Tuesday, April 28, 2009


History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/22/09

People are seeing something strange in the inlet waters of Florida, and MQ wants to find out what it is.  Eyewitnesses describe it as a turtle-like ambush predator.  Could it be the sea serpents described by ancient mariners?  The show recaps Florida sea monster sightings.  A local man, Gene, reports seeing the beast multiple times.  The witness has over 40 hours of video evidence.  (It looks something like a manatee to me -- perhaps ones with deformed fins.)  For once, the pictures are of excellent quality, and the creatures -- for there are evidently more than one -- seem to have tri-forked tails.  The witness takes the MQ aquatic team to the creature's secret location to investigate.  Alligators, barracuda, and other local wildlife make the dive area dangerous.  The show also sends the footage to several experts for analysis, all of whom seem (initially, at least) puzzled -- though one later says "manatee" and another walrus or seal (piniped).  Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman makes another appearance to talk about sea monsters and finding new animals.  MQ decides to create a piece-by-piece 3D model based on the tapes.  As experts close in, one suggests that it is a Carribean Monk seal, thought extinct.  The divers look for both the creature and a secret underwater passage that would allow it to get inland unseen.  Sadly, the divers only get tantalyzing sonar hits.  The final animation is approved by Gene, and causes two biologists to agree it is likely a manatee mutilated by an encounter with boat propellers.  The third and fourth bilogists disagree, thinking it likely a seal, or perhaps a seal and a manatee swimming together -- and perhaps even the thought-extinct monk seal.  Sadly, that's as close as the show gets.  With this episode coming closer to finding a monster than any other MQ episode, perhaps this search would be worth another try.


History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/22/09

Bill and Pat see some connection between the end of WWI and the start of the UFO flap less than a decade later; Kevin points out that though the German technology was advanced, it was conventional technology, not UFO tech.  The team goes to New Mexico to talk to an Air Force vet who has a "mysterious" Nazi compass.  The compass is a special one that points mechanically to the north star rather than using magnetic fields for navigation.  The vet believes this compass was part of a German UFO navigation system -- guiding a formation he saw over NM as a boy.  He got the compass from a military salvage yard; it was made in Germany.  (The UFO connection seems a big jump to me.)  So the team goes to Germany.  There they talk to a man who believes that spiritual mediums, called the Brill Society (sp?) were channeling energy to power UFOs (or at least super weapons).  Bill describes this power as "The Force" from Star Wars.  Another man tries to tie flying saucers to the development of the Nazi nuclear bomb -- but he notes if they had it "...Do you really believe they would have lost the war?"  Bill believes that German scientists withheld the tech from the Reich, and also that the use of spirit mediums is what gave the Germans a technolotical edge.  As they look for German super-weapons, Bill says he thinks UFOs "seeded" the German technology.  They talk to a geophysicist who speculates about using magnetic forces to power aircraft -- like the NM UFOs.  At this point, the show is looking like even more of a fishing expedition than usual, and all Kevin's been doing is explaining technology in sidebars.

They go to a Polish underground Nazi complex called Der Reiser (sp?) to try and find a UFO connection.  A local expert thinks there remain secret areas of the underground base -- which he proves using a burning tissue and an updraft.  Somewhere at the end of this pipe, there must be a huge cavity, but all the entrances have been blown up.  (Why has no one excavated this archological treasure?)  They speculate that a secret craft was being built here.  The guide leads them to a strange circular arch, "henge," that might have been a focus for the power of this super weapon/craft -- which had earlier been speculated as a possible time/space machine.  (So, if this was so important, why does there seem to have been no serious archology?)  Unfortunately for their theories, Kevin finds a water tower supported by an identical "henge" structure; Bill remains convinced the watertower theory is just camouflage.  They see a hospital complex that one man claims was doing research of the effects of space on human physiology; Kevin points out that the equipment could have been used to treat respiratory problems.  Kevin also points out that their leads always lead to dead ends and unverifiable witness reports; Bill says that's because all the info they're looking for is Top Secret.  (That's right, everything's a conspiracy to Bill.)  Back home, an aviation/UFO buff talks about the connection between German and post-war American aviation.  He also gives more details about "The Bell," an experimental Nazi "aircraft" -- which the show suggests is related to the Kecksburg incident.  The buff suggests that a Nasa scientist, former German, connects the Bell to Kecksburg.  Bill connects the relocation placement of numerous former Nazi scientists to UFO sighting areas.  And that's as far as the story goes.  But despite Bill's wrap up at the end, the show has once again failed to prove anything, and leaves us with only more speculation and UFO mythology.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

UFOS OVER EARTH: Fayetteville Incident

History Channel -- Original Air Date: January 2009

MUFON'S crew is back with the last (so far as I know) in this UFO series.  This episode covers the January 2007 "Fayetville Incident."  The story starts with 5 guys on a fishing trip who spot strange lights in the sky.  Later, one of the men, Chris, reports seeing a stange, shimmering alien being (though his story sounds like a waking dream to me).  Soon, they're talking to more witnesses, some of whom claim to have experienced missing time.  Eventually, Chris gets hypnotic regression to recover his "lost" memories.  (This is not a proven and reliable scientific technique -- quite the opposite, in fact.)  He relates a fairly typical alien abduction scenario.  The team creates animations based on the witness reports.  They conduct psychiatric interviews, and see no signs of psychosis, though they do say the subject, Chris, is subject to fantasies.  The team is convinced this man is not hoaxing, but does that mean what he says is real?  A polygraph expert says the witness isn't telling the truth regarding the events of that night (the alien and abduction).  The team is disappointed with these results, but they confront Chris.  He says he believes the story he tells, despite the polygraph results.  MUFOn checks for similar sightings, and find none in the area, but there is one in Wisconsin -- which, though described as similar, doesn't seem to be a very close match to the animation.  (Should it be surprising that two people from different areas can have similar delusions?)  The MUFON folks, though, think it's likely not a conicidence.  The show concludes that this is a "real phenomina" -- though they don't clarify whether "real," for them, means psychological or physical.

I can see why this show, the weakest of the set, wasn't broadcast alongside the other two.  It consists mostly of taking heads doing interviews, and very little else.  That the team pushed through to the polygraph is admirable, but their "desire to believe" is more evident here, perhaps, than in the other episodes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


History Channel  -- Original Air Date: 4/15/09

MonsterQuest tackles Ogopogo, the monster from Lake Okenagen in Canada.  They recount the usual stories and legend of the beast, and show brief glimpses of many of the famous photos -- most of which seem to show some kind of waves in the water.  They also show some new photos, which seem to show something in the water with a boat in the foreground.  MQ detected no forgery, but the pictures are terribly blurry, and, to me, seem as though they could be some kind of optical illusion -- though the witnesses claim they saw a creature.  MQ mounts an expedition to explore the lake and underwater caves.  The team quickly sees some interesting surface disturbances and feeding birds, but no signs of the monster.  One man claims that the beast is a mega-serpent trapped in the lake.  More witness tell intriguing tales of seeing the "creature."  When the MQ helicopter spots a strange thermal trail, the team goes diving to investigate.  Could it be a large cold-blooded creature bringing up cold water from below?  The divers find nothing concrete, and one nearly gets lost in a sink hole at the bottom of the lake.  The show speculates that the holes could be caused by a large burrowing creature.  A professor theorizes that many sightings could be the result of unusual wave forms generated below the surface of the water.  The team finds a strange carcass, about two feet long, on the bottom of the lake, but -- despite its resemblance to an old sketch made of the monster by a lake captain -- it turns out to be a decomposed salmon.  Sadly, despite intriguing stories and video, we once again have a monster-free MonsterQuest.

UFO HUNTERS - Underwater Alien Bases

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/8/09

Bill is convinced that there are underwater UFO bases, especailly off the coast of Florida (near Gulf Breeze).  Kevin, the skeptic, wonders how they will find proof.  Their first Witness, a former Navy man, has a satellite picture that seems to show two straight, intersecting lines underwater off the coast of Cuba.  Unfortunately, since it's in Cuban waters, they can't investigate.  (Maybe they could since last week's change in US/Cuba relations.  Or maybe not, since later in the show they lose their approved visas when Cuba learns they want to hunt UFOs.)  Bill insists these "lines" could not be natural objects -- though why underwater UFOs would need landing strips, he doesn't say. One of the strips seems to "point to" Guantanamo Bay.  The team also interviews a Guantanamo Bay Petty Officer who saw strange lights in the water.  He was ahead of a group of peers, but had not been drinking; none of his friends saw the lights.  The team interviews a USO (Unidentified Submerged Object) "expert" who claims the USOs have force fields and can enter the water without a splash.  He also says sources inside NASA and the military have told him the USOs live in a network of tunnels beneath the earth from Cuba to Alaska.  He makes many other outrageous claims, too, all of which Bill seems to believe.  They also collect the usual type of eyewitness stories.  Bill compares these sightings to the Ed Walters Gulf Breeze UFO photos; he mentions that some believe Walters to be a hoaxer, but Gulf Breeze is still the UFO center of the world.  (He neglets to mention there's an airforce base right next to Gulf Breeze which probably contributes to slightings of "strange thigns" in the sky.)  They next interview an "expert" in the photos, who seems to believe in the photos' reality.  They then "prove" how difficut the photos would be to fake (while, at the same time, using the well-known "flying hat" photo as an example of how to do a doulbe exposure).  A ship captain claims to have seen a UFO bigger than his ship emerging from the water without making any wake.  Kevin notes the captain was sleep deprived, and it may have been a sleep-related hallucination.

Pat goes out with a shark fisherman who claims to see glowing orbs under the water.  Kevin says that these lights are being caused by bioluminscence, and Pat seems to confirm this.  Unfortunately, there is no camera in the kayak with Pat.  Also unfortunately, his boat gets bumped by sharks, and he goes missing for a while.  While Pat was gone, Kevin, the shark guy, claims to have seen a very large glowing object in the water, and not bioluminescence.  (I'm not convinced he knows anything about science or marine biology.)  Too bad Pat missed it.  The team tries some experiments to see if they can create an object that can enter the water without splashing, as USOs are reported to do.  They use various hydrophillic (having an affinity for water) coatings to try to reduce the splash -- but they only make it worse.  Naturally, Bill comes up with a science-fiction way, without any proof, that the UFOs/USOs could do be splashless -- and believes his own line.  In the end, we have no new videos, only blurry old (dubious) photos.  To answer Kevin's question, "How will we find proof?"  We won't.  At least, not on this show.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Martian Movies - What Are Your Faves?

This question has been bugging me for a while now: Why aren't there more good SF movies about Mars?  I mean, there are plenty of good SF books about Mars, dating at least back to Burroughs.  Heinlein wrote Red Planet, one of my favorites, and there are many stories set on the Red Planet -- including my own Martian Knights -- right up to the present day.  But movies (and even TV), has been lacking in the fictional Mars department.  Now, I'm talking about stories set on Mars, not Martians coming to Earth -- so that rules out things like War of the Worlds and Mars Needs Women.  And, yes, I'll grant you that the Martian Chronicles was pretty good, as were the Mars sequences in Babylon 5.  But, for all the awe and interest inspired by Mars over the years, you'd think there'd be more Martian movies.

Okay, recently, we've had Doom, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and Ghosts of Mars.  The first didn't have much Mars in it, the second could have been set anywhere, and the third was just a red version of 2001 with some pseudo-science thrown in.  Carpenter's movie at least had some mood, though it was really mostly a zombie film.  Before that, Total Recall springs to mind, though much of that was set on earth and/or underground.

I guess what I'm really missing is the awe and mystery of Martian exploration, or maybe even an interesting Martian-Chronicles-like view of what life on Mars might be like.  Maybe I'm looking for somewhat better-filmed versions of the Mars flicks from the 50s and 60s.  Angry Red Planet is still high on my Martian faves.  I also like Rocketship XM, and I recently spent a bit of time digging up Horrors of Mars (a.k.a. Wizard of Mars) on DVD.  For all it's cheese, I kindof like HoM better than most of the recent flicks (even though it seemed a bit classier in B&W on an old TV).  Which brings me to what might be the best of the ones I know, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a well-produced and at times plausible journey to the Red Planet.  At least, plausible for the time.

And maybe that's what's wrong.  We now know so much about Mars, that maybe the mystery and excitement of going there -- and finding lost races and hidden secrets -- is gone.  Maybe Hollywood doesn't think there's any interest left in the dry red ball of dust.  Maybe the practical considerations have swept away the flights of fancy.  But I hope not.  I really would like to see a fun (if not entirely factual) Mars movie.  Maybe some day they'll get A Princess of Mars into production.  (Maybe they're waiting for all the Burroughs copyrights to expire.)

Or maybe, someday, someone will ask me to write a screenplay.  I have this great idea for a story about love and war and cyborgs and . . . well, if you've read Martian Knights you might have an idea where I'm going.

I wonder, though.  Maybe there just isn't the interest for space exploration that there was when I was a kid -- around the time we landed on the Moon.  (And don't even get me started about the lack of Moon movies!)  Maybe going to distant planets and finding strange lifeforms isn't as tantalizing as it was back then -- though there have certainly been plenty of TV shows tackling the subject (Star Trek, Stargate, etc.).  Or maybe the subject isn't "big enough" for movies any more.  Personally, I just watched Solaris (the original) and Horrors of Mars and I'm ready for a good movie about exploring the Red Planet -- or any foreign planet that George Lucas hasn't laid claim to.

What do you think?  Is there some great Mars movie I've missed?  What are your faves?  I await your comments.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dave Arneson, RIP

Dave Arneson passed away today after a long illness.  He was the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, the game that changed my life and resulted in marriage (my wife plays, too), kids, many friends, and a pretty cool career (ongoing) in the creative arts for me.  Unlike Gary Gygax, with whom I had a long friendship, I'd only met Dave a few times.  But though I didn't really know Dave, I honestly wouldn't be here writing this without him.  So, thanks, Dave.  May you have a clear star to steer by and warm winds to speed you on this new journey.  And may the destination be even sweeter than you imagined.  Godspeed.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

UFO HUNTERS - Greys Conspiracy

History Channel - Original Air Date: 4/1/09

Are short gray aliens actually coming to earth to abduct people? Bill thinks so; Kevin thinks their so-called appearances have been influenced by movies and pop culture.  They talk to a woman who was supposedly kidnapped (by greys) from a car with three friends -- though Kevin points out that no one else remembers the incident.  Frankly, her experience sounds like a fairly common fantasy, very similar to the contactee experiences of the 50s.  The team then moves to a couple who have "recovered" their alien experiences through hypnotic "regression."  They then talk to a magazine publisher who believes in ancient astronauts, and from there move to the "star child" skull.  They talk to the nurse who owns the skull and then the "expert" who has been studying the skull for years -- and is convinced of its alienness.  Of course, since what he says about DNA testing isn't entirely true (there are many reasons a nuclear DNA test might fail), I tend to doubt the rest of his conclusions.  Bill, of course, believes it all and ties it all into Roswell.  They take the star child skull for capacity testing -- and the star child seems to have more skull capacity (15% more).  But, as Kevin points out, that doesn't make it alien.  They have a special-effects artist recreate the face that might have gone with the skull.  Bill sees an alien; Kevin sees a misshapen human (I see the Elephant Man).  They also talk to an exo-biologist about what aliens might or might not look like.  Bill decides now that the skull looks like a hybrid (part of a plan to take over the earth).  Kevin points out that Bill always has an excuse.  For Bill, stories are proof, with no need for incontrovertable physical evidence.  For him, as always, the myth is enough.  For me?  I'd like to have run a new DNA test.