The Final Incident

Joseph L. Flatley Jesse Hicks Matt Stroud (editors)


Barbary Shore

This compilation is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoncommercialNo Derivative Works 3.0 License. To view a copy of this license, visit:: or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. All content © its respective authors. Published by Barbary Shore, Pittsburgh.






The Final Incident Joseph L. Flatley Deek Magazine lived for a few years in the middle of the “roaring 2000's.” Pennsylvania. This was a tumultuous decade, even for sleepy Pittsburgh, A needless war, an imploding worldwide economy, disasters both natural and man-made, and the return of that early-80s phenomenon “punk-funk” were on everybody's mind. And for a time, Matt Stroud and his gang were plugged into the zeitgeist. “incident.” Each issue of Deek Magazine revolved around a specific War, Madness, Sex and The Future were among the topics explored, dissected and just


plain ridiculed. It has been a couple years now since Deek announced its demise. Having not been there at the inception, I have no idea what the original inspiration for the publication might have been. But as a fan, and eventually a contributor, I recognized in it the same spirit as that of Barbary Shore Publishing Company. Deek was a flawed, impatient, do-it-yourself conspiracy. At its best, the writing was bratty and insightful and skewed. Deek Magazine is no more, but I am happy to present you with a handful of my favorites from its short, happy life.


A Man of Wealth and Taste: How The Devil Tells It Tom Bodine “He’ll be right with you, I promise,” smiles Thad Chimaera, the Devil’s assistant, from across the lobby. “When you’re dealing with the Big Guy, everything runs on Satan Time.” He has a slight lisp, so it comes out, “Sthatan Time.” The Los Angeles lobby of Lightbringer Industries, the devil’s multinational conglomerate: high ceilings and dim lighting give it a cavernous feel, enhanced by a cool breeze from hidden A/C vents. A Saarinen “tulip chair” adds a touch of the modern. Thad’s desk is polished ebony, lit from


above by a single recessed spotlight. The place oozes a hyper-cool, business-like atmosphere. But the Devil’s ironic touches are there, too, from the wall embroidery reading, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” to a twenty-foot paint-by-number rendering of Bruegel’s The Triumph of Death. Between calls, I pick Thad’s brain. Thad’s been with the company since the 1980’s, when the Adversary made his big push into Wall Street, and is Satan’s eyes and ears within the company. Like nearly everyone I’ve interviewed, Thad is intensely loyal to his boss. A strangely beatific look comes across his face when he explains what a “fierce competitor” is Lightbringer’s CEO and guiding visionary. His eyes don’t glaze over, exactly, but they do open wide and take on a shine. It’s all a bit cultish, really. For almost an hour I’ve been waiting here, flipping through back issues of Esquire and Outdoor Living or staring at myself in the high-


gloss obsidian floor. Halfway through my fifth article on men’s spring fashion, I hear the distant growl of a sports car and what sounds like Outkast playing at ear-rending volume. Thad looks up from his computer, silently mouths, “That’s him!” and makes exaggerated pointing gestures toward the door. I can’t help sharing his excitement. A minute later, the engine shuts off, the music stops. Silence. The staccato of expensive shoes on pavement. Then the door opens. My first thought is, “Jesus, he’s big.” Six-six, easily, and not just tall but solid, like he’s made of denser material than the rest of us; light bends to accommodate his form. He swaggers like the popular kid who understands the power of being noticed. He flashes Thad a smile, tosses him an apple that seems to materialize out of nowhere. Then he turns to me. The Devil is all straight lines and sharp


angles; there’s not a curve anywhere. He’s wearing a dark Richard James wool two-button suit ($1,100), a turquoise cotton shirt and matching silk tie, also by Richard James ($225 and $110, respectively), with black Calvin Klein shoes. A pair of wrap-around Oakleys hide what I later find out are piercing blue eyes. He’s grinning, a welcoming smile that seems to reach all the way to his meticulously disheveled, flaming-red hair. He extends a well-manicured hand and says, in a voice my eardrums file somewhere between Vin Diesel’s and glass being crushed underfoot, “Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.” Of course, he doesn’t always look like this. He’s dressed for business, a piranha among men. When he’s not working – if there’s ever a time – you might find him lounging around the house in sweatpants and a wife-beater, watching Tivo’ed episodes of The OC on his high-definition plasma


screen. But it’s not just that. The thing I realize about Mephistopheles is this: you never know what he looks like. Richard James suit, Calvin Klein shoes, Colin Ferrell smirk – it’s all part of the persona, the mask. If you look directly at him, nothing stands out. He’s just Joe Businessman in a fancy suit. But every now and again during my time with the Devil, I see him out of the corner of my eye. It’s there that he wavers, like heat waves on a desert highway, never quite still. He takes on a dozen forms – the CEO, the politician, the neighbor, even, at one point, the high school cheerleader. What stands before me now is only a glove; the hand that acts remains hidden. Which is fitting for an entity who was around before time was invented. He’s survived – prospered, even – by constantly transforming himself. For the ancient Sumerians, he was a she: Ereshkigal, mistress of death and ruler of Aralu, the Land of Darkness. Zoroaster’s Devil was


Ahriman, the Lord of Lies and evil twin to Ohrmazd. Faust knew him as Mephistopheles; Richard Nixon just called him “Papa.” So just who is Apollyon, Belial, Beelzebub, or whatever you want to call him? “Oh, you are going to burn for that, bitch,” seethes Lucifer, giving the finger to a tan, blonde woman who cuts him off on Sunset Boulevard. We’re screaming through the streets at high speed in a raven-black Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren that, the Devil informs me, boasts a 600 hp, 5.4liter V-8. Honestly, I’m just looking for the seatbelts as his Satanic Majesty sparks a joint with one hand, dials his cell-phone with the other, and negotiates the hellish LA traffic by force of will alone. He dials the home office for an update on his media liaison, Ann Hanga, who’s supposed to be shooting a new infomercial in Brazil. Infomercials are a big part of Lightbringer’s success; they bring


in converts faster than Mel Gibson epics and are far more cost-effective. Between calls I get a kind of runningcommentary on the state of Heaven and Hell, mankind, and the eternal battle between good and evil. Of course, Satan doesn’t see it that way. “Look at this – everywhere you go, it’s ‘Atkins-friendly’ this and ‘Atkins-friendly’ that. Jesus. You’d think these people had never heard the phrase ‘fad diet’ before. Do you think I’m the one who made carbohydrates? Let’s not blame me every time a housewife in Atlanta decides to treat herself to that third helping of Rocky Road. Take some personal responsibility, people.” So you’re not behind the evil and suffering of the world? He snorts with laughter. The smell of brimstone fills the car. “I wish I could take that much credit! I don’t sit around thinking up new ways to torment the human race. You guys are good enough at that without my help. I’d love say


Carrot Top sold his soul for popularity, but I’m not forcing anyone to buy tickets.” What about disco music? His eyes narrow. “You’ve done your homework,” he smiles, sheepishly. “That was a side bet between Loki and I. Back at the tail end of the Sixties, I was big with groups like the Rolling Stones. So Loki comes to me one night and says, ‘I bet you can’t fuck up music for a whole decade without using any supernatural intervention.’ Well, I took that bet, and the next day I formed a band called Fistful of Rainbows. We cut a 7” and next thing you know, disco is blowing up! We even got the Stones on board!” He cackles gleefully. So you do contribute to the evil of the world. He sighs. “Ok, listen. This is how it is. Humans think the world is a battlefield, with God and I both trying to rack up the most souls. Come on. The universe isn’t a pinball machine. God and I aren’t trying to see who can get the high score.” Pausing to take another hit from his joint, he


turns up Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” saying, “Hate me if you gotta, but I love this song.” “Here’s the real deal. Most of the stuff you want to blame me for – pain, suffering, all that jazz – I didn’t choose to bring all that into the world. We’re pawns in a chess game, with all the moves plotted out in advance. Me, you. Everybody, man. I fell for three fucking days! Do you want to see where He ripped my wings off?” He takes a sharp turn, pulling into his nightclub, Inferno. Yanking the emergency brake, the Devil brings the car to a screeching stop. He turns and looks me right in the eyes. “Only a fascist or a child would take the blank slate of creation and start carving rules into it. I’m the democratic response – that there be no commandments, that’s my first and only commandment. God’s a traffic cop; I’m an artist. I’m not going to play the game anymore. I’m gonna flip the board right the fuck over.” Then he smiles and says, “Let’s go get some


drinks.” Inferno is a renovated two-story warehouse, decorated in red and black, with graffiti-art flames licking their way up the walls. We enter through a side door to the cheers of a well-dressed Hollywood elite. I catch a glimpse of Ethan Hawke talking to Paris Hilton. They both wave; Paris blows an air kiss. Satan pretends to catch it and clutch it to his chest, then winks and smiles. Paris giggles in response. Satan orders a Red Bull and vodka, then leads me to the other end of the bar. An impossibly tall man in an undertaker’s suit stands talking to a dreadlocked, top-hat-wearing black man. Both are drinking red wine and look up as we approach. “Reporter man, this is Ghede and Ankou. We go way back – they’ll keep an eye on you while I run upstairs to take care of some business.” With a hardy clap on my back, he’s gone, and I’m staring awkwardly at the two men, who stare back. I don’t


even have a drink. “Pleased to meet you,” says Ghede, the tophat man, with slight Haitian accent. He smiles and I see the wine has stained his teeth. Ankou leans forward to shake my hand. “And I as well,” in an upper-crust Briton accent that creaks like the binding of an ancient manuscript. “So,” I stall. “Are you two Satan’s wingmen or something? I see a lot of eligible ladies here tonight.” “Something like that,” smiles Ghede. I get the feeling he’s sizing me up. For what, I don’t know. “I imagine it’s pretty easy for him to walk in here and have his choice of companionship for the night.” They’re staring again, and I can’t think straight with the multi-colored lights stabbing into my eyes. “Certainly he could,” answers Ankou. “But he’s never really ‘rolled’ like that, to use one of your clever American phrases. There was a brief dalliance with Lilith back before your time, but


since then he’s poured himself into the work.” “Is he lonely?” I ask. “I wouldn’t say ‘lonely,’ per se. More like driven. He puts everything into his Grand Project. He, like all sons, is trying to impress his Father. This whole rebel posture is just a way to get God’s attention. I’m not sure even he believes it, but he pushes on, talking about the ‘palace of excess,’ and ‘escaping the shackles of a flawed creation.’ I think he smokes too much weed, frankly.” Ankou looks suddenly bored with the notion of conversation, sipping his wine and casting a disdainful glance around the room. After a few moments, Satan returns, with a supermodel-quality woman on each arm. The blonde, blue-eyed one on his left he introduces as Jenny; the exotic Indian-looking one on his right his named Thalia. He explains that they are part of his plan. “Bred without the limits of conscience, created in my own image to be the ultimate party


girls,” he smiles again. “Girls, lift up your shirts.” They do. No bellybuttons. Twenty minutes later, we’re again roaring down Sunset Boulevard. Jenny and Thalia giggle in the back seat, unable to keep their hands off each other. I’m due to catch a flight out; Satan has agreed to drop me at the airport. We pull into short-term parking and I look back at the two girls, for the first time noticing their forked tongues. I pull my suitcase out of the back and Satan catches me by the arm. Again fixing me with those piercing blue eyes and sharklike smile, he says, “I’m going to win, you know.” He laughs, and his girls laugh with him. Then he drives off. Standing there alone in the dark, watching the Devil’s tail-lights, like a pair of glowing eyes retreating into the distance, it’s hard not to believe him.



How To Kill or Maybe, Not Kill: A conversation with an unknown Marine. Matt Stroud S trou d : Wh at wou l d th e y te ac h you , specifically, before the war? Marine, eating, sitting across a restaurant table from the Deek representative, chewing with his mouth full, says: Well, ‘ey’d ‘ell ‘ou what (he swallows) a bad guy is, what to do... rules of engagement. What, uh... what is a bad guy? Well, they gave us an official... I guess you’d call it a Bad Guy Identification Card, describing


what and who you were allowed to shoot and so on. But, what it said was, basically, Aim for anyone in an enemy military uniform... which was brown, obvious looking. And the card described the uniform in useless detail... It basically said, Shoot any Iraqi that presents any threat to you. What does that entail? If they have a gun, shoot ‘em. No shit? No shit. If you ask someone on high if that’s how they worded it, they’ll deny it till they’re blue in the face, but that’s what they said. If you see a gun in someone’s hand, shoot that person. Fuckin’ crazy. Yeah. And they had these white pickup trucks that they told us to shoot no matter what. Because that’s what Saddam uses, like Hummers. Our original rules of engagement before we crossed the


border were, if you see a white pickup truck, blow the fucker up. For real. But, when we crossed the border, we were up shit creek, cause everybody and their fucking brother drives a white pickup truck. So that went right out the fuckin’ window. You gotta realize, the war did not happen how it was supposed to. They can have Plan A through D through Z through a hundred twelve, but they never really know how anything’s going to happen. They just never know. The white pickup truck thing: I mean, if we would’ve shot everyone in one of those trucks -- if we would’ve followed commands exactly, we would’ve been killing men, women, children, dogs, you name it. But we didn’t. Did someone in your unit have to fuck up before they realized that? Well, I know the first white pickup truck I saw had twelve women in the back, in the bed... So it


was kinda obvious from the beginning. Someone else may have (fucked up), but no one from my unit. Alright, you were in Iraq when the war started. I want to know the first moment in the desert when you pointed to God and said, It’s your show now. Okay... dramatic. I’ll tell you how we got the wakeup call. So, we’re sleeping in these big tents – the whole company’s in there – and, uh, they wake us up at like three in the morning... And we knew this was coming, mind you, but, uh... Here ya go – this is the line. Listen... you say and write the craziest things before you go to war. People were writing death letters next to me, black jackets... If I die, tell my parents so on. Death letters; people writing letters to girlfriends and wives and saying things you normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t say. Like telling girls that are going to have kids in 5 months that


you love them, or that you cheated or... stuff like that. It was tense. A lot goes through your head when you know it’s coming. What did you write? Well, just letters really. Telling people that I don’t know when I’ll be able to write again. Cause we didn’t know. But I wasn’t being fatalistic about it. I had some faith that we’d be alright. But after all, we didn’t know what the war was going to be like, or what we’d see or run into. We didn’t know how fast we were gonna be moving or if we’d even get another chance to write, so... Write to your mom? Yea. My mom, Christine... Your mom. I wrote one to work saying, uh, well, I’m going to war today, so I won’t be in on... Saturday.


Yea, uh, could you guys pick up my paycheck for me? (laughing) Yea. Fuckin weird. I got a prior engagement shooting people in hot sand. Incredible... But anyway, it’s three in the morning, right? And they call Revile Revile Revile; and they say You are now on Zulu Time -- which standardizes everything so the president can say, you know, hey Marines, at... I don’t know, 5 o’clock in the morning, bomb the fuck out of this spot. And you other Marines bomb the fuck out of this spot. It’s just to keep everything synchronized. Right. So, we crossed the border after eating chow and packing up all our shit... we didn’t cross till like 9 a.m. The grunts crossed at, like, three. We spent about 6 hours just packing, getting ready. I mean... we knew that Iraq was one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. There’s just fucking mines everywhere. So the bulldozers and


the grunts went in and plowed through all that shit. And we, uh... well, we followed, taking the prisoners they captured, putting them into custody. You should’ve seen the fucking border, man. Just a giant hole forty feet deep around the entire border. Fucking amazing. And inside the border, the grunts had plowed a lane in the sand, real narrow... and if you went outside that lane, chances are you were going to hit a mine and blow up. But, so anyway, we head in and there are DANGER signs everywhere and then we hit the demilitarized zone. And we just plowed right though that shit, no problem. But... where was I? I was wondering that, too. You were talking about the first trek over the border. Oh, right. So, we follow them in and it was just fucking incredible. The oil fields as we entered Iraq were lit on fire. Giant, unbelievable... like, spouting fire just fucking erupting hundreds of yards into the air. So we cross into this little


town... and one of the first things we see is this crowd of probably fifty Iraqi soldiers held at gunpoint, walking with their hands above their heads toward a base that had been set up by MPs that went in a few hours before us. We kept driving, and, I didn’t see any bodies yet... not at that point, but you see carnage –- blood on the ground, parts of uniforms, and piles of ammo casings –- the brass –- and weapons and piles of clothes and other stuff that lets you know that, I don’t know... That this is serious. And this is war. So, just a quick question before you go on. Did you, uh... Did you kill anyone? Dude, you know I can’t tell you that. Why not? Does it really matter?


A Very Unpleasant Experience With A Soldier Matt Novak Drinking at a gay bar, I’m here to be entertained by a friend’s variety act on Casio keyboard. There’s a nonchalant, laid back sort of verve, but it’s not as if flamboyancy has no place; the way these guys are swinging their hips when they walk, tick-tock, back and forth like a pendulum timepiece, is making me... aware. One guy stands out from the others, obviously straight -- crew cut, buff (as in bulk and not sculpture). He’s having a hell of a tete-a-tete with the keep, demonstrative and voluminous, flushed, rousing


himself to guffaws. So I needle in a little. I’m drunk on special L.I. Ice-T’s and gin. There is a softness about him from the start, but he is contrary and abrasive with a grating voice and glare. We get to talking. “I just got back from Iraq,” he says to me. Rapport develops by degrees. “This guy,” he testifies, motioning the keep, “is one of my best friends. He’s one of the greatest guys in the world. See, I don’t care if you’re gay, or straight, or Puerto Rican... whatever the hell, it’s the same.” Equanimity. He tells me he’s come from a strip club across the street. “You mean in the back of that magazine shop?,” I ask, ignorant, enticed. “My girl,” he continues, “she strips over there...sits on my lap. Head like you wouldn’t believe.” He pauses to sip his drink, a vodka and juice. I suppose I looked scandalized. “I take what I want. Fuck you.” I try not to let on anything, move on. “So you were...”


He ignores me, shows me a scar on his forearm. “Have you ever been shot?,” he fires at me. “I was shot. Killed twenty-seven men.” It’s a nasty, drawn-out tissue, lots of curlicued hair lapping the outline. I must say no, I’ve never been shot. I’m about to tell him I’ve shot a gun when he interrupts me. “Are you gay or straight?,” he asks. “I thought that didn’t matter,” I contend. “All the same.” It pisses him off when I quote him. He presses me, menacingly. “Straight,” I say, loudly, eyes on the plain, featureless drywall behind his head. He asks me again. By this time there is a smile in his eyes and a gut punch in my heart. “You gonna go over there?” He gestures at the strip club -- at his girlfriend. “You want some of that?” I nod, acquiescing, merely retreating from this unsolicited onslaught. “Then I’ll see you tomorrow night over there. And if I don’t see you....” he leaves off.


“I just never heard there was a place there,” I say weakly. “We’ll see then if you want it,” says he. “I take what I want. I do what I want.” He lifts his shirt to show me the scar in his belly. “If someone threatens me, I’m not gonna cross myself and pray to God,” he illustrates; “when someone stabs you in the belly, you shoot him. I nailed him.” He smiles pleasingly. “Killed twenty-seven men.” I wonder if he’ll ask me if I’d ever kill somebody. I’ve often wondered on it. I’ve been made to wonder on it. Clint Eastwood, Luke Skywalker, Bruce Lee. It is the measure of a man. I still don’t know if I could do it if I was thinking. If I didn’t feel anything, as that seems best, would it be because my heart had been seized in the vice of my iron will, or because I was simply paralyzed, my mind crippled by whatever ran rampant through its fickle trenches? “You won’t show up tomorrow night. And I know that,” he reports. “You probably like


computers,” he waves, reducing all information, all stories and reports and studies and pictures and digitally conveyed art, and the so-called power to the pen to a single, impotent meme. “Just stick to your computers and wacking off.” He makes the up-and-down claw with his hand. “There’s a lot of that,” suddenly wistful, distant, I admit, trying to hold with truth, brazenly denying shame. “Yeah,” he affirms, and runs his rough digits through the shroud on my scalp. Toussels my hair, petting me on the head. Who does this guy think he is? I shrug and laugh it off. Here I t os s out m y l as t chance at egalitarianism, that evenhandedness laudable in so many estimable journals of the literate and reasonably liberal, lending respect, and believability, hell, likeability; gently encouraging discourse, bestowing responsibility as a gift on the reader to make up his own mind. Here I pick up my stick and start beating with it. So I’ll borrow a


trick from those hypocritical bastards O’Reilly and Limbaugh, and those cursed sons of bitches in Washington, consummate professionals all, and lay down a disclaimer before I go on tirade, which nonetheless I don’t mean to be entirely insincere: I fight all the time with notions of stereotype and hold no court with didactic reductions and the epidemic of oversimplification. I believe in the notion of the individual, and the variety of the species. That said: This is precisely the profile of the American civilian in the New World Order. Feckless, feebleminded, indifferent. Unable to concentrate. Morally ambiguous. Tired, tired all the time, watching the TV. Vegging out in front of the tube. There is no memory of what was watched the night before, and there likely will be none after tonight is over. Why bother? People know disposable. Nothing is said, and there is nothing done. All’s done is done, papers filed, bills filed, interest calculated, paper clips squirrelled away,


untangled, neat in a scrap of Chinese plastic, stapler filled, pencils sharpened, calendar on the close wall in the office, desk Windexed, porn in the bedroom, bed made, ready for bed. Kids washed, fed, in bed, sleeping, dreaming of getting things, how childish; adults get what they have; tired of desire, tired. Gotta get up early, do it tomorrow, fight traffic. This is precisely the problem with the American soldier. Trained to kill, to hunt, not as an instance, as a practice, but drilled, drilled and cursed, so that it is a way of life. Sent to die, oh vanity, oh vain, glorious valor. These men and women do not think of themselves as sacrifice, trained to consider killing in terms of numbers, death in terms of bland euphemisms and doublespeak, stripped of this patriot poesy bullshit bandied about on the nightly news by cush cush patsy anchors with wet dreams of tear-jerk emotional rhetoric, looking down on journalistic integrity as the dreams of an insouciant, naive


child. Discouraged from a humanities education, equanimity, enlightenment, sense of history, consideration fomenting dissent, soldiers are trained, trained and built, tough and taut, in using tools and technology of war, without remorse. Hunters. Not Seals, really. Wolves, spiders, snakes. These are mascots of our boys’ divisions; these are creatures of prestige, shock, and awe. Stalked, stung, bitten, our enemy, beaten. What of the civilian? What of this faithful, this hopeful, this patriot, sentimental, model of civilized restraint, Protestant self-control, carefully tallied expenses, morally rationed appetites? What of the good flock under President, under God, under Rule of Law? What of these, sheep? Which is to say that I’m there in a gay bar sipping Long Islands on special and watching a middle-aged funny gal play with electric keys and stuffed animals, and the American soldier’s tossing back a Coke, showing me scars, and then marching off across the street to pick up his blond, pert-


tittied stripper and fuck her senseless. After petting me on the fucking head. Bring our boys home, all right.


State of the Fraud Jesse Hicks Episode 1: Home on the Range
White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush, but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real. (The Washington Post, December 4, 2003, referring to President Bush's Thanksgiving Day appearance in Baghdad, armed with a golden-brown, fake turkey.)


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. (The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

In 1999, Connecticut-born George W. Bush, who grew up in affluent Midland, Texas and Houston (pop. 5,180,443 as of 2004) before, among other things, attending Yale, decided to buy a ranch. In those early days of his first Presidential campaign, then-Governor Bush purchased a 1583acre plot of land just outside Crawford, Texas. (The ranch is actually closer to Waco, Texas, but you seldom hear White House Press Scott McClellan say, "The President is vacationing on his Waco ranch, which, incidentally, was built by members of a religious community from nearby El Mott, Texas." Nor will McClellan refer to the ranch as a "compound.") The property, known as Prairie Chapel Ranch, is a former pig farm. According to Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, there are now "four or five" cattle on the ranch. (Ranch, n. "An extensive


farm, especially in the western United States, on which large herds of cattle, sheep, or horses are raised.") The President, who wears a cowboy hat but cannot ride a horse, paid an estimated $1.3 million for this rustic "slice of heaven," as he calls it. His home there is a 10,000 ft² limestone single-level with a pool, just like the cowboys of yesteryear used to have. Though its completion was planned for November 7th, 2000 -- Election Day -- the house didn't open until after the President's inaugural. In 2001, President Bush explained his "Western White House" governing style by saying, "I think it is so important for a president to spend some time away from Washington, in the heartland of America." Not coincidentally, historian Douglas Brinkley explained to The Los Angeles Times, "…[A] lot of Americans like seeing him in blue jeans with a big belt buckle, walking down a dirt road or clearing brush. It's become a stage set for him."


It would be unfair to mention here that Charles Manson, another controversial leader, also lived on a movie set, the Spahn Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Unfair and irrelevant, because Manson -- who once said, "I may be Jesus Christ. I haven't yet decided who I am" -- implied that he knew the will of God, and by combining the White Album with the Book of Revelation and heroic doses of LSD, predicted a coming race and nuclear war. On the other hand, President Bush, like all American presidents, is a secular humanist who considers religion at best a comforting superstition. He is a man who would never tell a group of Amish leaders on July 9, 2004, "I trust God speaks through me." An entirely unfair comparison, so let's not make it here. A question one might ask, though: Is there a problem when the President of the United States, whose job, one might argue, is to confront reality in all its complexity and inconvenience, spends much of his time on a movie set, a place by


definition unreal? Episode 2: The Faith of a Patriot
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas. (The Salt Lake Tribune, September 12, 2005, detailing FEMA's use of over 1,000 firefighters as unpaid extras in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.) Stay behind my aura! (Zardoz, 1974)

President Bush's cowboy swagger has a long lineage in American politics; Teddy Roosevelt is its first and perhaps most famous incarnation, an asthmatic Eastern aristocrat who went into the Dakota badlands and emerged a full-fledged cowboy, able to rope and ride. Lyndon Johnson


owned and operated a 2,700-acre cattle ranch in south Texas, and his country-plain way of speaking clearly influences Bush II. Ronald Reagan also knew how to ride a horse; as President, he often cleared brush on his 688-acre California ranch. So President Bush takes his place in this cycle of diminishing returns. A faint echo of Teddy Roosevelt, his character also borrows another iconic bit of Americana: the Resolute Man of Faith. Just call him God's Cowboy. In combining these two resonant American myths -- with a dash of the modern "CEO-asleader" trope -- into one convenient package, the President offers Americans everything they want to believe about themselves. With all respect to Frank Norris, who once wrote that "California likes to be fooled" -- and who can argue with their Governator, a cybernetic organism sent from the future where politics is one big special-effect -- it's America that likes to be fooled. We liked to be fooled, mostly about ourselves. We want to look in


the mirror and see something greater than simple, human flesh -- we want to see a nation more powerful, more loving, more just, and more merciful. We want Sean Hannity to greet us all as "great Americans." And why not? The idea of America has always been more powerful than the reality; the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" sounds like nothing so much as the license to dream, to build castles in the air. In an age of small myths, when for most religion has lost its narrative force, community ties have dissolved leaving us all strangers in the crowd, and the great economic and political battles of history all seem decided, it falls to post-9/11 politics to revive that most comforting of American myths: that of the great city upon a hill, exceptional, with the eager eyes of the world focused on its example. The problem arises when you try to live in those airy castles, in a land built entirely of righteous abstraction. Just as the President's stage-


ranch helps him believe he is a cowboy, the myth of American exceptionalism helps us believe that we are that nation we want to see in the mirror. It helps us forget that Abraham Lincoln's view of America as the "last best hope" was not the picture of a country already accomplished in its goals, but of one still striving towards them. That's the meaning of the word "hope." And hope has no place in a fantasy where noble belief trumps reality. It's worth quoting the rest of Lincoln's thought here: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history." No matter how many armored fictions we send marching across the world, we cannot stop the turning of the clock; when you try to set up camp in Disneyland, eventually the world comes knocking. We cannot remake our world without unmaking someone else's, nor can we unburden ourselves of reality, choosing instead to live in a fortress America ruled by a seductive lie,


with actors manning the ramparts. So as Sean Hannity tucks you in snug and safe -- no terrorists under your bed, my quiet Americans! -- remember that for all his storytelling, "utopia," in Greek, still means "nowhere." Episode 3: The Blinded Leading the Blindfolded
The [senior Bush] aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the realitybased community,' which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality --


judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do. (“Without a Doubt,” The New York Times Magazine, October 17, 2004.) There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust t h e p i c t u re . We a re c o n t ro l l i n g transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We can reduce the focus to a soft blur, or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to

experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind


to... The Outer Limits (The Outer Limits, circa 1963)

Unfortunately, you don't have to just take my word for it. The ship of state, rechristened the SS Unreality, its engines stoked by ideologues and True Believers, has already beached itself upon the rocks of uncomfortable reality. I'm talking, of course, about Iraq. President Bush has faked us -- and himself -into believing he is a cowboy, specifically one in the Dirty Harry rather than Gene Autry mold. A studious examination of the Book of Revelation has convinced him of the righteous inevitability of his triumph over evil. Reality notwithstanding, he seems to think it's going pretty well. Some people disagree, but the fun in making your own worlds is that we each get one. You stand over there, in your world, where the liberation of Iraq has become a q-------. I'll be over here in mine, where every time an insurgent car bomb goes off, it sprays bystanders with daisies. That's called "having


faith." Otherwise known as "staying the course." And now we come to the final stage of the trick. It's one thing to live on a fabricated ranch and imagine yourself a cowboy. It's another to blindly parrot the "this is the greatest country in the world, bar none, without exception, all the time every time!" line and resist even a sideways glance into the shadowed corners of the American psyche. Keep the world in soft focus and you can live your dreams forever. Just be careful when you try to make those dreams into reality. The two don't mix well; the final and most dangerous delusion is that naked power and indomitable will can bend the world to your whim. That's a rarity, and as Pol Pot and Mao can tell you, people usually wind up dead. Or, as George Packer puts it in his new history-thus-far of the war in Iraq, "firepower and good intentions would be less important than learning to read the signs." No matter how well-armed your illusions, they'll always bump up against something you


can't fake, or spin, or ignore. In short, the cosmic bummer that is the world as it is. But as Lenny Bruce once said, "Let me tell you the truth. The truth is what is. And what should be is a fantasy, a terrible, terrible lie someone gave the people long ago." This is a lesson that President Bush and innocent Americans are just now learning. It's a difficult one, and I don't envy their painful return to the reality-based community. It's fun to believe things. More fun still to trick others into believing them, then line your pockets with the money they didn't really deserve anyway. But like a visit to Disneyland, it eventually comes to an end. You can only ride the teacups so long before you get sick. When I last saw President Bush, he was having an "unrehearsed" (scripted! Ha! Words are meaningless!) conversation with a group of US soldiers stationed in Iraq. He stumbled through his lines, fumbled for the right words, and was generally out of his depth. He looked like a man


disoriented and empty, as though the string connecting his soul to his body had been cut. He looked like a man no longer able to fool anyone. Not even himself.


Stand Up And Fight For Your Non-Beliefs Jesse Hicks interviews R.U. Sirius R.U. Sirius is probably best known as the cofounder and original editor-in-chief of Mondo 2 0 0 0 magazine, the subversive cyber-culture magazine that pre-dated Wired and featured writers such as William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and Rudy Rucker. Mondo 2000 pioneered a unique blend of computer culture, psychedelia, avant-garde art, and sex that put the term "cyberpunk" on the map. His latest book, Counterculture Through the Ages, a historical survey of counterculture themes in everything from early Judaism to the


Enlightenment, was just released in paperback. In addition to hosting weekly podcasts on his website, this November R.U. will teach a course at the Maybe Logic Academy (, called the Question Authority Project. He talked with Deek about the countercultural spirit, the future of cyber-culture, and finding passion in non-belief. I read that one reaction you'd hoped for from the more hip, less mainstream section of your readership was passionate "objection." Have you gotten much of that response? No, not as much and not as interesting as I would hope it would be. I think the environment for public discussion changed when the internet moved away from the bulletin board model -where lots of different people would post topics and create discussions -- to the blog model, where an individual has his blog and people come in to read it, and possibly post responses, and to engage


in conversation around that. That may be part of it. I was on The Well for a long time, which I got a little bit tired of, but there would be really detailed and intricate discussions on The Well. I did appear on The Well representing the book, and that was kind of interesting, but on the whole there's been less passionate response than I'd hoped for. I think people's attention these days is so distracted and drawn to so many different possible areas that a lot of discourse tends to lack real depth. Mostly what you get is people whining about the commodification of hip culture. That's the big bugaboo of people who identify with alternative culture: that the subcultural movement and expressions that they like get fed back to them in television advertisements and that sort of thing. That's an interesting enough topic; Tom Frank has written interestingly about it. But it's also a pretty limited topic. I'm trying to show people links between a certain type of spirit that's existed


between Sufism on the one hand, and the European enlightenment on the other hand, and the post-Christian transcendentalists on the other hand, and Zen Buddhism in Asia -- you have all these quotes from all these people, really manifesting similar attitudes expressed around completely different paradigms and focuses. To me, that's pretty interesting. To always hear people complain about Iggy Pop songs being used in television commercials, and to always get hung up on that discussion -- that's a little depressing, actually. It's interesting that you mentioned blogs, because in the book you intentionally shy away from the lone iconoclasts in favor of true counterculture communities. It seems that with The Well and the early bulletin boards, you had a true counterculture community, while blogs are typically broadcast-style, iconoclastic sites. It's a mix. Most blogs do have an area for response, and there's some degree of back-and-


forth discourse, but the general vibe around that isn't as strong as it was in the earlier virtual communities. It seems to me that the idea of virtual community is something that hasn't been taken to its most interesting place. I think that's the same problem with social networks. There's a space for discussion, but the environment, the vibe that's created around these places, is more like, "Hey, come in and sign my guestbook and I'll sign your guestbook and we'll see how many people we can collect." These things are all temporary shifts. I'm sure deeper virtual communities will continue to exist and will emerge in other forms. That seems like a fairly obvious case of the more consumerist aspects of cyber-technology taking over. People go where the money goes. While there was some money in the creation of completely non-heirarchical communities, there's more money


in the social networks. Although with the blogs, people were just following their impulse to take the medium and communicate in a way that previously had just been vouchsafed for those who had a publisher or an editor who they could convince that what they had to say and write was valid. I totally support the idea the every individual has the right to be a complete multimedia broadcasting company. I strive to be one myself. But I want to point out that this other thing seems to have taken a backseat for a while. Do you think the "everyone an author, everyone a multimedia company" helps or hurts the reincarnation of what you called the spirit of counterculture? I don't know that there's any need for a reincarnation at this point. I think throughout human history there's been an ebb-and-flow in terms of whether there are people who fit the free-


thinking, free-willing, flexible, changeable, nonideological notion of counterculture that we convey in the book. There may be periods when there aren't any countercultures, and then there are plenty of periods where there are, but I don't think there's any question that spirit continues to exist on planet earth today in the twenty-first century. There's really no need for a reincarnation; it's just a question of where we want to take the energies. Is there some way to coalesce the energies into something that helps to make the world a better place? Or is that something we even want to do? Or do we want to "stick apart," like the Discordians -- you know, "Us Discordians must stick apart." I think everybody having their own media is countercultural in essence, in the way we described it in the book. Instead of having three or four mediated realities managed by CBS, NBC, and The New York Times, with a few people reading Mother Jones or the National Review,


you've got tens of thousands of different realities that people might subscribe too. I've long said that the 'net represents a real defeat for consensus reality. So in that sense it's very positive in terms of what we described as counterculture. One of the questions we raise in the book is whether "counterculture" is really "counter" -- when I talk about counterculture, I'm talking about a particular set of values that I ascribe to counterculture, but one doesn't have to ascribe to it the requirement of being that far outside the mainstream, anymore. It's a different way of approaching the world. We see it through history, and it probably has three billion subscribers on the planet at this point. The three ideas you define as the essence of cou n tercu l tu re -- i n d i vi d u al i s m, an ti authoritarianism, and the belief in the possibility of personal and social transformation -- you see those as far back as


far as Abraham, Socrates, and Taoism. Those movements cast a fairly great shadow down the ages. Today, obviously you see that animating spirit, but do you see something comparable that will cast a great shadow on the future? I'm sure there are a lot of things going on right now that will cast a great shadow. I think things are thickening up to such an extent -- some people talk about the singularity, where the rate of change will reach a level beyond which it's almost impossible for us to understand what being a human being is. I think the work that people are doing wiring together human beings through the nervous system of the Internet casts a long shadow. That emerged out of counterculture sensibilities. That's woven into the technology -- the idea of giving individuals power, of decentralizing the power of thought and the power of communication -- that's really written into the technology. I think the biggest political shadow will be cast by the "open source" idea, which is kind of a non-


coercive communism in some ways. It's postcommunism, post-capitalism. It says, "We have an abundance of this stuff we call programming, or thought, or whatever it is that underlies all the things that we might create, and we're going to share it openly. People can use it to make a profit, or use it to make a commune, or use it anyway they want." I think that's a place where we're headed as human beings. Hopefully as an economy, we're headed towards a gift economy. Open source really models what a post-scarcity economy should be. Technologies like nanotechnology hold forth the promise of actually eliminating scarcity, so when you put those two together, you have a potential model for the future. Why can't money be open source? Money is a program. That'd be an interesting leap for someone to take. Other things that are going to cast a big shadow on the future are the experiments with maximum lifespan and the potentials for


performance enhancement in the human mind, including the psychedelic levels of consciousness, the potentials for pleasure, insight, and compassion. I think the self-enhancement movement -- which in many ways comes out of the counterculture spirit -- is another arrow pointing towards the future. It seems as though you see present technology as having a greater affect than present ideas. The ideas go into the technology. There's a feedback loop there. I'm sure the technology will in turn create ideas. In the chapter on the Enlightenment, we talk about how the change in technology caused the distribution in literacy, and then the distribution of knowledge, which previously had been held by a small, elite group. It ended up being distributed by the encyclopedia. There's always this kind of feedback loop between the technology and science of a time and the philosophy of the time. But I do see technology as


being the thing that helps us to change the world at this time. Can you tell me a little about your Maybe Logic course, the Question Authority Project? Basically it's, "Stand up and fight for your non-beliefs." The Maybe Logic Academy is based around Robert Anton Wilson's idea of "model agnosticism" -- the idea of not buying completely into any model of reality, any particular paradigm, but maintaining an experimental attitude towards it. I think the Question Authority Project is an attempt to model that idea as a form of activism, as a counteraction to the tendency towards theocracy, theocratic beliefs, and other very rigid forms of politics that are becoming attractive to a lot of people living in a very complex and confusing time. The idea came out of a course I was teaching called, "Counterculture Through the Ages," about the book. In the process of the course, we thought


rather than just talking about counterculture, maybe we should be doing something. We batted around some ideas for pranks and for creating fake counterculture characters -- modeled on Hakim Bey or something like that -- putting them on the web and seeing what kind of perturbations that would create. I had this idea in the back of my head for the Question Authority Project, as a political and social organization. I threw that out there and everyone, somewhat to my dismay, went for it. This course is an active course to see if people can work together to realize something like this. The basic idea is really just to create a website that brings together anti-authoritarian activists, to get into non-denominational blogging that would be interesting to anti-authoritarians or nonauthoritarians. Something that wouldn't be just a libertarian blog or an anarchist blog or a civil libertarian blog -- not something designed to appeal that one particular slice of anti-authoritarian


reality, but something that would have a broad appeal to people open to non-authoritarian positions. The basic idea is to create a sort of clearinghouse, with links to non-authoritarian websites, and to people who would be willing to speak out and act out as non-authoritarians. Possibly to create a pressure group to get antiauthoritarians into a national dialogue, so when the lunatic talk show host Joe Scarborough is having a discussion of this or that, rather than always having left vs. right, sometimes it might be more appropriate to have the authoritarian and the nonauthoritarian view. So we're going to work on it, work with the class, and see if we can develop some manifestoes, see if we can build the website. We'll see what happens. I don't necessarily think the class will succeed in starting something, but we'll all learn something from the process.


It seems like now is both a very important time for that kind of work and an extremely difficult time to do it, given that mainstream culture has so absorbed the "question authority" idea in the service of selling shoes. Do you think it's necessary to take back that idea, reinvigorate it, and give it a new life? In some ways it has been absorbed by the mainstream, but it certainly hasn't been absorbed to any great extent by the mainstream political discourse. To some extent there's been some reaction to some of the stuff that's happened since the Bush administration got people objecting to the PATRIOT Act and so on. I think probably for the first time since Richard Nixon's war on crime in the 1960's, you have some mainstream politicians talking about civil liberties. Up until the Bush administration, there was no help for a politician -it did them no good to talk about being in favor of civil liberties. The way for a politician to get ahead was to be tough on crime, which is precisely the


opposite of that. I think there's an awful lot of room for questioning authoritarian assumptions that are made by the mainstream of this society: that it's good to send teenagers who disobey their parents to boot camp-style places where rough, muscular, bull-necked man scream at them to teach them how to behave, for example. There are so many ways in which the notion that people should impose their will on other people is woven into our culture at the political level. In fact I think that's what makes this project worthwhile. At the cultural level, the "question authority" attitude is a pretty mainstream point of view. At the political level, I don't think it is. In specific ways, like being against the President or against the war, being Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan, that might qualify as a sort of antiauthoritarianism, but if you scratch Michael Moore, you'll probably find he has an authoritarian point of view himself.


So this question of coercion -- how much coercion should be tolerated, if any, and under what circumstance, is certainly not part of the political discussion. I can't think of any political movement that meets the ideal of model agnosticism. How do you go about translating that idea to the political realm? I think it would be a mistake to try to define it too much, because then that becomes a model. I think there's plenty of room within a strong civil libertarian, democratic movement for a model agnostic view to have its place. Certainly within libertarianism and anarchism -- though people within both those movements like to have complex, Byzantine, highly-abstract, intellectual ideologies that they cling to tenaciously -- there's certainly room within those philosophies for a model agnostic view. I know people in both the libertarian and anarchist movements that hold


those kind of views. I think it's something that a lot of people subscribe to but don't know they do, because you don't hear it expressed. Even at the level of religion, mostly you hear arguments between believer and non-believer, between believer and atheist. The idea of agnosticism -- which seems to me really obvious; you'd have to be an idiot not to be an agnostic, to assume that in terms of the nature of cosmic reality and all-and-everything, we have the equipment or the information to know one way or another -- but you don't hear that. You hear the believers and the atheists going at it. We don't seem to have a place for that third, doubting voice, anywhere. It's like I say, "Stand up and fight for your non-beliefs." (Laughs) It's not that easy to be passionate about not buying it.


You point out in the book that the focus on transcending easy dichotomies has almost always been a marker of the true countercultural movements. I think that's exactly the case. That's implicit in all the riddles and koans and teaching lessons that you find in Zen, Taoism, and Sufism. You even find it in Voltaire and other places. Socrates, the great doubter, the great questioner of everything -- they want to put you in a place where there aren't answers. There are just questions or there's just raw experience. That's definitely a line that runs through the book. That's a necessary aspect of what I would like in a countercultural movement. I think a lot of what has been labeled counterculture has not been that. A lot of it has been another form of truebelievership: New Age forms of spiritual absolutism, political forms of absolutism, various expressions of a lack of tolerance and so forth. There's a strong tendency towards purism within


countercultural movements, which brings us back to consumerism and seeing Iggy Pop ads on TV, rather than wanting to have a more expansive dialogue. In the book you come down fairly harshly on the 60's and 70's "revolutions" as antiauthority, rather than non-authority, and really full of itself, to the point of considering itself the revolution. Why do you think that particular strain of counterculturalism has become the counterculture in many people's minds? I think there's a majoritarian impulse toward concretizing a movement around a dogma, rather than constantly changing and allowing a creative flow. Everyone wants to hang on to something, saying, "This is the new one, and I'm going to be a part of this movement or this reality," and then not wanting that to change. It's a fairly elitist thing to say, but it's probably true, that the majority is not that creative. I think


probably larger groups of people are becoming more creative, but over the course of history that hasn't been the case. There's that and then there's real problems. In response to real problems, people will find it important to organize in a very hard, feet-on-theground sort of way, and that will lead to a rigidity of the mind and spirit. It doesn't have to -- one can organize against a war or against a President or against a war on civil liberties without becoming part of a new, "alternative" regime. But it's much more difficult. True believers organize much better than non-believers. Then it comes down to the "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" phenomenon. It's hard to believe Huey Newton being a leader of America. Nothing against him --the guy in his own way was a great spirit, but he just wasn't ready to be the Supreme Commander or whatever. (laughs)


Do you see the Question Authority Project as sort of a continuation of your earlier foray into politics with The Revolution? Well, in some ways it came out of that. Trying to think about that idea of starting political party, which I felt had become moribund. It was probably stupid in the first place, and proved to be way too difficult. This seemed to be something more plausible. In some ways it comes out of a little burr I have in my saddle to do political work, just because I look for things that nobody else is doing. I think Buckminster Fuller said find something that you think should be done that nobody else is doing and do it. This idea of a non-rigid, nonideological, non-conformist, non-, non-, non-, etc., seems like something that ought to exist and doesn't, so maybe I'll give that a try. I generally regret having anything to do with anything political at least nine times a day. I'd very much like to just read science fiction and


contemplate philosophy and maybe write my biography. Again, I get this little burr in my saddle that says, "Hey, here's something that's not being done," and I try to do it. Politics as a system often talks the talk as far as tolerance, civil liberties, and giving people the room to be individuals, but no political groups really live up to that promise. None right now, at least. They would prefer not to have to. We talked about the tendency of the majority to cohere around rigid ideologies, but that's not the entire story. There's also the tendency of those with power and authority and wealth to want people to cohere around rigid ideologies. That's another means of control. So you have those two forces: the majority and the elites both working very hard to maintain those kinds of rigid systems.


So can we expect a Question Authority Project candidate for 2008? No, nothing like that. I hope this will create a clearinghouse for non-authoritarian views and help to open up the national discourse. And I hope that I don't have to be the leader of it. Hopefully with this class we'll create something, a meme that will go out there and people will be drawn to it, like filings to a magnet.



Rapid Detox by Jessica Robyn I might be a little on the naïve side. My dad didn't really marry that bitch; my ex-boyfriend doesn't ever like other girls; Pop-Up Videos will be back someday. And detox? Rehab? Withdrawal? It's all in a Saturday morning spent on my futon, Gatorade and aspirin at my side, curtains drawn, watching On-Demand and cursing Molson TripleX. Every once in awhile, however, I get a stabbing reminder ignorance doesn't guarantee bliss. I've seen the wedding pictures; I've heard about the thing he had with the bartender; I've watched Best


Week Ever. And, upon being asked to check out the local methadone clinics for the magazine to see just what rapid detox was all about, I had the unwelcome feeling that I was again about to swallow another unpleasant spoonful of reality something I generally have little patience for. I reached for my box of crayon-colored Nat Sherman's. I'm not a smoker; the first half-pack of cigarettes had lasted me nearly a week. I wondered whether the second would last me through the day. I called the Health Department and asked for the numbers of relevant local clinics, as well as any information about heroin withdrawal or rapid detox that they could give me. I was given neither, only a number for someone who supposedly had what I was looking for. Dialed it; same response. (And this one was rather rude. Bitch.) Dialed that number, got the numbers for five local centers, but no direct information. So far, I was half-way through a jade-colored cigarette, smoked more out of frustration than nervousness. Maybe this


wouldn't be so bad. I picked up the phone again. Two of the five centers were closed for the day (one of them closed at 1:45 each afternoon, or so said the recording; who does that?). The remaining three refused to talk, regardless of my shameless attempts at charm, wit, and proverbial dick-sucking. Not much for media coverage, eh? Undaunted, I flicked around on the internet to see what info I could find - more clinics, national hotlines, articles. Finished the green, finished a pink, and started working on a blue when I tried calling the clinics again. Got the same reaction from two of them - one asked me not to call again. Why wouldn't they talk? What did they think I was going to expose, unearth? I've got dirty little secrets too, but I at least converse with the people who fucking call me. Discouragement was setting in; if I couldn't get anything out of the receptionists, I was never going to learn anything from the people administering the actual treatment, much less the people being treated. I was pissed; I


was on a mission, and these people were making me fail. I had one center left to redial. I never called. The Narcotics Anonymous meeting was held in the basement of a Baptist Church in Western Maryland. Pittsburgh has its own local chapters, but after the trouble I'd already had, I wanted to see what was available in some other neck of the Allegheny woods. Plus, I had a friend at my old university who volunteered at these things. At the very least, I was hoping she'd up my comfort level; I was still apprehensive, and I was running out of cigarettes. I got lost on my way to the red brick building, and got lost on the inside (ironic when you realize that the people coming are looking for guidance and direction) but finally wandered into the room where the meetings were held. It was painted a pallid and sickly green, the same moldy color that will forever remind me of an elementary school gymnasium. I read once that they use the color in


public buildings because it induces a sort of calm. Upon entering the room I decided that was bullshit. What was I so uneasy about? Fortunately, the only other person there so far was my friend Becca, an undergraduate social work student doing her senior thesis on drug intervention. We had some time to kill, so I told her about the trouble I'd had back in Pittsburgh - no one wanted to give me any information. On anything. "I'm not too surprised," she said, taking a red cigarette out my box and lighting it. I followed suit. (When in NA, do as the...) "Rapid detox has only been around for about 15 years, and has only been in its present form for less than half of that. It's still a young treatment. And as is the case with most medical procedures still in their adolescence, it's surrounded by a lot of controversy. A lot of places shy away from interviews and media attention because they don't think any good will come of it. Either their center participates in rapid detox programs, and they don't want any criticism


for doing so, or they don't offer it, and they don't want any criticism for doing so. These are people who do what they do because they believe in it and want to help; they don't want their names or faces attached to any sort of stigma. They practice a different kind of medicine; it's not about money and attention and trying to attract more patients." And I can understand that. Except for her comment about the money - at about $15 grand a pop, someone's certainly raking it in, and I doubt it's the receptionists - most of what she had to say fell in line with what I had read. Rapid detox is essentially just what it sounds like: Literally, a quick fix. A heroin addict attempting detoxification opts for an intravenous blue chemical cocktail of naloxone (an opiate blocker) and anesthesia to inhibit the body's ability to be further affected by the drug (a permanent result, if the patient follows up with a daily dose of naloxone, in pill form, for a year). Simple enough, yes? The procedure itself takes less than half an


hour; recovery, no more than a weekend. This, in contrast to classic cold-turkey, wherein an addict suffers pain, depression and some GI turbulence sometimes for a matter of weeks. I worked things out in my head - a little pain (and excuse me if it sounds like I am belittling anything here) for a couple of days, versus veritable hell for the better part of a month. And the problem was? "Eh, you know. Some law suits back in the early days, ethical questions about whether it's right to speed up a natural withdrawal process so quickly, the matter of the cost." Becca didn't seem to have much more to say about it, and I didn't have time to ask. Becca's weeknight crew had arrived. It was meeting time, and what was more, it was cigarette time. I lit a gold one. Seeing their faces made everything very, very real. We weren't talking about addicts, anymore; we were talking about people. Eh-hem. Sorry. Aside from Becca and I, there were only four


others in the room. Two non-descript, blue-collar, blonde-haired, twenty-something guys in work boots, ripped and paint-adorned jeans, and t-shirts who we'll call Keys (because he couldn't let go of his all meeting) and Boner (because he couldn't let go of his all meeting). There was Mama, a pregnant woman of indeterminable age whose stringy grey hair made her look much older than I suspected she really was. She was soft-spoken around the bubbly sorority girl who I recognized from a class I had taken when I attended the local university. I sat hoping she wouldn't recognize me, although it didn't matter; Becca introduced me, and told her four faithful attendants why I was there, and that the first half of the meeting would be devoted to my questions, should they feel comfortable enough to answer them. I thought they'd be disgusted, nervous, angry. I expected the blonde to leave; old friends aren't people you hope to see in rehab. Surprisingly, it was the sorority sister (I'll call her Delta) who had the most to say


to me - for better or for worse. Of the four there, only the two women had gone the rapid detox route; Delta, twice. The boys had each quit cold-turkey - Keys had been clean for two months, and Boner for four, but had quit a total of three times in as many years. All of them had been addicted to OxyContin. Since rapid detox was of the most interest to me, I dove right into the subject; however, before either of the girls could speak up about their experiences, Keys caught me off guard. I hadn't expected him to have much to say, so I only gave him half of my attention - at first. "I wish it wasn't so fuckin' expensive," he lamented. For such a primitive sentence, my attention has never been so commanded. The guy had presence, and passion, and pain. I liked it. "I quit, just quit, all at once, on my own, because I couldn't afford that detox thing. It was hell. Nothin' has ever hurt so bad. If I could go back and do it the easy way, I would, but hell - $14 grand?


Something like that. Shit. I'm lucky if I make that in a year." "Sure, it's a lot," Mama said quietly, looking down. "But it was just so, so worth it. I feel like I can do anything now. I feel brand-new. I feel almost scared, because I don't know what life is gonna be like without the drugs. I'm wandering into some real unfamiliar territory." I could certainly relate; my nerves had yet to subside. "But when you think about it, it's $14 or $15 thousand dollars for the rest of your life." "Exactly." Delta was joining in. "It's not about money; it's about freedom from the Oxy. Whatever it takes, you find the money. It's just something you gotta do." I ask her where she managed to scrape up $30,000 - remember, she'd done this twice. "Oh. My parents. But I mean, still; to them, it was just something that had to be done. If I ever needed it again, I'm sure they'd do the same thing for me. You can't put a price on your life, you know?" Keys and Boner make some barely-


audible noises of disgust; a part of me can't blame them. Boner sulks down into his seat and quickly slips his hand over his erection; I pretend not to notice. I ask what the rapid detox itself was actually like. I didn't want to hear about Daddy's money any more, and I didn't think that the guys who couldn't afford a rapid detox session of their own had much interest in the story, either. Mama interrupts Delta's attempt at answering my question; I'm amused. Thatagirl. "They put you under, so you don't remember a whole lot. When I woke up, though, it was the first time in forever when I wasn't dying for a pill. I kept waiting and waiting for the urge to come back and I kind of still am. I know it won't come back, as long as I keep taking my [prescribed] pills, and I've still got two months left. it's still strange to me." I want to ask whether the naloxone pills have any projected effect on her unborn baby, but I'm not comfortable enough to. I shouldn't have hesitated; Delta jumps at the pause in conversation


to speak. I almost interrupt her but change my mind - why am I being such a bitch? This is her story too, and without hers, I wouldn't have mine. I try to tolerate, try to listen. "The first time for me was like that, too. I kept wanting to want one [an OxyContin] because it was just what I was used to. I mentioned that to my nurse or my caretaker or whatever the hell those people at the clinic are, and she just laughed. She said I should be thankful. The second time, though, was a lot different. I was in a lot of pain. And I kept wanting an Oxy, but I don't think it was because I was still addicted; I think it was just because I knew it always made everything feel so freaking good." I wonder if the pain is common in repeat-rapid detoxers. No one has an answer for me. Boner mentions that a friend of his reported a dull ache after his treatment, but he'd only done the rapid detox once. "No," Delta interrupts. "This was no dull ache. This was like all of your bones were swelling or on fire or something. It fucking hurt ."


It was the only time in the entire meeting when she made a comment without a smile on her face. Keys mutters, "Now you know how we felt," glancing at Boner before looking back at her. "A little." And what about NA? Did it help? What was the first time like? And how could they be so open? "I wouldn't have been able to stay clean if it weren't for the NA," says Keys. "I don't have any of those follow-up pills the rapid-D people've got, so I need something. And it's this, or the OxyContin." Boner agrees. "The first time I tried to quit, I didn't go to any meetings or anything. I think that's the reason I went back to the pills in the first place. But now, with the meetings and [Becca] and the rest of the group, I'm doin' better. Hopefully I'll stay better." "It definitely helps, even with the naloxone, the meetings help. But it was tough to come in here for the first time." Delta's saccharine smile is


back. "I'm so young, and I'm not local either - I felt like I would feel so alone. But then you realize that everyone's got the same problems as you, and age or hometown don't matter anymore. It's a matter of support, and there's a lot of it here." She's like a poster child for this. Her gushy praise for the meeting makes everyone noticeably uncomfortable; fortunately, Mama speaks up in the squirmy silence. "Of course it helps. And of course it was scary coming for the first time. But new things always are, and they don't usually turn out to be that bad. Just like going in for the detox made me nervous, coming here on the first day did too. But hey, 'no pain, no gain,' right?" Becca calls for a break; the first hour is over. Most of us head outside to smoke. (Why we chose to stand in the rain when smoking was allowed in the building is unclear, but I blame that fucking green paint). The first hour had raced by surprisingly - and I felt like I had so much more to


say (or really, to hear). I know they've got business to get down to, though, and I don't want to take up any more of their meeting time. I fish out my keys and my box of cigarettes. Only one left - a pink one. I ask to borrow Delta's lighter. "Oh I love those cigarettes. I smoked, seriously, like half a box before I came here for the first time, I was so shaky and nervous. Scared of that, can you imagine?" For the first time all night, I don't hate her. Another choking dose of reality - this girl and I aren't so different. Both a little green on the vine, but sometimes more scared of it than we should be. I remember the empty box of designer cigarettes in my hand and laugh. "Yeah. I can imagine."


Return of the MILF Cornelius Blackshear Editor's Note to the Readers of the Future: You're probably probably reading this by candlelight, America having long since descended into postapocalyptic chaos. We will not ask who you killed to get that candle, nor will we judge you for having done what any rational human would do simply to survive. To better your enjoyment of the following piece, however, we encourage you to replace the asterisk-marked names (*) with those of the pop-culture hotties of your day. You do still have pop-culture hotties, right?


Recently I was forced to watch several hours of MTV Hits, as a freak encounter with a hay baler had left me temporarily armless and unable to operate a remote. Eventually the sound of my own screams died away, and as the blood cleared from my eyes, I realized this could be an informative, if traumatizing, experience: I’d learn something of about the youth of today, about their habits and mores, their tastes and fears. Most importantly, I’d learn how to successfully bed them. What I found was horrifying. Ye, I have looked into the eye of the abyss and seen staring back: the MILF-centric video storyline. The MILF, from the Latin milfus proclivitus, meaning, “mommy makes me feel tingly, down in my pants,” has been with us for a long time, from Oedipus – the original, if unintentional, MILFhunter – to Freud, whose MILFing about seriously derailed male psyches for generations to come. But


the MILF-obsessed have always been a small subset of the population, the ones sitting alone at the prom, gazing lovingly into a picture of your mother. These days, though, the MILF Hunter has gone mainstream. Watch MTV Hits and it’s obvious. Exhibit One: The venerable “Stacy’s Mom” video. This Fountains of Wayne video stars Rachel Hunter* as – you guessed it – Public MILF Number One. She undresses while the band sings, “I’m not the little boy that I used to be/ I’m all grown up now, baby can’t you see?” ‘Fraid not, fellas. You may be scraggly-alterna-rockers on the outside, but inside you’re still 13. Say, is that your puberty floating in my pool? Next up, Maroon 5’s “She Will Be Loved,” which opens with the lyric, “Beauty queen of only eighteen,” making us think M5 is driving the barely-legal bus to Paradise City. Don’t be fooled! The post-pubescent poontang parading past singer


Adam Levine is just a decoy! I will boil this video down for you, thereby saving you the discomfort of another display of painfully earnest “emotion” from these tastefully disheveled “neo-soul rock” genitalia scrapings: “Hey, I’m with a pretty hot lady friend right now, dancing real closelike….WAIT A MINUTE! Who is that fine Mature Honey? I bet she has squeezed a child through her uterus, and that makes me want her…want her BAD. Time to find a rainstorm where I can look poetic. Then she will be mine.” Sure, maybe we expect this kind of emotional retardation from a band originally named Kara’s Flowers (now, was that written on your high school notebook in glitter, or pink highlighter?), who is produced by the same guy who brought you Michelle Branch and that number one reason to repeal the assault weapons ban, the Goo Goo Dolls. But the MILF virus has infected our bubblecrap punksters, too! Busted, a British


“band” whose photogenic, twenty-something members aspire to look thirteen, catches the MILF express at the “hot for teacher” stop, with “What I Go To School For.” What they go to school for is Miss MacKenzie, a thirty-three year-old middleschool teacher. I know she’s a middle-school teacher because I, unlike the members of the band, recognize the sweet fruit of just-blossoming womanhood when I see it, and that class is ten pounds of fine in a five pound bag. (With perhaps an extra three pounds of underage naughtiness busting out the top. Ha! Busting!) Unfortunately for the girls, who swoon in vain, the boys of Busted have eyes only for the pear-shaped Miss MacKenzie. That, my friend, is a bitter, bitter fruit. What is going on here? Have the events of 9/11 so shell-shocked our collective wang that the only safety is the comfort of Mommy’s teat? Have these musicians' genitals, already shriveled and small, retreated entirely into their body cavities, turtle-like, at the sharp existential thwack of the


War on Terror? Or is this just another variation of the old, “Yeah, your mom’s pretty hot, but if you take off your bra…well, that might get my attention…” strategy? Perhaps more relevant: Does the singer of Maroon 5 sleep with a blue teddy-bear, or is it pink? (Excuse me, rose.) It’s impossible to say, if only because I will probably never get to ask the members of Busted, much less murder them. But that’s all a side show, really, next to what I really learned. I learned that while the scrappy Brit-punks of Busted, the artsy white-soul-meisters of Maroon 5, and the tiny little Fountains of Wayne are out stalking Stacy’s mom, Stacy’s home by herself, with a broken heart. And in this case, Stacy’s name is actually Hillary Duff.* Hillary, call me.


Stealing Sex JoAnne Heen When the fourth armed robbery in two weeks culminated in a customer being shot in the parking lot, the owners of the dirty book store where I worked decided it was time to replace our current security – a couple of Korean War vets – with s o m e t h i n g a b i t m o r e , o k a y, a b i t less grandfatherly. Not that Mitch, whose ability to knock perps flying with his walker was not truly awesome, but Dave, who set up surveillance on the bus bench outside the store, spent too much time negotiating blow jobs with the hookers who


worked that corner. Soon the Guns appeared – five of the most gorgeous testosterone-laden hunks of man-flesh I’ve yet to see outside of a Chippendales show. “Mine, mine, mine!” I chortled happily as the store’s only female employee. Since the company that supplied us with the Guns hired only ex-military and law enforcement personnel, I could pick between a State Trooper, a Marine, a couple of police officers, and my particular favorite, a mysterious Ninja-assassin who told me his Number One Priority was to save my ass. “I’ll take a bullet for you, babe,” he said. Encased in bullet-proof vests and wearing Batmanlike tool belts weighted down with all sorts of crimefighting devices, I certainly expected all of them to take a bullet for me; still, I baked him a pie. R o b b e r y, m u r d e r a n d m a y h e m notwithstanding, probably the biggest problem at


the store was dealing with shoplifters. Since the store was big and crammed full of stuff, it was almost impossible for the one or two clerks on duty to police the entire area. Other than the telltale sounds of a customer coughing up a lung to mask the noise of a bag being ripped open and shoved into a purse or coat pocket, there was little else to indicate crimes were being committed right under our noses. Okay, the guy who bent over to retrieve a penny and had fifteen copies of Double D Housewives spill out of his shirt was a gift, but this was a rare thing. “Where can I stow this guy?” asked my Ninja late one evening, as he gently guided a very welldressed gentleman aged about fifty into the store. I thought the man was sick until I heard the clink of chains and realized he was handcuffed. “Caught him stealing, babe. Where can I stick him while I do some paperwork?” “How about the break room? You can chain him to the fridge.” I guess there are things more


embarrassing than spending two hours shackled to a major appliance inside a porn store, but at the moment, I’m hard pressed to think of any. When the local cops arrived to take him away, they made Mr. Well Dressed empty his pockets and open his pants. Stuffed inside his slacks were five pair of silk panties and a package of glow-inthe-dark condoms. In his jacket pocket was a copy of the novel Mrs. Porter Spanks the Milkman, and in his left sock was a bottle of cinnamon flavored massage oil. “Did you steal this stuff?” one cop asked. I thought it was obvious that he did, but apparently the law walks a very fine line. If he had enough money to pay for everything, he could claim he was merely carrying it in an eccentric manner. Luckily for us, he only had $6 on him, and he had taken $88 worth. The cops led him away after reading him his rights and it was just like being on TV. A few days later, I heard shouting out on the


sidewalk. When I peeked out the door, I saw two of the Guns struggling with a little skinny guy. The air was cloudy with pepper spray and invective. “Want me to call 911?” I yelled, and one of the Guns shouted back, “Ya think?” It looked like pro wrestling, with the two big Guns twirling the guy around over their heads. Every time they’d hit him – POW – like a piñata, another item stolen from the store would fly out of his shirt. Suddenly, with a heart-rending shriek, the shoplifter threw himself in the air, squirted through the Guns’ fingers like mercury, and was gone, disappearing into heavy rush hour traffic.


Tera Patrick Has A Cold Jesse Hicks Tera Patrick has a cold. She's had it for weeks, she explains as she changes out of her pasties and into a black top and jeans. Its slowed her down: Last month, during filming for her interactive sex video, she was just too worn out to finish the day's shoot. She flew home to New York and missed four feature shows that weekend. She coughs dryly. Moving from the faux-marble dresser, talking, she heads to the bathroom and keeps talking. She's a storyteller; she admits it. Finally she sits on the edge of the bed, atop a pink


comforter, and even though she's stopped moving, it's as though all her kinetic energy is poised, just waiting to be released. If her cold robs Tera Patrick of that uninsurable jewel, her aura of sexuality, it doesn't show. Ask the men downstairs, who pay ten dollars a head to be near her, to cocoon themselves in wood-paneling and smoke, under dim, forgiving lights, and watch her dance - they come to gaze at woman who admits, "For a long time, I couldn't dance. I thought I had to be in a chorus line. Now I entertain myself up there. I'll go out and do cartwheels, maybe do a split." Ask those who stay for autographs, who smilingly give over $50 to have a Polaroid taken with her and watch it develop in their hands. Ask her husband and manager, Evan Seinfeld, who dumps a pile of bills - her haul from tonight's show - on the table and begins to count it. By any measure, Tera is doing ok, moneywise. She's under thirty and bi-coastal, with


homes in both Los Angeles and New York. She drives a new Corvette and a customized Hummer. She travels the world, though still wants to visit Easter Island. She's chatted with Paris Hilton and is good friends with a Baldwin; party organizers pay her thousands of dollars to simply show up and have fun. Porn's been good to the woman who once thought she might never work in the industry again, after a bad contract left her with virtually no income. It took a year-and-a-half of legal wrangling and over $50,000 in lawyer's fees to get out of it, but she did. She formed a company, Teravision, which produces all her movies. She has a personalized line of erotic toys and is pitching a reality-tv series. Now she controls her own destiny; the British-Thai girl who grew up in Montana is now that newest of American Dreams: the superstar entrepreneur who is her own product. The "tangible celebrity" - the very-real yet indefinable quality she exudes - translates into


millions of dollars, and as her husband puts it, "This is America. You can buy your own freedom." "We're weird to people. People still think, 'Oh my God, what's she like? She must be so weird because she has sex on camera.' They think I must be some kind of alien or something, because of what I do." When she talks her eyes go wide with emphasis, those brown eyes a little glassy, dimmed by her cold and last night's long flight from LA. She talks about the business of porn, of appealing to her fans and her "couples demographic," and of how many experts are consulted in order to turn her into every man's fantasy. She loves her fans "They pay my bills. They throw money at me, so what can I say?" I listen for over an hour to this methodical dissection of the mechanics behind porn, the calculus of sex and desire, and the only thing I really wonder is: is this really you, Tera? What is it you really want, now that you've bought your freedom? "I have a little dog, and I'd like to knit clothes


for little dogs and open a little dog store. I'd call it Dog One."


“To the Sirens first shalt thou come...” Joseph L. Flatley
To the Sirens first shalt thou come, who bewitch all men… (Homer, Odyssey.)

It is not too difficult to ignore the fact that there is a war going on. Hell, society is predicated on the fact that whatever we’re giving our attention – whatever lay in front of our nose – is what is real, and whatever lay safely at arm’s length might as well not exist. This country will give you a war if you want it, and it will give you all the consumer benefits of a system that creates


war, if you want it, while keeping the war itself safely stashed away. And if you’re not satisfied, you can always find a distraction. It’s not at all difficult to pretend that you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for at Anthony’s Lounge, if Anthony’s Lounge is all you got. I was there last week. It was cold. The girl behind the bar was wearing a sweater and big warm boots. The other girls were topless, but the cold didn’t seem to bother them much. The bartender was the prettiest one in the room, “leaving something to the imagination,” as they say. The only customer was an African American gentleman in Bill Cosby's sweater. I stayed for an hour or two, marking time by the song, by the drink. Towards the end of my second Budweiser someone called Lita walked out of the back room. She had bare feet and a gym bag over her shoulder. The manager assured her that she would no longer be on the schedule. She just shrugged,


disappearing from the security monitor above the bar as her co-workers checked to make sure their stuff in the back hadn’t walked off with her. “Crack addicts will sell anything,” the girl behind the bar says. That’s not very sexy.
The sexual impulse is the favourite child of nature; no matter how great the demands on a man’s energy, the sex impulse must have its share. (Colin Wilson, Origins of the Sexual Impulse.)

Everybody has their reasons for going to a strip club. Of course, it all begins and ends with sex… but how is that, when you’re not getting laid? According to Skye, an author and poet that has worked strip clubs and peep shows on both coasts (including a stint at the legendary Lusty Lady in San Francisco), “the woman that makes


the most money is often older, out of shape. She’s also caring, affectionate, nurturing.” “For these men,” she said, “it’s not about idealizing a person’s body. The regulars are aping a domestic situation. These men are paying for a person’s time, paying to drink with them, make small talk.” “Guys want to feel like women are interested in them... they just want someone to act like they like them,” says Scarlet, at Pittsburgh’s own Club Elite. “Saturday night is a much younger crowd. I prefer the weeknights. We get to know the regulars pretty well, and they definitely seem to be interested in friendship much more than any kind of sexual thrill.”


I would have touched it like a child But knew my finger could but have touched Cold stone and water. I grew wild Even accusing heaven because It had set down among its laws: Nothing that we love over-much Is ponderable to our touch. (W.B. Yeats, “Towards Break of Day.”)

The most basic expression of the sexual impulse is the one that most objectifies sex. The adolescent male is Homeric, seeing life in the terms of the epic. There is always a Hero, a Villain, a Virgin, a Feat of Strength. This epic involves exploration but is ultimately self-centered and self-defined. Women are reduced to Playboy pin-ups. Everybody passes through this Homeric stage, but we do not live in a heroic age. At Club Elite, somewhere around 10:00 p.m. a


co-ed birthday party makes its entrance. This is a consumer crowd, the party as odyssey, the hero’s journey from the suburbs; the men in khaki pants and their women with the big ol’ birthing hips and bad haircuts. They all seemed to be quite pleased with themselves. The wives are having a real “Girls Gone Wild” and crazy night, one they’ll surely be talking about over coffee, come Monday. And the husbands will be given plenty to fantasize about, later, in bed with the missus. A heartland-pretty blond girl takes a seat to my right. She’s an actress, she says. I’m a writer. I search those blue eyes for a connection, but between my confusion and her “cool” there is a language barrier. After a moment or two of awkward silence, she asks, “Would you like a private dance?” Finding expression for your sexuality is the burden of being a sexual being. The method of that expression is up to you, in the broadest sense; it is


a product of genetics and accidental “imprint” in the strictest sense. But mostly, if you get it, it is a lot of fun. I’m thinking about all of this, at a café, as the cutest blond doll keeps looking in my direction. Hers is a smiling, open face, not burdened by the detritus and dry rot of the sex business. Of course, just because I am clutching a few dollar bills, it doesn’t mean she has to be nice to me. Still, I think I’ll go say hi.


Good Friday in Pittsburgh's Cultural District: or How and When I Learned I Was A PantySniffing Stalker Mikhail Stafford Good Friday nearly gouged my eyes out with a sharp image of nearly 3,000 14-year-old girls screaming bloody-frigging-murder for a band called The Click Five. But first, they screamed louder for another band called Pepperville or Pepperghost or Pepper's Ghost or Glasnost, or something like that. Later, Ashlee Simpson performed. The scene was generally overwhelming. Couldn't make heads or tails of it


from the beginning, and was left tired and fragile at its end. The drugs didn't help at all. Came down hard before Ashlee finished her antics. And when it was over, I felt paralyzed and astounded, like the huge electric shock I had just experienced was actually harmless. But then I was tapped on the shoulder by a little girl who asked me: "Are you a pantysniffer?" I knew it was done on a dare - she had to be less than 12; and she sniggered toward her friends after she asked. I laughed. "Fuck off," I said, smiling. Then I took into consideration the cashflow initiating this wave, this harmless electric shock. Yeah, I thought. It's initiated by all the little girls in here, paying upwards of $50 a ticket. They're probably wondering why a man in a Hawaiian shirt and fisherman's cap, chewing an unlit Marlboro, is hanging around the Ashlee Simpson show. But then again, so am I. The pornstar, Gauge, said "Hi" as she


smirked, looked into my eyes, and pulled my face close to hers. "You like my tits, huh." "Well, uh." I had eaten sedatives beforehand to prepare (shrooms had fallen through). But, in retrospect, nothing could've easily prepared me for this. Because, as I watched man after man humiliate himself for this girl (at least 50 guys forked over $20 for a Polaroid with Gauge, saying the dumbest shit imaginable, like: "Can I lick your ear, sweets?") it was as if the entire basis of capitalism had materialized into a dildo, and I had, in consecutive hour-long humps, sat on both ends: Ashlee Simpson on the unused end, then Gauge. The pornstar and I chatted. The first part of the interview was not recorded because she didn't want anyone to hear her voice on tape. "Yeah. Your tits are nice," I said. Ashlee Simpson's karaoke-quality live performance didn't exemplify what you'd expect from a triple-platinum artist.


But you could've probably guessed that. You could've guessed, too, that she giggled a lot between songs; and that she didn't have an acid-reflux attack. You could've also guessed that, judging by the thousands of screaming teenagers, her status didn't dive-bomb in one evening. Nope, it seems that she is, instead, moving along with a successful (however, probably short) career, in accordance with Risk -like plotting by her father. Her daddy's a former minister, by the way, who has, from all indications, the intention of overtaking pop music (by force, if necessary) with his seed. You could've guessed these things, yes. They've been reported everywhere. She's been panned, torn-down and mocked. Her father's been ridiculed for everything from using his kids as dollar-magnets, to looking funny on camera. And since Ashlee's SNL lip-synching incident, The Heartless Bastard Media (which doesn't include Tiger Beat, et al) hasn't let up on either Ashlee or


her father. And it's really not fair. But do you know why they haven't let up? Do you know why every serious review of her music seems negative? Because [drum roll] Ashlee Simpson has no talent. See, Jessica, her half-wit sister, was bred to be a performer from the beginning - she's a talented singer and has obviously trained to fit the trite celebrity role. Ashlee, however, just fell into this shit. Her dad was sitting around plotting, trying to figure out some way to find someone to compete with Avril Lavigne (who's also, since we're on the topic, evil). And the only thing he could come up with was: "Let's get my other daughter, Ashlee, on stage." She's out of her element. And: She has co-opted the Anarchy symbol into her logo (for fuck's sake).


She said things on stage like, "This is about finding your identity and being yourself," before singing a song she almost certainly did not write (no matter what her co-writing credits might indicate). And last: She was somehow brought into town by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust - an organization with the i nt ent i on of encom pas s i ng " a com pl et e transformation of Pittsburgh's Downtown; from a 'red light' district with only two cultural facilities to a vibrant animated area with over fourteen cultural facilities, public parks and plazas, and new and proposed commercial development." Which brings us back to Gauge, who was performing a block away, also in the Cultural District, at Club Elite.


So like, what do you think about when you're getting Chinese-finger-trapped by two random...uh, fuckers...? Fuckers... yyyeeah... well, um, I like to be professional so I just think about the scene, where to go next - what looks best, you know? Yeah, but do you ever get bored on that front? Sometimes you look bored. Do you ever think about, like, what's on TV while you're having sex on film? Do you contemplate President Bush's foreign policy decisions? Start, shopping lists in your head? No, I just give head. Ha ha, nice. Oral communications major, right? Right! How'd you know? Lucky guess. [she ranted about college minutes ago, explained that she spent a stint in an Arkansas community college before moving to


Los Angeles. She got into porn by responding to an ad looking for someone to perform sexually, on film.] Yeah right. Are you a stalker? Well, kinda, yeah. That's my job. Sorta. Stalker? No. More like reporter. But, see, it's reallCool, whatever. Do you want a t-shirt? The point, I guess - cause I'm struggling to find it - is that there are minimal differences between a performer who signs autographs by pressing her painted breasts against a white t-shirt, and a performer who fakes her way through a career, pretending that there is some musicallyoriented reason she's on stage, charging $40 for the cheap seats. Granted, Gauge can't sing. But Ashlee can't dance.


And, by my calculations, that makes them even. Actually, Gauge wins. And I need to find better things to do with my time.


Whore Zelda Getz One guy wouldn’t stop talking about his 14year-old daughter, how pretty she was, and how she looked like me. He’s the one who’d said he could’ve come just eating me. I wished he would have. But that’s not what he paid for. And in the end, they always got what they paid for. Looking back on it, I’m floored at having been so heartbreakingly naïve, but in a way, astounded by my courage, my sense of adventure. I’m only just coming to terms with the fact that I


can count prostitution among the myriad sins of my youth. The ad, seeking “attractive young women, with or without transportation, quick money” appeared in the back of the college newspaper. I think, to me, that lent it a certain degree of safety. I mean, the school paper – it couldn’t be a sinister thing. Stumbling upon that ad couldn’t have come at a worse time in my life. I was a college freshman, new in the big city. I had been badly raped about three weeks into school, bent over a 34 th floor bathroom window. The money that relatives had given me for high school graduation had almost all gone to support my raging binge-and-purge habit. Men paying money for my body seemed like the ultimate stamp of approval, which I craved desperately. So I arranged to meet Shabir, owner, CEO and product tester for Starr Escorts. I hopped a bus Downtown, and he picked me up in a sleek black


sports car. The “interview” was in his shitty little storefront in the Strip District – three private rooms had curtains across the door, and a stereo that got turned up to drown out itinerant moans. I met the other “girls”: a thirty-five year old single mother with a broken toilet at home and a fading bruise high on her cheek, and a mean, pretty, clever girl of about 20 whose high ponytail would have looked about right on a cheerleader. They showed me where the extra sheets were, and how to work the washer and dryer after every client. They asked what I was doing there, and when I said I just really liked sex, they laughed at me, coldly and without pity. I thought they were laughing with me, because it was such a precocious thing to say. Shabir told me I was beautiful, but in his wolf’s eyes, I was a commodity because I looked like a child. Hell, I was a child; a skinny little girl with jutting hipbones, tiny breasts and no idea


what was going on. Shabir told me I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want. There was a pricing scale, and full intercourse would net me $75 and would net Shabir $225. He said I had to bring my own condoms if I was planning to fuck. I said I wasn’t. Of course, I did, eventually. My first customer was a regular – a fat guy named Glen who liked having his nipples licked. In a sense I felt sorry for him, for the way he smelled of nervous sweat and Ivory soap and wanted to fuck me more than anything, but couldn’t afford it. His hatred was a shy, fearful kind. He wanted love, and would never, ever get it. Instead, he paid to eat my ass. Another John wanted anal sex. I’d done that once or twice before with a boyfriend and lots of lube. I didn’t want to. He kept insisting, and told me he’d give me a tip. For $100 extra, he plunged into me, tearing me. I cried so much he finally stopped, and threw the bill on the bed and left –


but only after he came in my pussy. I had to scramble and hide the bill, because Shabir forbade tipping. The other girls in my dorm wanted to know what the hell I was up to, getting myself dressed up like it was Saturday, leaving late on weeknights and coming home with giddy amounts of cash. I lied, and said it was like dancing. I think I believed myself. I had a denim wallet in a drawer in my desk that just kept getting fatter and fatter. Finally I sort of cracked. I confessed, rather hysterically and breathlessly, what I was up to to the guy I was seeing. I hadn’t fooled him, as it turns out. We rehearsed the phone call I knew I had to make. I called Shabir, terrified, to tell him I was through. He told me I had an appointment that night at a hotel party, and that the payout would be phenomenal. I somehow stood firm. He let me go, but called my dorm a few times in the ensuing weeks to offer to take me back.


The money tormented me – the physical presence of all that cash was a palpable indictment, quantifiable proof of my filth. I purged it, buying extravagant gifts for my friends – I only bought one thing for myself, and always hated it. It’s gone now. Seven years have come and gone since then, bringing many addictions, lovers and shrinks. I’ve come a long way. I have an acceptance of my body that I never thought would be mine. It’s peaceful not to hate the flesh you inhabit. But there is no erasing the past. I could enter into a convent, but there it would still be, branded onto me with a permanence that my tattoos would envy. There are things I’ve done that I am more ashamed of, but none of them carry with them the weight of that single word: Whore.


Love and Lust in the Age of Mechanical Introduction: or Adult Friend Finder and the Infinite Sadness Jesse Hicks One. Baby It's Cold Outside
The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. […] There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we


work and play and socialize. (Timothy Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web)

On the left side of the web page is a picture. This picture is an extreme close-up. The picture is both low-contrast and slightly out-of focus, its left and right sides defined by two tapering pillars a color somewhere between ivory and almond. They meet in the center of the frame, forming a "v." At their nexus is a darker area, an arrangement of vertical folds in russet and pink, labyrinthine but without a center. They meet at the top, forming a small ruby. Above sprout tiny, well-coiffed hairs that from this Lilliputian perspective seem to loom in mystery. To the right of this below-the-waist portrait, with its labial mountain ranges rendered in satellite-imagery detail -- the overall package about as erotic as a colonoscopy -- is the heading, "Looking for Mr. Right."1 A short introduction

First reaction: "Holy fuck! A talking vagina!"


follows. Welcome to, which bills itself as "The World's Largest Sex & Swinger Personals site." AdultFriendFinder (AFF) is part of FriendFinder2, Inc., a collection of personal networking sites that includes FriendFinder (a less risqué version of AFF), (for BSDM aficionados), and (bringing together Spanish/Portuguese members). AFF boasts 18,654,919 members3, who find in it an electronic version of the "key parties" and swingers gatherings that have been around since at


Here it might be interesting to note the use of the word "adult" to mean "sex included" -"adult industry," "adult entertainment," "adult situations." Is it surprising, then, that kids thinking fucking makes you mature? Or, if sex=adulthood, that we "adults" spend a lot of time being confused and insecure about it, even as it's supposedly our gateway into the grownup world? Just askin', is all. How many of these members are actual people is debatable. Personal experience leads the author to believe many of them are spammers and/or cyborgs. Also, this number is heavily weighted towards men.


least the 1950's. The goal is typically quick hookups with people who are clean and discreet, and who know exactly what they want. Members fill out a lengthy personality profile (used to find potential matches), describe who they are and what they're looking for, and typically post a picture. All this and $19.95 a month (discounted for 3-month and year-long subscriptions; more gets you a "Gold Membership") earns you access to AFF's database of eager swingers, many of whom are in your area!4 A dul t F r i e ndF i nde r, t he n, i s a not he r fascinating beast in the strange menagerie that is the American dating scene. Through the wonders of technology, you can make new friends and bang them hardcore, with just a few clicks of your mouse. (Well, not the banging -- not yet, anyway.) You can participate in message boards with like4

With that exclamation point I may have veered into blatant promotion. Seriously though, YOU CAN GET LAID TONIGHT! I'm kidding. Or am I?


minded swingers; the Pittsburgh board promises a failed orgy at least once a month, and you'll thrill to multiple postings of "April 1 gangbang -- who's in?" followed by what seems to be, to the author's ears anyway, the longest, saddest silence ever captured in text form. And of course there're the explicit pictures, many with blurred out faces if that's your thing.5 Take out the sex, though, and you're left with a site not all that different from more mainstream Internet dating services such as Yahoo! Personals or AFF may be more up-front about its members' end goals, but if you compare the actual profiles, after correcting for the sex angle, there's not a lot of difference. You'd be hardpressed to tell a profile on AFF from one on

I wanted to meet one of these girls and when she showed up with a (presumably) unblurred face, react with shock and horror. "By Allah's beard, this is not what I had in mind at all! I thought you had some sort of Ring-like deformity going on! That's what Poppa likes!" Sadly, those girls never responded to me. Touche, blur-faced girls. Touche.


Yahoo! Personals. In its single-minded pursuit of convenient hookups, AFF has more in common with dating services like It's Just Lunch or Speed Dating -those that promise no-stress meetings with likeminded people, typically professionals, who just don't have the time for the inconvenience of the dating scene. Eight Minute Dating, for example, promises that you'll spend no more or less than eight minutes with 8 different successful professionals. Or, to express that in a more efficient way that won't waste any more of your motherfuckin' time: 8 Great Dates - 1 Fun Night! If you're getting a weird little tinge at the back of your head, something along the lines of, "Eight minutes? I spend more than eight minutes testdriving a car…then again a car is a big investment, and this is just a night of fun dates and great fun and probably some fun booze, which helps kill the emptiness that sometimes wells up when I realize I'm unable to feel anything beyond the need to be


constantly fucking entertained by the world around me, and should that entertainment fail I think I'd just totally die!" then in that, at least, you are not alone.


Two. The Extremely Difficult Realization That Someone Other Than Oneself Is Real6 Sex is not love. Love is not sex. But the best of both worlds is created when they come together. … The best way for human beings to show love is to love one another. It's the way we spread love in the universe: one to one. Love is something we make. Madonna (not the Virgin), Sex) You also wouldn't be alone in thinking AFF looks a lot like eBay, or maybe You put in your search terms, click a button, and a bunch of matches pop up, be it for "antique Hummel figurines" or "Pittsburgh, PA + female +pulse -fatties." Then you may lean back. Put up your

Some sort of extended typo in this heading. This is supposed to read, "Daddy Goes Shopping For Love and Comes Home With a Bag Full of Nuthin."


feet. Smoke a pipe, or pole, or pope. Realize that before you scrolls a near-infinite variety of consumer choice. The Internet is your shopping mall, for love, for Hummel, for meat and for sporting goods. Turn up your iPod, check the lock on your gated community, double-check that your Ford Armored Personnel Carrier is safe and comfortable within its garage. This is your castle; here before a crackling fire you are comfortably numb -- you will find an Adult Friend, and it will be one of your choosing, tailor-made to your likes and pleasures. And that, my friends, is really all we ask for from love, isn't it? For a nation of individualists, we are surprisingly afraid of being alone. Yet we're also afraid of being in the world7 -- we armor ourselves

Check out this advertisement for Look closely (she's not just a lithe, shapely ass, people) and you'll realize it's a picture of a brunette peeking out through the slats of her Venetian blinds. This is for a dating site. "Love might be out there, but for the love of all that's


with iPods to shut out the noise of other people, sit alone in our SUVs to avoid public transportation, use caller ID on our cell phones to decide who we talk to and when.8 This is the consumer paradise, where every choice is up to you and your wallet. Can't we just choose love, then; open up our cocoon just enough to sneak another person in, that we might not be so lonely in our fortress of solitude? Well, no. Here's how Clementine responded to that idea in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, "Joel, I'm not a concept. Too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them or I'm going to make them alive, but I'm just a fucked up girl who is looking for my own peace of mind. Don't assign me yours." Clementine's spiel -- easily found on AIM and Facebook profiles everywhere -- is partly right: If holy, don't go outside!"

Max Frisch, "Technology is the knack of so arranging the world so that we don't have to experience it."


you think you're incomplete, sex and/or love probably won't make you whole, and AdultFriendFinder has little to offer you. (But if we adopt Clementine's view as a life philosophy, does that mean everybody runs around looking for his or her own peace of mind while simultaneously refusing to consider anyone else's? So, uhm, do we just all retreat to our rooms to play solitaire, leaving a note on the door saying, "Mind at Peace. Do not disturb."?)9 T h e r e ' s a n o t h e r w a y, t h o u g h , t h a t Clementine's speech is, if not wrong, certainly a little sad in its impoverished view of love.10 Every way of talking about love is unrealistic -- we either end up talking nonsense or poetry or both -- but how is Clementine's view unrealistic?


The other famous peace of mind comes, ha ha, in "Rest in Peace." The l-word (and sex) often seem to dwell in that realm of "what we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence" which is transgressed, with varying degrees of success, by poets and fools.


"I'm just a fucked up girl looking for my own peace of mind."11 Peace of mind being the same thing used to sell cars12 and insurance; peace of mind being, let's be honest, the selling force behind every piece of crap we're told will make us whole, or at least enable us to cope with day after day of bonewearying monotony long enough to catch the new episode of Law and Order. Hooray for love, then, which promises us…peace of mind. What's sad about Clementine's stance is that it masquerades as a kind of hard-eyed realism. "I've looked at myself," it says, "And I've realized I'm just so fucked up. The world's fucked up. You're Peace of mind being neither agony nor ecstasy. In other words: © DC Comics 12 Too much? How about this snippet from a Saturn commercial: Girl complains about all the boyfriends she didn't love, then says, "And then I met Ben. I realized that you don't have to compromise. And that's why I bought a Saturn." Cue sound of author throwing up all over television.


fucked up." Then it has nowhere to go. Once she's stripped love of all its "illusions" -- denied the fairy tale of white-horse-riding princes and longhaired princesses -- she can't seem to believe that the world might offer more possibilities than a choice between fairy-tale delusions or her "everything is dirt" "reality." In other words, she thinks like a 15 year-old.13 In other words, by focusing on her supposed "fucked-upness," she turns any relationship into a salve for said fucked-upnesss -- exactly what she chooses Joel of doing.14

See "adult" note above. This is one of those scenes that works in context -- in the movie, Joel sees through Clementine's pose, and she, disarmed, is able to laugh about it. In real life, wearing your fucked-upness as a shield against having to feel anything -- well, that's just a refusal to admit that life is messy, people are complicated, and sometimes you're going to get hurt. It's a bit like cutting out your heart so you don't have to feel anymore. (See Prozac and self-narcotizing society.)



Here you might be getting another one of those twinges, something along the lines of "Wow, it's almost as if we can relate to one another only as pre-packaged products, the choice of which will both define who we are and rid us of the burden of this constant low-level anxiety15 brought on by consumer overload.16 Unable to feel past our own ineffable dissatisfaction, we make our lovers into just another accessory, bit players in the Play Called Me17…hey, is that a new Nokia cell phone?"




No surprise, then, that Ambien and Prozac, the Nyquil-Dayquil tag-team of peace-of-mind prescriptions, are among the most successful drugs in history. To learn more about American capitalism's vested interest in churning out generation after generation of emotionally crippled "adults," visit your local library. Did you know the Greek goddess of love, Eros, is also the sum of all instincts for selfpreservation? I have no idea what that means!


Three. The Futile Pursuit of Happiness18 You're looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person--someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, 'This is the problem I want to have.' I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way. (Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions) The old joke is that, for men at least, overdosing on pornography (say, 30-40 straight hours) always ends with a guilty, sheepish phone

"The Futile Pursuit of Happiness," New York Times Magazine, September 7, 2003. The study of "affective forecasting" -- people's ability to predict what will make them happy and for how long -- reveals that human beings are pretty shitty at predicting their own happiness. Yet we all make decisions based on what we believe will make us happy in the future, or what will at least give us "peace of mind." See irony.


call to Mom.19 (And this is a stretch, but you explain it…) there's some primal need to reassert the possibility of a woman as another, separate human being, rather than simply a flesh-fantasy playground. Overdosing on AdultFriendFinder profiles20


"Hey son, what's up?" "Not too much, Mom, just called to see what you were up to…I love you, you know." "Oh for God's sake. If you rented Rear Entry XII with my Blockbuster card, I better not be getting any late charges." Say, when you're surfing AFF @ your shitty 11 PM - 7 AM job that probably, ha ha hmmm, didn't help you keep a girlfriend in the first place, and after sending your 250th email that month get a message saying you're over the limit and must send to the Gods of Customer Service the following plea: From Subject Arrgh! I've used all my emails! To Hello. I seem to have used all my emails for this month. Admittedly I did go a little crazy trying to hit every available woman within 75 miles of Pittsburgh. But God Help Me, I'm so lonely.


provokes a similar feeling, but one not exactly the same. If a porn OD is like the inevitable crash after a week-long coke binge, leaving you listless and borderline suicidal, AFF profiles are more like an acid-trip that starts out fine, then slowly, sneakily, creeps out of your control and into a bleak, existential void. Porn promises escape; AFF is all too real. There's the attractive blonde from Ohio, 25, who's unhappily married and looking to find real love in a hotel room (daytime rendezvous preferred); there's the woman in Warren whose husband is a sad loser who cannot satisfy her. She quotes Ayn Rand, "I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine," before challenging anyone who's not a "two-pump chump" to take her on. The more romantic profiles also seem poignantly out of place. To the woman who writes, "I'm looking for a Romeo to my Juliet," there are two questions: First, you know how that play ends,


right? One hint: it's not "happily ever after." Second, are you sure you'll find Romeo on a site whose "purity test" includes the question, "Have you ever engaged with a hooker or gigolo?" Not to be judgmental of either you or AFF fans, but this might not be the place for Montagues and Capulets.21 Unless that's your fetish; there's probably a bulletin board for that. Spend enough time reading profiles like, "I made a New Year's resolution not to be lonely anymore," and you start to feel you should call up that one ex-girlfriend -- you know, the one who's written you out of her life, your only connection the fading ellipsis of things left unsaid, but when one day you see her walking on the street with another guy, his hand on the small of her back as they pass, you crack into infinite jagged reflections of that touch, the fingertip language of lovers, and though you can't see her face because she is walking one way, your bus going another, you

"Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou purity rating a mere 48%?"


hope she is smiling, and the silence in your chest is the sound of your heart not beating -- and say something. Anything. Apologize for the state of the world, for being who you are, maybe -- apologize that there are so many lonely people in the world and then hang up.22 Then you go back to clicking away, still searching for that one perfect vagina with the personality that will make you complete.


This is probably best done at a time you're sure to get her voicemail.



How not to find God while watching The Passion with a head full of acid Constantine J. Warhammer
He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53, 700 B.C.)

Mmmm, yawnnnn….and a stretch…crawl out from under those pizza boxes and shake the crumbs from your hair. Feel a dusty shaft of afternoon sunlight hit your unshaven face. Smack your gummy lips together – what is that taste? Cigarette butts and alcohol? It’s Sunday, 2 PM, and you know what that


means: time to get high and fuck around with the didgeridoo. Or: a leisurely perusal of this month’s stack of pornography, a cup of tea and a baguette. Survey your Xanadu, a one-bedroom apartment with Green Day posters on the walls and dirty needles on the back porch, and realize the world is your candy machine. You can do anything you put your mind to, and it’s time to put your mind to conquering that last level of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory before taking a nap and then watching the Simpsons. Whoa, hold fast the reigns of your imagination, Mr. Junior Captain of Industry! This isn’t just any Sunday! It’s Easter Sunday! The day we (chosen people) celebrate Jesus’s return from the Afterlife, which according to Scripture looks a lot like the fluorescent-bleached dreadscape of LAX at 3 am. Jesus walked through the valley of the shadow of death, came back and brought us delicious chocolate bunnies. (Also: died for our sins.) Did Zoroaster ever do that? No he did not, so


kiss the ring! Kiss it! Close your robe! You never know who might be watching. (God.) It’s Easter Sunday and there’s only one proper way to celebrate the death and rebirth of Our Savior: take these two hits of acid and watch The Passion of the Christ, or as I like to call it, “Teach Yourself Aramaic in Three Hours.” Take two because they are small and The Passion is very long. You’ll want to fire up the multimedia projector so Christ will tower above you, 81” across your wall. Remember when you first bought that? Sure, the A/V geeks on the Internet said its 400:1 contrast ratio was unacceptable for the true home-theater aficionado, but you knew how damp the ladies get in the presence of a big TV. What was that song you made up? “Let the Panties Hit The Floor,” wasn’t it? How did those lyrics go?


Let The Panties Hit the Floor (to the “tune” of “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor,” by Drowning Pool) Let the panties hit the floor Let the panties hit the floor Let the panties hit the floor Let the panties hit the ... FLOOR! You are not very creative. You are the Weird Al Yankovic of Suck. About an hour into Mel Gibson’s theological snuff film – no no no, that is too generous! Call it “a 30 million dollar Faces of Death video drawn out over two hours” – you feel the acid crawling up your spine like two black electric umbilicals. You must relax at this point. The room is about


120 degrees, Jesus’s ribs are visible through his bloody, flayed side, and you realize Mel Gibson can’t get anything right except violence and pain. He knows know other tone. His movie is small, petty and self-righteous. He is a child playing the symbols of religion without understanding the meaning behind them. As the acid claws its way into your brain, you might feel on edge. Your teeth may grind, and you may be reduced to a babbling Lady MacBeth, “blood….so….much….blood!” This is how Mel Gibson wants you to feel. His Jesus is a near-mute slab of meat, scourged and bloody, ready to make you feel guilty for simply existing. Resist this impulse! You must endure! And if you do find yourself deep in the pit of existential discombobulation, do not turn to the teenage girls on Instant Messenger for help. Their hearts are too full of love and Hoobastank lyrics for the likes of you. You might try IM’ing God, though.


RepententSinner69: u there? Auto response from GDawg420: brb, cleaning the many rooms of my mansion RepententSinner69: how about now? God is Permanently Away, and if we’ve learned anything from the apostolic tradition, it’s that religious experience in the age of mechanical reproduction is nonexistent; our connection to the divine is nothing but a copy of a copy of a copy … and men in robes and pointy hats are guarding the Xerox machine! Not even LSD can sidestep the Pope when it comes to direct religious experience, because the Pope knows the very best in Shaolin kung-fu, including the Flying Tiger Claw and the Palsied Shuffle. No, God speaks to us through movies, and Mad Max is His messenger. And if the torture of


Jesus in The Passion is oddly reminiscent of that scene in Lethal Weapon where Riggs (Mel Gibson) is hung from the rafters and tortured with electric shocks; or that scene in Payback where Porter (Mel Gibson) has his toes smashed with a hammer; or that scene in Braveheart where William Wallace (Mel Gibson) gets drawn and quartered – well, maybe it’s a sign of God’s divine plan for Jes…I mean, Mel. Why, then, does Mel not get tortured even a bit in What Women Want? Because that movie was written by Satan, who takes the form of bewitching temptress Helen Hunt. Unfortunately, Mel’s Christ is a bit of a bummer. He doesn’t smile much, laughs even less, and his main teaching – “Love one another” – gets lost in the fact that he spends over two hours getting murdered. If this is the height of religiosity, you might want to stick to drugs for your “spiritual awakening.” Mel Gibson’s Christianity is a cult of death presided over by a Morrisey-like dark poet who seems sensitive and sincere at first, but turns


out to be just a brooding, self-important loner longing for crucifixion. [Note to former girlfriends: If you were writing in to suggest I’m projecting myself onto Jesus, beat you to it! Still those furious pens, ladies!] You’ll reach a point where Pilate, strangely cast as a thoughtful, caring ruler instead of the cruel warlord history marks him as, asks, “Can someone explain this madness to me?” And by now, drenched in sweat, shuddering in a fetal position, you say, “Yes, Pilate! Yes, that is a good question! What madness is this? Why don’t we ask that of the snakes that’ve been crawling out of my wall for the past half hour?” It’s the madness of a religion that doesn’t celebrate life, but worships death. It’s a madness that can find meaning only in suffering, which means its art can never be enjoyed, only endured. In that sense, LSD is probably not the best drug for experiencing The Passion. Better to deal with it – if you must – the same way you would deal with


church: by systematic, methodical application of bourbon and painkillers.


An Easy Drinking Game for Watching The Passion of the Christ.


Drink a carbomb every time Judas betrays somebody. (That dick!)


Drink a cosmo every time Jesus forgives somebody. (That Messiah!)


Do a shot of Jameson every time someone speaks Aramaic.


Lars Vegas: The Terror of the Sublime Carl Weathers "I'm going to need the higher-wattage halogen," the hanging man yells up to me, his voice echoing off the surrounding cement. Right now it's 2:37 AM and Lars Vegas [not his real name; that's a whole other complicated question we'll get into later] just went off the roof of a 12-story abandoned book bindery. Black-clad, with a miner’s light strapped to his head and a customized paint sprayer slung across his back, he disappeared over the side of the building like a SWAT leader ending a hostage crisis.


Meanwhile, I’m left shivering on the roof to keep watch over the rappelling equipment and lighting gear. The muse has descended to Vegas -- 20 minutes ago we were aimlessly cruising in a nondescript white van, listening to Mahler’s Tenth and searching for the perfect canvas. “I need something ruinous tonight,” he says, his ice-blue eyes busy as he speaks. Mostly he drives in silence, nestled into a pocket of introspection that breaks, typically, in a wave of speech; he’s a solar battery of ideas, picking up the resonances in his environment and unleashing them in new, unexpected forms. That, of course, is the definition of art. But where most artists work on a scale of feet, Vegas works in yards. Where others create in a studio, he turns the entire outdoors into his workshop. His specialty: multi-story, abstract murals painted under cover of darkness. He shows up in a different city almost every month, does his thing


for a while, then takes to the road again. People wake up the next morning, go to pick up their Post-Gazette or Los Angeles Times, and Vegas's work is there, an alien artifact dwarfing all who see it. Tonight I ask him, for perhaps the tenth time, to explain his work. What comes out is, “Cities are the nodal points of the collective unconscious. In this great density of humanity, dreams take on new shapes; it's in cities that our new worlds are born. My work taps into that, as a kind of psychic acupuncture on the collective unconscious. I midwife new realities into being." This is the tenth different explanation I've heard from him. Then he silently pulls into the gravel lot, eyes the broken windows and rusting metal hulking before us. Satisfied, he starts unloading. In fifteen minutes we're on the roof, and he is asking for more light. This all started two months ago. In my


neighborhood I started noticing a series of ornately cartoonish slogans: "Wake up and smell the chaos!" "Dieses ist Seelemord." "Reality is provincial." "Who is John Galt?" There seemed nothing spectacular about the content, but the presentation caught my attention. No matter where these little bits of urban enlightenment appeared, they were styled to look as they whey belonged there. More specifically, each was a miniature trompe l'oeil that seemed to rise out of whatever surface it'd been painted on. I'd find "Exterminate all rational thought!" protruding from a park bench. A bus seat would read "Evolve!" as though the sentiment had pushed its way out of the fabric. I started searching graffiti message boards, avant-garde list chat rooms, Situationist discussion lists, anywhere I might find a clue. Eventually I came upon a group of people who'd noticed the unique style in metropolitan areas across the U.S. No one had any idea who had made them or why; some speculated it was a new marketing ploy;


others thought it must be a nationwide collection of graffiti artists. We traded pictures and theories, scrutinized the most minute details. It all got a little cultish, honestly. One Monday, while at work, I trolled through the usual postings. "New sighting -- NYC," "Lichtenstein influence?", "Avant-pop marketing meme/old hat" -- the usual collection of conjecture, hunches, and little new information. It seemed more important to talk about the mystery than to solve it. I mentioned this on one thread, adding that I'd considered writing an article about the whole thing if I ever met our mysterious author/authors. I posted the message and went to lunch. Two hours later, came a response: "Where & when?" A week later I met Lars Vegas in a downtown parking lot. He was there before me, even though I arrived 15 minutes early. I don't know who I


pictured, but the truth stood in front of me, maybe six-feet tall in a black motorcycle jacket, thick dark hair hanging down to his shoulders. Even with the sun setting behind him, he wore black aviator glasses -- later, he confessed his eyes were overly-sensitive to sunlight. His face had the slightly sallow, greasy appearance of a chronic fast-food indulger. He didn't move until I was almost directly in front of him. Not a nod of recognition, or any sign that he was breathing. I must've looked quizzical, because he stepped forward, extended a gloved hand, and said, "I'm Lars Vegas." "Is that your real name?" I blurted. He cocked his head, "It is now." Then he walked to the driver's side of his van and opened the door. "Are you coming?" The first thing I realized about Lars Vegas: this van was his headquarters. Along both sides were row after row of spray paint; shelves underneath held his customized tools. A laptop


whirred away in the back. I saw where he'd worked out new ideas, covering the van's interior with phrases such as, "Art is terror. Sacrifice yourself to the sublime." Then he pulled out of the parking lot and put on The Doors's Waiting For the Sun. I started with the typical questions: how long have you done this? Why? How'd you get into it? For the first few hours I didn't get much of a response; we drove through Waiting For the Sun, the entirety of Tristan and Isolde, and The Velvet Underground and Nico with only monosyllabic dialogue between us. As "The Black Angel's Death Song" came on, I tried another variation on the, "So how does a guy end up driving across the country leaving cryptic slogans in his wake?" question before he cut me off. "I used to be in day-trading," he said, in a Te x a r k a n a d r a w l . " N u m b e r s . S y m b o l manipulation. Lines of green, numinous signs crawling their way across my terminal for eight


hours a day. Pattern recognition. Turning faith into gold." I waited as the Velvets moaned about stone glances and split didactics. "I was very good. I could always see the wheels behind the numbers. Intuitively. A good trade was like a piece of music. Precise," he said. "On another level I began to suspect I was part of a wide-scale experiment in emotional vivisection. The people around me had a perpetually glazed look. The dead eyes of addicts. I didn't know why. They'd stop talking to the person in front of them to take a phone call, no matter who was on the line." "One day I came to work and found myself physically unable to hear. It was like being underwater. It terrified me. So I hunkered down in front of my terminal and lost myself in the wash of green light. I sat like that for the rest of the day. Then I closed all my positions and walked out," he said


"That was, what, four years ago. I took the money and walked out. It's not difficult to disappear in America, if you want to. I've become a connoisseur of non-existence." When he talked about himself, it came out halting and detached. Yet, when he talked about his work, it was in a long stream of techno-/psycho-/art- babble that would give L. Ron Hubbard pause. Stuff like, "Cities speak to me in my dreams. I let them in. Our collective unconsciousness has been sandblasted smooth by banality and repetition. I make the global brain my canvas. In scribbling in the ruins, under cover of darkness I remake the world." I couldn't tell how much of it he believed. It was like speaking to a swirling collection of affectations in the shape of a person. He'd begin a sentence with a slow, measured drawl somewhere between Austin and Omaha, lapse into stoner argot half-way through, and finish in the meth-fueled discourse of a long-haul trucker. I had the feeling


our conversation was one long parenthetical within the larger conversation inside his head. He said, "I don't know what to say when people ask about me. I made up an acronym to give it credibility. IDD -- Identity Deficit Disorder -- a kind of low-level, reverse autism. Rather than being unable to identify with the minds of other people, I'm unable to identify with myself. I wake up feeling like a ragged jigsaw puzzle. I pick up bits and pieces from here and there, remaking myself out of the tools that present themselves. People have difficulty understanding that. Women, especially." He paused to make a sharp turn, a streetlight catching the momentary play of a rueful smile across his face before it returned to shadow. "Whoever I am at a given moment gets splayed across a dead building and goes unsigned." So why "Lars Vegas"? "That's what you call someone built in the middle of the desert, half mirage and half


wasteland." And then he showed me his portfolio. The sloganeering was a distraction, something to keep him occupied until night fell. His real work happened after dark: the portfolio was filled with glossy blow-ups of murals two or three stories high, each an intricate design of near-fractal precision. Yet they were organic, the internal repetition a natural rather than algorithmic outcome. Each took on archetypal, suggestive figures. In short, they were astounding. To himself more than you me, Lars Vegas said, "I believe not in epiphanies, but in eventualities. In the short term, reality prevails, but in the long run, bet on art. The universe's long arc bends toward the improbable." Dawn breaks and Vegas applies the finishing strokes to tonight's work. It's a maelstrom of color, the two-story testimony of one man's soul. I simply have nothing to say; Vegas steps forward


and adds a two-foot long stretch of cerulean blue. He steps back again, taking a long look at his creation. At this moment he is completely unreadable. He could be filled with awe, satisfaction, despair -- any combination of these and more. The moment stretches long and impenetrable. Then it passes. He turns and goes back to his van. In a flurry of gravel Lars Vegas leaves, heading east on a black asphalt vein into the welcoming rays of the rising sun.


The Strange Tale of Hunter S. Thompson's Suicide Joseph L. Flatley Hunter S. Thompson, celebrated journalist and author, took his own life in his home on February 20, 2005, at the age of 67. Sources close to the family have credited age, failing health and a desire to "go out on top" as factors in his decision. Still, this is the Information Age and every real news story seems to have its own conspiracy theory...


One. Was it murder? Conspiracy theorists have gotten considerable mileage out of unconfirmed reports that "Thompson seemed in good spirits and was not known to be depressed" prior to his death. This has since proven not to be the case.
One evening, for example, around Thanksgiving, he matter-of-factly told me that he was not afraid to kill himself - as his authorized biographer, he wanted me to know that for the record. Rolling Stone) (Douglas Brinkley in

sources: "Suicide Fuels Conspiracy Buzz," New York Post, Mar 4, 2005; "Contentment Was Not Enough: the Final Days at Owl Farm" by Douglas Brinkley, Rolling Stone, March 24, 2005.


Two. Hunter S. Thompson: "snuff auteur." Years ago a former state senator from Nebraska, John DeCamp, wrote a book titled: The Franklin Cover-Up: Child Abuse, Satanism, and Murder in Nebraska. This book is a favorite amongst the conspiracy fringe for its “expose” of Satanic sex cults and Republican homosexual orgies.
In other testimony, Bonacci said that Larry King was smiling and laughing the whole time the film was shown, and that "the men with hoods" were a Satanic group which planned to use the dead boy in some sort of ceremony. He also named the director of the snuff film, whom they picked up in Las Vegas, as "Hunter Thompson." (The Franklin Coverup, pg. 105)



Three. Killed by the Saudi Royal Family. According to an interview Thompson gave in 2004, Saudi Prince Bandar, who lived next door, was a "pretty good neighbor." Thompson's last words were "Counselor" typed in the middle of a page. A counselor with Aspen Counseling Center, a local organization that provides support for victims at crime scenes, has seen members of Thompson's family. Over the years HRH Prince Bandar has donated upwards of a million dollars to the Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, which operates the Counseling Center.. Following the logic of many a conspiracy researcher (and many a schizophrenic), the Thompson-Bandar link has thus been established. "Bandar Bush," as he is known in the White House, could certainly be counted on by the Bush family to administer a hit, if required. But why would the Bush family want Thompson killed?


source: Four. Thompson was silenced before he could blow the lid off the Satano-Republican Pedophile Conspiracy. In this version of the truth, Thompson is not involved in the child sex rings (see above) but has risked his life to expose them, with deadly consequences. The "factual basis" for this theory is a radio interview with Canadian author Paul William Roberts.
JONES: Well let me just add this. I mean, we have the New York Post: 'Top gay porn star services moguls at Bohemian Grove ... I mean I have Parade magazine articles, Spy magazine articles from the '80s where, as I said they bus in the gay prostitutes like Beluga caviar for our "Christian conservative" leaders ... And is that what Hunter S. Thompson was on to?


ROBERTS: He certainly knew all about that and I believe had written about it. I don't know whether there was a book in the works, but he certainly had published columns on it... JONES: Well it certainly looks pretty suspicious. Man let me tell you.

source: Five. Thompson was silenced by the shadow

organization that bombed the World Trade Center and blamed it on terrorists. We also have a dramatic re-interpretation of Paul William Roberts to thank for this theory. In a piece by Williams that appeared Feb. 26 Globe and Daily Mail, Roberts wrote:
Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn't


always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think..." That's how I imagine a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson should begin. He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn't what killed him. He exercised his own option to do that. As he said to more than one person, "I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time."

Thompson has always voiced his anger and confusion over the events of September 11, 2001


(in print and other media), but no such article has surfaced and no mention of any article has been made by him. This story may be compelling, but that's all it is—a story. source: Six. Thompson was a pederast! His own son

said so. In code, of course. Sort of. And in Latin. This is my favorite, due to its absurdity. In a testament to the power of the 'blog, this theory started as a comment on Canadian author Jeff Wells's website, "Rigorous Intuition," but has since taken on a life of its own. That this quote by HST's son Juan has some
sort of meaning beyond the obvious: "He stomped terra", which on the surface says Hunter stomped the ground. But the word play is obvious. He STomped has HST's initials encoded. If you re-arrange it, it can say: "He's


Tom PED Terra"... what could that PED refer to? As for terra, you can combine it with PED to get Ped-Terra, which is similar to pederast. Pederast = pedterra? From the Oxford English Dictionary: "Ibid. 332 A boy alleged to have been abused *pæderastically."

People familiar with Thompson's work realize that Juan Thompson was quoting his father's obituary for Timothy Leary, "Mistah Leary - He Dead." But apparently you don't need to be familiar with Thompson's work to research the "conspiracy" behind his death. source:


Review: My Neighbors’ Breakup Ace Hurler With last night’s staging of It’s Over (Get Your Stuff Out My Apartment), the My Neighbors’ Repertory Theater of 223 S Millvale Ave, Apt 2D, concluded their trilogy, Our Gradual Decline Into Mutual Disdain and Self-Loathing. Like the earlier installments, it was a bold, draining performance, a poignant lament for the fragility of the human bond. Such a shattering comes along once in a lifetime; it’s one this reviewer suspects will be their last. Sadly, many critics misunderstood our


Players’ first two installments, and are likely to have missed out on this daring conclusion. The opening chapter, You’re Drunk, Again, went almost unnoticed among the mainstream theater press. Even Charles Isherwood, in a mixed review in The New York Times, deemed the conclusion “too deus ex machina.” He complained that, “The cops show up, everyone goes home. Where’s the resolution in that?” Isherwood’s devotion to traditional (read: stale) theater once again blinds him to the subtle intricacies of the work in front of him. (Watch the play you are watching, Charles!) Of course the police show up, but in You’re Drunk, Again, there is no deus, only machina. Audience members, too, seemed baffled. My upstairs neighbor and unrepentant philistine, Jim, for example, begged, “Would you two please shut up? Some of us have to work tomorrow!” Jim and I obviously differ on this point -- where I found You’re Drunk, Again to be a provocative jaunt that successfully melded Brechtian satire with a


genuine, almost Tennessee Williams-like sensitivity, my colleague heard only the constant screaming and shattering of glass. Alas, Jim, our aesthetic sensibilities may never find common ground. Please, do all of us in the world of theater a service and go back to your Andrew Lloyd Webber. Those not on board for You’re Drunk, Again were probably even more mystified by the followup: Where My Money At [question mark omitted]. Where You’re Drunk, Again offered the possibility of meaningful resolution, only to yank away that possibility in the third act, Where My Money At refuses to offer even that narrative fig leaf. The first installment leaned heavily on Brecht and Beckett, but part two seemed almost Dada in its refusal to cohere into a recognizable whole. Lines were muffled, sensed more than heard as the make their way through the uncooperative media of drywall and faux-wood paneling; audience members are left to project their own responses


upon the flattened affect of our two players. A sense of timelessness and dislocation hung over the proceedings as, again, an unfamiliar male voice repeated “Where my money at, bitch?”, the audience was left adrift, wondering: Who is this man? Where is his money “at”? Is there an implicit critique of capitalist hegemony at work here? Is the apparent absence of his money in fact a presence? Heady questions to contemplate at 3 AM on a Tuesday. The delayed resolution of parts one and two finally paid off in Part Three: It’s Over. A nearepic, it lasted a grueling three hours, from 8 to 11 PM on Sunday night, with no intermission. Yet in contrast to the intensity of the first two installments, it was remarkably understated – the sign of a mature artist is the confidence to whisper when appropriate. Some breakups are like an atom bomb: one minute everything seems fine, the next your clothes and comic book collection are out on the grass, flaming. Others are more like a coal


mine fire smoldering underground for months before one breath of air ignites an inferno. It’s Over is the latter type; its heat is just below the surface, always threatening to ignite. The restraint is fitting, then, with whispers, silence, and miscommunication a recurring motif; the female half of our doomed lovers, in response to queries unheard and unremarked upon, simply utters, “Whateva, whateva…whateva!” In that bare repetition we can hear the passion, the loss, and finally, the resignation that marks the trilogy’s end. Kudos to the male lead for not stepping on that line, even after the thirtieth time. After three hours, the combatants are exhausted, two weary boxers leaning on each other as their arguments become increasingly nonsensical. Toilet seat operation, inappropriate restaurant glances, the constant presence of hectoring Mother -- all the trivia gets dragged out in a last-ditch attempt by both parties to score points.


The play concludes with our male protagonist wondering aloud, “How did this happen?” The woman responds, “What the [police siren] did you expect, melonfarmer?” When he answers in a low, surprised voice, “I don’t know,” of course he means, “I expected us not to end like this, in this moment I want to arrest but cannot, should not, the puncturing evanescence in which the gravity of need fails and we are so obviously two once more, two foster-children of Silence and slow Time, aglossia’s offspring with the distance of an ellipsis between us, swaying weary and wary at the end of semaphore’s long and futile march, umbra sumus, two silent separate shadows now again lost to one another and fading into the gloaming.” I admit I cried. Bravo, neighbors. Bravo.


Tutti Frutti Joseph L. Flatley Little Richard was born Richard Wayne Penniman on December 5, 1932 in Macon, Georgia. The Deep South was a wild place in those days. Richard’s father was a preacher and a bootlegger, selling hooch and salvation as an adherent of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church – a sect of Christianity founded by a farmer named William Miller, who once wrote a book with the unwieldy title, Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.


Richard spent his youth on the dirt street where hustlers of all types would hang out in the hot, dusty Georgia afternoons, singing to snare marks and move merchandise. There were old men with vegetable carts, ward heelers making the rounds, soap box preachers selling religion... people hustled whatever they had to get by. From an early age, Little Richard was too damn wild to worry what others thought about him. His queerness made him an alien in the straight world, his blackness an alien in the white world; but he possessed a sort of trickster quality and manic exuberance that he used to lift himself above racism and poverty. And his spirit was often a strain on those close to him. “Richard would holler all the time,” his brother remembers. “I just thought he couldn’t sing anyways, just a noise, and he would get on our nerves hollerin’ and beatin’ on tin cans and things of that nature. People around would get angry upset with him yelling and screaming.


They’d shout at him, ‘shut up yo’ mouth, boy’ and he would run off laughing all over.” Little Richard, the youthful bundle of energy, grew up fast. At fourteen he ran away from home with Dr. Hudson’s Medicine Show. By fifteen he had made a name for himself as a drag queen, working for Alabama’s own Sugar Foot Sam. No parent I know would want their lovely little boy singing in blackface or prancing around in a dress with someone called Sugar Foot, but these were some of the few options available in the south in the 1940s. In 1951, at the age of eighteen, Richard won a talent contest and was signed to a four disc deal with RCA Victor. Those songs did little, some becoming local hits before disappearing from view forever. This is not to say that Richard was not a dynamic presence; when he performed, it was obvious that he possessed a measure of greatness. But he had so far been unable to transform his greatness into either Art or Money.


Four years after his “big break,” Richard was still plugging away… he was a popular musician and had plenty of work. He was a rare talent, playing to both black and white audiences. The black crowds seemed to prefer a rawer, bluesy edge to the music; the white cats didn’t mind hearing something a little more whimsical. Little Richard and his full-time band, the Upsetters, could do either. But it was proving impossible to capture that energy on record. “Bumps” Blackwell was determined to change that. As an A&R man with Specialty Records in New Orleans, he heard promise in the tapes that Little Richard had sent him. Hoping that perhaps he might have another Ray Charles on his hands, he scheduled a session for September, 1955. Bumps booked a room in New Orleans with Fats Domino's backing band. They spent days in the studio, jamming, trying to find just the right sound. Richard was a sight: face powdered, eyeliner applied, hair piled high onto his head. And he


was pretty, no doubt about it. But as the session w or e on, R i c ha r d’s l e ge nda r y a na r c hi c performance simply could not be captured on tape. He was mortified when they played the performance back and he heard how polite he sounded. At some point, on the third day of the session, the group broke for lunch. Inside New Orleans’ legendary Dew Drop Inn, Richard spotted a piano. He pounded the keys, out of frustration more than anything. He started playing a song he had written while washing dishes at the Greyhound station in Macon, Georgia, where he worked in between tours. And he sang: A wop bop a loo mop a good goddam! Tutti Frutti, loose booty… if it don’t fit, don’t force it/ you can grease it, make it easy… The lunch crowd broke into laughter and Bumps realized that he had a hit on his hands. The music was perfect: joyful, exuberant, rushing with the kind of manic energy that everyone who knew


Richard instantly recognized. The lyrics, of course, would need to be re-written. Richard was skeptical, but he was under Specialty Records' employ. Bumps got a local songwriter called Dorothy LaBostrie to sanitize the lyrics and soon enough the record was bounding up the Billboard R&B chart (which had only recently been renamed from the “Race” chart) to the number two spot, and even scored number seventeen on the Billboard Pop chart. This record jump started the career of one of America’s most beloved entertainers. Little Richard remembers, “We decided that my image should be crazy and way-out, so that adults would think I was harmless. I’d appear in one show dressed as the Queen of England and in the other as the Pope.” Rock historian James Miller, in his book Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977, has what may be the last word on the subject: “Emboldened by the success of his


recording, Richard intuitively grasped the issues at play. Being black and being gay, he was an outsider twice over. But by exaggerating his own freakishness, he could get across: he could evade the question of gender and hurdle the racial divide.”


Philip K. Dick: Ghetto Prophet Jesse Hicks "The whole government is a fraud and the President is an android." Drug companies market their newest wares with the slogan, "God promises eternal life. We can deliver it." "A paranoid incompetent has schemed his way into the White House and convulsed America in a vicious war against internal enemies." These are the worlds of Philip K. Dick -- from The Simulacra, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and Radio Free Albemeuth, respectively.


Reading Philip K. Dick's work -- much of it almost a half-century old -- in the year 2005 provokes a feeling of vertigo, of passing rapidly through a kaleidoscope of perspectives, each offering a unique kind of truth. With his paranoid metaphysics, dry existential humor, and ultimate generosity of human spirit, Philip K. Dick offers us a roadmap to a future not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine. Philip Kindred Dick was born in 1928, in Chicago, with his twin sister, Jane. Jane died shortly thereafter -- a trauma that haunted him for the rest of his life. Soon after, Dick and his mother moved to California, that last outpost of the American Dream. He briefly attended the University of California, Berkeley, with a major in German, but before long he realized college wasn’t for him. Before dropping out, he’d taken a class on preSocratic philosophy, which asked: What is real? What does it mean to be a human? The class


articulated questions he'd often asked; he began writing, exploring those questions through the "genre ghetto" of science fiction. In 1952, he published his first short story, “Beyond Lies The Wub,” in which a crew of space travelers discuss mythology with a large, pig-like creature -- the wub -- who they then eat. The wub, offended not in the slightest, genially continues the discussion from beyond death. The story might seem more cute than challenging, but Dick described his aim as creating an “alien lifeform that exhibits the deeper traits that I associate with humanity: not a biped with an enlarged cortex -- a forked radish that thinks, to paraphrase the old saying -- but an organism that is human in terms of its soul.” In 1953, Dick published twenty-eight stories, including those about a dog who thinks garbage men are invaders come to steal his family’s precious treasure; a group of astronauts (again) who encounter God, only to realize it’s not their


God; and an android who believes himself to be human. It’s those early stories that Hollywood has most easily grasped: Minority Report, Paycheck, Screamers, a n d Impostor are all adaptations of Dick’s pre-1956 work, stripped of their metaphysical doubt and retooled as actionadventure blockbusters. It took Ridley Scott to get Dick right, in adapting 1968’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? as Blade Runner, which critic Andrew O’Hehir called, “The movie that invented the future.” Yet for all its stylishness, Blade Runner dropped Dick’s philosophizing in favor of…Harrison Ford. Still, Dick’s worldview has permeated our culture, with Hollywood increasingly reflecting that. The Truman Show, so widely praised for its satirical take on our media-saturated culture, owes a great debt to Dick's 1959 novel Time Out of Joint, in which the main character lives on a simulated early-60’s suburb, unaware that his


world is an illusion created to keep him working for the government. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’s selective memory manipulation echoes 1966’s “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale,” previously adapted as Total Recall, and Sunshine screenwriter Charlie Kaufman wrote a script of Dick’s A Scanner Darkly -- the 1977 novel now being filmed by Richard Linklater of Waking Life fame. If Hollywood strip-mines Dick's work (he ranks second only to Steven King in cinematic adaptation) it's because his stories -- long-form thought experiments, really -- predicted a future that we are only 50 years later coming to experience. His anxiety about the very nature of reality presages our own increasingly anxious 2005, a world of fake “authenticity” in which a hyphenated contradiction like “reality-tv” -- the ontological equivalent of combining matter and anti-matter in the pursuit of higher ratings -- has become commonplace, even trivial. When the


ability to create reality -- through media, technology, and genetic manipulation -- outstrips the ability to comprehend it and, most importantly for Dick, remain human, we are on our way to becoming something else -- for better or worse. It would have flattered the PKD of 1953 to know the rest of us would catch up eventually. But you can't eat prophecy, and in those early years Dick made money selling stories to cheap pulps; he eventually turned to amphetamines to speed his output, bragging that he could type 120 words a minute. He cranked out novels in weeks, locking himself in a room with his typewriter and a supply of speed. The combination produced some of his best work, and his worst. The Dick canon is notoriously uneven: the great works, like A Scanner Darkly, in which an undercover drug agent suffering from a split-personality disorder is asked to spy on himself, have to share shelf-space with the less impressive Solar Lottery a n d Vulcan's Hammer.


His Hugo Award-winning The Man in the High Castle, an alternate future story in which the Axis powers won World War II, is followed the next y e a r b y Clans of the Alphane Moon, best summarized by "blah." The real tragedy of Dick's confinement in the genre ghetto is that had he been better paid, more of his 44 novels might rise to the level of his talent. Even so, virtually all of his work stands above his contemporaries' rayguns and scantily-clad astrowomen creations. Ubik, one of his best novels, features a spraycan cure-all, named, of course, Ubik. Ubik is the weapon of choice against entropy, the force of time that grinds us all done into nothingness. Dick opens each chapter with an advertising jingle invocation of this miraculous product: "Has perspiration odor taken you out of the swim? Ten-day Ubik deodorant spray or Ubik roll-on ends worry of offending, brings you back where the happening is. Safe when used as directed in a conscientious program of body


hygiene." Where Ubik predicts the creep of advertising lingo into every facet of our lives, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch satirizes our increasing reliance on consciousness-tweaking via drugs. Palmer Eldritch is the anti-Prozac, a weird pilgrim who invents a new drug, Chew-Z, which promises to free users from their mundane lives. Instead, it plunges them into a world controlled entirely by Palmer Eldritch. Eldritch is a frightening figure, Dick's personal incarnation of the Adversary. But even in his darkest novel, Dick, who died in 1982, well ahead of his fame, offers our world some solace: "I mean, after all; you have to consider we're only made out of dust. That's admittedly not much to go on and we shouldn't forget that. But even considering, I mean it's a sort of bad beginning, we're not doing too bad. So I personally have faith that even in this lousy situation we're faced with we can make it. You get me?"


Maybe not the most eloquent expression of hope in the face of strange, grim realities, but an honest one, worth remembering as we head into whatever future waits to embrace us.


The Horror of Being Human Jesse Hicks Japanese director Takashi Miike doesn't make movies about "normal" people. His characters are always lost souls and outsiders. From brainwashed Yakuza hitmen (Ichi the Killer) to near-insane detectives (MPD Psycho) to shattered, incestuous families (Visitor Q) and love-starved women (Audition), they are people on the fringe, making their homes in the dim margins of society, respectability, and even sanity. Perhaps best-known to American audiences is Ichi The Killer, the story of a hypnotized Yakuza hitman.


Our introduction to Ichi comes from a squad of Yakuza goons who complain they've been reduced to cleaning up after the superstar murderer. The next scene finds them in the hotel room of a rival boss, marveling at the floor-to-ceiling explosion of blood and entrails. It's always like this, they sigh. With his comic use of gore and violence, fascination with the criminal underworld, and whip-smart dialogue, it would be easy to dub Miike the Japanese Quentin Tarantino. But where Tarantino's characters meticulously follow the Elmore Leonard Handbook of Cool, Miike's protagonists are often desperate failures; far from romantic outlaws, they are outcasts and losers looking for a place to belong. In Ichi we expect a hyper-cool Yakuza assassin -- an Asian Leon of The Professional -- but instead we find a pathetic, emotionally stunted victim. Again like Tarantino, Miike has made a number of what would be called "genre films." Ichi is his Yakuza crime movie; MPD Detective his


police thriller; One Missed Call his by-thenumbers horror movie. But where Tarantino, ever the obsessive video clerk, seems to have slipped into a quagmire of too-eager film in jokes with Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, at the expense of his characters and audience, Miike makes genre films that fit no genre. Tarantino's strength, most notable in Pulp Fiction, is his ability to reconfigure genre tropes to create something relatively new; Miike's total disregard for genre opens up entirely original spaces. His "horror movie," for example, One Missed Call, begins as a Ringu knock-off and by its (admittedly oblique) conclusion has morphed into a meditation about the scars every family inflicts on its members. Conversely, 2000's Audition masquerades as a romantic comedy. For the first two-thirds, we get to know a Japanese widower who is finally ready to love again. He begins dating a pretty, demure young woman, both suffering the exhilarating awkwardness of love's


first blush. They seem destined for happiness, and we want them to be happy. Only in the movie's last 20 minutes does it become truly horrific. Which is not to say Miike plays the M. Night Shyamalan card, turning all of his films into an ego-stroking exhibition of his own "cleverness." that's illogical or dishonest. Nor does Miike belong to the realm of exploitative "shock cinema." Visitor Q, perhaps his most taboo-breaking film, opens with an incest scene. Shot on a handheld digital video and punctuated with still frames, it's brutally real, but doesn't revel in the apparent depravity of its subject matter; in Miike's morally challenging cinema, the "sick' and "depraved" are merely a starting point in the search for essential humanity. Visitor Q continues a satirical riff on the reality-tv phenomenon, as the failed reporter who has sex with his own prostitute daughter returns home to an abusive son and drug-addicted wife. They often move strangely, unpredictably, but not in a way


Accompanying him is a mysterious visitor, who simply watches the decaying family. It would be easy to turn that scenario into a plodding morality play -- think Requiem for A Dream -- but the director shows a genuine concern for his characters. They prostitute themselves, get bullied at school, continually fail to live up to their dreams, but they remain human. It sounds strange that the most comic necrophilia scene ever filmed is the catalyst for healing this broken family, but that's the kind of surreal logic Miike employs. In an interview with, Miike explained, "There are terrifying things in life, too, and they are all made by human beings. Everybody has those things inside themselves. So by filming human beings, it naturally becomes a horror movie."


Orson Welles, the Unrepentant Charlatan O.W. Jeeves In 1941, at the age of 25, Orson Welles cowrote and directed his first movie, Citizen Kane. Welles, who’d already made a mark on radio and the stage, was wooed by RKO Pictures into coming to Hollywood, where he had unprecedented creative control, including final cut on Kane. The film, which many consider to be one of the best and most influential in cinema history, received nine Academy Award nominations; Welles, in his first starring role, was nominated for Best Actor.


At the Academy Awards ceremony, it was booed during each of its nine nominations. William Randolph Hearst, whose life the movie had been in part based on, banished its mention from his editorial pages. Commercially, the film did poorly; Welles’s three-picture, no-studiointerference contract quickly soured. His next film, The Magnificent Ambersons, was hacked to pieces by RKO’s studio heads and has never widely appeared in its original form; his third RKO movie, It’s All True, had its funding abruptly pulled, and the studio ejected Welles from their headquarters. Word got around Hollywood that Welles was a tempestuous genius who’d never turn in a commercially successful movie. Without major studio backing, the director bounced from project to project, hustling where he could, using acting jobs to pay for his own projects. He spent decades in the wilderness, practicing his art in solitude, or with a handful of close friends. He later reflected, “I started at the


top and have been working my way down ever since.” This brings us to 1974 and F for Fake. The final movie Welles would both write and direct before his death in 1985, it was finally released on DVD this year, in a double-disc Criterion Collection set. The two films bookend his career in both chronology and theme: Where Citizen Kane is a pure expression of Welles the artist, F For Fake is a revealing portrait of the man behind the art. It's a love letter to magic from a man who spent a lifetime worshipping it. The film began as a project by François Reichenbach: a straight-forward documentary about the infamous art forger Elmyr De Hory. De Hory, a mysterious Hungarian who lived on the island of Ibiza, had become known as "the man who holds the art world to ransom" after authorities traced a large number of impressive forgeries back to his brush. The elderly fraud carried himself like a landed baron, throwing great


parties for Ibiza's jet-set while French and European police worked to put him in jail. Among those party-goers was Clifford Irving, who'd wri t t en El m yr's bi ography, t i t l e, appropriately, Fake! The Story of Elmyr de Hory, the Greatest Art Forger of Our Time. With a title that bombastic, it's hard not to assume the contents were an equal mix of fact and fantasy; Elmyr was a notorious self-promoter -- as his fame grew, so did his legend. Irving, perhaps enamored with that degree of self-reinvention, later hatched his own plan: he would rise from the ranks of b-list writers to become the "authorized autobiographer" of reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. He wouldn't do this by actually meeting Hughes, of course. Instead, he'd fake everything -interviews, legal documents, personal correspondence supposedly from Hughes. The billionaire, Irving reasoned, was so publicity-shy that he'd never come forward to denounce the fraud. He sold his publisher, McGraw-Hill, on the


idea, and soon they had a draft and were selling excerpts to news magazines. It didn't last long, though. Soon Hughes responded, via telephone, saying he'd never heard of Irving and certainly hadn't hired him to pen an autobiography. The voice on the telephone convinced the media and the authorities; Irving soon found himself in jail for fraud. When Welles saw Reichenbach's footage of all this, he couldn't resist. He took to the editing room and created an entirely new movie, a "film essay" on the power of art, magic, and the need for lies that finally tell the truth. Elmyr, Irving, the art world and its experts -- it all became a backdrop for Welles's thoughts on the fine line between fraud and magic. In the hands of a lesser talent it would've fallen apart, but the great director's touch is on every frame of the film. Even more interestingly, for 1974, Welles makes no bones about showing you exactly what he's doing. In several scenes he breaks through


Reichenbach's footage to show himself sitting at the editing dock pondering his next move. He doubles-back, digresses, drops in blunt foreshadowing and camera tricks, but never does the movie lose its playfulness, its need for mischief. The often smirking Welles puts every ounce of his boundless enthusiasm into the frame. At the same time, in playing with the divide between stories and reality, fakes and facts, he emphasizes the power of great art to transcend those divisions. One of his characters asks, "If there weren't any experts, would there be any fakers?" but he knows the real joy lies in their interaction, the constant struggle to define humanity, because, finally, that too will end. Welles intones in his deep, famous voice, "Our works in stone, in paint, in print, are spared, some of them, for a few decades or a millennium or two, but everything must finally fall in war, or wear away into the ultimate and universal ash -- the triumphs, the frauds, the treasures and the fakes."


Time makes ash of us all, but it's good that we are here. One has that same bittersweet sense of hope in watching Orson Welles: One Man Band, one of Criterion's extras. It recollects Welles's career as a cinematic maverick and innovator, but it also implies the great what if: What if he'd actually been able to do it his way? Viewed from the outside, his career looks like a series of heartbreaks, plans left unfulfilled, promises rescinded. Yet he never lost his enthusiasm; commenting about his own outsider status, he identified with those who shared his passion if not his path. "In other words, I'm crazy," he said. "But not crazy enough to pretend to be free." Freedom's a relative thing; this is not a world of absolutes. If Orson Welles was never free enough, we can't blame him or the world as it is. But in his unparalleled creativity, his drive and his refusal to be compromised, he was freer than most. Most importantly, he was free to see in a way that


most of us don't. As the man himself put it, "There are never many, never enough of them, but there are men born into the world with a gaze fixed on the widest possible horizon. Men who can see without strain beyond the most distant horizon, into that unconquered country we call the future."


An Interpretation of Timothy Leary. Joseph L. Flatley Did Robert Greenfield Do His Homework? I saw my therapist again yesterday. She asked me if I did my "homework." Cognitive Behavioral Therapists love that word, "homework." I hate that word. But who cares? She's hot. "Yes, I did." My homework being to write for at least an hour, three times that week. "Really? What did you work on?" "My blog." After much tsk-tsk-ing, I promised to actually


write this week, and not just dick around on the internet. Of course, this summer at the height (low point) of my chronic medical-grade depression, my writing was virtually nonexistent. But I could read like a motherfucker, sometimes topping off five books a week. I knew that I was in trouble when I sat down on a Friday night with Robert Greenfield's Timothy Leary: A Biography and looked up Sunday night to realize I had read all seven hundred pages. The first exhaustive look at Leary, Greenfield's book begins with a poignant opening scene (where a young Timmy hides on the roof to escape from his drunken father), and ends on a note of righteous indignation. In between those two poles lay a phenomenal amount of scholarship and a phone book's worth of vitriol. Greenfield obviously has some kind of searing hatred for Timothy Leary, which he may be too much of a gentleman to mention, but which nonetheless bleeds onto every page.


One could read the entire Greenfield book and think that Leary never had an original idea in his life… let alone author over thirty books (The Annotated Bibliography of Timothy Leary itself weighs in at over three hundred pages). stuff will yield gold if you were to dig in. A Holy Mess. Timothy Leary's unindicted co-conspirator Robert Anton Wilson writes (in Prometheus Rising, his book-length exploration of Leary's, er, theories) that the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, “was fundamentally naive and unaware of most of philosophy… she never realized that you cannot speak or write about the Ineffable. She therefore wrote about it at length. If her writings are hard to decipher, if they often sound like 'the ravings of a disordered mind' (Aleister Crowley's description of mystic writings, True, some of his work reads like mud, but even that


including his own), they also have moments of astonishing lucidity.” Leary - who at times possessed perhaps a willful naiveté - was never unaware of Philosophy. I think that, like Aleister Crowley, he assumed that everyone who read his work would be on his wavelength. Either that, or he just didn't care. And I think that the inability of many people to get anything meaningful out of his work, along with sheer scapegoating (let me ask you, Mr. Nixon; how does Leary, whom you called “the most dangerous man in America,” compare to Vietnam? Cointelpro? Watergate?), has been at the root of Leary's continued rough handling by the media. Really, what did Leary expect? He was part of a tradition of neurological adepts, spelling out a philosophy that could only appeal to a minority of people, a philosophy that would necessarily register as extremely dangerous to the vast majority of folks (“status quo”), and he was taking


it to the masses, pushing it right in their faces. Perhaps at first he was naive enough to think that the sheer beauty of his message would transform those who would hear it. And perhaps, by the time of the great backlash, he was too addicted to the media spotlight to let it go. The High Priest and the Great Beast. It seems that in Robert Greenfield we have the same kind of biographer as John Symonds, author o f The Great Beast: The Life and Magick of Aleister Crowley. Israel Regardie (in The Eye In The Triangle: An Interpretation of Aleister Crowley), had this to say about the Symonds book:
[Aleister Crowley] has too long suffered from misrepresentation at the hands of uninformed biographers. It is time finally to set the record straight. This must be done, not merely out of regard for the man himself, but even more


importantly, because of the profound effect he has had on countless thousands of readers, and will yet have on countless thousands more. John Symonds, his major biographer, evinces throughout his narrative a totally contemptuous attitude towards Crowley. This attitude altogether invalidates his attempt at biography. His book The Great Beast could have been excellent since every opportunity in the world was given him through access to diaries and a mass of hitherto unpublished material… However his personal prejudices got in the way. His writing is cynical, showing no glimmer of insight or the slightest trace of sympathy.

Timothy Leary considered himself, after a fashion, to be a reincarnation of Crowley, so it is quite fitting that the above excerpt could just as easily been written about Greenfield's Leary book.


I Have America Surrounded. I have finally read the other Tim Leary book, I Have America Surrounded: The Life of Timothy Leary by John Higgs. If anything, his account is more fair, and a hell of a lot more fun. Forgotten, But Not Gone. Where does that leave the Timothy Leary legacy? In his Rolling Stone obituary, “Mistah Leary - He Dead,” Hunter S. Thompson puts it like this:
We sometimes disagreed, but in the end we made our peace… He is forgotten now but not gone.

The first time I read this ten years ago I really had no idea what the hell Thompson was talking about; but after Thompson's suicide it began to


make sense for me. With his final act Thompson was released. His legacy became part of all of our legacy. And so it goes with Timothy Leary. Perhaps the question is not: who was Timothy Leary? Perhaps we should be asking ourselves what he had to teach us… because I have found his work to be endlessly entertaining and inspiring and every time I open one of his books, or hear an old radio interview or seem him on the television, I learn something new. So, will the legacy of Timothy Leary be that of a defrocked Harvard Professor, a lousy parent and bad actor? Or will it be that of a philosopher and a teacher, a rebel in the grand tradition? Because he will be with us always. That genie has been unleashed. The only question now is, which Timothy Leary will we remember… or which will we forget? Or, as Tim himself used to say, "everyone will get the Timothy Leary they deserve."


John Higgs' book, I Have America Surrounded, is now available in the US from Barricade Books. Robert Greenfield's book, Timothy Leary: A Biography, is published by Harcourt.


A Conversation with Robert Anton Wilson Jesse Hicks The Illuminatus! Trilogy seems to keep finding new generations of fans since its publication. How would you describe it to someone who's yet to read it, and what do you think explains its enduring appeal? I like to call it guerilla ontology. If people look blank, I explain that it's a Zen riddle in the form of a detective story. In other words, a mystery without a solution. What keeps it in print? I imagine that every generation a few clear-thinking people discover that the governments that rule us


just do not make sense rationally. And then they hear about this weird book that knocks down every attempt at a reasonable explanation of how this planet operates and proves 1001 ways that only insanity does explain it. Incidentally, as if to prove this, sales have improved every year since George Bush got appointed president. Sanity cannot fathom such a sinister joke, but Illuminatus! buffs can. How does the world of Illuminatus! compare to the "real" world these days? Much of the book satirized politics on The Planet of the Apes; lately you seem less oblique about the state of American politics, calling Dubya "exactly the ideal president for this time in history. Most of the public is made up of C-students who are incurious and uninformed. What Bush says makes sense to them because they don't know any more about the world than he does." Do we live in a Wilsonian satire?


I'd like to think so. The only alternative would hold that we live in a Kafka allegory. Since my "paranoia" contains more humor than his, I appeal to a less morbid audience. Kafka's "There is hope, but not for us," definitely appeals to a darker sense of humor. How do you maintain a sense of optimism? Pessimism seems to me a luxury I can't afford. For instance, at age four, I became crippled with polio for the first time, and got cured, or mostly cured, by the Kenny method. Pessimism just would not have helped at any stage in my therapy. We don't walk on our legs but on our will, as the Sufis say. At 69, the damaged muscles quit on me and I got crippled a second time. Once again, pessimism and whining would not have helped. My second partial cure proceeded nicely for four years --until last month, when I suddenly landed on the floor and stayed there conscious but


unable to move a muscle, for 30 hours before my daughter found me and called an ambulance. Pessimism has great value if you want the praise of New York intellectuals, but I prefer to fight my battles rather than whine about them. I'll probably never get reviewed in the bon ton literary journals, but I might get into the Guinness Book of World Records as the first man to learn to walk four times. You mentioned the Kenny method for polio treatment. How did your early encounter with an "unorthodox" cure lead you to question "orthodoxy"? Well, I grew up with hard evidence -- every step I took -- that the Kenny method worked, while all the Experts continued to denounce her as a quack and a charlatan. That did not encourage ardent faith in Experts.... And did that lead into Maybe Logic?


Partially, but it could have led to a single heresy -- the Kenny method -- in a brain otherwise still confined to dogmatism. I know many people like that-- they believe in one unorthodox idea, but remain stuck in either/or logic. Maybe Logic came from reading some scientific radicals [John von Neumann, Anatole Rapoport and Alfred Korzybski], plus some Buddhists. That includes von Neumann's three-valued logic [true, false, maybe], Rappoport's four-valued logic [true, false, indeterminate, meaningless], Korzybski's multi-valued logic [degrees of probability] and also Mahayana Buddhist paradoxical logic [it "is" A; it "is" not A; it "is" both A and not A; it "is" neither A nor not A]. But, as an extraordinarily stupid fellow, I can't use such systems until I reduce them to terms a simple mind like mine can handle, so I just preach that we'd all think and act more sanely if we had to use "maybe" a lot more often. Can you imagine a


world with Jerry Falwell hollering "Maybe Jesus 'was' the son of God and maybe he hates Gay people as much as I do" -- or every tower in Islam resounding with "There 'is' no God except maybe Allah and maybe Mohammed is his prophet"? How does Quantum Psychology offer a counterviewpoint to that kind of anxious grasping at what you've called "fictional certainties"? Quantum Psyche offers a variety of linguistic reforms that condition the mind against premature closure. Some of these techniques come from General Semantics, some from Nuero-Linguistic Programming, and some from Buddhism. These techniques used consistently over a period of fifty years have made me, I dare say, a lot less stupid and a lot less frightened than my condition in the 1950s. Those not as dumb as me can learn even faster. What do you think explains the current


resurgence of "faith-based" worldviews? The robber barons imported "cheap labor" from Europe in the late 19th Century. In other words, they flooded us with an ocean of ignorant and superstitious people, who could not understand research-based organizations but formed an ideal market for faith-based con artists. Do you see any deeper explanation behind it, other than faith-based worldviews being the dominant mode of thinking for those currently in power? The acceleration factor in information systems [documented by Korzybski and Shannon] means that social changes happen faster and faster every generation. People not trained in Maybe Logic feel more and more confused, which leads to anxiety, which means they'll swallow any line of hogwash if it promises some certitude in a world they can't understand.


Does it seem to you that other countries have more fully embraced ideas present in Quantum Psychology than has America? I would not claim that, but the civilized world in general has shown much less hostility to research-based groups and has no Bush-style revival of faith-based groups. How does the Guns and Dope Party fit in to American politics? Our platform has 3 major planks: 1. Free access to guns for those who want them; no guns forced on those who don't want them [Quakers,Amish, pacifists etc.] 2. Free access to drugs for those who want them; no drugs forced on those who don't want them [Christian Scientists, homeopaths, hygienists etc.] 3. Equal rights for ostriches. (for further details see Natural


What do you see for the future, in the short term? In the long term? In the short term, more power by faith-based organizations. In the long term, the eventual triumph of research-based organizations. Inquisitions, whether by popes or presidents, only slow progress in limited areas. They never stop it. Stem-cell research, for instance, still moves along rapidly, overseas in the civilized world. I n Reality is What You Can Get Away With, you wrote, "The right wing will have nightmares in the late '90s that will make the 62 Satanism panics of 1982-1993 seem sedate by comparison." How much of the current political environment would you attribute to the inevitable right-wing response to that nightmare, and how much to "Future Shock" in general? "Future shock" started with the first stone axe, b u t d u e t o t h e a c c e l e r a t i o n f a c t o r, i t


discombobulates more people every decade. When the civilized world, where research-based organizations will soon start curing everything with stem cells, our faith-based organizations will want the U.S. to declare war on damn near everybody.



The Sexual Sadists Of Calaveras County Joseph L. Flatley Officer Daniel Wright thought he was answering a routine call, a misdemeanor shoplifting. Soon police would learn that Leonard Lake and his partner Charles Ng had raped, tortured and killed at least twelve – maybe as many as twenty-five – men, women and children in the mountains north east of San Francisco. Officer Wright approached a young Asian man who’d stolen a vice. The man – later identified as Charles Ng – took flight, disappearing on foot into traffic. His bearded companion, who


seemed older than his identification indicated, apologized and tried to pay for the vice. Suspicious, Officer Wright conducted a search of their car, a 1980 Honda Prelude. In the trunk he discovered a .22 caliber handgun outfitted with an illegal silencer. He brought the man in for questioning. Soon, police traced the Honda’s registration to Paul Cosner, who had gone missing in San Francisco nine months earlier, and found bloodstains on the front seat. When they questioned the suspect about the blood, he asked for a pen, paper, and a glass of water. “Are you going to write a confession?” “No, just a note to my wife.” With his handcuffs removed, the man scribbled a short note and placed it in his shirt pocket. He then identified himself as Leonard Lake, a fugitive wanted by the FBI. Then his eyes rolled back. As officers watched, he began to convulse. Lake had swallowed the two cyanide capsules hidden under his lapel; he never regained


consciousness, dying in the hospital a few days later. “I love you,” the note in his pocket read. “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Please tell Mama, Fern, and Patty I’m sorry.” The bizarre suicide led police to Claralyn “Cricket” Balasz, a teacher’s aide and Lake’s exwife – the two had met while working at a renaissance fair near San Francisco. She took authorities to the remote cabin Lake had rented with Charles Ng. The two self-styled “survivalists” believed in an imminent nuclear holocaust. To prepare, they’d built a bunker and filled it with guns and food. Investigators found a bedroom torture chamber fitted with chains, shackles and hooks. In a number of underground prison cells, they discovered video tapes Lake and Ng had made of their “sex slaves” – women they had tortured and sexually abused before killing them. Police estimated that at least twenty-five people died on


the property, including Lake’s best friend, two coworkers of Ng’s, and two entire families. Among the evidence were Lake’s voluminous personal journals. From these, and from interviews with people close to him, we begin to understand Lake’s overwhelming misogyny. “The perfect woman is totally controlled,” he wrote. “There is no sexual problem with a submissive woman. Only pleasure and contentment.” While his “end times” philosophy gave Lake an excuse for his sadistic brutality, at the most basic level he was a textbook case of what psychologists call a “sexual sadist.” At an early age, the sexual sadist begins to retreat from reality. It is hard to say why, exactly, though there is typically a history of both physical and sexual abuse. A percentage of these criminals also have a history of head trauma. The sadist’s sexual impulse becomes intertwined with an intense desire to inflict pain; as this desire grows, so does the need to express it through elaborate


and grotesque fantasies. At first, the sexual sadist will pursue his fantasies with a willing person: a prostitute, perhaps, or in the case of Lenny Lake, his wife, who during their marriage participated in the S&M-themed movies he wrote and directed. But when the fantasy inevitably wears thin, the irrepressible sadistic impulse finds other outlets. As Mary Ellen O’Toole, a profiler for the National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime in Quantico, Virginia, describes in Jim Fielder’s book Slow Death: “once the predators start forcing themselves on unwilling women, they continue to repeat the same brutalizing rituals over and over until they are caught.” The sexual sadist is hopelessly miswired; he has become conditioned to demand whatever the pleasure of brutality, and Lake’s survivalist philosophy merely enabled him to justify his sexual sadism. Healthy human minds need selfrespect as much as healthy human bodies need


food and water; if he couldn’t find self respect in the real world, Lake would find it in his fantasy world. As he put it, he would live life “with death in my pocket and fantasy my goal.” “The picture that finally emerged,” wrote Colin Wilson in The History of Murder, “was of a man who spent most of his time living in a world of fantasy, who indulged in grandiose daydreams of success without any realistic attempt to put them into practice.” Lake lived a fantasy in which he and Ng would be the only survivors of the coming nuclear holocaust. What sort of state was he in if he could find “nuclear winter” preferable to his life? Joel Norris, in Serial Killers, writes that “[in] his final journal he described the unraveling of his life after he moved to Blue Mountain Road [the site of the compound]. His dreams of success had eluded him, he admitted to himself that his boasts of heroic deeds in Vietnam were all delusions, and the increasing number of victims he was burying


in the trench behind his bunker only added to his unhappiness. Lake had reached the final stage of the serial murder syndrome: he realized that he had come to a dead end with nothing but his own misery to show for it.” Lake’s partner, Charles Ng, fled to Calgary, where he was arrested in another shoplifting incident. After more than four years in Canadian custody he was finally extradited. Ng was something of an expert at delaying his trial, and it wasn’t until June of 1999 – fifteen years after his crimes – that he was found guilty of eleven murders and sentenced to death. He is currently on death row in California.


Snuffocation Matt Stroud

We were confident that right and truth would prevail, and I would be acquitted and we would devote the rest of our lives working to create a justice system here in the United States. The guilty verdict has strengthened that resolve. But as we’ve discussed our plans to expose the warts of our legal system, people have said, “why bother,” “no one cares,” “you’ll look foolish.” 60 Minutes, 20/20, the American Civil Liberties Union, Jack Anderson and others have been


publicizing cases like yours for years, and it doesn’t bother anyone... (the final words of R. “Budd” Dwyer)

Robert “Budd” Dwyer was a state treasurer of Pennsylvania who, on January 22, 1987, killed himself during a press conference on live television. It’s something you might’ve seen randomly on the internet, or in The Many Faces of Death, Part 6, or… somewhere else. Story goes, Dwyer was scheduled for a court appearance on January 23, 1987. He was to appear before a federal judge to face charges of bribery and conspiracy to commit fraud. If convicted, he faced up to 55 years in prison, a fine of up to $300,000, and the loss of his position in state government. On the day before his court appearance, at the press conference, he insisted on his innocence, on the hypocrisy of his government – “as we’ve discussed our plans to expose the warts of our legal system, people have said, ‘why bother,’ ‘no


one cares.’” – and then he handed papers to his staff. In a matter of seconds, he pulled a .357 Magnum revolver from a manila envelope, and shot himself in the mouth. I’m thinking about this on a Sunday night in 2006. I’m standing in falling snow on an uncovered stoop just off Eighth Avenue in Homestead, PA. I’m wondering about Dwyer’s wife – where she went the night he killed himself. Did she cry? How forcefully? Had she been expecting it? I wonder about this. I wonder about the ensuing cleanup after Dwyer killed himself. After the media fled, who mopped up? I wonder about his kids and their lives, and how they were affected. And I’m lost in these thoughts, thinking about the commercialization of his death and how it’s been distributed over and over again for profit. And, as I’m thinking about this, I realize that, without full consent from my brain, my index finger is actually ringing the doorbell to a house that may or may


not contain a living person who may or may not have a video tape documenting the actual murder of a human being. I am looking for a snuff film. And I’m wondering if I’ll find it. Earlier that week, I had placed an ad on Craigslist1 l ooki ng f or “ r a r e a nd uni que pornography.” In the ad, I sort of referenced snuff. I wrote: “I’m mostly interested in locating extremely rare films and, if you got ‘em, films where people are brutally murdered.” This was not smooth, I know. But considering Craigslist, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years (as I tend to), is an online classified ads resource. The following is from New York Magazine: “ is changing everything. A simple and free online classified-ad service started by the gnomish Craig Newmark in San Francisco [in 1995], Craigslist is (a) where young urban people conduct much of the traffic of their lives, including renting apartments, finding lost pets, and getting laid in the middle of the day, and is (b) thereby destroying classified revenues for big-city newspapers, which are already in crisis, and so it has become (c) the symbol of the transformation of the information industry.”


what a snuff film is, 2 I couldn’t quite think of a better way to explain what I was looking for without getting too windy… or too weird. It’s debatable whether or not I succeeded. More background: I had scheduled three interviews for that week, on consecutive days, after work, all with “collectors” who had implied that they owned vintage movies, and nothing more. Via e-mail, when I said I was writing an article for a magazine, they all asked to remain anonymous. This was the third of those interviews. The first was with a tattoo shop owner who collected fake snuff – movies like Guinea Pig: Flower of Flesh and Blood, Cannibal Holocaust, and the more recent Meat for Satan’s Icebox, which I watched and came to the following conclusion: Fake snuff is often pretty dumb.3 It does not, necessarily, have anything to do with sex. 3 From Video Universe: “A slaughterhouse in the town of Satan grinds its meat from human prey in this brutal shocker. A teenage couple wind up there after some unfortunate events occur in their lives,


The second interview was scheduled and cancelled, but I later found the potential interviewee’s website, and noticed that he mostly specialized in early 60s nudie mags. So anyway, I’m staring into this house through a screen door and a broken window and I’m rubbing my hands together, shaking my head, wondering why I’m here. I hope no one answers the door… But I know someone will. Because, inside, I see that there’s a black man rocking back and forth in a chair facing away from me, next to a kitchen with tile and cabinets.4 He’s watching television – a football game – but I can’t tell who’s playing. but the tragedy is only just beginning as they look on in horror at the deviants who greet them in Satan!” 4 Remember Videodrome? It’s a David Cronenberg film about a cable TV operator (Max Renn) who discovers a Snuff broadcast on Channel 83. Max initially thinks the broadcast is based out of Malaysia. He later finds out it’s based in Pittsburgh – where I am, right now, looking for Snuff. HAHAHA! Haha! Ha. Oh, coincidence.


In a second, he’ll stand up and keep his eyes on the television (walking backwards, trying to catch one final play before he answers the door). But when he does this, he’ll get tripped up, and he’ll accidentally step on what looks like a pink and yellow stuffed animal on the ground behind him. That’s when he’ll bump his head on one of the cabinets, clumsy, like he’s on a sitcom, trying to keep his balance. In pain, he’ll yell loud… but I… I am totally detached. I won’t care if he’s hurt or not. He’s in there; I’m out here. But as he approaches, it begins to hit me: I am not a fetishist. I am not sure why I’m here. This is all a very elaborate sociology project. I’ll be too scared to think. I’ll be too confused to move. And I’ll be too shocked to laugh as he staggers toward the door, swearing, holding his head in pain… But, again, I don’t know this yet. I don’t know anything at this point. All I see is a television, a huge black man, a white door and brightly-colored stuffed animals.


“Snuff” is defined as “a filmed account of an actual murder, specifically commissioned, recorded and supplied for the gratification of the paying spectator(s).”5 The concept has been attributed to Ed Sanders, who wrote a book called The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion. “Brutality film” was Sanders’ initial term for snuff, as a concept. The expression “snuff film” was later mentioned in the book – an extension of the word meaning “to die” (“snuff it”). I n The Family, Sanders claims that the Mansons actually filmed murders for personal entertainment purposes. But this is uncorroborated – none of these Manson films have ever been proven to exist. For that matter, no snuff film (under the FBI’s David Kerekes and David Slater, Killing For Culture: An Illustrated History Of The Death Film From Mondo To Snuff (London: Creation Books, 1995)


most stringent definition of the term) has ever been proven to exist. In the past quarter century, there have been countless rumors that such films have been produced,6 but none have actually surfaced. Which arguably makes snuff an urban legend – an interesting rumor – and nothing more. So the question then becomes: Why is snuff, as a concept, so widely discussed, so often the topic of (generally bad) films, articles and discussions? Why is snuff so inherently interesting? And, more importantly, since it seems so obvious that someone, somewhere, a t some point would’ve arranged and filmed a murder, why Examples include, but are not limited to 1) John W. Decamp’s The Franklin Coverup, which reports that a man named Paul Bonacci filmed himself raping an underage boy. He further alleges that the boy was murdered on film, and that he and a different boy were forced to have sex with his dead body. 2) In 1982, Susan Hamlin, a resident of El Dorado Hills, outside Fresno, California, intimated that members of a Satanic cult tortured her for three weeks straight. She claimed that her abductors had a stash of child pornography and Snuff films. Neither claim was proven.


have none been found? How can we possibly accept that none have been made? Are we missing something? It's after I’m invited into the collector’s home – after I find out his name’s George; after I’ve shaken his hand; after I’ve told him my name – that I become truly aware of how ridiculous this pursuit is. I am not in a movie. I am not a private investigator hired by a rich widow. I’m not even getting paid. And, beyond that, if snuff exists, will some random peon (me) be able to publicly extract the first ever real snuff film from an arbitrary private collector (George)? Answer: not likely. I know this. It’s at this point where I start to understand why a snuff film has never been found. First: if one surfaced, chances are, the director would be in some deep, deep shit – in prison for life or hanged. No one wants to set the standard for the breed of punishment that crime would cause. Second: if


y o u have one of these films and you haven’t shared it yet, you’re probably not going to share it or flaunt it to anyone you don’t completely trust. And so on. I have thought these things out. I’m aware that, chances are, no one’s going to show me a snuff film for the asking… But my larger, more abstract goal, is to find out why the so-called Snuff Urban Legend continues to surface in our society. My plan is to basically act dumb, visit with avid pornography collectors, ask to see a snuff film, see how they react, then talk about the concept of snuff and the dehumanization these kinds of films represent (regardless of whether they exist or not). It’s all supposed to lead into a discussion about the way we look at (and share our experiences of) life. And, I’ve come up with this whole grand scheme here about the state of violence in America, about our unending, underlying national pursuit toward hidden vices and veiled emotions and blah blah blah, and it all seems workable in my head, but


George is heading toward me, so it’s time to perk up. He answers the door politely, laughing, holding his bald head. “God damn man, I hope you didn’t see that.” I smile and tell him: “I didn’t see you hit your head on the kitchen cabinet.” He laughs and invites me in, offers to take my coat. We exchange brief pleasantries – “It’s damn cold out there,” et cetera – before he asks what he can do for me. “Actually, I guess I’ll just cut to the chase here.” I hand him my coat. “Do you have a snuff film I can watch or buy?” He stops. “What?” He’s not a big man – maybe 5’9”, 160 pounds. From what I can tell, he’s alone in the house, though that doesn’t explain the stuffed animals. “I’m not a cop or anything.” “You’re askin’ me if I got snuff movies?” “Well… yeah.”


“Real ones?” “Yeah. I mean… I realize it’s illegal. I’m just more or less interested to see one. I figure that—” George shakes his head no, stops me. “That’s not what I collect.” “Oh, I know. I was just curious if—” “No, man. I’m into sex. Not murder.” He says this slowly, deliberately. I say “Oh, alright,” but I guess my tone indicates something close to disbelief because his gaze quickly turns cold. “What do I look like to you,” he says. “A killer? Someone who watches killers” “No, I just—” “You just what.” He’s angry now. “You think just ‘cause I collect movies I’m into some sick shit like that? Man, that’s fucked up. And that’s not what I’m into.” He pauses for a second to gather himself, reaches up and rubs his scalp again. “Listen. If you was lookin’ for somethin’ like that you shoulda told me before you showed up


and I’da let you know I didn’t have nothin’.” “Yeah,” I say, realizing that I have misjudged the issue. My confusion is based in something very simple, fraudulent and invalid. All film, literature, and art, attempts to take us to a place we’ve never been before. And since I assume that anal sex, bondage, masochism and even (what I would consider) torture will be prominently featured in his collection, I assume that, as a collector, he will be interested in what I understand as an extension of those acts – murder. This is untrue. This is not a generalization one can make. What I don’t understand right now is that, for this collector – and for many collectors – there is a rigid barrier between what I consider dehumanization and killing. Regardless of the victim’s concession. And there’s also, along those lines, the implication that violent pornography doesn’t necessarily dehumanize; there is always the probable possibility that, not only do actors agree to their work, but they also find joy in acts considered


taboo – that they derive pleasure from abuse, torture, bondage. Whether this is a legal or moral issue…? Well, that’s debatable. And I’m not going there. But what’s not debatable is that everyone has varying interests. And that you can almost never tell what’s appropriate and what’s not. And after going through all this in my head, all I could muster for George was a pitiful “Yeah, I know.” “You do now,” he says. Then he adds: “And don’t you know that if I had one, I sure as hell wouldn’t show it to you?” He laughs after he says this. I’ve got nothing to say in response. “Now do you want to see what I got or what?” Movies are a flexible medium. It’s easy to simulate death on film, which is partly why people think snuff films exist. They’ve seen simulated versions and believe they’re genuine. I think it’s conceivable these films


exist, but whether they do or not is less important than the public’s belief that they do – their willingness to believe in an evil fantasy. That’s what’s interesting here. Schrader, director of Hardcore. According to Killing for Culture, there are fairly strict definitions for movies that feature actual death on screen. They are: The Death Film.
Centers on the depiction of dead and dying people … for shock value. The difference between this and the Snuff film, is that in the death film the victims would have died anyway, (i.e. an execution, for instance.) the filming having no bearing on the act.


Examples: The Zapruder film of John F.


Kennedy’s assassination; autopsy films such as The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes; driver education films; incidents where people commit suicide live in front a camera (like the case of Budd Dwyer).7 These films don’t “count” as snuff, per More info on Dwyer (because it’s fucking interesting). The following is from “During the early 1980s, employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania overpaid millions of dollars in FICA taxes. As a result, the Commonwealth began requesting bids for the task of calculating refunds to each employee. One firm, California-based Computer Technology Associates, was owned by a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native named John Torquato Jr. Torquato used his Harrisburg-area connections and a series of bribes to obtain the contract, worth $4.6 million. An anonymous memo then reached the governor’s office, describing the bribes that had taken place. In late 1986, Dwyer was charged as having agreed to accept a related kickback of $300,000. Dwyer never actually received any money. A plea bargain made for Torquato and William Smith [Torquato’s attorney] required them to testify against Dwyer. This coupled with the government’s refusal to name unindicted coconspirators in the case, made it difficult for Dwyer to defend himself, though the unindicted co-conspirators are believed to have been


se, because, again, they are accidental – the death is not choreographed specifically for film.

Republican staffers who ran the Dauphin County Republican Party. During this time, the local United States Attorney offered Dwyer a plea bargain that carried a five year maximum sentence in exchange for a one-count guilty plea, resignation, and cooperation in the investigation. Dwyer refused the offer, and was later convicted but continued to vehemently protest his innocence. Under state law, Dwyer would continue to serve as state treasurer until his sentencing…” He killed himself before this could happen.


The Mondo Movie.8 Contains general documentary material from around the world, generally aimed at shocking the audience with scandal. As the years progressed, competing film makers had to out-scandal the competition. This one-upmanship led to the inevitable inclusion of already-dead bodies, and ultimately actual death on screen. Also from Wikipedia: “The fad started with Mondo Cane (1962) by Gualtiero Jacopetti and proved quite popular. Mondo films are often easily recognized by name, as even English language Mondo films included the term often “Mondo” in their titles. Over the years the film makers wanted to top each other in shock value in order to draw in audiences. Cruelty to animals, accidents, tribal initiation rites and surgeries are a common feature of a typical Mondo. Much of the action is also staged, even though the film makers may claim their goal to document only “the reality”. Today, Mondo films are generally considered to be camp.”


Examples: The Mondo Cane Collection, Faces of Death, Shocking Asia, Part 1, Real TV. These movies are not technically snuff because 1) they often feature campy, fake representations of death (or other “shocking” topics like Strip Clubs for Fatties and Granny Sex), and 2) the “real” death they present is recorded rather than arranged. The goal of these films is to elicit shock before you yawn and turn off your DVD player (because you are completely detached). The difference between a Death Film and a Mondo Movie is, essentially, that Mondo is made to be feature length. Mondo is a collection – it is meant to be put together and sold in a neat little death package you can show at parties. Mondo movies are often comprised of many Death Films. The sad part is that one can imagine the reaction to Mondo films or Death films wouldn’t be much different than the reaction to true snuff. In terms of genre and topic, the discrepancies are


minimal – “Death Accidentally Caught On Film, Then Collected Into A Movie And Sold To Blockbuster Video” (Mondo) versus “Orchestrated Death Funded By Some Very Rich Person For Personal Gratification” (Snuff). The Snuff Film. We’ve been over this. Examples: Supposedly none. Ken Lanning, cult expert at the FBI training academy at Quantico, Virginia, said: “I’ve not found one single documented case of a snuff film anywhere in the world. I’ve been searching for 20 years, talked to hundreds of people. There’s plenty of once-removed sightings, but I’ve never found a credible personality who personally saw one.” 9 It should be mentioned here that we are absolutely not, as a matter of course, considering



feature films like Snuff10 and 8mm11 as anything even close to “real snuff.” These films help establish the concept of snuff in popular consciousness,12 but they’re fiction – they help fuel the belief that real snuff exists when, from all indications, it doesn’t. Their existence is more Tagline: “A film that could only be made in South America, where life is CHEAP!” Directed mostly by an unaccredited Michael Findlay, Snuff began life as a cheap Argentinean feature entitled Slaughter (1971). Allan Shackleton (head of distributor Monarch Releasing Corporation) added a coda directed by porn filmmaker Carter Steven, in which a female cast member is seemingly murdered on camera. 11 “Joel Schumacher’s excrementally piss-poor thriller … finds Nick Cage farting around in his most stylish disheveled chic as a private investigator attempting to track down a ‘real’ Snuff movie. This is a well-trodden path for low-budget, exploitation B-flicks, and anyone who’s seen such straight-to-video bilge as Final Cut, Fatal Frames, Cutting Room Floor, et al will already be familiar with the material.” – Mark Kermode, BBC film critic 12 Neil Jackson, “The cultural construction of Snuff” (Kinoeye online,


fueled by, as Shrader says, “[the public’s] willingness to believe in an evil fantasy.” But this brings us to an interesting point: That word: fantasy. We want to believe snuff exists because Snuff exists in our fantasies. Why? Because, as previously discussed, you can look at snuff as the logical extension of what all film, literature, and art, attempts to do – take us to a place we’ve never been before. Death is the final chasm of the unknown. A century ago, people used to believe that the eyes captured the last moments of the dead person’s life; detectives would photograph the eyes of murder victims in hopes of catching a glimpse of the killer. It seems like snuff films are similar, in an attempt to catch death at his appointed errands. In controlling the moment of death, snuff attempts to bridge that gap between life and death. We cling to this – this glimpse of final terror; this concept of evil (and life) captured in an instant. And movies like 8mm are produced because


we can not look away from that ultimate human snapshot. And, to go further, we’re infatuated with the idea of truly evil humanity – with a person willing to kill without guilt. And yet, 8mm is a perfect representation of how Hollywood deals with America’s penchant for horror and death: Specifically, Hollywood is forced to turn 8mm into a battle of “good” versus “evil.” Nicholas Cage is the “good guy.” He has an attractive wife and a small child. He is hired to find the “evil man” who created a Snuff film for an old widow’s dead husband. The story unfolds, and you can probably guess the ending (I’ll give you a hint: Everything works out just fine). Main point: The good guy is a necessary evil – he allows us to explore the more interesting character (who happens to be “bad”). But real Snuff theoretically eliminates the “good guy” from the equation. And it eliminates sympathy, too. It eliminates pathos and consideration and condemnation and politics and


money and CGI and… everything emotive a director or production company can potentially offer. In theory, it brings the viewer to a point where she or he is forced to supply their own emotions. And that might be the scariest (and most alluring) aspect of Snuff – that there is not an emotional template in place for the viewer. Religion and social mores tell us that, when we see someone killed, we should react with horror and revulsion, disgust and dread.13 But how would you honestly react if you saw someone really killed on screen? What if you weren’t prepared to see it? All you need is that one moment where one person snaps; where one person decides that all of our most revered morals – I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, you shall have no other gods besides Me; Do not make a sculpted image or any likeness of what is in the heavens above; You shalt not swear falsely by the name of the Lord; Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy; Honor your father and your mother; You shall not murder; You shall not have sexual relations with another man’s wife; You shall not kidnap; You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; You shall not covet your neighbor’s house – are worthless and meaningless and vapid.


What if you didn’t know it was coming? What if you were alone? What if you knew their death was commissioned? Would you find it hideous? Would you turn away? Or would you be curious? I don’t mean to imply that you’re a sick individual, I’m just saying: Would you want to see what happens at the moment of someone’s death? Would you want to watch the victim’s eyes turn back into his head, knowing that you had nothing to do with it – that you were completely innocent; that you had randomly stumbled across a video of his untimely demise? Would you want to know the victim’s last words? Would you want to know his name? His last thoughts? His last inclinations? Would you be curious about these things? Would you wonder if he had done something wrong? If he had done something stupid? If he had deserved it? If he hadn’t deserved it? Would you rewind it and watch it again?14 And I guess I should have some sort of conclusion to offer here – some answer to these


Nicholas Evan Berg was a 26-year-old American businessman. He sought work in Iraq during the U.S.-led occupation. He was captured and beheaded in May 2004 by Islamic militants. His decapitation was the first in a series of questions; some sort of direction you should go; some rationale for why murder happens, or why we wonder if it happens on film… Or why we’re so obsessed. But I really don’t have anything concrete to offer you. Because, to me, there is no tangible solution. And I find myself awake at 4:30 in the morning, knowing that I have to finish this article as soon as I can so I can get just one hour of sleep before I go to work; and I’m trying to understand why these things happen, and I’m surfing MySpace and I’m stuck in webs and webs of links leading to people from my high school – people I haven’t seen in years – and I’m wondering as I pass by each one of them, realizing that we’ve all taken the exact same direction in life – high school, college, confusion, alcoholism, acceptance, settling – I’m wondering how much it would really matter if one of us died, or was killed, brutally, and who it would affect. Would it affect me? From The Third Man: Martins: Have you ever seen any of your victims? Harry Lime: You know, I never feel comfortable on these sort of things.


similar killings of foreign hostages in Iraq. Berg’s beheading received worldwide attention, not only because it was filmed, but also because the footage was widely distributed on the Internet. The rationale for the murder? His killers claimed that his death was carried out to avenge abuses of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison.15 Victims? Don’t be melodramatic. Tell me. Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever? If I offered you twenty thousand pounds for every dot that stopped, would you really, old man, tell me to keep my money, or would you calculate how many dots you could afford to spare? Free of income tax, old man. Free of income tax - the only way you can save money nowadays. Only, I’m thinking, if I was killed. And so I’m left here in this story, wondering how Snuff films happen, and then, in a similar moment, wondering why more don’t happen. And it leaves me nowhere, questioning, confused, hopeless, wanting to give you something more. And I wait for that to happen... I wait for that moment. And then it hits me. 15 For the purposes of this article, we are assuming that the Nick Berg decapitation video was genuine. The following quote ran in La Voz de Aztlan, five


His death gives us much to consider – a lot to throw into this stew of information. Searching for a Snuff film seems a lot like waiting for some sort of depraved Messiah: After so long, after so much debate, it’s almost as if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. And when something remotely genuine comes along, you’re conditioned to believe you’re looking at a fake, simply because days after the Berg film was released: “There is now ample evidence that the video showing the decapitation of 26 year old Nicholas Berg of Philadelphia by purported Al Qaeda members is a complete fraud. The real Nick Berg may or may not be dead, but the heavily edited video is nothing but a fake. This is the conclusion of La Voz de Aztlan after a frame by frame analysis and the conclusion of hundreds of film, medical and other experts world wide who downloaded, viewed and analyzed the video as well. Literally thousands of persons world wide requested the video, which is rapidly disappearing from the Internet, after our news service published “Nick Berg decapitation video declared a fraud by medical doctor” on Wednesday May 12 and which was linked by other independent news services on the World Wide Web.” Its disputed existence well fits the Snuff discussion, doesn’t it?


you’ve built up the moral and semantic stipulations so high that they’re almost impossible to reach. Could Nick Berg represent the first real snuff film? Here’s the definition we set earlier: “‘Snuff’ is defined as ‘a filmed account of an actual murder, specifically commissioned, recorded and supplied for the gratification of the paying spectator(s).’” “a filmed account of an actual murder” (Nick Berg was killed on camera.) “specifically commissioned” (We are lead to believe his death was choreographed for filmed production.) “recorded and supplied for the gratification of the paying spectator(s).” (This is tricky. Who is the paying spectator? On a base level, it would probably be The Guy Who Filmed It. But because


of its political implications,16 because it was so widely distributed, because it was so widely discussed, the paying spectator becomes… you. And me. And everyone else who saw it. I know this because it was posted online.17 And because, when released, it received substantial coverage across mediums. So it was used to sell advertisements. It acted as a top story, a main headline, a way to capture your eyes and ears. And I want you to consider this. Consider that the internet brings the search for Snuff to a new level. There are more avenues available today for personal thought distribution than ever before. Anyone with a few dollars can get online and share. And while this is generally constructive, giving us more information to consider, affording Remember when Fox News commentators suggested everyone should see it, to know the horror of what “we’re fighting” [in Iraq]? 17 On May 11, 2004, the website of Islamist group Muntada al-Ansar allegedly broadcast the Nick Berg video with the opening title of “Abu Musa’b al-Zarqawi slaughters an American.”


us the opportunity to learn more, it also expands the already sizeable avenues we have for viewing mayhem and terror and evil. If the internet didn’t exist, would Nick Berg have been killed? Probably, but maybe not. The beauty of the internet is that it’s virtually boundless – it transcends continental barriers. Would his killers have bothered to kill Nick Berg on tape if they had merely planned on sending it to a television network? Again, speculation – maybe. But it’s interesting to contemplate – maybe the web’s enormity encouraged Berg’s killers to produce something vile, just because they could. Just because the internet allows us to see it, rewind it, tell our friends about it. And so, yes, I suppose it could be argued that, if no one were looking at the internet, this video would’ve gone hidden, unseen. But because so many people wanted the gratification of seeing Nick Berg decapitated by masked men – because we want to be taken to a place we’ve never been before … well, that makes


it significant. That makes it real. That makes it Snuff. …because we so desperately want [snuff] to exist and there is no way to prove that it doesn’t exist, snuff – for all emotional and intellectual means and purposes – exists. And it only stands to reason that the existence of a demand – particularly a demand over two decades old – has already or will eventually lead to a creation of a product to fill that demand. (“The Morbid Urge,” Daniel Kraus, Gadfly, July/August 2000)


Snuff is the Frankenstein monster of the media age, the boogeyman that lurks at the crossroads of unchecked media freedom and commercial demand. Each time a new technology makes questionable entertainment more accessible and moral standards are questioned, the monster is awakened and the angry villagers ignite their torches. With the new world of the web, the myth seems ready for an upgrade. (“Final Cuts: The History of Snuff Films,” Geoff Smith, Fringe Underground) So is Nick Berg the easy answer? Yeah, I guess he is. It definitely would’ve been more fun to battle George, the Big Black Guy with the Stuffed Animals and the Porn. It would’ve been fascinating to step into his basement and hand him ten thousand dollars to purchase a film starring


someone killed on tape… But that’s the idea, isn’t it? That’s precisely to the heart of why snuff is so captivating: because it’s senseless; because it’s vile – because, in terms of Western morality, it’s absolutely the worst thing one person can do to another person. It trumps whatever evil we’ve ascribed to terrorism or other arguably unnecessary forms of extreme violence. Because not only is there no sentiment behind it – not only is the act, in theory, based on a complete disregard for life; not only is it the ultimate example of dehumanization – but it’s also inherently capitalistic. It’s done, in concept, pretty much solely for money or fame or, in the case of Nick Berg, just to prove a point to millions of people. Which brings us to this: Unfortunately, living in a society where war and sex and celebrity dominate our headlines, murder captures our deepest, most sheltered interests. Why else would serial killers captivate


audiences so thoroughly – in fictional portraits, as well as real life? It’s because transgression, especially towards a degree of control not afforded ordinary members of society, always captivates. Killers act as god. And heartbreak sells magazines. And death is the basis of horror films. Depravity and sadness are the bases of heart wrenching books, soap operas, even reality television…. Unfortunately, what we’re dealing with here – with snuff – is potentially the idea that anything can be bested, and that we, as a society, constantly desire to leap into the next level of evil – to not only kill someone, but to film it as it happens; to distribute that visual document for all to see; to not only watch someone get hit by a train, but to see it from their perspective, in complete, true reality. So does Snuff exist? Yeah, I think so. But what matters is that we’ve come to the point in our development where you can readily access the real, hired killing of a human being online – in


Torrent files, or if you search hard enough on Google – whenever you want. It also matters that there’s a market for everything… The screen shows five men wearing mostly black, covered head to toe with cloth, accept for their eyes (which we would see if the film quality wasn’t so poor and grainy; the scene looks like it was filmed on a cheap home camera). In front of these five men, another man – a prisoner, dressed in what look like orange scrubs – sits on the ground with his feet tied together in front of him. His hands are tied behind his back. The man on the ground introduces himself eight seconds into the film. He says his name is Nick Berg. Shortly thereafter, one of the masked men reads a pronouncement in Arabic. After more than four minutes, one of the masked men attacks Berg with a knife. Berg is then surrounded; we hear screams; he is held down and beheaded.


Five and a half minutes into the film, the head is presented to the camera, dripping blood. It is then laid on a headless dead body, wearing orange scrubs. The tape ends in coarse blackness.


What Charlie Saw Jesse Hicks It was hot. One hundred and ten degrees in the sun, ninety-eight in the shade – Texas-hot, the sticky end-of-summer heat rippling the morning air. As the sun approached its apex on August 1, 1966, the horizon blurred and shimmered, a distant unreachable mirage. The sky was cloudless blue. Under the Austin sky Thomas F. Eckman walked with his girlfriend, Claire Wilson, a freshman anthropology student at the University of Texas at Austin. Eight months pregnant with the


couple’s son, she’d just finished her morning class; afterwards, the two 18 year-olds sat drinking coffee at the Chuckwagon, the student diner and café. Deciding they'd better put another nickel in the parking meter, Thomas and Claire passed from the oak-shaded perimeter of the university’s South Mall onto the open cement of the upper terrace, where the punishing sun awaited them. They passed the heart of campus, the Main Building bearing the inscription, "Ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free." Above them rose Paul Phillipe Cret's 307-foot Spanish Renaissance monument to the spirit of human achievement, the University of Texas Tower, iconic centerpiece of the University and of the Austin skyline. On the Tower's 28th floor observation deck, Charles Joseph Whitman, Eagle Scout, former Marine, and University of Texas architecture student, lowered a bright blue eye to the M8-4X Leupold Scope mounted on his Remington Model


700 bolt-action rifle. Inside he'd left five bodies. Edna Townsley, 47, the observation deck receptionist (mother to sons Danny and Terry), lay unconscious and bleeding on the floor, her skull caved in by Whitman's rifle butt. Marguerite Lampour and Mark Gabour lay dead in the blood-splattered stairwell, victims of Whitman's shotgun blasts. Mark Gabour's brother, Mike, his shoulder riddled with shot, lay unconscious next to his critically-injured mother, Mary. Above them, Whitman had barricaded the 28th floor door with a heavy desk and chairs. How long he looked down from the observation deck is uncertain. Those moments are lost, beckoning lacunae, always slipping through our restless sifting of history. How many students his crosshairs passed over before settling on Claire Wilson: this is also unknown. Claire Wilson and Thomas Eckman held hands as they walked. This we know. How they looked at one another, what possible futures their eyes held


on that end-of-summer morning, how they were and might have been: this we do not know. At 11:45 AM, as measured on its gold-plated, 12-foot clocks, the Tower's 17-bell carillon rang 12 times. Over the campus resounded the Westminster Quarters, with their echoing supplication, "Lord, through this hour/Be thou our guide/For in thy power we do abide." What Charles Whitman, former parishioner and altar boy of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Lake Worth, Florida, thought as he heard those chimes is unknowable. Whether, as he chambered the 6mm Remington cartridge, his mind raced or was still, sere and blankly serene as the Texas badlands; whether his thoughts were collected, methodical, or the white-noise rush of unhinged rage; whether his actions pivoted on impulse or calculation: these questions have no answers. There are other answers. Other facts can be excavated. Pfc. Whitman's United States Marine Corps shooting score, for example: 215 out of a


possible 250. Recognized with the degree of sharp shooter, he was "an excellent shot who appeared to be more accurate against moving targets." The sun beats down on Charles Whitman as he sights down the scope. A white headband keeps the sweat from his eyes. The Tower clock stands at 11:48 as he takes a breath, holds it, a caesura before beginning. He sights and slowly slides back the trigger, exhaling with the rifle's delicate wisp of smoke, a low, whimpering report, and lead launched on fire spirals downward at 3,000 feet/sec, outpacing explanation, accelerating past comprehension, meaning, toward Claire Wilson, becoming now an electric lance moving through her, searing its path through her hip, her stomach, her colon and uterus before claiming its target, the skull of her unborn son. Claire Wilson screams and falls. Her blood pools on the hot cement, drying to a deep crimson.


“No se puede mirar” (“One can’t look”) (Francisco de Goya, Disasters of War) This is bright young Charlie, age 12, playing piano. His limber hands dance across the white and black keys; at each touch of his fingers a hammer rises, striking steel strings and making them quiver. The vibrations are inaudible as they pass through a wooden bridge to the long, thin soundboard. They spread through the soundboard's mass and into the air -- the motion of quarter notes, half notes, whole notes that begin his reading of black-and-white marks on a page. He sees; he translates; he acts, and there is music in the world. This is how Charlie conjures. The notes coalesce into a lyrical, melancholic tune, the third movement of Claude Debussy's Suite bergamasque for solo piano. The movement, titled “Claire de Lune” is an Impressionist piece in D-flat major played mostly in pp -- pianissimo,


quietly, with tenderness. Charlie's song wanders through the rooms of the house in middle-class Lake Worth, Florida. This is his father's house. Large, wood-framed, best in the area, with impressive awnings shielding its windows from the heat; the landscaped front yard dotted with fruit trees and immaculately maintained; the backyard swimming pool, the finely furnished rooms and the upstairs apartment: this is what Charles Adolphus “C.A” Whitman has provided his family. He does not hesitate to remind them of this fact. He is a self-made man, who grew up in an orphanage to become a driven entrepreneur. A strict disciplinarian, he satisfies his family’s every material need, expecting only obedience and excellence in return. “With all three of my sons it was ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir,’” C.A. says later, in early August of 1966, “They minded me. The way I looked at it, I am not ashamed of any spankings. I don’t think I spanked enough, if you want to


know the truth about it. I think they should have been punished more than they were punished.” C.A’s use of physical punishment extends to his wife, Margaret. “I did on many occasions beat my wife, but I loved her … I did and do have an awful temper, but my wife was awful stubborn, and we had some clashes over the more than twenty-five years of our life together. I have to admit it, because of my temper, I knocked her around.” This is Charlie’s family. Pictures of them hang on nearly every wall of the house. Next to many of those pictures hang guns, rifles mostly. “I’m a fanatic about guns,” C.A. tells reporters, “I raised my boys to know how to handle guns.” Charlie and his two younger brothers, Patrick and Michael, learn to shoot as soon as they’re physically able; before he enters grade school Charlie has shot his first gun. “Charlie could plug a squirrel in the eye by the time he was sixteen,” the father boasts. Charlie begins piano lessons at seven, just


before enrolling at Sacred Heart Catholic Church’s grade school. By twelve he has mastered the instrument. In 1952, at his father’s prodding, Charlie tries to join the Boy Scouts. Told the minimum age to join is 11, he attends meetings anyway. Fifteen months after his eleventh birthday, Charlie attains the rank of Eagle Scout, having earned 21 merit badges in just over a year. (Later he claims to have been the youngest Eagle Scout in the world, though no such record exists.) To make money – and to satisfy his father’s demand that he be financially independent – Charlie takes on one of the largest Miami Herald paper routes in the area. To his teachers he’s a model student with an IQ of 138.9 – “Very Superior,” according to the Stanford-Binet intelligence scale. He ranks in the top 5% on national standardized tests. For all these early accomplishment, Charlie’s high school years are relatively undistinguished. He’s just one of the guys by his friends’ recollections, neither particularly good nor bad,


and not particularly memorable. Maybe a little more eager to take a dare, a little more eager to please. Ray Roy, a friend from Saint Ann’s High School, later recalls Charlie’s need to impress: “They had a tower at Saint Ann’s with some sort of circus act. It was a real tower and someone bet him he wouldn’t go up; we were in the tenth grade. He went all the way to the top.” His sense of humor tends toward the morbid, but he has normal relationships with several girls and while not the school’s most popular student, has no trouble making friends. He grows into his father’s ideal, becoming a pitcher for the high school baseball team and manager of the football team. But like many high school students, Charlie slacks off in his final two years. His grades suffer; his attendance falls. When he graduates in 1959, his final GPA is 3.30. To celebrate his graduation, Charlie goes out with a group of friends and gets drunk. When he returns home, C.A. is waiting. There’s yelling,


violence. C.A. loses his temper. He throws Charlie in the pool. Charlie, drunk and unable to swim, nearly drowns. Soon after, on June 27, 1959, just three days after his 18 th birthday, the fed-up Charlie enlists in the U.S. Marines. This is how Charlie escapes. He enters the Marines, trading one system of regimentation for another. Again Charlie finds comfort in ceding responsibility to another, larger force. After basic training and a stint at Guantanamo Naval Base, Charlie qualifies for the National Enlisted Science Education Program and received a scholarship to the University of TexasAustin. There, in February of 1960, he meets Kathy Leissner, an education major. He would later write, “Her eyes are like twinkling stars, they are what fascinated me on our first meeting … I can honestly say that she is the most versatile women I have ever known.” This is how Charlie falls in love. On August 1962 the two get married.


The next four years are a strenuous time for the newlywed Whitmans. Charlie, with no one to instill a sense of responsibility in him, lets his grades slip once more, and the Marines revoke his scholarship. He finds himself back in active duty, hating it, and missing Kathy. C.A. eventually steps in to have Charlie’s military commitment shortened. Charlie returns to school with a new dedication. Then, in early 1966, Margaret Whitman leaves her husband. She flees to Austin, putting Charlie between his mother and father. C.A. is enraged; Charlie’s studies again begin to falter. At one point he decides to abandon school completely, leave Kathy behind, and simply bum around the country. Only the intercession of Professor Barton Riley, himself a former Marine, keeps him from leaving. At Riley's house, Charlie returns to the piano. For a long time he'd refused to play, even when urged by family and friends. This time, though, for whatever reason, he can’t resist. He sits down at


the baby grand and again plays Claire de Lune. Debussy’s movement is based on a poem by Paul Verlaine, a stanza of which reads: The while they celebrate in minor strain Triumphant love, effective enterprise, They have an air of knowing all is vain,-And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise But Charlie’s notes come out all wrong. They don’t dance, but thud loudly and too strong. Yet as he plays, Charlie's stress seems to ease, and Debussy's lyricism returns. Only a few months later, on the evening of July 31, Charlie's hands move across the keys of his typewriter. "I don't quite understand what it is that compels me to type this letter. Perhaps it is to leave some vague reason for the actions I have recently performed," he writes. "I don't really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be


an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can't recall when it started) I have been the victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts." He mentions failed attempts at professional help with his rising violent impulses, how he's tried to face his demons alone and lost. He writes, "It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight after I pick her up from the telephone company." So he does, stabbing her five times in the chest as she sleeps. She dies instantly. "I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have." He continues, "I intend to kill her as painlessly as possible." "Similar reasons provoked me to take my mother's life also. I don't think the poor woman has ever enjoyed life as she is entitled to." Charlie visits his mother's apartment just after midnight on the morning of August 1, where he strangles her with a piece of rubber tubing. On his unfinished


note Charlie scribbles, "8-1-66, Mon., 3:00 AM. Both Dead." He spends the morning preparing. He loads his Marine footlocker with ammunition, his Remington bolt-action rifle, a Sears 12-gauge shotgun, a Remington 35 caliber pump-action rifle, a M-1 30-caliber carbine, a .357 Magnum, a 9mm Luger, and a 6.35mm Galesci-Brescia automatic pistol. He rents a dolly and dons a pair of overalls. As he wheels his dolly into the elevator at the UT tower, everyone assumes he is a janitor. Vera Palmer, the elevator attendant who would've replaced Edna Townsley at the observation deck 45 minutes later, says to Charlie, "Your elevator is turned off." She flips the switch to enable elevator #2, and Charlie mumbles with a polite smile, "Thank you, ma'am. You don't know how happy that makes me." The elevator begins to climb. This is how Charlie comes to his Tower.


Overwhelmed by a 14-credit college schedule, his part-time job as a research assistant, and an increasingly fractured family life, Whitman began binging on Dexedrine, a powerful amphetamine that he used to stay awake, often for days at a time. Whitman took the pills “like candy” in order to have time to complete his studies; perversely, the lack of sleep ruined his concentration and he fell further behind in his schoolwork. When he could, he took another pill, Librium, to help him sleep. Though it’s uncertain just how extreme his drug use became, he often suffered headaches, mood swings, and extreme nervousness – his nail-biting habit returned and worsened. He seemed oblivious to the danger of the drugs he


took; even unaware of the effect they’d have on his body. Armchair pharmacists have suggested that August 1 found Whitman in the grip of “amphetamine psychosis” brought on by his drug abuse. As his bodily fluids were not substantively analyzed during the autopsy, evidence for this is lacking.

The autopsy revealed, in addition to an “unusually thin” skull, a grayishyellow brain tumor 2 x 1.5 x 1 cm in dimension just below the thalamus. The Connally Commission, a task force assembled by the Texas governor to review the events of August 1, concluded, “the relationship between the brain tumor and Charles J. Whitman’s actions on the last day of his life cannot be established with clarity. However, the highly


malignant tumor conceivably could have contributed to his inability to control his emotions and actions.” This verdict failed to quell the speculation that the tumor’s compression of the amygdaloid nucleus – the area of the brain most related to emotion, especially fear and rage – eventually propelled Whitman into his killing spree. The killer himself made a final bid for biochemical absolution, writing in his final note, “After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed to see if there is any visible physical disorder. I have had tremendous headaches in the past and have consumed two large bottles of Excedrin in the past three months.”

On March 29, 1966, Whitman met with University of Texas psychiatrist Dr. Maurice Dean Heatly. Heatly’s notes


describe a “massive, muscular youth … oozing with hostility” who believed “something was happening to him and he didn’t seem to be himself.” During his first and only visit to the psychiatrist, Whitman, “self-centered and egocentric,” complained about his inability to surpass the domineering father he hated. Despite having reached a level of education and marital success that his father never had, Whitman envied C.A.’s financial success. He spoke vaguely about such feelings. He did, however, make “a vivid reference to ‘thinking about going up on the tower with a deer rifle and start shooting people.’” He wept. Dr. Heatly scheduled a follow-up appointment for the next week. Whitman never appeared.



some later argued, turned Whitman into a killing machine. The Marine Corps training installed in him the belief that he could take lives at will and without consequence. This attitude is satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, when Gunnery Sergeant Hartman commends the skill of Whitman and Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, saying, “Those individuals showed what one motivated Marine and his rifle can do.” To make the connection among the God of Death and Marines even more explicit, he says, “God has a hard-on for Marines because we kill everything we see! He plays His games, we play ours! To show our appreciation for so much power, we keep heaven packed with fresh souls!” Whitman, from his perch in the high tower, became like a vengeful demigod, an architect of fear packing his “heaven” with souls.



Following his abandon-ment of Catholicism, Whitman developed his own religious worldview. It was a mélange of Hindu pantheism, St. Thomas Aquina’s proof of the existence of God as the Uncaused Cause, and the Law of Conservation of Energy. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, Whitman speculated, it must have a kind of omnipotence. Human beings partake of this energy; therefore, God is within mankind, in the form of individual conscience. And since energy cannot be destroyed, there must be an afterlife to which a person’s energy returns after death. This was Whitman’s heaven; his hell was Earth. Death – for his mother, for his wife, for him – was a gateway to a better place.


Since the beginning of 1966, the score to Whitman’s life had descended into a minor key, his future ambitions played in perdendo. As his parents’ marriage disintegrated, he and Kathy were caught in the middle. C.A. called constantly, demanding to speak to his wife. Meanwhile, Whitman’s vague buy seemingly always-frustrated ambitions gnawed at him – his diaries are filled with life plans and money-making schemes that never went anywhere. He worried that his wife provided more financially for the couple than he; he worried that he’d never best the father he hated so passionately. The note Whitman wrote after killing his mother, addressed “To Whom It May Concern,” lays responsibility for the murders directly on C.A.: “The intense hatred I feel for my


father is beyond description. My mother gave that man the 25 best years of her life and because she finally took enough of his beatings, humiliation and degradation and tribulations that I am sure no one but she and he will ever know - to leave him. He has chosen to treat her like a slut that you would bed down with, accept her favors and then threw a pitance [sic] in return. “I am truly sorry that this is the only way I could see to relieve her sufferings but I think it was best. “Let there be no doubt in your mind I loved that woman with ^all^ my heart.” The father’s sins of domestic abuse and pathological ambition had become the son’s, and on August 1 they erupted.

He grew up with guns; an infamous


photo published in Life shows a two yearold Whitman at the beach, balancing himself on two rifles that stand taller than he. C.A. Whitman said after the shooting, “Those guns aren’t to blame for anything,” but had his son’s rage been channeled into less innately violent avenues, or had Charles Whitman been unable to stockpile such an arsenal, the argument goes, August 1 might have passed as any other day.

A. HEART BORN DECEITFUL: By the Hyper-Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, Charles Whitman is an egg with a rotten yolk, destined for damnation. Psychologically, he’d be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder: incapable of feeling empathy, disdainful of social norms, and prone to impulsive behavior. The high-functioning


APD individual learns to imitate a concern for others, but knows no aim other than self-satisfaction. Reporter Zarko Franks wrote soon after the shooting, “The mad sniper was a chameleon. He was the boy next door you’d want your daughter to meet. He had poise, looks and intelligence. And he had a club foot in his tortured mind.” The Charles Whitman known to others – the one with “all the standard appellations of a high school yearbook. He was easily the ‘Best Looking,’ ‘Friendliest,’ and ‘Most Mature,’” as his college English professor put it – was, in this view, a trick of the light shrouding his heart of darkness. B. THE STARS: In Whitman’s astrological chart, Mars -- the planet associated with action and aggression, named for the Roman god of death and war -- dominates the top half. Specifically, it draws energy into the 12th House, the realm of psychological


disturbances and self-undoing. Even more ominously, Pluto, the planet of extremes, of all-or-nothing ambitions, forms a Square Aspect to the Ascendant Mars. Two planets in the Square Aspect oppose one another, causing unhealthy stress within the individual. By the star charts, while the specifics of Whitman’s disintegration could not be divined, that he would tear himself apart is obvious.



Crutches have long figured in Dali’s paintings. He has said they represent dualism, the world split into opposites. They also serve to open windows between realities, as in the Tower. There the crutch holds up a section of the crumbling dark stone, allowing us to glimpse the light of a further mystery beyond the images we know and think we understand. Dali’s Tarot) What in the midst lay but the Tower itself? The round squat turret, blind as the fool's heart (Robert Browning, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came") Hier ist kein warum. (Guard, Auschwitz.) (Rachel Pollack, Salvador


Is there meaning here? In On Aging: Revolt and Resignation, Jean Amery writes that “death cancels the sense of every kind of reason.” In the face of death’s absurdity, reason shivers. What are we looking for within this collage of grim explanation? To enter the yearbook eyes of Charles Joseph Whitman, penetrate the too-thin skull and illuminate the shadowed spaces of his mind – what would it offer us, the survivors? Consolation? Reconciliation? At some point this stops being about Charles Whitman. His bullet are simple, their paths straight and easily traced. They promise clarity, predictability. They promise the possibility of a proper accounting in which, when every fact is assembled and in its rightful place and context, a picture will emerge. It will remain appalling, but it will be whole, comprehensible. It will be powerless to beckon with its dead zones and known unknowns, a picture in which all shadows


are named and thereby made impotent. The shadow of death will yield to the judgment of reason and we, the humans, will once again be in control. As Susan Neiman writes in Evil in Modern Thought, “To seek a frame in which to set evil is to seek something less than a full theoretical explanation for it. For an exhaustive theoretical explanation would restrict our room for freedom. To claim that evil is comprehensible is not to demand a full account but to make a commitment to naturalism. It is also to claim that our capacity for moral judgment is fundamentally sound.” And yet still there is Charles Whitman, shade without color, another mirage in the overheated Texas air, climbing the tower like a man ascending a throne, dark sovereign of the twilight kingdom. From his Tower he held Austin hostage, firing round after round from the 28th floor. When Claire Wilson collapsed, her boyfriend knelt beside her and said “Baby--” just before Whitman fired


his next round. It caught Thomas Eckman in the shoulder; he fell dead next to his girlfriend. But Claire was alive. She spent the next horrific hourand-a-half on the hot cement as bullets impacted seemingly everywhere within a 500-yard radius of the Tower. Dr. Hamilton Boyer was the next to die, as a 6mm round tore through his left kidney. Whitman moved around the observation deck as he shot, leading witnesses to believe there were multiple snipers. Many others were slow to realize the popping noises coming from the Tower were gunshots. As a result, for the first fifteen minutes of his spree, Whitman had his choice of virtually any target he could see. And if he could see it, he could hit it. He shot Thomas Ashton, a Peace Corps trainee, in the chest. Ashton died at Brackenridge Hospital. When reports of gunfire reached Allen R. Hamilton, Chief of University of Texas Traffic Control and Security, he dispatched two policemen to the Tower. They reached the 27 th floor by 11:55


AM, but neither was armed. M.J. Gabour, father to Mike and Mark Gabour, husband to Mary Gabour, staggered toward the two, saying, “Give me a gun, he has killed my wife and family.” The offices closed all Tower exits and warned people to stay out of sight. Meanwhile, Austin Police officer Houston McCoy made his way toward the campus. All he’d understood of the dispatcher’s garbled radio call were the words “University Tower” and “shooting.” On arriving he too assumed multiple snipers. The possibility that Austin was under attack by a well-armed radical group crossed his mind. In the time it had taken him to reach the university, Austin’s citizens had taken matters into t h e i r o w n h a n d s . Wi t n e s s B i l l H e l m e r remembered, “A friend of mine was glued to the TV at the San Jacinto Cafe, near campus, when a guy with a deer rifle ran in, grabbed a six-pack of beer, and ran back out.” Shooters peppered the


Tower with bullets. Whitman, though, had the high ground. He used the observation deck’s concrete parapet for cover, firing through rainspouts, which made him nearly impossible to hit from the ground. He fired another 6mm round in the direction of policeman Billy Speed. The bullet found a narrow opening in Speed’s own concrete cover, mortally wounding him. Houston McCoy was getting impatient. The Austin Police Department was in disarray; nothing like this had ever happened before. Though dozens of off-duty officers had arrived to help, there was little communication among them, and no coherent plan. McCoy reached the 28th floor reception area, where he met fellow officer Ramiro Martinez. They both eyed the observation deck’s glasspaneled door, having no idea what awaited them outside. Martinez kicked the door repeatedly, eventually dislodging the dolly Whitman had used


as a barricade. They waited, listening to the gunshots and trying to decide their next move. Martinez had a 38 revolver; McCoy a 12gauge shotgun. As shots rang out from the northwest corner, Martinez resolved to open the door and enter the deck from the south. McCoy backed him up as the moved around the southeast corner. Martinez warned the tall, lanky McCoy to stay low as ground fire struck over their heads. Martinez rounded the northeast corner and saw Whitman seated with his back to the northwest corner, carbine aimed at the observation deck door. Martinez fired a quick six shots from his revolver as Whitman brought the rifle around. He fired. Yet this time he missed. The bullets disappeared into the blue Texas sky. Houston McCoy turned the corner and looked Whitman directly in the eyes. Then he pulled the trigger, aiming for Whitman’s white headband. The 12gauge roared and the pellets tore through


Whitman’s head, through his blue eyes. McCoy chambered another shell and fired again. Martinez grabbed the shotgun and charged, firing a third time into Whitman’s now prone body. Blue-eyed Mr. Death didn’t move. At 1:24 PM, 96 minutes after it had begun, Whitman’s spree came to an end. In his last, desperate act, he had taken 15 lives and wounded 33 others. In his diary Whitman once wrote, “I have thoughts [sic] very much about the concept of ‘death.’ When it overtakes me someday I must remember to observe closely and see if it is as I thought it would be.” Whether it was as he thought it would be is unanswerable. What he thought as the 00 buckshot silenced his mind; whether he went to his death like a soldier; whether he felt himself transform into a form of pure energy; whether he, having plucked the gossamer thread of history and knowing he was now of consequence, felt all his ambitions satisfied: this is unknowable. Maybe he thought nothing at all.


Charles Whitman is dead; his body laid to rest in a simple ceremony, an American flag draped across the former Marine’s coffin. His body and his secrets are buried beneath a simple metal plaque in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is dead and we are alive. Just as Claire Wilson survived his bullet, Austin, America, the human world outlived Whitman’s rage. But Claire’s son did not survive. The possibilities his life held have vanished, and with that death a different world replaces the one he might have known. Charles Whitman with his crosshair benediction gave us a different future, one in which the low, attenuated echoes of his shots are still felt at Columbine and Jonesboro, in the flippant turn-of-phrase “going postal,” and by every high school student who cringes at the sound of a car backfiring. William T. Vollmann, writing in the voice of the revolutionary terrorist, captures the


hopelessness of Whitman’s thinking: “The fewer possibilities I have, the more urgently I must imagine.” Whitman’s world of possibilities had shrunk to the size of a gun barrel, and his revenge is a final act of conjuration, of making imagination manifest: with a single bullet he moved the world. The culmination of his urgent imaginings is an enlargement of what sociologists call “the social script” – the historically- and culturally-defined collection of possible human actions. Where once we could not imagine a lone gunman in a tower firing at random, or a disgruntled postal clerk taking violent revenge on a system that’s betrayed him, or a pair of misfit high school seniors plotting to destroy the school whose students refused to accept them – envisioning these acts is no longer beyond us. They are options available to every angry young man whose incandescent rages flames from the inside out until, like Charlie, it burns us all. It’s impossible even to recapture the horror of Whitman’s act, because the world it ended is so


alien to us, so fast-receding, that it might very well seem “utopia” – “nowhere.” We cannot even feel bitterness, or anger, or sadness, as the wound of August 1, 1966 fades to a pale white scar on the collective unconsciousness. Yet it remains. From that reality reason offers no shelter. From his high tower Charlie saw a future, and with his bullets he pushed us into it. But here I want to counter his dead imagination. He was human, but we do not have to forgive him, or overestimate his power. He did not birth a new kind of evil; epochs do not turn on one angry man with a gun. Postlapsarian worlds are not born with the whimper of rifle shots, and Charlie is only one more flower of evil on humanity’s long, snaking vine. But as long as we are alive and human, we can imagine bigger than he could. We can imagine Charles Whitman and Claire Wilson – C.W. and C.W., Claire and clair obscura – twinned at the moment of a world’s conception, linked down the barrel of that Remington Model 700. In this


moment “if” becomes a talisman, the focus of our yearning for that other unscarred world, the one that didn’t happen, where Whitman’s ambition and rage failed him and Claire and Thomas complete their walk across the South Mall. That other world, most directly, is one inhabited by Thomas Eckman, Paul Sonntag, Claudia Rutt, Robert Boyer, Billy Speed, Roy Schmidt, Edna Townsley, Marguerite Lamport, Mark Gabour, Harry Walchuck, Thomas Ashton, Thomas Karr, Roy Dell Schmidt, Margaret Whitman, Kathy Whitman (linger over their names if you can, an incantation for the dead and the nameless). It’s a world with an impoverished vocabulary of violence, a place where the phrase “going postal” has no gravity. This is the world of that morning, August 1, 1966, where the heat shimmers in the air and couples walk hand-in-hand over green grass and under shaded trees. It is a world very far away in time and possibility, but as all doors to the past are only windows, it is a world still visible, if only through shattered glass, darkly.


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