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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zog, The Boy Wonder

I can’t define the line between sanity and insanity, but I know it when I see it. Kurt Vonnegut was pushed to the precipice of that line as a POW in Dresden during WWII, and stayed mostly on the sane side, in part by fictionalizing his experience in the novel “Slaughterhouse Five”. David Hamel, who died a couple of months ago, saw many of the same horrors at Dresden, also as a POW, but he went sailing over the line in a single leap. It is hard not to compare Hamel to a character from a Kilgore Trout novel. Trout was Vonnegut’s mythical and mystical science fiction writer. In his own novel “Breakfast of Champions”, Vonnegut wrote, “Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.” Well, David Hamel ate the sugar, and he may have suspected the champagne, but he died at 81 having produced only a lot of excrement. He loved his wife and he hurt as few people as possible. That may qualify him for sainthood, but not genius.
According to David, on Sunday, October 21, 1975, he was watching “The Waltons” with friends in his home outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, when he was contacted by two aliens from the planet “Kladen” who appeared out of the snow on his television screen. Unseen by the others in the room they zapped him across time/space to their spaceship where they communicated their science to him, telepathically. They said they were entrusting him with the “survival of the species”. Hamel explained, “They planted these drawings in my brain. They gave me all the instructions I needed. It is now up to me to make it work.” It was 32 years later when David Hamel died without ever making it work, even with the enthusiastic assistance of several acolytes. Evidently the aliens did NOT give him all the assistance he needed. How incompetent of them.
Hamel fiddled in the Quonset hut in his backyard for decades and sent dozens of drawings of the resultant “alien inspired technology” to the patent office in Toronto, in a deluge of “perpetual motion” machines, “pollution free endless energy machines” and “anti-gravity machines”, and the engineers and scientists there deemed his solutions to these fundamental conundrums to be unworkable. How incompetent of them, too. When asked by one true believer how his spaceship would work, Hamel replied, “Fucking energy.” Evidently some “fucking” combination of magnetic energy, vibrations and granite spheres would combine, he insisted, to make his “spacecraft” weightless. “Do you understand now? Or are you just stupid.” To the true believers that question was mere proof of Hamel’s genius, but I think it actually proved that the answer to Hamel’s question was yes, they were just stupid, and desperate to believe.
Dozens of people have tried to build the 45 gallon drum sized, magnet driven, flying machine designed by the aliens and transmitted through Hamel. Universally they have failed to get off the ground. Perhaps they are all incompetent, but by this time competency seems almost irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is sanity. One believer spent 12 years collaborating with Hamel, and $5,000 on an 8” version of the device, and still says he will need another $7,000 to build a version big enough to actually work. He offers no explanation as to why model airplanes function but models of this flying saucer do not. Another supplicant spent a month working closely with Hamel, invested his life savings, was even divorced by his wife, and remains earthbound. And yet he still believes in the genius of Hamel. It makes the faith of the Hebrews almost seem passive.
Hamel believed that Stonehenge was a landing zone for UFOs; never mind the big rocks scattered in the way. He believed the Dead Sea Scrolls were alien instructions on how to achieve certain alternate realities, written perhaps by some bronze age Timothy Leary (what will our ancestors make of the real acid head?) Hamel believed in Atlantis, never mind the evidence of Santorini and Crete. And Hamel believed that the key to the Bible, The Torah, the Koran and even the Book of Bonkinism (“Cat’s Cradle”), was revealed in a spider’s web. “Did you ever see a spider weaving his web, and then suddenly jump horizontally to another branch without any apparent gravitational forces affecting him? This is the scalar….The spider rides the scalar of the earth.” David also said, “They (the aliens) were eating my peanut butter to teach me a lesson”, and, “The end of the world is not far off, and we need some of us to survive. Otherwise, all is lost.”
Well, it’s clear that something was lost, and I think most of us know what it was; David Hamel‘s sanity. There is no indication that Hamel weaved his fantasy for profit, which puts him in a different category from Vonnegut, the author. Two books were written about David but he never wrote one himself. But Vonnegut used fantasies while Hamel was used by them. Vonnegut knew how seductive insanity can be (“God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”) so I think he would have sympathized with David Hamel. But there is a difference between sympathy and respect. Insane people all tell lies, and they honestly believe them. To join in their fantasy is not a show of respect. It’s just telling more lies. So do we laugh at David Hamel or do we cry?
I figure we are in the pretty much the same situation as the Kilgore Trout character (“Breakfast of Champions”) named Zog from the planet Margo, who resembled a human but who communicated by farting and tap dancing. “Zog landed at night in Connecticut. He had no sooner touched down than he saw a house on fire. He rushed into the house, farting and tap dancing, warning the people about the terrible danger they were in. The head of the house brained Zog with a golf club.” Zog certainly meant well.

But if it was your house, what would you have done?

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