Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What Color Is Your Helicopter?


The concept of black helicopters became popular in the United States militia movement, and in associated political circles, in the 1990s as an alleged symbol and warning sign of a conspiratorial totalitarian military takeover of part or all of the United States. Rumors would circulate that, for instance, the United Nations patrolled the US with black helicopters, or that federal agents used black helicopters to enforce wildlife laws. The concept springs from the basic truth that many government agencies and corporations do use helicopters, and that some of these helicopters are dark-colored or black. For instance, dark-colored military helicopters were deployed in the standoff at Ruby Ridge.

The phrase "black helicopters" is also sometimes used figuratively to ridicule conspiracy theories in general (see below).

In the United Kingdom, a similar phenomenon known as "phantom helicopters" has been reported since the mid 1970s. This concept relates phantom helicopters to UFOs and alien invasion rather than to martial law.

The issue was first popularized in the early 1990s by Mark Koernke (also known as Mark from Michigan) in appearances on Tom Valentine's radio show and in public speeches which were widely circulated on videocassette, and shortly thereafter by Linda Thompson in her film America Under Siege. In Alex Jones' film Police State 2000 unmarked black helicopters are shown flying low in surprise urban warfare training missions with Delta Force operators and foreign troops.

Two books on the subject: Black Helicopters Over America: Strikeforce for the New World Order (1995), and Black Helicopters II : The End Game Strategy (1998), are from the now-defunct Illuminet Press and were written by Jim Keith.

The greatest media attention to black helicopters was most probably paid in February 1995, when first-term Republican northern Idaho Representative Helen Chenoweth charged that armed federal agents were landing black helicopters on Idaho ranchers' property to enforce the Endangered Species Act. "I have never seen them," Chenoweth said in an interview in The New York Times. "But enough people in my district have become concerned that I can't just ignore it. We do have some proof." Chenoweth made the charges at a press conference without ever consulting with the Department of the Interior.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the act, says that they do not own any helicopters nor have ever used any in Idaho. The only green and black military helicopters known to be used in Idaho are used by the National Guard. Black helicopters without FAA-required running lights are regularly used by the drug interdiction office of the DEA. In addition, most U.S. Army helicopters (such as the Black Hawk) are finished in a very dark chocolate or olive matte paint.

Black helicopters have also been reported in the areas where cattle mutilation has been reported. The black helicopters theory resonates well with the belief held by some in the militia movement that troops from the United Nations might invade the United States.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

All we know is, he's called The Stig!


The Stig is the name given to the anonymous racing driver on the BBC motoring show Top Gear. In the show he is cast as a mysterious "tame racing driver" whose identity is unknown, and who never speaks or removes his helmet on camera. Nonetheless he is fully credited as a presenter, albeit as "The Stig", alongside Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.

The Stig's primary functions on the show are to post lap times in various cars around the Top Gear Test Track in Dunsfold Park, and to train each week's guest in setting a lap time in the Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car feature on the show. In addition the Stig carries out other driving duties when the need arises.

Another source of entertainment for the presenters is the music The Stig listens to whilst doing Power Laps around the Top Gear track. Often a specific genre will be chosen for one or more series. These have included power ballads, one-hit wonders, easy listening, country and western, prog rock, baroque, advertising jingles, foreign language tapes, romantic novels, salesman techniques, the speeches of Margaret Thatcher, and self-help tapes.

The hosts of the show will often introduce footage of The Stig by offering humorous speculations as to his identity, such as "Some say that his voice can only be heard by cats, and that he is banned from the city of Chichester. All we know is... he's called The Stig." The introductions often include references to topical news stories. Previously, Stig's name would be used in formal introductions, such as "His Holiness, The Stig!

Jeremy: Some say he never blinks, and that he roams around the woods at night foraging for wolves... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he's wanted by the CIA, and that he sleeps upside down like a bat... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he appears on high value stamps in Sweden, and that he can catch fish with his tongue... we know him only, as the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he is illegal in 17 U.S. states, and he blinks this way [motioning his fingers in a horizontal fashion]... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his breath smells of magnesium, and that he's scared of bells... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he naturally faces magnetic north, and that all of his legs are hydraulic... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he lives in a tree, and that his sweat can be used to clean precious metals... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his heart ticks like a watch, and that he's confused by stairs... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his voice can only be heard by cats, and that he has two sets of knees... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he's terrified of ducks, and that there's an airport in Russia named after him... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Richard: Some say his skin has the texture of a dolphin's, and that where ever you are in the world, if you tune your radio to 88.4, you can actually hear his thoughts... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he has no understanding of clouds, and that his ear wax tastes like Turkish delight... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his politics are terrifying, and that he once punched a horse to the ground... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his tears are adhesive, and that if he caught fire, he'd burn for a thousand days... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Richard: Some say he can swim seven lengths under water, and he has webbed buttocks... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his heart is in upside down, and that his teeth glow in the dark... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his ears aren't exactly where you'd expect them to be, and that once, preposterously, he had an affair with John Prescott... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he has a digital face, and that if he felt like it, he could fire Alan Sugar... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his genitals are on upside down, and that if he could be bothered, he could crack the Da Vinci Code in 43 seconds... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Richard: Some say his ears have a paisley lining, and he's been banned from the Chelsea Flower Show... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that the outline of his left nipple is exactly the same shape as the Nürburgring, and that if you give him a really important job to do, he'll skive off and play croquet... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he invented Branston Pickle, and that if you insult his mother, he will head-butt you in the chest... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that on really warm days, he sheds his skin like a snake, and that for some reason, he's allergic to the Dutch... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Richard: Some say that his first name really is "The," and that if he went on Celebrity Love Island, they'd all be pregnant including the camera men... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say he once threw a microwave oven at a tramp, and long before anyone else, he realized that Jade Goody was a racist pig-faced waste of blood and organs... [the audience applauds wildly and Jeremy pauses for a short moment]... [laughing] all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he once had a vicious knife fight with Anthea Turner, and that he is in no way implicated in the cash for honours scandal... all we know is, he's called Lord Stig!

Jeremy: Some say that he's a CIA experiment gone wrong, and that he only eats cheese... all we know is, he's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's American cousin!

Jeremy: Some say that if you lick his chest, it tastes exactly the same as piccalilli, and that at this week's Brit awards, he was arrested for goosing Russell Brand:... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he sucks the moisture from ducks, and that his crash helmet is modelled on Britney Spears' head... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Richard: Some say he isn't machine washable, and all his potted plants are called Steve... all we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that his scrotum has its own small gravity field, and that because our producer rigged a phone vote, he now has a new name. All we know is, he's called Cuddles.

Jeremy: Some say that he's banned from the town of Chichester, and that in a recent late-night deal, he bought a slightly dented white Fiat Uno from the Duke of Edinburgh. All we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he gets terrible eczema on his helmet, and that if he'd been the video referee at the World Cup Rugby Final, he'd have seen 'of course it was a try you blind Australian half-wit'! All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Jeremy: (on African Stig) Some say he's seen The Lion King 1780 times, and that his second best friend is a cape buffalo... all we know is, he's not the Stig, but he is the Stig's African cousin.

Jeremy: Some say that to unlock him, you have to run your finger down his face, like this (runs his finger down the face of an audience member standing nearby), and that if he was getting divorced from Paul McCartney, he'd keep his stupid whiney mouth shut! All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he thought Star Wars was a documentary, and that he recently pulled out of I'm A Celebrity because he is scared of trees... and Australia... and Koo Stark... and Ant... and Dec. All we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that when he slows down brake lights come on in his buttocks, and that if he'd been the manager of the England football squad last week, he wouldn't have been a feckless ginger gum-chewing buffoon who ruined it for all of us. All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that he once lost a canoe on a beach in the north-east, and that he once did some time in a prison in Canterbury, because his teddy is called The Baby Jesus. All we know is, he's called the Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that after making love, he bites the head off his partner. And that he's had to give up binge drinking now that it's gone to one pound eighteen to a litre. All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Jeremy: Some say that each of his toenails are exactly the same as a woman's nipples, and that he thinks that "credit-crunch" is some kind of a breakfast cereal. All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Jeremy: Some say his droppings have been found as far north as York. And that he has a full size tattoo of his face, on his face. All we know is, he's called The Stig!

Jeremy: Some say that he is not allowed, by law, within 100 yards of Lorraine Kelly, and that he's never seen an episode of Top Gear, because he's a huge fan of Midsomer Murders! All we know is, he's called Bergerac!

Richard: Some say it's impossible for him to wear socks, and he can open a beer bottle with his testes! All we know is, he's called The Stig.

Oofty Goofty


Oofty Goofty was the stage name of a sideshow performer who lived in San Francisco in the late 19th century.

Oofty's real name, background, place of birth and death are in some dispute. Most of what is known of him comes from a book by Herbert Asbury, The Barbary Coast, An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, published in 1933. There is some information that suggests his true name may have been Joshua Marks (or Marx), that he may have been a deserter from the German Army or that he may have come from Tennessee. In any instance, it is known he came to San Francisco following the Gold Rush of 1849 to seek his fortune. Asbury says that he got the name "Oofty Goofty" from an appearance he had done at a Market Street sideshow, where he was billed as the Wild Man of Borneo. He was said to have been covered over most of his body by a mixture of tar and horsehair, put into a cage and fed raw meat by an attendant. When fed, he would let out a fierce cry of "Oofty goofty!" - hence his stage name.

Oofty's career as a wild man came to an end after about a week when he took ill, unable to perspire because of the tar on his skin. Doctors at the city's Receiving Hospital tried for days to remove the tar, but could not do so, presumably because of the horsehair. The tar finally came off after Oofty was doused with tar solvent and left to lie on the hospital's roof.

Afterward, Oofty attempted to gain success through the stage and theater. He got as far as playing Romeo opposite one "Big Bertha's" Juliet, but the play proved disastrous. Asbury said that Oofty discovered after being thrown out of a Barbary Coast saloon onto a hard cobblestone street that he felt no pain. Afterward, he would tour San Francisco, baseball bat in hand, and invite anyone who would listen to strike him with the bat for 50 cents. Asbury ends his account saying that boxer John L. Sullivan ended Oofty's bizarre career when he struck him across the back with a pool cue, fracturing two vertebrae. Asbury reports that Oofty walked with a limp the rest of his life and died a few years later.

[More on Oofty Goofty at Sideshow World]

Friday, September 26, 2008

What's On Tonight, Dear?


Prolefeed is a Newspeak term in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. It was used to describe the deliberately useless literature, movies and music that were produced by Prolesec, a section of the Ministry of Truth, to keep the "proles" (i.e., proletariat) content and to prevent them from becoming too knowledgeable and rebelling against the ruling Party. A quote from the novel illustrates it:

And the Ministry had not only to supply the multifarious needs of the party, but also to repeat the whole operation at a lower level for the benefit of the proletariat. There was a whole chain of separate departments dealing with proletarian literature, music, drama, and entertainment generally. Here were produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and sentimental songs which were composed entirely by mechanical means on a special kind of kaleidoscope known as a versificator. There was even a whole sub-section — Pornosec, it was called in Newspeak — engaged in producing the lowest kind of pornography, which was sent out in sealed packets and which no Party member, other than those who worked on it, was permitted to look at.

The term has been used to describe shallow entertainment in the real world, e.g. news about famous celebrities featured in supermarket tabloids and tabloid television.

... where the wolpertinger roams ....


The Wolpertinger (Crisensus bavaricus) (also called "Wolperdinger", "Poontinger" or "Woiperdinger") is a fictional animal said to inhabit the alpine forests of Bavaria in Germany. It has body parts of various animals — generally wings, antlers, and fangs, all attached to the body of a small mammal. The most widespread description is that of a horned rabbit or a horned squirrel. It is similar to the Rasselbock of the Thuringian Forest, the Elwedritsche of the Palatinate region, which is described as a chicken-like creature with antlers, and to the American invention of the jackalope, as well as to the Swedish Skvader.

Stuffed Wolpertingers, composed of parts of real stuffed animals, are often displayed in inns or sold to tourist as souvenirs in the animals' "native regions".

The Wolpertinger is not a typical cryptid, as local people probably never believed in its existence. Rather, it is some kind of traditional joke, as is evident from the many stuffed Wolpertingers displayed in village inns along with real hunting trophies, which have been fabricated deliberately in order to make fun of gullible foreigners who may want to go hunting for this remarkable animal.

Like the jackalope, the Wolpertinger is thought to have been inspired by sightings of wild rabbits infected with the Shope papilloma virus, which causes the growth of antler-like tumors in various places on the rabbit's head and body.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Grinning Man

The Grinning Man is the name given to one or more mysterious figures that has become associated with various reports of paranormal activity. The Grinning Man is sometimes described as being an extraterrestrial, MIB or a hominid cryptid and was investigated by notable paranormal author John A. Keel and ufologist James Moseley. Arguably the best known Grinning Man was Indrid Cold, who appears during the Mothman sightings. Reports of Grinning Men often occur during periods of increased UFO reporting.

Well-known author, paranormal investigator, and journalist John A. Keel visited the boys in Elizabeth, New Jersey, three days after the incident. Along with Keel came UFO lecturer James Moseley and actor Chuck McCann. Munov and Yanchitis were interviewed by Keel separately in the home of Mr. George Smythe and both boys told the exact same story. "The man was over six feet tall, they agreed, and was dressed in a sparkling silver coverall costume that shimmered and seemed to reflect the street lights. There was a wide black belt around his waist." The boys also said "He had a very dark complexion, and little round eyes...real beady...set far apart." The most frightening and bizarre aspect of the encounter is the fact that "They could not remember seeing any hair, ears, or nose on this figure."

Perhaps the most famous sighting of a Grinning Man is reported to have taken place on October 11, 1966 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The entity was sighted by two boys, James Yanchitis and Marvin Munoz, as they were walking home along Fourth Street and New Jersey Street when they reached a corner parallel to the New Jersey Turnpike. The turnpike is elevated and there is an extremely steep incline going down from the busy street above which leads to Fourth Street. A very large, high wire fence runs along the edge of the street, making it incredibly difficult to near impossible for anyone to want to climb up the incline to the turnpike above. There are bright street lights in that area, which gave the boys a good glimpse of what they called "the strangest guy we've ever seen."

Yanchitis noticed the strange entity first. "He was standing behind that fence", he stated later to investigators. "I don't know how he got there. He was the biggest man I ever saw." "Jimmy nudged me", Marvin Munoz reported to police, "and said, Who's that guy standing behind you?' I looked around and there he was... behind that fence. Just standing there. He pivoted around and looked right at us... then he grinned a big old grin."

The figure reported by witnesses became associated with extraterrestrials because it was sighted shortly after a UFO report. The report states that a "blazing white light as big as a car" almost hit the 550-foot tall television tower outside of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. A policeman and his wife witnessed the object move in a slow manner north, and it then disappeared beyond the nearby hills. On the other side of the hills, Sergeant Benjamin Thompson and Patrolman Edward Wester, of the Wanaque Reservoir Police, also witnessed the same light at around 9:45 p.m. as it flew low over the reservoir. "The light was brilliantly white" officer Thompson stated, "It lit up the whole area for about three hundred yards. In fact, it blinded me when I got out of the patrol car to look at it, and I couldn't see for about twenty minutes afterwards."

Several Grinning Man reports were made in 1966, during the same period as the Point Pleasant, West Virginia Mothman sightings. These reports were recorded by John A. Keel in chapters 5 and 10 of his book The Mothman Prophecies.

  • The first encounter happened on November 2, 1966, a man named Woodrow Derenberger was driving his panel truck after a hard day of work. As he drove up a hill outside of Parkersburg on Interstate 77, he heard a sudden crash. A vehicle was speeding behind him, and it suddenly cut in front of him and slowed down. Derenberger looked in amazement as the vehicle that passed him looked like "an old fashioned kerosene lamp chimney, flaring at both ends, narrowing down to a small neck and then enlarging in a great bulge in the center." The "thing" blocked the road, and a door slid open on the side of the it. Then a man stepped out, the man was around 6 feet tall, with long dark hair combed straight back. His skin was heavily tanned. He wore an outfit that was made out of some sort of glistening green material. He was grinning broadly.

The man spoke to Derenberger telepathically and said his name was "Cold", and went off asking him strange questions, and the two talked for a few minutes. Then the strange entity said that he would visit Derenberger again, and he got back in the craft, and left.

  • Another case described in chapter 10 in the Mothman Prophecies book, happened in the home of the Lillys, a family living in a rural section of Point Pleasant. The Lillys were witnessing strange lights in the sky right above their home at least every night, as well as poltergeist-like manifestations inside of their home.

Mrs. Lilly said "We've seen all kinds of strange things...blue lights, green ones, red ones, things that change color. Some have been so low that we thought we could see diamond-shaped windows in them. And none of them make any noise at all." Automobiles near the Lilly home would stall unexplainably, and kitchen cabinets and doors inside the Lilly home would slam inexplicably in the middle of the night while everyone was asleep. Their living room door, which was chained and snaplocked at night, was sitting there wide open the next morning as if someone had opened it somehow from the outside. They would hear loud metallic sounds, "like a pan falling", and Mrs. Lilly said she hear a sound like "A baby crying" throughout the inside of the home. It seemed to come from only a few feet away from her in the house, but there were no babies in the home and she never saw anything. (Keep in mind that the Mothman was known to utter a cry that sounded similar to a baby crying or woman screaming.)

John A. Keel, who personally investigated and questioned the Lilly family, asked them "Did you ever dream that there was a stranger in the house in the middle of the night?" Linda Lilly, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lilly then confessed her story. She described how she woke up one night and saw a very large figure towering over her bed. "It was a man, a big man. Very broad. I couldn't see his face very well, but I could see that he was grinning at me."

Mrs. Lilly said that she heard a terrible scream that night, and Linda ran into her room screaming "There is a man in my room! There is!" She refused to sleep alone ever since the encounter.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: The Mechanical Monsters


The Mechanical Monsters is the second of the seventeen animated Technicolor short films based upon the DC Comics character Superman. Produced by Fleischer Studios, the story features Superman battling a mad scientist with a small army of robots at his command. It was originally released by Paramount Pictures on November 21, 1941.

and don't forget The Bulleteers ... and the other wonderful cartoons in the series ....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Radishes (plus) Bunny Girls (plus) E.L.O (equals) Otaku?

Daicon IV was a sci-fi convention held in 1983, in Osaka, Japan; the 22nd Nihon SF Taikai.

Daicon is a portmanteau of "dai", an alternate reading of the first kanji in the name of the city in which it is held (which means "big/great"), and the first syllable of the English word "convention". However, it is also a deliberate pun, since its name suggests the word daikon, the east Asian giant radish. "Daicon", like the names of most Japanese sci-fi conventions, is always written in the Latin alphabet.

The opening to Daicon IV, made by Gainax (which at the time was called Daicon Film), is a 4:23 cel animated video. The opening to the sci-fi convention was anime. As many kinds of "geek" culture appeal to the typical Otaku, the video has many pop culture references. The animation features the now grown up Daicon III girl fighting a wide selection of creatures from all sorts of science fiction and fantasy movies and novels, including Darth Vader, Eleking from Ultra Seven, the Toho logo, an alien, a Macross VF-1 Valkyrie, a Pern dragon, Aslan, a Klingon battle cruiser, Spider-Man, Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan, and a pan across a vast array of hundreds of other characters) as she surfs through the sky on the sword Stormbringer.

The video features Electric Light Orchestra's "Twilight" from the album Time as background music, and the prologue lyrics from that same album as an introduction.

This video, although short, clearly marked the otaku subculture for its state-of-the-art animation for 1983. There soon were merchandise and figures of the nameless "Daicon IV bunny-eared girl" who is seen surfing around on a flying sword, Stormbringer, in the video.

In Gainax's 1992 OVA Otaku no Video, a character shows another what are anime and animation techniques, and shows a part of the Daicon IV opening. Additionally, Otaku no Video's very mascot, Misty May, is clearly a reference to the Daicon IV girl.

Another of Gainax's OVAs, FLCL (2000-2001), shows Haruko in episode 5 (Brittle Bullet) dressed in the same bunny suit, flying over a guitar to attack a giant monster. During her attack, she screams "Daicon V!".

The Japanese TV series Densha Otoko (2005) features an opening that is also a clear reference, featuring a girl with bunny ears surfing around on a train with the same background tune, Electric Light Orchestra's "Twilight".

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Cat House For Dogs and Other Magnificent Deceptions


Joey Skaggs (born 1945) is a U.S. media prankster who has organized numerous successful hoaxes and other presentations. He is considered one of the originators of the phenomenon known as culture jamming. Skaggs used Kim Yung Soo, Giuseppe Scaggioli, Dr. Joseph Gergor, the Rev. Anthony Joseph, and Mr. Bonuso as aliases.

In his youth, Skaggs studied at the High School of Art and Design and School of Visual Arts in New York. Between 1966 and 1968, Skaggs organized crucifixion performances on Easter Sundays.

In 1968, Skaggs noticed that middle-class suburbanites were going on tours of the East Village to observe hippies. Skaggs subsequently organized a sightseeing tour for hippies to observe the suburbs of Queens. On Christmas Day, he created the Vietnamese Christmas Nativity Burning to protest against the Vietnam War.

In 1969, Skaggs tied a 50-foot bra to the front of the U.S. Treasury building on Wall Street, organized a Hells Angels' wedding procession through the Lower East Side, and made grotesque Statues of Liberty on the 4th of July, again to protest against the Vietnam War.

In 1971, Skaggs bought Earlville Opera House. In the same year, he organized what he called a Fame Exchange during the New York Avant Garde Festival, where he hired a group of admirers to follow him around instead of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It was a forerunner for his next pranks:

  • Cathouse for Dogs (1976): Skaggs published an ad for a dog brothel in The Village Voice and hired actors to present their dogs for the benefit of an ABC news crew. The prank annoyed the ASPCA and the Bureau of Animal Affairs until Skaggs revealed the truth after a subpoena. ABC did not retract the story (the WABC TV producer insisted that Skaggs had said it was a hoax to avoid prosecution), possibly because the piece had been nominated for an Emmy Award. It was subsequently disqualified.
  • Celebrity Sperm Bank (1976): Skaggs organized a sperm bank auction in New York; the sperm bank was then robbed and semen was supposedly taken as hostage.
  • Wall Street Shoeshine (1979): Skaggs played Joseph Bucks, a shoeshine man who had become rich on Wall Street and was working his last day—at $5 a shine.
  • Metamorphosis (1981): Skaggs played Dr. Gregor, inventor of the Cockroach Vitamin Pill, which was supposed to be a cure-all drug. It was a nod to Franz Kafka's story "The Metamorphosis."
  • Gypsies Against Stereotypical Propaganda (1982): Gypsy King JoJo (played by Skaggs) led a protest demanding that the Gypsy moth's name be changed because it was demeaning to his people.
  • Windsurfing from Hawaii to California (1983): Windsurfer J.J. Skaggs attempted the first crossing of the Pacific Ocean on a sailboard.
  • Fish Condos (1983): Skaggs created an aquarium depicting rooms with furniture. It was meant to satirize gentrification, but the aquariums sold very well.
  • Bad Guys Talent Management Agency (1984): In an attempt to get an acting job for a friend, Verne Williams, Skaggs founded a fictitious management agency for "bad-guy" actors. Eventually even real studios and wannabe actors contacted him.
  • WALK RIGHT! (1984): Skaggs put together a fictitious militant group that wanted to enforce proper street walking etiquette and make its rules into law.
  • The Fat Squad (1986): Skaggs played Joe Bones, the founder of a disciplinarian diet program where musclemen watched the customers 24 hours a day to make sure they stuck to their diets, at a cost of $300 a day.
  • 1986 was also the first year of the Annual April Fools' Day Parade; it existed only as press release.
  • Save the Geoduck Campaign (1987): Skaggs played Dr. Richard J. Long who sought to save geoduck mollusks from extinction because they had become a popular aphrodisiac among the Japanese.
  • Comacocoon (1990): As Dr. Joseph Schlafer, Skaggs offered a literal dream vacation—customers were to sleep in a cocoon, enjoying programmed dreams about the vacation. The Department of Consumer Affairs was alerted.
  • Hair Today, Ltd. (1990): Joseph Chenango—another Skaggs character—marketed a new kind of hair implant: whole scalps from the dead. The prank began as an ad in the Village Voice soliciting scalp donors.
  • Geraldo Hoax (1991): Skaggs appeared on Geraldo Rivera's TV talk show and told a story about New York artists living in water towers—which he had not done.
  • Brooklyn Bridge Lottery (1992): Skaggs released a "leak" informing the public of a lottery where the first prize would be renaming rights to the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Sex Tapes Saved Marriage (1993): Skaggs sent two actors to Faith Daniels' show to claim that sex tapes had saved their marriage.
  • SEXONIX (1993): Skaggs created a hoax about a sex machine, claiming that the prototype had been seized by Customs at the Canadian border on its way from the United States. He used his own name. Uproar ensued in various bulletin boards.
  • The Psychic Attorney (1994): On April 1, Skaggs appeared as Madnadanda, a combined New Age telephone psychic and lawyer. His voice mail box was flooded with calls.
  • Dog Meat Soup (1994): Skaggs portrayed Kim Yung Soo, a butcher who wanted to purchase dogs for food, to expose cultural intolerance and the media's tendency to overreact.
  • Baba Wa Simba (1995): Skaggs appeared in London as Baba Wa Simba, a therapist who recommended that participants roar and behave like lions (reminiscent of primal scream therapy).
  • The Solomon Project (1995): Joseph Bonuso (Skaggs) claimed to have created a computer program that would work as both judge and jury and announce sentences. It pronounced O.J. Simpson guilty.
  • STOP BioPEEP (1998): Skaggs appeared as Dr. Joseph Howard, supposed employee of an Australian company, and revealed surreptitious genetic engineering to create addictive poultry.
  • Doody Rudy (1999): Skaggs created a large satirical portrait of New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and let people throw fake elephant dung at it, in response to Giuliani's criticism of an artwork by Chris Ofili that incorporated real elephant dung.
  • Art Attack (2000): Espai D'Art Contemporani (EACC) in Castellon, Spain asked Skaggs to organize a presentation; in response, Skaggs created a computer game where people could shoot passersby in the outside corridor going through the building.

According to his web site, Skaggs does not care for "vicious" pranks such as letters containing fake anthrax; he also states that he is not doing anything illegal. He hires actors to play his customers, refusing to really scam anyone except the media. Often the prank is nothing more than a press release with a phone number; in these press releases, Skaggs leaves hints or details that easily could be checked for accuracy. Eventually, he reveals the hoax to make his point.

On a couple of occasions, Skaggs sent a substitute to interviews with programs such as Entertainment Tonight and To Tell the Truth. Producers did not notice. Also, photographs in the National Enquirer and Playback magazine have depicted the wrong man.

Many of Skaggs's pranks are originally reported as true in various news media. Sometimes the stories are retracted.

When not pranking the media, Skaggs earns his living by painting, making sculptures and lecturing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Some of Our Favorite Heroes: The Yes Men


The Yes Men are a group of culture jamming activists who practice what they call "identity correction" by pretending to be powerful people and spokespersons for prominent organizations. They create and maintain fake websites similar to ones they want to spoof, and then they accept invitations received on their websites to appear at conferences, symposia, and TV shows. Their newfound, self-proclaimed authority to express the idea that corporations and governmental organizations often act in dehumanizing ways toward the public has met both positively and negatively with political overtones. Elaborate props are sometimes part of the ruse, as shown in their 2003 DVD release The Yes Men.

Their method is often satire: posing as corporate or government spokespeople, they might make shocking denigrating comments about workers and consumers, then point out what appears to be a lack of shock or anger in the response to their prank, with no one realizing the reactionary rhetoric was only a joke. Sometimes, the Yes Men's phony spokesperson makes announcements that represent dream scenarios for the anti-globalization movement or opponents of corporate crime. The result is false news reports of the demise of the WTO, or Dow paying for a Union Carbide cleanup.

The Yes Men have posed as spokespeople for The World Trade Organization, McDonald's, Dow Chemical, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. The two leading members of The Yes Men are known by a number of aliases, most recently, and in film, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno. Their real names are Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos, respectively. Servin is an author of experimental fiction, and was known for being the man who inserted images of men kissing in the computer game SimCopter. Vamos is an assistant professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York. They are assisted by numerous people across the globe.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dark Roasted Weirdsville

If you love big airplanes ... and I mean BIG airplanes .. then head over to Dark Roasted Blend for my new piece on huge flying machines:
For a few thousand years the biggest things in the skies were only in our imaginations, flying figments of myth and fable: the Roc from Sinbad’s tales, the Garuda bird from the Mahabharata, the Thunderbird from North America, the Brazilian Blue Crow, and other high-flying nightmares or soaring benevolent gods and spirits.

But then a few very clever, and rather persistent, folks got tired of only dreaming. With great inventiveness, they wanted to see what was actually above the clouds. They sought to create something as wondrously big, or nightmarishly immense, as those birds of myth and legend.

Talking about big planes is very much like talking about who should get the credit for man’s first flight –- it all depends on who you talk to. As the brilliant James Burke has pointed out, inventors rarely create something from nothing –- their successes are often the result of combining the partial successes, or learning from the downright failures, of other inventors. In some cases, it's just pure dumb luck.

The Wright Brothers are often given most of the recognition for the first powered flight but Gustave Whitehead, Alexander Feodorovich Mozhaiski, Clement Ader, and many others should get a share of the fame, too. Whoever is responsible, it wasn’t long before the skies were full of sputtering, creaking, and – for the most part – very unreliable aeronautical devices.

It took the first world war to change aircraft from a killing and maiming hobby for the rich to a killing and maiming war machine. War helped advance the science of flight and necessitated bigger planes.

The Short 184 is often cited as one of the first true bombers, a huge step up simply flinging grenades from the cockpit. Created by the legendary Short Brothers, the 184 was big enough –- a world full of fabric and string mayflies -– to carry a torpedo, which must have been a terrifying sight to battleships that, until then, had ruled the sea.

Another monster plane of that time was Igor Sikorsky's Ilya Murometz, a huge improvement over his legendary Russky Vitaz, the first four engine aircraft. But the Ilya Murometz didn't begin as a beast of the skies. Originally designed as a luxurious passenger liner featuring electric lighting, heat, a bathroom, and even a glass floor, the bomber must have been amusing as well as terrifying to its wealthy passengers.

In the years between wars, airplanes kept getting bigger. Take the elegant Handley Page HP42, for instance: a four-engined beauty with an impressive track record of no crashes while being used as an airliner -- which gives you an idea of how safe it was to fly back then.

One of the larger and more beautiful aircraft in the next few decades was the awesome 1936 Boeing Stratoliner. Unfairly called a ‘whale’ because of its chubbiness, the plane was not only huge but also state of the art; today we enjoy flying in pressurized comfort because of technology premiered in the silver flying fish of the Stratoliner.

Art and elegance may have been one of the early fatalities in the second world war, but striving to have the biggest (anything) certainly wasn’t.

To call the Messerschmitt Me 321 big is like calling 1939 to 1945 unpleasant. Created originally as a guilder, the Gigant could haul an insanely large amount of cargo. And an insane bunch of soldiers: 130 plus hardware ... 23 tons of hardware. Because the Gigant was so huge, getting the damned thing into the air was, at best, problematic. First it was towed up with a pair of Heinkel 111 bombers, which was alternatively unsuccessful or disastrous. Then they tried fusing two 111s together to make a Frankenstein’s monster of a machine –- almost as bestial as the Gigant itself. Finally the Luftwaffe stuck engines on the Me321, which made an ugly brute even uglier but at least it got off the ground.

On the other side of the war was an eagle, a silvery steel bird of prey: the huge and beautiful B-29 Superfortress. Although getting the immense B-29 up to its ceiling of 40,000 feet was a struggle, once it got up there nothing could reach it or, at 350 mph, catch it. Even if something managed to come close to it, its formidable defenses could cut any threat to shreds. Featuring many impressive advancements, and some frustrating problems, the plane was kept on active duty long into the Korean war.

With the advent of jet power, aircraft designers began to think really big. Think of your average doomsday film and you immediately picture the roaring ascent of smoke-blasting, eight-engined, B52 bombers. Like the B29, the B52 was an aeronautical powerhouse, a heavy-lifting behemoth. And like the B52, it was kept in service until … well, they are still being used today.

Unlike the B29 and the B52, which don’t show their size easily, the C-5 galaxy would look insanely monstrous even on a postage stamp. To give you an idea of the galaxy’s size, its wingspan is not just longer than the Wright Brothers’ first flight but the beast can also haul 180,000 pounds (which is about 90 tons). It, too, is still with us today.

The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy also has to be mentioned, which like the galaxy looks more like a prop from a Japanese monster movie than a real airplane. The Guppy is also high on the irony meter as it was mostly used to haul nearly-completed components -- of other airplanes.

Arguably the biggest plane flying today, or ever, is Antonov An-225, a 6-engine Russian beast that’s not only longer than the first flight in history but could probably carry one, two, or three whole aircraft museums. Numbers don’t mean much but here is an impressive one: the 225 can carry 550,000 pounds, which is 275 tons. Yes, you can say WOW.

The H-4 Hercules is the standard by which “huge aircraft” are measured –- as well as how “completely screwed up” is defined. Its one and only flight was in 1947, where it was airborne for a total of 70 feet. Originally planned as the ultimate military transport, it is more commonly known as its hated -- at least by its creator Howard Hughes -- moniker, the Spruce Goose.

We used to have the Roc, the Garuda bird, the Thunderbird, Blue Crow, and other soaring myths. Now we have machines; airplanes so big they’re even greater than those ancient, and magnificent, dreams.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Let's Have A Round of Applause For ...


Claque (French for "clapping") is, in its origin, a term which refers to an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses. Members of a claque are called claqueurs.

Hiring people to applaud dramatic performances was common in classical times. For example, when the emperor Nero acted, he had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five thousand of his soldiers.

This inspired the 16th-century French poet Jean Daurat to develop the modern claque. Buying a number of tickets for a performance of one of his plays, he gave them away in return for a promise of applause. In 1820 claques underwent serious systematization when an agency in Paris opened to manage and supply claqueurs.

By 1830 the claque had become an institution. The manager of a theatre or opera house was able to send an order for any number of claqueurs. These were usually under a chef de claque (leader of applause), who judged where the efforts of the claqueurs were needed and to initiate the demonstration of approval. This could take several forms. There would be commissaires ("police officers") who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts. Rieurs (laughers) laughed loudly at the jokes. Pleureurs (criers), generally women, feigned tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Chatouilleurs (ticklers) kept the audience in a good humor, while bisseurs (encore-ers) simply clapped and cried "Bis! Bis!" to request encores.

The practice spread to Italy (famously at La Scala, Milan), Vienna, London (Covent Garden) and New York (the Metropolitan Opera). Claques were also used as a form of extortion, as singers were commonly contacted by the chef de claque before their debut and forced to pay a fee, in order not to get booed.

Toscanini and Mahler discouraged claques, a part of the development of concert etiquette.

Monday, September 15, 2008



Arzach is a comic book collection of four wordless short stories by artist/author Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, which were originally published in the French sci-fi/fantasy comics magazine Métal Hurlant. The stories follow Arzach, a silent warrior who rides a pterodactyl-like creature through a strange, desolate landscape. The imagery and situations in Arzach are often compared to dreams or the subconscious. These stories had an enormous impact on the French comics industry, and the Arzach character is still among Moebius' most famous creations.

Moebius later revisited the character with a story called The Legend of Arzach. This later story contains dialogue, and it ties the Arzach stories into a previously unrelated Moebius story called The Detour.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Our favorite hero: The Huntsman.

what if they found another hero?-the Huntsman.

"A good guess at what Robin Hood would be like if portrayed by Charlton Heston; he can never find enough crime to fight and secretly suspects that the police are hiding crimes from him because they don't trust him. He was once a hunter called Marty Feeb, who saved an elf from a crow, and the elf rewarded him with a magic sack of corn, which granted him strength, speed, and shiny teeth. He also has a brother called Hector Feeb, who he claims lives in a townhouse. He can be summoned by blowing into the Horn of Urgency, and his battle cry is "Into action!". Possibly a parody of comic character Green Arrow. His trademark phrase is "Darn, the luck, darn!".

Movies you should see, but probally won't: The life and times of Judge Roy Bean

"The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is a 1972 western film written by John Milius, directed by John Huston, and starring Paul Newman (at the height of his career, between Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting). It was loosely based on the real-life, self-appointed frontier judge (see below)

The best villain in cinema history-we give you Bad Bob (Stacey Keach).(link)
Phantly Roy Bean (c. 1825 – March 16, 1903) was an eccentric U.S. saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace who called himself "The Law West of the Pecos". According to legend, Judge Roy Bean held court in his saloon along the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahuan Desert of west Texas.

Order in the court: The real Judge Phantly Roy Bean

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: Wicked City


Wicked City is an animated horror neo-noir directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, based on Hideyuki Kikuchi's novel of the same name.

The story takes place towards the end of the 20th century and explores the idea that the human world secretly coexists with the demon world with a secret police force known as the Black Guard protecting the boundary.

The existence of the "Black World" is known to very few people. For centuries, a pact between the two has been observed to maintain peace, and terms must be negotiated and renewed every few hundred years to continue relative harmony. This time around, there is a militant faction called The Radicals that will stop at nothing to prevent the signing of a new treaty.

Two agents of the Black Guards are charged with insuring the success of the treaty: The human Taki Renzaburo is an electronics salesman by day, and a Black Guard agent when needed; his partner Makie, who masquerades as a model, is a beautiful and skilled woman from the Black World. Their mission is to protect Giuseppi Mayart, a two hundred year-old man possessed of fantastic spiritual power, whose presence at the peace treaty signing is critical. The Radicals wish to kill Mayart to upset the peace between both worlds.

Attacks on Makie, Taki and Mayart begin even before the three meet, and the situation does not improve, despite taking shelter in a hotel that supposedly has strong spiritual barriers to keep people of the Black World away; on top of this, Mayart sneaks out after a skirmish at the hotel. Makie and Taki find him at a massage parlor in the grip of a Black World woman who has sapped his health, prompting a frantic trip to a spiritual hospital under Black Guard protection.

Halfway there, Makie is taken prisoner to be punished for her "crimes" against the Black World, and Taki is forced to leave her behind, but as soon as he knows Mayart is safe in the hospital, he rushes to where his partner is being held, despite all warnings and the threat that he will be thrown out of the Black Guard.

While Taki is successful in freeing Makie, they are captured by a spider-like woman Taki has encountered before; both are knocked unconscious, but they wake up alone in a church, and seek comfort in each other's bodies.

One last attack by the Radicals comes and is partially deflected by a surprisingly healthy Mayart, who reveals he was protecting his bodyguards, not the other way around as they had been lead to believe. Mayart and Taki almost succeed in defeating the Radical threatening them, but the final blow comes from Makie, who suddenly displays an overwhelming power, a gift from her joining with Taki. Mayart explains the two of them are meant to be part of the new peace treaty.

The movie ends with Taki reinstated in the Black Guard, uncertain about his feelings for Makie and what is expected of them, but feeling optimistic about the future he will help protect.

Wicked City on the IMDB

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weirdsville on The Cud

Check it out: The Cud, a fantastic Aussie zine, has just posted Welcome to Weirdsville: Fear Itself.

As the archetypal bumper-sticker proclaims: "Being Paranoid Doesn't Mean That They Aren't Out To Get You."

In the world of the paranoiac, the world is nothing but a teetering rockslide: impending destruction always hovering just a moment away. Their world is one full of traps, deception, plots, conspiracies, and death where everyone is literally out to get you. Some have suggested that a daily tablespoon full of this viewpoint can actually be a survival trait: In our capricious and elaborate world a certain degree of suspicion and caution will allow us to live to be frightened another day. Others suggest that this view is nothing less than narcissism stretched to a penultimate degree — that we are so special, so unique, that the universe and it's all-present Men in Black (replete with Black Helicopter and Satellite Brain-Ray Beam gift set) have no choice but to squish us flat. But the real terror is lurking just beyond that. As anyone who has studied nature can attest, the world and all its creatures (great as well as small) really are out to get us. Some of their attacks are easy to defend. Into daily battle we go, armed to the teeth with antibiotics and the unshakable knowledge that:
— If we cross against DON'T WALK we'll be turned into chunky salsa — Milk the consistency of raw cement is not good — Playing on the freeway is bad — Sticking our fingers into electrical sockets is definitely a once-in-a lifetime thrill

With those bits of arcane law filling our grey matter, we are equipped to know how to survive to see tomorrow. Yet there are creatures on this globe that can snuff us out like a cheap candle in a stiff wind.

I don't mean the cartoon ferocity of the lion, tiger, or bear that proclaim their dangerous potential with a growl, roar, or screech. No, the critters I’m talking about lurk in dark silence, ready to strike with either the barest of warnings or none at all, and with absolutely fatal venom.

Some you've undoubtedly already heard about, and will prompt little more than a dismissive scoff. Yeah, big deal: rattlesnakes, cobras, black widows — either you can hear them coming, avoid going to India, or simply not stick your hands into dark places. "Ha!" is my response to your smug, assumed knowledge of nasty things. "Ha!" I offer up against your ignorance of the real terrors that are lurking out there, ready to strike. The truth is, rattlesnakes, cobras, and black widows are nothing but mere annoyances: fatal only to the truly stupid or very sick. Dangerous, sure, but usually deadly only to Darwin Award winners.

But there are other, nasty little things out there that are as vicious and deadly as they are quiet and unassuming. Say, for instance, you happen to be happily walking through the low surf merrily picking up and discarding shells, looking for just the right one to decorate your desk back at the office. With no warning at all, however, you feel a sharp sting from one of those pretty shells, a sting that quickly flares into a crawling agony. With that quick sting, the cone snail's barbed spear has insidiously injected you with one of the most potent neurotoxins in existence. Nerves short-circuited by this infinitesimally small amount of juice, in seconds the agony of where the stinger struck has faded into a heavy numbness. A relief, perhaps, but then it spreads and moments later the paralysis has seized the entire limb. Then the breathing troubles start … and then, simply, your heart stops beating. Yes, there are anti venoms available, but, frankly, with something that can kill in less than four minutes you'd have to carry it in your back pocket to survive. It wasn't just a fondness for these pretty shells that lead the CIA to develop a weapon using this venom to dispatch enemies.

We'll be back to the ocean in a moment, but for the next dangerous denizen we have to visit the steaming Amazon. Now I know what you're thinking, "Gee, what would I be doing out there in the jungle primeval?" To that I say that you're not paying attention to the lesson: it isn't so much that these things are where they are, but that they exist to begin with, and carry their lethality in such innocent packages.

That frog over there, for instance, that tiny, brilliantly colored tree frog. Doesn't he look like some kind of Faberge ornament, there against that shocking vermilion leaf? Wouldn't such a natural jewel look just gorgeous in a terrarium back home?

Pick him and you could be dead in a matter of minutes. One second frolicking in the undergrowth, the next spasming and foaming on the jungle floor. No stinger, no bite, and no venom: just the shimmering slime covering his brilliant body. The natives in these here parts capture these poison arrow frogs (carefully) and coat their blowgun darts with that slime — and knock full grown monkeys out of the trees with a single strike.

Back in the windswept sea, sharks announce their presence with a steady da-dum, da-dum, da-dum of background music, rattlesnakes, well, they rattle, while lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my) as I’ve said, roar and bellow. These dangers are loud, almost comical. They parade their danger. But as paranoiacs know, these are nothing but part of the grand deception — they make us believe that everything fatal comes with sirens of intent, or brilliant warning labels. The real monsters are more devious than that; they lurk on the other side of invisibility, never make a sound, and kill you faster than the sound of that first note in John William’s Jaws theme.

Cone shells can be avoided, and brilliant frogs warn of their fatality, but there’s one last terror I’m eager to mention that doesn’t roar or display its danger at all. Let's take one final swim, shall we, this time off the coast of Australia? Incredible blue waters, shimmering sandy beaches, shrimps on the barbie … Skin divers rave about the Australian coast … those, that is, who never let their guard down for an instant.

Paddling in the crystal sea, enjoying the cool waters, the warm sun, it's easy to miss this monster, especially as it's almost as clear as the ocean. Chironex fleckeri doesn't sound so terrifying, does it? Chironex fleckeri: a tiny jellyfish found off the coast of Australia and southeastern Asia. Only about sixteen inches long, this jelly's tentacles carry thousands of nematocysts, microscopic stingers activated not by ill-will but by a simple brush against shell, or skin. Make contact and they’ll fire, injecting anyone and anything with the most powerful neurotoxin known to man. Stories abound of swimmers leaping from the cool Australian seas, skin blistered and torn from thousands of these tiny stingers, the venom scalding their bodies and plunging them into agonizing shock. The sting of a chironex fleckeri — also called the box jellyfish or sea wasp — is described by the experts to be a most horrifying torment.

Luckily it doesn't last long. Take that to heart dear, innocent reader, as you dog paddle through the ocean, walk on the beach, or trek through the forest, safe in your ignorance that the world doesn't hide terrifying, hideous deaths. The hideous agony of the box jellyfish’s sting doesn't last long.

Not long at all. In fact, the burning pain is over in just about the time it will take you to read this last paragraph (and you don't have to be a phenomenally slow reader), not even enough time to reach shore and call for help. Maybe as the venom works itself into your system, causing your nervous system to collapse, you'll realize that paranoiacs are right: that there really are dangerous things out there, things that'll kill you by pure reflex, just by crossing their paths. Thirty seconds isn't a long time, not long at all. But sometimes life, and death, lessons can come in very short periods.

M.Christian (www.mchristian.com) has written 300+ short stories, edited 20 anthologies, is the author of five collections and five novels.