Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Snake Eyes, The Silent Master


And now, the final touch to finish my ultra-geeky, handmade, GI Joe Snake Eyes costume for this Halloween. And here I was going to use my plain-old, forged ninjato.

I am so dorky.

Edinburgh tours

When I was in Edinburgh, Scotland ten years ago, I took a ghost tour of the city. (Would you expect anything less?) I made a mysterious discovery when I developed my photographs. There was a looming presence -- lecherous even -- in every photo!

It was my traveling companion, a guy named Wink, who was trying to cozy up to the extremely beautiful tour guide in her black lace, gothic gown! Since she was standing in front of all of the legitimate tour sights (and not objectionable to have in my photo) she was in nearly every shot. But getting Wink in the picture too was a funny bonus.

Anyway, ghost tours are a fun way to learn history. And Edinburgh had plenty of "haunted" sites. Maybe we'll talk about them someday.

Hidden Messages

I may not be a huge Da Vinci Code fan (I admit it is a case of sour grapes), but I recognize there are a huge number of fans out there who may be interested in this.

Thunderbirds are Go!

Am I cuckoo for condors? No, but seeing a condor on TV recently reminded me that I should post on the multifaceted Thunderbird mystery.

For centuries, various Native American tribes have told legends of enormous birds able to carry off men, horses, cattle, etc. Some stories of these predatory birds give them wingspan rivaling jet planes. What is interesting is that there may be some basis in fact for the legends. First, of course that condors are the largest birds capable of flight, and there is a species of California condor. The Andean condor is the largest member of the species, and some birds reach 10 ft. Wingspan. Further back in time, North America was home to Teratorns, birds related to modern condors and much larger than the Andean condor. Teratorn carcasses have been exhumed from the La Brea tarpits where the poor birds were trapped while scavenging from animals already trapped. The birds lived as recently as 8000 years ago, which sounds distant, but still places them squarely within the period of human habitation. In fact, teratorn remains are often found in conjunction with evidence of human habitation. It's not impossible that thunderbird legends are tribal memories of run-ins with these monster birds.

Could the Teratorns still be flying around? It's highly unlikely. But reports of enormous birds still trickle in from around the United States. Even urban legends tell of exceptionally large birds trying to carry off pets, or kids.

One of the most persistent stories about Thunderbird sightings involves a newspaper article and photo published in the Tombstone Epitaph. The story claims a group of ranchers shot a thunderbird out of the sky, and the picture shows about ten men standing fingertip to fingertip in front of the dead bird. While many people claim to have seen this picture, no one can find a copy of it. There is no record of such an article in the Epitaph archives, and no negative on file.

Here's where the story takes an even stranger turn. In the early '90's, a photo started circulating on the Internet showing a group of federal soldiers from the Civil War standing triumphantly over the body of -- not a bird -- but a Pterosaur, a flying dinosaur which has also been suggested as a Thunderbird candidate. Soon, other "old" photos began to surface.

It turns out that the "original" photo was mocked up by those nice people who brought you The Blair Witch Project, Haxan Productions. They were ramping-up for their X-Files-esque TV show, Freaky Links. Haxan never really intended for the photo to be a true hoax; the website was intended to blur the line between fantasy of the TV show and the reality of the viewer. (Not unlike, incidentally, this website.) Apparently, they did the job too well.

Big Mouth

I admit to being a little perturbed by this story.

So tell me. Is he here? Or is he here? Or maybe over here? Wait! maybe he's here? Could this be him? Still no luck.

Gosh darn it, he's always in the last place you look.

A Mon, Ow bout a nice Red Stripe?

I know one of the guys in this band.
I have to admit, I'm not a big Reggae fan. You might be, I don't know. My music taste sucks, and my wife constantly reminds me of the fact.

The guys are a good bunch, and they work very hard. If you're able to, sit in on a set sometime.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Batman Returns!

I haven't yet seen the new Batman movie, but I can discern a few items of interest based on the reviews and ad campaign. So let's tick off a few items of trivia...

Batman was created by Bob Kane in 1938. It doesn't take a genius to see the antecedents to the Batman character: a rich playboy living in a castle-like mansion who dons a special suit and uses his superior athletic ability to protect the innocent. His origins go back at least as far as the medieval romances when knights-errant enforced the king's peace and meted out instant justice. More immediate precedents no doubt in Bob Kane's mind were Zorro (aristocratic vigilante, cave for a hideout) and the Shadow; both were pulp characters who coexisted alongside Batman for many years before slipping in popularity. Later Batman writers have found ways to incorporate some of these influences directly into the Batman legend.

Several Batman writers, notably the cantankerous Frank Miller, paid homage to Zorro with certain details surrounding the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. This version of the story has the Wayne family returning home from an art-house showing of Tyrone Powers' Mark of Zorro when they are stopped by a thug who shoots them dead in his botched robbery.

The League of Shadows, and their monastery-like training fortress in Tibet are references to the Shadow. The Shadow was a character who enjoyed widespread popularity in pulp magazines, radio theater, and movie matinee serials. There was a late '90's movie starring Alec Baldwin that tried to breathe life back into the character. Despite hewing close to the source material, it failed terribly:

Lamont Cranston was a bored millionaire playboy who sought excitement by traveling the world. His adventures sunk him lower and lower into the depths of decadence and corruption until he settled into life as an opium warlord named Ying Ko on the Chinese frontier with the Tibetan Himalayas. His wastrel ways brought him to the attention of the Paladins of Shambala, who plucked him from his den of sin, showed him the error of his ways, trained him, and then returned Lamont Cranston to New York City as the Shadow. This cloaked vigilante manipulated a network of informers and agents to uncover crime before dealing justice on evildoers from the barrels of his matched-set of Colt .45 M1911's.

Shambala had its origins in Indian myth and was a hidden city of the Himalayas where the secret guardians of mankind dwelt. Shangra-La was also based on this legend, and the citadel of the League of Shadows recalls this ancient myth.

It should be said: there are no ninjas in Tibet.

First, the plural of "ninja" is "ninja," not "ninjas."

Second, the ninja and their secret fighting art of ninjutsu are the peculiar products of the history and place of Japan. Like nearly all combat arts, ninjutsu has similar analogs elsewhere in the world. So while their may be "ninja-like" groups in China (who may, or may not, have been called "Lin Kuei") or Korea ("Sulsa"), there are no Chinese Ninja or Korean Ninja. There were certainly no Tibetan Ninja. (Ok, maybe they moved to Tibet.)

In fact, the only ninja I know who's even been to Tibet is this guy. Maybe some others have vacationed there, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. There are ninja in the most unlikely places -- now.

One of the reasons Stephen Hayes went to Tibet -- aside from his interest in esoteric Buddhism -- was to interview the handful of surviving Tibetan warrior monks who held off invading Chinese troops in the 1950's and allowed the Dalai Lama to escape. Yes, I'm serious. Tibetan Warrior Monks. (I don't have much information on them. Let me look around. Maybe I'll post on them when I have more. But in any event, they weren't ninja.) Steve's other Tibetan connection is his friendship with the Dalai Lama. Steve and some of his advanced students have served as the Dalai Lama's close protection detail on several visits to the United States. (Apparently, there is or was some international diplomatic protocol that doesn't allow Secret Service or the State Department's Diplomatic Security protection of the Lama.)

So ninja have protected Tibetan holy men.

But there are still no ninjas in Tibet.

Travel in Single File

Many of you have already deduced that I have an interest (perhaps even an infatuation) with the Crusades. I was a history major in college and it is one of several different historical eras that intrigue me.

Another favorite period of history is the French and Indian War. I was excited to see this travel story about remembering the anniversary of the conflict. It's a pivotal moment in American history, and more Americans should know about it. Did you know that George Washington started the whole thing?

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Last of the Mohicans. It is a gorgeous film. I was so inspired by it that I even bought my very own tomahawk. The movie, based on James Fenimore Cooper's novel, is a fictional account of an actual series of incidents that took place in up-state New York. Although the movie was filmed in the Smoky Mountains, you can still visit the sites of the fort and the field where the a Huron massacred retreating British troops.

I am also interested in Major Robert Rogers, who commanded a unit of Rangers. These superb light infantry were recruited from frontiersmen, and conducted reconnaissance patrols and raids against the French. They were not the first or only colonial rangers, but they became the most famous. A slightly romanticized version of Rogers' Rules for Rangers is still issued to modern Army Rangers in training. The U.S. Army Special Forces count Roger's Rangers as the start of their heritage and regimental history. Ironically, given the virtual sainthood the modern U.S. Army bestows on Robert Rogers, he remained a loyalist during the Revolution and gained a second commission in the British Army.

And None of Them are Named "Herman."

Hermits have long been an important part of the Catholic tradition. Historically, they have been the source of most Catholic mystic experience. Sure, I could be as cynical about this phenomenon as I am about Tom Cruise's "religion." But I won't. True mysticism is an important part of healthy religious activity.

The vocation of the hermit began as a natural outgrowth of the early church. Christians anticipated the immediate and imminent arrival of the Second Coming. All believers worked hard to prepare their souls for this eventuality. Hermits went the extra mile while preparing for the return of the Kingdom of Heaven. They completely renounced an earthly life and cut off most of their association with worldly ways and devoted their lives to the contemplation of God.

Hermits had something of a revival in the Middle Ages, and many medieval saints had a period of solitude.

Now, it seems, there is a revival of this particular method of giving glory to God.

For some of your professional needs

Most of you will never need this information. None of you want anyone to need it. But for a few of you, it's a necessity. Thank you.

New Vocabulary!

Here are some new words.

Here Comes the Bride

Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes. Ordinarily, I wouldn't post celebrity "news," but I think this presents me an opportunity to bring my scientology rants to a closure. [I'm not looking to be sued by those litigious kooks.]

Katie, please don't do it. I'm pretty sure one of the signs of an emotionally abusive relationship is that your boyfriend makes you join his cult. Ok, even if he isn't forcing you, don't you think those scientologists are a little freaky (sex rituals or no)? You don't need them if you want freaky. You're a good Catholic girl. Catholics are plenty freaky: relics, charismatics, exorcisms, and that whole transubstantiation thing. But at least we have 2000 years of tradition to support it.

And why be a doormat? Make Tom convert to Catholicism.

After all, isn't Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve so much more beautiful than getting strapped to a buzzing machine to be "audited?"

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I don't know why, but I do.

Maybe it's because Tom Cruise has been going all evangelical Scientologist in the media lately, but I've been on an anti-Scientology kick lately.

I ran into this article. Can I vouch for its complete authenticity? No, not at all, but I have heard this information bandied about for a few years.


I have a friend who has been looking for a genuine wooden war hammer for sometime. I told him I'd dig up the website I'd seen a few months ago.

Here it is.

Fine supplier for all your wodden weapon needs.

You know What they say about the Size of a Man's Feet...


Need I say more.

The more things change...

Conrad of Montferrat had every reason to be a happy man. Although the Third Crusade had not been going well for the western armies, Conrad had managed a political feat that he could count as a personal success. Conrad had manuervered the European nobles into selecting him as the next King of Jerusalem. The previous King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan was still alive, but after suffering several humiliating defeats, and managing to alienate the leadership of the relief forces from the continent, Guy was far out of favor.

King Richard, called the Lionheart, pensioned off Guy to become "Emperor" of the island of Cyprus, a vital stronghold in the Crusader logistical chain from Europe to the Holy Land. Much political wrangling ensued over who would take over as the King of Jerusalem. The political in-fighting was somewhat silly, given that Jerusalem was still firmly in the hands of Saladin and his combined Muslim army, however, even as a figurehead, the position was much coveted. And so it was that Conrad, a Frank with possessions in the Holy Land, had every reason to rejoice when he was selected as Guy's successor to the throne of Jerusalem.

Too bad his joy didn't last long.

One afternoon, Conrad was scheduled to have supper with the local archbishop. His wife, however, wasted too much time in her bath. In a huff, Conrad started out alone for the Archbishop's residence. Conrad's disappointment grew when he arrived at the archbishop's only to discover that the archbishop had already eaten. Dejected, Conrad turned around and retraced his steps home. As Conrad crossed through the marketplace, he came to a narrow street, and as he passed through this alley, he met two familiar faces. They were both monks who had been on Conrad's household staff for over half a year and had gained his trust. As Conrad approached, one of the monks reached up to offer a letter. Conrad reached out his hand to take the letter, and the trusted servant produced a knife and thrust it into the would-be king's side.

We might imagine Conrad's surprise. Perhaps he called out to the second man for aid. But it would have done him no good, for in the next instant, the second monk's hand flashed with a matching blade and he unhorsed the noble. They stabbed Conrad repeatedly, and he bleed into the dust of the street as the two attackers fled. The hid in a church, but were found by men searching for them and dragged into the streets. At first, the two attackers claimed King Richard had sent them. But at length, they admitted to belong to the cult of Assassins.

And Conrad of Montferrat became the first Crusader to fall beneath an assassin dagger.

The Assassins were an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam, and their beliefs were considered heretical by the Sunni Muslims. For their part, the Assassins believed that mainstream Muslims were worse than the infidels, because they had been given the true faith and corrupted it. The sect sprung up in Persia, and although the theology had existed as a line of thought from the days of Mohammad, in a real sense, they were founded by Hasan-i-Sabbah. Hasan-i-Sabah not only acted as the charismatic leader of the religion, but a political figure as well. He subverted religiously and politically a swath of territory from present day Iraq to present day Afghanistan. He held a bloodless coup in a nigh impregnable fortress called Alamut in Persia, and ruled prophet and master of his small empire. He kept his enemies in check through the use of covert agents who acted as spies and murderers.

Many stories grew up around the training methods of these agents, but despite the repitition of the stories, the truth of them remains unknown. It was said that Hasan-i-Sabah created a garden of delights with actual streams flowing with milk and honey, and populated with many beautiful women eager to please any man's physical desires. Hasan would have potential agents drugged with Hashish (from which they got the name "assassin") and brought to the garden where they would regain consciousness and sample the garden. Then they would be drugged again, and brought before Hasan. Hasan would then hand them a dagger, explain their mission and tell them that they had tasted the paradise that would await them in martyrdom. And thus he would create fanatics.

The Assassins who killed Conrad of Montferrat were part of a branch headquartered in Syria. The lands of the Syrian Assassins straddled important trade routes, and both Crusaders and Muslims held an uneasy peace with the leader of this branch, known to history only as "The Old Man of the Mountain." Conrad had insulted the Old Man, and compounded the error by refusing to apologize or make restitution in the customary manner of the east. Such was the Old Man's power that in the aftermath of Conrad's murder, a Crusader count was dispatched to pay a courtesy call on the Old Man.

According to the chronicles of the day, the Count asked the Old Man if it was true that his followers would die for him. In response, the Old Man gestured to two guards standing on top of a wall. Instantly the two men jumped to their deaths. The Old Man turned to the ashen-faced Count and asked if he would like further proof. (If this scene seems familiar, it has been stolen for several stories, including the movie Conan the Barbarian.)

Saladin also had trouble with the Old Man. One story has it that Saladin marched his army on the Old Man's castle. They found the Old Man alone on the mountainside, sitting down as if he were planning to watch the siege of his castle. The soldiers were ordered to charge the Old Man, but as they approached, they became weary and their legs felt weighted with lead. Then the sense of unease crept over them, until it became a general panic, and the army turned around to retreat.

Three outright attempts on Saladin's life were made by the Assassins. In the first attempt, the Assassins were intercepted by Saladin's bodyguard within feet of him. In the second attempt, the Assassin actually drew his dagger and stabbed at Saladin's head. The dagger was deflected by a mail coif underneath his turban. After that, Saladin became very paranoid. He would not let anyone into his entourage without knowing the individual and his entire family.

In the third "attempt," Saladin entered his tent to find an Assassin's dagger placed gently on his pillow, next to a stack of steaming, hot cakes.

The Assassins were among the first to use organized terror as a political weapon. Their tactics are classic, and their pattern is till followed by terrorists today.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Anyone want your own zombie slave?

This is the best I can do for you. Sorry he's not more helpful around the house. Really, good help is hard to find. What do you expect from the Undead anyway?

Legit or Not?

Okay, are we all in a agreement that this just seems too easy to fake?

But what if it isn't fake?

You might be interested in this too.

Ever read Dune?

Ok, I like monsters. We've already talked about sea monsters, so how about something on land?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Mongolian Death Worm.

More Debunkery

I found this article pointing out the deficiencies in the much vaunted Da Vinci Code research.

The whole Da Vinci Code phenomenon is another pet peeve of mine related to books.

One time I wish I knew how to post pictures...

Ok, if this link works you'll want to print it out, and paste it up in your cubicle with the following sentence captioning it:

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Palpatine, but this isn't exactly the first time I've had a lightsaber pointed in my face."

Go on. You know you want to.

(And for those with the "secret knowledge," that's a pretty good Hira Ichimonji no Kamae, Sam.)

Harry Potter

I have a confession to make.
I spent almost ten, long years as a bookstore employee, and I never once read a Harry Potter novel. Not a word, not a page. Everything I learned about Harry and his world came from osmosis (and eventually breaking dow to watch the first movie). I did stay up late several nights to see his newest adventures roll out of the stockroom and into eager hands -- but not by choice. I own all the novels. But I haven't cracked the spine on any of them.

Do I have something against Harry? Not really. As a natural contrarian, I became more determined not to read a Harry Potter book everytime someone told me how good they are. My oldest and best friend lives for the stories and draws inspiration from them. My great uncle, a West Point grad and career Army officer, swears they changed his life. Fine. I'm just not that into Harry.

So why do I own the books. Simple. I knew I'd have kids someday; and now I do. I read every night before I go to bed, and I'm looking forward to teaching her that simple pleasure too. And you know what? I'm really looking forward to discovering Harry and his friends with her.

Anyway, here and here are two news items about the Harry Potter craziness about to be unleashed. If you know you Dumbledores from your Hufflepuffs, you probably are interested in them. Enjoy.

My Wife and I were just talking about this.

Tom Crusie use to be cool.

Now he's L. Ron Hubbard's "Tom the Baptist;" a voice crying in the wilderness heralding the messiah.

Scientology is pure quackery. Illnesses are not all psychosomatic. And they certainly aren't caused by alien spirits trapped in our bodies. L. Ron Hubbard was a bbbbbaaaaaadddddd Sci Fi shlockmeister.

But maybe I'm wrong. For all I know, Jesus wasn't much of a carpenter, Moses was a terrible shepherd, the Buddha was a failed ruler, and Muhammad a poor businessman. Who am I to say a bad writer can't be a good savior?

Welcome! Come on in...

Okay, don't you think that someone carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles, and a BLOODY FREAKING CHAINSAW! ought to be cause for concern anyway you find them in public?

(Okay, maybe not at a haunted house show around Halloween, but that's a definate exception.)

But they let this guy cross our frontier with Canada. Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe there are some reasonable explanations for that kind of arsenal that could convince a border guard. But in the age of the Global War on Terror, don't you think we ought to be a little more discerning?

Athena's Daughters

As a martial artist who sometimes has the privilege of teaching, and as the father of a little girl, I found this story very interesting.

I think a common stereotype of putting kids into martial arts training is to put boys in to either a.) learn how to defend themselves against bullies, or b.) curb any aggressive tendencies. I'm here to tell you that girls make up a huge percentage of the grade school kids in the classes I see. I always thought that was a good trend, now I know why. Girls need to defend themselves too, and not just from overzealous dates.

More Sea Monsters

Women who run with the wolves...
Men who swim with the sharks...

Only lawyers can swim safely with sharks; professional courtesy precludes them from eating attorneys.

The Not-So Hot Zone

Finally, some good news on the hemoragic fever front...

Sure, I'm mostly paranoid about this infectious disease stuff, but it's scary to think how fast it could travel in a mobile society like ours.

The Frog Prince

Most people have heard of the Rain Dance, but this is a little silly.

Surgeon General's Warning!

Smoking is not good for you -- in so many ways.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Administrative Notes

I've picked up a few new readers recently, and I thought it might be a good time to make a few administrative remarks.

Publishing Schedule:
Generally, I update my blog twice weekly. I publish on Sunday Afternoons and Wednesday Evenings. The whys and wherefores are pretty mundane, but it coincides with my ability to think about what topics to post about, research them, draft some thoughts, and then get to the Internet.

My posts, unfortunately, often have spelling errors and typographic errors left in them. I apologize. As a former English Major, I would be embarrassed actually to let this tuff out in public except...

I usually type the posts with my infant daughter asleep on my chest. This makes typing somewhat difficult. Also, my time to type can be somewhat limited, which means that I can't go back to correct mistakes in old posts, and sometimes, I don't get the chance to run spellcheck before I publish to the web. Finally, I'm doing this for fun. I hope you're enjoying it too. I'm not going to stress about a few typos every now and then. When my daughter is old enough to play quietly on the floor next to me, I'll make an effort to be more professional. Neatness should count.

I make an effort to keep my links clean and family friendly. I'm no prude, but some people read this on their work stations (naughty-naughty) and I don't want the Thought Police in the basement sending the anti-porn SWAT Teams running up the stairs. If you post a link in the comments section, I ask you to be respectful of this. At the very least, warn potential users that the link is "hot" in more ways than one.

I can't promise that all links are free of viruses, trojan horses, spyware and the like. Link at your own risk on that issue.

After every posting there is a line. Below the line is some "publishing" information on the post. The last entry is a hotlink to a comments section. This is your opportunity to provide feedback! I encourage all readers to leave comments about the posts. It gives me an idea of who is reading the blog, and what they know about the topics. In a short article, often many things I could've put in are left out. If you have questions, post them. If I have time, I will try to answer them. If you have answers to questions I raise in the post, or in someone else's comments, post them. Others will benefit from your knowledge of trivia. If you have better links than I do about certain topics, post them! We all want to see them. Sometimes I choose a link because it was funny, or convenient. I can't always promise that my link is the best link for any given topic.

I think this will be much more fun if other people start to contribute. Try it out, we;ll see what develops.

As I said in my first post... I might believe some of this stuff. I don't believe all of it. I don't believe anything without proof.

I am trying to write interesting articles and I am writing from my perspective only. I do try to respect other people's opinions -- at least in public. If you have a major problem with one of my opinions, that's fine with me as long as you keep reading. I'm just like Howard Stern in that respect. I don't expect everyone to agree with me on everything I post about. While I am trying to steer clear of obvious contemporary minefields (Abortion, Terry Schiavo-like episodes, stem cell research, blah, blah, blah), I expect I'll run into something, someday that pisses off somebody. Remember, I'm writing for fun -- let's not take this all too seriously.

Things that go Bloop in the Deep

If you've seen the movie The Hunt For Red October, then you receiveda primer on how sonar works. There are two kinds of sonar, active and passive. Active sonar sends out a sound wave through the water, and then measures the "bounceback" refelction of the wave. The distinctive "Ping" in submarine movies is part of the active sonar wave. Passive sonar, on the other hand, listens to sound waves being generated outside the sub, and analyzes them to give apicture of the activity in the water.

In Red October, there are two sonar operators aboard the US submarine; a veteran explaining sonar to a rookie. The vet can listen to the mish-mash of sounds and identify whales, schools of fish, and enemy submarines. He can do this because everything creates a signature sound. In the movie, the sonar system can hear the high-tech, brand-new "silent" propulsion system of the Russian submarine, but misidentifies it as a "seismic anamoly." Only the astute, experienced ears of the sonar vet hear the unmistakable mechanical rhythm of an enemy sub. The combination of sonar machines and trained human operators can listen for, analyze and idnetify thousands of different marine sounds.

But not all of them.

And that, of course, is the beginning of the interesting part for us. There are hundreds of sounds collected by sonar operators that they can not identify. By comparing these unknown sounds against known sounds, they can group everything according to th emost likely sources. This can be very important to the Navy which is always looking for unidentified mechanical or electrical sounds which might be new adversarial technology -- like brand new submarines.

One sound they have cataloged as an unknown is called "The Bloop." The sound was first picked up in 1997 by a sonar array stretched out through the open Pacific Ocean as an early warning network against missile submarines. Because subs can be rather noisy if not maintaining strict nosie disscipline, the sensitive microphones are place widely apart. And the first Bloop recording was captured on not one, but two microphone 3000 miles apart.

From comparison to known sounds, analysts can say the Bloop is of biological origin, not a machine, and not caused by geology. They know it must be huge. By process of elimination, they can even make some guesses as to what kind of animal it is not. It is probably not a whale. It is probably not a Giant Squid. Scientists don't like to make wild speculations, so they do not hazard guesses about what it is on such little evidence.

Non-scientists, on the other hand, are very willing to speculate. For them, the Bloop is evidence of Sea Monsters. In a general sense, they are probably right. Anything as big as the Bloop would be a monster, and it lives in the sea.

Bloop has been idenitifed as a sea serpent, a relic dinosaur species, giant octopi, enormous jellyfish, and even as the Great God Cthulhu finally waking from his slumber in sunken R'lyeh. Why not add the possibility of it being some shifting coil of the Midgard Serpent, or Godzilla?

All we really know from the evidence is that something huge and unknown lives in the deepest part of the ocean. It could be anything. Prehistoric species have been found in the deep ocean. For example, the megaldon shark and coelcanth. Given how little we know about the inhabitants of the deepest ocean, a "sea serpent" is still a remote possibility.

Keep this in mind when you trvel to the beach this summer; or if you volunteer for submarine duty. Do you really know what's down there?

Pomp and Circumstance

My friend Victor, editor of a small town newspaper in Rhode Island, shared these thoughts for graduating seniors. They're good thoughts for anybody starting out, or not too far out of the gate. Ignore him at your own risk.

It's All Fun and Games, Until...

This news item out of Brazil struck home. It came out shortly after I encouraged all of you to indulge in your geeky fantasy life. Let it serve you as a reminder not to take things too seriously. Let's all remember the difference between fantasy and reality.

Although the article rightly mentions that role playing games generally do not have "winners" and "losers," most games do involve violent imagery ("Bob, I'm going to smite the dragon with my mighty Sword of Dragon-Smiting, with its +6 advantage and my strength of 50 -- and given that the dragon is sleeping and will put up no resistance -- I only need to role a two or better on this 20-sided dice...") to reach their resolutions. Also, several games go beyond sitting around your mom's basement card table, and require you to dress-up funny and act-out your character's actions. This is called Live Action Role Play (LARP). One of the most popular of these is White Wolf publishing's Vampire game series, which came as both traditional roleplay and LARP. Some of the LARP books are not so much rulebooks as they are props to be used in the game. As such, the line between game and "real life" can be very blurry if you don't know what you've got in your hand.

This kind of game has popped up in police blotters before, and it will again. Which goes to prove, parents need to monitor their children -- especially the mentally deranged kids.

Freedom of Religion Means "All" Religions

Or should that be "Religion?"

One of the things that separates Humans from the animals is the ability to use tools based on our opposable thumbs. Another is our emotional need for some sort of spiritual experience. Most people find this need filled through conventional religions. Others belong to Charismatic Cults of Snake Handlers. Or they visit Graceland. A few light a bonfire out of a Wicker Man. Or they stay up well past their bedtime to see midnight showings of their Favorite Science Fiction or Fantasy movie. Some worship cut-rate science fiction authors as divine delivers from personal demons -- and let the cult finance the movie later.

Most of these outlets are relatively benign, if offbeat. And at least two of the things on my list are only sarcastically referred to as "religions." (Which two? I'll let you decide.) However, I read this recent article on how some people are making a "religion" out of Eating Disorders. Maybe it hasn't gone as far as people establishing bricks-and-motar churches and filing for tax exempt status, but it shows the early stages of developing into a full-blown spiritual belief system. Don't think it can happen? This is really no stranger than the mystery cults which sprouted all across the First Century Roman Empire; including that one about the pacifist Carpenter who suppossedly rose from the dead. No body thought that would get off the ground either.