52 – Music and The Brain: How Sound Affects the Mind and Body

The episode starts with our trip to Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin which is where the legendary “Beast of Bray Road” was seen. We talked about the beast in Episode 51 – American Monsters: An Interview with Linda Godfrey and since we were in Delavan, Wisconsin performing with our band, Sunspot on Friday, we thought that this was our golden opportunity.

It was right around 10pm when we got there and it is a dark, dark place and it’s a pretty isolated road with only a few houses and surrounded by woods and cornfields.  There wasn’t a moon and it was super dark out. It was just the usual rural Wisconsin sounds of crickets, a couple of well-placed moos, and what sounded like a screaming bird (that was kinda scary).

Bray and Plank Road, Wisconsin

We took a stop at the intersection and wandered to the sign to get a picture. I saw some tail lights in the distance and I can see how someone might mistake them for the red glowing eyes of a wild beast, but really they were just tail lights. Either way, it was a fun little trip and it was nice to go “on location” after interviewing Linda less than a week beforehand.

Bray Road, Wisconsin
Mike and Wendy take a selfie with the Beast!

So, this week’s topic however, is music and the brain and specifically, how music and sound can actually have a physical effect on you. We start the conversation with the obvious, how music can assist you with athletic performance. Wendy talks about how she likes to listen to techno while she runs and I agree (my man, Deekron – The Fitness DJ has gotten me through plenty of runs!) But then we remember Jazzercise and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, then this little piece of the 80s is gonna hit you like a runaway train…

There’s research that shows music can enhance mood, but I think we all kind of believe in that. After all, we’re always listening to certain songs to increase our athletic performance or when we want to get really pumped up about something. But also that people who are frustrated in life tend to find music that amplifies their frustration. I had a roommate in my last year of college who was an ex-convict that hated his job but he loved Limp Bizkit. Coincidence? I think not!

Fred Durst from Limp Bizkit
Sorry about making radio suck for a couple years there…

I recalled something from the late 90s called “The Mozart Effect”, which was research that showed listening to classical music could make you smarter and the reason that it was in the news was because Georgia governor, Zell Miller, thought it’d be a good idea to actually put an item in the state budget for giving free classical music CDs to infants – yeah, that was a thing. But the research shows that listening to classical music right before taking a standard IQ test can actually help with some of the questions. So, while that was ridiculous, they might be onto something.

The Mozart Effect
No, Mom! Mozart makes you smart, Kanye makes you dumb!

We also talk about the healing effects of music and how it has been shown to help people control pain, stimulate antibody production, assist with the release of endorphins, and the research shows that music helps slow breathing and heartbeat. In fact, it doesn’t matter what the genre of music is (unless you’re a picky bastard like me), it’s the tempo that determines how fast your breathing and heartbeat adapts, it could be any genre from heavy metal to polka, it’s the tempo that counts.

They’re currently working on something called vibroacoustic therapy as well, to help people with Parkinson’s Disease, Fibromyalgia, and depression. They liken the therapy to sitting on the best studio subwoofer ever (but all I could think about was the subwoofer scene from Howard Stern’s movie, Private Parts, which I’m not linking to here because while it’s pretty funny, it’s definitely NSFW!)

One of the most powerful viral videos of the past couple of years was watching an elderly Alzheimer’s video listening to music of his youth and going from virtually comatose to alive and excited. It shows that music can stimulate brains that we can’t reach through speech and even medication. It was a beautiful thing to see and they even made a movie about the phenomena called Alive Inside about research into using music to help Alzheimer’s patients.

While music can be used as medicine, it doesn’t even have tom be melody to affect the brain, simple frequencies can certainly do it as well.  For example, binaural beats occur when you play two slightly different frequencies at the same time (one into each ear) and the brain actually processes it as like one sound and it produces a strobing effect. It was discovered back in the mid-19th Century but serious research wasn’t really done on them until the 1970s.  Now, some people say that they can simulate the effects of drugs, help people diet or quit smoking, assist in memorization, etc… but the evidence there is a little flimsy.

A few years  back teenagers were said to be getting “high” on listening to binaural beats and they’d post their exploits online, it was all pretty silly, but one thing we know for sure is that binaural beats can help with something called “brainwave entrainment”. That’s when you listen to a stimulus with a frequency, the brainwaves tend to go towards that frequency themselves so it helps put people’s minds into different states from Gamma wave production (like when we’re active and doing things) all the way down to Delta (the deepest sleep and meditation, where you forget your body). Binaural beats can help induce those states (and more on that when we get to our song.)

And speaking of brainwaves the Netflix/Wachowski (and J. Michael Straczynski from Babylon 5 and The Real Ghostbusters!) TV show, Sense8, debuted this summer. It’s about people across the globe telepathically connected and they made a song out of the frequencies produced by the brainwaves of eight people who had binge watched the program. It’s not the catchiest song in the world, but it’s still pretty sweet!

 

And for the coup de grace for this episode, Wendy reminded me of the greatest pop culture example of music affecting the brain called The Brown Note, where the characters discovered a certain frequency that could make people involuntarily poop their pants. I can’t believe I forgot about that one, it’s a classic!

This week’s song is an ambient track with binaural beats, every 8 measures of the song moves the binaural beats frequencies to try and entrain your brain from Gamma (>40 HZ), Beta (13-39 Hz), Alpha (7-13 Hz), Theta (4-7 Hz), and all the way down to Delta (<3 Hz), and then slowly back out. Take a listen and let us know what you think!    

51 – American Monsters: An Interview With Linda Godfrey

With books about Dogmen, werewolves, Bigfoot, skin changers, and the rest of the stable of American monsters, Linda Godfrey took an unlikely route into becoming one of the nation’s pre-eminent researchers into strange animals. This week, I interview Linda about how her journey took her from being a reporter for a small-town Wisconsin newspaper to becoming a chronicler of cryptozoology with appearances on Sightings (man, I miss that show all the time), Coast to Coast AM, Monster Quest, The New In Search Of… National Public Radio, and many more shows.

Linda started out as an artist and was looking to draw cartoons for a syndication deal when she offered her drawings to her local newspaper in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, the Walworth County Week. Those cartoons turned into articles soon enough and after a short while, she found herself as a local reporter.

While there had been reports of a werewolf-like creature sighted by drivers on Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin (where Wendy and my band, Sunspot, just happens to be playing this Friday!) in the late 80s (with some perhaps related reports stretching back to 1936), it was when the reports came to the attention of Linda after Christmas in 1991 that the story took off and her articles started getting at first attention of Milwaukee news, but then even international news agencies picked up on it and the story exploded. As Linda was the journalist who launched the story, she became the face of it.

Beast of Bray Road
Does that seem like the description of a lost dog to you?

And after becoming that face of the Beast of Bray Road, it led to people sending Linda other weird reports of sightings of mysterious creatures, not just in Wisconsin, but from all around the country. She continued to work at the paper and also developed her first book, The Poison Widow, about a murderess who killed her husband and then tried to kill her four children in Whitewater, Wisconsin on St. Patrick’s Day in 1922.

After the release of that book, she wrote the work that she’s best known for, The Beast of Bray Road: Trailing Wisconsin’s Werewolf. Linda elaborates for us the different kinds of beasts that she speculates are out there, from dogs that can walk on hind legs, to skin changers and shamanism, as well as the difference between these creatures and the clinical form of lycanthropy (a psychological condition where you actually believe that you’re turning into a wolf, but you’re really just running around naked and howling at things.)

We even talk about the movie The Beast of Bray Road, a b-movie that  came out in 2005, but Linda had zero participation in. However, it looks like it was written by a guy from Milwaukee, so at least it has a local connection. However, when they say “Based on a  true story”, well, that’s stretching it a lot.

Linda continued to release books throughout the 2000s (including the for-awhile-ubiquitous Weird Wisconsin and her own fantasy novel set in our little paradise of Madison, Wisconsin called God Johnson.)

But even if she delves into fantasy and other kinds of high strangeness, she can’t shake cryptids (and really, who can?) American Monsters her latest book has her leaving the Midwest and going nationwide in the lore of strange beasts. Of course, the most famous American beast is Bigfoot, and Linda gives us the skinny of her own encounter with a maybe Sasquatch right in the Kettle Moraine forest in 2012.

And finally we talk in more detail about the Milwaukee Lion. That’s right, we’re back to discussing the beast that’s been terrorizing the city for a couple of weeks now. I know last week, I told Wendy that I thought it was all hooey, but after my initial disbelief, I come around to grudgingly believing in it and Linda schools me as to why I should. First of all, there have been mountain lions spotted in Wisconsin several times and Linda’s husband almost got mauled by one not too long ago, just in the Kettle Moraine, not too far outside of Milwaukee. Plus there’s been sightings in Waukesha and Chicago in the past few years. It was fun to theorize with one of America’s strange beast experts on where the Milwaukee Lion might be headed next!

This week’s song is “American Monsters” by Sunspot.

While we were wondering what’s under the bed,
there’s been something growing we should dread,
and it’s getting bigger all the time.
Hairier than Bigfoot’s paw,
scarier than Wolfman’s claw,
there’s pitchforks out looking for a Frankenstein.

So scream your lungs out,
and look for a way out,

they’ll set out your insides out for a little bait.
A chilling effect,
when lives are wrecked,
by a mouth starving for something to hate.

Be careful what you say,
be careful not to wake,
the outrage of a beast with a million heads.
These American Monsters will eat you whole,
take your life from your control,
and won’t be satisfied until the trolls are fed.

Someone’s listening,
so say the right thing,
but the right thing changes every day.
The mob always wins,
Needles and pins,
You better watch what you say.

So scream your lungs out,
and look for a way out,
they’ll set out your insides out for a little bait.
A chilling effect,
when lives are wrecked,
by a mouth starving for something to hate.

You better watch what you say.
You better watch what you say.

50 – English Physicists and Russian Billionaires: The Hundred Million Dollar Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence

The conversation begins with a discussion of the “Milwaukee Lion”, the mysterious wild animal that people have been seeing in the Milwaukee area. Some say it’s a mountain lion that someone kept as an exotic pet and then escaped, but Mike and Wendy don’t quite believe it (even though Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts said that the lion had been spotted only a mile away from her house on Sunday night the 26th.)

Milwaukee Lion
Screen capture of a cell phone video of the “Milwaukee Lion”

But the main discussion comes from the $100 million grant that Russian billionaire, Yuri Milner, has dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and how he’s being joined by the everyone’s favorite English physicist with a robot voice, Stephen Hawking.

Yuri Milsner and Stephen Hawking
Mr. Hawking, is this man scaring you? Because he’s scaring us.

In the past, Hawking has warned that when we finally make contact with alien life, it might be like when Columbus came to the New World and you know how well that turned out for the Native Americans (this quote was featured in the awesome trailer for the film Skyline, which only set us up for a gigantic disappointment when we actually saw the movie and discovered that they forgot to write a script.)

But the search for life on other planets has been ongoing for several decades now with the SETI Institute whose history begins in 1960 when a pair of scientists put forth the idea that we should be combing the skies not just for visual proof of alien intelligence, but we should use radio telescopes to see what we can hear!

We discuss the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox, and more as we go into the history of SETI, it’s relationship to NASA and the University of California – Berkeley, how we all used to have Seti@Home on our computers back in college because we all wanted to be the ones who finally found aliens (and how you can install it right now and be the first one!) And then the conversation finished up where Mike talks about his visit to the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico (where most of the radio signals that SETI investigates are collected (and where Mulder had his own close encounter in the Season 3 X-Files opener) as well as his Search for Extraterrestrial Life class at the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley when he was was just a wee nerd.

Mike at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico
Two tickets to the gun show, ladies!

 

This week’s song is “Square Root of All Evil” by Sunspot


They say money gives you peace of mind,
but money don’t make you satisfied.
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

and own my own jet pack,
have a blonde with a fake rack,
do more drugs than Kerouac,
and buy a sports team.

use a Van Gogh as TP,
have a personal chimpanzee,
buy everything on QVC,
and live on ice cream.

and drive around a red corvette,
buy up all the art in the Met,
have a Liger as a pet,
and sleep in all day.

break the law just to get off,
hang around with Hasselhoff,
get the birthmark off Gorbachev,
and eat all buffets.

This is the way we ride,
we can tell the world to kiss our butts.
This is the way we roll,
when we can tell the haters what to suck.

They say money gives you peace of mind,
but money don’t make you satisfied.
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

When I am king on my island made of cheese,
I’ll buy all respect and make everyone say pretty please,
I’ll trademark comedy and sell jokes for a penny,
I’ll be the banker of loyalty,
Copyright happiness and when you smile,
You’ll have to pay a royalty to me.

They say money gives you peace of mind, (I want more)
but money don’t make you satisfied. (I want more)
I guess it all depends on what you wanna do,
I only want enough to say F U.

49 – The Stanford Prison Experiment: How A Place Can Change Your Personality

It’s Summertime in the Midwest, so Mike and Wendy don’t waste the nice afternoon by recording this podcast on a patio outside (so excuse if you hear a little traffic or some birds every once in awhile.) First things first, we’re coming up on episode 50 – so if you want to win a fun prize package, just tweet at us (@othersidetalk) your favorite episode so far along with the hashtag #otherside50 and we’ll pick some people randomly to get a totally sweet prize package of music and merchandise for celebrating our 50th episode with us next week!

So, one of the movies that just came out is a dramatization of an experiment gone awry from the Me Decade. In 1971, the US Naval Research Institute funded research by well known evil scientist, Doctor Philip Zimbardo (for real, Mike used to watch his videos in psychology class and the man can hypnotize people instantly and make them do crazy things, like submerge their hand in ice cold water for long periods of time and then have them calmly tell them how much pain they feel. Sure, it’s super cool, but damn, man…)

Doctor Philip Zimbardo
I’m just smiling thinking about all the ways that I can control your mind, BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Okay okay, he’s not really an evil scientist at all, but one of the world’s most respected psychological researchers as well as a president of the American Psychological Association, and by all accounts, a pretty nice guy with good intentions (to dominate your brain!) He was the impetus behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment (which is also the name of the new movie!) which wanted to explore the idea that just the very roles of prisoner and guard could somehow create abusive situations in incarceration facilities.

The methodology of the experiment is that they put up an ad looking for young men to participate and the twenty-four most “psychologically stable” candidates were selected to participate. They were paid fifteen dollars a day and it was supposed to last for two weeks. Half of the men were prison guards and half were inmates and they’d be set up in a “prison” in a converted basement of a Stanford University building. The prisoners were “arrested” at their houses and went through a full police booking process with mugshots and everything. The prisoners were given numbers and the guards were encouraged to refer to them by their numbers. The guards were given batons and uniforms to look official. Okay, two weeks, right? And it’s just roleplaying, people can handle that, right?

Wrong! By the second day, one group of prisoners refused to leave their cell. Extra guards had to be called in to “quash the revolt”. Prisoners who didn’t participate in the little rebellion were rewarded with better meals and a more comfortable room. By the second day. Thirty-six hours in, one prisoner freaks out so bad, he has to be sent home. Guards start making prisoners use a bucket for a toilet in order to punish them, others are forced to strip named.

By day four, it’s rumored that the prisoner who had to be sent home on day two is coming back to “rescue” everyone. Even Dr. Zimbardo himself believed the rumor and waited around just in case something went wrong.

By the sixth day, one of Zimbardo’s students (who would later become his wife) was doing some interviews and lets him know that things are really out of control and this is booming unethical. He proceeds to shut it down.

Just six days in and the Stanford Prison Experiment shows that regular people can become sadistic towards each other even just through roleplaying. They can strip each other of their humanity in a surprisingly short amount of time and for no good reason.

There were criticisms of the methodology, that the group was selected from a newspaper advertisement seeking volunteers for a “psychological study of prison life” (and what kind of people do you think are going to respond to that and can give up their regular lives for two weeks for a mere $15 a day?) And also the researcher effect, did people start acting like that because they thought that’s what the researchers expected them to do?

Over the years, the Stanford Prison Experiment has become legendary in psychological circles and is often brought up in popular culture. From being an inspiration for a great ABC Afterschool special in the early 80s (also based on a true story!) called The Wave to episodes of Law and Order and Veronica Mars, and now the eponymous movie that just hit theaters.

One doesn’t have to look too far to see shades of Abu Ghraib in this whole thing. What turned regular U.S. Army soldiers into the kind of sickos who would torture Muslim prisoners? Was it because they thought that was their job? Was it something they always wanted to do and thought that the could finally get away with it? Was it the situation in a Prisoner of War camp that made them resort to cruel measures?

So can your situation make you do things that you wouldn’t normally do? Prison is one area, but we get into the paranormal implications of it. If you’re in a place where violence or cruelty occurred or that is haunted by an “evil spirit”, can that affect your personality and turn you into something you’re not? That’s something that happened in our former guest, Deborah Moffitt’s book A Deadly Haunting, where her father-in-law changed over time into a cruel and evil man.

It’s one of the central tenet’s of Stephen King’s The Shining, where recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance gets infected by the ghosts that are haunting the hotel and hunts his wife and son with murderous intent (insert Stephen King’s own struggles with alcohol and drug dependency here…)

And there’s been many situations of a a supposed haunting in a house changing the personal behavior of the people that live there. One of the most recent cases is from Mayer, Minnesota in 2005 (one of the few cases that actually makes the newspapers) where the residents’ behavior starts changing for the worse when they started seeing shadows, hearing invisible footsteps and conversations, and the mother involved was even pulled down the stairs by an unseen force.

So, assuming a role can make you do things you’d normally find immoral, being in a prison situation can turn you into a prisoner or a guard, when in real life you’re neither, and maybe being in a place with evil energy can start twisting your mind. Next time you’re having unusual thoughts, think a little bit about where they might be coming from before you act on them!

This episode’s song is “The Bottom” by Sunspot.

When the bottom dropped out, I spread my arms and stood alone.
When the sky fell, I went through Hell and stood alone.

Disappointed is an understatement, better up your pain threshold,
Disappointed is an understatement, and you’ll just end up cold.

Hey now, pray now,
that your dream don’t die.
Hey now what will you say now,
when you get crucified.
When they beat you down you better have a real strong hide,
or you’ll end up just another piece of wreckage in the night.

When the floor fell through, I just knew how it would end,
When there’s nothing left, you find out the definition of friend.

Disappointed is an understatement, better up your pain threshold,
Disappointed is an understatement, and you’ll just end up cold.

Hey now, pray now,
that your dream don’t die.
Hey now what will you say now,
when you get crucified.
When they beat you down you better have a real strong hide,
or you’ll end up just another piece of wreckage in the night.

48 – Lost Souls of Nashville: A Haunted Travelog

This week, Mike and Wendy catch up after an incredibly busy week. Whilst Mike was in the process of relocating from Minneapolis to Madison, Wendy took a spontaneous road trip to Nashville to spend some time with her sister.

Nashville is, of course, rich with music and history. While in the city, Wendy took the time to visit a few locations that have legends of ghosts.

Stop 1: Gaylord Opryland Resort

This enormous resort, located on the former location of the Opryland USA Theme Park, is rumored to have the ghost of a woman dressed in black who wanders its many atriums and hallways.

Stop 2: Union Station Hotel

Several different ghost stories surround this location, including the theory that the ghosts of a derailed train linger at their last living stop, as well as a recurring scene of a soldier bidding farewell  to his lover as he leaves for war, never to return.

Stop 3: Ryman Auditorium

“The soul of the city”, Ryman Auditorium has a long history of incredible musical acts. Many of these performers are rumored, after death, to continue visiting the theater they so adored.

Featured Song: Soul of the City by Sunspot

There’s energy in the air
A sold out show tonight
A command performance
From the afterlife

I know it’s not my home,
But I don’t wanna go.

It’s not just a theater
The spirits live and breathe here
It’s not just a building
It’s the soul of the city

They whisper in the aisles
about the spirit of The King
Long after he died
He came to hear his baby sing

I know it’s not my home,
But I don’t wanna go.

It’s not just a theater
The spirits live and breathe here
It’s not just a building
It’s the soul of the city

 

 

47 – Beyond The Smiley Face Killers: Looking for the Hidden Truth in La Crosse

Since 1997, nine college-age men have drowned in the Mississippi River by La Crosse, Wisconsin. Authorities have consistently said that it’s a result of the men getting too drunk, wandering into the river accidentally, and not being able to get out (or maybe going for a swim and it’s a “death by misadventure”.)

It’s a case that’s close to our hearts because Sunspot has often played in La Crosse and Mike used to work at a television station there in the early part of the century during which some of these deaths occurred.

After Mike and Wendy talk about their new 5-star review, they go into the history of the “smiley face killers” theory.

In 2008, two retired NYPD detectives, Frank Gannon and Anthony Duarte, came up with a controversial theory. They said that a group of serial killers was roaming the Interstate Highways along the Mississippi River and was killing young men all over the country and throwing them in the river to hide their crimes. The detectives claimed that was a pattern of “smiley faces” at each of the scenes where the victims went into the river.

Here’s a documentary about it:

But Neil Sanders, a retired deputy Medical Examiner from La Crosse, just didn’t believe that the “smiley face killers” theory added up and wanted to see if there might be something more to it than serial killers or drunken accidents. He wanted to look into a supernatural explanation. That’s when he contacted Jay Bachochin of Wisconsin Paranormal Investigations and that formed the basis of the documentary film, directed by Scott Markus, The Hidden Truth?. 

Mike and Wendy are then joined by Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts and they proceed to interview Sanders, Bachochin, and Markus about the movie and some of their theories.

There was a steam boat that sank in La Crosse in 1870, the War Eagle, where 5 people died, including a young woman named Mary Ulrich. One of the theories that they pose in the film is that the recent drowning victims might have been “more open to spiritual channels” while inebriated and heard Mary or another ghosts’ voice and jumped in the water to try and save them.

Another part of the movie has Neil talking to a Ho Chunk elder about the “water spirits” of some Native American legends, supernatural entities that live in river and lakes. This is similar to the Slavic vodyanoy or the Welsh kelpie, and that creature was known over here as “the water man”. Allison proceeds to talk about some research that she’s discovered in a 1930s collection of American folklore about water spirits and how the water man might try to “take your soul”!

Jay and Scott talk about their interest in the paranormal and their search for the truth above anything else and how it influenced their decision to document the paranormal investigation into a film. Scott discusses the weird things that happened to some of their equipment while conducting the investigation over the site of the War Eagle sinking and Jay goes into some detail about an interesting EVP that they capture as well.

Paranormal vs. a serial killer vs. accidental drowning – there’s no smoking gun and conclusive evidence in any of the directions. But the conversation wraps up discussing how The Hidden Truth? respects the victims and gives us another theory to entertain as to their true fate.

If you’re interested in purchasing The Hidden Truth?, you can order a DVD copy right here.

This Week’s Song: Smiley Face Murder Club by Sunspot

You were stumbling when you walked along the river,
You were crying when you walked along the river.
You never heard me follow you,
You shoulda watched your liquor.
No one ever expects to be lost without a trace,
No one ever expects the smiling face.

I don’t give a damn what your name was,
I don’t give a damn who you were.
You could have been somebody else,
but it was just your turn.

I wanted to know what it felt like,
and it’s not fair.
But they won’t ever understand,
the bond we now share.
No one ever expects to be lost without a trace,
No one ever expects the smiling face.

46 – Come With Me If You Want To Live: Time Travel and The Terminator

Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts once again joins Mike and Wendy as they start their discussion with what they’re planning on wearing for costumed for June 30th’s  first Asteroid Day, hearkening   back to their discussion of “global-killers”, asteroids that would cause mass extinction events.

But the big discussion this week is Terminator Genisys! Ah-nuld is back and Mike breaks out his impression less than five minutes into the podcast before proceeding to beat that horse dead throughout the episode. They all talk about their first experience with the Terminator (where Allison saw it at a special Arnold Fest hosted by Twin Cities’ independent filmmaker, Michael Heagle.) And in fact, Sunspot once went as the Terminators for a Halloween show where the entire band dressed up like a Terminator…

Sunspot as The Terminators at The Annex in Madison, WI
Have you seen this band?

This week was Alan Turing’s birthday, who was a seminal figure in the history of computers and Artificial Intelligence, as well as helping us win World War II. Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed him in the recent film, The Imitation Gameand was Academy Award-nominated in the role. The Turing Test is something he devised to tell the difference between humans and a computer trying to pose as a human, something used in Blade Runner  as well as a main plot point in the recent movie, Ex Machina.

And they start talking AI, including Eugene Goostman, a chatbot pretending to be a 13-year old Ukrainian boy which passed the Turing Test, successfully fooling the judges that it was a human 33% of the time.  The conversation turns to Kevin Warwick, a leading researcher in “cyborganisms” (listen to the podcast to get that).

Some of the world’s most prominent minds (including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates) have said that Artificial Intelligence could spell the end for the human race. And they talk about how an AI recently got “testy” with its programmer (but that might be more of a sensationalistic spin) and talk about the movie She, which Mike loved (the first likable Scarlett Johansson performance since Lost In Translation, albeit just her voice) but Wendy was lukewarm on the film.

But one of the issues with The Terminator is that (SPOILERS for a 31-year old movie) has an “ontological paradox“,  which is the classic “chicken and the egg” quandary, if Kyle Reese was sent into the past by John Connor to save Sarah Connor from The Terminator and became Jonn Connor’s father in the process, how did John Connor get conceived in the first place? If time is linear, well, how is that possible?

Kyle Reese
I’m the time-travelin’ Baby Daddy!

So, (SPOILERS for the 2014 film, Predestination, so STOP READING NOW if you care about that movie and love Ethan Hawke (who is an unsung hero that’s reliably into sci-fi movies!)) Mike goes into talking about Robert A. Heinlein’s “All You Zombies”, which takes the novelty song, “I’m My Own Grandpa” a little too seriously. The song will eventually also become inspiration for Futurama episode, “Roswell That Ends Well” as well as becoming the inspiration for the latest Spierig Brothers movie, and this discussion eventually turns to Steve Goodman and “You Never Even Call Me By My Name” .

The conversation turns to how time travel could actually work in real life and that leads into wormholes, time dilation, relativity, Matthew McConaughey, and Ender’s Game. Then Wendy wants to know where the evidence is about time travelers in our current life and we finish the episode by talking historical doppelgängers, the Count of  Saint Germain, and the “time-traveling hipster“.

Nicolas Cage will live forever.
I’m a vampire and I could eat a peach for hours.

 

This Week’s Song is “The Slingshot Effect” by Sunspot:

The muscle in my chest that keeps the beat won’t let me rest.

The clock that’s running out, sometimes it can get worn out.
Because my heart’s a time machine,
that wants to change my history,
take out my enemies, alter my destiny.

All the ones I should have kissed,
All the chances that I missed,
this time I’ll invest,
I’ll fix what I wrecked with,
The Slingshot Effect.

We’ll go so fast that we’ll erase the past.
I’m gonna retcon my whole life.
Event one, hit the reset button.
We get to start again,
we get to start again tonight.

I’ll stop myself from telling lies,
And I won’t step on butterflies.
Every little regret,
Is now something I can correct.
Because my heart’s a time machine,
that can change all my history.
give myself an intervention,
across the fifth dimension.

All the words I should have said,
All the lives I could have led.
this time I’ll invest,
I’ll fix what I wrecked with,
The Slingshot Effect.

We’ll go so fast that we’ll erase the past.
I’m gonna retcon my whole life.
Event one, hit the reset button.
We get to start again,
we get to start again tonight.

There’s no going back,
no alternate reality.
Tonight’s the night I reboot,
all my continuity.

There’s no going back,
no alternate reality.
Tonight’s the night I reboot,
all my continuity.

The muscle in my chest that keeps the beat won’t let me rest.

We’ll go so fast that we’ll erase the past.
I’m gonna retcon my whole life.
Event one, hit the reset button.
We get to start again,
we get to start again tonight.

I don’t need a contraption,
to pay for my infractions,
I can’t make everything correct,
I don’t need The Slingshot Effect.
My convoluted history,
always slingshots right back at me.
I will not live by hindsight,
I will start again tonight.

The muscle in my chest that keeps the beat won’t let me rest.
The muscle in my chest that keeps the beat won’t let me rest.

45 – Pop Culture Professor: Rise of the Geeks

This week’s episode features Dr. Rebecca Housel, the Pop Culture Professor, who is an author, speaker, and professor of writing at Nazareth College. She’s written books like True Blood and Philosophy and The X-Men and Philosophy, in addition to being a panel moderator for Wizard World for several years.

Dr. Rebecca Housel and John Barrowman
Dr. Rebecca Housel with Captain Jack himself, John Barrowman!

Mike and Wendy kick off their own conversation in the beginning by catching up a little bit on their week and discussing Mike’s weird dream of running a marathon dressed in a Freddie Mercury unitard.

Freddie Mercury unitard
And now you can’t get the sweet thought of Mike wearing this out of your head, can you?

And then the interview with the Pop Culture Professor begins as Mike talks to Dr. Housel about her identification with The X-Men as a girl, because it was one of the only comics to feature female characters as equals to their male counterparts. That leads her to a short discussion of working with Stan Lee on various panels and how  she learned that the original name for The X-Men was not so mono-gendered, but it was to be known as The Mutants. One of Marvel’s editors in the 1960s was convinced that it would sell better with “X” in the title, so that’s why they changed it.

From there, they discuss how she became known as Professor Pop Culture. In her classes, she started using examples from movies, comics, TV shows, and modern books to get her students more interested in their writing and all of a sudden it became one of the most popular classes on campus.

Shortly after, she started writing books connecting cult entertainment with larger philosophical themes and got a job as a panel moderator at Wizard World, working with everyone from Stan Lee to Michael Madsen to Joss Whedon. She tells a few of her favorite stories (including flirting with Mister Blonde and openly weeping at meeting Ron Glass, Shepherd Book himself!)

Michael Madsen as Mister Blonde in Reservoir Dogs
You got real nice ears…

The conversation then turns to the rise of “geek culture” in today’s media landscape (nothing’s more popular than comic book films in the Two Thousand and Teens) but also how it came to dominate the latter part of the Twentieth Century, how thoughtful entertainment triumphed over less challenging fiction, and the impact of 9/11 on the modern landscape and the popularity of zombies and post-apocalyptic scenarios (and the interesting cycle of villainous zombies turning to sympathetic monsters over time.)

They then discuss the history of the paranormal in popular culture and how it even began with the invention of Lillith in the original Hebrew creation story. That’s right, Adam had a first wife and he got rid of her because she was sassy, being his equal (made from the same clay) instead of his subordinate (made from his rib!) She became the original vampire who had threatened Adam’s future children when she left Eden and the word “lullaby” actually comes from the Hebrew phrase for “Lillith, go away.”

This moves onto Kali, whose worshippers are the famous Thuggees from not only Gunga Din but also as the fearsome antagonists in Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. Dr. Housel explains the concept of Kali and how she’s been misrepresented in pop culture through the years.

Mola Ram with a flaming heart from Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
Eat Your Heart Out, Indy!

The final part of the interview is about Doctor Housel’s own strange paranormal encounters and a little bit about why the Ghost Hunters and paranormal TV shows have dominated cable networks over the past few years.

Read Dr. Housel’s Professor Pop Culture blog right here and you can find her books on Amazon.

This week’s song: “Catfished From Space” by Sunspot

I met her in an X-Files chat,
joking about first contact.
And we talked all night about disclosure and abductees.We had so much in common,
We bonded on Blake’s 7,
She sounded like the perfect fracking geek.She found me every night online,
with a DM and a bottle of wine,
She knew it all from Aliens to Zardoz.

She said she was an ET,
which was really sexy to me,
And I thought it was just a big joke because

She said she was from Alpha Centauri,
I thought that was a code for a town in Missouri.
She used to joke about ruling the human race
That’s when I got Catfished from Space.

She said she’s an otherworldly monster,
That would come to Earth to slaughter,
but that she would do her best to help me to survive.

She talked about her tentacles,
and three sets of genitals,
I just thought she was a fan of Hentai.

I didn’t care if she was pretty,
I knew she was the girl for me,
when she said her favorite cookbook was ‘To Serve Man’

Scheduling a meet up,
so that we could hook up,
She said she had the perfect place to land.

She said she was from Alpha Centauri,
I thought that was a code for a town in Missouri.
She used to joke about ruling the human race
That’s when I got Catfished from Space.

When I woke from where I lay,
It was like Independence Day,
A big V mothership right over my town.

The army put up quite a fight,
But was gone by Dawn’s early light,
that was the day Humanity went down.

It’s not quite happily ever after,
because the planet’s a disaster,
I’m the human pet that’s closest to her hearts.

It’s like Battlefield Earth you know,
post-apocalyptic scenario,
I just wish I’d believed her from the start.

When she said she was from Alpha Centauri,
I thought that was a code for a town in Missouri.
She used to joke about ruling the human race
That’s when I got Catfished from Space.

44 – Dracula to The Wicker Man, Star Wars to Saruman: Remembering the Great Christopher Lee

With hundreds of film credits, horror icon Christopher Lee is listed in the Guinness a Book of World Records as the most prolific actor in cinema history. With his passing last week at the ripe old age of 93 years old, it was the final act for an artist for whom retirement was never even an option. Most famous for his work as Dracula in the Hammer Horror films, Lee would go on to appear in the most successful movie franchises in history. He was James Bond villain Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun, The unfortunately named Count Dooku (AKA the badass Darth Tyranus) in the Star Wars prequels, the traitorous Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and the good Saruman in The Hobbit, he was even in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles on TV (in that interesting experiment in how patient viewers would be watching a history lesson disguised as an Indiana Jones story with no action.) Christopher Lee found his villainous way into just about everything.

Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts joins Mike and Wendy as they discuss Christopher Lee’s fascinating life and career. They start by dissecting his most famous roles in the Hammer horror films and friendship with fellow Star Wars alum (and movie Doctor Who) Peter Cushing. But the discussion quickly veers to Lee’s Old World upbringing, his real life badassery serving in the special forces in World War II (he told Peter Jackson, his LoTR director, exactly how a person really sounds when they’re stabbed in the back), how he witnessed France’s final execution by guillotine, and even his late period heavy metal career. Lee’s symphonic metal albums were all about the first Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, and Lee himself in true Old World fashion said that h can trace his own lineage back to the Frankish king.)

The longest discussion though is saved for a role that Lee considered his greatest and that is of Lord Summerisle in the 1973 (very distinctly) British pagan thriller, The Wicker Man, a role that he helped create by getting together with the screenwriter, Anthony Schaffer, and director, Robin Hardy, to try and blend their talents to create something truly memorable. And they succeeded, Mike tells of when he first watched the film with his Dad when he was a child and his mother comically disapproved of all the pagan nudity of the film. When Mike selected it for rental (back when we all used to rent VHS tapes from a grocery store), he merely thought that it looked cool because it featured Edward Woodward from The Equalizer and they had no idea what they were in store for.

christopher lee - the wicker man
Christopher Lee looking awesome in front of The Wicker Man!

(WARNING – SPOILERS FOR A 42 YEAR OLD MOVIE) A perfect “Age of Aquarius”-era ode to how Paganism is connected to the natural world of the flesh (sexuality)and the land (agriculture), while it contrasts Christianity as focusing on self-deprivation and the world to come. And The Equalizer could have saved himself from a Burning a Man-style sacrifice by just succumbing to his natural urges with Willow (the deliriously sexy 70s Britt Ekland.) Either way, it’s definitely not the feel good movie of the year and in the end, the good guys don’t win (or do they?) Everybody talks about the 2006 Nicolas Cage-starring, Neil LaBute-directed remake, which turns Pagan vs. Christian into a Battle of the Sexes and is an (unintentional, maybe?) laugh riot in its own right.

The discussion ends with a warning from Christopher Lee to not mess with the occult, because you’ll not only lose your mind, “you lose your soul.” This week’s song is a special one too, because it features Wendy singing Paul Giovanni’s “Willow’s Song” (NSFW), which is easily the most famous track from The a Wicker Man (probably because in the movie, it’s four minutes of nude singing, kind of like the video for “Blurred Lines” but much less douche-y.)

Willow's Song - The Wicker Man
Willow singing her song!

 

“Willow’s Song” from The Wicker Man, as performed by Sunspot.

Heigh ho! Who is there?
No one but me, my dear.
Please come say, how do?
The things I’ll give to you.

A stroke as gentle as a feather
I’ll catch a rainbow from the sky
and tie the ends together.

Heigh ho! I am here.
Am I not young and fair?
Please come say, how do?
The things I’ll show to you.

Would you have a wond’rous sight?
The midday sun at midnight.

Fair maid, white and red,
Comb you smooth and stroke your head.

How a maid can milk a bull!
Mmmmm-mmmm And every stroke a bucketful.

La-la-la La-la-la
La-la-la-La-la-la

43 – Bigfoot and Aliens and Ghosts, Oh My! Behind the Scenes at Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015

It’s a special episode as this week we’re recording from on location at the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference!

Mike and Wendy combine forces with Milwaukee Ghosts’ Allison Jornlin and Madison Ghosts Walks tour guide Lisa Van Buskirk! The event takes place at the Irish Cultural Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where a large chapel-like area hosts the main speakers for the conference, and a few side rooms host booths for attendees like us.

The Irish Cultural Center was a great setting for the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015
The Irish Cultural Center was a great setting for the Milwaukee Paranormal Conference 2015

It’s a regular party at our booth, which has a color-changing disco light and is conveniently situated directly adjacent to an Irish Pub within the conference center. We meet plenty of nice people while sharing information about our podcast and ghost tours, and we ask willing volunteers to share with us the weirdest thing they have seen or experienced.

See You On The Other Side, Milwaukee Ghosts, and Madison Ghost Walks' fabulous booth
See You On The Other Side, Milwaukee Ghosts, and Madison Ghost Walks’ fabulous booth

Kicking off the conference was Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts’ presentation on Milwaukee Forteana (which is another word for unexplained and weird stories!) The main room really was a beautiful old church that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at in the 50s!

Milwaukee Ghosts presentation
Allison Jornlin from Milwaukee Ghosts, talking about famous cases of weirdness from the Brew City

A lot of the presenters and speakers have made appearances  on our podcast before, so it was great to catch up with some of them, from Roswell investigator Don Schmitt to MUFON representative and Star Trek writer, Mark O’Connell

Hanging out with MUFON's Mark O'Connell, another featured speaker
Hanging out with MUFON’s Mark O’Connell

The exhibitor hall is a hustling, bustling place with a continuous din of excited conversation clearly audible throughout the interviews.

The exhibitor hall was packed all day long!
The exhibitor hall was packed all day long!

The stories range from ghosts to Ouija board to the unknown/unexplainable experience- the very kinds of topics we enjoy discussing on our show:

  1. Justin shares a couple experiences he had with a ghost who haunted his friend’s apartment in West Bend.
  2. Malia (of the band Ocean Rush) tells a terrifying tale of her encounter with a giant black mass that appeared as she performed “Don’t Fear the Reaper” in her studio.
  3. Vicki lived in a home which was inhabited by a musician ghost who would appear when she played the piano, and would wake up her son in the night with the song “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”.
  4. Haley had a week of terror during a stressful time in her life which included a weird presence touching her wrist and pulling her hair, her cat going crazy for no reason, and other unexplained happenings.
  5. Lisa had a roommate who seemed to be surrounded by unexplainable occurrences. Were these events caused by the spirits of tragically lost family members?
  6. Jackie & Shannon, of Stateline Paranormal Investigations, visited a graveyard in Poplar Grove, Illinois. At the same time and place within the graveyard, Jackie acquired an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) clearly stating “Here I am. He killed me.” and Shannon got a photo which revealed flames emerging from the ground.
  7. Nicki tells about a mysterious miniature hand print that appeared on her bedroom wall. Although it was initially quite frightening, the marking eventually brought a positive experience to her.
  8. Maria saw BIGFOOT! But maybe not where you’d expect…
  9. Chris of The Zombie Squad tells about an apartment he lived in that was above a haunted restaurant.
  10. Kristan of The Rundown Live talks about GIANTS! While doing some research, he discovered information about abnormally tall/large skeletons of people, which some believe could have been human/alien hybrids.
  11. Monica tells the story of her own childhood experience with a Ouija board. Through routine playing with the board, she and her brother started getting answers that actually checked out and led them to a local graveyard that they did not previously know of.
  12. David and Dave, fellow podcasters from Blurry Photos, share what drew them into the world of “weird stuff”. Then they share their own weirdest experiences: a dream so real it could have been an actual alien abduction, and a visit from a giant shadow presence that may have actually broken a hole in the living room ceiling.
  13. Tea Krulos, event organizer and author of the brand new book, Monster Hunters: On the Trail with Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators (also our featured guest in Episode 25), recaps the day and receives a special delivery from none other than Bigfoot herself during the interview!
Mike and Wendy with Tea Krulos, the man behind the Con!
Mike and Wendy with Tea Krulos, the man behind the Con!

Featured Song: Bigfoot Polka by Sunspot

See that guy across the floor, he needs a good barber,
That hairy dude is desperate for a cute dancing partner.
None of the girls ever give our hirsute friend half a chance,
The main problem is that his feet are just too big to dance.

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

You might think that he’s innocent, like he just wants a friend,
but he’s not the sweet beast we saw embrace the Hendersons.
Bigfoot’s stumbling around, he’s had a little too much beer,
I’m not gonna, how about you, tell him “get out of here”?

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

This is bad, he’s getting mad, he’s gonna make a scene,
He’s grunting and pounding his chest, he’s looking right at me.
He grabbed a beer barrel and threw it right on the dance floor,
And now’s the time I think we all should polka out the door.

Oh Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Abominable Snowman,
is he ape or is he human?
He might be the missing link from chimp to humanity,
but when we dance those gosh darn feet are just too big for me.

Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Feet too big, feet too big, feet too big to dance, Hey!
Bigfoot’s come, we better run from those feet too big to dance, hey!

A rock band's journey into the afterlife, UFOs, entertainment, and weird science.

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