Thursday, October 27, 2005


I'm lying immobilised with a bright light shining in my eyes. I struggle repeatedly to open my eyes but my eyelids won't move.
I try to say 'Take me to your leader' or 'Planet Earth's a shithole but all things considered I'd rather stay there' but no words come out.
Finally the nightmare is over and I stagger into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

I haven't had this unpleasant experience for a long time but I was reminded of it by a study undertaken by Goldsmith's College in London which showed that most reports of alien abductions can be explained by a sleep disorder. More specifically, sleep paralysis.

When we sleep our muscles are immobilised to stop us acting out our dreams and hurting ourselves. But sometimes it is possible to wake up or half wake up without this paralysis being switched off for several minutes.
I used to experience this when I slept in the day in a brightly lit room. I never actually thought that I was lying in a flying saucer being prodded by alien beings. But it was a very terrifying experience nonetheless.

Interestingly, the new study has found that most of the people who experienced sleep paralysis as alien abduction already had a belief in the paranormal.
The researchers also venture the opinion that it makes some people feel special to think that aliens have travelled billions of light years across interstellar space just for them.

Fortunately, it seems to have been a temporary aberration in my case and I haven't experienced it for a couple of years.
I haven't awoken to find any other odd-looking, nameless being poking me for even longer. But that's another story.


It seems I may have misjudged the 'lads' mag' Zoo.
They were criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for running a competition in which readers could win their girlfriend a new pair of breasts. Photographs of eight pairs of breasts had the caption "What type of tits do you want for your girlfriend?"

In its defence, Zoo magazine said that the competition was "intended to be a parody of the view that men objectified women and of society's obsession with cosmetic appearance".
I hadn't realised that Zoo and its ilk were actually biting social satires from a feminist perspective.
And if they're not, then at least Zoo deserves the 2005 award for sheer brass neck.

This morning's Radio Four News led with the Prince of Wales' views on climate change. In a nutshell these were:
a) It really is appalling.
b) Something must be done about it.
Those who pay attention to such things will notice that this is remarkably similar to Charlie's views on a wide range of subjects.

To be fair to Charles (if I must), much of what he said about farming and the environment was perfectly sensible. The exclusive interview given to the Today programme would have made an interesting short feature on Farming Today.
But the lead news story on the network?
Give us a break.

Mini-Adwatch: with the threat of Bird Flu meaning all birds will be viewed as harbingers of death, Hovis might like to revisit the idea of using talking ducks to extol the health benefits of their bread.

I see that Mike at Troubled Diva is posting his mother's memoirs in a blog.
I once intended to do something similar. My mother kept a diary all her life. Towards the end of her life she let me read some of those from the period of my childhood. I was astonished to find that I was making bad puns almost as soon as I emerged from the womb. But more fascinating was the social history that was revealed in these diaries, small things like what was on BBC television in the 1950s. I will see if I can get access to these again and publish some of those nuggets here.

Also, to give you a change from my own voice, I will shortly post here my father's account of his first trip to sea in the 1920s.
There's no doubt that the internet could be an invaluable resource for social historians in the future if people can be persuaded to post their memories or get their children to do it for them. Blogs will be an important part of that resource.
But I do worry slightly about the permanence of this archive, given that we are dependent on companies like Blogger and hundreds of servers across the network. If terrorists ever turn their attentions to the structure of the internet we could be in serious trouble.


At 1:11 PM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

I am loving Mike's mom's memoirs.

I once had a boyfriend who told me about his experiences with what he thought was regular alien contact as this. This is the first I've heard of this inbetween sleep/waking paralysis. I'm guessing that was his problem....that and being a massive tool.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger Steve said... how come this "sleep paralysis" only happens to hicks from the Appalachians, Berkshires or the Mid-West of the good ol' US of A?

At 6:41 AM, Blogger Betty said...

I suffer from sleep paralysis occasionally (say, every couple of months) and it is indeed a fairly unpleasant experience. The minute or so when you can't breathe or move seems neverending.

Apparently, then, I should be undergoing alien abduction at least half a dozen times a year. Why isn't it happening? I could be on the fifth volume of my memoirs by now and be stinking rich.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

PN: It doesn't follow that every report of alien contact is due to sleep paralysis. Some could, in theory, be genuine. I like to be open-minded about these things.

steve: sleep paralysis affects a small percentage of people but is not specific to certain geographical regions. However, the interpretation of the experience as alien abduction is much higher in America than in Britain. Make of that what you will.

betty: you're right. The sensation may last only 30 seconds but it feels like hours.
It may be similar to people waking up during surgery but being unable to move or speak.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

As regards worrying about the permanence of records like these owing to our dependence on the likes of blogger, should we not be making regular backups of the stuff we post online?

I know that almost no one ever backs up their harddrive so expecting them to back up their blog may be a bit of wishful thinking. But, being a third-party, there is even less chance of recovering data from them should they explode/implode than there is from a failed harddrive.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

RN: you're quite right and I'm also guilty of not backing-up as much as I should.
But even if we all do back-ups, if there's a catastrophic wipe-out on the internet's servers, would we all re-post this material. I think much of it would be lost forever.

At 8:21 PM, Blogger patroclus said...

I don't think you need to worry about terrorists knocking out your blog, Willie. What with mirroring and cacheing and whatnot, you can be sure that copies of your blog exist on several different servers in several different places around the globe. And these server farm places tend to have a lot of hardcore terrorist-proof, bomb-proof, natural disaster-proof protection in place.

Although if Google (which owns Blogger) suddenly went bust, then you might have cause to worry...

Oh, stop me before I turn into Jonny Lee Miller in "Hackers".

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

patroclus: I thought that was probably the case.
I'm not actually worried about losing my blog. I'd either use it as excuse to stop blogging or start again from scratch.

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous geegee said...

When I went to Goldsmith's College many years ago it was called Goldsmiths' College, because there was more than one Goldsmith. It is now Goldsmiths University of London. What does this mean and should anyone care?


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