Saturday, June 30, 2012
Friday, June 29, 2012
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
And here, straight from the book, is the original article - a slightly different version than the one that originally appeared on the always-wonderful Dark Roasted Blend. Enjoy!
THE MAJORLY MYSTERIOUS MIMA MOUNDS
Scientists love a mystery. Biologists used to have the human genome, but now they have the structure of protein. Physics used to have cosmic rays, but now they have the God particle. Astronomers used to have black holes, but now they have dark matter.
And then there's the puzzle, the enigma, the joyous mystery that dots the world over: the riddle of what's commonly called Mima Mounds.
What's an extra added bonus about these cryptic 'whatevertheyares' is that they aren't as miniscule as a protein sequence, aren't as subatomic as the elusive God particle, and certainly not as shadowy as dark matter. Found in such exotic locales as Kenya, Mexico, Canada, Australia, China and in similarly off-the-beaten path locations as California, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and especially Washington state, the mounds first appear to be just that: mounds of earth.
The first thing that's odd about the mounds is the similarity, regardless of location. With few differences, the mounds in Kenya are like the mounds in Mexico which are like the mounds in Canada which are like the ... well, you get the point. All the mounds aer heaps of soil from three to six feet tall, often laid out in what appear to be evenly spaced rows. Not quite geometric but almost. What's especially disturbing is that geologists, anthropologists, professors, and doctors of all kinds – plus a few well-intentioned self-appointed "experts" – can't figure out what they are, where they came from, or what caused them.
One of the leading theories is that they are man-made, probably by indigenous people. Sounds reasonable, no? Folks in loincloths hauling dirt in woven baskets, meticulously making mound after mound after ... but wait a minute. For one thing it would have been a huge amount of work, especially for a culture that was living hand-to-mouth. Then there's the fact that, as far as can be determined, there's nothing in the mounds themselves. Sure they aren't exactly the same as the nearby ground, but they certainly don't contain grain, pot shards, relics, mummies, arrowheads, or anything that really speaks of civilization. They are just dirt. And if they are man-made, how did the people in Kenya, Mexico, Canada, Australia, China, California, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and especially Washington state all coordinate their efforts so closely as to produce virtually identical mounds? That's either one huge tribe or a lot of little ones who somehow could send smoke signals thousands of miles.
Not very likely.
Next on the list of explanations is that somehow the mounds were created either by wind and rain or by geologic ups and downs – that there's some kind of bizarre earthy effect that has caused them to pop up. Again, it sounds reasonable, right? After all, there are all kinds of weird natural things out there: rogue waves, singing sand, exploding lakes, rains of fish and frogs – so why shouldn't mother nature create field after field of neat little mounds?
The "natural" theory of nature being responsible for the Majorly Mysterious Mima Mounds starts to crumble upon further investigation. Sure there's plenty of things we don't yet understand about how our native world behaves scientists do know enough to be able to say what it can't do – and it's looking pretty certain it can't be as precise, orderly, or meticulous as the mounds.
But still more theories persist. For many who believe in ley lines, that crop circles are some form of manifestation of our collective unconscious, in ghosts being energy impressions left in stone and brick, the mounds are the same, or at least similar: the result of an interaction between forces we as yet do not understand, or never will, and our spaceship earth.
Others, those who prefer their granola slightly less crunchy or wear their tinfoil hats a little less tightly, have suggested what I – in my own ill-educated opinion – consider to be perhaps the best theory to date. Some, naturally, have dismissed this concept out-of-hand, suggesting that the whole idea is too ludicrous even to be the subject of a dinner party, let alone deserving the attention and respect of serious research.
But I think this attitude shows not only lack of respect but a lack of imagination. After all, was it not so long ago that the idea of shifting continents was considered outrageous? And wasn't it only a few years ago that people simply accepted the fact that the sun revolved around the earth? I simply ask that this theory be considered in all fairness and not dismissed without the same serious consideration these now well-respected theories have received.
After all, giant gophers could very well be responsible for the Majorly Mysterious Mima Mounds
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Kasa Obake (傘お化け, “umbrella obake”), or Karakasa Obake (唐傘お化け?) or Karakasa Kozo (唐傘小僧), are a type of Tsukumogami, a folk legend about a form of Japanese spirit that originate from objects reaching their 100th year of existence, thus becoming animate. Karakasa in particular are Spirits of parasols (umbrellas) that reach the century milestone. They are typically portrayed with one eye, a long tongue protruding from an open mouth, and a single foot, generally wearing a geta.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Known as “La Isla de la Munecas”, by the Spanish, The Island of the Dolls is perhaps the creepiest tourist attraction in Mexico. Located within an extensive network of canals, south of Mexico City, the island is a place of mystery and superstition.
Discarded Bottle Fish
One man’s junk is another man’s giant fish sculpture, so the saying goes (I’m sure somebody, somewhere, at some point said that). Set on the sunny Botafogo beach in Rio de Janeiro, this hugenormous light installation is constructed from illuminated discarded bottles, as part of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Check out some more shots at this flickr set by Ascom Riotur: flickr
Saturday, June 23, 2012
History has not been kind to them. If you can even find references to their Brotherhood it's usually shaded with Christian hysteria, whispered tales loaded with the usual Catholic shockers of Satanism, sacrifice, the black mass, rituals – you name it. They say that the winners write the history books – well, I consider it a bad sign that it takes a lot of digging to uncover the truth: while they haven't won they certainly have a good enough foothold to pretty badly taint the memory of the Amorous Knights of Wycombe.
Even if you travel to their later meeting place, the sleepy little hamlet of West Wycombe, the locals spout the nonsense – telling tales laced with those Christian bogeymen images: hooded figures droning a litany of forbidden words while a naked offering is laid out on cold granite, awaiting the ritual blade in the hands of a Satanic Priest.
While the truth about the membership of the Monks of Medmenham, and later the Amorous Knights of Wycombe, isn't as – well – Hammer Films material, the tale of its founding, membership, and rites is fascinating.
Oh, to be in England in the 1760s. The Colonies were behaving themselves, the Great British Empire was just that, and everyone – so it seemed – belonged to a club. There was one for just about every class, interest, or occupation: The Lying Club, where the truth was banned; the Ugly Club where the qualifications for membership were unhandsome, at best; the Golden Fleece where members took on such names as Sir Boozy Prate-All, Sir Whore-Hunter, and Sir Ollie-Mollie.
Then there was the Monks of Medmenham Abbey. Meeting clandestinely on a spot of land somewhere along the Thames near London, this circle of Gentlemen came to typify the age, the era of the Great English Clubs.
Sir Francis Dashwood is one of my heroes – roguish, yet always the stalwart Gentleman; a prankster and jape, yet the author of the Book of Common Prayer – Sir Francis was the center and guiding force behind the very special club, the one later to be known by the misnomer, the Hellfire Club.
Born in 1708, and an indirect descendent of Milton ("tis better to rule in Hell, than serve in Heaven"), Sir Francis was a great supporter of reforms as well as artistic advances. His estate at West Wycombe became an example progressive architectural design and intelligent land management. He was elected an MP 1762, in appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer the following year – and then the year after that elevated to the House of Lords. To add to these wonderful accomplishments, in 1766 (under Pitt) Dashwood was appointed Postmaster-General. Sir Francis, you see, was a man of accomplishment, of intelligence, ability, and – most certainly – wit.
Oh yes, for while Sir Francis was elevating his way through Parliament, he also created, and pretty much single-handedly maintained, his own special club. Unlike those other eccentric clubs of the time the Monks of Medmenham Abbey was a special organization – one dedicated to japing the Papists, providing a place where a gentleman of wit and sophistication might find a place to meet, drink, and – in general – raise a little hell.
The Monks certainly did that. First at their hidden little island, set inside a false ruin of an old Abbey, they met – clandestine greetings across the cool waters of the Thames, lanterns and torches lighting the way, the Monk-robed members gathering together to eat, drink, share amusing anecdotes and fuck like bunnies.
While there were definitely intellectual intercourse at those meetings of the Monks of Medmenham Abbey, it was rather plain-old-simple intercourse that kept them coming back. After 1763, when the cloaked and torch-bearing Monks had attracted some undue attention, they moved local to Dashwood's own estate in West Wycombe – where the Lord de Despencer had constructed a veritable erotic, playful interpretation of Hades on – and under – Earth.
The hills around West Wycombe are soft chalk, ideal for tunneling – and that's just what Sir Francis did. With his artistic and architectural eye he created a veritable maze of tunnels, underground rivers, chambers and gardens on his property, decorated with elaborate erotic sculptures, teasing portraits of the Knights of Wycombe (such as depicting Sir Francis with halo), and many small chambers for intercourse of both kinds. It was at Wycombe that the real Hellfire club began, a festive playground where the political, artistic, and intellectual elite of England met – engaging in dalliances with some of the most famous of London prostitutes. My favorite little jape of the society is that while it is pretty much incontrovertible that Ladies-of-Rentable-Virtue were present, it is also believed that – since both 'Monks' and 'Nuns' wore veils or masks, and identities kept very secret – lovers, wives, sisters, and daughters of other members were also there.
Now before you imagine (you filthy creature you!), English artists and intellectuals running around in a white-wig version of Porky's, let me reassure you that while Eros was a major focus of the Knights, it was handled with grace and dignity – the Nuns could refuse any offer, or accept any offer, as they saw fit. It was a place of playful perversity, where free-thinkers could gather together to titter and mock the oppressive Jacobites and their domineering Pope. Rituals were held, yes, but with all the seriousness of rowdy jesters.
And what jesters they were – and this is what elevated the Amorous Knights of Wycombe to memorable heights. I've told you of Sir Francis, peer by day, Monk by night, but the other members – particularly the inner circle – shine with their own randy double-lives. Just listen to this litany of the famous and infamous who all took part in the elaborate games and fanciful parties in and under West Wycombe hill: The Earl of Sandwich (for whom the food was named), First Lord of the Admiralty; Thomas Potter, Paymaster-General, Treasurer for Ireland and son of the Archbishop of Canterbury; John Wilkes, MP, and Lord Mayor of London; Frederick, the Prince of Wales; Horace Walpole, Politician and author; Edmund Duffield and Timothy Shaw, the Vicars of Medmenham; Chevalier D'Eon de Beaumont, French diplomat; and – even possibly – our own bawdy intellectual, Benjamin Franklin. In addition to these noteworthies, West Wycombe also admitted the well-spoken rake or two, and some famous artists such as Giuseppe Borgnis, and Robert Lloyd.
Alas, nothing is forever – the tide turned, and when the now-Papal friendly popular opinion discovered the existence of our festive Monks, the scandal almost brought down the government with them. Even its own sense of nasty jape seem to have had a hand in the club's fading. During one particularly intense mock black mass, ever-the-rogue John Wilkes took an ape, affixed it with a devil mask and released it during the service. The outrage was wonderfully hysterical – though telling that the Earl of Sandwich (said by many to be very ugly, and very ugly tempered) was said to have fallen to his knees and said, "Spare me, gracious devil. I am as yet but half a sinner. I never have been so wicked as I pretended!"
The last meeting took place in 1762, shaken by scandal, internal conflicts, the Monks simply fell apart. The caves fell into disrepair after the death of Dashwood, and soon the horror stories of the evil rites held there had hidden the truth; that it was once the festive and mocking domain of the Amorous Knights.
On a closing note, I have to relate one of my favorite events during the later part of the society. In a bitter hypocrisy after the foundering of the club, that disreputable Earl of Sandwich had the notorious wit John Wilkes on the stand – in no doubt an act of revenge. Proving himself beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was completely, utterly wicked, Sandwich belabored his previous fellow-monk until, in a fit of frustration at Wilke's calm and witty rejoinders proclaimed, "Sir, you will either die on the gallows, or by the pox!"
To which, in a perfect closing to this tale of elegant mischief, Wilkes responded, without batting an eye: "That depends, Sir, on whether I embrace your principals – or your mistress."
After many years of using molds conventionally as negatives to be filled with materials, British artist Peter Burke became interested in the molds themselves. there is a curious relationship between the outside and inside of a mold, in their contained space they have a specific, dematerialized ghost form, and yet the outside which is generalized in form is more specific in its materiality. when confronted with a mold of the human form the viewer has an immediate association with and a curiosity about the nature of the space we occupy, and a predisposition to read the negative as a positive.
Friday, June 22, 2012
I can't ever say it enough: I have some truly incredible friends: just check out this post by dear friend, Ralph Greco, Jr., over at the Von Gutenberg site about my new book Welcome to Weirdsville:
Well-known writer, part-time rapscallion and full-time great friend of us all here at Von Gutenberg, M. Christian sees not only the release of his new Welcome To Weirdsville from Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions but also a five part video series connected with it called Did You Know? (see it here) written Renaissance publisher Jean Marie Stine and produced by media master, Bill Mills.
Prolific scribe that he is (the guy has 400 stories published in anthologies alone!) we know M. Christian’s ability to not only turn a phrase but to unearth some of the most interesting tidbits on a subject, as he does in the non-fiction pieces he has penned for us and in WTW you’ll find more of the same as we learn about a noble Word War 1 German pirate, the City of Fire, the giggling genius of Brian G. Hughes, The Antikythera Device and much much more.
Knowing the diabolical naughty mind of M. Christian as we do there are also quite a few forays into things kinky in this book (read his excerpt about the Hellfire Club here)
Welcome To Weirdsville is a must for any student, devotes or those of us with a passing interest in marquis weirdness written about with unmatched aplomb.
You can check M. Christian out here: www.mchristian.com and get the book here.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
I am ... speechless. This is just so damned cool: as a very special celebration of the release of my book Welcome to Weirdsville, Renaissance E Books/PageTurner Editions presenting a five part series Did You Know? written by our publisher Jean Marie Stine and produced by by our resident magnificent media master, and great guy, Bill Mills.
The first one, on the Hellfire Club, which I wrote about here, just went up.
"A wonderful compendium of interesting subjects and fascinating topics. Will keep you reading just to found out what's going to be covered next. Highly recommended for all lovers of weird & wonderful this side of the Universe." -Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.
Peek under the rugs, open more than a few drawers, peek in the back shelves and you'll find that ... well, Lord Byron himself said it best: "Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction." Lakes that explode, parasites that can literally change your mind, The New Motor, a noble Word War 1 German pirate, the odd nature of ducks, the War Magician, the City of Fire, men and their too big guns, a few misplaces nuclear weapons, an iceberg aircraft carrier, the sad death of Big Mary, the all-consuming hunger of the Bucklands, the giggling genius of Brian G. Hughes, the Kashasha laughter epidemic.... Ponder that in a world that holds things like kudzu, ophiocordyceps unilateralis, The Antikythera Device, The Yellow Kid, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, Alfred Jarry, Joseph Pujol, and suicide-bombing ants ... who knows what other kinds of wonders as well as horrors may be out there?
Welcome to Weirdsville
Available where all ebooks are found
Saturday, June 16, 2012
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Believe it or not, this awesome octopus isn’t a living creature. It’s an astonishingly beautiful object made entirely of glass by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, 19th century German glass artists renown for the production of biological models such as their Glass Flowers.
From Dark Roasted Blend:
Harvard Professor George Lincoln Goodale wanted examples to help teach botany, but the problem was plants have a tendency to … well, die. Sure, you could preserve some specimens but lots of species just don’t look the same after being dried – the plant version of stuffed and mounted. Yes, you could try using paintings or even photography but plants are – and here’s a surprise — three dimensional. So what Professor Goodale did was ask the Blaschkas to create detailed glass plants to help him teach his students about real ones.
What the Blaschkas did, was more than just recreate plants: they created astounding works of not only scientific accuracy but pure, brilliant, art. Even the simplest of their efforts is deceptively unencumbered… a sign of their genius as their reproductions don’t resemble the botanical model – they look EXACTLY like them, created by hand, in fickle and fragile glass, and all in the period 1887 to 1936.
This octopus deserves to stand on its own, but we recommend you visit Dark Roasted Blend to view more of Leopold and Rudolf’s exquisite glass specimens. Talk about awesome, we’ve never seen anything quite like them.
Saturday, June 9, 2012
Friday, June 8, 2012
Here's an rollicking sample article from my new collection of what Avi Abrams of Dark Roasted Blend called "A wonderful compendium of interesting subjects and fascinating topics:" Welcome to Weirdsville
Peek under the rugs, open more than a few drawers, peek in the back shelves and you'll find that ... well, Lord Byron himself said it best: "Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction." Lakes that explode, parasites that can literally change your mind, The New Motor, a noble Word War 1 German pirate, the odd nature of ducks, the War Magician, the City of Fire, men and their too big guns, a few misplaced nuclear weapons, an iceberg aircraft carrier, the sad death of Big Mary, the all-consuming hunger of the Bucklands, the giggling genius of Brian G. Hughes, the Kashasha laughter epidemic.... Ponder that in a world that holds things like kudzu, ophiocordyceps unilateralis, The Antikythera Device, The Yellow Kid, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, Alfred Jarry, Joseph Pujol, and suicide-bombing ants ... who knows what other kinds of wonders as well as horrors may be out there?
The Benevolent Sea-Devil
The year: 1917, the height of the War To End All Wars, sadly now referred to as World War 1. The Place: The Atlantic Ocean. You: the captain of an allied merchant ship carrying coal from Cardiff to Buenos Aires.
Then, like a ghost from the distant past, a ship appears: a beautiful three mastered windjammer flying a Norwegian flag. Staggered by this hauntingly lovely anachronism you think nothing of it coming alongside – it was common, after all, for friendly ships to want to synchronize their chronometers – until, that is, the ship's Norwegian flag is quickly replaced by the German eagle and the captain, in amazingly polite terms, backed up by guns that have mysteriously appeared in the windjammer's gunwales, explains that your ship is now his.
And so you have been captured by the Seeadler ("Sea Eagle" in German), captained by Felix von Luckner, or, as he was known by both enemies as all as allies, the Benevolent Sea-Devil.
Some people's lives are so broad, so wild, so amazing that they simply don't seem real. The stuff of Saturday Matinees? Sure. But real, authentic, true? Never! But if even half of Felix von Luckner's life is true – and there's no reason to really doubt any of it – then he was truly a broad, wild, and utterly amazing fellow.
Born in 1881, in Dresden, Felix ran away from home at 13. Stowing away on a Russian trawler, he fell overboard – rescued, so the story goes, by grabbing hold of an albatross, the bird's flapping wings acting as a signal to a rescue party.
Making his way to Australia, Felix tried a number of – to put it politely – odd jobs: boxer, circus acrobat, bartender, fisherman, lighthouse keeper (until discovered with the daughter of a hotel owner), railway worker, kangaroo hunter, and even had a stint in the Mexican army. During all this Felix also became a notable magician and a favorite entertainer to no less than Kaiser Wilhelm himself.
Making his way back to Germany he passed his navigation exams and served aboard a steamer before getting called to serve in the Navy on the SMS Panther.
Which brings us to that War That Was Supposedly The End To All Wars. Even though it was fought with steel and oil, the German's outfitted a number of older ships as raiders – hidden guns, more powerful engines and the like – and sent them out to harass allied shipping. Most of them were, to put it politely, a failure. But then there was the Seeadler, under the command of Felix von Luckner.
During the course of the war Felix sank or captured no less that 16 ships – a staggering amount. What's even more staggering is how Felix did it, and that he did it with grace, honor, and even a certain kindness. You see, while the Seeadler took out those ships it, during its entire campaign, did it at the cost of only single human life. Most of the time the scenario went just as it did with your merchant ship carrying coal from Cardiff to Buenos Aries: the Seeadler would approach a target, raise its German eagle and that would be that: the crew and cargo would be captured and the ship scuttled. Sometimes she'd fire a shot to two to get her pint across that she was serious, but it wasn't until the British ship, Horngarth, that anyone had actually been killed. Tricked into thinking they were investigating a stricken ship – Felix had actually used a smoke generator – the captured Horngarth had refused to stop broadcasting a distress signal. A single shot took out the radio but unfortunately killed the operator. Felix von Luckner, though, gave the man a full military funeral at sea and even went as far as to write the poor man's family telling them that he had died with honor.
To give you even more evidence that Felix von Luckner more than deserved the "benevolent" in his "Benevolent Sea-Devil" nickname he treated everyone he captured with dignity and respect: captured sailors were paid for their time while on his ship and officers ate with him at his captain's table. When the Seeadler got too packed with prisoners, by this time more than 300, Felix captured the Cambronne, a little French ship, cut down her masts and let all his prisoners go with the understanding that if they happened to get picked up before making land they wouldn't tell where the Seeadler was going. Respecting Felix's honor they didn't.
Alas, the Seeadler's rule of the Atlantic had to end sometime – but even that just adds to the broad, wild, and utterly amazing life of Felix von Luckner. With the British – and now the Americans – hot on her tail, Felix decided to take a quick barnacle-scraping break from piracy by putting the Seeadler into a bay on Mopelia, a tiny coral atoll. Now stories here conflict a bit – Felix always claimed that a rogue tsunami was to blame – but I think the more-standard explanation that the crew and prisoners of the Sealer were simply having a picnic on the island when their windjammer drifted aground.
Taking a few of his men in some long boats, Felix sailed off towards Fiji intending to steal a ship and come back for the Seeadler. Through a series of incredible adventures – including claiming to be Dutch-Americans crossing the Atlantic on a bet – the Sea-Devil was himself tricked into surrendering by the Fijian police who threatened, after becoming suspicious of one of Felix's stories, to sink his boat with an actually-unarmed ferry. By the way, the remaining crew and prisoners of the Seeadler had their own adventures, leading eventually to the escape of the prisoners and the capturing of the Seeadler's crew.
But even a Chilean prison camp wasn't the end for Felix, or not quite the end. Using the cover of putting on a Christmas play, he and several other prisoners managed to steal the warden's motorboat and then seize a merchant ship. Alas, Felix's luck ran out when they were captured again and spent the rest of the war being moved from one camp to another.
But rest assured the story doesn't end there. Far from it: after writing a book about his various adventures, Felix von Luckner toured the world entertaining audiences about the Seeadler – as well as demonstrating his strength by tearing phone books in half and bending coins between thumb and forefinger.
While, with the rise of Hitler, some people thought of Felix as an apologist, the captain had no love for the Nazi's – especially since the German government had frozen his assets when he refused to renounce the honorary citizenships and honors he'd received during his travels.
But the story of Felix von Luckner still isn't over. Retiring to the German town of Halle, he was asked by the mayor to negotiate the town's surrender to the Americans. While he did this, earning not only the respect of the Americans and the gratitude of the citizens, his reward from the Nazi's was to be sentenced to death. Luckily, Felix managed to flee to Sweden where he lived until passing away at the age of 84.
War is horror, war is pointless death, and war is needless suffering. But because of men like Felix von Luckner, war can also show the good, noble side of man – and that some men can remarkably earn the respect of friend and enemy alike.
As big fans of finger puppets, we were captivated by this awesome and unsettling sculpture as soon as we set eyes on it.
Entitled Monkey Mind, it was created in 2010 by artist Tip Toland using stoneware, porcelain, paint, and chalk pastel.
Visit Beautiful Decay to view more of Tip Toland’s incredible sculptures.