Archive for the ‘paranormal’ Category

Every once in a while, I’ll wander around Youtube looking for blogging material. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a gem like Indigostarseed Shelley, who is still up to her crazy antics.

They can’t all be people who aim their OCD and paranoia at a black sky every night. Most videos on the paranormal are genuinely terrible, which brings us to our subjects for today.

First up, we have Sweet Sassy Glassy, with the most anti-climatic Bigfoot hunt video in the history of the internet. It is just seven minutes of her walking around in the woods and seeing absolutely nothing. This is just an excuse for her to show off her jewelry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf5cD_Q4L7M

For some reason, possibly because it is the highest point in the state, Mt. Scott is a hotbed of bad UFO videos. For those who haven’t been there, Mt. Scott overlooks a lake to the southeast and an air force base to the south. This makes it a ripe place for lake birds and military aircraft to be mistaken for alien spaceships by people with bad camera equipment and cinematography skills. The second part of this video is just the latest example of many.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRX_nmkVfVU

My guess is that it is an out of focus seagull, but it might be any number of out of focus objects.

Finally, I did come across someone almost as obsessive as Indigostarseed Shelley, if somewhat less mystically insane. Oklahoma resident Gary Charlton’s Youtube Channel is a treasure trove of paranoid UFO culture. Charlton is convinced that the aliens are writing messages to us in the clouds, that the government is intentionally filtering search engines to hide his videos, and that the government is dumping chemicals into the skies over Oklahoma as part of some conspiracy. His videos are downright awful, but his comments and posts are pretty entertaining.

I’ve written on here about the University of Central Oklahoma professor Caleb Lack, who blogs over at Great Plains Skeptic. Caleb is a psychology professor who teaches a course on critical thinking, where his students make videos examining the veracity of various Oklahoma legends.

Here is a great one on the John Wilkes Booth legend I wrote about recently:

I can’t speak highly enough of this kind of work. A class on critical thinking and evaluating the merits of claims should be required coursework for any undergraduate program, but especially for any media and journalism major. I’ve complained before about the lazy false balance epidemic in modern media, and programs that teach future journalists how to evaluate evidence would be one step in the right direction (among many) toward addressing that problem.

UCO seems to be getting it right. For example, the “Logic and Critical Thinking Course” is one of several available courses on “Critical Inquiry” that are part of the core classes required for all majors. That is why it was so depressing when I came across this…

The UCO student media group has a show called Conspiracy Weekly. While not actually a weekly show, the conspiracy part is entirely accurate. Basically, it is a chance for three completely uninformed people to get together and debate about a topic. It reminds me of the debate between Hobbes and Roseau about the state of nature. It isn’t a matter of which one is right, because neither was in a position to actually have an informed opinion. Unlike Hobbes and Roseau, though, these students don’t really have an excuse. They live in the age of Google, Wikipedia and Snopes.

For example, one of the girls in the video linked above takes a position against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) because of the earthquakes that are associated with it. She is worried about Oklahoma being wracked by massive tremors. While there are reasonable concerns about fracking, large devastating earthquakes probably isn’t one of them. It frustrates me to no end when people with whom I nominally agree make bad arguments.

This was just the first video I came across, but they go back to fall of last year. They are rife with bad (or lazy) research. For example, the first episode is just the hosts reading from a top 10 list and commenting on it, and the Halloween 2012 episode gets the origin of one of the two main topics completely wrong.

I understand that this is just a bunch of undergrads learning how to make a slick show and speak on a microphone, but can’t we also have some basic journalistic standards when making the work publicly available? I don’t expect student-led entertainment to be particularly informative, but let’s try not to misinform.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally a set of photos and comments on my visit to the OPERA Fair. It was brought to my attention that OPERA has a no photography policy. I unknowingly violated this policy. The posts have been removed.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally a set of photos and comments on my visit to the OPERA Fair. It was brought to my attention that OPERA has a no photography policy. I unknowingly violated this policy. The posts have been removed.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally a set of photos and comments on my visit to the OPERA Fair. It was brought to my attention that OPERA has a no photography policy. I unknowingly violated this policy. The posts have been removed.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally a set of photos and comments on my visit to the OPERA Fair. It was brought to my attention that OPERA has a no photography policy. I unknowingly violated this policy. The posts have been removed.

As a general rule, I don’t watch the local news. I have an app on my phone that gives me weather, and I can check sports headlines on Twitter and Google faster than it takes for the segment to just tell me the damn score already. Twitter, the local blogs and NewOK (when I’m desperate) give me all of the relevant state news without all of the insipid stories that aren’t really news but filler.

The downside of this is that sometimes I miss out on stories created with this blog in mind. Fortunately, someone I follow on Twitter, had the presence of mind to re-tweet this gem on Monday night.

News9

Yes, that’s the actual headline from the story.

Spontaneous human combustion, at least the kind described in this story, doesn’t actually exist. Well, it does exist in that people really do burn up without taking out the surrounding area, but it isn’t mysterious and isn’t ‘spontaneous’. It is well understood and fully explainable. There is no mystery and no need for a wild headline.

I can tell you what happened here, with a fairly high degree of probability. The victim, who is described in the story as elderly, an alcoholic and a smoker found in the kitchen, lit himself on fire. Due to some combination of his age and alcohol, he was unable to react properly. Instead, his body fat and clothing acted as a candle.

For a good account of how this happens, check out the great Skeptoid post and podcast episode on spontaneous human combustion. Spontaneous human combustion is a misnomer. It should properly be called the human wick effect.

In response to this, I tried to come up with some equally silly headlines. Here are a few of them:

Oklahoma Woman Disappears, Sheriff Not Ruling Out Alien Abduction

Hair Found in Woods, Sheriff Not Ruling Out Bigfoot

Child Vomits, Doctor Not Ruling Out Demon Possession

We should make a game of it. List yours in the comments below.