Alien expert Giorgio A. Tsoukalos does not believe the apocalypse will happen Friday.
Tsoukalos is the director of the Center for Ancient Astronaut Research, but he's probably best known for his work on the History Channel's Ancient Aliens, a show that explores possible interactions between ancient cultures and extraterrestrials. Tsoukalos acknowledges Dec. 21 is a significant date on the Mayan Long Count calendar, but he believes the doomsday scenarios are far-fetched. Instead, Tsoukalos says the end of the calendar cycle on Friday is cause for celebration. That's why he's teaming up with the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus to usher in a new celestial age and pay homage to our origins by hosting the Cosmic Convergence Festival at the Sugar Mill.
"While we are a magnificent species, we have to come to grips that we're not alone," Tsoukalous says. "It's a call to action in a very fun, tongue-in-cheek way. We'll show the space gods that not only can we throw a party, but we're awesome."
When Tsoukalos hatched the idea for the Cosmic Convergence Festival, he knew he wanted to host it in New Orleans. He first came to New Orleans earlier this year to reign as king of the Krewe of Chewbacchus, a Carnival krewe devoted to science fiction fandom, especially Star Wars, and known for its mini-floats and costumes. Since then, Tsoukalos has returned to the city on multiple occasions, including a stop on his fall lecture tour and an appearance at Wizard World New Orleans Comic Con. He found a friend in Chewbacchus founder Ryan Ballard, and the two curated a festival lineup that incorporates the earthly pleasures of Carnival and the intergalactic mysteries of Ancient Aliens.
Headlining the entertainment at the fest is Ghostland Observatory, an electro-rock duo from Austin, Texas. Also on the bill are Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Alex McMurray and the Interstellar All-Stars, the Hot 8 Brass Band and more than a dozen other acts performing on two stages. There will be alien aerialists swinging from the rafters, fire spinners and go-go dancers. The venue will be decked out with Mayan-themed Mardi Gras floats and sci-fi contraptions from the Krewe of Chewbacchus. Ballard and his crew also constructed a giant mothership that will land on top of a Mayan temple built inside the Sugar Mill. At midnight, Tsoukalos will emerge from the ship to toast alien ancestors in a bit of pageantry inspired by Mardi Gras traditions.
As a Star Wars fan, Ballard understands the appeal of Ancient Aliens and why people are drawn to Tsoukalos's unconventional theories.
"I think science fiction is the grand mythology of our time," he says. "It's the equivalent of Greek mythology to the Greeks."
Tsoukalos takes it one step further. "As crazy as it sounds — and trust me, I know how crazy it all sounds — Ancient Aliens brings to the table that those science fiction stories might not be so fictional after all."
As an example, Tsoukalos points to the Mayan Long Count calendar. Dec. 21, 2012, marks the end of a 25,600-year cycle, which is the length of time it takes to realign a wobble of the earth's rotational axis. Tsoukalos believes this astronomical cycle is the basis for the Mayan calendar, even though the start of the cycle predates Mayan civilization.
"For the Maya and the Hindu and the ancient Greeks to know this — they attribute that knowledge directly to receiving it from elsewhere," he says. "They all figured it out on their own, but they were given the basics by extraterrestrials."
For proof, Tsoukalos refers to historical texts from ancient civilizations. "The chroniclers put down that gods descended from the sky and they set everything in motion," he says. "Our ancestors thought they were being visited by gods, when in reality we all know that the gods do not exist. They were misinterpreting flesh-and-blood extraterrestrials."
While the Cosmic Convergence Festival is expected to be an all-Earthling event, the organizers say they wouldn't be surprised if the eclectic array of musicians and performers inspires some close encounters.
"If extraterrestrials actually do land at the party, then we've done our jobs even better than expected," Ballard says.
Since this is New Orleans, Tsoukalos adds, "They might blend right in."