UFOlogical Jam Session to Celebrate the Life and Work of Bruce Duensing

Earlier this year, when I downloaded the Radio Misterioso podcast in which my friend Greg Bishop had a guy by the name of Bruce Duensing as the guest, I knew nothing about him or his ideas --a big stain in my UFOlogical record, given how he'd been blogging about the phenomenon for many years. That day I ended up listening to that episode twice in a row, fascinated by the things Bruce was saying with regards to UAPs --his favored acronym-- which heavily resonated with my own thinking.

Since then I timidly started to have a little bit of online interaction with him, on Facebook and his blog posts, which were definitely not 'UFOlogy 101' material. Bruce's paragraphs were packed with content, and his writing style was often oblique and obscure in meaning, which was not done out of intellectual pedantry as much his most honest attempt to elucidate upon a mystery which is oblique and obscure in intention to begin with.

It nevertheless made me realize that when it comes to UFOs I'm still at the Kindergarten level, and I had much to learn from him.

On the morning of Thursday, June 4th, Greg read a message on the Facebook wall of Bruce's daughter, informing of the passing of his father after having gone through open-heart surgery on the previous Monday. The news hit me harder than I'd expected, seeing how I was just (barely) starting to know him. Perhaps it was because that same week I myself had gone through a different kind of personal transition, after being fired from the job I'd worked in for the last 15 years.

Transience. It's something we rarely notice because we're so focused on the trivial minutiae of our daily routine, yet it's always happening all around us. It's only when a certain critical mass is reached in our cognitive awareness --an accident, being fired from your job, the death of a loved one-- that we stop acting like automatons for a minute, take stock of our surroundings and we begin to pay attention.

(Maybe UFOs are meant to be a wake up call intended to shake us out of our dull complacency, before we fall off the cliff ahead)

Transience and Transition seemed to have been in Bruce's mind, even to the last. The name of his blog was 'A Transit of Contingencies' and the title of his last blog entry was 'The Voyages of the Dead', which of course caused me to speculate: Was the title a hint to his fears about the appointed surgery? An indication of depression? A premonition even?

The last paragraph in the post, which I urge you to read in its entirety, is not only a fitting way for a great intellectual to say adieu, but it also captures Bruce's love of art, literature and poetry, and perhaps his yearning to reconcile the oblique and obscure within himself:

In every fiction there is an element of truth and the same could be said by reading that statement in reverse order, and so this writer thinks on poetics as a series of observations that indirectly point to a reality not directly manifested in their sentences.

The same may apply to us.

After the sudden shock of the news, Greg asked me to come to the show the next Sunday to talk about Bruce and how he had began to influence the both of us in the way we look at UFOs, forcing us to adopt a broader, bolder scope of it and other phenomena. Robert Brandstetter, a brilliant friend of ours who uses the alias 'Burnt State' in the Paracast forums --and also shares with us a nascent kinship with Bruce and his ideas-- was also invited to join in, and even though I still felt a certain inadequacy in being part of this radiophonic eulogy --a close friend of him or one of the many people who discussed things with him online, would have been far more suited to speak with authority about his philosophy and who he was as a person-- I accepted the invitation; in the end I think we did an acceptable job, and the three of us conducted an amenable 'jamming session' in saying farewell to our departed peer --The lion's share of the credit should go to Robert, who did an outstanding job re-reading Bruce's blog, and researching additional info about his background, like his love for clockwork toys and model trains which IMO was very telling of his analytical albeit-whimsical character.

(The images above were the 'notes' I doodled to prepare myself prior to the radio show. "What am I?" is the answer Bruce once gave to Greg's question: 'If you ever met an alien being, what would you say or ask to it?')

We wrapped up the session by having Robert read the Thomas Wolfe quote Bruce had chosen as the intro for his last blog post, and after that I requested Greg to play Café Tacuba's 'Olita del Alta Mar' (Little Wave of the High Seas). Not only it's a song I loved the moment I first listened to it, but that Sunday morning --as I was getting ready for Radio Misterioso's nightly broadcast-- it was thanks to Bruce that I finally understood the true meaning behind the lyrics: A human life is like a wave in the sea; it's made of the same stuff as the sea, but for a little while it has a distinct shape and momentum; like all waves it reaches its peak at one point, breaks into the shore, and then recedes back.

You could say the wave ceased to exist, even though its water never left the sea. The fact the wave had a transitory existence is what gave it its shape and beauty, the force carrying it ashore waning and then gently returning that which formed the wave, to the immensity from whence it came.

Safe travels, Bruce. And godspeed.


Strange & Norrell : III - Away with the Fairies


Susanna Clarke's 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series by Peter Harness, currently airing on BBC One and BBC America. John Reppion plucks out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and takes a closer look at them.

All posts in this series:

III – Away with the Fairies

In Strange & Norrell the practical magician Mr. Gilbert Norrell is very much anti-fairy and warns strongly against consulting with, or employing, them:

"A more poisonous race or one more inimical to England has never existed. There have been far too many magicians too idle or ignorant to pursue a proper course of study, who instead bent all their energies upon acquiring a fairy-servant and when they had got such a servant they depended upon him to complete all their business for them. English history is full of such men and some, I am glad to say, were punished for it as they deserved. Look at Bloodworth."

Simon Bloodworth's tale is given in one of Clarke's many wonderful footnotes (in chapter five of the book) and mentioned briefly in episode five of Harness' television adaptation. According to Clarke, Bloodworth was a non too impressive 14th century magician from Bradford on Avon who was one day unexpectedly offered the services of a fairy calling himself Buckler.

"As every English schoolchild nowadays can tell you, Bloodworth would have done better to have inquired further and to have probed a little deeper into who, precisely, Buckler was, and why, exactly, he had come out of Faerie with no other aim than to become the servant of a third-rate English magician".

Buckler did ever more and ever better magic upon Bloodworth's behalf and as he did so he grew stronger. Soon the fairy took on a larger, more human, appearance (“his thin, piebald fox-face became a pale and handsome human one") which he claimed to be his true form, the former being merely an enchantment.

Then “on a fine May morning in 1310 when Bloodworth was away from home Mrs Bloodworth discovered a tall cupboard standing in the corner of her kitchen where no cupboard had ever been before. When she asked Buckler about it, he said immediately that it was a magical cupboard and that he had brought it there".

Buckler told Mrs. Bloodworth than it pained him to see her and her daughters slaving away washing and cleaning all day long. If she would but step into the cupboard, he said, she would be transported to a place where she might learn spells which "would make any work finished in an instant, make her appear beautiful in the eyes of all who beheld her, make large piles of gold appear whenever she wished it, make her husband obey her in all things" and so on and so on.

"Seventeen people entered Buckler's cupboard that morning and were never seen again in England; among them were Mrs Bloodworth, her two youngest daughters, her two maids and two manservants, Mrs Bloodworth's uncle and six neighbours".

Two hundred years later, author of De Tractatu Magicarum Linguarum (On the Subject of Magical Languages), the magician Dr. Martin Pale entered Faerie and visited the brughs of fairies Cold Henry and John Hollyshoes. In the latter the doctor found an eight year old girl washing a great pile of dirty dishes. She said she had been told that when the things were clean she could go home to England. The girl thought she had been washing-up for two weeks or so and would be done in a day or two more. Pale recorded that the girl told him name as Anne Bloodworth.

The danger of humans being lost, trapped, or even imprisoned in Faerie is a recurring theme throughout the old folk-tales of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and beyond. In the 15th century romance of Thomas the Rhymer the titular character meets and falls in love with the beautiful Queen of Elfland, travelling willingly with her upon a milk-white horse whose mane hung with bells. In his collection Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, William Butler Yeats wrote the following, more detailed and much less pleasant sounding, description of what may be considered the same arrangement:

The Leanhaun Shee (fairy mistress), seeks the love of mortals. If they refuse, she must be their slave; if they consent, they are hers, and can only escape by finding another to take their place. The fairy lives on their life, and they waste away. Death is no escape from her. She is the Gaelic muse, for she gives inspiration to those she persecutes. The Gaelic poets die young, for she is restless, and will not let them remain long on earth – this malignant phantom. [1]

Others like Burd Ellen, sister of Rowland in the old English Fairy Tale Childe Rowland, stray into the Other Lands entirely by accident. Burd Ellen unintentionally ran around a church widdershins (anti-clockwise) and disappeared - taken to the Dark Tower by the King of Elfland. After seeking advice from the great magician Merlin, Rowland set out on a rather bloody quest to rescue his sister. One must never eat or drink in Faerie, as Merlin warns:

“Bite no bit, and drink no drop, however hungry or thirsty you are; drink a drop, or bite a bit, while in Elfland you be, and never will you see Middle Earth again" [2]

If fairy food is eaten then the devourer will be bound to remain in the Other Lands for an allotted time, just as Persephone daughter of Zeus and Demeter was doomed to remain half a year in Hades (the Greek Underworld which it may be noted shares characteristics with both Faerie and its near neighbour Hell) by the consumption of food there.* This seems to have become a steadfast “fact” of fairy lore but, for my part, I cannot find reference earlier than Childe Rowland relating specifically to the fae.

Robert Kirk's 1691 book The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies is regarded by many as one of the most important works on fairy lore ever committed to paper, yet it contains no reference to the perils of dining upon fairy foods. Kirk, it is said, paid a heavy price for his involvement with the fairy folk, however. In his introduction to the 1893 edition the renowned folklorist Andrew Lang gave the following biographical account of the author and his strange demise.

The Rev. Robert Kirk, the author of The Secret Commonwealth, was a student of theology at St. Andrews: his Master's degree, however, he took at Edinburgh. He was (and this is notable) the youngest and seventh son of Mr. James Kirk, minister of Aberfoyle, the place familiar to all readers of Rob Roy. As a seventh son, he was, no doubt, specially gifted, and in The Secret Commonwealth he lays some stress on […] By his first wife he had a son, Colin Kirk, W.S.; by his second wife, a son who was minister of Dornoch. He died (if he did die, which is disputed) in 1692, aged about fifty-one; his tomb was inscribed --

Linguæ Hiberniæ Lumen.

The tomb, in Scott's time, was to be seen in the cast end of the churchyard of Aberfoyle; but the ashes of Mr. Kirk are not there. His successor, the Rev. Dr. Grahame, in his Sketches of Picturesque Scenery, informs us that, as Mr. Kirk was walking on a dun-shi, or fairy-hill, in his neighbourhood, he sunk down in a swoon, which was taken for death. " After the ceremony of a seeming funeral," writes Scott, "the form of the Rev. Robert Kirk appeared to a relation, and commanded him to go to Grahame of Duchray. 'Say to Duchray, who is my cousin as well as your own, that I am not dead, but a captive in Fairyland; and only one chance remains for my liberation. When the posthumous child, of which my wife has been delivered since my disappearance, shall be brought to baptism, I will appear in the room, when, if Duchray shall throw over my head the knife or dirk which he holds in his hand, I may be restored to society; but if this is neglected, I am lost for ever.'" True to his tryst, Mr. Kirk did appear at the christening and "was visibly seen;" but Duchray was so astonished that he did not throw his dirk over the head of the appearance, and to society Mr. Kirk has not yet been restored. This is extremely to be regretted, as he could now add matter of much importance to his treatise. Neither history nor tradition has more to tell about Mr. Robert Kirk, who seems to have been a man of good family, a student, and, as his book shows, an innocent and learned person. [3]

The form that fell down as if in death upon Aberfoyle's Fairy Knowe was thought then to have been a “stock” or “fetch” or “waff”: a mere magical facsimile of Kirk, created by the fairies to trick mortals into believing he had died while he was in fact in the Other Lands. [4]

Besides washing-up then, what do these humans do while they're in Faerie? Well, many seem to spend an awful lot of time dancing.

It is, of course, to be noted that the modern Greek superstition of the Nereids, who carry off mortal girls to dance with them till they pine away, answers to some of our Fairy legends. [5]

Again, these are the words of Andrew Lang in his introductory notes to The Secret Commonwealth. "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" (or "The Worn-Out Dancing Shoes" or "The Shoes that were Danced to Pieces") is a German fairy tale originally published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. In the story the princesses all sleep every night in the same locked room. Every morning, much to the confusion of the staff and their father the king, their dancing shoes are found to be worn through. This, it transpires is because every night the princesses sneak through a trapdoor in their bedroom floor down into the Fairy Realm where they travel to a fairy castle and dance with twelve fairy princes. Once discovered and proved this leads to the fae princes each being cursed for the same length of time they kept the young women dancing.

According to Mrs. Ella Mary Leather's 1913 collection The Folklore and Witchcraft of Herefordshire, girls were still dancing themselves (almost) to death in Faerie in the late 19th century. A seventy five year old woman told Mrs. Leather that she remembered her mother telling of a first cousin of hers who was so passionately fond of dancing she who would visit any dance she heard of and could get to. One evening the young woman was walking home from such an occasion when she heard beautiful music coming from within a fairy ring (elferingewort "elf-ring" in Middle English, ronds de sorciers "sorcerers' rings” in French, and Hexenringe "witches' rings" in German). Dancing into the ring, she immediately disappeared. Guessing what must have happened to her dance-crazed daughter, the mother knew that the only way to get her back was to wait outside the ring exactly one year after the vanishing. This she did and when her child reappeared suddenly within the ring the mother seized her in silence (so as not to bring herself to the attention of the fairies) and dragged her back into England. The young woman thought less than a day had elapsed – time in Faerie passing much slower than it does in our own realm. Mrs. Leather was told that the young woman went to work as a shop assistant in the market town of Kington, but was for the rest of her life prone to seeing fairies who would, apparently, steal from the shop. Though she warned the fairies they would be found out, the woman was careful not to say that she could see them in case, as in the tale of the "Fairy Ointment", she was subsequently blinded by them. [6]

In Strange & Norrell, just as in tragic “true” tales such as those of Robertus Kirk and the dancing girl of Kington, Fairy Tale endings cannot be counted on it seems. In a letter to Mr. John Murray, on December 31st, 1816 (possibly unsent), the practical magician Jonathan Strange wrote:

Stories of magicians freeing captives from Faerie are few and far between. I cannot now recall a single one. Somewhere in one of his books Martin Pale describes how fairies can grow tired of their human guests and expel them without warning from the brugh; the poor captives find themselves back home, but hundreds of years after they left it.

Whether little Anne Bloodworth ever made it back to England remains unrecorded.

*See also Fairy Milk & Alien Smoothies: Excerpt from Joshua Cutchin's 'A Trojan Feast' here on Daily Grail.


[1] W. B. Yeats (1888) Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/yeats/fip/fip23.htm
[2] Joseph Jacobs (1890) English Fairy Tales http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/eft/
[3] Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/sce/sce02.htm
[4] Marc Alexander (2002) A Companion to the Folklore Myths and Customs of Britain
[5] Robert Kirk and Andrew Lang (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies
[6] Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (2006) The Lore of the Land

News Briefs 17-06-2015

Belief is the death of intelligence.

Quote of the Day:

You should view the world as a conspiracy run by a very closely-knit group of nearly omnipotent people, and you should think of those people as yourself and your friends.

Robert Anton Wilson

The Little Zine that Could: Steamshovel Press is Back in Business!

If you search the word 'parapolitics' in the website of the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the query will throw no results. Doing the same on Google first finds an old political scandal involving the Colombian paramilitary forces.

The truth is the term was (probably) coined by the late Peter Dale Scott as a way to describe the obscured inner workings behind political developments and historical events, which transpire beneath the surface of public perception. Nowadays that kind of investigative journalism is derided with the 'weaponized' term 'Conspiracy Theory' by mainstream media. Ironically enough, those same mainstream outlets are seeing their Monopoly of Truth severely eroded by alternative news websites which are favored by the younger audience.

These alt-news digital sites owe a huge debt to the analog zines of prior decades, which relied on such things as 'snail mail', carbon paper and photocopiers --Google those, kids!-- to allow the dissenting writing of their authors reach a small yet-faithful readership. Standing tall above many of those raw publications was Steamshovel Press, the brainchild of Kenn Thomas --who has also distinguished himself for his books involving the grandaddy of all conspiracy theories: The JFK assassination-- and which saw the contributions of writers like Jim Keith, Alan Cantwell, Alexandra 'Chica' Bruce and, of course, my dear friend Greg Bishop, who for a while also ran his own 'zine' called The Excluded Middle (Greg has also contributed for our own Darklore Anthology with an essay about his late friend Dr. Mario Pazzaglini, a clinical psychologist who was greatly interested in the subject of 'alien writing').

After some years of trying to adapt to the new digital frontier of the World Wide Web, many of the old 'zines went the way of the dodo. Same was true with Steamshovel Press, but now comes the news that Kenn Thomas is re-launching the publication with the help of Olav Phillips as the new publisher, both as a Kindle version AND a hard copy made with real paper and color illustrations, which will certainly appeal those of us who still have a fetish for paper and the smell of fresh ink.

Steamshovel Press Issue 24 features:

  • Ezekiel’s Wheel within a Wheel Revealed
  • Ti West, Jownstown and the Big Lie
  • Publish and Perish: The Mysterious Body Count of UFOlogy and the Darker Side of Conspiracy Research
  • Kerry Thornley’s FBI Files
  • Pulling the Cosmic Trigger: The Contact Experiences of Philip K. Dick and Robert Anton Wilson
  • The Devil and Dr. Perry
  • ET Go Home: Let's Retire the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis
  • An Interview with S. Miles Lewis
  • The Legacy of John Judge
  • Transhumanism: The Wingmakers Perspective
  • The 9-9 Phone Intercepts and the 9-11 War Games

Some of the articles, like ET Go Home --written by Greg Bishop-- can be read for free online. Here's a little excerpt which no doubt will make a few heads in MUFON spin out of control:

The Extraterrestrial Hypothesis or ETH as it is known, is a viable, logical theory, but does not account for all the data, and if you are looking for a hypothesis that stands up to objective scrutiny, you must let the theory fit the data and not the other way around. Unbeknownst to most UFO fans and luminaries, there are relatively new ideas in physics (known collectively as “m-brane” theory) that actually support the idea that beings can travel almost instantaneously to the Earth from distant planets, but they are only theories with no experimental evidence as yet to back them up, and once again, they do not fit much of the reported data spanning decades or centuries, at least not in any way that makes logical sense.

Full steam ahead! Next stop: Conspiracy Station.

News Briefs 16-06-2015

Seriously America, another Bush and another Clinton? You know you have a population of 320 million, right?

Quote of the Day:

I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. 'I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.' 'I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.' 'Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!'

Bill Hicks

Robots Will 3D-Print A Bridge In Amsterdam

With it's countless canals, and even more bicycles, there's a pressing need for more bridges in Amsterdam. But why have people build a new bridge the boring way, when gravity-defying robots can 3D-print one for you wholesale? I only hope these same robots don't develop AI and come back to tear it down. The future is here, folks, it's just that the 3D-printing robots aren't evenly distributed yet.

Read more at Slate.

Kurzgesagt: Solving the Fermi Paradox with Cartoon Birds

The German design studio Kurzgesagt --"in a nutshell"-- created these entertaining clips full of interesting infographics, to tackle at one of the most persistent logical quandaries in modern Science: The (in)famous Fermi Paradox --a.k.a. "where are all the bloody aliens?!"

The videos stick firmly with the accepted scientific parameters, while at the same time utilizing some of the latest far-out concepts proposed by the likes of Freeman Dyson and Nikolai Kardashev, who came up with a classification system for advanced civilizations depending on their energy consumption --ours is about level 0.75, while the Galactic empire in Star Wars is probably between 2 and 3 (though the matter would no doubt trigger an onslaught of rants from angry fanboys everywhere!)

What's interesting also is how our own technological advances dictate the differences in how we decide to interpret the paradox itself. In 1950, when Enrico Fermi first came up with the idea during an informal conversation, notions re. the vast distances between stars and the age of the Universe were only initially considered, whereas now that we live in the Information Age, new elements like the emergence of strong A.I. and Virtual Reality also have to be thrown into the mix --why risk your life in something as useless as conquering the Galaxy, when you could choose immortality inside a simulated Paradise catered to your every whim?

NASA and SETI keep insisting that evidence of intelligent ETs is 20 years in the horizon --though they keep repeating that every 10 years or so. The prediction will either come true or it won't, like so many other scientific broken promises (where's my god-damned jet pack?!) and if in 2035 we still hear nothing but apparent silence from the Great Beyond, I'm sure the Fermi Paradox will remain an inexhaustible fountain of creative ideas to explain our cosmic isolation.

...Maybe that's the point of it?

News Briefs 15-06-2015

The humans are dead...

Quote of the Day:

Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.

Charles Bukowski

Seeing Egypt's Pyramids from the Gods' POV

The above image was taken by NASA astronaut Terry Virts during his final day aboard the International Space Station. Not an easy feat, considering how --contrary to popular thinking-- man-made structures like Egypt's pyramids and even the Great Wall of China are incredibly difficult to detect from space with the naked eye, as they tend to blend themselves with the surrounding landscape --but that's where that shiny Quartz pyramidion came in, right?

Now, what's interesting is that our astronauts are not only on the lookout of famous historical landmarks, but that some of them seem to also be interested in the more alternative theories related to those structures. Exhibit A: The live contest astronaut Scott Kelly launched on his Twitter account, to name "3 iconic man-made structures" which are "precisely aligned" with the constellation of Orion, a more-than-obvious reference to our friend Robert Bauval's theory, which is still deemed as 'pseudoscience' by the likes of Zahi Hawass and his colleagues.

I think this a great evidence showing how, despite the stubbornness of orthodox archeologists, who refuse to look at the evidence offered by alternative historians with an objective and open mind, they have failed miserably in their attempts to suppress the public's interest in these 'historical heresies'. Indeed, Bauval's theory has managed to reach higher places than the ivory towers of Orthodoxy --about 400 km higher, give or take.

Keep up to date with more fascinating stories like this one by liking The Daily Grail's Facebook page, or by following us on Twitter.

[H/T Mashable]

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