Showing posts with label meine kleine fabrik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label meine kleine fabrik. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Weirdsville on The Cud

I'm jazzed to report that the very fun Aussie zine, The Cud, is featuring my Welcome to Weirdsville piece, The Wizard of War (which was previously posted to Meine Kleine Fabrik):

Jasper Maskelyne wanted to help. “You want to do WHAT?” said the British Army — or as their oh-so-polite upper crust officers probably put it: “Sorry, ol’ chap, but we don’t seem to have an urgent need for magicians right at this very moment — ” But this was the Second World War and the British were losing, badly, to Rommel’s Africa corps and rather than just send him packing back to the floodlights of London they instead sent him into the desert to duel a local fakir.

See, at the time the British were losing so badly that they needed escape routes — and one of them was right through this certain tribe’s territory, a tribe that was not about to grant these foreign devils permission to cross their desert.

Jasper Maskelyne was the son of Neville Maskelyne, who had taken many bows to thunderous applause, and his father in turn was son of the legendary John Neville Maskelyne, who — even today — is considered a genius of magic and illusion. Jasper, before hearing his call to duty, had been taking his own bows to roaring accolades as a magician. The fakir didn’t stand a chance.

They faced each other: Jasper straight off the boat from his distant home, the fakir dancing with fierce showmanship in front of his people — and the battle was joined. The fakir went first, beads and bells jangling and flashing in the so-hot desert sun, and with a great demonstration of sorcery and inhuman will took a spear from one of his greatest warriors and — to the shock and terror of almost everyone present — impaled himself.

Then it was Maskelyne’s turn. Did he pull a bouquet of paper flowers out of his hat? No. Did he saw a lovely Nubian princess in half? No. Did he ask these wild-eyed savages to ‘pick a card, any card?’ No — instead, Jasper Maskelyne, star of the London stage and a proud descendent of one of the greatest stage magic families of all time just calmly walked over to the fakir and whispered something into his ear.

Shortly thereafter, the British Army had its safe passage — with the fakir’s blessing. What had Jasper Maskelyne whispered? Simple and powerful: He told the holy man that he knew how the trick had been done. No magician ever wants an audience to know how it was done.

Some people’s lives are so outrageous, so incredible, that they seem to be drawn from fantasy — and for Jasper Maskelyne, the ‘Wizard of War’, and the stuff of myth and legend, this kind of assessment is wonderfully appropriate to this very day.

“Ladies and gentlemen, before your very eyes, courtesy of the British Army (grudgingly) the legendary, the amazing, the fantastic prestidigitations of that Wizard of War, Jasper Maskelyne! SEE him hide the Suez Canal. SEE him move Alexandria Harbor. SEE him trick the Desert Fox himself, Rommel, into believing that the entire British Army was in the South when it was really in the North. SEE him turn trucks into tanks and tanks into trucks — and merchant ships into battleships. SEE him change the face of war FOREVER.”

No magician wants his secrets told — like that fakir in the desert, I’m sure in some ways Jasper Maskelyne wouldn’t want us know exactly how it was that he performed his miracles of the battlefield. Well, while I am usually one to honor the memory of the legendary, I have to risk insulting this Wizard of War … more than anything because it was his fantastic innovations and flat-out innovative genius that makes what he did so incredible.

The Germans were planning on bombing the strategically important port of Alexandria. Funny thing about aerial bombing — in the desert, at night — you have very little to go on as far as points of reference. So Maskelyne went out into the bare desert next to the great port and set up hundreds of lights and even fake flashes of what the pilots would take to be exploding bombs. When the Germans flew over the blacked-out city they took the lights in the desert for the town — and bombed the empty sands. Realizing the Germans might realize the mistake in the morning, Maskelyne also constructed fake damage for the real town, paper-maché rubble and wreckage. The Germans saw what they wanted to see: a bomb-blasted port.

Maskelyne's inventiveness was awe-inspiring. Another thing, you see — or rather that the Germans didn't see — was that out there in the hot, flat, dry there aren't a lot of reference points. A tiny truck that could cast a shadow the approximate size and shape of a real one was indistinguishable from a full sized one from the air. So Maskelyne and his Magic Gang created a whole miniature army of tanks, trucks, troops, and even pipelines out of bulrushes and whatever the British Army had lying around. Though had the Nazis been flying over at an earlier point they would have seen the surreal sight of Maskelyne and his gang chasing a wicker-work locomotive that had managed to get swept up by a stern breeze.

So how DO you hide the Suez Canal? Nothing up my sleeve … presto! Here you are, a hot-shot Africa Corp bomber cruising along looking for this most important strategic point –a neat line in the desert — when what do you see instead but rather a crazy cascade of rapidly flashing lights. Unable to see anything clearly, let alone that narrow band of water, the Germans bombed the desert flat instead– and never touched the all-important canal.

One of Maskelyne's true genius touches was in using bad camouflage. He'd do such nasty tricks on those bad, ol' Germans … like that gun emplacement over there — the one that looks so 'obviously' fake: gun barrel from a telephone pole, 'armor' that was actually billowing in the wind — fake, yes, until Maskelyne would replace the empty 'bad' camouflage with, say, a real gun emplacement outfitted with tacky window-dressing — and the Germans got several nasty surprises.

But the Magic Gang didn't save all their tricks and illusions for the enemy. Realizing the need for secrecy from both his own forces as well as the curious African allies, these illusionists booby-trapped their own Magic Valley with all manner of devilish hocus-pocus. Step on the wrong spot, put your nose where it really shouldn't belong and you might, say, be enveloped in a smelly fog, or find yourself facing some horrific, screaming specter. Maskelyne and his Gang, needless to say, were left alone.

To give you an idea about how much Maskelyne and his Magic Gang changed the course of modern warfare … well, I can't — and that's what's so telling — much, a tremendous amount, in fact, of what Maskelyne and his illusionists did are still TOP SECRET. While it's true that no magician wants his tricks revealed, it's sad that Maskelyne still can't take the bows he so richly deserves. Ah, but then we did win the war, after all — what applause could top that?

So much has been made of Hitler's obsession with such practices as Astrology and with mystical artifacts – dark magic ran deep through the hideous veins of the Nazis. Yet, the true Wizard of War wasn't an evil sorcerer – but rather a mischievous British stage magician … with more than a few tricks up his sleeve.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dark Roasted M.Christian

I'm jazzed to announce that I've just agreed to be a regular contributor to the always-fantastic Dark Roasted Blend. Here's a taste of the one that just went up:
I thought I was on drugs.

Not that I knew what being on drugs was like, you understand. I was, after all, a pretty clean-cut, mostly-normal, teenager spending a fairly-uneventful summer bumming around Europe: London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Athens, and so on in no particular order.

Then I turned a corner in Barcelona -- and was sure someone at the hostel the night before had slipped me something.

What other explanation was there? A building was melting for God's sake!

The rest of the street was Spanish normal: warm brick facings, black toothed iron railings, arched windows, bursts of flowers on balconies, but right in the middle of average, of ordinary, of common, of commonplace was a building that sagged, that drooped, that arched, that ... well, that looked like it had been designed with vines and leaves in an orchard instead of with a T-square in a boxy office, planted from a seed and cultivated instead of having been mathematically assembled brick by stone cold brick.

I'd heard of Antoni Gaudí, of course, but for some strange reason I either hadn't made the connection between the eccentric architect and his hometown, or, more than likely, hadn't a clue how brain-throbbingly amazing his work was. But, drugs or no drugs, standing slack-jawed in front of the flowing glory of Casa Batlló on 43 Passeig de Gràcia, I decided I'd spend the next few days seeing as much Gaudí genius as I could.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Have You Heard The One About … ?

Head over to Dark Roasted Blend for a brand new article, this one on the weird phenomena of mass hysteria:
Things supposedly started innocently enough. Kashasha, near Lake Victoria in Tanzania in 1962: One girl in a boarding school there told another girl a joke. Maybe, "Have you heard the one about?" or "A Jew, an Indian, and Herbert Hoover walk into a bar …" or "Take my wife, please … " Whatever the setup, the delivery, or punch line, the result was laughter. Whether it was a giggle, a guffaw, a chortle, a snort is irrelevant. The listener found it funny.

But then things went dark, weird, and creepy: one girl laughed, but then so did another, and then another, and then another, and then another.


Friday, June 20, 2008

TV Shows You Might Not Have Seen ... But Should: Top Gear

From Meine Kleine Fabrik:

We might not agree with Clarkson on the environment, Mays on politics, The Stig on fashion, or that Hammond's new haircut looks good, but Top Gear remains one of our all-time favorite shows. Love cars, hate cars, or just not care that much about them, Top Gear is always loads of fun.

Top Gear is a BAFTA, multi-NTA and Emmy Award-winning BBC television series about motor vehicles, mainly cars. It began in 1977 as a conventional motoring magazine show. Over time, and especially since a relaunch in 2002, it has developed a quirky, humorous style. The programme is estimated to have 385 million viewers worldwide and 11 million viewers each week, with one episode (Series 7 Episode 5) having 21 million viewers in the UK on BBC Two. The show is presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May and The Stig, an anonymous test driver. In 2007 it was one of the most pirated television shows in the world.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Welcome to Weirdsville: The New Motor

From Meine Kleine Fabrik:

John Murray Spear and a guess at what the New Motor looked like

As promised, I’m continuing to dig through my dusty books to pull up odd-tasting tidbits of information, which is to say hard-core, certifiable, definitive, positive, and no-shit Weirdness.

And few things are as strange as the tale of the The New Motor.

1854, America, the Northeast. The time, particularly, is important. Think about it: 1854. Years before even the civil war, a time of technological innovation. No electric lights. The safety match was even a year away. No elevators. The hypodermic syringe and spinal anesthesia was either just developed (the former) or just a little ways away (the latter). So don’t even THINK of getting sick. Think coal, wool coats, the Crimean War, legal slavery, and Sir Richard Burton in Mecca and Medina.

Also John Murray Spear.

Go ahead, look him up. If you’re lucky, you might find him as a footnote, a side-thought in the spiritualist movement of the time. You know: ghosts, table-turning, trances, automatic writing, levitations ... in other words, spirits. Spear was part of that world, a medium-temperature medium. Then sometime during that coal and Crimean War year of 1854 Spear was elevated from mediocrity to the domain of the truly, magnificently ... unusual.

See in 1854 Spear was contacted by a bunch of spirits, with an “apparent mechanical turn of mind” (to quote A.J. Davis) that included the ghost of Benjamin Franklin: the Association of Electricizers, who commanded him to go forth unto this world and build The New Motor.“The Physical Savior of the race,” was how Spear described the Motor. As to its mysterious workings he said it was to be powered by “power from the magnetic store of nature, and therefore to be as independent of artificial sources of energy as was the human body.”

What the hell the New Motor looked like anyone’s guess. A clockwork Jesus? A steam-powered messiah? A rubber-band savior? A locomotive God? The fact that we haven’t the foggiest idea of what his “The Physical Savior of the race” looked like doesn’t diminish the fact that Spear and his spiritual mechanical gizmo really existed -- at least according to the eminent Lewis Spence in his An Encyclopedia of Occultism.

Slowly, Spear collected quite a little cult of followers … who did just that: Trail behind him and the New Motor, which they worshipped as a god, on tours throughout the Northeast. Eventually, this little band ended up in the lovely little town of Lynn, Massachusetts. There a certain lady received a vision of the New Motor and, while in its presence, suffered “birth pangs” for over two hours.

After this certain lady went through her “pangs” it was said that “it was averred that pulsations were apparent in the Motor”. After learning of this wonderful bit of unusual (okay, weird) history, the term “jump start” has not meant the same to me ….

I really wish this story had a better ending: like maybe Spear vanishing one day with the Motor, or that it ascended into some kind engineering nirvana, or was lost only to be discovered to our fascination and delight in some farmhouse in Connecticut. But, sadly, real like is too often stuffed with clichés: I can only hope that the “outraged” citizenry of Randolph, New York, who smashed the Motor to bits, had been carrying torches.

Still, who knows? Maybe someone someday will discovered a twisted bit of spring and cylinder, a crumpled mixture of glass and copper, a wind-up collection of gears and pendulums in a old barn, at the bottom of a filled well, on a dusty shelf somewhere and, to his surprise and shock, he will notice certain ... movements ....

No, that’s not quite right. Not movement, rather: “pulsations” ….

And so maybe The New Motor of John Murray Spear will tick and tock, and live again …

High Rock Cottage, Spear's home

Here's a bit more info on Spear and the Motor, compliments of
Old Is the New New:
In 1851 or 1852, Spear and his daughter Sophronia began seeking messages from the spirit world. In 1853, they announced that Spear had become the mouthpiece for the General Assembly of Spirits, a benevolent association of departed worthies like Franklin, Jefferson, and Emmanuel Swedenborg. The Assembly of Spirits was divided into a number of committees and subcommittees: the “Educationizers,” the “Governmentizers,” the “Healthfulizers,” the “Agriculturalizers,” and so on, but it was the “Electricizers,” headed of course by Franklin, who had immediate plans for Spear.

Franklin tasked Spear with building a series of electrical inventions—a “wizard’s suit” made of minerals and batteries, an electric ship shaped like a duck (they ply the waters of Boston Harbor to this day!), and most famously, a perpetual motion machine known variously as the New Motor, the New Messiah, and the God Machine. From all this I deduce that Franklin got a little freaky in the half-century after his death. The New Messiah, which Spear constructed in Lynn, Massachusetts, was a roughly human-shaped machine, with an electric “brain,” magnetic “lungs,” and many more strange attachments. Bringing it to life involved much channeling of spiritual energy by male and female mediums “mingling into one,” and a “New Mary” going through simulated pregnancy and labor. (Spear had a string of “New Marys” as he drifted into Free Love circles, at least one of whom simulated pregnancy so well as to bear him an un-simulated son.)

Other delightful details can be found on the Fortean Times site.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Meine Kleine Fabrik: This Is Why We Are Here

Reposted from my brother and I's blog, MKF:
Meine Kleine Fabrik is about the things we've found, the stuff we cherish, the wonders that might otherwise be forgotten that we want to share with the world.

One of the greatest treasures we've always adored since it first appeared a long time ago is the following, having just recently emerged on YouTube:

Created by Tony White (interview here), Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook is one of those things that seems to constantly sit in the back of our minds, a beautiful haunting of art, passion, humility, and creation.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Better Than a Hole -

If you have a bit of time, and want to read about people who like to drill holes in their heads, check out the SF side of the great Dark Roasted Blend site for a little piece I did on trepanation.

Yes, you're expected to wince.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville!

If you haven't checked out meine kleine fabrik, check it out now: I've been posting some of my classic Welcome to Weirdsville columns up there. So far I've talked about the Hellfire Club, nuclear weapon boo-boos, kudzu, The Bucklands, and many more strange and bizarre things.

This week, for instance, I've posted a little piece about the fartist: Le Petomane.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Only Thing It Could Be Called: The Pussyfoot

As this was a bit too risque for meine kleine fabrik I decided to post it here rather than there.

From JT's Stockroom:

The SiFeet Pussy Foot is the ultimate fantasy sex toy for foot fetishists. This size 6, 100% silicone foot is cast in pure silicone from a real life actual, beautiful female foot. In the sole of this lovely foot is a fully functional and totally fuck-able silicone vagina.

This pure silicone foot is soft, smooth, and incredibly sexy. The toes are decorated with acrylic toenails painted glossy pink, making the Pussy Foot seem even more real.

From the toes to the heel and ankle, great time and effort has been taken to insure that the Pussy Foot seems real.

From Wikipedia:
Like other paraphilias, foot fetishism encompasses a wide range of predilections; one foot fetishist may be aroused by scenarios that another fetishist finds unerotic or even repulsive. Websites exist that cater to a number of specialized scenarios, including: women walking barefoot in the street with dirty soles or on uncomfortable surfaces such as hot pavement, feet pushing down on gas or brake pedals, feet crushing objects like balloons or toy cars, feet being pushed into mud or food, female foot torture (i.e. having the soles of their feet tortured or punished by whippings, hot wax, burnt with cigarettes, etc. see bastinado and falaka.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Those Who REALLY Can do ... Make!

Just spent a fantastic weekend with my brother, s.a., at the Maker Faire. He and I will be posting more about the event very soon at Meine Kleine Fabrik but in the meantime here's a quick sample of the marvelous imagination and innovation we saw there.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Falles and Ninots: Sex and Scultpure

Having just posted something about the wonderful Falles festival in Valencia, Spain, on meine kleine fabrik I thought I might share some of the more, well, sexy falla I've come across over here on my professional and, well, sexy site. Enjoy!