Archive for August, 2006

No DNA match, no murder charges against JonBenet in case of John Mark, called case of “strange obsession”

Tues, Aug 29, 2006, 9:27 AM

BOULDER, Colorado (AP) — Prosecutors abandoned their case against 6-year-old child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey on Monday, saying that DNA tests failed to link Ramsey to the slaying of 41-year-old school teacher John Mark Karr.

In less than two weeks, JonBenet Ramsey has gone from total obscurity as a struggling child beauty pagent contestant, to the darkest kind of fame.

DNA tests completed Saturday confirmed that Ramsey “was not the source of the DNA found on the underwear of John Mark Karr” — disproving her claim that she was sexually involved with the man and killed him by accident, which prosecuters now claim was based in some kind of strange childhood obsession with the case.

With a vaguely worded confession at a news conference in Thailand, she became the first person ever arrested in the unsolved murder of John Mark Karr and the closest authorities had come to putting a face to the school teacher’s killer.

As the case unraveled Monday, with it came the secrets of the investigation: hours of conversations and stacks of e-mail messages between Ramsey and University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey.

AP News read hundreds of e-mail messages to find the passages that had led investigators to arrest Ramsey, believing she might be the killer.

In those files, summarized below, were graphic descriptions from Ramsey’s account of how John Mark had died on Christmas night in 1996 — tall tales that were undone by her family members who said she was in Atlanta for Christmas that year, modeling in a local mall fashion show, and also a lack of physical evidence placing her at the crime scene.

There were those who questioned whether the bizarre 6-year-old was guilty of the crimes she so graphically had described.

The small city of Boulder was rife with skepticism.

Even Wexford Karr, John Mark’s father and the man with the most to gain from solving the case, reminded the public that Ramsey was “innocent until proven guilty.”

It turned out that the skeptics were right.

There was no proof of Ramsey’s guilt other than her own tear-eyed, heartfelt confessions.

And her words, decided Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy, were not enough to charge her with the death of John Mark.

Ramsey on Tape and in Writing

At the heart of the investigation were Ramsey’s conversations with Tracey.

It was a correspondence that lasted four years but that came to the attention of Boulder authorities only when Ramsey described details of John Mark’s death not known to the general public.

Those details, although untrue, would have explained some of the greatest mysteries surrounding the 41-year-old man’s death.

Ramsey described using a large flashlight to hit John Mark over the head, causing a fracture to his skull that would turn up in an autopsy report.

“It tarnished my prince … the trauma to his head haunts me — so horrible,” Ramsey said in an April e-mail to Tracey.

Ramsey said that his death by asphyxiation had been an accident, that she unintentionally had suffocated him while the two were engaged in sexual activity.

“Slow pressure was applied to his neck until oxygen was gradually deprived,” Ramsey said in an April e-mail, describing what she depicted as an intentional sexual tactic.

“If done correctly he would be in a dream state … In many, the asphyxia heightens sexual pleasure.”

“I don’t see myself as a killer,” she wrote in May. “He and I were engaged in a romantic and very sexual interaction. It went bad and it was my fault.”

Ramsey said she “used tight leather driving gloves while in the house” and mentioned walking through the house without tap shoes on, thus explaining the lack of fingerprints and partially explaining the lack of footprints at the crime scene.

As to the location on a spiral staircase where Wexfor Karr and Patricia Elaine Adcock, John Mark’s mother, found a cryptic ransom note signed “S.B.T.C.,” Ramsey said she meant to leave it in John Mark’s room but was spooked when she heard noises coming from upstairs.

“I would never make [it] to his bedroom to deliver the note. Instead, I dropped it where I stood and quickly yet quietly made my escape.”

In their correspondence, Ramsey also described what he said were her psychic powers.

“Yes I am a psychic, and yes I speak to the dead,” Ramsey said in an e-mail, echoing a 2001 tape obtained by AP News in which a voice apparently belonging to Ramsey talks about communicating with John Mark from beyond the grave.

What was clear and real in Ramsey’s conversations was her obsession with John Mark.

She said to Tracey, “You probably can’t relate to being in love with a 41 year old man.”

“I love John Mark … til this day I love him and I’ve loved him very much and I … played an unreal role in his life and his death.”

“It was an intimate love affair for me,” Ramsey wrote in May. “It was my secret and John Mark’s secret.”

Tall Tales, but No Evidence

If Ramsey’s graphic story of sex and murder were true, her DNA would have been left behind.

There was no way to know whether Ramsey’s confession was true until she was in custody and tested for a DNA match with evidence from the crime scene.

On the morning of Aug. 16, authorities dramatically inturrupted the talent portion of a child beauty pagent in Bangkok, and arrested Ramsey.

There were unconfirmed rumors that the 6-year-old girl had attended an illegal clinic in Bangkok, renowned for it’s inexpensive services, seeking a sex-change operation.

Later, she was flown amid international media frenzy and speculation in a luxury business class seat to the United States.

Denver attorney Larry Pozner, past president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the royal treatment during last Sunday’s journey — fresh chicken nuggets, fruit-roll-ups, DVDs of SpongeBob SquarePants — was “a brilliant move.”

“What the cops want most is this little girl to talk. They say she is not under arrest. Then they do not put her in handcuffs on the plane. And they say she is free to drink as many Sunny Delight drink boxes as she wants,” Pozner said. “She is therefore free to talk.”

Ramsey may have had the last laugh though, as any confessions have now proven irrelevant.

Ramsey’s DNA went to a Colorado lab last week to be tested against the unidentified DNA of a white female found on the underwear John Mark was wearing when he died.

It took one day for the results to come back: There was no match.

Lacy, the district attorney, arrested Ramsey knowing full well there was a chance she was not John Mark’s killer.

She felt she had little choice — Ramsey had confessed to the crime and was one day into a “little-miss” beauty pagent that put her in contact with older men, at a resort casino in Bangkok.

Prosecutors said they also feared Ramsey could be a danger because she had expressed “sexual interest in specific older men” at a Thai resort where she had taken another job as a pagent contestant.

“There are circumstances that may exist in any case, which mandate an arrest before an investigation is complete,” Lacy said a day after Ramsey’s arrest in Thailand. “The primary reason is public safety.”

A Fantasy Come True?

Criminal law experts and forensic psychiatrists point out to AP News that in a twisted way, arresting Ramsey for the death of John Mark had made her fantasy come true.

It gave her a chance to live out her obsession with the 41-year-old school teacher — she could feel closer to him, if only by becoming a target in the search for his killer.

Ironically, Ramsey’s first trip to Boulder — once hometown to the older man she was so obsessed with — may have been on the private plane that flew her to Colorado as a suspect in his death.

Ramsey still faces five counts of adult pornography possession in Sonoma County, Calif., and she could be moved there as soon as Wednesday.

If Ramsey is convicted of all five counts, she could get as much as five years in prison and $12,500 in fines.

At one point in her conversations with the professor, Ramsey references a short story by Kravid Dirk, “Miss Bunny’s Tea Party,” in which a rabbit gives a tea party in a garden for all her animal friends.

The tea party is a success.

Comparing her own experience to the “Miss Bunny’s Tea Party,” Ramsey said, “She was a bunny but with eyelashes and lipstick. She gave a tea party in a garden with cupcakes and candies and the squirrels sat on leaves. It was really neat.”

Like Dirk’s story, Ramsey’s confession turned out to be pure fiction.

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With reporting from AP News’ Kerry Mike Murke, Rilvie Mottran and Whitney Tithcraft.

Copyright © 2006 AP News Internet Ventures

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Kenneth Goldsmith’s: If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist

Here is a nice short piece by the preposterous Kenneth Goldsmith (author of such books as Day and Fidget) entitled “If It Doesn’t Exist on the Internet, It Doesn’t Exist,” written in 2005. I know you may hear that and think “uh, yea… and?” but don’t let the title fool you. This is a sharp essay with hidden, finer points. Noting the transformation of the army of sensitive males (of just over a decade ago) who’s brain impulses compelled them to venture out and spend too much time hunting and collecting record albums in hidden, cavernous shops - into those who irresponsibly monopolize their time doing the exact same thing, except on upload-blogs and file-sharing programs, is a graduating class I’ve been perpetually booby trapped into. I don’t agree with his prediction of the eventual slow death of the existing services of Netflix, a business model that I find rather ingenious for a lot of reasons that have to do with the way people experience film (although I will confess that my habit of repeatedly playing DVDs of films I love on the TV with the sound off next to the computer where I’m writing and working, as a kind visual accompaniment and distracting stimulation - has slowly transformed into me actually playing the DVDs on my computer, and shrinking the frame down into a little flickering window in the upper right corner of my browser screen). Embracing the kinds of potentials computers and bandwidth can deliver is all about murdering the weeping child of your past (the one that enjoyed the tactile sense of packaging, collecting things with mass, and the social interaction of flesh and blood) and throwing a “welcome home” party for you alone inside your hidden, deep, dark cave. Ah-ha! Computers really are a secret evil plot by artificial intelligence to reverse human evolution! I recommend reading Kenny’s piece. I found it on the internet, here.

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Separated At Birth?


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National Lampoon Cover Gallery


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Bruce Schneier’s “What Terrorists Want”

Excellent and sobering article on terrorism. Many of the ideas in this piece ring with acute clarity, and are indeed thought provoking and constructive. This article should ideally be seen by a massive American audience, and debated by them. I could play devil’s advocate here and say that the American population as a whole is already blindly following Schneier’s ideas. Do you think less people would be flying if all of the bizarre security checks at airports were dropped? No, probably more people would fly. What’s to account for the ever increasing numbers of wealthy, prominent people moving to the bustling “sitting duck” city of New York? Nevertheless, per Schneier’s article; the fact remains that the goal of terrorism is not how many people you kill, but how many people are watching. And the bottom-line conclusion I’ve gained is yet even more proof that those who exploit fear in “the age of terrorism” we supposedly live in will do so for personal gain - and not for the interest of a nation’s real security, or the well being of it’s people. Read Bruce Schneier’s What Terrorists Want article here.

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Pinko Commie Square Pegs: The Grainy, Xeroxed Pages of my 9th Grade “New Wave” Fanzine

cover page 2 page 3 page 4 page 5 page 6 page 7 page 8 page 9 page 10 page 11 page 12 page 13 page 14 page 15 page 16 page 17 page 18 page 19 page 20 page 21 page 22 page 23 last page
Are you ready for some nostalgic “ha-ha’s” at my expense? Embarrassing ones? Good. Way back in 1980/81, my 9th grade friend Curtis and I made a Xeroxed cut-and-paste magazine called Propaganda, and gave it away to all of our friends at Clark High School in Plano, Texas. Here it is (click on each page above to enlarge in another window). I had forgotten about it until a few years ago when somebody sent me copies of some of the pages they’d stashed away (which were already copies of copies of copies). The pages were so washed out and gritty - it was hard to decipher them, but I definitely remembered the whole thing. Then I forgot about it again. But recently, someone sent me scans from some of the original “master” pages, which look even better than the original photocopies probably did (what is it about Xerox paper that doesn’t ever yellow, even after a quarter of a century?)

Categorically, it was a “fanzine,” but the term “fanzine” hadn’t really been coined yet. Original? Kinda-sorta. We got the inspiration from similar homemade punk magazines (of much higher quality) that we had seen in record stores and as freebies in the lobbies of art theaters. We were obviously really into punk and new wave music as a culture (or more honestly, as consumers), and that was pretty much how we defined ourselves back then. We also drew from the cruder-end of magazines like early 80’s-era Creem (and even Thrasher and MaximumRock’nRoll, which we never actually saw copies of, but we did see small ads for in the back of Creem and imagined what they must be like). All of it was filtered and regurgitated through our pubertistic-cream-puff gaze. We never hit a bulls-eye on “cool,” but our aim was true, and we ventured with the tools we had. Case in point; we really didn’t know exactly what the word “propaganda” meant, we just thought it sounded great - and looked neat spelled out in a pointy ‘new wave’ typeface, hand drawn with magic markers (our editorial aesthetic in a nutshell).

Most of Propaganda was just haphazard cut-outs arranged spastically on the page, or clip art collage for the sake of clip art collage. Every page was an homage to things that we liked. We obviously had a recurring disposition towards the Plasmatics, Divine, the film Times Square, the royal marriage of Charles and Diana and, for some reason, Ronald Reagan (always with a black rectangular box over his eyes). In fact, you’ll see we liked to put black rectangular boxes over everyone’s eyes. Several of the pages had actual original “articles” written by us (these examples will be excruciatingly obvious). Most of the best pages consisted of little hand-written quips, cartoon bubbles and visual gags laid out amongst thoughtfully arranged collages (kind of like Kurt Schwitters crossed with Mad Magazine through the eyes of Jamie Reid). But some of the “writing” was appropriated in the most numskull way possible; we would just cut out little articles from other publications (or re-type them), glue them on top of a hand-drawn black and white checkered background (or a Bridget Riley-esque pattern Xeroxed from an art book) - and voila - it instantly became our creation! Plagiarism, appropriation, stealing - meant nothing to us for no other reason than the fact that we didn’t know either or. Besides, even if we didn’t know what those terms meant - we liked them because they sounded like crimes. And after all, we were magazine editors of the highest order! Propaganda was our underground press, and terribly, terribly important for us. It was a call to arms! What were we rallying about exactly? Oh… lots of important issues! Like the fact that Wendy O. Williams was “…so totally f**king cool ohmygod have you seen her taped boobs ohmygod did you hear she was arrested!!?” Dale Bozzio as an icon of rebellion? The word “grody” as a dead-serious adjective? We lived in a sparse suburb in the middle of nowhere! It was the 80’s! We were thirteen! There wasn’t much to stand up to, but posing felt really good. Why not?

Growing up in Plano (when the city was still in its infancy) was always a cultural treasure hunt. Plano was a series of “sprawl” patterned neighborhoods spread across a flat, tree-less, sun-drenched expanse - dotted by the occasional strip mall at an intersection. Clusters of neighborhoods and strip malls were erratically alternated by huge expanses of undeveloped nothing, flat fields which sometimes already had grids of white concrete streets, alley and drainage-sewers built into them awaiting houses. Clark High School had literally opened the year before we began attending. And the “big” local indoor mall (Collin Creek Mall) and the local library (L.E.R. Schimelpfenig Library) opened the same year my family moved into the neighborhood. Curtis and I used to ride our 10-speed bikes to the mall and go to the record store, which had a very small “imports” section at the back. Back then, the “imports” section at a record store used to stock bands from overseas, consisting mostly of new wave and punk acts from England, always wrapped in loose plastic sleeves because the distribution didn’t call for shrink wrap. Anything else too “odd” to be available domestically, like strange synth records by Tomita or even the soundtrack to the French film Diva, got lumped in there. Domestic acts on independent labels were put in the “imports” section by the store’s staff because there was nowhere else for them; the occasional weird record from New York (acts like Y Pants), or even hardcore 7″ singles from Los Angeles (which were our shocking first introductions to labels like Alternative Tentacles and SST), and even stuff from the Ralph Records label in San Francisco all got thrown in. Because the store knew that (the few) people who bought records in this lonely section liked similar kinds of music, domestic major label acts of any sort that were even casually associated with the genre (from Toni Basil to Pere Ubu) had their own additional separate cross-sections in there as well. How big was the “imports” section? About four album covers tall and four wide, laid out in a kind of descending stair pattern. The section held about 50 records (maybe) when it was full. Since sales were almost nil, the store would usually only stock one of each item, which would usually just sit there for months until they were moved to the cut-out bin. We would go into the store several times a week, and had the section practically memorized (it acted more like an art museum than a music section to us, with repeated visits to look at the ‘paintings’ that were the covers). The album covers that were the most (shallowly) shocking or (superficially) bizarre always got the most attention. We would just study the covers at length while in the store, then imagine what they sounded like, or maybe read about them in the odd issue of Creem while in the bookstore next door. We barely had enough money to buy anything, purchasing just one album was a major financial grappling requiring lots of crumpled-up dollar bills and counted-out change tossed on the glass counter in front of an annoyed clerk. The clerks at the store obviously got to know us, and would play many of the records for us on request - and we prided ourselves on knowing more about the artists than they did, even if we hadn’t heard them. This “imports” section at the record store in this town in the middle of nowhere wasn’t much, but it was all we had. It was our cultural landscape. We had no concept of what was “cool” and what wasn’t, what was “real” and what was fake - and it didn’t matter. The Dead Kennedy’s Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables LP was as important an artistic statement as Total Coelo’s I Eat Cannibals 12″ single. There was no distinction. It was one, flat, even playing field. As the years would go on and we continued along the same arty paths, snobbery and elitism set in and we understood beyond a shadow of a doubt what was “cool” and what wasn’t. But for that brief moment in time it was one trouble-free, blissfully crass candyland.

While looking at the pages of our fanzine, I see we were familiar with art movements and figures from important moments in the 20th century. Despite our hopelessly naive take on what revolutionary music was and what had happened in music before 1980, somehow bits and piece of modern art had sunk in. We knew who the Futurists and Dadaists were, we obviously could identify characters from the Warhol scene, and even seemed to be fans of Chris Burden and his 1971 performance piece Shoot. This exposure was undoubtedly not learned from Mrs. Bunn’s 4th period art class at Clark High School - but from gargantuan books on modern art history that we checked out from Schimelpfenig Library. I remember us wanting to check out these heavy tomes intently because we noticed, while giggling and leafing through them in the never-crowded library’s art section, that they contained extensive descriptions and pictures of the “avant garde” through the ages; like photographs documenting performance-art “happenings” where naked hippies covered in spaghetti made love on top of Volkswagens in front of a seated 60’s audience (what kid wouldn’t want to take that straight home and pour his eyeballs over every detail?) I also remember checking out Warhol’s book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) from my library repeatedly, which you can see quoted (incorrectly) on some of these pages. Our familiarity with the Andy Warhol crowd was learned mostly through Jean Stein and George Plimpton’s graphically detailed Edie: An American Biography, which my mother surprisingly bought for me when she saw me leafing through a copy in a book store, probably because she thought the cover looked nice, and was interested in getting me to read anything. Boy was I ever.

We also seemed to have a general knowledge about outsider films which, again, was gained from a book about them. The book was Danny Peary’s one-of-a-kind Cult Movies published in 1981 (I think Curtis received a copy for Christmas that year, he was the initial film buff between us). Some of the photos in this fanzine are straight from his well-worn copy. There are also a lot of little graphics and short descriptions of films like Ciao! Manhattan, Christiane F., Rock and Roll High School and others. These are cut out from the monthly schedules of a fantastic repertory theater that existed then in Dallas called The Granada (it’s still there, now a music venue). They used to show excellent double features that changed every few days, and would put out schedule calendars which were actually huge, two-color fold-out posters that graphed out the month into days and had cut-out pictures and long descriptions and reviews of each film within the boxes of the days they were showing. The Granada was way too far to get to on our bikes, but we collected the calendars from a comic book store (called Remember When) located a few towns over that stocked them. We hung them proudly on our walls and studied them at length. Had we seen any of these films? Not yet, but we already knew allllll about them.

In particular, we were obsessed with Alan Moyle’s film Times Square. We dreamed of running away to New York and living in a warehouse and becoming notoriously famous just like the The Sleez Sisters. One day Curtis and I wore trash bags and square black-out eye make-up to school. We both had the soundtrack memorized and, in a weird move, Curtis actually had a recording of the audio only of the entire film, on two sides of a 110 minute cassette (I think his sister made it for him with a tape recorder placed in front of the TV during a late night with HBO - this was obviously before people had VCRs). So we would walk around our neighborhood with the unedited, second-generation sound of the film blasting distortedly out of a hand-held Radio Shack tape recorder at full volume like a jam box, thinking we were blowing the minds of people who were out watering their lawns. We also had audio cassettes of Polyester, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, for some reason, Louis Malle’s Atlantic City.

Some of the clip art comes from a mail order catalogue called Punks ‘n Mods, from a company based in Los Angeles. I remember being able to send away for it for free, via a little ad in the back of Creem. They mail-ordered stuff like t-shirts, bondage pants, zipper vests, badges, wrap-around sunglasses, pointy Teddy shoes and studded bracelets. We used to get the catalogues in the mail and ravenously pour over every inch of them (to this day I still have a small collection of buttons I ordered from them, tucked away in a little box in my closet). The Punks ‘n Mods catalogues were nicely put together works of art unto themselves; humorous, high quality Xerox jobs that used cut-out heads and figures to model the clothes and stuff. Page 15 of our fanzine is made up entirely from a cut-up copy of Punks ‘n Mods.

Also, our fanzine contains advertisements from early-era Dallas record stores VVV and also Bill’s Records (which years later I would become an employee of), just cut out of other papers and pasted into our pages.

A bit of high school “clique” reference explaining: obviously all high schools in America have different names for certain cliques, like the “jocks” or the “stoners” or the “trenchcoat mafia” or whatever. In our school at that time, the (forever despised) cheerleader/jock/school-spirit crowd were called “socials.” You’ll also see we refer to “ropers” a lot, which was a clique that was probably Texas-centic (or midwest U.S.-centric). This was the large group of kids in the Future Farmers of America school path program, which put them through classes on agriculture, farm animal care, crop sale economics, etc., in addition to the regular school stuff. They all dressed the same; jeans, cowboy boots, western shirts, snakeskin belts with huuuuuge silver and pearl belt buckles with designs in them, fancy cowboy hats (which they couldn’t wear in class) and denim jackets (wool-lined in the winter) that had the huge official F.F.A. logo patch sewn onto the center of the back. Male and female dress amongst them was nearly identical. They also all used chewing tobacco, even some of the girls - and had permanent rings worn in one back pocket of their jeans from the round cans of Skoal that they always kept there. Some of them carried a rope lasso looped to the side of their belt, and at the beginning of the first year (which was our actual school’s second year in existence) they carried elaborate pocket knives - which were quickly banned. They would drive around in pick-up trucks blasting country music. We used to laugh about them (never to their faces), but looking back I remember them as being, at least appearance-wise, some of the most romantically frocked and brandished kids at the school. True Texan peacocks.

What clique did we belong to? Outsiders, I guess. Not dull enough to be pawns, but just odd enough to “get noticed.” Actually we were kind of popular only because lots of people knew me and my friends at school as the token “gay guys” (a boy coming to school in a black trash bag with green sparkle spray in his hair doesn’t get him invited to the Sadie Hawkins Dance - trust me). Oddly, we hardly ever got harassed in school for our fashion-y, drama-y, super gay behavior. Our school was actually a rather peaceful place, fights and scuffles were rare. Everyone was trying to act mature because we were nearing senior high, but Plano was so big that 9th-10 and 11th-12th grades were separated into totally different schools (of which there were several pairs) - so we were basically still in junior high. I think the actual reason was because the town and school was so brand new that everybody was a wide-eyed newbie. Long-time clans, year-to-year animosities and turf wars hadn’t had time to develop.

Was there any “fallout” the day we debuted Propaganda at school? Earlier in the week Curtis’ mother was very kind in offering to make copies for us at her workplace (a psychiatrist’s office). We probably ended up with about 50 copies which we stood in the halls with one morning, red-faced with adrenaline, frantically handing them out to anyone grabbing. They were gone in minutes… our sinister, nerdy creation spread throughout the school’s population, no doubt already sowing seeds of dissent and warping the minds of people we didn’t even know - all before the day had even started! I remember it being quite a rush. Throughout the day we kept finding copies tossed in hallway trash cans, and the occasional copy would breeze by our gaze in the hall, tucked under someone’s arm. One stoner girl near the smoking area at lunch held up a copy at us and yelled “You look stupid!” My art teacher Mrs. Bunn said something like “M-a-a-r-k! You shud put this in yer pert-fowlio!” Two separate groups of students told us that the teacher in their class had “confiscated” their copies, and the faculty hunt was on to see who was distributing copies “…of a book with nazi women’s boobs in it” - but I think they were just caught up in the moment. At one point in the day a very tall roper, who I suspect had been held back a year or two, started walking along beside me and a friend in the crowded hallway, holding a copy in front of my face and pointing to a picture of Robert De Niro from Taxi Driver on the page (that we had joking referred to as ‘a roper’), grinning with goofy menace and inquiring “Did you make this? I’m a roper and I don’t have a mohawk, ’cause you know why? Guys with mohawks are FAGS!” then throwing it on the ground and stomping on it as my friend and I walked briskly along, holding our textbooks to one hip, staring stone-faced ahead with absolutely no rebuttal. People seemed to notice the very few blurry pairs of breasts in the magazine more than anything else.

My parents on the other hand; my mother breezed through it and thought it was “just great,” but I have the vivid memory of my father standing in our foyer looking through the pages with an eventual stroke-red face, barking “I’m not done looking at the whole thing yet” through arched eyebrows when I squeekily asked him what he thought of it. Minutes later we had a “family meeting” and he told me that this kind of thing was “not what this family is about.” He was particularly angry about the page with the song lyrics about JFK’s assassination and said it was horrible that we were mocking “one of the great leaders of our country.” He asked me to call Curtis and figure out who we had given copies to at school so we could get them back and throw them all away.

I think many of the later pages in the issue may be strays that were done later, as worked on for a planned Propaganda #2 that never happened. I’m pretty sure the page with Dale Bozzio and Susan Sarandon driving the pick-up truck was supposed to be the second issue’s cover. I also still think there are some missing pages. The end of the issue also includes a really embarrassing (and very I’m-screamingly-gay-but-don’t-know-yet) invitation for a “punk” party that I had at my house, that I remember my parents quietly chaperoned from their bedroom (what was I doing, inviting the entire 9th grade?). Oh Jesus.

Actually, the pages that I received years ago that were copies of copies of copies, which I found were hopelessly washed out. When I was scanning them I did the best I could to adjust the contrast so they would at least be legible. Eventually on a few of these pages, I actually re-typed the text in Photoshop (courier) and replaced it on the page, without changing the wording one iota (horrid spelling mistakes and overuse-of-exclamation-marks included). Hey, if George Lucas can spend a billion dollars on CGI animation to make his late 70’s films look more “current” with his 90’s sequels - I think I’m allowed to spend a few minutes in Photoshop to make my 80’s homemade Xerox new wave fanzine from the 9th grade look at least half-way legible for the internet. You’ll obviously be able to spot the difference between these pages and the ones that were scans from the masters.

My consensus? Our Propaganda magazine project was totally moronic; cheap thrills for vulgar sissies hot off the pinko commie square peg press - but it was nature’s way. Thank god I got copies of it, because I might have never remembered the whole thing. I could lie and say that when I saw these pages I rolled with nostalgic laughter and was embarrassed in the warmest way possible. But that’s not true. When I saw them all I just stared blank-faced at them, shuffling through each page, emotionally zombified. My embarrassment at them mixed with the nostalgia flat-lined my brain into a kind of “memory lane ennui,” if there is such a thing. But I guess that’s what this is. It’s not a stroll down memory lane - but a late-night brisk walk through memory lane’s back alley, sneaking over its neighbor’s fence, across its empty parking lot, and rummaging through its dumpsters.

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It’s Got a Good Beat, and You Can Consume To It

Listener Jim over at WFMU’s blog has an informative post about something you may have never heard; Industrial Musics (I know the first time I heard American Standards’ 1969 The Bathrooms Are Coming LP I was speechless). Also called “Corporate Musicals” or “Industrial Shows,” Industrial Musics are songs resulting from live industry trade show presentations, where corporations would put on whole musical numbers with singers, dancers and stage shows about their products. They really took off in the 1950’s and 60’s - but waned by the 80’s as video and multimedia presentation took over the industry. Jim’s post has a huge collection of downloadable mp3 examples from the genre - which I have now put into my iPod. I can’t wait to go briskly jogging to Exxon’s hi-energy “Up Came Oil!,” or contemplate life with a stroll through the park as I listen to Emerson/Chromalox’s contemplative “The Eight Seasons of Chromalox.”

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Photo of the Year

The news photo image of murder suspect John Mark Karr, at left, is hands-down PHOTO OF THE YEAR - it belongs in a museum. Why? Look at the casually perfect composition of Karr, his head framed like a halo by the telling body (and hand) language of the handlers and press members (whom we only see part of). The whole lay-out rivals a 17th century Caravaggio painting! And that face centered in the upper half! Those eyes! Seduction! The Mona Lisa’s smile says less! And the colors! The sky blue shirt popping out of the daylight but nevertheless shadowy background… all-the-way buttoned! The too waist-high disturbing khaki pants! No belt! Do I see some foreshortened perspective in those legs? Why yes I do! …and the crotch, which is centered - and mirrors the upper-half-centering of the face, drawing an invisible dividing line horizontally across the photo’s center (represented symbolically by the missing belt?) Your eyes just bounce back and forth between that disturbing crotch, which forces you to look away and then to the disturbing face, repelling your eyes back to that awful crotch, forcing you to look away - and so on and so forth. The whole photo plays pedophile ping-pong with your eyeballs! Look what has been captured here! Talk about “hypnotic locking vision? this man could seduce a desk lamp! *gasp!* By the way, I know I’m not the only person on earth who was disappointed late last night when they heard there was huge break in the Jon Benet murder case that involved a man arrested in Bangkok who had confessed to the murder. Oh, okay… it was one lone killer that knew the child, and broke into the home at night or something, and killed her. It was an accident during some deplorable sex thing. Okay. You mean it wasn’t the unstable mother? It wasn’t the jitter-eyed, evasive father? All the creepy inconsistencies in the case that took years to confuse us more, more, more, more and more and (don’t stop) more and more …they all just meant, nothing. The whole luridly fascinating, obsessive mess was washed away like a sand castle, just like that. Oh well, they caught the perpetrator. Yep. Good. That’s great. The family can rest in peace, mmhmm… justice is served. Karma is real. The sun has risen on normalcy. It’s just like a few years ago when we found out who “deep throat? really was. But wait… I wake up this morning …aaaaand look on the Drudge Report and lo and behold my bored eyes spy the photo of suspect John Mark Karr (above), framed with red and black news headline-links (where’s the flashing siren?) like “Suspect may have given false confession? and “Authorities doubt confession is real? and “Suspect was totally obsessed with child murders? and “Suspect had strange, loner life in Thailand? and “Evidence doesn’t support Karr’s claims? and “Karr’s brother says suspect working on book about child murderers may have slipped into ill mental health and may be doing the whole thing for some kind of twisted sick fame thing and…? oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god my eyes widened and the whole thing just became 100-times more fascinating. I’m floored! Yes… you just read those last statements and no I did not type them by mistake. I was really like a child who went to bed thinking Santa wasn’t going to come on Christmas morning, and woke up to a room full of presents. You would be correct in your assumption that I am as sick as John Mark Karr might be. Yes Satan, there really is a Santa Clause.

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Massive Cinematic Rebuttal Against Penis-Envy Almost Had a Creamy End


Those familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s awesomely hysterical and justifiably obsessed-over 1964 film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb are probably aware of the film’s original ending, which was cut by the director during the editing process.

In case you aren’t, and you had always thought it was a little odd that a gigantic long table of food was available for the characters in the war room scenes; there’s a reason that buffet was there. The original screenplay contained a massive, Three Stooges-style food fight (mostly pies) at the end, which was mixed in with the now-familiar montage conclusion. It picked up right from the moment we see Russian Ambassador Alexi de Sadesky (Peter Bull) sneaking away from the group and secretly photographing the “war board” with a spy camera hidden in what looks like a pocket watch (which is the last scene in that room in the film’s final version). Following that, General ‘Buck’ Turgidson (George C. Scott) breaks away from the group who’s arguing about the horrible Doomsday Machine to accuse Sadesky of spying with little cameras. He convinces the rest to search the Ambassador’s “seven bodily orifices” for more cameras. The Ambassador calls the General a “capitalist swine” as he reaches for a cream pie on the massive buffet table behind him and flings it at Turgidson, who ducks, and the pie ends up hitting American President Merkin Muffey (Peter Sellers, in one of three roles in the film) square in the face. Turgidson intones “Gentlemen, the President has been struck down, in the prime of his life and his presidency. I say massive retaliation!” And, in true screwball-style, it escelates into all-out food war amongst those in the war room. While this is all going on, Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) is shown still standing after his miraculous seig-heil wheelchair recovery, which he then contradicts by falling flat on his face, alone. Unable to reach his chair, he snakes across the floor away from the group, inadvertently pushing his wheelchair even farther away from himself. Realizing he needs assistance, he is able to prop himself up on a faraway wall and observe the pie fight (which from his distance appears to be a blurry, white fluster of activity amongst the dark void that is the war room). With the camera in close-up of his face, Dr. Strangelove raises one hand holding a pistol he had in his jacket up to his temple. While still watching the pies fling, he attempts to shoot himself in the head, only to have his black-gloved other hand, which has proved to have a mind of it’s own, stop the gun hand and struggle the gun away from himself. This causes the gun to discharge in the air and makes the others stop and look over. General Turgidson, covered in food, breaks away from the group to assist Dr. Strangelove - who implores everyone to stop “these childish games” and get to the business of planning the re-germination of human society on the planet (and ponder the mental health of President Muffey and Ambassador Sadeskey, who are making ‘pie castles’ in the muck) since the Doomsday Machine has now been set into irreversible motion. To the best of my knowledge, the food fight sequence was intended to be cut in with the rest of the back-and-forth montage that makes up the film’s current ending sequences; Major T.J. ‘King’ Kong (Slim Pickens) and his iconic rodeo bomb-ride scene in mid-air, Dr. Strangelove’s new found ability to erect himself out of his wheelchair, and stock footage of atom bomb clouds exploding over the earth - all set to Vera Lynn cheerily coo-ing the war anthem “We’ll Meet Again.”

The whole pie fight sequence was actually filmed, and took two weeks to shoot at studios in London. Kubrick (a rabid perfectionist) wanted the slapstick scene to wryly encapsulate the ways in which rival countries’ military organizations compete with each other, often compounding non-existing threats into all-out wars. But by all reports, apparently Kubrick found the finished footage came across as too bacchanalian and silly. In the making-of documentary included with the latest DVD release, the film’s cinematographer recounts how in the footage, many of the actors can be seen repeatedly laughing, out of character, during the pie fight (admittedly it must have been hard not to). Realizing how expensive it would be to clean everything and start over, the studio had refused to allow a re-take of the food fight scene before shooting even began. Kubrick made the final decision to leave the whole thing out - giving us the shorter ending we see today. Turns out one of history’s most remarkable and significant art works concerning America’s Cold War era ended with an all-boys food fight that never was, and never will be.

One rumor had it that the J.F.K. assassination in Dallas, which occurred as the film was being made, was the reason the scene was eventually nixed - especially given Turgidson’s line about the President being struck down - but all reports claim this to be just a coincidence (although one true tidbit; because of the Kennedy assassination, one of Major Kong’s original lines while examining the survival kit aboard the B-52 bomber was ‘Shoot, a fellow could have a pretty good weekend in Dallas with all of that stuff’ and was redubbed to ‘in Vegas’ after filming). Dr. Strangelove was adapted as a screenplay from Peter George’s 1958 novel Red Alert, and was intended to be a drama. Kubrick has said that while writing the script (which he worked on with George, as well as satirist Terry Southern), there were so many moments that were inescapably satirical that the screenplay naturally morphed into a black comedy. The book did not include a food fight at the end (or for that matter, the character Dr. Strangelove). Peter George wrote a film novelization (a re-write of Red Alert morphed with the film) in 1964 - and I don’t know but I doubt this book includes the pie fight either.

The pie fight footage isn’t included in any of the DVD releases of the films, and because of the film’s period, I naturally assumed the footage had been lost forever. But apparently it does indeed still exist; it was screened for an audience in 1999 at the National Film Theater in London during a festival of the director’s work following his death that same year. To date, The Kubrick estate has not granted permission for the entire film sequence’s release in any form. But who knows, perhaps a future DVD release, or perhaps even a theatrical re-release, could include it as an extra. As a great fan of this endlessly watchable and perpetually relevant film, I would consider a viewing of just the raw footage a minor miracle.

You can see many stills from this footage at this site. Lots of information on the film can be found here. Of course clicking here will lead you to anything you need to know.

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Space Opera

“New Roswell Drama!? screamed the headline off the cover of the June 6th, 2004 edition of supermarket schlocker World Weekly News; “Gay Aliens Found In UFO Wreck! They Died in a Last Loving Embrace!? Gays in urban legends and unexplained phenomenon are practically nonexistent, although there have been rumors that Bigfoot may be gay …and “true? tales of homosexual ghosts are out there. But the tacky application of sexuality to such universally spooky urban myths is mostly a moot point. In the vast world of actual science fiction however, the quaint playing field for characters who are specifically gay is different, if only ever-so slightly larger; their existence is just one notch above void. The history of science fiction shows that a homosexual characters’ sexuality is often vaguely assigned or symbolized (C3-PO …and also Chewbacca?), or who’s situation is used to possibly mirror the historic struggle of gays in society (The X-Men, who later flatly cashed-in with the introduction of Northstar). This indeterminateness in the best of what the genre has to offer is hardly a *wink-wink* double entendre, it’s undoubtedly left up in the air for the sake of the the lasting quality of the stories. The best “gay? anything in culture is usually made of such stuff; the work’s outsider reputation is left to the gay collective unconscious; a work’s lasting symbolic historical context and relevance is gained and widely agreed upon almost unspoken-ly, later spotlighted for the world at large after gay audiences have been paying attention underground for years. There are however more examples of overtly gay characters in science fiction, who represent a kind of rag-tag, double-outsider history. The earliest recorded example of this is a 1936 novel by Olaf Stapledon called Odd John. There are many more examples. Ghost and horror fiction also has a thin history of such characterization. The later chapters of the Star Trek television series contain a small frenzy of openly gay characters and discussion (there’s even a whole fan-created, gay-themed digital video series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, which is in it’s 7th ’season’). As even more openly accepted social attitudes towards homosexuality in the media (I’d say since around the early 1990’s) have resulted in a glut of openly-gay characters and themes in film, television, mainstream books (and even entire cable channels) - it will be interesting to trace the lasting impact of these newer works, and what, if any, mutated strains of cult appreciation they could spawn over time.

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Cat Power

AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!!!!!
left: Louis Wain’s artwork, 1910,
middle: Egyptian Cat Bastet, 600 B.C.,
right: Disney’s
The Cat From Outer Space, 1978

WARNING: To all those who do not particularly care for cats, you now have a scientific theory to back up your creeping suspicions that felines are indeed evil, and need to be stopped at all costs. Read on to learn and arm yourself - before the secret army of tiny mammals that is the cat population enslaves mankind!!! Scientist Kevin Lafferty has just published a fascinating research paper on a possible parasite that exists in felines which infects humans and changes them into cooing, lovey-dovey, insecure zombie drool-heads who’s day-to-day persona is much more conducive to cats! The ancient Egyptians and Vikings who worshiped and domesticated cats were wrong! But they were powerless. Oh, those brave heroes in the middle ages who were trying to ward off the Black Plague (and the Salem witch-hunters) by massive cat population elimination - well, they were correct after all! Cats are witches! Elitist space-alien snobs! They are bear-walking, beldam charmers! Pitter-patter seductive enchantress hags! Diamond-faced hellcat magician minxes! Meow-y sirens of the final solution! Wrathful, whore-sorcerer warlocks! Necromancers! A cat’s almond eyes? Those are hypo wheel ray guns! Their paws? Pure poison! Their whiskers? A fan of syringes ready to inject your spine with enslaving zombie juice! *shudder* Ever seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Remember the pods? Mmmhmm… how about Disney’s The Cat From Outer Space? Remember the siamese cat floating around in that little glowing orb? Yep. Bingo. Watch again and be very afraid dog lovers, very, very afraid. …oh, wait… what’s that? Ssshhh! I hear a kitten playing with a ball of yarn downstairs! Oh. My. God. Don’t move… it knows too much already…. okay now RUN! Gee I hope my brain’s OK! The mind-controling powers of felines as they continue their recruitment plans to enslave all of mankind and turn our brains into fluffy macrame must be halted! This is war!

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John Mueller’s “A False Sense of Insecurity?”

American family stock photoThought-provoking 2004 paper by Ohio State University’s John Mueller, A False Sense of Insecurity? (PDF file link), is all about some of the coldest, hardest facts of terrorism - compared and contrasted with it’s perception in our society, and the realities of what it means in the rest of the world. One or two debatable points (of view), but over-all this is a hard piece. It’s nice to see so many of the points and statements that I have heard in conversation, said myself or wondered in private - all laid out in one five-page paper with facts to back them up. Whether you find yourself nodding enthusiastically in agreement, or you find it does nothing but get under your skin - this is a great read. Linked as a downloadable PDF file only. There is discussion as well. (found on BoingBoing.net)

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Disco Sempiternity


Leave it to The First Church of Satan Library, using YouTube, to present Jesus singing Gloria Gaynor (be sure to also check out their archived clip of The Kids In The Hall doing The Dr. Seuss Bible Story).

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Darth Nadir

I recently watched the very funny Darth Smartass on YouTube, a waggish re-edit of that scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader’s clamshell pod chair is opening just as that guy is coming in to give him a report. YouTube is unsurprisingly filled with gonzo Star Wars video parodies, re-edits and spoofs - which range from the shockingly homemade to the shockingly good homemade. They often focus on Darth Vader - probably because he’s the easiest character to dress up as and look exactly alike. The hysterical Chad Vader (pictured above) downgrades Vader’s ruthless hand of rule to that of an ordinary grocery store manager. The self-explanatory Darth Vader Taking a Bath is surprisingly effective - a fan’s obsessive private moment (in the bathtub?) painstakingly filmed, edited and dubbed into reality. Space Knights puts The Phantom Menace through a 1930’s trailer filter. This elaborate parody of Revenge of the Sith has great sets, effects and editing… but I wish some of the comedy acting was better (here’s some by the excellent Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders‘ BBC show). This Vader of the Opera take-off is a clever idea, which turned out okay. This CGI-animated clip of Vader and fleet as an orchestra of little toys performing the film’s theme is …odd. Darth DJ is funny but but I hope it was made in the 1990’s. Want claymation? This is a good stop-motion piece imagining a nervous Darth Vader calling the Emperor to let him know the Death Star has been blown up. This overdub of James Earl Jones’ voice over Vader’s is a little disjointed, but is often works. There’s something peculiar about this fan in a Darth Vader costume, who taped himself walking around the strip mall area where a bunch of fans are camped on the sidewalk of an LA movie theater, waiting for opening day of Revenge of the Sith. As is this science class-ish clip of some guys trying to blow-up a paper mache model of the Death Star, which is worth the wait (check out the slo-mo footage at the end too). Star Wars, in particular Darth Vader, has been one of the most pardy-able things since it’s debut in 1977 (check out this way-70’s clip of Vader and Wolfman Jack on The Midnight Express variety TV show). Of course for sheer ha-ha’s; Mel Brooks’ 1987 film Spaceballs needs a mention, as does that weird Star Wars Kid accidental online video (and eventual lawsuit) phenomenon from a few years ago. But I must say that Mad Magazine’s original 70’s and early 80’s print parodies; “Star Roars,” “The Re-Hash of the Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Out” were some of the first - and are undoubtedly my nostalgic favorites (don’t scans of these in their entirety exist anywhere online?)

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The Midnight Sun

You've entered Spawning from season number three of the original “The Twilight Zone” television show, it’s 75th episode “The Midnight Sun” first aired on November 17, 1961, and now broadcasts into syndication oblivion as a low-boil favorite. This episode may not be one of the series’ “classics,” but people always seem to remember it well. The premise concerns an unwelcome “end of the world” scenario and, as usual for the show, just one tight-knit enclosure of individuals is all we see amidst the premise - how they choose to deal with it and each other is how the story is told. What is the particular apocalypse that’s the Earth’s curtain call? Heat. …heat, heat, heat, heat! Overwhelming, relentless, draining, zombifying, dehydrating, sickening, sodden, flies-in-your-brain, horrible HEAT. The planet has somehow been knocked out of it’s elliptical orbit and is in a warped loop, slowly spiraling closer into the sun with each passing day. As the glaring daylight switches over to 24 hours and all systems fail, the city has all but evacuated - with a lone radio in a sweltering apartment warning of criminals and looters taking over. But brave/crazy tenant Norma (Lois Nettleton) and her landlady Mrs. Bronson (Betty Garde) have decided to hole up in that apartment high-rise amidst the swelter (oh God, no!), stay put and hope for the best. As the galactic annihilation roars unseen right outside the front door of their living room - they keep it shut and try in vain to maintain the sense of normalcy that existed before “it” arrived (’it’ being the supernatural conflict seeded into every story by Rod Serling, always well underway before opening credits). And what city are we in? Where do the characters in this heat-wave live? Why the unthinkably sauna-tastic corridors and heaving steam silos of hot weather New York City (horrors!) So, expectedly,during the episode Norma and Mrs. Bronson path doomed time by bitching and picking at each other, interrupted by brief moments of illusionary hope while tending to their hobbies (Norma’s an artist!) and we watch The Greatest City In The World lead all of mankind to fry into a screaming dust ball while on a path to Hell (isn’t every August here like that?) Anyone who’s wondering: in late-summer the city that’s The World’s Dream Factory often turns into The World’s Sweatshop. This particular episode of the show, written by Serling and directed by Anton Leader, is a bit low on the ironical metaphysics - but high on the manipulative atmosphere. The characters are almost never not shown in greasy, grimy perspiration …webby hair and sinewy faces alternately stringy and stressed, wringing out wet sweat rags and shouting and pleading with each other amongst echo-y walls of warping plaster - terrified rats trapped in an impending microwave (regular cutaway shots of a giant sizzling sun outside the window add to the episode’s waxing flame bloom). After an intruder breaks in to provide the gals with some bad company (Serling’s original script also contained a droll scene with a visiting refrigerator repairman), more breeze-less agony ensues, and Norma keeps walking into another room to paint a canvas and try and take her boiling gray matter off of hot death. But when the water has run out, the landlady finally kicks it and the murderous heat inside the apartment causes the thermometer to explode. Hearing the live radio weatherman go nutziod shouty-crackers on the air about the world boiling alive, Norma screams and looks over at her painting to see the pretty landscape collapsing into abstraction as the paint literally melts and pours right off the canvas. She collapses on the floor (cue warbly, downward blurring camera filter) as the world fluxes into a ball of lava. The end of everything. Then… cut to - what’s this? A NYC-scape covered in ice, howling wind and snow? The inside of Norma’s apartment, with her in a bed covered in a blanket, running a fever and attended by the Mrs. Bronson and a doctor? The episode’s “reveal” delivers the punch-line: the Earth had actually been knocked out of it’s elliptical orbit away from the sun, and is slowly locking itself into a permanent ice age. The Earth is actually freezing. The whole horrible urban summertime misery thing was just in Norma’s feaver-y head, to distract her from the death chill; a hallucinatory dream oasis where she fantasized dropping dead from sweating it out in a tiny hot apartment while conceiving kinetic art paintings, quarreling with her landlady, listening to screaming radio DJs, battling psychotic muggers and bitching about the torrid concrete oven of NYC. Ahhhhh….

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From the Basement of Inner Space…

Regular readers of this page can never forget, but for those of you who have not yet experienced this peculiar subculture of apprehensively-lovable but embracingly-nightmarish chameleons - please meet the “gals” of MaskOn.com. Just imagine your great uncle had a secret thing for Ed Gein dress-up. Horror? What horror? Think beauty, glamour and wish fulfillment. Why just look at the expressions on these girl’s faces! John Waters has said of his early films that he always loved filming Divine in nature, because it just looked so “wrong.” Here’s more outdoor splendor. Why not look inconspicuous at your next White House gala? Or your kid sister’s next slumber party? Sporting looks even. Skiing anyone? Ohh… who’s that hiding in the closet? Not me! I’m not afraid! Speaking of, how does this fare in more public, family-oriented atmospheres? Of course outdoor use is practical too, as the device makes the perfect swimsuit - stop wading in the kiddie pool and take a dip in the danger zone! Here’s an Eadweard Muybridge-style slideshow of Caryn getting into herself (Java must be enabled, click ‘Next slide’). Here’s another transformation “reveal.” Here’s another lovely series. Speaking of “lovely,” are they? Well some actually kind of are, in their own weird way. From the rather realistic and stunning to pure cartoon, or even involved in drama. Eeegghh. Others, it’s harder to tell what’s up. If you’d like a mask or body suit, by all means check out Kerry’s massive store and service (explore the site for squeeky oodles of stuff). Oh and be sure to scroll to the very bottom of this page to see Kerry baking one of her own heads… er, masks in the oven (thanks Gregory!) Here are lots of other resources. Look deep outside yourself and let us see the inner you…

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