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von Däniken poisons everything

Gah, the stupid, it burns. Ridley Scott is making a kind of prequel to Alien called Prometheus, which sounds fun; I liked the first two movies in the Alien franchise. But his rationale dismays me, and makes me regard Scott as a bit dim.

"The (space) journey, metaphorically, is about a challenge to the gods," Scott said. But Scott’s ambitions with Prometheus go far beyond simply restarting a hit franchise. The British director said the film’s storyline, and script by David Lindelof, was partially inspired by the writings of legendary Swiss sci-fi writer Eric van Daniken.

Van Daniken, author of 1968 bestseller Chariot of the Gods, is best known as the first proponent of the so-called ancient astronaut theory, which holds that aliens kick-started civilization on earth. "NASA and the Vatican agree that is almost mathematically impossible that we can be where we are today without there being a little help along the way," Scott said. "That’s what we’re looking at (in the film), at some of Eric van Daniken’s ideas of how did we humans come about."

I had to laugh at the claim that von Däniken was a “sci-fi writer”. He wasn’t. He was a pseudo-science writer who believed that his nonsense about aliens helping the Egyptians construct the pyramids (and other belittlings of human abilities) was actual history. I’ve read a couple of his books, many years ago, and they were so hopelessly inane and incompetently supported that I rejected them as a high school student. It doesn’t say much about Scott’s scientific discrimination that he can be inspired by that drivel, and it is just about as damning to his competence at recognizing a good story that he mistook it for a sci-fi novel.

I also don’t consider the opinion of a bunch of engineers or a gang of theological thugs to be of much value in assessing the likelihood of evolutionary events — the authorities he cites are not authorities in the subject he’s discussing. I have a strong suspicion that Scott is making crap up, doesn’t know much about what either NASA or the Vatican has said, and probably hasn’t even read any of von Däniken’s books, but is only vaguely echoing the ‘common knowledge’ of blithering Hollywood celebrities.

My expectations for this movie have plummeted, though. Those Hollywood celebrities should never ever speak, because they always seem to confirm that they’re vacuous and credulous.

Comments

  1. crocswsocks says

    Hey, why is “high school student” in italics? I was one 6 months ago, and I assure you, I was rejecting pseudoscience like nobody’s business.

  2. chigau (違う) says

    I knew engineers (students) in University in the 1970s who thought that von Däniken was correct.
    A mere archaeologist (student) could not correct them.

  3. Brian says

    I have to admit, hearing him described straight up as a fiction writer made me giggle quietly.

  4. Dick the Damned says

    …the opinion of a bunch of engineers or a gang of theological thugs…

    Hey! Don’t class us engineers with those, those, splutterrrrrr.

  5. shouldbeworking says

    I read some of his stuff in high school as well as science fiction. Back then I knew the difference between fiction, science fiction and crap.

  6. varys says

    I’m going to wait until I see the movie to pass judgment. StarGate also had the “aliens built the pyramids” idea, but it was covertly anti-religious throughout. The last two seasons essentially have SG-1 fighting evil space Christians.

  7. swab says

    Somehow I think criticizing Scott for his lack of scientific discrimination is a bit silly considering his films involve xenomorphs gestating in chest and bursting out, growing to greater than human-sized in a couple of hours, and having blood which is roughly pH 1.

    I think this bit of outrage is a bit contrived. So what if he believes in it? It’s not like he’s trying to make a documentary about it.

  8. pj says

    My parents – well, mainly Dad – had a brief stint with woo when I was ten-ish. Suddenly there were books in our house that concerned themselves with ESP, UFO’s, faith healing and yes, Von Däniken’s pseudoarcheology. As I had the tendency to read everything I could lay my hands on I read them too. At that age I didn’t yet have critical thinking skills and swallowed it all with hook, line and sinker. Luckily, it didn’t take more than five years max to me have matured enough to reject all that hogwash utterly, and to be rather ashamed that I had once believed it.

  9. skmarshall says

    It’s clear the time is right. I’m going to write a book explaining how aliens created those stone walls that run through the woods all over New England, and call it “Wheelbarrows of the Gods”.

  10. says

    Hey, don’t knock the “ancient astronaut theory”, that’s what gave us Star Gate, SG1!
    I think psuedo-science and religion give rise to some of the best science fiction and fantasy precisely because that’s what they are. The NBC series “Kings”, for example, was a great fantasy retelling of the Story of Saul and David from the old testament.

    If I wanted accurate science, I certainly wouldn’t be turning to Hollywood…

  11. says

    Hell, schools fed gids that crap when I went. Y’know, Scholastic Books, Tab Books, teacher takes orders, that stuff?

    I was ordering every “Unexplained Mysteries” and “True Ghost Stories” piece of crap I could get my hands on. Ghost ships that sail the icy arctic waters for hundreds of years!

    Who DOESN’T love that stuff on some level as a kid?

  12. npyundt says

    I was actually taught to discriminate between science and pseudo-science by my high school teachers as part of the curriculum (hurray Canada).

    To be fair, the movie “Aliens vs. Predators” already established an ancient astronaut aspect to both series. Further the aliens and predators series have been tied together for years due to the video game “Aleins vs. Predators” that first really established the idea.

    I think that good sci-fi and fantasy can be inspired by pseudo-science (so long as the fiction isn’t passed off as reality). Just imagine a blockbuster movie that accurately portrayed a world where homeopathy worked, that would be a weird sci-fi world.

  13. says

    I’ve always felt that vonDänikenism was the result of someone thinking “Hey I’m too stupid to build a pyramid or whatever. Therefore everyone in the past must have been too stupid to build a pyramid or whatever. Therefore god ancient aliens.”
    Though maybe I’m wrong about them thinking about anything.

  14. says

    I guess if science fact were so important to science fiction, Star Trek wouldn’t have stayed popular. Plus, bullshit though it is, the ancient astronauts idea makes some pretty damn good science fiction a lot of the time – SG1 has already been mentioned, then there’s the Halo franchise and its Forerunners (who wiped themselves out to save the other, younger races in the galaxy from a spagegoing version of the ophiocordyceps zombie fungus), and the beautiful Turn A Gundam and its Moonrace (although that one goes in a slightly different direction, given that Earth is rebuilding its civilisation after being reset to the stone age in a giant robot-induced cataclysm, while the human colony on the Moon was unaffected and has crazy technology). There’s a lot to be said for pseudoscience once people stop trying to pretend it’s real, and let open fiction have its way with the concepts in it.

  15. markw says

    Van Daniken, author of 1968 bestseller Chariot of the Gods, is best known as the first proponent of the so-called ancient astronaut theory

    The “Alien Astronaut” nonsense isn’t even original to von Däniken. The man is a fraud and a hack.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    richardelguru @15 that is precisely the argument I heard from the engineering students.

  17. says

    This sounds a bit like the screenplay in the works based on Carlos Castenada’s don Juan books except Scott’s project is based on pseudoscience rather than mysticism. At any rate, since Hollywood never did have any qualms about venturing into the slippery boundaries between fiction and nonfiction,Scott’s disappointing project comes as no surprise.

  18. jolo5309 says

    When I was younger I used to read von Däniken fanatically! Our next door neighbour (he lived about a mile away) was retired and bought all those kinds of books. Whenever my mother would go to visit his wife I would tag along and he and I would talk about it. I miss being 12…

  19. davidct says

    It sounds like a Sci-Fi version of something by Dan Brown. In spite of being inane it can still play well with his target audience. Those who like sciency motifs but cannot be bothered to take the time to actually learn about science.

  20. Doug Little says

    I actually don’t have a problem with this, Scott not knowing any better thinks this Daniken guy is a science fiction writer, fiction being the operative word here. I’m not sure where he got the NASA information from, probably his ass and the Vatican supporting the idea of Panspermia is laughable, but the guy makes works of fiction so I think we can give him some slack here. I loved the first 2 Alien movies, especially the second one, and he did present a somewhat unique view of the future of space exploration, coupling the down and dirty with the organic feel H.R. Giger’s art. I’m looking forward to him exploring the idea of Panspermia, as long as he doesn’t invoke any supernatural entities we should be good.

  21. No One says

    “NASA and the Vatican agree that is almost mathematically impossible that we can be where we are today without there being a little help along the way,”

    I wish there was a legal penalty for spouting negligent shit.

  22. says

    The ancient astronaut idea is always good for some laughs. Oh yes, aliens were responsible for the creation of the pyramids, but they couldn’t, you know, do it with steel, or even iron. Why, they cut and carved the blocks with copper, a superior metal in every way (for conducting electricity, that is). To be sure, corundum or other hard minerals were used to cause the “bite,” but yeah, copper, which, no doubt by pure coincidence, is the easiest metal to discover, and then to discover how to smelt.

    The ancients were both so advanced and so incapable at the same time.

    Glen Davidson

  23. What a Maroon says

    Plus, bullshit though it is, the ancient astronauts idea makes some pretty damn good science fiction a lot of the time – SG1 has already been mentioned, then there’s the Halo franchise and its Forerunners (who wiped themselves out to save the other, younger races in the galaxy from a spagegoing version of the ophiocordyceps zombie fungus), and the beautiful Turn A Gundam and its Moonrace

    Not to mention the Hitchhikers’ series.

  24. Stacey C. says

    Ugh…I hate ancient alien theory. It really boils down to, from my perspective, Brown People ™ couldn’t have created these monuments and amazing buildings…therefore Aliens. Even if the person isn’t trying to be overtly racist, that’s still what ends up being the end result in my mind.
    On the charitable side, I think people have a really hard time conceptualizing that people two thousand years ago had the SAME brain capacity and cognitive skills as we have today…they just didn’t have enough technological history behind them to create things like cars or computers.

  25. Doug Little says

    Glen @26,

    Yes, when you start to look at the details the story falls apart. I tend to agree with what Richard said @15, what I like about it is it pretty much explains the impetuous behind all religions.

  26. peterh says

    @ #27:

    The Hitchhiker series is less easily misrepresented; anyone who doesn’t realize at least as soon as the Prosser/pub scene that the whole thing is directed inward hasn’t been out from under the living couch in 30± years. Which, by a staggering coincidence is the age of the series.

  27. d cwilson says

    On the other hand, I actually thought 10,000 BC would have been vastly improved if it had been a prequel to the Stargate franchise. The only thing more absurd than the idea that aliens built the pyramids is the idea that woolly mammoths built them.

  28. subtleknife says

    Once on a high school history assignment I got stuck with a classmate who believed all his crap. She wanted to do the assignment on Nazca and especially this crap that Von Däniken spouted about it (runways and communication with astronauts).

    Just for that I hate his guts.

  29. Dick the Damned says

    This reminds me of Velikovsky. I couldn’t understand how his books could be marketed without comment/criticism by professional astronomers.

  30. says

    That Scott classifies Von Däniken as Science Fiction, sounds actually like a fairly healthy approach. In the same spirit, we can label the Bible as fantasy. (And then we start discussing whether Moses could beat Gandalf in a fight or not.)

  31. Ariaflame says

    I do enjoy this sort of thing in fiction. Well, actually not Alien, I’m a wuss when it comes to movies with suspense and horror and have seen the first two movies and no desire to see more (I’ve been told this may be a good thing).

    I think when I was younger (teens) the ‘alien tech on earth’ fiction I liked most was an animated kids series called ‘The Mysterious Cities of Gold’ which in some versions at least did have some historical factlets at the end.

    So as long as it doesn’t pretend to be anything but fiction, and of course well written, acted, etc. etc. I don’t mind. But pretending it’s based on facts… heh.

  32. dianne says

    And then we start discussing whether Moses could beat Gandalf in a fight or not.

    Hmm…I think not. God’s help to Moses was pretty erratic and without divine intervention it’s hard to imagine a random Bronze Age guy being able to beat Gandalf in a fight.

  33. daveau says

    Granted, there’s not much that is defensible about von Däniken, but he was my first exposure to the possibility that something other than god acted upon the world, eventually leading to my atheism. Sorry, I was not a teenage science prodigy.

  34. Michael says

    @Jafafa Hots

    I was going to make a similar comment. I brought all kinds of pseudoscience b.s. books through MY SCHOOL when I was a kid/teenager (I was an avid reader) including topics like human spontaneous combustion, infra/ultrasound/brown noise, psychic powers, etc. Fortunately I received a good scientific background as well, but those ideas were kicking around in the background for a while (eg. “If I learned how to clone someone, could they read each others minds?). It really is a travesty that those titles were seen fit to sell in a school setting when they contained no real research or critical thinking, played the “what if?” card and stated urban legends or gossip as fact.

  35. ikesolem says

    Strange, you think Scott would have instead pointed to Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968), which features the famous killing-bone-into-spacecraft scene.

    In that case, aliens are responsible for the step from ape to human, a theme that perpetuates the notion that human intelligence is fundamentally different from animal intelligence (not true) and could not have arisen via normal evolutionary processes. Of course, accepting the alternative view would mean having to review the ethics of doing experiments on animals, so many scientists are reluctant to consider it. The whole notion of human exceptionalism is really just a rewrite of the religious theme that a god created man to be the superior being, ruler over the natural world, made in the god’s image, etc. Insecure primates love this kind of thing – “we really are special!”

    However, 2001 also features humans creating a new, artificial intelligence, HAL 9000. Thus, we have an amusing theme: god-like aliens create murderous proto-humans, humans create murderous computer intelligence, ending with Dave going off on an interstellar acid trip. Why don’t they make movies like that anymore?

    Bottom line is, you really don’t need any divine or alien intervention, standard evolutionary processes can account for the development of human (and squid, dolphin, elephant, chimpanzee, etc.) intelligence with no difficulty.

  36. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    It really boils down to, from my perspective, Brown People ™ couldn’t have created these monuments and amazing buildings…therefore Aliens. Even if the person isn’t trying to be overtly racist, that’s still what ends up being the end result in my mind.

    You may read it that way, but I don’t think that’s necessarily where he’s coming from. He thinks Stonehenge and the Antikythera Mechanism are alien artifacts too. I think it’s equal-opportunity “the ancients were stupid”.

    NASA and the Vatican agree that is almost mathematically impossible that we can be where we are today without there being a little help along the way.

    I am fascinated by this confluence of engineering and theological expertise and would like to know more. Do they publish a newsletter?

  37. Didaktylos says

    Confession: I used to be very much into von Daniken (can’t be @rsed to find out to put the umlaut in) and the others like Robert Charroux and Andrew Tomas. What cured me was a BBC “Horizon” program that comprehensively debunked him. BTW – am I right in saying that von Daniken has a fraud conviction?

  38. doktorzoom says

    Add me to the pile of “early exposure to woo led me to skeptical thinking” narratives–in my case, it was a fascination with UFOs and suchlike when I was around 10, and then when I was in high school I had the good fortune to see NOVA’s 1976 “The Case of the Bermuda Triangle,” which systematically dismantled the shoddy research and hyped-up claims of the Bermuda Triangle mythologizers–I remember being especially taken with the program’s careful reconstruction of the likely location of Flight 19, the torpedo bomber group that “vanished into a clear blue sky”–except that it actually happened at dusk, in stormy weather, and under the direction of a leader who was badly disoriented. When my son’s 4th grade teacher did a unit on “unsolved mysteries,” one of the first things I did was to get that program from the public library. Sadly, I don’t think it’s ever been released on DVD; it’s a very solid bit of thoughtful debunking.

  39. lobotomy says

    >Van Daniken, author of 1968 bestseller Chariot of the Gods, is best known as the first proponent of the so-called ancient astronaut theory, which holds that aliens kick-started civilization on earth.

    Best known as the FIRST proponent of the so-called ancient astronaut theory??? Really?

    I seem to recall a small budget movie that also came out in 1968. It was called “2001: A Space Odyssey” and it also proposed the involvement of “ancient astronauts” in “kick-starting” human civilization. Although the ancients in 2001 presumably did it by actually “kick-starting” human evolution long ago as opposed to showing a few humans how to build a pyramid.

    And 2001 itself was partially based on Arthur C. Clarke’s 1948 short story “The Sentinel of Eternity,” later just “The Sentinel.” Not exactly the same premis, but ancient aliens were involved and it was intimated that they might have helped humans develop.

  40. Akira MacKenzie says

    From the plot synopsis I’ve seen floating around the net, I think the story is going to be along the lines of “god-like aliens start life on Earth and went away” rather than “god-like aliens built the pyramids.” That and the aliens sound more like something that came from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft (e.g. the Elder Things, the Mi Go, the Great Race of Yith, etc) rather than the benevolent beings that the UFO-kooks favor.

    The way I’m reading the quote, I think that Scott is mentioning von Däniken not because he believes in his bullshit but because the “ancient astronaut” myth has had a recent resurgence in notoriety and Scott wants to capitalize on it.

  41. jaranath says

    Do Not Want.

    I understand the good points made by others about scifi using this meme to tell good stories in the past. While I’m not convinced those stories actually NEEDED the meme to be good, I’m willing to give that a pass (I loved the Stargate and Atlantis series, flawed as they were).

    My problem is that it’s been DONE. Endlessly. A lot have found good stories in it, but it’s so overused now that it was hokey even when Stargate used it. I cannot imagine a serious, dark piece of science fiction in the spirit of Alien or Blade Runner, such as I’d like this movie to be, using this meme without making me giggle or groan. I don’t necessarily blame von Daniken, but I do blame Scott for not trying harder.

    Still, I’ll see it, unless the reviews are awful. I don’t see how, but maybe he could pull it off, or keep it subtle enough to not bother me too much. Ugh. I sound like a Star Wars junkie in denial.

  42. chigau (mrmee, mrmee, mrmee) says

    lobotomy
    Arthur C. Clarke was writing fiction.
    von Däniken was writing fact (for his personal definition of “fact”.

  43. Akira MacKenzie says

    Van Daniken, author of 1968 bestseller Chariot of the Gods, is best known as the first proponent of the so-called ancient astronaut theory, which holds that aliens kick-started civilization on earth.

    Oh? Really?

    The full story, so far as deciphered, will eventually appear in an official bulletin of Miskatonic University. Here I shall sketch only the salient highlights in a formless, rambling way. Myth or otherwise, the sculptures told of the coming of those star-headed things to the nascent, lifeless earth out of cosmic space – their coming, and the coming of many other alien entities such as at certain times embark upon spatial pioneering. They seemed able to traverse the interstellar ether on their vast membranous wings – thus oddly confirming some curious hill folklore long ago told me by an antiquarian colleague. They had lived under the sea a good deal, building fantastic cities and fighting terrific battles with nameless adversaries by means of intricate devices employing unknown principles of energy. Evidently their scientific and mechanical knowledge far surpassed man’s today, though they made use of its more widespread and elaborate forms only when obliged to. Some of the sculptures suggested that they had passed through a stage of mechanized life on other planets, but had receded upon finding its effects emotionally unsatisfying. Their preternatural toughness of organization and simplicity of natural wants made them peculiarly able to live on a high plane without the more specialized fruits of artificial manufacture, and even without garments, except for occasional protection against the elements.

    It was under the sea, at first for food and later for other purposes, that they first created earth life – using available substances according to long-known methods. The more elaborate experiments came after the annihilation of various cosmic enemies. They had done the same thing on other planets, having manufactured not only necessary foods, but certain multicellular protoplasmic masses capable of molding their tissues into all sorts of temporary organs under hypnotic influence and thereby forming ideal slaves to perform the heavy work of the community. These viscous masses were without doubt what Abdul Alhazred whispered about as the “Shoggoths” in his frightful Necronomicon, though even that mad Arab had not hinted that any existed on earth except in the dreams of those who had chewed a certain alkaloidal herb. When the star-headed Old Ones on this planet had synthesized their simple food forms and bred a good supply of Shoggoths, they allowed other cell groups to develop into other forms of animal and vegetable life for sundry purposes, extirpating any whose presence became troublesome.

    –H.P. Lovecraft
    “At The Mountains of Madness”

    Of course, one could easily point out that Lovecraft was merely writing fiction while von Däniken was actually postulating a hypothesis, but the truth of the matter is that extraterrestrials either creating or interacting with life on Earth IS NOT a new idea.

  44. Akira MacKenzie says

    It really boils down to, from my perspective, Brown People ™ couldn’t have created these monuments and amazing buildings…therefore Aliens. Even if the person isn’t trying to be overtly racist, that’s still what ends up being the end result in my mind.

    One should keep in mind is that as the UFO-craze got started, and before the hydrocephalic, black-slany-eyed, “grey” became the pop culture standard for otherworldly visitor, aliens were supposed to look… well…

    Yeah… no racial bias there folks!

  45. saguhh00 says

    The REALLY sad part abaut von Daniken is that he would be a very good sci-fi writer if only admitted that what he writes is actually sci-fi.

  46. paulburnett says

    …and after this movie is a success, Scott can make another movie based on another pseudohistorian’s works, David Barton’s “Christians Founded America.”

  47. georow says

    I think it’s fair to say that EvD may have popularized the idea of ancient astronauts, but he certainly didn’t come up with them on his own. A lot of his ideas came from Louis Pawel and Jacques Bergier’s “Morning of the Magicians”, which I believe was published about 1960 or so. I’m a little distressed by the fact that there is a whole series on AA BS on cable (Discovery or History channel?). On the plus side, some friends and I watched it on Thanksgiving and invented a drinking game in which we had to take a shot whenever the Greek guy with the crazy hair said “ancient texts.” I had a hell of a hangover the next day.

  48. sundoga says

    I think everyone’s missing the “inspired by”. Remember, Starship Troopers was “inspired by” the book, even if it the two have no other actual relationship.
    I suspect Scott’s just taking a few ideas and running with them in the name of an exciting movie. He doesn’t need to be a believer to use the concept.

  49. varys says

    A lot of his ideas came from Louis Pawel and Jacques Bergier’s “Morning of the Magicians”, which I believe was published about 1960 or so.

    All I could think of was the Flaming Lips when you mentioned that.

  50. jacobfromlost says

    I wouldn’t depend on this article. Not only are there the errors that have already been pointed out, but there is no such person as “David Lindelof” working on this project. The writer’s name is DAMON LINDELOF, and he reworked the script based on Ridley’s request (he didn’t write it from scratch, but semi-extensively tweaked it, from what I gather, and I somehow doubt the Erich von Däniken angle the article is pushing).

    In any case, Damon is extremely well known by anyone with any experience entertainment writing (or, alternatively, nerds like me). It’s like discussing “Stuart Spielberg” or “John Lucas”. If the writer is so unreliable to get such a basic thing wrong, I disregard all of it.

  51. Stacey C. says

    @43 Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    Okay, there are a few European items that they also think might have been created by Aliens, but the vast majority are things like the Pyramids in Egypt and in the Americas. I’m not saying they’re necessarily thinking in racist terms, or are racist in their everyday thoughts/actions, it just often comes across that way when they talk about “ancient alien technology”.

  52. Hurin, Nattering Nabob of Negativism says

    Meh. I already had a perfectly good reason to eschew new alien movies; its called “Alien Resurrection”.

    Akira

    Of course, one could easily point out that Lovecraft was merely writing fiction while von Däniken was actually postulating a hypothesis, but the truth of the matter is that extraterrestrials either creating or interacting with life on Earth IS NOT a new idea.

    And the decidedly not new idea of aliens intervening in human development is really just a “sciency” derivative of standard theological tropes about creation and divine intervention.

    At least Lovecraft’s old ones were cool. The grays are the most unoriginal alien idea imaginable.

  53. littlejohn says

    I agree that the Chariots of the Clods stuff reeks of racism. When I had to study West Virginia history as a boy, the textbook assured me that the numerous mounds in the state could not have been built by Indians, but rather were built by a mysterious, now-lost race of intelligent “Mound Builders.” Indians aren’t bright enough to pile up dirt, you see.

  54. drxym says

    Why is anyone surprised? Ridley Scott has hardly ever striven for historical accuracy even when it wouldn’t have affected his onscreen vision, so why should we be surprised that he intends to mangle / conflate pseudoscience with science fiction in a similar way.

  55. jacobfromlost says

    georow: On the plus side, some friends and I watched it on Thanksgiving and invented a drinking game in which we had to take a shot whenever the Greek guy with the crazy hair said “ancient texts.” I had a hell of a hangover the next day.

    Me: Not only does that dude’s hair seem to get increasingly worse, but I have NEVER heard him pronounce “extraterrestrial” correctly. He sounds like he’s three years old every time he says, “Exa-tarestial.” I was watching some of them for fun, but when they got to the episode where ancient humans were being turned into hybrid human/animals because there was art work (paintings, statues, stories, etc) with human/animal themes…it just wasn’t fun anymore. There is no boundary (even in the loosey goosey “this is a fun yarn” way) between those claims, and claiming the Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower, or Great Wall of China was built by aliens and all the evidence otherwise is just our inability to believe in the alien forces that shape our world! (facepalm) It doesn’t even make for a fun yarn.

  56. sadunlap says

    I recall Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show interviewed Van Däniken. Carson, having character and integrity but ever the genteel and courteous host, asked him at the end of the interview [I paraphrase] “I apologize for having to ask this but I think it’s important. Is it true that you spent some time in jail?” VD answered yes. Carson continued, “And what was the charge?” The VD admitted it was embezzlement. Carson continued to question him until he admitted that he wrote his first book in jail.

    The man was convicted for a form of criminal lying. He wrote Chariots of Fire in prison. How’s that for a CV?

    Another story I like to tell about the nature of scientific expertise involves the liar under discussion as well. This is a story that Carl Sagan told (in writing somewhere, sorry I can’t find the cite). Sagan did quite a lot of writing debunking Van Däniken’s crap. He thought to himself that [here I am paraphrasing again] the archeology sounded plausible but the astronomy was totally wacky. In the late 70s while at a party in Cambridge, England he struck up a conversation with an archeologist who, as it happened, had been publishing a lot in the popular British media debunking Van Däniken. The archeologist told Sagan that he thought the astronomy was plausible but the archeology was totally wacky.

  57. Gregory Greenwood says

    As a rule of thumb, I am not over concerned about scientific accuracy in science fiction. I enjoy ‘hard’ SF, but I also have nothing against ‘soft’ sci fi – I am more interested in the fictinal ‘world building’, how well the story is crafted and the quality of the character development.

    That said, the phrase in this article;

    “NASA and the Vatican agree that is almost mathematically impossible that we can be where we are today without there being a little help along the way,”

    Worries me. When fiction starts masquerading as fact, nothing good ever comes of it. If (and, as pointed out above, given the various inaccuracies of the article it is a big ‘if’) Scott is actually pushing such a line, then my confidence in this project will hit rock bottom very quickly indeed.

    Which is a shame because, silly as I know they are, I do love my carapacy xenomorph monsters, and while the first two movies were highly enjoyable, the various sequals and spinoffs of recent years have been frankly painful to watch. Well, here’s hoping that the article is wrong, and Scott is able to turn this ailing franchise around.

  58. Eric R says

    The man was convicted for a form of criminal lying. He wrote Chariots of Fire in prison. How’s that for a CV?

    Wait!!! EvD wrote Chariots of Fire too?

  59. NitricAcid says

    I’m not surprised that kids have obtained such books from school. When I was a kid, I bought Kelly S. Seagraves’ “The Great Dinosaur Mistake” from a college bookstore (a creationist tract), and my current college has Emoto’s “Messages from Water” books in the flipping chemistry section.

  60. colonelzen says

    Films are there for eye candy. Occasionally you get an intriguing idea, albeit rarely new (viz, The Matrix) explored in a way that hasn’t been done before, and occasionally for an interesting character. But film is mostly for (in no particular order) gee whiz gagetry, spectacular explosions, amusingly silly fights, and soft porn in unlikely circumstances. When you have an interesting character (or interesting non-character as in Arnie’s first and second Terminator) you can sometimes get a scoring bon mot too.

    While I don’t watch a lot of “entertainment” in any form any more, it’s more than notable that the most interesting ideas per running hour seem to be in anime, (my preferences there are more adult content, of course, and science fictionish rather than fantasy …).

    VD, likewise I dissed in HS … I remember many of my intellectually inclined classmates reading his books, saying “huh”, and borrowing about two … and howling with laughter reading them. Much of it was of the unintentionally funnier than most stuff intended to be funny variety.

    But while it’s bad science and worse science fiction, Scott is at least demonstrably capable of putting together good science fiction, and VD’s ideas may be walking in circles lame, but they might make a decent eye candy platform. (Hey Ridley, I like brunette but Sigourney never did it for me as a turn on no matter how much I like her work and style otherwise; we need someone a little more buxom in underwear this time!).

    – TWZ

  61. susan says

    Scott’s ambitions with Prometheus go far beyond simply restarting a hit franchise.

    Ha Ha! Right. It’s the furthest thing from his mind.

  62. NitricAcid says

    TWZ- I prefer a movie with a good actor/actress than an eye-candyish one. If a terrified woman is being hunted, the fact that she’s in her underwear doesn’t make the scene erotic.

  63. Happiestsadist says

    Thank you, Colonel Zen (72), for the excellent and detailed information on the preferences of your penis. I’m sure the whole thread was waiting with bated breath to learn that.

  64. monkeymind says

    Funny bit of trivia: von Däniken actually had a theme park built displaying his stuff, in the Bernese Oberland. It had to close after a few years. No new mysteries were forthcoming…

  65. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Well, of course, Happiestsadist. S/F films exist solely to entertain teh menz. Women don’t go to those, amirite? They just go to the “chick flicks,” and then they go out shoe-shopping afterwards.

    I so adore assholes like ColonelZeroBrains who think that women in movies exist only to turn his crank.

  66. Happiestsadist says

    You’re right, Ms.Daisy Cutter! Having been assigned female at birth, of course I am solely going on hearsay about S/F, and the occasional bit of scary manly entertainment that comes up via misgoogling when I am shopping for shoes online. Heaven forbid the genre actually be anything other than wank-fodder and a means of feeling very clever for the boys! Why, they might have to stop with the stupid sexist cliches! And as Colonel Zen has pointed out, that might mean fewer titties for the deeply unimaginative to leer at.

  67. Torish says

    Chill out PZ. It’s just a movie. Based off your complaining you probably hated Stargate and Doctor Who. Sometimes the craziest ideas can be the most entertaining (which says NOTHING about their accuracy).

  68. David Marjanović says

    Thank you, Colonel Zen (72), for the excellent and detailed information on the preferences of your penis. I’m sure the whole thread was waiting with bated breath to learn that.

    + 1

    Chill out PZ. It’s just a movie. Based off your complaining you probably hated Stargate and Doctor Who. Sometimes the craziest ideas can be the most entertaining (which says NOTHING about their accuracy).

    PZ is complaining that anyone is promoting Erich von Däniken and his pseudoscience. Did you read the post?

  69. madscientist says

    “Those Hollywood celebrities should never ever speak, because they always seem to confirm that they’re vacuous and credulous.”

    With numerous exceptions of course, one more recent one that comes to mind being Matt Damon.

  70. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    I remember running into VD back in high school. Some of my friends thought it was great. I remember thinking it was funny as hell, and also made me angry. The anger was the rather blatant racism — no way could these brown people do this, so, ALIENS! I admit to having an advantage over many of my friends as, when in Arizona, I went to school with some Hispanics and Native Americans and knew they were actual people, not charicatures.

  71. Torish says

    PZ is complaining that anyone is promoting Erich von Däniken and his pseudoscience. Did you read the post?

    Yeah, and then he goes on to say that he expects the movie to be bad. He also says it makes Ridley Scott seem dim for being inspired by it. Sure, these are opinion which PZ is free to have and share, but his justification for them is pretty shitty.

  72. Gregory Greenwood says

    colonelzen @ 72;

    (Hey Ridley, I like brunette but Sigourney never did it for me as a turn on no matter how much I like her work and style otherwise; we need someone a little more buxom in underwear this time!).

    I think you may have missed the point of the scene. A woman believing that she has narrowly escaped death discovers that she is still being pursued by a particularly nasty critter that has already rather horribly killed several of her colleagues and embodies various primal psycho-sexual fears – and the first place your mind goes is eroticism? Seriously?

    Personally, I always found that scene jarring. The Ripley character was allegedly originally written to be a man, and only slight alterations made when Sigourney Weaver was cast in the role. Hence the way the character doesn’t conform to some of the anoying ‘damsel in distress’ tropes of late Seventies cinema. But, if this is true, then this particular scene makes no sense. I cannot imagine many writers or directors from that period writing a scene where the lead character strips down to rather tight underwear, and the camera views this from a provocatively low angle, when the lead character is male. It wouldn’t play to their primary demographic (hetrosexual males aged 18 to 45, most likely), and I can think of few examples of such scenes in contemporary sci fi works from the era. This being the case, it raises the nasty possibility that this scene was specifically added after a woman was cast in the role, which speaks of unpleasant lowest common denominator sexism.

    As much as I like that movie and its sequal, that scene has always bothered me. It feels so out of place set against the remainder of the film’s depiction of the Ripley charater, which for the most part avoids crass sexualisation.

  73. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    but his justification for them is pretty shitty.

    Yeah. Basing a movie on the rantings writings of a discredited pseudo-archaeology racist would be a really shitty reason for beating the Christmas rush and start hating it now.

  74. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    I think you may have missed the point of the scene. A woman believing that she has narrowly escaped death discovers that she is still being pursued by a particularly nasty critter that has already rather horribly killed several of her colleagues and embodies various primal psycho-sexual fears – and the first place your mind goes is eroticism? Seriously?

    Well, it’s not like we can expect the poor dear to empathize with the “eye candy.” They’re not really people, after all.

    I’m sure he also appreciates brunettes with haunted looks in their big dark eyes, too.

  75. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Brother O.:

    I remember running into VD back in high school. Some of my friends thought it was great.

    Hurr. And I guess that by demonstrating my puerility I’m also showing my age here…

  76. MMXI Vole says

    @41ikesolem:

    [according to “2001: A Space Odyssey”]…aliens are responsible for the step from ape to human.

    @46lobotomy:

    “2001: A Space Odyssey”…proposed the involvement of “ancient astronauts” in “kick-starting” human civilization.

    I’ve read the book once and seen the movie several times, and got the impression that aliens were merely monitoring human development.

    Do I need to go back and try again?

  77. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    I’m sure he also appreciates brunettes with haunted looks in their big dark eyes, too.

    Especially if they’re in their underwear.

    Plot? What plot? Bring on the eye candy, and be sure they’re buxom, not like that Weaver chick.

  78. CJO says

    I’ve read the book once and seen the movie several times, and got the impression that aliens were merely monitoring human development.

    No, the monoliths are active. The homonid who ends up kicking ass with the bone club and his pals stare at the thing for a long time while it makes an eerie noise, and then they proceed to bust up the neighbors’ party. And then the one on the moon sends a signal to the one orbiting Jupiter when humans make it to the moon. I don’t take it as “kick starting human evolution” so much as precipitating certain crucial technological developments: tool (weapon) use, and space travel beyond the Earth-Moon system; whereupon Dave Bowman, as representitive of humanity, gets to join the cosmic club. Or something.

  79. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Now taking bets on the pool for how many posts it will be before someone shows up to chastise us for overreacting to the sexism in ColonelZen’s post. I give it 8 more posts.

  80. NitricAcid says

    As much as I like that movie and its sequal, that scene has always bothered me. It feels so out of place set against the remainder of the film’s depiction of the Ripley charater, which for the most part avoids crass sexualisation.

    I think the scene works well with the “various primal psycho-sexual fears” that you mentioned- it comes back when she thinks she’s perfectly safe and has “taken off her armour”, so to speak. Some people see gratuitous partial-nudity; I see vulnerability.

    I can’t see the role of Ripley being cast as male, simply in that the alien (in its psycho-sexual way) deliberately leaves the women until last.

    Of course, I also can’t see why she went back for the cat.

  81. anchor says

    The Hollywood Reporter??

    Feh

    Why shouldn’t they mistakenly identify von Däniken as a “legendary sci-fi writer”? They regularly mistakenly identify Hollywood “sci-fi” as science fiction, which is equally absurd. I don’t know what the hell ‘sci-fi’ is supposed to be, and I frankly don’t want to know, having seen what it looks like. I have seen what vomits forth out of that industry, and NONE of it is science fiction. “Silly fiction” is a far better term for what comes out of there.

  82. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    I also can’t see why she went back for the cat.

    One always goes back for the master cat.

  83. lpetrich says

    According to one of his biographers, Carl Sagan once asserted a von Daenikenite theory in 1950. “But I say to you, Jesus *was* extraterrestrial!” in a very formal sort of restaurant.

    In the mid 1960′s, he wrote “Intelligent Life in the Universe” with Iosif Shklovsky, and he considered von Daenikenite theories in it. However, in the early-1970′s “Cosmic Connection”, he became completely skeptical, calling von Daeniken’s theories “speculative fiction”.

    As to being impressed with what the other one was not impressed by, that’s for Immanuel Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision”. He once discussed it with a distinguished professor of Semitic literatures, and while that literature stuff the professor considered nonsense, the professor was impressed with all the astronomy. Carl Sagan recalled having the opposite impression.

    There are lots of problems with von Daenikenite theories.

    Where are all the abandoned high-tech facilities? Where is all the junk? Look at real spaceports like Kennedy and Baikonur and Kourou.

    If the ET’s are super advanced, they would not need spaceports — or airports, for that matter.

    I remember seeing a documentary on von Daeniken’s theories and it showed one of the Nazca lines — and a crossfade to Maria Reiche walking in it. Its width was her height or less. Furthermore, it did not look cleared or paved, like a real runway would be.

    Erich von Daeniken had claimed in his magnum opus that there were no Pyramid-building tools, but lots of them have been found. He retreated to the position that the ET’s had given knowledge.

  84. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    While in prison von Däniken figured out a way to make a lot of money legally. I have no doubt while he was writing he contemplated P.T. Barnum’s apocryphal comment on the birth rate of suckers.

  85. mandrellian says

    @ 72: your quaintly adolescent expression of personal sexual preference (that noone here really needed to hear) aside, the whole POINT of Ripley was that she was, first and foremost, a tough spacedog who took no shit who happened to be a woman, not a blatant piece of eye candy.

    Alien worked because Scott cast a relative unknown who didn’t fit the Hollywood starlet mould (this was 1979, two years after Lucas had done the same with most of the cast of Star Wars – a film which incidentally inspired Scott to make a space epic in the first place). James Cameron ramped up the Ripley awesomeness in Aliens and, thankfully, didn’t ruin her but cemented her place in movie heroine history and made Sigourney a legend.

    I’ve never heard of von Daniken (but he sounds like a git). I do, however, love some of Ridley Scott’s films (dude, Bladerunner!). This could be a good film. Then again, Ridley Scott also brought us some forgettable flicks and the math-cops of NUMB3RS. Not everyone can be awesome all the time.

    I’d prefer if Scott directed one of Iain M Banks’ ‘Culture’ sci-fi novels. As long as he didn’t Robin Hood all over it.

  86. MMXI Vole says

    @91CJO:

    The signal generated by the lunar monolith upon its discovery helped me interpret the same sound generated earlier at the time of the hominids. Both seemed to report rather than influence human behavior.

    I’ll reread that part of the book to try to get Arthur C. Clark’s original intent. Since he co-wrote the screenplay with Stanley Kubrick, I’ll watch the movie (which I haven’t seen in five years) to see if I can find any newer meaning.

  87. CJO says

    Both seemed to report rather than influence human behavior.

    Maybe. But the hominid doesn’t use the bone as a club until after the monolith comes to life with the signal –or am I misremembering that? If I’m not, what is it reporting? In that case I always figured there was some communication, or ‘programming’. In the case of the one on the moon, the content of the signal is obscure, but the mere fact that it sends a signal is enough to spur the expedition to the Jovian system to see what’s up. So in both cases, the monolith acts as the impetus for a technological advance.

  88. colonelzen says

    GG @85

    Yes it was jarring and out of place. It seemed like intentional fan service (decades before the phrase was coined as far as I know).

    For you priggish prudes, *I* didn’t choose put Sigourney Weaver on screen in underwear. It merited a snide aside precisely because it was out of place. Weaver’s character was in fact one of the first truely strong and competent female characters in film, and at least in some respects this fan service seemed an intentional dimunition of her character. (On the other hand there is a flip interpretation … show Ripley at her weakest and most vulnerable – next to naked – and *still* she manages her situation through to victory. If Scott’s intent, it could have been done much better, I think).

    And as a final dripping dollop for the prudes, I have some bad news for you: there’s SEX in the movies. And they do it ON PURPOSE (gasp!). It’s *meant* to appeal to people’s sexual nature (shock! horror!). And surprise, surprise, I have one! (for shame!).

    – TWZ

  89. says

    I was also fascinated by one of EvD’s books on the Bermuda triangle during Junior High (it was from a yard sale at the local library, so I might have paid something like $1 for it). It was the pre-internet age then, so I didn’t pursue it further in one way or the other.

    But later I understood it was all crap… Both EvD and Ron Hubbard can be called sci-fi writers who have made shiploads of money with selling pseudo-science to the credulous…

  90. Part-Time Insomniac, Zombie Porcupine Nox Arcana Fan says

    Since I love the Alien series (seriously the first alien that ever scared the living hell outta me), and Scott’s movies tend to me rather enjoyable for me anyway, I might give this a try. If it’s got shades of Lovecraft, even better. I can handle the woo, but I’ll be taking notes for later online searches.

    The Antikythera mechanism, alien technology? Stonehenge? If the ancients ever heard that, they’d be deeply offended. Come to think of it, if they were just that stupid, how would Scott explain them being able to build statues that could move without having an actual person inside to operate the parts? It’s as if he thinks the ancients lacked enough curiosity or creativity for those things to happen.

    I admit to being fascinated by the Antikythera mechanism, ever since I saw a show about it on the History Channel. I think this was before they lots their minds over there and climbed onto the reality show wagon. I’d love to see it for myself one day, and if there’s a way I could get permission to hold it, I’d do so.

  91. Happiestsadist says

    Yes, you have a sexual nature, colonelzen, but that doesn’t actually mean everyone is particularly interested in your penis’ opinion on movies. Or anyone, but I’m being charitable.

    I love that everyone who doesn’t want to hear about what a complete stranger is fapping to is a prude. I’ve been called many things, from “the house dancer on the bar in their underwear” to “the one getting photographed at the Fetish Fair” to “godless perverted whore”, but “prude”? that is a new one to me.

    Those of us who are grownups here don’t feel the need to talk about what scenes made us feel funny in our pants. Even if they’re in there on purpose.

  92. Weed Monkey says

    colonelzen, had you not written that first comment about what you felt was hot (or not), and dropped all commentary about prudes, I could have agreed with your #102. The way you chose to do it? No.

  93. Gregory Greenwood says

    colonelzen @ 102;

    It merited a snide aside precisely because it was out of place. Weaver’s character was in fact one of the first truely strong and competent female characters in film, and at least in some respects this fan service seemed an intentional dimunition of her character. (On the other hand there is a flip interpretation … show Ripley at her weakest and most vulnerable – next to naked – and *still* she manages her situation through to victory. If Scott’s intent, it could have been done much better, I think).

    It might have helped if you had put it like this to begin with. On the face of it, your exhortation to what amounts to ‘more busty women’ in sci fi does come off as somewhat misogynist, and the force snark was certainly not with you if your intent was to critique the oddity of the scene in the context of the rest of the movie.

    And as a final dripping dollop for the prudes, I have some bad news for you: there’s SEX in the movies. And they do it ON PURPOSE (gasp!). It’s *meant* to appeal to people’s sexual nature (shock! horror!). And surprise, surprise, I have one! (for shame!).

    No one is contesting your right to enjoy the movies you view in whatever manner you choose, but ‘prude’ is an unfair term to apply to people who have no interest in your preference for well endowed ladies in cinema, even in relation to those scenes where a sexual component is intended. The topic doesn’t really have any relevence to the thread at hand, and no one solicited your opinion on the ideal bust sizes of actresses, or your preference for brunettes. While your intent was mockery of the undue sexualisation in the scene, the way you presented your position could easily be interpreted as simply objectifying women. To be frank, the problem here is miscommunication on your part, not some hair-trigger over sensitivity on the part of the other commenters.

  94. Gregory Greenwood says

    NitricAcid @ 93;

    I think the scene works well with the “various primal psycho-sexual fears” that you mentioned- it comes back when she thinks she’s perfectly safe and has “taken off her armour”, so to speak. Some people see gratuitous partial-nudity; I see vulnerability.

    I see where you are coming from, but I still think that the scene could have been better handled in a manner more consistant with the depiction of the Ripley character in the rest of the movie, and without the sexualised subtext.

    Then again, what do I know? It is not as though I have any background in cinematography.

  95. NitricAcid says

    My only background in cinematography was reading a couple of articles about Alien in an issue of “Fantastic” magazine when I was twelve or thirteen.

  96. MMXI Vole says

    @CJO:

    I, too, am uncertain; or perhaps my interpretation is more superficial than yours. Nevertheless, EvD still didn’t originate the alien influence idea.

    But before I reinforce my memories of 2k1ASO, I want to reread CotG to try to discover what I found to be so believable/credible 40+ years ago (which I no longer do, BTW).

  97. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Actually, ColonelZeroBrains, Happiestsadist (as you could have possibly guessed from their handle) is anything but a prude.

    There is an entire world of sexiness out there that does not involve treating women as sexual objects for men to consume. I’m sorry it’s likely beyond your imagination, but that’s your problem. On this blog, if you define “sex” as women acting as “eye candy,” you will be mocked. If you attempt to shame people for disagreeing with that definition, you will be mocked. Also, really, nobody cares what gives you a boner, especially not the many people here who are not attracted to women.

    Also, is it just me, or are people who allude to Eastern religions in their user handles some of most grating assbags ever?

  98. says

    I am still wondering about why my mother bought me a Van Daniken book when I was about 10, in the late 70s. At that age, I actually thought, wow, cool, that makes sense, and it took a few years to figure out that it didn’t. Why would parents deceive their kids ? Hm.

  99. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Also, is it just me, or are people who allude to Eastern religions in their user handles some of most grating assbags ever?

    But Zen is edgy, especially if connected with something military. Or in other words, yes, you’re right.

  100. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Also, is it just me, or are people who allude to Eastern religions in their user handles some of most grating assbags ever?

    No. I’d say they are the second most grating assbags ever. The first most grating assbags would be the dudes (it’s always a dude) who explicitly reference their rationality or skepticism in their handles. Over time I’ve learned to watch out for RationalSkeptic, CaptainClearLogic, and WayMoreLogicalThanYou.

  101. Happiestsadist says

    Don’t forget the 99% certainty that an ancient Roman or Greek allusion is a sure sign of assbaggery. If they have “Rational”, “Logic” or “Reason” in there too, just nuke from orbit.

  102. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Still kinda laughing to myself at Col.Zen’s “I wanted to critique objectification so I called for more objectification!” gambit. Is this not the “It was just a joke” only with ironic criticism swapped for joke? If that’s the honest truth, then why defend it? Why not simply admit that it didn’t go off well and yes it probably did sound sexist. Whoops. Hey, it happens to everyone. No seriously, it really does. It’s not as bad as you think it is.

  103. fmitchell says

    “The (space) journey, metaphorically, is about a challenge to the gods.”

    Oddly enough I agree with this sentiment. When I was very young men orbited the earth and landed on the moon, and I wondered why they didn’t crash into Heaven. Now I’m much older and I say, let’s storm the supposed homes of the gods and demonstrate their absence. If they do happen to exist, let’s reveal the men (or ancient 5-fold radially symmetrical things) behind the curtain.

  104. julietdefarge says

    One bad premise doesn’t have to ruin a whole space opera. Star Trek Next Gen used the “star seed” idea, complete with holographic alien delivering philosophical message, to explain why all the aliens in the series were bipedal and more or less humanoid.

  105. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Hey I am 100% pro cheap sleazy exploitative fan service when called for.

    I’m just disappointed it is always male->female. Gay men, gay women, bisexuals and straight women need to be serviced too damn it.

    Agreed. Which is why I enjoyed the hell out of Inception last year. So much delicious eye candy for those of us who enjoy the male form. Looking forward to The Dark Knight for the same reason. Tom Hardy… *drools*

  106. fmitchell says

    Re #117 and preceding: I’m partial to redheads, but the last survivor could be Kathy Najimy, Orlando Bloom, or Jaye Davidson as long as nobody’s passing around the Idiot Ball. Next time, guys, nobody goes alone, and leave the damn cat.

  107. DLC says

    Back in the day we used to call it “chariots of the stupid”.
    Everything Von D. assumes as fact is not. His premise is silly, his assumptions grand and sweeping but largely illogical and backed by non-facts.

  108. Tethys says

    Don’t forget the 99% certainty that an ancient Roman or Greek allusion is a sure sign of assbaggery.

    *looks at nym…fuck…points to gravatar pic*

    Geology, plate tectonics, extinct ocean.

  109. Brother Ogvorbis, OM . . . Really? says

    *looks at nym…fuck…points to gravatar pic*

    Geology, plate tectonics, extinct ocean.

    Yeah, sure, but that was the Triassic. When the animals looked like they were designed by gods on drugs.

  110. Happiestsadist says

    Tethys, I’m thinking more the endless arrays of Publiuses I run across on the intertubes. Or Plato derivatives. Consulscipio here was a piece of work too.

  111. Tethys says

    Oh good. I was thinking of changing my nym to Cryptolaemus if Tethys gives off assbag connotations.

  112. Tethys says

    You could always opt for NonPanThallassa

    *chuckle*

    That name always makes me think of bread.

    I could also go with Triops. Dinosaur shrimp looks more like a weird trilobite with a shrimp tail to me.

  113. says

    My friend’s theory of life is that Aliens are future humans, and that we can’t possibly even begin to imagine why they are here, because we are so far down the evolutionary ladder…

    Also, he claims that Mushrooms are Aliens that came from another planet. And that without them, we would still be cavemen.

    I think there is another theory tying those in, with Jesus and his disciples looking eating mushrooms; either that, or there being hallucinogenic mushroom references in the Bible… I’m sure if you squint your mind, you can find them in there…

    Chariot of the Gods is a bad book, to give someone that cannot think for themselves. It really leaves a mark on a person…

  114. jentokulano says

    Ridley Scott is British and usually works out of Pinewood, not Hollywood. Where does he say he thought Chariots was a novel? He just says he was vetting it for ideas. That doesn’t imply he buys into the crap. I call strawman.

  115. RFW says

    Regarding the confusion between fiction and fact:

    I hang out betimes in the Craigslist science and math forum. It is remarkable how often someone surfaces there who clearly doesn’t distinguish science fiction from reality; you get questions about, say, the technology of Star Trek or Star Wars, as though the technology depicted on the silver screen is real.

    It’s really rather sad. As replies to such confusion sometimes point out, the real thing is generally far more interesting than any fiction.

    I honestly don’t know how any adult can fail to distinguish the two.

    #129, Evader: you are thinking of John M. Allegro’s book, “The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross.”

  116. says

    Umm, HappiestSadist, I think you over-generalised up there.

    @Ing:

    Hey I am 100% pro cheap sleazy exploitative fan service when called for. … Gay men, gay women, bisexuals and straight women need to be serviced too damn it.

    I’m pretty sure that Ripley in her underwear works damn well as fan service for gay women and bisexuals, though. Or was that just me?

    I didn’t find it so jarring – it was the cliche, just when you think you’re safe, BAM! It’s back!! Also, I really liked that it was not sexy underwear, and that her undressing was played as totally functional for the circumstances. It was practical plain white cottons, non-femmey underwear that made sense with the character. (Why do women in movies almost always wear neat tidy matching lacy bra & knickers sets? And undress with a tease, as if they’re strippers on a stage, even if they’re supposed to be alone? No, don’t tell me.)

  117. sadunlap says

    Chariots of Fire Instead of Chariots of the Gods: Worst. Typo. Ever. My fingers typed the movie’s title without my brain engaged. Chariots were involved. Close enough?

    As for the Sagan story and Velikovsky: very likely. My recollection of the story is not 100%.

    I actually own a copy of Worlds in Collision. Delightfully demented. I find it amusing to read a page or two now and then. It’s a bit like the sort of nutter ranting and raving on the street corner, but without that awful smell.

  118. Ms. Daisy Cutter says

    Sally, #115: Indeed. But I did say “some of the most grating assbags ever,” not “the most grating assbags ever.” :P

    Tethys and Alethea: My take was that Happiestsadist (with whom I’ve talked about this privately many times) wasn’t referring to any and all Latin or Greek references, but to the dudes who name themselves after philosophers, emperors, that sort of thing.

    Happiestsadist, #125: Don’t forget the ones with Latin and Greek handles referencing xtian, especially Catholic, theology. Even worse.

  119. Happiestsadist says

    Exactly what I meant there, Ms. Daisy, I thought I clarified more further down, but apparently not well enough. When one gets into the philosophers, emperors and writers who were nowhere near as clever as they thought they were in terms of Latin or Greek ‘nyms, then I tend to have pause.

  120. Gregory Greenwood says

    Back (more 0r less) on topic, I have stumbled upon another interview with Scott at Filmophilia.com, and I found the following… err… ‘gems’ contained therin;

    …there’s a writer, Erich von Däniken. One of his most famous books was called Chariots of the Gods. Everyone thinks he was out of his mind, you know, for number one, “we are the creation of gods”, if you go back to the 19th century anthropologists, Darwin, and say if you go look at Darwin for the moment and look at the Darwinian idea, the Darwinian thesis, which is seemingly very logical. You know, you’re going from something that gradually comes to two legs and gradually here we are. Then you can go beyond that and you look more mathematically at the feasibility of how we’re able to be sitting here, right now, in this place. I’m talking to you, and I’ve got this thing (he picks up his cellphone) which looks like Star Trek. This is “Beam me up, Scotty”-stuff. You wouldn’t have believed this thing could exist thirty years ago.

    Yup, he just took von Däniken over Darwin, and ill thought out alien gods over evolutionary theory, on the basis of his misunderstanding of the implications of mathematical probability theory. Oh, and modern mobile phones are really like Star Trek communicators, therefore alien gods, or something…

    Things have changed so dramatically that you can start looking at the idea that all our history can be completely wrong and misguided. Because at some point someone has to put a statement down and have their own thesis, have their own theories. That was then later accepted or later is gradually dissolved and re-drawn or reworked. So now you’ve got the whole changed attitude with NASA, the church and I think even Hawking. Over the last thirty years have gone from “It’s highly unlikely that there’s anyone else in our galaxy, any other force, being in our galaxy,” to now, where they’re conceding that there are probably thousands of different lifeforms in this galaxy. And I think Hawking actually said, “Let’s hope they don’t visit.” And I think the church has conceded as well that it would not be against the word of God if we conceded that there are other lifeforms in this galaxy.

    So, we should apparently be prepared to throw history, known physics and biology, geology and several other fields out of the window because it could be, like, totaly wrong, dude!

    Also, the issue of the frequency of intelligent life in the galaxy is far from settled. Hawking was discussing a hypopthetical alien encounter, and likening this hypothetical to our own colonial past as a species – that where a more technologically advanced culture meets a less technologically advanced one, things tend to go poorly for the side with less impressive firepower. I don’t think that Hawking was endorsing a ‘thousands of sentient species’ model for life in the broader universe, merely engaging in a thought experiment.

    In any case, I was reading the latest issue of the New Scientist, and I came upon a book review of Alone in the Universe; Why our Planet is Unique by John Gribben, in which Gribben apparently argues that only a very extreme set of coincidences and fortuitous events allowed our sentient species and technological society to develop, and that there is no particular reason to suppose that other such technological cultures are in any way commonplace in the broader universe, and that it is indeed quite possible that we are the only sentient life in existence. I havn’t read the book, and so I can’t speculate on the quality of the arguments therein, but this certainly seems to suggest to me that Scott is grossly misrepresenting the current state of this debate.

    Sadly, it is looking increasingly like Scott is taking the express train all the way to crazy town on this one.

  121. says

    Alien worked because Scott cast a relative unknown who didn’t fit the Hollywood starlet mould (this was 1979, two years after Lucas had done the same with most of the cast of Star Wars – a film which incidentally inspired Scott to make a space epic in the first place).

    From what I read, or maybe it was the DVD commentary, the screenplay originally had Ripley and Dallas sleeping together but then they ended up writing it out.

  122. Nice Ogress says

    On topic: I think one could make a case for EvD being classified as unintentional (or perhaps unintentionally comedic) science fiction, in that it is an attempt at science fact that fails awfully.

    Sorta offtopic @ Tommykey: It’s pretty clear subtext in the first movie that Ripley and Dallas have a thing for each other, but the relationship is professional; either they’ve never acted on it, or it’s strictly off-hours.

    This is notable mainly because the ’70′s was the decade where women started being portrayed in TV and movies as being capable of (or perhaps permitted, if you’re a cynic) relationships that didn’t end in marriage, tragic suicide, murder or rescue by some strong-jawed hero type.

    Before the liberated ‘working woman’ of the ’70′s, who was portrayed as not only single but independent, and liked being that way, there wasn’t any such commonly accepted trope in movies (though, as usual, literature was ahead by about a decade). Before then, women who had any sort of relationship outside of marriage were ruined (unless they were someone’s mistress, of course – how liberating!). Your choices were sex-kitten or whore, literally.

    Getting back to Alien and Ripley, I find it sort of wierd that if the movie had been pitched just a decade earlier, the ideas of Ripley being both female and a competent individual capable of holding down a job (not to mention destroying a monster!) would have been deemed mutually exclusive.

  123. colonelzen says

    Ah, minivacation almost over, back to work tomorrow, but meanwhile…

    Prudes, my friends.

    There are an awful lot of people who are Christians because it is a very convenient excuse and cover for sexual anxieties. Some parts of the feminist movement provide an almost identical cover for the same roots of prudery. The names and icons have been changed to protect the guilty.

    As for the sexual yak yak around here, forty years ago I was once a fourteen year old boy … nobody talks more about sex with more bluster. While I don’t particularly care, whether or for whom, an awful lot of that yak here sounds the same. But some of you seem awfully sensitive to an extremely casual sexual reference while ignoring the other and much more (to me) interesting substance of the post.

    I most certainly was not criticizing eye candy in films. I was pointing out that eye candy is what films are *for*. I was pointing out that Weaver in undies as “eye candy” was in some ways in conflict and distracting from her role as Beowulf gone tech noir.

    All fiction everywhere is “objectifying” whatever emotional content is being expressed or appealed to. By definition a real person or object of emotional relation is not present … that’s what fiction is. It’s you and the screen. Even the most sensitive and wholly feminist endorsed romantic relationship, if portrayed on screen and the audience is intended to respond emotionally, it is objectifying sexuality. It says, blatently, explicitly “Yum, yum. Have sexual feelings about someone not here”.

    Our consciousness and intelligence is *about* objectifying our feelings. And we should objectify our feelings so that we can critically and dispassionately identify which, when and how we choose to act upon them. The refusal to accept that we do objectify our emotions and emotional interlocutors, yes including sex and sexual partners, is not only unrealistic but detrimental to teaching people to use their objectification to learn to interact better, more equitably and fairly with real people in the real world.

    I haven’t read the whole thread, but from what I’ve seen y’all seem to have VERY INTERESTINGLY missed a point of discussion which was rampant in intellectual discussions around Alien when it first came out (Ya know, sometimes being old is good for some things!)

    One of, if not the primary discussion back then was: “who is the ‘Alien’?” Back then the environment and interactions of Ripley and the crew as considered so artificial as to raise the question of whether they were truly “human”. All of the characters were acting in control, almost as automatons – a point reinforced by Ash – while the creature was displayed as acting almost wholly from its primal needs.

    – TWZ

    – TWZ

  124. gravityisjustatheory says

    saguhh00 says:

    The REALLY sad part abaut von Daniken is that he would be a very good sci-fi writer if only admitted that what he writes is actually sci-fi.

    I have a copy of Chariots of the Gods? If it was sold as sci-fi, then it would most definitely not be good sci-fi. Unintentionally hillarious – yes (I was literally laughing out loud when he suggested that one of the first things astronauts would do upon visiting an alien world would be to sleep with their women). But not good.