Balloons of war

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Imagine, a group of kids out in the woods, exploring during a church gathering in Oregon. Their parents know they are quite safe as they are with the pastor’s wife. Hanging from a tree they find something large and odd. Naturally they begin hanging from it and playing with it. Suddenly, something on the object gives way. There is a blinding flash. After the explosion subsides, there is no sound. The giggling of children is no longer present and the sound of snapping twigs and rustling leaves from their romping will never be heard again. They had stumbled upon a bomb attached to a balloon. This was not created by some sinister town resident, but a weapon of war. Unfortunately this scenario really did happen. The six children and the pastors wife were all killed in a tragic event that left a community heartbroken.

The method of their demise was sent from Japan during world war II. They were known as the Fu-go, or fire balloons. Sporting a diameter of approximately 33 feet, they were filled with hydrogen and constructed of paper. Incendiary devices were attached to the sides of the balloon. Ropes trailed below it connected to a system of counterweights designed to keep it at an exact altitude. A normal balloon would never make it to North America, but the Japanese found a thin, extremely fast moving band of air that allowed it’s travel to be expedited. We now know this to be a jet stream.

These weapons began appearing late in 1944. Instantly the United States and Canadian air forces recognized them as a potential threat. As a matter of national security, the existence of these bombs were kept from the public. The rationale behind this was that the japanese had no way of knowing if they would be successful or not. If any stories of them reaching American shores were read by Japanese forces, many more would be sent. While the Japanese sent well over 9,000 Fu-go, just over a thousand made in to North America. To combat forest fires that erupted as a result of explosions, airborne firefighters were employed. The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion took up the task of extinguishing these blazes (these paratrooping firefighters today are known as “smoke jumpers”). While fire was a concern, the US government was highly alarmed by the thought of these balloons being used to carry biological weapons. Had the success rate data of the fu-go reached enemy hands, US intelligence predicted that outcome to be a certainty. Thankfully that horror never materialized. The CIA still use this scare as a tool to teach the importance of secrecy in instances of national security.

While stories like that of the Oregon church disaster reached the public, many other smaller incidents were kept quiet. When balloons reached the US shoreline, the official story was that a Canadian airforce mishap occurred, sparking a small fire. In the case it reached Canadian soil, the US airforce conducted a training mission that went awry. The Fu-go was actively sought out by these forces and several were brought down by our fighter planes before they were able to wreak havoc on our shores.

There were rumors of odd balloons starting fires as far away as Illinois and Texas! While these are unconfirmed, it definitely serves as a stark illustration of what could have happened, had the war drug on, and word spread in the media. Today, cherry blossoms stand where the Oregonian church tragedy took place. Japanese visitors planted them in remorse for this tragic loss of life.

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Until the next installment…
Black Herring

Questions, comments, smart remarks, email me at Black.herring@yahoo.com

or tweet us at http://twitter.com/blkherring

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I have cargo, where’s my cult?

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Today we shall expound on an interesting topic; that of the cargo cult. Throughout history, technologically superior societies have had run ins with various native cultures. This can produce unanticipated religious beliefs to spark off in new directions. An example of this we greatly enjoy takes place in the pacific theater of war as WWII rages. Surrounding Japan is a large amount of virtually unspoiled islands. American forces sought to create bases of strategic importance when engaging the Japanese, and these islands played a key role. Occasionally, indigenous tribes were employed when building structures and clearing airstrips.

It wasn’t until the close of war however, that this phenomenon truly took root. When the troops departed , cargo (jeeps, rifles, radios, spam, etc) was left behind. The natives were able to claim these items as their own, proclaiming them to be gifts from the gods. Their belief was not that they were man made, but that gods bestowed them upon the outsiders. The fact that the islanders were left with this cargo, was proof that they now gained favor in god’s eyes.

New offshoots of their religions sprouted. These beliefs incorporated interesting attempts to procure additional shipments. Instead of attempting to manufacture these goods, they started to mimic the behaviors that they witnessed armies partake in. Marches and drills took place on islands. Abandoned rifles (or makeshift ones out of sticks) were slung over shoulders. Uniforms were sewn together with American flags painted on them. They even constructed crude transmission towers and yes, coconut radios! The rationale behind such rituals was that the armies had mastered communication with the gods. In fact, this was the way to get in touch with spiritual beings and ancestors.

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For many years after the war, sightings of bamboo air craft shrines and newly cleared runways trickled in. Today, the majority WWII era cargo cults have dried up. There are a few however, that still practice their religion today. The most famous is the John Frum cult. On the island of Tanna, Vanuatu there is a belief that a messiah named John Frum will return to bless his followers once again. It is unclear where this name originated, but there are theories ranging from a former army member, to a islander who created this religion in his name. When questioned about the ongoing tradition, they have replied, “You have been waiting for your God to return for 2,000 years. We have only been waiting 70.”

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Also note worthy is the interesting identification with regards to race. During the allied cohabitation, the islanders took note of black soldiers that were equal to white soldiers sharing the “cargo”, and attached a mythos to them. It is their held belief that these soldiers were children that were born on the island, kidnapped, raised off island, and returned to them with spoils. Another thought is that they were the reincarnation of ancestors, guided to the island to bring materials from the gods.

In an additional twist, some portions of this population believe an a deity known as Prince Phillip. The emergence of this view gained ground in the middle of the twentieth century when (for what ever reason) they assumed that he was a spirit related to John Frum. In 1974, Prince Phillip and the queen mother visited the island with cargo and trinkets to trade island officials. This further solidified their faith and they know he will return again one day…

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Until the next installment…
Black Herring

Questions, comments, smart remarks, email me at Black.herring@yahoo.com

or tweet us at http://twitter.com/blkherring

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Machines powered on blood

Touch screen in arm technology

Today, we often witness science fiction transitioning into the realm of science fact. Often thoughts of future realms include accellerated space travel, robots, and cyborgs. As it seems, we are indeed a step closer to the latter. Cyborg is defined as a,”person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body”. Although the initial preface to that definition originally stated, “a fictional or hypothetical”, we believe it only a short matter of time before such prefixes are deleted.

Scientists have recently unlocked the ability to run small machines off the glucose your body produces. Since our body breaks food down into this simple form, and transmits it to the body’s necessary parts, scientists began working on converting glucose into a type of biofuel. Obviously there are benefits to this that immediately come to the mind. Why not power pacemakers on such an energy source? A surgeon could hook a vein or artery up to the device. Blood would be diverted into the mechanism and whatever ammount of glucose needed would be extracted to power the equipment. As such, the implant could theoretically run forever on this energy source that expires only when the body does. Additionally, battery drain issues would be solved when incorporating additional features into such testing devices. A doctor could wirelessly check your vital stats via bluetooth without worrying about battery drain (a limitation that has vexed medical device creators previously, as premature battery drain on life-support systems has it’s obvious downside).

Taking a que from the bluetooth enabled status updates, biomedical scientists have also engineered implantable touch screens! Just think, no need to worry about misplacing your iPhone again. A touch screen could be inserted just under your skin on your forearm. This could be linked with a Bluetooth implanted in your ear canal. All of which of course taps into your blood as a source of bio-cell energy. The question is of course, how far could this technology be taken?

Enter the clock that uses flies as a power source!

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It actually catches flies and deposits them into a bacteria filled container. That bacteria breaks down the organic material and voila! The electricity is created, your clock is powered, your house is pest free. The question of course one would logically make is do we want machines to learn how to kill and harness energy from blood? Where could this lead in the future? What is possibly most concerning is the fact that scientists have estimated that we have at most 50 years until the “cingularity”. This phenominon is described as computerized artificial intelligence becoming as smart as humans. We aren’t just talking about the storage of information either. Computers and or robots will have the ability to actually think, reason, and make judgements baised on previous knowledge. Will we presume to maintain our mastery over (dare I say) “beings” of such intelligence. One must worry about whether they will make a claim of superiority. Do we reason with other species we look down upon? Do we talk to the ant before we step on it, snuffing out it’s life? Of course we hope this is an over dramatization and robots indeed stay three laws safe. Or will humanity look back at the movie “the Matrix” as sage like prophecy?

Obviously, this was taken at a secret robot base...

Until the next installment…
Black Herring
Questions, comments, smart remarks? E-mail me at Black.herring@yahoo.com
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Genital theft

An understandable expression

Genital theft

I recently came across a story from Africa involving theft of what else, but genitalia. Apparently locals fear people merely bumping into them may be stealing their junk by supernatural means. They then confront the prick thieve and whip up a frenzy of people banding together, united in the dual cause of reuniting the victim with missing member, and simultaneously preventing future crimes of a similar nature. After the suspected witch is beaten severely (and in some cases actually killed) the spell is broken, and the penis is miraculously returned. Alls well that ends well. Our hero is whole again and the evil witch is dead. It’s almost Disneyesque in it’s happy resolution. There’s just one problem, NO ONE STOLE YOUR DICK YOU DUMBASS!!!!!!! Not only is such craziness going on in the 21st century, but apparently the fear is spreading! People walk with their hands in their pockets holding their units to ensure their safety. Even women walk through crowded market places with arms folded across chest to prevent mamamular abductions.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh in my assessment. I suppose in a world so full of unknown wonders, there is the outside chance that I am merely being close minded, and a ransomed ween may be indeed a small sampling of untapped magical (or majikal depending on your choice of poison) abilities.
I say keep an open mind on most occasions, but in this instance I feel rather comfortable shutting myself out to this possibility.
Questions, comments, smart remarks, email me at Black.herring@yahoo.com

or tweet us at http://twitter.com/blkherring

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It begins!

This is my first post, and as such I will take this opportunity to introduce my blog. I will commit here and now to find mostly odd and obscure topics to rant about. Politics and religion have no place here (unless it diverges from the mainstream) as there are millions of other outlets for such distractions. True intrigue lies within these halls, for if a red herring be a false or misleading clue then surely a black herring would be the beacon of factualism (just go with it)! I will post as often as I can in an effort to keep my readers in the know. I look forward to a mutually enjoyable relationship.
Until the next installment….
Black herring

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