Thursday, January 31, 2013

A few quotes from the lexicon of Francis E. Dec, crank

Francis E. Dec was a New Yorker who had a relatively normal life as an Air Force radio operator, Bachelor of Arts graduate, and lawyer, until he was overtaken by paranoid schizophrenia and drew out the remainder of his years as a harmless crank who wrote a series of documents detailing a vast conspiracy-theory worldview which he mailed out and otherwise shared. We're talking racism, sexism, homophobia, religious conspiracies, mind-control rays, the works.

That bein' said so, his ravings make for a fun little theme park of kooky whimsy.

He's since achieved underground cult status, with tributes popping up everywhere from the Church of the Subgenius to Discordianism to popular music, including fictionalized versions of his works and a whole fan site, seen here.

So, a few terms to know if you want to study Francis' worldview:
The Brain-Bank Cities:

Cities existing on the far side of the moon we never see and which house your moon-brain (your real brain) of the Computer God. Primarily based on your lifelong Frankenstein Radio Controls, your moon-brain of the Computer God activates your Frankenstein threshold Brainwash Radio inculcating conformist propaganda. As such, these cities and the moon-brains housed in them are a vital part of the Gangster Computer God Worldwide Secret Containment Policy.
The Computer Brain Machines:

These secret machines are used by the Gangster Government for the purpose of filling out all of its paperwork, such as taxes, forms, bills, etc.  The speed of these machines is 2000 words a minute and they actually do the work which is supposedly done by Government Employees.
Infrared Crusader Priests:

These troops, created by the Computer God, were several hundred years ago responsible for the conquering and degeneration of the Slovene People, as well as for the savage butchery and experimentation upon thousands of innocents in order to perfect the process of implanting Frankenstein Controls inside the human skull. The Crusader Priests wore black robes and armor, with night-vision plastic lenses built into their helmets. They also used weapons smeared with Poison Nerve Jelly and conducted mass-exterminations by burning vast fields dusted with inflammable poison nerve gas powder Prussic Acid. Their headquarters were specially designated, fortified monasteries. Their modern-day successors include both black-robed judges and black-robed priests.
Frankenstein Slavery:

The process during which one’s own body is remote-controlled by the Worldwide Mad Deadly Gangster Computer God. Frankenstein slavery is usually most prevalent at night, when you are unwittingly operated upon by the Computer God Sealed Robot-arm Operating Cabinet. Sodomy and rape, performed upon you by your tormentors, is an added bonus.
Rumors abound of archival on Ubuweb, but I'll be hanged in Tarnation if I can find them.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The French postman who built his own rock castle

What you're looking at was all built by one man, a humble civil servant with no architectural training working only with his hands and carrying each stone home himself.
Ferdinand Cheval was a postman in Hauterives, France, a tiny community with a population all of 1500. In 1875, Cheval was making his postal rounds when he tripped over a stone (ready your psychedelic jokes) and became inspired to collect stones and build his own palace, which he called "the Palace Ideal."
He then proceeded to spend the next 33 years doing just that. Solo, without help, mixing his own mortar, carrying stones to the site with a wheelbarrow, and working by lamplight at night so as not to interfere with his day job.
Make no mistake - while Cheval had no training in art, his palace is a breath-taking structure of intricate detail mixing styles of architecture from Hinduism and Christendom. Having competed the work to his satisfaction in 1912, he sought to be buried there, but discovered that French law wouldn't allow this request. He then proceeded to build his own mausoleum in exactly the same fashion at the local cemetery, taking another eight years to finish it.
Having completed this final project, his most obstinate excellency retired to his palace for exactly one year, to be honored and recognized by such international artistic talents as Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso. Many came to visit and interview him. Then, he died in 1924, and was buried at his mausoleum. Because a man can't just sit around!
The palace is today a national landmark of France and a tourist destination. Find out more here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Australian PSA makes wonderfully dark, cute entertainment

All this just to say "Don't do stupid things around trains!" More about it here. Watch it over a few times and catch new details by each of the cast. I'm totally going to join animator Julian Frost's cult.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The latest roundup of Scientology's weirdness

The Hole

Pictured above: "The Hole", a private prison run by the members of Scientology. This facility in Riverside, California, recently came to light thanks to an expose book by Lawrence Wright. A full story on the writing of this work is here. To quote:
"Wright’s investigations into “The Hole,” a hidden Scientology gulag in southern California where errant Church members are sent to perform menial tasks and take part in 'orgies of self-abasement,' led him to break the story of an FBI investigation—since aborted—into human trafficking."
There are also more detailed descriptions of The Hole activities at the Wikipedia page. It basically sounds like a concentration camp straight out of the Holocaust or Khmer Rouge.

The child labor camp in Australia

Here is an Australian news magazine special on the "RPF", the Rehabilitation Project Force, a sprawling complex in the middle of an Australian suburb.

Kaja Ballo

In 2008, a young girl in France who was reportedly happy beforehand voluntarily took a personality test handed out by the church of Scientology. When she got the results, they apparently devastated her and she committed suicide, leaping to her death. Some speculation has had it that the church's method of tearing people down to convince them that they'll need the church in their lives had some bearing here.

In fact, all of the above stories have the theme of "disconnection" in common, the act of severing all ties with the world outside the church, be they family, friends, or professional. This is a practice in common throughout all cults and attempts at brainwashing.

Meanwhile, this column in Esquire cautions us that none of us should be too smug; given a weak enough moment, any one of us could be sucked into Scientology.

I close with a plea: We're all more aware about the cult of Scientology and what a nasty mental virus it is - our awareness of it is growing by the day. That's a good thing. But what OTHER things could we be seeing grow more prominent today that could turn into tomorrow's cult? We should be looking at those things, too.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Creepiest mall event ever

If the 400-pound guy in the photo gives you the creepers, you don't know the half of it yet. This is James Julius Beaudrie, now in court after a nationwide manhunt, charged with multiple counts of child molestation and child endangerment, having methodically molested three of his nine children on a continuing basis.

The remarkable thing is the circumstances surrounding the incidents. In the first place, the wife of James and mother of the children, Kijua Beaudrie, was not only complicit in the molestation, but actively aided the father by, for instance, sequestering the other kids in another room while the abuse was going on. For this, she's getting 30 years in prison.

But wait, it gets creepier! Kijua actually kept a diary of the abuse while she heard her own children sobbing in the other room.

But wait, it gets even creepier! All of this was going on in the back of a store at the Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines, Iowa.

That's right here in my home town, and I and my family have been shopping there for years. The mall, as with many malls across post-recession America, has a few stores dark and empty with bleak 'for lease' signs in the windows. So now we're thinking back on all the times we've gone shopping at that mall, and not known that meanwhile, in the back of one of the rooms...

Making an Easter Island statue walk

To test a theory as to how the natives of Easter Island could have transported the massive statues that are their claim to fame, scientists used a technique involving only technology available to the islanders at the time to move the statue along a road. Read more here at, which also tells of how the island was successfully settled and farmed thanks to islander's resourcefulness.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The coolest mummy in Thailand

Meet Luong Pordaeng, a Thai monk who died sitting in this meditation pose in 1973 and has kept up a startling degree of preservation ever since. He is displayed today in a temple in Koh Samui. They put the sunglasses on him because his eyes, still open, have deteriorated.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The deepest note in the universe is a B-flat

 At least, according to NASA's study of the sound that black holes make. The B-flat is well below the human range of hearing, at 57 octaves below middle-C. The sound's frequency is a million billion times deeper than anything any human has ever heard.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trolling paranoid-schizophrenics for fun and profit

Hey kids! You, too, can protect yourself from dangerous mind-control wavey-ray-thingies with your AFDB (Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie).

And for identifying dangerous pockets of mind-control rays around town, there's the practice of psychalking. Learn and share this code, and the paranoid-schizophrenic community will be able to cooperate together to defeat mind--blowing psychotronic frequencies. Psychalking takes its methods from the similar practice of warchalking, the chalk marks around town identifying wifi hot spots.

While you're at it, you might want to download and install Mindguard - the software designed for remote mind-control detection and eradication. Available for Amiga and Linux (run Linux because THEY don't want you to!)

You'll find the Mindguard link to be especially, uh, enlightening.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Strip tease, zombie style!

Ksenia Vidyaykina is a Russian-born artist who creates performance art pieces with a feminist message. "Trapped" is a series of stories of women in distress, including a mermaid getting an abortion and a strip-tease by a dancer who starts tearing off her skin once she runs out of clothes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Full Metal Jacket creep-out

It's going really viral right now anyway, but oh well, I found it before it was cool.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


"Subvertizing" is a kind of culture-jamming art with a political statement, in which a company's logo, mascot, or advertising is manipulated into stating an anti-corporate message.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Creepy Viral Puppet Of Your Nightmares

You've probably seen images with a character like this being tossed around all over the web - they go back years, to the very first image boards. Trouble is, you never see them posted with any context, so you have no idea what's going on here. Well, wonder no more, it's <a href="">the art project of Charlie White</a>, an associate professor at the University of Southern California's Roski School of Fine Arts. Why not pop over to that link and browse through the gallery? You're bound to recognize at least one of them.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Trivia Gibs #2

The song "Hound Dog", written by Leiber & Stoller and popularized by Elvis Presley, wasn't originally done by Elvis. It was a cover of the version done by earlier blues singer "Big Mama" Thornton, for whom Leiber & Stoller wrote the song first.

Which US states have a one-syllable name? There's only one: Maine.

Out of all the world's animals classified as mammals, one in five is a bat.

The strongest muscle in the human body isn't in the arm or leg. It's the masseter, located in the jaw.

The only time a month can both begin and end on the same day of the week is February during a leap year.

The world's most popular transportation company doesn't run an airline, a train, or a fleet of cruise ships. It's the Otis Elevator Company, whose products transport more people than any other transportation fleet.

The US state with the longest coastline is neither Florida nor California, but Alaska. All those nooks and crannies really add up!

The 1970s TV sitcom "Good Times" was the show which debuted Jay Leno, in a guest star role which was the first time the subject of STDs was brought up on a prime time TV show.

Play-Doh, the kid's modeling toy, was based on a formula originally intended as a substance that cleans wallpaper.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest - aka The Prisoner From U.N.C.L.E.

If this doesn't work, they're going to force him to smoke top-brand imported Cuban cigars until he dies of cancer.
Most people don't think of "Hitchcock movie to end all Hitchcock movies" North by Northwest (1959) as a mind--blowing film. They see a straightforward spy thriller, perhaps the definitive first example of the genre. I see a psychedelic, surrealist, post-modern, art-house exercise to rival anything by Lynch or Bunuel, but dressed up in piles of money.

There's still some argument for being the seminal spy thriller. North by Northwest does, after all, predate the James Bond films, although Ian Fleming was already cranking out Bond novels throughout the '50s and 007 had already seen TV adaptation by 1954. But people forget that ur-example of mind--blowing surrealist TV, The Prisoner, was also being broadcast in Britain at the time. Hitchcock, a British expatriate to America, would have to have been blind and deaf not to be aware of it.

(Right about here, SPOILER warning. Although if this movie can be spoiled for you, you haven't lived yet.)

Ant escapes anthill.
Nevertheless, the spy thriller genre has always been a kind of psychedelic one. We don't give a thin damn about common sense when we sit down to a spy flick. The wacky, silly, gibbering capers of nations trying to out-spy each other is meant as a symbolic template for a world of war gone mad. International political relations in real life bear all the civility and common sense of a preschool playground, and the spy thriller genre is simply reflecting that cacophonous madhouse. North by Northwest has more in common with The Prisoner than anybody but me has noticed. Cary Grant even gets taken prisoner by both the good guys and the bad guys. He's up to his ass in a spy thriller while having no idea what's going on. His antagonists constantly quiz him for information he doesn't have. He even has a number associated with his name, right in the script! Forget "Who is number one?", who is number zero?

What's often acknowledged is how little sense the film makes upon reflection, and yet what nobody seems to catch is that it was quite deliberately crafted to not make sense. If you needed a hint that this was deliberate, listen to the final two lines of dialog: "This is silly." "I know, but I'm sentimental." Perfectly describes the entire story we've just seen. Hitchcock would later have a more obvious turn with surrealism in The Birds, which everyone can tell doesn't make a lick of sense from credits to credits. Hitchcock famously admits that by crop-duster time, all logic has been thrown out the window, but by this point the audience doesn't care because the film's just that damned cool!

Kicking off the new "think thin" regimen calls for exercise in the form of jogging around cornfields.
But the illogical crop-duster scene, exactly at the split middle of the film, is small potatoes. Here, for the first time anywhere, is just some of the surrealist points of the film up before the crop-duster:

1. Opening scene. Roger Thornhill, in dictating to his secretary, goes from goading her to use her blood sugar to sustain the walk, to ordering her to buy another woman a box of candy, describing it with the words "gold" and "eating money", to composing a note mentioning "sweet tooth", and now chiding his secretary that she doesn't eat properly. Then he swipes a taxi with the excuse that she's a very sick woman, then, once inside, comments in complete non sequitur that he's concerned about his weight and has her make a note for him: "think thin".

The conversation doesn't make any kind of practical logic and most people would dismiss it as idle banter to open the film. But it makes fantastic symbolic sense: In a film dripping with money and luxury, we're being introduced to the theme that over-consumption and rampant consumerism (Thornhill is an advertising executive, don't forget) are slowly killing America. In fact, Thornhill is about to be plunged into an adventure in which he is surrounded by his familiar and comfortable upper-class setting while having none of it do him any good and in fact his whole environment will turn hostile against him. In addition, the phrase "think thin" is a subliminal command to the audience: Don't think too hard about what you're about to see.

They're actually after it because it's full of microfilm. Not that it matters worth a crap.
2. The very next scene: Our bad guys mistake Thornhill for Kaplan (a supposed spy) based on nothing but his having raised his hand at the wrong time when a page is calling the name "Kaplan" in a crowded bar.

OK, why are VanDamm's henchmen even doing this? Do they expect the "real" Kaplan to fall for such a transparent ploy? Moreover, do they think the "real" Kaplan would stumble trustingly right into their arms? Is there really a telegram for Kaplan or is the page-boy in on this too? What in hell would they have done if they'd been confronted by a real, trained spy? This is a busy bar in a busy hotel in broad daylight. In fact, the actions here were dreadfully ineffective for capturing an actual spy, but just right for abducting the first hapless white-collar drone to happen by.

3. The Townsend estate. Raise your hand if you put your surname on a big sign in your front lawn.

Now, leaving aside the attempt to kill Thornhill using bourbon (ironic for a man who apparently lives on martinis), it's going to turn out later, long after we've forgotten these events, that the entire VanDamm camp has set up housekeeping at the household of Townsend, a bigshot UN diplomat, and even manage to maintain the charade while the court later sends detectives back to check out Thornhill's story. They even thought to replace the liquor with books, clean bourbon stains off the sofa, and had their lies all prepared - clearly they were ready for police inspection. The lady of the house even knows to call Roger by his true name. VanDamm even entertains guests here - at somebody else's house, unknown to the rightful occupants! Why are they even doing this? No explanation is ever given. The lady posing as "Mrs. Townsend" even offers to direct the detectives to the UN to speak to Mr. Townsend - presumably the diplomat, but how were they planning to maintain the charade if they decided to go meet him there? The answer is that they weren't; the charade was just enough to pass muster for defeating a story by a bumbling ad executive, and not an inch more.

4. Thornhill and mom go check out Kaplan's digs. Thornhill actually bribes his own mother to help him get the key. They also find one of the plot MacGuffins, a photo of VanDamm standing in a group of guys photographed at a university. No sooner is Kaplan in the room snooping around than a valet rings the doorbell to deliver a suit. Then the phone rings, and the henchmen are back on his tail. Later they all confront each other on the elevator and a merry time is had by all.

We'll later find out that there is no George Kaplan, but now we don't know, so once again, the plot behaves as if it didn't know any more than we do. Why is a photo of VanDamm on the desk conveniently there to find? How did VanDamm know that Thornhill would get into the room right then? Why is VanDamm calling the room to pre-warn "Kaplan" that he's coming for him? The whole hotel room scene was set up like a big trap waiting to snare Thornhill, yet it's supposedly maintained by "our" side. But beyond that, even Thornhill's mother shows a logical short-circuit - she's just seen a whole hotel staff act like her son is Kaplan, so she knows that at least part of his story is true. Yet she goes back to being a skeptic between the phone call and the elevator scene, even after expressing concern about the danger when she's in the room. Even Thornhill doesn't seem the least bit surprised at any of this - apparently his mother always treats him like a liar even after she's been shown proof. If she doesn't believe her son's story, then how could she explain the whole Kaplan connection?

Here's the title direction. We're obligated to stand right in front of it.
5. The UN scene.

OK, was this whole story up until now a plot to assassinate the real Townsend? If so, Thornhill made the perfect gopher. But once again, nothing adds up if you think about it for more than a second. It isn't explained why Townsend was killed, or what their plan was to cover up Thornhill's story should he have been arrested and tried for Townsend's murder. If they didn't plan to assassinate Townsend from the get-go and only killed him to keep him from talking to Thornhill (whom they're still supposed to believe is Kaplan), it's VanDamm's own fault for bringing him to Townsend's estate and posing as him in the first place. If they really believed that Thornhill was Kaplan, how could they have possibly believed that any of this would work?

6. Eve sends Thornhill off to his fate in a cornfield.

By now, all traces of logic in this plot have imploded. VanDamm is supposed to believe that Thornhill is Kaplan, and yet lures him to the appointment with the promise that he's going to MEET Kaplan. Why would he go, if he really was Kaplan? Also, Eve at this point has been revealed to be working for VanDamm, but later it will turn out that she's a double agent and works for the US government. Her actions, whether working for VanDamm or the US Government, make no sense whatsoever - she's knowingly sending a man to his doom under a pretense she knows is absolutely false.

Boy plugging ears in background: They left it in because it's NOT a mistake!
I'm pointing all this out just to say, the whole film only works as a post-modernist, surrealist story. At every step of the story, there's no internal logic, but it only makes sense in the context of what the audience is thinking. Surrealism is about playing with what's already in the audience's head. In this case (the late 1950s America), the audience was downright spoiled after a decade of prosperity and industrial innovation, and growing a little bored with everything being so perfect all the time. Cary Grant and Eve Marie Saint manage to get through the adventure with naught but a few bumps and scrapes - Grant's celestial suit gets dusty in a cornfield. Nobody seems to get really terrified or too emotional here; in the thickest of the action, everybody quips smug little lines over their cocktail, confident that they'll still make the matinee. It's all escapism for the middle class.

Notice that Roger Thornhill may want for a lot of other things, but he's never short of cash. He solves a lot of problems with money, constantly dipping into his pocket for fistfuls of cumshaw to pay off bellhops and pages. He even produces coins from his pocket to try to signal Eve while clinging to the outside of that cliff-side mansion. Apparently he has an ATM up his ass.

The entire hospital is filled with healthy people embroiled in their own spy fantasies.
By this time, we should realize that these plot bubbles and pits aren't mere oversights - the masters behind Psycho and Vertigo were smarter than that. They were deliberate warps of reality, meant to bend the fantasy around our expectations with eerie precision. Like an implanted memory from the dream-vacation merchants in Total Recall, it's a tailor-made fantasy for 1950s-Americans - and no one else - to identify with perfectly. Which is why it looks so vintage, and is also why it's a little harder for modern audiences to identify with.

Now then, while I'm here I can gush about the excellent quality of this film. I'd nominate it for the ultimate valentine to the 1950s. Even though it's half matte illusion and half painted plywood, it all looks solid. The whole film looks like a million bucks, Grant's suit alone practically has a starring role, and the all-star cast is having an orgy of fun rolling around in the world's most luxuriously, but tastefully decorated, sets. I'd also nominate this film for the universe I'd most gladly occupy if a genie curse sucked me into a movie. I'd love to live in this carefree world of impeccable tailors, maids and valets, Frank Loyd Wright houses, monogrammed matchbooks, and 1958 Ford sedans painted up as art-deco yellow and green taxis. I'd put a record on the hi-fi and smoke my pipe by the fire, snuggled up with a vintage Playboy and a martini. These were the days when men were men and women were bombshell blondes, you know?