Friday, September 30, 2005

Incantation (Part 3)

Try this (you will need about ten uninterrupted minutes):

Tune your tv to a channel that is just static. Make sure it's not close to any actual transmission - it should be pure static. Turn the volume up to a comfortable level, not too loud. Sit close enough to the screen that it fills up most of your view. Now just watch attentively. In a few minutes you will start to see things. Shapes, movements at first, but then, possibly, faces, figures, objects. Soon enough you will hear voices in the static, and perhaps even music.

Go outside and look at the clouds. It doesn't take long to find a face or an animal.

Hardly a week goes by these days without a tv report about someone finding a figure of The Virgin Mary in a cheese sandwich or an image of Mother Theresa in a cinnamon bun.

It's plain to me what's going on here - we see or hear a fuzzy enough data cloud and our brains leap in and impose some order on it. I imagine that once long ago when we were all living in the long grasses on the veldt, this capability came in mighty useful in picking out the shape of a hungry predator camouflaged in the shadows.

The whole thing comes unstuck though when there is actually nothing in the data but noise. Given a sufficient motivation, we can find pretty much anything we want in that chaos.

If it's a case of lying on the grass looking at the clouds and playing 'Find Elvis' we pretty much understand it for what it is. Occasionally though, some suggestible people start to believe that it can't just be randomness and that there is a message there, typically from God or the spirit world, trying to get through to us.

It's instructive to listen to some EVP recordings without reading what the 'voices' are meant to be saying. The CD I mentioned in the last post The Ghost Orchid has a large selection of recordings of alleged spirit communications. The first time I listened to it, I couldn't hear any sensible words at all in the faint voice-like sounds. Sure, they sound like voices (mostly...), but to my ear, just static-affected grabs of partially tuned radio signals. I could make a stab at what they might be saying, but I wouldn't wager my house on any of it. Reading the transcriptions, though, like reading the transcriptions in Breakthrough is very instructive. It is clear that most of the content in these messages is coming from the mind of the interpreter rather than anything the voices are 'saying'. In some cases, what I am being told the voices are saying does not in any way sound to me like what I am hearing.

I like ghost stories, but I don't believe in ghosts. I think that the fact that large numbers of people are convinced they have been abducted by aliens is fascinating, even though I don't believe for a moment they have. I find the fin de siecle obsession with Spiritualism endlessly intriguing but I don't think there is a life after death. I thought the whole 'Crop Circle' phenomenon was wonderful, but I didn't for an instant think that the circles were being made by extraterrestrials. What interests me is not so much these phenomena per se, but the people involved with them.

Human beings are amazing in the breadth of their capacity to be fooled. More than that, we want to be fooled, which is why it is so easy. Ask any magician.


Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

I want to be fooled? Okay; "I can assimilate that."*

* Way-obscure TV reference my mind somehow manages to keep within easy reach. I think. Could be a false memory; I get those.

October 01, 2005 12:47 PM  
Anonymous anne arkham said...


October 02, 2005 1:49 AM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

Well, you're right about one thing. The crop circles weren't aliens. They were all me. Betcha didn't see that coming, did ya?

October 02, 2005 11:29 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

The Cow is All Seeing, Joe.

October 02, 2005 6:38 PM  
Anonymous UniversalHead said...

I thought of this post, and about the human desire to see patterns where none exist, today. Last night before I saw the wonderful 'Serenity' at the cinema I bought, on special, the first two Crowded House CDs. I was looking at the covers today and thinking about what a tragic waste it was that the drummer Paul Hester had taken his own life. Then it struck me that Hester is portrayed in ways on both CD covers that are distinctive and - if you saw patterns - strangely prophetic. On the first album he floats above the other two band members in the pose of a saint and with angel wings on his back. On the second he is painted upside down and behind the painted curtains, while Nick Seymour and Neil Finn are right way up and in front.

Coincidence? Of course it is. But if you were one of the people who thought that Paul McCartney really did die in 1969 and the Beatles left a string of clues in their songs and on their album covers to point to the fact, then this kind of thing would be right up your conspiracy theory alley ...

It's easy to extrapolate this innate human desire to explain how the world's religions began. Lightning hits a tree. Some people see a bush burning. Others see a pattern.

October 02, 2005 11:02 PM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

The Cow is All Seeing, Joe.

It sounds to me that what you're trying to say is - You're a lying sack of crap, Joe. There's no way that you could have pulled off the crop circles. You would have been something like 12 years old at the time. Stop this nonsense or The Cow is going to have to put you to pasture.

Oh well. I gave it a shot.

October 03, 2005 12:44 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

The Cow says:

I always thought you were a very gifted 12 year old, Joe...

Oh, and 'moo'.

October 03, 2005 7:38 AM  
Blogger Joe Fuel said...

You know, I never thanked you for filling me in on this song.

Thanks. I feel enlightened and honored. Now I just have to get the time to figure out what's going on with the rest of the CD. Like, which songs ARE love songs...

Thanks again.

October 05, 2005 11:12 PM  
Blogger Radioactive Jam said...

I've been thinking off and on for days, trying to remember the stupid name of the stupid movie that goes with Anne Arkham's comment. Blanking every time. Then last night within the droning verbiage offered by some TV talking head to which I'm paying no attention at all, I hear The Word. Click.

All better now.

October 06, 2005 7:22 AM  
Blogger anaglyph said...

Joe: Yes, there are love songs. Float is a love song, albeit a song about unrequited love. Opal is a song about love...

RJ: Too many of those radioactive donuts. Not good for the synapses.

October 06, 2005 10:08 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

i stared at the static image on your site, and it turned into a bunch of people running.

I think it's worthwhile, making the universe have meaning. It's so big, we gotta do something to tie our little worlds into it.

October 22, 2005 11:47 PM  

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