Seeking Tanis? Finding Spoof.

I’m an avid podcast fan, but I’m pretty fucking picky about which podcasts I let in my earholes these days. After I hit critical mass on wrestling podcasts from Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Chris Jericho, Roddy Piper and Ric Flair I learned two things: All wrestlers have the same stories (and tell them often), and the greatest stories are only about 5% true.

I ended my addiction to wrestling podcasts after far too many drunken rants from Stone Cold as he sat around his ranch bullshitting with his ranch hand about absolutely nothing, and I had to cut the Ten Minute Podcast’s life support off when it became Will Sasso’s Parade of Annoying Characters, but I still clung to a fine selection of less-insane podcasts that were mostly NPR productions and the incomparable Welcome to Night Vale. Since coming out to Ohio, I’ve pretty much been surviving on Night Vale, This American Life, Radiolab, and Serial.

Until yesterday.

In a conversation with my brotha-from-anotha-motha-and-fatha I was forced to accept TANIS into my life. I was assured it was a mystery, and that he couldn’t say anything about it until I heard it for myself. A few minutes of casual Internet searching turned up a number of sites promoting TANIS as an absolutely true mystery and a number claiming it mixed fact with fiction, but not much in the way of actually calling it out as total fiction.

Lucky you; I’m here to do just that.

TANIS comes at you from Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, who also produce The Black Tapes – but I’m not interested in that one right now. If ever. Found-footage (or audio) horror annoys me.

The premise of TANIS is that the world is so connected now that there’s nothing you can’t find in a few minutes on the Internet, and they wanted to “find” a true mystery to make a podcast about. So they found the “myth of Tanis”, somehow, without finding anything about this “myth” on said Internet.

It’s worth noting that the TANIS podcast website itself doesn’t actually call this a documentary. They market it as a docudrama, openly, but that doesn’t seem to sink in with some of the people listening. The production is straight forward, and well done, with narrator/host Nic Silver laying out the week-by-week results of his investigation in a style clearly cribbed from Serial. In fact, if we really want to get down to it, Nic Silver and his delivery style might even have hints of Cecil Palmer of Welcome to Night Vale fame.

The idea is that there’s this myth of something, somewhere, or someone called TANIS. TANIS is… everything, and nothing at all. It’s a word at the beginning of the podcast, and the host doesn’t have any idea what it really is or what he’s looking for. Some of the offered explanations are that TANIS is a place that moves around from time to time, or maybe it’s Hell, or maybe it’s Atlantis, or maybe it’s a person, or a state of being, or, or or…

The point is, TANIS could be anything because the myth of TANIS is being crafted by the podcast itself.

Now, I will note here that there is a historical Tanis. It’s a city in Egypt. It’s a place you can go today, assuming you have archaeological permits and aren’t murdered by roving packs of ISIS supporters. Historical Tanis sits northeast of Cairo in the Nile Delta and was the capital of the 21st and 22nd dynasties of Egypt from about 1069 BCE to 720 BCE before it was abandoned to the shifting course of the Nile and the usual changes in the balance of power that go with any three-hundred year reign in the ancient world.

So, abandoned, Tanis became buried in silt and considered “lost” to the world at large. It was known to have existed from numerous sources, but no one quite remembered where it was. In fact, there’s a long history of people stumbling across other abandoned cities and proclaiming them to be Tanis until 1936 when Pierre Montet finally uncovered it after more than a decade of digging.

So that’s the real Tanis; a city that is lost and “found” several times. Its location always shifting according to whoever claims to discover it.

As it so happens, that’s also a theme with TANIS-the-podcast. The ephemeral concept of what TANIS is to the host includes one certainty: TANIS moves around and its location forgotten even by those who’ve been there.

This parallel might be the only real connection between an actual Tanis and the TANIS of the podcast. Everything else is nonsense. Fiction crafted not for the sake of uncovering a mystery, but establishing a myth.

As the podcast plays out, I find it hard to believe anyone would actually believe this patchwork quilt of fringe whackado could possibly be grounded in reality. Hard, but not impossible.

Remember, I’m a longtime fan of Art Bell. I’ve heard everything the most hardcore crazies believe in. Every conspiracy about secret societies, aliens, demons, angels, lost super-cultures, mystical powers, and more such shit than I can even list here has passed through my earholes thanks to Art’s parade of lunatics. If people will believe that shit, it’s not too much a stretch they can believe the increasingly complex tale the TANIS spins.

Name dropping starts right away in the first episode where rocket scientist and Thelemite (as in the Ordo Templi Orientis; Aleister Crowley’s cult) is given as the impetus for this whole investigation thanks to a rambling short story about finding TANIS that essentially sets up the whole premise of the show finding a myth everyone else has forgotten.

Parsons is a favorite of the conspiracy crowd and often blamed for introducing evil pagan names and rites into NASA missions for various Illuminati-themed conspiracies about space and the “truth” of our space program’s findings and goals.

It doesn’t stop with Parsons though. In just the first three episodes we also hear Crowley himself trotted out for having drawn a picture of a being he called LAM and the show accepts in the Ancient Aliens explanation as a drawing of an alien (Crowley did not define it as an alien, but a spiritual entity), Charles Fort (for whom the word “Fortean” was coined to describe any weird mystery or happening) writes a cryptic letter that seems to point toward a search for TANIS, a crazy basement-dwelling hoarder has a mountain of audio tapes and an amateur radio and conspiracy fixation (an obvious Bell nod, as Bell is an avid HAM operator), numbers stations, a sinister “Tesla Nova Corporation” that locks employees away from the rest of the world, an archaeologist who specializes in “new energy” (because, “new” and “archeology” are words that are totally synonymous), a cabin that’s bigger on the inside than out and teleports around, and of course: mysterious forces following the host around erasing evidence of TANIS almost as soon as he finds it.

The shadowy stalkers delete the bare scraps of digital information our intrepid reporter’s scrappy hacker sidekick/employee (who only works for bitcoins) manages to find in a version of the “Deep Web” only seen in movies and seems to exist solely to post innocuous and cryptic messages (unlike the real Darknet, which deals in illicit goods and services, human trafficking, and everything your mother thought the kosher Internet was going to do to you in 1995) almost seconds after she digs them out. Tapes are erased. Mountains of tapes disappear. The Internet is sanitized against anyone finding anything about TANIS: except the podcast that’s all about finding TANIS, and the city of Tanis in Egypt.

It’s a clever tale, for sure. The producers (whoever they REALLY are) manage to blend their creation into a vast conspiracy culture that explains quite nicely why there’s no actual information on this myth available. It’s not that it was never there until created as a work of fiction for a podcast- it was destroyed by a shadowy cabal!

The overload of fringe nutballery has a purpose, though, and it’s one that I do applaud the writers for instead of simply shaking my head in disbelief. They’ve learned this technique from the fringe itself, applied it to their own (made up) story, and bent the names and scant facts in such a way as to make the whole pattern seem just too encompassing not to be real.

By spitballing everything fringe under the sun into one story, slapping a “mystery!” label on it, and delivering it in a very straight forward manner with the occasional hint of serious harm or consequences for the investigators themselves, the guys and gals at Pacific Northwest Stories have effectively emulated, and spoofed, the entire fringe movement in one beautiful stroke.

Radio programs like Art Bell’s Midnight in the Desert, Coast to Coast AM, a metric shitload of podcasts on the Dark Matter Radio Network, and TV shows like… well, everything on the History Channel these days that isn’t about manly men challenging nature with chainsaws and heavy machinery all work on the same premise: pile all the bullshit together and draw in everyone who believes in just one part of it so they’ll believe in all of it.

It’s pretty much what’s kept Ancient Aliens on the air for NINE FUCKING YEARS; that and college kids who like to drink whenever Giorgio Tsoukalos says “it was aliens!”.

They’re just fucking with you, the PNWS gang. They’re telling a good bit of fiction, spinning it as though it could be real, AND trolling every fringe “theorist” and believer who stumbles across the podcast and buys into it. It’s really quite an exceptional bit of work.

Sure, I could just listen to it as a story and try really hard to believe like so many of the other commentators out there, but I prefer to listen to it for what it really is: a microcosmic spoof of a culture of idiocy currently gripping America (and voting for Trump) with a quality of writing about six steps above the actual conspiracy theorist bullshit.

These guys do their research, but it’s not research into whether TANIS is real or what it is. It’s research into how to carefully pile a lot of bullshit in one place and get people to eat it up.

Well done, PNWS crew, but next time don’t tell us there’s something the Internet doesn’t know. That’s just silly.

 

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The Moon: Not Just for Freemasons!

I know what you’re thinking already: “What the fuuuuuuuck?”

Let me explain. I’m often awake at all hours of the night/morning doing various and sundry things, and even some writing while I’m at it. I’m a natural night owl and have been since I was thirteen and discovered two things: caffeine, and the Internet. From that point on, it was a given I would never have a regular sleep schedule.

I wrote a couple months ago about the return of Art Bell and what a joy having him back in my late night routine was, and that’s because when you’re up late into the night you need some sort of crazy shit to keep you going. No one brings the crazy like Art does. That hack who replaced him, George Noory, tries very hard to bring the crazy, but he really just winds up bringing the crazy PEOPLE.

Seriously, I put up with Noory while I had to because now and then he’d have a good guest on, but for the most part he fills his guest line-up with any old fuckwit who writes a book about how they channelled the alien ghost of Jesus and he told them they’re the new king of the world. Delusion runs rampant at Coast to Coast, but it was fun delusion while it lasted.

Then Art came back, and left again when his Sirius XM deal went to hell out of general curmudgeony and a bit of technical fuckery. Then he came back again, and this the new internet-radio show has been going strong and fuelling my brain late into the night and doing so right at this moment as I sit here writing this rambling bit of bullshit just to get a blog post out.

So, what do Freemasons have to do with the Moon?

Absolutely nothing, but when you listen to enough conspiracy radio nonsense you pick up some of the most amazing stories. There are actually people who believe the Moon is an artificial construct built by time traveling Freemasons. These people have not only put their bullshit out on radio programs like Coast to Coast (so far Art’s new show, Midnight in the Desert has avoided this bit of fuckery), but national television on the various conspiracy and alien-oriented programs currently hoarding space on once-educational channels.

Art’s been great this time around, and he’s balancing a lot of the crazy out with some very real science from very real scientists. Right now I’m listening to a tenured Professor of Physics talk about the physics of time travel and his explorations into whether or not it is actually possible.

Far cry from the show Coast to Coast is putting on tonight in which Jesse Ventura will rant about the same government conspiracies he’s been “exposing” on national television for a decade and then some lady who’s going to babble about psychic connections with animals, no?

Believe it or not, though, this post isn’t actually about how great Art’s new show is or how utterly retarded Noory’s has become. This post is about the moon, and it just happened to have been brought on by listening to Art late at night. One might even call this:

THE MOST BAD-ASS THING I EVER LEARNED AT 2AM!

See, between segments of the show Art runs his usual handful of commercials to keep the show running and a few little nonsense “news” blurbs that usually have dubious basis in fact and are often just retellings of the nonsense callers to the show claim happened to them.

One of these news blurbs, however, caught my attention. It claimed that NASA has recently done a dump of almost 10,000 images from the Apollo Program to Flickr. Given that the British Library had done an enormous image dump a few years ago to the same social media image-sharing site, it sounded like a plausible idea.

Apparently, Dark Matter News (the internet radio network Art’s producer Keith Rowland runs) picked the story up off of various social media groups they seem to troll for most of their “news”, and while they’re purposely making news reports on stupid stuff and not trying to be all that serious, they didn’t do their homework at all.

NASA is not behind The Project Apollo Archive. A man named Kipp Teague is, and he deserves recognition for this fact that the tweens and brain-dead zombie people who perpetuate your average social media story blitz are simply failing to notice at all. Kipp actually put an image on the first page of the archive to explain this fact, and STILL people are calling this a NASA-run image dump.

While it may not be a NASA project, it does include thousands of NASA-provided images from the history of the Apollo Program. These are high-resolution images taken by the Apollo astronauts themselves on their way to the Moon, during landing, and on the surface of the Moon. It is, in a word: amazing.

I’ve only spent about half an hour on the archive so far, and had to write a bit about it before I could continue. I’m anticipating something horrible on the way this week, and I rather like having the opportunity to look through all of these images without the overbearing taint of Richard C. Hoagland’s bullshit that I can smell coming a mile away.

Hoagland runs his own radio program after Art Bell; The Other Side of Midnight. If you’re unfamiliar with Hoagland’s work so far, you should thank whatever deity you find amusing at the moment. This is the man behind the infamous “Face on Mars” contrivance, and in the decades since that original bit of idiocy he’s built a career out of looking at images from space and the various heavenly bodies, picking out shapes like you see shapes in the clouds overhead, and claiming they’re leftover pieces of technology from (I shit you not)… an ancient, long-dead solar system spanning civilization that ultimately destroyed itself completely in a series of wars that left only Earth with sentient life, but managed to seed hundreds of artifacts, special libraries of ancient knowledge, and maybe a secret brotherhood of Earthlings who maintained knowledge of this massive technological civilization and currently exploit its secret physics to oppress humanity and keep all the “really good stuff” for themselves.

Yeah. He’s a special little snowflake, alright, and I’m expecting either in the next five minutes (as his show just started as I type this) he’ll start to proclaim all the random rocks scattered in these images are high technology, or sometime in the course of the next week.

It’s a shame, too, because NASA does a lot of really good work on a shoestring of a budget, goes out of their way to make available all the images they get back from the various rovers, landers, and orbiters and probes out there in the solar system, but this jackass has a wider exposure and more people are willing to believe him and his big glass domes on the Moon than they are that NASA could possibly be a legitimate agency doing good science.

Sometimes, I want to weep for the stupidity of humanity. Oh, fuck. Tonight’s show is Michael Cremo, and frankly I don’t have the energy to write all the bullshit THAT guy spits out into the world.

Regardless, crazy people and ancient space-faring civilizations (Cremo’s basically an Atlantis guy at his core, but tries to cast human civilization on Earth back millions of years) aside, check out The Project Apollo Archive. It’s real science brought to life in real images of the real Moon by real men who risked their lives to walk around on a rock in space just because they could.

Image dumps like this, all in one place with such ease of access, are rare and wonderful things and exactly the sort of effort that makes the Internet worth having. It’s this sort of spreading of GOOD information and legitimate human achievement that we should all be clamouring for; not pictures of some jackass’s cat.

We get it. Cats play with shit. Big fucking deal. Get over it, Internet. Get some education. Look at another piece of the solar system in a way you never have before, and give thanks to the men who made that possible.

And while you’re at it, thank Kipp Teague for taking the time to put this archive together. Kipp, you probably will never see this, but thanks. I’m sorry the Internet is full of illiterate morons.

Hello, Old Friend

Once upon a time in the distant year known as 1988, this crazy bastard living in the desert in Nevada started a little radio show on AM and it was named Coast to Coast AM, and it was good. Hallelujah, hallelujah, praise the Man Jesus and Cthulhu, and say thankee-sai!

And really do. Seriously. Praising Jesus and Cthluhu at once? Entirely possible with this program. Coast to Coast AM was a batshit ride through the craziest bullshit mankind has to offer; presented for entertainment by host Art Bell every night for three hours starting at midnight on the east coast. If you wonder why cable television is replete with the most ludicrous nonsense ever to claim aliens are responsible for all of mankind’s greatest achievements, the government is hiding secret mind control spaceships from you, and Nazis are so awesome they live on the moon: blame Art Bell.

Because of Art’s wide reach across nearly 500 stations in the U.S. (even today the show boasts just barely more than Art had before he left the show in 2003) an entire generation of mystery mongers got national exposure to fill the heads of another generation of would-be mystery mongers with all the bad science, horrible conspiracies, and general woo-woo zaniness you can imagine and more. Nothing was too crazy for Coast to Coast AM to air, but at least in those days Art himself was willing to call bullshit when he wasn’t buying what the guest was selling.

Art wasn’t perfect, or impartial, and he had his share of quirks that allowed him to believe a lot of the things on his show that had to do with UFO encounters (having claimed to have had a black triangle fly over his own house once) or relentlessly pursuing the fancy of Time Travel and stories of purported Time Travelers such as the infamous John Titor story (I can’t even summarize that crazy mess of batshit for you, just Google it, you lazy bastards) but occasionally Art would get mad at a guest for flip-flopping or feeding him too much bullshit and thus maintained a curmudgeony old man persona that kind of made one think of Art as the crazy uncle who drinks moonshine and chats with other crazy weirdos on his HAM Radio (Art is actually a HAM nut. Again, weird fucker).

From time to time, though, Art had some guests who were straight up characters; entirely invented either by the show or by the show’s regular callers to bring a little entertainment to the crazypants nonsense parade.

Witness: J.C. Webster. J.C. claims to be a Baptist Revival preacher who believes Art to be the Devil’s Mouthpiece. J.C. (God’s Ten Star, Ten Star General in the War Against Media Pornography) plagued Art for years with his acerbic rants about the uncleanliness of his show and guests, often heckling whichever guest was on, and sometimes expounding on the harrowing story of his own “real” life in which an 80 year old woman named Edna who either worked for/with him, was his lover, or some other sort of fucked up crazy-person relationship to J.C. had stolen $10,000 from CLAMP (that’s the Christian Legion Against Media Pornography) and run off with a man on a motorcycle. Last I heard from J.C. he was still tracking her down, and blamed current C2C host George Noory for her leaving him.

J.C.’s lunacy goes on and on for nearly 20 years of C2C’s history, and even today he continues to show up occasionally to heckle George Noory, but we’re not here to talk about Noory. Noory is a shill. Noory took over the show when Art left in 2003 and is a True Believer who will agree with anything any guest has to say; except this one time he banned a psychic from the show for saying some miners were dead who turned out to be alive.  It’s a fact he will remind you of frequently to point to his own self-professed skepticism even in the face of all the other evidence.

At any rate, once Art left the show and retired for a while he met a Filipino girl online, moved to Manila and got married and had a kid and just kind of popped in occasionally to do a guest spot on the show here and there before dropping off the planet entirely for a time.

As George Noory continued to run the program into the ground, while simultaneously making it more popular than ever and tying it into various shitty fringe rag television shows like the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, some radio affiliates continued to play classic Art shows on Saturday nights. This was when I got my real exposure to Art, and learned to appreciate him a lot more than that fucking hack George Noory.

As fate would have it, in September of 2013 Art returned.

This time he was packing a sweet deal with Sirius XM satellite radio, a renewed vigor brought on by his young wife and child’s presence in his life, and the ominous title Dark Matter. It lasted six weeks before Art, proclaiming his dissatisfaction with the satellite medium for failing to provide his listeners with a stable connection, quit the show again and passed off the Dark Matter name to his webmaster, Keith Rowland, as the Dark Matter Radio Network for all your fringe whackado listening needs.

I never bothered to give any of them a chance. They aren’t Art, so they aren’t worth a shit. Sorry, fucknuts, but no one cares about you and your crazy if Art isn’t there to make it entertaining.

Welllllll… NOW HE IS!

Art’s back! He’s started his new show called Midnight in the Desert on that self-same shitty Internet radio station full of morons, but at least he’s doing something again. I don’t know why the dumb bastard can’t just give up on the whole idea that it has to be a radio show; it only airs for free live, and to get access to the archives one has to pay a subscription fee (or download it from any number of fine torrent sites, listen to it on YouTube, or whatever the fuck else you want to do since the old bastard clearly does not understand the Internet and how it works). He could just do a fucking podcast like the rest of the world, but whatever.

I’m streaming tonight’s episode right now as I write this and other things with my third rum and coke next to me, but I downloaded the three I missed and do not feel bad for doing so. Pretend your Internet radio is ‘exclusive’ all you want. It’s audio, dumbass, it’s easy to copy. I’m pretty sure the Internet exists for copying audio files (well, and porn), after all. It’s the same old Art, the same old guests, and all the same old bumper music he’s always used. It is, simply, an old friend coming back around to ramble about the same shit he was saying the last time you saw him.

But hey, it’s better than wasting time with Coast to Coast and George Noory!

Welcome back, Art. I’ll listen to your idiot friends for hours and write just like you never left us. Until six weeks pass and you get bored of it again. Either way, it’ll be fun to listen and wait for the pillars to come down again.

(Edit: This post just got my first search engine result from the string: “coast to coast George noory full of crap”. Suck it, Noory!)