January 2011

Is Jay-Z In The Illuminati?

I ran across an off-handed comment today about how Jay-Z is a member of the illuminati, or maybe a Satanist, or maybe a Freemason. Like so many things, my first reaction was, "Whaaaa?"

I did some investigation and I'm prepared to agree that Jay-Z deliberately displays occult symbols. What this means is a little more difficult to determine.

Perhaps the best article on this topic can be found on Vigilant Citizen. Author VC covers Jay-Z's use of various occult symbols, and thoughtfully deconstructs the music video for "Run This Town Tonight." (I was particularly impressed by this article's lack of incoherent nonsense, which is what most conspiracy theory discussions eventually break down into.)

Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory: Great Lakes

We begin with a western scene: multinational corporations, big agriculture, and distant cities are draining Lake Mead in California. The thrust of this episode is that "big business is stealing our water from us, then selling it back to us at a profit."

This is another phenomenon which is patently true. It just isn't the kind of thing that most people would call a "sinister plot" or "worldwide conspiracy." But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe we should.

We take it as a given that these companies take tap water, bottle it, and sell it back to us at a profit. Happens all the time. Dasani is just the water they use to make Coke, without the Coke stuff. Check the label of your bottled water for the phrase "bottled from a municipal source." That phrase means "tap water." It's hardly a secret.

Hurricane Katrina Conspiracies

After watching an episode of "Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory" about the Gulf oil spill yesterday, I was put in mind of all the various conspiracies surrounding Hurricane Katrina. A lot of these conspiracies mesh with those about the Gulf oil spill, to create a truly alarming picture indeed.

There are four basic focal points for conspiracy theories about Katrina:

1. The Hurricane Itself

A lot of people claim that Hurricane Katrina was deliberately manufactured, by one shadowy entity or another. One "Idaho weatherman" claimed that it was the work of Russian mobsters. Many people - perhaps primed by the Bush-related 9/11 conspiracies - blamed George W. Bush.

Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory: Gulf Oil Spill

This episode features an exhausting and complicated series of interlocking conspiracies, any one of which would be pretty astonishing. Taken together, they fall apart into a mess that's just barely this side of gibberish.

* A doctor claims that the oil spill was designed to depopulate the Gulf Coast, so that it could be taken over by "corporate interests." Like Disneyland, but for evil, faceless, multinational corporations.

* A woman believes that the disaster was planned by BP months ahead of time, in order to kick the profits for the cleanup to Halliburton. Essentially, because they can make more on clean-up than they can by pumping and producing oil.

Blood Type Horoscopes

Last week we learned that not only does every American know their horoscope sign, but many people are surprisingly protective of it, as part of their identity! Meanwhile in Japan, few Japanese people know their astrological horoscope - but everyone knows their blood type.

As far as Asian birth predictions go, most Westerners are familiar with the animal horoscope by year. (Primarily, it must be said, via the medium of Chinese restaurant placemats.) But few Westerners are aware that your blood type is taken much more seriously than your birth year animal.

There are four human blood types: A, B, O, and AB. Each blood type is said to have certain traits, in much the same way that your astrological horoscope sign is said to determine your personality. People with type A blood are thought to be creative and sensible, but also tense and conservative. People with type O are the outgoing social type, and so forth.

Zodiac Panic! Who's Ophiuchus?

The recent announcement about the zodiac has believers in an uproar, and skeptics gloating insufferably. The zodiac we are familiar with was created by the ancient Babylonians around 3,000BC, who determined the zodiac spans based on the position of the sun on the day someone was born. 

However, the Earth's axis has shifted since the Babylonian's time, and the sun is no longer in the same positions.

The Minnesota Planetarium Society released a new astrological chart on Thursday which has the internet in an uproar. Most signs have been shifted one to the right, and a thirteenth sign (Ophiuchus) has been tacked on at the end.

What Is Blood Libel?

Jews have been persecuted throughout history for many reasons, most of which amount to casting Jewish people as "the other" whenever a scapegoat is needed. Hard as it may be to believe today, the Jewish religion has often been equated with Satanic worship and worse. 

One of the persistent beliefs which crops up throughout history is that Jews steal the babies and children of their neighbors, and use their blood in various rites.  Interestingly, this is also a belief which has been applied to witches throughout history.  In the minds of many unsophisticated, xenophobic cultures, the Jewish religion becomes equated with witchcraft.

These incidents often start with the unexplained death of a child.  I think parents of all nationalities can relate to the horror of finding your child mysteriously dead, or simply missing.  This fear has stalked humanity for thousands, perhaps millions of years. 

Fluoridation: Were The Conspiracy Theorists Right?

This Friday the government is going to announce a reduction in the recommended fluoride levels in drinking water.  This is the first time the government has walked back the recommended dose of fluoride in 50 years.

The fluoride controversy is so convoluted, confusing, and ultra-paranoid that I have trouble even working through it.  The real problem is that there are some legitimate objections to water fluoridation, but they get muddled up with, and drowned out by, the conspiracy nuts.

The Georgia Guidestones, "American Stonehenge"

The so-called "American Stonehenge" was built in 1979, when a mysterious person going by the name of "R. C. Christian" (which was possibly a reference to Rosicrucianism) hired a local stone work company to make and install them for him.

Known more formally as the Georgia Guidestones, this monument stands in Elbert County, Georgia.  It is comprised of four gigantic granite slabs arranged around a fifth central slab, a capstone, and an explanatory footnote in stone set nearby.  The Guidestones have ten commandments written in eight different languages, one per face of the four main stones.

Sleep Paralysis: The "Old Hag"

As you probably know, your mind has a sort of switch that flips off activity in your body when you sleep.  This state of paralysis is what keeps you from actually running in your bed when you are running in your dreams. 

It isn't a complete paralysis - people will still twitch and mutter, and some may even kick around and cause their bed partners a great deal of consternation.  But it works well enough for what it needs.

This paralysis is associated with REM sleep, and is called "REM atonia."  It is regulated by a hormone, which usually wears off after REM sleep passes.  However, sometimes this switch gets stuck for a little while after you wake up.  If you don't know what's happening, this can be a terrifying experience. 

Thousands of Dead Birds Fall From The Sky on New Year's Eve

Just as the year's odometer ticked over in Arkansas, a huge flock of between 4,000 and 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky, stone dead.  About 125 miles away, scores of dead drum fish wash ashore in the Arkansas River.

End of days?  Or just a coincidence?

Although many theories have been proposed, the most likely cause of the death of the blackbirds is a high-altitude weather event, like heavy hail.  All of the dead birds showed large amounts of massive trauma to their internal organs, of the sort that could easily be explained by a sudden and severe high altitude hail storm.

Blackbirds as a species tend to form extremely large flocks, which migrate at high altitudes.  Many songbirds migrate at night, taking advantage of a time when predators are likely to be asleep.  These migrating birds take flight invisibly in huge flocks, and they fly high, in order to avoid night-roaming owls.

Springheel Jack: A Victorian Mystery

Springheel Jack was first sighted in London in 1837, through the early 1900s.  He continues to be sighted in England today, albeit rarely.  Jack's heyday was Victorian London, but surely it is only a coincidence that his appearances overlap the timeline of Jack the Ripper?

Springheel Jack was the star of the penny dreadfuls, and terror of London and its surrounding suburbs.  He leaped tall buildings in a single bound, clichéd though that may sound to us today.