Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flying Saucers from the British Isles

Today's International Herald Tribune features a story by reporter Sarah Lyall about the British government's release of UFO sighting reports between 1978-2002, including a sketch of a flying saucer on skis apparently prepared by an alert member of the public.

I have always had a soft spot for flying saucers, because when I was about 14 years old I went through a flying saucer phase (kind of like dinosaurs but for teenagers.) I was quite impressed, however, to find out that a number of very serious adults were flying saucer advocates. For example, the very first book I read on the subject was by Donald Keyhoe, now deceased, a retired Marine officer who became a leader in the campaign to get the U.S. government to tell us everything it knew about alien invaders. Another very adult source on UFOS was Captain Edward Ruppelt, the former head of the U.S. Air Force's Project Blue Book, which monitored sightings over many years before folding up shop in 1970. After he left the project in the 1950s, Ruppelt wrote a book called "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" which was required reading by UFO fans, in large part because of Ruppelt's obvious credibility. As I recall the book (fairly vividly after more than 40 years), it was quite reasonable, admitting that there were a number of sightings that were difficult to explain but not going so far as to conclude that UFOs were space craft from other planets.

Indeed, I recall a fairly bitter debate between the two major wings of the flying saucer movement: One faction wanted to stick to reports of objects, feeling that stories about abductions by little green men and the like compromised the "credibility" of the campaign to open up government files on the subject; while the other wing argued that if there were flying saucers, beings of some sort must be flying them and thus it was reasonable to think that they would be spotted from time to time. Without doing any research whatsoever on the subject, I will bet that the exact same debate is going on today.

Moreover, UFO believers continue to insist that the government is hiding the true evidence it possesses (eg Roswell etc.) in order to avoid a "panic" among the population, as occurred when Orson Welles produced "War of the Worlds" on radio. Why, in this day and age when we have watched no end of Steven Spielberg movies, the straight scoop about flying saucers should cause a panic here on earth is beyond me, but that is still the argument behind this particular conspiracy theory.

Anyway, the Trib article is funny reading, and I hate to spoil the ending but the little green man story it tells at the end gives the UFO phenomenon a nice English touch:

None of their accounts were as detailed as that of a 78-year-old ex-soldier in Aldershot. His story, which he told to a UFO investigator, can be found in the newly released files.

Out fishing in 1983, the man had just poured himself a cup of tea, he recalled, when he was approached by two four-foot-tall beings wearing pale green overalls and large helmets. They led him into what turned out to be their ship — "I thought, Christ — what the hell's that?" he said — and, apparently considering whether to subject him to extraterrestrial experiments, suddenly announced: "You can go. You are too old and infirm for our purposes."

"Anxious to avoid causing offense," the report said, the man asked no questions, even obvious ones like, what planet do you come from? Instead, he returned to the riverbank, where he finished his tea (by then cold) and resumed fishing.

He was reluctant to tell his family, the report says: "I knew my wife would say 'No more fishing for you, old man.' "

Art: It Happened One Night, Doris Taylor, Roswell, New Mexico

News Update I: Isn't this always the way it goes? Today's Trib also has an obituary from the Associated Press of J.R. Simplot, who helped make French fries an American staple and ended up becoming a major supplier of frozen fries to McDonald's, Wendy's, and Burger King. Now I love French fries as much as the next person, but what has this high-fat product done to our waistlines, our obesity and diabetes and heart disease rates? At least Simplot does not seem to have suffered from his own product: He died a billionaire at age 99.

News Update II: The day wouldn't really be complete without a post about the presidential campaign(s). Today Ariana Huffington argues on her Huffington Post site that Clinton supporters who say they won't vote for Obama are inviting in a president with a terrible record on reproductive rights. Good point, but frankly I am not too concerned about this. Most American women are smart enough to get the point once Obama is the official nominee. As I said in an earlier post, right now, like it or not, the best friend of American women is a Black man. Obama has never seen the campaign as about identity politics, even if some of his supporters have; but Clinton certainly has seen it that way, overtly, which may be just one more reason she has lost. Time to move on from all that.


Woody said...

According to your "Hillary Watch," she still has a chance. Clinton is like the doomsday clock of the atomic scientists. It never gets to midnight, and she'll never quit.

GM Roper said...

Michael: "Obama has never seen the campaign as about identity politics, even if some of his supporters have; but Clinton certainly has seen it that way, overtly, which may be just one more reason she has lost."

Michael, given some of the rhetoric from Obama's camp (and thus directed by Obama?) I'm not sure about the first part of your statement, but we certainly agree on the second part.

Michael Balter said...

GM, perhaps you can correct me on this, but I never once saw or heard Obama himself stress the importance of electing the first Black president, nor any members of his campaign; Clinton, on the other hand, pandered to women voters nonstop.

Andrew Hunt said...

I applaud your commentary on British UFOs. It was excellent. I've been reading over the British media reports and it sounds like some mighty strange things have been sighted over the UK. Alas, here in Canada, we don't have a government agency that systematically compiles info on UFOs (although there are several citizens' UFO groups). There are enough unusual sightings (reported by presumably relatively sane observers) in the de-classified British files to make you wonder. At any rate, keep up the great work....