German Town Invites Erich von Däniken to Combat Boredom; Plus: Australian Aborigines Want You to Know Their Art Does Not Depict Ancient Aliens
This has to be the saddest story about Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Däniken that I’ve read in a long while. A report in NGZ Online, a German news site, says that the ancient astronaut theorist is scheduled to speak in the German town of Neukirchen, in Grevenbroich, on March 3. He is coming to the small town of just 2,700 people at the invitation of Thomas Stenbrock, a restaurateur who confessed to NGZ Online that he hasn’t read von Däniken’s works.
Scott Wolter Tries to Prove That the Knights Templar Calculated New England Longitudes. It Did Not Go Well.
A few weeks ago, when Curse of Oak Island introduced the modern “copies” of allegedly medieval maps owned by researcher Zena Halpern, many viewers questioned the fact that the map shown on screen seemed to show accurate lines of longitude long before a reliable method for accurately calculating longitude had been discovered. While the most parsimonious explanation is that the Halpern map is a modern fake, former television personality Scott F. Wolter has instead argued that the maps prove that the Knights Templar (whom he suspects of creating them) were able to accurately measure longitude, despite accidentally proving that he is himself unfamiliar with how longitude is measured and reported.
From time to time, I like to talk about obscure things that interest me but probably aren’t going to be viral sensations. Sandwiched between two holidays, this week’s generally low readership seems like a good time to devote a few minutes to an interesting topic I’ve returned to a few times but which I hadn’t had the opportunity to discuss before.
Today was another day of head-scratching moments. A recent poll conducted by The Economist finds that nearly half of people who voted for Donald Trump claim to belief that the online conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex slave operation from a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. The same poll found that 60% of these voters believe the false claim made by Donald Trump, repeating online conspiracy theories, that “millions” of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton, and half believe Barack Obama was “probably” born in Kenya. People will literally believe anything TV and the internet tells them, so long as it supports their political affiliation. When polls register number this high, we have passed to the point where facts have any authority. All is now propaganda.
Yesterday I began to review The Origins of the Sphinx by Robert Schoch and Robert Bauval, an odd duck of a book that collects a thin rewriting of Bauval’s Keeper of Genesis with two chapters by Schoch on Sphinx geology. Many of the images in the book appeared in Keeper and/or The Orion Mystery, and in my review copy they appear to have been scanned poorly from those books, with the text of the backing page visible through the picture. I hope the final version will use Photoshop to correct this. Today I pick up where I left off, with the fifth chapter, authored by Robert Bauval. But before I do, I should briefly note that it really doesn’t matter all that much to me whether the Great Sphinx was built by Khafre, or even in the Fourth Dynasty. I’m not convinced that it dates back to the Ice Age, but there is certainly room to argue it might be slightly older than the consensus maintains. It is really only when one starts to argue that it predates all known Nilotic cultures that things get a little hairy.
My Christmas gift was a review copy of the newest tome from maverick geologist Robert Schoch and eccentric engineer Robert Bauval entitled The Origin of the Sphinx: Celestial Guardian of Pre-Pharaonic Civilization (Inner Traditions, 2017). You can imagine how excited I was to find that particular lump of coal in my stocking! Before I get into the book’s contents, I should say a word about its unusual format. The two authors did not write the book together, but rather they divided the chapters among themselves, with each author credited with a few. Robert Bauval wrote chapters 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6, along with the epilogue and appendixes 1-4. Schoch wrote the preface and chapters 2 and 7, along with appendices 5-9. The authors argue that the separate contributions “harmonize” in to a coherent whole. The fact that they needed nine appendices to explain seven chapters suggests that more editing was needed to turn this collection of essays revisiting old claims from the 1990s into a real book.
Review of "Sins of Our Youth," the Teen Gun Control Christmas-Themed Thriller You Didn't Want and Didn't Need
Note: I will be taking tomorrow off to celebrate Christmas. I hope all of you enjoy whichever holiday you choose to celebrate this festive season.
About six weeks ago, a small outfit called Breaking Glass Pictures sent me an invitation to view a screener for a movie they were releasing called Sins of Our Youth. I get about twenty such requests a week, and I usually don’t pay them much mind. But this one came with the offer of an interview with the movie’s star, Lucas Till, better known for his roles in the X-Men movie franchise and on CBS’s MacGyver. Regular readers will remember that I wrote back in the spring about the way that the algorithms that run our lives conspired to recommend to me every movie Till ever made (see here and here). I thought it would be a fitting way to end this year to bookend it with a conversation with Till. Madison Hill Public Relations, a small outfit in California doing PR for the film, agreed and told me they would make the arrangements. The outfit strung me along for more than a month, promising what they couldn’t deliver. (Rachel Madison Hill, owner of the PR firm, said she submitted my and others’ written interview questions to Till’s agent, Jim Osborne, where they vanished into the void. From what I heard secondhand, Till’s agent cited MacGyver’s demanding shooting schedule as the reason Till did not respond. For more than a month. That is one heck of a shoot.)
I want to give special thanks to everyone who has donated to my annual fundraiser so far this week. I am, as always, touched by your generosity and your support. If you feel so inclined, there is still time to increase my income taxes for 2016 by making a contribution to help offset the costs of keeping this site running. This year I couldn’t have timed it better since Weebly’s recent upgrade meant that you really got your money’s worth: a whole new site layout and design, along with the hours spent trying to make it work right!
Sometimes writers become so close to their subjects that they lose the ability to see the big picture. When a journalist works too closely with a source, that journalist can unconsciously adopt the source’s world view, attitudes, and values, mistaking the source’s perspective for objective reality. This bias then colors the resulting work. In his new book The Lost City of the Monkey God (Grand Central Publishing, 2017), journalist and novelist Douglas Preston accidentally produced a chronicle of the development of his own blind spot as he comes increasingly to identify with the researchers who traveled to Honduras in search of the legendary White City, known at times as the City of the Monkey God.
I’m sure that most of you have noticed that things look a little different around here today. That’s because yesterday my web services provider, Weebly, pushed through an update that seriously messed up the formatting of my website and limited some functionality. When I attempted to fix the problem, I discovered that the editing and coding tools wouldn’t work right, either. Customer service informed me that the template I built the site on top of was no longer one that the company supports, so in order to work with the latest upgrade I would have to adopt a new site theme from the approved list of templates. This was, obviously, a bit of a mess since I had to transform my increasingly non-functional website in a single day. As a result, there are some changes:
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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