Fundy Freethought - Fundy Freethought

I’m Sorry to Say, We’re History

Dear History Channel. It’s time we had a little talk. We’ve been through a lot together and I’ll always cherish those times, but all good things must come to an end. We used to be a lot alike, we had things in common. I liked WWII history and for the longest time you showed me documentaries of the Luftwaffe going down like Girls Gone Wild. I could count on you to show me dramatizations of the lives of great people, back-to-back with actual documentaries of their lives. And if occasionally you showed Boogie Nights under the impression that 70’s porn is a worthwhile subject and John Holmes an historical figure of significance, I could forgive you. When you insisted on repeating biographies of Nostradamus and treating him as a prophet, I could just grit my teeth and bear it. Nobody is perfect, we all have our quirks. But it’s all changed. You’ve changed. And this madness has to end.

I don’t know when it started, but one day I realized it was all gone. All the History you used to bring.  Perhaps you can’t imagine how little of a damn I give about hillbillies living in swamps and hunting snakes and alligators. Perhaps you don’t care. Your idiotic marathons of Pawn Stars hurts me deeply, as does any show that is all about people buying other people’s garbage. Are you trying to drive me away? It’s working. Ice Road Truckers? Fuck you. But perhaps worst of all is your fascination with the end of the world; I don’t know how to say this nicely, so I’ll just come out with it. Nothing happened in December 2012. Not a fucking thing. There was no Mayan Apocalypse. The Galactic alignment was an absurd notion to begin with, and most significantly, we’re all still alive. I think it’s important to be blunt about this, because it was over a year ago and you still play your shows that treat it as an upcoming event. Please, I’m begging you, for all our sake, knock that shit off. Someday the world may end. In a few billion years it certainly will. But your obsession with so many potential Armageddon scenarios is painful to watch. Briefly following the lives of people who think these scenarios are real makes me sad, and sensationalizing these absurdities is becoming pathetic. Incoming asteroids the size of Mount Everest? “Rogue Planets”, a Black Hole passing through our solar system, all without anyone noticing? You’re embarrassing both of us, and I’d welcome any one of them if it would just make this stop, and naturally no one in their right mind wants to live in a world where the “Doomsday Preppers” are right.

It’s not all bad though. I still like your Ancient Aliens show, not because it’s historical, but because it’s hilarious. I wish I could believe that’s why you air it. Vikings  is a pretty decent show so far, but I just can’t trust you anymore; sooner or later you’ll screw it up, probably by having the Norse gods show up, and they’ll be aliens. Then your crap won’t be funny anymore. You shocked the world by not screwing up Hatfields & McCoys. Nobody trusts you to repeat that success. Sorry.

Is it my fault? Did I make you whore yourself for ratings? Maybe I’m the one that changed. I read more books, and watched you less. Perhaps I neglected you, and sent you out into the arms and homes of any idiots who think that JFK was murdered by vampires, or that watching people cut down trees is quality entertainment, whatever. I don’t really know what idiots think. But now they love you like I used to, so perhaps it’s not you, it’s me. I hate for it to end this way, but now you’ll have to carry on without me. Deep down we both know that you belong with those idiots, you’re part of what keeps them going. If I keep watching your programming I’ll regret it, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of my life. But we’ll always have the Luftwaffe.



Ghost Hunting for Dummies, Part 2

Last week on this page we got together and decided – possibly while drunk – that we would form our own Paranormal Investigation team. Once that decision had been made we got our team together – Leader, Tech guy, “Skeptic”, Researcher, someone who claims to be a Psychic Medium, and the Panicky Idiot. We also did our shopping and got some awesome gear to go ghost hunting. So let’s do that. First step, find a haunted house.

This shouldn’t be too difficult. If TV is any guide there are enough haunted locations in North America to maintain a dozen TV shows dedicated to them. So we’ll pick one and wait for nightfall. As we’ve touched on before, ghost-hunting during the day is a ridiculous idea; nothing supernatural goes on when it’s light out for some reason never adequately explained by TV shows about the paranormal. Hmm. Once we’ve picked our haunted location, we send the researcher to the library while the rest of us go meet the owner. The owner will be one of two types (again, this is all according to my own “research” of watching paranormal TV shows. TV shows about the paranormal I suppose is more accurate, there being nothing ghostly about the actual transmission. If that happens you’ll hear about it on this site first). Type one has seen or heard some weird things on his property and appears concerned that he may be losing his marbles (but calls ghost hunters rather than a doctor). He just wants somebody to say “your house is haunted, you aren’t crazy”. Strangely, this person will be relieved when told that his house is haunted. At least he’s not just “seeing things”. If you debunk anything, he will be unlikely to believe you. The second type is the person who lives in constant terror of whatever it is that they think is in the house with them. They hallucinate and hear noises, all of which leads them to think that they need an exorcist rather than a psychiatrist. They’ll be disappointed when they realize there isn’t an exorcist on our team. Maybe we should find one? That will be one of the tasks of the Researcher, to check the Yellow pages for “Exorcist”. If/when that fails we’ll likely have to resort to the more pathetic variety of exorcism, that performed by the medium. It’s just as shameless as what the church does, but far less impressive; in some things you just can’t beat Latin. Anyways, on with our ghost hunt.

We’ve waited for nightfall, but we also have to turn out the lights in the house. Not only does it make the whole enterprise more spooky, but if we leave the lights on we’ve wasted a whole bunch of money on night-vision gear. Then we’d feel pretty stupid. Speaking of night-vision gear and feeling stupid, it’s only for the cameras, not for the team. No night-vision goggles or anything that will help us see our way around this haunted house. Why? Shut up, that’s why. So the Tech Guy sets up all the stationary cameras and recording equipment and probably sits in a van outside watching us run around like blind idiots, which is fair.  In the meantime our researcher has filled us in on all the horrible things that have happened in the house we’re traipsing around in; murders, suicides, Twilight fan-fiction; A laundry list of horrors and we’re stuck here, in the dark, on purpose.

So now what are we supposed to do? It’s dark, we have cameras and recorders, and we can’t see a damn thing. Well, lets pose some questions to the unquiet spirits infesting this house, since it’s well known (somehow) that dead people are if nothing else, chatty (but camera shy). “Who are you?”, “What do you want?”, “Did you get the series finale of Lost?”, are all valid questions. The responses are tricky since they tend to be pure static, or “<inaudible>” in the parlance of ghost shows. With a little effort and imagination there may be words, but where the beefy idiot on Ghost Adventures hears “I’m going to kill you” from his EVP (electronic voice phenomenon, did you even read part one?) the rest of us only hear “CCCHHHHHHHHHHHppsssssshhhhhhhTTTTTTTTTCCHHHH”, whatever the hell that means. Fortunately our psychic heard it too, after we explained what it said. The less said about the psychic, the better. Suffice to say this ditsy misanthrope wanders around, eyes closed (or way too wide open), “sensing things”. The psychic should also perform some sort of ceremonial “cleansing” of the house, because that kind of crap is expected when you bring one of them along. Since we already know that the psychic is full of shit and cannot be anything less than unspeakably annoying, we’ll just move on.

Now that we have all this evidence from our digital voice recorders (pause to giggle over the use of the word “evidence” in this context), let us explore the house some more. Again, without being able to see anything. This is where the Panicky Idiot finds his time to shine, and what is more important, we learn a valuable lesson: We’re all the panicky idiot. The rest of our time spent in this house will consist of frantically moving through the house, waving our cameras around, listening with our eyes in the way everybody does when the lights are out, and saying over and over again; “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” “DID YOU SEE THAT?”, “DID YOU HEAR THAT?”. No, no, and no again. But we’ve done our best and will continue to do so until the sun comes up or we just lose our nerve and go join Tech Guy in the van to calm down and maybe cry a little. After all we’ve been through, we deserve a rest, a dark house, noises, dust motes that FLOAT IN THE AIR AND CATCH THE LIGHT FROM THE CAMERA?!?!?!  Sorry, “spirit orbs” are what they’re called in the ghost hunting biz, and are the cornerstone of what Ghost Hunters consider “proof”, this is enough to drain anybody, both emotionally, spiritually (whatever that means), and physically (not to mention we’ve been up all damn night, the Ghost Hunter Starter Kit doesn’t include Red Bull). Our investigation -and possibly exorcism, depending on what kind of night we had- is now over, so we move on to “the reveal”.

Giving the reveal to the “type one” discussed earlier is real easy. “Your house is definitely haunted, here’s some photos of spirit orbs that are totally not dust, just because you live like a pig and haven’t cleaned all year, and here’s a recording of a ghost that if you listen to enough times you’ll hear it say whatever I tell you it said.” This goof will then shake our hands, thank us for confirming that he isn’t insane, and bid us farewell. Type two is a horse of a different color. Essentially we give the same reveal, show the same evidence, claim the efficacy of whatever ritual we performed – because why the hell did we bring a psychic medium if not for that kind of dumb-fuckery – and get the hell out of Dodge. If our crazy type two isn’t convinced by our ritual-placebo they’re going to call us back until we find a way to have this person hospitalized for their own good. We should change our phone number at that point as well, since this type of haunted idiot is similar to having a crazy ex.

That’s about it for the fun-filled world of Ghost Hunting. The more I think about it the more I want to do it, and I’ll be in need of a job soon. Click “like” if you want to join my Paranormal Investigation team.


Ghost Hunting for Dummies

If you’re like me – and if not then maybe you aren’t trying hard enough – you watch shows about the paranormal. Not just movies and other obvious works of fiction (self-proclaimed or otherwise), but so-called “reality” shows about ghost hunters and ghost hunting, and have naturally thought “How can I get in on this action?” Well I’m here to help. Being something of an expert on this particular form of cultural nonsense, allow me to guide you on your path toward being one of the ever-increasing number of intrepid Paranormal Investigators hunting all that goes bump in the night.  We’ll do this in three easy steps; getting started, getting your team, and going shopping. Then we’ll take a look at what you can and cannot expect in your exciting new life.

It may come as a shock to you that in the field of Paranormal Investigation there is no legal governing body  to maintain the integrity (nothing can maintain a straight face at this point either) and honesty of people who call themselves Paranormal Investigators, or to license them to act as such. The notion that just anybody can claim this title with no training or anything is perhaps not so incredible. So lets do that. As often seen at the beginning of just about any segment of the Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story”, somebody says “Me and my friends heard about a haunted house in our town and we wanted to check it out, so we formed a paranormal investigation team.” That’s it, that’s all. So long as you have said it out loud, or in your head, or to your cat, or put it in print you’re a paranormal investigator; I don’t know about you, but I’m going to have some business cards made.

So now that we’re in business as paranormal investigators, we need our team. At a minimum – based on what TV tells me – we’ll need a minimum of three or four people, and as we’re only going to make money on this if we get our own TV show, we’ll need some diversity for broader appeal. First things first, we’ll need our leader; this person will find the “jobs” that need investigating and be the first person through the door of the haunted premises. The leader will be bold in the face of things that aren’t real, and so full of shit that he or she can explain how every dust mote or shadow is a true indication of just how pants-wettingly haunted everything is. The rest of the team should be made up of some combination of the following: The “Tech Guy” who sets up all the fancy gear and analyzes the results; The “Skeptic” who serves no purpose other than to proclaim his skepticism at the beginning of the show, and by the end is at least partly a believer (insert Inigo Montoya meme here); The “Panicky Shrieking Idiot” who serves no real purpose at all except to add to the creepiness by being way more terrified than an adult in a dark house should be. A good team may want to have the “Researcher”; since most haunted houses seem to have a dark history, somebody needs to look into it (not surprisingly, the History Channel does) and reveal the horrible past that explains the terrifying present.  Finally, the “Medium” or “Sensitive” should only be brought aboard if you really want to lay it on thick. Your audience may be gullible morons, but what little faith I have in humanity tells me that a lot of people will balk at that crap. Well, maybe not a lot of people. “But Dan” you say, “That’s six people, not three or four, where will I find so many mouth-breathing jackasses to join my team?” You’ve got a lot of nerve interrupting me here in the middle, but allow me to point out the obvious, that one person can take on more than one job, your Leader can be your Medium, the Historian can by the Panicky Idiot, the Tech Guy can be the Skeptic, and so on (though if your Skeptic is the Medium, you’re team is too idiotic to put on the air). With me so far? Good. Now that we’ve assembled our team, we need our gear.

If you’re like me (yes, this again) you only go to the mall once or twice a year and only for short periods of time (20 minutes for new pants, 2 hours for Christmas shopping). During your travels in the mall you have no doubt noticed that there is no one-stop shop for the beginner Ghost Hunter. Fortunately the internet has furnished us with exactly that. If you care to check out this dumbfuckery (no endorsement is implied nor should one be inferred here) you will find that they have – no shit – Ghost Hunter Starter Kits. From $109 to $499 you get the gear necessary to do all the ghost hunting you want. Primarily, you get your digital recorder for the “hard evidence” EVP’s provide – that is Electronic Voice Phenomenon, for the uninitiated- it may sound like garbled static to the casual listener, but to the Paranormal Investigator this is somehow clear communication from beyond the grave. If you watch their shows and can’t figure out what the ghost is saying, don’t worry,  the investigators will tell you and put it up on the screen and play it over again until you hear it too. I leave it to the observer to choose whether giggles or a facepalm is the more appropriate response. You also need an EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) reader, because apparently these fields are caused by ghosts and nothing else in the known universe as far as these shows are concerned. We know this because the little lights go on sometimes in houses that are allegedly haunted. Science, bitches!  You’ll need your Spirit Box of course, um, I’m not sure what to say about this, except that it’s a box that says words, because ghosts are able to manipulate it’s radio signals and thereby respond directly – if mysteriously – to your vague questions… I feel both dirty and stupid describing that. Finally you’ll need a digital camera for both still shots and video, and of course some kind of night-vision lens or however that works (I’m not the Tech Guy); after all it’s not for nothing that they speak of things that go bump in the night. Your pictures will be extra creepy when they’re all green and blurry. It should however go without saying that you don’t want your cameras to be too good, you need to leave a little mystery and naturally if the shadow-demon you photographed is obviously the living room curtains you’re not doing your job. Speaking of your job, what can you expect when you finally kick in the door of your first haunted house? All that and more coming up next time. Until then, feel free to get yourselves one of these for making it this far:

spooky bullshit 2


The Pseudo-History Channel

Few things are perfect in this world and just about anything can be improved upon. You may be the type of person who thinks everything is better with chocolate, or if you’re like me you think everything is better with zombies. Some people however think everything is better with aliens. A quick perusal of what is in the offing on the so-called History Channel will show endless amounts of programming about people who buy other people’s garbage (“pickers” they’re called, instead of hoarders as that might infringe upon the rights of another show). Also available are shows about a bunch of ragged misanthropes who live and work in swamps (unimaginatively called “Swamp People”). The presence of such shows on a channel about history is an enduring enigma. But every week I’m treated to an hour of – for lack of a better word – “theories” regarding the persistent meddling of Extra-Terrestrials throughout human history. “Ancient Aliens” regularly gives me a lot to think about; which is to say I think a lot about how stupid it is.

Nothing is safe from the curious notions of those who refer to themselves as “Ancient Alien Theorists”. If it can’t be explained by normal means (or if the mundane explanation is too dull) you had better believe the aliens did it. From the Pyramids to Nazi scientists, these strange visitors from beyond the stars have had their hands (tentacles?) in just about everything. It should go without saying that these theories are not hindered by such inhibiting factors like evidence or proof. If nothing else, dismantling their theories is a wonderful way to exercise one’s powers of reason and logic, of which this show is sadly bereft. For the record, a theory is defined thusly: “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.” The History Channel won’t let that stop them. “Coherence? Correct? Principles? Sounds like the aliens have got to you!” But let’s take a quick look at what passes for logic over there, far from the merciless edge of Occam’s razor. One past episode breaks down like this: In human mythology there are griffins (agreed), half lion and half eagle, pretty awesome (so far so good). Ancient people did not simply make up things; they wrote about and drew only what they actually saw (wait…what?). Therefore there must have really been griffins. That this is being said with a straight face is an indication that you may be watching a sociopath. Next they do us the courtesy of bringing on an actual scientist who probably has no clue what he’s being used for. In this case an evolutionary biologist is brought on to explain that in nature eagles and lions are unable to mate and produce offspring. I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in (the idea, not the image). They brought in a scientist to explain this. Needless to say if you need this explained to you then you probably shouldn’t be allowed outdoors unsupervised. I believe the idea is that you will be distracted by the actual science (so rarely seen on this show) and forget how awful their reasoning was before the biologist started speaking, since they bravely soldier on afterwards to reveal that the only explanation left is that aliens cooked up these griffins in one of their space labs. Still with me? It’s simple logic! Since griffins can’t just happen, the only way there could be griffins is if aliens made them. I’d grant them this if they weren’t insisting that there actually were real live griffins. Similarly we can all agree that Sauron made the One Ring, but if you’re going to claim that you’re actually wearing it, there’s a padded room waiting for you. Most of their shows follow a certain pattern. There’s something weird that was done/built thousands of years ago. At the moment we’re uncertain how or why exactly this particular thing was done or built (or we know precisely how and why but who cares?). Then they play the “what if” game. And the more they play it, the more it becomes obvious – to them – that there’s only one possible explanation. On this show “what if” is semantically equal to “of course”. Most people don’t lose sleep over things like how the blocks of the pyramids were put in place or why people used to believe in dragons (or griffins for that matter). They go about their lives and assume that sooner or later we’ll figure it out. Or we won’t, and we still won’t lose sleep over it, or there is just nothing to figure out. Still others are driven by the mystery and need to find out what really happened, and that’s great; if there weren’t people like that we wouldn’t have CSI shows or Indiana Jones movies. But there are long leagues worth of difference between archaeology and going through the mental acrobatics required to conclude that the Nazi’s had alien allies (seriously). No one asks the obvious question that if that were the case, how the heck did we win? I can only imagine what alien intelligences might think of us if they were watching our world. The notion that they have nothing better to do than help us heap up stones on the Pyramids (and elsewhere), as well as give tech tips to Nazi rocket scientists, and screw around with the genetic makeup of everything might strike them as more than a little insulting. Just as we humans should be more than a little insulted at the idea that we could not accomplish any of these things without little green men helping out. The truth is out there, but not on the History Channel.

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