Of the Height of Hopes for Reason.

Rewrite history
in the minds of the tribe, cast
yourself in better light. In their minds,
reality yields

to their confidence
in your “alternative facts.” No matter
this embarrassment of riches,
this wealth of evidence
to the contrary.

This is post-truth.
Madness.

This is where religion
meets politics
once again. Crying: are we just being

naive

in our high hopes
that logic will prevail,
that reason will win

in the end?

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Unwitnessed Crumbling of an Unnaturally Orange Fruit.

No matter the truth,
it fails
to impact this damned ego.

Rolls off like rain,
no dent,
hairline scratch in evidence.

To truly bring him down,
you must get him where it hurts.
Drag his name through the mud,
deprive him of audience.

Watch the weak,
pathetic
man as he finally whimpers.

Only means
of summoning response.

Ego only
broken when he’s all dried up
and there
is no one
left to watch.

Then and there,
he crumbles.

Suffocation & Burial.

So I shouldn’t mention it?

Shove it back
behind the mask,
I guess.

Just push it down
till the unconscious
and subliminal pushes back
from the conscious pressure
like a volcano.

Kick it out into the world,
I suppose. Project
it upon some faction
of the masses represented
by some percentage
of my immediate social group,

all to distance
it from me like I made a play,
wrote my own part
and then went on to cast their roles.

Guess I’ll just censor
it, bury all this inside,

beneath regulated,
so-called
self-expression
and compelled speech.

Suffocation and burial.

Culture of Nostalgia.

Our culture has become a culture of nostalgia.

Sequels. Prequels. Remakes. Reloads. Re-releases with added special effects. Old TV shows like The X-Files, Full House and Rosanne returning. Stranger Things is more creative in that it draws from many nostalgic sources, mainly movies from the 80s, but even so.

Then there is far more ambiguous nostalgia, like that which Trump has for some unspecified point in the past when America was, like, great and stuff.

Are we running out of ideas? Is Hollywood and the like just trying to capitalize on our yearning for the decades behind us?

Why is our culture as a whole increasingly like some old codger inching towards the grave, looking back on the past, regurgitating the same old stories about the good old days gone by?

Is cultural nostalgia a sign that our society is nearing its end?

On President Happy-Thumbs & the Political Gulf.

No, I am not one of those people who think that if you voted for Trump, you must be a racist. I do think you were more than slightly naive, however, and if you’re still behind him, rallying around him and holding him up like a spray-tan messiah at this late date, I simply don’t get it.

No hate. Just utter confusion.

And for the record, I’ve tried to remedy my confusion in this respect. Before he was elected, as I saw his rising support, I tried to release my tense fist and extend an open hand across the ever-increasing gulf of an isle to ask the Trump-supporting peeps on my Facebook friend’s list what I was missing, what made Trump so appealing to them. I truly wanted to wrap my mind around it all, but I eventually walked away as perplexed and frustrated as ever. And so I’ve remained.

And no, I’m not one of those people that delete you from my friend’s list just because we have different opinions, either.

Still, after all of this, I would have thought people would see him for what he is, or at least what he seems so clearly to be to me: a small-minded, narcissistic authoritarian with no value in the truth. And the lies of President Happy-Thumbs run so deep I’ve honestly come to suspect he believes his own bullshit and embraces the insipid philosophy that the measure of truth is the degree of conviction you have in an idea.

The division between people, at least with respect to politics, continues to grow. People avoid the topic as if ignoring it will make it go away, but that only feeds the gulf. When did we become incapable of talking to one another, of having an actual conversation?

And will this ever get better?

Evergreens & California Girls.

Last time I saw her, it was at a fucking funeral.

Her mother had been having health problems and her father had neglected to take her to the hospital, so Claire, from states away, had to call a hospital nearby her parents and send an ambulance to pick her up. I can’t recall what the health issue was, but she met her end soon thereafter and Claire came down for the funeral. I hadn’t seen her in years and not to sound selfish, but this was kind of the epitome of awkward. Me in a church, for one; for another, this was a time of grief and I was happy, relieved to finally see her, and had difficulty suppressing my happiness despite the circumstances.

Her and I didn’t get to talk much, but just seeing her, it’s like my soul had been holding its breath for years and could finally exhale.

Now she was returning for her high school reunion, or at least that was her excuse for escaping Iowa to visit Ohio for a few days. Whatever the reason, I didn’t care, I just desperately wanted to see her. The day she decided to come down and bought the plane tickets she sent me several texts in a row, clearly hyped up about the trip (though her new medication undoubtedly played a role as well) and told me she wanted to see me. We planned on meeting at my parents house on a Friday, and then she wanted me to go to a party with her the following Sunday, so I immediately requested the day off.

I left Thursday after work, slept at my parent’s house (something I rarely do, but I was terrified about not waking up on time) and felt my anxiety growing the following morning as I awaited her arrival. The day was beautiful so I sat beneath a tree in the yard by the barn, sipped my java and chatted with my parents.

They had been seeing a lot of me this summer. For whatever reason, the visits there seem to improve my otherwise perpetually shitty mood. I miss my family and I miss being close to nature, close to the forest around their house. I miss the sky and all the stars you see without that blasted light pollution. It soothes my dark, twisted, tense little soul.

When she started coming down the long driveway in her rental car, I thought I was going to burst. She parked, got out and we hugged. She hugged me tightly. Like a vice. Any tighter and we would’ve melded into a singular entity. I could have happily died there.

Maybe, maybe neither one of us ever have to let go, I thought.

After that, it was as if I didn’t know my role, as if I’d forgotten my lines. As if I didn’t get the script. What am I supposed to do now?

We walked around the yard, took a look at my mother’s nursery, and Claire spoke about wanting to buy a plant from her for someone, I believe it was the friend she was staying with. Then we sat down at the table on the porch, where we drank coffee and talked.

My parents adore Claire and they always have. They liked Anne, too, and would occasionally ask about her when her and I were still speaking, but Claire always seemed to be the one on their mind. I’m sure that part of it is because they know how much she means to me, but I know it goes beyond that. They truly adore the girl.

My mom explained how she still remembered her as the skinny girl with hot pink hair who had moved down here from California. How teachers had pulled mom aside to warn her about Claire, which she found funny, as she had been to the house and seemed quite likable.

Claire spoke about her job, her three kids — one who just graduated high school and is entering college, one who is sort of a troublemaker, sneaking out, having sex, doing drugs. The middle child, he doesn’t stick out so much in my mind; he must be a sort of balance betwixt these extremes.

Thing is, Claire has led a life that is, on the surface, quite a successful one. She has a career, a house, has been a good mother to her kids, has attempted marriage more than once and survived divorce, she pays the bills and so on — and yet there’s this darkness, this dismal lack of satisfaction in her life. It’s like she’s constructed this epic costume, this wonderful mask, found her place in the game but she’s too damned intelligent to let herself be fooled by the illusion. She doesn’t see it, but beneath the illusion she is atypical in the most amazing ways.

She’s been married a few times, as I mentioned, and I remember her explaining her relationships with these men and how they don’t know her past, don’t seem to resonate with her on an emotional or mental level or even see her on that level and it always confused me. She never seemed to see it as a necessary component of a relationship, or at least that’s the impression I’ve always had. And it truly astounds me, because she is so goddamned interesting. Why wouldn’t she want to share it with someone, share her authentic self with someone she was at least planning at the time to spend the rest of her life with? Why would she want to spend her life in hiding?

I think she feels like an imposter, a fish out of water. Like wherever she goes, there she is, someplace where she doesn’t belong. Perpetually and irreversibly out of her element. And I feel the same way. Or maybe I’m just fooling myself into thinking that’s how she feels. Maybe this is just me projecting myself onto her because she means more than the fucking world to me.

Her talk with my parents solidifies my suspicion that she has indeed found what she has always sought: roots. She wanted a sense of belonginging, a sense of community, a sense that she has a place, and she has it, she’s fucking earned it, and it makes me happy for her — and depressed in ways I can never hope to properly articulate, because I am not a part of it.

And coulda-been thoughts are pointless, but had I played my cards right, I just maybe could have been a part of it. Maybe. And I have an abundance of regrets about my post high school decisions, with the two big ones being: I should have gone to school for art and I should have fought to keep Claire as a girlfriend. I could have fought to be with her that last time, struggled to make a life with her, had a starring role in her story and had her in a starring role in my own life narrative. But it took all the effort in the world just to tell her that I loved her, and I only accomplished that, after much effort and agony, right before she went into the Army.

And it blows my mind that that was nearly two fucking decades ago, and that I’ve known her for 23 years.

They say that youth is wasted on the young, implying that with age comes wisdom, but I’m not so sure we wouldn’t fuck it all up again if given another chance.

After we talk at the table awhile, my parents get up and announce that they’re leaving us, giving us some time to talk alone. The sinking suspicion I’ve been trying to ignore and overcome during the collective conversation suddenly inundates me, no longer deniable: I’m the same pent-up, anxious, unambitious, fucked-up boy she left behind two decades ago. I’ve accepted the girl as the love of my life, fantasized about seeing her again for years, and — nothing about me has changed. I’m so locked up around her, and it hits me so hard how little I’ve evolved, how far I have not come, how utterly fucking hopeless I am. I felt like a teenager again, wanting to kiss her but too shy to do so. Wanting to fuck her, the only girlfriend on my short list of girlfriends that I’ve never fucked, like crazy — and the potentiality never seemed farther away.

I just really, really don’t like myself sometimes and after seeing her again, in the midst of seeing her again, I liked myself even less. She may not be happy with her life, but she tried, she raised three kids, built a career. I’m in essentially the same place. A little hamster running madly on his dizzying wheel. Forever in motion yet never getting anywhere. Always wanting to change but forever seemingly incapable of doing so.

I remember that a friend dreamt once that I was a Christmas tree. It was an old roommate, Sandra, and at first it perplexed me. How on earth was I like an evergreen? The more I chewed on it, the more it seemed so fitting. It still does, which only furthers the point. No matter the season, I remain unchanged. Same job, same anxiety and depression, same anger issues, same incapacity to develop and nurture a meaningful relationship with a girl or even accomplish the most basic, instinctive function and get fucking laid again already.

I mean, it’s been a seven year dry spell. Wandering in the desert of circumstantial abstinence, distracting myself with pornographic mirages. Not to sound shallow, but one would think I could’ve at least gotten my dick wet by now — if I knew the first thing about approaching a girl.

Claire keeps telling me how comedian, actor and podcaster Marc Maron reminds her of me. At first I didn’t see it, but watching videos of him, its beginning to become apparent. He’s neurotic, hypersensitive, self-involved. He goes on tangents, he’s self-loathing, he alienates people. He likes coffee and nicotine. He lives alone.

Still, he’s successful. He gets laid. He earns money pursuing his passion.

Me? I hate my job. At work I’ve been getting that sense that I’m moving through tar. Like my feet are lead. I just feel heavy. I feel weak and low energy. It feels like such effort has to be invested just to go through the same old motions and every day seems insurmountable. It’s not. I do it. I just feel that in this job I’m dying inside, you know? I should have watched this place shrink in the rearview a decade ago, but: I’m the evergreen.

Back in 1998, when I worked at the grocery store, there was this lady I worked with. Her name was Patty. She had read some of the shit I’d written in the e-zine and seemed to hone in on Cumbersome, which was the story I had written about meeting Claire. She asked a lot of questions, the kind of questions I often imagine a successful novelist might be asked if engaging in an interview with a borderline-obsessive fan.

One day she asked me a particular question, and though I can’t be sure, I think it was this: what is the greatest compliment I could ever honesty give to Claire? I’m not sure what my answer was, but she then referenced the movie As Good As It Gets, starring Jack Nicholson and Jodi Foster. She specifically referenced a scene in which he tells her he has a compliment for her, goes on a shpeil, and then condenses the compliment down to a single sentence: “You make me want to be a better man.”

Twenty years later, I get it. I am there. She is wonderful, beautiful, all I want and need, and I am so hopelessly fucked up, and: she makes me want to be a better man.

But I am a bitter man. A lost boy. An evergreen.

We walk to the barn. Memories. Later, we leave and drive around the school, now closed down, and then to the ledges. More memories. We park and are about to go into the local diner when I realize I don’t have my wallet, and having her pay would kill me, so I remind her that my parents wanted to make us food. So we go back to my parents. When she was finally ready to leave, she asked me to walk her to her car, which I desperately wanted to do anyway. I wanted to kiss her, but I just hug her. Lost in the vice again, ready to die in those arms, and when she released, I must have had a look on my face.

“You’ll see me again,” she said.

Imagine taking a railroad spike, ramming it into my chest, and then pounding it into me with a sledgehammer.

It made me think of Kate, the second girlfriend who turned out to be a Virgo from California with tattoos of the sun, moon and stars on her body. In the midst of a short, intense relationship with promise, she left to visit her parents in California and said the same thing the last night I dropped her off — and she never came back.

Damn, I have the tendency to hang onto things.

Though skip a day, and I saw Claire again at the party she wanted me to go to with her. It was down the road from my parents house; still, it’s nonetheless amazing that I found the place without getting lost. The place itself was pretty cool. There was an awesome mural I saw on my way to the restroom and there were tigers everywhere. Not real tigers, of course. Big stone tigers. Stuffed tigers. Most of the time I spent sitting at a table in the back porch surrounded by people I hardly knew or may have only met once or twice two decades ago.

Then Claire’s cousin, Jolene, showed. I’ve always valued the lady because for the entire time in which I’ve known Claire she was the only one that she lived with who actually seemed to care for her and give her a sense of stability. She also got it into her head that I was gay, however, though I could never determine if she seriously thought that or it was just sort of a running joke. Being 39 now with no girlfriend and no kids had done nothing but reinforce the notion in her mind, I was sure, so whatever social anxiety I had been feeling only elevated when she walked onto the porch. She was nice, though, in her characteristically sarcastic, firecracker sort of way.

At some point Claire, sitting beside me, asked me if I wanted a drink, and I pretended to hesitate a moment before explaining, “yes. Yes I do.” She poured me some off-brand cola and chunks of ice in a plastic cup and poured in some whiskey, which tasted remarkably good. I wanted to get drunk, but I knew I wouldn’t. I don’t often do so in social outings anymore because I’m afraid of driving under the influence and I want to be able to leave when the mood strikes me — which is to say when I’m on sensory overload and the anxiety becomes too overwhelming. But a little social lubricant helped.

I mostly just interacted with the animals, however, which is sort of my default in social situations when the option is available, and generally-speaking, animals seem to like me. I spoke a bit with Antonio’s brother (married to Jolene) and then, once they arrived, Antonio and his girlfriend.

Claire’s father also showed. This part was unexpected.

Oh, her fucking father.

He needed to get his medicine at one point and Claire had me go with her as she took him to his house. As he sat and kept on about his bills, desperately, obviously trying to manipulate Claire, I stared at his refrigerator. It was covered in magnets, one for every state him and his late wife and, when Claire was younger and they hadn’t dumped her on this or that relative, Claire had temporarily landed in.

This is why she never felt like she had a family, why she wants stability but feels so awkward when she finds it, why she ached to develop roots. They were nomads. He destroyed her, and this cold machine in his little kitchen celebrates the journey of her destruction with souvenir magnets.

I fight my reactionary empathy, try not to fall under the spell of compassion when it comes to him.

We went back, I hung out a bit more and then it felt like it was time to leave. Claire walked me to my car. Hug again. Please crush me. Let me die. And I leave, back to being stuck in an inhale, and stop at my parents before heading home to my apartment.

They’re sitting in the front room in front of the television. We talk briefly and they offer to buy me a plane ticket to go down to Iowa and spend time with her. It’d be something to write about, my father says. Just think about it, says mom. It has to hurt feeling so connected to someone who lives so far away.

And I think to myself, Fuck. Dad, even mom, she actually seems to get it.

Sitting down, I stretch my arms, let my head fall back, trying to keep the tears I feel creeping from leaking out my eyes. Holding it in, determined not to break. Breathe. Just bloody fucking breathe, you pathetic price of shit.

“Just think about it,” mom repeats.

I drive home cursing myself.

Managing Panic on Potential Bridges.

It’s always at the cusp of something new I think I want that I get terrified and begin having second thoughts. In this case, the interview tomorrow. It’s not even a great job, but next to this, it’ll be a breath of fresh air. Or so I’ve imagined, or so has been the case until now.

What if I sleep in? What if my car breaks down? What if I’m wrong and their starting wage isn’t more than I’m making now?

What if I get the job and hate it even more than this, and it’s even worse because I don’t have that illusion of control offered by the predictability of the all-too-familiar brand of hell I am presently suffering under? What if my anxiety heightens, my depression deepens, and I don’t have the energy to get an appointment and get back on antidepressants?

Hell, what if I don’t get it? What if I have to stop smoking pot, clean out my system, and lose sleep, as if I get sufficient sleep now, and anxiety and depression attack even more just to get a job — and I never find one within the comfort zone of the roads I know anyway, can never find whatever potential place is willing to give me an interview?

It’s happened before.

What if I still don’t find a job, even then? What if I end up just wasting away in this particular shit job forever or until I get fired or die or society collapses or I loose my shit and walk out after working here for a decade and a half?

What if I never stop catastrophizing?

What if all this is in my head and ultimately it doesn’t really matter one way or the other?

But I can’t punish these thoughts and feelings and push them away, as they’ll snap back as elastic, twice as strong. And I can’t feed these thoughts and feelings, either, or they’ll grow bigger and stronger and multiply and collectively devour my weakened ass.

No, I must remain their spectator. Let them flow through me, and out.

Solo to Building 8.

Meet Gary McKinnon, a red-haired, 52-year-old man from northern London who managed to really piss off the US government. He has been said to have committed “the biggest military computer hack of all time,” and has himself been called “the most profligate military hacker of all time.”

As for himself, he seems to consider these ridiculous notions. He was only after the truth. He just wanted to know the government’s secrets regarding UFOs.

His interest in both computers and UFOs went way back, though it was some time before he used one as a tool to explore the other. Though he was bad in school, he found that he was rather adept when it came to computers and eventually taught himself how to program. Then, when he was about 11 or 12, he witnessed a UFO from his second-story window. He described it as a red light that zoomed in an massive arc across the sky, moving in erratic wiggles as it made its way. This, along with his stepfather, who was interested in UFOs, is what initially inspired his interest in the subject. Since he couldn’t afford books on the subject, he joined the British UFO Research Association (BUFORA), where at least he could be supplied with up-to-date material on the phenomenon.

After school, he initially took odd jobs. He was amazed when he discovered internet and got it at his home in 1995. Eventually he got a job at a company where he worked on computer security.

The spark of inspiration for his two-year hacking spree came in the Spring of 2001. This was when he learned of Stephen Greer’s Disclosure Project, a congregation of hundreds of individuals employed or previously employed by various branches of the US Government. All claim to have seen evidence of a cover-up regarding the subject of UFOs. Some claim the government has successfully reverse-engineered alien technology and even gained access to free energy, which they conceal from the public. They would be holding a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC that May. McKinnon got the associated book and took notes on areas of key interest that he could use to search for on the internet.

That’s when he began going home at night and engaging in hacking. With his personal computer, through his 56K dial-up modem, he hacked into the computer networks of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of Defense, as well as the Pentagon, NASA and the Johnson Space Center. This happened between February 2001 and March 2002. He claims he’s no genius; after all, he was unable to comprehend the higher-level mathematics that would have allowed him to finish his Higher National Diploma in computer programming. He only had curiosity, creativity, that oh-so-necessary patience — and, of course, his own trusty copy of The Hacker’s Handbook.

And, he adds, what he accomplished would have never been possible if not for our government’s lax computer ”security.”

He wrote a program that tied together pre-existent programs that search for computers with their passwords set to default. Typically, he found that about fifty administrator accounts on a given ”top security” US network were set to such passwords. Easy access. Once he gained access to these administrator accounts, which were used to maintain such systems, he would have the widest access. He could scan almost any file in a given network. He then installed software that allowed him to remote control another computer. All he had to do was be cautious about hours specific to time zones and only hack in during the middle of the night.

And under the hacker-name Solo he did just that, time and time again, eight hours a day, every day for a year. He became rather obsessed, often neglecting to shower or change cloths. He ran up $2,500 in dial-up charges. And he went unnoticed. Just once was he caught by a network engineer, and after talking to the guy online, he said, he managed to convince him that he was with Military Computer Security.

So it wasn’t all that difficult, he tells us. This seems supported by his claim that in the midst of his hacking he found he wasn’t exactly ”solo”. He was in company. Running a command called NetStat (Network Status) that reveals all the connections to the computer he was hacking, he found IP addresses from all over the world. And they weren’t from other military bases, either.

Though he found nothing of significance for months, he said, he eventually came across two things of interest.

On a Navy network, he found a document entitled “non-terrestrial officers” that listed officer names and ranks. Included were 8 to 10 ship names, none of which he remembered in interviews, blaming it on his increased pot-smoking at the time. He was certain they were designated USS, though, and later searched the ship names but found no public mention of them. He also found reference to ship-to-ship or fleet-to-fleet material transfers.

The second item of interest he came across was found due to the testimony of Donna Hare, member of the Disclosure Project. Between 1967 and 1981 she worked for Philco Ford Aerospace, a contractor for NASA, as a design illustrator draftsman. She had a secret clearance and in the early 70s worked on site at Building 8 at the Johnson Space Center. One day, she walked into the restricted NASA photo lab across the hallway, where, she said, high-resolution images were regularly taken to be assembled into a mosaic. She was talking to one of the techs she knew, who showed her a aerial photograph mosaic, presumably of earth, and drew her attention to a round white spot on one panel of the photograph. When she asked if it was a dot on the emulsion, he smiled, his arms crossed, and stated that if it was, it wouldn’t be leaving a shadow on the ground. She also saw the shadow, which was cast at the same angle of nearby pine trees. When she asked if it was a UFO, he said he couldn’t tell her. When she asked him what he planned on doing with this information, he only told her that it was their duty to airbrush them out prior to their release to the public.

That was enough for McKinnon to work with.

Armed now with an exact location, McKinnon searched for Building 8, accessed it and began to search for relevant files. He eventually found two folders that were marked either “processed” and “unprocessed” or “raw” and “filtered”. In any case, in them he found a long list of photo files and he clicked on one of the raw or unprocessed ones. Due to his snail-speed internet connection, however, the image loaded only one line at a time. What he eventually saw astounded him.

“It was a culmination of all my efforts,” he described in an interview with Spencer Kelly. “It was a picture of something that definitely wasn’t man-made. It was above the Earth’s hemisphere. It kind of looked like a satellite. It was cigar-shaped and had geodesic domes above, below, to the left, the right and both ends of it, and although it was a low-resolution picture it was very close up. This thing was hanging in space, the earth’s hemisphere visible below it, and no rivets, no seams, none of the stuff associated with normal man-made manufacturing.”

Elsewhere, he added that there was also no insignia on the craft and that the domes flowed into the craft in a smooth manner.

Since it was a Java application, he told interviewers, he wouldn’t have been able to save but a frame of it. And he tried. Just as he had downloaded about two-thirds of the image, however, he saw the cursor move, and not by his own hand. Unbeknownst to him, he had miscalculated the time difference and had accessed the computer during the hours when it was still in use. Someone was physically at the computer terminal he was remotely operating and could see what he was doing. The cursor moved to cut the connection.

Amazingly, this didn’t stop him from continuing on with his hacking.

Issues with his girlfriend and the fact that he was smoking copious amounts of marijuana probably didn’t help matters, he has confessed. He even tried to get back to that same Building 8 file later on, but security had been tightened and he couldn’t gain access. He began getting cocky, too.

“It got a bit silly,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald. “I ended up talking to people I hacked into … I’d instant-message them, using WordPad, with a bit of a political diatribe. You know, I’d leave a message on their desktop that read, ‘Secret government is blah blah blah.'”

So when the British National Hi-Tech Crime Unit arrested him in March of 2002, he really wasn’t at all that surprised.

His personal computer was seized and the hard drive was ultimately sent to the US. He was held in custody for perhaps seven hours and confessed. Originally they told him he would probably just get a sentence for six months of community service. No big deal.
Ultimately the British Crown Prosecution Service dropped charges against him, as his crimes did not involve their own computers.

Unfortunately, the US Military was pretty pissed off.

In November of 2002, the US Department of Defense began their efforts to extradite him to the US to stand trial, where he could face a 70-year sentence and fines up to $1.75 million. There had previously been a law in the UK that required the US to produce evidence before they could extradite someone. Then a new treaty was signed. For extradition, the US now needed only “reasonable suspicion” and was not required to provide evidence. The UK, however, was still required to have probable cause. A little unbalanced, methinks.

“I was charged seven times,” he told The Observer, “with 10 years’ imprisonment on each. The most serious accusation was ‘bringing down the entire military network of Washington’.”

Their claim was that he caused some $700,000 in damages to 97 military and government systems that took over a month for them to repair. He claims, however, that he wasn’t attempting to damage anything, he was merely looking for something. He didn’t call this hacking. He called it research.

“I think it’s the biggest kept secret in the world because of its comic value, but it’s a very important thing,” he said to Spencer Kelly in an interview. “Old-age pensioners can’t pay their fuel bills, countries are invaded to award oil contracts to the West, and meanwhile secretive parts of the secret government are sitting on suppressed technology for free energy.”

McKinnon feared the prospect of facing US prison time, or even, he speculated, Gontomino Bay. Over a decade of legal battles ensued as he waited with this storm cloud looming over his head, and in the interim he was diagnosed with Aspergers and depression. This ultimately influenced the 2012 decision by UK Home Secretary Theresa May that sending him to the US would be in violation of his human rights. His extradition was denied.

McKinnon has been accused of making up the notion that UFO interests drove his hacking as a smokescreen for his malicious intent. He dismisses this as ridiculous, insisting that he wouldn’t have used UFOs as a cover if he had such intent, as it would only open him up to ridicule. I, for one, believe him to be sincere with respect to his motives and honest with respect to what he has seen — though his interpretations of the information he stumbled across is certainly open to interpretation.

McKinnon was impressed with Greer and got caught up in the free energy idea, for instance, and I am very suspicious of both. I am, for that matter, suspicious of allegations that the military has successfully reverse-engineered and replicated alien technology, though I don’t doubt that they have such alien technology in their possession. And I don’t think we have a secret space program, either, at least not to the degree suggested by the common interpretation of “non-terrestrial officers.” I will say that Greer amassed a collection of high-ranking military officials with interesting stories to tell, however, many of which I find entirely believable.

In addition, as described by Donna Hare and apparently verified by what McKinnon found while hacking Building 8, there are indeed NASA photos to be found that suggest apparent airbrushing, blurring, smudging, blatant deleting or similar techniques. If you are in doubt, take a moment and Google it. While some of these are no doubt due to photographic errors, many of them seem to be too localized and deliberate to dismiss on that basis.

As I’m not holding my breath with respect to government disclosure, I believe those like McKinnon are as close as we’re going to get. Though the US government didn’t make the example out of him in the manner they seemed to be aiming for, they did make his life a living hell for well over a decade, and that nightmare alone may be enough to ward off many future, would-be UFO Hacktavists. Our hopes for future public acceptance of the truth regarding what aspects of the US government knows are therefore likely only in the hands of a talented and courageous few.

I can’t condone it, and I’m certainly not one of them, but I can’t help but say it: I really hope they exist.

***

The Nerd Who Saw Too Much (The Sydney Morning Herald, 7/13/05).
Terrorist or UFO Truth Seeker? (Reuters, 4/28/06)
Gary McKinnon interview by Stephen Emms (The Observer, 4/22/07)
Hacker fears ‘UFO cover-up’ (BBC News, 5/5/06)
Breaking into the US citadel was easier than child’s play, by Maija Palmer, IT Correspondent (Financial Times, 4/22/06)
Mystery Space Machines Above (Rense.com, 12/1207)
Wikipedia.
YouTube clips.
Rampant insomnia-fueled Googling I could never hope to sufficiently detail.

Safe, Cozy Nothing.

Build a shell.
Erect a border wall.
Declare a safe space.

Fashion an echo chamber.
A womb, a prison.

Is it for you to grow
or are you resisting
hatching,
just a Russian Doll,
Chinese Box,
building
redundancy
as a feeble
means of defense
from inside,
rendering
yourself an ever-depleting core

of once
something, now hardly
anything? No matter.

Dead potential.
Nothing left
to defend, anyway.

Doesn’t even
matter anymore…

A.I.pocalypse, Neuralink and the Superbrain.

After I got home that evening and hopped on YouTube, I quickly discovered that The Joe Rogan Experience podcast was streaming live — with Elon Musk as the guest. I think I cheered aloud. I then sat my happy ass down for two and a half hours, watching it from start to finish. However brief the moment was, I should mention, I knew from the moment he took that single, solitary puff of Mary Jane that this was what the media would jump on. Never mind the substance that could be procured from their conversation, never mind even the whiskey they were drinking, it was all about the stuttering genius partaking in a tiny hit of the Devil’s Lettuce.

Akin to Eckhart Tolle, he exhibits a characteristic behavioral trait when asked a question. He looks down, eyes flickering back and forth as he processes the question and awaits the response offered by the depths of his relentless, explosively hyperactive mind. Sometimes, like Jordan Peterson, his eyes dart to the sky, but I think the same subjective activity is at work. In the process, he seems to naturally experience the sharp distinction between inner and outer reality in much the same way that I do when I’ve smoked a sufficient amount of marijuana. Put simply, he becomes so absorbed in his internal focus, drawn into his mind to such an extreme and intense degree that all external sensory signals are drowned out, utterly lost to him. A moment of loaded silence passes. Then he changes channels, placing his focus, his target of psychological absorption, yet again on the external world, and offers his response.

It’s an abrupt switch. There is no middle ground. From the depths of the Mariana trench to the highest point of Olympus Mons, no segue necessary. It is no wonder that, though he has experimented with meditation via mantra, he feels anxiety towards Rogan’s suggestion that he try out a sensory deprivation floatation tank. The guy’s mind is a ceaseless swarm of ideas.

When AI is brought up, which was nearly inevitable, he confesses that he has become less worried about it. Not because circumstances has become less dire in his eyes, either, but because he’s come to adopt a more fatalistic attitude.

His calls for prospective regulation have fallen on deaf ears, and while disappointment, frustration and depression doesn’t seem to graze the surface of how it makes him feel, he doesn’t seem surprised, and he explains why. This is simply not the way the process of regulation tends to come about. Shit first hits the fan and then, over a period of struggle that could take up to a decade, regulations are finally put in place. Like seat-belts in cars. But if that pattern were to play out with respect to regulating AI, he says, it would be far too late.

Given what he considers to be a failure on his part to convince The Powers That Be, he has other safety measures in mind. First, though, it might be best to illustrate precisely what he thinks the danger is.

As he sees it, the danger of AI is likely to manifest, first and foremost, in one of two fashions. It will either be controlled and weaponized by a small group of people — a government faction, a terrorist organization — or it will develop a will of its own, and in either case there is potentially grave danger. If AI develops into a superintelligence, it will quickly become capable of improving upon itself, with the consequence of those improvements leading to still greater and swifter improvements. It essentially achieves a singularity, Musk says, in that the ultimate result is impossible to predict. Circumstances may not lead to our extinction, but it would certainly be well outside human control. AI would be so intelligent that even if it were benign, we’d be like pets to them. And they would be gods to us. This, Musk argues, wouldn’t exactly be the Panglossian “best of all possible worlds,” however, and I couldn’t agree more.

His solution, unfortunately, scares the shit out of me even more than the alleged dangers inherent in the rise of AI itself. Given the inevitable rise of superintelligent AI, he says, the best-case scenario for human beings would be to merge with it.

“If you can’t beat it, join it,” he offers.

It would be the only way to defend ourselves from AI, to arm ourselves against it, and to prevent us from becoming their house pets. This isn’t as drastic and divorced from our current circumstances as we may think, either, he stresses. In essence, we are already cyborgs. We have digital versions of ourselves online through email and social media. We can answer questions on Google, hold video conferences with people across the world. Our phones and laptops are extensions of us.

There is certainly, clearly a difference between this, our current relationship with technology, and what we typically think of when we imagine a cybernetic organism, of course. He describes this distinction as being our current “bandwidth problem”: our rate of input/output is far too snail-pace, particularly the output. Our vision can take in a lot of data through all the text and imagery on our screens, but we have to deliver our input through hunt-and-pecking fingers or, in the case of our phones, merely our dumb, clumsy thumbs. He suggests that what we need ASAP is a high-bandwidth interface with the cortex. Just as the cortex works symbiotically with the limbic system, the AI could work symbiotically with the cortex, making us more or less what we typically imagine as cyborgs. The rate of data exchange would be so fast that experientially, we would be one with the AI extension. We would have enhanced cognitive ability. We would interact with one another in simulated worlds, download limitless data, even backup our identities and achieve technologically-mediated immortality.

This is the aim of one of his companies, Neuralink: to blend man and machine so that we ride the AI wave rather than be submerged by it. And it fucking terrifies me.

In the midst of hearing him talk about this, I was reminded of both Delgado and Bearden, who helped me fashion nightmarish scenarios for the human future back in high school.

Ah, the good ol’ days.

I first heard of Dr. José Manuel Rodriguez Delgado back in my Sophomore year, I believe. Rather than the popular notion that physical abnormalities were the cause of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and epilepsy, he hypothesized that the underlying issue may be erratic electrical activity in the brain. After he learned of research that seemed to show that the movements of animals could be controlled by stimulating their brains with electrodes, he focused his own research there. Rather than lobotomizing people, he thought he might be able to jolt their brains into the normal manner of functioning, and to meet this end he invented the stimoceiver. It was essentially a radio receiver attached to electrodes, and he went on to implant them in the noggins of various animals including cats, dogs, monkeys, chimps and eventually human beings.

Through use of an implanted stimoceiver he could remotely control various parts of the limbic system. In the experiments he began carrying out in the 60s, he found that he could produce a wide spectrum of emotions and behavior in his subjects from the simple to the curiously complex — and all at the mere press of a button, the crank of a dial. The way we passively change channels on the television, adjust the temperature in our house or turn the dial on the radio, with just as much ease he could produce euphoria or terror in another, he could summon up a fit of rage, conjure sexual desire, or produce passivity. Armed with nothing but a remote control, he once stepped into the ring with a bull implanted with one of his stimoceivers and was able to stop the aggressive beast dead in his tracks every time it charged at him.

When his experiments moved to human beings, he found that he could induce emotional and behavioral responses they were unable to overcome by will. Even more disturbingly, in some cases the subjects mistook their remote-controlled behaviors and emotions as natural responses — as products of their own, free will.

Allegedly, such behavior can also be produced through posthypnotic commands, but that’s another long, ranting article.

Aside from remote control, he also discovered he had the ability to reprogram or condition the brain. There was a chimp named Paddy, and after she was implanted he monitored her brain waves and induced a painful sensation every time her brain produced certain spindles, ultimately training her brain to stop producing them altogether in just shy of a week. Admittedly, the potential this has for preventing seizures is amazing. It could also “train the brain” against depression and countless other mental disorders. Psychiatrist offices are full of patients who take drugs to overcome these very things every day; drugs that often have horrible side effects, at times much worse than the symptoms they’re administered to treat. Here, a person’s neurological habits could be subject to a limited period of conditioning. No lifelong routine of popping pills necessary.

Still, its more than a bit horrid.

So while there are certainly beneficial aspects to this technology, it is outweighed in my mind by the potential horror that could result from its use — particularly today, where upgraded versions of his stimoceiver would be much smaller and inserted far more easily. And technologies such as Neuralink could provide an avenue for such control as well, either by terrorists, hackers, or power-hungry factions of the intelligence community.

In addition, Neuralink may potentially pave the road to something even more terrifying, and this is where we come to Thomas E. Bearden. I first heard of him in the book Silent Invasion by Ellen Crystall, which led me to his own book, The Excalibur Briefing, which I found interesting insofar as I could comprehend it at the time. Eventually I came across him again, without seeking, in the mentally nauseating New Age book Gods of Aquarius by Brad Steiger, where he was given the last word. I photocopied that part of the chapter during high school and, looking into my files two days after watching the Rogan podcast with Musk, I found I still had it.

Reading this back then constituted a turning point in my thinking, where my growing paranoia regarding the experiments of Delgado reached a peak and solidified.

In Gods of Aquarius, Bearden speculated that:

“The evolution of a life-bearing planet may be divided into stages, the first five of which are: (1) The formation of the planet itself and some billions of years of cooling, so that a primordial atmosphere and ocean are gradually evolved; (2) The fomenting of amino acid structures in the violent convulsions of the primeval sea and planet; (3) The formation of the self-replicating supermolecules, DNA and RNA; (4) The formation of one-celled organisms; (5) The formation of multicellular organisms. At the upper end of the fifth stage of evolution, the intelligent mobiles emerge, as do eventually tool-using intelligent mobiles. This is the level on which man finds himself on the planet Earth.”

It is interesting to find that much of what he said, particularly beyond the quoted portion above, falls in line with my current thinking. He states that in life, in organisms, there are two competing control systems. The first he describes as “genetically programmed,” and this refers to the instinctive or genetically-hardwired and are inherited by virtue of being a member of the species; the second deals with the “genetically unprogrammed,” which is to say the patterns learned or conditioned through individual experience and cultural influence. Organisms must have some degree of both in order to survive, though a more “intelligent” species has more of the second.

In order for an intelligent organism to utilize it’s intelligence to its fullest potential, however, it must bear a body that provides the naturally-evolved tools or technology that makes the utilization of that potential possible, which is something I’ve contemplated in depth. As I’ve written of before, it may very well be that a species of octopus exists in the deep oceans under the thick surface ice of the moon Europa that bears an intelligence far greater than our own. Despite its relative superintelligence, however, it would be unable to develop spears, let alone the advanced technology our comparatively stupid selves have managed to develop — and simply due to the fact that it does not bear opposable thumbs or exist within an environment that would enable it to create fire.

Human beings are a tool-creating, tool-using species, however, and over the course of evolution we have developed greater and greater technology, or systems of tools. Our technology, serving as extensions of our bodies, which themselves constitute an extension of our minds, brought us to dominate all other species on earth and increase our population. It will also likely pave the way to our self-destruction, however, because our species in-fighting is not only no longer limited to our genetically-evolved technology (our bodies) but also no longer regulated by our genetically-hardwired instincts.

We need not strange someone, or even shoot them personally. We can bomb them remotely. This distance, available through our technology, gets around that limiting, hardwired sense of empathy.

Our technology is also advancing at an exponential rate. Bigger, better, faster, stronger. More destructive, at least potentially. We are on a positive feedback loop of conflict heading towards destruction. This was as central to Bearden’s concern as it was, or so it seems, to Delgado’s.

Despite the dangers inherent in going forward, we cannot go backward in evolution, Bearden concludes. Becoming a technological species was a one-way threshold. In terms of “natural” evolution, the human species has achieved its final stage, and the next step, the sixth stage of evolution, must be a conscious one — and, in Bearden’s estimation, a technological step, if we survive ourselves and are therefore capable of taking that next step at all.

(It also strikes me that this could be the filter that explains the “cosmic silence” so often spoken about when discussing the so-called Fermi Paradox.)

What would this sixth stage constitute? In the eyes of Bearden, by necessity it must be characterized by the reintroduction of internal control, preventing the kind of “destructive competition” that accelerates us towards species suicide, without relinquishing our intelligence, which is to say our “genetically unprogrammed” nature.

Over the course of recorded human history, we have struggled to achieve this.

“Law, logic, philosophy, creed, religion, practice, love, sacrifice, money, the ballot, and the bullet — all of these have empirically proven that they cannot solve the human problem for all humanity. Since none of the solutions advanced to date can solve the problem, we must discard them all and search for a new approach.”

How? What on earth could solve the problem? The solution he proposes could be seen as the inevitable trajectory of our technology, the endpoint of it’s ever-advancing and allegedly exponential rate of advancement, barring self-termination. He contends that the only available solution is to unify all human brains “into one giant superbrain” adding that “one would also hope for the ‘maximum individual freedom within the constraints of minimum essential inter-individual control.’”

“One would hope”? Seems frighteningly low on his hierarchy of values, from the smell of it.

This could be accomplished through, and would in all likelihood (at least in my own, paranoid mind) be the end result of, the kind of technology Delgado was developing and, more to the point, the kind of mind-machine interface technology that Musk was proposing as the most beneficial avenue given the inevitable rise of superintelligent AI.

Bearden envisions this as each individual or “mancell” functioning within its own personal sphere but interactions between such mancells being governed by the technologically-induced harmony of what would constitute a technologically-mediated superorganism or massmind.

Bearden hypothesizes that when, to start simply, two minds are technologically linked — at least in the kind of high-bandwidth, time-delay-free union Musk aims for in his Neuralink effort — a phenomenon occurs that is not unlike what happens naturally within the complex mesh of matter packed into the typical human skull. The cortex and the amygdala, or limbic system, are in symbiosis, causing them to identify not as individual parts, but as a whole, just as Musk explained.

The two sides of the cerebrum or cerebral cortex, the left and right hemispheres of the brain, have a similar relationship, perceiving themselves not as the dualistic aspects that they are physically, but as the singular entity they are experientially and enact behaviorally.

As Bearden explains, the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body and the left hemisphere controls the right, and one hemisphere, typically the left, tends to dominate. Despite this, we do not typically consciously experience any separation between the left and right side of our body. Both hemispheres are connected by the corpus callosum, a thick mesh of nerve fibers that transmits the messages between them at such a high rate of speed that it produces a convincing illusion of immediacy from the standpoint of conscious awareness.

“If one holds up both hands and observes them, one is perfectly aware that here are two separate hands, but is only aware of one being to whom the hands belong, even though each hand is being controlled by a different cerebral hemisphere.”

In other words, in those with functional, cerebral hemispheres, the inter-cerebral bandwidth is heightened to the point where our consciousness cannot detect any time-delay between one hemisphere and the other. Whatever one hemisphere generates the other hemisphere experiences as having generated itself. Put in another way, Bearden explains:

“… when consciousness can perceive no difference, identity results, just as separate movie frames appear continuous (each two appear one) when flashed at 22 frames per second. Thus in one’s own body, two brains are integrated into one functional brain and one perceptual personality. There is no conscious separation of the two brain hemispherical perceptions, and one consciously is aware of only one being or continuity, himself.”

This is precisely what Musk appeared to be trying to convey when he spoke about the AI extension. The AI extension he appears to be aiming at through Neuralink would constitute a artificial, technological layer of the brain that would, given sufficient bandwidth, perceive itself as being as synonymous with the AI extension as one hemisphere of the cerebrum considers itself synonymous with the other. If such a super-brain were to be accomplished, the brain itself would look upon the singular human organism in much the same way as the singular human organism — you, I — currently look upon one of our hands.

On a positive note, this linkage, according to Bearden, would naturally eliminate competition between individuals within the network, at the very least what he describes as “destructive competition,” as such behavior would be as self-defeating as you using one of your hands to stab the other. We would be one super-brain with access to countless bodies.

Where would there be room for an individual? For privacy? For personal freedom?

While this superbrain is not necessarily what Musk proposes, it certainly seems like a step in that direction and may even be an unintended consequence of the aims of Neuralink. As with Delgado and Bearden, Musk has good intentions, but be it intentional or not, this may ultimately destroy the individuality we presently enjoy, obliterate any vague semblance of privacy and personal freedom. Liberty of the soul could meet its dead fucking end here.

And that saying, the one about what the road to hell is paved with? Call me paranoid, and I hope I am, but it still might be a good one to keep in mind.