Monday, February 25, 2008

Chuck of Syracuse

Many years ago, when public schools were places of learning inhabited by teachers and students who shared knowledge and curiosity about the world -- whereas today the schools often seem more caught up in sex, violence, murder lists, weapons, societal ignorance and the virtual stupidity spawned by stupid parents who unfailingly produce a wealth of hopelessly stupid offspring dedicated to upholding the family tradition -- a UFO researcher could actually visit and offer presentations about UFOs before packed school auditoriums. No more. Today, we may as well be Satan himself, baby. If you speak for a traditional faith and wear absurd costumes while preaching long-dead dogma based upon amnesiac tales of deities lazying around for all eternity in the paradise of the dead, well, that's who the special masses want to hear from. But UFO evidence? Nonsense. Foolishness. Go away and take those ufological fantasies with you, because most folks are too busy watching TV or experiencing orgasmic rituals over the alleged face of a mystical superhero imprinted on a cracker slobbered with cheese spread.

Yeah, I used to speak in school auditoriums about UFOs, and I showed slides. Students would come up to me after the shows, their minds bursting with questions, and they sometimes requested autographs -- autographs! I felt like a rock star.

And there were the radio talk shows. Not the politically slanted poop self-designated as "talk shows" foisted upon listeners today, but real programs interested in all sides of a topic. As a guest during the sixties and seventies on numerous Central NY radio and TV shows, I always respected the men and women who hosted them. Particularly Chuck Tornell.

His real name was Charles Tornatore, known professionally as Chuck Tornell. Like so many whose names appear on this blog, he's dead now, departed in 1994 at age 59. A life-long resident of Syracuse, he worked at a variety of jobs over the years, including car salesman, limo driver and actor. Not only did he appear in plenty of local plays and served as master of ceremonies at various events, he also appeared as an extra in the movies, "Slapshot" and "Lady in White." As a broadcaster he interviewed numerous legends, including comedians Milton Berle, Pat Cooper and Lou Monte, and singers Al Martino, The Vagabonds and Don Cornell.

Chuck kindly invited me to guest on several of his shows at various radio stations, and his were always the most fun of all. He was courteous, fair and open-minded, and I can't express enough how rare those features seem today amongst some in the broadcast crowd. I also suspect he had many a disagreement with station management about the things he wanted to do, as he was hardly the "yes man" type.

Anyway, I just thought I would take an opportunity today to memorialize Chuck, and accompanying these words is a two-page letter I wrote to a newspaper after his death. The letter was not printed, so I'm going to share it with you now. If you happen to live in an area where local radio talk shows remain enjoyable on stations not dominated by insecure, arrogant, humorless, rude or borderline religious fanatic hosts, you're lucky. Where I live, "conglomerate" is the broadcast word of the day, and all the designations listed in the prior sentence apply stringently. A shame, really.

NEXT TIME: Who's my favorite evening talk show host of the national airwaves? I'll tell you and I'll show you a picture (hint -- it's not who you think!).

NASA Regurgitates in 2001

The last time I wrote a sitting U.S. president about UFOs occurred after George W. Bush assumed office. Naturally, and I say "naturally" because the procedures to deal with UFO inquiries flow like the seasons, my letter was bumped over to NASA.

I was rather amused by the NASA spokesman's response, however. Nowhere in my letter had I mentioned "aliens" or delineated what I thought UFOs were, so I assume he was merely generating the canned computerized response stored in the ol' word processor -- the same words noted in the opening paragraph of the "fact sheet." Now, had (the late) Al Chop still worked in NASA's public affairs division, as he had so many years previously, maybe the reply would have been a lot more intriguing. In addition, one can obviously conjure up numerous non-alien reasons why UFOs should be investigated (the quest for a wealth of scientific knowledge, for one).

Anyway, this was the last time I ever received a regurgitated "fact sheet" from NASA regarding the UFO subject. By then, in comparison with my previous communication with both NASA and the Air Force, they weren't even offering specific names of civilian UFO organizations, suggesting instead that people contact other channels for such information.

I realize that over the past year I've offered several of these "fact sheets," and it's only for historical reasons that I do so. It's not my intention to foster a negative opinion of the UFO phenomenon -- I simply hope to display the continuous barrage of government-sanctioned public misinformation about UFOs. Our blood should boil every time we see the scandal-ridden University of Colorado UFO "study" offered as proof that UFOs merit no serious consideration. Government denials continue to be both unwise and dangerous in view of the evidence accumulated to date.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Meanwhile, Over at Flying Saucer Review. . .

Great Britain's Flying Saucer Review began publishing in 1955, unquestionably the best international journal about the UFO phenomenon for years. Like the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), FSR's editors and writers forged an early connection with the possibility that occupant and abduction reports might have an extended relationship to the very enigma featured in their publications.

The late Gordon Creighton served as FSR's editor for many years and turned out some great issues, as had previous dedicated editors. However, in later years some readers expressed concern that Flying Saucer Review had taken on a more esoteric or "new age" format, far removed from its original concept. I can't comment on that in any depth because, even though I began subscribing in 1964 and remained a faithful reader for many years, I haven't seen an issue for ages.

Recently, I referenced here my article about Coral Lorenzen and the Ubatuba, Brazil "UFO fragments," which may be read at the NICAP memorial web site (see NICAP link in margin). Actually, the article initially went to FSR and Gordon Creighton accepted it, and I looked forward to its appearance in FSR's traditionally outstanding pages. However, over a year later, seeing no trace of it in the journal, I wrote Gordon again and he replied with a profoundly different attitude, obviously under stress, both personally and professionally. The two letters shown almost seem as though written by two different people, and the second clearly states my article won't be printed.

If you write, you already know that rejection's hatchet usually carves out far more territory than acceptance. But for me, to quote the tired old chestnut, this particular editorial change of horses in mid-stream already indicated trouble brewing at Flying Saucer Review. Still, considering most of its history over the decades, nobody can dispute the superb education about the international UFO situation that FSR presented to a curious world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Unforgettable Mr. Reardon

WARNING! WARNING! The following paragraphs and scans contain offensive language! Some of it has been excised for the reading pleasure of those in this society who are, increasingly, offended by everything!

Ya know, throughout history "naughty" words and gestures helped many a man and woman suffer the agonies of war without going stark-raving mad. Uttering some epithet into the darkness often worked out far better than diverting one's rage into, oh, I don't know, maybe killing everybody around you? During Air Force basic training, I learned a plethora of offensive words and phrases (maybe not as many as the ladies in the women's division of basic training, but I was close -- those female training instructors, I've been informed, could curse up a storm when dealing with the ranks, far surpassing male counterparts), and don't think I didn't find them useful throughout my military time.

World War II veterans, like many others, frequently carried this colorful language into civilian life, and there was a time when "blue" words served a purpose in our lives. Don't get me wrong -- they still do, but nowadays everybody is just soooooooooo offended by words, and they'll rant and rave about it, they'll sue you or commit homicide over -- words.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I started to receive correspondence from a man in South Carolina named Russ Reardon. I'm trying to remember the circumstances, and they probably related to something I had written for Pursuit, journal of the old Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU). Before long, we began writing back and forth and now, after all those years, I can easily say that my files bulge with more letters and miscellaneous enclosures from Russ than from any other source. He was particularly fond of clipping cartoons and other humorous (or downright strange) items from newspapers and magazines and stuffing envelopes with them almost every time he wrote me.

In the early nineties, his letters became fewer and eventually stopped altogether. I'm quite sure, knowing of the illness he experienced in later years, that Russ is long deceased by now. Nor was he a youngster, for Russ was a World War II veteran and boasted a long history in broadcasting that went back to some affiliation with early TV shows that I'd never even heard of before. In his later years whilst corresponding with me, he even got a small acting part as an extra in one of those cable or network TV movies (a two or three-parter, as I recall) about the Civil War; I don't remember the title and have no reference source nearby as I write this entry today.

Russ was also very much into the UFO subject and had a tendency to pursue specifics and people to the ends of the earth with his queries. I wasn't always content with some of his contacts, but he usually knew when he was being deceived.

On one occasion, he journeyed South of the Border and allegedly and covertly did something very, very -- well, let's just say he did something in his quest for truth and evidence to either satiate or obliterate the "ancient astronauts" crowd, but therein lies another of those situations where I'm just not going into details. This is a tendency of mine which annoys some researchers horribly, thus confronted with the issue of whether I'm being honest or confabulating. Actually, I've no reason to lie; life is just so blissfully unencumbered when you don't add details that raise question after question after question. Hate it when that happens. Why hang yourself from the gallows when such a significant portion of society is already willing to accomplish the task for you?

Many folks in the UFO research area knew of Russ, because he was the driving force in discovering the knowledge he craved, and if it took a wealth of postage stamps to write a source for information, he was your man. I liked Russ and revered him for his World War II service, his humor and for his knowledge about many things. That's why I really wanted to share a little bit of him with you today.

First, (see) here's a brief letter he had written at some point to a newspaper down South (Russ was a prolific letter-to-the-editor correspondent, and I know he wrote at least one article for a phenomena-related publication) when gasoline prices were on the rise and a shortage loomed. Next, one of his famous cartoon clippings, source and artist unfortunately uncredited, but typical Russ material.

I've saved the best for last: Part of a letter from Russ shortly after his near-annihilation from a stroke. This is funny -- though tragically funny -- stuff from an irrepressible World War II vet whose attitude about the medical establishment and smoking rivaled that of many amongst his fellows of those war years. As you know, maybe, I detest censorship in most of its stifling forms, but in a contemporary society that wishes to make daily life appear flawless to avoid litigation and/or embarrassment, I've taken my red computerized paint and disguised the F and S words and other things that can threaten entire blogs these days. I think most of you can figure out the words, anyway, but I sure wish I could feel comfortable showing Russ censored. Especially knowing that he fought a war to preserve our freedoms, and one of them was that First Amendment. Which reminds me of a frequent question he both asked and answered himself frequently at the end of his letters over the years: "What does it all mean, Bob? It don't mean sh**!" So valuable the wisdom, so few the words.

Friday, February 8, 2008

APRO Collapses and its Files Consigned to Purgatory

Following Jim Lorenzen's death, Coral attempted to prop up APRO's crumbling fragments to some degree. High on her mind was an attempt to locate a missing fragment from the alleged Ubatuba, Brazil UFO, and on May 7, 1987 she phoned me for assistance. I'll not belabor the details here because I wrote an article about this in 2000 which ultimately found a home on the Web at the NICAP site (see link in margin). At the NICAP on-site search engine simply type in my name or "Coral Lorenzen and the Ubatuba UFO Fragments."

By May of 1987 Coral's emotions and health seemed frail even during telephone conversations, and less than a year later she, too, was dead (April 12, 1988). Regular readers here know that I've posted numerous historical items regarding APRO and the Lorenzens almost from the start of this blog, so I urge newcomers interested in APRO's work to start back in April of 2007 and work forward.

However, today I'm posting the remainder of my APRO-related letters, and again I apologize for deleting various names and information online, for reasons of my own. Even with blanks, though, you'll get a good picture of APRO's status.

Regarding that final letter from a former APRO board member in 1989: It turned out that APRO's extensive and invaluable case files, despite the assertions expressed in the letter, ended up in the possession of people whom, apparently, did nothing more with them. They are not affiliated with CUFOS, though I am told they did have an association or friendship of some kind with the late Dr. Hynek. The UFO research community has experienced years of troubling silence about the intended and ultimate disposition of these essential scientific and historical reports -- last I heard. At the very least, it's a shame that a complete collection of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin hasn't been made available publicly, as were NICAP's old UFO Investigator issues (on compact disc, available via CUFOS).

If there's more of an update on the post-APRO situation, I would certainly be pleased to know. But, at long last, we have reached the end of a lengthy winding trail, peppered with APRO correspondence, phone calls and UFO sighting reports. Beyond all else, we must remember that organizations such as APRO did not spring up out of frivolity. They were created out of necessity by caring, dedicated people who realized by way of the best evidence available that the UFO is real and exists as a true scientific mystery, unlikely to disappear simply because government, commercial airline and debunkers' proclamations attempt to chase the issue away. Jim and Coral Lorenzen dismissed and reacted to that approach in the fifties, as they most assuredly would today. The unfortunate loss of their intellect in the UFO research arena reminds us that common sense has become a stranger to a society which is more willing than ever to be either cowed about politics or receptive to utter nonsense about UFOs.

Illness at APRO

Terminal illness slowly replaced day-to-day activities at APRO, and by the summer of 1986 cancer was about to claim Jim Lorenzen's life. An APRO representative sent me a very discouraging note, and a relevant portion is shown here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Ice That Came In From The Cold

James Ehmann wrote for The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), frequently on scientific topics. Many former readers of his popular columns were saddened and unpleasantly surprised when he died as a young man from an illness several years ago.

I recently happened upon a letter he sent in 1986 after we had a phone conversation about mysterious falls of ice from the sky -- a phenomenon that continues with regularity all over the planet, as most of you already know (all manner of things seem to be falling from above anymore). James, like myself, was perpetually amused by routine explanations which appear like clockwork every time ice falls, stating that the ice "must have" dropped from an airplane toilet. Of course, the vast majority of these ice chunks, some of dangerous size and proportions with a proven ability to destroy a fair number of home roofs, exhibit no evidence of toilet origin. Indeed, whether clear or showing some color, the frozen intruders often contain water and nothing else.

All of this had come about because of Dr. Louis Frank, a physicist in the news nationally who postulated that earth's water was delivered over the eons by bombardment with icy comets and the like. While many of his colleagues were dismissive of his theories in the eighties, the fact that we've since discovered evidence of water on other planets and perhaps throughout the universe may legitimize his ideas significantly.

We should also mention now in 2008 that changes in climate alone may also influence ice falls, with atmospheric conditions precipitating heavy chunks of ice leading to ground damage. One might also wonder if ice from comets (per Dr. Frank) shouldn't include pieces of rock and other debris from the universe itself, or perhaps this mixture would have been more common in the early creation of the universe.

So, James Ehmann sent the letter shown here, and also enclosed photocopies of something the famed writer Arthur C. Clarke had written about ice falls. In addition, Ehmann included a copy of a letter Clarke had written the editor of Omni Magazine (see) just weeks previously.

APRO Begins to Crumble

By 1985 APRO's internal problems were no secret to the membership, and by the end of the year we realized that Jim and Coral Lorenzen's ill health exerted a substantial bearing on the organization's status. This letter (see), written by Coral, indicates the necessity to sell their house and seek smaller quarters. Further, she expresses anger at rumors flying about regarding APRO's demise -- some of them advanced via her presumed nemesis, "Old Motor Mouth" director of another major UFO organization.

Coral tries to end on an upbeat note about APRO's -- and the Lorenzens' -- future in the UFO arena, but her hints of futility (not to mention the uncharacteristic number of typos in the note) are obvious. The world's oldest UFO research organization, sired in 1952, was fading slowly, and a few months later its destiny became even more evident as the membership learned that Jim was gravely ill and Coral, in caring for her husband, was enduring tremendous, though inevitable stress.

The World War II Computer

When I first saw this cartoon, drawn by a Navy member, I did a double-take as the word "computer" jumped into my field of view. After all, this (a small part of a much bigger drawing) was accomplished in the year 1943!

However, a little research showed that there was indeed an early computer used in ballistic calculations amongst the military services in the early forties. Obviously, they were heavy and cumbersome, with a definite thirst for electrical power. Their limited use arose from computer experimentation dating back to the 1930s.

No Microsoft, no Yahoo! and no Google -- yet the darned things worked. Who would have thought?