Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: The Dark Side of Anti-Darkness

We do not practice tolerance here.
--Mary Anne DeGrimston
During the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, many occultists held beliefs that virtually all of us nowadays would readily see as racist. The matriarch of Theosophy, Helena Blavatsky, believed in the existence of “root races” corresponding with the development of mankind. During her time, she believed that the Aryans were the most sophisticated root race. People of color were holdovers, of a sort, from the previous root races, half-animals who by nature were not capable of rational or sophisticated understanding: In a book titled The Secret Doctrine, she wrote:

The intellectual difference between the Aryan and other civilized nations and such savages as the South Sea Islanders, is inexplicable on any other grounds. No amount of culture, nor generations of training amid civilization, could raise such human specimens as the Bushmen, the Veddhas of Ceylon, and some African tribes, to the same intellectual level as the Aryans, the Semites, and the Turanians so called. The 'sacred spark' is missing in them and it is they who are the only inferior races on the globe, now happily -- owing to the wise adjustment of nature which ever works in that direction -- fast dying out. Verily mankind is 'of one blood,' but not of the same essence. We are the hot-house, artificially quickened plants in nature, having in us a spark, which in them is latent.
Currently, present day Blavatsky apologists furiously apply lipstick to these pig notions, yet only succeed in making them uglier. In a 2007 essay titled “Some Considerations Concerning Blavatsky and Nazism,” for example, Katinka Hesselink tries to stress that Blavatsky believed that each race “has its place,” and that each race contributes to “evolution as a whole.” While the “each race has its place” creed lay behind Jim Crow, Apartheid, the Holocaust and other injustices of history in and of itself, Hesselink still clings to the notion that some races are simply more advanced—not that there’s anything wrong with that:

From an ethical standpoint this already makes clear that each person, whatever their race, has its place in the divine order of things. In a school one cannot say that a first grader is bad and a second grader is good or better. Both are learning, but one is learning other things then the other. Neither is yet an adult, but the second grader is a bit closer to adulthood then the first grader.
Jack Parsons' mentor Aleister Crowley held similar archaic notions of racial superiority. In a chapter of his book Magick without Tears titled “’Monsters,’ Niggers, Jews, etc.,” Crowley explains how the “extreme individualism” that he champions applies to those of allegedly subpar stock.

And I don't see how to get out of swallowing this last sly bait; as you say, “Every man and every woman is a star.” [Does] need some attention to the definition of “man” and “woman.” What is the position, you say, of “monsters”? And men of vinferior races” [recte: “inferior races,”] like the Veddah, Hottentot and the Australian Blackfellow? There must be a line somewhere, and will I please draw it? You make me feel like Giotto!
Crowley’s reference to “inferior races” should put the question of his racism in a more understandable context. Although Crowley contends that even the vilest monster (“real…or imaginary like Jews and niggers”) has redeeming traits, and merits an understanding as an autonomous entity, he often refuses to recognize the individuality of non-whites (and some whites), and characterizes them with the grossest stereotypes, a trait that he manifests in many of his other writings. For example:

There was a Norwegian missionary named Amundsen, even more colourless and doleful than brainless Scandinavians usually are. The doctor was a Bengali named Ram Lal Sircar, a burly nigger of the most loathsome type. I am not fond of Benaglis at the best and he as the worst specimen of his race I have ever seen. He was fat and oily, with small piglike treacherous eyes. On the rare occasions when he was not eating, he was writing anti-British articles for the Bengal native press.

In Colombo this world problem solves itself; for the Indian toils, without ambition or object, from sheer habit; the European bosses things, with selfimportance and brafado [sic]; the Australian lumbers in and out, loutishly, hoping not to be seen; and China, silent and absent, conveys majestically patriarchal reproof by simply ignoring the impertinence. Slightly as I had brushed against the yellow silken robes of China in the press of jostling cultures, its virtue had so entered into me that the positive and aggressive aspects of Colombo, tumultuously troubling through they were, failed to command my full attention. As you vainly ply an opium smoker who craves his pipe with wine, with woman and with song, so the insolent insistence of the actualities of Colombo merely annoyed me; I was intensely aware of one thing only, the absence of the clossal [sic] calm and common sense of China.
Succeeding generations of the Ordo Templis Orientis carried with them a true belief in white supremacy as an essential component of dogma. The Braytons' Solar Lodge of the OTO was no exception. In fact, their brand of racism seemed quite extreme, especially for the 1960s. In his 1972 book The Family, Ed Sanders (formerly of the Fugs) gave an example of how the Solar Lodge instilled this type of virulent bigotry at an early age in a chilling anecdote about Anthony Gibbons, the six-year old boy chained and tortured by his mother and other cultists:

After the arrests, the lad was sent to a foster home where he was cared for by a black lady. The boy requested a sword from her so that he might perform a magic ritual called ‘The Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.’

The woman remained nearby as if to observe the ceremony but Anthony announced that ‘we don't let niggers watch.’

The Solar Lodge conducted rituals in which they tried to telepathically send hate vibes to Watts and other ghettos in order to incite further rioting. One of their biggest fantasies, however, involved a massive black uprising across the USA, a cataclysmic race war that would supposedly justify the extermination of all African Americans.

Los Angeles. August 1969. Cults. Cataclysmic race war. Do these things sound familiar?

To read earlier articles in this series, click here.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Processing the End Times

Forgive my recent absence from your sites. I'm currently in deadline mode. I'll be back to normal soon. Edited 7/16/09.

Between 1960 and 1962, Robert Moore (left) and Mary Anne Maclean* formed a personal bond at the analysis classes they attended as first-generation Scientologists in London. But by 1963, they both decided that they’d had it with forking over their cash to L. Ron Hubbard’s newfangled self-help organization, and decided to begin a psychological movement of their own called Compulsions Analysis. Their goal was to make people confront the neurotic compulsions that led to repeated adverse decisions and bad behavior.

As it expanded, CA became more reclusive, and over the course of its first three years began to incorporate more religious beliefs into what started out as a therapeutic endeavor. As described on the Religious Movements website, the group began to implode into the sacred, with Maclean and Moore—now both taking the surname DeGrimston—organizing a tight hierarchical structure.

After a temporary move to the Bahamas in 1966, they found an estate in the Mexican town of Xtul for $175 per year. Had the CA’ers any doubt as to whether their movement was a psychodynamic or religious one, an event there would remove all doubt. A hurricane devastated their house, and threatened to demolish them too. Yet, the CA’ers survived. They believed that they had come face-to-face with the gods of love and hate, who must have spared them because they were somehow chosen. At least that’s how they saw it.

Those who survived the storm went to work to spread a new evangelic message. They returned to a nice headquarters in the Mayfair section of London, and began to expand on the continent. In 1967, they came to the US, setting up offices in San Francisco, New York and New Orleans.

In a nutshell, they believed that Jehovah, Lucifer and Satan were the most important gods, and that all three merited equal worship. Robert DeGrimston, now fancying himself as Jesus Christ, saw as his duty the unification of the three gods in order to precipitate the final judgment of the Apocalypse. Thus, when they initially attempted to incorporate their church in New Orleans, city officials blocked it, apparently due to a revulsion of its name: The Church of the Process of Unification of Christ and Satan. So, they calmly renamed it the Process Church of the Final Judgment.

The church had three different factions, each devoted to one of the deities. New recruits were weaned on Satan, which involved a lot of violence—blood sacrifice of animals and the like. The Jehovahans were pretty much straight-laced people who abhorred sex, or pleasure of any kind. The Luciferans were hedonistic, indulging in the sensual pleasures of food, altered experience, and sex.

Dressed conspicuously in their black robes, and with their ever-present pack of surly Alsatians in tow, The Process attempted to spread their influences among the wealthiest and most powerful people of Hollywood, just as they had successfully done back in Mayfair, where they managed to attract Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, and his girlfriend Marianne Faithful. Whatever sympathies he might have had for this particular devil, Jagger lost his taste for the occult at Altamont. And Faithful would later leave The Process shuddering at their “fascistic” bent.

Figure 1. Mary Tyler Moore with Process literature

Curiously, the Process maintained a dual identity of sorts with Scientology, which, along with Adlerian psychology, spawned Compulsions Analysis. In LA, they mingled in the same circles vying for the attention of celebrities to lend credence to their causes. As British subjects, however, the DeGrimstons and their bunch had worn out their welcomes with Uncle Sam, who deported them back to the UK. This caused a tremendous rift with British Scientologists when the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) said that they had already expelled members of the Process Church of Scientology, and didn’t want any more like them coming over.

Mary Anne (left) wound up divorcing Robert in 1974, kicking him out of the order, and rejecting his teachings. Despite the fact that the Process believed him to be Christ, Mary Anne really ran the show. She managed to keep it alive in one fashion or another. Under a number of different names (e.g., “the Foundation Church of the Millennium, The Foundation Faith of God, etc.) and guises, the Process kept alive its prison ministries in the US. According to some sources it even got federal funding for specific projects from its Washington, DC headquarters.

In his 2001 book The Shadow over Santa Susana, Adam Gorightly wrote that a mysterious woman named Circe, the leader of a cult called the Kirke Order of Dog Blood (they believed in sacrificing the hounds), seemed very much like one Mary Anne DeGrimston. Furthermore, this Circe had been running an occult shop, and had bought up a number of properties around Toledo, OH in the days following the exorcism of her ex-husband:

Retired Captain Griffis of the Tiffin, Ohio Police Department believes that Mary Ann DeGrimston was the mysterious ‘Circe’ who went underground in the early 70’s to achieve her goals. According to Griffis, Mary Ann-as-Circe surfaced in Toledo, Ohio in the mid-70’s and opened an occult shop there. This mysterious ‘Circe’ also brought property adjacent to a location reported as being a site where satanic rituals involving human sacrifice were performed. In 1985, law enforcement officials dug up the site, discovering ritualistic paraphernalia, although no evidence of murder was uncovered. Shortly before the police raid, the occult shop in Toledo closed and ‘Circe’ disappeared.
Ex-members of the Process Church founded the Best Friends Animal Society, a no-kill animal shelter for discarded pets in 1970. Currently, it is the largest no-kill facility in the US. I, for one, do not profess to know how much the many incarnations of the Process or Mary Anne DeGrimston played a role in its development, or current activities. But some critics, like dog breeder Ms. Jade note that they’re awfully good at raising money.

*For some reason, researchers have trouble settling on a spelling, regarding the names of these individuals. In addition to the above, you will also find the names Robert Moor and Mary Ann Mclean.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide: Dr. Aleister’s Agape

My apologies to our cyberfriend up north for the title.

After the previous post, you might be wondering what the hell kind of cult the Solar Lodge of the OTO might have been. Perhaps you might think, “Well, it’s the ‘60s, and everyone was into a lot of weird stuff back then. Then too, you’re talking about California, right?”

The roots of the Solar Lodge actually begin centuries before the 1960s. But for the purposes of this story, we need only go back as far as 1942, the year that famed mystic Aleister Crowley, then the international chief of the Ordo Templis Orientis, appointed a guy named Jack Parsons to head the Agape Lodge in California.

Parsons wasn’t your everyday mystic. A respected scientist doing research out of the California Institute of Technology, he co-founded NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories. If you check out NASA’s official website, and do a search of his name, you’ll find pages of documents devoted to him, as well it should. After all, Wernher von Braun cited him as the true father of the American space program. While NASA briefly acknowledges Parsons’ role in the occult, they tend to downplay the importance of it in his life.

Parsons’ work in esoterica would prove every bit as influential as his scientific research. Like his mentor Crowley, Parsons could very well be taken for a Satanist, especially when quoted contrary to context. In his 1949 “The Manifesto of the Antichrist,” for example, he wrote:

I shall bring all men to the Law of the BEAST 666, and in His Law I shall conquer the world. And within seven years of this time, BABALON, THE SCARLET WOMAN HILARION will manifest among ye, and bring this my work to its fruition. An end to conscription, compulsion, regimentation, and the tyranny of false laws.
"Manifesto" itself was not so much a pledge to serve the devil so much as it is an indictment against the hypocrisy of the Christian church. In other words, Parsons is charging Christian belief with the crime of imperialism at the expense of personal liberty, and of forcing enslavement to all of those not powerful enough within society to resist. So, as he figured it, if he had to be the Antichrist to correct the evils of the church, he would. In other writings, he listed those evils as class brutality, war, racism and the condemnation of sexuality.

As controversial or provocative as you might find Parsons and his beliefs, some of his cohorts seemed even more questionable. Wilfred Smith, the former leader of the Agape Lodge, for example, ran off with Jack’s first wife, Helen. Crowley wound up firing Smith to install Parsons.

Parsons then teamed up with another esoteric, Lafayette Ron Hubbard, who joined the lodge in 1945. Crowley, however, didn’t trust L. Ron one bit. Hubbard’s checkered career as a naval intelligence officer led Aleister to regard him as unscrupulous. Nevertheless, Jack teamed up with Hubbard and someone else involved with naval intelligence, future Mrs. Parsons Marjorie Cameron, to perform a grand piece of sex magick known as the Babalon Working (BW). Drawn from the Enochian system of Elizabethan mystics Dr. John Dee and Sir Edward Kelly, the BW required the participants to invoke the spirit of Hilarion in order for her to enter into the body of a nubile young woman (Cameron). Parsons would subsequently (so to speak) screw the hell out of her, while Hubbard took notes. The point was to conceive a moonchild. As Crowley explained:

The Aeon of Horus is of the nature of a child. To perceive this, we must conceive of the nature of a child without the veil of sentimentality - beyond good and evil, perfectly gentle, perfectly ruthless, containing all possibilities within the limits of heredity, and highly susceptible to training and environment. But the nature of Horus is also the nature of force - blind, terrible, unlimited force.
By 1949, two years after Crowley’s death, the Agape Lodge stopped holding regular meetings and began to splinter. Whatever tricks he had in store to bolster enthusiasm, Parsons magick came to a screeching halt in the summer of 1952, when he blew himself up in his own laboratory. After Parson’s death, leadership of the Agape Lodge fell into the hands of Ray and Mildred Burlingame. Yet the exact relation of that, and other estranged lodges to the OTO, didn’t seem very clear. In 1946, Crowley had apparently given authority to Grady McMurtry to take over all of the lodges in case of an emergency. This didn’t take any power away from the Burlingames, however, and sometime in the 1950s, Mildred, on her own authority, initiated one Georgina Brayton into the ranks of the OTO.

Marjorie would later gain her own bit of renown as an artist and an actress, making her screen debut in the 1954 movie Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, a flick directed by Kenneth Anger. Anger himself belonged, at the time, to the Order of the Trapezoid, a group founded in 1950 by Anton LaVey that eventually evolved into the Church of Satan. L. Ron Hubbard, as you most likely know, went on to found the Church of Scientology.

I wonder if Parsons, Cameron, Hubbard or the Burlingames could have imagined that a little boy named Anthony Gibbons would someday be caged and tortured in the name of their legacy. I wonder if they could see the connection that would eventually link their Solar Lodge with the Church of Satan, Scientology and certain events occurring during the summer of 1969.

Researchers would also connect another group, fairly or unfairly, to the story, and their presence in here should give everyone sufficient pause to think that there’s more to this familiar narrative than meets the eye.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Devil’s in the Slide

The above FBI report, dated 15 August 1969, documents the filing of fugitive warrants issued by US Commissioner John Morgan for Robert Duerrstein, Edson Dunlap, James Gibbons, and Robert and Georgina (called ‘Jean’ by friends-left) Brayton. The information it contains pretty much explains why these six were arrested in the first place.

The Braytons, leaders of a sect called the Solar Lodge of the Ordo Templis Orientis (Order of the Eastern Temple, or OTO for short), determined that then six-year-old Anthony Saul Gibbons started a fire that burned down one of the Quonset huts of their Blythe, CA compound, and killed two of the group’s goats on 20 May 1969.

Whether or not young Gibbons set the fire is anyone’s guess. Nevertheless, we know for certain that he took the rap, and faced a severe punishment. His mother, Beverly Gibbons, recommended that the group put him to death. Georgina Brayton, however, insisted that such wouldn’t be necessary. They wouldn’t have to execute the child. They’d just have to torture him a little.

Actually, they tortured him a lot. At or around May 23, the ordeal began with Brayton burning the child’s hands with lit matches. They forced him to dig (with his burned hands) a grave for the two goats. The group then forcibly restrained Gibbons for a few days in one of the other Quonset huts before further confining him to a wooden shipping crate with approximately thirty-six square feet of space. There, they bound him with heavy chains, which were just long enough for him to escape the fires they set in his presence after dosing him with LSD.

On July 26, a couple came up to the compound to inspect some horses the Solar Lodge had for sale, and noticed the child sitting on a mattress in the tiny makeshift cell. They also saw a large can filled with the boy’s body waste, a dirty jug partially filled with water, a “plate encrusted with food,” and a filthy washtub. Located near the Arizona border, Blythe had experienced twelve days where the temperature shot past 110 degrees Fahrenheit that summer. So naturally, the place had a stench that would offend Pepe LePew.

The prospective horse-buyers immediately contacted the Riverside Sheriff’s office, which after investigating the matter arrested the six named above, Gibbons’ mom, and ten others on charges of child abuse. All of those arrested posted $25,000 bond—a princely sum in 1969. Bail or no, six of them left, presumably to Mexico and parts south. While incarcerated, OTO arrestee Judith (or Julie—both names are mentioned in the report) Oster said, in front of other inmates, that the Braytons were not safe in the US.

Figure 1. Newspaper coverage of Anthony Gibbons’ court appearance

As you can see from Figure 1, the plight of Anthony Gibbons made it to local papers as the Boy-in-the-Box Case. As sensational as this story was, however, it didn’t get a whole lot of national attention. One could perhaps say that it had the lousy luck of getting upstaged by an even more sensational series of events occurring at about the same time.

One public official would later find a connection between both stories. Conspiracy researchers have been examining that connection more deeply ever since.

Click here for an update on The Golden Ganesh.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Detective: ‘Armless Fun (Solved!)

Hey! It had to end sometime.

Once again, you’ve solved another puzzle. This one proved to be quite a challenge before Bace Man finally put it all together. Because I cannot improve upon the wording of his solution, I offer it here in it’s entirety.

OK...Max and the other 3 men, after having survived a torpedo attack on their warship find themselves afloat in the middle of the ocean, starving. To stave off imminent death from hunger, they start cutting off an arm from each other and eating it. However, before Max is forced to lose one of his arms, our band is rescued. But this does not sit well with the other 3 members of the quartet who have sacrificed a limb to save Max, so at some point in the future they threaten Max's life unless he too, equally yields an arm. Max, not too keen on surrendering an arm that he has grown quite attached to, finds an opportunity by happenstance, when he spots Jerry, a man possessing similar skin tone, and a tattoo that perfectly matches a tattoo that Max also sports. At the opportune moment, when Jerry is most vulnerable, in the bathroom or course, Max knocks Jerry unconscious, and amputates Jerry's tattooed arm and then Max makes a hasty exit from the train. The plan is to now pass off Jerry's arm as his own satisfying his old shipmates, and still retaining both of his limbs at the same time. Thereby proving an old adage that I personally have never heard before...that you can have your arms and eat one too!
As before, this was a real team effort with everyone contributing substantially to the answer. For example

Candy Minx eliminated the possibility that Jerry’s arm was attached to a briefcase or Max’s hand.

Crushed by Ingsoc eliminated the possibility that Max needed Jerry’s fingerprints, that the third party was an organization, or that a bet was somehow involved. He also came up with one of the most important planks of the puzzle, namely that Max had a tattoo.

Yinyang established that Max neither knew Jerry, and ruled out the possibility of sadistic pleasure, aid, bad puns, or loan sharks.

Doc Alistair established that Jerry is human, and not something that has a metaphoric or mechanical arm (e.g., a slot machine, or robot)

Prism ruled out drugs and jealousy.

C-Dell eliminated the possibility of Jerry asking for it. He also ruled out that Jerry’s identical tattoo had an ulterior meaning, that the train company was the third party, and that there was a marking on the third party. Most important he established that someone was coercing Max. He also figured out that Max cut off the wrong arm.

Not-so-anonymous Patty eliminated the possibility that Jerry’s arm was incriminating to Max, that Max was a serial killer, that Max wanted to steal Jerry’s watch, and that Jerry’s wife was the third party. Most important, she discovered that Max was the intended victim, that Max cut off Jerry’s arm to substitute for his own, and that the solution involved a downed ship.

SJ ruled out a prosthetic limb, an implant, a senseless random attack, insurance reasons, the possibility that the third party is an individual, and that the third party had tattoos identical to Max’s He established that Max only wanted Jerry’s arm, that Max knew the third party, that the third party did not know Jerry from a hole in the wall, that a specific quality of the arm was important, that the third party knew that Max retained his arm when they last saw him, and that Max and the third party wound up in a lifeboat. Most critically, he discovered that Max worked for the navy. Even more critically, he realized that Max and the other survivors were eating the arms of the third party.

Benjibopper confirmed that the bathroom was on the train. He also ruled out insanity and underground body parts trading as motives. He established that Max cut off Jerry’s right arm, that the third party consisted of three men, and that they were someone who knew Max for awhile.

Princess Pointful helped clarify the distinctive feature on Jerry’s arm by ruling out unique jewelry.

s’mat ruled out Max and Jerry being co-joined twins. More important, he discovered that there was something distinctive about Jerry’s arm, that the third party knew either Max or Jerry, the third party was not on the train, and that Jerry was an innocent bystander. Most critically, he deduced the nature of third party's pressure on Max.

Mayden established that Max was not about to meet the third party. This is important because if Max meets the third party, then the ruse is over. She thus established that Max could not afford to meet the third party, and that there was some distance between them.

Kylearyn ruled out the police as a possible third party.

Eric1313 ruled out revenge as a motive.

AHB ruled out espionage as an angle, and eliminated the possibility that others might be after Max. He also ruled out Max’s stupidity, incompetence and/or negligence during his service. More important, he laid the foundation of the eye-for-an-eye motive. Even more critically, he made the connection between Max and his former employment by the government.

Monique, Libby, CJ, Enemy of the Republic and Jean dropped by to give moral support.

Foam provided comic relief.

So pat yourselves on the back for another job well done.

Coming up next…..a new series!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Detective: Armless Fun

You’re now a team of detectives. You have a mystery to solve. Like a game of twenty questions, you can ask anything you like, provided that it can be answered “yes” or “no.” The point is to deduce the solution to the question posed at the bottom from your own questions.You aren’t limited to twenty questions, of course. You'll find it helpful to pay attention to the questions asked of your fellow bloggers, and their answers. I’ll give you a hint if we get stuck.

The Case

On a long commuter train home, Max spots Jerry heading into the bathroom. With duffel bag in hand, Max springs to his feet, shoves into the bathroom behind Jerry, and knocks him out with straight cross to the temple. While Jerry lies unconscious, Max takes an axe out of his duffel bag, and hacks off Jerry’s arm just as the train is about to make its next stop.

Max shoves the dismembered arm into the duffel and bolts from the train.

What was Max’s motive? Why did he attack Jerry?

Click here for the solution.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dumb Questions: Trick Answers

Updated for accuracy, 8/8/08.

This was a rather bizarre trivia test in that the purpose wasn’t so much to come up with the right answer as it was to see that these are all trick questions. Some have ambiguous answers, no answers, or counterintuitive answers. Others are deliberately misleading. So full credit goes to those who saw through the questions. Partial credit for a correct answer that doesn’t see the trick in the question, or for an incorrect answer that sees through the trick.

1. Who was the first African American to play major league baseball?

Moses Fleetwood Walker (left). Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play major league baseball in the modern era (i.e. since 1903). Although Major League Baseball expunged its records prior to 1903, The National League and American Association teams of the 19th Century are still considered the major leagues.

Walker played catcher for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association after attending University of Michigan Law School. When baseball segregated, he then played for the Negro Leagues. After retiring from baseball, he spent the remainder of his life advocating a brand of black nationalism similar to Marcus Garvey’s. He passed away in 1924. (Partial credit to NYD because of his unique reasoning.)

2. How many states are there in the United States?

Depends on how you look at it. If you want to be totally picayune, you can say that there are only forty-six states, because Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia and Pennsylvania are technically not states, but commonwealths. Because they are contiguous to the lower-forty-eight, and have all of the rights of statehood (e.g., sending voting members to Congress) we generally regard them as full-fledged states. If that’s how you look at it, then you’d say there are fifty US states. (Full credit to Foam; partial credit to Charles, Malcolm, Yinyang, Enemy of the Republic, SJ, and NYD)

3. Who was the first President of the United States?

There are three possible answers depending on how you look at it. George Washington was the first US President under the current constitution. But the first person actually called President of the United States was the president of the Continental Congress, John Hanson. There is no doubt that his contemporaries referred to him as such during his tenure. In his correspondence with Hanson, Washington consistently addressed him as “Mr. President.”

On the other hand, Hanson’s tenure as the first Chief Executive of the US began before the installation of a formal government. Congress didn’t approve the Articles of Confederation until the tenure of Samuel Huntington as President of the United States in Congress Assembled. So, you could say he was the first.

Obviously, the duties assumed by Hanson, Huntington and Washington were quite different, despite their official titles. So the first person to act in the role of US President as is commonly understood is Washington. George, however, was the ninth individual to have the title President of the United States. (Partial credit to NYD, SJ, Enemy of the Republic, Yinyang, Foam, Malcolm, and Charles.)

4. Imagine an oval racetrack that’s exactly one mile around. If a car travels 30 m.p.h. for the first lap, how fast must it go to average 60 m.p.h. for the two laps combined?

It would be an impossible feat to do this by car. To average 60 m.p.h. for two laps, the driving time would be two minutes. But if you’ve traveled the first lap at 30 m.p.h., then the two minutes would be up as soon as you began the next lap. So even if you did the second lap at the speed of light, you’d still average under sixty for both laps.

In order to average sixty for the two laps, you’d need a time machine—or a vehicle that could go faster than the speed of light.

5. What museum houses the Mona Lisa?

The Louvre, in Paris. As obvious as this might seem, it only became certain fairly recently with the help of modern day forensics.

In the middle of the 19th Century, as interest in the Mona Lisa began to soar, friends of Sir Joshua Reynolds of Dulwich UK noticed a portrait (left) that looked quite similar to the one that hung in the Louvre. Because of historical reasons, some began to suspect that it could have been the first Mona Lisa.

When Franseco del Giocondo commissioned Leonardo Da Vinci to paint his wife, Lisa di Antonio Maria Gherandini, he thought it might take a few weeks, not a few years. Some believed that an impatient Giocondo demanded the unfinished work from Da Vinci, and that this painting wound up in Dulwich. (Raphael, allegedly made a copy of the Mona Lisa as a work in progress, which looked more like the Dulwich painting than the Paris one.) Frustrated by the loss of a once-in-a-lifetime model, Da Vinci supposedly began a second portrait of Gherandini from memory, using other models including himself. This was the painting currently hanging in the Louvre, or so some believed.

Testing of the Dulwich Mona Lisa established that it was painted more than a century later, which makes it an obvious copy from someone other than Leonardo. (Almost full credit to Charles, Malcolm, Foam, Enemy of the Republic, SJ, and NYD.)

6. List the following four people from shortest to tallest: Napoleon Bonaparte, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Roman Polanski.

From shortest to tallest: Dolly Parton (5’), Roman Polanski (5’, 4”), Napoleon Bonaparte (5’, 6.5”), and Jane Fonda (5’, 7”).

Napoleon’s the obvious ringer, a testament to the effectiveness of a good PSYOPS campaign. British propaganda constantly depicted Napoleon as short (giving his height erroneously at 5’, 2”) because they (probably deliberately) confused French inches (2.7 centimeters) with British inches (2.54 centimeters). Thus, for his time, Napoleon would have been about average height.

7. List the following four bloggers from shortest to tallest: Enemy of the Republic, Foam, Mayden, SJ.

From shortest to tallest: Mayden (5’, 1”), Foam (5’, 3”), Enemy of the Republic (5’, 7.5”), and SJ (6’).

I can verify the heights of Mayden, Foam and Enemy of the Republic because I’ve stood next to them in meatspace. In my personal correspondence with SJ, I learned that he is six-feet tall. Of course, if he’s misrepresented his height to the extent that it changes the answer to the question, blame him, not me. (Full credit to Enemy of the Republic and SJ.)

8. What’s the main ingredient of Welsh rabbit?

Also called Welsh rarebit, the name is a misnomer, for there’s no rabbit in it. The main ingredient is cheese, usually cheddar. For a recipe, click here. (Since one can possibly see the toast part of Welsh Rabbit as the main ingredient, full credit goes to NYD. Partial credit to Enemy of the Republic.)

9. Who does not belong on this list, and why: Mathew Broderick, Laura Bush, Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Charles Manson?

I was kinda curious to see how people would answer this. Thus, the why is the most important part of the question. One person picked Leadbelly because he’s the only one on the list not alive. Laura Bush is the only female, so that’s a legitimate choice.

Here’s another choice that I wonder if anyone considered: Charles Manson. Out of all of the four named, he is the only one not to have actually killed anyone, insofar as what has been proven in court. Manson was not convicted of murder, but rather of conspiracy to commit murder. The killings attributed to him were actually committed by others (Charles Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel, Steve Grogan, Bruce Davis and Bobby Beausoleil).

On the other hand, Broderick drove into an accident that killed Anna Gallagher and Margaret Doherty in 1987. Likewise, Bush drove into an accident killing her friend, Michael Douglas in 1963. Broderick was fined $175 for reckless driving for an event that’s evidently caused him considerable grief ever since. Bush was not charged with any wrongdoing. Huddie Ledbetter served two years in prison for killing his cousin, Will Stafford, in a brawl. (Full credit to Charles, and Malcolm and Enemy of the Republic.)

10. What important revelation does Christ make to his disciples in Matthew, Chapter 29, verse 5?

I once attended this church way in the sticks while visiting relatives in Alabama when the pastor announced, “Today’s sermon is about lying. Who in this congregation has read Matthew Chapter 29, verse 5?”

Nearly every hand shot up.

“Excellent,” beamed the pastor. “Y’all just the folks who need the sermon. ‘Cause their ain’t no such passage in the good book!”

In fact, Matthew ends with Chapter 28.

11. If you divide 30 by one-half, and add ten, how much do you have?

The answer is 70. If you divided 30 by 2 and then added ten, the answer would be 25. But when dividing by a fraction, you’re actually multiplying. Dividing by ½ is the same as multiplying by 2/1, or in other words 2. Thus, 2 x 30 = 60; 60 + 10 = 70. (Full credit to Yinyang, SJ and NYD.)

12. How many of each species did Moses take aboard the ark?

None. Moses didn’t take anyone aboard the ark. But Noah did. (Full credit to NYD and Enemy of the Republic.)

13. In what nation did Albino Luciano serve as chief of state?

Vatican City. Luciano served briefly as Pope John Paul I.

14. What actor played Ensign Checkov in the original pilot of Star Trek?

No one. In fact, the only familiar Star Trek actors who appeared in the pilot episode were Leonard Nimoy (as Spock) and Majel Barrett (as Number One). Jeffrey Hunter starred as Capt. Christopher Pike, with Barrett as his first officer.

The character of Checkov (played by Walter Koenig) did not appear until the second season. According to the Star Trek novels, however, we learn that Checkov was actually on board when the events of the first season took place, but not yet assigned to the bridge crew. (Full credit to Charles, Malcolm, Enemy of the Republic and NYD.)

15. What was Lizzie Borden’s full name?

Lizzie Andrew Borden. In the coroner’s inquest that preceded the trial, she sharply corrected the prosecutor when he suggested her full first name was Elizabeth. (Almost full credit to Charles and Malcolm.)

16. From what country did ketchup originate?

China. The name comes from the Chinese phrase ke’tsiap, meaning “tomato sauce.” (Full credit to NYD and bonus points for noting that Malaysia was an early ketchup user.)

17. From what country did French toast originate?

No one knows, for sure. But it didn’t come from France. French toast recipes have been found as early as ancient Rome.

18. From what country did croissants originate?

Austria. Austrian bakers began to bake them in the 1680s after outlasting a Turkish siege. The crescent shape was meant to mock the crescent symbol of the enemy flag. When Marie Antoinette left Austria to marry King Louis XVI, she brought her taste for the pastry to France.

19. In what US state was Bob Hope born?

Bob Hope was born in London, England on May 29, 1903. (Full credit to NYD, SJ, Malcolm and Charles.)

20. In what country was Wie Seong-mi born?

The United States (October 11, 1989; Honolulu, Hawaii). Westerners know the lanky teenage golfing sensation as Michelle Wie (left). Once she learns to sign her scorecard correctly, we could be seeing a legend in the making.

21. What is the name of Hank William Sr.'s only son?

Randall Hank Williams, the man known to Monday Night Football fans as Hank Williams, Junior. (Partial credit to NYD, SJ, Enemy of the Republic, Yinyang, Foam, Malcolm and Charles.)


Friday, August 08, 2008

Dumb Questions

Just a stupid little trivia quiz. Nothing to worry about.

1. Who was the first African American to play major league baseball?

2. How many states are there in the United States?

3. Who was the first President of the United States?

4. Imagine an oval racetrack that’s exactly one mile around. If a car travels 30 m.p.h. for one lap, how fast must it go the next to average 60 m.p.h. for the two laps combined?

5. What museum houses the Mona Lisa?

6. List the following four people from shortest to tallest: Napoleon Bonaparte, Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Roman Polanski,

7. List the following four bloggers from shortest to tallest: Enemy of the Republic, Foam, Mayden, SJ.

8. What’s the main ingredient of Welsh rabbit?

9. Who does not belong on this list, and why: Mathew Broderick, Laura Bush, Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly), Charles Manson?

10. What important revelation does Christ make to his disciples in Matthew, Chapter 29, verse 5?

11. If you divide 30 by one-half, and add ten, how much do you have?

12. How many of each species did Moses take aboard the ark?

13. In what nation did Albino Luciano serve as chief of state?

14. What actor played Ensign Checkov in the original pilot of Star Trek?

15. What was Lizzie Borden’s full name?

16. From what country did ketchup originate?

17. From what country did French toast originate?

18. From what country did croissants originate?

19. In what US state was Bob Hope born?

20. In what country was Wie Seong-mi born?

21. What is the name of Hank William Sr.'s only son?

For the answers, click here.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Phantom Blogger

Sorry for not posting much, lately, or for checking up on your pages with my usual regularity. I’m not on hiatus. Things are coming slowly. A huge chunk of my recent time has been given over to acute meatspace concerns. I’m also in the process of editing The Golden Ganesh (click here for update), and preparing a new series.

In the meantime, I hope you come around for some games and fun stuff. We’ll be back in full force once everything calms down.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Running a Murphy on You

The above is a photo of the now-defunct Riverfront Stadium, located in my hometown of Cincinnati. One of its most identifiable features, during its heyday, was its field of artificial grass. From my favorite seats, up in the nosebleed section behind home plate, the turf looked stunningly beautiful.

Many team owners also liked the look of Astroturf, back in the ‘70s. Of course for them, the look of Astroturf was of secondary importance to its real advantage: namely, the cost savings compared to maintaining a real lawn (constant mowing, watering, seeding, et cetera). It didn’t take long for players to see the surface as a house of horrors. It’s unyielding and brutal, has maimed athletes for life, and has shortened their careers. Despite its beauty, I would come to hate it myself after actually playing on it. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, it’s like getting knocked down on thinly carpeted concrete.

Actually, that’s precisely what it is.

After the elimination of artificial grass from most sports venues, the term ‘Astroturf’ took on a different meaning, one with an equally sinister or worse connotation. Instead of phony grass on playing fields, the term began to refer to phony grass roots campaigns. In many instances, these Astroturf organizations are also false flag operations. In other words, they claim to work on the behalf of someone they wish to destroy.

Earlier this year, as Sen. Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid grinded to a halt, a group of women claiming to be pro-Hilary Democrats openly professed their support for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain unless she were named the Party's nominee. On May 31 of this year, our friend Enigma4ever, in a deft piece of live news blogging, reported on the then-ongoing Rules Committee meeting regarding Florida and Michigan, and in the process addressed the disruptive tactics of ardent Clinton supporters. She later reported on June 5 that 5,000 members, all presumably pro-Clinton women, were apparently so upset that their candidate lost that they were forming an organization to support the candidacy of Sen. McCain.

Some of the other blogs that I regularly visit wrote about what seemed to be a Democratic women’s movement toward Sen. McCain on or after June 7, the date that Senator Clinton suspended her campaign, and threw her support behind Sen. Barack Obama. I commented at the time that I believed this movement to be little more than Astroturf, for it bore all the markings of such. You have a few, very loud people claiming to represent a large constituency, yet you saw the same faces representing that movement again and again. Secondly, their disruptive tactics, in front of full view of cameras, looked more consistent with generating publicity than actual negotiation. Third, and most important, their agenda made absolutely no sense. Instead of advocating for female representation on the second spot on the ticket (especially in light of two viable VP candidates, Sen. Clinton and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas), lobbying for the adoption of their planks on the party platform, or even voting for female candidates of other parties (e.g. Green Party nominee, former-US Representative Cynthia McKinney), they threw their support behind a candidate that is openly against many of the issues they claim to champion (e.g. reproductive rights, affirmative action, and so forth).

Many looked at this movement as if it were something legitimate. But time has a way of sorting these things out, especially in this day and age where we can find out information about people and groups with the click of a mouse. As is the case here, we have ample evidence that the Hilary-supporters-for-McCain represent a continuation of the Astroturf tradition.

The group spearheading this movement, People United Means Action (PUMA), although officially supporting no particular candidate, has waged a media battle by dint of blogs and television appearances to stop the election of Sen. Obama to the presidency. At the same time, many of the cyberproponents of the organization have openly supported the Republican nominee. PUMA also depicted itself as a pro-Clinton movement from early-on. Yet its founder, self-styled soccer mom Darraugh Murphy, registered the organization on June 3, 2008: immediately after Sen. Clinton’s hopes for the nomination ended.

Figure 1. PUMA Statement of Organization

Despite Murphy’s contention that she supports Hilary, we should have to suspect that Murphy would have still voted for McCain, even if Sen. Clinton had managed an eleventh-hour rally to win the nomination or extend the contest to the national convention. After all, records show that Murphy donated $500 to Sen. McCain’s campaign in 2004. True, that’s not the maximum amount she is allowed to give, by law. Still, that’s an extraordinary commitment to a specific candidate for the average citizen, which she presumably is. When confronted with this information, Murphy claimed to have voted for Al Gore in 2000. Of course, since our votes are private, we have no evidence other than her say-so that she in fact voted for Gore in 2000, or any other Democrat in any other year. Furthermore, since McCain only ran during the primaries, and not for the general election, her financial support of him undermines the contention that her loyalties are with the Democratic Party as she claims, even though she appears to be registered as a Democrat.

The late date of the formation of PUMA also gives us further reason for suspecting the Astroturf nature of this movement. After all, Obama had been running ahead for many weeks prior to this. It almost seems as though they had to make sure of who would actually win.

A Democratic blog, Yes to Democracy, found out that the PUMA strategy of waging an online battle against Sen. Obama’s election left a paper trail connecting it to Sen. McCain. Registering with, this organization, and such others as,,, all gave as their contact information, the following:

15111 N. Hayden Road; Suite 160; PMB 353
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Why is that important? Well, this was Sen. Clinton’s official cybercampaign’s contact information:
Hilary Clinton for President
4420 North Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203
This is Sen. Obama’s

Obama for America
233 North Michigan Avenue; Suite 1100
Chicago, IL 60601
And this is Sen. McCain’s:

15111 N. Hayden Road; Suite 160; PMB 353
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

According to Wikipedia, one such blog, Democrats for McCain (founded by former Howard Dean webmaster Necco Mele), was discovered to have Republican links. Meanwhile, other such Democrats-for-McCain organizations have begun to confess that they have very few Democrats in their membership. Of course, many of these organizations have taken stances that seem more right-wing than left, among them their opposition to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Naturally, their ideology and tactics have led others to suspect that these are Republicans in cheap clothing. As Alaska Democratic Party Chair Patti Higgins explained to one PUMA supporter:

Having Senator Clinton’s name on a roll call without having the votes would just embarrass her, waste time, and make people agonize over nothing. I find it difficult to believe that this organization is not an undercover McCain operation.
That these supposedly “pro-Hilary” factions actually champion the very thing that Senator Clinton opposes gives us reason to consider this a false flag operation. They run in direct opposition to the views and statements of the person they claim to work for. Furthermore, they don’t seem to actually represent the vast majority of Clinton supporters. While they themselves estimate that they comprise only 10% of Clinton supporters, there’s no way to verify even that low a figure. I’m inclined to believe they pulled the number out of thin air.

The premise behind Astroturf campaigns originates in Social Learning Theory. As a species we tend to modify our thoughts and behavior in accordance to those around us. The point here is to present a model of behavior that features a specific members within a certain demographic behaving in a specific way for a specific reason. The hope is that others, of similar age, race, gender, and so forth, adopt the very prominent attitudes of others they see as like themselves. Thus, as our friend Pjazzypar wisely noted in a post, also dated June 5, there’s the possibility that such a strategy could work, and that legitimate Clinton supporters might be wooed to the Republican side. In fact, in some cases this has happened.

On a larger scale, this post isn’t about attacking Sen. McCain, or lauding Sen. Obama. If you like one or the other, vote for them. I have no good evidence that Sen. McCain is behind the machinations carried out on his behalf (ala Richard Nixon), and it’s quite plausible that he isn’t--although one would think he’d be aware of it to some degree. Furthermore, anyone running for high office from a major party carries the sins of that party.

So this isn’t a political endorsement. I’m simply pointing out an apparent PSYOP in vivo. The point here is that many news outlets gave credence to a growing movement without examining its origins. Apparently, many felt that a large-scale movement of Democratic women for McCain was real because they got it straight from the horse’s mouth.

Of course, if you’re not careful, you might actually be getting it straight from the other end of the horse.

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