Monday, 23 November 2009

"Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Roma-roma-mamaa! Ga-ga-ooh-la-la! Want your bad romance?"

I am continuously confused by Lady Gaga. I want to hate her music on the basis that, in theory, I shouldn't think she's worth my time, but whenever I listen to her stuff I find that she has this amazing grasp of what it takes to make really catchy music, and she's captured this insane zeitgeist that is very much where we are musically right now. But with capturing that zeitgeist so succinctly... does that mean that there needs to be a new one? Because when you capture the essence of something, doesn't that make it mainstream and obvious and something that we as listeners have to reject until we find our own thing to love that we can try to claim is our own but is in fact the new mainstream? And then obviously, rinse, repeat?

Not that I like where we are, of course. But this "RnB", electro-dance fusion, or whatever her genre bending music results in, is kind of permeating the industry, and her stuff... well, it's good, isn't it? But she's had to change everything about herself to get to this place, it seems. She's had to sell out her old identity and create this new one-- and yes, she might be more comfortable inside this skin, but I've seen her videos, and as her career, her amazingly successful, fast track career, has continued, her videos seem to change and the layers that are 'Lady Gaga' are peeled back, and she's becoming someone else entirely.



Obviously Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta had to become something else so that she'd become famous. So Germanotta became Lady Gaga, and she's found success. Obviously, I'm not trying to dissect her career, but it's interesting to see that blotchy fake-tanned, bleach blonde step away from that image.

So we go from her debut video, with obligatory 'hype man' being featured (sorry, I always have this problem with the need for sexist, chauvinistic rappers making appearances in d├ębut singles, ala Flo Rida with the new Alexandra Burke track. It's unnecessary, and really forced nowadays. Almost like it's something that's required for females to break into the business and be successful?)...



...To this video, her latest that I know of...



... and also this Beyonce appearance. Weird shit.



It seems to me like she's no longer hiding her face-- and whilst she isn't the most conventional beauty, she is still quite attractive, but is her 'weirdness' the hook that she had before? And will she have to return to that to continue being successful. Already, reviews for her new LP, the continuation of her first album, are saying that the tracks aren't as good as the ones that came before. And is that connected to the step away from the established Lady Gaga identity?

Not only this, but is she becoming a new form of celebrity? Her lyrics are so self-aware, almost meta-textual in regards to her new position as a major star, the kind of observations that we as fans/listeners make when we buy or hear a new album/single, you know? She seems to buck the usual trends that come with that status. She gives the press intimate looks into her lifestyle, makes stark confessions about other wise taboo subjects (sexuality, money-- and yes, money when it comes to celebrity is a taboo, in my opinion).

It's almost like she's the first in a burgeoning line of nu_celebrity... so what does that entail?

I've not seen many others, none that I could name right here, that are moving in this path, but this is the 21st century, and we've not yet seen a new breed that have emerged from the turn of said century. We've got the holdovers from the dying embers of the last century, of course, and the manufactured popstars that have come from reality television, etc, but nothing that really defines us yet.

So, where will she go from now? I don't know. But it'll be interesting to see, won't it?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Finds #3


This isn't mine. This wasn't written by me. This is research, as per.


Note: This paper was published in Political Psychology 15: 733-744, 1994. This is the original typescript sent to the journal, it does not include any editorial changes that may have been made. The journal itself is not available online, to my knowledge.
Belief in Conspiracy Theories
Ted Goertzel[1]
Running Head: Belief in Conspiracy Theories.
KEY WORDS: conspiracy theories, anomia, trust
A survey of 348 residents of southwestern New Jersey showed that most believed that several of a list of ten conspiracy theories were at least probably true. People who believed in one conspiracy were more likely to also believe in others. Belief in conspiracies was correlated with anomia, lack of interpersonal trust, and insecurity about employment. Black and hispanic respondents were more likely to believe in conspiracy theories than were white respondents. Young people were slightly more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, but there were few significant correlations with gender, educational level, or occupational category.


Reports in the mass media suggested that belief in conspiracies was particularly acute in the United States in 1991 and 1992 (Krauthammer, 1991; Krauss, 1992). The release of the movie J.F.K. triggered a revival of popular interest in America's "conspiracy that won't go away" (Oglesby, 1992). A national survey by the New York Times (1992) showed that only 10% of Americans believed the official account that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assass­inating President John F. Kennedy, while 77% believed that others were involved and 12% didn't know or declined to answer.
Belief in the Kennedy conspiracy has always been strong but seems to have increased as the event became more distant. In 1966, 36% of the respondents in a Gallup poll believed that Oswald acted alone. The percent was 11% in both the 1976 and 1983 Gallup polls and 13% in a 1988 CBS poll (Times, 1992). This increase in belief in the conspiracy has taken place despite the fact that the accumulation of evidence has increasingly supported the lone assassin theory (Moore, 1991).
Perhaps more surprising was the widespread belief, particularly in the African-American and gay communities, that the AIDS epidemic was a deliberate conspiracy by government officials (Bates, 1990; Cooper, 1990; Douglass 1989). A survey of African-American church members by the Southern Christian Leadership Council found that 35% believed AIDS was a form of genocide, while 30% were unsure (Thomas and Quinn, 1991: 1499). 34% of the respondents believed that AIDS is a manmade virus, while 44% were unsure. AIDS specialists say that there is no convincing evidence for this argument, but many African-Americans see a parallel between AIDS and the Tuskeegee syphilis experiments conducted from 1952-1972.
Another conspiracy theory current in 1991 was the "October Surprise," the belief that George Bush and other Republicans conspired with Iranian officials to delay the release of American hostages until after the 1980 elections. This theory, like many others, failed to hold up to careful scrutiny (Barry, 1991), but it continued to be viewed as plausible by many people on both the right and the left.
A number of other conspiracy theories were also current in 1991. Focus group discussions with students at a New Jersey public university, identified the following as widely believed: the conspiracy of Anita Hill and others against Clarence Thomas, the conspiracy by government officials to distribute drugs in American minority communities, the conspiracy of Japanese business­men against the American economy, the conspiracy of the Air Force to conceal the reality of flying saucers, and the conspiracy of the F.B.I. to kill Martin Luther King.
There has been no published information about the prevalence of belief in any these conspiracies. Nor has anyone addressed the question of to what extent belief in conspiracies is a generalized ideological trait, i.e., how likely people who believe in one conspiracy are to believe in others. Nor has there been any previous attempt to discover the psycho­logical or sociological correlates of belief in conspiracies.
Survey Results
A telephone survey was conducted in April, 1992, of 348 randomly selected residents of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in southwestern New Jersey. These counties, which are part of the Philadelphia metropolitan area, are racially, ethnically and sociologically diverse, including inner city underclass neighborhoods and working and middle class suburbs. The sample was stratified to over-represent the impoverished minority community residing in the city of Camden, and the percentages were weighted to reflect the demographic balance in the region as a whole. Two hundred eleven of the respondents were white, 74 were black, 44 were Hispanic, and 19 were Asian or members of other groups. Interviews were conducted by students in a university research methods class, and carefully verified by a staff member. This sample size provides a margin of error of approximately 5.3%.
The first question was "There has recently been a good deal of interest in the assassination of President John Kennedy. Do you think it likely that President Kennedy was killed by an organized conspiracy, or do you think it more likely that he was killed by a lone gunman? Sixty-nine percent of the respondents thought it likely that Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy, 14% by a lone gunman and 17% volunteered that they were uncertain. These figures are close to those in the New York Times/CBS News national survey (Times, 1992) which used very similar question wording.
The respondents were then asked their opinions about nine other conspiracies which had been in the news lately. A four point scale was used, ranging from "definitely true" and "probably true" to "probably false" and "definitely false." "Don't know" was not offered as an alternative, but was recorded when the respondents volunteered it. This question wording encouraged respndents to give their best guess as to the truth of a conspiracy, while relying the distinction between "probably" and "definitely" to distinguish between hunches and strong beliefs. The items and the weighted percentages are in Table One.
Table One
Responses to Survey Items on Conspiracies
2. "Anita Hill was part of an organized conspiracy against Judge Clarence Thomas." Definitely True: 10%. Probably True: 22%. Don't Know (volunteered): 14%. Probably False: 31%. Definitely False: 23%.
3. "The AIDS virus was created deliberately in a government laboratory."
DT: 5% PT: 10% DK: 12% PF: 25% DF: 48%.
4. "The government deliberately spread the AIDS virus in the homosexual community." DT: 3% PT: 8% DK: 9% PF: 26% DF: 54%.
5. "The government deliberately spread the AIDS virus in the black community." DT: 4% PT: 6% DK: 8% PF: 26% DF: 56%.
6. "The Air Force is hiding evidence that the United States has been visited by flying saucers." DT: 12% PT: 29% DK: 11% PF: 25% DF: 23%.
7. "The FBI was involved in the assassination of Martin Luther King."
DT: 9% PT: 33% DK: 16% PF: 22% DF: 20%.
8. "Ronald Reagan and George Bush conspired with the Iranians so that the American hostages would not be released until after the 1980 elections.
DT: 16% PT: 39% DK: 12% PF: 23% DF: 11%.
9. "The Japanese are deliberately conspiring to destroy the American economy." DT: 16% PT: 30% DK: 8% PF: 30% DF: 16%.
10. "The American government deliberately put drugs into the inner city communities." DT: 7% PT: 14% DK: 9% PF: 29% DF: 41%.
Figure 1 shows the number of conspiracies that the respondents believed to be definitely or probably true. Very few (6.2%) of the respondents thought that none of the conspiracies were at least probably true, while 21% thought that two were true and 19% that three were true. These percentages were weighted to correct for the disproportionate sampling of minority respondents.
1Fig. 1. Path Analysis of Determinants of Belief in Conspiracies
African-American respondents were more likely than white or Hispanic respondents to believe in the conspiracies which specifically affected their community. Sixty-two percent of the black respondents believed that it was definitely or probably true that the government deliberately put drugs in black communities. Sixty-eight percent believed that the F.B.I. had been involved in the killing of Martin Luther King. Thirty-one percent believed that the government deliberately put AIDS into the African-American communities. These percentages are reasonably consistent with those from a survey of black church members (Thomas and Quinn, 1991), although our sampling and question wording were different. Because of the smaller number of respondents, percentages based only on the black respondents are subject to an approximate 11% margin of sampling error.
Belief in Conspiracies as a Generalized Dimension
There is remarkably little psychological literature on belief in conspiracy theories. Graumann (1987: 245) observed that this is a "topic of intrinsic psychological interest that has been left to history and to other social sciences." Historians (Groh, 1987) and sociologists (Lipset and Raab, 1970) find that conspiratorial thinking has been central to anti-semitic and other author­itarian belief systems, and to many social movements in both Europe and the United States. A well known historical discussion by Hofstadter (1965) argued that there is a distinct paranoid "style" in American politics. Despite this historical evidence, conspiratorial thinking was not part of the author­itarianism syndrome as originally conceptualized by Adorno, et al. (1950), and has not been addressed in the subsequent research on author­itarianism or related social psychological constructs.
Given this lack of prior empirical research, our first goal was to determine to what extent there is a generalized tendency to believe in conspiracies. The matrix of correlations between the nine conspiracy theory items is shown in Table Two. The table shows a moderate to high level of correlation between many of the items, including several that have no strong logical or topical connection. Most of the correlations are statistically significant, as indicated in the table. A factor analysis determined that the first principal factor explained 37.8% of the variance common to these items. (For the white respondents alone, the first principal factor explained 32.5% of the variance; for the black alone it explained 39.9%). These findings offer strong support for the hypothesis that belief in conspiracies is a generalized ideological dimension.
Table Two
Correlations Between Belief in Specific Conspiracies
Theory 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
1. Kennedy
2. Anita Hill .08
3. Aids Govlab .22** .28**
4. Aids-Gays .11 .24* .69*
5. Aids-Blacks .15* .24** .67* .78**
6. Flying Saucers .24** .15* .21* .19 .11
7. FBI-King .27** .27* .35* .33** .42** .16*
8. Iran Hostages .16* .11 .32** .31** .32** .17** .34**
9. Japanese Econ .07 .29** .20** .23** .22* .03 .24** .17**
10. Drugs-Gov .08 .34** .52** .54** .56** .19** .44** .29** .29**
N of cases: 348 One‑tailed significance: * < .01, ** < .001
Correlates of Belief in Conspiracies
These ten items were used to construct a summated scale of Belief in Conspiracies. This scale had a reliability coefficient (alpha) of .78, confirming that the items have enough variance in common to justify treating them as a scale for this population. The scale was then used to investigate some of the correlates of belief in conspiracies as an attitude dimension.
Belief in Conspiracies was not significantly correlated with gender, educational level or occupational category. There was a weak (r = -.21) negative correlation with age (all correlations mentioned in the text are significant at the .001 level). Attendance at the movie JFK was not correlated with Belief in Conspiracy scores. There was a strong correlation (r = .44) with minority status (defined as white=1, hispanic=2, black=3) and with black race as a dummy variable (r = .42).
The minority status variable was treated as linear for purposes of correlational analysis since this made sense conceptually (hispanics are less stigmatized as a minority than are blacks) and empirically (hispanics were intermediate between whites and blacks in their scores on the variables used in this study). Although the Census treats race and Hispanic ethnicity as two different variables, the sociological reality, at least in New Jersey, is that these are three distinct social groups.
Belief in Conspiracies was significantly correlated (r = .43) with a three-item scale of "Anomia" (alpha = .49) made up of items taken from the General Social Survey of 1990. These items measured the belief that the situation of the average person is getting worse, that it is hardly fair to bring a child into today's world, and that most public officials are not interested in the average man. These items tapped into feelings of discontent with the established institutions of contemporary society which were widely observed by pollsters and pundits in 1991 and 1992. A comparison of scores from this sample with those from the national 1990 sample confirmed that Anomia in this sense was higher in 1992 than in 1990.
The Belief in Conspiracies scale was significantly correlated (r = -.37) with a three-item scale of trust (alpha = .57), which asked whether respon­dents felt that they could trust the police, their neighbors or their relatives. The Belief in Conspiracies scale was also significantly correlated (r = .21) with the item "thinking about the next 12 months, how likely do you think it is that you will lose your job or be laid off."
Table Three shows the means scores of each of the racial/ethnic groups on each of the attitude scales.
Table Three
Means Scores of Racial/Ethnic Groups on Attitude Scales
White Hispanic Black
Scale
Belief in Conspiracies 2.5 2.8 3.3
Anomia 3.4 3.8 4.1
Trust 3.7 3.3 3.1
Note: All scales varied from 1 to 5, with 3 as a neutral score.
Group differences on all three scales were statistically significant at the .001 level by analysis of variance test.
In a multivariate regression analysis of the determinants of Belief in Conspiracies, age and economic insecurity were not statistically significant. The variables which retained significance were minority status, anomia and trust. The multivariate relationships are shown most clearly in the path analysis in Figure 2. Minority status and Anomia are clearly the strongest determinants of Belief in Conspiracies. Minority status is also strongly correlated with Anomia and with lower levels of interpersonal Trust. The correlation between Trust and Belief in Conspiracies was weakened when anomia and minority status were controlled, but it retained statistical sig­nificance.
The correlation between minority status and Belief in Conspiracies was elevated by the fact that our questions included several conspiracies alleged to have been directed specifically at blacks. Black respondents were much more likely to believe in these conspiracies than were white or hispanic respondents. However, the data in Table Four show that minority status was positively correlated with belief in several of the conspiracies which had nothing to do with minorities, such as the Iran Hostage conspiracy and the Japanese conspiracy against the American economy. Minority status was not, however, correlated with the belief that President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy or that the Air Force is hiding evidence about flying saucers. Belief in the Kennedy conspiracy seems to have become part of the conventional wisdom in all sectors of society, while the flying saucers item may tap into a "new age" belief system not measured by the other items.
Among white respondents, belief in the AIDS conspiracies and the Martin Luther King conspiracy were negatively correlated with educational level. There were no other significant bivariate correlations between education and belief in conspiracies. There was no evidence of an interaction effect between educational level and anomia which might have caused an especially high level of belief in certain conspiracies among highly educated anomics. Multivariate regression did show, however, that both education and anomia were significant as determinants of belief in the Kennedy conspiracy for the sample as a whole.
Table Four also shows the correlations between the scales of Anomia and Trust and the ten conspiracy items. The Anomia scale is significantly correlated with all of the items except the one about flying saucers, which supports the idea that this item may tap into a different belief system. The Trust scale is significantly correlated with most of the conspiracies, although the correlations are lower and do not achieve statistical significance in the case of the Kennedy, Anita Hill and flying saucer conspiracies.
Table Four
Correlations of Minority Status, Anomia and Trust with Conspiracy Items
Minority Anomia Trust
Status
Kennedy .03 .17** ‑.10
Anita Hill .28** .18** ‑.10
Aids-govt .43** .36** ‑.31**
Aids-gays .39** .35** ‑.30**
AIDS-blacks .38** .35** ‑.32**
Flying Saucers ‑.05 .11 ‑.11
FBI-King .31** .34** ‑.26**
Iran Hostages .23** .43** ‑.16*
Japanese .19** .28** ‑.19**
Drugs-govt .55** .43** ‑.40**
N of cases: 329 One‑tailed significance: * ‑ .01 ** ‑ .001
Discussion
These data confirm that conspiracy theories are alive and well in contemporary American society. Most respondents are inclined to believe that several of a list of conspiracies are probably or definitely true. The tendency to believe in conspiracies is correlated with anomia, with a lack of trust in other people, and with feelings of insecurity about unemployment. It is also more common among black and hispanic respondents than among white respondents, at least for this New Jersey sample. The correlations with minority status do not disappear when anomia, trust level and insecurity about unemployment are controlled, although it is true that minorities in the sample are more anomic, distrustful and insecure about their job opportunities.
The strong correlation with the scale of Anomia indicates that Belief in Conspiracies is associated with the feelings of alienation and disaffection from the system. Volkan (1985) suggests that during periods of insecurity and discontent people often feel a need for a tangible enemy on which to externalize their angry feelings. Conspiracy theories may help in this process by providing a tangible enemy to blame for problems which otherwise seem too abstract and impersonal. Conspiracy theories also provide ready answers for unanswered questions and help to resolve contradictions between known "facts" and an individual's belief system.
Theoretical Implications
It is puzzling that conspiratorial thinking has been overlooked in the extensive research on authoritarianism which has dominated quantitative work in political psychology since the 1950s. One possible explanation is that much of this work focuses on right-wing authoritarianism (Altmeyer, 1988), while conspiratorial thinking is characteristic of alienated thinkers on both the right and the left (Citrin, et al., 1975; Graumann, 1987; Berlet, 1992). Even more surprisingly, however, conspiratorial thinking has not been a focus of the efforts to measure "left-wing authoritarianism" (Stone, 1980; Eysenck, 1981; LeVasseur & Gold, 1993) or of research with the "dogmatism" concept (Rokeach, 1960) which was intended to overcome the ideological bias in authoritarianism measures.
On a more fundamental level, the difficulty with existing research traditions may be their focus on the content of beliefs rather than the resondent's cognitive processes or emotional makeup. As I have argued elsewhere (Goertzel, 1987), most studies of authoritarianism simply ask people what they believe and then assume that these beliefs must be based on underlying psychological processes which go unmeasured. Since these scales ask mostly about beliefs held by those on the right, it is not surprising that they find authoritarianism to be a right-wing phenomenon. Research with projective tests (Rothman and Lichter, 1982) and biographical materials (Goertzel, 1992), on the other hand, has confirmed that many aspects of authoritarian thinking can be found on both the left and the right.
Recent developments in artificial intelligence, chaos theory and neuropsychology are providing a framework which may enable political psychologists to go beyond this focus on the content of beliefs (Eiser, forthcoming). In Chaotic Logic, Benjamin Goertzel (forthcoming) develops a mathematical model of belief systems as part of a larger model of the structure and evolution of intelligence (B. Goertzel, 1993a, 1993b). In this model, he shows that belief systems can be characterized as dialogical or monological. Dialogical belief systems engage in a dialogue with their context, while monological systems speak only to themselves, ignoring their context in all but the shallowest respects. This mathematical model quantifies the philosophical distinction between the "open" and "closed" mind.
Conspiratorial beliefs are useful in monological belief systems since they provide an easy, automatic explanation for any new phenomenon which might threaten the belief system. In a monological belief system, each of the beliefs serves as evidence for each of the other beliefs. The more conspiracies a monological thinker believes in, the more likely he or she is to believe in any new conspiracy theory which may be proposed. Thus African- Americans, who are more likely to be aware of the Tuskeegee syphillis conspiracy, are predisposed to believe that AIDS may also be a conspiracy, while this idea may seem absurd to people who are unfamiliar with past medical abuses.
Of course, conspiracies are sometimes real and not all conspiracy theories are rooted in monological belief systems. Today, everyone acknowledges the reality of the Watergate cover-up conspiracy because the tape recordings provided such strong evidence. The key issue is not the belief in a specific conspiracy, but the logical processes which led to that belief. As with other belief systems, conspiracy theories can be evaluated according to their productivity (B. Goertzel, forthcoming). To the extent that they are productive, belief systems generate new patterns of thought in response to new issues and problems. Some conspiracy thinkers are productive in this sense. They develop highly idiosyncratic theories and gather extensive evidence to test them. Brock (1993), for example, has recently uncovered a great deal of factual evidence relevant to a hypothesized conspiracy to defeat Clarence Thomas's confirmation to the United States Supreme Court. Although Brock could be characterized as a conspiracy theorist, at least with regard to this case, the structure of his argument is less monological than that of many opponents of this particular conspiracy theory who rely on discussions of wider societal issues which add no new information about the particular case (Morrison, 1992). Of course, dialogical thinkers who sympathize with Anita Hill can find flaws in Brock's case and cite other facts in Hill's defense (Mayer and Abramson, 1993).
Dialogical conspiracy theories, which include extensive factual evidence and details, are testable and may even be disconfirmed by new evidence. On rare occasions, a conspiracy expert may even become a turncoat, abandoning a belief which is not supported by the preponderance of evidence (Moore, 1990). Many people seem to respond to dialogical conspiracy arguments according to their ideological scripts (Goertzel, 1992). In just the New York Times, for example, reviewers of and commentators on Brock's book about Anita Hill found it to be "sleaze with footnotes" (Lewis, 1993), "a book that sinks beneath its bias" (Quindlen, 1993), "well written, carefully researched and powerful in its logic" (Lehmann-Haupt, 1993) and a book with "opinionated and sloppily presented arguments" which nonetheless "badly damages [Anita Hill's] case" (Wilkinson, 1993). A Washington Post reviewer characterized it as "the first salvo in a long and salutary search for the truth of an affair that is taking place alongside the Kennedy assassination and Watergate as one of the nation's unsolved political mysteries" (Shales, 1993).
Monological conspiracy thinkers do not search for factual evidence to test their theories. Instead, they offer the same hackneyed explanation for every problem - it's the conspiracy of the Jews, the capitalists, the patriarchy, the communists, the medical establishment, or whatever. In these cases, the proof which is offered is not evidence about the specific incident or issue, but the general pattern, e.g., the X conspiracy has been responsible for all of our other problems so it is obvious that they must be responsible for this one as well. For example, Crenshaw (1992) observed that black women have been racially and sexually abused by the white male power structure throughout American history. She then simply assumed that Anita Hill's allegations should be viewed as an example of this pattern, never stopping to examine the factual basis for the particular allegations at hand.
To fully test the model of conspiratorial thinking as part of a monological belief system, we would need time series data to determine how change in belief about one conspiracy effects change in belief in another. On a more qualitative level, we would predict that monological conspiracy thinkers would be more likely to defend their beliefs about a given case by citing evidence about other cases. They would be less likely to rely on evidence which is available to everyone in public sources, and more likely to depend on untestable suppositions and abstract principles. It would be difficult to test these hypotheses with questionnaire data, but they could be tested with content analyses of published literature or with depth interviews.
REFERENCES
Adorno, T.W., Frenkel-Brunswick, E., Levinson, D.J., and Sanford, R.N. (1950). The authoritarian personality, New York: Harper and Row.
Barry, J. (1991). Making of a myth. Newsweek (November 11): 18-26.
Bates, K.D. (1990) Is it genocide? Essence, September: 76-117.
Berlet, C. (1992). "Friendly fascists: the far right tries to move in on the left. The progressive 56(June): 16-20.
Brock, D. (1993). The Real Anita Hill. New York: Free Press.
Citrin, J., McClosky, H., Shanks, J.M., & Sniderman, P. (1972). "Personal and political sources of political alienation." Br J. of Pol. Sci 5: 1-31
Cooper, M. (1990). The return of the paranoid style in American politics. U.S. news and world report (March 12): 30-31.
Crenshaw, K. (1992). "Whose story is it anyway; feminist and antiraciast appropriations of Anita Hill." Pp. 402-436 in T. Morrison, ed., Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power. New York: Pantheon.
Douglass, W.C. AIDS: the end of civilization. Clayton, GA: Valet.
Eiser, J.R. (forthcoming). Attitudes, chaos and the connectionist mind. London: Blackwell.
Eysenck, H.J. (1981). "Left-wing authoritarianism: myth or reality?" Political Psychology 3:234-238.
Goertzel, B. (1993a). The structure of intelligence. New York: Springer-Verlag.
Goertzel, B. (1993b). The evolving mind. New York: Gordon and Breach.
Goertzel, B. (forthcoming). Chaotic logic. New York: Plenum.
Goertzel, T. (1987). "Authoritarianism of personality and political attitudes," J. Social Psy. 127: 7‑18.
Goertzel, T. (1992). Turncoats and true believers: the dynamics of political belief and disillusionment. Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books.
Graumann, C.F. (1987). Conspiracy: history and social psychology - a synopsis. In C.F. Graumann and S. Moscovici (Eds.), Changing conceptions of conspiracy (pp. 245-251) New York: Springer-Verlag.
Groh, D. (1987). The temptation of conspiracy theory, or: why do bad things happen to good people? In C.F. Graumann and S. Moscovici (Eds.), Changing conceptions of conspiracy (pp. 1-38) New York: Springer-Verlag.
Groner, J. (1993). "The Thomas-Hill debate: a revisionist's view." Washington Post (May 3): C1.
Krauss, C. (1992). 28 years after Kennedy's assassination, conspiracy theories refuse to die. New York Times (January 5): 12.
Krauthammer, C. (1991). A rash of conspiracy theories.
Washington Post (July 5): A19.
Lehman-Haupt, C. "Peering behind the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas matter." New York Times (April 26), C18.
LeVasseur, J. and Gold, J. (1993). "In search of left-wing authoritarianism." Paper presented at the 1993 meetings of the International Society for Political Psychology.
Lewis, A. (1993). "Sleaze with footnotes." New York Times (May 21, 1993): 11.
Lipset, S.M. and Raab, E. (1970). The Politics of Unreason. New York: Harper.
Mayer, J. and Abramson, J. (1993). "The surreal Anita Hill." The New Yorker 69 (May 24): 90-96.
Morrison, T. (1992). Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power. New York: Pantheon.
Moore, J. (1990). Conspiracy of One. Fort Worth: Summit.
Quindlen, A. (1993). "The real Anita Hill?" New York Times (April 25) Section 4: 17.
Rokeach, M. (1960). The Open and Closed Mind. New York: Basic Books.
Oglesby, C. (1992). The conspiracy that won't go away. Playboy 39 (February), 75-149.
Stone, W. (1980). The myth of left-wing authoritarianism. Political Psychology 2:3-19.
Thomas, S.B. and Quinn, S.C. The Tuskegee syphilis study, 1932-1972. American Journal of Public Health 60, 1498-1505.
Times, New York. (1992) New York Times/CBS News state of the union poll, January 22-25 (unpublished report supplied by the Times survey department).
Volkan, V. (1988). The need to have enemies and allies. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
Wilkinson, S. (1993). "The case against Anita Hill." New York Times (May 23) Book Review Section, p. 11.


[1]Rutgers University, Camden NJ 08102.

"Keep running up that hill..."


There has to be something terribly wrong with the world if these are the top searches on Yahoo's home page when logging on to Firefox.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

"This Is It! This Is It!"

Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' is a horrific piece of work. I'm not a fan of the man-- I've said as much before, in previous blogage. But I do believe he was the one and only King of Pop, and from what I've seen of his interaction with the members of the ensemble he had arranged for the blow out final tour known as 'This Is It'. He brought people out into the spotlight, and I'm sure stars would have been born if the tour actually happened. But he's a broken man in this thing. He spouts religious rhetoric as if he's had a stroke, repeating the same sentence-- "God bless you."-- again and again, so people can hear him.

But here's the thing-- he was the King of Pop. And I don't know if 'This Is It' was always intended to be released but... it shows him at his weakest. At his lowest. This was rehearsal footage, was it not? Not him being the brilliant entertainer we know him capable of being. This him going through the motions of getting a tour together. This isn't what people want to see, is it? Well, actually, it is, more than likely. I sometimes forget that I'm apart in my opinions from the general populous.

I have celebrity, or, to be more specific, our celebrity-obsessed culture. So this piece of exploitation is something bound to get on my wick, is it not? I have to admit, hearing the songs is a delight, but his voice quality isn't what it was. No way. It's depressing to see a once great performer slumming it through songs, so he doesn't 'strain his voice' for the actual performances.

Boo.

Here's what I would have preferred to see-- a retrospective. A collection of concert footage, videos, etc, that showed him at his best, not his worst. 00s Jackson was never going to surpass 70s/80s Jackson, and that's plain to see for those watching. But people won't care. They'll just want to 'meet the man you never did/will' or whatever the film's tagline is. People want a piece. Constantly, unrelentingly, and it's sick. It's like trying to get bits of his body from the open casket, hair and skin and fingers and rings and stuff, just like they used to do with Popes.

The one good thing to come out of this though, is that I got to hear the Vincent Price Thriller rap in a cinema screen. That shit is sexy HOT. God love the man.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

"Tell me what you've seen, tell me where you've gone, tell me where you've been, tell me what you saw."

I know what Rives was talking about.

I'm ill. Swallowing feels like downing razor blades, my throat feelred and raw and unbelieably previous in it's position of "there". My throat feels like it could topple down at any time, and fall into the pit of my uneasy stomach and stay there. I'm listening to Blonde Redhead to make me feel better (a thought I think I feel is ridiculous, considering).

I can't stop thinking.

I promised myself I'd keep my work at work but I keep thinking about work and thinking about work is counterproductive toward sleep, but I can't help it. I'm thinking about getting told off for losing 3d glasses (we have non-disposable ones) when I next go into work. I'm thinking about how Michael Jackson's This Is It is already one of the highest grossing films of all time, beating Star Wars no less, on presales. I'm thinking about how that's going to be a rough one when it opens on Wednesday. I'm thinking about my twelve hour shift then, and how I'll deal with it. I'm thinking about "Bear Flu" and how awesome a concept that is. Because come on. It is.

My dreams have a narrative tonight. All fevered and disjointed but a narrative none the less. There's a game running in there, something about fighting zombies. But at least I'm not talking in my sleep... that's counterproductive to Life. The concept, not the amazing television show starring Damien Lewis. I'm thinking about DVDs. I'm thinking about sleep.

But I can't.

I found out I'm up for promotion, but so are three, maybe four other people, and they're all stabbing each other and me in the back. I don't know if I want to know who they are to gauge my competition, or to back stab them as well. It's not in my nature to betray, so why would they do it to me? And why would I start making mistakes when I'm up for promotion and people are paying attention to me. What's up with that? I mean, apparently it's good. Healthy. But I don't know. I really don't.

Anyway, it's 4am, and I'm awake. Laptop battery will die soon. So that'll be that. And I'll be here again. Rudderless. Brr.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

"I Hate This Place, I Hate This Town"

My aim is to have my 100th post be the entirety-- or the first part, depending on how big it ends up being-- of "The Chain", the novel[la] I'm working on. I know if I take a different view at it, a different angle, then it'll come together, but right now I'm struggling somewhat. It's becoming too... unwieldy, and I have to par back or it'll become something I'll never finish. It's a blast to write, duh, else I wouldn't keep doing it, but I want to just get down to the conclusion. I started the final scenes, in fact, but got distracted yet again by work, which is a bummer.

Anyways, I'm off to work now.

Rives - Is 4am The New Midnight?

It makes such perfect sense.

J.J. Abrams - The Mystery Box

I save these things for myself for later. I think you have to. If you find something that opens your eyes and makes you think, then you have to save it, else you might lose that piece of inspiration, and then you're not the better for it. Not one bit.

Rives - Gorgeous

This man is a genius. A poetic genius that I have not seen surpassed.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Track #14: Jack Conte - Oh Hell (Live)

I loved this song from the first time I heard it.

"Oh, Hell..."

Sunday, 27 September 2009

SUPER-SANITY--! #4

I'm going to take a break from the norm and just highlight some links and articles of interest from the past few months that I liked. I'm not feeling particularly super, nor am I feeling very sane, so this will have to do for now...

1) This is an interview done by my dear friend Brian Burchette, talking to Marian Churchland about her first graphic novel "Beast!", and what follows is a short excerpt:

Now I've read the After-word to the book, so I've gotten some of the history of the creation of this title, but let me ask you: How long was the character of Beast actually floating in your mind before you were able to put him on paper?

It's hard to pin-down, because so many of my stories (or initial ideas for stories) have a character that resembles Beast. I think that his specific design, though - the shadowy tendril thing - first showed up in a story I fiddled with briefly a couple years before I began the book, about a girl in medieval Ireland searching for her missing brother in a ruined castle. Sort of a ye-olde Resident Evil, in which the lord of the castle was an oddly polite gentleman-monster. The story never worked out, but the monster stuck around.


2) I'm a big fan of Grant Morrison, and this interview from The Onion's A.V. Club, is really cool and insightful. Morrison is one of the greatest [comic] writers of this generation, up with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Julius Schwartz, Neil Gaiman, etc and etc.

GM: Secretly, I’ve always felt I had more in common with the modernist approach than with postmodernism, but I can see where the connection might arise—and to be honest, I’m no academic, so I tend to use these words, like in Alice In Wonderland, to mean what I want them to mean rather than what they actually do mean. I could point to “classical” influences on the style of All-Star Superman, or a “romantic” approach to Batman, but I’m sure any competent English lit professor could shoot me down in flames in an instant. I just do what I do because it feels right. Other people attach labels to that. I aspire in my work to the kind of luminous, “authorless” poetic transparency found in Alan Garner’s brilliant novels Thursbitch and Strandloper, but I’m far from reaching that goal.

3) This is one of the greatest pitches that has never seen publication. There have been many pieces of comic book brilliancy that have been written, pencilled, printed, and then pulped because of questionable content. Swamp Thing meeting Jesus? Written, I believe pencilled, and then scrapped at the last moment because people would get all uproarious. Warren Ellis' greatest issue of Hellblazer was drawn by Phil Jimenez, called "Shoot", and never put on sale. I've read it on the internet, I have it on my laptop, and I treasure the greatness of it. I'll post it up one of these days, but for now, this pitch is one of the greatest untold stories of the DC universe. Written by Alan Moore-- and if you don't know him now, then you can drop off the map of popular culture-- and influencing a legion of writers since, Twilight of the Gods is simply amazing.

...The body of Congo Bill, now over ninety years old, refuses to die. The gorilla mind that has been trapped in it unfairly refuses to let go and is hanging on with a fierce and horrible willpower. Unable to bring himself to kill it outright, Congorilla keeps the shackled and naked old man in special rooms at his apartment, feeds it garbage and hopes it will die soon, but it doesn't. It just lies in the corner and snarls weakly when he enters and fixes him with its ancient glaring eyes as he gives it its food.

4) And finally, this site is the one I turn to whenever I want to find out about the latest in horror. It's amazing, concise, and you should always have a resource when you want some weird shit funnelling into your brain. Oh, and also 5) Warren Ellis' blog, which, heh, is concentrated weird shit being funnelled into a brain.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Track #12: PJ Harvey - A Place Called Home

This has always been one of my favourite songs.

You wouldn't know this.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Track #11: The Guess Who - American Woman (Live)

AMERICAN WOMAN, STAY AWAY FROM ME! AMERICAN WOMAN! MOMMA, LET ME BE!

SUPER-SANITY--! #3

I'm a big comic book fan.

If you know me at all well, you'll know this. In case you didn't know, my room would tell you as much. My walls currently hold a number of posters, including: some Bryan Hitch's Ultimates 2 action, a John Cassaday Captain America piece of propaganda brilliance, some classy Mike Wieringo (RIP) Fantastic Four, two Mike Mignola Hellboy pieces, and an ad for the classic James Robinson/Tony Harris Starman series. Not to mention some Countdown to Infinite Crisis ads, some Green Lantern Corps and a Ghost in the Shell 2 movie poster from my old local cinema.

I read comics. and I love reading them. It's a hobby/habit, whatever. I'm also a comic book writer. The Lucifer Cage, my series with Craig Cermak (see his DeviantArt page here), has seen it's first six page installment published in the proto-indie horror anthology Psychotronik Comics Presents #1 (purchase here), and we're working on producing more pretty much, I think, constantly.

I digress.

A few months, when I started work on my "novel" again, I started scouring the internet for inspiration, things to get me thinking and writing. I need a constant source of inspiration, else my ability to write dries up, and I'm up a creek, so this is kind of imperative for me. I scoured DeviantArt for art-- because I love looking at that kind of stuff, and I saw amateur, non-professional interpretations of established characters. I saw original art. I saw sunrises and sunsets, I saw women and I saw men, and I started thinking about people, and the human body.

I started thinking about how people aren't really... people. They're a collections of lines and shapes, and that if you put those lines and shapes together you make a person. Without those lines and shapes, you're just a blob of nothing, a mass of flesh, and that's not a human being, is it? The most beautiful people are the most elegantly, put together collection of lines, whilst the unattractive are a blurred interpretation of humanity, and therefore flawed.

(Namor, sharp undersea mother-fucker, art by John Buscema: Legend. Sharp lines convey strength, attraction, and bad-ass-under-sea-mother-fuckery)

&
(Namor, skeevy, slimey, dirty fish-dude, with soft lines and round shapes, based around, I do believe, Robert DeNiro. Drawn by Alex Maleev. Which is interesting because Maleev drew Namor before much more elegantly. More on that down the line, I think...)

When you consider comic book characters, Superman, for instance, he's conveyed in thick, strong lines. he's chiselled, well defined. He's pure and he's strong and you can see him as clear as day. Batman, on the other hand, is seeping into the shadows in which he strikes from, blurred and ill-defined, just as his intentions are to the ignorant viewer? Archetypes, maybe? lines defining the character, the person? I don't know. sometimes we hide behind our features, our hair, our clothes, and we become someone different. But underneath, our "lines" remain the same.

I'm not entirely sure.

SUPER-SANITY--! #3 -- Coming Tomorrow...

For those of you reading, all... umm... none of you... I'll write up another Super Sanity--! tomorrow, because I've had a rough day at work on Sunday, and I don't have the concentration to do anything more than microblog.

Aehah.

Track #10: Sia - Don't Bring Me Down (Live)

I adore this song on so many levels. I can barley describe how Sia's voice makes me feel, and I don't think I'll try. It's not for me to muddy the views you'd have of this song/singer. If you love it, you love it, if you don't, more fool you, but fine.

Enjoy.

Friday, 18 September 2009

"Steal it!"

"I think, fundamentally, music is something inherently people love and need and relate to, and a lot of what's out right now feels like McDonalds. It's quick-fix. You kind of have a stomach-ache afterwards."
-- Trent Reznor (09/29/2005)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Track #9: Queens of the Stone Age - The Blood Is Love (Contradictator remix)

This is one of my all time favourite remixes of a Queens of the Stone Age track, and is just as good, if not better, than the original. If you like music, you have to listen to this.

Finds #2

Don't get me wrong, of course. I love a bit of poetry. And I adore this rhyming couplet from "Time Is Running Away". It's elegant in it's simplicity, and I'll let it speak for itself. Until you finish reading it and I give it a bit of commentary. Woop.

"Now that my roses are starting to rust,
all of your fairies are turning to dust."

That's wonderful. That really is. The death of the past, the magic and the wonder, because of progress, because of industrialisation, yeah? That's insightful, that's magical, and the way in which she interprets this passing of societal views... it's sublime.

So yeah, it's not because I hate poetry. I hate bad poetry. I hate people taking advantage of a situation, and the work lacking that emotional resonance.

This is good. This is effective.

Exeunt.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Track #8: Carleton Singing Knights - Kids (MGMT cover)

I am not a fan of MGMT, they're... easy. Anyways, I do like this A Capella cover of their track "Kids", and it's a wonderfully put together version. Enjoy.

Finds #1

Located at "Paramours of Prose", this morbid, morbid, horrid little poem makes me feel very horrible inside. It's like a strange, populist hymn for the dead, for the gone, and I can't support the sentiment behind it. Yes, Baby P is dead, but, but, he's not yours, is he? He couldn't be. We mourn the passed, but we should never... I... oh, it makes me feel so strange.

Here's the poem, by "Welford Soar", entitled, easily enough, "Poem for Baby P":

If you were my little boy,
You’d go to sleep every night in a cradle of wishes.
If you were my little boy,
I’d banish nightmare monsters with White Magick.
If you were my little boy,
I’d keep you safe from harm in a playpen of love.
If you were my little boy,
Together we’d build coloured cities of LEGO.
If you were my little boy,
Your lips would never contort with tortured cries.
If you were my little boy,
My words would weave a bonnet for your little cherub’s head.
If you were my little boy,
Your brain would be brimful of ideas and education.
If you were my little boy,
You’d know what a mother’s love really was.
If only Baby Peter were my little boy.

I might write a poem in the next few days, entitled, "Poem for Adolf", in which I basically outline how the world would have been different if I was Hitler. Jeez, it gets me all riled up.

Edit 16/9/09: I figured out what it is. IT'S EXPLOITATION. It's a fucking pathetic form of exploitation that is poorly idealised and poorly executed. A kernel of an idea that's so self-important that it fails to have an emotional connection with the reader other than to piss them off. So fuck you, 'Welford Soar', you self important little sow. Fuck. You.

The poem belongs to the writer, and the writer alone. I've posted it up for snarky, disgusted review purposes, and I've linked to the original source. This is what you get when you upload anything to the internet. God.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

SUPER-SANITY--! #2

We live in interesting times.

Whilst perusing the stalls and the kitsch in Venice, I came across something amazing.

Something you need to know about me, before I tell you more, is that I'm a big fan of Threadless T-shirts (to be found at www.threadless.com). A lot of my wardrobe space is taken up with hoodies and shirts from this site, and I adore every one of them.

The 'something amazing' that I came across was a stall taken up with dozens of Threadless designs, some I own, some I have wanted to own, and some I-didn't-want-to-own-but-now-wanted-to-own-because-they're-awesome. So I paused, and remembered an event back when I started working at the cinema. A guy who I didn't know what wearing a shirt with this Threadless design upon it:

(Click the design to go to the site where this design is from. The real site.)

I was quite impressed, as you might guess, and approached said-guy. "You're a Threadless fan?" A look of bemusement crossed his face. In months to come I'd realise that the look of bemusement was a common one, and that said-guy was a complete douche, but at that moment, I still held out hope for our friendship. I pressed on: "Your shirt, from Threadless, right?" Again, bemusement, and he replied after a moment's hesitation: "No, I got this from Singapore."

And this was my first memorable, heart-breaking confrontation with the counterfeit culture we exist within. Copies are wrought within this world-- illegal pirate DVDs, films, albums, singles-- and apparently-- T-shirts. Where does the real end and the fakery begin? If people will steal designs from a not-so-mainstream website to get sales, where will they stop?

We're told that piracy is funding terrorism, and all this horrific "buzz-word-horror" that permeates our lives. Question: Who hasn't taken something they've wanted when the real product is too expensive, or too out of reach to really grasp? Sometimes, stealing is our only option. And are you saying that some bands can't afford for their fans to download their stuff? A true fan will purchase whatever they can to support their favourites. They'll go to concerts, buy shirts, CDs, anything, but in the short-term, does a download hurt?

I don't know. That's another thread entirely, and I digress.

The shirts I found were of a whole different quality all together. Yes, they were hypothetically cheaper, but you get what you pay for-- the shirt was thicker, the design almost iron-on. Did I consider buying one? Yes. But then I realised that there's a reason I buy from Threadless, and that's because I enjoy their products, and I don't want to perpetuate the idea of T-shirt-piracy. It almost seems idiotic when spoken out loud, but this is a microcosm-- or a maxi-cosm-- of the struggle rife in the mainstream. Films are recorded in the cinemas to be sold on or put up for illegal download. New CDs are pirated before they're even released, and that... is something that record companies are using to their own ends.

Like I said before, I don't know where the real ends and the fakery begins. That can't be a good sign, can it? If forgeries are evolving from simple pirate DVDs that you see being peddled on the streets of London, to T-shirts that are being made across Europe, then what's to stop so much more?

Us, probably. But when things are cheaper, and deceptively high-quality, do we care?

(Visit Threadless and wear something awesome. There's always a sale just round the corner, and there's a design for everyone.)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

SUPER-SANITY--! #1

Do you think there any Aboriginal MySpacers? Follow me on a hypothetical tangent for a moment. I mean, we're all aware of the Aborigine idea of "a photo steals your soul", so do these hypothetical Aboriginal MySpacers get tutted at by their parents, their grandparents, their great-grandparents? I'm always fascinated by the way culture and society change over time, and rightly so, too--! If we aren't aware of what came before, then how can we move forward with any real clarity? Don't get the wrong idea, I'm not talking about personal clarity-- that can only be discovered by looking at yourself and coming to your own conclusions-- no, I'm talking about societal clarity, the kind of thinking that takes entire countries forwards and backwards due to how we feel at one point in time.

I have a point to make.

I believe that we, as a generation-- the children of the dying 20th Century-- can be defined by photos. I don't believe that any group of under 20s before this generation can be defined as such. We record everything, we immortalise a moment and then reminisce about it nearly immediately. Every person I know has a camera, and those people don't leave the house without them. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, quite the contrary, I think this is wonderful. This is solid proof of our existence, of our personal connections.

Photos say that "We were here", and i don't think we can be forgotten. Photos, of course immortalise moments of defiance, of hope, of defying what we believe to be completely and utterly wrong. Circulation of photos has increased from simply newspapers to the world wide web-- sites like flckr, photobucket, and deviantart ensure that your work is circulated throughout the world within moments of being uploaded. But then again, does that dilute photos like this...


...When all we see when we log onto websites is stuff like this?


Our antics are recorded and uploaded within hours of them occurring. We become nostalgic, quite literally, for yesterday, and I don't think this makes us bad people. Do we dilute the industry of photojournalism when we get drunk and take photos every twelve seconds? Who cares. Again, I believe we are defined by cameras, for technology that allows us to be immortalised acting like complete fools from that point in.

Not too terrible, I think.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Out on a Limb...

OK, another splurge done and dusted, just posting up some prose I've done over the internets.

I am currently waiting on starting a screenplay that is guaranteed to be made. I'm co-writing, but I'm just waiting on getting it started and done, and have a notch on my belt, because that would be awesome.

Anyways, back to not-blogging.

The Light

An experiment in messing with words:

I follow the corridor from the beginning to the end. I'm not sure where I'll end up, down the rabbit hole I go, but I become aware of the shadows flickering either side of me. Above, lights fuzz out and in, like some orchestral score with peaks and lows, flashing morse code, dot dot dash as I walk below. I look at the shadows, walking beside them, my friends till the end, and it's when I'm watching them, dancing across the walls, the corridor long and winding and without an end in sight, that I realize that the shadows don't make *sense*. They should be of me, shouldn't they? But men and women and children and pets walk by me, cars rush by, and then... The lights fail. Complete darkness. I freeze, and in the distance, I hear the roar of traffic, the chattering of women, the droning of men. Children cry and scream and shriek, and then the lights come on and--

Visitations

Dante Mitchell was the best thing that happened to Laura Sykes. Until he turned out not to be Dante Mitchell, and in fact, have no identity to call his own at all. He was a carrier. Not of AIDS, like a girl of her age and generation would fear, or of any sexual transmitted disease or thing like that. He was a carrier of sperm and poison and alpha male drive. Pure animal attraction wept through his pores every Friday and Saturday night as he danced the dance of a thousand weeping teenage girls. Pheromones, she later thought, as she pondered the events that lead to their fucking in that London back alley, the sound of the night life outside driving him on, thrust after thrust, and her, afraid but excited at the thought of being discovered. But he was in fact a preconception, someone made to seduce, and as soon as the seed he carried inside him was delivered he simply vanished, into the night, leaving Laura with something growing in her womb that she hadn’t planned on. A child, yes, but not just a child. Someone, something more than that.

Dante Mitchell had impregnated Laura Sykes with the Anti-Christ.

But, being the responsible girl that she was, she aborted the foetus before her parents found out about it, and after the months and the years passed, it was no longer in the forefront of her mind. It lurked, like a fly in your bedroom at night, on the fringes of her head, but was not important, something that could be ignored for a while at least (before the sound of wings would awaken you from your half-slumber).

So the Apocalypse was put down by a bottle of vodka, a steady hand, and a coat hanger.

Laura Sykes went on with her life. She was seventeen when this horrible event occurred. She was twenty seven, a whole ten years later, to the day of conception, when it came back to bite her on the arse. Twenty seven, living precariously after university (still), surviving but not thriving, in a world that by all rights should have ended by now. Where was the war? Where was the famine? Where was death and where was all that judgement? Where was the end of the world that the religious nuts had all subscribed to in fanatic school?

The apocalypse had been missed because Laura Sykes took her life in her hands and made a decision. That’s all life was, after all, a series of decisions, one after the over, like dominos, like a house of cards that grew and grew until a wrong card was set and it all came tumbling down. But evil, as was in her womb for that short period of time, gestating and growing, was not so easily put down.

She heard it first. Sitting in bed, in her flat, reading the medical journals she needed to make sure she was a valid member of the hospital she worked at, she heard it. The sound of footsteps. The sound of toes caked in congealing blood. The blood was its own. She turned on the lights, tentatively. The sound was in her head, after all, right? But the sound of blood on board got louder. The creak of the floorboard in the hallway outside her bedroom groaned loud and clear, and she jerked out of bed.

Something was in her flat. Four locks on her door, and something was in her flat. She picked up her phone, crept toward the door and locked that too. Safety, as her mother had once told her before she moved out of the family home, was the most important thing a young woman could hold.

Safety, she thought. Safety didn’t come into it when she was milking Dante Mitchell for all he was worth ten years ago in that seedy back alley.

She locked the door, and dialled the police. The line beeped once in recognition of the number going through, and then a connection was made. “Hello”, she said, “hello?”

All she could her was mumbling. The words being said made no sense to her, tongues licking and whispering into the line on the other end. Had her phone line been crossed? Questions flooded her, no answers came to stem the tide. She heard something press its hand on the other side of the door. Flesh cracked as skin had to break to move.

Mmmhhh…” She wretched back, the voice gross and horrendous, heavy and wet and so close to her heart, though she didn’t know why… “Mmmhhh,” it repeated. “Mmmmmother…

“No!” she couldn’t help the sudden ejaculation that her voice had become. Impossible. Ten years. Ten years ago. A back alley, a mistake, and a solution, quick and simple and leaving her empty inside. A flush of the toilet (she gagged at the memory) and then gone. She’d seen it a dozen or so times now, at the hospital, of mothers who had done the same as her, but been less successful. Infection creeping through their bodies, organs dying and wombs filled with blood… she’d been lucky, hadn’t she?

Mmmother…” The door handle turned. Clack-clack, how the noise terrified Laura. Slow, deliberate turns of the knob, but the door held, the locks wouldn’t give. “Lllet me inn…

Tears streamed out of her eyes as she reached the back wall of her room, and collapsed to the floor. Snot fell from her nose as she tried to control herself, she spat and groaned and whispered and begged, “no, no, no, no,” but the door continued to be pushed against.

The door knob ceased to be turned. She looked through parted fingers at the door and squeezed closed her eyes.

Innn…

“This is impossible, impossible, I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming…” She was trying to convince herself into unconsciousness. She was trying, desperately, to believe the lies her mouth was telling. And then the lock began to move. The bolt lifted itself up, and the metal whined as it slid open. Her eyes, wide before, would have split open further if it was possible. The bolt jutted open, and the door knob turned once more.

And the door opened.

Laura wished it would have ended there.

Outside, the lights flickered. Like a seizure, the bulbs turned on and off, and as such, what was on the other side of the door took a moment to come into focus. So instead of letting her see it there, standing in the doorway, it stepped forward. Laura vomited in her hands, unable to control herself. She blinked hard, but every time she did, it seemed to get closer, but if she kept her eyes on it, each step was taken precisely. Its skin was dark and dead and dry. Where there should have been eyes were empty sockets, seeping with the poison that had replaced its blood. In its mouth were no visible teeth, only black gums, no tongue but a shrivelled piece of flesh where tongue should be. Hands hung loosely at its sides, but the bloody stumped fingers twitched and contorted with every step taken.

Mmmmother…” She didn’t take her eyes off it. She searched the room for an escape. She doubted she could move past it, something about this thing screamed at her to simply curl up and accept what was coming, but she couldn’t, she knew that. “Yyyou… hhhurttt mmmeee.

“You are dead!” she shouted. “You died and I flushed you away like a used tampon!” The bravado came between the sobs and the cries. Spit flecked her words and phlegm flew through her lips. “Whatever you are, you are not mine!”

Hhhhhold… mmmeeee…

Laura would have vomited again, if there was anything left to come out. Instead her stomach turned, nothing came, but she heard the question as true and clear as if it had not been asked by such a thing. “Is that what you want?” she whispered, “to be held?”

Nnnneevvverrrr… hhheldddd…” its head lolled abruptly from one side to another, the poison dribbled to the floor. She noticed its feet, red raw from whatever place it had dragged itself out from, just as the fingers. “Nnnneverrr wannnted…

She had reached her feet, and she realised that this thing, whatever it was, was half her side. Ten years? Was it really ten years since she’d committed that act in her family toilet when her parents were visiting her grandmother (god rest her eternal soul) in Blackpool? This could be her child, son or daughter, its current condition belied no gender, the aborted foetus that had once gestated within her womb, grown a decade, and come back to be held by her.

Would a mother deny her child that request?

Pppleeeease…

Laura Sykes stepped forward. And opened her arms. “C-come… come to mother.”

* * *

This piece was something I wrote after I posted it on DeviantArt:

"God, I don't know what I was doing. Wrote this in an hour, two hours, and it just came to me, and I'm really proud of it. The final line freaked me out, so did early sentences, but I was playing round with the final denouement being the line:

"The world ended ten minutes later. After Laura Syke's child showed it's mother what a terrible mistake she had made ten years ago."

But I don't know, unnecessary? The conclusion might work perfectly fine as it is, and the addition does lead to a conclusion that was left ambiguous otherwise.

Thoughts? "

Snow Day

I watch snow topped cars waddle down the road with a drunkard’s precision, as they pray that they won’t fall over for the ice sleeked road beneath them. Footprints remind me that this isn’t a day for everyone to wrap up warm and tight, to stay inside with their blankets and pillows, imprints of people’s journey’s, echoes of travels past, all waiting to be erased by the days, or the nights. The air is still, the snow settled, but this is just a moment. Moments before, snow drifted down, and moments after, it paused, but that’s just a fleeting stop in time, and soon, hopefully, it’ll continue again. But I’ll be wrapped up warm and tight, with my blanket and pillow, and I won’t care because it’s a snow day.

The Mad Scientist's Lament

Why? Why did we get so foolish? Why did we throw all conventional wisdom out the window, and instead pursue darker paths of discovery, all in the hopes that we'd find the light again, round ourselves back off and come full circle. Dark means for light purposes... resulting in only more darkness. We thought we knew what we were doing. We wouldn't have continued if we didn't. The fact of the matter was, we could have wiped the world clean of the chemical taint of disease-- of pain-- if our plans had reached fruition. But alas-- we were fools. We thought...

I must digress for a moment, my continual use of the first-person personal pronoun 'we' might appear to be aberrant in this discourse. 'We' were a group of scientists, collaborating on the greatest atrocity that humanity had ever witnessed. 'We' thought we knew better than anybody else. 'We' thought we could wipe the slate clean for humanity, to help attain a higher purpose, an opportunity... we thought we could clean, on a microscopic level, the deviant genetic material that left men, women and children, open to cancers, to crippling disabilities, to all the hurt and pain in the world that made life unlivable-- we would change people on a base level, and we thought we had succeeded... until the Scourge began to spread. We discovered-- too late, as it always is-- that wiping impurities from DNA cannot be controlled... we thought it could be controlled, but my God--

Wait. That was it, of course. 'God'. Our complete lack if conviction in his or hers existence, telling us that we must act where this being wouldn't-- we'd have to take control of our own lives. Our own destinies. 'God'-- mocking us, making us strive to better our lives-- God-- it was his fault! It was his fault we did what we did! He mocked us. They all mocked us.

Where was I? Ah, yes, the Scourge. Our experiments went wrong-- so wrong. We couldn't control the... cleansing. DNA began to degrade, but not collapse upon itself... the Faceless were born. Horrific creatures-- human in shape but not in mind-- their bodies twisting and contorting as their flesh dribbled down, sealed up their mouths, their eyes, but their skin became... we don't know, 'permeable'? They lived! They breathed! The act drove them to insanity, but they survived... and clawed open their mouths. You should have seen the first footage of the early transformations! Pink, fleshy things, with bone sharp finger tips, bloody red-raw holes in their faces where their mouths should have been... and their taste for flesh was insatiable.

We. There is no we now. Only me. I. In my lab. In my bunker. With enough supplies to last me over the decades, but alone enough to not want to live another day. I work to figure out where we went wrong, I listen to the radio for a sign of hope-- of survival-- but I hear none. The Faceless roam the deserted streets in the dead cities, searching for survivors. They tear them limb from limb, fight over their flesh and winner take all. I've seen the footage. All I have to see the outside world are my cameras.

My home is impregnable. They cannot get in. If I were to get out... I would be dead within moments. This isn't about them coming out in the night-- no, they sleep at night, as humans are wont to do-- but in the day? They roam... small packs, just small enough so they don't fight over their food... there are alpha males, there are pilot fish, there are bottom feeders... they scar their flesh with their fingers, they rub blood on themselves... and all I can think to ask is this, at the end of civilisation:

Why? Why did we get so foolish?