Saturday, September 3, 2016
From BOING BOING
The scrolls were likely political cartoons of the day, railing against threats to Japan's isolationist policies due to gunboat diplomacy like the Perry Expedition. You can't spell "fine art" without "fart."
Friday, September 2, 2016
"My name is Brian Foster and some people call me The Night Blogger..."
Art and art design by Mike Leonard and S.A. Hunt.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
From An Oral History of “We Built This City,” the Worst Song of All Time
“We Built This City” was written and recorded in stages, by an assembly line of songwriters. (Cancer, too, develops in stages.) Today, its creators are ambivalent about what they've wrought. It has made them wealthy, but years of ridicule have taken a toll. Among the people who now say they hate it are two band members and the guy who wrote the lyrics. “I don't think anybody can take all the credit,” says Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico, “or all the blame..."
Bernie Taupin (lyricist, in 2013): The original song was… a very dark song about how club life in L.A. was being killed off and live acts had no place to go. A producer named Peter Wolf—not the J. Geils Peter Wolf, but a big-time pop guy and Austrian record producer—got ahold of the demo and totally changed it.… If you heard the original demo, you wouldn't even recognize the song...
Grace Slick (Starship vocalist; ‘Vanity Fair,’ June 2012): I was such an asshole for a while, I was trying to make up for it by being sober, which I was all during the '80s, which is a bizarre decade to be sober in. So I was trying to make it up to the band by being a good girl. Here, we're going to sing this song, “We Built This City on Rock & Roll.” Oh, you're shitting me, that's the worst song ever...
Phil lived in the Theta Upsilon Omega frat house; a three story building just a stone’s throw from the SUNY campus. I know what you might be thinking but the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega were not known for their shenanigans. In fact they were more Revenge Of The Nerds than Animal House.
Maybe if Phil had been in one of the more debauchery oriented frats he might have been too busy partying to think about hanging smut on the walls. Maybe if somebody had reminded him there was a whole internet full of faux lesbians just waiting for him to download he would have kept his sixty dollars. Maybe if he had even the slightest understanding of the female sex he would have understood that his shiny new objet d'art would ruin his chances with any young ladies he might have convinced to come up to his room. So many maybes, any one could have saved him but not a one of them did.
They say the kingdom was lost for want of a nail but in this case Phil’s personal kingdom was lost because he had a nail. It was his lousy hammering of the thing that cracked the plaster of his wall into a fist-sized hole. He barely had time to mutter an “Oh shit!” before he saw the slim cardboard box of videotapes crammed between the inner and outer walls of the room.
I suppose Phil could have taken those video tapes to the college’s media center but instead he decided to stop by Vincenzo’s Pawn and pick up a VCR. Oh yeah, we’ve got plenty of the damn things in stock. Make us an offer.
Phil had been hoping to find something scandalous on those tapes but the first two were nothing but episode after episode of Green Acres.
The opening moments of the third video revealed chickens, a whole room full of chickens. The video camera was at floor level giving Phil a coop’s eye view of the proceedings. It speaks to Phil’s investigative spirit, or his boredom, that he fast forwarded through almost twenty minutes of poultry footage. The chickens milled about, the chickens alternately examined and ignored the camera, the chickens crapped everywhere. At the twenty-four minute mark the chickens began to panic. Phil set the VCR from fast forward to play.
A boot came crashing down in the midst of the birds, killing one of them instantly. The animals went wild, the screen became a storm of feathers and panic. Phil watched the pair of boots come down again and again, crushing the life out of the chickens with cruel determination.
Until that moment all he had seen of the ‘star’ of the video was a pair of workboots, a shape wearing heavy winter clothing and a pair of thick hands that clenched and unclenched spasmodically with every downward stomp.
Once all the chickens were dead the owner of the camera picked it up and glared into the blood and shit streaked lens. Whoever they were, they had chosen to hide their face beneath an ugly burlap mask. The picture then went to static. Phil sat there for a moment, shaken and confused, then he rewound the videotape and told his frat brothers there was something they just had to see.
They brought the tapes and the VCR down to the main room of the house. Phil hooked the VCR to the wide screen TV they all shared and then the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega settled in to enjoy the freak show.
Most of the tapes were more Green Acres, hour after hour of the show; sometimes a tape would be nothing more than the same episode over and over again. But mixed in with those shows was other footage, the person filming this never took off their heavy parka or the gunny sack they wore over their head. Maybe it was sexism but the members of Theta Upsilon Omega unanimously decided that this person must be a man.
Just as unanimously they all started referring to this individual as ‘Gunnyhead’.
The Gunnyhead tapes were sometimes unwatchable because of the quality of the recording and other times because of the subject matter. Most of the tapes were of animal mutilations. Fish were left to drown on land, cats and dogs were clumsily vivisected. All the while these animals suffered and died Gunnyhead worked in silence. That was one of the worst parts, if there had been just a touch of fiendish laughter or a few sentences of schizophrenic rambling the audience could have dismissed all this as an elaborate prank or a student film gone off the rails.
That is not to say that Gunnyhead was completely silent. A few hours of footage was devoted to him sitting in an easy chair, still masked and dressed for winter. The angle of the camera showed he was watching his favorite TV show and speaking the dialogue along with the main characters. His voice was soft and strong, a librarian’s voice.
Then there were the tapes with long sequences of Gunnyhead stalking someone. Always the viewer had the camera-eye view of the event as Gunnyhead would choose an individual, seemingly at random, and shadow them for hours. Each of these sequences would end with an abrupt cut to meat being chopped up on a filthy-looking cutting board. The meat was pale, raw and unidentifiable; it might have been just chicken or pork but there was no frame of reference for the audience to be sure.
All the members of Theta Upsilon Omega were certain the ‘meaty’ scenes had been filmed in the kitchen of their house. But when? The layout of the room was the same but the wallpaper and countertop were at least ten years out of touch with modern aesthetics. It was three AM when they loaded the last tape they would watch into the VCR. That was the tape that would send them running to the police, setting in motion a chain of events that would eventually involve yours truly.
The tape began with a close up of a campfire. It wasn’t much of a campfire really, more smoke than flames; probably because it was being fueled by a cluster of twigs, pine needles and a few clumps of organic looking matter. From there the camera swung around to show a hog. It was a huge animal, the kind of pony sized livestock that wins blue ribbons at county fairs. It lay on it’s side, not breathing, not moving at all. The camera drew closer to reveal the hog had been split open from throat to groin, then re-sewn closed again with lengths of metal wire.
Gunnyhead let the camera linger on those ugly stitches then moved his attention to the head of the animal. The mouth was stapled shut, the eyes gouged out.
A muffled sound broke the silence, something white fluttered behind the hog’s empty sockets, fluttered then widened.
Then the poor bastard sewn inside the carcass began to scream.
That was almost five months ago now. The Theta Upsilon Omega frat house has been shut down since winter break and now no one is really sure who owns the place. No one is really sure of anything when it comes to this situation. A real mystery.
That’s why I broke into the building on that frosty February morning. It was cold, too cold for snow but cold enough to keep potential witnesses in their homes. I had everything I thought I might need- a crowbar, a flashlight, my smartphone and some pepper spray. The back door was where I decided to try make my entrance.
Phil Mantillio and his frat brothers had wasted no time in packing up those tapes and bringing them straight to the local police station. They were pretty damn spooked and they didn’t feel much better when a Detective Bradshaw played the tapes back and found... Nothing.
Nothing but Green Acres episodes from beginning to end of them all. From what I’ve heard Detective Bradshaw doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and he isn’t too keen on the rest of humanity as well. He went ballistic on the boys of Theta Upsilon Omega, accusing them of trying to play a Halloween prank.
It took me very little effort to break the lock and get into the house. Once I was in there I closed the door and jammed it shut with the crowbar. I flicked on the flashlight and swept it across the room. Then I took some pictures;
Click: The empty counter and sink. There is a thin layer of dust over everything.
Phil Mantillio disappeared three days later that visit to the police station.
Click: The cabinet doors hanging open, one still has cans of soup stacked in it.
A week after that one of his frat brothers went missing as well.
Click: The parlor is just as empty as the kitchen. Brown butcher paper has been taped over the windows.
After the third vanishing in four weeks all the remaining members of the SUNY chapter of Theta Upsilon Omega quit college and fled to the safety of their parent’s homes; all except for the one guy that joined the army and decided to take his chances in Afghanistan. That was Private Rodney Shinn, and he was the one that told me about all this. He was something of a fan.
Click: There is a single footprint near the front door, the brown imprint of a work boot.
A week later after talking to me Private Rodney Shinn disappeared while on a daylight patrol. The other members of his squad said he had been on point. He went ahead of them around corner and then he was gone.
The last room on the first floor was cramped and windowless. I wondered if they’d used it as a bedroom, or an office or a maybe even a makeshift hydroponics lab. It’s gotta be 4:20 someplace right?
Click: The room is empty, the walls bare and thick with shadows. There is a tripod in the middle of the room, a digital camcorder sits atop it.
I pocketed my smart phone and approached the camcorder. The feeling of being watched didn’t kick in until I crossed from the hallway into that miserable little room. The urge to run became sickening as I passed around to look into the camera’s viewscreen. It was on, it showed an open doorway and walls that obscenities and nonsense verses had been carved into. There was a human figure slumped at the edge of the screen. There was no audio, and it was too dark to make out what the human shape looked like but I was sure it was either shuddering or sobbing.
There was no doubt in my mind this was more of Gunnyhead’s work. I paused to consider that video technology had become so ubiquitous that even the drooling psychopaths of the world were using it.
Speaking of drooling psychopaths the star of the show wandered into frame. A stooped figure wearing a dirty parka and a burlap hood. He peered in the doorway and stared right into the camera. The slumped figure went mad at his presence, squirming and throwing itself back and forth against the wall. Whoever they were they must have been secured expertly to that part of the room. I wondered how, then I thought of the description of the ‘luau video’ and of Gunnyhead’s expert use of wire and staples.
In the time it took me to consider these things Gunnyhead had stepped back out of the doorway, leaving nothing more on screen than the miserable figure in the corner and the defaced walls. I switched off the camcorder and unfastened it from the tripod. I wondered why I was bothering, the tapes had been useless as evidence so why would this thing be any different?
Still though, I had to try, even though if all I got for my troubles was a Green Acres marathon or worse yet the Beverly Hillbillies reunion special.
A floorboard creaked somewhere upstairs. The sound was so loud and sudden that I caught my breath and clutched the camcorder close to my chest.
There was another creak, then another. It was footsteps, slow and deliberate. I decided it was time to retreat.
Unfortunately I retreated right into the damn tripod. It hit the bare floor with a dull thud.
The footsteps stopped. I remember thinking to myself, Gee it sure would be nice to have that crowbar right now.
Heart racing I made my way back to the main hallway of the house, then paused at the bottom of the stairway. It was too dark to see more than halfway up the steps. Someone could have been standing at the top of the landing and I would never know.
A loud scraping noise made me jump. It made me think of spring cleaning and chests of drawers being shifted to find lost keys or pens.
More footsteps, then another thick wooden scraping sound. A moment of silence hung in the air before I heard the keen and crash of something heavy being pushed over.
A voice roared from upstairs, the sound of a madman’s rage. Something else crashed to the floor. Glass shattered. A jabbering howl reverberated through the house.
Then something small and metallic hit the landing. It bounced once and plunked down at my feet. I recognized them for what they were, I picked up the dog tags up and examined them.
They belonged to Rodney Shin.
I nearly knocked myself out trying to get out the back door. It took me the longest five seconds of my life to remember that I had jammed it shut. I whipped out the crowbar throwing it carelessly behind me. Then I was running out of the house, leaving the door hanging open behind me. I ran until my legs ached and my vision started getting gray at the edges.
No doubt about it. Things could have gone better.
I never did find out who lived in that house before the Theta Upsilon Omega boys moved in. There was talk of lawsuits and squatters but nothing concrete. Did anyone ever see a man matching Gunnyhead’s description wandering around sometime in the last couple of decades? Nobody came forward to say so.
It should also be noted for the record that I have no idea who burned that house down a few nights ago. My cousin Roy can account for my whereabouts all week. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Item: There is a lot of talk on the Internet about something called a ‘tulpa’. The legends say that the Tulpa is an imaginary being willed into existence. Think of a dream, or a nightmare, given form, think of imaginary friends brought to life, think of Calvin and Hobbes and Fight Club.
Is it a load of bullshit?
But who hid those tapes in the walls? And how did all that Gunnyhead footage disappear between the fraternity house and the police station? Had it ever been there at all?
Item: No trace has ever been found of the missing members of Theta Upsilon Omega. There are six of them left and they aren’t granting interviews to the likes of me. From what I was able to find out many of these once promising honor students have all become shut-ins and a few of them are hospitalized and receiving the best psychiatric care their parents insurance can buy.
Item: When I got back to the relative safety of the apartment I tried to play back the footage from the camcorder. Except, there was no memory card and this particular model of video camera doesn’t have any kind of internal memory.
Meaning that what I saw playing out on the little screen in that house was a live feed.
I’m writing this to you from the comfort of one of our fine hospitals; the long ugly cut on my arm has been stitched up and the painkillers are just starting to kick in. Before let that happen I want to finish this post. I want you to know the final fate of Prisoner #C44031.
As you know it has been over three weeks since she escaped from the local lockup in an incident as bloody as it was improbable. The manhunt for the lady in question has been widespread in its scope and incompetence. The dragnet extends all the way to the Vermont border, too bad the only notable thing the police have managed to do so far is panic and shoot up a car full of teenagers out for a joy ride. Well, that and to arrest yours truly for loitering around a crime scene.
Thing is, for a homicidal maniac Prisoner #C44031 sure has been keeping a low profile. No fresh kills, no letters to the media, not even a sighting at Arby’s.
You know they say love makes the world go around but bribery is the thing that keeps it spinning smoothly. Bribery is what got me a copy of the document you’re about to read. The same document that helped me figure out where she was hiding.
The police will have found her body by now and no, I had nothing to do with it. I’m a blogger not a vigilante.
How did I guess where she was? You see there had been a break in at the Unique Army-Navy Surplus shop on Central Avenue. Money had been stolen from the cash register, some camouflage clothes and a very special knife, a Nepalese Kukri. If you haven’t seen one it looks like something out of a Sinbad movie, it almost looks like a sickle but the blade is angled instead of curved.
Now there is a place near the Unique Army-Navy Surplus Store, it had been a comic book store but the owners had supplemented their income by growing and selling marijuana. The police had closed the operation down over a year ago but the place was still vacant. Every once in a while they have to chase squatters out of the place.
That’s where Prisoner #C44031 had been camped out all this time. For the record she was dying when I got there. What do I think happened?
I think some idiot - some other idiot- wandered up there and disturbed her. Had she heard him on the stairs? Probably. The need to use that Kukri must have been driving her crazy.
Well, crazier anyway.
She must have jumped at him, slashing and screaming. There must have been a struggle and when it was over she’d stabbed herself in the gut. The idiotic intruder must have taken off, he sure wasn’t there when I showed up. Once again I want that on the record.
I found her staring at the blade jutting out of her stomach, her breathing was shallow and wet. Prisoner #C44031 was smiling; that smile never left her face, not even when she grabbed the handle of the blade with both hands and pushed it deeper. I know it’s insane but I don’t think I’ll ever be as happy as she was in that moment.
Brian Foster out.
August 26th …there are things no one ever expects to hear, and I don't care who you are or where you live, the term Brony Death Cult has to be in your top ten.
But that's what the Albany PD’s Chief of Detectives believed caused the death of Chad Trevi. He even announced it in an impromptu press conference without the slightest trace of self awareness.
One of the first things wrong with their cockamamie theory was that Chad Trevi wasn’t into My Little Ponies, he was all about My Happy Horses. Now for those of you with lives and families please allow me to explain that My Happy Horses are the Go-Bots of the plastic equine world. In other words they were a cheaply made cash-in product created to flood the dollar stores for the holidays.
Of course as soon as Hasbro found out about My Happy Horses they rained hellfire and lawyers down upon the creatively challenged Tomlande Toys Inc and the My Happy Horses line was shut down before it had barely gotten off the ground. Hundreds of the toys were pulled from the shelves and sent away to be destroyed.
That meant the ones that had actually been sold or slipped through the cracks were very rare and very collectible. A complete set of the twelve different horses were very hard to find but Chad had them all, and then some.
Other toy collectors say he had gone to unethical lengths to get them but then again I have no idea what the ethics of toy collecting are.
It all began when Chad was entertaining Les Spencer, a much wealthier My Happy Horses obsessive. We don’t know what was said but friends knew Chad was eager to show off what he was sure would make his collection the envy of his peers.
The showing must not have gone over well. Neighbors reported shouts and a slammed door. A Denny’s waitress positively identified Les as the man drowning his sorrows in an epic stack of pancakes. Les told the police that he went home right after that but the police believe that he then doubled back on foot, somehow got back into Chad Trevi’s apartment and killed him with a blunt object they had yet to find.
The real story is far, far stranger than that…
…another day, another intrusion into a crime scene. It was two days after Chad Trevi met his untimely and unlikely end. It's funny how inured I've become to police tape, I give it about as much passing thought as you give a clicking on a terms of service agreement.
These days however I am a little smarter in my trespasses. I own a jumpsuit just like the ones the guys at Remediation Crime Scene Clean Up use, so now if someone spots me creeping around the site of a violent death they can dismiss me as some working stiff burning the midnight oil.
How should I describe Chad Trevi's apartment? There was a crappy couch, a filthy TV, a sink brimming with dishes and a bag of rank-smelling laundry near the door. Ordinarily fingerprint powder and chalk outlines would stand out like a grim reminder of our ultimate mortality but here they kind of tied the room together.
I spent a few minutes examining the chalk outline. The boards from the section of floor where Chad’s head had been were pulled up. My sources told me that his skull had been stuck with such force that it had driven fragments of bone into the wood.
I’d seen pictures of the police’s main suspect and let me tell you Les Spencer does not look like the kind of guy that could break anything larger than a potato chip, and according to Les’s brother Tom the guy was so squeamish he’d faint at the sight of a rare steak.
That’s how I got involved in all this. Tom Spencer is a member of the Fear And Truth message board. He posts under the name ‘CaptainTrekker’ and he asked me to try and prove his adopted brother was innocent. I warned Tom that any mysteries I stuck my nose into usually ended up having a body count roughly equal to the final act of Hamlet but ‘CaptainTrekker’ was most insistent.
I turned my attention to the second bedroom of Chad’s apartment, where he kept his collection. Now I have to admit my inner child thrilled a little at the sight of so many GI Joes, Micro Machines and Teenage Mutant Ninja figures displayed on glass paneled white oak shelves but it was obvious the true gem of his collection was the My Happy Horses.
The display was a four-tiered pyramid-shaped shelving structure with the plastic toys arranged in ascending order from the most common, relatively speaking, to the rarest. The space at the top of the pyramid was reserved for his pride and joy - Lil’ Blucifer.
The legend of Lil’ Blucifer is an obscure one, and considering the legend is attached to an obscure toy line, I had to go all the way to the second page of my Google search to learn about it. Lil’ Blucifer was designed to be an antagonist for the Happy Horses, an equine antagonist if you will. The design of the toy had been based on the 32 foot tall, garish Blue Mustang statue that marks the entrance to the Denver International Airport. Before being completed the statue fell on his sculptor and killed him. From there things went downhill, it was linked to deaths, madness and the Blue Kachina Prophecy of the Hopi Indians.
A strange idea for a cheap knockoff toy manufacturer. I guess someone was trying to be clever.
Trust me, clever people and hipsters will be the death of this world.
My theory was that somehow, the curse of Big Blucifer passed on to his plastic effigies. Somehow that cheap, hard to find toy had called up a supernatural force that pulverized Chad Trevi with a single strike of its hooves. It was the kind of supernatural force that could only be stopped by clever application of that most blasphemous and blessed sigil, the Sign of Ninazu.
A great theory, but the problem was that the toy wasn’t where it belonged, the top of the display was empty. My sources told me the police hadn’t taken any of Chad’s collection into evidence yet. Had some sticky-fingered cop stolen it? It made no sense to me, suddenly none of this made any sense.
I decided a top to bottom search of the apartment was in order. First I checked beneath the couch, I found a remote control, several empty bags of potato chips and one sock of disturbing stiffness. The bedroom and kitchen were no less disgusting and toy free. All I found in the hall closet was a pair of coats, an umbrella, and an indigo-colored stallion of clydesdale-esque proportions. Blazing red eyes glared down at me as I slowly and carefully closed the closet door.
I got clear of the door just as it exploded into splinters. The daemon horse strode out of the closet, the closet that was too small to hold a bicycle much less a horse from Hell, or Denver.
The world seemed to slow down in it’s proximity, the ticking of the clock, the pace of my terrified breathing, the sound of the traffic outside. The whole world had slowed down except for Blucifer.
Did I mention the damn thing was between me in the exit?
It reared up on it’s hind legs, bloodied hooves cut the air. It’s head passed through the ceiling, the solid plaster rippled like the surface of a pond.
With nowhere else to go I ran into the bathroom and in a gesture of hopeless optimism locked the door behind me. I dropped to my knees and dug the charcoal pen from my pocket.
My hand sketched out the lines, crosses and curves of that most blasphemous and blessed sigil with practiced ease.
There. I thought as I finished, Fastest Ninazu in the Northeast.
It brought the bathroom door crashing down with a single blow from its hooves. One foot came down on the toilet, shattering the porcelain like it was fine china.
The other foot came down dead center in the sign of Ninanzu…
…what else is there to say? If you’ve seen one satanic horse go down like the Wicked Witch of the West you’ve seen them all. The real kicker is what the shattered toilet revealed to me.
A lump of melted plastic that was a very bright shade of blue.
All the pieces fell into place then.
You see Les did go home after he’d had a bite to eat, he’d gone home to his own Lil’ Blucifer. He’d always assumed his was the only remaining one.
You might wonder why, unlike Chad, he didn’t brag about his amazing acquisition. It’s because he understood what the thing really was, and what it could do.
Les Spencer wasn’t the kind of man to make enemies, but over the last two years some people he didn’t like had died unexpectedly.
An ex-girlfriend, a co-worker and now a rival toy collector all dead from one kind of blunt trauma or another.
Yes, I tried to tell the police.
No, they didn’t believe any of it.
Hell, you probably don’t believe me.
Not that it matters, the Spencer family’s high priced lawyer got all charges dropped this morning. Tom and his parents are going to be bringing him home this afternoon. No one’s told Les yet that some lunatic broke into his apartment and left five heat lamps there all going full blast. His beloved toys have been reduced to goop.
Every single one.
I plan to be there when he finds out. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.