Year: 1998

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Welcome to this week's (Pretty) Good Friday Blather extravaganza, disseminated from a uncharacteristically (for the time of year) chilly Dublin, where vague hints of snow have been all day threatening the populace. GNOMES WANT TO BE FREE A smattering of snippets assail us this week, first and foremost we have the latest on gnome-napping. With the arrest of several members of the Gnome Liberation Front last November, we at Blather Operations were devastated, long time fans that we are these daring surrealists, who tend to leave behind calling cards reading 'The Garden Gnomes Liberation Front has been here. Your gnomes are now free and can finally live in peace together deep in the forest'. However, all is not lost.Reuters (via Yahoo!), on April 3rd, reported a police hunt for the 'gang' that liberated 100 gnomes from a private garden in the Netherlands. Also, Australian 'Wormman' Peter Darben warned us that...

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A fine week of fringe religious activity it has been, what with guest appearances of the Virgin Mary in Georgia, crying statues of that same hallowed lady in Spain and a couple of hundred people becoming gods, down in Garland, Texas. According to the BBC on April 2nd, people in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, people have been reporting close facial encounters of the Virginal kind since Christmas, attracting thousands to Tbilisi's blue cathedral. The BBC's rather disjointed report proceeds to tell of Tatia, a local faith healer who has 'squiggly' lines appearing about her navel, sometimes in the shape of a cross. I felt so much wiser after reading about Tbilisi and Tatia, thanks to the BBC - why did they bother? Meanwhile, the Associated Press on March 30th told of how the Roman Catholic church in Spain had 'impounded' (can they do that?) a statue of the Virgin...

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A NEW LIFE AWAITS YOU IN THE OFF-WORLD COLONIES On Saturday 14th March, this Blatherskite was conversing with the Church of Subgenius's Rev. Nickie Deathchick whilst attending an open-house reception in the Fringeware Store (Austin, Texas). Suddenly, a representative of a company calling themselves 'Celestis' was thrust upon us. In case you don't know, Houston based Celistis were responsible for last year launching into space the ashes of Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry, and philosopher and scientist Timothy Leary. This Celestis representative (who I shall refrain from naming) filled us in on the basic idea of their latest project - but asked us to keep mum until he contacted us with further details, as this information was not yet public knowledge. We agreed (wondering why he had told us at all). . . but on the following Tuesday, March 17th, the Daily Telegraph ran a story concerning this 'secret' information....

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MONKEY BUSINESS The Sunday Nation, via The Electronic Telegraph, reported on the 9th of February 1998 the invasion by some 100 baboons of a hospital in Marsbit, Kenya. The unexpected visitors (was it during visiting hours?) were accused of plucking dextrose drips from patients. Three weeks later, Reuters (via Yahoo) told of a troop of monkeys (species unspecified) staging a pitch invasion at a schoolboy soccer match in Hargeisa, Somalia. Several players were injured while making for shelter, and the police eventually had to open fire to disperse the monkeys, killing an apparent 'ringleader'. A consolidated effort, or a mere coincidence? WHEN YER DEAD, YER DEAD On a more macabre note, one of Ireland's oldest cemeteries, the Yew Tree graveyard in Monasterevan, Co. Kildare, has an exhumation of human bones on a nightly basis, according to the Irish Times of February 12th . The graveyard is on the site of...

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Blather has been idly comparing the news of these past few days to our hypothetical dramatisation (adapted for the 'net) of the Book of Revelations. On March 8th, traffic on 200 mile stretch of North Californian highway slowed to a near halt as it was illuminated by flaming objects falling from the sky, convincing many that an aircraft had crashed. According to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, it was a large meteor shower (The Associated Press, Via Nando News, and the San Francisco Examiner on March 10th). This was preceded by a disclosure concerning a 32-year-old Chinese farmer who had just been divested of two of his three tongues (Agence France-Presse March 9th, Reuters March 8th), and a Canadian cow which gave birth to four calves, a rather rare and momentous occurrence (The Associated Press, via Nando March 8th). MIRACLE ALERT We nearly didn't get round to mentioning this little...

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MARCH SPAWNED A FROG FROG FALL Suzanne Charlton the BBC Weather Centre had a rather intriguing weather report to make on the 5th of March. A 'distraught' woman in Croydon (The Times say Croydon, while several people reckon that the BBC said Crawley), in the southern U.K., phoned the Meteorological Office to inform them of a deluge of of frogs which were proceeding to cover her garden and much of the surrounding neighbourhood. Neil Lofthouse, the U.K.'s national forecaster, was quoted as saying that : "You do get reports of things getting sucked up by water spouts, which are rotating columns of water, or tornadoes. They would have to go over a lake or something with a lot of frogs on it." Unfortunately Mr. Lofthouse is fumbling in the dark with this fairly weak, if typical explanation. For more on anomalous falls, see The Anomalist's 'Super-Sargasso Surfin' and Blather's 'Raining...

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It has transpired that from August 3rd to 19th 1998, a team of cryptozoological types shall be flocking to the Seljord area of Telemark, Norway to track down the Lake Seljordsvatnet 'monster'. Rather than hunting down some gargantuan B-Movie beast, Jan-Ove Sundberg, the leader of the project, feels that their prey is more likely to be a previously unknown eel species. At least that's what Agence France-Presse (via The Nando News) announced on February 25th. The project's official website goes a smidgen further, pointing out the likeness between the Seljord creature and the prehistoric (and presumably extinct) mosasaurus. According to the website, the 250-year spate of reports concern animals 10-15m long, with 2-3 humps of about 1.5 height. Their backs are grey or black, with a lighter belly, and the skin seems 'wrinkled or scaly. The head is seen to be proportionately small, supported on a long 20-50cm neck. The...

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On Friday 13th, 1998, Rael of The Rael Foundation popped up on Irish RTE1 TV's 'The Late Late Show' as a guest of Gay Byrne's (trivia fans take note: The Late Late show is reputedly the longest running TV chat show ever). Rael, who used to be French motor-racing journalist Claude Vorlihon, formed the Foundation in 1973 and claims it to be the largest UFO organisation in the world, with 35,000 members in 85 countries (information culled from Mark Pilkington's 'Off the Tracks With British Rael' from Magonia 60, Summer 1997). Rael has been on The Late Late Show twice before, four and eight years ago. This is rather interesting, as Byrne tended to treat Rael, resplendent in his immaculate white poloneck and white furs (the Liberace of ufology?), with undisguised and reasonably well formed scepticism. Why does he keep coming back? I suspect that he gains enough followers each...

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The rather clammy and smelly paged 'Sightings' magazine has in this issue (Vol. 2 Issue 9) an article by one Dermot Butler of IUFORA (Should really be IUFOPRA, The Irish UFO & Paranormal Research Association), entitled 'The Wicklow Hotspot', a watered down version of his 'Irish Case Files Update '. To be utterly pernickety, 'Sightings' habit of randomly littering their publication with irrelevant photographs of unidentified flying objects and wizened grays is less than useful. This is especially true in the Irish article, as none of the UFOs mentioned were photographed. The article is a meander through the various reports from the county of Wicklow, into which the urban sprawl of Dublin reaches. Unfortunately, it's neither long enough or in-depth enough to attempt serious analysis of each case. It does however, give one the impression of that Wicklow is a 'window' area. I don't dispute this, but it should be...

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The (London) Sunday Times of February 2nd 1998 hastens to inform us that 'Britain lends an ear to the search for ET'. As part of Project Phoenix, two of the world's largest radio telescopes will be linked together, the 250ft Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, and the 1,000ft telescope at Arecibo in Puerto Rico. The largest single-dish radio telescope in the world, the latter is located in the natural hollow of a mountain and utilises the Earth's rotation for its scan of the skies. For the next ten years, they will listen for 'artificial' (I find that term rather odd, I would have said 'coherent') radio messages from '2,000 Sun-like stars within a range of 150 light years from the Earth' using computers to scan 50 million frequently channels simultaneously. This endeavour is part of the SETI project (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). According to the Times, 'At...