Friday, July 27, 2007

Your tax dollars at work: The First Earth Battalion

"The First Earth Battalion was the name proposed by Jim Channon, an American soldier who had seen service in Vietnam, for his idea of a new US military to be organised along New Age lines. Such a battalion was never formed.

According to the book The Men Who Stare at Goats (ISBN 0-330-37548-2) by journalist Jon Ronson, Channon spent time in the seventies with many of the people credited with starting the New Age movement and subsequently wrote an operations manual for a First Earth Battalion. Rather than using bullets and munitions, Channon envisaged that this new force would attempt to conquer the hearts and minds of the enemy using positive vibrations, carrying lambs symbolic of peace and employing unconventional but non-lethal weapons to subdue others.

The "official" First Earth Battalion T-shirt design

Lethal force was to be a last resort. Members would practise meditation, use yogic cat stretches and primal screams to attain battle-readiness, and use shiatsu as battlefield first aid.

Some ideas proposed in the writings of Channon later found their way into military procedures for psychological warfare. Ronson specifically cites the First Earth Battalion manual's proposal to use music to effect "psychic mind-change" as one. ([1]) However, the American military has adopted loud sound as a psychological weapon, not to win hearts and minds. For example at Waco, Texas, the the repeating the techniques used four years earlier in an attempt to drive Manuel Noriega from his sanctuary, an earsplitting cacophony of noise was played at the compound 24/7, that included the sound of rabbits being slaughtered, chanting Tibetan monks, roaring jet engines, and the Nancy Sinatra hit, "These Boots Were Made For Walking."
Created in 1979 with the purpose of creating "Warrior Monks," soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. Some of the characters involved seem well-meaning enough, such as the hapless General Stubblebine, who is "confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall." But the Battalion's bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur's song, "I Love You," and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways ("You can take eyeballs right out... with this bit,")"

....This is a true story

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Monday, July 23, 2007

The sport of the century: Skunneling.

From Metropolis Magazine:
by Bill Donahue

At two in the morning, Greg Small, a scraggly cook with an Einstein-like tangle of hair, is traipsing through the suburban streets of Ventura, California, and talking (God knows why) about the collective unconscious. "It's weird to think about," the 24-year-old muses. "I mean, the whole idea that urban myths and stuff stem from the imagination of, like, so many people."

Small reaches a weedy culvert and hops in. Then, as a large dog hails him, barking and bashing against a high cyclone fence, he sinks into the ground. He disappears within a tubular storm drain, lies down feet-first on a makeshift long skateboard, and starts to roll. The sound of his wheels roars in the pipe, and ahead of him, way beyond the puny range of his headlamp, there is human noise--the haunting, echoey laughter and shouts of a friend careening along at 20 miles per hour.

Ah, skunneling! The very word--a mutation of "skateboarding in tunnels" and a phonic cousin of the slur "scum"-- captures the ancient punk heritage of America's newest way to shatter your collarbone. Skunneling, which has been flourishing in Ventura for the past couple years, is one more pastime invented by scrappy malcontents determined to milk joy out of concrete.

The conquest of urban-jungle-as-sport arguably began in the tunnels, in the Fifties, when surf legend Greg Knoll first piloted his Flexible Flyer sled through California's smooth storm drains. Knoll's wave-riding descendants popularized "street style" skateboarding, so now kids everywhere are hurling themselves at parking blocks, stairways, and curbs. There is even a California sneaker company, Soaps, that puts a slippery, Teflon-like slab on its outsoles, so that wearers can hop up onto railings and, teetering on no more board than their own skinny feet, glide down like a favorite skate star.

Meanwhile, under the ground, an analogous form of skull-duggery is blossoming. "Tunneling," skunneling's more mild elder, involves trespassing on foot. Practitioners wend through subterranean passages, down ladders, and along hot, clacking pipes as the threat of being busted looms. Many colleges are underlaid by tunnels; it's a popular freshman activity to skulk through them. But such pranks are far beneath the radar of the two-year-old Toronto-based zine that is galvanizing tunnelmania. In a recent issue, Infiltration celebrates the "Holy Grail" of Minneapolis, a "block-sized natural cave attached to the storm drains under 50-story skyscrapers." There's also an article about Stéphane, a Parisian who has computer-mapped six levels of his city's catacombs, and a how-to on exploring subways, by Infiltration's editor, Ninjalicious. "There is little danger of electrocution," Ninj advises, "but don't quote me on that if you die."

If Infiltration boasts some crackle and wit, the skunnel scene seems, in contrast, a few notches lower on the brain stem--Beavis and Butt-head to the Simpsons of Ninj's publication. Skunnel boards are, for starters, an unholy sight. These are not the graceful, longboards that are now the rage among older, surf-inspired skateboarders. No, the skunnel craft is actually three Seventies-era skis bolted together. Or a battered water ski affixed with wheels and a footrest (a chrome tube snagged at Goodwill). The things are ungainly and top-heavy, but who cares?

Greg Small lives in a low-slung Ventura ranch house bedecked, year-round, with Christmas lights. The living room is a hellhole of beer bottles, CDs, Playboys, and cheese-slimy pizza boxes. On the wall, I read a proudly scrawled, multiple-authored list of "One Million Reasons to Be a Bachelor." (Number 16: "Dusting is done with a putty knife.") A voice cries, "Let's roll!" and then Small and three disciples and I pile into somebody's father's Land Cruiser and begin winding through the hills of Ventura, toward a naturalist's nightmare.

William Fulton, author of Reluctant Metropolis: Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles (1997), considers Ventura's myriad storm drains "a metaphor for how the engineers have triumphed in Los Angeles. Everywhere else, there's a trend toward green urban planning--toward, say, letting water flow naturally and seep into the ground. Here, the creek beds are concrete chutes, and everything--skateboarders, rainwater, the oil from cars--flows right to the ocean, quickly."

Greg Small has been touring this un-ecological underground on foot for six years, and often when he's drunk he forays into the pipes to play "Cleansers of the Damned," smiting make-believe demons. "The tunnels," he says, "are like my neighborhood." But much of Ventura's labyrinth, built to send flash floods out to sea, is unskatable--made of corrugated metal, for instance--so we search for new skunnel paths. We plunge into a four-foot-high tube and start hiking on wet sand. "Possum," says Small, noticing some fresh animal tracks. "Have you ever been cornered by a possum? They go crazy. They'll tear you apart."

We push on, our backs stooped, our sneakers splashing in puddles. Soon we hear flowing water--irrigation runoff trickling in from the orange groves above. It is not clear, really, whether the stream might gush at us. Sagely, Small's housemate, Nathan Paul, finds a tiny chamber topped by a manhole and advises, "Knock the spider webs off of that thing and crawl out."

"There's a road over us," quavers a neophyte named Dave, "You want to die?"
Nathan pushes the lid up himself and scrambles out. Quiet, no cars: We are fine, and, in fact, none of the 15 or so Ventura worthies who've skunneled has ever broken a bone. "Once," Small says, shrugging, "I went over this jump in a pipe and slammed into the wall, hard." I inquire about the police. "How're they gonna catch us?" he asks. "Luge cops with lights on the front of their heads?"

We hit a parking garage so that Dave can learn how to brake by dragging his heels and gloved hands on the pavement. Dave crashes. He does a somersault, actually, and gets up laughing in that hearty way of someone who's been embarrassingly wounded. I am not inspired. But then we drive back to the hills and, in the darkness, Nathan hands me something--the water ski. My vehicle and I enter the underworld.

"Go!" someone screams, and I go so I can feel the seams in the concrete jolt up into my shoulders. The board keeps listing right, up onto the elliptical wall, and all I can see is a sliver of light. The tunnel twists. It gets steeper and my board goes faster and my shirt gets snarled up in the wheels and it rips and I keep going until eventually one idea, Zen and blissful, fills my mind. I think, "Bro, this pavement is smooth!"

But after a mile, the ride spills into a long, flat landing. My wheels stop, and then, all around me, I hear the dogs again, the dogs driven crazy by a weird rumbling under the earth. They are howling at us, snarling and leaping. They think we are ridiculous and uncivil. And as I skitter away, across the last lawn toward the car, I know this: The dogs are right."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Let us drink....


"Bibendum the Michelin Man, introduced in 1898 by French artist O'Galop (pseudonym of Marius Rossillon), and one of the world's oldest trademarks. André Michelin apparently commissioned the creation of this jolly, rotund figure after his brother, Édouard, observed that a display of stacked tyres resembled a human form. Today, Bibendum is one of the world's most recognized trademarks, representing Michelin in over 150 countries.

The 1898 poster showed him offering the toast Nunc est bibendum ("Cheers!" or "Now is the time to drink" in Latin) to his scrawny competitors with a glass full of road hazards, with the title and the tag C'est à dire: À votre santé. Le pneu Michelin boit l'obstacle ("That is to say, to your health: The Michelin tyre drinks up obstacles"). It is unclear when the word "Bibendum" came to be the name of the character himself. At the latest, it was in 1908, when Michelin commissioned Curnonsky to write a newspaper column signed "Bibendum".
The name of the plump tyre-man has entered the language to describe the appearance of someone obese or wearing comically bulky clothing: "How can I wrap up warm without looking like a Michelin Man?".

In Spain, michelín has acquired the meaning of the "tyres" or folds of fatty skin around the waist. His shape has changed over the years. O'Galop's logo was based on bicycle tyres, and wore glasses and smoked a cigar. By the 1980s Bibendum was being shown as a running Bib, and in 1998, his 100th anniversary, a slimmed-down version became the company's new logo; his vision had improved, and he had long since given up smoking. The slimming of the logo reflected both lower-profile, smaller tyres on sport compact automobiles and a more athletic, slimmer, and trimmer Bib.

Bib and his identical twin (or maybe a clone) try to fight off the effects of inflation

Bibendum made a brief guest appearance in the Asterix series as the chariot-wheel dealer in certain translations, including the English one, of Asterix in Switzerland. (The original French version used the Gaulish warrior mascot of French service-station company Antar.) The image also plays a key role in William Gibson's novel Pattern Recognition. Michelin sued the performance artist Momus for releasing a song about the trademarked Michelin Man."

When in London be sure to visit the Bibendum resturant located in the original Michelin house. Restored in 1985 by Restaurateur and retailer Sir Terrance Orby Conran. Conran had to search for suppliers to recreate many of the building's original features. The three stained glass windows (below) which had been removed for safety during the Second World War had been lost and the glass cupolas at the front of the building had disappeared. After a long search, suppliers were found, and replicas of the windows and cupolas were made using original drawings, photos and posters.

Old round boy has inspired us all, especially Elieen Gray and her armchair.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The creme de la crime: The molasses Gang.

From Wikipedia:

"The Molasses Gang was a New York street gang during the 1870s. Formed in 1871 by Jimmy Dunnigan, the Molasses Gang were primarily made up of sneak thieves and minor criminals who were highly publicized in the New York press for the comedic methods of their robberies. One such tactic was to enter a local store and ask the owner to fill a member's hat with molasses, explaining that it was a bet among the other members to see how much molasses the hat would hold. When the hat was filled, the gang member would pull the hat over the shop-owner's head, blinding him while the gang members looted the store. The gang was not taken very seriously among the other gangs of the period, however, and often walked out in the middle of robberies when such activities bored them. As the gang continued to commit similar crimes, police decided to take action and by 1877 most of the gang had been arrested."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Post-apocalyptic beetles

From bentonblog:

The bentonblog mission statement:

"We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like. My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never forgive me for."

"This is my friends artwork. He does them in his spare time. He and his wife are just expecting baby. Because of this he is interested in selling this sculpture. If you are interested in buying this piece of art write email to"

Yurodivy, St Simeon, the ship, and the holy fool.

The Soul of the People, by Mikhail Nesterov.

From Wikipedia:

"The yurodivy (Russian: юродивый, jurodivyj) is the Russian version of Foolishness in Christ (Russian: юродство, yurodstvo or jurodstvo), a peculiar form of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. The yurodivy is a Holy Fool, one who acts intentially foolish in the eyes of men. He or she often goes around half-naked, is homeless, speaks in riddles, is believed to be clairvoyant and a prophet, and may occasionally be disruptive and challenging to the point of seeming immorality (though always to make a point).

Part of the Biblical basis for it can be seen in 1 Corinthians 4:10, which famously says:
"We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised." (KJV).

The most famous example in the Western church is St. Francis of Assisi and a more recent Western example is St. Benedict Joseph Labre. There are also parallels in non-Christian Oriental religion, notably amongst Zen monks, and the Mahasiddhi traditions.
The practise was recognised in the hagiography of fifth-century Byzantium, and it was extensively adopted in Muscovite Russia, probably in the 14th century.
The madness of the yurodivy was ambiguous, and could be real or simulated. He (or she) was believed to have been divinely inspired, and was therefore able to say truths which others cannot, normally in the form of indirect allusions or parables. He had a particular status in regard to the Tsars, as a figure not subject to earthly control or judgment.

After the 17th century the yurodivy existed more in the arts than in real life. Prominent examples are the fool in Boris Godunov, Pavel's mother in The Brothers Karamazov and Prince Myshkin in The Idiot. The composer Dmitri Shostakovich and the pianist Maria Yudina have been cited as 20th century examples of the type
From Ship of

"Ship of Fools has adopted as its patron and example the coolest saint in all Christendom – St Simeon the Holy Fool, whose Feast Day we celebrate every 21st July. For the story of his surprising life, read on. And for the stories of others who might have aspired to be his followers, read our Loose canons pages.

The desert saints of the early centuries were a wild and strange breed – and none were bred wilder or stranger than the saints of Syria. Some of them stood and prayed for years on end without sitting down. Others lived on top of pillars in the desert where they preached, wrote epistles and drew crowds of pilgrims. Numbered among these maverick saints is our patron, St Simeon the Holy Fool.

Simeon's saintly career started out quite normally. It was the usual story: 29 years living on lentils in an isolated cave next to the Dead Sea, at first struggling against temptation and then advancing to an alarming degree of holiness. But Simeon's story took a dramatic turn when he left his cave one day and set out for the city of Emesa in Syria. Arriving at the city gate, he found a dead dog on a dungheap, tied its leg to the rope around his waist, and entered the city dragging the comatose canine behind him.

This was only the beginning. For Simeon had decided to play the fool in order to mock the idiocy of the world and also to conceal his own identity as a saint. His behaviour was eccentric and, of course, scandalous...

During the church services, he threw nuts at the clergy and blew out the candles. In the circus, he wrapped his arms around the dancing-girls and went skipping and dancing across the arena. In the streets, he tripped people up, developed a theatrical limp, and dragged himself around on his buttocks. In the bath-house, he ran naked into the crowded women's section. On solemn fasting days he feasted riotously, consuming vast amounts of beans – with predictable and hilarious results. In his lifetime, Simeon was regarded as a madman, as an unholy scandal.
It was his death that the secret life of Simeon came to light. People started to talk about his acts of kindness – and about his strange and powerful miracles. There was the poor mule driver whose vinegar Simeon turned into wine so that he could start a successful tavern. There was the rich man who was saved from death when Simeon threw a lucky triple six at dice. And there was the young man Simeon punched on the jaw to save him from an affair with a married woman.

St Simeon the Holy Fool was a secret saint, his story was a holy farce, and his life shows how God chooses "the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (1 Corinthians 1:27)."

Monday, July 16, 2007

With This Ring: The Order of the Engineer

From Wikipedia:

The Iron Ring is a symbolic ring worn by many Canadian engineers. Obtaining the ring is an optional endeavour - the ring is not a prerequisite for practicing professional engineering in Canada.

The Ring is given as part of "The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer" [1], written by Rudyard Kipling. Legend says that the rings are made from the steel of a beam from the Quebec Bridge, which collapsed during construction in 1907, killing 75 construction workers, due to poor planning and design by the overseeing engineers. This is only a legend, although a bolt from the bridge is attached to the chain that is held by the engineers-to-be during the ritual. The Ring is a symbol of both pride and humility for the engineering profession.

The Ring is always worn on the little finger of the dominant hand, where the facets act as a sharp reminder of obligation while the engineer works. This is particularly true of recently obligated engineers, whose rings still bear facets nearly sharp enough to be considered serrations. The location of the ring on the dominant hand also means that it is the furthest from a wedding ring made of gold or other precious metals, which symbolizes that monetary gain should not be what motivates an ethical engineer.

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is the ceremony where Iron Rings are given to graduating engineers who choose to obligate themselves to the highest professionalism and humility of their profession. It is a symbol that reflects the moral, ethical and professional commitment made by the engineer who wears the ring. The ceremonies are private affairs with no publicity. Invitations to attend are extended to local engineering alumni and professional engineers by those who are scheduled to participate. For some schools, the invitation to witness the ceremony is open to anyone in the engineering profession, non-obligated engineers may not participate in the ritual. For other schools, the invitation to witness the ceremony is open to everyone. Some graduating engineers choose to receive a ring passed on from a relative or mentor, giving the ceremony a personal touch.

Although the details of the ceremony are not secret, they are considered sacrosanct and obligated engineers normally do not discuss the ceremony, even with engineering students.

The word "camp" is used to describe these regional organizations because it conveys a smaller, close-knit sense of community.

The Obligation of the Engineer:

I am an Engineer, in my profession I take deep pride. To it I owe solemn obligations.

Since the Stone Age, human progress has been spurred by the engineering genius. Engineers have made usable Nature’s vast resources of material and energy for Humanity's [Mankind’s] benefit. Engineers have vitalized and turned to practical use the principles of science and the means of technology. Were it not for this heritage of accumulated experience, my efforts would be feeble.

As an Engineer, I pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect, and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth.

As an Engineer[, in humility and with the need for Divine guidance,] I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skill and knowledge shall be given without reservation for the public good. In the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Our Favorite Heroes: Bernard Quatermass

From Wikipedia:
Professor Bernard Quatermass is a fictional character, originally created by the writer Nigel Kneale for BBC Television. Quatermass appeared in three influential BBC science fiction serials of the 1950s, and returned in a final serial for Thames Television in 1979. A remake of the first serial appeared on BBC Four in 2005.

The character also appeared in films, on the radio and in print over a fifty-year period. Kneale picked the character's unusual surname from a London telephone directory, while the first name was in honour of the astronomer Bernard Lovell. Quatermass is an intelligent and highly moral British scientist, who continually finds himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity. In the initial three serials he is a pioneer of the British space programme, heading up the British Experimental Rocket Group.

The character of Quatermass has been described by BBC News Online as Britain's first television hero, and by The Independent newspaper as "A brilliantly conceived and finely crafted creation... [He] remained a modern 'Mr Standfast', the one fixed point in an increasingly dreadful and ever-shifting universe." In 2005, an article in The Daily Telegraph suggested that "You can see a line running through him and many other British heroes. He shares elements with both Sherlock Holmes and Ellen MacArthur."
Many actors have portrayed the driven yet haunted scientist:

Reginald Tate, the first actor to portray Professor Bernard Quatermass, from The Quatermass Experiment (1953) (TV)

John Robinson in Quatermass II (1955) (TV)

André Morell, Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59) (TV)

Brian Donlevy, Quatermass Experiment (1955) & Quatermass II (also called Enemy from Space (see the clip up top) (films)

John Mills, Quatermass (1970) (TV)

- and many others.

Of them all, though, our personal favorite (and a top contender among Quatermass fans) is Andrew Keir in the Hammer version of Quatermass and the Pit (1967):

Professor Bernard Quatermass: The will to survive is an odd phenomenon. Roney, if we found out our own world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do about it?

Dr. Mathew Roney: Nothing, just go on squabbling as usual.

Professor Bernard Quatermass: Yes, but what if we weren't men?

Monday, July 9, 2007

"What Do We Say to the Dead?"

Excuse the promotion, but just wanted to share that the wonderful Dark Roasted Blend just posted our post, "Oooops," on their site. Thanks!

The above quote comes from Fail Safe, by the way.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Truth Behind That Golden Lasso

Peridically creators can be so odd and unusual that they eclipse even the most outrageous of creations and in the case of William Moulton Marston, who created Woman Woman, that's saying quite a lot.

From Wikipedia:
The Wonderful Elizabeth Holloway Marston

[Elizabeth] developed the character of Wonder Woman with her husband [Dr. William Moulton Marston], and served as the partial model for her. Further inspiration was found in Olive Byrne, who lived with the couple in a polyamorous relationship. William and Elizabeth had two children together, and William and Olive had two more children who were formally adopted by William and Elizabeth. After William's death, the two women continued to raise the four children and live together until Olive's death in the 1980s. Elizabeth continued to receive royalties from "Wonder Woman" after her husband's death.

Marston's Wonder Woman is often cited as an early example of bondage themes entering popular culture: physical submission appears again and again throughout Marston's comics work, with Wonder Woman and her criminal opponents frequently being tied up or otherwise restrained, and her Amazonian friends engaging in frequent wrestling and bondage play (possibly based on Marston's earlier research studies on sorority initiations). These elements were softened by later writers of the series. Though Marston had described female nature as submissive, in his other writings and interviews he referred to submission to women as a noble and potentially world-saving practice, leading ideally to the establishment of a matriarchy, and did not shy away from the sexual implications of this:

"The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound ... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society. ... Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element".
About male readers, he later wrote: "Give them an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to, and they'll be proud to become her willing slaves!"
And for those who prefer their superheroines on the chubby side, there's BBWW, The Fat Wonder Woman Blog:

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: The Performer of the Century

The house that night, and for many nights thereafter, is packed: the finest of Paris society crammed into the refinement of the Moulin Rouge, eagerly awaiting the star performer. White gowned “nurses” wait near the exists for those overcome by the performance, prepared to offer aid to anyone stricken by the evening’s entertainment.

To thunderous applause, the artist takes the stage. Clad in elegant coat, crimson pants, white stockings, gloves, and fine shoes, he cuts a dashing, if dated, visage in this age of Sarah Bernhard Sandra Bernhardt (thanks Matt!). In fact, this performer makes more than twice what that particular wooden-legged, coffin-sleeping, and death-performing actress earns. A fact that must have caused her no end of distress.

Though, safe to say, she also never attempted to to match his talent.

His act is simplicity itself, performed with a stoic dead-pan delivery that only increases the overall effect. Simple sounds for the most part, a repertoire of natural and artificial noises, and some childish tunes: a bill that would have never had made it into any program, in any age, but when performed by this certain gentlemen it drew in incredible crowds, and once even the King of Belgium.

While the message wasn’t unique, the medium certainly was; the tunes weren’t special, but the performer’s instrument absolutely was.

The sound of cannons echoed throughout the Moulin Rouge, then a precise imitation of tearing cloth, and more and more depictions of auditory talent performed through his tight-lipped smile, his lips never moving, sound never leaving his mouth.

Like many performers, Joseph Pujol practiced for many years before getting his big break, stepping into international stardom. His talent first manifested itself during a quick swim in the 1860’s, with a frightening experience of having chill water seemingly invade his body. Panicked, Joseph rushed to the shore, amazed to discover that he had managed to suck in many quarts of water ... through his anus.

If you’re a quick study you’ve already figured out how, many years later, Joseph would be able to wow the crowned heads of Europe and the highest echelons of society with his imitations and simple tunes. While without a doubt Pujol had a great deal of talent: his asshole was a genius.

Slowly, after the incident at the beach, Pujol discovered many strange and wondrous things about his particular orifice. He could take quart after quart of water and then project it in a powerful jet up to five yards, as well as take in great quantities of air and expel it with tremendous and theatrical skill.

At first he simply entertained his friends in Marseilles, but soon enough the floodlights called. Taking a few years to perfect his performance, Pujol hit the smaller towns first: packing them in and wowing them with his anal orchestrations. He hit Toulon, Brodeaux and many others to standing ovations.

Filled with confidence, Pujol embarked in 1892 to the seat of European theatrical magnificence: the one and only Moulin Rouge. The story of how he got onto its illustrious stage is almost as incredible as his anus, bursting with assurance, he marched right into Le Directeur’s office (Zidler or Oller, the accounts conflict) and performed right on the stop, and was on the stage that very night.

Taking the name Le Petomane (“The Fartiste” or “The Fart Artist”) In addition to his artillery and cloth tearing, Pujol also hilariously performed a wide range of gaseous imitations: the farting of a little girl, a wife, a mother-in-law and much more. After, Le Petomane would put one end of a long tube into his amazing anus and a cigarette in the other, and would stand there on the stage, merrily puffing away to the rolling hysterics of his audience. Then he’d play a couple of nice little ditties on his anus-flute, lead the audience in a sing-along, and then blow out the footlights.

Before you have to gall to ask, Le Petomane insisted that his emanations were odorless, though one has to but wonder if the front row seats were not, for his performances, considered the best.

Since some doubted his abilities, Le Petomane would also offer for male skeptics a private viewing of his talents, with Pujol wearing a special pair of breaches with a strategic hole. One, after all, must preserve one’s dignity.

Like all great artists, Le Petomane had his share of difficulties. In 1892 he made the mistake of being generous with his god-given talents by performing in front of a friend’s gingerbread store as free publicity. Hearing of this, Zidler/Oller slapped him with a hefty lawsuit. Outraged, Pujol refused to back down and (alas) some years later the Farter lost his suit, and had to shell out the sum of 3000 Francs. But Zidler/Oller would have a tarnished victory, as he had tried to pass off a fake, female, Le Petomane, who brought down the scorn of French society (who, one has to guess, had nothing better to do) when it was discovered that she was a fraud, and actually concealed a device under her voluminous skirts to achieve her gaseous act.

Le Petomane took his act on the road, leaving the Moulin Rouge behind. Traveling with many of his friends and family under the tent of Theatre Pompadour, Pujol wowed them all over Europe: farting to packed houses and breaking wind to standing ovations.

In 1914 however, the curtain closed on Le Petomane: the capture by the Germans of son and the critical wounding of two others in World War I took the wind out of his sails, and the air out of his anus. Stepping out of the spotlight, Pujol moved with his extensive family to Toulon where he prospered as a baker. Surrounded by many children and grandchildren, Pujol passed away in 1945.

To this day, the specter of Pujol seems to lurk just on the other side of popularity: Howard Stern, tasteless cinema, they all seem pale shadows compared to the maestro of emanations, the Paganini of flatulence. His place in the hall of theatre remains untouched.

To Le Petomane we look up to the heights of what can be done by that most maligned of body activities: Joseph Pujol we salute you, and may your gaseous passing always inspire us.