Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Unified Field Theory of the Paranormal

My best friend was a master at the "come hither" look. He could sit in a bar, stare at a girl in a certain way, and in most instances he would establish a contact that often led to... well, let's just say that it led to "something". I remember once betting him a pint beer that he couldn't get a particular girl to notice him. He went even further.

"Make it a pitcher of Stella Artois," he said, "and I'll have her and her friend at our table in ten minutes."

That seemed to be too good a deal to pass up, because while I didn't think he could do it, the girl's friend was cute and I had no problem playing wingman, so I took the bet. Seven minutes later, I was ordering him a pitcher of beer... and buying a couple of drinks for the girls, who had come over to our table without my friend saying a word to them, or motioning, or anything like that. He just looked at them in that certain way of his, and by doing so he changed the course of events. I could never do it myself - I would almost always look away at the pivotal moment, and even if I didn't look away, I could never quite read the "signs". Indeed, years later I wrote a song about the experience (and other related things).

This is, in its own way, akin to the observer effect - when you observe something, you invariably change it.

The theoretical physics of all of this is far beyond my proverbial "pay grade", so I'm not going to use the word "quantum" here - it's something that's tossed about far too frequently by people who don't understand what it truly represents in all its facets (including me). But we can see the basic principle that observation changes behaviour in the real world, without getting into theoretical physics. The example of my friend in the bar is amusing, but a far more concrete and pervasive example comes from my own work as a documentary filmmaker, and "reality" television, where the first rule of thumb is that as soon as you point a camera at someone, you will almost invariably change their behaviour. People react to being observed.

Many documentary filmmakers tend to look down on "reality" television as some kind of abomination on the grounds that it's not an accurate representation of reality, because such shows are often heavily scripted, and even if they're not, how can you expect someone like Gene Simmons tor Rick Harrison to behave the same way he normally would without a camera crew following him around. But here's the question that needs asking: what is reality, and what is normal? We change our behaviour all of the time, in both big ways and small ways, based on our interactions with others, or based on being observed. All that "reality" television does is create a different reality than the one which might have existed had the cameras not been there, but either reality would have largely been structured according to people dealing with other people in some way. It is an observed reality regardless, just as any "traditional" documentary is based on an observed reality, and the filmmaker's ultimate presentation and interpretation of that reality.

History shows us that you don't even need other people to have an observed reality where behaviour is constantly influenced and changed. All one has to do is read the diaries of Christians throughout the years to see that even the belief that they were being observed by God was enough to significantly influence their actions (indeed, an atheist might posit that the whole idea of God was introduced as a behavior control mechanism, but that's a debate for another day). In essence, a God that observes, and from time to time interacts in some way with humanity, as many people believe happens, is no different than a camera crew and writer working on a "reality" television series. What was Jesus and the crucifixion but the ultimate plot change in the "story"? Indeed, if it all happened now, it would probably look something like this:

In short, we live in an "observed reality", where our actions are constantly influenced by the awareness of being observed, whether this "awareness" is conscious, or unconscious (it's worth noting that the observers are increasingly artificial in nature, like the pervasive video cameras that we see on almost every street corner in most North American cities these days).

The tricky bit, as my friend knew was the case with women, is whether one can actually control the change induced by the observer effect, and therefore control people's behaviour, as opposed to generating a random effect that just changes their behaviour in unpredictable ways. My friend didn't just want anything to happen when he looked at the girl in the bar - he wanted a particular result. Accordingly, he looked at her in a particular way. If it had been someone like me, who was less adept at "the look", the likelihood of getting the desired result would have been much lower (trust me on this one).

All of which is to say that I think Jacques Vallee was essentially right. Vallee proposed that there is a genuine UFO phenomenon which has been active throughout human history, and which  appears in various forms to different cultures. In his opinion, the intelligence behind the phenomenon has been engaged in social manipulation by using deception on the humans with whom they interact. In essence, we have been living in their reality show. 

I would go further than Vallee, however, and suggest that all paranormal phenomena are interrelated, and a manifestation of the same non-human intelligence. Thus, ghosts and UFOs, for example, are simply different ways of trying to achieve the same effect. Sometimes this has taken a "world historical" form, as in the appearance of a "cross in the sky" to Constantine the Great at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, or Kenneth Arnold's UFO sighting in 1947, but most of the time it takes the form of little moments in the day-to-day lives of people, some of which might be noticed, but most of which are not, at least not on a conscious level (something like "deja vu" or a string of coincidences falls into the latter category). But somewhere, deep inside all of us (even the atheists), I think there is a feeling that we're being "watched", and an awareness that there is something out there which for whatever reason is influencing us to some degree, and for some unknown reason.

I think this is the "Unified Field Theory" of what we call the "paranormal". Shakespeare said it best: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

If all of this is true, however, then the question that remains: why would a non-human intelligence would engage in such activities. Are we simply actors, playing a particular role set out for us by the NHI... or are we also the writers and directors, and the NHI is the producer, providing us with the stage so that we can exercise our own creativity in our own way.

It's a question of being controlled versus free will, and it's the central existential question of human history. it's also the fundamental question that anyone interested in the "paranormal" needs to be asking.

Paul Kimball

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Coincidental Theme Music

Given the spooky run of coincidences I'm on right now, which is sort of like a no-hitter in progress, I thought I would post a spooky piece of "theme" music. Here is the tremendously talented Canadian composer Heather Schmidt performing "Solus" on the second season of The Classical Now, the television series I wrote, produced and directed back in 2004 and 2005 for Bravo.

You can find out more about Heather and her work at her website. Interestingly, she has a keen interest in remote viewing!

Paul Kimball

Coincidences, Cookies, Kids and the Duck That Won The Lottery

Tonight, foot loose and fancy free in Hollywood, I wandered over to the Farmer's Market for dinner, after which I was planning on going to see Thor at The Grove theaters. Yes, I know - hardly living "la vida loca", but my reputation as a bad boy is a bit... overstated.

Anyway, after I finished dinner and walked up to the theater, I took a look at the massive crowds inside at the ticket lines, and decided to give it a pass. Instead, I headed into the Barnes & Noble next door to read a few graphic novels, and browse a few other sections.

I spent about twenty minutes reading through Superman: New Krypton, Vol. 3 (quite good!), and then walked down a couple of aisles to the New Age section, where I leafed through a few books, including Nick Redfern's new book The Real Men in Black, and Mark Pilkington's Mirage Men, because I wanted to have another look at the section he wrote about my friend, Walter Bosley.

After about another twenty minutes, I decided to head back to Greg's to catch the end of the Dodger's game. As I was headed to the escalator down to the main floor, I noticed the Philosophy section, and walked over to see if they had a copy of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, because I lost my old copy about a year ago, and I've been meaning to pick up a new one ever since.

I found the book, flipped through it for a minute or two, and decided to buy it the next time I was in the store. As I was about to place it back on the shelf, a scream from the next aisle over startled me - three young teens in the Manga section were laughing and carrying on as they browsed some vampire books. I gave them a bit of a stern look, because I can't abide anyone who makes a ruckus in a public place, and then I turned back to the Philosophy shelves. Due to the distraction, however, my gaze focused not on the shelf where I found Meditations, but the one above it, where a particular book caught my attention - The Duck That Won The Lottery, by British philosopher  Julian Baggini.

Now, as regular readers are aware, for years I have traveled with a stuffed duck named Zorgrot, who is sort of my company's mascot. This trip to Los Angeles is no different. Unfortunately, I've been so busy since I got here last week that I had forgotten to take Zorgy out of my knapsack until this afternoon. Just before I left for the Farmer's Market, I had taken a few photos of Zorgrot and "Kitty", the cat that I'm looking after while they're in Europe.

I thought it was a cute little coincidence that I had finally pulled Zorgy out earlier in the evening and now my attention had been drawn to a book with "duck" in the title, so I placed Meditations back on the shelf, and picked up The Duck That Won The Lottery. I opened it at random, to the first page of chapter 55 - "Chance wouldn't be a fine thing: The no coincidence presumption".

"Okay," I thought to myself, "what are the odds?"

Given the series of coincidences that I've experienced on this trip, I decided to try a little experiment. I closed the book, and put it back on the shelf. I wanted to see if this copy of the book was somehow predisposed to open at the beginning of chapter 55. I picked it up and opened it at random a dozen times, and not once did it come close to the beginning of chapter 55.

Three kids distracted me just long enough so that I would notice The Duck That Won The Lottery, which I opened at random to the chapter on coincidences, just that one time.

I put the book back on the shelf, and walked out of the store, thinking, "well, that was a weird."

On the way home, I decided to pop into Canter's Deli on Fairfax Avenue to pick up some cookies for a snack later in the evening. I ordered six chocolate chip cookies, and four little squares of some sort (they're tasty, but I'm not quite sure what they are). Now, at Canter's, the cookies aren't priced individually but by weight, so the clerk weighed them, and then rang them in. He turned to me and said: "that'll be three fifty five, sir."

Weird had just gotten weirder.

The antics of three kids had led me to notice a book with "duck" in the cover, which I then opened to chapter 55, about coincidences.

$3.55 for cookies, based on weight. If the clerk had picked a couple of different cookies for me, the price would have been different. It had to be those cookies.

I pulled out a five dollar bill, gave it to the clerk, and then asked him for a receipt, because I wanted a reminder of this coincidence, and because I wasn't sure anyone would believe me. Heck, I'm not sure I believe this run of coincidences.

3 kids.

Chapter 55, about coincidences.


Now it's getting really weird.

Paul Kimball

Friday, May 27, 2011

The LA Weirdness Continues...

The run of coincidental weirdness continues on my West coast trip with what was the strangest experience yet (see here and here for previous instances)...

I got up this morning, and decided that I would catch the bus and head out past Westwood to visit the Getty Center, which is perhaps my favourite place in Los Angeles. The afternoon was a wonderful mix of art and reflection on the grounds, about as close as you can get to a Walden moment in Los Angeles, and then I caught the bus and headed back to Hollywood. By the time I got back to Greg's apartment, it was 6:00 pm, and I was really hungry, having eaten only a package of M & M's up until that point. I decided to head over to the Farmer's Market to grab dinner and catch some Thursday night live jazz. I grabbed a book to read - at first I picked a collection of John Shirley short stories, but at the last second I switched it, and took another book, which I had been meaning to read. More on that in a bit.

The place was jumping when I got there, and the tables in the area around the stage in the West Patio was packed. I wandered off to another section where my favourite deli is located, and ordered a cheeseburger. Now usually I just get it plain - burger and cheddar cheese, and nothing else - but this time, because there were other options on the cheese, and because I was getting a bit bored with the "same old, same old", I decided to switch it up. I went with Swiss cheese. That's important.

Anyway, the burger was going to take a couple of minutes, so I grabbed a beer from a nearby bar, wandered back to the deli to pick up my burger and fries, and then headed back to the section of the Market where the jazz group was playing to see if I could find a seat there. It was still packed, but there was a table at the back of the area, near an entrance, that wasn't taken, so I moved as quickly as I could through the crowd to get it before anyone else could, which I did. I sat down, pulled the book I had brought with me out of my knapsack, placed it on the table, and then began to eat dinner.

The jazz was good, the food was better, and the beer was the best part of all after a long day of walkabouts and bus rides. As I was eating my dinner, however, an elderly couple approached my table. There were three unused seats, and over the music the woman motioned to them as if to ask whether they were taken or not. I smiled, nodded, and said "they're all yours." She returned the smile, sat down with her husband, and listened to the jazz for a bit as I finished up my food. As the band finished up their set, the man stood up and headed off to get some them some food.

I'm a friendly sort, and I always like talking to people, so I looked over at the woman and asked whether she was from Los Angeles. As soon as she spoke, I knew that she was from further away than I was - her accent was definitely European, although I couldn't quite place it. Turns out she and her husband were from... you guessed it - Switzerland!

I chuckled to myself - these random people who had sat down next to me were from Switzerland, and for the first time in months I had ordered a hamburger with Swiss cheese on it instead of cheddar. Weird.

Then it got weirder.

I asked her what they were doing in the United States, and it turns out that they come here every second year to visit their daughter, and then vacation. "Oh," I said, "that's nice. Where does your daughter live?"

"Dallas," she replied.

I immediately looked at the book on the table in front of me, the one that I had grabbed at the very last minute instead of the one that I had first picked up back at the apartment. It was Final Events by my good friend Nick Redfern, who lives in... Dallas!

Like I said... weird.

Or, as The Fixx would say:

I'm beginning to wonder if I've drifted into an alternate reality, because I'm not making this stuff up!

Paul Kimball

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Prison of the Mind

Here is a very interesting and thought-provoking lecture by Dr. Hal Puthoff, a pioneer into research about remote viewing:

The more I think about remote viewing, the more I think that it might hold the key to understanding the "paranormal", in all of its facets. Not quite a "unified field theory" of the paranormal, but a starting point to a comprehension of what our relationship might be with it, and with the world (or worlds) around us.

An interesting side note, continuing my run of coincidences on my current trip to Los Angeles (I'm cat-sitting for Greg Bishop and his wife while they're in Europe). I had set up a meeting with Walter Bosley this past Sunday for 7 pm at the sprawling Farmer's Market here in Hollywood, but he was coming into town in the afternoon and wanted to meet earlier if possible. I was fine with that, but my traveling companion Christina Cuffari had arranged to meet a friend in Culver City at 11 am, and then to return to Hollywood and meet up with Walter and I at 2:30 pm at the Market, so I wanted to make sure that I was there by no later than 2:45 pm, as she doesn't really know the area, and I didn't want to leave her hanging there.

Well, 2:00 pm came and went, with no sign of Walter. I didn't have his cell phone number, and at 2:20 pm I decided I had to head off to the Market to meet Christina, so I sent Walter a Faceook message telling him what was up, and letting him know that I would wait for him at the Market until at least 3:30 pm. I then hustled over to the Market (a 15 minute walk), and settled in to wait for either Walter or Christina.

After about ten minutes, Christina showed up, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down. Another twenty minutes or so passed, and I was getting hungry, so I popped over to the Market Grill, one of the small eateries in the Market and ordered a hamburger and fries, which the clerk told me would take about five minutes to get ready. I looked around, didn't see Walter, and went back to the table and asked Christina if I could borrow her I-phone to check Facebook and see if Walter had responded to my earlier message. Being the good friend that she is, she said yes.

Now, as people who know me are aware, I don't carry a cell phone of any sort. Never have, and I'm in no hurry to start. As a result, anytime that I use one, and try to type on the "keyboards / pads" that they have, I tend to muck it up at least once, and often more than once. In this instance, whilst trying to enter my Facebook user name and password, I made mistakes twice in a row. The third time was the charm, but the service on the phone was really slow, so I told Christina that I was going to pop over to the Market Grill to grab my food, which I figured was ready. Just as I stood up and looked in the direction of the eatery, who should walk into the busy courtyard from the entrance besides the Market Grill but Walter!

After I had introduced Walter to Christina, and picked up my dinner, we all sat down and had a chat about the sequence of events that had to have happened for Walter to be entering the courtyard just as I stood up.


Surely... unless one keeps having them, at which point one starts to wonder, just a bit.

We have so little understanding of how the human mind really works, and the things of which it might really be capable if fully developed, or even if it were developed just a bit more beyond where it is now. Perhaps there is something to these "coincidences" that we just can't see, or understand. An entirely different world out there, beyond what we can imagine, much less access with our minds, at this stage in human development.



And yet we allow our education system to falter, and pay teachers a veritable pittance to even maintain the development that we have achieved, while we pay athletes and celebrities millions upon millions of dollars to "entertain" us.

We celebrate the perfection of the human body, whether in athletics or in the more nebulously subjective area of "beauty", but we are content to stand by (or in some case actually participate) as a Holocaust of the mind and spirit is taking place. We aren't moving forward; we aren't even standing still - we're moving backwards. If we really wanted to "reveal the goddess within", then it wouldn't be "J-Lo" getting paid a small fortune to sell us beauty products that we don't really need; it would be a teacher selling kids on why they should work hard and try to excel in school, and look to the future. Now that would be an ad worth running in between the pre-fab pop segments of something like American Idol. It might almost give such a show a useful purpose.

Franklin Roosevelt hit the proverbial nail on the head when he commented that "men are not prisoners of fate, but prisoners of their own minds". Never has that been more true than it is today, when it should be the exact opposite, given our technology. But maybe that's the nature of the human condition - like the smart but lazy kid we all probably knew in high school, as a species we're happy to just coast through this life, getting by and doing okay, but in the end falling far short of our true potential (with a few notable exceptions that prove the rule, as I've noted previously).

Could just anyone access higher brain functions / power (for lack of a better term), and remote view, or perhaps receive communication from an advanced non-human intelligence? I think so. Although I suspect that as with everything else we do, some people are going to have a greater aptitude for it than others, we all have the potential to be so much more than we are - and therein lies the key to understanding everything, including what we now call the "paranormal".

But there is real danger for us here if we continue to develop technologically even as we fall behind as a society in actual knowledge and ability to think and develop (think Eloi and Morlocks) - the risk of a new and even more intractable class system, where a select few can afford the tools that would allow them to access greater "power" of the mind, while the rest of us are given a life sentence in a prison of the mind that we are building for ourselves, day by day.

The good news is that I believe it's not too late, and that we still have the "key" - if only we're willing to use it, before we lose it.

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Other Side of Paul - Eternal Kiss

I'm out in Los Angeles on a combination of business and pleasure - just signed co-production deals for two new feature films, which is always exciting - and as I was walking back from the LA Farmer's Market this afternoon, I thought I would make my first feature, Eternal Kiss, available for viewing for a while (I did this for a couple of weeks back in February).

So, here it is:

I learned a lot making this low budget feature, knowledge that I'm going to put to good use on the bigger budget projects to come. 

Speaking of filmmaking, fellow traveler and good friend Walter Bosley has started an IndieGoGo campaign to help him finish his first feature, Greenspot Road.

As is the case with Greg, Nick, and yours truly, Walter's interest in the paranormal is only a very small part of the overall picture. Proper thing!

Paul Kimball

A.D. After Disclosure - a review

During his lecture on "post-humanism" at the 2006 New Frontiers Symposium in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the late Mac Tonnies asked a critical question as he pondered whether we would make it to a post-human future (or any future, for that matter): "does humanity deserve to survive?"

The only thing more provocative than his question, which drew some raised eyebrows from the crowd, was his answer, which he gave after a short, thoughtful pause:

"I don't know."

When I look around the world today, much less at the whole of human history, I'm forced to agree with Mac in terms of his question, if not necessarily his answer (more on that below).

The truth is that we've done some amazing things in our relatively short time on this planet as a sentient species. We've built great cities, split the atom, crossed the oceans and then the skies, and eventually made our way to space.

But to what end, and at what cost?

I'm in Los Angeles right now, definitely one of those great cities that we've built, but the problem is that it's really only great for a privileged few. Poverty and homelessness is visible everywhere (except, perhaps, in the poshest neighbourhoods like Beverley Hills, where the police work very hard to make sure that the dark side of our society is kept at a safe distance, as if they were the zombies in  George Romero's Land of the Dead). And then there's the question of how we "acquired" the land to build this great city, and all the others like it - by committing genocide against the indigenous population. I'm sure there's a lovely memorial about that somewhere around here...

Midnight Oil summed it up nicely back in the 1980s with a number of songs, none of which was more direct than "Beds are Burning", but almost no-one listened to what they were saying, even as they heard the song. I remember it well, watching people on dance floors grooving and grinding and trying to get laid as the song played, and thinking to myself: "this is wrong - you need to listen." They didn't listen then. They aren't listening now.

Speaking of Los Angeles, and lovely memorials, the neighbourhood that I stay in when I'm here is predominantly Jewish.  The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is a couple of blocks away, and there's a nice statue on the corner of Fairfax and Beverley in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews during the Second World War.

However, the fact that we even have things like these reminds us of who we really are as a species, and it's not a pretty picture. For every Wallenberg, how many were there who actively participated in the Holocaust, from the top end, easy-to-identify villains like Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich, all the way through the middle management guys who made it happen like Eichmann, Wirth and Höss, to the bottom-rung minions who did the dirty work, like the recently convicted Ivan Demanjuk? Perhaps worse still, how many simply looked away - and not just in Europe?

If the Holocaust was just an isolated incident in human history, perhaps we could rationalize it in some way, but it's not. The Armenian genocide, Bosnia and Rwanda in the 1990s, the killing fields of Cambodia, the millions killed under Stalin and Mao... it's a long list, and that's just the 20th century. As Dr. Shimon Samuels, director for International Liaison of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said: "Each case is specific as a threshold phenomenon, while each also adds its unique memory as signposts along an incremental continuum of horror."

A very long and ongoing continuum of horror, and violence, and oppression, often perpetrated by people who were once victims themselves. A cycle of violence, and inhumanity.

And then there are the smaller signs that we haven't progressed one iota as a species throughout our history. The Romans had gladiators? Well, so do we.

The difference? Roman gladiators sometimes died in combat, whereas our gladiators, who have a far larger audience within our culture, die years later, but far too soon, beset by myriad medical problems incurred in the name of entertainment.

Bread and circuses, then and now.

Now, it's true that on the other side of the ledger, we've had great composers, and authors, and philosophers, and spiritual leaders, and painters, and humanitarians, and peacemakers, all of whom have worked to enhance the human condition in their own way. But I would argue that these men and women are the exception rather than the rule, and they are not the exemplars celebrated by our society.

We remember MacArthur, Patton and Rommel, and have created a cult of personality around current military leaders like David Petraeus. Ask people who Dag Hammarskjöld was, and they'll probably guess that he invented a brand of ice cream. Mozart and Bach take a back seat to the pop tart du jour. Who wants to read Kierkegaard and Wiggenstein when we can watch Dr. Phil, or Dr. Drew? Romeo and Juliet becomes Gnomeo & Juliet... and so on, and on...

Ask yourself this question - would people be better off reading Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness, or playing MadWorld?

Mac was more understanding than I am.

Where he answered that he didn't know when it comes to whether or not we deserve to survive as a species, I would answer that I do know.

As a species, we don't deserve to survive. We haven't earned that right. Maybe we never will.

None of this should stop us from trying. But it should provide us with some perspective.

Which brings me to my review of A.D. After Disclosure, by Richard Dolan and Bryce Zabel. Even if one accepts their central premise (which I do not), that extraterrestrials are here, and that the government knows about it and has kept that knowledge secret, the book is dead wrong in its conclusions. Dolan and Zabel are hopelessly optimistic to the point of wide-eyed naiveté in their view of what the human response would be. In essence, they contend that things would go on pretty much as before, only better in the long run for us once we were made aware of "the truth".

The problem is that nothing in either our history or our current make-up indicates that this would be the case.  


The book, which is well written and worth reading despite what I've just written, will find favour with the so-called "disclosure" crowd, and will probably make an entertaining movie someday. But it is fiction, because it has to be.

There will be no disclosure, not by the government, and not any aliens that have visited us (unless they are here to do us harm, in which case they wouldn't care, and would have done so by now). Both would understand one simple truth in the scenario set out by Dolan and Zabel - we're just not ready for "disclosure" as a species. As individuals perhaps, and I think that may have been happening for some time, to a select few. But a species that cannot justify its own continued existence has a very long way to go before it's ready for contact.

We can't look to a fantasy world where the space aliens arrive and save us, which is really what the "disclosure" movement is all about. We need to look to the real world, and save ourselves.

Only then will we have earned "it".

Paul Kimball

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beyond Best Evidence & The Ability To Think For Ourselves

There is now less than a month left in the fundraising campaign for Beyond Best Evidence: The UFO Enigma, and the response has been very disappointing, I'm afraid. I remain hopeful that this home stretch will see a jump that moves us further towards our goal, if perhaps not all the way there, but despite myriad radio appearances to talk about the project (and over 8,000 visitors to this site since the campaign started), and nice write-ups from folks like Greg Taylor at The Daily Grail and Greg Bishop at UFO Mystic, the support hasn't happened (note: many thanks to the hardy "band of brothers" who have contributed so far).

Crowd fundraising developed as a way for filmmakers (and other artists) to maintain an independent voice in a world where media consolidation has diminished the ability to make those voices heard. As I've said before, a film like Beyond Best Evidence, with a thoughtful and intelligent discussion about the UFO phenomenon and all of its possible facets / explanations, simply isn't going to get made in the mainstream media system these days (note: if someone can do a similar film in the same way, I'll happily admit I was wrong). Networks don't try to enlighten these days - they are solely concerned with selling advertising, and sadly, in our consumerist society run amok, that imperative has trumped any other considerations when it comes to documentary filmmaking in particular, especially where it concerns a subject like the UFO phenomenon, which has been tabloidized and commercialized virtually to the point of no return. As a result, we get "reality TV" and what the networks call "factual programming", which is about as close to Orwellian "doublespeak" as you can get.

But maybe that's the world we live in these days. Maybe people are happy to sit back, not get involved, and just digest the grey glop that the multimedia conglomerates feed them. Maybe they don't want to be challenged. Maybe they don't want to think, or confront uncomfortable subjects. Maybe they've forgotten how.

In the New York Times yesterday there was a great opinion column by Charles Blow. In "A Summer to Simmer" Blow wrote:
At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee about oil subsidies, John Watson, C.E.O. of Chevron — which reported last month that first-quarter net income rose 36 percent from the same period last year to $6.21 billion — said that “I don’t think American people want shared sacrifice. I think they want shared prosperity.” The problem is, Mr. Money Bags, that you and other corporate interests are the only ones sharing in the prosperity. For Americans on the lower end of the income spectrum, it’s all sacrifice. 
The people who run these massive corporations - like the health insurance  companies that want to raise health insurance premiums while reporting record profits for a third straight year, even as people forgo critical care - don't want an informed populace. They want slaves to the system.

But what does this have to do with the UFO phenomenon?

On the surface, nothing. But underneath, where free thought exists even in the worst of times, it has everything to do with the UFO phenomenon, because UFOs are something that can't be controlled by those giant monopolistic corporations, and the politicians who have sold their souls to those corporations. UFOS represent something subversive - possibilities that they would prefer we not think about, because if we do, then just maybe we'll start to take a different view of our world, and our lives. In short, we'll start to think for ourselves again.  

Whatever UFOs might be (including the possibility that they can all be explained in prosaic terms), just considering them in a serious and thoughtful way is dangerous to the existing order... and we live in a world where we need a lot more dangerous thinking, because we've been placed in an existential trap, and it's time we tried to find a way out.

Is Beyond Best Evidence: The UFO Enigma going to get us out of that trap? Of course not.  No film can do that, regardless of the subject matter. But it will be a small step in the right direction of reclaiming our ability to imagine a world other than the one that we've been told is the right one, and that's what I've always tried to do as a filmmaker. I don't try to encourage people to agree with me, or anyone else; rather, I encourage them to think for themselves about the world in which we live, even when their conclusions might be different than my own.

Best Evidence: Top 10 UFO Sightings from Paul Kimball on Vimeo.

I wrote at the beginning that I'm very disappointed by the response this campaign has received. The reason isn't because it will take profit away from my company (all profits from the sale of iflm will go to charity), or because I particularly want to spend months traveling and conducting interviews and then editing the film (not exactly the most profitable use of my time and talents), but because I think the film would be important, on a number of levels not just related to the specific question of "what are UFOs?"

Those are the kinds of films that I think should be made. The disappointment stems from the fact that not very many people seem to agree with me...yet. I'm asking for your help over the remaining 27 days to change that, so that we can move forward together,  to raise a little hell.

Words of wisdom from some fellow Canadians!

Paul Kimball

Friday, May 20, 2011

The "Madness" of Peter Gersten

In a recent blog post titled Flying Saucers and the Descent Into Madness, Anthony Bragalia identified four people loosely associated with "ufology" as being crazy, one of whom is Peter Gersten.

Gersten, perhaps best known as the "UFO Lawyer" for his work with Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS) to have various classified government documents released, has in recent years become focused on his belief that we are living in a computer simulation, which is set to either terminate or change in some way in 2012.

Bragalia pegged Gersten as someone who has descended into madness because of Gersten's publicly-stated plan to jump from Bell Rock in Sedona, Arizona, at 11:11 UT on Dec, 21, 2012 (4:11 am in Sedona), which Gersten believes is the time that a cosmic portal will open, and his "program" will change. According to Gersten:
I fully expect that it will either lead to the next level of this cosmic program; freedom from an imprisoning time-loop; a magical Martian-like bubble; or something equally as exotic. In March 2012 I will reach 70 years of age and nine months later we arrive at the cosmic coordinate. I think it will then be time for me to move on - in one form or another. I'd like to see what else our Cosmic Computer has to offer.
Unless you believe that this is going to happen, and I don't, then what Gersten is talking about doing is committing suicide.

I interviewed Gersten at his home in September, 2007, and his views had been clearly formed by that time, so this is not news to anyone who has been paying attention. Here are the excerpts I posted from that interview several years ago:

In his blog post, Bragalia lauds Gersten's work in getting government documents released, and his views that something exotic happened at Roswell in 1947, but looks at his newer ideas and their projected outcome as madness. He pleads with people who to "personally know Peter Gersten to counsel him against his decision. If they do not, it will be too late and we will look back wondering how it had ever happened."

Peter Gersten is free to do as he wants, and if he does indeed follow his convictions and jump off Bell Rock on December 21, 2012, I will applaud him for having the courage of his convictions.

What horrifies Bragalia seems perfectly logical to me, within the context of Gersten's stated beliefs. which I'm not going to judge. When I met him, Gersten struck me as reasoned, articulate and thoughtful. Yes, he believes in things that I don't accept as real, but so do over 2 billion Christians. Indeed, those Christians accept as the Son of God a man who had a profound conversation with a talking snake, and then essentially committed suicide through his actions in following what he believed to be prophecy to his crucifixion. In other words, he took a literal "leap of faith", and a significant portion of humanity has based their entire world view on that leap of faith for two thousand years.

Further, Gersten has made it very clear that this is a personal decision for him, and that he is not encouraging (or discouraging) anyone else from doing something similar. His responsibility is for his actions, and his alone, and he has every right to pursue his own path, even if people might not like where that path is going to lead him.

None of which is to say that Bragalia and others shouldn't try to dissuade Gersten from taking his "leap of faith" in 2012. That is their right. But they should do so with respect for Gersten's point of view, and without questioning his sanity. They should also do so with an understanding that Gersten's beliefs are more nuanced than the simple "he's going to jump off Bell Rock and kill himself because he believes a cosmic portal will save him, which is nuts" narrative that Bragalia presents.

Much of what Gersten has to say is really about free will. Further, even assuming that this is a simple question of suicide, it is important to remember that Western philosophy is more nuanced when it comes to the subject of suicide (or the right to determine where, when and how a person is going to die) than its opponents would have you believe.

When suicide is out of fashion we conclude that none but madmen destroy themselves; and all the efforts of courage appear chimerical to dastardly minds ... Nevertheless, how many instances are there, well attested, of men, in every other respect perfectly discreet, who, without remorse, rage, or despair, have quitted life for no other reason than because it was a burden to them, and have died with more composure than they lived.
There is no tenable reason left, on the score of morality, for condemning suicide. The extraordinary energy and zeal with which the clergy of monotheistic religions attack suicide is not supported either by any passages in the Bible or by any considerations of weight; so that it looks as though they must have some secret reason for their contention. May it not be this - that the voluntary surrender of life is a bad compliment for him who said that all things were very good? If this is so, it offers another instance of the crass optimism of these religions - denouncing suicide to escape being denounced by it... When, in some dreadful and ghastly dream, we reach the moment of greatest horror, it awakes us; thereby banishing all the hideous shapes that were born of the night. And life is a dream; when the moment of greatest horror compels us to break it off, the same thing happens.
As Schopenhauer concludes, "They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice... that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person."

French playwright Antonin Artaud went even further still in On Suicide, and comes closest to Gersten's basic underlying principles:
If I commit suicide, it will not be to destroy myself but to put myself back together again. Suicide will be for me only one means of violently reconquering myself, of brutally invading my being, of anticipating the unpredictable approaches of God. By suicide, I reintroduce my design in nature, I shall for the first time give things the shape of my will.
My own view? A person has complete control over their own being.  We have free will, and I believe that Gersten's proposed "leap of faith" is an ultimate expression of his free will, in a world where our ability to exercise that free will is increasingly constrained by people who think they know what is best for others, or who would for their own purposes wish to deny our free will altogether.

Assuming Gersten really does jump from Bell Rock in December, 2012 (and he now seems less settled on that particular course of action than when I interviewed him in 2007),  then I applaud his convictions, and his courage, regardless of where his "leap of faith" takes him. I certainly don't consider it "madness", any more than I consider it madness to follow a man who willingly created a situation that he knew would lead to his execution two thousand years ago. It's just another example of the anarchy that is free will, and it's what separates us from the animals.

As Greg Bishop, with whom I am staying here in Los Angeles, just said to me after reading this: "A person's free will should trump other people's beliefs as to how they should act, or what they should do."

Paul Kimball

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Four hours at O'Hare

Spend four hours at a busy airport like O'Hare in Chicago, as I did yesterday, and you'll understand why the human race isn't ready for "disclosure" of an "advanced alien presence", and won't be for many, many years (probably centuries), at least not on a societal level (the individual level is a different question, and is where we should be looking, but I digress...).

Leaving that aside, however, O'Hare did turn out to be an interesting experience for me in terms of weird coincidences.

First, a bit of back story. Several years ago, I was flying through O'Hare on my way to Cedar Rapids to interview Kevin Randle for Fields of Fear, and due to weather our flight was delayed for 9 hours. Now, anyone who has ever been to O'Hare knows that it's a huge airport, with multiple terminals, and within each terminal multiple concourses. It's an easy place to get lost, and there are all sorts of nooks and crannies. Anyway, as I was walking through the airport, who should I see but one of my best friends, who was studying in Mississippi but was on his way home to England for a visit. He was in a coffee shop. If I hadn't been held over, I would have missed him. If I hadn't taken a look over my shoulder at the coffee shop, I would have missed him. If... if... always "if"...

Let's just say that it was amazing coincidence, particularly in that airport on that day, with people packed in like sardines.

All of which is to let you know that I have a history of coincidences at O'Hare... which brings me to yesterday.

My flight to Los Angeles was through O'Hare, with a 4 hour stopover. Four hours is a lot of time to kill, so I wandered around through several different concourses. I didn't have any idea of which gate my flight to LA would be departing from, because it hadn't been posted yet. After about half an hour of walking around, I grabbed a hamburger from McDonald's and found a seat at gate B6, totally at random. I ate my burger, listened to my MP3 player for half of the Mumford & Sons album, watched a bit of CNN, and then walked over to the departures board to see if my flight had been assigned a gate yet. Indeed, it had - B6!

I smiled to myself as I pondered the odds of me choosing at random, in such a large airport, the exact gate that my flight was going to be assigned to, and then I went back over to the seating area at B6, sat down, and listened to some more music and watched some more CNN. After about an hour, with an hour and a half still to kill, I decided to go and get a copy of the New York Times to help me fill the rest of the time. I went down to the Hudson News by gate B16, bought the paper, and walked out into the hall. Just as I did, an announcement came over the PA - my flight had been relocated to a new gate.

B16, right next to where I was standing at that very moment.

There was only one thing I could do when faced with this second coincidence - I sat down, cued up Golden Earring on my MP3 player, hit play for "The Twilight Zone", and settled down to wait for my flight.

It was, as Arsenio Hall used to say, one of those things that makes a person go "hmm..."

Paul Kimball

Science - On the other hand

The always funny Bill Maher offers a rebuttal of sorts to some of Paul Feyerabend's ideas.

Paul Kimball
posting from Greg Bishop's living room...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Journey is the Destination

Posting will probably be a bit less frequent over the next three weeks, as I'll be in Los Angeles on a mix of business and pleasure. A couple of programming notes:

I'll be on Radio Misterioso with my good pal Greg Bishop (and hopefully fellow traveler Walter Bosley as well) on Sunday, June 5th. As always, 8 pm - 10 pm PST / 11 pm - 1 am EST. House of Pies to follow!

Also, a reminder that the IndieGoGo fundraising campaign for Beyond Best Evidence is still going, like the Energizer Bunny. Films require funding, and we need your help on this one, because it's the kind of film that you're just not going to see from the dreaded mainstream media. Come join the team, and help start a new conversation!

In the meantime, stay true to your school, keep your eyes to the skies, and your feet in the clouds. Or something like that!

I'll leave you with a poem I wrote on a previous trip to California:

Remember - if you're not enjoying life, then you're not really living it.


Paul Kimball

Monday, May 16, 2011

Paul Feyerabend: Against Method

The modern cult of science has enshrined the "scientific method" as their foundational principle, in much the same way that Christians look to Jesus on the cross, and all that it implies for them.

But method supremacy over subjective thinking which emphasizes context and meaning is a tragic mistake, and one which was the central target of the critique of modern science offered by philosopher Paul Feyerabend.

People interested in moving forward into the 21st century, and new knowledge and discoveries, should acquaint themselves with Feyerabend's work - in particular, his classic treatise Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge.

An excerpt:
For is it not possible that science as we know it today, or a "search for the truth" in the style of traditional philosophy, will create a monster? Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour? "Is it not possible," asks Kierkegaard, "that my activity as an objective [or critico-rational] observer of nature will weaken my strength as a human being?" I suspect the answer to many of these questions is affirmative and I believe that a reform of the sciences that makes them more anarchic and more subjective (in Kierkegaard's sense) is urgently needed.
Feyerabend called for a separation of state and science, in much the same way that we have long had a separation of state and religion in the West. In doing so, he is spot on. The institutionalization of science, and the resulting rigidity of thought, has done much to impede what should have been even greater progress for humanity by now, in the same way that the institutionalization of spirituality and faith throughout human history has led to rigidity in belief, and a lack of knowledge.

Feyerabend wasn't "anti-science" - far from it. He was an articulate, thoughtful and passionate voice calling out for a revitalization and reform of science, in a way that would be accessible to everyone, and that would recognize the strengths of science, and its limitations. It is a science that will no longer just speak to people; rather, it will be of the people, and in doing so encourage greater and more widespread knowledge.
The way towards this aim is clear. A science that insists on possessing the only correct method and the only acceptable results is ideology and must be separated from the state, and especially from the process of education. One may teach it, but only to those who have decided to make this particular superstition their own. On the other hand, a science that has dropped such totalitarian pretensions is no longer independent and self-contained, and it can be taught in many different combinations (myth and modern cosmology might be one such combination)... Scientists will of course participate in governmental decisions, for everyone participates in such decisions. But they will not be given overriding authority. It is the vote of everyone concerned that decides fundamental issues such as the teaching methods used, or the truth of basic beliefs such as the theory of evolution, or the quantum theory, and not the authority of big-shots hiding behind a non-existing methodology. There is no need to fear that such a way of arranging society will lead to undesirable results. Science itself uses the method of ballot, discussion, vote, though without a clear grasp of its mechanism, and in a heavily biased way. But the rationality of our beliefs will certainly be considerably increased.
You can find a short excerpt from Feyerabend's Against Method here.

We ignore his wisdom, particularly his central thesis that science is not one thing but rather many, at our peril.

Paul Kimball

Recreating the Past from the Future

Alternate history is a popular genre of fiction consisting of stories that are set in a words where history has diverged from what actually happened. One of my favourite examples is the Robert Harris novel Fatherland, which the author creates an alternate history in which the Allied landings on D-Day failed, and by 1964 Hitler remained in power, locked in a stalemate with the USSR and a cold war with the United States.

But as much fun as it may be to read, or even to create, or it's all still fiction... right?

Well, maybe for us it is, but what about our descendants, far in the future (or perhaps not so far...), who may develop time travel?

The biggest problem with traveling backwards in time, as I pointed out yesterday, is what happens if you change something. Now, if you're going back solely as an observer, and could be certain that nothing would change (i.e. you couldn't actually interact with the people of the time period you were visiting or observing), then that's fine. But what if you wanted to interact, and change things? Well, you could, but then it would change your own reality, wouldn't it? Go back and kill your grandfather, and all of a sudden you don't exist.

Hence, the grandfather paradox. You can't travel back in time and change your own reality.

But what if you didn't want to change your reality; what if you wanted to create an entirely new reality?

That's a different story altogether. The branching universe hypothesis holds that there are infinite number of universes, all-together known as multiverse. If a person travels back in time and changes something, he would create a new reality, divorced from his own from that point in time onwards. Thus, in one world D-Day succeeds, and things play out as they have for us; in another, you could wind up with Harris' version of reality.

D-Day is set on a pretty big scope, however. That might be difficult to change (although perhaps not so difficult if the Germans could be convinced that the Allies were going to land in Normandy). Easier to influence would be single smaller events - what if, for example, you could prevent Lincoln's assassination? Or Kennedy's? Or what if Hitler had been killed during the Beer Hall Putsch? And so forth.

All of which leads one to consider the following question: are we living in one of those realities?

What if in the future, when time travel is achieved, our descendants, whether for amusement, or intellectual curiosity, or a combination of the two, decide to travel back in time and create new realities by changing key events, and then watching what happens?

Philosopher Nick Bostrom points out why an advanced civilization might engage in such an activity. Once we fix the world and remove all the things that we don't want, then we will have to find "something more inspiring", as Bostrom puts it, or something more challenging, as I might put it.

Now, Bostrom doesn't go as far into the future as I have in my speculation, to a world where time travel is possible. But the principle which he outlines is applicable.

Indeed, with the rise of interactive video games where the player can make more and more decisions, and therefore find more and more possible narrative outcomes, we're already seeing people in ever growing numbers in technologically advanced societies playing around with the idea of changing worlds.

Someday in the future, maybe that's exactly what people are doing. Perhaps they are changing our world all the time, and creating all sorts of new worlds. And while the pop histories tend to go for the big picture, so-called world historical figures, like Hitler, and Lincoln, and Caesar, maybe our future selves are more like those historians who concentrate on people's history, where you and I are just as interesting and important, in our own ways.

Would any of it matter to us?

Perhaps not, I suppose, because we wouldn't be aware of it. But it does make one think about the cherished notion of free will. Maybe things that happen to us, both big and small, really do happen for a reason, and we're all just NPCs in a real-life game of "change the world".

Whereas in Dungeons and Dragons, you can create and play a 8th level bard, or a 5th level mage, perhaps in the future, they can play "lawyer Paul", or "police officer Paul", or "historian Paul"... or any of the other paths I could have taken.

Maybe someone is "playing me" right now.

And maybe they're playing you too.

Paul Kimball

Films require funding...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Are We Ourselves?

If the theoretical possibility exists that a simulated universe could be created, then how do we know that it hasn't already been created... by ourselves? In other words, are we the God that we have always imagined - the ultimate programmer?

Am I Paul Kimball... or am I someone future person's version of Paul Kimball, a history project by a super-advanced civilization, like a very, very advanced version of The Sims?

The thought occurred to me as I was walking through a cemetery this morning - wouldn't it be interesting to know how these people lived their lives? Who was this man, and who was that woman? All those tombstones - all those stories.

And then, as I stopped by one gravesite and stared at the tombstone of someone who had been dead for over a hundred years, I considered whether some person far in the future took a walkabout like mine, whether literal or figurative, stared at a tombstone or record or something else with my name on it, and decided they wanted to know who Paul Kimball really was, long after he, or I, died.

And so here "I" sit...

Paul Kimball

Speaking of Time Travel...

Speaking of time travel, it may or may not be one of the themes in the film The Grey Wall, which has just gone through development with my company and looks good for production later this year (or early 2012, depending on scheduling). Not to give too much away, but here is an excerpt that touches on the idea of time travel... sort of:
How long have I been here?

Lawrence sits down opposite him.

Ahh... an interesting question.

Lawrence pulls a small piece of paper from his pocket, and places it flat on the table in front of Sam.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
You see time like this piece of paper, flat, with edges, and defined parameters. Past, present, and the future. From one edge of the paper to the other, with a distance that is clear.

Lawrence points at an edge of the paper, and then starts to draw an imaginary line between the two with his finger.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
Here is what has happened...

He points to the center of the paper.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
Here is that which is happening now...

He points to the opposite edge.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
And here is what will happen. But what if...

He folds the paper in two, so that the opposite edges touch against each other.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
... you could bridge the gaps.

He pauses, and then slowly crumples the paper in his palm.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
What if there were no gaps at all...

He opens his hand, and the paper is gone.

LAWRENCE (cont’d)
... just a road, circling back on itself, like a wheel in motion. An eternal now - where what once was may not be what is, or what will be.
Does that answer your question?

I have no idea what you’re saying.

Lawrence pauses for a moment, and then smiles.

Proper thing.

Sam thinks for a moment.

Who are you?

Lawrence opens the palm of his other hand, to reveal the paper, which is folded once, and places it in front of Sam.

A friend.

Sam picks up the paper, and starts to unfold it. Written on the paper is a number...

What is this?

Some would call it a deus ex machina.
(pauses, smiles)
I’d call it an address.
We're casting now... but one role is already covered - that of co-lead "Sarah", which will be played by one of Canada's great young up-and-coming actresses, Christina Cuffari, who has also been with Doing Time since its first theatrical run here in Halifax back in 2007.

The Grey Wall will be out just in time for the 2012 apocalypse!

Paul Kimball