News Briefs 03-08-2015

If you don't like today's news, feel free to use your fists on me in a scientific fashion...

Quote of the Day:

The measure of a man is what he does with power.


New Zealand School Students Perform the Haka at the Funeral of a Teacher

Palmerston North Boys' High School in New Zealand has posted the above video of the Haka performed by students during the funeral of one of their teachers, Mr Dawson Tamatea.

On watching the video, not only does it come across as a massive sign of respect for Mr Tamatea, but also as quite a cathartic ritual for the students, allowing them to express their emotions and feel part of a cohesive group during this tough time - two things that often don't happen in Western culture during emotional periods.

Modern society in New Zealand has done a great job in integrating and respecting historical Maori culture. It makes me wonder how many other modern societies could benefit from embracing their indigenous cultures.

The entire school performing the Haka during the arrival of Mr. Tamatea in the hearse. This was a very emotional and powerful performance. We are extremely proud of our boys' performance and we know that Mr Tamatea would be too.

For those watching in other parts of the world, this is our school Haka. This is the translation:

Be prepared take hold
Reach out
We of Palmerston North Boys' High School stand steadfast
Within our Domain
Standing firm
Standing proud
Standing with respect
To uphold
To uplift
To uplift
To uphold
The prestige of our school
Our aims are to seek knowledge
And reach our goals and aspirations
Seek the horizon of aspirations
And draw near to it
Those aspirations that are near, take them
And it be known, yes, let it be known
Let your adrenalin abound high above
It is done!!!

RIP 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, Iconic Figure of Subversive Cinema

I'm not a Wrestling fan. In fact I've only been to the Lucha Libre once in my life --and only because I was invited by a girl I fancied. Sad story... moving on-- so the news that legendary pro-wrestler 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper's passing today at the age of 61 saddens me for completely different reasons.

It saddens me because the film They Live, in which he brilliantly portrays reluctant blue-collared hero John Nada, had a huuuuge impact on my development as a anti-establishment outsider and non-conformist contrarian.

...And I suspect there's quite a few Grailers who feel the same.

('Nada' means 'Nothing' in Spanish. John Carpenter's idea of black humor, or --seeing John's unrewarding end-- a subliminal warning to all considering to tread the narrow path of the lone revolutionary? You decide)

They Live is iconic of the Reagan era in which it was produced, and at the same time it remains as powerful and relevant as ever, by showing how a simple, working man who just wants to survive and get by as best he can in the dog-eat-dog world he lives in, is suddenly and quite unpreparedly forced to confront the mind-bending realization, that EVERYTHING put before his eyes is an illusion.

In the land of the blind, the one-eye man may be king; but in the land of the asleep, the awakened man is considered a threat. They Live is *more* than a Sci-Film flick with cheap effects and rubber masks, seeding the Conspiranoia fields for the likes of David Icke and all the rest of the NWoo-woo repto-phobes --it's a recruiting tool, designed to pose to the viewer a very simple question: Do you take the sunglasses off, or do you dare to take a stand?

It saddens me Roddy died way before his time, and I'm ashamed by the fact I didn't include They Live in my personal list of Gnostic Cinema last year. To make amends, here's the kick-ass scene from that cult film:

Descanse en Paz, Roddy. Hope they greet you in Heaven with plenty of bubble gum.

The Original Ley Hunter, Alfred Watkins, Memorialised

Ley Hunters Club founders Jimmy Goddard and Philip Heselton at Blackwardine Cros

Their existence may be accepted as received wisdom by those who want to believe, or rejected out of hand by those who demand evidence, but the concept of ley-lines, or, as its originator Alfred Watkins called them, leys, has nevertheless found a place in popular consciousness.

The latest episode in the fascinating history of ley hunting was the unveiling of a memorial stone dedicated to Watkins (1855-1935) by members of the Society of Ley Hunters at their spring moot last month, on the site at which Watkins conceived of the existence of leys.

Watkins envisioned leys as a network of expertly surveyed ancient straight tracks, punctuated by prehistoric sites (often overlain by later historic sites), such as beacon hills, mounds, crossroads, old churches, standing stones, wayside crosses, wells, notches, moats and tree clumps. According to Watkins, this network provided the most efficient means of travel about the countryside. However, if such a system was ever created, it would mostly seem to have been ignored by practical travellers ever since. Watkins himself was no long-distance ley-walker, preferring the use of a vehicle (sometimes his steam-powered car) to travel between mark-points while surveying the landscape.

Alfred Watkins

His family was in the milling and brewing business, but Watkins was also an inventor, pioneer photographer and antiquarian writer. He played an important role in popularising photography, inventing the highly successful and affordable Bee light meter, famously used to great effect in the challenging environment of the Antarctic by Herbert Ponting, photographer to Scott's 1910 expedition, and he authored an early amateur photography guide.

After Watkins joined his local natural history and archaeology society, the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, in 1888, he provided most of the photographs for its publications and eventually became its president in 1918. It is easy to see how his combined interest in antiquity, topography and photography provided ideal conditions for the idea of leys to form within his mind. Even his conception of leys as trade routes can be related to his time as a sales representative for his father's milling business. On 30 June 1921, at the age of 65, the idea apparently came to him fully formed, in a "flood of ancestral memory", as he paused with a map to view the landscape at Blackwardine crossroads in his native Herefordshire.

The idea of prehistoric landscape alignments was by no means a new one at the time and it seems likely that Watkins had been exposed to various theories at the Woolhope Club, to whose members he introduced his own concept in a 1922 address. He published a transcript of his findings as Early British Trackways, Moats, Mounds, Camps and Sites and in 1925, he published The Old Straight Track, a book which caused great controversy and provoked much abuse from the archaeological community in its day, and yet still remains in print (Amazon US/UK).

Public interest in the archaeology of landscape was running high, maps were now commonly available and aerial photography had also begun to reveal hitherto unknown prehistoric earthworks and landscapes. Consequently, ley-hunting became a cult pastime amongst well-heeled, rural car owners in the 1930s, who formed the Old Straight Track Club to meet and explore, and the Straight Track Postal Portfolio Club to circulate news and comment amongst members. Their records survive in Hereford City Library together with all of Watkins' glass-plate negatives. In 1927 Watkins provided a field guide, The Ley Hunters Manual, for his followers.

While Watkins initially believed the makers of leys to have been locals, he was not above citing evidence from other parts of the world, James Frazer-style. Amongst the membership of the Straight Track Club were some who subscribed to a more mystic interpretation of leys, drawing on the idea of cultural diffusion from the mythical lost civilisation of Atlantis. Watkins initially acknowledged that leys would, with time, have acquired spiritual significance, but steered clear of mysticism in his published works, beyond a poetic reference, in the preface of The Old Straight Track, to the "Spirit of the British Country-side" hovering nearby when he experienced his revelation. Nevertheless, a year before his death, Watkins confessed to his son Allen that he had believed himself to be psychic. Prior to his revelation, he had suffered a heart attack and near-death experience.

Following the deaths of many of its members, including that of Watkins in 1935, and the intervention of the second world war, the Straight Track Club officially folded in 1948. While little evidence had emerged for human navigation along leys, the concept was nevertheless to be revived with a new emphasis.

During a UFO flap in 1954, French scientist, Aime Michel, claimed to have plotted UFO sightings along straight lines (more correctly, along great circles) which he called orthotenies, a finding published in his book Flying Saucers and the Straight-Line Mvstery. An ex-RAF pilot, Tony Wedd, who read both this book and The Old Straight Track put two and two together to make five. Also influenced by 'contactee' Buck Nelson, who claimed in his book My Trip to Mars, the Moon and Venus (1956) that UFOs derived energy from Earth's magnetic currents, Wedd, in a pamphlet called Skyways and Landmarks, suggested that UFOs navigated along leys, which marked magnetic lines of force. With the aim of contacting the 'Space Brothers', Wedd formed the Star Fellowship.

Based on their interest in UFOs, Philip Heselton and Jimmy Goddard officially started The Ley Hunters Club in 1962, at the inaugural meeting of which Allen Watkins described his theory of the religious basis of leys. For him, the various kinds of marker embodied the four elements encountered along an initiatory path. It was John Michell's book The View over Atlantis (1969) which became the bible of what would become known as the 'earth mysteries' movement, intent on a re-enchantment of the landscape through restoration of the Earth's vital energy flows. In 1970, The Old Straight Track was republished, with a note by Michell, describing suggestively how Watkins had become aware of a "network of lines, standing out like glowing wires all over the surface of the country". The ley became just one ingredient in a heady New Age brew linking diverse elements such as UFOs, dowsing, earth lights, sacred geometry, ancient metrology, astro-archaeology, myth and folklore, Chinese feng-shui and German geopathology.

Through the 1970s, the origin of the ley concept became obscured as ideas about energy lines and dowsing took off and became ever more fantastical, especially in the USA. But Paul Devereux, editor of The Ley Hunter magazine (1975–1995) took a different turn, towards scientifically-verifiable landscape lines and widespread traditions concerned with landscape, spirit and linearity.

In 1977, anthropologist Marlene Dobkin de Rios found evidence to link straight paths over the Peruvian landscape with traditions concerned with the passage of spirits and the ritual use of hallucinogenic drugs. To explain this association, she hypothesised that the hallucinogen-induced sensation interpreted as 'spirit flight' (or the 'out-of-body-experience') may derive from the subjective interpretation of the visual phenomena known as entoptic form constants (geometric patterns like lattices webs, tunnels or spirals, which spontaneously take shape and propagate within disinhibited visual systems, especially with eyes closed), and which can project an illusion of rapid movement through an otherworldly space onto the visual field. She further hypothesised that the straight landscape lines (often linking shrines) associated with the cultures that she was studying were a formalised exoteric representation of shamanic spirit flight.

In Shamanism and the Mystery Lines (1992), Devereux suggested that spirit line concepts in other cultures may also have arisen from the universal human experience of hallucinogen-induced entoptic imagery and that, in the European context, some of these symbolic routes to the spirit world evolved into the straight 'death roads' or 'church paths' still used for carrying corpses to burial, while others, such as Irish 'fairy passes' retained more elements of their shamanic origin. Fairy passes are invisible routes between ancient earthworks upon which it was inadvisable to build, for much the same reason that the ancient Chinese art of feng-shui recommends not to site houses and tombs in places to where linear features (poison arrows) might direct the problematic energy of shar chi or 'killing breath'.

While the spirit path concept can occasionally be discerned in the British context in the form of corpse ways or church paths, most Watkinsian ley alignments can not be shown to represent an authentic survival of an anciently-conceived symbolic alignment. Nevertheless, perhaps the spirit path archetype simply resonated with the hippy-era ley-revivalists seeking to contact visitors from other worlds via their own hallucinogenic trips within the sacred landscape of Britain.

News Briefs 31-07-2015

"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry."

Quote of the Day:

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead.”

Thomas Paine

Your Daily Dose of Awe: The Milky Way Over Uluru

Milky Way over Uluru, by Babak Tafreshi

Here's your daily dose of awe: the centre of the Milky Way hanging over Uluru, in Central Australia.

Image taken a couple of weeks ago by Babak Tefreshi, and posted as NASA's Astronomy Pic of the Day on July 30.

The central regions of our Milky Way Galaxy rise above Uluru/Ayers Rock in this striking night skyscape. Recorded on July 13, a faint airglow along the horizon shows off central Australia's most recognizable landform in silhouette. Of course the Milky Way's own cosmic dust clouds appear in silhouette too, dark rifts along the galaxy's faint congeries of stars. Above the central bulge, rivers of cosmic dust converge on a bright yellowish supergiant star Antares. Left of Antares, wandering Saturn shines in the night.

Click to embiggen!

News Briefs 30-07-2015

Only connect.

Quote of the Day:

"[...][T]he opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection."

˜Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

1959 Comic Featured 'The Face on Mars' - 17 Years Before a NASA Probe's Famous Photo

'The Face on Mars' in a 1959 Comic Book

Here's your daily dose of weird: Almost four decades ago a strange photograph was taken of Mars by the Viking 1 space probe, which appeared to show a massive humanoid-looking face carved into the Red Planet's landscape, staring back at the orbiter's lens. The so-called 'Face on Mars' would go on to become a fixture in theories about extraterrestrial alien life, though later more high-resolution photographs of the region had NASA dashing thoughts of it being an artificial creation.

Interestingly though, the idea of a 'Face on Mars' was already present in popular culture, through a 1959 comic book illustrated by the great Jack Kirby - 17 years before the Viking photograph. And the weirdness doesn't end there - see this fun article at the Secret Sun blog to go right down the rabbit hole...

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News Briefs 29-07-2015

Will different brands of 'God helmet' spawn different religions?

Quote of the Day:

Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth

William Blake