Riddle of St. Giles!
Stalin's UFOs, Nanocircles,

Black Holes, George Harrison,
The Search for Aztlan & More!
The Riddle of St. Giles!

Edinburgh November 19, 2002 (Herald UK) - Historians are trying to unravel the mystery of a human bone discovered by workmen restoring the roof of St Giles' in Edinburgh.

Some have suggested it could be a relic of the city's patron saint.

Police and forensic experts were called to the ancient church on the Royal Mile after it was found above the Holy Cross aisle.

The bone, from an arm, could be centuries old, and some historians have suggested it may even have belonged to the original cathedral's holy patron himself, who was born in Athens in AD640.

They think it could have been hidden from the destructive Protestant forces of the Reformation that would have regarded the keeping of relics as tantamount to idolatry.

Church records show that, in 1454, a nobleman, Preston of Gordon, made a gift to it of a precious relic, an arm bone of St Giles. It was common practice in medieval times to try to obtain saintly relics. While it was virtually impossible to establish their authenticity, they were often still treated as genuine by the churches that kept them.

Scientists in the pathology department of Edinburgh University said the bone, uncovered in loft space in the oldest part of the church, was "beyond living memory", ruling out a police murder inquiry. A spokesman from the university's pathology department said: "We had a look at the bone and handed it back to the police. It is a right ulna, a forearm bone. St Giles' is an old church and this is an old bone.

"There are all sorts of mysterious reasons for bones being moved around in the context of old churches."

The spokesman said it was possible that this was some kind of relic. However, relics were usually contained in boxes, and the more precious they were the more valuable the container.

"It is conceivable it could have been taken out of a box," he said. "We have no evidence one way or another or any suggestion that it belonged to a saint."

He said that, historically, if there was not much burial space in a city, corpses were sometimes left to decay. Bones would then be washed and dispensed of in other ways. "Bones are always turning up in an ancient city like Edinburgh. Surgery has been taught here for years and there are anatomical specimens hanging around."

Lothian and Borders Police said they were called to St Giles' on Thursday and the bone "was taken away by pathologists from the university". Church authorities will now have to decide whether to go ahead with carbon dating of the bone to establish its true significance.

St Giles spent much of his life in France, and Scotland's strong bond with France is thought to have been behind Edinburgh adopting him as its patron saint. He lived in a cave at Nimes, so impoverished, it is said, that God sent him a hind for milk.

He was wounded in the leg by an arrow of a royal hunting party and subsequently became patron saint of the handicapped.

Thoroughly Modern Muslims
American Sociological Association News Release

WASHINGTON, DC November 19, 2002 — Osama bin Laden may have operated from a cave in one of the least-developed countries in the world, but his radical Islamic movement is thoroughly modern. In many ways, radical Islamists are a mirror image of Islamic liberals, whose peaceful struggle to establish democracy is generally more popular among Muslim populations.

Researcher Charles Kurzman presents these and other observations about the roots, goals, and methods of Islamist movements in the Fall/Winter 2002 issue of Contexts magazine, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Sociological Association. Kurzman’s article, "Bin Laden and Other Thoroughly Modern Muslims," also includes a discussion about the Islamic world’s reactions to this radical Islam, and the ironies in U.S. foreign policy that radical groups exploit. An Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Kurzman has extensively studied modernist Islam, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and social movements in developing nations.

Like all political movements, Islamists are divided as to how to achieve their goals. "Some prefer a hearts-and-minds strategy, 'calling’ Muslims to increased piety…. Others argue that state conquest cannot be delayed…." But some of these state-oriented Islamists seek to take power democratically, while others pursue putsches and terrorism. This division reveals one of the least-known aspects of the Islamist movement: For all their notoriety, Islamists remain unpopular among Muslims.

Kurzman characterizes Islamists as those who—much like Christians who idealize the example of Jesus Christ—regard the time period of the Prophet Mohammed as the "golden era" of Islam and want to recapture it. Islamists "seek to regain the righteousness of the early years of Islam and implement the rule of shari'a (Islamic law)," either by the state enforcing and adopting it as the law of the land or by Muslims abiding by the norms of their own accord. "Islamists envision overturning tradition in politics, social relations and religious practices. They are hostile to monarchies, such as the Saudi dynasty in Arabia; they favor egalitarian meritocracy, as opposed to inherited social hierarchies; they wish to abolish long-standing religious practices such as the honoring of relics and tombs."

Radical Islamists have much in common with Islamic liberalism, another key movement. Both liberals and radicals seek to modernize society and politics, recasting tradition in modern molds, believing there are multiple ways of being modern.

Neither wishes to discard modern conveniences, such as electricity and technology, nor believes that modernity is limited to Western culture.

Kurzman notes a considerable irony in U.S. foreign policy, as the "West, which generally considers itself the underminer of tradition, supports traditional elites in the Islamic world. Bin Laden and other Islamists repeatedly take advantage of the contradiction.

Kuzman’s analysis distinguishes between traditionalist Islamic movements (such as the Taliban), with whom Islamists may be allied, and with whom they may share certain symbols of piety; but "they are quite distinct in sociological terms. Traditionalists such as the Taliban of Afghanistan, in contrast with Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida Islamists, draw on less educated sectors of society, believe in mystical and personal authority, and are skeptical of modern organizational forms.

Many Islamist leaders have university degrees rather than seminary training, and the rise of Islamist movements in the 20th century is closely associated with both the growth of secular and the decline of seminary educational systems, resulting in tremendous diversity of Islamic opinion. Most Islamist leaders graduated from "modern schools, and share modern values such as human equality and rule of law," notes Kurzman. So, while bin Laden is a civil engineer by training, he issues religious judgments as though he had been educated in the seminary.

Both ideologically and in practice, Islamists have adopted modern ideas, forms, and methods: "Regardless of the ancient terminology, al-Qa’ida and other Islamist groups operate globally like transnational corporations, with affiliates and subsidiaries, strategic partners, commodity chains, standardized training, off-shore financing and other features associated with contemporary global capital." In fact, says Kurzman, "insiders often referred to al-Qa'ida as the 'company.’" Islamists’ use of thoroughly modern methods (e.g., cell phone, faxes, computers, wire money transfers) is consonant with bin Laden’s using videotape and audiotapes of himself to reach the world’s media. But Islamists reject other modern Western norms; they are openly hostile to separation of church and state. Like the Mafioso and other illegal networks, Islamists organize around informal personal ties.

Western bias lumps the Islamic Republic of Iran with the Taliban, but Kurzman reveals they are fundamentally different. Iran is a modern state (with important institutional continuities to its past), while the Taliban in Afghanistan was not. For example, Iranian women are in the labor force and active in many segments of public life (including as parliamentary representatives). The Taliban barred girls from attending schools, and women from virtually all aspects of the labor force.

Kurzman concludes that as of yet, the war on terrorism has not generated the massive negative reaction among Muslims that some observers expected. A Gallup poll of nine Muslim societies at the end of 2001 indicated that only 15 percent of respondents said they considered the September 11 attacks to be morally justified. Election results in a number of countries with large Muslim populations show that when free or partially free elections are held, Islamists rarely fare well. When given a choice, Muslims (such as in Iran) choose liberal forms. And, when Islamists do well, success generally flowed from their promises to follow democratic norms.

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions and use of sociology to society.

Further information on ASA's Contexts magazine, published by the University of California Press in Berkeley, can be found at http://www.contextsmagazine.org 

Stalin's UFOs
Translated by Maria Gousseva

Russia November 18, 2002 (Pravda) - Almost simultaneously with the USA, in the middle of the 20th century, the USSR tabooed everything connected with UFO crashes.

Immediately, the next day after one of the first UFO crashes, in Roswell (the state of New Mexico, U.S.A.), on June 2, 1947, General Roger Romay, commander of the 8th American Air Brigade, declared that the incident was a mere crash of a weather balloon. That was the very beginning of a campaign of mass disinformation. 

Your average American citizen believed the general’s statement for several dozens of years, as they considered it really incredible that an UFO might really have crashed. However, the Soviet leadership headed by Joseph Stalin didn’t believe Romay’s lies at all. 

The USSR believed that the story about a weather balloon crashing was just an attempt to hide the truth. The military unit that recovered the remains of the UFO was believed to be America’s best trained Air Force unit.

This unit took part in super secret nuclear missions (it was this group that dropped the nuclear bombs on Japan); pilots of this group tested new planes and were experienced enough not to confuse a weather balloon with an UFO.

In order to clear up the situation, Joseph Stalin ordered three Soviet scientists to research data obtained by the KGB in the USA and define to what extent such mysterious objects were dangerous for the Soviet Union. These three men were talented mathematician Mstislav Keldysh, chemist Alexander Topchiyev, and physician Sergey Korolev. 

The scientists recommended that Stalin organize special investigations of similar phenomena. As a result, a number of programs to study UFOs were launched in the USSR. At that time, the programs were secret, and the West didn’t know about them. It was only recently that the West has learned about these programs. 

Until the end of the 1990s, there were seven Soviet research institutes and about ten secret military departments of the Soviet Defense Ministry that studied UFO phenomenon. All of them were attached to a secret department of the KGB, which created by Yury Andropov. 

In 1948, on Stalin’s order, the first sample of an UFO was brought to the Moscow region. Famous Soviet archeologist and artist and journalist Sukhoveyev described the events that preceded this event. 

"My father had been a digger in archeological expeditions for many years. Long before the Great October Revolution in 1917, famous archeologist Khvoika found a small silver device during archeological digs in Kiev near the place where the Chaikovsky Conservatory is currently situated."

The scientist ordered the crew to dig as deep as possible around the discovery. The land from the dig site was taken away in pails for a week. The Kiev governor was invited to the site. The governor carefully watched everything and ordered the find to be buried. He said that some time was required before the discovery could be dug up and examined.

Indeed, the object was very unusual. 

Archeologist Khvoika told himself that the "discovered ancient space rocket" was a sign of an ancient civilization. 

The father of journalist Sukhoveyev had dealings with this rocket after WWII once again. When workers demolished ruins in 1948, they came across the mentioned mysterious object. The find was dug up, cut into pieces, and loaded onto trucks. The parts were taken to a secret testing area in the Moscow region.

The father of the journalist was sent there as well as an expert in ancient languages; he was to translate the inscriptions inside the space ship. It was the Sanscrit language, which is now a dead language. 

The construction of the rocket was actually very complicated; it was practically impossible to understand it. Sergey Korolev, the head of the scientific group researching the mysterious device, admitted that it was a very difficult task to investigate the rocket. 

However, the Soviet scientists managed to understand some of the rocket’s secrets; the discoveries came in very useful later, when Soviet space technology was created. 

Joseph Stalin personally controlled the project and completely relied upon Sergey Korolev’s research. Joseph Stalin insisted that the group of Soviet scientists must successfully complete their research and take the lead over the Americans’ space program.

Valery Yakimov's Russian UFO site - http://www.ufo.ural.ru 

Is Interstellar Travel Possible?
By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer

Pasadena November 18, 2002 (Washington Post) - So: It's about 7:45 p.m. in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on a chill, blustery December night, when this "big round thing" with flashing red lights suddenly crashes in Big Lake Park, just off North Eighth Street.

Eleven witnesses, including cops and firefighters, either see the crash or rush to the scene within 15 minutes to watch the flames from the molten metal -- mostly carbon steel -- that covers the ground.

It happened on Dec. 17, 1977. The "big round thing" that local resident Criss Moore saw hovering in the air 25 years ago has never been explained. 

No one knows if aliens are really blowing up their starships over Council Bluffs. But if extraterrestrial life forms are visiting from time to time, somewhere some sentient beings must have figured out a way to transit interstellar space. Discussions about unidentified flying objects march hand in hand with the feasibility of interstellar space travel.

Earlier this month, George Washington University and the Sci-Fi Channel sponsored a symposium at the university where serious people took up these two topics. Scientists agreed that we won't be doing star trips anytime soon, but "soon" may not mean much in the context of the cosmos.

"The universe is 14 billion years old," said symposium panelist Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist from City University of New York. "Human civilization only began 5,000 years ago."

So give science a chance.

The trick, of course, is to be able to travel faster than the speed of light -- 186,000 miles per second -- which is as fast as anything travels in the world as we understand it, but not nearly fast enough to commute to stars. Our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years away.

There are glimmers about how this problem might be overcome. They involve bending space-time in such a way that one could scoot Enterprise-like through the cosmos.

One way is through "warp speed," implying that we can move faster than light through space-time by distorting space-time itself. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) likens warp drive to a moving sidewalk: A person walks at one speed but travels much faster because the sidewalk moves as well.

Another way to distort space-time is by harnessing an enormous amount of energy -- like that of an entire star -- to create a pathway, or "wormhole," connecting two points that used to be separated.

Suppose, Kaku said, "you wanted to get from one side of a rug to the other, and instead of walking across, you used a big hook to pull the other side of the rug close to you. Then you just stepped over." By crumpling the rug, you built the wormhole, Kaku said: "It's like Alice Through the Looking Glass -- you start in Oxford, then step through the wormhole and you're in Wonderland."

Which is where all of this is right now. The theories are neither proven nor discounted, the science doesn't exist to describe these phenomena with the necessary rigor, and the engineering needed to pull off the technological feats can't even as yet be contemplated.

"I like to speculate about this stuff as much as the next guy, but it's really hard to do," said Ralph L. McNutt Jr., chief scientist for the Space Department at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. "There is no obvious way of getting to warp drive out there."

Instead, McNutt would test the limits of the real world. He is leading a team that has suggested to NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts the possibility of sending a 340-pound probe powered by nuclear generators into interstellar space to a distance of 93 billion miles from Earth. "It's still not far away," McNutt said, noting that a light-year is more than 63 times farther, but it will test the current limits of technology.

At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists have moved a bit further with what the laboratory's Henry M. Harris calls the "proof of concept" for a "beamed energy sail" that could cut travel time to Proxima Centauri from 400 centuries (in a rocket) to a mere 40 years.

Using a lightweight, high-temperature-resistant, carbon-based sail material, the JPL proposal envisions a starship pushed deep into the solar system by a huge laser: "We could get to Jupiter in eight hours and be moving at a tenth of the speed of light," Harris said.

Harris said that JPL and the sailmaker, Energy Science Laboratories Inc. of San Diego, have accelerated small sails in vacuum chambers "at a few g's" and that "we can extrapolate that material for a spacecraft accelerating at 100 g's." One g is the measurement of the force of gravity on an object at rest on Earth.

But 10 percent of light speed still isn't very fast, and "we can't go much faster," Harris said, because even a speck of dust "could do serious damage in a high-speed interstellar collision."

So the message is that comfortable, interstellar space travel -- at least by Earthlings -- is not on for now. But will it ever be?

This is a hard question to get at, but what evidence there is suggests that thinking people believe it will. GWU panelist Peter Sturrock, an emeritus physicist from Stanford University, suggested that scientists tend to give credence to UFO reports -- as long as they are polled by secret ballot.

Ted Roe, executive director of the privately funded National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, found in an aircrew survey of a major airline that 25 percent of the respondents had seen something they couldn't explain, but virtually no one had reported it.
Aircrews, like untenured physicists, can get the sack for reporting a UFO sighting.

But if UFOs are real, then so is interstellar space travel, even though "when you talk about going faster than light speed, then you're talking about [harnessing] the energy of stars," Kaku said.

For Earth, this is probably attainable in "100,000 to 1 million years," Kaku added. "When I look at the age of the universe, I see that we've attained technology in the blink of an eye. There's plenty of time."

Others are not so sure. Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III invoked the Copernican Principle -- a bedrock tenet of the scientific method -- which holds that nothing is "special." If interstellar space travel were common, then "the Earth would have been colonized by extraterrestrials a long time ago," Gott said.

"The Copernican Principle tells us that a significant fraction of the intelligent observers in the universe must be sitting at home on their own planets, or they'd be special. If they aren't, then we're special." 

National Academy of Sciences Press Release

Stanford November 19, 2002 - Writing in the Nov. 18 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Stanford researchers described how newly created circles of synthetic DNA - called "nanocircles" - could help researchers learn more about the aging process in cells.

"In the long run, we have this dream of making laboratory cells live longer," said Eric Kool, a professor of chemistry at Stanford and co-author of the PNAS study. "We thought of this pie-in-the-sky idea several years ago, and we've been working toward it ever since."

All cells carry chromosomes - large molecules of double-stranded DNA that are capped off by single-strand sequences called telomeres. In their study, the research team successfully used synthetic nanocircles to lengthen telomeres in the test tube.

"The telomere is the time clock that tells a cell how long it can divide before it dies," Kool noted. "The consensus is that the length of the telomere helps determine how long a cell population will live, so if you can make telomeres longer, you could have some real biological effect on the lifespan of the cell. These results suggest the possibility that, one day, we may be able to make cells live longer by this approach." 

Cellular death

Human telomeres consist of chemical clusters called "base pairs" that are strung together in a specific sequence known by the initials TTAGGG. This sequence is repeated several thousand times along the length of the telomere. But each time a cell divides during its normal lifecycle, its telomeres are shortened by about 100 base pairs until all cell division finally comes to a halt.

"Suddenly there's a switch in the cell that says, 'It's time to stop dividing,'" Kool explained. "It's still not completely clear how that works, but it is clear that once telomeres reach the critically short length of 3,000 to 5,000 base pairs, they enter senescence and die."

In nature, a chromosome can be lengthened by the enzyme telomerase, which adds new TTAGGG sequences to the end of the telomere. But because telomerase is difficult to produce in the lab, Kool and his co-workers decided to create synthetic nanocircles that mimic the natural enzyme.

Each nanocircle consists of DNA base pairs arranged in a sequence that is complementary to the telomere. When placed in a test tube, the nanocircles automatically lengthen the telomeres by repeatedly adding new TTAGGG sequences.

"Nanocircles are so simple they're amazing," Kool observed. "Each nanocircle acts like a template that says, 'Copy more of that sequence.' In the test tube, we start with very short telomeres and end up with long ones that are easy to see under the microscope with fluorescent labeling. This suggests the possibility that one day we may be able to make cells live indefinitely and divide indefinitely, so they essentially become refreshed, as if they were younger."

Aging and cancer

Kool pointed out that most cells have a limited lifespan, which is part of the normal aging process.

"The link between organism aging and cell aging is less clear, but there very likely is a link," he noted. "On the other hand, it is pretty clear that telomere length governs how long an individual cell lives."

In some diseases, such as premature aging (progeria) and cirrhosis, patients have cells with unusually short telomeres, Kool said. Cancer is another disease closely associated with telomere size.

"In order for a cell to become cancerous, one of the things it has to do is switch on the telomerase gene which makes the telomeres longer," he said. "The body has decided that the best way to keep an organism alive is to keep telomerase turned off, because otherwise you can get mutations and cancer too easily."

Because researchers need to study cells that live a long time, many labs rely on tumor-derived cells, which continuously divide and therefore are immortal. Kool predicted that nanocircle technology could one day provide an alternative method that would allow researchers to use healthy cells in their experiments instead of cancerous ones.

"If you could study normal cells in a convenient way, it would be a major boon for biomedical research," he noted. "You could go to the store and buy liver cells, pancreatic cells and skin cells and have them live indefinitely - if you could find a way to refresh their telomeres every couple of weeks or so. That has been our dream for this project: to find a way to refresh telomeres but without permanently turning on telomerase, which may increase the likelihood of cancer."

Transplantation medicine

Kool thinks nanocircle technology may prove useful in transplantation science and organogenesis.

"Perhaps some day researchers could grow new livers, new pancreas cells, new skin for burn victims," he said. "Instead of waiting for new donors to die, we could grow normal tissue in the lab. Maybe we wouldn't need stem cells; we wouldn't need to get into the controversy of where stem cells come from, if you could just take normal cells and grow them."

Kool and his colleagues also have begun research into the structure of single-strand telomeres, which are strikingly different from double-stranded DNA found in the rest of the chromosome.

Kool Group Website - http://www.stanford.edu/group/kool/main.html 

Genre News: Firefly, Birds of Prey, Angel, Buffy, Roswell, Smallville, James Bond, Ripper and James Coburn
Firefly Glowing - Birds of Prey Grounded
By Josef Adalian and Michael Schneider 

HOLLYWOOD November 19, 2002 (Variety) - The WB is grounding "Birds of Prey," while Fox is shining a little bit of love on "Firefly." 

Nothing's official on "Birds," but industry insiders confirm the WB has told series producer Warner Bros. TV it will not be ordering any episodes of the rookie superhero drama beyond the original 13-episode commitment.

Still undecided: Whether the remaining four episodes from the initial order will be shot. 

While "Birds" scored boffo numbers with its bow last month -- attracting nearly 8 million viewers and winning its 9 p.m.
Wednesday slot in men 18-34 -- the series soon began to bleed viewers. By last week, "Birds" had lost nearly half its premiere audience. There's no word yet when "Birds" will leave the WB lineup or what will replace it. Possibilities include the reality series "Class Reunion" and the drama, "The Black Sash."

Meanwhile, Fox hasn't given up hope on "Firefly." The network has ordered two more episodes of the Joss Whedon actioner, keeping the show on life support for now. 

Fox had previously picked up six additional scripts for "Firefly," which is produced by sibling studio 20th Century Fox TV through Whedon's Mutant Enemy shingle. The show stars Nathan Fillion as the leader of a renegade space ship 500 years in the future; Whedon is directing an upcoming episode. 

"Firefly" continues to struggle on Friday nights. After eight original episodes, the show has averaged 4.8 million viewers.

Firefly returns to FOX, Friday December 6th at 8PM / 7C - http://www.fox.com/firefly

If you want to add your support for Firefly, more information is available at www.fireflysupport.com

Firefly Fan site - http://www.fireflyfans.net

Read a previous eXoNews article on the Save Firefly fan initiative here or click Search in the menu bar.

Angel, Buffy, Roswell and Smallville On Your PC
By FLAtRich

Hollywood November 20, 2002 (eXoNews) - Found some interesting WB screensavers (PC and MAC) for Angel, Buffy, Roswell and Smallville. They're a little out of date because they were created before Buffy and Roswell moved to UPN and Roswell ended. I never saw these on the official sites, so maybe they're new to you too.

The Angel screensaver (448 KB) is almost current, with Fred and Gunn included in the cast along with Angel, Cordy and Wesley. Made before WB switched Angel to Sundays, though. It's a simple slideshow, but nice pix of the gang and my favorite of the downloads.

The Buffy screensaver (1.37 MB) is for the last WB Buffy finale, which was a year and a half ago, but still cool as it includes scenes from the Buffy vs. Dracula episode and most of the current cast. Artsy.

The Roswell screensaver (2.71 MB) was for the season two finale and runs too fast on my system, but a valid historical artifact for collectors. (My system is fast, so the saver is probably not at fault.) This PC archive was the largest download, because for some reason it contains both the PC zip and MAC versions of the file. Features Max, Isobel, Michael and Tess (aliens only, I guess :o)>

The Smallville screensaver (488 KB) was apparently made for the Smallville premiere and features only Clark, Lana and Lex from the cast.

Not as finished looking, but Smallville fans will like it.

The site is at www.65media.com and requires Flash to access the download page. Once the Flash intro comes up (and it is not one of those long boring intros), click on Playground and then on your machine choice (MAC / PC) to download the screensavers.

65media is a LA company, a "design boutique specializing in fantabulous online marketing campaigns."

Note the file sizes above if you are at 56K or lower, and, yes, I do have the most recent possible Norton Anti-Virus definitions on my system so I can testify that at least the PC files are clean. Go for it. Have fun!

City of Angel Fansite - http://www.cityofangel.com 

Buffy Official Site - http://www.buffy.com 

Roswell Fan site - http://www.crashdown.com 

Smallville Official site  - http://www2.warnerbros.com/web/smallville/ledger/home.jsp

Solaris for Purists

Hollywood November 20, 2002 (eXoNews) - In the wake of the new version of Solaris, billed as a romance in trailers, Lem purists who prefer Andrei Tarkovsky's original version of the classic science fiction novel can see it fully restored at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles from November 22th to November 28th.

The 1972 feature was first released in the US in 1976 missing 35 minutes. It was restored in 1989 and has been shown widescreen on TCM.

George Clooney and Natasha McElhone in Solaris starting November 27th - http://www.solaristhemovie.com

Thomason Rides Disney 'Mansion' as Murphy Wife 
By Josh Spector

Hollywood November 19, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - British actress Marsha Thomason will star opposite Eddie Murphy in the big-screen adaptation of the popular Disney theme park attraction "Haunted Mansion."

Thomason, who made her U.S. film debut opposite Martin Lawrence in the 2001 comedy "Black Knight," will play Murphy's wife in the film about a work-obsessed father (Murphy) whose encounter with a ghost makes him realize the importance of his own family.

"Mansion" is being directed by Rob Minkoff and produced by Andrew Gunn of Gunn Films and Don Hahn. The film was penned by David Berenbaum and is being overseen at the studio by production execs Brigham Taylor and Louanne Brickhouse. Production is scheduled to begin Jan. 6. "Mansion" is the latest project for Thomason in what has been a busy year.

The actress recently wrapped the Miramax comedy "My Baby's Mama" opposite Eddie Griffin and can next be seen opposite Lukas Haas in the Working Title thriller "Long Time Dead." Thomason is repped by Melanie Greene Management, Sue Latimer at ARG in London and attorney Fred Toczek. 

New Jersey Man Wins Million-Dollar 'Push' Prize

LOS ANGELES November 15, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - A 24-year-old from West New York, N.J., was the first person to figure out the "Push, Nevada" puzzle and has claimed the $1 million-plus prize associated with the cancelled ABC series.

Mark Nakomoto, an assistant editor at a publishing firm, figured out the puzzle less than two minutes after the game's final clue was broadcast Oct. 28, during "Monday Night Football." The final clue completed a coded message that corresponded to a phone number.

Nakomoto was the quickest to call in, which earned him the $1,045, 000 prize. Thousands of people eventually figured out the clues. About 500 callers got through in the first 20 minutes, and more than 10,000 called within 24 hours.

"Push, Nevada," which got hammered in the ratings on Thursday nights, followed an IRS agent (Derek Cecil) as he tried to uncover the mystery of a casino theft in the town of Push. Clues to the game were embedded in each episode, and the game also had several online elements.

The show ended its run on Oct. 24.

700-year old Mickey Mouse?

Malta November 15, 2002 (Cinescape) - Ananova reports that Austrian art historian Eduard Mahlknecht has discovered a Hidden Mickey in a 700-year old fresco of St. Christopher on the island of Malta. 

While the scholar believes it's a coincidence and that the image "is most likely to be a drawing of a beaver or a weasel," Siggi Neuschitzer, manager of the Malta Tourism Association, said.

"Our Mickey Mouse is 700 years older than Disney's and we will get it legally examined."

Ripper Still Possible 

Hollywood November 18, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Anthony Stewart Head, who plays Giles on UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, told SCI FI Wire that plans are still in the works for a British spin-off series based on his character, despite reports that the show was on hold.

"I had lunch with Jane Root, who's head of BBC 2, shortly before I came out [to Los Angeles], and we talked briefly about it," Head said in an interview. "Jane still wants to do it. And still thinks we will do it. But everybody knows, basically, that [Buffy creator] Joss [Whedon] is absolutely strapped at the moment. I mean, bless his heart."

Head added, "Ultimately, there isn't really time for him to start running another show. I'm seeing if I can put together a group of people in England for him. But the problem with Joss is that ... he has to be involved. I mean, that's the nature of the beast. And you can feel it when he's not involved. And so therefore, the more stuff he's working with and on, the more he's involved. And ... I think it's just a matter of, the timing will be right. If and when it happens. You know. I'm not going to say, 'It's going to happen next year.' Who knows? It may be three years down the line. The bottom line is, the story is still a good idea. The theory is still a good idea. So if and when it happens, I think ... it needs to have time and care spent on it. They've already written some scripts. [Buffy producer] Jane [Espenson] and he have already got some ... about three or four of the storylines."

Head said the proposed BBC 2 series will be called either Ripper or The Watcher and will explore Giles' background and darker side.

"That's why [Whedon] wants to call it Ripper. Because Ripper is the darker side of Rupert. But in Joss' words, it's more about ... inner demons than ... the guys with prosthetics on their heads. It's about people coming to terms with their past and with themselves. His concept ... I've said it before, but it kind of puts it neatly in the box, which is ... it's Cracker, with ghosts."

Buffy Official Site - http://www.buffy.com

Critics Fume over Smoking Bond
By Julie Keller

Hollywood November 18, 2002 (E!) - Never say never again, James Bond--especially when it comes to your nicotine habit. 

For the first time since taking over the 007 role, Pierce Brosnan will light up on screen in the upcoming Die Another Day, according to London's Sunday Times. 

Brosnan--who usually adopts an anti-smoking stance in his film choices--is seen puffing on a cigar in the new flick.

The British paper, which published the offending image, says the actor and producers decided to go ahead with the stogie scene, because the movie is set in Cuba, home of the world's best cigars.

(Aside from Cuban tobacco, the paper says the film is so filled with blatant plugs, from Revlon to Ford, that critics have dubbed the flick "Buy Another Day.") 

Needless to say, the anti-smoking types are fuming. Lung czars in both Britain, where the movie premieres Monday night, and the States say Bond's puffery sends the wrong message to moviegoers. 

"The American Lung Association is very concerned that tobacco use is too often glamorized in movies. We are particularly concerned that the positive depiction of tobacco use encourages children and youth to smoke," says Michelle Sawatka, director of media relations for the American Lung Association. "When they see their big-screen heroes smoking, they may try to imitate that behavior."

Reps for the action star and MGM did not immediately respond to calls for comment. 

Brosnan is a longtime cigar smoker off-screen and even appeared in a cigarette ad in Japan back in the early 1990s (for a screen shot, see www.tobaccofree.org/brosnan1.htm). He was featured puffing on a stogie on the cover of the November/December 1997 issue of Cigar Aficionado. 

In an in-depth interview, he said of cigars: "I enjoy them. People give me fine cigars, and I enjoy sharing them with people who really appreciate a fine cigar. There have been times when I've gone out with business guys and smoked cigars, and they've been among the most pleasurable evenings I've had. Good cigars and good company. Hard to beat." 

But until Die Another Day, he had made a conscious effort not to be caught inhaling on the big screen (although he was briefly glimpsed holding a cigarette in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies). In fact, before his 1999 Bond effort, The World Is Not Enough, producers made a big deal over 007's new tobacco-free lifestyle. The movie even included a sight gag in which Bond's BMW had a sign asking passengers: "Please do not smoke." Bond also sits in a no-smoking section of a restaurant in the film.

While he is largely known for guzzling martinis shaken not stirred, Bond has always been a nicotine fiend, too. In Ian Fleming's novels, Bond puffed his way through 60 hand-made cigarettes a day. When Dr. No, the first of the 007 movies, first introduces us to Bond, James Bond, Sean Connery is seen lighting up.

All subsequent Bonds - George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton - smoked either cigarettes or cigars. Before Die Another Day, the last time 007 was seen puffing was back in 1989 for Dalton's License to Kill. 

Despite the smoking news, Die Another Day it not likely to be snuffed out by the bad press when it opens this Friday. Buzz is already strong for the 20th installment of the ultra successful franchise. Just last week, Brosnan's sexy costar Halle Berry said she was in talks with producers about reprising the Jinx role in what would become the first Bond-based spin-off series in the secret agent's 40-year history. 

And while Brosnan's contract expires with this, his fourth 007 foray, he's told reporters that he's talking to producers about reprising the role for a fifth time. Cameras will roll on the next Bond flick in 2005. 

No word on whether James will be back on the patch by then.

The Official Bond Web Site is, of course - http://www.jamesbond.com

James Coburn Dies at 74 

Associated Press Writer 

LOS ANGELES November 19, 2002 (AP) - James Coburn, the lean and lanky actor who rose to fame playing villainous roles in early action films and won an Academy Award decades later as an alcoholic father in "Affliction," has died of a heart attack. He was 74. 

Coburn and his wife, Paula, were listening to music at their Beverly Hills home on Monday when he suffered the heart attack, said Hillard Elkins, the actor's longtime friend and business manager.
He was pronounced dead at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. 

Coburn's breakthrough performances came in 1960s action flicks such as "The Magnificent Seven," "Hell is For Heroes" and "The Great Escape." He then changed direction and found what was for decades his greatest fame: portraying tongue-in-cheek secret agent Derek Flint in the late 1960s James Bond spoofs "Our Man Flint" and "In Like Flint." 

In 1998, he turned out what some would say was his finest screen performance, as the abusive, alcoholic father of Nick Nolte in "Affliction." Coburn won a best supporting actor Oscar for that film. 

"He was a hell of an actor, he had a great sense of humor and those performances will be remembered for a very long time," said Elkins.

Coburn had recently completed two films, the just-released "The Man From Elysian Fields" and "American Gun," which Elkins said should be released soon. In the latter, Coburn's character travels the country in search of his daughter's killer. 

Born in Laurel, Neb., on Aug. 31, 1928, Coburn grew up Southern California, making his stage debut opposite Vincent Price in a La Jolla Playhouse production of "Billy Budd." 

Later, he moved to New York where he studied acting with Stella Adler and appeared in such classic 1950s television shows as "Studio One" and "General Electric Theatre." 

Returning to Los Angeles, he appeared regularly in such TV Westerns as "Wagon Train," "The Rifleman" and "Wanted: Dead or Alive," throughout the 1950s. 

He made his movie debut in "Ride Lonesome" in 1959, following it with another Western, "Face of a Fugitive," that same year. 

But it was the following year that he really grabbed the public's attention, playing knife-throwing Britt in the epic Western "The Magnificent Seven." 

Although he had few lines compared with his other macho co-stars, who included Yul Brynner, Eli Wallach and Steve McQueen, film historian Leonard Maltin noted Coburn's mere screen presence captivated his audiences. 

After "The Magnificent Seven," Coburn played sidekicks and villains until the late 1960s when he cashed in on the James Bond mania with the humorous "Flint" films.

Other notable works included "The President's Analyst" (1967), "Goldengirl" (1979), and the Sam Peckinpah films "Major Dundee" (1965) and "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973). 

In the 1980s he all but disappeared from the screen as he fought a 10-year battle with a painful form of arthritis that left one hand crippled. 

He told The Associated Press in a 1999 interview that he had "healed himself" by taking sulfur-based pills. Although his knuckles remained gnarled, the pills cured him of the excruciating pain. 

His health restored, he worked steadily through the '90s, appearing in such wide-ranging fare as "Young Guns II," "The Nutty Professor," "The Cherokee Kid" and "Maverick."

He also provided the voice of corrupt company CEO Henry J. Waternoose III in last year's popular animated comedy "Monsters Inc." 

His role as Glen Whitehouse, the violent drunk in "Affliction" that Nolte's small-town cop feared becoming, brought him his only Oscar. 

"Some of them you do for money, some of them you do for love," he said of the film. "This is a love child," 

In addition to his wife, Coburn is survived by his son, James H. Coburn IV, and daughter, Lisa Coburn.

Black Holes!
Our Runaway Black Hole!


November 18, 2002 - A nearby black hole, hurtling through the plane of our galaxy like a cannonball, has given what some astronomers say is their best evidence yet that stellar-mass black holes are made in supernova explosions. The black hole, called GRO J1655-40, is streaking across space at a rate of 250,000 miles per hour. That speed is four times faster than the average velocity of the stars in that galactic neighborhood. The most likely "cannon blast" is the explosive kick of a supernova, one of the universe's most titanic events. 

Even though, by definition, black holes swallow light, the runaway black hole has a companion star, allowing astronomers to track it. NASA Hubble Space Telescope's sharp view allowed astronomers to measure the black hole's motion across the sky in images taken in 1995 and 2001. Combining the Hubble data with separate measurements of its radial motion toward Earth taken from ground-based telescopes yields the true "space velocity" of the black hole, and shows that it is streaking across the plane of our Milky Way in a highly elliptical orbit. 

"This is the first black hole found to be moving fast through the plane of our galaxy," says Felix Mirabel of the French Atomic Energy Commission and the Institute for Astronomy and Space Physics of Argentina. "This discovery is exciting because it shows the link of a black hole to a supernova," aside from observing gamma-ray busts from hypernovae (even more powerful stellar explosions), which are believed to make black holes. Mirabel's results appear in the November 19 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Though the black hole is roughly heading in our direction, it is at a "safe" distance, 6,000 to 9,000 light-years away, in the direction of the constellation Scorpius. Mirabel believes the black hole may have been born in the inner disk of our galaxy, where the highest rate of star formation is taking place. 

An aging, evolved star whirls around the black hole, completing one orbit just every 2.6 days. The hole is slowly devouring the companion, which apparently survived the supernova that originally created the black hole. This process makes blowtorch-like jets that stream away from the black hole at a significant fraction of the speed of light. It is the second "microquasar" discovered in our galaxy (meaning that it is a scaled-down model of monster black holes at the cores of extremely active galaxies, called quasars.) 

Astronomers have known about stellar-mass black holes (ranging anywhere from 3.5 to approximately 15 solar masses) since the early 1970s. The only conceivable mechanism for making such black holes would be the implosion of the core of a star when it dies.

The implosion sends out a shockwave that rips the rest of the star to shreds as a supernova. If the surviving core is greater than 3.5 times our Sun's mass, no forces can stop the collapse, and it will shrink to an infinitely small and dense singularity. 

Astronomers have catalogued even faster-moving neutron stars catapulted by a supernova explosion. The black hole is moving relatively slower because it has much more mass and so has more resistance to being accelerated. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Two Supermassive Black Holes in Same Galaxy

Cambridge, MA November 19, 2002 (NASA) - For the first time, scientists have proof two supermassive black holes exist together in the same galaxy, thanks to data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. These black holes are orbiting each other and will merge several hundred million years from now, to create an even larger black hole resulting in a catastrophic event that will unleash intense radiation and gravitational waves. 

The Chandra image reveals that the nucleus of an extraordinarily bright galaxy, known as NGC 6240, contains not one, but two giant black holes, actively accreting material from their surroundings. This discovery shows that massive black holes can grow through mergers in the centers of galaxies, and that these enigmatic events will be detectable with future space-borne gravitational wave observatories. 

"The breakthrough came with Chandra's ability to clearly distinguish the two nuclei, and measure the details of the X-radiation from each nucleus," said Guenther Hasinger, of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, a coauthor of an upcoming Astrophysical Journal Letters paper describing the research. "These cosmic fingerprints revealed features characteristic of supermassive black holes -- an excess of high-energy photons from gas swirling around a black hole, and X-rays from fluorescing iron atoms in gas near black holes," he said. 

Previous X-ray observatories had shown that the central region produces X-rays, while radio, infrared and optical observations had detected two bright nuclei, but the nature of this region remained a mystery. Astronomers did not know the location of the X-ray source, or the nature of the two bright nuclei. -more- 

"With Chandra, we hoped to determine which one, if either, of the nuclei was an active supermassive black hole," said Stefanie Komossa, also of the Max Planck Institute, lead author of the paper on NGC 6240. "Much to our surprise, we found that both were active black holes!" 

At a distance of about 400 million light-years, NGC 6240 is a prime example of a massive galaxy in which stars are forming at an exceptionally rapid rate due to a recent collision and subsequent merger of two smaller galaxies. Because of the large amount of dust and gas in such galaxies, it is difficult to peer deep into their central regions with optical telescopes. However, X-rays emanating from the galactic core can penetrate the veil of gas and dust. 

"The detection of a binary black hole supports the idea that black holes can grow to enormous masses in the centers of galaxies by merging with other black holes," said Komossa. "This is important for understanding how galaxies form and evolve," she said. 

Over the course of the next few hundred million years, the two black holes in NGC 6240, which are about 3000 light-years apart, will drift toward one another and merge to form an even larger supermassive black hole. Toward the end of this process an enormous burst of gravitational waves will be produced several hundred million years from now. 

These gravitational waves will spread through the universe and produce ripples in the fabric of space, which would appear as minute changes in the distance between any two points. NASA's planned space-based detector, LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), will search for gravitational waves from massive black-hole mergers. These events are estimated to occur several times each year in the observable universe. 

"This is the first time we see a binary black hole in action, the smoking gun for something that will become a major gravitational wave burst in the future," said Hasinger. 

Chandra observed NGC 6240 for 10.3 hours with the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS). Other members of the team are Vadim Burwitz and Peter Predehl of the Max Planck Institute, Jelle Kaastra of the Space Research Organization Netherlands and Yasushi Ikebe of the University of Maryland in Baltimore. 

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, Washington, and TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

George Harrison's Last Album Released
London November 20, 2002 (eXoNews) - The Official George Harrison web site announced the release of Brainwashed, George Harrison's last album, on November 18 on Dark Horse/EMI Recorded Music. The album features the first new material by Harrison since 1987's Cloud Nine.

Produced by George, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Harrison, the album features 11 new Harrison songs and a cover of the standard 'Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea.' 

"In addition to lead and backing vocals, 'Brainwashed' features George Harrison on electric and acoustic guitars (including slide & dobro), ukulele, bass and keyboards.

"Jeff Lynne plays bass, piano, guitars and keyboards and supplies backing vocals. Dhani Harrison plays electric and acoustic guitars, Wurlitzer and contributes backing vocals."

The first single from the album is 'Stuck Inside A Cloud.'

The site also has information about the charity concert planned by Harrison's widow and Eric Clapton to be held at the Royal Albert Hall on November 29th.

Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tom Petty and Ravi Shankar will be among the performers.

The proceeds from the concert will go to the Material World Charitable Foundation, an organization started by George in 1972 to support the arts and people with special needs.

Official George Harrison Site - http://www.georgeharrison.com 

Lady Madonnas Shock Rome
By Luke Baker 

ROME November 19, 2002 (Reuters) - Images of the Madonna always get lots of exposure in Italy in the run-up to Christmas, but this year the mother of Jesus is completely naked. 

And then some. 

In a 2003 calendar on sale at news stands country-wide, a glamour photographer has shot 12 months of undressed women in provocative scenes inspired by the life of Christ. It's all part of a sexy calendar craze that takes Italy by storm every year, with top models and TV celebrities baring all in what has become a $10 million business. 

This time, however, the naked Madonnas calendar may have gone too far. 

September features a heavy-bosomed Virgin Mary suckling a child, while March depicts a raven-haired nude washing a woman's toes in a pose evocative of Mary Magdalene, the penitent prostitute who anointed Christ's feet. 

And those are just the mild months. 

April is a bare-breasted Virgin Mary, halo shining above her head, with her arms held out to reveal bleeding palms like the wounds of Christ on the cross, and wearing nothing but a transparent loin cloth and white high heels. 

It's all too much for news stand salesmen, many of whom are keeping the calendar under the counter, not to mention the Church, which is hot under the collar about the blasphemy of it all. 

"It's the height of sacrilege and a disgraceful transformation (of the Madonna)," Gino Concetti, a moral theologian who is close to the pope, told Reuters. "It's playing with religion to exalt hedonism and eroticism, and turns women into blatant consumer objects." 

Newspaper salesmen have stopped displaying it with other titillating calendars because of customer complaints. That's all something of a shock to Alberto Magliozzi, who has an international reputation for his "artistic-erotic" images of celebrities, including Sharon Stone and Nicole Kidman. 

"I think the calendar has been misinterpreted," the photographer, 52, told Reuters from his studio outside Rome. "The naked body of a woman is not an obscene thing. I didn't want to create anything blasphemous... These pictures transmit innocence, desperation, pain and suffering. I'm a religious man myself, but I'm also passionate about the aesthetic form -- being religious doesn't mean you can't appreciate beautiful women." 

While conceding some of the images might be difficult to take, Magliozzi said the public reaction was positive and sales were strong, although he had no numbers. Publishers printed 40,000 copies, which retail for eight euros ($8). 

A random selection of people on the streets of Rome was not particularly impressed, however. 

"It's revolting," said 26-year-old Alessandra D'Abramo as she cast an eye over a picture of a red-head looking somewhat angelic, naked but for a slip of white gauze at her waist. "Rather than blasphemous, it's just ugly." 

For the men, the Madonnas can't compete with the host of other temptresses that adorn calendars. This year's favorites include Elisabetta Canalis, the long-legged, sultry girlfriend of Inter Milan soccer star Christian Vieri, who had said she'd never pose topless, and Luisa Corna, another soccer-mad Mediterranean beauty. 

Alongside that pair, the Madonnas don't stand a chance. 

"It's not even that erotic," said Lorenzo Taglioferro, 20, as he went through the calendar. "I wouldn't buy it. But Canalis -- now she's a winner."
The Search for Aztlan

Salt Lake City November 17, 2002 (Salt Lake Tribune) - It was a map drawn in 1768 by a Spaniard in Paris that sent Roberto Rodriguez running toward Aztlan. 

As a Mexican American, Rodriguez long had pondered the historical location of Aztlan, the mythic homeland of the Aztecs. Six years ago, he and his wife, Patrisia Gonzales, found tantalizing directions in Don Joseph Antonio Alzate y Ramirez's map of North America. 

Where present-day Utah would be, and next to a large body of water called "Laguna de Teguyo," are the words: "From these desert contours, the Mexican Indians were said to have left to found their empire." 

That cryptic message is one clue among many -- a petroglyph etched on a sandstone wall in eastern Utah's Sego Canyon, an 1847 United States map highlighting the confluences of the Colorado, Green and San Juan rivers in southern Utah, a mound and more petroglyphs just outside Vernal -- that have researchers considering a new angle on the history of the southwestern United States. 

"Some don't believe [Aztlan] was true, like Atlantis or the Garden of Eden," says Roger Blomquist, a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. "But I'm convinced it's in Utah. The evidence is very compelling. It's building a mosaic that supports that thesis." 

Since the 1960s and '70s civil rights movement, Chicano activists have used the name Aztlan to describe the American Southwest as a northern homeland for Americans of Mexican heritage. But for much longer, people all over the world have been trying to pinpoint the historical location of the legendary place the Aztecs left to build their civilization in the Valley of Mexico. 

Rodriguez says Aztlan's literal and figurative meanings are both relevant to his search. 

"People would always tell us to 'go back to where we came from,' " Rodriguez says. "Then we came up with this map. Our work is about whether we belong or not."

Western scholars, Catholic clergy, Chicano activists and even the Aztecs themselves have been seeking Aztlan for more than 500 years. They have put much of their energy into gleaning facts from the story that tells of a people emerging from the bowels of the earth through seven caves and settling on an island called Aztlan, translated as "place of the egrets," or "place of whiteness." 

Acting upon a command from a spirit, these people left Aztlan and went south until they came upon an eagle devouring a serpent in the present-day location of Mexico City, where historical records suggest they founded the city Tenochtitlan in the 14th century.

But in 1433, Aztec leaders burned the picture books that recounted the migration to the Valley of Mexico, leaving only oral tradition and the name Aztlan. 

The Aztec king Motecuhzoma I was probably the first to investigate seriously the location of Aztlan.

In the 1440s, he sent 60 magicians north for a journey that itself became a legend -- according to chronicler Diego Duran, these pilgrims encountered a supernatural being who transformed them into birds, and they flew to Aztlan. After the Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the early 16th century, they began studying the Aztecs' origins.

Francisco Clavijero, a Jesuit priest, in 1789 deduced that Aztlan lay north of the Colorado River. Other Mexican, European and American historians put Aztlan in the Mexican state of Michoacan, Florida, California, even Wisconsin. Many others deny it ever existed. 

But perhaps the most widely accepted historical location of Aztlan is that proposed by historian Alfredo Chavero in 1887. Retracing Nu-o de Guzman's 1530 expedition north from the Valley of Mexico, Chavero deduced that Aztlan was an island off the coast of the Mexican state of Nayarit called Mexcaltitlan. 

Modern-day scholars who favor Utah as an Aztec homeland use some of these studies and chronicles to advance their theories, which range geographically from Salt Lake Valley to the Uinta Mountains to the Colorado Plateau. But each of these researchers also seems to have his or her own trump card. 

Rodriguez's curiosity originally was spurred by a copy of an 1847 map of the boundaries drawn by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo, but quickly expanded to "a hundred others," including the chart Alzate y Ramirez created for the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris. The maps touched off "Aztlanahuac," a project by Rodriguez and Gonzales, newspaper columnists whose work appears in The Tribune, that has spawned one book with two more on the way. 

Aztlanahuac led them to gather oral histories on migration from Native Americans throughout the Southwest. Believing that the "Laguna de Teguyo" had to be the Great Salt Lake, the San Antonio couple also traveled to Antelope Island four years ago. There, Rodriguez asked a state park ranger how many caves the island had. The ranger's reply was, of course, seven.

Blomquist, a doctoral candidate in American Frontier History whose dissertation explores Aztec origins in Utah, focuses on the Uinta Mountains. He believes that Aztecs, who would have heard ancestral stories, advised 17th-century Spanish prospectors to look for gold in northeastern Utah. 

Blomquist also cites a "natural temple site" in the Uintas near Vernal. He says there is a 200-foot-high mound with footsteps carved into it and an altar-sized boulder at its base that mirrors temples he has seen in Mexico, such as Monte Alban outside of Oaxaca. 

On a rock at the site are petroglyphs of a warrior and his family that Blomquist says don't resemble rock art of the Fremont people known to have inhabited Utah. And the warrior is carrying a long sword-like object that broadens to a blunt end, like a cleaver, which Blomquist likens to a Mesoamerican weapon called a macana. 

Then there is Cecilio Orozco, a retired California State University at Fresno education professor who has observed that petroglyphs in Sego Canyon, about 30 miles east of Green River, correspond to the Aztec calendar's mathematical formula of five orbits of Venus for every eight Earth years. On one of the canyon's sandstone walls are two petroglyphs of knotted string, one with five strings hanging down, the other eight. 

In conjunction with his mentor, Alfonso Rivas-Salmon, Orozco theorizes that southern Utah is not Aztlan but the earlier homeland of "Nahuatl," the land of "four waters," where the Colorado, Green and San Juan rivers meet to pour through the Grand Canyon (Nahuatl is also the name of the Aztecs' language.). The 1847 treaty map also points to southern Utah as the "Ancient Homeland of the Aztecs." 

Along those lines, Belgian scholar Antoon Leon Vollemaere believes he has pinpointed the location of Aztlan on either Wilson or Grey Mesa, where the Colorado and San Juan meet under Lake Powell. 

Researchers also cite the close connection between the languages of the Aztecs and the Ute Indians in the "Uto-Aztecan" linguistic group, as well as the coincidence that the Anasazi culture began to decline at about the same time the Aztecs' ancestors were supposed to have left Aztlan. 

While the pile of evidence that the Aztecs came from somewhere in Utah may seem high, more skeptical scholars like Northern Arizona University archaeologist Kelley Hays-Gilpin put things into perspective. 

Hays-Gilpin acknowledges the linguistic connection between the Aztecs and Utes as well as economic interaction between Mesoamerican and North American peoples. But she offers a twist on the overall migration scheme -- the Aztecs' ancestors may have moved north before moving south. 

Hays-Gilpin believes that people speaking a proto-Uto-Aztecan language domesticated maize in central Mexico more than 5,000 years ago, and consequently spread north to an area of the American West that could have included Utah. Out of that multitude of cultures, some groups could have migrated south to northern Mexico, and some of those could have, as she says, "moved to the Valley of Mexico and subjugated some of the confused and bedraggled remnants of the latest 'regime change.' " 

This concept resonates with Utah Division of Indian Affairs Director Forrest Cuch, a member of the Northern Ute Tribe, who remembers his grandmother telling him his people came from the south. Could the Utes and the Aztecs' ancestors also have lived in close contact in modern-day Utah? 

"I'm open to it," Cuch says, "because so little is known about the past." 

As such, it would be almost impossible to prove the historical location of Aztlan, but Roberto Rodriguez says clearing the mist surrounding the myth may not be so important anyway. 

While treading the path of his Aztlanahuac project, Rodriguez began to uncover a history of mass migration akin to the one Hays-Gilpin suggests. For him and Gonzales, understanding the larger scheme of historical movement throughout North America became more vital than deconstructing one elusive origin story. 

"[Finding a location] has almost become irrelevant," he says. "Now, we have a bigger understanding, that the whole continent is connected. You have all these stories of people going back and forth." 

Rodriguez says all that migration is most significant for Mexican Americans, and for the thousands of people now moving from Mexico to the United States, because it affords them and subsequent generations an answer when someone says, "go back where you came from." 

"I just hope kids at school some day will at least be shown these maps," he says. 

University of Utah ethnic studies professor Armando Sol-rzano has tailored the Aztlan concept to fit Utah, which is experiencing its own influx of Mexican immigrants.

Sol-rzano, a native Guadalajaran, has his own reasoning as to why Utah was a point of departure for the Aztecs -- that the geographical characteristics of Salt Lake Valley resemble those of Mexico City -- but his interpretation of Aztlan is, like Rodriguez's, a broader one. 

Sol-rzano tells of arriving in Utah 12 years ago and seeing the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake. "I said, 'My God, this is Aztlan.' I felt a spiritual unity with the land, something I had never felt before outside Mexico." 

He compares the concept of Aztlan as a sacred land of harmony with that of Zion in the Mormon tradition.

The similarities, he says, show that both cultures are searching for a common goal. Sol-rzano calls his Utah adaptation of Aztlan "Utaztlan." 

Had Sol-rzano's own migration path taken him to a different part of the United States, his concept of Aztlan likely would be different. Still, he shares his sense of the myth's importance with people of Mexican heritage all over the country. 

"What is happening now is we are returning," Sol-rzano says. "This is an opportunity to rewrite history and make justice."

Los Lobos Official site (Good Morning Aztlan) - http://loslobos.org 

Visit eXoNews for more recent news!

Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!