Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fastest Thing On Reels: Dad, Can I Borrow the Car?


A live-action short, using many avant-garde film techniques, that looks at American car culture in the late 1960s. The main secton deals with the many trials and obstacles a teenager must face on the path to being able to drive. Surviving the driver's education class is only the first step, as the teenager must then pass his driving test, and then finally get permission to borrow the family car.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Movies You Haven't Seen But Should: Matango


Matango, also known as Matango, Fungus of Terror and Attack of the Mushroom People, is a 1963 Japanese tokusatsu eiga. It was directed by Ishirō Honda, written by Takeshi Kimura based on the story "The Voice in the Night" by William Hope Hodgson (an adaptation credit is given to Masami Fukushima and Shinichi Hoshi, but Kimura threw out most of their contributions), and had special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.

The movie has developed something of a cult audience over the years; partly due to its bleakness and unusual themes, particularly when compared to other Japanese films of the same period.

When a japanese yacht is damaged in a storm, its crew and passengers (all fashionable and affluent early 60s types) make their way to a nearby island. The island is apparently deserted, though the castaways soon discover a beached research ship on the other side of the island. An examination of the ship, the insides of which are encrusted with a thick mold, soon reveals that it had an international crew which appear to be involved in radiation and fallout research. Despite this it seems that the crew survived for some time after the ship was beached, however there is no indication of their current whereabouts.

Although mushrooms are unusually plentiful on the island, the ship's captain warns the passengers not to eat them because of the danger of poisoning, and to concentrate on birds and turtle eggs. However, it is soon discovered that birds are afraid of the island and that turtle eggs are scarce. A small supply of canned food is found on the research ship, but this only buys the crew some time. Inevitably, members of the crew begin eating the mushrooms. In the meantime, they also discover that the crew of the abandoned ship hadn't vanished as completely as they'd originally thought.

"- it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables -"

"Houses were shut tight, and cloth wedged around doors and windows, but the dust came in so thinly that it could not be seen in the air, and it settled like pollen on the chairs and tables, on the dishes."
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath


The Dust Bowl or the Dirty Thirties was a period of severe dust storms causing major ecological and agricultural damage to American and Canadian prairie lands from 1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940). The phenomenon was caused by severe drought coupled with decades of extensive farming without crop rotation, fallow fields, cover crops and other techniques to prevent erosion. Deep plowing of the virgin topsoil of the Great Plains had killed the natural grasses that normally kept the soil in place and trapped moisture even during periods of drought and high winds.

During the drought of the 1930s, with no natural anchors to keep the soil in place, it dried, turned to dust, and blew away eastward and southward in large dark clouds. At times the clouds blackened the sky reaching all the way to East Coast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Much of the soil ended up deposited in the Atlantic Ocean, carried by prevailing winds which were in part created by the dry and bare soil conditions itself. These immense dust storms–given names such as "Black Blizzards" and "Black Rollers"–often reduced visibility to a few feet (around a meter). The Dust Bowl affected 100,000,000 acres (400,000 km), centered on the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and adjacent parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. The Dust Bowl was an ecological and human disaster caused by misuse of land and years of sustained drought. Millions of acres of farmland became useless, and hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes; many of these families (often known as "Okies", since so many came from Oklahoma) traveled to California and other states, where they found economic conditions little better than those they had left. Owning no land, many traveled from farm to farm picking fruit and other crops at starvation wages. Author John Steinbeck later wrote The Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Of Mice and Men about such people.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some Of Our Favorite Heroes: General Anthony Clement McAuliffe

General Anthony Clement McAuliffe (July 2, 1898 - August 11, 1975) was the United States Army general who commanded the defending 101st Airborne troops during the Battle of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He is famous for his single-word reply to a German surrender ultimatum: "Nuts!

On December 22, 1944, through a party consisting of a major, captain, and two privates under a flag of truce that entered the American lines southeast of Bastogne (occupied by Company F, 2nd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry), General Heinrich Freiherr von Lüttwitz sent the following ultimatum to Gen. McAuliffe:

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.

The German Commander.

According to various accounts from those present, when McAuliffe was told of the German demand for surrender he said "Aw, nuts". At a loss for an official reply, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard suggested that his first remark summed the situation up well, which was agreed to by the others. The official reply: "To the German Commander, NUTS!, The American Commander" was typed and delivered by Colonel Joseph Harper, commanding the 327th Glider Infantry, and his S-3 Major Jones to the German delegation. Harper had to explain the meaning of the word to the Germans, telling them that in "plain English" it meant "Go to hell."

According to an article in the Daily Mail the reply was not "Nuts" but a four letter expletive that was changed for propaganda purposes for domestic consumption. But that was not the case, according to Vincent Vicari, McAuliffe's personal aide who was there at the time. As quoted by Richard Pyle of the Associated Press December 12, 2004, Vicari said, "General Mac was the only general I ever knew who did not use profane language. 'Nuts' was part of his normal vocabulary."

The threatened artillery fire did not materialize, although several infantry and tank assaults were directed at the positions of the 2nd Battalion, 327th Glider Infantry where the truce party made entry.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Babylon


New Babylon is a Utopian anti-capitalist city designed in 1959-74 by artist architect Constant Nieuwenhuys. Henri Lefebvre explained: "a New Babylon -- a provocative name, since in the Protestant tradition Babylon is a figure of evil. New Babylon was to be the figure of good that took the name of the cursed city and transformed itself into the city of the future." The goal was the creating of alternative life experiences, called 'situations. Sarah Williams Goldhagenp, explained:

[In 1950s, Constant] had already been working for years on his "New Babylon" series of paintings, sketches, texts,and architectural models describing the shape of a post-revolutionary society. Constant's New Babylon was to be a series of linked transformable structures, some of whichthemselves were the size of a small city--what architects call a megastructure. Perched above ground, Constant's megastructures would literally leave the bourgeois metropolis below and would be populated by homo ludens--man at play. (Homo Ludens is the title ofa book by the great Dutch historian Johan Huizinga.) In the New Babylon, the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant's social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community--all these were eschewed.

Constant's New Babylon, and his 1953 work For an Architecture of Situation, were based on the idea that architecture itself would allow and instigate a transformation of daily reality."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mona's Not The Only One Who's Smiling


Eduardo de Valfierno, who referred to himself as Marqués (marquis), was an Argentine con man who allegedly masterminded the theft of the Mona Lisa. Valfierno paid several men to steal the work of art from the Louvre, including museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia. On August 21, 1911 Peruggia hid the Mona Lisa under his coat and simply walked out the door.

Before the heist took place, Valfierno commissioned French art restorer and forger Yves Chaudron to make six copies of the Mona Lisa. The forgeries were then shipped to various parts of the world, readying them for the buyers he had lined up. Valfierno knew once the Mona Lisa was stolen it would be harder to smuggle copies past customs. After the heist the copies were delivered to their buyers, each thinking they had the original which had just been stolen for them. Because Valfierno just wanted to sell forgeries, he only needed the original Mona Lisa to disappear and never contacted Peruggia again after the crime. Eventually Peruggia was caught trying to sell the painting and it was returned to the Louvre in 1913.

Peruggia denied he ever knew Valfierno other than a chance meeting at the Louvre.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some of Our Favorite Heroes: The Air Pirates


The Air Pirates were a group of cartoonists who created two issues of an underground comic called Air Pirates Funnies in 1971, leading to a famous lawsuit by The Walt Disney Company. Founded by Dan O'Neill, the group also included Shary Flenniken, Bobby London, Gary Hallgren, and Ted Richards.

The collective shared a common interest in the styles of past masters of the comic strip: Flenniken emulated Clare Briggs' family comic strips in her Trots and Bonnie comics, London's strip Dirty Duck paid homage to the styles of E.C. Segar's Thimble Theater and George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Richards' Dopin' Dan was similar to Mort Walker's Beetle Bailey and Gary Hallgren had a great interest in Cliff Sterett's "Polly and Her Pals". The original Air Pirates were a gang of Mickey Mouse antagonists of the 1930s; O'Neill regarded Mickey Mouse as a symbol of conformist hypocrisy in American culture, and therefore a ripe target for satire.

The first issue of Air Pirates Funnies was dated July 1971, and the second issue dated August. Both were published under the Hell Comics imprint, and were distributed through Ron Turner's Last Gasp publishing company. Both issues are considered highly collectible today.

The lead stories in both issues, created by O'Neill, Bobby London and Hallgren, focused on Walt Disney characters, most notably from Floyd Gottfredson's Mickey Mouse newspaper strip, with the Disney characters engaging in adult behaviors such as sex and drug consumption. O'Neill insisted it would dilute the parody to change the names of the characters, so his adventurous mouse character was called "Mickey". Ted Richards took on the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs opening up a second wave of parody attacking Disney's grab of contemporary American and European folklore.

O'Neill was so eager to be sued by Disney that he had copies of Air Pirates Funnies smuggled into a Walt Disney Company board meeting by the son of a board member. By late 1971, he got his wish as Disney filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition against O'Neill, Hallgren, London and Richards (Flenniken had not contributed to the parody stories). Disney later added Turner's name to the suit. The Pirates, in turn, claimed that the parody was fair use.

Accurately telling the story of Disney's lawsuit against the Air Pirates is difficult, due to the conflicting memories of the litigants; however, it is fair to say that all through the lawsuit, O'Neill was defiant. The initial decision by Judge Wollenberg in the California District Court, delivered on July 7, 1972, went against the Air Pirates, and O'Neill's lawyers appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. O'Neill suggested the other Pirates settle, and leave him to defend the case alone. Hallgren and Turner settled with Disney, but London and Richards decided to continue fighting. To raise money for the Air Pirates Defense Fund, O'Neill and other underground cartoonists began selling original artwork—predominantly of Disney characters—at comic conventions.

During the legal proceedings and in violation of the temporary restraining order, the Air Pirates published some of the material intended for the third issue of Air Pirates Funnies in the comic The Tortoise and the Hare, of which nearly 10,000 issues were soon confiscated under a court order. In 1975, Disney won a $200,000 preliminary judgement and another restraining order, which O'Neill defied by continuing to draw Disney parodies.

The case dragged on for several years. Finally, in 1978, the Ninth Circuit ruled against the Air Pirates three to zero for copyright infringement, although they dismissed the trademark infringement claims. In 1979 the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. O'Neill later claimed that his plan in the Disney lawsuit was to lose, appeal, lose again, continue drawing his parodies and eventually to force the courts to either allow him to continue or send him to jail. ("Doing something stupid once," he said, "is just plain stupid. Doing something stupid twice is a philosophy.") O'Neill's four-page Mickey Mouse story Communiqué #1 from the M.L.F. (Mouse Liberation Front) appeared in the magazine CoEvolution Quarterly #21 in 1979. Disney asked the court to hold O'Neill in contempt of court and have him prosecuted criminally, along with Stewart Brand, publisher of CoEvolution Quarterly.

By mid-1979, O'Neill recruited diverse artists for a "secret" artist's organization, The Mouse Liberation Front. An M.L.F. art show was displayed in New York, New York, Philadelphia and San Diego. With the help of sympathetic Disney employees, O'Neill delivered The M.L.F. Communiqué #2 in person to the Disney studios, where he posed drawing Mickey Mouse at an animation table and allegedly smoked a joint in the late Walt Disney's office. In 1980, weighing the unrecoverable $190,000 in damages and $2,000,000 in legal fees against O'Neill's continuing disregard for the court's decisions, the Walt Disney Company settled the case, dropping the contempt charges and promising not to enforce the judgment as long as the Pirates no longer infringed Disney's copyrights.

In Bob Levin's 2003 book The Pirates and The Mouse: Disney's War Against the Counterculture, New York Law School professor Edward Samuels said, "I was flabbergasted. He told me he had won the case. 'No, Dan,' I told him, 'You lost.' 'No, I won.' 'No, you lost.'" To Dan O'Neill, not going to jail constituted victory. However, Samuels said of the Air Pirates, "They set parody back twenty years." The case remains controversial among comics critics and free-speech advocates.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"I am not an agency for domestic servants. I really must ask you not to bother me with this kind of thing."


H. Rochester Sneath MA L-ès-L (born c. 1900, exposed 1948) was the nonexistent headmaster of the also nonexistent Selhurst School ("near Petworth, Sussex") who wrote many bizarre letters to public figures in 1948. Selhurst supposedly had 175 male students.

In March 1948 several headmasters of other British public schools began to receive letters from Sneath. The Master of Marlborough College, F.M. Heywood, was livid when Sneath asked how he had "engineered" a recent visit of the royal family. Next he received a letter where Sneath warned that he should not hire a French teacher 'Robert Agincourt' because he had climbed a tree naked. Finally when asked to recommend a private detective and a competent nursery maid, Heywood wrote back "I am not an agency for domestic servants. I really must ask you not to bother me with this kind of thing."

Sneath wrote to the Headmaster of Stowe School to ask if he should provide sex education for the school maids. He complained to the headmaster of Oundle School that the school chaplain was hopeless as a rat catcher. He asked Haileybury for a reference for a teacher who had a club foot and warts. Sneath even wrote to the headmaster of Eton to apply for his job. Some of the headmasters answered politely to a person they thought to be a fellow headmaster. One headmaster even recommended Selhurst to a parent of a prospective pupil.

George Bernard Shaw received an invitation to speak in an annual celebration at Selhurst (he declined). Architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott was informed of the possibility to design a new main building for the school (he declined as well). Conductor Sir Adrian Boult was invited to conduct the school orchestra (he was not enthusiastic, either). Two of Sneath's correspondents detected the hoax: one was Walter Oakeshott of Winchester College, who declined an invitation because he was attending a commemoration of a remote ancestor at Salt Lake City, Utah. The other was John Sinnott, Rector of Beaumont College. When invited to lead an exorcism, Sinnott requested a packet of salt "capable of being taken up in pinches" be ready for him.

Selhurst School and Rochester Sneath were the inventions of Humphry Berkeley, then an undergraduate student at Pembroke College, Cambridge University. Berkeley had ordered headed notepaper printed with Selhurst's name and initially arranged with the Post Office to have mail sent to Selhurst School to be redirected to him, although the Post Office later refused to redirect mail from a non-existent address. Sneath had to resort to asking correspondents to write to him care of "my sister Mrs Harvey-Kelly" at a Cambridge address (which was that of a fellow student).

On April 13, 1948 Sneath's letter was published in the Daily Worker complaining of the difficulty in importing Russian textbooks for compulsory Russian lessons in his school. The News Review asked to interview Sneath to discover more about this unusual school, but Sneath's "secretary" "Penelope Pox-Rhyddene" claimed he was ill. The journalist then visited Petworth to discover that there was no Selhurst School there, and then turned up on the doorstep of Berkeley's friend's lodgings. A story in the News Review on April 29 revealed Berkeley's responsibility for the hoax.

Berkeley was sent down (excluded from university) for two years. He was later elected Member of Parliament for Lancaster. The Rochester Sneath letters were published in 1974, together with illustrations by Nicolas Bentley.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One of Our Favorite Heroes: The Spirit


The Spirit (Denny Colt) is a crime-fighting fictional character created by writer-artist Will Eisner. He first appeared in Spirit Section #1 (June 2 1940), a seven-page insert into American Sunday-newspaper comics sections. He currently appears in comic books published by DC Comics.

The Spirit chronicles the adventures of a masked vigilante who fights crime with the blessing of the city's police commissioner Dolan, an old friend. Despite the Spirit's origin as a detective named Denny Colt, his real identity was virtually unmentioned again, and for all intents and purposes he was simply "the Spirit". The stories range through a wide variety of styles, from straightforward crime drama and noir to lighthearted adventure, from mystery and horror to comedy and love stories, often with hybrid elements that twisted genre and expectations.

The feature was the lead item of a 16-page, tabloid-sized, newsprint comic book sold as part of eventually 20 Sunday newspapers with a combined circulation of as many as five million copies. "The Spirit Section", as it was colloquially called, premiered June 2, 1940, and continued until October 5, 1952. It generally included two other, four-page strips (initially Mr. Mystic and Lady Luck), plus filler material. Eisner worked as editor, but also wrote and drew most entries — generally, after the first few months, with such uncredited "ghost" collaborators as writer Jules Feiffer and artists Jack Cole and Wally Wood, though with Eisner's singular vision for the character as a unifying factor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


William Buehler Seabrook (February 22, 1884September 20, 1945) was an American Lost Generation occultist, explorer, traveller, and journalist, born in Westminster, Maryland. He began his career as a reporter and City Editor of the Augusta Chronicle in Georgia. He later became a partner in an advertising agency in Atlanta.

Seabrook went on a trip to West Africa, living with a tribe known as the Guere. He asked the chief what human meat tasted like, but the chief couldn't describe it to Seabrook's satisfaction. Later, Seabrook had the opportunity to try it himself, getting a portion of stew with rice as well as a "sizeable rump steak, also a small loin roast to cook or have cooked" however he wanted. The source, Seabrook stated, was a recently killed man, but he was not murdered. He reported that, "It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal. It was mild, good meat with no other sharply defined or highly characteristic taste such as for instance, goat, high game, and pork have. The steak was slightly tougher than prime veal, a little stringy, but not too tough or stringy to be agreeably edible. The roast, from which I cut and ate a central slice, was tender, and in color, texture, smell as well as taste, strengthened my certainty that of all the meats we habitually know, veal is the one meat to which this meat is accurately comparable."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Sad, Sad Song


"Gloomy Sunday" is a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933 to a Hungarian poem written by László Jávor (original Hungarian title of both song and poem "Szomorú vasárnap" (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsomoruː ˈvɒʃaːrnɒp]), in which the singer mourns the untimely death of a lover and contemplates suicide.

Though recorded and performed by many singers, "Gloomy Sunday" is closely associated with Billie Holiday, who scored a hit version of the song in 1941. Due to unsubstantiated urban legends about its inspiring hundreds of suicides, "Gloomy Sunday" was dubbed the "Hungarian suicide song" in the United States. Seress did commit suicide in 1968, but most other rumors of the song being banned from radio, or sparking suicides, are unsubstantiated, and were partly propagated as a deliberate marketing campaign. Possibly due to the context of the Second World War, Billie Holiday's version was, however, banned by the BBC.

There have been several urban legends regarding the song over the years, mostly involving it being allegedly connected with various numbers of suicides, and radio networks reacting by purportedly banning the song. However, most of these claims are unsubstantiated.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Some of Our Favorite Paintings: The Great Red Dragons

The Great Red Dragon Paintings are a series of watercolour paintings by the English poet and painter William Blake, painted between 1805 and 1810. It was during this period that Blake was commissioned to create over a hundred paintings intended to illustrate books of the Bible. These paintings depict 'The Great Red Dragon' in various scenes from the Book of Revelation.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"So I won't put all the fires out."

"I've done made a deal with the devil. He said he's going to give me an air-conditioned place when I go down there, if I go there, so I won't put all the fires out."

Paul Neal "Red" Adair (June 18, 1915August 7, 2004) was a renowned American oil well firefighter. He became world famous as an innovator in the highly specialized and extremely hazardous profession of extinguishing and capping blazing, erupting oil wells, both land-based and offshore.

Adair was born in Houston, Texas, and attended Reagan High School. He began fighting oil well fires after returning from serving in a bomb disposal unit during World War II. Red started his career working for Myron Kinley, the "original" blowout/oil firefighting pioneer. He founded Red Adair Co., Inc., in 1959, and over his long career battled more than 2,000 land and offshore oil well, natural gas well, and similar spectacular fires. Red Adair gained global fame in 1962, when he tackled a fire at a gas field in the Sahara nicknamed the Devil's Cigarette Lighter, a 450-foot (137 m) pillar of flame. In 1977, he and his crew (including Asger "Boots" Hansen) contributed in mending the biggest oil well blowout ever to have occurred in the North Sea (and the 2nd largest offshore blowout worldwide, in terms of volume of crude oil spilled), more specifically at the Ekofisk Bravo platform, located in the Norwegian sector and operated by Phillips Petroleum Company (now ConocoPhillips). In 1978, Adair's top lieutenants Asger "Boots" Hansen and Ed "Coots" Matthews left to found competitor Boots & Coots International Well Control, Inc. In 1988, he helped put out the UK sector Piper Alpha oil platform fire. At age 75, Adair took part in extinguishing the oil well fires in Kuwait set by retreating Iraqi troops after the Gulf War in 1991.

Red Adair retired in 1993, and sold The Red Adair Service and Marine Company to Global Industries. His top employees (Brian Krause, Raymond Henry, Rich Hatteberg) left in 1994 and formed their own company, International Well Control (IWC). In 1997, IWC purchased the remnants of Boots and Coots and the company is now Boots & Coots/IWC.

The 1968 John Wayne movie Hellfighters was based upon the feats of Adair during the 1962 Sahara Desert fire. Adair was associated with a Rolex advertising campaign in the 1980's.

The History Channel's Modern Marvels episode on "Oil Well Firefighting" was one of Adair's last interviews prior to his 2004 death. The episode aired after Adair's death and was dedicated in his memory.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Monster with 21 Faces

The Monster with 21 Faces was the name taken from the villain of Edogawa Ranpo's detective novels, and used as an alias by the person or group responsible for the blackmail letters of the Glico Morinaga case in Japan. Variations of the name's translation, including “The Mystery Man with the 21 Faces” and “The Phantom with 21 Faces”, have also been used in articles and books featuring the case.

The Monster with 21 Faces sent its first letter on May 10, 1984, to the giant food company Ezaki Glico following the kidnapping and escape of Katsuhisa Ezaki, president of Glico. The letter stated that it had laced the company's confections with potassium cyanide soda, and it later threatened to put them on store shelves. None of these poisoned candies were found, but Glico products were removed from stores, resulting in a loss of more than $21 million and the laying off of 450 part-time workers.

Meanwhile, The Monster with 21 Faces also sent letters to the media, taunting police efforts to capture the culprit(s) behind the scare. An excerpt from one such letter, written in hiragana and with an Osaka dialect, reads, “Dear dumb police officers. Don't tell a lie. All crimes begin with a lie as we say in Japan. Don't you know that?” Another taunting letter was sent to Koshien police station. “Why don't you keep it to yourself? You seem to be at a loss. So why not let us help you? We'll give you a clue. We entered the factory by the front gate. The typewriter we used is PAN-writer. The plastic container used was a piece of street garbage. Monster with 21 faces.”

On June 26, The Monster with 21 Faces issued a message proclaiming its forgiveness of Glico, and subsequent harassment of the company ceased. However, it began targeting Morinaga, another confectionery company, and food companies Marudai Ham and House Food Corporation with similar criminal campaigns, using the same alias.

In October 1984, a letter addressed to "Moms of the Nation" and signed by The Monster with 21 Faces was sent to Osaka news agencies with a warning similar to those sent to Glico. It stated that 20 packages of Morinaga candy had been laced with deadly sodium cyanide. After receiving this letter, police searched stores in cities from Tokyo to western Japan and found over a dozen lethal packages of Morinaga Choco Balls and Angel Pie before anyone was poisoned. These packages had labels, such as "Danger: Contains Toxins", put on them. More tampered confections were found in February 1985, making a total of 21 lethal sweet products.

Unable to capture the suspect believed to be the mastermind behind The Monster with 21 Faces, the police superintendent Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture committed suicide by self-immolation in August 1985. Five days after this event, on August 12, "The Monster” sent its final message to the media:

"Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police died. How stupid of him! We've got no friends or secret hiding place in Shiga. It's Yoshino or Shikata who should have died. What have they been doing for as long as one year and five months? Don't let bad guys like us get away with it. There are many more fools who want to copy us. No-career Yamamoto died like a man. So we decided to give our condolence. We decided to forget about torturing food-making companies. If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it's not us but someone copying us. We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life. Monster with 21 Faces."

After this letter, The Monster with 21 Faces was not heard from again. The statute of limitation for the kidnapping of Katsuhisa Ezaki, president of Glico, ran out in June 1995, and the statute of limitation for the attempted poisonings ran out in February 2000. No suspect was ever caught or convicted of the crimes, and the identity of The Monster with 21 Faces remains a mystery.

"The Videotaped Man"

Following threats by The Monster with 21 Faces to poison Glico confections and the resulting mass withdrawal of Glico products from shelves, a man wearing a Giants baseball cap was caught placing Glico chocolate on a store shelf by a security camera. This man was believed to be the mastermind behind The Monster with 21 Faces. The security camera photo was made public after this incident.

"The Fox-Eyed Man"

On June 28, 1984, two days after The Monster agreed to stop harassing Marudai Ham in exchange for 50 million yen, police came close to capturing the suspected mastermind. An investigator disguised himself as a Marudai employee and followed The Monster's instructions for the money exchange. As he was riding a train to the money's drop point, he noticed a suspicious man watching him. He was described as a large, well-built man wearing sunglasses and with his hair cut short and permed. He was also quoted to have "eyes like those of a fox." As investigators tailed him from train to train, the Fox-Eyed Man (キツネ目の男, kitsune-me no otoko) eventually eluded them. In a later incident, investigators saw the Fox-Eyed Man again, accompanying the alleged "Monster" group during another secret money exchange with House Food Corporation. Once again, he was able to elude police and avoid capture.

Tokyo Metropolitan Police at first identified Manabu Miyazaki, a known yakuza, as the Fox-Eyed Man and the Videotaped Man because of his resemblance to these suspect, but after his alibis were checked, he was cleared of the Glico-Morinaga crimes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fastest Thing on Reels: Dead End Drive In

Dead End Drive-In is a 1986 science-fiction Ozploitation Film about a teenage couple who become trapped in a drive-in theater which is really a concentration camp for societal rejects who are fed a steady diet of junk food, rock and pop music, and movies. The film was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, and stars Ned Manning and Natalie McCurry as the captive couple, and Peter Whitford as the man running the drive in.
Dead End Drive In on the IMDB

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MORE Falles and Ninots: Art and Ashes

Just because you can't say enough about this beautiful - and beautifully outrageous - celebration:

(photos linked to their sources)

The Fallas are a Valencian tradition which celebrates Saint Joseph's Day in Valencia, Spain. Each neighbourhood of the city has an organized group of people, the Casal faller, that works all year long holding fundraising parties and dinners, usually featuring the famous speciality paella, and of course much music and laughter.

Each casal faller produces a construction known as a falla which is eventually burnt.

Formerly, much time would also be spent at the Casal Faller preparing the ninots (Valencian for puppets or dolls). During the week leading up to 19 March, each group takes its ninot out for a grand parade, and then mounts it, each on its own elaborate firecracker-filled cardboard and papier-mâché artistic monument in a street of the given neighborhood. This whole assembly is a falla.

The ninots and their falles are developed according to an agreed upon theme that was, and continues to be a satirical jab at anything or anyone unlucky enough to draw the attention of the critical eyes of the fallers — the celebrants themselves. In modern times, the whole two week long festival has spawned a huge local industry, to the point that an entire suburban area has been designated the City of Falles — Ciutat fallera. Here, crews of artists and artisans, sculptors, painters, and many others all spend months producing elaborate constructions, richly absurd paper and wax, wood and styrofoam tableaux towering up to five stories, composed of fanciful figures in outrageous poses arranged in gravity-defying architecture, each produced at the direction of the many individual neighbourhood Casals faller who vie with each to attract the best artists, and then to create the most outrageous monument to their target.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"I Wonder Where I Left It ...?"


The Bel Amica is a ghost ship discovered off the coast of island of Sardinia near Punta Volpe on August 24, 2006. The Italian Coast Guard discovered the ship with no crew on board. The coast guard boarded the vessel and steered her away from the rocks and shallow waters she was drifting towards. Once aboard, they discovered a half-eaten meal of Egyptian food, French maps of North African seas, a pile of clothes, and a flag of Luxembourg.

The ship has been described as a "classic style" schooner never seen in Italy before. The investigation found that she had never been registered in Italy nor any other country. The only identification aboard the ship was a wooden tablet or "plaque" as described in some papers that read "Bel Amica", a likely misspelling of "Beautiful Friend" (the phrase should say "Bell'Amica" to read properly in modern Italian).

Shortly after the original reports, Italian newspapers reported the owner had been found. Franc Rouayrux, from Luxembourg, was identified as the owner of the vessel. The boat had been left anchored in deep water for somewhat nebulous reasons, and Rouayrux stated that he had expected to return to the yacht after returning home to address an emergency. The Italian press suggested that this may have been an attempt to avoid steep taxation of luxury vessels.

Many reports at the time identified the Bel Amica as a schooner. This term is frequently associated with sailing ships from the pre-steamship era; however, it is simply a technical name for the layout of the sails. Schooners of many sizes are in current production. The misidentification of this modern yacht as an antique ship deepened the mystery and probably contributed to the brief international interest at the time.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Genius To The 10th Power


Powers of Ten is a 1977 short documentary film written and directed by Ray Eames and her husband, Charles Eames. The film depicts the relative scale of the Universe in factors of ten (see also logarithmic scale and order of magnitude). The film is an adaptation of the 1957 book Cosmic View by Kees Boeke, and more recently is the basis of a new book version. Both adaptations, film and book, follow the form of the Boeke original, adding color and photography to the black and white drawings employed by Boeke in his seminal work.

In 1998, "Powers of Ten" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Monday, August 3, 2009

Don't Bogart That Banana -


Bananadine is an allegedly psychoactive substance which is extracted from banana peels. A recipe for its extraction from banana peel was originally published as a hoax in the Berkeley Barb in March 1967. It became more widely known when William Powell reproduced the method in The Anarchist Cookbook in 1970. Powell has since attempted to have the recipe withdrawn. However, as he no longer holds the copyright for the article, he has been unsuccessful in this.

Researchers at New York University have found that banana peel contains no intoxicating chemicals, and that smoking it does not produce a Psychedelic effect. Over the years, there has been considerable speculation regarding the psychoactive properties of banana skins.

Donovan's hit single "Mellow Yellow" was released a few months prior to the Berkeley Barb article, and in the popular culture of the era, the song was assumed to be about smoking banana peels. Shortly after the "Berkeley Barb" and the song, bananadine was featured in the New York Times. For years it was assumed that the song "Mellow Yellow" was the source for bananadine.

In the inner sleeve of Experience, the first full-length album by British band The Prodigy, Leeroy Thornhill is quoted saying "Respect to everyone I've met, you're welcome round to smoke some Banana skins anytime."

The Ray Stevens song "Old Hippie Class Reunion" alludes to this fad. There is a recurring exchange: "What happened to it?" "We smoked it..." about increasingly improbable things, until at the end of the song the two characters enthusiastically consider smoking the entire contents of a pet store.

The Frank Zappa song "Blue Light" from Tinsel Town Rebellion likewise alludes to the fad: "That was back in the days when you used to / Smoke a banana / You would scrape the stuff off the middle / You would bake it / You would smoke it / You even thought you was getting ripped from it" It may also be noted that Donovan is mentioned earlier in the previous verse.

Slade also allude to this fad in a more tongue-in-cheek way in "Thanks for the Memory" (from the album of the same name, released 1975) with the line "They knew bananas could get you high".

60s garage rock group, The Electric Prunes released a song called "The Great Banana Fad," featured on their 1967 album Underground.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"A strange fox, with a long body, similar to a snake ...."

The Nguruvilu originates from the native Mapuche people. It is a river-dwelling creature and looks much like a strange fox, with a long body, similar to a snake, and a long tail with fingernails that it uses like a claw; but it's a water-being. Nguruvilus live in and are the cause of dangerous whirlpools which kill people who try to cross rivers. The creatures make the water shallow on either ford, to encourage people to try to cross it making it seem safe. However, the only safe way of crossing a river with a Nguruvilu is by boat. The only way to get rid of a Nguruvilu is to get a machi "shaman" or a good kalku "witch". The kalku is to be offered gifts in return for the service of Nguruvilu removal. The kalku (who may be male or female) wades through the river until he or she reaches the whirlpool and henceforth dives in. Afterwards she swims to the surface having captured the Nguruvilu in her arms with her powerful magical abilities. She then proceeded to threaten the creature with a sharp long knife or cuchilla (Spanish for knife) and threaten to mutilate the animal if it ever harms another person trying to cross the waterway. The Kalku then releases the Nguruvilu back into the water. It is important that this act is witnessed by everyone from the area. Then usually a great celebration is held and no one must fear crossing the waterway ever again. The whirlpool or whirlpools shrink and then disappear, and the fords become even shallower, making the crossing safe enough even for the frailest old woman or youngest child. It is believed the creature moves its business elsewhere, probably to torment the peoples downstream at the next popular river crossing. There is a common bedtime story about the kalku and the Nguruvilu which was included in the book Folk Tales From Chile.