Saturday, June 30, 2007

Flying Saucer Attack!

The excitement never ends at Paranoia Strikes Deep. Here's yet another column for Flying Saucer Week:

Saucer Attack!
is a 1997 book with great graphics, showing the first half century of flying saucer pop culture. There are dozens, if not hundreds of book covers. It's usually available on eBay, and I've seen some copies on, but buyer beware: prices are all over the map when you shop for this out-of-print book.

I've tried not to duplicate what has already been shown in Saucer Attack! when showing some of the covers I have of saucer books.

Saucer: the Conquest by Stephen Coonts is from 2004, and it's in the thriller vein: a 140,000-year-old saucer is dug up and of course it still works. Those aliens may be dumb enough to forget where it's buried, but at least the battery didn't lose its charge. It's the second book in the series.

Saucers make for good covers, as witness these comics: Life With Archie from 1975; Death Rattle from 1988; UFO and Alien Comix from 1977.

Fortean Times is a British magazine which examines stories of this sort of phenomena, but they're also skeptical about it. I like their magazine, love their great covers.

Even New Yorker got into the act with this strange and funny cover by Bruce McCall.

This could be one of the rarest books I own, found at a thrift store. It's a hardcover edition of The Hollow Earth, a cranky 1964 book by Robert Bernard, Ph.D, who claims flying saucers come from the hollow core of the earth, accessible through a hole near the North Pole.More later! Ciao for now.

Friday, June 29, 2007

UFOs Are Kid Stuff

Yet another entry in the Paranoia Strikes Deep Flying Saucer Week blogs. Click on the pictures for full-size images.

It's easy to go through kids' books at a bookstore or used book outlet and find UFO books. You can also find kids' books about the Bible, ghosts, or any other belief adults want to indoctrinate kids into. You can teach them virtually anything. Whether or not they'll believe as adults what they've been taught is something else, but there's plenty out there once they grow up to reinforce those childish beliefs.

After going through my shelves I've come up with some UFO items specifically for kids.

Fiction is a big market. You stick a spaceship or flying saucer on a cover and it'll get a kid's attention. Stick an alien on there and you double your chances the kid will beg mom to buy it. The Spooksville series by Christopher Pike was very popular a few years ago, if popularity is measured by how many of the series I find used. I've seen less of the Mike Gonzo books, but the cover on this particular book is very eye-catching and it probably sold very well. Both of these books are published by Pocket Books under the juvenile imprint of Minstrel Books.Even Nancy Drew got in on the act. I have two editions of this book. One shows the saucer and the other just a light on the horizon. I chose this one to show you because of the saucer.
The Invaders was a popular TV series in the 1960s, and the Three Investigators was a popular juvenile detective series. This particular Three Investigators edition was published in the late 1970s, and shows the influence of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind in its depiction of the UFO.

But those books are marketed as fiction. There are books that purport to tell facts. The Isaac Asimov book is, as you'd expect, pretty much a book debunking UFOs. Asimov was not a believer. I've found that UFO "facts" are in the eye of the beholder. What seems fact to one person can easily be perceived as fiction to another.

Then there are those pesky aliens again. The stories of little gray men pulling people into spaceships and examining them has become part of our culture. Although this book looks like it's about "real" monsters from outer space, the design is mostly to draw the reader in to a carefully worded treatise on why such beliefs aren't real. The words "optical illusion" and even "hallucination" are there, which is a pretty good indicator the author isn't sympathetic with the alien agenda.
This isn't a book, but a package of valentines I found a few years ago. I don't know, but would you want to get a valentine that shows a big-eyed, insectlike alien and says, "I've got my eyes on you, valentine!" Brrr. Shudder.
That imagery repeats itself on this box of fruity snacks called Wildfruit UFOs. I saw the box and said, "OK, I'll bite." The snacks were good, too, and I hung onto the box.More later. Ciao for now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Enough To Give You Nightmares...

Do people get abducted, taken into flying saucers, have foreign objects inserted into their orifices while scary-looking little men with big black eyes conduct scary tests? If I'd heard those stories when I was a kid I'd have been even more paranoid than I already was. I had more than my share of nightmares about things that spooked me.

Buy hey…what about you? How about a little story about you during your childhood? You're 10-years-old, and you're with your mom and your 5-year-old sister at the library. You don't want to be there, it's a nice summer day. Mom is looking at CDs and books from Oprah's Book Club. Your little sister is in the preschool area, listening to a nice lady read a Dr. Seuss book. You're walking amongst the shelves of the kids' books when your eye is caught by this book. There's a cover painting of a flying saucer with a ray coming out of it, zapping a man by a car! Cool! You take the book over to the reading table.

Flipping through the book you start to get a little unnerved. Here's a painted illustration of some weird-looking little guys standing over a guy on an operating table. What's that thing sticking out of his head while he screams in pain?

You turn the page quick. Then there's an illustration of some dead cows with their lips cut off. Yow.

Then you see an illustration of a lady on a table, with the weird guys little around her, and according to the caption, they are removing a "humanoid fetus" from the lady. Turn the pages, quick.

Yikes! Here's the lady, holding what looks like one of the weird little guys only it's a baby! The little guys are standing around her. She's holding it like her own baby!

You quickly flip back the pages, thinking, this might've been a mistake to take this book off the shelf. Then you see it, the picture that will be in your head for years to come:

You slam the book shut, run over to Mom who is gathering up your little sister, getting ready to check out her books and CD's. She says, "Find something you like, honey?"

"Heck, NO!" you shout. People look at you.

That night you find it hard to get to sleep because of the images in your head from that awful book. You finally fall asleep but wake up after a disturbing nightmare about little guys with big eyes, holding you down on an operating table. You know they're about to do something to you and you force yourself to wake up. In the darkness you are afraid to open your eyes, afraid that something might be in the room with you. You find you cannot move your head off your pillow. It is drenched with sweat and you are moaning softly in agony. Why, oh why did you have to look at that awful scary-ass book? Suddenly you hear a noise. The door is creaking open. Omigosh, you think. It's those little men, come to take you into their spaceship. You open your eyes enough to see a silhouette of a small person, the nightlight behind it.

You suddenly start to scream. You open your mouth and you let loose with a yell that can be heard for blocks, for miles, hell, on the moon! The little person who is silhouetted shrieks at the sound of your scream, and then you realize it's just your little sister. You hear feet hitting the floor in your parents' bedroom. In come Mom and Dad, your light goes on, you are sitting in the middle of the bed, hyperventilating. Mom and Dad see that you've had a nightmare and try to calm you down. Mom even takes your soggy pillowcase and changes it for you. Then they lead your little sister back to bed, and after some soothing talk they switch off your light.

You lie there for the rest of the night, those pictures from that book going through your mind. You are thinking about the little blond boy in the barn with the awful outer space guy right behind him, a cruel look on his face. He doesn't mean that little kid any good, and the kid doesn't know what's coming! You sure wouldn't want that to be you! "Help me, God," you moan.

Dawn comes a couple of hours later and you've never been so glad for daylight in your life. You are tired, but your mom calls you downstairs for breakfast. You can hear a CD in her player. You notice a CD cover on the table and glance at it. Best Of The Byrds, it says. Huh! The Byrds! One of those corny old '60s groups your mom and dad like. You try your best to ignore it but the lines of a song they are singing register on your brain: "Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along? I won't do anything wrong. Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along for the ride."

You sit at the table and think, "Oh yeah…go along with a spaceman. I don't think so. That idea is strictly for the Byrds."

P.S. The blurb on the back of the this book just to show that it is intended for children:


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interstellar Fellers

More from the files of Flying Saucer Week at Paranoia Strikes Deep:

I was joking with a coworker one day. He had a t-shirt with an image of an alien on it: the big head, the big eyes, pointed chin. I said, "The government has released this image so it'll become popular. Then they'll spring the big surprise on us and bring out the real aliens."

His response was, "Stop it, man. You're scaring me."

Years ago I read some pundit say that the image of the small gray alien with the big eyes and big head could be traced to the 1975 TV movie, The UFO Incident, about the alleged abduction of couple Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. Actually, the small gray alien image goes back a ways further than that. I found this drawing in Flying Saucers Comics #2, dated July, 1967.This is the image that has been locked onto as the occupant of UFOs, though, in the past few years.

Author Whitley Streiber has made an industry out of this alien's image and public familiarity with tales of alien abductions. His book, Communion, about his own "abduction," was a bestseller, and he's followed up with other books along the same lines.
He's even written a fictional account of the alleged UFO crash near Roswell, New Mexico, in July, 1947.
I'm not exactly sure what the origin of "the alien" was. It goes back further than the references I have. It has the distinct look of a fetus with the huge head and huge eyes. It goes back to some primal image of ours.

I'm not a believer in little gray aliens, or alien abductions. I think people who come forward with such stories have either a need for attention or a psychosis. The media has jumped right on the idea of abductions, though. The public, in its most unimaginative state, has formed many of its ideas from TV programs like The X-Files or a movie like Fire In The Sky. The medical experiments part of the abduction sounds like something out of World War II Nazi prison camp experiments. Or my last prostate exam. Medical procedures are scary enough to people, but put those fears in a space ship with a bunch of little goggle-eyed gray guys doing anal probes and implanting devices in your nose, and the fear factor goes off the charts. And I'll bet the grays don't even have Medical School diplomas.

More later. Ciao for now.

Monday, June 25, 2007

When They Come From Space

This is a continuation of yesterday's (June 24, 2007) blog, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the flying saucer sighting over the Cascade Mountains. It's caused interest for the past six decades.

It isn't much of a coincidence that flying saucer sightings were more numerous after World War II than before. War tends to make people hyper-sensitive. And it didn't help that our introduction to the war was by an invasion from the sky. According to some, there were UFO sightings before the war, but if there were, they must've caused no real impact. This picture purports to be from 1927. It looks fake to me. What do you say?
In 1947 especially, paranoia was rampant in America. Communism. Atom bombs. House Un-American Activities Committee. Yikes! What are we gonna do? Why, we're going to look to the skies, see if we can spot one of them there flyin' saucers. I think they're to blame.

Or they're here for benevolent reasons, or even for observation. Or they might be here for nefarious purposes, like invasion and taking over. While we worried about the commies taking over Europe, the public also got to worry about the Martians coming in and zapping our asses with ray guns. We knew how to fight the Russians. But how do you manage to fight a war with spacemen and their unknown technology?Several movies followed a theme of paranoia, but one, 1950's The Day The Earth Stood Still, showed the aliens as here in our best interest. The rest of the movies were very much about invasion from space. That wasn't anything new. H.G. Wells wrote The War Of The Worlds at the end of the 19th Century when we had even less defenses than we did after World War II.

If there's anything we're scared of, insects, global warming, serial killers or invasion from outer space, you can bet that Hollywood is there to make a movie playing on those fears. And you can bet we're going to line up at the box office, too. In 1956, Earth Vs The Flying Saucers was released. The effects were by stop-motion animation wizard Ray Harryhausen, so it's the most technically interesting of the 1950's space-invasion movies. t wasn't until Steven Spielberg's 1977 Close Encounters of the Third Kind that a really popular movie showed aliens coming in peace. The movie was very influential, but for the most part, though, when people thought of flying saucers at all they thought outer space, they thought aliens, they thought sinister purposes or impending invasion.

It also served their purposes to think that there was a big secret being hidden by our government. The government could operate outside of our interests. Our government had hidden the atom bomb until it was dropped on Japan, so why not hide the fact of outer space aliens? The government's own trend toward secrecy hasn't helped it, either. People with agendas can come forward with "official" top-secret documents or wild tales of riding in flying saucers, courtesy of the U.S. government. They might tell stories of meeting aliens living at Area 51 in the Nevada desert, and the government won't acknowledge the stories by saying if they're false or true.

That paranoid fear alone is enough to keep some people watching the skies.

More later!

Ciao for now.
The Mars Attacks cards were bubblegum collectibles in 1962, painted by illustrator Norman Saunders. They fit in perfectly with the invasion fantasy. Click on the smaller pictures for full-size images.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Flying Saucers!

Today is the 60th anniversary of the start of the Flying Saucer Flap of the Twentieth Century. On June 24, 1947, pilot Kenneth Arnold spotted a flight of crescent-shaped objects over the Cascade Mountains of Washington. His description of their flight, "like stones skipping over water," gave some reporter the notion to create the term flying saucers. Nowadays we lump sightings like Arnold's under the overall designation of "UFO," but it's the name flying saucers that caught and held the public's imagination.

Some people have speculated that Arnold saw a flight of birds, specifically pelicans, maybe geese. I don't know. I would assume that Arnold, being a pilot and retired military, would have been a trained observer, but even trained observers can have their eyes fooled under certain conditions. I can't believe he would come forward with such a story, risking ridicule, if there was even the most remote chance what he saw was a flock of birds, but what did he see? Nobody knows, but an enterprising magazine editor named Ray Palmer saw a golden opportunity to sell magazines with stories of flying saucers. The public snapped them up, feeding into the great promotional myth-machine that is American publishing.

Do I believe in flying saucers? I'm a skeptic: in religion, governments and flying saucers. I had my own experience with a flying saucer at age 9, and now believe my childish mind was tricked by suggestion from a friend. I believe that the psychology behind flying saucer devotees keeps them hanging on to a dream that someday we'll all know the truth about UFOs, and that they'll be proved right for their long-held beliefs. As for me, well, I know there are lots of things in the skies that look like other things, so let's just say that if a flying saucer lands and little gray men get out and greet us I might be persuaded to believe. It's been 60 years and despite a lot of wild stories and individual claims--and a bunch of fuzzy and easily faked photographs--no one has ever been able to prove to my satisfaction that there are flying saucers zipping around in our skies...
...or that they are from space, from the hollow world at the center of the Earth, from Atlantis, time machines from our future, on and on, etc., etc.

What I do like about flying saucers is their place in our popular culture. I've spent years collecting things that relate to them, and I'll be showing them here over the next few days.

In the earliest days of flying saucer mania, the trick was to persuade people that the phenomenon was real. There were a lot of folks back then, as now, who found the whole thing hard to believe.

The first issue of Fate Magazine, in 1948, founded and edited by the aforementioned Ray Palmer, had a very fanciful cover illustration of the Arnold sighting. Other books, by authors like Major Donald E. Keyhoe, endlessly repeated stories of alleged flying saucer sightings. Authors like George Adamski had some sort of personal agenda, and perpetrated hoaxes of contact with aliens. It was up to the individual as to how to process this sort of "information."

Flying saucers quickly found their way into popular culture. Comics were very popular in the early days of the flap, so they capitalized on the visual images of flying saucers. One comic book, Weird Science-Fantasy, had the audacity to "challenge" the Air Force! Even in those days the government was seen as the enemy of knowledge, holding back information about the mysterious craft. I'm sure this comic book got a big laugh in the Pentagon.

More later!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Be A Nartist

I found this ad in a 1957 Mechanix Illustrated magazine. Those magazines were aimed at guys; guys who liked to do things, or at least read about doing them. Something you didn't often see in the pages of this type of journal was the softer stuff; how to be an artist was among the subjects you wouldn't find. It didn't stop the art school from advertising, though.

I noticed something over the years: When showing an artist, advertising invariably showed the artist drawing or painting a girl. Not just any girl, but a girl in a bathing suit. A pin-up girl, a sexy girl. This is as subtle as a brick upside the head: artists got to draw girls. Sometimes nude girls. That'd be enough to entice some guys to part with some money for the course.

When I went to art school I remember thinking that we'd be drawing from a live model, some cute chick, but the model they provided for us was a male dancer who was past his prime. He was quite wrinkled in the face, but his physique was still good for his age. I don't think they'd invite him to dance in the ballet again, though. Anyway, no nude girls for us. Just some tired-looking over-the-hill gay guy.

The Twentieth Century was the time of the artistic pin-up, from the Gibson Girl of the earliest years of the century to the calendar girls, drawn by commercial illustrators like Gil Elvgren or Peter Driben. Around the time this ad for the art school was published in Mechanix Illustrated the pin-up art was beginning to fade and wind down. The magazines were going like Playboy, with photo covers. Not like these really cute Driben covers from the late 1940s-early 1950s.

Click on pictures for full-size images.Paintings of girls in cheesecake poses acting coy and coquettish were replaced by photos of real-live girls. Or as real as an airbrush makeover by a photo retoucher could be. The painted pin-ups looked way more appealing to me. I knew they were idealized females; the Playboy models were idealized, also; their photos were doctored, but not so the readers would know. As far as the young men who read Playboy were concerned, women had no moles or warts, no scars or varicose veins. Not in those pictures, anyway.

An artist can put in or take out what he wants. The photographer works with what he has.

As far as being a commercial artist who gets to stand at an easel, posing pretty girls the way he wants them, that seems to be something from the past. He replaced his brushes with a camera, and his canvas for a computer monitor.

Ciao for now.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dance Around The Coffee Pot

I guess I drink a lot of coffee. Is a pot a day a lot of coffee? Lord knows I've gotta have something that can keep me going, and sometimes a cup is enough and sometimes even a pot isn't. Yesterday was one of those days. I caught myself conking out at a stoplight, waking up in time for the light to turn green.

I drove to the nearest convenience store. That isn't far. Any good-sized city and you can find one on just about any corner. I found a Phillips 66 and headed right for the coffee pot. I noticed they have something they call Wake Up! Coffee with extra caffeine. OK, that's what I needed. I'm happy to report that I was wide awake after that, able to get through my afternoon without falling asleep at the wheel.

Even a coffeehead like me needs that extra jolt now and again.


"Dance Tonight" by Paul McCartney, his latest release, is what I'd call Lesser Paul, pop with a really great hook, but not enough of whatever it is that puts a song into the Greater Paul category. It's catchy enough, though, and anything its got going for it is made better by this video. I like the ghostly figures dancing around, I like the sound of the mandolin, and Paul's voice sounds…well, like Paul!

Paul is (now literally) the Grand Old Man. He's gone with YouTube as a vehicle, which is smart. Go where the customers are. This is the official video of "Dance Tonight" from his official production company.

Cup of tea? Or how about a cup of coffee?

Ciao for now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Contort this!

These pictures would probably go under the heading of "Things You're Probably Not Likely To See Again," but then I noticed there are several websites devoted to contortionists. You might stumble on one of them, just as I did. God bless the InternetAfter looking at these pictures I need to take a Tylenol Arthritis Strength. My back hurts.

Ciao for now.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Beard

Someone I've worked with for 30 years asked me when I grew my beard. They've never seen me without it. I grew it in October, 1973. A month before I grew it I was clean shaven, but I was a beard.

[Note: All of the names in this story are fictitious to spare the innocent and keep me out of trouble with the guilty.]

I was in San Francisco in September, 1973, visiting an old friend, Calvin. Cal was a hustler, a guy who knew a lot of the local artists I admired. It was the heyday of underground comix, the San Francisco posters were just starting to be seriously collected and Calvin was searching out artists and trading for their work. The reason I was in SF was because Cal and his wife Terri were divorcing, and the plan was for me to drive Terri and her kids back to Salt Lake in her car. For that reason I took a Greyhound bus to the Bay Area.

Al said to me, "Hey, it's Roger Crump's birthday. Would you like to go meet him?" Would I!

Roger Crump was and is one of the most famous of the underground comix artists who came out of San Francisco in the hippie era of the 1960s. I'd been familiar with his work before he was well known, through his appearances in Help! magazine, a satirical publication. I really loved his cartooning style. That day in September was Roger's 30th birthday.

We drove to his house on Brazil Street. Crump shared his pad with his friend Kerry and Roger's then-girlfriend, Katy. Cal introduced me to Roger. He also told Roger he was divorcing his wife and she'd be going with me to Salt Lake. Crump looked at me incredulously: "Your wife is going with him?" Cal corrected the assumption that I was running off with Terri. Crump thought Terri was very sexy. She had all of the features he drew into his cartoon women: tall, small busted, big firm butt, thick legs and ankles. I knew Cal to be a real hustler, and also knew he had pimped his wife to Roger to get some of Crump's original artwork. It worked, too. When Crump would go to Cal's house he'd have Terri wear tight hot pants (an old time version of short-shorts) and black knee-high spike-heeled boots. Crump was putty in the hands of such devious people.

Calvin began talking with Katy and told me, "Keep Roger busy!" then left the room with her. Say what? Keep him busy? Roger was completely ignoring me. I sat in an armchair petting Roger's cat, while Roger sat on the edge of a bed with his back to me, going through his collection of old 78 records. I enjoyed listening to the funky sounds. I still like Crump's choice of early Twentieth Century jazz, blues, hillbilly music. But keeping him busy I wasn't. Roger was busy picking out a tune on his banjo.

A little while later Cal and Katy reappeared. Crump asked us to drive him somewhere. He gave Cal and me each a copy of his latest comic book and off we went. I don't remember ever speaking with him, and he didn't give me any indication he wanted me to speak to him. We dropped him off and that was the last time I saw him in the flesh. Nowadays he's world famous, a hundred times more famous than he was then, but to me, even in his salad days, I felt in such total awe that I knew I was in way over my head. I knew he was shy, didn't like strangers, and I'm exactly the same way. I didn't want to impose myself on him.Later I found out a couple of things. One, Terri changed her mind. She still divorced Cal, but she decided to stay in California. So, no car trip. I took a bus back to Salt Lake. The second thing I found out was that Cal was having an affair with Roger's girlfriend. They had gone off for some illicit activity while we were there. I thought it was a big deal; that the disclosure of that affair would hurt Cal, hurt Katy. As it turned out, Crump got married, but not to Katy. He and his wife now live in France and came to the U.S. a few months ago to promote a book. They gave an interview where I found out that they have an open marriage. It's so open they announce it to the whole world. So there was probably no secret in Cal's affair with Katy, because Roger, according to his wife, has no jealousy in him whatsoever. Well.

Here's the interview from NPR about Mr. and Mrs. Crump's open marriage.

Oh yeah…I mentioned that I was a beard. Woody Allen used that term a few times in his movies. A beard is a stand-in. A beard is a guy who runs interference for someone engaged in an act he doesn't want identified with him. For many years I thought in this case I was a beard. I found out I was more of a goatee, or maybe just more of a goat.
Ciao for now.