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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Esoterica: Americans Love Their Zombie Culture -- Finding Richard III -- Mysterious Stone Found in Indonesia

Americans Love Their Zombie Culture

The Walking Dead is immensely popular on TV and Warm Bodies is cleaning up at the box office. The venerable London Science Museum hosted a festival last month focusing wholly on the epistemology of zombies. I even wrote a zombie novel that is being adapted for film by George Romero himself. The popularity of this particular metaphor continues to grow beyond the wildest dreams of horror enthusiasts.

As a psychiatrist, as a popular culture enthusiast, and as a teller of zombie tales, I must admit that I've pondered this particularly bizarre phenomenon a good deal. Like most complex occurrences, I'd argue that the explanations for zombie-mania throughout the United States (and beyond) are multi-faceted and inter-related.

Start by examining the mindless trek we all make in our relentless march toward the unique depersonalization that modernity affords.

Consider your GPS device. Sure it speaks soothingly to you, but it speaks to everyone in that same soothing voice, with the same precise words, and we as individuals matter not a wit to the GPS itself. Add to this the increasing time we spend listening to "muzak" while we wait to talk with a computer help desk, or stuck in traffic with other bedraggled commuters, or, perhaps worst of all, standing in line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and it is no wonder that we identify with and perhaps even envy a set of creatures who just don't care.

Zombies don't mind, after all, if you never bother to text them back. As long as zombies have something to eat, they will wait forever – FOREVER – at the Registry of Motor Vehicles. A zombie is never righteously indignant.

Zombies appeal because they represent the excruciating pains of our vanishing sense of being special. Nobody says "it takes a village" for a zombie to be happy. Zombies no like villages. Zombies like food (and they aren't that picky about it).

Think for a moment of that village in a zombie flick. Think of the poor schmos who still cling to humanity as the zombies start to over-run the barricades. None of the humans are particularly special to the zombie. One guy's guts are as good as someone else's.

After years of being told how unique we are by all facets of American culture – by vampires in our movies, by evangelists in our churches, by politicians on our pedestals and advertisements on our computers – perhaps we have grown tired of the disconnect between these messages and the experience that the Registry of Motor Vehicles affords. The zombies help us to confirm our experience.

So, what do we Americans do when we don't feel special? We turn to our own mythology.

Here's how one kid put it to me:

"If there were a zombie apocalypse, man, it'd be SO cool. It'd be like the Old West. We'd square dance every night and hunt for food during the day. As long as we keep our guns trained on the woods we'll be safe and happy."

That's almost word for word what I've heard at every gathering of zombie enthusiasts. It seems to explain the absurdly intricate planning that zombie survivalists embrace.

I'll admit that the unique freedom of a zombie Armageddon is itself strangely appealing. Our lives would be quickly and cleanly simplified in a zombie scenario, and this of course jives with the enduring American mythos that that "the old days were better". In the old days, the story goes, we got by with just a few honest folks. That sentiment is a uniquely American theme. It's why I've watched Shane and High Noon about a thousand times each.

And here is where I like zombie stories most of all. Ultimately, the zombie tale is a cautionary tale. It is an allegory about what not to do. If there were a zombie outbreak, should we really go shooting every zombie in sight? Not really. We shouldn't arm ourselves with guns. We should arm ourselves with humanity.

Everyone I know in the zombie world uses the human reactions to zombies as examples of how folks can either royally screw up or instead do a whole lot of good. At the end of the day, a good zombie movie, like the best of American values, is about finding a way to get along with each other and move forward. In our vast and polarized nation, it is now more than ever vital that we fully embrace these lessons.

In other words, we love our zombies because they just might bring us together before we go and tear ourselves apart. - Guardian

Zombie Culture: Autopsies of the Living Dead

Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture

American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture


Mysterious Stone Found In Kupang, NTT, Indonesia

In 1992, a strange artifact was discovered in a cave on the Devil Hills (or Mount of Satan) in Kupang, East Nus Tenggara, Indonesia.

The artifact was a stone, which possesses strange carvings on its surface.

The photographs of the artifact belonged to a geologist who had lived in Kupang and died of illness in 1994. He’d been exploring a cave at the Devil Hills at night, and came upon a strange pile of rocks, where he found the stone.

It appeared like two pieces of rock bound together, but its most curious characteristic were the drawings upon its surface: stars, the Sun, and arrows pointing in every direction.

You can also see humanoid figures, highlighted in the image below, which compares the carvings on the rock to the Pioneer plaques. These were plaques sent into space aboard Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 in 1972 and 1973, respectively, meant to give any intelligent life in the universe information on the crafts’ origins.

On the strange stone, the images (if they are similar) appear reversed.

The artifact also had other qualities (translated from original):

“According to Willy [Soeharly] who is now a field investigation team coordinator BETA-UFO Kupang and surrounding areas, the rock contains a magnet and is thought to contain radioactive elements.”

The stone is now kept by the geologist’s family.

In the area of the Devil Hills, there have also been reports of UFOs, including “three black dots” that had formed a triangle, which some claimed had been the markings of a UFO landing. These markings eventually vanished due to erosion. Neons lights had also been reported descending toward the hills.

Is this a legitimate artifact? It’s possible this could actually be a septarian concretion, a kind of rock formation where cracks or separations occur and fill in with minerals. The carvings could very well be man-made. But let your mind wander…

What could these carvings mean? Why are they there? - Indo Crop Circles


I believe ghosts of the past talk to us

It's extraordinary, the story of the woman who was the first person to be convinced the remains of King Richard III lay buried beneath a car park in Leicester and was duly dismissed as "a bit fanciful" by one of the academics who were astonished to discover that, actually, she was absolutely right.

Philippa Langley, a screenwriter and longstanding member of the Richard The Third Society, was visiting Leicester because it had long been rumoured that the King, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth nearby, had been buried in an old abbey there.

The site of the abbey is now a municipal car park and as Philippa walked across the tarmac she became completely convinced that Richard lay beneath her feet. The conviction was so strong, she says, that she felt cold chills running through her entire body - a dramatic and never-before experienced physical sensation. Returning to the same spot some time later she noticed the letter "R" had been painted on the ground, meaning, presumably, that that particular parking space was reserved. Her conviction grew even stronger.

When she persuaded Leicester University to excavate the car park many were sceptical. In fact the skeleton of a man who through DNA testing has now been positively identified as the hunchback king lay exactly where Philippa's intuition had told her he would be.

It's an astonishing, rather creepy story but I would never dismiss it as fanciful or some kind of remarkable coincidence because some years ago a similar thing happened to me.

My own Richard's father had died of a heart attack at the early age of 49 in 1977. I didn't meet Richard until five years later, so I never knew his dad Chris. Long after we'd married and had children, one Sunday afternoon Richard took me to the Essex graveyard in which his dad lies buried.

It was a lovely, sunny spring day. But because it had been years since Richard had visited his father's grave he was at first nonplussed. "I can't remember where it is," he admitted.

I looked around at the hundreds of gravestones and monuments. Then something made me turn to my right.

For some extraordinary reason I heard myself saying: "He's over there." I pointed to the far side of the graveyard, at a distant, seemingly anonymous headstone. "That's him."

And it was. We walked straight up to the grave, stopped, stared and there was his name on the headstone. "Christopher Holt Madeley. B. May 21 1928, D. August 8 1977."

It was an astonishing experience. I'd never seen this graveyard, or indeed this part of Essex, before. And yet, as clearly as if he had called out to me, I knew with total certainty where Chris lay.

So I don't find Philippa Langley's story in the least strange. Amazing, yes, but to paraphrase Shakespeare: "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy." Of that I am absolutely convinced. - Express


What evil lurks in our brains?

After studying the brains of violent killers, rapists and robbers, German neurologist Gerhard Roth claims to have found a “dark patch” in the center of the brain -- he calls it the evil spot, a genetic source of violent behavior.

Roth, a professor at the University of Bremen, told Germany news site that he had shown short films to criminals and measured their brain activity. A small section at the front of their brains showed no reaction to violent scenes; it remained "dark" when shown dark scenes.

"Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes, the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened,” Roth said.

BioEdge, a blog dedicated to bioethics news, translated Roth's German into English: “This is definitely the region of the brain where evil is formed and where it lurks.”

Not so fast. Human behavior, affect and emotion is likely a far more intricate thing, explained Dr. Steven Galetta, chairman of the neurology department at the NYU School of Medicine.

“People look at the blood flow to one area and they say, ‘aha, this is the evil patch.’ It’s probably a lot more complex than that,” Galetta told

“Certain areas are likely important for certain behaviors, certain attitudes. But it’s probably not as simple as X marks the spot for a particular behavior.”

Roth’s study, according to, was conducted for the German government on violent convicted offenders. He said the dark mass that he has identified appears in all CT scans of people with such records -- and taking it out ended their “evil” behavior.

Roth did not respond to requests for more details on his study.

Terre Constantine, executive director of the Brain Research Foundation and the former director of the Jack Miller Center for Peripheral Neuropathy, expressed skepticism at the report, but agreed that brain abnormalities such as tumors can affect behavior.

“It absolutely can affect the brain and your personality and how you communicate. And it can make you aggressive -- not all tumors, of course: it depends where it is,” Constantine told

Her foundation, which funds research into neuroscience seeking to understand the brain’s workings, has aided research similar to Roth's with more advanced imaging techniques.

One recent study from a University of Chicago researcher studied parenting behavior. It found activity in the amygdala -- a portion of the brain connected to the limbic system -- correlated to parenting style. It “lit up” in the brains of normal mothers, while “harsh parents” didn’t react to scenes of bad parenting.

“There’s clearly differences in the brain depending on what sort of disease or abnormality a person has,” she told And many things can cause abnormal behaviors. “They’re either wired differently or there might be some disease that’s causing the brain to atrophy.”

But Constantine agreed with Galetta: Complex topics and behaviors are likely linked to other areas of the brain, rather than concentrated in one “evil area.”
“I would argue it’s probably not the only “evil” spot,” she said. “There are other areas in the brain, there are lots of … empathy areas or violent areas or just social reaction areas within the brain.”

“This may be one of the spots, but I’d be surprised if it’s the spot.” - Fox News


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