Category Archives: Popular Culture

The Great American Right to Complain

For 30+ years as a news hound and reporter of weird stuff, I, Xeno, have believed it is the duty of Americans to speak up truthfully about what they like and dislike.

We have the right to complain, to make things better. This was true in the past. Is it still?

I like peace, non-violence, transparency in government and privacy and fair voting for the public. I oppose violence and support peaceful plans.

I try to read a broad spectrum of news and ideas, but don’t agree with everyone or everything I read or see. Reading is not approving, obviously.

Long ago, I found and interviewed a man when researching “reptilian aliens” (they are just metaphorical, in my view) who advocated over email “storming Area 51”. I disagreed with his plan because the real Area 51 is on a US military base, it is still run by the CIA as far as I know and I also thought he might be an agent of a foreign government. You never know. I’m not into anything subversive, I follow laws and believe in peaceful change.

One thing I read about Area 51 that was reinforced by real voices of government employees in the news, was that people working within agencies don’t always agree with policies they are supposed to follow. It is the duty of workers to follow the direction set by leadership, but there were differences of opinion within, just as within the FBI, and also between agencies. I’m no insider, this is just what I gleaned over the years.

I like the idea of humans getting organized as a species, but not under fascism. I don’t like Nazis or any other violent war-promoting control freaks. The idea of people writing about Reptilian Aliens, as I have understood it, is that there are factions of “cold blooded” ideological Nazis in the US government. Some were imported from Germany after the war in Operation Paperclip and these scientists grew in power in the Shadow Government. They are opposed by other groups that take seriously their oath to uphold the Constitution and to protect citizen’s rights to complain.

Until the mainstream news started talking about the Shadow Government after the attacks of 9/11/2001, I didn’t think there really was such a thing. After learning there is, I still placed my faith in the good side of the inner US government, writing articles on xenophilia.com such as 10 Proven Conspiracies and Why I Still Trust the Government. (The upshot was that “the Government” is not a single thing, it is different groups with different goals and ideals, many competing.) Conspiracy is a real thing; we have laws against it in the USA and people, including members of Congress, have gone to prison for it. Not every conspiracy theory is true, but some are, investigators have to look at the facts, the real facts, when available.

I keep repeating that I support peaceful change because it is true and because, on the spooky side, I fear that vocal people who complain peacefully, may one day be attacked, framed as radicals or turned into criminals in political theater by Nazi factions in the Shadow Government using dirty tricks, digital and otherwise. Let’s hope not.

I pray the good and honest people and groups win this epic battle.

Being interested in the culture of oddities, I have driven to Nevada and stayed at the Little Ale’Inn near Area 51 a few times. I enjoy the ET alien thing, the interesting people you can meet, and the science fiction fun aspect of it. I liked the movie Independence Day and enjoyed driving on the ET highway. I also personally like the idea of a US Space Force, although people laugh at it and some strongly oppose it.

How can we fix corruption and undue influence of big business in government if not by “storming Area 51?”

I like capitalism and competition generally, but support an idea by the Yang campaign to reasonably rein in the influence of super wealthy individuals and lobby groups:

Democracy Dollars. The easiest way to minimize the influence of super-rich individuals and SuperPACs in our politics is to drown that money out with contributions by normal Americans. Under my Democracy Dollars plan, every American would receive $100 per election cycle to donate to candidates of their choosing.

Via AndrewYang

I don’t endorse him as a presidential candidate, but I like this idea.

Representative Democracy, allowing the majority of the people (instead of a cabal) to pick the best leaders works well only if we have well informed voters. To make Democracy Dollars work, we first need truth in advertising and truth in news reporting.

Simultaneous with Democracy Dollars, we need laws that provide stiff fines for lies, and even stiffer fines for lies about lies–in other words, an American realist movement.

Candidate Joe Biden made a slip I heard yesterday while he was campaigning. He said, we need to support “truth not facts”. I do not support non-factual “truths” as facts are the basis of truth.

I support accurate and fearless fact checking as the basis for an effective peaceful democracy. We must protect the rights of reporters to investigate and report the truth.

I support local police, the FBI and the CIA and the NSA which I believe to be composed mostly of individuals of strong moral character who sometimes have to fight within their organizations for what is right, for what is truly American, for our rightful way of life.

Please save a copy of this on your computer, in the cloud, etc. and republish the bejeebies out of it if it ever gets “disappeared” by anyone who tries to put other words or ideas into my mouth! 😉

Peace, love and music,

Xeno of True Strange News

Blogging at xenophilia.com & truestrange.com

Xeno is a songwriter who has written over 100 songs, a reporter and blogger for 30+ years and nephew of a member of the band Steppenwolf. He was engaged to the personal chef of a California billionaire and has traveled to all 48 lower US states interviewing people for an eventual book on happiness. He opposes violence and promotes peaceful positive change.

TrueStrange.com

Spice Girls Van Converted to AirBnB

Looking for a fun unusual get away vacation? If you’ve ever enjoyed music by the Spice Girls, you might like this: the hit band’s tour van has been renovated into an AirBnB rental. They say can now book a night in the heart of Wembley Park in London, a place with lots of restaurants, bars and shops nearby.

The interior of the bus has been completely renovated and converted into a rolling hotel room fit for three guests at a time, according to the Airbnb posting.

Suzanne Godley, who, along with her boss, completed the bus overhaul, said the Spice Girls were her childhood “obsession.”

Read more UPI

There other interesting and strange places you can rent on the AirBnB site; a castle, a gypsy wagon, a windmill, a gingerbread house, a private island, even a restored 200 year-old church in one January 2016 review of strange listings.

TrueStrange.com

R.I.P. Peter Mayhew, Chewbacca Actor

On April 30, 2019 Peter Mayhew passed away at 74 years old. The seven foot three inch actor most famously played Chewbacca, a two hundred year old Wookie warrior in the Star Wars movies.

Peter William Mayhew (19 May 1944 – 30 April 2019) was an English-American actor, best known for portraying Chewbacca in the Star Wars film series. He played the character in all of his live-action appearances from the 1977 original to 2015’s The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role.

Via Wikipedia

His very first acting role was a year earlier in 1975 when he played the Minaton huge half-man half-bull bronze creature in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger.

An uncredited Peter Mayhew is the live suit actor stand-in for the stop-motion Minaton (the bronze mechanical minotaur), whose name is a portmanteau of “minotaur” and “automaton”. Before filming, Mayhew was working as a hospital attendant at King’s College Hospital in London.

Producer Charles H. Schneer saw Mayhew’s photo, in which he was literally standing above the crowd around him. Filmed in 1975, this was Mayhew’s very first role, right before playing his more famous role of Chewbacca in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), filmed in 1976. Both films were released in 1977 (but ironically, “Star Wars” was released three months ahead of “Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger”).

Peter, unusually tall due to an overactive pituitary gland, was the tallest member of the Star Wars cast.

At 7ft 3in – the result of an overactive pituitary gland – Mayhew was the only person on the film set who towered over David Prowse, a 6ft 5in bodybuilder who was cast in the role of the evil overlord Darth Vader.

According to USA Today, the family statement said:

“He fought his way back from being wheelchair-bound to stand tall and portray Chewbacca once more in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” … “He also consulted on (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) in an attempt to teach his successor.”

Wikipedia says Peter died of a heart attack on 30 April 2019 at his home in Boyd, Texas.

According to the Daily Mail, a study of 1.6 million men found that those over 6’2″ were more likely to develop blood clots that lead to heart attacks.

In playing the original Wookie, Peter studied the movements of bears and gorillas. The huge success that Star Wars would become was unknown at the time he auditioned for the role.

Mayhew went on to audition for Star Wars. As an independent production from a young filmmaker, there was no particular reason to believe that the film would bring him any more fame than had the Sinbad picture. The audition process was famously loose—Mayhew and fellow tall man David Prowse were both considered for the roles of Chewbacca and Darth Vader. Legend has it that Prowse asked to play the villain under the assumption that his face and voice would be used. Mayhew, meanwhile, studied bears and gorillas at the zoo in order to develop movements for the Wookiee.

Via TexasMonthly

According to some sources the giant actor became a multimillionaire, while other sources cite his net worth at half a million.

Peter Mayhew was a British actor and comedian who had a net worth of $5 million at the time of his death in 2019.

Via CelebrityNetworth

I’d expect the larger amount for his Star Wars character being so well known. I’ve never thought of net (financial) worth as being worth mentioning but did find the discrepancy interesting and noticed it when “net worth” was one of the top search terms related to his name.

Here are a few Star Wars scenes to enjoy as we remember Peter.

TrueStrange.com

Brady Bunch House on the Market for $1.85 Million

The Brady Bunch house is for sale.

It’s the story … of an iconic house that could get the wrecking ball.

The home that served as the exterior for the TV sitcom “The Brady Bunch” is on the market for $1.885 million, but it could be wiped off the map, Deadline reported

“I have several buyers already interested,” real estate agent Jodie LeVitus Francisco was quoted as saying in an article posted Wednesday. “They’re developers for the lot size. They might tear down, but the listing agent said the family was hoping to get someone to preserve the house, and at $1.85 (million), I don’t know if a developer would pay that much.”

The 2,477-square-foot house in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles has had the same owners for 45 years, according to real estate records. The owners have died and their children are selling, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In 2016 burglars reportedly ransacked the house

To any fan of the blended-family sitcom that aired from 1969 to 1974, the house is highly recognizable from the opening and closing scenes on the series, and is frequently visited by tourists. Interior shots were filmed on a sound stage.

via Huff

Wood paneling, plush carpet and plenty of closet space for bell bottoms give the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home just some of its charm — even if the Bradys didn’t really live there. The house doesn’t have the second floor window the Bradys had on TV.

“In the show, you remember it was a split level,” Carswell noted of the home’s interior, which was built on a stage at Paramount Studios. “In this home, so that it would look like that on the show, the producer’s stylist, directors had a false window applied to the front of the house so that it would appear like a full two-story.” …

The owner, Violet McCallister, also made another change to the home, installing a fence around the property. “After Ms. McCallister lived here a number of years, the fan base kept growing and growing, and the visitations by the public kept coming on. She decided she needed a little barrier, but she didn’t want to enshroud the house privately, because she realized people loved it,” Carswell explained.

McCallister’s granddaughter, Kelsey, told ET that she and her grandmother “loved” seeing all the fans show up to admire the property. “We would see all these people come up and they were full of smiles and they came from all over the world,” she recalled. “Did people come up and sing [the Brady Bunch theme song] all the time? Yes, absolutely.” …

via ETOnline

Here’s what it looks like in TV show with the false window:

Mastadon: A Decentralized Social Network, Twitter Alternative

Today I’m learning about Mastodon.social. What is it? Mastodon is a new social media frontier, a decentralized, open source social network of the future: “No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Join today: https://joinmastodon.org,” says the page.

With no central servers, the experience may be similar, but the design is very different from Twitter and other large corporate social media players. Twitter must realize that there could be a rapid and massive “100th Monkey” type of migration of their users away to Mastodon. It might happen if the application continues to work well, avoids advertisements, and lets local community standards and moderation do their job while maintaining privacy.

Twitter has come under fire in recent months for its slowness in dealing with cyberbullying, and the proliferation of accounts promoting and glorifying Islamic extremism. Facebook, meanwhile, continues to be a privacy nightmare. – via MakeUseOf

How many users are on Mastodon? As of 5/22/17 it was 623,000 users with over a million posts. How many in 2018? Regardless, Twitter is likely not worried. At the beginning of 2018, it had reached 327 million active users. Millions of which are likely fake, but still.

I fired up a Mastadon and one thing I like is the ability of the iPhone app to read new posts as they scroll by. Unfortunately, until I figure out how to navigate, they are nearly all in another language so I don’t know what they are saying.

“it avoids the risks of a single company monopolizing your communication. Pick a server that you trust — whichever you choose, you can interact with everyone else. Anyone can run their own Mastodon instance and participate in the social network seamlessly. – link

With regard to safety, here is a list of the moderation options from one screen:

MastodonOptions

Sick of Twitter? Fed up with Facebook? Online abuse and NSFW content getting you down? Just want to exchange ideas away from the glare of people who oppose you?

Mastodon is the answer. And thanks to its open source nature, it is possible to set up your own Mastodon instance, enabling conversation on any topic and giving your users some safety and privacy from trolls of all kinds.

If it was a bit faster and easier, I’d have already set up my own StrangeNews instance of Mastadon, but it looks like a lot of work at a command prompt to get it running. Besides, there are hundreds of Mastadon instances to explore.

This one for example:

Welcome to Mos Eisley, a Star Wars themed Mastodon instance! The instance is not restricted to Star Wars related content: general use is welcome and expected.

via MosEisley.Club

A few more notes: NASA and SpaceX have accounts and I saw one test post of a video, so that is possible in the system.

There are more and more ways we can connect. This may not always be a good thing if all of our gabbing lowers national and personal productivity but it is happening, nonetheless.

TrueStrange.com

Yanny or Laurel Auditory Illusion: “Audio Injection” Computer Hack ?

Here’s an angle on the Yanny vs Laurel auditory illusion debate you may not have considered: this storm of contention could be created with a technological magic trick: audio injection.  Unlikely, but not impossible.

It’s being described as an optical illusion for your ears. Two words that look so different on paper can sound so alike to some, and are now causing us to rethink what we hear, reports CBS News contributor and Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson. Everyone is taking sides – some on team Yanny, others on team Laurel.

Even the legendary performer who shares one of the names weighed in. In a video posted on Twitter, Greek music star Yanni laughs as he declares, “Yanny!”

But slightly more of the public seems to be siding with “Laurel.” Twitter data shows 47 percent of people on that site hear “Yanny,” and 53 percent hear “Laurel.”

It’s perhaps the biggest internet controversy since the great white-and-gold or blue-and-black dress debate of 2015. So, which one is it? If you said Laurel you’re technically correct.

Last Friday, Georgia high school student, Katie Hetzel was studying the word “laurel” for her literature class and decided to look it up on Vocabulary.com.

“I thought I was losing it,” Hetzl said. “I clicked the audio button to tell me a word to spell and I hear ‘Yanny’ and I was like, this isn’t one of my vocabulary words.”

The high school freshman posted her findings to Instagram. Soon enough, the internet worked its magic and the debate turned explosive.

But why do different people hear different things from the same recording?

“People who are more attuned to the high frequencies are picking up on things that make it sound more like Yanny. If you’re not picking up on those higher frequencies then it sounds more like Laurel,” explained linguist Ben Zimmer.

Vocabulary.com, where the debate originated, has now gotten in on the action, creating a definition for all the people on team Yanny: A yanny is a word or phrase that is capable of distracting the entire internet for at least 24 hours. When you “drop a yanny,” you start a contentious debate on some type of public forum.

via CBSNews

The original audio comes from a computer voice speaking the word Laurel, so if that’s what you hear, then there’s that. Some people, however, hear Yanny very clearly over and over.

The Yanny Conspiracy Theory: What if it just seems to be the same loop but someone is actually injecting different audio into different feeds? Some hackers could do this by replacing the 4 second file on the audio server mid-stream, a man-in-the-middle attack.

If that were going on, however, everyone in one place would hear the same word.

Have you had someone in the same room hear Yanny when you are hearing Laurel?

If so, let us know in a comment.

I once experienced an audio illusion: We had a class once where the professor played a tape for 5 minutes and we had to write down every word we heard. At the end we shared and people heard things like “cut the tape,” “contemplate” and so on, but the only word playing was “cogitate” played in a loop, exactly the same every time.

This happens because the brain is a difference engine. If things are too much the same, it will invent and experience difference. See the ganzfeld effect. If you tape two halved ping pong balls over your eyes while sitting under a lamp, the white visual field will have you seeing hallucinations. Once the brain recognizes that there is no useful information to be deciphered from the incoming visual field, it just ignores it.

I’ve used the ping-pong balls and they worked. You should not paint them, use the white ones, you cut them in the half and attach them to something that would resemble swimming goggles. I made it with toilet paper wrapped around normal paper so it wouldn’t hurt the face, then I used rubber bands to pull it tight around the eyes. Do no let any light get in through holes or anything. I used hot glue to attach the half balls to the papper thing. Then you lie or sit with a lamp in front of your face, the white background should have you seeing strange things in a few minutes.

via AstralPulse

Here are more audio illusions for when you get bored with Laurel and Yanny. “Be You, Pail, Bill, Mayo…”

All of this shows us an important strange truth, that we are only partly interacting with our environment, while also partly reacting to things that are only in our imagination, even when we are wide awake. Some people find it amazing that dolphins are always half asleep, the question is, do any of them know it? Most of us don’t.

TrueStrange.com

Thanos vs Obadiah Stane

I recently saw the infinity wars movie (enjoyed it!) but couldn’t help wondering through the whole movie if the actor who played Thanos was the same as the one who played Obadiah Stane, a previous Iron Man villain. It was not. Obadiah was played by Jeff Bridges and Thanos by Josh Brolin. Here are the two actors together.

Here are the two characters, Obadiah on the left and Thanos right.

Anyone else have this thought?

Thanos was at times an oddly likable murderous villain. While malevolently misguided, he believes he is on a mission to improve the universe. His method is the problem, of course, as it involves a lot of killing, sacrificing his own daughter, and then instantly and randomly killing off one half of all sentient beings alive everywhere so the other half have sufficient resources to live in paradise.

Obadiah had, by comparison to Thanos, a barely perceptible death toll. He was a much more shady villain, killing basically for greed and to feed his own lust for power.

The underlying message of Infinity War is subtle, realistic and valuable at a philosophical level. It is applicable to everyone: In your daily battles, do your means justify your intended ends? Is it better to do nothing, to let injustices be, or to try to improve things in a bumbling or even a destructive way?

This movie, Avengers Infinity War, which made $1 billion in a record 11 days, is, under all the flashy computer graphics and the crazy zoo of superheroes, a beautiful diagram of the great universal moral compass and the engine of all conflict.

TrueStrange.com