The Magnificent Ambersons of Parody Movies

Val Kilmer

If Airplane! is the Citizen Kane of parody movies, then Top Secret! has to be the Magnificent Ambersons of the genre. Top Secret!, for those of you who haven’t seen it (shame on you!) is a parody of both early rock n roll movies, specifically those starring Elvis, and World War II spy movies. It’s supposed to be taking place in 1984 (when it was shot), but East Germany resembles Nazi Germany, right down to the French resistance fighters encountered about half way through the film.

There are a ton of sight gags in the movie, half of which you’ll miss while laughing your way through the deadpan jokes slapped on with a trowel throughout the script. Even the cringe-worthy jokes, especially the one involving a “little horse,” will double you over.

I saw Top Secret! at the theater when it came out, I was in college at the time, and was stunned that there were so few people in the theater with me. It wasn’t a hit. I suppose no one had heard of Val Kilmer yet, but he was beside the point–though he was very good as a blonde Elvis stand-in, especially when singing such songs as “Skeet Surfin’!” and “Spend This Night With Me,” in which he makes several attempts at suicide on stage (gas oven, noose, railroad tracks) and is saved over and over by some Jordanaires-like back-up singers in plaid sport coats.

And then there are the Commie-Nazi’s. At the beginning, when a motorcycle messenger brings General Streck (played by Brit character actor Jeremy Kemp) a message that says that the British spy (played by Omar Sharif) has gotten away, he rubber-stamps the note with”FIND HIM AND KILL HIM.”

Orson Welles

No, there is nothing subtle about this movie. That’s the point, really. That brings me back to my original point. In the oeuvre of Orson Welles, The Magnificent Ambersons is almost always overlooked. It’s a fantastic movie, every bit as good as Citizen Kane. But when people speak of Welles, it’s Citizen Kane, Lady from Shanghai, Macbeth, Touch of Evil, and The Trial. With Zucker/Abrahams/Abrahams, it’s always Airplane! Naked Gun, Naked Gun 2 1/2, etc. What all the movies in this paragraph have is that touch of genius, of greatness. I think comedies are every bit as important as any other type of movie. If something makes you laugh, it has unlocked a bit of you buried inside, just like a great drama or thriller has.

And if you haven’t watched Top Secret!, for Jebus’s sake, get your ass over to Netflix right now and watch it: www.netflix.com/WiMovie/60023499. You’re welcome.

Seven Outlaw Scumfucs

GGAllin“If you believe in the real underground of Rock ‘N’ Roll, then now is the time to do something about it…Talk is fucking cheap…It’s time to fight… Make them aware that the disease and the Scumfuc tradition is still spreading. We must live for the Rock ‘N’ Roll underground. It CAN be dark and dangerous again. It CAN be threatening to our society as it was meant to be. IT MUST BE UNCOMPROMISING. And with me as your leader, it will happen. I am ready to lead you, my allies, into the real Rock ‘N’ Roll underground. Let’s get started.” —From the GG Allin Manifesto

21 years ago this Saturday, we lost Kevin Michael “GG” (born Jesus Christ) Allin, before his mission to save rock n’ roll was complete. The following is a list of seven people continuing his Outlaw Scumfuc tradition:

1. Merle Allin: GG’s older brother Merle sports a sort of modified tickler mustache, dyed bright red to look as though someone sat on his face, then got their period, coupled with lengthy, dreadlocked sideburns. The bass player of GG’s final band, The Murder Junkies, Merle collects and sells serial killer artwork while overseeing his brother’s legacy. This past April, Merle unveiled The Resurrection of GG Allin, an exhibit in conjunction with L.A.’s Museum of Death, featuring the clothing GG was wearing on the night he died (not to be confused with the outfit he was buried in: a motorcycle jacket and jockstrap). The Murder Junkies still tour regularly, and released the album A Killing Tradition (with They Hate Us singer PP Duvay on vocals) last year. http://www.ggallin.com/

http://www.museumofdeath.net/

2. Spike Polite: Polite’s band, Sewage, was one of the opening acts for GG’s notorious last show at The Gas Station, on June 27, 1993—a show that ended in rioting after the power was cut, and saw GG, clad in ill-fitting Daisy Dukes and covered in poop, pied- pipering a pack of raucous punk rockers up and down the streets of the Lower East Side. In 1999, newspaper headlines all over New York screamed about Polite’s bad friendship choices after his name became associated with a grisly crime involving the slaying of his landlord. Released from prison a few years ago, Polite and a reformed Sewage play regularly around New York City, and a documentary film is in the works focusing on Spike’s adjustment to the technologically-savvy world that emerged while he was in prison, potentially answering the question, “How many punk rockers does it take to turn on an I-Pad?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btA0o9AI9RI   https://www.facebook.com/pages/SEWAGE-NYC-PUNK-ROCK/223918884799http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/boroughs/sex-drugs-rock-murder-punk-musician-set-stand-trial-99-landlord-slay-case-article-1.896518

3. Gene Gregorits: Gouging at his chest with a torn-open aluminum beer can during a 1989 reading in Boston, GG proclaimed, “My body is like paper.” When underground writer Gene Gregorits cut off his earlobe and ate it in 2012, “to promote books,” he said that the flap of flesh “tasted like beer.” In the same way that Allin’s talent as a songwriter was often completely overshadowed by his Rampaging Shit Warrior persona, Gregorits’ talent as a writer is often obscured by his melodramatic online antics, bitter rivalries, and gore shows. This past May, Gregorits accidentally- on- purpose slashed his arm while reading from one of his books at a Providence Gallery, the resulting wound requiring close to 50 stitches. The fans who didn’t flee in horror promptly showed their adulation by dipping their just-purchased books (in a few cases, their just-stolen books) in his blood as he was carted off to the emergency room. http://www.monastrellbooks.com/https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CArN59xraw

4 & 5. Zoe Hansen and Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba: She’s beautiful and brash. His feuds are the stuff of punk rock history. Together, they own and operate New York City’s last real rock ‘n’ roll bar, Manitoba’s. When Richard’s not on tour with the Dictators NYC, or doing his radio show, and Zoe’s not writing, or working on the FEAR CITY custom clothing line she designs with Mary Raffaele of Cycle Sluts from Hell fame (it’s worth noting that the name FEAR CITY comes from the 1976 flyer put out by the City of New York to alert tourists to the crime wave that had overtaken the city at the time), they can be found there, behind the bar, doing their part to keep New York City gritty. http://www.manitobas.com/https://www.facebook.com/fearcitycustom

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeuNckmt7h8

6. Tibbie X Kamikaze: A week after GG’s death, drug-addicted, and feeling despondent after the discovery of his girlfriend’s body in the back of serial killer Joel Rifkin’s truck, Reagan Youth singer and co-founder Dave Insurgent ended his life with an overdose of antidepressants. This could have been the end of the seminal NYC band, but they’ve soldiered on, with a new line-up featuring Gash singer Tibbie X on bass. Known for her aggressive vocals and in your face stage style, she’s working with original guitarist Paul Cripple on a new album of songs about Dave’s life. http://www.reagan-youth.com/paulcripplehttp://tibbiex.tumblr.com/       http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/predators/rifkin/1.html
7. Duane Peters: It’s been a tough year for US Bombs singer and O.G skateboard legend Duane “Master of Disaster” Peters. After going M.I.A this past February, clad in only a hospital gown, his ex-wife, original Nashville Pussy bassist Corey Parks put out an S O S online, trying to track him down amidst rumors of legal trouble and concerns for his state of mind. Thankfully, things seem to be on the up and up for the man who invented scores of skateboard tricks, including “the acid drop” and “the loop of death.” Take care of yourself, Duane! The Outlaw cause needs you! No one ever said Scumfucing was easy! https://www.facebook.com/USBombs

http://pocketpistols.com/duane-peters/

 

 

HAUNTED CLOWN MOTEL

CLOWN MOTEL

I believe that a trip to Nevada may be in order.  Yes, over at Neatorama, we have the ultimate experience, halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, for those of you who thought Stephen King‘s It sounded like the vacation of a lifetime. It’s a Clown Motel situated next to a graveyard filled with plague-infected gold miners. Add to that the frisson of danger that comes from being close to a top secret test range and I believe I found a destination that made it to the top of my personal vacation bucket list. Of course, once I visit it, I won’t be able to finish my bucket list, because a gold-mining dead clown will have eaten my soul. YOLO!

Check out our new book page

cover-justfront-3px-inborderDid you know we publish books?  Of course not; our site sucks.  Or I should say sucked, because we’ve been making a ton of changes lately.

One of our big updates is our book page. We now have a slick new set of page for our books. Check this out:

http://www.paragraphline.com/books/

The top level page has all of our books listed, with pretty covers and buttons to buy books (which you should) and share them on social media sites.  Click on a book to go to its page, and you’ll see more info, including reviews from Goodreads.

Paragraph Line Books just released our tenth book this year (Jon Konrath’s Atmospheres) and we have many more in the pipeline, so stay tuned for more updates.

Cool Man by Walter Rogers

coolJimmy Hoerknel was a dump-pa-dy, de-dump-pa-dy kind of goofy stupid kind of guy with his large black framed, soda pop bottle thick eyeglasses crunched up real close to his squinting eyeballs, always running into things, and people, and always making a mess and fool of himself.

Everybody in town called him “boy” even though he was a grown white man.

“Hey, boy, get over here and pick up that trash for me.”

He did what he was told.

“Hey, boy, get lost. Grownups are talkin here.”

“Boy, you better get on home. Night’s a comin’. The mosquitoes will bite you all over.”

Jimmy just smiled like a dufus and nodded and did what he was told.

The brutally mean redneck kids always picked on him after they got out of school, finding him wondering the streets with nothing to do since he was unemployable, fired from the local feed store because he kept dropping bags of dog food, spilling the pellets all over the place and causing Mrs. Spicer to take a bad fall, breaking her ankle, having the feed store owner pay for her medical treatment.

“Hey, Jimmy, you’re a retard. You’re fired.”

The local the kids piled on.

“Retard! Retard! Retard!”

They’d throw rocks at him and run away, laughing like hyenas.

The girls were even worse than the school boys. They called him a faggot.

“You’re gay. You’ll never get pussy, you fat idiot.”

Some would raise their skirts and show him their panties.

“You’ll never stick your tiny dick into me, you moron.”

He’d look down at the street, avoiding looking at their undergarments, waiting for them to leave.

“You got boogers hangin’ out of your nose. GROSS!”

They’d laugh and skip on down the street, happy at themselves for demeaning a mentally challenged man.

Jimmy always waited patiently as they insulted him, taking it with that big dumb smile on his face, showing off his yellowed and missing teeth, from being punched for no reason at times by the bigger high school boys who played on the football team.

The folks in Cool, Texas, got quite a knee-slappin’ time from watching ol’ porky dorky Jimmy Hoerknel walk his way around the small, sleepy town between Mineral Wells and Weatherford, both bigger towns with their own dump-pa-dy dumps like Jimmy Hoerknel, but not like this Jimmy Hoerknel because this Jimmy Hoerknel, the absolute original of the species known as rural town nerd dufus, went off and did something real strange one night that nobody ever knew about, except the whole town knew, as did the Parker County Sheriff’s Department, and all those media people from those cable TV news shows like The O’Reilly Factor and Anderson Cooper 360. They rushed to Cool and set up their TV cameras and their reporters and started asking the dumbfounded local yokels why such a horrible thing could happen in such a seemingly nice, quiet place like this.

But nobody bothered to ask dump-pa-dy dump Jimmy Hoerknel, the one person with the only expert opinion on what happened to Jed and Nancy Thomson, that quiet middle-aged couple with their three children off at college, two at Tarleton State University and one at Dallas Baptist University.

The Thomson couple lived in the double-wide mobile home that sat right off of Farm to Market Road 113. One night they got chopped up into itty-bitty tiny pieces that were scattered about for their one goat and several roosters and chickens to play with and consume while with their two cows and one bull calmly chomped on hay before a nearby neighbor caught wind of something smelling awful, figuring it was yet another dead cow that was mutilated by aliens, what with all the UFO sightings he’d heard from hushed conversations with ranchers, who lost livestock in weird ways, at the local breakfast place every Saturday morning that served damn good gravy and biscuits with Texas toast and delicious slices of ham.

The Thomson’s closest neighbor, the kindly rancher Fred Lyle, ventured over to the Thomson’s place and found a foot and the top half of a head with a nose half attached near the couple’s septic tank.

He quickly got into his pickup truck and scooted on over to the Mineral Wells newspaper’s office after realizing the Parker County Sheriff wasn’t in town and informed its new and green around the ears, TCU-educated editor, Cain Fenner, that he had seen many scattered and bloody body parts that were strewn about the Thomson’s place. Cain gave old Fred, sweat droplets all over his head and running down his many wrinkles making it look like a bunch of overflowing creeks, a hanky to wipe his face and a glass of iced tea, seeing that this was the middle of July and it hadn’t gotten below 100 during the day for the past two weeks.

Cain used his cellphone to call for Parker County Sheriff Tommy Johnson. His secretary answered the call and informed Cain that the Sheriff was at lunch with some politicians buying them chicken fried steak dinners at the Weatherford Downtown Cafe in an effort to woo their support for an addition to his jail house, which would take a property tax increase for funding, which was always a tough sell in small Texas towns like Cool.

“We got some body parts all over the place out here at the Thomson’s,” Cain informed the secretary, her name was Myrtle, and Cain heard a big gulp at the other end, and he said, “If you don’t mind telling Sheriff Noonan about this situation we’d appreciate it. Seems some animals are feeding themselves with those body parts and the evidence of who the victim or victims are is disappearing as we speak.”

Cain heard Myrtle scream, “Oh, Lord Jesus”, before the phone went dead. He figured he’d better go out to the Thomson place and see what had taken place, making doubly sure his Nikon D700 digital SLR had a charged up battery and an extra SDHX card before locking the newspaper office’s only door behind him.

Cain followed Fred’s ramshackle 1965 Chevy pickup out to Farm to Market Road 113, passing a field of huge wind turbines that slowly circled the air like white plastic dinner knives cutting holes in the clear blue sky. After traveling a couple of miles down the dusty road he saw the white paneled double-wide mobile home the Thomson’s. The red markings spewed onto its outside paneling must have been the victim’s blood haphazardly splattered about by the frenzied killer and not house paint, Cain thought, because these strange markings were way too abstract and surreal in their design for simple people like the Thomson’s to like or appreciate.

“Looks like a Jackson Pollock painting to me,” Cain thought.

As Fred parked his pickup along the roadside Cain drove his 2003 Honda Civic down the Thomson’s driveway, really it was a gravel way, and he heard a crunching noise underneath his tires not at all like gravel and figured he’d for sure ran over a bone of some magnitude, maybe a pelvis. Cain stopped and got out of his car and immediately pinched his nose shut and stood there in awe, slowly surveying the macabre scene, taking in all of the ripped up body parts littering their yard.

Fred poked a stick at a mangy hound dog that had showed up from behind the couple’s cow pen in an attempt to make the dumb thing drop an ear firmly entrenched in its mouth.

“Here, dog, let that be,” Fred barked.

He poked its side a couple more times but the dog stood his ground, growling. Fred got flustered and finally whacked the dog upside its head. The mutt let out an angry yelp like it didn’t want to lose such a tasty morsel but another head smack on its snout by Fred’s thick switch made it open its mouth and let go of the ear, the bloody pulp of flesh falling out of its mouth. Fred picked it up and dropped it into one of the many pockets in his overalls.

“I’ll give this here piece of evidence to Sheriff Noonan personally,” Fred told Cain.

Cain took a photo of Fred holding the ear thinking it’d make a good front page picture and might just get picked up by the national news website services, like the Huffington Post or Fox News, thinking this awful story might be his big break into the big time and getting himself out of such a typical Texas one stop sign town where the paper had more ads for feed stores and gun shows in Fort Worth than actual news since nothing ever happened except for church announcements, funerals and which high school students were taking the cows they had raised from birth to the Fort Worth Stock Show, with the aging and dwindling population barely capable of reading above a 4th grade level.

“I can’t be in this shitty hick hole my whole life,” Cain thought. “A spot at the Dallas Morning News could catapult me into writing stories that could win me a Pulitzer Prize and then I’m on to bigger and better things.”

Cain smiled after taking the photo and patted Fred on the shoulder.

“This must be hard on an old man like you, seeing all of this mayhem out here where nothing bad like this ever happens.”

Fred shook his head.

“Oh, you young fella don’t know a damn thing,” Fred said in his slow Texas drawl. “I served in the Army in World War II and I saw my men blown to bits, much smaller pieces than these here. My soldiers were trying to say things to me before they died even though their heads weren’t attached to the rest of ‘em after stepping on land mines when we stormed the beaches in Normandy. I’ve seen the worst. That Saving Private Ryan movie got real close to it but not close enough. This here ain’t nothin’ to me. Some damn fool got mad at the Thomson’s and did what evil thing was inside of him; took out his frustration on’em, you might say. Probably just over their bull somehow getting off the property and knocking down someone’s fence to go hump a neighbor’s cow. People do stupid stuff like that all the time in Texas.”

With that Fred got back into his squeaky old pickup truck and drove off but took the time to throw the ear out of his hand, tossing it at Cain’s feet in disgust.

“Take a photo of that, paper boy. Maybe it’ll get you more advertisements for hearing aids.”

Before Cain could bend over to pick it up the mangy dog, still there with blood and hunger on its mind, pounced on it and swallowed it whole.

“You dumb ass hound dog!” Cain shouted.

The dog growled angrily and bared its blood stained teeth.

But he had a quick shutter finger to capture a photo of the dog swallowing the ear.

Then Cain reared back and kicked the dog right in its ass with the sharp end of his cowboy boot and it finally ran off, yelping the whole way, headed straight for a torn up arm completely separated from one of the Thomson’s shoulder blades.

Cain felt like walking around in the carnage taking more photographs but decided it would probably be better to let Sheriff Noonan and his deputies survey the grounds because he didn’t want to accidentally disturb the ape shit crime scene. So he leaned against his car and began snapping off pictures of the blood stained mobile home. He also got shots of the family’s goat and some coyotes who had showed up, all of them fighting over lips and toes and fingers and legs and feet, and the goat, a scrawny beast, its hide tugged snug around its ribs and a long, scraggly goatee that gave it some cherished character, chewing slowly on a clump of what looked like a piece of scalp with bleached blonde human hair, obviously the wife’s.

Sheriff Noonan arrived with several of his deputies, followed by an ambulance, a few minutes later. The tall Texan got out of his squad car, looked all around and started shaking his head and said to Cain, who had a voice recorder in hand, “This is shame. A god damned shame. We’re gonna catch the son of a bitch who did this for sure and we will personally watch him put to sleep on death row down in Huntsville or else just shoot the son of the bitch on site.”

He ordered his men into position and they carried out their plan, chasing away, and sometimes shooting the evidence eating coyotes. He didn’t bother putting a 9mm bullet into the goat’s skull, which had now started chewing slowly away on what appeared to be a thigh bone.

“I can’t very well shoot their personal property,” he said.

One deputy walked around and shot digital video of all the body parts where they were left by the animals or by whoever did this horrible deed. Some parts were chewed into literal pulp by the hungry beasts and would never be identified as to what they were or whose body it they had belonged to. All the parts, once documented by digital video, were carefully picked up and placed inside evidence bags.

Forensic personnel came along and scraped dried blood samples off of the mobile home, with one guy dusting spots on the mobile home with a brush in hopes of finding usable fingerprints.

The deputies that ventured into the mobile home came right back out shaking their heads, with a few of them puking up their Blue Plate Special lunches.

“I’ve seen photos of the Manson family murders no one has ever seen and, Jesus H. Christ, this is helluva lot worse than that,” one of them told Cain.

A couple of the deputies walked over to a neighboring field and started crying because they were so disturbed by it all. Cain made sure he got photographs of them balling their eyes out but Sherriff Noonan walked over to him and knocked his camera out of his hand, saying, “If I see a photograph in your fucking newspaper of one my deputies crying I will throw your ass in jail and let you rot in there for a week, you fuckin’ soulless cocksucker.”

Later, as the day wore on, Sheriff Noonan stood there at the roadside scratchin’ his bald head answering questions asked by a gathering media horde, pleading with the TV folks to not shoot video of the body parts and to keep their descriptions of the murder scene to a minimum seeing that this story would fall nicely into the 6 O’clock newscast’s time slot, telling the TV crews he didn’t want anybody, especially parents’ children, upchucking their suppers and having God who knows what kind of nightmares.

Outrage filled the community as the news spread that Jed and Nancy Thomson had met their end in a most gruesome way, all chopped up like in a supermarket meat grinder and how it would be impossible for anybody to get to pay the dead couple decent last rites at the memorial and funeral because both caskets would be closed.

Just ain’t right to die like that, the town’s people told each other over and over all week long. They all said the same thing to those nicely dressed up TV news people from Dallas, Atlanta, New York City and Los Angeles.

Sheriff Noonan quickly enough got sick and tired of the questions from the likes of Wolf Blitzer, Megan Kelly and Nancy Grace and barred the media from his office and sent out his department’s statements on the unsolved case through a Sheriff’s office spokesperson. He wasn’t saying much in his statements anyway, what with there being practically no clues to disclose and really nothing else to say except to comment that the killer would be brought to justice, no matter how long it took to find the sick son of a bitch.

A reward of $10,000 for any information that led to arrests and convictions was started at the local bank in Weatherford for the person, or persons, who did this inhumane crime but nobody had yet showed up to collect that money and in a week’s time things began to simmer down, the mystery of who had killed the Thomson’s at a dead standstill, with Sheriff Noonan putting the case file into a filing cabinet full of unsolved crimes, frustrated at the lack of clues of who had killed one of Cool’s sweetest couples.

The TV news people soon got wind of a bigger, better story near Broomfield, Colorado, where a student had gone insane and shot a bunch of classmates and several teachers to death before turning the weapon on himself.

So funny looking, loony and goofy Jimmy Hoerknel, the town clown, with food crumbs always hanging off of his lips, or cheeks, or chin, the stupid fat boy without a lick of sense, even though he was a grown man in his mid-40s, stood around looking dumb as usual, smiling, waving and saying hello to the same people who had laughed in his face for all of his years growing up in Cool, Texas, always keeping to himself, friendless, and walking around the streets getting more insults shouted his way by everyone, while late at night nobody would see him and nobody gave a shit where he was, or what he was doing, but maybe they had better start to.

Walter Rogers is a white trash Texas redneck whose grandfather, after emigrating from Russia in the hopes of becoming a championship boxer, worked for the North Side mob in Chicago in the 1950s. Walter’s favorite authors are Charles Bukowski, Richard Brautigan, Franz Kafka, Ferdinand Celine, Knut Hamsun, Kurt Vonnegut and Friedrich Nietzsche, among many others. He’s twice divorced and lives alone with his cat, Oscar, in Fort Worth, where he was born in 1960. He says, and his friends agree, that the two best lines he ever wrote were, “Feminism stops at heavy lifting,” and “Humanity is an ongoing parade of relentless motherfuckers.” Besides writing, Walter enjoys photography and uses a Nikon D700 and various Nikkor lenses. He sold a photo to NEW YORK MAGAZINE for a cover shot in 2008. 

David Cronenberg exhibition in Amsterdam

A couple of months ago, I mentioned the Cronenberg exhibit in Toronto. Which unfortunately ended. Well, it’s back, and you can get some legal hash and hookers when you visit!

David Cronenberg: The Exhibition is now at Amsterdam’s EYE Film Institute. It once again features props from the movies, original costumes, set photos, and screenings of all his films, from Shivers and Videodrome to Scanners .

Another link to check out: http://www.iamsterdam.com/en-GB/Ndtrc/David%20Cronenberg%20%20The%20Exhibition - looks like it’ll be running until September.  Fingers crossed they eventually bring this to New York or somewhere else in the US.

 

Yes, we are open for submissions!

Just a quick note to mention we’re all caught up on our slush pile (at least as of yesterday morning) and we’ve reopened submissions for flash fiction.

What are we looking for?  Weird stuff.  Short stuff.  No poetry, no long stories right now.  Check out our Submittable page for the full requirements.  And read up our previously published flash to get an idea of what we like.  (Hint: UFOs, deranged surrealism, conspiracy theories, anything that reads well after a bottle of NyQuil, stuff that won’t get published by print review magazines out of colleges.)

We’re also reviewing sports cars and collectible currency, so if you have either, please send them in.  Thanks!

Distraction-free writing, 1925-style

the-isolator-640x539Back in the day, scifi writer Hugo Gernsback apparently had the same kind of ADD I do, and spent all of his writing time reading whatever people read instead of FacePlace, maybe some telegraph-based social networking thing. So how would he get around his crippling distractions and get writing done? Science, bitches!

His invention was called the Isolator. Basically it was a helmet that clamped over your head and made you completely deaf. It also blocked your eyesight except for a narrow slit, enough to see a single line. To avoid suffocation, it would pump in oxygen from a tank. It also made you look like a character from a Tool video, although that wouldn’t come along for another 70 or so years.

I’m currently working on an Isolator mark 2. It’s similar to Hugo’s setup, but has a tube for Coke Zero and adult beverages. The oxygen tank also has a Y valve so I can pump in nitrous or maybe ether. Does anyone know how I can Kickstarter this shit?

(via Laughing Squid)

Major Tom to Ground Control

Lost cosmonauts

Conspiracy theories: They’re the ketchup splashed across the rice pudding of our lives. What would life be like without that ketchup? Pretty damned bland, that’s what.

Today’s conspiracy involves Italian brothers in a German bunker listening to Soviet cosmonauts who were shot into space on the sly, and died up there.  They called the string of amateur listening posts “Project Zeus,” so no grandiosity there.

The Soviets liked winners, so the theory goes. And only winners are acknowledged. So the theory tells us that there were a number of cosmonauts who were shot into space during the late fifties and into the sixties who never came home, or were never acknowledged. You can imagine a briefing sort of like the Peter Graves-era Mission: Impossible tape recording : “As always, should you be killed in space, the Secretary of the Supreme Soviet will disavow any knowledge of your actions.” If these theories are to be believed, one guy ended up in Red China after falling out of orbit early, a female cosmonaut burned alive on reentry, there were phantom moonshots, phantom Mars expeditions. And so on.

Much more in this 1975 article on James Oberg’s site Pioneering Space.