Tuesday, May 19, 2009

UFO HUNTERS - Underwater Area 51

History Channel - Original Air Date: 5/13/09

The team investigates rumors of an underwater alien base off of the Bahamas, possibly connected with the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) -- described as "the Navy's Area 51."  It's known that the area is equipped for undersea war games and testing.  They talk with former AUTEC employees, one of whom claims to have "seen" a giant USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) that manifested as a land mass appearing on radar.  Compass anomolies accompanied the "hit," but no one actually saw anything.  The target, supposedly 3 miles wide, then melted away.  Kevin points out this could be merely a radar malfunction.  Another former employee saw some kind of glowing object rising from the sea.  Bill decides to try for a public tour of AUTEC, but they have no luck with the pubic affairs officer.  (Can't imagine why anyone woudl turn UFO Magazine away.  Aren't they reputable journalists?  At least as reputable as Fox?)  As they walk toward the front gate, a helicopter buzzes the area and a cop drives by -- but it could be a conincidence.  Another man describes his compasses going crazy whenever he dives near AUTEC.  The team takes a boat out and gets as close to the site as they can.  Then they dive down and find some strange undersea cables, which run from AUTEC to the "tongue of the ocean" -- a deep-water drop-off.  The cables vanish into the deep.

Having exausted their scientific exploration possibilties, they now go to a "remote viewer" -- which despite once being used by the US government, remains a scientifically unproven technique.  The remote viewer describes USO objects and alien beings inside with three fingers.  Bill concludes these are similar to other alien sightings. The RV man refuses to divulge more, saying it's "classified."  So the team turns to a French UFOlogist.  This "expert" claims the government has made a deal with the aliens; Kevin presses him for sources, and he says if he gave them out, they would all disappear.  (Or be made to disappear by the goverment.)  Kevin concludes that no reputable scientist would back up any of the UFOlogist's claims.  The expert also has theories about extra-dimensional experiments and Atlantis connected to AUTEC.  Pat says, skeptically, they're trying to roll every UFO theory into one giant burrito.  Next, they talk to a pilot who claims to have flown through a strange tunnel of clouds and come out in the future (further than could be accounted for by the time of the trip).  He claims to have made the trip 30 minutes faster and having consumed 10 fewer gallons of fuel than usual; Kevin does some calucations poving that, if the witness is telling the truth, his plane could not have made the trip as fast as it did -- it cannot travel at the required speed (not even with tail winds).  Bill now ties these incidents, and perhaps AUTEC, too, into the Bermuda Triangle.

They then talk to a physicist, who explains how wormholes in space could make time travel possible.  After that, they talk to two people who are searching for Atlantis.  They've found an undersea formation similar to the Bimini Road (believed by geologists to be a natural rock formation).  Pat goes diving with them and finds some interesting rock formations 20' down.  He says it looks intentional (but one might think the same of the Giant's Causeway in Ireland).  The structure, if that's what it is, is 4000 years old and made from beach rock.  The researcher thinks it might be a former harbor.  Kevin points out there's a lot of strange stuff going on around AUTEC, but no tangible proof of any kind, and certainly no proof of aliens.  Bill and Pat seem to be willing to take the word of the remote viewer.  And Pat again draws the connection between AUTEC and Area 51.  (That might, also, be true -- but it doesn't mean there are aliens in either place; they could just be secret testing facilities.)  While the information about AUTEC was intriguing (sadly, their website is currently down), it seems to me that by the end of this show, the UFO "burrito" had gotten very full indeed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

MONSTERQUEST: Gigantic Killer Fish 2

History Channel - Original Air Date: 5/6/09

The question this week is: Are gigantic killer fish lurking in America's waters?  Giant groupers have been seen off the Florida coast; old and very impressive photos show the species before it was fished almost to extinction.  A diver (seen, I think in other MQ shows), talks of his encounter a juvenile Goliath Grouper; he suffered a bad bite.  MQ sends a team to look for such a fish.  They find a very aggressive moray eel and, eventually, some larger groupers.  They chase the fish, estimated at 300 pounds each, into a reef, but can't get closer. In Minnesota, a boy in shallow water is attacked by a large muskie (a thin, pike-like fish); in Wisconsin a man found a set of fish jaws that indicate a fish well over 5 feet long. A third man has video of a netted muskie biting his arm savagely. Another MQ team goes ice fishing for these monsters with special lures, camera traps, and even an ROV.  They catch some aggressive fish and see some others on camera, but no monsters.  They do, however, almost lose the ROV beneath the ice when their power source fails.  They also get a tantalyzing sonar hit of a fish perhaps five feet long, but they can't get a picture.  As happens often on this show, the MQ hunters come close, but we end up only with a story of the one that got away.


History Channel - Original Air Date: 5/6/09

Is there any "trace evidence" of UFO visits?  And, if there is, will Bill, Pat, and Kevin be able to turn it up?  Pat points out that having something you can analyze is very rare.  Kevin wants to make sure there is actual physical evidence, not just stories.  Kevin says to meet his test -- the test of science -- an object has to be both extraterrestrial and manufactured.  The team firsts goes to Pennsylvania, Bucks County, to be exact.  They interview the witness (from the UFOs Over Earth show) who saw a craft drop a sparkling substance down into her trees.  The team talks to MUFON (in a weird show cross-over) about what they did and what they found -- but the case was already a week old when MUFON collected evidence, and Kevin suggests contamination is a possibility.  Oddly, or maybe not, what this show says MUFON concluded is not what the MUFON show said (see review).  They Bill and company get distracted by the usual witness accounts, and Bill takes multiple similar accounts as "proof" of the reality of sightings and the "trace evidence."  They then talk to a Boston UFO researcher who talks about a case in Poland where a witness found a strange ring of stones on the ground after sighting a glowing light.  Another strange sighting yielded a strange hole in a snowy field, but no evidence of digging. Bill speculates that the UFOs are doing some kind of soil testing/exchange.

The team takes pieces of the "contaminated" tree and the rock to an expert for examination. Checking with an electron microscope, the expert finds some unexpected elements (boron) in the tree leaves, though that could be from fertilization -- and "strange" UV particles turn out to be bird urine.  The rock turns out to be soil partially turned to glass, something that could be done by lightning, though that doesn't seem to be the case here.  Pat speculates it might have been hoaxters playing a prank.  The expert thinks vitrification would need industrial involvement.  The team sets out to see if they can recreate it with common welding elements.  They have some succes, but not enough to produce "rocks" like the ones they've seen.  (They don't, I note, try using a kiln, which might produce greater heat for longer periods.)  Kevin argues that it seems silly for advanced civilizations to be scooping up rocks and dumping sparkles on trees.  Bill and Pat disagree.

Finally, they visit Bob White, who has a strange pinecone-like object he claims fell from from a trio of glowing lights.  He found the object at the end of a long groove in the ground below where he sighted the objects.  A former airforce man claims the object, when taken for testing, drained the hotel safe's batter 3 days in a row.  He concludes the malfunction was caused, somehow, by the object; he also claims the object caused spots on x-ray film.  Bob claims that the scientists he had test his object lied about their results; the team takes the thing for new testing.  Their new expert says that the object is an aluminum alloy of unknown origin.  He concludes the object is manufactured but, as Bill notes, was it made by us or ET?  A second exert says this is not part of aircraft aluminum, and it has some silver content -- possibly to ehnance superconductivity and magnetic field repulsion.  The first expert opines this material's properties woudl be most useful in space.  (Though I must admit, I think I've seen these experts appearing in UFO cases before; perhaps they're UFO investigators in their spare time?)

In the end, though, Kevin concludes that the evidence is disappointing, with no clear UFO origin. Bill disagrees, as usual.  He thinks the differernce between the evidence they have now and "absolute proof" is "tissue paper thin."  Personally, I think their "proof" is actually the tissue paper.  In a weird coda, one expert calls in at the show's end to speculate that the White object is some form of nanotechnology, unkown when the object was found in 1985.  To me, it still looks more like a failed art project.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ripe Conditions for a Fine Time -- Review

Early on in the play Ripe Conditions, now being staged by Theater Undreground at the Civic Center playhouse in Richmond, IL, a character notes that conditions are ripe for tornadoes. Judging from opening night last night (May 8th, 2009), I'd say that conditions are also ripe for a rollicking good time. Ripe Conditions is the story of two hick brothers, Buster (Tim Mosbach) and Lester (Corey M. Keane), still living together in their ramshackle house despite years of rivalry and one-upsmanship. Their boisterous jousting escalates when an old flame, Ann (Charlene Aklinski), returns to town for the funeral of her brother. From there, the show gives the audience a near-nonstop barrage of adult-oriented reminiscences, jokes, innuendo, and slapstick. The cast is highly amusing, the script very good, and the direction solid. There's also more on-stage mayhem with sets and props than I've ever seen in a local production before. I don't want to give any of the play's secret twists and turns away, but when the first act nears its end, watch out! This production was highly amusing, and the few opening-night gaffeswere hard to separate from the general level of well-orchestrated chaos. My wife and I had a great time at the play, as did my fourteen-year-old son, though I have to warn theater-goers that the language and innuendo may not be for everyone. As Theater Undreground's promo says, "If you are offended by any of the following, you probably shouldn't come to the show: farm boys, bad words, bathing in movable tubs, Mother Nature's will, beer, cash crops, chain saw art ... [the list goes on a while, and I've shortened it for the review] ... kissing, bathroom jokes, innuendos, lots of broken stuff... You have been warned." So, if any of those things upset you, you might want to stay away. The rest of you, though, should have a tornado of a good time.

For a brief taste, check out the production's You Tube video, and be sure to notice the excellent show poster and graphics work by Marlena Wagner. (The tickets feel like baseball cards; collect them all!)

MONSTERQUEST: Mysterious Ape Island

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/29/09

Another bigfoot show on MQ?  You bet!  It's been two or three weeks since the last one.  (Okay, maybe more, but....)  This one is set on Vancouver Island, near Seattle, WA, and Vancouver, BC.  Native American legends say that a large ape stalks the island.  From there, we get the usual interesting and compelling eyewitness reports (including an encounter in a camper, a sighting by a river, and a view from a boat) -- with witnesses who are sure the creature is not just a bear (or other animal) walking upright.  Investigators speculate tha the island's geography makes it a perfect place to search for bigfoot, so MQ sends a team to look into it.  They choose a spot called Meares Island, as it's had a lot of recent sightings.  Scientists, though, note there is neither fossil record nor living specimine to bolster the many claims.  The MQ folks do their usual surveillance and call blasting (which they claim has worked on previous expeditions -- though they seem to have neither audio nor video proof of this).  Another team has plaster casts of footprints analyzed (though it is unclear -- and unliekly -- that these prints are solely from the site being investigated).  The team thinks they spot some faded prints -- not enough to cast from -- and the expert seems to think the casts might be something unexplained.  And of course there are camera traps and surveillance with Fleer IR cameras.  But this is MQ, and if you expected them to actually find anything, you haven't been watching the show long enough.  Another day, another snipe hunt.  Personally, I look forward to the return of Destination Truth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

UFO HUNTERS - Alien Harvest

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/19/09

So, what's up with cattle mutilations?  Are they, as Bill suggests, something sinister -- UFOs, government plots, cults, etc.? Or are they, as Kevin (and skeptics) note, predation of cattle who have died naturally?  As the team sets out, news comes of a "fresh" kill.  This cow is still in the field, and its initial mutilation is missing eyes and tongue.  A local investigator calls the tongue being removed a "cut," and the rancher suggests birds did not remove the eyeball.  These are, however, suppositions after the fact.  The "investigator" says that the perpetrators came back on successive nights to get more parts.  (However, the missing parts do seem to be the "choice" morsels for predators.)  And the rancher's "mysterious" loss of 26 cattle in 29 years (or was it the other way around?), don't seem like an unusual loss of livestock.  Plus, since the predation happened on three consecutive nights, I wonder why -- if this was so unusual -- no one seems to have staked out the carcass.  Pat notes no signs of people; the expert counters that he sees no signs of predators.  So, naturally Bill suggests UFOs, or maybe black helicopters.  (Notice that at this point, merely 10 minutes into the show, we're already deep into UFO Hunters' usual fishing expedition.)  Pat points out that there are, as usual, several military bases nearby -- which could account for helicopters or strange lights.  The investigator then claims to have followed a "moving" piece of metal in the cow's body that he followed with a metal detector -- he believes this was a "moving implant," trying to evade detection.  (And now, one commercial break into the show, we've moved from fishing to the usual science fiction.)  Bill connects this to the show's previous (unconvincing) Human Implant show.

A cult researcher says the slaughter does not resemble the work of a cult.  Since they've "ruled out" predation and cults, the only possible explanations must be a UFO.  They find a local video of a cigar-shaped UFO (the usual indistinct blur), and that seems to cinch it.  Now we're down the rabbit hole of wild speculation with little or no chance of coming back.  The theories that come out are the usual mutilation storieswith no real evidence.  And we get plenty of weird ranch stories, too.  Sensibly, a local sheriff says "I can tell you what it isn't, but I can't tell you what it is."  He discounts predators, cults, occult, government, and other explanations.  He, too, has seen a UFO, and thinks there may be a connection between the lights and the mutilations.  As Pat notes, the one thing missing is actual physical evidence.  They talk to an investigator with years of experience who has seen three geometric impressions near a mutilation, but not actually associated with it.  Bill connects this to other indentations in UFO stories.  But, sadly, despite the report, there seem to be no pictures or impressions of this supposed "evidence."  Finally, the team sets up a stakeout on the dead cow to see if they can catch the culprit.  They bring a Fleer infrared camera and a night vision scope to their stakeout, but they find nothing.  "There is no alien harvest," Kevin concludes, "but it's a great smokescreen."  (For the government.)  Pat thinks that it's part of an alien project of some type, being chased by government helicopters.  Bill thinks it's some kind of government-alien conspiracy.  But, again, there is no evidence.  Two weeks later, after the show has left, the same rancher has another mutilation -- 27 since 1991.  Bill concludes the phenominon is real, and it is ongoing.