Thursday, February 26, 2009

[Redacted] Artists

Welcome to post #400.

When you write on the subjects I do, you sometimes have to put up with a little interference from the military industrial complex. It was bad enough when they simply intercepted the mail to the account. But now they’re starting to redact it!

What’s worse, their redaction software seems to target only the names of musical artists. See if you can tell what’s going on between me and my cyberfriends by filling in the redacted spaces, each of them containing the name of a band or vocal group (watch out for bad puns, deliberate misspellings, and—how can I put this?—innovative punctuation).

1. I didn’t have the [redacted] to tell Prism that I probably won’t get to the Philippines in time to celebrate Christmas with her.

2. Lend an ear to punster SJ, and he’ll fill it with [redacted]y jokes.

3. Foam cautioned me on my upcoming trip to the Rockies, writing, “Look out for [redacted], especially near Boulder.”

4. I asked Charles if he had visited the ear doctor lately. “[redacted]?” he replied.

5. When I told Cora she had a will of [redacted] simply said, “Thanks for the compliment.”

6. Enemy of the Republic and I took a day trip to interview a group of cavemen living in southern New Jersey. We noticed that in their numerical system, the numbers jumped around sometimes. When Enemy asked why they had no numbers between thirty-seven and thirty nine, they replied, “[redacted].”

7. Crushed thought that Ms. Goodall might have a drinking or drug problem, but I told him that [redacted] is to animals.

8. When Fatty and I finally hooked up our microphones together, we sang the Christian favorite, “He’s Got the [redacted] World in His Hands.”

9. When I went to visit Aggie, I drove on the wrong side of the road and almost hit some poor slob on a construction crew. I didn’t see him, but Aggie pointed out a sign that clearly said, “[redacted].”

10. Benjibopper told me that he once burned his tongue by eating too many [redacted].

11. Yinyang said that when she passed by the patch, she saw a few of her classmates [redacted].

12. K9 said that every Thanksgiving she helps herself to the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, and the pumpkin pie, but she avoids [redacted].

13. Boneman passed on a bit of trivia. As a young man in Illinois, President Honest Abe himself worked as a garage attendant. Truth be told, I’d pay anything to watch [redacted] cars.

14. Fellow musician JohnB showed me his banjo collection. He numbered each instrument, so I naturally found [redacted] right next to BanjoV.

15. Enigma4Ever had an opportunity to ask President Obama what he would do if teenaged flesh-eating zombies ever posed national security problems. He said that he would initially [redacted]. If that didn’t work, he’d impose tougher sanctions.

16. One of our friends from up north said that if he were a tenth-century Norseman, he might have written a team blog titled, “The Passion of the [redacted].”

17. Jean and I took a little trip down the east coast. I drove while she counted Volkswagens, 158 of them all. “My gods!” she exclaimed. “[redacted] were out in full force today!”

18. Malcolm posted a story of how police found Sylvester Stallone, his mom Jackie and his brother Frank wandering aimlessly about in a lonely woods, and barely able to speak. The cops thought they might have been intoxicated, but drug and alcohol tests were negative. For now, it’s left everyone to wonder just what it was that got [redacted]d.”

19. Devin’s history of 1930s gangsters included one post in which the Lady in Red criticized Dillinger’s poor driving, prompting the notorious killer to groan, ‘You’ve got a lot of [redacted].”

20. When I visited him in Japan, NYD took me up to a scenic overlook. Down in the lowlands, next to the river, I saw a number of surplus military vehicles. They all started this rhythmic pulsing, each pounding away in it’s own lyrical groove. I asked him where we were, and he replied, “This is [redacted].”

21. Dr. Alistair told me about the time he counseled a pair of identical twins. They complained about each other quite a bit. “She’s always tying me up in knots,” groused one [redacted].

22. Helene said she wanted to make another trip to Europe, and the cheapest fare flew out of Long Island. In fact Ft. [redacted]s were usually cheaper than those leaving out of JFK, LaGuardia or Newark.

23. Middle Ditch character Randolph Minton seems to spend much more time with Lady Annabel than he does in [redacted].

24. Pjazzypar fell asleep before the rumble, but didn’t wake up when it started. You see, it was a [redacted].

25. Libby wanted to form a murderball team in her home state of [redacted] were kinda hard to find, though.

26. Ray’s wife begged him for years to buy a bottle of a special perfume for her birthday. One year, he finally bought it. Carped he, “Here’s your [redacted],” before giving it to her.

27. Once he moved back to New York, Ricardo saw a dealership that specialized in classic cars. One 1960s Cadillac immediately caught his eye. “Lemme guess,” he said to the salesman. “That’s a ’65 Coupe DeVille, right?”

The salesman looked at him with disgust, and said, “Are youse kiddin’? That’s a [redacted].”

For the answers, click here. For later games, click here.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Further Tarnishing the Apple Brand....

Between the Paul-Is-Dead series and the previous one on Manson, the Beatles have gotten a lot of flack on The X-Spot. For that I should apologize.

But I won’t. In fact, we’re going to trash them a little more.

Below are a few of the most infamous Beatles’ covers/parodies ever. Vote for the one you think is the worst.

Most of these I found at Clay’s Sound Emporium, a wonderful collection of wav files chronicling American pop culture. If you’ve never been there, it’s a great way to kill an hour or two.

“A Hard Day’s Night” by Mrs. Elva Miller (1907-1997)

Back in the early days of The Tonight Show, Steve Allen’s revolving world of zany characters included one Elva Miller (left). Mrs. Miller studied music at Pamona College, and recorded classical and children’s songs in her spare time. In the 1960s, someone at Capitol Records suggested that she include more “modern” pop songs in her repertoire.

To say that she could carry a tune is like saying that a sieve could carry water. In the tradition of Florence Foster Jenkins, The Cherry Sisters and William Hung, she was more showman than show, a performer who could captivate an audience by the sheer bravado of singing horribly.

“Paperback Writer” by The Wolfers and Tweeters Ensemble

By now you’ve probably heard the standard “Jingle Bells” as sung by dogs. Well, in 1983, someone at Passport Records thought it would be a good idea to warm up canine vocal chords for a collection of Fab Four hits, thus coming up with the infamous Beatle Barkers album (left).

You know, I can’t figure out if I should dedicate this selection to Rinda Elliot, Charles Gramlich, or K9.

“I Had to Hold Her Hand” by Homer (1920-1971) and Jethro (1920-1989)

By day, Henry Haynes (Homer) and Kenneth Burns (Jethro) performed as respectable musicians, backing up the likes of Chet Atkins, June Carter and other country notables, and holding down a steady gig at Cincinnati’s WLW (the flagship station of the Mutual Broadcasting Network). But their real fame, from 1936 on, came from lampooning the pop songs of the day, with a country feel. Recording at Cincy’s King Studios, they were sorta the Depression era’s version of Weird Al Yankovic.

In 2001, they were posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“Day Tripper” by Mae West (1893-1980)

As a playwright and stage actress, West’s frank views on sexuality made her an object of scandal in the “roaring” 1920s, a decade otherwise known for its openness concerning sex. As an entertainer, West made a living by being on the cutting edge, and constantly pushing the envelope. So, it’s not surprising that when the ‘60s came, she’d record rock tunes, something very few nineteenth-century people have done.

The real tragedy here is that in her younger days, Mae was a pretty decent singer. Were it possible for her to sing this song, say, in 1919, it could have been classically good, instead of classically mediocre.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by Dr. William H. Cosby (1937- )

Not satisfied with being a star of TV and the standup stage, the Cos tried to cut it as a musician. Some of his parodies (e.g., the James Brown spoof “I Love Myself Better than I Love Myself”) are intentionally funny. But this is a straight cover, and it’s about the funniest thing he’s ever done.

“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by William Shatner (1931- )

Shatner has his own singing style, which he’s attempted to revive for commercials and the like. Some of his songs (e.g., “You’ll Have Time“) are actually kind of good. But in this recording, we’re left to wonder what was going through his head. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like Captain Kirk is in a lot of pain.

BTW, Writer Procrastinator has posted the entries submitted by you guys on The Bad Lieutenant's Wife. Go over and check 'em out.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Writer Procrastinator’s Other Wife: Great Entries

I culled only those that I thought were A-1 and strictly fit the game, although the rest weren’t bad either. Also, let me know if you want me to send your eligible material over to The Bad Lieutenant's Wife.

BTW, during the last post, The X-Spot hit the 100,000 page view mark. So thank you for your support.

John B.

Dr. No Mo' Better Blues


Darkness Falls On Golden Pond - After getting the family back together, and remembering happy times, a gang of bloodthirsty inter-dimensional witches come to Golden Pond, and gives the family 24 hours to decide who will be their blood sacrifice


Dances with American Werewolves in London

Throw Momma from the Midnight Meat Train

The Breakfast Club at Tiffany's

Debbie Does Santa Clause Too in Dallas - A movie about Christmas time fundraising.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ Booty Call - Bodacious blonds call on gentlemen.

The Story of O Brother, Where Art Thou?-A young woman's search for her brother who has been sold as a sex slave.

9 to 5 Blow Job -Andy Warhol's 45 minute movie about a bunch of computer tech geeks whose jobs suck .. err, blow.

The Pink Panther Pillow Talk -An interior decorator steals a diamond belonging to a womanizing songwriter who unravels the mystery disguised as a bumbling French detective.

The Sound of the Golden Ganesh Music -Musical about a yodeling cult, which steals a golden Ganesh music box. An insurance agency hires a singing detective to chase the cult over hill and dale.

The Last Tango in Paris Date Movie - A closeted lesbian widow finds herself obsessed with the fiancée of Grant, the guy at the diner.

The Departed Walk the Line - Zombie horror flick featuring the Dead Kennedys

Alice in Deep Throat Wonderland - Alice's adventurous search for Mr. Right

Dressed to Kill Bill,Vol.1

The Hills Have Eyes of Laura Mars [And she wants them back!]

American History X-Men

Raging Bull Durham

Touch of Evil Dead

There Will be First Blood

Malcolm X-Men

Blue Velvet Lagoon-Two teens' sexual awakening is anything but tender when it is interrupted by a nitrous sniffing madman

The Shaggy Dog Day After High Noon-A sheepdog and Al Pacino rob a bank; then face a stand off with sheriff Gary Cooper

Seven Beauties Samurai-Samurai rescue Italian army deserters from a terrifying prison madam, only to be turned into transvestite geisha prostitutes

Vanilla Blue Sky-Horny Jessica Lange embarrasses husband through her adulterous affair with disfigured Scientoligist

The Lion King Kong-A giant ape fucks up the Circle of life

BlackuLa Bamba-A hip-hop vampire goes on a blood sucking rampage every time he hears a Mexican beat

As Good as the Bad and Ugly Gets-A story of 3 western desperados with obsessive compulsive disorder

Dead Man Walking Tall-Sheriff Buford T. Pusser goes too far in when he kills a nun who befriends him in prison.

Hang Em High School Musical-Disney CEO snaps when his stable of teen tarts make a porno.

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Turner and Hooch-*explicit X-rated film featuring beastiality *

Black Rain Man-An autistic man gets the better of the Chinese mafia

Animal House of Wax-Low budget horror film where an entire fraternity is picked off one by one, dipped in wax, and put on display at the "college" museum

Air Force One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-Obama realizes he cant fix anything and leaves the country

Sridhar J.
Sex and the City of Angels - Four women in search of love(?!) find spiritual fulfillment.

The Hollow Man Who Knew Too Much- A brave woman gets back her child kidnapped by a near-invisible man

The Sixth Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen's only spooky story

Top Guns of Navarone - Tom Cruise fights for the Allies in WW2, Epic win for Axis.

Silence of the Lions for Lambs - Serial killer among the US troops in Afghanistan

Stuart Little Women - Of women and mice

The Bridges over the River Kwai in Madison County - British army regiment futile attempts to re-colonize the USA

An Inconvenient Truth about Cats and Dogs - How cats and dogs are destroying the environment.

The Full Monty Python and the Holy Grail - The Pythonites get nekkid

Six Days Seven Boogie Nights - A mismatched couple crash-lands on an island where a porn movie is being shot.

The Other Mean Boleyn Girls - There are more Boleyn sisters than we thought ... and uh-oh.

Howard’s End of Days - The Satan visits his friends: Victorian colonists.

Confessions of a Dangerous Shopaholic Mind - Shopping till you drop ... dead.

Who Wants to Marry a Slumdog Millionaire - A game show with a game show winner!

Girl, Interrupted Next Door - A small town boy falls in love with a borderline-depressive girl

Old School of Rock - A music student who likes vintage music only

Cold Brokeback Mountain - Two gay guys fall in love but the sex is frigid

He's Just Not That Into You, Me and Dupree - About a guy who is strictly monogamous

Sleeping with the Enemy of the State - Matahari meets drive-in

What Happens in Vegas Every Spring - A documentary about seasonal time business variations in Las Vegas.

Death at Four Weddings and a Funeral - A violent bunch that likes to kill at weddings.

The Runaway Princess Bride - A princess who runs away with her girlfriend

American Beauty and the Beast - Beauty and the beast set in Kenosha, Wisconsin

Analyze This Confession of a Dangerous Mind - The Unabomber goes to see a shrink.

Bringing Down the Haunted House - Queen Latifah as a vampire slayer

Fifty-Four First Dates - Drew Barrymore goes to Studio 54 to find a date

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Chainsaw Massacre - doesn't need a log-line!

Dude, Where's My Carmen - a French opera with the "dudes"

Million Dollar Baby's Day Out - Rich kid strays away from nanny and into a boxing ring.

The First Wives Fight Club - Three divorced women want to get away from it all by fighting on the streets.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

Writer Procrastinator’s Other Wife

A couple of years ago, our friend Dale introduced me to a fellow blogger going by the handle of Writer Procrastinator. Among his sites was one that provided me with hours of amusement.

The Bad Lieutenant’s Wife is a blog that’s actually a game. There are a couple of ways to play. In the first you combine two or more movie titles that dovetail into each other. By that I mean that the last word of title one is the first word of title two. James, for example, took the movie All the President’s Men and combined it with the flick Men in Black, thus resulting in All the President’s Men in Black.

The second way to play is to embed titles that have the same word or words. For example, our friend Beckeye combined Stranger than Fiction with Pulp Fiction and got Stranger than Pulp Fiction.

My first go at the game yielded the following entries:

Wag the Dog Day Afternoon

Anatomy of a Murder at 1600

To Live and Die in L.A. Story

Eight Men Out There
Not the greatest start. I first thought, “Hey! Something’s missing.” It then dawned on me that the humor of the game came from imagining what such a title might actually look like on the screen. So I started adding brief descriptions (known in the biz as ‘loglines’) to my entries:

Help! Psycho!—The Beatles check into the Bates Motel.

Fahrenheit 9/11:14--The Bush family’s Saudi connections are examined from five different points of view.

The Third Mandingo--A slave impregnates his master’s wife, and then flees to Vienna, where Orson Welles has promised him a job.

Jaws-II, The Birds-10 --Manager Bo Derek leads her baseball team to an unlikely upset in Alfred Hitchcock’s only sports movie.

Poltergeist II, Jaws III--Score of the consolation game.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace II Society--Street hustlers attack the Jedi.

There’s Something about Mary Poppins--A number of ne’er-do-wells competitively scheme to hire an a-list nanny for their kids.

Nanook of the North by Northwest--Soviet Intelligence mistakes a 1920s Inuit for a super spy.

John Tucker Must Die Another Day--Procrastinating cheerleaders wait for 007 to kill off their philandering boyfriend.

Pretty in Pink Flamingos--Divine gives fashion tips to Molly Ringwald.

The Trouble with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone--John Forsythe and Shirley MacLaine critique the first movie about the boy wizard.

Kiss, Kiss Chitty Chitty Bang Bang--A thief, an actress, and a private eye purchase a flying car that drives itself.

Blowup in Smoke--Antonioni film about a mod cameraman who thinks he might have photographed Cheech and Chong.

Debbie Does North Dallas Forty--A cheerleader bites off more than she can chew, so to speak.

An Elmer Gantry Grows in Brooklyn--An evangelist escapes his tough Bensonhurst neighborhood to build a ministry based on the Gospel of Bad Puns According to SJ.

The Story of Oklahoma--A Frenchwoman finds an erotic underground in the Sooner State.

The Hot Rocky--Robert Redford and Zero Mostel light a fire under Sylvester Stallone.

The Opposite of Sex and the Single Girl--A film about marriage.
You get the drift. Sometimes, I’d try to sneak one past everybody, and incorporate titles that weren’t actual movies:

Solyent Green Acres—The residents of Hooterville wonder what’s happened to Sam Drucker, Fred Ziffel and Mr. Haney.

Private School for Girls Gone Wild—Classes held once a year, during Mardi Gras.
Mostly, I tuned in for the contributions of the other players. I have to admit that I became a fan of Flannery Alden almost immediately. Her best (IMHO) contributions:

Get Smart, Shorty

No Country for Three Old Men and a Baby

An American Gangster in Paris

Cheaper by the Dirty Dozen

The Sixth Sense and Sensibility

Goodnight, Nurse, and Good Luck

Honey, I Blew Up the Karate Kid

Deathwish of a Salesman

Raging Bullwinkle

Howard the Duck Soup

Jumpin’ Jack Flashdance

The Good Wife, the Bad Santa, and the Coyote Ugly
Other contributors have put in some excellent posts as well.

Match Point Blank [Dale]

A Swordfish Called Wanda [Beckeye]

Interview with Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Angel’s Mind]

The Forty Year Old Virgin Suicides [Chris]

The People under the Stairs vs. Larry Flynt [Amy]

The Repo Man Who Knew Too Much [Dead Spot on the Web]

Boxing Helena of Troy [Writer Procrastinator]

Village of the Damned Yankees [John D. Carlucci]

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Prefer Blondes [Catherinette]

I Was a Male War Bride of Frankenstein [John D. Carlucci]

Live and Let Die Hard [our friend, Dr. Alistair]

My Big Fat Greek Wedding Crashers [Becky]
Okay. So now that you’ve got plenty of examples, how many more new titles can you generate? Ten or twelve? More?

Try your hand at it. We don’t have to stick to movie titles. Song and TV titles will work too, as long as you can think up a logline for it. I’ll put up the best ones in the next post.

See comments for some clever answers.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The X-Spot, Year Three: A Time of Kismet

I guess this is kismet.
—Author Erik Greene, commenting on the X-Spot series dedicated to his uncle, Sam Cooke.
Despite a haphazard presence on the Web, due to my move and personal matters, this has by far been the most active year for this site. But activity is one thing. What’s really striking about this year, at least to me, is the synchronicity of posts to real-world events. It’s almost as though kismet had destined me to concentrate on certain people and events at a specific time for maximum effect.

Take, for instance, the April Fools’ Day post where I jokingly referred to actor Charlton Heston as half-dead because of his senility. Had I known he would pass away before I could put up another post, I wouldn’t have mentioned him.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon seemed to continue throughout the year. In late April I began a series on the role a high-priced Washington call-girl ring led by a well-connected madam. Before the series could conclude, we would read about the death of another well-connected Washington madam named Deborah Palfrey. Worse yet, I casually mentioned George Carlin in a couple of posts in late-March, and he died three months later.

Of course, while writing the series on Manson, the health of Susan Atkins seems to have improved. She will now be attending a parole hearing later this year if she’s still around.

The moral of the previous paragraphs: don’t let me write about you unless you’re a convicted murderer at death’s door.

On the upside, this was a tremendous year for networking with others. I enjoyed the counsel and dialogue with a number of Lyndon LaRouche critics. I’ve enjoyed the same from Fromspahnranch, and others knowledgeable about the Tate-LaBianca killings. Of course, I tremendously appreciated the presence of Erik Greene during the Sam Cooke series (BTW, Erik, I owe you an e-mail soon). His book, Our Uncle Sam, gave me much to think about. And I have definitely given it a lot of thought since the series’ conclusion.

Although it appeared during Year Two of The X-Spot, the Paul-Is-Dead series sparked a buzz of new activity thanks to the gracious contribution of Letter B, who linked to the series from the Nothing Is Real (NIR) forum, of which he is a member. One of the respondents, going by the handle Apollo C. Vermouth, seemed to have inside information about the apparent use of two sound doubles (and one visual double) of Paul McCartney, and that the Beatles deliberately planted clues pointing to the duplicity over numerous posts:

The story line? In all truth, about 65% of what is written [regarding the Paul-Is-Dead rumor] is based on things that actually happened. The remainder, sheer fantasy. Now, to figure what is, and what isn't. It was agreed, BY ALL INVOLVED, that once the "story" is told, not to deviate from any previous statements. You know, and I know, that there ARE clues to be found on Pepper. Just what those "clues" allude to, has not yet been figured out. But, when asked of John, George, or Ringo, there was always the "total rubbish" response. That is the story line. Deny! I have been accused of "jerking you all off" with my cryptic responses. Truth is, you've been jerked off from day one! THAT was part of the "story line." A little mystery for you to figure out.

When things began to turn a bit "beyond the beyond", I tried to get the loonies back on the right path.

The theories of CIA, KKK, UFO's, Paul in space, Don Knotts....fucking hell!!! I'M JERKING YOU OFF????? Keep it simple, follow the clues, have a spot of fun, That is the "story line" NOW. There is a method to my madness.

In late-March 2008, a site administrator revealed the identity of Apollo as that of former Apple CEO Neil Aspinall (Aspinall died from lung cancer on March 23 of last year). As a longtime associate of the band, not to mention a former Faul candidate himself, Aspinall knew more about the Beatles than anyone in the world, including the Beatles themselves. But other members of the NIR board had difficulty believing that Aspinall and Apollo were one and the same. I won’t rehash that whole argument, (you can get a decent summary of it here) but there are reasons to take the rumor seriously. If, by any chance, someone could verify Vermouth’s identity, then we could have daunting evidence that at least someone connected to Apple had interest in furthering the hoax, not because of any malicious reasons, but to have “a spot of fun.” If anything else breaks on this story, I’ll definitely give an update.

Of course, a good deal of energy this year has gone into producing The Golden Ganesh. As of now, I have found real actors to play the roles of Smythe, Col. Smith, Indra, and (drum roll, please) Dee. We’ll have to see when I get actual recordings before I say anything definite. Rest assured, however, that those of you who have already put in good work on the project will have your public hearing if I have to go to the open seas and abduct people. As it stands now, The Ganesh will give us something to talk about for Year 4.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Devil’s in the Slide: Epilogue

The Manson case interested me when I first heard about it as a teenybopper in 1976. I read Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter that summer with great interest, fascinated by the personalities, the sleuthing and the courtroom theatrics (not to mention the imaginary Beatles soundtrack). With crisp, authoritative writing, Bugliosi’s version of events etched itself into my mind, providing a clarity of understanding, a smug satisfaction that I knew everything one could about this event in American history.

Then something happened. In 1998 I discovered Stephanie Caruana’s Skeleton Key to the Gemstone File, and that led me to the work of Mae Brussell, who collaborated with her on articles about Howard Hughes and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Brussell’s take on the Helter Skelter murders so confounded my understanding of the case that I felt compelled to look at it further, starting with a re-reading of Bugliosi’s trial memoir. I later read Adam Gorightly’s book, which pointed to a number of sources, some of which I read and cited here, in particular Ed Sanders’ The Family. By that time, a number of Manson websites had sprung up on the Net, each featuring complex and compelling takes on the subject. The Official Tate-LaBianca Murders Blog (not really official), hosted by someone referring to himself as Col. Scott, offers a diverse collection of issues surrounding the Tate-LaBianca murders (albeit with considerable attitude). The Manson Family Today site hosts a number of multimedia resources on the development of the family, both before the murders and afterwards up to the present day, with late-breaking news posted all of the time. I also had access to a number of periodical source material courtesy of EBSCO host. And I eventually would discover YouTube and Google videos (a decent selection of which you can find at Eutha's entertaining blog).

After wading through all that, the clarity I had after reading Helter Skelter vanished forever, never to return. Not even a third perusal could restore that confidence of knowing anything about these events. The more you know about it, the less you understand. Motives that once seemed so obvious now seem ridiculous. The purpose of these killings is no longer self-evident.

While I have lost the old clarities, new ones have taken their place. For example, Mae Brussell was right on one key point: these weren’t the Charles Manson murders; these were the Charles Watson murders. No matter what hypothesis or variation one looks at, regarding Watson as the main motive force behind the slayings makes far more sense than casting Manson in the lead role.

Looking back at the press coverage, one can easily surmise why Manson became a much more attractive focal point for public horror. His criminal history, his hypnotic and violent hold over women, his charisma, his hippie appearance, and his wide wild eyes made Manson an attractive boogeyman. Conversely, Watson’s clean-cut good looks, and his All-American middle-class background made him a very sympathetic figure. Even the judge who presided over Watson’s trial openly expressed doubt about Watson’s guilt from the bench. Yet Watson unquestionably took part in all seven of the Tate-LaBianca murders, and was the sole killer in four of them. He planned the capers. He trained his associates. He gave the orders at the crime scene.

Conversely, my view of Manson has changed: from nightmarish monster to pathetic loser. By ‘pathetic,’ I mean in the literal sense of evoking pathos. Here’s a guy who’s mother hated him so much she abandon him multiple times. The only home he really knew was a prison. And in the big house, he’s got a tremendous handicap, for he’s a scrawny little (5’2”) thing who, ironically, lacks a killer instinct. His only defense has been his mouth, which he’s apparently put to good use throughout his life.

That doesn’t mean that I think Manson should be free. First of all, he’s more comfortable in jail, so there’s no problem with keeping him there. Second, there’s a decent chance he could be a harm to society upon release, especially if he hooks up with some of his more violent fans, or worse yet some of his Aryan defenders. Third, regardless of motive, he really is guilty of conspiracy to murder with respect to the Leno and Rosemary LaBianca slayings, and the State of California has deemed life an appropriate sentence for those crimes.

One thing I’m also clear about is the guilt of other family members as autonomous human beings with considerable control over their actions. True, there could have been some group coercion. But as such, you really can’t shovel the responsibility totally on Manson for that. On this point, I’m in total agreement with the Tate family that the other killers were liable for their crimes. Unlike the Tates, however, I am indifferent to the killers’ eventual release, except for Watson. On the one hand, I don’t think Atkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten pose any dangers to society. On the other hand, I don’t really have any problem with their confinement for life, so long as they receive humane treatment.

One more thing that I’m certain Mae’s right about: the Tate-LaBianca murders had a profound sociological impact on the public’s view of youth culture. After this and the other events occurring in late-1969, there seemed to be less trust in the kids, despite the Who’s insistence that they were all right. After the murders, many viewed youth culture as something understandable, perhaps necessary, but ultimately in need of authoritative mediation.

Some of the fuzzy issues surrounding this case have led me to ponder Brussell’s assertion that this was all rigged. While I don’t regard this as fact (see previous post), I have to admit there are more things I’d like to know about this case.

For starters, I’d like to know the connection between the Manson bunch and their victims. The official version’s insistence that these were random killings seems ludicrous on the surface of it, and even more nonsensical the deeper you delve into it. After all, if the slippies wanted to go on a murder spree, and they went undetected after back-to-back capers, why didn’t they go out on a third murder spree, or a fourth? Especially since the killers initially expressed personal joy and satisfaction in killing other human beings?

Here’s something that Aggie brought up in an earlier comment: if they really wanted to ignite race war, why not use the time they spent twiddling their thumbs at the Spahn and Barker ranches to raid black households, and frame (other) white people for the crime? Especially if they can make the deaths appear as revenge for the Tate-LaBianca killings? This could have given some the incentive to raid wealthier homes in retaliation if police seemed, well, indifferent to solving such murders.

The most compelling and logical answer to these questions (IMHO) is that the slippies only killed the people they intended to kill; more precisely, those connected to them. While Bugliosi downplayed the obvious connections between the killers and the dead, we have every reason to think that these links played a more critical role in the selection of the victims (with the exception of Steve Parent, a kid simply in the wrong place, at the wrong time). The slippies had been to 10050 Cielo Dr. numerous times. One of them, Dean Morehouse, even lived on the property with the full knowledge of the owner, Rudy Altobelli, and consent of the tenant, Terry Melcher, a music executive who attempted to help Manson further his musical career. Between Melcher’s departure and the Polanskis’ arrival, a couple of the slippies still went to the property to use the swimming pool, and some say that they encountered Abigail Folger and Wojiciech Frykowski during at least one visit.

This would make sense seeing that when Atkins saw Folger, reading on her bed on the night of the murders, Abigail smiled at her and exchanged pleasantries. That gives us every indication that Folger recognized Susan. Moreover, Atkins and Folger had plenty of opportunity to have had some sort of contact at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, where the latter volunteered, and the former came in for treatment.

Another hub linking the murderers and their victims revolved around the social world of Cass Elliot (left). Her former bandmate, John Phillips, twice turned down requests to foster Manson’s musical career, so he managed to stay away from this particular fray. In his autobiography, he nevertheless lamented the crowd that had begun to leech onto Elliot. Others weren’t so lucky. The drug world of Elliot’s sometime-boyfriend Denny Doyle most likely ensnared Frykowski, and could very well have mixed itself up in Manson’s criminal enterprises. Also within this orbit was Charlene Cafritz, the wealthy socialite, about whom little is known, other than her putative ties to both the Polanskis and the slippies, and her death from a drug overdose during the trial.

The ties with the LaBiancas could very well have stemmed from their proximity to the slippies’ old pal Harold True. Then again, there could have been a connection between the group and Susan Struthers through her boyfriend, Joe Dorgan, a member of the Straight Satans group courted by Manson.

For now, these connections will have to remain in the category marked "fuzzy-yet-interesting."

Meanwhile, life goes on for the survivors. Manson, now 74, will undoubtedly live out his remaining years at Corcoran State Prison (California), despite the fact that he will come up again for parole in 2012. Both Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten currently reside at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Krenwinkel was denied parole last year. Van Houten is up again for it this year.

Atkins, diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in the spring of 2008, was denied compassionate release last July, despite support from a number of people, among them Bugliosi. Officials transferred her to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, where she will live out what little time she has left. She explains on her website that she is beyond financial help and asks for concerned parties to send any monetary gifts to the family of Wojiciech Frykowski.

Charles Watson continues to head his Abounding Love Ministry from Mule Creek Prison in Ione, CA. He didn’t show up for his last parole hearing in 2006. During his incarceration, he married and had four kids. He and his wife divorced in 2003.

Lynette Fromme, one of the few hardcore members still dedicated to that place and time, has a rather checkered prison record, which includes an attack on a fellow inmate with a hammer, and a successful escape attempt. She’s currently housed in the Federal Medical Center at Carswell, TX. While in prison, she co-founded an environmental organization, Air, Trees, Water and Animals (ATWA), with Manson and Sandra Good. Good served for many years as the chief spokesperson of the group, but began to shy away from her association with Manson earlier this decade, and has kept a low profile since 2002.

Bobby Beausoleil has recorded a considerable amount of music in prison, including the soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising. He also has had exhibitions for his artwork. Denied parole in 2006, he will be eligible again in 2013.

Bruce Davis, like Watson and Atkins, became a born-again Christian. He currently resides in the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo. As mentioned earlier, Steve Grogan received parole in 1985, and to date remains the only “family” murderer to go free. He has recorded his own music under an assumed name, apparently.

Barbara Hoyt earned a nursing degree after her stint with the “family,” and currently lives in Washington State. Over the years, she has contributed to the online knowledge of the slippies and has testified in the parole hearings in support of the Tate family. Likewise Mary Brunner, Ruth Ann Morehouse, Catherine Share and others have all disassociated themselves from that milieu, and have led normal lives, more or less. Linda Kasabian had one serious run-in with the law in 1996, when police arrested her for meth possession, and her daughter for gun and cocaine possession. She took an offer of drug counseling in lieu of a one-year sentence, and seems to have kept out of trouble otherwise. Paul Watkins, meanwhile, died from natural causes (lymphoma) in 1990.

Sharon Tate’s widower, Roman Polanski, sexually assaulted thirteen-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. After a plea deal went south, Polanski returned to Europe, where he continued to make movies. He is currently in pre-production with another film, The Ghost, starring Pierce Brosnan. Tate’s father, mother and youngest sister have since passed away, leaving the middle sister, Debra, to speak to parole boards on her behalf. Steve’s sister, Janet Parent, also speaks for him at these hearings. Jay Sebring’s nephew, Anthony DiMaria, spoke on his uncle’s behalf during Atkins’ compassionate release hearing. LaBianca family members John DiSantis, Angela Smaldino and her brother Louis have attended the parole hearings since 2000.

Bugliosi has gone on to write a number of books, among them a spurious affirmation of the Warren Commission findings. With respect to the even more unbelievable Helter-Skelter motive, one has to bear in mind that as a county prosecutor, he was faced with the task of keeping people very dangerous to the public away from the public. Since the state can enter motive as evidence in a criminal trial, it behooved him to find one--any one, as long as he could sell it to the jury. And he did.

I cannot help but wonder, though, if he’s changed his mind on that during the years, despite his public statements to the contrary.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Intelligence Design, Pt. II

The following refers to the seventh and last hypothesis of this series. Please refer to the previous post.

Argument against Hypothesis #7: Although Mae Brussell brings in a lot of suspicious names, she doesn’t really offer much in terms of a solid connection. This leaves us with not so much ironclad proof as it does balsa-clad suspicion. The fact that an old PSYOPS hack named Ed Butler helped the scenario along by recklessly accusing the Black Panthers, and that he worked for a venerable cold warrior such as Patrick Frawley, doesn’t mean that he attempted to frame the Panthers. After all, Butler could simply have been a moron, who placed his bigotry in public view for all to see. That Lawrence Schiller, Joseph Ball and Marshal Singer begin to tamper with Susan Atkins, and wind up publishing the first account of the dominant narrative—one that serves the interest of Atkins and the other murderers—is quite suspicious, especially given their resume. At the same time, though, exploitation can easily explain their motives.

Furthermore, since we cannot ascertain what attorneys George Shibley, David DeLoach and Perry Walshin discussed with their clients because of attorney-client privilege, we take a huge risk in extrapolating the nature of their consultations, or the content of their subject matter. If we knew what went on between Manson, Watson and their lawyers, we might very well come up with more solid connections between the “family” and US espionage. But since we don’t know, we’re left with nothing concrete. Without that kind of evidence, this hypothesis, though interesting, really offers very little objective knowledge, and a whole lot of speculation.

What X. Dell really thinks of Hypothesis #7: This hypothesis suffers greatly from a lack of clarity. We have all sorts of suspicious people milling about in this story, and a whole lot of suspicious activities. The problem is that while we can connect the suspicious activities to the general sequence of events, we can’t really give a concrete structure upon which to place these connections. For example, we can easily suspect that, because of their prior history, Ball and Lawrence are up to no good in advising Atkins. Assuming for the sake of argument that they’re a part of some domestic op. Would that mean that the op began at that point? Or would it have begun with Charlie’s ascent in the music industry? Or would it have begun even earlier with Shibley’s counsel? Could Intel have coordinated all these things so tightly? If so, what about the numerous wild cards, specifically the people who would become part of the slippie’s underground life?

The fact that we cannot say for certain that Ball and Lawrence were some type of disinformation specialists emphasizes another weakness in Mae’s theory. We have suspicious people doing non-suspicious things, and suspicious events that one can easily explain as coincidence.

With that said, I do find this hypothesis quite intriguing, for it offers the most satisfying (in terms of completeness) explanation of the impact of the Tate-LaBianca murders. I’ve spent a whole lot of words in this series (almost 60,000—book length), so I won’t go into a detailed description of Mae’s cultural analysis of the event’s impact, but I have to admit that it’s on target. Of course Vincent Bugliosi, Diane Sawyer, and a whole lot of other people not given to fancy would agree, although they came to that realization years after Mae did.

Moreover, while I don’t think that she has provided enough evidence, there’s very little in Mae’s hypothesis that contradicts the evidence we have. There are minor things. She depicted Watson as having no trouble with the law when he in fact had a marijuana charge and a moving violation summons, for example. Still, these are minor points. And despite the fact that I cannot prove they didn’t do anything wrong here, I still regard such suspicious characters as Schiller, Ball and Butler as, well, suspicious. As my grandmother used to say, “Just because I didn’t see you doesn’t mean you ain’t up to something.”

Because of its flaws, I cannot endorse this hypothesis. Because of its strengths, I can’t completely dismiss it either. To borrow a phrase from Dave Emory, I consider Hypothesis #7 food for thought, and grounds for further research.

Only one more post to go in this series. Bless you all for staying with this for so long despite my erratic posting, and my frequent travels between New York, DC and Cincy.

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Ganesh Map
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  • Alien Abductions
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  • Perverse Science: Biological Determinism
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