Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On-Line Book Reformatted

I have just completed the reformatting of my unfinished book, with an eye to picking it up again.

Only eight chapters have been completeThe project has lay fallow for a couple of years now, but an adviser is pressuring me to get it done. At least it looks better now, and it will be easier for me to edit and expand.

Bob Lazar on MySpace?

"The Bob" has turned up on MySpace, and he has lots of friends.

Is it the "real" Bob? You decide.

A deeper question is: Was there EVER a real Bob?

Does Bob really own Bob, or is he part of the public domain? Why can't we ALL contribute to The Bob and make him what we want him to be?

Let's all support an "open source" Bob!

(Link courtesy of Agent Zero.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Isreali-Alien Connection?

A reader (Harry W.) has alerted us to an ominous conspiracy connection on the Nellis Range. The symbol above was sighted near Dogbone Lake in the Nellis Range southeast of Area 51. The location is 36.926°N, 115.426°W.

Does this mean the Israelis and Grey are in collusion? You decide.

On a more prosaic note, this appears to be an active bombing range, judging by all the bomb craters. If visiting Israeli pilots participate in exercises here, might they be required to bomb the Star of David? Do pilots from Muslim countries delight in it?

Applying Occam's Razor dully, anything is possible.
Click on the image above for a full screenshot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Triangle Hoax Exposed!!!

It was a rock!

My bad. I didn't exactly lie in my previous post, but I didn't tell the whole truth either. I don't know how anyone is ever going to trust me again. I'm ashamed. I apologize profusely.

And yet, what is that tingly feeling? Could it be... fun?

Here's what happened: I was editing a series of routine photos from Tikaboo Peak. I got to a sequence of shots of a father and son throwing rocks off the cliff on the west side. (It's a boy thing: Every male at the top of a cliff feels the need to do it.) I got to the image in question, and it occurred to me: "Wow, what a great UFO shot!"

That's when I set up the puzzle. It took me all of five minutes. How could I lead people to think this thing was something unusual without actually lying? I was like a magician setting up a trick. The secret is: create a diversion. I did this by releasing a quantity of irrelevant data -- exact time of day, camera f-stop, shutter speed and ASA -- while quietly withholding relevant data, like what the two witnesses and I were doing at the time.

I said, "I can't say what the triangle is." The reason I couldn't say, of course, was because it would spoil the trick!

The triangle itself was ambiguous in isolation, but when you pulled back and looked at the whole scene, I thought it was pretty obvious: The man's arm is recoiling as though he had just thrown something. Why else would his arm be across his face like that? So the solution to the mystery lay not in the object itself but in understanding human beings and how they move. As usual, no matter how good the "evidence" may be, it always comes back to an evaluation of human perception, motion and motivation.

I posted the photos only to my own blog, and I made no attempt to promote it elsewhere. When the photo made the jump to Dreamland Resort, it was none of my doing, although I didn't actively object. When the person who re-posted it asked me for permission to do so, I wrote back "You can do whatever you want with the photos, as long as you refer readers back to my blog entry as the source."

My bad again. But the poster didn't ask me any questions about the object, like its trajectory, sound, etc., so there was nothing else for me to answer. In fact, no one posting at the DLR forum asked me anything about the sighting. If anyone had asked, I would have replied coyly and evasively, which would have been a dead giveaway that something was up.

I sent the same photo to the Original Dreamland Interceptors (ODI), and they immediately shot back annoying and un-fun questions about the craft's trajectory and sound and what I meant by "can't say."

Within 24 hours, things had gotten out of hand and I was getting feedback suggesting this thing was going worldwide. I decided then to bring the experiment to a close. I could have let it gone on for a week or so, but that wouldn't have been healthy. So I "fessed up" on the DLR forum by posting the "before" picture in the rock-throwing sequence. Now you clearly see the man's arm in motion and the rock following along the same trajectory.

One DLR member then wrote to me: "You of all people should not create a hoax. If this is a fake, post your mea culpa."

I thought I just did! There's the man throwing the rock!

This was the first time I ever posted anything on DLR -- and probably the last. This is the place for postings about hardware and facilities, period, with little toleration for anything human. And one gets the distinct impression they really don't like Glenn Campbell there. In fact, it seems to be the official Glenn Campbell anti-fan club (which is flattering in a way), and anything I say or do just riles up the hornets even more. One wrote: "12 years a fan of yours and no more.... grow up." Others had less nice things to say.

I had inadvertently trampled a sacred icon: the triangle. That's what the black world watchers are looking for and can never quite find. If you mess with the triangle, it's like you've desecrated the Koran or something. The believers are not going to like you.

UFO watchers are looking for discs, while military watchers are looking for triangles. It's a little like dogs chasing cars: It isn't clear what either group will do once they actually catch what they're after. In the case of the military watchers, the object is supposed to be super-secret military aircraft, for a purpose that isn't quite clear, built by humans but not acknowledged by the government. In their universe, the government is hyper-efficient and has unlimited funds to build and deploy aircraft of extraordinary ability while keeping them totally secret. If you lurk outside Area 51 for long enough, you are bound to see them.

I have a different take: Having dealt with government at many levels, I see it as hyper-inefficient, wasting vast sums of money with little to show for it and unable to do anything without leaving huge tracks in the sand. Setting aside any aliens (who by definition are capable of anything) what's out there at Area 51 is probably minor variations on what we've seen already. I lived for 2-1/2 years in the shadow of the base and never saw anything I couldn't explain -- but of course I wasn't everywhere, so there's always room to believe.

And thanks to the publicity Campbell helped generate, the black triangles have probably been moved elsewhere -- to the next base, or the next. That's what keeps hope alive. I've been away for ten years, but remarkably little has changed. The celebrated "Aurora", which was supposed to be ripping the sky open 15 years ago still hasn't emerged, but that hasn't killed the dream. The sacred triangle is out there, waiting to be photographed; you just need a long enough lens at the right opportunity and nirvana will be yours.

Every religious group wants something yet paradoxically doesn't want to find it. (Wouldn't it put pastors out of business if Jesus actually returned?) If there was a new triangle out there, and you photographed it and nailed it down to a specific program, it was instantly become routine and uninteresting (like the clunky F117A), and your raison d'etre would go away. The military skywatchers are sustained only as long as they believe there are new triangles yet to be discovered, and the best kind are those that don't exist, because they can never be nailed down to reality.

The function of religion is to continually place barriers between you and your goals. That's what keeps the religion alive and the believers occupied. Likewise, the black world watchers want the truth while at the same time not really wanting it. They've got the notion that their life will be fulfilled if they can capture that sacred triangle, which of course is a delusion. They avoid facing reality by placing more and more barriers between themselves and the triangle. When someone provides the triangle, as I briefly did, it short-circuits the system and destabilizes the religion. The priests are going to get restless!

So now I've slipped into my old role as government disinformation agent. I'm the guy the government sent out to "muddy the waters" so the real black triangles can slip in and out of the base unnoticed. Actually, I'm pretty comfortable with this. Only wish I had the government salary: You know, the hundred dollar bills slipped under the table from time to time. (Hint, hint!)

If I had a few hundred more, I could buy a bigger lens -- a wide angle one.
Drawing source.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Triangular Craft Sighted Near Area 51

I took this photo myself on Tikaboo Peak a week ago. I cannot say what the triangular object is, but I guarantee that the photo itself is authentic and unretouched. The image above shows the object in it's maximum resolution (one pixel on your screen for every pixel on my camera). Here is the entire scene, cropped slightly from the raw image...
This photo was taken at 11:56am on Monday, Oct. 6, 2008. According to information coded on the JPG, the camera aperture was f14; the shutter speed was 1/500 sec., and the ASA was 400. The entire raw image is 2592 x 3888 pixels and over 4mg in size (too big to post here). The mountain just to the left of the man's head is Bald Mountain, so we a looking roughly northwest. Here is a medium view...
You can click on the image above to see it in maximum detail.
Other than cropping the above image, I DID NOT ALTER IT IN ANY WAY.

The witnesses to the sighting were myself and the two people shown above: a visitor from Utah, Kevin, and his 8-year-old son, John Charles.

Alien craft? Advanced military test vehicle? You decide.

Update, 10/14

Here are some discussions concerning this photo on the Dreamland Resort discussion forum: Thread #1, Thread #2, Thread #3

Also see my follow-up posting the next day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"UFO Hunters": The Tikaboo Death March

Up at the head of the column, the director went into crisis mode and began radioing instructions on how to distribute Ken's equipment so the shoot could go on. Everyone halted and waited for orders. As the rest of us at the front caught our breath, we began to ask a simple question.

"Who's Ken?"

Continued from Part I (but read this one first)

The production company for UFO Hunters first contacted me about a month before their Area 51 shoot. I said I was willing to guide them around, and I recommended a hike to Tikaboo Peak, the last vantage point where you can see the secret Groom Lake base. We discussed camping on the mountaintop, but I recommended the Tikaboo basecamp instead, so we didn't have to haul camping equipment on foot. I said the best time to view the distant base is first thing in the morning when the sun is behind you, and I recommended making two hikes from basecamp: one in the daytime to haul the equipment, then a second hike at night without equipment, after everyone knew the trail and had gotten some sleep.

They finally decided to climb the mountain in a single trip at night, at about 2am, with all their equipment and without camping. I advised against it, since the trail was difficult enough for most people in the day; doing it for the first time at night with full gear would add another layer of risk. They proceeded with the nighttime plan anyway, so I shifted gears and tried to think through all the contingencies and do what I could to make their plan work. I would be assisted by Agent X, who was also experienced on Tikaboo, and together we would try to keep these naïve L.A. greenies from killing themselves.

I meet the crew a day and a half before the hike when we filmed scenes near the Janet terminal in Las Vegas. (This sequence would appear after the Tikaboo hike in the finished product.) The crew looked young and healthy, which relieved some of my anxiety, but I still felt trepidation as I headed north to Alamo the following night (Wednesday) for the 11pm muster.

The crew had taken over the Windmill Ridge Motel in Alamo, and when I arrived at 10:00pm, things were already in motion. Big cases of equipment and supplies were being loaded into three 4WDs, an equipment van and an RV. This was a complex production, and it was moving smoothly. I learned then that the director and three other crew members had already taken the hike the night before. I was impressed! None of the four had been to the peak before, and they had hiked after midnight without a moon, based on my published instructions and GPS coordinates from the internet. This is exactly what I would have done in their shoes: a dry run. It showed me they had taken control of their fate and were not going to be swept along by it.

The expedition headed out promptly at 11pm, getting to the Tikaboo basecamp at about midnight. At my suggestion, they were going to film an interview around a campfire. I had wanted a number of people to chat around the campfire, including at least Agent X, but the script didn't call for others to be on the mountain, so it was just me and the host supposedly camping and hiking alone (pretending not to see the other 13 people). Earlier in the day, I had prepared an unlit fire at our actual basecamp, but this was too far from the generator, so we built another fire 200 yards below. The generator was unloaded and a big overhead light was set up above the fire -- a rather bizarre addition to any wilderness campsite (photo). The host and I, both professionals, knocked off an interview fairly quickly, and the team of 15 prepared for the main assault on the peak at about 2am.

The hike would be only about a mile, but it was a strenuous mile, climbing about 1000 feet on a sometimes dicey trail. This is tough enough for most people, but we were also hiking at a high elevation, starting at 7000 feet, which can be twice as hard for those who are used to sea level.

The producers had thought of everything. They calculated the equipment they would need and the number of bodies required to haul it. To help with the operation, two extra "Sherpas" were brought in from Las Vegas. One was a certified EMT in case there were any medical emergencies. I had initially dismissed the idea of an EMT as prudish. Do you take a paramedic with you every time you hike in the woods? But as the size and complexity of the operation became apparent, an EMT seemed increasingly prudent. Both he and the other Sherpa were members of a hiking club in Las Vegas, so a least there would be two more sturdy hikers in the group.

Agent X was part of the show but not part of the script for Tikaboo, so he went ahead of the rest of us and marked the trail with glow sticks hung from trees. We figured this would be a wise measure to keep everyone on the trail and provide an escape route in case anyone needed to go down at night. Now, it was just a matter of coaxing everyone up the steep trail.

The hike began on a relatively gentle slope that didn't bother anyone, but then the trail got steeper and steeper and a few hikers started falling behind. I was leading the column, followed by those who had been there the night before. It was easier for them this time because now we were following an established trail instead of GPS coordinates. Like similar communal hikes, our expedition began to split into two groups: the gazelles up ahead and the wheezers in the rear. We in the front monitored the rear by radio.

About a third into the hike, when we had hit the steepest stretch, we had our first casualty. Word came over the radio that Ken was down. He was hyperventilating and dizzy and couldn't continue. This was barely twenty minutes into the hike, so it did not bode well.

Up at the head of the column, the director went into crisis mode and began radioing instructions on how to distribute Ken's equipment so the shoot could go on. Everyone halted and waited for orders. As the rest of us at the front caught our breath, we began to ask a simple question.

"Who's Ken?"

Turns out, he was the EMT.

As the crisis unfolded, we began to learn an important lesson: If you arrange to hire an EMT through a local hiking club for a rigorous high-elevation hike, MAKE SURE HE IS NOT A SMOKER. In fairness to the producers, these are things you don't normally put together: certified paramedic, member of hiking club, chain smoker. Crew members who had seen him light up multiple times before the hike had figured he must be made of strong stuff to both smoke and be able to swing this difficult hike with a heavy pack. Turns out, he wasn't.

So the equipment in Ken's pack was redistributed, and he headed back to basecamp. The column started moving again, and almost immediately a second man went down. He was Stu, the story editor, who twisted his ankle and couldn't go on.

I was thinking to myself: "Dear God, what are we going to do on the peak without a story editor?"

So now Stu's equipment had to be redistributed, and some non-essential equipment had to be left behind. The director was showing has mettle now, making the essential triage decisions to keep the production on track.

Stu headed back to basecamp; the hike resumed, and then a third member went down. She was Penny, the sound technician. This was serious, because the production would be crippled without sound. Penny was the smallest crew member, and early in the hike I had taken her heavy pack and given her my nearly empty one, but after Ken's and Stu's equipment was redistributed, she again had a heavy pack. She had fallen in the loose rocks, but it took a few minutes to assess her condition. (Where's an EMT when you need one?)

Penny finally decided that she could continue, but only without a pack, so now all of the equipment she was carrying had to be redistributed or left behind.

We were hardly halfway up the trail at this point, but the steepest sections were over. I wondered who was going down next, and my suspicions centered on the other supposedly experienced Sherpa, who was breathing a little too hard. (What are the entry requirements for a hiking club nowadays?) With a little prayer and duck tape, the expedition soldiered on.

Fortunately, the rest of the hike proceeded uneventfully. I asked the lead cameraman (an endearing wise ass) where his fun meter stood. He answered: "I can't lie, it's gone way up!" As we crossed a saddle, I looked back from the front of the column and counted a string of 12 red headlamps in the darkness. I knew then that it would all work out.

We arrived at the peak in darkness, but with just enough time to get our work done. We had to film the base at night in spooky night vision. Then we filmed night-vision hiking scenes and getting-to-the-summit scenes (which, remarkably enough, were actually filmed at the summit). Then the sky in the east began to glow, and we shot various early-morning scenes as the sun flooded onto the secret base.

We had a massive high-definition camera with a big telephoto lens that was the equivalent of a 1100mm camera lens, all perched on a solid tripod that the director himself had carried. (I really admired the director through all of this. He kept everything on track while still retaining his humor.)

On the peak, everyone did their job efficiently, but something else happened, too. On Tikaboo, nearly everyone on the crew broke out their own digital cameras and started taking photos of themselves on the mountaintop. This was an indication to me of how significant the journey was to all of them. Fuck the History Channel, I say! This was a great experience regardless of the product.

It was full daylight by the time we headed down. There was some grumbling, but thanks to the laws of physics, down was way easier than up. We got back to basecamp and filmed some fake scenes of arriving and setting up camp. (We had our story editor back who could keep this all straight for us.)

For me, the most harrowing part of the whole expedition was shooting "B roll" of the host and I supposedly driving to Tikaboo as we were actually leaving. The host was in the driver's seat of a 4WD, and I was on the passenger side. The director had told us to drive "like Baja 500" on a dirt road past the camera, and the host obliged. I was hanging on for dear life and trying to think of a god to pray to.

We got back to the motel and all had breakfast. Since we had stayed up all night, things were getting surreal at that point. My role in the production was over, and I got to head home to Vegas (stopping to sleep in the car along the way), but the crew had to stay in Alamo. They would have the rest of the day to recover but had to shoot again the next day. Their shooting wrapped up only yesterday (Saturday), and I understand they had a party last night celebrating the end of their second season. (Jack Daniels and cranberry juice was the official libation.)

It won't be clear for several months whether UFO Hunters will be renewed for a third season. In any case, Area 51 is expected to be the last show broadcast in the current season (probably early 2009), and it is expected to be the season's high point.

I am still debating whether I should watch the finished show. It seems so superfluous.

Don't miss my expedition photos. (Tikaboo starts halfway through the album.) Also see "UFO Hunters" on Tikaboo: Part I.
Article & Photos © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"UFO Hunters" on Tikaboo Peak: Part I

Two days ago, I was up on Tikaboo Peak with a film crew from UFO Hunters, a History Channel series. (Here is a photo album of the expedition.) Apart from Larry King broadcasting live from Rachel in 1994, this was the biggest media production ever assembled on the doorstep of Area 51. Unlike the Larry King production, which set up a stage next to the highway, this crew had to haul their heavy equipment up a steep and rugged trail to a mountaintop shooting location—at night! In all, 13 people made it to the peak, along with sound equipment, three video cameras, a sturdy tripod and a big-ass telephoto lens.

Personally, I had a blast, and so did most of the crew (or they will have had a blast once they physically recover). That, to me, is what matters most. For me, the production was an excuse to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. The hike at night was almost foolhardy, which I tried to impress on the production company beforehand, but we managed to pull it off without any major problems. The crew was much more proactive than I anticipated, and they were highly resilient in the face of adversity. I came to like and respect all of them. Against the odds, the mission was accomplished, and everyone came back in one piece.

I felt invigorated by the whole enterprise. After almost ten years of refusing video interviews, I was "back in the game" as though I had never left. Even before we started the hike, I was being labeled as the "go-to guy" for information on Area 51 (an insult to the real go-to guys, since I've done no real research in a decade and don't care to do any more). I freely admit that my interest in what goes on inside the secret base has now fallen to less than zero, but I am still amused by the circus outside it, and after a decade-long sabbatical in the trenches of "real life" I don't mind performing again in that circus.

The only potential downside of the production was the little matter of, um, truth. I don't have a TV, so I have never seen UFO Hunters. Even some members of the crew told me that's probably a good thing. Friends who have seen the show have filled me in. Some love it; some hate it, but I recognize by triangulation that I am dealing more with an entertainment product than a journalistic one. The name itself tells us its focus. The existence of the show can only be justified by finding UFOs—or at least tantalizing suggestions of them. If UFO Hunters comes to your neighborhood, they're probably going to find UFOs there; otherwise, there would be no show.

The show doesn't employ skeptics, who are seen as too negative. Instead, it has a "science guy" (who I didn't meet). He typically sets up various new-fangled electronic equipment provided by companies seeking publicity (aka "product placement") hoping to catch some UFO traces. On top of this, saucer-watch scenes are usually filmed with fancy night-vision lenses that can give even lawn sprinklers an otherworldly glow. A good rule of thumb in ufology is the more high-tech equipment you deploy that you don't understand, the more "anomalous phenomena" you are going to discover. It's a simple formula for success: more money equals more high-tech equipment equals more "UFOs".

What is a show like this doing on the History Channel? That's the real alien phenomenon. SciFi Channel, sure. Discovery Channel, maybe. But where is the "history" in hunting for UFOs in the present day? The apparent answer is that all UFO sightings took place in the past; therefore they are history. I am comfortable with this general concept if it stayed in the past. The UFO movement has a very rich social history, regardless of whether you believe, and it certainly deserves to be documented. (Think of the Woodstock-like gatherings at Giant Rock in the 1950s.) Area 51, too, has an extensive military history which merits more attention. What is dubious "history" is the investigation of UFOs in the present. Do you remember when MTV was "Music Television" and was only about music? Well, History Channel may have now crossed the line where it is no longer about history, only about ratings. Maybe it should rebrand itself as "HC."

Furthermore, I can't say that my own motivations in taking this gig were entirely pure. Since I learned that I would be laid off from my airline job, I have tried to assemble several small business ventures to make ends me. One of these is an "Area 51 guide service," which I publicize with a page on the web. For $250 a day, I will lead you and your party to Tikaboo Peak or wherever else you want to go around Area 51. UFO Hunters took me up on the offer, which will help me meet my subsistence budget for next month. The real payoff, however, is the business that will presumably come my way after the show airs. I'm not interested in getting rich, and I see the tour guide thing as a temporary adventure for only as long as I enjoy it, but it would be nice to have the business coming in if I need it. It is to my benefit, therefore, that the UFO Hunters episode be successful.

How does one deal with all this moral ambiguity? It's simple: compartmentalization. Over the years, I've gotten good at it, especially during my decade of "real life." Compartmentalization is when you stop worrying about the big picture and just concern yourself with the part you have been asked to do. It's something we all have to resort to when dealing with the outside world. For example, when we buy a product at Wal-Mart, we don't necessarily worry about the working conditions of the Chinese slave labor that made it. If we tried to run down all those connections, we'd go mad, so we simply buy the product if the offer is good.

On the web, I made a public offer, and UFO Hunters accepted it. I told them from the outset that I couldn't give them UFOs, and they respected that. For the purposes of the show, I was just the Tikaboo guy. I would lead the host to the peak and to the Janet terminal in Las Vegas. In interviews, I would talk about Tikaboo, the Janet flights and my own experiences with security, that's all.

This was a heavily scripted production. What the viewer will see is a seemingly spontaneous "investigation" where the UFO Hunters team goes out to Area 51 with an open mind and sees what they can find. However, any real investigation implies the ability to change course. Your path on each step of the inquiry is determined by what you just discovered in the previous step. You can't "script" a true investigation. You can only script a movie or other entertainment product.

The script in this case was rigid and demanding, and it was written before anyone from the production company had set foot in the area. In fairness, the participants weren't given exact lines to recite, and no one was asked to lie or say anything they were uncomfortable with, but the "story" was determined entirely in L.A. before shooting began. Where the crew would be in every hour of the week-long shoot was strictly scheduled, with little margin for deviation. The director and producer also knew the subjects that they wanted each participant to talk about so the resulting sound bites would fit into the story. They couldn't afford to go into any other areas no matter what turned up in course of filming.

From the production company's standpoint, there was no other way. The History Channel keeps tight reins on the show, and it has to review and approve each story before shooting begins. Any significant changes also have to be approved by them, which is a huge bureaucratic burden. The production company is also trying to turn out a complex full-hour show on a grueling schedule, and it has to be exciting -- a real ratings grabber -- or the show will eventually be cancelled. These pressures tip the scales from reality to fiction, because fiction is so much easier to control.

True news shows are relatively lean. A local TV news crew consists of only two people: the cameraman and the reporter. A network news crew (including magazine shows like 20/20) consists of four people: the cameraman, the sound technician, the producer (who does all the real research), and the pretty-boy reporter (who usually flies in at the last minute and asks questions fed to him by the producer). The Tikaboo shoot, however, consisted of an on-site crew of a dozen people, including a director, producer, two cameramen, sound technician, gaffer, camera assistant, production assistant and—get this—a "story editor". His job was to assure that everything that happened on camera was consistent with the predetermined script. Especially with so many people and so much expensive equipment involved, the script becomes God, and no deviations can be accepted. This means that if UFOs flew out of somebody's ass at a time when the script didn't call for them, the crew could not respond.

Like movies and TV dramas, UFO Hunters is filmed "out of sequence". That means the order of events you see on the screen is not the same as the order it was filmed. All news shows dabble in a little bit of this, usually for fill-in footage where nothing significant is happening, but legitimate news organizations would never do it for the main action, like climbing a mountain: The preparation, the climb and the follow-up all appear on TV in the same sequence they really happened. Entertainment shows know no such boundaries. In this case, we filmed the follow-up first, then the main hike, then the preparation for the hike. This was all done for economy of production, just like for movies. In Las Vegas, about 40 hours before the actual hike, the UFO Hunters host was filmed talking about how "amazing" the Tikaboo hike had been. (I was wondering at the time whether everyone was going to survive the hike, let alone it being "amazing.")

The whole thing was reminiscent of my experiences with the paranormal show Encounters back in 1994 (Desert Rat #10). In that case, the crew filmed the secret base from Freedom Ridge the first night, then the second night when all the "cast" was assembled (including myself), they filmed a fake climb to Freedom Ridge on a hillside nowhere near it. At the top, we were asked to look at a blank hillside and pretend we were looking at the base. From the production company's standpoint, why not? If money is saved by "cheating" a scene and the results on the screen are virtually the same, what's the loss? CNN or ABC News would be mightily shamed if they were found to be faking scenes like this, but there is no real penalty for shows under the "entertainment" umbrella (including all those ugly "reality" shows). The problem, of course, is that when you cross the line into cheating, it is hard to know where to stop. Would UFO Hunters promote dubious UFO video or fail to exercise prudent skepticism simply because it served the needs of production? I prefer not to ask.

Compartmentalization is my friend. The fact is, I really liked everyone I worked with, and I think most of them would agree with my concerns above. This is a cutthroat business and everyone is being squeezed in one way or another. Every member of the crew knows what they need to do to get the show on the air, and there can be some beauty in that. It is remarkable to watch such a big operation unfold and to see everybody work together seamlessly when they need to. "I'm just a cog in the machine," said one of them, and this can bring both pain and pleasure.

I, too, saw myself as part of the machine. I was, first of all, a native guide, doing my best to make sure the crew was prepared for the environment. When I heard they would be hiking at night, I voiced my concerns, but when they were overruled I was still on board, doing my best to make sure things went as well as possible. My second role was as an actor, trying my best to be on-mark when I needed to be and delivering my lines as required. I wasn't going to lie, but I was prepared to take direction and respond to the needs of my team.

My main interview was conducted around a campfire at the base of Tikaboo. I myself suggested the venue in my long email correspondence with the production staff prior to the event. According to the story line, it was just me and the host sitting beside the campfire. We were supposed to ignore the dozen crew members, the two cameras pointed at us, the boom microphone hovering just above our heads and the giant fill light hanging overhead. It was just me and my buddy, out in the wilderness, talking casually about the hike coming up. After a few minutes of adjustment, it all came back to me. As far as I was concerned, it really was just me and the host and a couple other people listening in. I didn't know where the cameras were, and I didn't care what they were seeing, because that wasn't my job. I just wanted to say my lines well and make my friends happy.

I didn't deviate too far from the truth, but I did stretch it a little. At the request of the director, I played up the difficulty of the hike, turning it into something more dangerous and risky than I believed it was (at least in the daytime). The director wanted to ramp up the excitement factor by emphasizing the risk, but I had a different agenda. A show like this, broadcast to millions of couch potatoes, was essentially an open invitation for idiots to come up here and get themselves killed. As I saw it, making the hike seem more dangerous was a form of public service. At the suggestion of the director, I even played up the threat of mountain lions. Now, I've never seen a mountain lion, and I think the chance of being attacked by one is about the same as seeing a BLM ranger—that is, next to nil—but I had no problem playing up the hypothetical dangers of mountain lion attack as a surrogate for much more likely threats, like falling on loose rocks and cracking your head open. If mountain lions can scare off at least some of the ill-prepared dimwits, I have no problem inventing a few.

I truly didn't give a shit about how many millions will be watching the show or how they will perceive me. Perhaps it is a sign you are approaching nirvana (or death) if you genuinely don't care about fame. As I see it, fame has only one substantial benefit: When you meet someone new, they already know what to expect from you, and you don't have to spend as much time explaining yourself. Fame doesn't give you any gratification in itself. It doesn't solve your daily problems; it doesn't make you feel more worthy, and unless you have a clever mechanism to exploit it, it doesn't make you rich. No matter how much of it you have, fame is never going to heal the wounds and humiliations of your past. Even when you are known to millions, your life is still going to revolve around those few real people who you interact with on a daily basis.

That's how I felt on Tikaboo. I liked the people I was with, and I wanted this to be a memorable experience for them. I wanted to give the producer and director the material they needed—preferably even better than they had planned on. I didn't just pretend to bond with the host; I really did, and now I understand some of the stresses he is under. Since we're all just cogs in the machine, what really matters to me, personally, is meshing with my fellow cogs. Dealing with those other millions is mainly a matter of not doing something that is going to screw up their lives, like inviting them to the isolated desert when they are not prepared.

I might not even see the show when it comes out, because in my mind the adventure is already over. I was there and I took some pictures, and they are what I will remember it by. Whatever story the show comes out with is going to pale in comparison to the real hike I remember. Most meaningful to me were the stretches when the cameras weren't rolling, because there was actually some drama afoot. I almost wished there was a film crew recording the film crew climbing the mountain, because that was real fun!

I'll fill you in on the hike tomorrow in Part II: "The Tikaboo Death March."
Article & Photos © Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Interview with Bill Uhouse

Here's an old interview with Bill Uhouse — aka "Jarod 2" in my Desert Rat newsletters. It looks like the interview was done around 2005.

For a summary of Uhouse's claims, see my Desert Rat: Issue #24 and Issue #27.

Where is he now? I don't know. He would be about 83 now.