Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More than one way to skin a cat

We often come across interesting blogs during our various researches, some of which we've linked to over there on the right. While we might not subscribe to their particular viewpoints, we include them because they explore themes and events so often explored here on LoS.

One thing that binds these blogs together is that they attempt in one form or another to decode what is referred to in the business as "twilight language."

Huh? you may ask. As far as we know, the concept of twilight language first appeared in the works of James Shelby Downard, one of the most elaborate and fantastical conspiracy theorists in recent memory. An example of his methodology can be found online in the introduction to the classic King Kill-33. Follow that link and take a look-see. You won't be disappointed. His self-avowed acolyte Michael Hoffman continues the Downardian exegesis in his regular columns and in his book Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, a book LoS chum TA Wilson refers to as "one of the greatest novels ever written."

So, again, what is twilight language? Twilight language can be viewed as a series of triggers or cues for subliminally-primed patsies and the public at large. It takes the form of number symbolism, suggestive names and symbolically charged events. It is alleged to induce anxiety, dread, panic, even upsurges in seemingly random violence. Twilight language is a tool of psychological warfare much akin to disinformation. Fact and fantasy are mixed up and released upon the unsuspecting public to create confusion, fear and paranoia. So much doubt about seemingly straight-up occurrences is created that the general public has a hard time separating fact from fiction, even when facing seemingly incontrovertible truths. Twilight language is both subliminal and overt, hidden--like the purloined letter--in plain sight, but it works best when the maximum number of people can see it, whether it consciously registers or not.

But this begs the question: by whom is it used?

Downard and Hoffman point to what they call "the cryptocracy": the hidden elite. It should come as no surprise that this hidden elite is comprised of some of the usual suspects: the Rabbis, of course, and their minions the Freemasons. For a better understanding of these ideas, we recommend reading Hoffman directly, but be forewarned: although unarguably a brilliant writer and an erudite mind, he may leave you convinced he's a raging anti-Semite.

Some may write-off the decryption of twilight language as paranoid raving and--in the sense of Salvador Dalí's "paranoiac-critical method"--it is. Dalí called his method a "spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the critical and systematic objectivity of the associations and interpretations of delirious phenomena."

André Breton, the magus of Surrealism, said it was and "instrument of primary importance" that "has immediately shown itself capable of being applied equally to painting, poetry, the cinema, the construction of typical Surrealist objects, fashion, sculpture, the history of art, and even, if necessary, all manner of exegesis." (Boldface added)

We suspect that consciousness itself, the process of forming a world view, is more or less a kind of paranoia. Think of perception itself as an organizing process. Metaphor, simile and symbol, the archetype. All are fundamentals of imagination and thinking, not to mention seeing. When it gets out of control--pathological--it may be a kind of mental illness, paranoid schizophrenia. Or it may be as simple as calling a cut fingernail a crescent moon.

We propose that the paranoid germ lies in every mind and when properly cultivated and trained, can become a valuable exegetical tool. At the very least it enables us to riff on current events and if not contrive a coherent conspiratorial narrative, at least make some interesting and beautiful noise. Like Burroughs said of his cut-up method, anyone can do it, but it may only be interesting in skilled hands. Both Burroughs and Woody Allen also point out that paranoia is merely knowing all the facts.

Which brings us to the story of Tyler Hayes Weinman.

Weinman is the South Florida teen arrested on 14 June for a series of cat killings/mutilations which had left at least two communities, in the words of one headline: "Frightened and Paranoid."

Now, why we were drawn to this case probably has to do with our series of posts about animal on human and human on animal violence. We were of course using irony as a weapon of satire in these posts, but it kind of kept us on the lookout for more of the same. Now, this here is a pretty brutal and extended series of mutilations, so we're going to avoid being snarky. If--and we reiterate the big "if"--this kid is guilty, we're looking at a pretty disturbed young fellow.

So, what does all of this have to do with twilight language? First of all, as the the headline says, residents were getting paranoid, many even speculating if this was all the prelude to the working of a serial killer of humans. And serial killers are the most fertile subjects imaginable for the weaving tales of conspiracy theory. There are also some other very suggestive features of the case. So lets decrypt a few things here and see what happens.

First of all the name: Tyler Hayes Weinman.

In Freemasonry, the Tyler is the guardian of the outer door of the Lodge. The word "tyler" or "tiler" initially meant a doorkeeper at an inn. As the Freemasons initially met in taverns and inns, they adopted this title. This is also why Freemasons were at some point characterized as drunkards, as in Hogarth's engraving Night where it is the Tyler who helps a drunken Mason to his home. Obviously, any evocation of Freemasonry, no matter how tenuous, will set of alarm bells in the would-be exegete.

Take note also of the many strange and incongruous images of fire in the engraving, as well as the general tone of panic and discord.

Hayes is an English or Scottish place name for a man who lived near a "haeg" or "heye", that is to say the enclosure around an area of forest designated for hunting. The name is said to have entered the language via Norman French and indeed, "haie" in modern French is the word for "hedge."

"Hayes" in Ireland is an Anglicized corruption of the Gaelic "Ó hAodha", or descendant of Aodh, a name meaning "fire." Aodh was the name of several early Irish saints and in pre-Christian times the name of more than a few Celtic divinities in some way associated with flames, fire or the sun.

I suppose it would be remiss not to point out that Florida is the "Sunshine State" (and the original homeland of your LoS writers!) More evocative perhaps is that the name is associated with hunting, which is what our cat-killer was doing, after all.

Weinman is a German/Ashkenazic Jewish name. It means exactly what it sounds like: "wine-man"; it is an occupational name for a viticulturalist or wine merchant. In Middle High German it was wīnman, In German: Weinmann.

This hearkens back to the original meeting places of the Freemasons and for the racist conspiracy theorist has the dubious "bonus" of in some way implicating the Jews, as some sort of barely-suppressed or even overt blood libel. This is risky territory because even though we're not promoting anything of the sort, we don't want to inadvertently provide any ammunition for anti-Semites. Don't feed the animals. Too late. They're already chunky and frothing for more.

So, on with the riffs.

In Classical mythology, Priapus was the guardian of vineyards. Ovid relates a tale where Priapus attempted to rape the sleeping nymph Lotis but was thwarted by a braying ass, which caused him to lose his erection and also woke the nymph. She fled and was eventually turned into a lotus plant by the gods, in order to save her from the pursuing Priapus. After this episode, Priapus hated asses and became happy to see them killed in his honor.

In Bulgaria, an important saint and guardian of vineyards is Trifon Zarezan. Among other anecdotes it is said that once--while pruning his plants--Trifon mocked the Virgin Mary as she passed his vineyard. She cursed him and had an accident--his new nickname became Trifon the snub-nosed!

So when we riff on tyler (guardian) with weinman (viticulture) we find at least two mythological vineyard guardians which evoke animal sacrifice and human mutilation.

Now, ABC reports--oddly precise compared to other sources--that 33 cats were killed in two towns near Miami (also known as The Magic City). Number symbolism is an omnipresent warning bell among aficionados of twilight language. Anything which has 33 in it will automatically be associated with Freemasonry because in the Scottish Rite, 33 is the ultimate degree. Now if 33 were all we had to work with, it might be less convincing. Add to it that the kid bears the name of a Masonic officer and there's a lock on it. The headline of that ABC report includes the following phrase:

Killings Had Stumped Police, Left Miami-Area Residents Frightened and Paranoid

Which is exactly the purpose for which twilight language is purported to be employed: to spread fear, confusion, paranoia. Oddly, we don't find this 33 figure in other reports.

Recall for a moment Saint Trifon. The legend says he mocked the Virgin Mary, but is it so outlandish to wonder if the mockery was in fact some kind of lewd remark or proposal? Did he make a wolf whistle? Her rebuff and the subsequent curse which caused him to cut off his nose would both be a kind of symbolic castration. Obviously though, he was reborn--the cock will rise again, after all--or he would not be venerated as a saint today in important Bulgarian fertility rituals clearly dating back to pre-Christian times.

In Classical Greece Priapus served as a protector of vineyards and was an important fertility figure. Priapus is recognized by his permanently engorged phallus. What may be less apparent is that these organs were more a source of frustration than pleasure. Indeed some tales have it that his member was made of wood, impressive but otherwise useless. Ovid's tale is one of thwarted rape and in many tales Priapus' unbounded sexual desire is met with equal doses of sexual frustration. Sounds like many guys we knew in high school.


In Sexual Personae Camille Paglia devotes a few paragraphs of her analysis of the famous Nefertiti bust to the worship of cats in ancient Egypt. She equates the cat with chthonic, womanly forces. Paglia also points out that cats were hunted and killed in the Middle Ages during periods of witch hysteria. It has long been assumed that witch hysteria in some aspects represents the struggle of the masculine Christian faith over the remnants of goddess worship. Psychologists also note that fear of witches also may be simply an expression of the fear of feminine sexual power. Tales of witchcraft invariably speak of naked orgies, copulation with the devil and flying about on poles greased with ointment.

In the following chapter of her book, Paglia equates many of the legends surrounding Greek goddesses as a fear of castration. Without being crass it may also be worth re-stating what every grade-schooler knows, that the word for a female cat--a pussy--is also slang for the vagina, a rule which also holds true in French with the word "chatte."

Paglia also explores the significance of the androgyny of the Olympiad. This was often expressed in the transvesticism of both divine beings and their worshipers. Dig if you will these comments on the alleged perpetrator's Facebook page:

-- "niggercake. you're a freaking bisexual."

-- "i think u look like a chick...u cross dressing freak from HELL!!!!!!!\"

The occult associations of cats and cat sacrifice are worthy of a book in and of itself. But perhaps the following examples might be of interest.

Robert Talen, in Voodoo in New Orleans (1994) claims that 19th-century voodoo rituals involved killing cats by dunking their heads in boiling water. The cats were then skinned and eaten and the bones divided among the celebrants. The purpose of this was to ingest the power thought to reside in the bones.

George C. Horst's Deuteroscopie (1830) describes a ritual called the Taigheirm practiced in the Scottish Highlands intended to invoke evil spirits by sacrificing cats in the cruelest of manners, including burning them alive. The last of these was held in the mid 17th-century. The ceremony is believed to have originated as a sacrifice to subterranean--that is to say chthonic--divinities. The benefits of these invocations could include second sight, fortitude and courage.

John Richard Stephens, author of The Enchanted Cat, relates that cats not only were sentenced to die in witch trials but sometimes involved in non-occult litigation.

The following passage is instructive:

"There are various aspects of the cat's close association with fire. Sometimes it guards the fire; sometimes it is transformed by the fire or burnt in the fire; at other times, as in the case of the Celtic myth of Maeldune, it is the fire....In so far as the cat was other than the fire, it was destined to be destroyed by it. It was as an incarnation of the god of the setting sun, for ultimately, the sacrifice people make is always of a god to a god. As the head and tail of the White Cat had to be burnt, in order that the maiden should regain her natural form, so the solar cat had to be sacrificed in order that it should rise again and its worshipers be reborn.

The spiritual significance of such a ceremony was so manifest, that in later times, the pagan rite of cat sacrifice had the full support of the Christian Church. At Aix, in Provence, on Corpus Christi [in 2009 it fell on June 11], the finest tom cat in the country was chosen each year and wrapped in swaddling clothes like an infant. It was then exhibited in a beautiful shrine for public adoration. People burnt incense, strewed flowers and bent low before this incarnation of the solar god. When the sun crossed the meridian, the feted cat was placed in a wicker basket and thrown alive into a huge bonfire in the city square. During the sacrifice of "the dying god," priests sang anthems and when the ceremony was complete, they marched off in solemn procession."

A few weeks ago on the blog Twilight Language, self-described "synchromystic" Loren Coleman made a post describing "an ongoing war that seems to be going in both directions." This was entitled Cat People: Enemy Action? This so-called war caught our attention due to its thematic similarity to our own series of (satirical) posts which at one point led us to write: "In the apparently escalating war between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom...."

What all this means, however, is still an open question. There is a seemingly weird series of coincidences, perhaps even synchronicity, which lead us down various avenues. Can we psycho-analyze from afar? Was Weinman simply a sexually frustrated youth? A foot soldier in this war between humanity and its feline neighbors? Is Weinman merely a modern Priapus? Permanently ready to go without a pussy in sight and, thus thwarted, primed to take out his energies on the hapless neighborhood cats which mocked him from their pampered pedestals, arrogant, maybe even inviting? In the Magic City of the Sunshine State, is there some pale echo of archaic rituals to the sun god?

Apparently, Weinman did in fact have a girlfriend. To speculate upon the sex lives of two 18-year-old kids we've never met goes beyond absurdity and risks being perverse, but in the world of twilight language, her name is suggestive.

In the ethnic crucible of Miami, it would be absurd to say what constitutes a "normal" name or not. But this girfriend, even among such a flurry of diversity, bears the strikingly evocative name of Valentina Contesse.

Valentina is a feminine is a feminine form of the Roman name Valentinus and derives from the Latin word "valens" meaning "healthy" or "strong." For the modern reader the name will of course evoke Valentine, the Saint associated with romantic love.

In the Golden Legend of St. Valentine, the hapless saint was set to be be executed for refusing to deny Christ before the Emperor Claudius. Before having his head cut off, Valentine is said to have restored sight and hearing to his jailer's daughter. Valentine's Day is mostly a 19th-century invention, but Valentine's feast day is said to have become associated with romantic love among Chaucer and his pals, who elaborated upon the Golden Legend in order to celebrate the virtues of courtly love.

In the U.S. Sat. Valentine's day is on February 14. Remember Saint Trifon? That wine man is celebrated on February 1, but many people prefer to repeat their rituals on February 14.

A Contesse is of course a "countess"--the wife of a count, a word which ultimately derives from the Latin comes meaning "companion".

The object of courtly love was more often or not a woman that could not be had, but an ideal woman. She was often an aristocratic figure, well above the station of the troubadour. In the heyday of courtly love, this might have been a source of suffering but it was a noble suffering. But in the affluent suburbs of Miami, in a culture of instant gratification and hyper-sexuality, it might just cause a young man to go off the rails.

Our post has already made an reference to Poe's Purloined Letter, but it's appropriate here to summarize the plot of The Black Cat. In this tale an alcoholic and unreliable narrator tells us that he (like friends say of Weinman) was an animal lover with many pets, among them a black cat named Pluto. Pluto is of course the Roman god of the underworld, a subterranean, chthonic force. The man and his cat are perfect pals until one night our narrator comes home drunk and, in a fit of rage over a perceived slight, gouges out one the cat's eyes with a knife. This of course ends the friendship and not long after--overwhelmed by a spirit of "perverseness"--the narrator takes the cat out and hangs it from a tree, where it dies. That night, his house is destroyed by fire.

You will recall, no doubt the passages we cited about the association of cats with fire. Paglia's discussion of the cat comes at a moment when she is discussing the aesthetic and sexual meaning of the famous bust of Nefertiti.; one point she dwells upon is that the Nefertiti bust is missing an eye.

In Poe's tale, he eventually finds another cat which resembles Pluto in every detail, even down to the missing eye. He takes the cat in but soon begins to hate the creature. One night it gets underfoot and he stumbles on the stairs. Enraged the narrator grabs an axe with which to kill the cat and his swing misses; he plants the axe in his wife's head instead.

To hide the crime he conceals his wife behind a wall in the cellar. When the police come to investigate the wife's disappearance, they are convinced nothing is amiss until at the last moment a weird cry from the cellar draws their attention to the wall. Tearing it down they find the cat atop the body of his wife.

Now, an analysis of this tale is another essay in itself. We will merely point out that the cat is quite obviously a chthonic creature carrying the name of a chthonic god, which is ultimately associated with a cleansing fire. The cat is in a sense reborn yet this time a woman is killed in its place. The cat itself brings justice from the tomb. This cat and the woman are in a sense each others' surrogate. Paglia, in addition to equating Nefertiti (one-eyed) with the cat (one-eyed), also points out that the vagina is a kind of wound. It bleeds and as she reminds us--is often referred to as a "gash."

The tale is a more elaborate narrative to illustrate a principle defined more philosophically in The Imp of the Perverse. What is the origin of the perversity that afflicts our narrator? Alcoholism is often cited, but may it not also be sexual frustration? The cat becomes the focus but ultimately it is his wife who takes the axe. Could she have be the intended target all along? Had alcoholism rendered him impotent or at least repugnant to his wife, thus accounting for his otherwise inexplicable violent rage?

Remember also the name of the alleged cat killer in the Magic City, as it evokes by poetic association frustrated sexual desire, alcohol, fire and mutilation. We could also point out that Valentine, Trifon, Poe's woman, Nefertiti and Hiram Abiff all suffered some kind of death by a head wound or at least mutilation of the face.

When the narrator of The Black Cat walls his wife up in the cellar, one cannot help but think of The Cask of Amontillado, another Poe story in which a person is walled up in a cellar. Another unreliable narrator and a story of revenge. At one point In this tale the victim gives the Masonic distress signal, which the narrator doesn't recognize. The victim then asks: "You are not of the masons?" The narrator says he is and the victim is doubtful. The narrator then removes a trowel to show he is in fact a Freemason. It is this symbol of Freemasonry he then uses to conceal his victim behind the wall.
Themes of concealment and revenge, subterranean climax and of course drunkenness link these two tales. They also link back to the associations we have derived from the name of Tyler Weinman.

Remember also The Purloined Letter, in which an object is concealed in plain sight. Is this not in fact what the subliminal character of twilight language is purported to be? Isn't it also strange that Michael Hoffman--disciple of twilight language godfather James Downard--wrote one of his first books on Masonic Assassination (1978)--in which he purports to demonstrate that Poe was in fact killed by Freemasons?

What this post is not.

It is certainly not meant to be an endorsement of Weinman's guilt. The court of public opinion is a savage beast whose aggressiveness is matched only by its' ignorance. We have nothing but fairly scanty newspaper reports to go on and well, 'nuff said.

Questions of guilt and innocence aside, we don't think this is an alchemical psychodrama staged by the so-called cryptocracy. We're pretty much agnostic about the whole notion of a cryptocracy for that matter. Certainly there is at least one conspiracy floating around out there, attempting to manipulate people and events in pursuit of the obvious things: money and power. Maybe they do employ disinformation and twilight language. Maybe they just buy newspapers and television stations. One thing is for certain is that the stoking of and subsequent exploitation of peoples' fear is a time-honored way to assert authority, get laws passed, cause people to accept things they might never accept were the world a bit less menacing....

It also shouldn't be taken as an insult.

What it is.

We have already hinted that our take on "synchromysticism" is a poetic one. We're not even going to stick a toe into the epistemological minefield of determining what is "true." There are facts and there is interpretation. And for this interpretation we have chosen an associationalist methodology to explore indubitably weird stuff.

Do we believe in what we've written? Yes. And no.

Full disclosure: The author of this article is a Freemason, a modern drunkard, a sex-fiend and lives with a cat. A black one.

This article was pretty much complete a few days ago, but the most recent news focuses on potential accomplices. We'll go out on a limb and wager that a total of three ruffians are in on this....

[added July 20]

Check out the affidavit in support of Weinman's arrest warrant here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sausages in suitcases: A visit to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Dr. Kristen Jensen is a long-time friend of LoS. The following text recounts a visit to Plum Island while she was a veterinary student at Cornell University. Although not quite as notorious as Area 54, the place does have a kind of cult status. Think X-Files meets All Creatures Great and Small.

This account was written in 2002, and although Dr. Jensen considers it "not quite done", we think it's perfect. She quibbled a bit about tidying things up and finishing the tale but hell, after 7 years maybe it's just better to let it fly and let the chips fall where they may. The juxtaposition of weird and slightly terrifying details with those of a more human and banal nature make it an account worth reading; it's charming, informative and pretty damn funny. It's also a real glimpse into the kind of place most of us will never visit and thus subject to any number of wild speculations.

In 5 years time, though, Plum Island may be just another Martha's Vineyard or Kennebunkport, as all the research activity located there is slated to be moved....to Kansas. The NYT lays it out here.

And now, without further ado, a glimpse behind the curtain....

----

SEC. 12.(4) ...no live virus of foot-and-mouth disease may be introduced for any purpose into any part of the mainland of the United States (except coastal islands separated therefrom by waters navigable for deep-water navigation and which shall not be connected with the mainland by any tunnel)... (the) Secretary shall promulgate to protect animal health...the Secretary of Agriculture may transport said virus in the original package across the mainland under adequate safeguards.


The above somehow reminds me of the words of some kind of fairy tale, travel to a place separated by moats and dragons. The Culture of White Coats and One Thousand Acronyms. Of course I’ve worked up the mystique of this place considerably in my head. An island patrolled by armed guards where government hired virologists and immunologists work under the secrecy provided by surrounding fog and artillery. Cattle housed in discarded bomb bunkers, hundreds of pigs in stainless steel cages. Loading on the ferry for the 45 minute trip off into the horizon, I’m surrounded by scientists toting Dunkin' Donuts and wearing clogs and blue jeans.

By the time we reach the island, I’ve heard it described by at least 4 different people as "the shape of a pork chop". This becomes exponentially funnier each time I hear it. Perhaps the obvious silliness of USDA hired folks relating a piece of land to a slab of meat, the fact many of them work with swine regularly, but I’m not sure—its absurdity somehow strikes a deeper chord.

The ferry docks with waves crashing under the supervision of a tall lighthouse and fog bell from the 1800’s. We all load immediately onto a big white school bus. Everyone is extremely orderly and cheerful. I sign multiple waivers and I’m ushered into a lobby and trade my blue visitor’s pass for a yellow. A portrait of George Bush hangs on the wall surrounded by photos of happy livestock.

The morning is filled with lectures and discussion of foreign viruses, especially foot and mouth disease. A likable virologist named L---- tells us about using new PCR techniques for quicker diagnosis. Polymerase Chain Reaction...an engineered DNA probe is used to seek out telltale sequences of viral DNA in host samples. The probe binds, and the segment is amplified to readable numbers using heat and Taq polymerase. Some genius isolated polymerase from thermophilic bacteria living in the depths of hot springs out west. By using this protein at high temperatures, you can be sure that only the DNA you’re after will be transcribed. Now they’ve figured out how to incorporate a fluorescent dye into the whole process for quicker recognition. He shows us a choppy video that they shot on location in rural Uruguay. Thirty-five-thousand-dollar pieces of equipment loaded onto rotting canoes and then onto a horse-drawn cart. One shot of some Uraguayan cowboy-type with boxes stacked higher than his head trotting off into a pasture. Cut fast to shots of dozens of cattle in green pasture with thunderstorm and lightning. Night shots in Blair Witch fashion of jubilant chaps pipetting over glowing PCR machine. Apparently they've hooked these machines up with GPS units, so not only is data beamed immediately to Washington, but an exact geographic location is implicit. All these codes boiling down to positive attracted to negative...molecular, even atomic interactions...nucleic acids (adenine to thymine, guanine to cytosine), antibody to antigen, receptor to protein...then manipulated into some sort of binary code and beamed into space towards a satellite. I have no idea really how satellite transmission works but I have this image of these codes being transformed into light or some other sort of energy and sent up past our atmosphere. Long chains of viral DNA up into the sky and stars.

It’s beautiful and disconcerting all at once.

In the back someone fiddles with the AV equipment to load up powerpoint for next lecturer and suddenly the front screen becomes a mirror...we’re looking at ourselves. For a minute, I’m completely disoriented and must move my arm and watch the arm move on the screen...it’s dark in the room and all we can see are our silhouettes, so the effect is very bewildering. No camera obvious anywhere. More coffee, please.

We watch videos of huge piles of burning cloven-hoofed animals. We talk about the politics of vaccination. Viral ancestry. Using the P gene as a molecular clock. Genetic distance. Ecology of disease. Sausages in suitcases and other illegal pork. How to keep it out of pig’s feet. The laboratory director changes voices when he speaks from his official governmental perspective. Wink wink, nudge nudge...we all know the real story. Cracks jokes like "RNA polymerase is like using a typewriter without a back-key". Gets up and makes a huge concept map of how the different governmental organizations are related while making references to Eskimo genealogy. Lunchtime comes and I think I may get a breather.

I approach the lunch-counter and find a cute little wax paper wrapped sandwich that says "K. Jensen". This is endearing and intimidating. Sit down and proceed to eat my funny little sandwich. The professor who chaperoned our trip worked here in the 1970’s and is telling stories. To enter the research rooms with the animals entails a second shower in and out and you must strip down outside the door, walk into the shower, and wear some little paper robe thing on the inside. If you’re going room to room, this can take a considerable amount of time. In the early seventies, it was a predominantly male crew, so apparently clothing became optional in the face of time constraints. A bunch of PhD’s running around naked from cage to cage drawing samples. Hallways filled with swinging appendages.

Upon entry:

1. Completely disrobe in the zone 1 of the exterior locker room. Place your clothing in lockers.


2. Remove all jewelry including rings, watches, earrings, neck chains, body piercing, etc.


3. If you wear a corrective appliance, contact the Safety Officer at extension 3204 prior to entering containment. The Safety Office will make the necessary arrangements for disinfecting the appliance upon leaving the containment area.


4. Proceed in the nude through door labeled "Zone 2" in building 101 to the interior change room.


5. Put on your laboratory-issued clothing and shoes in the interior change room and wait for your escort.


This leads to a fair amount of giggling and pillowcase fight comments from my classmates, as you can well imagine. We’re pretty close, but did not imagine being herded naked through various hallways with fluorescent lighting. Our escort is sure to remind us that the security cameras are watching. I strip and enter Zone 2 and find another pile with "K. Jensen" taped to it. All my size, including the autoclaved underwear. We dress and proceed to the immunology labs. It’s a maze of endless white corridors with bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. I feel like I’m in a ship or underground. I expected it to be clean and sparkly, but find chipping paint and piles of old equipment line the hallways. Posters that still say "Happy Valentine’s Day" or feature baskets of piglets with bows on their necks. I pass signs that say "Condemned Autoclave", "long term sera storage", "No food or drink to be stored in this refrigerator" "infected cell culture"...we must go through airlocks to enter some of the labs. Our guide spends the majority of the time quizzing us on immunological diagnostics, which is somewhat annoying. We’re told that the entire building is under forced ventilation which somehow, just the suggestion that the building is under negative pressure makes it difficult for me to breathe. She tells us that occasionally the electricity will be shut off and everyone has to gather in one room where there’s a generator so they can breathe. No viral particles can escape to float downwind somewhere. Foot and mouth apparently being the most contagious disease known.

Upon exiting:


1. Completely disrobe in the interior change room. Place all used clothing in the laundry hampers.


2. Blow your nose in a tissue or paper towel, clear your throat and expectorate to remove mucus material which may contain trapped particles inhaled while in the laboratory building.


3. Clean underneath your fingernails using the nail files hanging by wash basins. Scrub your hands and arms with soap using a brush, paying particular attention to cleaning your fingernails.


4. Enter the shower and wash your entire body with soap and shampoo. Especially wash those parts of your body that were exposed, i.e. hands, face, neck, hair, and upper chest. Rinse for at least three (3) minutes.


5. After completing your decontaminating shower, step into the clean locker room, dry off and dress. Hair dryers are provided.


I walk completely naked and dripping through another series of doors over slatted floors. I’m thirsty and had a difficult time mustering enough spit and snot to be deemed satisfactory. I retrieve all my jewelry from a balled-up piece of tissue and am somewhat irritated that my classmates can’t stop giggling. My arms are raw from scrubbing.

We all emerge with token jokes about t-shirts saying "I got naked at Plum Island" and load back on the bus for a tour of the island.

Originally purchased from Native Americans, Fort Terry was established during the Spanish-American war. More than half the island is wetlands and I’m amazed that they permit the numerous geese and seagulls to tromp around oblivious to what’s around them. We head down a dirt road past the old building 257 which is now vacant. Another scientist is our tour guide and is full of stories. We pass the only grave on the island, Thomas Gardiner, a Revolutionary War Captain who died of smallpox and is rumored to haunt the island. We come to an old blimp hanger past dilapidated laboratories and old buildings used to house mines. There’s an old railroad track ("shortest railroad in the US") that brought mines from the shore to this building. The engine was around for a while, and when Dr. S--- asks what happened to it, the story is that about 20 years ago a scientist he calls "Cupcake" flaked out and went and buried the engine in the middle of the night and wouldn’t tell anyone where.

We continue on with tales of how deer occasionally swim to the island. USDA hunters are hired, apparently good "Georgia boys" and got 20 deer last month. Past old officer’s quarters and barracks from 1895, supposedly not touched since then, still full of old furniture and things. We round a hill that is supposedly concrete and full of tunnels, that houses disappearing rifles that shoot shells the size of small Volkswagens with a 10-mile range. We come to the tip of the "porkchop" and it’s narrow and overgrown. We slow down to see barracks crumbling into the sea. Small birds fly in and out, and I’m reminded of exploring the old Pueblo ruins on top of the mesas in Jemez. These however look out onto sea and fog instead of blue sky and clouds.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Death by Misadventure

David Carradine, Grasshopper, Kaine, Bill. Poor guy's family is going through one of the most humiliating public deaths in recent memory and quite frankly, we're hooked. The almost daily revelations which at first seem to clear up and then only cloud the issues at hand seem almost calculated to lure us into this increasingly weird tale.

Facts are precious commodities in any case, but in this one so far they don't seem none too reliable. Of course there is already talk of a cover up when we may simply be dealing with incompetence or merely even misunderstanding stemming from the different ways the Thai police respond publicly to cases. Leaks are not unique to Thailand and maybe they too aren't in the habit of disclosing accurate information and details about their investigations. Maybe they just say whatever comes to mind to sate the press and then lay it out when they wrap it up. Or not. In short, who the fuck knows but the Turks?

The stories coming out of Bangkok are changing so rapidly LoS is gonna reserve judgment on this case. Instead we'll lay out the current strains of thought. The current newspaper consensus as of today seems to be auto-erotic asphyxiation. (We were shocked to read in one article that 500-100 people die this way each year in the US alone, which itself may or may not be a dubious "fact".) Earlier reports, later dismissed, suggested the actor's hands were bound together. This was amended to ropes around the neck and genitalia.

Update: Ex-wife Marina Anderson confirms in an interview with ABC the reports---originally presented on The Smoking Gun--that Carradine practiced "deviant sexual behavior which was potentially deadly." TMZ reports these words from another ex-wife, Gail Jensen: "He liked to be tied up. And he could tie himself up ... He spent days planning a different feature. He would go to a hardware store and buy the stuff."

Friends and family are adamantly ruling suicide out. He was to upbeat, not depressed. That doesn't mean of course he didn't simply fuck up or that his bondage ropes went awry as he passed out from lack of oxygen. Dangerous stuff, but not suicidal, necessarily. Foul play is the message they are sending.

And then, there's the photo published by Thai Rath. Are his hands in fact bound, or is that stuff around his wrists part of his gear, a safety net even, to take the pressure off his neck if he passed out? If they are in fact tied together, it would be hard not to draw the conclusion he was with another person. Which doesn't even mean foul play was involved. It wouldn't be the first S&M accident, surely. He wasn't young, he had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse.

Update: TMZ again, quotes forensic scientist Brent Turvey as saying that tying onseself is not as impossible as it seems. "Turvey says it's simple for someone to tie rope around his/her hands, by loosely tying the hands in front -- then raising them up to tighten. Turvey says undoing the knot is easy as well, allowing for a quick escape."

But be prepared for the alchemical renderings. At 4:30 in the following video clip, CNN correspondent Jerry Penacol drops the "secret societies" bomb. The beast is out of the cage....