UnCon 2004 reviews/discussion

Stormkhan

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There is absolutely no truth to the rumour that Cider was posing as Tyger lily on Saturday. Something to do with feeling "somewhat tired and emotional" the night before from what I heard...

One strange (and almost but not quite Fortean) episode for me at UnCon was being asked by a photographer to pose outside by the UnConvention banner for some piccies. He alleged he was with a freelance journalist - specialising in "Lads Mags" like FHM and Loaded - who had seen UnCon advertised and turned up on the offchance for a feature. Apparently they were expecting people to turn up in "costume" (like at sci-fi conventions) ... and I was the only "odd" looking fellow at the event.

If any FTMB posters get either mags (I'd guess at Loaded due to it's links with the FT) could they look out for the item and let me know?

The sane will be happy to know I refused to do any "artistic" poses ... he refused to pay cash.
 

Bullseye

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And IJ was there, he seemed a thoughly decent chap (*Mods* hint hint )and I know that many others thought this too,just as many others would like to see him back here again................omg the cats about to tread on the return key.............(step)............
 

carole

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Look, you lot, never mind all this talk of snoring, droopy leprechauns et al, one of you drops a tantalising mention of INDIAN BIRD FOOTED WOMEN, and then turns to other topics.

I WANT DETAILS!

Carole, who is miffed not to have been there, but had a previous engagement at Alton Towers with her sons . . .
 

Bullseye

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There was Sirens and Harpies in it too !;)
 

beakboo1

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Ah, this was Gail Nina Anderson and her wonderful illuminated cleavage. Hopefully there'll be pictures of this in next months FT. She gave an interesting talk based around a carving of a woman with bird feet, which touched on Lillith, sirens, sphinxes, harpies and some wonderful late Victorian paintings.
Not our Lillith obviously.
 

Bullseye

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beakboo said:
Ah, this was Gail Nina Anderson and her wonderful illuminated cleavage. Hopefully there'll be pictures of this in next months FT.
And from where we were sitting high up..............well, I did'nt notice............;)
 

escargot

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Strangely, during and after Gail Nina Anderson's talk there were many sightings of Organ-Stop-Eyed Men. :D
 

oll_lewis

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I have to agree Ken is getting a bit tiresome... if there is to be a fortean comedian can we please have bill bailey next year?

I'm useully very good at understanding accents but I often find myself struggleing to make sense of his and when i do understand I don't find him that funny or insightful. for example it is vaugely interesting that a lot of Japanese people have read Ann of greangables but is it really worth whittering on about it at leangth 2 years in a row? for example, would it come as some surprise to crowds at a japanese version of uncon if some japanese version of ken said "in the UK several people have seen Akira and thought it was good.".
 

lopaka

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Swan said:
I would just like to point out to a party who will understand, that being sexually attracted to a gay icon is in not something to be ashamed of, and that you should always feel comfortable with your own sexuality in whatever direction it may lead... even if its away from Kansas
:D

I wrote down the list of all the current & former MBers I met for the first time this weekend...yup...it totalled...23 ...

:eek!!!!: :eek!!!!: :eek!!!!:
 

Bullseye

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lopaka said:
:D

I wrote down the list of all the current & former MBers I met for the first time this weekend...yup...it totalled...
But how many lurkers were there?, did we scare them off?
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Weapons of Massive Distraction

Bullseye said:
And from where we were sitting high up..............well, I did'nt notice............;)
Really? I suffered my first ever attack of vertigo and have been having funny dreams since :(

In a possibly related topic similar lines "Everything you every wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask" is on tonight.
 

Bullseye

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Re: Weapons of Massive Distraction

Emperor said:
In a possibly related topic similar lines "Everything you every wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask" is on tonight.
Michael maintians a diplomatic silence,...........
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Righto my UnCon review - I'm afraid I didn't make notes so I've had to rely on memory so some of the facts may be a bit off (so consider this a bit of a first draft and I'll adjust some bits) and I have just poured it onto the page so it might read like crap but it should get my points over and spark a bit of discussion(and thats what I'm interested in rather than creating a masterpiece) ;)

Thanks to various FTMBers for a variety of informed discussions on the talks which has helped me firm up my thoughts on the various aspects:

Losing my UnCon Cherry

As this was my first UnCon and all the talks were in one hall I developed a rather foolhardy plan I was determined to try and see everything. Unfortunately due to the lack of any breaks in the timetable this would have involved a feat of endurance with severe health consequence. Luckily I was up for the challenge and I had made sure the local hospital had a pair of sherpa buttocks on ice so I could be whisked straight from the venue to have my atrophied ass swapped for one with far more potential for enduring such things (if I was ever daft enough to try again).

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Saturday

The Quest for Ectoplasm

So after a bit of organised chaos getting everyone in things kicked off with Marina Warner’s talk on ectoplasm. As usual she demonstrated her massive and in-depth knowledge of the field and the talk took us from ectoplasm to various concepts of the aether and back to ectoplasm again with a wealth of fascinating slides including numerous photographs of ectoplasm, classical paintings rendering aether and related concepts and numerous illustrations from the books of early scientists (including Newton).

She also had a great example of the strange sexual undercurrents that seem to have flowed around some of these kinds of seance and her reading of the description of a scientist constantly popping under the table to hold the knees of a young female medium helped add a suitable light note and raised numerous chuckles from the assembled Forteans.

She covered an awful lot of ground in fascinating detail and while she presented it well and it was easy to take on board I do wonder if it might have been better to relegate the parts on aether to her forthcoming book and then she could have concentrated on all the variations and varieties of ectoplasm.

My only other quibble was that she was a little quiet for the first slot of the day and we really needed someone to wake us up and start the day with a bang.

Discussion:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=18574

Web:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminiferous_aether

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Starchild Skull Update

And this is exactly what we got with the shock and awe tactics of Lloyd Pye and his Starchild skull. Amply proving that most of “we British” can still learn a thing or too from our cousins on the other side of the pond - the deployment of large quantities of southern charmer and full-on American confidence lead to an impressive talk but one that left me with more than a few niggles.

Given the recent news of the new finds from Flores presented his take on human evolution an where these mysterious creatures fit in building on his book “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG!!!!!”. Granted the title isn’t all block capitals and exclamations marks but it certainly had that feel and if one could devote your life to addressing all the wild theories on human evolution there are “out there” then my response (if written in a similar spirit) to his would probably be along the line of “YOU ARE TALKING OUT OF YOUR ARSE!!!”. Granted I could be dismissed as peddling an Establishment view point but his conclusion that the Flores find is a hominoid is, like a very shaky house of cards, based on a whole raft of dodgy assumptions, a massive misreading of the actually evidence available and a misrepresentation of the field of palaeoanthropology. It would be difficult to know where to start but his contention that we assign fossil finds to the hominid family tree purely on bipedalism is just wrong. Firstly it is done on the accretion of whole host of unique traits over time and bipedal hominoids have been well studied and published – Oreopithecus (from the Miocene) and Gigantopithecus (from the Plio-Pleistocene).

Anyway this was just a sideshow to the main event which was, of course, the Starchild skull. With an array of quality pictures and new (and old) tests results he was able to present a fascinating look at his work in progress on the skull. Unfortunately he has rather shot himself in the foot by calling it the “Starchild” as it instantly means that academia will not touch it with a barge pole and it is costing him an awful lot to buy tests which, if it had gone a more conventional route, could have been done for free or cost by a spare (post)grad student (and he does still need considerable funds to get all the tests he needs if people want to help provide some funds). This all means that progress has been slow which is a real pity because, whatever you think of it, the skull is (in the older meanings) a prodigy, wonder or even monster and is certainly worthy of considerable study. Unfortunately again he misunderstands/misrepresents a range of things including the breadth of human variation and the variability in fossilisation. On the latter we know that both taphonomy (site formation processes) and diagenesis (the changes of bone into ‘rock’) can be startling different even across the same site and high levels of collagen, the mineralisation, the red stuff (presented as possible desiccated marrow) and the fibres while interesting may not be extremely unusual. So at the core of this is the gross morphology of the skull and it is fascinating. While most of the face (maxilla and zygomatic arches) is missing, which certainly contributes to its unusual look there is clearly something very odd with the skull. Its unclear what but although he has dealt with and dismissed the pathological explanation (hydrocephalus) I do wonder if there is a teratological one. As Armand Marie Leroi has shown in his book “Mutants” (and accompanying documentary) the sheer variation of our mutations is dazzling and the shallow, close-set eyes and heart-shaped/folded in look to the skull remind me of the spectrum of morphologies that runs from the cyclops children to the two–faced (in the literal meaning) cows and pigs we have seen recently and the skull appears to be intermediate between the ‘normal’ configuration and a that of cyclops child. Anyway it is a fascinating find and does need to be studied as it may provide interesting information but the unusual path it has taken means this won’t be soon (unless he can find some more generous donors) and I’m unsure how the actual data will be interpreted – he clearly has a wider agenda based around the “Interventionist Theory” but he held back from actually stating any of this explicitly but the occasional statement that leaked out, like stating boldly that the Starchild may have been hundreds of years old and periodically regrows its teeth, lead to the occasional raised eyebrow and (at least from me) the thought “Whoa steady there fella!!”.

Book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595127495/

Discussion:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=9204
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=15502

Web:
http://www.starchild-uk.com

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Louis XVII of France and Kaspar Hauser: New insights into two famous historical mysteries of disputed identity.

Possibly one of the best qualified Forteans for examining the teratological aspects of the Starchild was up next although Jan Bondeson’s talk was on a couple of cases from his new book “The Great Pretenders” which touches on the most famous impostors from history: Louis XVII and Kasper Hauser. As anyone who has read his books will have guessed he delivered a funny and erudite discussion on these individuals and the constellations of weird individuals who seem to have involved themselves with the case. Although both of them are probably know to a lot of Fortean Jan Bondeson expanded on them throwing in new and obscure details to produce rounded and satisfying pictures of both characters and the strange events surrounding them.

The investigation into Louis produced many facts that will gladden Fortean hearts – the sheer number of claimants to the throne is fascinating as is the sheer number of Bourbon hearts (not a biscuit) that were around at one point (most of which went up in a spectacular bonfire) have made actually DNA testing various contenders or their remaining body parts a tricky but fascinating adventure leading to the dismissal of the wildest claimants and a potential validation of one preserved heart.

The story of Kasper Hauser is equally sad and through the depth of his research he has come up with theory on the identity of this strange young man – you want to know who he was? Buy the book I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393019691/

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Space Babies, Cults & Contactees: Tales from British Ufology in the 50s & 60s

Also talking about mysterious individuals was Andy Roberts who took us back in time to look at the abductee scene in Britain during the Fifties which has been rather overlooked due to the sheer dominance of the US on these fronts (ufological imperialism?). He span a fascinating tale of a variety of unusual people (slightly let down by AV problems which meant he couldn’t show us some fascinating video of some pretty strange activity) including the active role of the clergy in the whole scene before leading onto the story of Mathew Applethwaite (??) “the Space Baby” illustrated with an excellent series of newspaper cuttings from the time.

The story of this young man’s conception was overshadowed by mysterious visits by tale Nordic visitors from Venus announcing their intent to visit. Although early appearances seem to have been projections later visits seem to have been physical bordering on the mundane as they eventually shed their silver suits and helmets and donned ordinary black suits and took to arriving and leaving by a black car. After some odd encounters including one which left footprints burnt on a newspaper and some burnt flesh in the sink they informed her that, although she was already pregnant, she would be having a part-Venusian baby (while her husband initially seemed awfully relaxed about this intergalactic infidelity he did later threaten to do them considerable violence). They also provided a series of predictions about the baby’s sex and weight at birth. And lo, as was predicted so it came to pass, and the baby was indeed a boy weighing exactly what they had predicted. Unfortunately in a story that must be familiar to an awful lot of people around the country the space-father was conspicuous by his absence after the birth although I would challenge the CSA to track down that errant father!!! While Andy Roberts was able to show the Space Baby’s birth certificate to prove it all (due to an oversight there was no column for “space father”) but, despite the other predictions saying he would grow up to be a leader of men, he (possibly like his alien father’s flying saucer) drops off the radar since then. Despite a resurgence of interest every now and again over the years he has proved rather elusive and difficult to track down.

Drawing things to a conclusion Andy draw an interesting parallel with more mythical elements specifically the whole story of Jesus which demonstrates one of the key principles of Forteanism – that everything is connected to everything else and that you can gain a much broader picture of things when you don’t just confine your investigation to imagined discrete categories like “ufology”, etc.

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The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick

Next up was Dr. Peter Lamont displaying both his academic and stage magician sides by delivering a fantastic talk on the origins of the Indian Rope Trick. Although I would imagine that he might have been slightly miffed by short feature on the origin of the Indian Rope Trick in the documentary “Magic” a week or so ago he didn’t show it and greatly expanded on the details by walking us through the story of his investigation into one of the most famous magic tricks around and its rather poorly understood origins in a hoax article published at the end of the nineteenth century. He looked at the history of the trick and people’s attempts to replicate it (including the full video of a clip shown in the documentary of a very poor effort by Karachi) and touched on wider areas of interest to Forteans including the way that the stories from people tend to get wilder and more detailed over time.

Equally interesting were his ‘gripes’ about events since publishing the book which included a number of people writing letters to newspapers saying that he is wrong as they had seen it done which really only goes to show that no matter how clear and definitive you can make the case (and within Forteana it can’t get clearer and more definitive than his studies) there will always be people who will not be prepared to accept your explanation even if you were to batter them around the head with your book and force it down their throats – ultimately you have to be content with the fact that you and the vast majority of people are confident that you have the answer. To finish he expanded on his other ‘gripe’ - that even when he has explained it and people have read his book (we assume) that he is still getting booked for appearances at book festivals, etc. which say things like “Magician Dr. Lamont will be performing the Indian Rope Trick”. He firmly put these rumours to bed once and for all by performing an Indian rope trick.

Book:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0316724300/

Discussion:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=12455

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Culture Shocks: Strange Experiences in Tribal Societies and their Challenge to Western Science

Following on the heels of this was a much anticipated talk by one of our leading researchers but as with things you invest with expectations Paul Devereux both disappointed and exceeded them. The actual meat of the talk was a virtually dictionary definition of Forteanism and revolved around the presentation of data deemed damned by the anthropological community which seemed to show evidence of parapsychological phenomena observed by trained scientists living with native peoples who don’t treat this kind of activity as being particularly unusual.

Examples include an account of dreams received by one woman where the village’s “Big Mama” visited her and imparted information to her, information which “Big Mama”’s sons knew without her having to tell them, and this continued after “Big Mama” died. Another person (Grindel?) witnessed a funeral in which the dead body got up and joined in the celebrations of their life before being finally put to rest. Someone else studying in the Amazon witnessed a number of strange events but the oddest was when 6 out of 9 people under the influence of a hallucinogenic brew informed him that his wife’s father had died – a fact that was only confirmed two days later when the news arrived via jungle radio. While this kind of material has helped promote the discipline of Transpersonal Anthropology it is a very small and insular world and a lot of material is still hidden away.

This is prime Fortean fodder and had us salivating for more but it was bracketed by his discussion of how difficult it has been in recent years to get information published in ‘respectable’ channels. He initially told us about his experience with a machine called “The Octopus” (due to all the arms connecting to your head) which seemed to be able to produce repeatable remote viewing experiences but, despite their paranormal special earlier this year, he couldn’t get a sniff of interest from the New Scientist. At the end of the talk he went into details of how it has been impossible for him to find not only a publisher but also an agent who was willing to handle his idea for a book based on this damned anthropological data. While his contention that actually publishing things of this kind seems to be getting increasingly difficult in recent years (due to a rise in what? Post-911 rationalism/fundamentalism in a difficult world?), and if someone as widely respected as Devereux can’t get properly published what hope for the other researchers, it did rather eat into the time he had for the meat of the talk and he did say there were more tales he wanted to tell us if he had time. I suppose my dissatisfaction came from the feeling that it was two different (if related) talks squeezed into one but it may have just been my own enthusiasm to hear more of the verboten field reports.

Publish (even if through a less mainstream publishing house) and be damned I say!!

Discussion:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=18573

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Weird America & Sumatra 2004 – The CFZ Annual Report

To bring the first day to a conclusion and in case our energy was flagging we were hit with a report on the activities of the CFZ which bordered on the rabble rousing (if we’d been American or a more evangelic audience there would have been shouts of “Amen”, “yeah brother”, etc.) and often veered into full on sexual deviance. So just what we wanted although I’m unsure any eavesdropping Quakers might not have agreed.

Richard Freeman who took the stage to tell us about the recent results of their expedition to Sumatra in search of orang pendek, giant snakes and some kind of possible relic population of big toothed cats, as well as informing us about his distaste for spicy food and how the lady’s love his beer belly. The first part of the journey literally covered a lot of the same ground that is familiar to us from earlier sightings of orang pendek reported in FT and they confirmed the strange nature of the area and then plunged further into the jungle and a hidden valley than any westerners and even most locals. Although the unusual wedge-shaped footprints they found couldn’t be cast they did collected a range of hair samples (although the results were disappointing). After a side trip to see the world’s largest flower in bloom they went on to talk to the people who caught what was claimed to be the world’s largest snake but didn’t quite live up to that claims. Although it appears that a lot of the reports of them worshipping the snake as a god were cobblers the local hunters did report that they had seen larger specimens. Even more interesting were their claims that there was also a very large horned snake lurking out in the forest somewhere (which is important as known horned snakes tend to be small) and after consultation with the locals they were able to produce an artist’s impression of what it might look like.

Richard Freeman then passed the mike over to his compatriot Jon Downes who, ever the showman, turned things up to 11 with a talk about his journeys around the US and research into various aspects of cryptozoology and, like a good Fortean, other oddness he was interested in. Starting off with his visit to Texas’ swamps with Chester Moore as his guide (see a previous FBI article) he detailed a whole range of wonderful animals including giant turtles (of truly frightening proportions) and Bigfoot evidence that was enough to overtone his scepticism about its existence. As well as covering a number of unusual big cat sightings he provided the actual solution to Mad Gasser of Mattoon case and pointed to the very important point that sometimes when you visit a place you will find out that the locals actually have the answer to the mystery which lead seamlessly into his research into the chupacabras in Puerto Rico and with a flourish (and a dash of dramatic tension) revealed what he thinks the chupacabras actually is. This involves the tricky issue of the conflation of attacks with actual sightings of mystery beasts when in fact he is pretty sure that the attacks are actually from mongooses (mongeese?) brought into PR to deal with the rat problem while the mystery animal actually only attacks banana trees and is most probably some kind of porcupine-type creature (its appearance in the Americas possibly be relating to an idea that PR actually broke off from the African mainland and is different from the other Caribbean islands). The fusion of the attacks and sightings has lead monster hunters seriously down the wrong track and it may be with a clearer theory it may finally be possible to look in the right places.

They then laid out their exciting ideas for next years research which include not only an attempt to final prove the identity of the chupacabras but plans to bring a Mongolian Death Worm to the next UnCon (although the veiled threats to flop their worms out on the table may be taken a number of ways- as it were). In a set of wide ranging questions it did emerge that one should take Nick Redfern’s accounts of the Glastonbury Gargoyle with a rather large pinch of salt. Things ended with a request for our help. If cryptozoology has truly come in from the cold then it certainly seems that the CFZ are well positioned to go mainstream and the next year or so looks to be a real blockbuster but they still need everyone’s help – if you can’t contribute money they also need people’s time to do dull but necessary tasks like proofreading, computer programming, etc. so if you are interested in being a part of this then now is the time to get involved.

Discussion:
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1010
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=12383
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11514

Web:
http://www.cfz.org.uk

=================
Sunday

The Knights Templar and their ancient secrets

We kicked off Sunday with no complaints about it being possibly a little laid back as we start on the highest of gears with the Reverend Lionle Fanthorpe. We were treated to some exclusive extracts from the book he (and Mrs Fanthorpe) are working on looking at various aspects of the Templars which sounds like it might help provide more information for the people wondering about the actual background behind “That Book” as well as taking us off into some strange and interesting territory. It seems a number of topics will be dealt with including a strange pre-Templar Watcher/Guide kind of organisation, Templar codes, where the Templar fleet went, etc.

He started on the area of Templar codes and how they were based on the Knight’s Tour on the chessboard and specifically Euler’s Knight’s Tour Magic Square as well as potential music codes at Rosslyn (some of these he is throwing out for people with more specialist knowledge in some areas to pick up and run with – he said you could get the Euler Magic Square from his website or by emailing him).

He moved on to the idea that there may be a mysterious group (or possible two) guiding human development and potentially mating with human women to produce great leaders. During questions he was quite happy to admit that the idea that this balancing could come about due to a more natural process that provides enough impetus for change but stops things from becoming complete anarchy and this was at east as good as his own.

He then moved on to the idea of certain mystical weapons being passed on to various leaders over time including some kind of spear/staff and a cauldron. He then wound things up by looking at the last days of the Cathars and why they never accepted the generous terms of surrender they were given and the mysterious treasure they may have spirited away and sacrificed their life to protect which may (or may not) feed into the mystery of Rennes Le Chateau. The book is still only about three quarters done but sounds like it should be interesting, insightful, controversial and thought-provoking hopefully in equal measures.

To end on a high note Jon Downes returned with a guitar to accompany the Rev in his new song about the Templars and then they did a number from the album they produced a while back.

Web:
http://www.lionel-fanthorpe.com

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The Singing Pyramid

While still reeling from this entertainment we settled in for some potential pyramid-base crackpottery from Alan Alford on “The Singing Pyramid” but were to be disappointed and pleased to find it was actually an interesting theory that the Great Pyramid at Giza may have been the ancient equivalent of a 150m tall Marshal amp. This rather takes the ideas of acoustic archaeology up by an order of magnitude on the scale front!!!

The resonant qualities of the King’s Chamber has been mentioned before but he examines all the contradictory evidence like the granite cladding and the granite gables in the roof and brings it together with the peculiar dimensions of the “air shafts” (which may be more like organ tubes) to suggest it may have been used to resonate with the sound of the earth and produce more of a moaning than singing representation of the act of creation – the production of infrasound may also had a kind of “shock and awe” effect.

The theory does make sense of a number of unusual aspects of the pyramid and some of the later tunnels that were dug which may have been used for inspection after an earthquake/impact may have broken it. It is an intriguing idea based on a lot of evidence and numbers (which he covers in more depth in his book) but is a bit difficult to square with the fact that there is no mention of it in any of the ancient texts (although he did provide some reasons why this might be so or they might have been overlooked) but it is perfectly testable and one of the other people investigating the acoustics of the King’s chamber is planning on reconstructing it – not as a computer simulation but life-size and in granite!! Even if I were a betting man I wouldn’t put any money on this but it certainly has potential.

Book:
http://www.eridu.co.uk

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Sirens, Harpies and Bird-footed Women

Next up was Gail Nina Anderson who warned us from the start that there wasn’t a conclusion but she did prove that its not necessarily arriving at your location which is best bit of some journeys unfortunately the journey is almost impossible to describe and while I don’t want to say “you had to be there”…….

She starts with the Burney Relief a fascinating Babylonian clay plaque which may have come from a brothel and appears to represented Ishtar (r at least an aspect of her related to the Underworld) as a bird-footed goddess flanked by owls and standing on a pair of lions. We then went on a roller coaster ride-style tour of a whole range of female minor deities and mythical creatures (with lots of switchbacks and loops) including Lilith, vampires, sirens (both bird-like and fish-like), mermaids, sphinxes, Queen Victoria, Victory, Queen Victoria again, angels, angels of death and back to Ishtar with a PS involving the adverts from a bondage/fetish magazine. It touched on a range of topic but an overarching theme was a kind of idea of the fear/celebration of female power as signified by her being given a more sexy title: “The Queen of the Night”. As I said it is tricky to describe but certainly worth seeing.

Web:
http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/compass/ixbin/goto?id=OBJ12540

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My Family and Other Ghosts

As Peter Brookesmith’s talk on his family’s encounters with ghosts over the generations started rolling my (relative) lack of interest ghosts, the Call of the Wild/Nature and just basic human frailty caused me to bail out and go for a wander and from reports I’ve had, although his analogy to fox hunting was interesting, I made the right choice on which one to miss.

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Mussolini’s Mystic

Following on from this was Gary Lachman’s talk on the Italian Baron Julius Evola a Dadaist poet who became increasingly interested in mysticism who was at times a big influence of Mussolini and later far right groups who went on to commit terrible acts like the bombing of Bologna station in 1980.

Although Gary clearly knows what he is talking about and is very knowledgeable I certainly felt like I missed a lot of his talk. The talk was in essence a breakneck speed reading of what I believe is a forthcoming article in FT (it came in at around half an hour) accompanied by what appeared to be a random mix of his slides playing in a continuous loop on the screen behind him. Images include Il Duche, Hitler, some centurions, Atlantis the North pole, Frankenstein, some obscure fascists or Dadaist, Nosferatu, Tolkein, a range of art and most oddly a big winking George W. Bush.

As well as actually missing parts of his talk because I was distracted by the incongruous and/or synchronous images of the slide show (synchronous because occasional after spending a couple of loops wondering why Tolkein was in there he would get a mention just as he appeared on screen but it didn’t happen often enough to make it appear that rather than being due to pinpoint timing it seemed to be pure luck) I was left wondering if I’d missed a broader point and whether I wasn’t actually listening to a talk but watching some kind of artistic performance with a potential tip of the hat to the Dadaist movement.

I am looking forward to reading his article as it should give me an opportunity to fill in the gaps on what is an interesting topic with serious implications and if I lose track of the thread of his argument at least I can flick back and pick it up again.

-----------------
Skinwalker Ranch

Poor Ian Simmons had to deliver his talk after two days of organising the talks and coordinating the questions and his voice was starting to show signs of strain – some much so that at some points I was expecting him to just have to stop but thankfully he didn’t and we got to sit back and let the weirdness flow over because Skinwalker Ranch is a topic of such high strangeness that it is almost impossible to try an analyse it. As well as the core experiences at the ranch he dealt with two other locations in nearby states which seem to be similar areas where the fabric of reality seems to warn awfully thin.

As anyone who read his earlier article [FT169:44-7] will know the sheer amount and breadth of experiences defies categorisation lurching from UFOs to cryptids, to poltergeists to balls of light with no pity for the poor researcher. Phenomena include invulnerable disappearing wolves, invisible velociraptors, portals vomiting large red eyed bigfoots and giving glimpses of stormy skies on clear day, flying cigarette boxes that steal trees, odd spheres of bubbling blue liquid that appear to have the ability to turn three dogs into some kind of butter, some trickster-like entity seemingly capable of hiding 4 bulls in a tiny metal trailer without opening it, voices from the air, rumblings from the earth, etc., etc. If one’s mind isn’t raised to and beyond its boggling point by that then it must surely be guaranteed 100% boggleproof (and we’d like to speak to you).

Such activity does seem to have attracted the attention of the military and more specifically an alleged independently funded non-governmental organisation NIDS who bought Skinwalker Ranch and established monitoring stations which, while bringing in a lot of reports of odd goingson, don’t seem to have brought in anything too definitive and NIDS has failed to produce a comprehensive report and is it appears winding down operations leaving us not much better off than when they got involved.

If anyone is interested in starting a movement to storm their offices and/or the farm then count me in.

So what is going on? I have no idea although I do wonder if the reports of electro-magnetic anomalies may in some way be at the root of this and if so it could be at the root of some of the strangeness we encounter but in some ways I am more enamoured of the idea that it may in fact be some kind of Fortean field laboratory. I can see some other dimensional Denzil Dexter standing in what would be their equivalent of a lab coat with their other dimensional clipboard checking of the phenomena they are testing:

  • tree-stealing flying box – “disappointing”
  • invisible velociraptor – “has potential but needs more work – back to the labs”.
  • dog butter – “approved. Schedule for release in Idaho Spring 2005 building to a major wave in the Fall. Investigate potential commercial applications”.

Discussion:
Skinwalker ranch
NIDS

----------------
LIVE ON STAGE - Earthling human life gone by 2610 - Falco the Temponaut - Synchronic Lines - Operation Triad - The Enemy of Human Kind - Dr Xavier Crement - School of Rock

And to round things off we had the Madness of King Ken which started off strongly with a minutes noise for John Peel and then took us on what felt like a strange guided tour of the inside of Ken Campbell’s head. Jumping off from Neil Oram’s Warp and the “Arsehole Trilogy” he weaves a path (initially involving a vast and varied use or variations of the word arsehole) through the fact that we are all arseholes, via the first film filmed outside (it was a Newfoundland one on sea hunting) and why you should never trust an Oram, taking in his theory about him having two different personalities on different sides of his face (Elsie the housewife on the left and the Spanking Squire on the right) and how he teaches this to business for a grand a day, stopping with a brief interlude about how his nose used to look like a naked woman washing her hair (and the amazing facial set dressing someone made to show it off at its best) before really launching off into mixing his documentary series on the brain and self with his investigations into the Damanhur cult in the Italian Alps who are hollowing out a mountain into a huge temple the two strands intermixing and being brought together (metaphorically and physically) to examine the ideas about the nature of the Self and Qualia (best described as “you can build a machine to chew toffee but would it understand the Qualia of the experience?”) before plunging deeper into the cult’s beliefs about their time travelling abilities and how the world has really ended.

Web:
http://www.damanhur.org

==================
So at least as far as I’m concerned it was a great collection of talks covering the expected wide range of topics so good in fact that it was tricky to actually pick which one’s to miss so you could buy some books, eat go to the toilet, etc.. From a personal point of view Saturday’s card was so strong that it was impossible to pick one and while Sunday’s line up delivered many of the highlights of the conference I was grateful for the opportunity to finally take a break.

Next year if it is the same kind of timetable, venue and quality of talks I will be returning with my new mighty Sherpa buttocks, anti-deep vein thrombosis socks, incontinence pants and a swami skilled in the ancient and mysterious art of Indian gluteal massages.
 

PlagueRider

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Everytime I saw the words 'Skinwalker Ranch' I thought it said 'Skywalker Ranch'... ahem.... back to sleep I think.
 

Anome

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Which was referred to in the talk.

"How do you know if you're a Navajo Jedi?

Your name is Luke Skinwalker."

Apologies to the many people who have sent me messages since Sunday. Both of you. I'm not really getting time to spend on the board at the moment. Responses will be sent when I have the time.

I will just point out that a large amount of the claims made against Palaeo-anthropology in the Starchild talk, are clearly contradicted in the editorial to this week's New Scientists that had come out before the talk, obviously. So perhaps he should have read the material on the Flores find before railing against it.

Then again, perhaps he is ignoring New Scientist in sympathy with Paul Devereux?

A fascinating weekend, with some quite interesting lectures. It was worth the trip from Australia. (Not sure I can afford it again next year, though.)

Are there transcripts of the talks available anywhere? I need some of the texts to sort out a couple of things. (And pictures of Gali-Nina Anderson...)
 

Dr_David_Sutton

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Just a big thanks to all the message-boarders who turned up; wish I'd got the chance to meet more of you, but I seemed to spend most of the weekend rushing from A to B, getting waylaid en route, forgetting exactly what I was doing and eventually repeating the whole process...

It seems that, on the whole, UnCon went well (despite a completely chaotic and worringly shaky start) and that most people had a good time - the Quakers, you'll be glad to hear, thought us a nice, friendly bunch, so no problems there.

It would be great if you could carry on posting feedback - venue, food, talks, suggestions, whatever - that I can use when we sit down and try to figure out where to go with next year's UnCon.

Once again, thanks for coming (particulaly to those of you who travelled half way round the world!) and see you next year.

Best wishes,

David
 

Cider

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Unfortunately I didn't make it to Uncon, but I hear that Tyger Lily did and had a great time! ;)

It was a real pleasure meeting up with everyone. Well, most of you. Obviously there were one or two members who were just plain mean, but what do you expect from Men of Kent. Or is that Kentish Men? Attempted murder is generally not encouraged in other parts of the country. And anyway, I do such a good job of nearly getting myself killed in the traffic, you really don't have to bother.:blah: But I'm just rambling now.

The highlights for me were Gail-Ninas talk on some of the strong women of mythology- I now have some new role models to live up to! And the talk on the Indian Rope Trick was incredibly entertaining. The Rev was good as well. I know next to nothing about Rennes Le chateau, (although I do have a groovy pen with a little man and a wheelbarrow of gold that runs away.) but I certainly want to find out more about it now. The CFZ were great as always, and I'm looking forward to The flopping out of the Mongolian death Worm next year. Who needs Shrek porn, eh Min?
:D
 

Min Bannister

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Well I would take it as a substitute yes!:D

Glad to hear we didn't alienate the Quakers after all, I know one or two people were worried.

My only problem with the venue was that it was too hot in the lecture theatre bit! It made it a little hard to stay awake sometimes. Other than that it was really pleasent, rather maze like but the food was good. And the courtyard bit was lovely.:)

Edit. Ooh and a big crawly thanks to EVERYONE involved in organising it, it must be quite a task.:D
 

Electric_Monk

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Cider said:
Who needs Shrek porn, eh Min?
:D
I bought Shrek 2 on DVD yesterday while waiting to meet someone before I came home, perhaps Min'd like to borrow it ;)

Min Bannister said:
My only problem with the venue was that it was too hot in the lecture theatre bit! It made it a little hard to stay awake sometimes.
Yeah, I nearly nodded off a few times myself, far too warm at times...much like the previous Edinburgh Fortean Society venue. Perhaps forteans attract warmth.
 
A

Anonymous

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Richard Freeman does not require a second asking before flopping his Death Worm out onto the table. :D

Glad to have met those of you I did. Sorry I didn't get to do more than wave at Escargot! Yet another apology for walking past people who were yelling my name :( Sorry! And sorry I missed other people who were there.

And, am I missing something, or was someone else at the dreaded Hotel California that I wasn't aware of???

Anyway, don't forget there's Weird Weekend as well next August. You may get a sneak preview of Richard's Death Worm. Just ask him nicely and buy him a pint. Well, just ask him, actually....
 

Stormkhan

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I thought that the FT stand could've done more on the merchandising front. The giant-size cover art posters were great, the Fortean books and Digests were alright. But they could've done more in the line of mugs, badges, t-shirts etc. I did get my natty "UnCon2004" shirt, but they should've plugged the magazines merchanise a tad more.

Also, what would the plan have been if it had been p....ersistantly pouring with rain or snowing? The corridors might've got a tad crowded.
 

NilesCalder

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Bullseye said:
And IJ was there, he seemed a thoughly decent chap (*Mods* hint hint )and I know that many others thought this too,just as many others would like to see him back here again................omg the cats about to tread on the return key.............(step)............
Well if he hadn't had over nine seperate warnings while refusing to moderate his behaviour he'd still be here. He burnt his own bridges and the rules are quite clear: once gone; never to return.

You think I enjoyed having authorise the banning of a good friend? There's no way he's coming back; I'll not subject him to that!

If you care so much for him you should have done something to help him last year rather than bemoan his absence now.

End of discussion

Anyway. :eek: Back on topic.

Uncon sounds great. Cooj and I are already planning to be there next year; assuming it doesn't move again ;) We're also planning to kidnap Stu and bring him along so that we can have a full mod-squad presence.:cool:
 

owenwhiteoak

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Still recovering

Just wanted to say that it was nice to get a chance to meet a few MB'ers at Uncon, although I didn't get as much chance to chat as I'd have liked. And I was a bit tired and emotional in the pub on Sunday evening.

And I was amused at Emps's confusion over the title "sub editor" and the fact that I sometimes barge in to redirect complaints to subs department. That's just because I like to help out FT readers -- after all, I are one.

For those who don't know publishing (the rest of you can skip the remainder), I work in editorial, and what a sub editor does is: fixing (or fixating on) typos, grammar and punctuation; fact checking; a little rewrite when a particularly clunky sentence has squeezed past Paul or David's edit; writing up the occasional Strange Days story (we don't byline stuff by FT staff, but most of SD is by Paul, ICYDK); copy-fitting (i.e. trimming down or bulking up text so it exactly fills the space allocated); prof-reyding; writing titles and captions and selecting pull-quotes; apalling puns (I only do the ones you like, of course -- the rest are all by someone else); making the tea; building a better mousetrap and immanentizing the eschaton.

Still, it's better than working.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Timble said:
Excellent review, Emps:yeay:
Cheers - you were, obviously, one of the people who helped me organise my thoughts on various matters. I'll be editting it at some point to make it more readbale and add in some missing details.

David Sutton said:
Just a big thanks to all the message-boarders who turned up; wish I'd got the chance to meet more of you, but I seemed to spend most of the weekend rushing from A to B, getting waylaid en route, forgetting exactly what I was doing and eventually repeating the whole process...
It was nice to meet you even if it was at the height of the chaos!! Apologies to Bob and Gordon as I nearly got to speak to you - Gordon nearly got grabbed in a corridor but he was just out of reach and was terrifically busy on the Sunday (before sneaking off early). A number of us did get to speak to Owen and thank him on everyone's behalf for his sterling work helping with any subs problems - I do apologies for introducing him as "the subs guy" but in any pantheon the deities can clearly hold numerous roles so being our Subs God (or to give him his longer title "The Finder of the Lost Mags") doesn't mean he can't also be a Sub-editting God too - in fact you cn see how the two properties could have become entwined over time ;)

[edit: LOL - Owen sneaked in while I was typing but my explanation still stands ;) ]

David Sutton said:
t would be great if you could carry on posting feedback - venue, food, talks, suggestions, whatever - that I can use when we sit down and try to figure out where to go with next year's UnCon.
Venue - it seemed like a good one (its proximity to Euston being very handy) and the complaints are only minor - it was too warm in the main hall (hence the FTMBers largely taking over the balcony by the window) as I assume it probably wasn't designed for so many people to be in for such a long time. Lines of site all seemed good

Food - reasonably priced given the fact that people can usualy charge what they like with captive audiences.

Talks - excellent (as I've said) and a good mix (you have to have some things bordering on the contentious/crackpot or we'd all be sitting around nodding and stroking our beards). I think everyone (not just my old buttocks) would ask for some kind of break. I would imagine half an hour to an hour after the first 3 talks would give people the chance to eat, stretch their legs and buy (more) books and with a break running from 10 - 6ish wouldn't be an issue (unless it was a booking thing). As far as I was concerned the Saturday lineup was all unmissable and I wasn't prepared to chose. I'm sure the various stall owners would appreciate more selling time. I would have also been interested in seeing some kind of debate/

Toilets (we are British and so its always worth a category) - adequate but I'm unsure what we Forteans 'do' but the toilet roll was nearly all gone by lunchtime Sunday ;)

On a sidenote about the feedback would it be possible to publish the link o this thread in the magazine when you run the UnCon reviews so more people can drop by and throw in their fourpenneth?

On another sidenote I created an UnCon entry in the Wikipedia (but its a little thin if anyone wants to add any suggestions):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UnCon

---------------
Anyway I think I've been rude and not said it beofre so a big thanks to everyone involved in making it happen - it must have been an awful lot of hard work and it seems to have gone relatively smoothly considering all the various elements that had to be brought together to make it all work. And I hope Ian Simmons gets his voice back ;)
 

owenwhiteoak

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It all depends on how you look at it

Ravenstone said:
I want your job. :D Is the pay good? ;)
Erm... not really.

But it won't matter after the Eschaton.
 
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