All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Strange eyes fill strange rooms
Viking 1 entered Mars orbit on this day in 1976.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – As “Strange Days” by The Doors plays in the background, the red planet Mars is syncing heavily with me.

Turning to a random page in my desk copy of Carl Jung’s The Red Book, I read this “conversation” Jung had with his visitor “Philemon” on the subject of magic:

CJ: “Well, I must confess that that is new and strange. So nothing at all about magic can be understood?

P: “Exactly. Magic happens to be precisely everything eludes comprehension.”

CJ: “But then how the devil is one to teach and learn magic?”

P: “Magic is neither to be taught nor learned. It’s foolish that you want to learn magic.”

CJ: “But then magic is nothing but deception.”

P: “Watch out – you have started reasoning again.”

CJ: “It’s difficult to exist without reason.”

P: “And that is exactly how difficult magic is.”

Wonderful and strange,” as Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper might say.

And then I glance at my Twitter feed and the first thing I see, incredibly enough, is a picture of Viking 1, the first of two NASA spacecraft to successfully land on Mars and perform its mission. The reason @NASAHistory had posted the image because it was on this day 38 years ago – June 19, 1976 – that Viking 1 entered the Martian orbit.  Interestingly, it would actually land on the Martian surface on July 20, 1976 – 7 years to the day after Apollo 11 reportedly landed on the Moon’s surface.

Of course it was Viking 1, during its 35th orbit of Mars on July 26, 1976, that first photographed the humanoid “Face on Mars” that has resulted in decades of controversy. It's mission would last 2,307 days - the longest Mars mission until that record was broken by Opportunity Rover in 2010.

This triggered several things for me. First, back in 2012 ( two years ago tomorrow, in fact) I reviewed Nick Redfern’s The Pyramids & The Pentagon book.  Redfern addresses the “Face on Mars” and suggests that prior to the ’76 photo of the Martian anomaly, its existence was already known, pointing to Jack Kirby’s prophetic Marvel Comics cartoon “The Face on Mars.” Writes Redfern: “Jack Kirby had secret associations with officialdom – in fact, with none other than the CIA.”

The next year, on Oct. 27, 2013, in a Dust Devil Dreams piece headlined “Thinking inside/outside The Box,” examining the Richard Kelly-directed 2009 sci-fi thriller The Box, starring Cameron Diaz and Stillwater, Okla. native James Marsden.

Set in Richmond, Virginia in December 1976, Marsden’s character, Arthur Lewis, works for NASA and was a key optics technician who helped design the camera on Viking 1 – the camera that would ultimately take that famous “Face on Mars” picture.

Fairly early in The Box, NASA holds a press conference discussing how Viking likely discovered “alien life” and “ancient alien civilizations,” something suggested at the time by 2001: A Space Odyssey author Arthur C. Clarke.

Kelly’s film then takes us into the life of the Lewis’s son (played by the improbably-named “Sam Oz Stone”) and his babysitter notes a poster on the boy’s bedroom wall. It’s an Arthur C. Clarke quote (Clarke’s “third law”) which states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

The events in The Box, of course, take place in December 1976 – the same month that The Eagles’ blockbuster hit album Hotel California is released. In fact, it was released on December 8th – an esoteric date if there ever was one and Jim Morrison's birthday as well – with the well-known title track prompting questions on whether the “hotel” in question is really hell. In The Box, the characters exist in a "box" - a sort of hell.

Which syncs nicely with the fact that Cameron Diaz’s teacher character Norma Lewis is teaching her class Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit. As Jay at wrote, in his stunning analysis of The Box, “(No Exit) is where three people discover they have been escorted to hell by a valet who is a kind of devil, and the rest of the drama takes place in the same room (and a room is a box), where the torment ends up being each other, fulfilling Sartre’s quip that hell is ‘other people.’”

Staying on the Hotel California sync, I happened to glance at my office bookshelf right at Barney Hoskyns’ 2006 book Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and their many friends.

Grabbing it, I randomly open it to page 84 and a chapter on the late Gram Parsons of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.

“In October 1969 Parsons was cast in a (Joshua Tree National Monument-set) film, Saturation ’70, based on (George) Van Tassel’s UFO conventions. Shot at Giant Rock, the movie was the brainchild of Stones insider Tony Foutz and costarred Gram, Michelle Phillips, and Julian, the young son of Brian Jones.

“Everyone was convinced we were going to see flying saucers,” says editor Frank Mazzola, whose resume included Performance. “Maybe that was one of the cracks in the fantasy of the time we lived in – that we were that gullible and that stoned. In the end the film was never finished.”

Just as I got to this portion of the article - Joshua Tree resident, Van Tassel fan and free energy enthusiast Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde comes over the stereo singing "Conspiracy of the Heart" with The Dream Syndicate's Steve Wynn. Nice.

Interestingly, it was special effects legend Douglas Trumbull -  a UFO enthusiast who had worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey and would create the UFO’s on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and most recently on Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life – who was working on hippie/alien epic Saturation ’70, the sci-fi/eco film that never saw the light of day.

Trumbull – compared to “smart, serial entrepreneur Elon Musk,” the gazillionaire Mars enthusiast – has a new project called UFOTOG where he is trying to film a bona fide UFO, and has another project, according to Hollywood Reporter, where it is described as a “sci-fi epic that takes place about 200 years in the future.”

Meanwhile, back to the present time, today's @NASAHistory Tweet also featured a link to a 2010 article headlined "Missing Piece Inspires New Look at Mars Puzzle." The story says that soil samples taken by Viking may have actually revealed that "carbon-based chemical building blocks of life" were likely present.

Perhaps we are on the verge of a major announcement? Something magical?

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd
Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK