“I realize people think of me as a doom-sayer” announces Jared Yates Sexton at the beginning of our conversation, Then, he admits, “After writing this book, I’m optimistic!” That’s quite a statement from a writer who is known for unsettling commentaries. The title of his latest book, The Midnight Kingdom – A History Of Power, Paranoia, And The Coming Crisis may suggest the takeaway will be of grave despondency. Instead, it’s a bracing read as the author takes a critical look at the forces that have shaped human civilization for centuries and invites us to seek a radically different future. To fully comprehend these strange and dangerous times, Jared Yates Sexton takes a hard look at America’s history: namely, the abuses committed by those in power and the comforting stories that shaped the way the West has viewed itself up to the present. As reactionaries and authoritarians cling to myths about “Western civilization,” The Midnight Kingdom exposes how political power, religious indoctrination, and economic dominance have been repeatedly weaponized to oppress and exploit, sounding an alarm for what lies ahead as the current order frays. Beginning with the Roman Empire and racing through centuries of colonization, war, genocide, and the recurring clashes of progress and regression, Sexton finds our modern world at a crossroads. In an echo of past crises, we have arrived at a time of historic inequality and fading trust in our institutions. Meanwhile, authoritarianism is gaining momentum and the progress of the twentieth century is being rolled back at dizzying speed. This catastrophic moment holds terrible potential for a return to a totalitarian past or, potentially, a better, more real, more human future. The difference depends on a true reckoning with our history and the larger forces at play or hiding behind this disastrous fantasy of Western superiority.
Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena or UAPs, the new acronym for UFOs doesn’t have a classy ring to it. The Pentagon’s decision to rename UFOs as UAPs is a big letdown. UAP is dull, unexciting, hard to remember, who really cares?. It’s an ugly acronym that takes the fun and sport out of ufology. But they’re still out there! UFOs. For example, Lt. Cmdr. Alex Dietrich of “60 Minutes” fame saw one on November 14, 2004, as a newly winged pilot of a regular training mission with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group. A very fast-moving erratic object came into her view. Her leader Cmdr. Dave Fravor instructed her to “hang back and be his wingman” as he flew closer to inspect the strange object. The UFO started “mirroring his flight movements” and then “it suddenly disappeared.” After the incident, she and her commander agreed if they had been solo, they would not have reported the sighting. Intimidation by colleagues and the press override the reality of the moment to avoid the epithet “UFO freak.” According to Navy fighter pilot Ryan Graves: “A cube in a sphere” is how to describe the UFOs. Another test pilot, also in 2014, reported: “A cube-in-a-sphere riding with him within 30 feet before it ‘zipped off.” Another pilot in a F/A-18F fighter in the same year had “a near collision with a cube-in-a-sphere” object. A June 2021 Pentagon report claims US Navy pilots reported 144 sightings of UAPs (UFOs) since 2004. Interestingly, according to the Pentagon, most of the sightings “probably do represent physical objects.” (Source: Footage of Bizarre Metallic UFO Shown by Pentagon Officials at Historic Hearing, LiveScience, May 17, 2022). The first official close-range sighting of a UFO occurred in 1948 when two Eastern Airline pilots in a DC-3 observed a “large, cigar-shaped light speed toward them at a tremendous velocity before making an impossibly abrupt turn and vanishing into a clear sky,” Ibid. What is official now but was not been treated seriously over the past decades is a new level of competence and resolute seriousness. “The U.A.P. issue is being taken very seriously now even compared to where it was two or three years ago,” claims a former Pentagon official,” Ibid. In a fascinating twist of fate, the author of The New Yorker story met with a lieutenant colonel of the Air Force who encountered a UFO that registered on his plane’s sensors. He never reported the incident because of fear of intimidation, but when the Nimitz story came out in the New York Times, his buddies, whom he had privately confided his story of seeing “a 40-foot-long craft that disobeyed known principles of aerodynamics and looked exactly like the Tic Tac seen by Commander Fravor,” they called to tell him they apologized for calling him “an idiot.” They are out there!
Scottish singer-songwriter, Tommy Ashby says the title of his debut album, Lamplighter is named after the great Edinburgh poet Norman MacCaig’s Praise of a Man, “It depicts all the people who were lamplighters in my life”. This is an impressive collection of songwriting. A delicate emotive veil drapes over every song, not so usual for male artists. His voice is strong and certainly pleasant, and the arrangements are well-considered. There is a faint familiarity here, yet Ashby does not rely on obvious codas or ideas. Totally satisfying as you’ll hear with When Love Goes Dark. Top marks for the production and be sure to check out the videos that accompany almost all the tracks. We’ve had this album on repeat, it’s that good.