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Red Pills of the Week — October 27th

Greetings, fellow Coppertops! After a much-needed break so that I could mingle with some of you on Meatspace over at the Paradigm Symposium, we resume our weekly exploration of the Fortean Matrix. We’ll analyze UFO sightings and UFO hackers, sharks falling from the sky and women raised by monkeys. And as we ponder on the wisdom of offering a $10 million reward for Bigfoot, we’ll marvel at how the power of synchronicities allowed this very column to exist.

Man, let’s see if I remember how this is done *inserts plug* Ouch! Nope, that doesn’t seem to go there…

(10) Our first red pill took place a couple of weeks ago, but it’s still worth mentioning nonetheless: After a decade of legal battle, the British Home Secretary has announced that Gary McKinnon –the hacker arrested and blamed for millions of dollars in equipment damage, after he was searching for evidence of UFOs in 97 comupters of NASA and the US Military– will not be extradited to the United States, where it was feared by his defenders he would have faced up to 10 years in a Federal prison, and there was a high risk that Gary would attempt to commit suicide due to his Asperger’s syndrome.

But obviously this DOES NOT mean Gary is entirely off the hook yet, as he will still have to face the charges in the UK. In any event, I think the US government got what they wanted out of him: Show just how dangerous trying to snoop inside their computers might be, if you’re stupid enough to get caught.

There also remains a certain underlying suspicion: Did Gary have an ace hidden up his sleeve? During all these years the media and the UFO circles have portrayed him as a kind of idiot savant, who was able to go as far as he did thanks to all the lazy dumbasses leaving all sorts of blank passwords in the security systems, and was so stoned during all those hacking sessions he wasn’t cautious enough to secure any kind of hard copies of the things he alleged to have found –i.e. the list of ‘Non-Terrestrial officers’, and a hi-res image of a cigar-shaped object orbiting the Earth– and yet in an interview with Project Camelot, McKinnon hinted that he might had had something of an ‘insurance policy’ countermeasure, in case someone tried to make him ‘disappear.’

BS Bluffing? You be the judge.

(9) Speaking of UFOs, a video caught by an amateur astronomer, which seems to show a transparent cylindrical object hovering over Kentucky, gathered a lot of attention this week. Allen Epling said said the object “looked like two fluorescent bulbs, side by side, parallel, shining very brightly. It would get so bright they would seem to merge, and you could see it very clearly with the naked eye. Then it would dim down almost invisible.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/gpo5LsICnEY[/youtube]

Epling captured 50 still images of the object, along with the video using a 150 power magnification on his telescope. The quality of the video is not that great, which has caused many negative comments on the web, with skeptics trying to explain the UFO as simply the reflection of neon-tubes on the window glass, or even a paperclip (!) attached to the end of the telescope. Epling maintains that the object remained in the area for over 2 hours, so that would discount the theory that this is a mylar balloon, as it would have drifted out of sight with the wind. According to the 25th episode of Spacing Out –which BTW also includes a really nice review of the Paradigm Symposium– while Epling rushed inside his house to upload the images on Facebook, his wife observed the object ‘disappear’.

On top of that, there have been several other witnesses coming forward, who claimed to have observed this object in several areas of Eastern Kentucky. And even I found a comment on Geekologie from someone in Cincinnati, who claims its employer and other in their regional offices saw something very similar.

If you yourself witnessed something like this UFO, or know someone who did, please include it in the comment section.

(8) If aliens are visiting the planet, would they still be collecting samples? That might explain the strange incident that happened on a golf course in San Juan Capistrano, Calif, where a freaking shark –alas, without a freaking laser beam attached to its head– fell out of the sky!

Right now the ‘official’ explanation is that the 2-pound leopard shark was plucked from the ocean by a bird and eventually released over the San Juan Hills Golf Club; which makes for an even scarier story IMO, because now senior golfers will have to worry about freaking giant birds large enough to carry a 2-pound shark five miles from the ocean!

Whatever the explanation, I think it would make for a great gag if they ever make a sequel for Caddyshack.

(7) Not only fish, but also rocks fall from the sky from time to time. We call them meteorites nowadays, but in ancient times these metallic pieces of sky were highly revered. Back in September 29th here at The Pills we learned about a really intriguing  sculpture made out of meteoric metal, which was secretly smuggled out of Tibet by Nazi agents. Yet now it seems that this Indiana Jones-esque story may not be as awesome as it sounded, since researchers at the University of Stuttgart think the ‘Space Buddha’ , while made out of an ancient meteorite fragment, is nonetheless a modern fabrication –and not an artifact from the 11th century as it was originally believed.

Mitchell-Hedges anyone?

(6) If the researchers at the University of Stuttgart were found wrong about their conclusions re. the ‘Space Buddha’ it’s highly likely that no harm would come to them. That regrettably cannot be said about the Italian scientists who ‘failed’ to predict the deadly earthquake which hit the town of L’Aquila in 2009, and were charged with the crime of ‘unintentional manslaughter’.

Four scientists, two engineers and a government official were this week sentenced to six years in prison for criminal manslaughter and causing criminal injury, with the prosecution arguing they gave “unclear, inconsistent” advice in the lead up to the big quake.

What the Hell, Italy?? Didn’t you guys learn anything since the days of Galileo? So lemme get this straight: You hold these researchers personally responsible for the deaths caused by something still as unpredictable as a seismic movement, sentence them to six years in prison, but you only give one year to someone like Silvio Berlusconi?!

Ma che cosa!!

For even if these scientists are in fault of negligence, the end result to this charade is that the rest of the Italian community will feel at risk of similar repercussions if their work or public expressions go against the government’s agenda. A very nasty precedent has been established here, possibly the last aftershock of the L’Aquila tragedy.

(5) When you go against a bigger foe, in the animal kingdom –and Italian Academia apparently– it becomes a question of ‘Fight or Flight’. But it seems that when it comes to the development of feathers in dinosaurs, it was actually a question of ‘Mate or Moan.’

The idea that dinosaurs used their dino-plumage to attract potential sex partners comes after the discovery of a set of 75 million year-old fossils found in the badlands of southern Alberta. These fossils –the oldest feathered dinosaurs ever found– also proves that all ornithomimids –ostrich-like dinos, like the Gallimimus in Jurassic Park— were covered in feathers. Oh oh! ILM ain’t gonna be too happy about that!

Since the wing-like forelimbs only appeared in these creatures after sexual maturity, it goes to reason they had nothing to do with flight or gliding. And in any case these onithomimids were, like our modern ostriches– just way too big to take flight, no matter how much they might have been threatened by predators or cranky Republicans who want to cut off their b– Oops! my bad…

While I don’t happen to have a degree in Paleontology –I thought collecting all the JP toys would have earned me one of those eventually– I can already see how desperate males would have accidentally discovered flight, in their attempts to show their plumage to uninterested females:

“Hey Babe! lookatmelookatmelookatme” *starts flapping* “Whoa!”

(4) In Jurassic Park‘s sequel The Lost World, professional Safari hunter Roland Tembo –played by the late Pete Postlethwaite— demands the right to hunt down a bull T-Rex as his payment for leading In-Gen’s expedition. While killing  the greatest carnivore that ever roamed the Earth would seem like the ultimate trophy, in the absence of living dinosaurs there’s now a new consolation prize: Bigfoot.

As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Spike TV is offering the giant amount of $10 million dollars for the ultimate proof of the hairy giants.

The network is announcing a new one-hour reality show, 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty, featuring teams on a quest to find the legendary Sasquatch. The teams will include scientists, zoologists, seasoned trackers, and “actual Bigfoot hunters,” according to the network. The series will be shot in various locations around the country.

The prize, underwritten by Lloyds of London, is billed as the largest cash prize in TV history — if it’s actually awarded. The rules require the hunters to produce “irrefutable evidence” of the creature. Somehow we think that Spike is making a pretty safe bet.

Loren Coleman, currently the most famous cryptozoologist in the planet, thinks of this little marketing ploy as ‘the world’s stupidest idea’. He points out that the producers of this show have unwittingly put the network’s legal department in a potential litigation nightmare, in case someone is accidentally maimed or killed by some of the eager team members seeking to cash that giganto-check in the bank. Let’s remember how in a previous Pills of the Week we covered the story of a man who was killed while trying to make a Bigfoot hoax while wearing a ghillie suit –and that was an accident! with no $$ involved!!

I can already see Tom Biscardi’s expression after reading something like this –he would probably end up needing a fresh pair of pants, too…

(3) If you dig deep into the Sasquatch lore, you sometimes find intriguing tales of young children kidnapped by the forest giants who are then raised among them. There’s also the famous literary & cinematic treatment to such stories, in Tarzan and Jungle Book. But now a modern version of this mythic tale has surfaced in the British newspapers, after a Yorkshire housewife claimed she was raised by monkeys in the jungle.

Marina Chapman claims she spent 5 years in the rainforests of Colombia, living with a colony of capuchin monkeys after being abandoned in the jungle by kidnappers. She was later found and sold to a brothel, but later escaped and lived on the streets, after finally she was taken in by a Colombian family where she worked as a slave maid. Disney story this ain’t!

Luckily for Chapman, she eventually traveled to Britain with another family, where she met her now-husband and married in 1977. She’s now coming out with her story to alert the public about the horrors of human trafficking in South America.

Experts say monkeys have been known to accept young humans into their fold and there has been a previous case in which a four-year-old Ugandan boy was left in the jungle for more than a year to live with vervet monkeys before being rescued and adapting well to life with people.

And then people wonder why aliens haven’t yet made open contact with us, after how we treat the members of our OWN species? For all we know, the Reticulans may already have diplomatic relationships with the jungle monkeys of Colombia.

(2) During her stay in the jungle, it’s highly unlikely that Marina Chapman learned to communicate with her primate benefactors. Which is probably why the whole of the Internet fell in love with a beluga whale named NOC that seemed to mimic human speech.

NOC was captured in 1977 and was part of “the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, which was aimed at studying whether whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals could do underwater reconnaissance or perhaps even disable mines. ” –Flipper meets Rambo.

Seven years later, the researchers noticed that NOC spontaneously started making unusual sounds — “as if two people were conversing in the distance just out of range for our understanding,” they reported in the journal Current Biology. One time, a diver came to the surface outside NOC’s enclosure and asked his colleagues, “Who told me to get out?” They soon concluded it was the whale, which must have been saying “Out, out, out.”

That led Ridgway and other researchers to make a series of recordings of NOC’s sounds, at the surface and underwater. They found that the pitch and the amplitude rhythm was similar to human speech. “Whale voice prints were similar to human voice and unlike the whale’s usual sounds,” Ridgway said in a news release. “The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale.”

After the ‘Oohs’ and the ‘Aaaws’ comes the nagging question: Just what was NOC trying to communicate to its human captors? “So long and thanks for all the fish?”, “Release me, you disgusting tail-less freaks!”, or maybe “Yo, how ’bout a Beluga babe to pass the time, huh?”

Whatever it was, after 4 years NOC got tired of trying and returned to the usual cetacean whistles. And in 1999 he passed away. But here comes another interesting question: if we actually manage to successfully communicate with these intelligent beings, would we proceed to ban all the aquatic shows where they are exploited for human entertainment?

(1) 1999, the same year that NOC the whale moved to the big sea in the sky, was also the year that The Matrix was released. In a recent series of articles I wrote for the Intrepid blog, I explain why this movie managed to fascinate so much, to the point that it’s now become an intrinsic part of my online persona.

And yet none of that would have come to be, if the Wachowski (then) brothers had never managed to film their Magnum Opus. Which is why I chose to include a recent speech given by Lana Wachowski –born Laurence Wachowski on June 21, 1965– as the last red pill of this week.

In the speech, delivered at the Human Rights Campaign’s gala fundraising dinner, Lana revealed many of the hardships she went through as a transgender child, including abuse from a Catholic school nun after she showed confusion when ordered to join a line of boys. She also revealed how, after writing a suicide note, she was prevented from stepping in front of a subway train thanks to a man who wandered into the empty station and kept staring down at her:

I was very used to traveling home quite late because of the theater, I know the train platform will be empty at night because it always is. I let the B train go by because I know the A train will be next and it doesn’t stop. When I see the headlight I take off my backpack and I put it on the bench. It has the note in front of it. I try not to think of anything but jumping as the train comes. Just as the platform begins to rumble suddenly I notice someone walking down the ramp. It is a skinny older old man wearing overly large, 1970s square-style glasses that remind of the ones my grandma wears. He stares at me the way animals stare at each other. I don’t know why he wouldn’t look away. All I know is that because he didn’t, I am still here.

Most people will think of this story as nothing but a lucky coincidence. I’m sure that you, the kind reader of these rambling lines, are already aware that there are NO coincidences in life. I prefer to assess this story as the Universe stepping in, to ensure Lana would fulfill her role in delivering one of the most influential movies of the last 20 years.

Until next time, this is RPJ jacking out. To all the brave souls of Zion I met in Minneapolis: Muchas Gracias.

And to all the people who wanted to attend but couldn’t: There’s always next year 🙂

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Miguel Romero a.k.a. Red Pill Junkie is a cartoonist and fortean blogger who writes at Mysterious Universe
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