This is an odd topic to look at – weirdness. What do I mean, and how do I come the the conclusion that it is ‘increasing’? This was a question I started wondering about when I noticed the proliferation of paranormal shows. And while I am prone to mock them – especially Ghost Adventures – it made me wonder what was making these all work. Unlike the true crime ‘murder porn’ driving Investigation Discovery, the slate of paranormal TV has to be fresh and unique. They can’t mine documented cases for content. So what’s going on?
First, let me be completely clear. I am highly skeptical of the entire paranormal show concept. In most of them, it seems like there is never anything concrete, never anything conclusive. All too often, it is a reaction to something never seen, despite ostensibly being on camera, followed by being told what happened, not shown. Audio is presented with helpful captions or the team all ‘hearing’ the same thing, which plants the suggestion in the viewer’s mind. Clever editing and post-event interviews combine with obviously (and openly) staged bumpers to enhance the ‘spooky’ elements. Add in the gizmos that all have technobabble names and easily could be triggered off-camera and you just have a recipe for deceiving the audience.
Second, I need to be clear about what I consider ‘paranormal TV’. I am specifically referring to shows who’s format is completely paranormal or supernatural. Unlike Wikipedia, I wouldn’t include Mysteries at the Museum (background on various items…not supernatural), River Monsters (fishing…and he usually finds the fish too), or Curse of Oak Island (not mainstream archaeology, but it is based on tangible items). I also mostly discount Bigfoot shows, since they are clowning around in a forest to find a creature always reported as ‘shy’. If that’s your thing, check out Survivorman Bigfoot. Conspiracy, aliens, pure psychic shows, etc. also don’t count as paranormal for this work. They are, in order, speculation, speculation, and fraud.
But for ghost shows, and this is important, they still make them, and at least one, Ghost Hunters, has been running since 2004. Why? How? And how is there enough content available to make as many of these shows as we have available?
Gullibility, Increase, Or Just Too Much Time To Fill?
It is tempting to default to the idea that there is too much time to fill, and something has to go there. I am sure there is something to that, of course, but I know enough about the way programming works to not fall fully into that camp. Simply put, if there was no audience, then the shows wouldn’t sell ads, and would be pulled for ones that did sell. So. that can’t be the sole reason.
The other thing I am thinking about is maybe best described as gullibility. We all tend to believe things we want to, and many of us want to believe in an afterlife. So, the ghost show plays off of that – there is something more, and we can continue after death. I don’t like that either, since the theme seems to be that ghosts, by and large, are either victims of obscene abuse and violence, or whiny, or just hateful. Not all, of course, but in the stuff I have seen, it’s pretty common. That doesn’t seem to be the kind of afterlife that would be attractive. Of course, there is a lot of ‘helping them pass on’ talk, but in the absence of anything conclusive, that is just talk. Declaring this expansion of content to just be due to gullibility also has, for me, more than a hint of arrogance, classism, and generally being an asshole. I am sure there is some level of gullibility at play…but I can’t in good faith say that it’s the driving factor.
Leaving an increase in useful examples of the paranormal. In this context, I just mean there is more happening, an acceleration, if you look at the political theory of the same name; allowing more content to be created without duplication. While we don’t have the dedicated network in the paranormal like we do for murder porn, it’s getting close. If we have more happening, then it make sense that we have more shows.
Increasing Paranormal Activity or Better Hoaxes?
One of the more…questionable…aspects of the slate of reality paranormal television is the technology aspect. From the Mel Meter used to measure “electromagnetic fields (EMF) and temperature changes”, to ‘ghost boxes’ (devices that sweep across radio frequencies at high speeds), to other gadgets that light up or make noise when they encounter electromagnetic interference – always attributed to spirits. And these devices are always presented as the gold standard in ghost detection, without demonstrating any evidence to that claim. Of course, all these devices have at least one, often multiple, antennas, which opens the skeptical (and logical) question of ‘can they be controlled off-camera’.
In the early days, mediums and other paranormal promoters would have people hidden in other rooms, under tables, etc. to manipulate things, make noises, and generally sell the experience. These days, on camera, you can easily have a producer off in the production van triggering things by remote control. Since the entire experience is constructed to be as isolating and suggestive as possible, making these devices go off helps sell the idea. Further, the members of the team, and any semi-random fans they include, are tremendously predisposed to believe there is something happening. Making devices trigger easily pushes people so conditioned to see what the producers want. Technology, especially custom technology like this, is a truly weak point in the genre, and something that maybe needs to be overcome.
I started watching some of these through the gateway drug that is Ozzy Osbourne. In the series ‘The Osbournes Want To Believe’, son Jack, a paranormal investigator, tries to sell his parents on the idea that ghosts, UFOs, cryptids, and so forth exist. He has a lot of interesting footage, and the totally disconnected responses from his parents makes for some fun watching. This series led to a one-off special ‘The Osbournes’ Night of Terror’. If you haven’t seen this, it is worth a watch.
In brief, the plot is that Jack and Kelly head off to investigate the supposedly haunted Heritage Square in Los Angeles. Kelly expects that Jack will be messing with her (siblings, right?), and is mostly blowing the whole thing off. Ozzy & Sharon remain at home, watching on monitors. This was shot during COVID, so these precautions make sense. Ozzy is also 72, so walking around at night in strange houses is likely a bad idea at any time. Anyway, Kelly more or less loses her shit at what she encounters, and winds up fully on board with the idea that there is something out there. Which is nice and all, but the parts that kind of sold me were the scenes of the producers freaking out. That was new, since the producers and crew on paranormal shows never freak out. Ever. The talent does, often very theatrically, but never the crew. Until this one, where they had a crew that did. That alone made me pay attention. The random things opening also helped, since they happened in the background, surprised the crew, and were not easily explained. Yes, there was also the usual nonsense, but those few gems helped sell it.
Other shows, like Holzer Files, have had some interesting audio, better than average (but still not conclusive) video, and they take an approach that focuses on historical research more than some others. They also focus on their own results, where they could simply recreate the work they are using as inspiration. That adds a layer of believably, especially when they directly contradict their source.
What this all leads me to wonder is if there is something there, something more than we might otherwise consider. The paranormal has always had some popularity, but the audience needed to support the amount of content being created today seems to support the idea that there is something there. Further, the change in what these shows, or some of them, are showing is interesting. More and more often there is some physical event on camera that is harder to dismiss – although there is still no video of anything conclusive. There is better audio, played without comment from the cast, allowing one to hear what is there before they plant suggestions. The crew and producers are reacting, adding believability.
2020 has been a weird year. Finding out that paranormal shows are actually on to something wouldn’t be too far out of bounds. Not in a year with random monoliths appearing around the world, a global pandemic that shut the world down, and so on.
I remain a paranormal skeptic. I also have to admit that either they are far better at faking it than they used to be, or maybe…just maybe…there is something out there.
Back in 2017 I did a review for a memoir called The Dysfunctional Conspiracy. It was critical, and I had issues with several aspects of the story, especially as it conflicted with my own knowledge of how criminal cases can proceed.
But that isn’t the point of this new piece. The review stands as originally posted, I have not made, and will not make, any changes. That’s also not the point of this, just putting it out there.
The author, Christopher Veltmann, was kind enough to respond to the original post, and raise some good points. That comment is also on the post. Mr. Veltmann also left, almost a month ago now, a followup I wanted to post about. I’d have gotten there sooner, but you might be aware March was a bit insane – and not in a basketball vein.
Seems that the book is being optioned as a mini-series, and will cover more ground than the book does. That feels odd, as most books cover far more than a producer is willing to pay for – even short stories get chopped up in production. But, stranger things have happened.
I looked for more, but can’t find any. Nothing on IMDB, no hits on Google, nada. Now, if this is in early stages of production, or is from a new company, that makes more sense. Very early stages. The project doesn’t seem to be announced publicly yet.
I’ll keep checking from time to time, and see if or when the project is announced. It will be interesting to see a property I have been part of, even just on the fringe of the edge of the outermost frontier of the periphery of, for three years come to video.
We…lol. Anyway, I am not posting one of those inane ‘COVID-19’ messages where we reassure you that a purely online service takes your health seriously, and is going to make sure to clean more often/thoroughly. That’s just nuts. Clean a store, sure. Clean a hosting provider? Really?
And can I add that it’s really distressing to have all the food service places imply that they aren’t as clean as they could be? Seriously.
So, this will continue to be as infrequent and random as it has been. I won’t be cleaning more often, because why. Immunity isn’t developed in sterile fields! And also because I don’t work on food service, so if I did clean more often, you wouldn’t be impacted in the least. So deal.
I have started a daily log of what’s happening here during the forced isolation of the pandemic. Interestingly, I don’t see a lot of other blogs focused on COVID-19 out there. Go figure. Maybe this thing can finally be monetized! Gimme that filthy bloggy lucre already. Or, you know, not. Whatever.
Keep safe, and remember, this isn’t going to be forever.
…the simple reality is that fat does equal unhealthy.
As someone who is fat – and that is the right term, not ‘plus sized’, ‘big-boned’, or whatever other euphemism you want to use – this is a hard pill to swallow. It is, however, the truth.
So, let’s establish my credentials here. I am 350+ pounds, about 6’1″, and have been fat almost my whole life. I am down nearly 70 pounds from my worst weight, and still at least 100 pounds overweight. So, yeah, I get to have an opinion. And despite that, my blood pressure is pretty good (high end of normal, but still in the normal range), I am mobile and can walk miles without stopping. I have, and should get back to, been going to the gym and watching my intakes. My cholesterol is low. About 116 at last read. That is not the lowest it’s been, that was when I was likely 50 pound heavier, and then it was under 100.
By most metrics, I am pretty damn healthy. The type 2 diabetes aside. And the extra 100 pounds I carry.
Those are the very things that make me unhealthy. But what is it about being fat makes me inherently unhealthy?
This is more about Christmas the religious holiday than the secular one…but the second grew from the first, so it’s about that too.
From the most basic perspective, Christianity, Inc. has its holidays flipped. As a religion, Christmas – the birth of Christ – is given the bulk of the attention. From Advent to decoration, to services, pageants, celebrations, all of it – it is all about Christmas. Easter, the holiday that should have the most importance, is a distant second. It is important to note here that I am referring to the protestant church, which I have seen all my life, and have seen Christmas and Easter celebrations in several flavors. I am not, and never have been Catholic. So my experience of how they approach it is much less clear. I suspect it’s similar, but cannot prove that.
Why Is Easter More Important?
Stripped of the religious trappings, Christmas is a birthday, Easter is…impossible to do without some level of religion. Easter is the moment when a smallish band of reformers formed something new. It’s the moment when reform became religion.
In that sense, there is no Christian holiday with more importance. Easter is the birth of the church. The moment the tomb opened was the beginning of Christianity. Easter should have all the attention, but it doesn’t.
Why Christmas, Then?
Humans are weird. We are, possibly uniquely, able to hold two conflicting thoughts in place at once. And then proceed to act on them both. Anyone who has studied their beliefs, as a Christian, knows that Easter is more important. And yet, we still place tons of emphasis on Christmas over Easter. Why?
It is, I think, because we get Christmas. We really don’t get Easter.
What do I mean? Well, like I said above, Christmas is, at the core, a birthday. And no, I won’t be getting into the date being off, the pre-existing pagan stuff plastered over everything, and all the changes and compromises of the early church that made Christmas into what it is today. Nope. Those things are not the point – even though they matter.
No, the point is that every person in history understands the idea of a birthday. We all get one. Having a birthday is the single most common element of being human. We were all born. Jesus is no exception. He was born. We all share that. And because we all share that commonality, we can place our own desires and needs on top of the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
And if you think about it, Christmas is, in a lot of ways, a second birthday party for everyone who celebrates. We celebrate His birthday by having another one for ourselves.
So, in a very deep manner, we all understand Christmas as a birthday. Religion aside, we deeply understand this idea of celebrating birth.
But Easter…That’s Not Common
Easter, on the other hand, is not a shared experience. Our tradition tells us precisely two people would understand Easter in the same way we all understand Christmas – Lazarus and Jesus. And they are not around to explain it.
Easter is the resurrection – the moment that the early converts to Jesus message of reform became the foundation of a new faith. He came back…which no one else did. Judaism doesn’t have this story. Islam doesn’t have this story. No other monotheistic faith has this story. Just Christianity.
I have come to think that the lack of common experience makes Easter less approachable to the average person. There is a supernatural component in there that can’t be really processed. It is just far enough outside the realm of human experience that we can’t process it fully.
So…What’s The Point Of This?
Good question! I don’t know, exactly. This isn’t some neo-Puritan anti-Christmas thing. It’s mostly just something I wanted to get out there, a thought about why we have this huge commercial celebration that kind of shouldn’t be there. We have people proclaiming a ‘war on Christmas’. And based on the nonsense seen on social media, being jerks about it. We have stress over the huge significance attached to this holiday, which only exists because of the inflated importance of Christmas.
If there is a point, other than to be a think piece about why this over that, the point would be to relax. The commercial holiday became what it is because it was pasted onto a misunderstood religious holiday. Don’t stress it. If you are feeling anxious because of the trappings of what you see as a major Christian holiday, don’t. Yes, it is the birth of Christ. But you know what…you were born too. At that moment, you shared the experience of birth with Him. Christmas is celebrating that. Birth.
From a place of faith, it’s not a big achievement – we all did that.
If faith has you stressed, remember that this isn’t the big moment, and the events of Easter are far more important. Our ancestors just got it backwards.
The idea that 44 sitting US Senators voted to not protect babies who survive attempted abortions is abhorrent. Much like the Democrats march towards open advocacy of infanticide, this is the kind of thing that turns the stomach.
But it didn’t fucking happen.
I made that big, so read it again. It. Didn’t. Fucking. Happen.
What did happen is that 44 US Senators voted to oppose cloture on the bill. In short, they voted against ending debate and forcing a vote. Yes, there is a real chance they meant that as a way to kill the bill, and that is speculation on my part given the current climate of litmus tests and hyperpartisan politics.
As with any legislation, it is worth taking the time to read the actual document. It can be found at https://www.congress.gov/116/bills/s311/BILLS-116s311pcs.pdf. It is pretty plain language – if an abortion fails and results in a live birth, that baby is to be accorded all the same required efforts and services as any other (intentional) live birth. That is, transport to hospital, neonatal care, etc. It also specifically states that if said baby is killed postpartum, then it is murder (fucking duh).
What is interesting is § 1532 (c) – the bar to prosecution. Since abortion is legal, the mother is shielded from prosecution for any crimes related to the abortion. This is important because in the result of a live birth, the attempted abortion could be construed as attempted murder. This bill prevents that. Strongly. It reads:
“(c) Bar To Prosecution.—The mother of a child born alive described under subsection (a) may not be prosecuted for a violation of this section, an attempt to violate this section, a conspiracy to violate this section, or an offense under section 3 or 4 of this title based on such a violation.
It also specifically allows the mother to seek legal relief for the botched procedure (that’s fancy talk for sue them). While it limits statutory damages to three times the cost of the abortion, it allows punitive damages and “objectively verifiable money damage for all injuries, psychological and physical, occasioned by the violation of subsection (a);”.
I get that abortion is one of those tricky things that makes everyone slightly uncomfortable, at various points and levels. It was forced into legality in the worst way possible, and has been a subject of argument since then.
But that was 46 years ago.
It isn’t going anywhere, and I wish my fellow conservatives would understand that. Oppose it on moral grounds, yes. It is morally repulsive when it is used as ex post facto birth control. But we need to be honest, and abortion needs to remain safe, accessable, and legal. At least until no one is ever raped. Which isn’t going to happen in any future that we get to live in.
Back to the vote. 44 Senators, all Democratic (and Bernie) votes to oppose cloture (3 Republicans didn’t vote). As cloture needs a 3/5 majority (or 60 votes), that blocked cloture. As I opined above, this is likely meant to preview votes on the bill itself, but is not, in fact, a vote on the bill. While organizations like Planned Parenthood chose to lie about the bill, stating that it limited abortion, the simple reality is in the bill as introduced.
So, here are the Senators who, it seems, object to protection for babies born after attempted abortions: