was not present in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead more than forty years ago, and certainly nothing that would be new to anyone who has seen the recent spate of apocalypses depicted across every form of media. Parts of the pilot recall with startling precision not just Night but also Dawn of the Dead (both versions), 28 Days Later, the BBC's recent zombie-free apocalypse Survivors, The Dead Set, and still more. That the comic predated some of these does little to counter the sense that much of this has been seen before.
Like the annual enactment of the stations of the cross, there is still drama in this old story of unholy resurrection despite the seeming lack of surprise or originality. But it is more akin to watching a new production of Hamlet: You watch for the performances and the production values, to see a familiar story acted anew, with perhaps a bit of something unexpected tossed in now and again.
Had The Walking Dead debuted ten years ago, it would have been hailed as a work of genius; today, however, I think were are nearer the end than the beginning of the zombie craze, and (for me at least) zombie fatigue has set in. It will be interesting to see how Walking develops its story and if it can craft something original from a large budget poured into shopworn parts.
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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