Friday, February 28, 2014

Down the Rabbit Hole

[Warning: Some of this post will read like the bad fiction you find for free on Amazon, but trust me when I say that I am not capable of making this stuff up. So come on Alice; don't be afraid....]

When I was growing up, we had some family out in Arizona near Phoenix. My dad's sister (Aunt Marie), her husband (Uncle Charlie) and three kids had lived out there since I was old enough to know such things. At the time (late 1960's and early 1970's) the distance from Flint, Michigan to Phoenix was approximately the same as the distance from Flint to the dark side of the moon. Contact was limited to the occasional letter or card, and the annual Christmas-morning phone call. My parents twice drove out to visit them; the first time in the early 1960's before I was born, then again in either 1970 or 1971 when I was around six or seven years old. That was the only time I met Uncle Charlie. At the time, he was recovering from a recent stroke and spent most of our visit in his favorite chair. Later, I would be regaled with stories of all the crazy (and illegal) places he had taken my parents and sister during their first visit: hidden valleys, caves, old mines, pueblos, and so on. But who I met was a kindly "old" man (younger than I am now, but when you're six, anyone past third grade is "old") who seemed to live in his chair and was a bit awkward around a young boy.

I was also told that Uncle Charlie was... well... eccentric. He was a fair artist; there were rumors that GM had once offered him a serious sum of money for his drawings of cars of the future. He was also a writer, although my parents never seemed to know what he wrote about, or where, or if, any of his writings had ever been published. I never saw any of this, but I was assured it was all very "weird". In my young mind, that fit, as my Aunt Marie was a reverend in the Spiritualist Church. Aunt Marie and Uncle Charlie = weird. Got it. In a fundamentalist Baptist house, that isn't just something said with a wink and a knowing smile. That is an indictment of the most serious kind. I was being warned.

Sometime in the late 1970's, we received word that Uncle Charlie had divorced Aunt Marie, packed up all his writings and artwork, and vanished. At some point in the early 1980's, my Aunt Marie received a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Uncle Charlie's widow. She informed my aunt that Charlie was dead, but refused to offer any details about where, when, how or what Uncle Charlie had been up to in the years since he'd pulled his Houdini on his family. There were a few rumors that he may have died of a heart attack or maybe was stung to death by bees. That he had died while climbing Superstition Mountain (one of his favorite haunts) or may somewhere in New Mexico. Or maybe Mexico. Or....

No one knew anything or who might know anything, so that was where things stood for over three decades.

A couple months ago, I had purchased a stack of books by John Michael Greer. I first encountered JMG thanks to someone posting a link to his blog, The Archdruid Report, on Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor website. I had already read most of JMG's current peak oil books and decided to try some of his less-mainstream books on magic, the occult, UFO's, monsters, and so on. One of those books was his Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies. The entries on men named Shaver and Palmer, and others on various beliefs centered on beings living underground started some serious itching in the back of my brain. I asked my parents a few questions, then spent time on the Googles. This is what I've dug up so far. Understand that this is from the internet, which isn't always the best source for facts, and that the people with these "facts" hold beliefs that most would find... okay; "weird" is as good a word as any. Here we go:

The early to mid 1900's was the heyday of pulp science fiction magazines with titles like Astounding, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Startling Stories. One of them, Amazing Stories, was struggling financially until a new editor by the name of Ray Palmer began running stories by Richard S. Shaver about ancient humans he called the Deros and Teros, living deep underground and controlling humans via telepathy. Magazine subscriptions soared. Then Palmer dropped a bombshell: All the Shaver stories were true. Subscriptions exploded, but there was also some grumbling that Palmer was taking the magazine off the deep end. Palmer ended up starting several magazines that focused on Shaverism (that article is in German, but Wikipedia will translate it to passable English), Ufology, etc, while moving Amazing Stories back towards pulp sci-fi.

Enter stage left: Uncle Charlie, or as he is known in Shaverite circles, Charles A. Marcoux. He was a true believer. The drawing at the top of this post is one he made of two Teros he encountered on the corner of S. Saginaw St. and Union in Flint, Michigan while leaving the Thom McAn shoe store. You can read the entire story in his own words from an article published in Fate, another of Palmer's magazines. Just to give you a taste:

Soon, the light changed, and as they crossed the street they passed within six feet of me. I decided to walk over to them, while I searched for the right words to start a conversation. Try as I may, my body would not respond to what I wanted to do and to what my mind was telling it to do. In those few seconds when they passed so close to me, their eyes did not waver right or left, and their thoughts left a mark in my mind. They seemed to say, "Guard your thoughts from unfriendly rays."

I was stunned and speechless as I helplessly watched them go up the street with the crowd of Christmas shoppers. At that moment, I was again able to move, just as they seemed to merge into the crowd and disappear. Hastily I walked after them, and I assure you that I could have caught up with them, but try as I may I just couldn't find them. It appeared as if they became one with the other people. As I rushed to the spot where last I saw them, I psychically examined the crowd of people. The couple had simply disappeared or became "invisible" from my mind.

While still living in Flint, Uncle Charlie was also published in a non-Palmer publication called the Journal of Borderland Research. In this article, he relates being confronted by, as he calls them, Men in Black after verbally sparing with one Howard Menger after a talk Menger gave on aliens and flying discs in Flint. In Uncle Charlie's own words:

I knew it was time to stop this line of inquiry. It would he reckless to attack Merger on his chosen field of battle. I knew that if I continued, my hatred of THE SECRET EMPIRE would rile me up; so I got up and walked outside. My feeling then was that Menger was a complete hoax, or that he was a pawn of the Secret Empire, willingly or unwillingly. Obviously, the money taken in from these lectures would not pay Menger’s expenses and those of the two men in black with him, and pay for the $5,000 car they were driving. To me it was significant that their car bore New Jersey license plates. That state is a hot house of Dero control. The Cavern World is in complete control of ALL surface exchange in that area. The Cavern Bosses get much of their needs from this State.

As I left the meeting, one of the men in black, the one called Dave, followed me outside.

“Don’t you think it would be better to follow the higher contacts?” he said.

“I could have knocked loopholes in everything Menger claimed,” I replied. “I know a faker when I see one — after being in this work twenty years.”

“Then why didn’t you?” he asked.

“Wouldn’t that have been stupid — to attack him in his own field!”

“Yes, it would. You were wise, not to do so in such a large gathering.”

That was the end of it, or so I thought. The Menger meeting made me disgusted with all contactees. A few months later a car bearing Detroit license plates cane to my home in Flint. There were three men in black this time and they tried to barge in to my house, using foul, threatening language. They couldn’t scare me. I told them to get on down the road. The next thing I knew was a campaign of slander against me, from nowhere. This broke up my group. The members got scared out. They didn’t [want] anything more to do with me, just like that.

A major player in Shaverism was another Michigander named George D. Wight, who claimed that while exploring Blowing Cavern near Cushman, Arkansas, they had found an entrance to the Underworld, spent several days exploring, eventually being guided by Teros to one of their cities. Wight wrote everything up in a document called the Wight Manuscript, which made its way into the hands of good ol' Uncle Charlie. I have no proof of this as I haven't been able to nail down an exact timeline, but I suspect this was around the time Uncle Charlie disappeared from Arizona. Several years after receiving the Wight Manuscript, Uncle Charlie put together a team to explore Blowing Cavern in 1983. According to several accounts I have dug up, it was either in or near the cave that he was attacked by a swarm of bees and died from the resulting heart attack. Here is a story of Uncle Charlie's demise written by Richard Toronto published in Fate magazine in 2000:

With wife Lorene in tow, Marcoux moved to Cushman in September 1983. He made some tentative forays into the cave, preparing for the final assault once expeditionary unit members arrived. Before the team ever assembled, however, internal disagreements brought accusations from Marcoux that questioned some members' dedication to the project.

A month passed as Marcoux taunted readers in both Shavertron and The Hollow Hassle.

"I allow you to disclose the location and name of this cave, which will give your readers enough information to decide for themselves whether they want to explore it... if they have the guts."

Then, while hiking near the entrance of Blowing Cavern that November, Marcoux was attacked by a swarm of bees, bringing on a fatal heart attack. He died at the scene, leaving the handful of Blowing Cavern team members wondering what to do next.

Rumors fluttered around Marcoux's untimely -- some said mysterious -- death. Shaver had always warned that the cavern world was hidden for good reason, and that cavern dwellers liked to keep it that way.

A troubled Mary Martin conferred with a California psychic who knew nothing of Marcoux or Shaver. Martin wanted to know if Marcoux had any message to impart.

"I told [the psychic] his name and that he had died, and could she make contact with him," Martin said.

"This is the message she received: 'Tell her I am unable to find the way to the underground tunnel at this time. Tell her to look in the Cucamonga wilderness area for what she seeks. She must be very wary for the guardians are quite jealous... They won't let me talk to you anymore. They are forcing me away... help me...'"

The elusive "L" was also contacted. He said evil intent had nothing to do with Marcoux's death, but he would not elucidate. He also threatened to re assemble the old Michigan spelunking group one last time to wall up the Blowing Cavern portal to the Underworld. It had caused too much sorrow and misery already, he said.

The story of Blowing Cavern, the Wight manuscript, and Marcoux's efforts to locate the Underworld of Richard Shaver was the final nail in the Shaver Mystery's coffin.

Most active Shaver Mystery buffs had given up hope of finding proof long before Marcoux's 1983 attempt. They were facing old age and waning interest. Newcomers to the UFO/occult scene became New Agers, with new controversies to contemplate (Roswell, Area 51, Majestic 12) -- enough to distract from the Underworld of Shaver and Palmer.

That's pretty much what I have at this point. I'm in contact with a number of people who knew Uncle Charlie, and I'm chasing a lead that will hopefully uncover at least some of Uncle Charlie's journals and artwork. I've also ordered compilations of yet-another Palmer magazine titled Shavertron that Uncle Charlie wrote numerous articles for.

Little by little, the story is surfacing. I'm sure this will all consume far more time than it ought to over the coming months, but it's fun digging up information on someone who disappeared decades ago.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Camels Wrecking Christianity?

No, no, no! Not like that! Like this:
New research using radioactive-carbon dating techniques shows the animals weren't domesticated until hundreds of years after the events documented in the Book of Genesis. The research was published by Erez Ben-Yosef and Lidar Sapir-Hen, archaeologists from Tel Aviv University in Israel. They believe camels were not domesticated in the eastern Mediterranean until the 10th century B.C.

And yet, the hump-backed creatures are mentioned repeatedly alongside Abraham, Jacob and Isaac, indicating the Bible's writers and editors were portraying what they saw in their present as how things looked in the past, says a New York Times article by John Noble Wilford:
These anachronisms are telling evidence that the Bible was written or edited long after the events it narrates and is not always reliable as verifiable history. These camel stories "do not encapsulate memories from the second millennium," said Noam Mizrahi, an Israeli biblical scholar, "but should be viewed as back-projections from a much later period."

My title is completely hyperbolic as most of Christianity has accepted that the Bible is not, nor was it ever intended to be, an historic document. Remember the famous Harrison Ford line from the first Indiana Jones movie? "Archaeology is the search for fact ... not truth. If it's truth you're interested in, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is right down the hall." No religious document is about fact; they are about truth. Or if they are real ambitious, Truth. Does it really matter to the broader narratives of the Old Testament whether or not Abraham rode around on a camel? Of course not. But I'm sure that in no time, a certain corner of Christianity will loudly denounce this finding with all the usual canards about radio-carbon dating and global, anti-Christian conspiracies. Queue Pat Robertson and his New World Order in 3... 2... 1...

Thursday, February 13, 2014


[We interrupt this blog post to bring you the following important announcement:

It has come to our attention that Friday the 13th will be on a Thursday this month. Thank you.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post, already in progress.]

I haven't posted much about politics lately, mainly because I've removed myself from most sources of "news", and also because of a shift in my own thinking about where the US is headed in the long term, and how unimportant what passes for political activity in this country will prove to be even in the short term.

That said, it seems that the populist Obama we saw in the Democratic primaries has managed to wake up after being in a coma for six years. This is a small example of what people thought he meant by Hope and Change, rather than simply being a darker, younger George W. Bush with a passable jump shot:

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on Wednesday to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour starting next year and encouraged employers nationwide to increase wages for their workers.

OK, so lets get a few things out of the way right up front, then I'll explain my choice of title. 

1) This executive order isn't going to impact many people. Even the White House is saying it will only raise the pay of around 200,000 people, and will take several years even then. Hardly the stuff of economic booms. Obama's hope is to kick loose a minimum wage bill stuck in Congress.

2) Keep in mind that the term "executive order" is simply a US euphemism for "decree". As in, "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed." Not to defend what has become an unconstitutional power grab by this and many previous presidents, but do realize that, contrary to the history we teach our children, Caesars didn't come to Rome because some megalomaniac one day decided to abolish the Roman Senate and crown himself king of the world. It was the result of decades of the Roman Senate acting in ways contrary to the best interests of those they supposedly represented while voting themselves wealth and perquisites. Sound familiar? 

3) No one really knows what sort of impact a near-50% jump in the Federal minimum wage (the ultimate goal of this political stunt) will have on the economy as a whole. Obviously, people who make less than that would see an increase in their income. On the other hand, most studies show that if employers are forced to pay more, they hire older, more experienced workers rather than younger, first-timers. Or replace humans with technology. Given the difficulty that teens and 20-somethings are having finding jobs, making it harder would certainly be a downside. My own gut feeling is that if Obama were to get his way and Congress were to bump the minimum wage up to $10.10, the long-term negatives will likely exceed any short-term benefit.

So why would I call this "brilliant"?

1) This isn't about economic data or fancy graphs or worker pay vs. productivity or any of the rest of that egghead stuff. This is about the people who put Obama into office. Not the bused-in first-timers like the black woman in Detroit who celebrated Obama's victory by dancing around in front of a TV camera screaming, "Obama gonna buy me a new house! Obama gonna buy me a new car!" (I often wondered why no one ever did a follow-up interview with that poor, deluded woman....) Rather, this is about the long-time Democrats who in an act of defiance chose a populist outsider rather than the DNC's heir-apparent, Hillary, and have watched helplessly as Obama has bumbled around for six long years. This is what they were looking for; pure populist politics. Brilliant populist politics.

2) In one simple move, Obama has put a giant spotlight on our feckless Congress just as the midterm political campaigns are getting started. As Dimitry Orlov pointed out earlier this week, "according to numerous opinion polls, members of US Congress are now less popular than lice, cockroaches, colonoscopies, Hitler or Genghis Khan." Obama knows that bypassing Congress, regardless of its legality or constitutionality, will be immensely popular, especially with those who put him into office in the first place. Again, pure populist politics. Brilliant populist politics. 

3) Every business knows that immediate gratification is what drives human beings. If that wasn't true, we would all eat spinach salad for breakfast before we bicycle off to work rather than feasting on M&M's and hauling our 600-pound selves around in giant SUV's. A sharp increase in the Federal minimum wage will have an immediate, measurable, positive benefit by those directly affected vs. a long-term, amorphous, possible downside that even if it can somehow be quantified, won't happen until Obama is raising money for his presidential library. Brilliant populist politics.

Well, I have to leave things there and go do income taxes. Wheeee!!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

...And Another One

We got a phone call around midnight. Like any phone call in the middle of the night, it was not good news. My uncle had just died a few minutes earlier. He had been diagnosed with terminal cancer last winter, so it wasn't a real surprise, but this makes three funerals in six weeks. Enough already.

Which also means that my 80-odd-year-old parents are road-warrioring their way up to Michigan for the third time in six weeks. So if you see a tired-looking grey Chevy Blazer hoofing it up I-75, you may want to give it some room. If you see a tired-looking grey Chevy Blazer broke down on the side of I-75, please stop and help. Their first trip, they got held up on the way back due to car trouble. Then the last trip, they took our car up while their's was being worked on. Then as soon as they got back, they had still more work done on it. We're hoping they at least get back to Michigan before the thing craps the bed again. Their car is only a year older than ours, but it just doesn't seem very... I dunno... durable. Even when I was just tooling around Z-hills while they had our car, I felt like I was leaving a trail of debris behind me. Anyway. Something else to worry about during tax season.

Speaking of which, I'm working 7 days, but still only getting 40 hours a week. I hate working short little shifts. The problem is trying to cover all the hours the boss-man wants the place to be open with only two people, neither of which is supposed to work any overtime. Once peak season is behind us, things will normalize a bit, but even then, I'll be driving up to Wally World waaaay too often for the hours I'm getting paid for.

And then there's this:

This is what walks by my little temp-cube office. All. Day. Try focusing on doing someone's taxes when all that is walking by. Try focusing on doing someone's taxes when all that is sitting on the other side of the desk. Maybe a bunch of short little shifts ain't such a bad idea after all.

And just to completely change gears mid-post (or grind-it-till-you-find-it), here is Jon Katz's TEDTalk from a couple months back. Timely considering all the medical crap we've had to deal with lately (there's been a constant stream of not-dead-but-could-be-soon news mixed liberally with our recent funerals). Enjoy:

And that's all I have time for today, kids.