Archived entries for research

Putting this here so I don’t forget about these beautiful things:

Via Yewknee:

This gallery of Yugoslovian monuments is a feast for the eyes but, even better, if you read through this thorough explanation of their past you will get a little treat for the brain. The diversity of the designs is impressive and the motivation behind their initial construction makes their neglect even more poignant.

One more…


Masks like this one were worn by British crews in tanks during the First World War. The leather mask is shaped to fit around the eyes and nose and the chain mail was used to protect against splinters from explosions as the tank came under fire. Life inside these primitive vehicles would have been extremely uncomfortable as well as dangerous. Tanks were introduced in 1916 but were initially slow, difficult to manoeuvre and had little firepower.


Sourcing New Scientist to give you a rough over view of this:

Joe Davis is an artist and a research affiliate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the mid-1980s, he became concerned that no image of humans had been sent into space representing the details of human genitals or reproduction.

So he led a project to transmit the sounds of vaginal contractions towards neighbouring star systems. To do so, he recorded the vaginal contractions of ballet dancers.

The messages were to be sent from MIT’s Millstone Hill Radar to Epsilon Eridani, Tau Ceti and two other stars. However, only a few minutes of footage was transmitted before the US air force, which had jurisdiction over the facility, shut the project down.

Nevertheless, the vaginal sounds that were sent will have reached Epsilon Eridani in 1996 and Tau Ceti in 1998. It is unclear what sort of reply we should expect.

Got that? So, Joe Davis, a full on bat-shit insane mad scientist, was pissed off at the lack of female genitalia on Carl Sagan’s Pioneer 10/11 plaques. Davis felt that we were basically throwing “monster versions” of ourselves out into space, and he felt something should be done about it.

Like convincing a bunch of dancers from the Boston Ballet to insert a device of his own design, record their vaginal contractions, and then have an equally bat-shit insane linguist translate those into recorded patterns into the basic phonemes of language.

Which he then beamed at two of our nearest neighbor stars.

Which I think might make Joe Davis the world’s first interstellar pornographer, but that’s neither here nor there.

Now that we’ve been over the “What” of Hatsune Miku, let’s go over the “Why”. As in, why she’s important.

Pat commented yesterday that on stage Hatsune’s not that different from The Gorillaz live shows, and that her voice is still based on a real person’s voice. And he’s right about both of those things. The Gorillaz project animated performers onto a screen that masks human musicians, and Hatsune’s voice is built up from the phoneme recordings of a real person.

But her key difference from previous, similar things is that her plasticity, her artificiality, is COMPLETE. Absolutely nothing about her is real.

First, let’s think about her as an animated character.

Animated characters are tied to visuals and to voices. It can be argued that Mel Blanc was more key to popularizing most of the Warner Bros characters than their visual representations. The problem here is that Mel Blanc is a human, and humans, well not to spoil the end of your life for you, die. And when Blanc finally did expire, Warner had several years where they had to convince people that Bugs Bunny really sounded like this new guy, and not at all like that old, dead guy. Same thing with Kermit the Frog, or Tony the Tiger, or any character that’s deeply engrained in the social consciousness and voiced by a real human with an expiration date. Hatsune Miko has no expiration dates. Because her voice is created in a computer by the clever application of a few billions ones and zeroes, she’ll never get die. She’ll never get old, go through puberty, or ruin her voice with smoking and whiskey. A thousand years from now, she’ll sound the exact same as she does right now. She is the first voice of the future, because in the future she’ll sound exactly the same.

Now, let’s think about her as a commercial character.

Ultimately, Hatsune Miko was created as a bit of stunt by Crypton Future Media. They’re sound technology people. So, they made the apex of current sound technology. She was meant to raise awareness of the company that created her, and I’m sure her records sales are a nice bonus. Like Pandora and her box, Crypton’s unwittingly unleashed something on the world. There is no question that most Disney pop stars are trained and groomed from a young age to become billion dollar industries. There is also no question that Disney would probably love to not have said pop stars taking a chunk of their revenue and then spend it on things that get them plastered all over the front of grocery store tabloids. Making a pop star out of ray tracing and vocal synthesizers is one way to do that. And it doesn’t have to be Disney doing it, either. If a relatively small company like Crypton can do it, anyone can. Every new product or initiative could have a fake pop star attached to it, filling the air waves and fiber optic cables. And speaking as a guy in advertising who could pitch that to a client, this is fantastic and frightening

Lastly, let’s think about her as a musical character.

Touched on this a bit in the first one, but Hatsune and the future things like her, are fixed point in space. The point can be fixed as a 16 year old pop idol, or a 60 year old torch singer, or a 20 something folk-rocker. And since they are artificial, and built up by a team of people, they’ll never go off on some bizarre introspective tangent and make a record like Pet Sounds. Their music will be consistent, uniform across all of their releases. And if the people behind them ever get bored or want to try something different? They’ll just whip up a new vocaloid and create a new artist.

Hatsune Miko is important because of the simplicity of what she represents: The idea of an unchanging, easily replaceable commercial entity that you owe nothing to and will never do anything to embarrass or betray you.

While I could put money on their never being an indie-rock vocaloid success (ONLY because the hipsters won’t allow it, not because it couldn’t be good), I can’t put that same money on idorus like Hatsune Miko carving out a niche for themselves in pop music.

Jess Nevins is amazing. Absolutely amazing. They guy is the High Priest of Low Fiction.

And he’s starting up a series of posts about the history of science fiction pulps on io9.

I started working on these almost a full year ago. Took me along time to research and then organize and figure out how to write. But I think the end results will be worth it.

This is the first in a series. First column is the history of sf pulps, 1896-1936. Second is 1937-1953. Third and fourth are a history of European sf pulps. Fifth is a history of German pulp sf (“sf pulps under totalitarianism, pt 1″). Sixth is a history of Russian and Soviet pulp sf. Seventh will be Japanese pulp sf. (Thus covering the big three of totalitarian regimes).

I’m not a huge io9 fan. I think they do some really good blogging, and some really bad blogging. But, I think Jess Nevins is absolutely brilliant and should be checked out regardless of where his stuff is.

First one is here.

A few days ago, something came up involving smegma. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, so don’t even bother asking. I’m sure they were horribly embarrassing and probably involved me threatening to set some one’s smegma on fire. Or pelt them with baboon smegma. Or wondering if whales had smegma and if anyone had ever tasted it.

You know, my normal train of thought.


Some how this ends up with me Googling “smegma”, and of course, the first thing that pops up is the Wikipedia entry on the subject. What the hell, I think. I’ll click it. Smegma’s got to be an interesting place to fall down the wikihole, right? Lord only knows where it’ll lead.

Or so I thought.

Turns out the wikihole for smegma stops about three quarters of the way down the page when you hit this line:

An early study by Plaut and Kohn-Speyer (1947)[11] found that horse smegma had a carcinogenic effect on mice.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a single line that did more to damage my brain than that one did. Well, maybe not damage, more like seize up. That line did to my brain what that silica solution does to the cars turned in for the Cash for Clunkers program. Complete system hard lock.

After about five minutes of staring blankly at the screen, and drooling slightly, my brain managed to right itself. At least, until I read the next line:

Heins et al.(1958)[12] used human smegma on mice and found a carcinogenic effect,

It was all about to happen again. My brain was going to seize up, I was going to probably start bleeding out of my tear ducts and there was a decent enough chance that I would shit myself while in this smegma fugue.

Fortunately, the rest of that line offered some salvation:

but Reddy and Baruah (1963) were unable to reproduce this effect, concluding that if a carcinogenic effect did exist, it must be weak.

Oh, thank Christ. Some one took the time to repeat the experiment of rubbing human cock cheese on  mice and found that the original people who decided that this was a worthwhile scientific experiment were, in fact, crackpots. Where as these people were upstanding members of the scientific community and had upheld the highest standards of the Scientific Method and should in no way be banned from sitting outside school yards in vans with binoculars. Why? Because they are doing it for SCIENCE, DAMN IT ALL!

After muddling my brain on this for a little bit, I’ve come up with a few thoughts on the smegma experiments.

I know, ostensibly, that they were attempting to find credible evidence for saying that male circumcision is a direct contributor to a decrease in the likelihood penile cancer. Which experiments since then have backed up, but not because of the smegma angle that these experiments were attempting to lock down. But, my gut tells me there was something else going on here.

The original research was done back in the 50s, at the hight of the Cold War. I think the CIA found out that some one like Khrushchev or Castro had a penchant for horse fucking and wanted to see if there was a way they could kill them and make it look like it was something natural, like say…cancer?

So, the CIA commissions a study. They want to find out if the penile excretions of a horse can give you cancer. They hire some  poor bastard scientist who probably cried a lot when they told him what they wanted to do, but then shut up when he realized what they were going to pay him. He might have even smiled a bit when they told him that he was going to do a great service for his country. But, I’m pretty sure he went back to crying when he found out about this bit:

Smegma is best obtained from dead horses in rendering plants or from anesthetized animals in a department of veterinary surgery.

But he’s not the bastard I feel the worst for. I feel bad for his graduate student assistants. They probably had no fucking idea what they were getting into. While their friend were probably off smoking grass and making drunkenly bad choices involving birth control and townies, this poor sod of a grad student thought he’d get ahead of the curve by helping out Professor Smegma. I can’t imagine the look on his face when his job was described to him.

“Ok, Billy, here’s what I want you to do. Each morning, drive down to the old McPherson Glue Works and pick up the dead horse cocks they’ve saved for me. No, no, they’ll be waiting for you. They should even be wrapped up. Now, bring them back here to the lab. Put them on that table over there and go get a box of mice from the experiment group. Take a mouse out, write down its number and rub it furiously up and down the dead horse’s cock. Don’t be timid about it now, you want that mouse to have a good coating of smegma. Repeat this for each mouse in the control group. All six hundred of them. What? Yes, of course every day. This is science, m’boy! GOVERNMENT SCIENCE!”

“…oh, you’ll also be doing this every day for the next two years.”

“Why are you crying? Is it because you’re so excited about the experiment? I know I am! Now, off with you! Those horse cocks aren’t going to get any fresher!”

I can almost completely assure you that Professor Smegma went through at least a half dozen lab assistants. They were killing themselves when they realized they couldn’t get out of the gig or he’d flunk them out of school.

They certainly don’t do science like this anymore, do they?


Excerpts from the wikipedia entry:

Father Divine was probably called George Baker around the turn of the century. He worked as a gardener in Baltimore, Maryland. In a 1906 sojourn to California, Baker became acquainted with the ideas of Charles Fillmore and the “New Thought Movement,” a philosophy of positive thinking that would inform his later doctrines. Among other things, this belief system asserted that negative thoughts led to poverty and unhappiness.

Baker attended a local Baptist Church, often preaching, until 1907 when a traveling preacher called Samuel Morris spoke to, and was expelled from, the congregation. Morris, originally from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, had a soft-spoken and uncontroversial sermon until the end when he raised his arms and shouted, “I am the Eternal Father!” This routine had him thrown out of many churches in Baltimore and was apparently unsuccessful until Morris happened upon the receptive George Baker.

In his late 20s Baker became Morris’ first follower and adopted a pseudonym, “the Messenger”. The Messenger was a Christ figure to Morris’s God the Father. Father Divine preached with Morris in Baltimore out of the home of former evangelist Harriette Snowden who came to accept their divinity. Morris began calling himself “Father Jehovia”.

Divine and Father Jehovia were later joined by John A. Hickerson who called himself Reverend Bishop Saint John the Vine. John the Vine shared The Messenger’s excellent speaking ability and his interest in New Thought.

In 1912, the three-man ministry collapsed as the John the Vine denied Father Jehovia’s monopoly on godhood citing 1 John 4:15 to mean God was in everyone.

“Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God.”

Father Divine denied both that Father Jehovia was God and that anyone could be God. Instead he declared that he himself was the only true expression of God’s spirit. In 1912, he parted ways with his former associates and declared himself a god.


On February 6, 1914, several followers’ husbands and local preachers had Divine arrested for lunacy. This actually expanded his ministry, with reporters and worshippers deluging his prison cell. Some whites even began calling on him. One white follower, J. R. Moseley, arranged for J. B. Copeland, a respected Valdosta lawyer, to represent him pro bono. Father Divine was found mentally sound in spite of “maniacal” beliefs.


He and his disciples formed a commune in a black middle-class apartment building. He forbade sex, alcohol, tobacco, and gambling among those that lived with him. By 1919 he had adopted the name Reverend Major Jealous Divine. “Reverend Major” was chosen as a title of respect and authority while “Jealous” was a reference to Exodus 34:14 where the Lord says He is a “jealous god”. His followers affectionately called him Father Divine.


On May 8, 1931, a Sayville deputy arrested and charged Father Divine with disturbing the peace. Remarkable in the depression, Father Divine submitted his $1000 bail in cash.


On Sunday, November 15 at 12:15 AM, a police officer was called to Father Divine’s raucously loud property. By the time state troopers, deputies and prison buses were called in, a mob of neighbors had surrounded the compound. Fearing a riot, the police informed Father Divine and his followers that they had fifteen minutes. Father Divine had them wait in silence for ten minutes, and then they filed into police custody. Processed by the county jail at 3 AM, clerks were frustrated because the followers often refused to give their usual names and stubbornly offered the “inspired” names they adopted in the movement. Seventy-eight people were arrested altogether, including fifteen whites. Forty-six pled guilty to disturbing the peace and incurred $5 fines which Father Divine paid with a $500 bill that the court was embarrassingly unable to make change from. Peninniah, Father Divine, and thirty followers resisted the charges.


On December 16 John Hunt, a white millionaire and disciple from California calling himself John the Revelator, met the Jewett family of Denver, Colorado. He kidnapped their 17 year-old daughter Delight and took her back to California without her parents’ consent. Renaming her “Virgin Mary,” John the Revelator began sexual relations with her. He announced that she would give birth to a “New Redeemer” by “immaculate conception” in Hawaii. Father Divine summoned Hunt to New York, separated the couple and chastised his eccentric follower. The Jewetts, finding their daughter apparently brainwashed into believing she was literally the Virgin Mary demanded compensation. After the movement’s attorneys conducted an internal investigation, they refused. Outraged, the Jewetts offered their story to William Randolph Hearst’s New York Evening Journal, an established critic of the movement. After a manhunt and trial, John Hunt was sentenced to three years and adopted a new name, the “Prodigal Son”. Father Divine publicly endorsed the conviction of John the Revelator contrary to some expectations (some followers expected him to once again “smite” the judge). However, the scandal brought bad publicity to Father Divine. News coverage implied his followers were gullible and dangerous.


Going into the 1950s, the press rarely covered Father Divine, and when it did, it was no longer as a menace, but as an amusing relic. For example, light-hearted stories ran when Father Divine announced Philadelphia was capital of the world, and when he claimed to inspire invention of the hydrogen bomb. Father Divine’s predominantly lower class following ebbed as the economy swelled.

God. Fucking. Dammit.

I hate when I stumble across something but I can only find the roughest edges to even prove that it exists.

In Japan (why do all crazy things I find either start with “In Japan” or “In Russia”?) there is a social…meme? subset? fashion? called subekan.

Here’s the wikipedia entry:

The common signifiers of sukeban (described by the Japanese police in 1980s pamphlets as “omens of downfall”) include brightly-dyed or permed hair, and modifications of the school uniform such as wearing coloured socks, rolling up the sleeves and lengthening the skirt. Sukeban may engage in activities such as glue sniffing, stimulant use, shoplifting, theft, prostitution and violence, but if arrested, they can be charged with the lesser offense of “pre-delinquency”. The word sukeban was originally used by delinquents, but has been used by the general population since 1972.

Girl gangs dressed up in colorful mockeries of the traditional sailor-girl uniforms. They also use fucking yo-yo as weapons. In doing a little more digging into this, I’ve come across references to the Kanto Women Delinquent Alliance. Apparently, it was a twenty thousand person plus gang of young women in the area around Tokyo back in the 70s. But that is all that I can find about it.

If this is real, then it means that there was organized female crime force in Kanto that was equal, if not greater, in sheer numbers to the yakuza.

Gah. I must find out more. I must find out if this was true.



The strangest monument in America looms over a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia. Five massive slabs of polished granite rise out of the earth in a star pattern. The rocks are each 16 feet tall, with four of them weighing more than 20 tons apiece. Together they support a 25,000-pound capstone. Approaching the edifice, it’s hard not to think immediately of England’s Stonehenge or possibly the ominous monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Built in 1980, these pale gray rocks are quietly awaiting the end of the world as we know it.

Called the Georgia Guidestones, the monument is a mystery—nobody knows exactly who commissioned it or why. The only clues to its origin are on a nearby plaque on the ground—which gives the dimensions and explains a series of intricate notches and holes that correspond to the movements of the sun and stars—and the “guides” themselves, directives carved into the rocks. These instructions appear in eight languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue hippie mysticism (prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite).

Go read the rest of this article. Now. I know where I’m going the next time I cross the hell-line into Georgia.

Again, I’m not cleaning this up. Start at the bottom and read up. Slotting his away for later processing. Jess runs the Slouching Toward Bethlehem blog.

  1. (end lecture. Numerous questions follow, several of the Not A Question But A Comment variety, the bane of all academic conference panels)

  2. (Let’s just say that India does very well for itself in creating superhumans. Jai Hind, y’all!)

  3. Tomorrow, if I remember to bring in the notebook I wrote all this down in, I’ll give a statistical rundown of superhumans 1902-1936.

  4. That brings us up to the 20th century.

  5. Good example is Madame Felician, in Wirt Gerrare’s novel. Psychic femme fatale spy–abilities justified on Theosophical grounds.

  6. Rise in spiritualism movement leads to Theosophy, which leads to Theosophical novels with superhuman & psychic characters.

  7. Meanwhile…

  8. (Almost done, folks)

  9. He can can “place four packs of playing cards together, and tear them in halves between his thumbs and fingers.”

  10. He can can “lift a horse with ease…while a heavy man is seated in the saddle….”

  11. Nick Carter, Doc Savage forty years early, has superhuman strength:

  12. Old King Brady has mystic gift of intuiton because he’s Irish. (Superhuman effort on my part results in no joke being made here).

  13. Old Sleuth, first recurring, serialized detective, had superhuman strength and endurance. So did Old Cap. Collier.

  14. And the major serial heroes of the dime novels (which were precursors to the pulps) had superhuman powers.

  15. American reaction to romans feuilleton was the dime novel, which led to serial heroes.

  16. (check audience. No reaction. Sigh. Decide to give up on the jokes and just finish the damn thing).

  17. Wells’ Invisible Man gets his power through scientific experimentation, as did Queen Victoria.

  18. their powers to being the end result of human evolution–possibly the first use of that trope in sf.

  19. Louis Boussenard’s 10000 Years in a Block of Ice (1889) has Big Headed Psychic Dwarf Geniuses. But Boussenard specifically credits

  20. magnetic fluid theory of animal magnetism.

  21. And the psychotic lead in J. Maclaren Cobban’s “Master of His Fate” drains the “spirit of life” from others, a reference to the

  22. Paul du Peyral, in Edward Heron-Allen’s Princess Daphne (1888), has psychic abilities, but carries out experiments to test & broaden them.

  23. Which as origin stories go could be much worse, and certainly trumps a bat flying through a window.

  24. she was “poisoned by the venom of a crotalus before she was born.”

  25. Oliver Wendell Holmes’ Elsie Venner is femme fatale with literally mesmerizing gaze & power over snakes. Per Holmes, she got her powers thus

  26. Second American response: materialist reaction to occult fantasy–the creation of the Origin Story.

  27. (audience has no reaction. Sigh. Check audience. Still alive? Not sure. Replaced with store dummies? Possibly. Carry on)

  28. (check audience for reaction to idea that author of Little Women wrote a story about a Hindu mesmerist w/hereditary curse).

  29. Secondary example is Louisa May Alcott’s “The Fate of the Forrests,” in which the love triangle is more important than the hereditary curse

  30. Primary example is Fitz-James O’Brien’s “The Diamond Lens,” in which existence of superpowered medium is accepted as part of city life.

  31. First is “the occult without the occult,” stories w/occult-powered characters, but stories lack all occult trappings or background.

  32. Several reactions to the Gothic & the Occult Fantasy genre take place.

  33. Meanwhile, Back In America.

  34. (I cover by claiming that I was telepathically sending them the next portion of my lecture).

  35. (This is so at odds with my experience teaching freshmen that I am momentarily struck dumb).

  36. (check audience. Only two people have left, most people are at least looking at me rather than texting).

  37. Sorcerer & mystic in Emeric Hulme-Beaman’s Ozmar the Mystic (1896).

  38. Shape-shifting Egyptian priestess of Isis in Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897).

  39. Egyptian psychic & mesmerist in Mrs. Campbell Praed’s The Brother of the Shadow (1886).

  40. Occult Fantasy genre gives us: sorcerer/psychic/mesmerist in Bulwer-Lytton’s A Strange Story (1861-1862).

  41. (I see I’ve already lost one Follower. Perhaps I’m just not tweeting enough about what I ate for lunch).

  42. Zanoni is influenced by the Rosicrucians (them again) and is primarily responsible for the Occult Fantasy genre.

  43. As Mysteries of Paris is being published, so is Bulwer-Lytton’s Zanoni, about an immortal superpowered Chaldean sorcerer.

  44. Meanwhile…

  45. Nick of the Woods. But Feval, a Frenchy, created the superhuman superhero. I fully expect our conservative friends to now boycott comics.

  46. Not the first dual-identity costume-wearing vigilante–that was Robert Montgomery Byrd’s reprehensible Indian Killer character in his

  47. And wolf’s head hood made of wolf’s head. Protagonist is first superpowered costume-wearing vigilante.

  48. Jumping back twenty years: Paul Feval’s White Wolf, 1837, about a Breton vigilante fighting French while wearing costume of wolfskin.

  49. Ahem: also the dime novel & penny dreadful format.

  50. Mysteries of Paris has 500 imitations in 20 languages, is responsible for 1850s renovation of Paris. Also the dime novel & penny dreadfu

  51. (No one gets joke or smiles. Shrug, labor forward).

  52. (Describe flow chart of influences as mess of arrows and dotted lines, a kind of Lovecraftian Flying Spaghetti Monster)

  53. (Aside to audience about how I’m all over the place chronologically, and how coming up with coherent linear narrative here is impossible).

  54. (Two minute discursion on Cagliostro as proto-Occult Detective, as early example of Celebrity Culture, and his part in Egyptian craze).

  55. Rinaldo Rinaldini has Cagliostro-like superhuman, the Old Man of Fronteja.

  56. German rauberroman (robber novel) influenced Mysteries of Paris, esp. Christian Vulpius’ Rinaldo Rinaldini.

  57. Von Gerolstein had Plot Power to patrol city,be wherever author needed him to be,do whatever author needed him to do.As I said, proto-Batman

  58. Most important roman feuilleton, Eugene Sue’s The Mysteries of Paris (1842-1843), had proto-Batman, Rodolphe von Gerolstein.

  59. Financial model of Gothics & colporteur novels led to romans feuilleton, French serialized novels.

  60. (Best selling German novel of 19th century: colporteur Grand Guignol novel, The Hangman of Berlin, 1890-1892. Even better than its title).

  61. Gothic: often published in serial form. German version of serial form was colporteur novel, sold by colporteurs, wandering peddlers.

  62. (Pause for a moment to catch breath & let audience get the yawns and scratches out of their system).

  63. (Plus, of course, superpowered sorcerers & witches).

  64. Victor Hugo’s Hans of the Island (1823): titular protagonist is a superstrong dwarf.

  65. Honore de Balzac’s The Centenarian (1822): the protagonist gets vampiric superhuman abilities through the secrets of the Rosicrucians.

  66. Charles Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer (1820): John Melmoth gets various Plot Powers as a result of the deal with the devil.

  67. (Obvious influence there is Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland)

  68. George Lipscomb’s The Grey Friar and the Black Spirit of the Wye (1810): costumed outlaw with super-ventriloquism.

  69. All of which fed into the superhumans of the Gothics.

  70. And, of course, the Rosicrucians, those frauds, gave the Gothic the Superpowered Emo Wandering Slap Me Immortal.

  71. Later in the 19th century, the ritterroman would produce The White Knight, a knights-in-armor story of a superpowered knight.(It ends badly)

  72. Also contributing to the Gothic was German popular literature–ritterroman, the räuberroman, and the schauerroman.

  73. Arabian Fantasies led to Beckford’s Vathek, which gave a lot to the Gothics.

  74. The second beginning was the Gothic. But–Arabian Fantasies fed into the Gothic, especially the one about the superpowered Yellow Peril.

  75. Skip forward 2000 years.

  76. In the beginning was Gilgamesh & Enkidu.

  77. “The Evolution of the Concept of the Superhuman”

  78. I have some time to burn before my next class, so–my Pop Culture Assoc. of America presentation, in Twitter form:

August 26, 1945. Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico.

Twenty four year old Harry Daghlian is working late, and alone. Both are violations of safety protocol, but Harry doesn’t care. He’s good at his job, and he’s careful. He doesn’t have to be working this late, six days ago the Japanese surrendered, and the war is over. But, that doesn’t mean his work isn’t still important. The bombs he helped build won the war, and he’s going to keep making them as long as he can.

This night, Harry is working on placing the final tungsten bricks in a neutron reflector around plutonium bomb core. The reflector would lessen the amount of plutonium needed for the bomb to go critical. When he was placing the final brick, his hand slipped. The small brick hit the core, and sent it critical. A blue light issued out from the core, dosing him with radiation. Frantic, Harry knocks off the brick in hopes that it will stop the reaction. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and he’s forced to disassemble much of the neutron reflector before the core retreats from criticality.

He saved the lives of everyone at the lab, but there was nothing to be done for Harry Daghlian. He died twenty one days later from accute radiation poisoning.

For many of those twenty one days, one of the old guard of Los Alamos, Louis Slotin, could be found by Harry’s side. Louis was known informally as the chief armorer of the United States. He had built the test bomb that was detonated at Trinity. He wanted to get out of military work, but there wasn’t anyone else with his experience or skill for building bombs.

Nine months after the accident that took the life of his friend Harry, Louis was working with the same core. Instead of using several tungsten bricks for the neutron reflector, the new construction relied on two beryllium hemispheres to encapsulate the plutonium core. The core was already placed in the bottom hemisphere as Louis moved the top into position. He was aligning the top with the use of his hand and a screwdriver, when he slipped. The top hemisphere struck the core, causing it to go critical. A burst of blue light and a wave of heat struck the scientists in the room. Instinctively, Louis pulled his hand up, his thumb still hooked into the beryllium hemisphere. The criticality was stopped, and the lives of the men in the room were saved. But, like his friend, Louis wasn’t so lucky.

Louis Slotin died nine days later of acute radiation poisoning. Another victim of what came to be known as the demon core.

The assembly Louis was working on was to be the final test of the demon core. It was fitted into a bomb and used as the ABLE test during Operation Crossroads at the Bikini Atoll.

I don’t have a lot of information about this one, mainly because the original state records referring to the case have been lost, but the rough edges speak for themselves.

In the last 1960s in Pennsylvania, a woman attempted to self-abort her pregnancy via the use of a medical x-ray machine.

The outcome of this is unclear, the remaining information only refers to a single injury and it is unknown if the state medical examiner would count the fetus, if it was aborted, as a fatality.

From Wikipedia:

UVB-76 is the callsign of a shortwave radio station that usually broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz (AM full carrier). It’s known among radio listeners by the nickname The Buzzer. It features one of the most unusual, mysterious, and widely discussed broadcast contents on the shortwave dial: a short, monotonous (E-natural) buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute (sample sound), for 23 hours and 10 minutes per day (transmitter maintenance apparently takes place between 7:00 and 7:50 GMT). One minute before the hour, the repeating tone is replaced by a continuous tone, which continues for one minute until the short repeating buzz resumes. In rare occasions the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place. Only three such events have been auditioned. There is much speculation; however, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown.


Voice messages from UVB-76 are very rare. Only three such messages have been intercepted in its 20-plus-year history:

  • At 21:58 GMT on December 24, 1997, the buzzing abruptly stopped to be replaced by a short series of beeps, and a male voice speaking Russian announced: “Ya — UVB-76. 18008. BROMAL: Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 742, 799, 14.”The message was repeated verbatim several times before the beep sequence repeated and the buzzer resumed.
  • A similar voice message was broadcast on September 12, 2002, but with extreme distortion (possibly as a result of the source being too close to the microphone head) that rendered comprehension very difficult. This second voice broadcast has been partially translated as “UVB-76, UVB-76. 62691 Izafet 3693 8270.”
  • The third voice message (and, as of January 2007, the latest one) was broadcast on February 21, 2006 at 7:57 GMT. Again, the speaking voice was highly distorted, but the message’s content translates as: “75-59-75-59. 39-52-53-58. 5-5-2-5. Konstantin-1-9-0-9-0-8-9-8-Tatiana-Oksana-Anna-Elena-Pavel-Schuka. Konstantin 8-4. 9-7-5-5-9-Tatiana. Anna Larisa Uliyana-9-4-1-4-3-4-8.” These names are found in some Russian spelling alphabets, similar to the NATO phonetic alphabet.

A recording of the third message:

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You can see the radio station via Google Maps:

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I had hardly completed my course at the Real Gymnasium when I was prostrated with a dangerous illness or rather, a score of them, and my condition became so desperate that I was given up by physicians. During this period I was permitted to read constantly, obtaining books from the Public Library which had been neglected and entrusted to me for classification of the works and preparation of the catalogues. One day I was handed a few volumes of new literature unlike anything I had ever read before and so captivating as to make me utterly forget my hopeless state. They were the earlier works of Mark Twain and to them might have been due the miraculous recovery which followed. Twenty-five years later, when I met Mr. Clemens and we formed a friendship between us, I told him of the experience and was amazed to see that great man of laughter burst into tears.

-Nikola Tesla

In psychology, the online disinhibition effect refers to the way people behave on the Internet with less restraint than in real-world situations.

Some of the six key motives:

1. You Don’t Know Me (dissociative anonymity)
2. You Can’t See Me (invisibility)
3. See You Later (asynchronicity)
4. It’s All in My Head (solipsistic introjection)
5. It’s Just a Game (dissociative imagination)
6. We’re Equals (minimizing authority)

From the Wikipedia entry on  John Suler’s The Psychology of Cyberspace

Project MK-ULTRA was a secret mind-control program run by the CIA during the 50s and 60s. It was an outgrowth of Operation Paperclip at the end of WWII. In addition to rocketry and engineering experts, the US military had also picked up Nazi specialists in psychology, biology and  chemistry. The CIA put them to work figuring out ways to make all sort of fancy drugs and esoteric devices. Over the next 15 years, MK-ULTRA used the American populace as their own personal lab rats, testing LCD on Army soldiers to examine the panic response, radiation on pregnant women and federal inmates for various reasons, ultra-low frequencies intended to induce memory loss on Navy sailors, and so on. The full extent of the projects aren’t known, because when Congress became aware of MK-ULTRA’s activities, the CIA director had already ordered the destruction of all project files. All that is known about the project is known through interviews conducted after the fact.

One of the few known facts is the list of stated material objects that MK-ULTRA developed when it was thinking up its first round of projects:

1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

Most of the supplementary material surrounding MK-ULTRA remains classified at a TOP SECRET level, and it is still believed that there are on-going research projects that stem from the MK

The Artic, by Mercator. From the collection of Leen Helmink.

Kholat Syakhl, a mountain deep in the Northern Urals. The native Mansi people call it the Mountain of the Dead. On February 2nd, 1959, a group of ski-hikers, blown of course by inclement weather, make camp in a pass on its eastern slope. There were nine of them. Seven men, two women. All of them experienced hikers, and all of them students or recent graduates of the local Soviet polytechnical institute. Their tents were ringed around a fire, built mostly with wet wood from the snow. There would have been a lot of smoke from the wet wood, blurring the already limited visibility from the snow. The fire was the only way the hikers could fend off the below zero temperatures. By the time it happened, the air would have been around -30 degrees Centigrade.

At some point in the night, all nine hikers fled their camp. None of them were wearing shoes or outdoor gear, they were in their underwear and sleeping clothes. Some of them ripped open their tents from the inside out to get away from the camp. Some died less than few hundred meters from the camp, some were able to make it almost a whole kilometer. A few had actually started doubling back to the camp when they died. None of them saw the sun come up.

The group was not expected to check in for another ten days. When that date passed and there was no word, no one thought anything of it. Winter expeditions like this were often a few days behind schedule. It wasn’t until the parents became worried and started pressuring the university to mount an expedition that anyone started to look for the missing hikers.

The first bodies were found on February 26th. The investigators found the camp, and followed the tracks into the woods. They found the first two bodies huddled under a pine tree around a makeshift campfire. Between the pine tree and the campfire, they found three more bodies. The remaining four bodies wouldn’t be found until the spring thaw in May. They were buried under twelve feet of snow in a stream valley on the opposite side of the camp from the pine tree.

The official inquest into the deaths of the hikers was already underway when the second group of bodies was found. And while the circumstances that would force a group of experienced hikers into the deathly cold of the night were unclear, the cause of death to the first five bodies wasn’t. They all died of hypothermia.

The four found down by the river died under completely different circumstances. Two of them had massive trauma to their chests, another had crushed skull, and the fourth was missing her tongue. The bodies showed no sign of external damage, meaning that what ever force shattered these people was something akin to a shockwave. There was no object behind the pressure to tear the skin or cause bruising to the soft tissues. The woman who was missing her tongue died of hypothermia. It is unknown if her tongue was removed before or after death.

The forensic examination of the campsite and the camper’s gear became much more intensive after the discovery of the second groups of bodies. All of the gear at the site was found to have a high concentration of radiation, but the surrounding dirt, water and trees had no similar concentrations. The tracks in the area were made entirely by humans, and all of them could be traced to the nine dead bodies. The investigators concluded that the trauma deaths could not have been inflicted by another human being.

The case was closed soon after the final forensic results came back. The government could not find anyone to charge with a crime, so the official report was filed, and then promptly sealed and classified. Their final ruling was that “an unknown compelling force” had caused the hikers to feel their camp, and that they all died because of this action. Hikers were barred from traveling in that area for the next few years. Nearly all of the information about this event has come from the declassification of the documents in the 1990s.

Conspiracy theorists have flocked to this case because of the bizarre details surrounding the deaths of those nine hikers. Some claim that they accidentally stumbled into a military testing ground for nuclear weapons, but the Urals would be a bad choice for a proving ground. The winds in the mountains are erratic, and there are large population centers nearby. Some look to mysterious orange orbs seen floating in the sky in the area in the days surrounding the incident. They claim that these UFOs had something to do with the deaths.

The last person to see the hikers alive was the tenth member of the group that fell sick at their last stop before scaling the mountain. His name is Yuri Yudin, and this is what he has to say about what happened up there on that frozen mountain side “If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, ‘What really happened to my friends that night?’”

A gallery of photographs taken by the hikers on the trip.

This man has stainless steel teeth. Stainless fucking steel teeth.

There is no way I’m not using this guy as a character in something in the future.

(In all fairness, I can’t find an original source, and this feels like something that might have come from a Weekly World News article. Something about the type setting feels really old or really fake.)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, a French engineer named Henri Giffard inflated a one hundred and forty four foot long ballon, specially constructed for forward motion, strapped a four hundred pound steam engine to the bottom of it and lifted off from the Hippodrome in Paris.

The triple bladed propellar pushed Giffard from the heart of Paris to the outlying town of Trappes, a distance of seventeen miles, making this the first successful flight of a steam driven balloon. Giffard dubbed his invention the dirigible, and while this first iteration wasn’t strong enough to turn around and push against the head wind from Paris, it did change the way the world viewed air travel. Devices built on Giffard’s ideas are still in use to this day, and the airship is permanently imbedded in the collective consciousness of the world.

Henri Giffard killed himself in 1882 in response to his failing eyesight. He didn’t want to live if he wasn’t able to work anymore, or to see the world that his inventions had shaped.

Here’s to that daring man and his flying machine.

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