Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 732, August 4, 2013

The mission of the Privacy Party would be to get
government out of everybody's lives and shrivel
the damn thing down to the size of a peanut.

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UFO Faire
Photo by the author

A Day at the Tinfoil Festival
by Jeff Fullerton

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

Kecksburg UFO Festival

"Waitin for Bus number 99", that rather amusing song by the B52s goes.
"Goin to the store for hotdogs &wine.
"When all of a sudden I felt real cold.
"And wound up in the belly of a big old UFO"!

After a late start spending the morning on other writing I was off despite the rains that set in much earlier than expected. Rolled into the little hamlet with the B52s still jamming "Is that you Mo-Dean"?
"It's me, Mo-Dean"!
"Is that you Mo-Dean"?
I am singing along happily with the windows down and the music cranked up high:
"It is I, Mo-Dean; the Interdimensional Outer Space Being"!
Some of the people I pass who are walking along the roadside glance my way. If they don't think I'm crazy, they are likely true believers and offended. Best not to get too roudy least the firefighters or police get riled up and try to cite me for reckless driving.

Passing on through with the music still jamming I make my way past the crowds that look somewhat smaller than last summer when I came and hung out at a friend's house and ended up not going. This year would be different. I had not yet partaken in the annual Kecksburg UFO & Old Fashioned Festival now going on its eighth year. This time I had to go.

Went to the house of the same friend to park my car and hang out again for a while and then walk the short distance back down the hill into town avoiding the hassles of parking my car. But was delayed yet again. Lost in conversation and then offered dinner like before. And then the skies grew threatening again. Heavy showers moved in with a few peals of thunder and it began to look as if the event might be a washout. After a break came, I decided to start walking but as I started down the road there was more nasty looking thunderclouds gathering above Kecksburg. Turned back. It was going to be by car or nothing. Was really glad for that decision when I rolled back to the event. Parking turned out to be a non issue as there was plenty of space available but as I pulled in under the row of trees that lined the bank of the small creek between the parking lot and the road to the Fire Hall and the iconic acorn shaped mockup of the mysterious object that fell to Earth in the hills above town in the year 1965.

Torrents of rain let loose and people were fleeing back across the bridge to their cars, many of them leaving. Fortunately the downpour was short lived and I was out and across the bridge walking up the street that runs between the firehouse and the bronze replica of the UFO that I walked right by initially—my attention on the impressive array of fire trucks and other emergency response vehicles. The festival is sponsored by the local volunteer fire department and raises money to fund those services. The few amusement park rides were shut down because of the rain but the concession stands were open and the bed race which had been put temporarily on hold was now getting under way.

After walking about to get a few pics with the iPad I wandered into the UFO store to look at the tee shirts and other vendors plying their wares. There were tables of some of the experts—one specializing in Bigfoot with plaster casts of huge footprints taken from various parts of the country including Pennsylvania on display. And the guy specializing in UFOs and alien encounters who will be holding a conference tomorrow afternoon. I probably won't be attending since for the most part my mission there is done and I enjoyed a nice cheeseburger and a hotdog with kraut and Swiss cheese and home style fries—just wait til Bloomberg gets wind of this! They'll be out in force to shut it down or at least make a fool of himself again and give us all yet something more to laugh about in a world of gloom and doom.

Which brings me to the cultish phenomenon surrounding UFOs. I must confess I'm a skeptic despite a life long interest in space and science fiction. Indeed it was SF writers like Isaac Asimov , Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke along with the Astronomer Carl Sagan (who expressed his very sincere doubts regarding alien visitations every second Tuesday). Hard science fiction always seemed more real than most of the documentaries I grew up on—like "In Search of" narrated by Leonard Nimoy aka Mr Spock. Even Star Trek seemed more believable and somewhat appealing despite the unlikelihood that extraterrestrials would look almost the same as human beings with the exception of minor differences like blue skin or pointy ears. Then you have the Greys who occasionally graced the covers of Weekly World News back in the day— alternating with Bat Boy and the Fattest Fat Lady on Earth! Often the space alien would endorse presidential candidates in the various presidential races from the first George Bush, to Bill Clinton and Bush Junior before the magazine folded several years back. My guess he would have endorsed Obama.

And then there was Mork from Ork—an alien himself—who had a close encounter with Exidore—the robed cultist with a wild eyed Nostradamus look who got disappointed when the aliens from Venus did not follow through with their promise to destroy the Earth on Labor Day and downright irate at Mork for telling him that there were no aliens coming from Venus. And equally offended the second time around when Exidore turned up in jail "for religious persecution" because of his belief that OJ Simpson was the messiah or a deity "I Now Worship The Juice!" and Mork argued that OJ was just a man and Football was just a game. But I have a sneaking suspicion the reason OJ got off the hook may have been the result of packing the jury with members of Exidore's cult!

And like Bugs Bunny said when he pulled up to the observatory with half the solar system in tow "I have a slightly used flying saucer for sale with a few hundred million miles on it".

UFO: the acronym for Unidentified Flying Object usually brings thoughts like those expressed above. The obsession of some with flying saucers and space aliens—especially the messianic promises of the aliens either revealing themselves and then sharing their superior knowledge to solve all the world's ills—or the promise that they are coming back to save the elect of humanity in the fashion of the Biblical rapture before they destroy the planet come Labor Day may be something akin to a cargo cult. Like the primitive peoples of various islands in the South Pacific who expected the eventual return of the American GIs who handed out food and other goods during their temporary sojourns during the course of World War II. Only in this case it is more based on fantasy. Or hoaxes. Given the tendency of government to exploit our fears as a means of controlling the population—I have problems believing that there is a conspiracy to cover up the existence of UFOs and alien visitors on the grounds that it might cause widespread panic. more likely they would try to scare us to death about it as they like to do with more mundane threats such as terrorism and global warming.

As for Kecksburg it brings in a little extra revenue to fund the local EMS and fire protection. And maybe a justifiable payback for the way the federal government barged in with the military and took whatever fell that night in 65.

Yes, something actually fell there in the wooded hills along the course of what became Meteor Road. Meteor, Russian space probe or alien spaceship. The army came in and controlled the area and hauled something out on a flatbed truck under a tarp. People were told to be silent. Some were threatened with reprisals—loss of government pensions or veterans benefits if they did not comply. There is one local man who is still around but reluctant to talk about it to this day. My friend the local historian had a relative who was deer hunting in the area a day or so after the object was removed came across some soldiers who were still looking for pieces. When asked if he had seen anything suspicious he joked about seeing "little green men" which got him hauled in for questioning. The Army back then seemed to think it was about as funny as joking about a bomb going through airline security!

Like a comedian once said about the latter—if you cannot tell a joke about space aliens—maybe he should have told them a riddle.

Overall, the experience was enjoyable and i will have to do it again someday—perhaps under better weather and maybe with a swell gal at my side and take a nice spin up Meteor Road to the top of Snake Hill and over to the winery afterward. I departed the event that way since the UFO festival would not be complete without a spin past the area where the object came down.

And the CD of the B52s continued as I pulled out of the lot and made my way back past my friend's place and started ascending Meteor Road into the patchwork of farmland and wooded hills above town.

"Moving through the Spheres faster than light.
"On our way to some planets that are out of sight!
"Hey Space Driver! Give it a spin.
"And take us to some places we ain't never been"!

We have come a long way since I was young and many astronomers were convinced of the likelihood that solar systems like our own with solid rocky planets like the Earth at just the right distance from their stars to support life were a rare phenomenon. Some were even convinced that other solar systems with planetary bodies let alone habitable planets might be a rare phenomenom given that a high percentage of stars were in binary or multiple systems that might make planetary formation unlikely—or eject their member planets to freeze in the eternal dark of interstellar space. Carl Sagan made a bold prediction in the 1980s—that within the next 20 years we would know whether other stars besides our native sun have planets. Sadly he did not live to see the fulfilment of that vision. But by the end of the 20th Century— advances in astronomical observation had revealed the existence of several other planetary systems. And as the current century commenced the numbers exploded to the 100s. And then thousands. At first the majority were "Hot Jupiters" giant gas planets in close orbits around their stars at roasting hot distances that put Mercury and Venus to shame. But as time went on there were more discoveries in the way of smaller bodies—down to the size range of the smaller gas or Ice giants in our solar system—Uranus and Neptune—also in closer orbits. And eventually another class of planets known as "Super Earths"—bodies in the size range of 2 to 7 or 10 times the mass of Earth—that could even support life—possibly even suitable for human colonization if they are at the lower end of that size range—though there is one article that suggests that even the higher mass planets might still have gravities in the range of human tolerance—even comfortable to walk on depending on the actual diameter and density. But the mass penalties involved in taking off from them would remain.

Recent estimates are in the neighborhood of 60 to 100 billion 'Goldilocks' planets in our galaxy alone!
[LINK] Like the song that I was singing along with in my travels that day, some of them are surely "out of sight"! I had that very much in mind when I stopped to photograph the sign at the end of the way.

The reality of what truly awaits out there will in many ways prove stranger and more amazing than either the UFO enthusiasts or the science fiction writers can dream up.

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