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High Weirdness By Mail
August 27, 2012 3:05 PM   Subscribe

"I guess it started for me when, as a young sci-fi movie fan, I did a fanzine at age 12 to 15... that’s when I learned how relatively cheap and easy it was to self-publish, at least for a small circle of weirdos. Later, after comics went up to 50¢, I started collecting stuff equally weird but much cheaper than comic books: kook literature." - Rev. Ivan Stang

You may know of the Church of the SubGenius, that parody religion that worships the almighty "Bob" and was a fixture of MTV and Night Flights back in the day. But do you know of its SECRET ORIGINS? Co-founder Ivan Stang corresponded with hundreds of "mad prophets, crackpots, kooks & true visionaries," from sincere cults to winking charlatans to utter nutjobs to hate groups to independent artists and musicians, with some respected names thrown in, and synthesized them into a half-joking, half-serious celebration of the kook spirit. These days of course the forward-thinking crackpot looking for sheep goes directly to the internet. But while it lasted Stang and co-authors Mike Gunderloy, Waver Forest and Mark Johnston collaborated to document this vanished scene in the legendary book HIGH WEIRDNESS BY MAIL. (All links within may quickly lead someplace NSFW by the nature of the beast.)

The interview with Stang that the above quote was taken from. Also from that interview:
[Gray Areas magazine]: How did the Church [of the SubGenius] start? How does it get the word out to people?
[Ivan Stang]: [...]Real heretics say it started when my partner, Dr. Philo Drummond, discovered that I, too, collected kook literature, and we pooled our resources to create, for mercenary purposes only, the final synthesis of all end-times prophecy, from all crazed religious nuts, true visionaries, science fiction writers and bad monster movies.
High Weirdness By Mail (HWBM) is a kind of directory of kooks circa 1988, built up during Stang and friends' hobby of collecting kook literature, a listing of hundreds of addresses that a collector could write to and, either for free for for only a little money, receive some authentic weirdness for their trouble. Some of the addresses are of lone kooks, like Brainbeau (p 160), looking for spread their ideas. Some of the them lead to UFO cults like Unarius (p 50), looking for recruits. Some believe Jesus talks to them personally; whether they're viewed as lone nutters or respected televangelists seems to depend only on resources. Doesn't matter, Ivan Stang includes them both. Some are actual hate groups. Many are independent artists, several of which would subsequently hit it big before a wider audience. There are over 320 pages of addresses in the book, and each of them has a short blurb written about them to warn the reader about what he's in for. Most of the addresses, of course, probably don't work now. Here, in a kind of metapost, I visit some of the entries and find out where they are now, or if they still exist.

There are hundreds of groups and addresses in the book. My purpose here is only to cover the highlights – the notable, the known, the neglected, the humorous, and the infamous. What the book says about them, what we generally know about them now, and what they are doing today. I leave out addresses, which were a main selling point of the book and many of which are probably wrong by now anyway. If you want more entries or addresses, you can get the book pretty cheap used through Amazon. It is well worth the twelve-or-so bucks you'll pay.

There have been several attempts at updating the catalog over the years to take into account the internet, but kook links tend to die quickly, and so these pages haven't been of much use, a pitiful shoring attempt against a tsunami of bitrot. The official SubGenius update page for the book is High Weirdness By Web, which also provides some additional material.

Disclaimer #1:
Rev. Ivan Stang is something of a kook himself, though by design. One can tell flipping through High Weirdness By Mail that much of the form of the SubGeniuses was inspired by all those weird folk who sent him stuff. While it's likely that your idea of what is silly folk belief matches up with Stang's nine times out of ten, sometimes you'll be surprised by who he emphasizes with, and who he derides. I make no claims as to the validity of any views expressed here, by him or anyone else; my job is to document. Sometimes sarcastically, but well....

Disclaimer #2: Author Stang would post sarcastic comments about some of the more evil folk covered, but he still published their addresses, so that folks could laugh at them and cause them to waste money sending out books and catalogs. But wasting money is less of a compelling excuse on the internet, and I don't think my will to make the post objective overcomes my desire to not give these guys exposure. So I've left off links to some of the more hateful surviving groups. "Oops." If you're really interested for some reason you can do what I did and Google them.

There are two major types of sections in the book that a reader can detect: the "true" kooks, and independent and outsider artists of various types. Stang doesn't overtly discriminate between the two, but artists do tend to be treated much more sympathetically. In the age before the internet it was even harder to find an appreciative audience for work outside the mainstream than it is now, and it is possible to interpret Ivan Stang's inclusion of these guys in a book of weirdos as getting the word out. But not all of them are "only" non-traditional artists, and sometimes an artist might appear in the kook sections if he's sufficiently weird, as is the case with Stanislav Szukalski.

Here, then, is a long, long list of notable entries by section:

Weird Science
Death rays. Perpetual motion machines. Nikola Tesla. The Department of Energy, NASA, the CIA and the FDA all lie to us. But these guys know the real truth.

International Flat Earth Research Society (p 27) – A good one to start off with. Perennial, archetypal kooks who believe the world is flat, beating moon landing deniers by a country mile. They're still around. If flat-earthers didn't exist, it'd be necessary for news-of-the-weird columnists to invent them.

Inner Portraits by Stanislav Szukalski (p 29) - Artist and sculptor. Believed there were two races: True Humans and Yetisyn, half-breeds with Yetis, producing the degenerate urges that plague mankind. Seemed to have died as High Weirdness By Mail was preparing for print; he passed in 1987, while the book's publication year is 1988. Stang talks of him reverently, and his yetisyn were added into the SubGenius backstory. Official website.

Breatharians (p 32) - A long-lived and destructive dogma, the believers of which claiming they can subsist without and food other than air and sunlight. While the idea has been around for quite a while, the group calling themselves explicitly by that name was founded by Wiley Brooks, who claims to subsist entirely on light and air. An entertaining flyer depicting him as "BREATHMAN" and claiming he can lift 1,000 pounds and sleeps but seven hours a week is reproduced in HWBM. He was featured on that early 80s predecessor of the Discovery Channel, the program That's Incredible. Brooks is still alive and currently claims: if you aren't purged of negative energy by December 21 of this year, you will be destroyed. So, you know, get on that. He also But seriously, several people have died from starvation attempting to live without food according to belief systems like these. Here then is the Breatharian website, please use responsibly.

Edmund Scientific (p 36) - Not a kook organization at all but a respected supplier, although one that sells to the general public and which can certainly be put to kook use. Great beyond imagining for science-minded kids. Their website. They're included in HWBM for their catalog, which is also great.

Joesph Newman Publishing Co. (p 42) – Stang devotes over a page to this, one of a long, long line of free energy inventors, and takes the tone that this one might be on to something, but also might not. Please allow me to chime in: he's not. "But what of–" He's not. The laws of thermodynamics are a bitch, but they're foundational, and there's too much working science built off of them for there to be much chance of them being wrong. Joesph Newman has a website, done up in a style I'd call "Early-period Gene Ray." His machine has a Wikipedia page. He fell afoul of the patent office's standing policy against perpetual motion machines, but he's still trying to sell it.


UFO Contactees
Before you laugh at these people, note: often, the only real difference between a group you think is strange and one that produces potential Presidents of the United States is critical mass.

Rational Culture (p 48) – A UFO cult from Rio de Janerio. Their newsletter "Universe in Disenchantment" was singled out by Stang for its laughable translation. They still exist and have a website which itself is pretty badly translated.

Unarius (p 50) – This UFO cult will be familiar to anyone who keeps up with Everything Is Terrible. Ruth "Uriel" Norman believed that 33 different kinds of aliens were waiting to welcome us into their federation. She claimed that she and her deceased husband Ernest were reincarnations of many great figures from history. Now she's moved on to her next life too, but the Unarians continue. EIT rundown: Preparation for Landing and Arrival - All My Unarians - Interplanetary Confederation Day. A current website for the group. Another one. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds writes of his experience with the Unarians. This page is headed by an incredibly depressing picture of their "Academy of Science," operating out of a retail storefront, like a convenience store. While kooky and spooky and altogether culty, most seem to agree this particular manifestation of the weirdness of man is pretty harmless. Donna Kossy's Kooks Museum had a page on Unarius (Wayback link).

Canadian Raelian Movement (p 53) - Famous UFO cult, with small branches around the world. Their website offers translations in 38 languages. Their Wikipedia page offers more objective information. They are the focus of several videos on YouTube, this one has Bill Maher meeting the leader. As cults go, well, they're sex-positive, but they use it as a recruitment tool. How does it feel, young initiate, to know that pretty girl jumped your bones for the sake of aliens? How would you feel if you were pressured to do the same? They don't actually claim anything supernatural, so they're kind of boring. In 2005 Wired Magazine wrote a couple of pages on them, mostly neutral. They own the company Clonaid and claim to have cloned humans successfully, but they never produced the clones for examination, and it's thought they made the announcement as a publicity stunt. Mostly harmless.

Saucerian Publications (p 57) – Stang's summary is one sentence: "Ask about The Story of the Mitchell Sisters." But you don't have to, because here it is! In the 19th century little girls fool the creator of Sherlock Holmes regarding the existence of fairies; in the 20th century, they fool publishers as to the existence of flying saucers. It's the 21st now, so parents, please keep tabs on your mischievous daughters.


Jesus Contactees
There's a lot of hate coming from the groups in this section, since as we know Jesus was all about hating people. You might be wondering why groups like the Church of Scientology or the Hare Krishnas aren't here. Well, they probably weren't as apt to send out things free in the mail. But there are still a good number of surviving Christian and quasi-Christian groups here. Because, once a money-grubbing preacher's organization hits a certain minimum size, it tends to metastasize.

Jack Van Impe Ministries (p 63) – A highly successful televangelist, at least one nice old woman I knew used to listen to this Jesus Quack. It does my heart good to see them listed in close proximity to the likes of Unarius. Of course they're still around. At this time, their website is sometimes seen to host a banner claiming our pets will be raptured along with the faithful.

Battle Cry of Aggressive Christianity, Free Love Ministries (p 64) – Among the most strident Christian voices in the book. Nowadays they seem to be better known as the Aggressive Christian Ministry Training Corps. Don't let the organization's name in the heading fool you, this is no friendly bunch of folk but full-on hatemongers. They're organized among military lines, and they were the subject of a recent National Geographic special, "I Escaped A Cult." Their Wikipedia page is rather frightening. Stang gives them one of the most negative reviews in the book. Later interviews indicate that one of the groups ridiculed in the book sent him death threats; he called the FBI about it and nothing more became of it, but it's possible it could have been these guys. They have a website, but I'm not going to give them the link. I'm far more afraid of these guys than Muslim terrorists, and they're entirely home-grown. Here's a link you can follow: Donna Kossy's archived Kooks Museum page on them (Wayback link).

Peter Popoff Association (p 64) – A staple of BET, these exploitative producers of Christian radio and television feed off the misery and insecurity of mankind. (Well they all do really, but some are more efficient converters of despair into money than others.) Some cults and jokers may not have made it through the 25 years since HWBM was published, but of course all the commercial Jesus-peddlers did, even Jimmy Swaggart who was publicly humbled more than once. Their website. The Wikipedia page on Popoff's outfit is informative; he went bankrupt right around time time HWBM was being written after his faith healing claims were exposed as fraudulent by James Randi.

Bible Believers' Evangelistic Association (p 66) – Carrying on the tradition of Clarence Larkin, that dispensationalist draftsman of Christ, into the 21st century. The BBEA made, and still make for that matter, flyers and pamphlets with "bible maps," illustrated diagrams of (their idiosyncratic interpretation of) Biblical doctrine. As with Larkin charts, there is something inscrutably cool about them, making them worth seeking out for art value. Here's a PDF of one from right off their website. Nowadays to spread their message they utilize the Lord's most holy of illustration tools, Microsoft PowerPoint. Their CD/pamphlet collections still go for just five bucks each.

Aryan Nations, Church of Jesus Christ Christian (p 67) - Redundantly-named organization that once sold 13 cassette tapes on that noted piece of Biblical prophecy: the song "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie." Really. It is possible that there is some confusion in this entry; Stang identifies the organization with the tapes as Aryan Nations, but on the internet I see two churches going by the name "Church of Jesus Christ Christian," one offers tapes, and the other calls themselves Aryan Nations. That one is not composed of pleasant people. You can make a good guess from their name their sympathies lay regarding white supremacy, and their website (link omitted) makes it clear this is no accident. The other is here, which seems to be a much more low-key site that mostly sells tapes. Either one or the other (or both?) were founded in 1946 by one of the organizers of the Ku Klux Klan. Their Wikipedia page provides the entertaining fact that a lawsuit brought against them by people they had attacked (literally, attacked) caused them to lose rights to their name and compound to the people they wronged. I don't know which of the two groups is for realsies, or if they might be connected with each other.

The Watchtower and Awake!, Jehovah's Witnesses (p 70) - They're still around of course. They rate only four sentences in the book, which notes they had a problem, familiar to millennial groups, of losing members when their given date for the end of the world comes and goes and nothing happens.

The Jumping For Jesus Club International (p 71) – Group sponsors kids to travel the world, jumping rope for Christ. They're still around, natch, spreading their double dutch dogma. Well it's another missionary group looking to tell people about Jesus (surely they've all heard it by now), but it's also a way for kids to see the world, which is a legitimate mind expander.

Free Tract Society (p 72) – If you sent these guys a letter, they'd send you a big box of tracts. They're still around, they still send out free tracts, and it still doesn't you cost anything. The site notes "This ministry is maintained by the gifts of God's people," so someone else is footing the bill. Note that these guys don't distribute Jack Chick's work. Chick shows up later, don't worry.


Generic Christians
More ordinary than the preceding groups, without even the benefit of weirdness to recommend them. Stang calls them pinks, a derogatory SubGenius term for depressingly normal people.

Jimmy Swaggart Gift Catalog (p 74) - Stang expresses considerable admiration for Swaggart's delivery style, which seems likely as an inspiration for SubGenius ranters, while dismissing his hateful message. I kind of admire the delivery method of these preacher types myself; say what you want about their beliefs, but when a good fire-and-brimstone type gets going it's difficult to imagine a more authoritative voice. That fact is what makes it so great for spewing satirical weirdness. Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show illustrates this fact (NSFW).

Pat Robertson for President (p 75) - The entirely of the entry in the book is: "You know what to do." Keep in mind many of the purchasers of this book were SubGeniuses, and often pranksters. I assume whatever it was it was successful.


More Weird Religion
This section is a catch-all for serious religious groups not fitting into previous categories. (For non-serious groups, see further below under Funny Clubs.) It's worth noting that Stang, around 2007, said that he thinks he didn't give some of the Wiccan groups a fair shake; not coincidentally I think, there are now a good number of neo-pagan SubGeniuses.

AMORC (The Rosicrucians) (p 78) – This long-lived group has been known to advertise in the backs of magazines. Their website is here. Stang talks about them in episode 16 of the podcast Out There Radio. They seem harmless enough; there is a Straight Dope column on them. In brief: no matter what they say, they aren't the group from the 17th century.

The Church of the SubGenius (p 80) - It shouldn't come as a surprise that Stang would include the SubGeniuses in High Weirdness By Mail. It's listed again near the end, and mentioned frequently in footnotes, and shouts out to some SubGenius people in the listings, and uses "Bob" iconography once in a while. A lot of SubGenius collaborators appear to have come from Stang's correspondence from his kook literature hobby.

Warlords of Satan (p 82) - The address isn't of the group but of someone alerting the world of their activities. Googling now turns up very little, leading me to suspect the group may actually have been a hoax dreamt up during the 80s Satanic panic. I cut Stang some Slack in this area; it was a lot easier to be gullible about these things before the Internet.

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castille-Soap Labels, All-One-God-Faith (p 87) –
Dr. Emmanuel Bronner died fifteen years ago but the company remains in the hands of his family, and the soap and its labels are still there, sold in health food stores and other places. Covering every available inch of the space on the label is an overflow of tiny print that remains the closest exposure most people will ever have to quality ranting that doesn't come from a preacher. A sample: "Love is like a willful bird, do you want it? It flies away! Yet, when you least expect its bliss, it turns around and it's here to stay! For centuries man struggles, half-asleep, half-living! Small, jealous, bickering with mountains of red tape! To be awakened the night God chose giving His great reward for hard work, the Moral ABC-unity-ecstasy-love evolving man above the ape!" The sentiment isn't bad, but the meter could use a little work. High Weirdness By Web had links to their famous ranty labels, but that link broke. You can find them here, now It's easy to laugh at the earnestness and the ranty labels, but this page claims remarkably enlightened employment practices. If these are kooks then maybe I don't want to be normal.


Health and Self-Improvement
Not a lot to write about here.

A Small Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness, The Remain Intact "ORGAN"ization (p 99) – one man ranting against circumcision. A late-breaking notice informs us that shortly before the book went to print the guy was busted for child pornography, apparently on the basis of a photograph sent out in the newsletter.

Safe Water Foundation (p 100) – Believes fluoride is poisoning our children. Stang seems credulous on this, but I suppose it's hard to make it through writing a book of hundreds of kooks without falling victim to some of it yourself. Tracking them down is made difficult by the existence of multiple groups going by similar names, some of which being ordinary civic water safety organizations. There certainly are still anti-fluroride groups out there, though.


Money Schemes/Scams
The SECRET to luck! Your PERSONAL lottery numbers! Get RICH through pyramid and ponzi schemes! An endless topic, Stang includes only a sample.

J. A. Keel (p 104) – This guy purports to know The Answer to making get-rich-quick-in-mail-order schemes work. "You've tried multi-level and your 'programs' have died at the second level. What happened to the $50,000 you were supposed to collect?" What indeed. This guy also wrote UFO tracts, including The Mothman Prophecies, yes the source for the movie, so I guess he found a way to cash in eventually. He died in 2009.

Universal Life Church (p 107) – Here Stang states these guys got started as a tax dodge, ordaining anyone who sent them three bucks, but the IRS put a stop to that. They'll still around, and their site looks a lot more respectable now. Get ordained by these folk and perform marriages for your friends! Endless fun at parties!

Professor Matiha (p 108) – Claimed to know how to abolish bad luck. His ad lists the "natural names of bad luck": Tormo, Kousa, Booka No. 1 and Booka No. 2. A Google search for "Tormo Kousa Booka" turns up four hits, all of them random lists of words, so I think it's safe to say that the Professor's legacy doesn't extend online.


Cosmic Hippie Drug-Brother Stuff
Bufo alvarius: The Psychedelic Toad of the Sonoran Desert, Venom Press (p 126) – Sent out details by mail on how to get hopped up on frog. His tract is available on the web. I claim no responsibility for its use. Here's an aside for you. SubGenius priest Dr. Hal did a bit on SubGenius radio program Hour Of Slack about tracking this toad down in the desert.

Discordian Churches (p 130) – Is this a weird place to hide the entry on Discordians? Maybe not. Yes, it's the other random parody religion that existed before Pastafarians! Here's a website. It has a Donate button, be sure to send money in the only denomination they accept: live crickets. The text of holy book Principa Discordia is on the site.


Respectable Weird Publications
Fortean Times (p 134) – Not only are they still around but they're a full-on magazine now, with a website any everything. Scribd has scans of a number of back issues of this periodic dissemination of weird news.


Skeptics!

The Skeptical Inquirer (p 145) – The "official journal for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry." My heroes. They're still around, and in fact they can be bought off the magazine racks of chain bookstores, which is more than I can say for most of these guys. Their site has the text of some of their magazine articles. Stang calls them a wise investment, and I'd tend to agree.

Wild News

Weekly World News (p 149) – Yes. THEM. Back in 1988 they tried to play it straighter, but they were still the irrepressible purveyor of imposible oddities they are today. Now they're a section of the much-less-whimsical, much-more-slimy Sun , unfortunately.

China Daily (p 149) – The very same organization that recently reported an Onion story as fact. Stang describes them as Party-approved, and they're still pretty much a governmental organ. They do have an English language edition, with a website, just like its Western competitors. Well, maybe not just like them: a recent article is headlined "Modern Dance Pushes Frontier of Nakedness.


Religion vs. Religion
People arguing about which religion is the right one, if any of them are. One of the best things about this section is the entry headings named after monster movies, some of which would be, shall we say, familiar to fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Fundamentalists Anonymous (p 152) – A group to help people break away from dependence on organized religion, although their emphasis seemed to be on televangelists. Co-founder Jim Luce discusses his experiences founding the group on the Huffington Post. From that article: "One woman who soon called us told us an unbelievable story, which turned out to be typical. She was financially unable to give, but was led to believe it was "God's Will" that she keep giving to a TV evangelist." HWBM informs us that when it was printed, FA held seminars that cost $185 a seat, which seems a bit contrary in message, but they also sponsored local support groups. The end of the article uses the past tense when referring to the group so I assume it no longer exists. I wonder what happened. Also-founder Richard Yao ran an old Wordpress blog has a post on it claiming fairly breathlessly that it "was cut short and crushed by the Pharaohs of the Religious Right." I don't seem to remember Falwell and company having that kind of power. Apparently they had their own twelve steps. If you actually are trying to leave the flock now, the site Leaving Christianity might have some information of use to you.

Saints Alive In Jesus (p 154) – Christians complaining that Mormons aren't Christians. They're still around. They're also not on speaking terms with Freemasons, and have since picked up an additional bugaboo: Muslims. Mitt Romney's nomination has driven these guys crazy, publishing articles on their site with titles like "Does Mitt Romney Really Believe he will become an actual god?" and "Mitt Romney: Christian or Cultist?"

Creation/Evolution (p 155) – Newsletter about the creationists' efforts to get their dogma taught in schools. Ha! Ha! Like that could ever happen. (GLARE) It's difficult to Google for these guys because of their generic name. The group in the book is against teaching Creationism in school, so any site going by that name that's for that isn't the same guys.

Weird Politics
The weird politics sections are a high point of the book. I could have covered every one of these fist-shaking ranters, but I don't want to steal quite that much of Stang's thunder.

Brainbeau (p 160) – Imagine the kind of mind that would invent that pun. Does it suggest mental trauma to you? If it does you win a prize (see mgmnt), because you're correct! Apparently he suffered a traumatic head injury in World War II, causing him to discard some preconceived notions – such as all the things the important people in the media have told us are essential. With the financial meltdown still looming in everyone's memory, I can't help but think maybe Brainbeau might have had something. Stang identifies him as the source of a variety of small ads in the back of various publications, all addressed to the same P.O. Box. He didn't sell anything; he just wrote to people. He sent them collections of his ads! A fascinating figure. Donny Kossy, former maintainer of the website The Kooks Museum (Wayback link) and author of Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief kept a page on him.

Paradin Press, (p 166) – Bookstore, now an online bookstore, which appears to mostly sell survivalist, weapons and military manuals. (Although they do carry a book called "Emergency Dentistry Handbook.")

The Territorial Herald (p 170) – Some folks declared their house as seceded from the Union and put out a newsletter. It seems like they morphed into The Thought. They're still around! There's a bunch of other weird stuff on their site too. (Honestly, at this point I've been working on this post for weeks, and my brain is about dried out. Mr. Show had an episode on this kind of thing. Here was the intro to it. Go watch that and pretend I said something funny.)

Contragate Whistleblowers (p 175) – Has it really been so long since Iran-Contra? The world found out about it November 1986. Like Watergate, it threw the kook world into a tizzy, because it made a lot of weird ideas seem a lot more plausible. I think that, ultimately, may be the worst thing about these kinds of scandals; they make us all feel like suckers for thinking our leaders have even an ounce of shame, that they're just using the idea of decorum as a shield to deflect blame. "Of course he'd never do that, he's the President." Sure he wouldn't; how could you even think that could happen? That's why we have 9-11 Truthers and people who think the moon landing was faked, you know. (There are no moon landing disbelievers anywhere in the book, by the way, that's a fairly recent brand of lunacy.) There are two groups listed under this heading. Citizen Alert is difficult to Google for, maybe they're related to Public Citizen. Christic Institute is defunct; it has a Wikipedia page. The Romero Institute claims to be its successor.

2600 (p 176) – Not only are they still around, but they're on the magazine shelf of chain bookstores. They have a website, yeah. They're not particularly forgotten though.

Clandestine Confidential (p 177) – It was a newsletter on shortwave propaganda broadcasts. Four issues survive in PDF form here, found on this page. The site has some more information on these broadcasts here.

The National Reporter (p 179) – Formerly called CounterSpy, was basically a watch letter on the activities of the CIA. Has a Wikipedia page under its old name.

Resistance News (p 188) – The word "resistance" here means draft resistance, as in, if you got picked for military service and didn't want to go. Vietnam pretty much destroyed the will of the average able-bodied citizen to participate in our nation's periodic overseas adventures, but it was close enough in people's memories in the late 80s that some folk prepared for the event they'd get drawn out of the fishbowl. Stand notes that he was saved from the draft by flat feet. If it happened to me it'd probably be something along the lines of gross physical unsuitability. If another legitimate war came along, I wonder if our nation's youth would rouse themselves for the occasion, or has decades of whimsical invasions destroyed their ability to give a damn.

The Realist (p 189) – Paul Krassner puts humorous left-wing spin on current events. Sort of like The Daily Show, except oops, actually left wing instead of just derided as such by the people targeted. He's still alive and kicking (NSFW). As the site reminds us, The Realist published the "Disneyland Memorial Orgy" drawing. The whole run of the newsletter, all 146 issues from 1958 to 2001, is up at www.ep.tc, readable one huge scan image at a time. As we've seen, the web isn't forever, so get 'em while they last.

Freedom Fighter's Manual by the CIA, Grove Press, Inc. (p 189) – Claimed to be a copy of a handbook given by the CIA to freedom fighters in Nicaragua. Contained cartoons (not reproduced in HWBM) illustrating helpful things revolutionaries could do, like putting dirt in gas tanks and leaving the water running overnight in public buildings. It has a Wikipedia page, and Scribd has the whole thing, including the instructions at the end on how to make a Molotov Cocktail. Needless to say: NSFW, and don't try this at home, or indeed ever. The Wikipedia page links to a page on CNN's site as a source, but the link is dead. Another link leads to Time.com, but they're talking about an 89-page booklet, and refuse to reveal more than a couple of paragraphs except to subscribers.

Adventures in Subversion, Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous (p 192) – A collection of posters edited by the group Anti-Authoritarians Anonymous. Many are made up of repurposed advertising. Predates Adbusters by a few years. The two used copies obtainable through Amazon go for a hundred bucks! I wasn't able to uncover any examples on the internet.


Groups You Love To Hate - But They Hate You Even More
Some sections are hard to write about, being composed mostly of Yet Another UFO Cult. Sections like this, I have to stop myself from including every entry. Reading them back-to-back like this, even with Ivan Stang's sarcastic comments, weighs heavy upon the soul.

Center for Democratic Renewal (p 196) – That is, except for this one. I'm not sure why they're here because they fight hate groups and racists. Stang has only good things to say about them. He finishes with "I sure hope these folks have a few good guard dogs around their homes and offices." Unfortunately they closed up shop in 2008.

Spire Christian Comics, Fleming H. Revell Company (p 196) – Publishers of comics reveling in the kinds of apocalyptic visions now familiar to most people as the basis for the Left Behind books. Indeed reproduced in the pages of HWBM is the cover of a "comic" version of Hal Lindsey's There's A New World Coming. (Hal Lindsey wrote what could be considered the predecessor of Left Behind, The Late, Great Planet Earth.) Check it out, there's a site with PDFs of some of their output, including There's A New World Coming! These were the people behind the infamous "Hansi, The Girl Who Loves The Swastika. Stang doesn't even mention the Archie (yes, that Archie) titles Spire put out. Spire is too deep of a hole for me to spelunk in any timely fashion. People collect them to this day. Here's a backgrounder on the line. Here's a single-post blog about the Archie titles in particular. Here's some more.

Chick Publications (p 197) – I warned you it was coming. Stang says nothing here that isn't all too familiar to most of us now, but in case you don't know, let me puncture your enviable state. Jack Chick makes small comic booklets that churches tend to leave around town randomly for people to pick up, as their way of spreading the word about The Lord. But in Chickland, the Pope is the Anti-Christ, Dungeons & Dragons is a gateway to Hell, and rock music is sung by demon worshippers. If this sounds unlikely to you, let me assure you, people who believe these things do exist, and there are actually millions of them. Stang says "These have probably turned more people off to Jesus than any other publication." Unfortunately, this does not seem to have been the case. But he is right on this point: "These rank right down there with the craziest Nazi UFO rantings, yet to many ignorant racists these are Truth." Here's the site of Chick Publications, which immediately confirms a pet theory of mine, that the number of smiling faces on a publication or website is directly proportional to the evil of the publisher. Richard Metzger of Dangerous Minds on Jack Chick. Catholic Answers: The Nightmare World of Jack Chick. The RationalWiki page on Chick.

Racial Loyalty, Church of the Creator (p 198) – Archive.org retains a copy of Racial Loyalty issue #47. Site The Nizkor Project has a history of the organization from the Anti-Defamation League. According to that site: "Since 1973, the Church of the Creator (COTC) has been a virulently anti-Semitic and racist organization that uses the rhetoric of religion as a flimsy camouflage for the promotion of hate. Its founder and longtime leader. the late Ben Klassen, a far- right political activist in the 1960s, gloried in the concept he fervently and frequently proclaimed as his goal: racial holy war." According to this timeline from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the history of the group is rife with tension and eventually ended in bloodshed.

Moral Majority (p 199) – Remember these guys? It's surprisingly hard! The entirety of my exposure to them in my life was a throw-away joke in an Airplane! movie, but Stang talks about them as if everyone knows them. According to Wikipedia they were waning right around the time the book was being published. They're gone now. It was all a bad dream. The Tea Party isn't their unholy zombie revival trying to consume the brain of the United States. Go back to sleep....

Heirs of the Blessing Cassette Tape List (p 200) – It's a short entry, so I'm going to reproduce it all for the LULZ: "Cheap cassettes with titles like the following: Hitler's UFO Forces. Soviet Weather War. The Bible and Arms. The Rotten 'Roots' of Jesse Jackson. Christmas is Baal-worship. The Dangers of Eating Pork – plus White Power rock and roll! Typical frothing, drooling 'Identity Christianity' hate rants against the Jews."

Delta Press Ltd. (p 201) – A catalog of things you can buy to show the world how backwards is your brain. Sold T-shirts, bumper stickers and other standardized forms of right-wing cultural ephemera, all with the kinds of symbols and slogans on them you'd expect from that one guy who's always in the coffee shop using the free Wi-Fi, the back of his computer plastered with them. Don't start up a conversation with him; you'll be here for days. They sold books too. Are they still around? I don't know; the Delta Press I found Googling only sells books, mostly with a military theme. Unenlightened perhaps but not hateful.

National Socialist Movement (p 201) – As in, neo-Nazis. Sent out pinup photos of Adolf Hitler. A Google search reveals a group by that name still exists and is active, but I have no way of knowing if it's really them. Because of that, I'm not linking to them. (Actually I was debating not linking to them anyway, and am glad for the excuse. Because they're neo-Nazis.)

Fusion Magazine and other LaRouche booklets (p 201) – I actually don't know that much about Lyndon LaRouche. Let me go check real quick. (~ time between writing that and the next sentence: two days ~) Huh, that's weird. Lyndon LaRouche is a name I've heard before, but never enough to really know who he is, or care. Once again Wikipedia has the basics, but it doesn't seem to quite capture the essence of the man when it contains a quote like: "Commentators for The Washington Post and The New York Times have described him as a conspiracy theorist and a political extremist. Some have called him fascist or antisemitic, and a 1979 editorial in the New York Times characterized his movement as a 'cult'. Norman Bailey, formerly with the National Security Council, described LaRouche's staff in 1984 as one of the best private intelligence services in the world, while the Heritage Foundation, a think tank, wrote that he leads 'what may well be one of the strangest political groups in American history.'" Harumph: like the Heritage Foundation has standing to speak on the topic. But it seems to be an accurate call, LaRouche seems to be quite strange, easily strange enough for inclusion in HWBM. Stang mentions them with something like awe. There is one thing keeping your typical Xavier Q. Crackpot from going full-on LaRouche, and that is money. Kookdom writ large upon the world. He's still alive at the age of 89, and he may be the only person in this entire colon blockage of a post to have his own PAC, on which site are news headings like "The Experts Agree: Obama is Taking us Straight to Nuclear War" and "LaRouche Denounces "British Propaganda for Babies and Stupid Drunks." His Executive Intelligence Review publication still sees print, and his organization has a radio show. RationalWiki has a good page on him. Some folk have commented that his following has some aspects of a cult; they allegedly beat up some number of members of other leftist organizations. Why does anyone listen to this guy?

Front Line News A.L.F. Canada (p 203) – A.L.F. stands for Animal Liberation Front. More radical than PETA. Images on their site show ninjas cuddling rabbits and puppies. A PDF mission statement flyer they distribute on their website states: "The Animal Liberation Front (A.L.F.), carries out illegal actions against industries who profit from animal exploitation. These actions most often take the form of liberating live animals (from fur farms, slaughterhouses, etc.) or economic sabotage in the form of property destruction." The same flyer, however, notes that human safety is a priority for them. Well, there they are; as I should hope would be obvious by now, inclusion on this list should by no means imply approval by the author or myself. But Stang notes that at least the cause is just, and so do I.

Christian Technocracy (p 203) – There are some entries I'd prefer not to echo here, but when Ivan Stang writes "Even my thick skin was ruptured appreciably when I laid eyes on the endless hate diatribes and plans for world conquest by authentic megalomaniac Hillman Holcomb," well, I figure we should listen. Stang goes on for over a page, including several paragraphics of direct quotation. I did web searches on every entry I cover here; the second hit on the one for "christian technocracy" lead to stormfront.org, never a good sign. At least the hits I found mentioned the book was now very hard to find. If you want to know more you're on your own for this one, when I eat something I like to keep it down.

Hate Satire So Close You May Decide There's No Difference

Action Amenities (p 207) – Sells various bits of hate-drenched merchandise, including the tape "Plan For Chaos," which Stang declares with easy hyperbole "perhaps the most disturbing piece of electronic media on the entire planet." With a lead-up like that I couldn't leave this out, even though I have absolutely no desire to experience anything like the audio goatse I imagine this to be. This might have been made with satirical intent. Searching for it on Google is confounded by mixed signals, of a postumous John Wyndam novel with the same title. I don't know if the two are related. The closest match I found was from a e-fanzine on Jason Scott's always terrific textfiles.com – but no, it turns out to be a direct quote of the entry from HWBM. (By the way, if one is looking into the transition from the mail zine scene of the age to the modern internet by way of BBSes, I think textfiles is a fine place to start.)


"Funny" Clubs
We've made it through the most soul-defiling parts of the book now. Many of the groups listed here are whimsical parody religions like the SubGeniuses, although with far less attention paid to setting, or books written detailing doctrine, or radio shows advertising the faith. The Pastafarians of 25 years past. Stang is sympathetic with all of these guys. I list what I consider to be the most interesting.

Journal of the Institute of Scientific Santa Clausism (p 209) – This is included as representative of an entire class of one-joke groups, like the "Church of Beaver Cleaver," the "Association to Save Madonna from Nuclear War," and "The Up Uranus Society." When these groups only spread through the mail they seemed like a big secret, lending them prestige. One of the greatest things the internet did for all of us as a society is juxtapose jokes just like these on a flotilla of sites with web design circa 1993, getting them all the hell out of our systems.

Ladies Against Women (p 210) – One of the best entries in the book, this organization is a sly, pitch-perfect satire along the lines of Landover Baptist's Betty Bowers. They've been to Phyllis Schlafly rallies and upstaged the star. They sold (sell?) bumper stickers reading things like "ABOLISH THE ENVIRONMENT—IT TAKES UP TOO MUCH SPACE" and "PROTECT THE UNCONCIEVED: SPERMS ARE PEOPLE TOO!" This sadly abbreviated site might be from them. It seems like they're still around, but mostly off-line. Here's a YouTube video recording a protest that may be one of their chapters.

International Brotherhood of Old Bastards (IBOB) – I love the name. High Weirdness By Web identifies this monospaced site as carrying on for IBOB.

New First Arachnid Church (p 214) – One of my favorite entries, and one of the few I reprint here in full (words of Stang): "Last remnant of the religion of Great Spiderism. The Great Spider created Himself on a whim, and the universe out of boredom. 'He used to roar with laughter at the wars and break into tears during the famines and plagues.' When you get to heaven, friend, you'll be met by a Huge Black Thing! Believe in Him, or He'll eat you. Send SASE." Unfortunately the First Arachnid Church appears to have disappeared; hopefully they've gone on to a more infested place. Traces of their passing, like molted skin, remain in the comment sections of a dozen disparate websites. This page on catholiceducation.org seems to take their existence as an indication that "Unfettered spirituality easily leads to unfettered nonsense." Wow. What kind of person would be make insecure due to a religion that worships a giant spider?

Shelter Management Textbook (p 215) – Although in the Funny Clubs section this is a real book, distributed by the Civil Defense folks about how to maintain order in a fallout shelter in the event of nuclear war. You don't have to search your local Office of Civil Defense for it though, it's right here!

The Superscriptures, David Reissig, Hitheryon House (p 215) – Stang describes this and other books by Reissig as "Quirky manifestos in a style that's like a combination of H.P. Lovecraft, Poor Richard's Almanac, and the Bible." WANT. Of The Eater Out Of Chaos Amazon has a single used copy.


Weird Art
Nearly everything in this section is wonderful in some way or another. That makes it harder to discuss though, not least of which because I don't want to reproduce that whole part of the book. So, this is only a few arbitrarily selected things. Here we get more to people who would become (or in some cases already were) Ivan Stang's friends and co-conspirators in creating SubGenius art.

Survival Research Videotapes, Target Video (p 218) – Well you wanted weird art. They sold tapes they made of robots whacking each other and doing weird things – big ol' robots, with maces and big gouts of flame all manner of other accoutrements, set up in parking lots around things like giant Van de Graaff generators, and let them loose to some incomprehensible end. The results were things like this. And this. And this. Hamburglar no! There's a fair bit more on YouTube if you looked for it. They're still around!

Fool, Out, Get Stupid, Journey into the Worlds of Tomorrow, and (undecipherable title), Seth Deitch care of R. Chalfen (p 218) – Works of Dr. Ahmed Fishmonger. Indescribable. Has an extensive section on the SubGenius website, which I presume reproduce some of his works like Get Stupid, The Empire of Mirage, The Vanished Nightmare City of the Gods, 10.-22.-38. Astoria, Doctor Fishmonger's Armchair Journeys, and other Very Odd Things. Please take a few moments from your jaded internet journeys and review these bizarre collaged images. I don't think you will be disappointed. Fishmonger also wrote The Ballad of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs. The name appears to be a pseudonym for Seth Deitch, brother of underground artist Kim Deitch (who also appears in HWBM) and son to Gene Deitch, animator. (Gene Deitch produced those strangely-animated Czechoslovakian Tom & Jerry cartoons.)

Duplex Planet, David Greenberger (p 220) – By turns hilarious and impossibly sad, this magazine, still in print, provides quotes from the inmates of the Duplex Nursing Home. It dampens the levity a bit to recognize that most of these people will probably die in that home, if they haven't already, but I suppose it is a way to remember them. They have a website, which supplies some quotes, like:
RECIPE: FRENCH TOAST BY BILL LAGASSE
You take a dozen eggs, crack 'em and put 'em in a pan. Half a glass of milk. The slices of bread. The wife is always dependable, nothing she ever does is wrong. Then put it on a hot grill. Wait till it browns, turn it over and cook it on both sides and you got French toast.
KEN EGLIN: That salad is a deadbeat!"
Headliner and Off-The-Wall computer programs, Salinon (p 228) – Two programs that strike me, at $99 and $29 respectively, as a tad overpriced for what they did: rearrange phrases randomly. I expect I could probably code up something similar in Python now for free. They were marketed to creative types as a way to jump start inspiration. The current-day over-priced version of this would have to be mind-mapping software. A Google search revealed no place where they are still sold; considering they were on sale in 1988, I expect they're DOS at best. While the software itself may be no more, I note that the telltale traces left by the trademarking of their names persists throughout the web.

Jim Magazine – Creator Jim Woodring went on to become a fairly well-known cartoonist and artist. He has a website and a blog. This is the guy who created Frank, the cartoon anthropomorph who has straaange adventures.


Rantziness
Three pages of rantzines, then four pages labeled "Most Hateful of the Rantzines." Of the seven pages, just a few stand out....

Inside Joke (p 236) – This art 'zine apparently went on for ten years. High Weirdness By Web's link for her succumbed to linkrot, but a bit of Googling revealed that the publisher's name is now Elayne Riggs, she has a blog, she used to write for ComicMix, and she and her husband have a site, Soulmate Productions. She's got Facebook and Twitter accounts too, but I already feel enough like a stalker uncovering the other stuff.

Kerry Wendell Thornley (p 239) – Stang identifies him as "one of the all-time classic ranters," co-author of the Principa Discordia, and was in the same outfit in the Marines as Lee Harvey Oswald. Life, it seems, destined him for kookdom. He's gone now, but he left behind a long, interesting, spooky memoir, called Confession to Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK. This seems to be a transcript of his testimony before the Warren Commission.

Wigglepig: Meat Market Icons (p 242) – Horrible disgusting pictures from slaughterhouses and medical journals. I once got exposed to skin disease pictures from medical journals as part of my college job scanning articles to send out over interlibrary loan; that was far more than enough for me, thanks. I made sure to turn Safe Search on "moderate" (yes I am a wimp) and Googled for "wigglepig meat market icons." I only got nine hits. I'm assuming dead and nearly forgotten, maybe for the best.


Comics
Less than 100 pages to go! Lots of interesting things on these pages but if I don't make cuts I'll never be finished with this thing. These entries, at least, jumped out at me. We're through the real kooks now and, though still quite weird, the remaining guys are mostly people and groups Ivan Stang wanted to send shout-outs to.

Weirdo, Last Gasp Eco-Funnies – Right off the bat we get Weirdo, founded by R. Crumb! Words of Stang: "Where Heavy Metal offers fashionable graphics, Weirdo offers the exact opposite and is really more interesting." Its Wikipedia page has a list of contributors, many names appearing elsewhere in HWBM. Crumb's website has a small page on Weirdo, and the comic timeline on the site has every cover, although at small size. (very NSFW)

Mystery of the Wolverine Woo-Bait, Joe Coleman (p 245) – Stang says it's "One of the most grotesque graphic novels ever perpetrated[...]." He also mentions Coleman working on a videotape compilation of "live performances," which include biting heads off of animals. Yeah, statements like that make me feel pink, so I don't think I'll be jumping off of that particular diving board today. Fantagraphics republished this in 2004 but has sold out. They said: "Like a painted glass that's splintered into a million different pieces, the mystery is a complex story with things happening simultaneously and characters appearing and reappearing in different time periods or contexts than one would expect. Throughout it all, each page is intricately crafted as a seductive and single unit, making this an incredible art object as well as a brilliant comic book."

Flaming Carrot, Aardvark-Vanaheim (p 249) – A comic created by Bob Burden, it's about a man who read 5,000 comic books in a single sitting and suffered BRAIN DAMAGE, emerging thereafter as The Flaming Carrot! Champion of Justice! Master of Adventure! Dreadnought of Chicanery! Oh god oh god, it is the funniest thing going. A superhero with no powers except his incredible madness. His costume consists of a six-food-tall carrot "mask" with flame spouting out the top, a utility belt containing things like silly putty and a yo-yo, and green flippers on his feet "in case he has to swim." Women love him, for some unknowable reason. He fights foes like a dead dog (it levitates around, hissing at people and eating mail), an army of Hitler's cloned feet, and Don Whiskerando, an insane hobo who can fly because he hasn't slept in 40 years. Flaming Carrot was a star of the indie comics scene of the late 80s-early 90s. The Tick is great, yes, but it came out long after The Carrot, and he still seems to have a few surviving brain cells. Recently reanimated by Dark Horse Comics, but new issues are sparse. There is an official website, which among other things now hosts a narrated, visual version of the introduction quoted above. (Bob Burden is often at DragonCon. He's pretty great! He hands out these little scraps of paper with weird secrets printed on them, and asks that you hide them in random places for people to find. That's authentic kook behavior, but in the best possible way!)

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Warner Books (p 251) – Well, it was 1988. Stang's praise is breathless: "[...]compromising one of the most gripping sagas in comics or any kind of literature!" Emphasis his. I can't help but think this was just an excuse of his to include something he liked, as there's no need to mail DC $13 for it, you could get the compilation from bookstores for that much. You probably can still get it there, though you can expect to pay more now. (As far as Frank Miller Batman goes, I prefer Year One.)

American Splendor, Harvey Pekar (p 253) – Stang: "It took the mainstream fifteen years to notice this one. Always does...." I don't actually know enough about this to say anything you'd find interesting, so I'll leave you with the American Spendor Wikipedia page, The Toonopedia page, and The Pekar Project, Oh, and there was some movie or other about it a few years ago. By the way, Pekar died in 2010; he kept writing his comic up to 2008.


Great Badfilm and Sleaze
SubGenius sacrament holds the viewing of bad movies as a religious experience, a type of "bulldada." It's worth noting that Mystery Science Theater 3000, which did a lot to further the "apprecation" of these movies, began on Minnesota station KTMA in 1988.

Zontar, the Magazine From Venus and Zontower, Jan Johnson (p 256) – Named for Larry Buchanan's horrible remake of It Conquered The World. (Larry Buchanan directed MSTed movie Attack Of The The Eye Creatures – "You see folks, they just didn't care" – and It Conquered The World, with its evil mind-controlling carrot monster and its mad scientist assistant Lee Van Cleef.) The newsletter is gone but its memory is preserved in a website, which offers issue 9 as a download and claims other issues will be made available later.

The Couch Potatoes (p 257) – A club devoted to TV watching. It had a newsletter, "The Tuber's Voice." The website The Potato Museum has a page delineating the history of the term "couch potato," and states that it was inspired by the club. It also has an image of the title heading of an issue of the newsletter. Editing, illustrating and publishing the newsletter is listed on a resume on this website; it might prove to be a good place to look for more information. Also according to the resume, he played accordion for the band "R. Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders."

Wyvern Web Graphics (p 257) – Why is this mail order tape place listed? Because it was an early outlet in the United States for anime, or "Japanimation," a term that didn't catch on, thank god. "Japanese animated films comprise a formidable new genre of psychedelia that American cult audiences have only begun to bootleg!" They're still watching them, and they're still bootlegging them, using breathtaking new forms of bootlegging incomprehensible to an 80s fan. Back in 1988 anime, to most American fans, was Akira, Robotech, some dubbed discount tapes like Unico, and a smattering of other things. Sometimes incredibly disturbing things. Even Ranma 1/2 hadn't yet aired on Japanese television back then.

Incredibly Strange Films (p 258) – The foremost book on badfilm (Stang's word) is probably The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, a book I have not yet had the chance to read. But second place goes to Incredibly Strange Films, a book of essays on bad movies. You can get it on Amazon, but it's not cheap.... The people who made it have a blog where they sell books about other strange things they've found.

The Three Stooges Journal (p 260) – Still around, and apparently still in print! The address has changed since the book was published. You can order back issues!

Joe Bob Briggs (p 262) – He's still around of course, having made a name for himself as "drive-in movie critic." He was a syndicated columnist even then, so you didn't have to write him. Here's his website.


The Cassette Revolution
The compact cassette tape is probably doomed, in the long run, to be seen as 8-Track 2.0 (or maybe 8-Track as Cassettes 1.0), but at the time it was a watershed, a format that allowed users to record their own material and distribute it. It also allowed the easy creation and distribution of bootlegs, which I'm sure added impetus to the development of the CD format. While it lasted it spawned a thriving community of bands that distributed their works to interested people for little cash. HWBM came out just as Compact Discs began to hit it big, and thus came at a time to capture this scene at its height.

Negativland (p 270) – A band that has always had a strong relationship with the SubGeniuses. They're still around, and still fairly popular. They've become vocal opponents to restrictive intellectual property regimes, which instinctively makes me like them. They have a fairly nice website that deserves to have your dirty feet track all across it.

WSNS (World Satanic Network System) (p 273) – Had recordings of the last moments of Jonestown. But this page claims to have the story behind the recording, as well as other recordings of cultists and cult leaders.

The Swinging Love Corpses, DRUMMOND care of Wilcox (p 273) – Garage band of SubGenius co-founder Philo Drummond. Still around, and still SubGeniusy, with all that that implies regarding ingenuity, irreverence, and 90s web design.

Puzzling Evidence (p 274) – Would become another SubGenius regular, at the time of HWBM's publication. His taped rants let to the Puzzling Evidence radio show, still on the air on KPFA out of Berkeley. They have a podcast for non-local listeners.

G. G. Allin (p 281) – A rock star who shat on stage & ate it, regularly punched fans at concerts, and knocked his own teeth out with microphones, all while consuming legendary amounts of drugs. Allin isn't listed himself so much as two newsletters devoted to his phenomenon. Allin died in 1993 of an overdose. Stang doesn't speak for or against, limiting his judgement of the man himself to "[…] definitely one of the most disgusting figures in rock today." Even kook connoisseurs have their limits, I suppose.

Rudeness And The War Between The Sexes
Most of this is porn of some type or other. Hey kids, did you know that once pictures of naked people were actually pretty hard to come by? I skip many things here, not wanting to make the post more NSFW than it already is.

The Films of Russ Meyer on Videotape, RM Films International (p 286) – It's still around, and they still sell the movies over the internet, although for more money than you'd expect. Russ Meyer is the infamous auteur behind movies like "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!", "Mondo Topless," and "Mudhoneys."

A Lewd Spectacle of Wanton Depravity (p 292) – The entire entry: "A cassette tape for $6. I won't say any more. Just DO IT." That reminds me of happy times, those wonderful, innocent days before I stumbled upon goatse. Pardon me Rev. Stang if I don't just take your word for it. A Google search suggests that it's actually an experimental musical piece by SubGenius band "Doktors 4 'Bob'." I'd actually be more likely to spring money for it knowing that.


Great Catalogs

Loompanics (p 299) – These guys, a bookstore and publisher, released many of the other "controversial" works mentioned in the book, and the name appears in many addresses. Unfortunately the store's Wikipedia page informs us that they went out of business in 2006. Some of their published titles were picked up by Paladin Press, back on page 166. The site loompanics.com now appears to be a link farm pretending to be a bookstore. Interestingly, Stang warns the reader to patronize the store "before this company gets shut down" because of the dangerous information they peddled. Well his warning was valid, but it didn't get shut down so much as die of natural causes....

A.M.O.K. (p 300) – Another seller of "non-traditional" literature, like Loompanics. They appear to still be around today. To be honest I wouldn't put a great deal of the faith of many in the contents of many of these books; the entries in the "Orgone" section (really sex books) range from the slimy to the despicable, and the entries in the "Parallax" section include books like Extreme Islam: Anti-American Propaganda of Muslim Fundamentalism, Henry Ford's The International Jew, the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and Best Witness, the description to which bends over backwards to claim that the author does not deny the Holocaust.

Roadside America, Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster (p 303) – There aren't a lot of mainsteam books or anything in HWBM, but this, a series of sarcastic reviews of roadside highway attractions, made it. I think this site represents a web presence for it. They have an iOS app for it too, for $2.99, which I suppose is good... but to get the whole country you have to pay another $5.99.

Lor'D Industries, Ltd. – They sold machines like "psychic generators" and things like that. Sort of like the alternative Edmund Scientific. They don't seem to have a web presence, but they might still be around. This page doesn't make it seem promising though. "Certificate Of Authority Revoked." Yikes.

Archie McPhee (p 310) – The "Outfitters of Popular Culture," their catalog is a treat just to flip through. Yes, they do still print a catalog! You can get it by signing up here. Or just can just shop through their website. And, because it's my post and I can include what I want to: here's a link to the nefarious devil duckie.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth (p 311) – The artist from the hot rod scene of the 60s was still around in 1988. He didn't make it past 2001, though. When he died, a freaky, bug-eyed, tongue-lolling, monster-shaped light went out of the world. You can be sure he went to Hell, but it was the one with hordes of sexy devil girls, and he calls it heaven. Here's the merch site run by his wife.


The Great Kook-Finders

The Amazing Colossal Mindblaster, Remote Control (p 314) – Very little of this publication seems to remain on the web. YouTube has a three-part recorded (off a tape recorder) interview from them with Robert Anton Wilson, which nearly all searches for "Amazing Colossal Mindblaster" turns up: Part 1Part 2Part 3

Factsheet Five, Mike Gunderloy (p 316) – Inspired by kook listings in the SubGenius publication The Stark Fist of Removal, at its height this magazine published thousands of addresses allowing zines to communicate with each other. More information can be found on the Factsheet Five Wikipedia page. Some more information can be found on ZineWiki. Its history is complex, but the last issue was published in 1998. The page at www.factsheet5.org is linked from the SubGenius High Weirdness By Web page, but only ever had four posts. Gunderloy's booklet "Why Publish?" can be found in PDF form here.

Off The Deep End, Tim Cridland (p 317) – Publisher Tim Cridland appears to have written for website The Hollow Earth Insider for a while. His name appears in this page about trepanning. Do you know what trepanning is? You really don't want to. SCHLORP. This may be the same guy, calling himself Zamora.

The Stark Fist of Removal, SubGenius Foundation (p 320) – Many of the entries in HWBM were originally printed in this, their yearly newsletter. According to Ivan Stang, Mike Gunderloy was inspired to create Factsheet Five by early Stark Fists. It's no longer printed sadly. There are some web versions, this one dated 2004-2010. Here's an earlier one (NSFW) that has tons of content, but hasn't been updated since 2002. The web design is circa 1995, right down to the animated GIFs.

Further Connections, Waves Forest (p 323) – Didn't find anything from this magazine, but Stang calls Forest a "Robin Hood of suppressed data," and devotes several pages at the back of his book to his theories, which are about what you'd expect. Textfiles hosts an incomplete issue of Forest's "Now What." Here's an article by Forest (apparently reproduced without permisssion) on stopcancer.com. Forest was (is?) a proponent of "hyper-oxygenation" as a panacea that supposedly cures AIDS and cancer. I hate to think of sufferers who read that and saw it as providing hope, only to be cruelly let down later. It is a sour note on which to end a book of kooks, reminding us that even supposedly-harmless kooky beliefs might seem funny to us, but they can cause real hurt in the world if we let them.

Previously on Metafilter: Stang's Life Cycle of the Martian Peenworm.

And we're done! It took me weeks to compile this thing. Tune in next time when I'll cover The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, probably followed in short order by me swallowing broken glass! Buh-bye!
posted by JHarris (133 comments total) 453 users marked this as a favorite

 
My God...it's full of slack.
posted by jquinby at 3:07 PM on August 27, 2012 [57 favorites]


Ayiieee. I've needed to get my slack back, this might just be thing. Praise Bob (and Hail Eris, just to cover the bases). Why do I think I'll be dusting my Church of the Subgenius book tonight?
posted by mollweide at 3:10 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kill Bob.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:12 PM on August 27, 2012


Why not? Bob damn near killed me.
posted by JHarris at 3:14 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and HWBM introduced me to Loompanics which introduce me to The Abolition of Work, which I've obviously taken too much to heart, to judge by my career path since.
posted by mollweide at 3:15 PM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


FNORD
posted by Artw at 3:18 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


HWBM was interesting. Loompanics was AWESOME. They once sent me an order via USPS in a box which was clearly and boldly labeled on all six sides SECRETS OF METHAMPHETAMINE MANUFACTURE. I probably have an FBI file to this day because of that.
posted by localroger at 3:20 PM on August 27, 2012 [19 favorites]


This could have been a great FPP if the OP had put a little more work into it.
posted by msalt at 3:20 PM on August 27, 2012 [45 favorites]


Flagged as Fanatic.
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is this something I'd need to have spent the last decade attending scifi conventions, comic book shops, political gatherings, and board game parties to understand? Oh wait.
posted by cthuljew at 3:23 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reading this has caused me to smile for the third time in my life.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:25 PM on August 27, 2012 [20 favorites]


How could you misspell Paladin Press? Also, it's Amok, not A.M.O.K; and they are fucking awesome not kooks.
posted by bukvich at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2012


*slow clap building to thunderous applause*
posted by The Whelk at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


This is extraordinary! For a while now I've wanted someone to put together a decoder ring FPP tracing the provenance of all the things on a Dr. Bronner's product label.
posted by Nomyte at 3:26 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Subgenius is not a parody religion. All other religions are parodies of Subgenius.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:28 PM on August 27, 2012 [9 favorites]


What a superb post. I kept scrolling down and down to favorite it.
I feel stoned just off reading all of that.
posted by CNNInternational at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


They once sent me an order via USPS in a box which was clearly and boldly labeled on all six sides SECRETS OF METHAMPHETAMINE MANUFACTURE. I probably have an FBI file to this day because of that.

Heh. Reminds me of the old urban legend that the Effa Bee Eye starts a file on anyone who buys the Anarchist Cookbook, even if they pay cash, which lines up neatly with the one that claims that the book is a creation of the FBI themselves, deliberately leaving out sufficient safety warnings/precautions in the explosive and drug-making recipes so that budding anarchists and meth cooks will poison and/or blow themselves up.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:33 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Amok is spelled A.M.O.K. because that's how it's depicted in HWBM. I have no excuse for other misspellings.
posted by JHarris at 3:33 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Loompanics put out the wonderful little Anarchists Guide to the BBS. Man, the late-eighties and early-nineties were actually pretty awesome if you had a modem.
posted by absalom at 3:33 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I feel like you could ( and should ) use HWBM to create X-Files madlibs.
posted by The Whelk at 3:34 PM on August 27, 2012


Halloween Jack: Hah, suckers! My anarchist cookbook is printed on dot matrix paper from a text file. I still have it somewhere, in its nondescript black binder.
posted by absalom at 3:36 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've still got Loompanics' Greatest Hits from around 1991 and The Book of the Subgenius (1987 edition of the 1983 book). The Loompanics collection first exposed me to Bob ("Abolition of Work," "The Libertarian as Conservative") Black and Situationism. It all swirled together and informed my politics and general sensibility for several years.

It wasn't until this year that I finally learned the SubG people and Bob Black had a fairly serious falling out (Stang on Black and Black on Stang). Almost 20 years after paying much attention to either of them, it was still a really unpleasant, unhappy thing to learn. When I was a kid, I'd just assumed that all the people I liked would naturally be buddies.
posted by mph at 3:37 PM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Amazing post. Thank you for doing this!
posted by cell divide at 3:41 PM on August 27, 2012


Whatever happened to the Schwa Corporation? Did they fade into obscurity or are they just controlling everything now?
posted by Artw at 3:42 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


It wasn't until this year that I finally learned the SubG people and Bob Black had a fairly serious falling out...

From what I have read and heard, Bob Black has fairly seriously fallen out with a number of people.
posted by y2karl at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is fantastic! Thank you for putting it all together.
posted by skybluepink at 3:46 PM on August 27, 2012


I remember when Tower Records started carrying a whole shelf unit of Loopmaniacs books; I wish I had bought a bunch of them. At the time, I needed $20 more than I needed to know how to disappear and establish a new identity, though.
posted by thelonius at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh my. I recall HWBM. Having never gone to church, that book introduced me to Chick Tracts. It was ahead of its time.
posted by MrChowWow at 3:49 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


mph I ahve to admit that Black's criticism of Stang rings true to me, and I have little investment in their movment other than having picked up HWBM at B. Dalton's because it looked cool. There were some aspects of Stang's promotion of CotSG even in HWBM which seemed very nakedly self-serving and directed more at sucking up other peoples' Slack than guiding them to a source of more for themselves.
posted by localroger at 3:51 PM on August 27, 2012


(Stang on Black and Black on Stang)

A feud in the letters pages of Mondo 2000!
posted by Artw at 3:54 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a fairly prominent neuroscientist who, in one of his seminal papers showing neurons in macaque that encoded abstract rules about a task, used the image of Bob Dobbs as one of his stimuli. I'm curious how many people who read that paper recognized it.
posted by logicpunk at 3:57 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I think Ivan Stang has shown true commitment to the idea over the years, seeing as how the Hour Of Slack radio show is approaching 1,400 weekly episodes. And for all the promotion of the SubGeniuses and intrusions of "Bob" in HWBM, a lot of addresses in the book are marked Loompanics, too.
posted by JHarris at 3:57 PM on August 27, 2012


I really don't get the criticism of Stang or any of the subgenius schtick. They never were a church or anything more than a way to make money off of the huge amassing of strange and wonderfully kooky things they had tapped into in the American psyche. It was never meant to be something to adhere to or follow in any serious manner. Hell, the recent "schism" where Stang retired and handed over the Church to what-is-name and outed all the people who took it way too seriously was pure ridiculous genius. The Hour of Slack has always been more along the lines of a X-rated version of Dr. Demento than anything apocryphal or even remotely enlightening. It's absurdism in a new medium. Do people really not understand that?
posted by daq at 3:59 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, JHarris, seriously, freakishly amazing post. I can't favorite this enough.
posted by daq at 4:00 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


There were some aspects of Stang's promotion of CotSG even in HWBM which seemed very nakedly self-serving

Only some? "Bob" would not be pleased.

good thing they killed him
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:15 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah! I discovered that in my local library in about '89. Signed my friend up for mail from various dark occult groups. I think he's forgiven me by now... I think....
posted by edheil at 4:20 PM on August 27, 2012


I'm afraid Off the Deep End is gone, but Zamora, aka Tim Cridland went on to be a successful sideshow performer.
posted by Tube at 4:22 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I began noticing the Dobbshead here and there on bulletin boards around campus in the early 1990s, long before you could go to Ask MetaFilter and ask "What's this image I keep seeing of a Ward Cleaver looking guy with a pipe?" and have your mystery solved in 5 minutes. Bob had already burrowed his way into my subconscious by the time I learned about the Church of the Subgenius, which was either through this pamphlet or Revelation X, and I've been attempting to pull the wool over my own eyes ever since.
posted by usonian at 4:24 PM on August 27, 2012


If you miss Loompanics, may I gently suggest visiting Feral House, whose catalogs sitting on my coffee table managed to freak out visitors, dates, roommates and other unsuspecting poor souls throughout the late 90s and early 2000s.

(And yes, I have a first edition of Donna Kossy's sublime volume, packed with oddball rants, pamphlets and 'zines I got from friendly and unfriendly cultists, commune dwellers, religious freaks and kooks I interacted with throughout the same period of time.)
posted by 1f2frfbf at 4:28 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


At first I was going to snark about the length of this post. Then I was going to snark about making a MetaFilter post to a dead-tree resource that isn't online.

But then I stopped skimming and realized... My god, it's full of links!

I want to start a project digitizing pre-internet compendiums.
posted by muddgirl at 4:32 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


In the mid-nineties, I had a part-time job at a bookstore, and one of the titles we had (top shelf in the science fiction section, with the roleplaying games, for some reason) was Revelation X. That, combined with my ability to special order just about anything, and slack happened.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:37 PM on August 27, 2012


This is awesome. Thank you so much.

My dad had a copy of this not long after the time it came out. I was ten, and I count it as a major life influence. I don't remember if I had the nerve to send away for anything, but I read it avidly. (Dad later ordered an AMOK catalog, which I read with interest and also considerable horror. I'll never forget coming across a stanza of Aleister Crowley's porn in it, at about age 14 or so.)

High Weirdness, the Fortean Times, the Happy Mutant Handbook -- I was very lucky in my dad, because I had a remarkable education in the bizarre for a young Mississippi girl.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:38 PM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Coincidentally, I simultaneously discovered both The Book of the Subgenius and The Dark Knight Returns while browsing a bargain bookstore in an outlet mall in central Ohio ca. 1994. I was 16 years old and driving home from a weeklong summer program at OSU. I had already been primed for a long and storied career as a wiseass know-it-all through my prior discovery of Douglas Adams and Umberto Eco (Foucault's Pendulum, to be precise) the summer before. Although the Batman book was already sorta-kinda known to me (mostly through the influence of the Tim Burton films), I literally had no prior frame of reference for the giant Dobbshead on the cover of BotSG. I bought them both with a single $20 bill, and I think that day might be one of the key pivots of my philosophical and intellectual life. PRABOB!
posted by Strange Interlude at 4:41 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sweet post (for a pinkboy).
posted by Zonker at 4:43 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


1982 or thereabouts ...

speeding car (my brain) + tree (Church of Bob) = slack

it's true.
posted by philip-random at 4:43 PM on August 27, 2012


Fact: in December, when fellow Mefite Eddie Devil and I decided, on a Tuesday afternoon, to get hitched on Friday (because kittens for breakfast was flying home for the holiday -- why fly out AGAIN for best man duty?), we realized we'd need someone recognized by the state of Ohio to officiate and sign the license.

Shit. Two days to find someone. We remembered Rev. Stang lived across town from us, and emailed him. He promptly agreed, but then we found out he was out of state for the holiday. No dice. Damn it! So we got a roller derby girl to marry us instead. (And later found out our local comic book store owner could've, too).

Ok, not a really great story, but wouldn't that have been funny? (Also with a title like Reverend and a penis maybe my MIL would have given us less guff after...)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 4:45 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Nice SubGenius post, but lacking a single mention of Paul Mavrides, BIG FAIL and no slack for you.
posted by dbiedny at 4:59 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually forgot to put in a mention of Mavrides! I'm sure I could have squeezed it in somewhere.
posted by JHarris at 5:08 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I follow Fortean Times on twitter and love seeing the occasional Bigfoot- or other cryptid-related updates along with, you know, the latest from NASA. I'm fairly sure I saw the Loompanics stuff advertised in the back of stuff like Soldier of Fortune magazine, which my 8th grade buddies and I passed along, not so much for the gun pictures but, seriously, for all of the way-out advertisements strewn throughout. We'd probably be on a watch-list now.

In a time when you can get the - more or less - straight shit on just about anything via Google and some carefull sifting of the results, I really do miss the shadowy fringe stuff like this - backs of magazines and comics, 2nd and 3rd generation photocopies of the Anarchist Cookbook. Just knowing about this stuff put you into a little secret club and, man alive, when you ran into someone else who knew about it, it was awesome. I have a couple of Poundstone's Secrets books, and while I know a lot of the information was bogus (and what wasn't is surely by now seriously out-of-date), I still peruse them occasionally and mourn, a little, the loss of the time when books, zines, stickers, rumors, odd text file collections from BBSs and bric-a-brac picked up from cons were the only ways to find out about the really weird, cool stuff.

Hats off for a great post, JHarris.
posted by jquinby at 5:08 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Got a note from an interested reader who did not want to sign up for an account herself:

Bob Burden is no longer with Aardvark-Vanaheim--he went to Dark Horse in the '90s and he self-publishes now, I believe. His website www.flamingcarrot.com jumps to http://bburden.servehttp.com/flamingcarrot/
He's still a viable interest--I thought you might like to update his entry.

And thanks for doing this. These are great sources.

--Rev. Susie the Floozie,
Church of the SubGenius
posted by jessamyn at 5:11 PM on August 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


(top shelf in the science fiction section, with the roleplaying games, for some reason)

The border between this kind of stuff and certain kinds of RPG sourcebook is a very thin, permeable one.
posted by Artw at 5:14 PM on August 27, 2012


JHarris, you are a gentleman and a scholar. This is awesome.
posted by homunculus at 5:18 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I've mentioned in a previous comment not that long ago... there was a day when I and a fellow Pope (both ordained by Stang in exchange for a dollar at one of the very rare UK Subventions) were visiting the Tate at Pimlico (now Tate Britain, to differentiate it from Tate Modern at Southwark) while under the 'flunce of a noted indole-group entheogen.

It had gone very well. I cannot speak for my co-visitor, but with the windmills of my mind in full tilt I had grokked Turner and Reynolds in ways that would take a good book apiece to explain, and been totally bowled over by Blake, in ways I couldn't explain even given the run of an encyclopedia of English mysticism. But it was time to sit down, sip some water, and generally regroup. We repaired to the Tate's cafe, and managed quite well to merge with the queue for the checkout without attracting too much attention.

We got to the till with our bottles of water and bits of sandwich. A nice young man took my money and then turned his attention to my fellow traveller. Said pal was wearing a J R "Bob" Dobbs T-shirt. "Ooh," said the attendant. "What's that about?".

Pal looked at me. I looked at pal. The sheer impossibility of answering that question in a lunch queue, even when entirely straight, compounded with our mutual awareness of how far gone we were, hit us with the force of many X-ist baseball bats.

"Aaaaaahhh , eeeeeerhhh.... aaaaaah...." he said.

I don't know how long it was before the checkout chap realised his mistake - it seemed like an eternity - but eventually he reached over, plucked the fiver from my friend's paralysed fingers, and said "Come back for your change when you're ready..."
posted by Devonian at 5:19 PM on August 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


I knew Burden is no longer with Aardvark-Vanaheim. My MO was to post the entry heading as it appears in HWBM. I got caught up in enthusing about Flaming Carrot to provide the correcting information in the body of that writeup. Ut! Is good info that should be added to post!
posted by JHarris at 5:21 PM on August 27, 2012


Here's a photo of Tim "Zamora" Cridland, publisher of Off the Deep End, Mike Hoy of Loompanics, and Stuart Sweezy of Amok. Hoy and Sweezy were in town for an SRL show.
posted by Tube at 5:22 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was once hanging out with Mavrides, and Stang called on the phone. After they spoke for a bit, I asked Paul for the phone, and proceeded to channel various bits of weirdness to a silent Ivan. I handed the phone back to Paul, who spoke with Stang for a few more moments, hung up, and informed me that I had scared the shit out of him. I was a very happy camper.
posted by dbiedny at 5:26 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


(Oh, and there was a recent Hour Of Slack where Stang, trying to come up with a more diginifed way to put her name, called her "Reverend Suzen the Floozen." I laughed pretty well at that, and I tell you I consume absolutely no drugs stronger than caffeine.)
posted by JHarris at 5:26 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always kinda wanted to get ordained, but never got around to it. Been a minor fan for a long time - they were time cube before time cube was.

And is this the longest post ever, or what?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:34 PM on August 27, 2012


This is great, JHarris! I'm getting all nostalgic for my grandparents' collection of weirdness and my photocopied version of High Weirdness from college (Thanks, Mr. Deeds!). I purchase comics and titles in the 000s in the library where I work now, in the same library system I used as a kid and discovered all sorts of Loompanics books and the Covert Culture series. Who was that librarian who bought them? Now I buy Feral House titles and comics that make parents mad and/or confused. I feel like I'm paying it forward, in a way.
posted by gargoyle93 at 5:34 PM on August 27, 2012


Like Scientology, SubGenius is just kooky enough that it finds crackpots who /really/ believe it to be true. I once met a guy (we are going back to the late 80s, here) who was sure it was the One True Religion because of the way it exposed the lies in all the other religions.

I spent an evening trying to convince him it was parody and satire with no affect.

Of course, he could have been pranking me hard, in which case, well done, sir. Well done.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:35 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think we have a winner.
posted by maggieb at 5:35 PM on August 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh, how delightful that there's high weirdness by web to carry on! I have a copy of "High Weirdness By Mail" from back in the day, and I remember getting some stuff from some of the listed groups way back when. The book is currently shelved behind me, near some high quality porn and my copy of PIHKAL. (The SubGenius church itself had no hold on me as the Discordians got to me first.)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:37 PM on August 27, 2012


(top shelf in the science fiction section, with the roleplaying games, for some reason)

As a person who owns both Subgenius stuff and roleplaying games, the standard size for an RPG sourcebook is the same size as the Book of the Subgenius.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:44 PM on August 27, 2012


I am so happy right now I think it's time to smoke some frop, dig up a prairie squid and do what comes naturally.
posted by gideonswann at 5:52 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


GURPS SubGenius.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]




Holy fuck Tube you are the world's leading authority on autoerotic asphyxia?
posted by bukvich at 6:07 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hell, the recent "schism" where Stang retired and handed over the Church to what-is-name and outed all the people who took it way too seriously was pure ridiculous genius...

I think Stang mentioned something like this about Aleister Crowley & the O.T.O. in this book, but I didn't see it in the fine print here...
posted by ovvl at 6:18 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would never stoop to using an emoticon for a Mefi comment, but :-0
posted by ErikaB at 6:20 PM on August 27, 2012


Tremendously illuminative. Bob's ur uncle.

Tho, as always, The Slack which can be described is not the true Slack.
posted by Twang at 6:20 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


JHarris wins!
posted by togdon at 6:21 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Andy Partridge's contribution to one of the Lyrics By Ernest Noyes Brookings compilations that were put out by Duplex Planet is still one of my favorite songs ever.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:21 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]



Holy fuck Tube you are the world's leading authority on autoerotic asphyxia?


And you're THE Tube?


I learned so many things tonight.


Also - THIS POST. This glorious goddamn post. I can barely look at it, such is its brilliance.


I am currently viewing it through a pinhole in a piece of printer paper so as not to sear my retinas.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:47 PM on August 27, 2012 [8 favorites]


He's a massive celebrity amongst people who watched The Word in England in the 90s.
posted by Artw at 6:53 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I met Tim "Zamora" Cridland in 1987. He introduced me to High Weirdness by Mail. I thought it was about as cool as it could get. I wrote to a number of outfits. The one that sent me more than one return letter was an anti-circumcision preacher in the Mid-West. He would send a huge envelope of the stuff about every two weeks. He was obviously OBSESSED with the subject...

Tim introduced me to Mike Hoy of Loompanics. Tim and I would drive up to Port Townsend every now and then to hang out. Mike would give us various remaindered books, and he let us browse through the stacks, even though it wasn't a retail store. My shelves at home were overflowing with books on guns, drugs, weapons, and general weirdness.

When I went to LA in about 89 I went into the Amok bookstore in Silverlake. I called Stuart on the phone and we found mutual interests in forensic science journals. Amok bit off a bit more than they could chew with their catalog, as many of the titles were very obscure. Many were "drop shipped" and they didn't have them in stock, unlike Loompanics or Paladin.

My first public performance of the "Tube" act was as an intermission to a SubGenius Devival in Seattle. Tim was doing a psychic surgery stunt, and needed time to adjust a prop. I performed my act during that intermission.

In 1991 Tim introduced me to Jim Rose and I became a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus Sidewhow.

I think younger people today may have no idea how influential High Weirdness by Mail was when it came out. It was like tapping an artery into what existed before the World Wide Web changed everything. It certainly had a profound impact on me.
posted by Tube at 7:13 PM on August 27, 2012 [24 favorites]


It's like an entire world existing parallel to the real world, no not parallel but more of a topological mobius radius just to the left of the neighborhood.

I vote for this post. (not that my vote counts)
posted by sammyo at 7:25 PM on August 27, 2012


I'm going to be reading this post a while, please send a St Bernard with biscotti and brandy. Bravo JHarris!
posted by arcticseal at 7:48 PM on August 27, 2012


Holy crap, this is AWESOME in the true sense of the word! Kudos, I am awed.

I had a copy of HIGH WEIRDNESS (still do) and sent away for tons of stuff, like the nun/priest vestments catalog. As I changed addresses, less and less bizarre crap would show up in my mailbox... the last group to finally give up on me was from the Rosicrucians. Make of that what you will.

*sigh* Now I miss licking stamps and waiting for odd stuff to arrive and delight.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 7:51 PM on August 27, 2012


OH MY BOB IT'S FULL OF FNORDS.
posted by Theta States at 8:08 PM on August 27, 2012


I first came across High Weirdness by Mail when I was an avid reader of the Whole Earth Review/CoEvolution Quarterly in the mid-80's. I wish I had taken Reverend Stang's advice, rented a mailbox and started ordering weird things. I now feel so uneducated!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:25 PM on August 27, 2012


You spelled Joseph Newman's name wrong twice, mang. OUTSIDER!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:28 PM on August 27, 2012


If you want to hear the actual Hour Of Slack radio show, one way is to listen to WREK on Saturday after midnight. Stang does his thing for an hour, and then Rev. Susie does hers (WREK is her home base). Listen live via 91.1FM in the Atlanta area (it's a powerful station) or via the internet live, or via the internet any time via WREK's two-week running archive. To be clear, you could be listening to last weekend's show right now.

You kids are so spoiled. I remember the god damned cassette underground ...
posted by intermod at 8:29 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Stang was more annoying than the people he mocked. He wound up creating his own kookery: smug nihilism with a smirk on its face.

Besides, the craziest people are those who think everybody else but them has a problem.
posted by Yakuman at 8:31 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was looking for something to do all week, looks like it just found me...

PRAISE BOB!
posted by dr. moot at 8:57 PM on August 27, 2012


Nice try. Everyone knows this kind of stuff didn’t exist before the internet.
posted by bongo_x at 9:18 PM on August 27, 2012


Dear "Bob," I had this book, and a subscription to Ms. Kossey's Kooks 'zine. I can see that the rest of my week is going to be spent clicking links and wallowing in nostalgia...
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 9:28 PM on August 27, 2012


I wish I could have done something on every entry, but I was running out of funny things to say, and it took forever even with what I had here. Toward the end I just ended up deleting a dozen or so things I couldn't think of anything to say about. There's a lot of work left to do here, but I'm going to leave it to someone else to do it.
posted by JHarris at 9:35 PM on August 27, 2012


I'm gonna do a better and bigger post than this. It's on a super secret cool topic. But not for this month's contest. I'm going to start now and might just pull it off for next year's go round.
posted by msalt at 10:42 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a fantastic post! I haven't seen the book in years, so it was fun to read this best-of collection you culled.

Back when the book came out I sent away for literature from many of the people and places featured. It was so exciting, because you never exactly what you would get.

I've been digitizing all the ephemera I've been hoarding over the years, which includes many of these brochures and pamphlets. (Jumping for Jesus? Check!) I only have one sample scanned so far, for something called "System 19". I don't want to self-link, but it should show up in the flickr feed in my profile.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:25 PM on August 27, 2012


I grew up in San Jose and drove by the Rosicrusian HQ all the time and I still have no clue as to what they're about. Perhaps I should send away for some literature.
posted by vespabelle at 11:30 PM on August 27, 2012


I don't know if someone who grew up with the Internet can imagine how great this stuff was back in the day. No Internet and even cable TV was barely out of the box. Mostly 3 TV networks (Love Boat, Charlie's Angels). Punk was happening but otherwise MTV and the commercial sci-fi drawings on a Yes album were about the edgiest stuff you could find in the culture.

Then one day you hear about the Subgenius, mail off two dollars or something, and are rewarded with a fat manila envelope full of pure insanity, links to oddballs and stickers and weird little photocopies of tiny black print ranting about who knows what. Just people printing their own stuff before even zines. Like you had actually MET Devo or something. It was awesome.
posted by msalt at 11:37 PM on August 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


This makes me feel like it's 1999 and I'm discovering Psycho Dave's Dark & Scary Place all over again.

Bless you sir.
posted by Palindromedary at 12:58 AM on August 28, 2012


When we had a noise band in my teenage years, we all had sort of over the top blasphemous stage names, t(hey were not really stage names, because we never actually played shows or anything, but we did make some liner notes for our tapes.) I was called oBo, because I did not really know any Christians, but I did like to get high and start fights with my paranoid subgenius friend.
posted by St. Sorryass at 1:09 AM on August 28, 2012


I grew up in San Jose and drove by the Rosicrusian HQ all the time and I still have no clue as to what they're about. Perhaps I should send away for some literature.

At the very least, go check out the grounds. The Rosicrucian gardens are really cool and a very nice place to take a walk.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:10 AM on August 28, 2012


"Bob" Tweets!

@Bob_Dobbs
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 1:31 AM on August 28, 2012


Stang tweets too incidentally...and infrequently

@IvanStang
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 1:58 AM on August 28, 2012


I don't want to self-link, but it should show up in the flickr feed in my profile.

Self-linking to relevant content is a comment is not a problem.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:26 AM on August 28, 2012


I was once wondering on twitter what the difference between Discordianism and SubGenius was... the answer turned out to be that Bob will turn up in person to tell you SubGenius is better (I think)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:06 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


JHarris, I am giving you a standing ovation right now. Without pants. Truly an awesome post.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:18 AM on August 28, 2012


I gave away my copies of HWBM and the Book of the Sub-Genius a couple of years ago, but when I was a teenager they were great to have. I still have my CoSG membership card, which let you write in your own title. (I chose "Arch-Deacon of Ramsey County," if memory serves.)

I did, however, keep my copy of Ed Krol's 1994 book The Whole Internet, which now seems just as oddly quaint as HWBM for being a printed catalog of sources that might not last as long as they took to assemble into book form.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:01 AM on August 28, 2012


I picked up The Happy Mutant Handbook, and a friend of mine bought all the books of Slack he could find (as well as importing a lot of Scooter's albums). These were ingredients in my formative teenage years, along with 2600, and some stupid books about creative ways to get revenge on annoying people in your life.

Later, noticing that HMHB was published in 1995 and some of the websites linked were no longer functional (including an IP address for a site so weird that writing the URL would somehow water down the experience), I emailed someone involved with the book, asking if I could make a website for the book. He asked to see examples of my websites, and I think I pointed to one of my weird GeoCities pages. Our communications died there. I still have dreams of making a tribute to HMHB, updating and expanding it.

That is to say, thanks for all this proto-slack.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:31 AM on August 28, 2012


I sent out for a lot of this stuff when I got my copy of HWBM. Nothing was as blisteringly insane as the rants of Francis E. Dec, Esq. He's dead now, but his legacy has been lovingly preserved...
posted by borges at 7:47 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I picked up The Happy Mutant Handbook, and a friend of mine bought all the books of Slack he could find (as well as importing a lot of Scooter's albums). These were ingredients in my formative teenage years, along with 2600, and some stupid books about creative ways to get revenge on annoying people in your life.

I had that as well; it was one of the numerous books I ordered from the US when I was living in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, working and earning money but not paying rent; the combination of boredom and disposable income translated into transpacific book orders.

I'm not sure what happened to my original copy, but I bought another one on Amazon Marketplace a few years ago; it's sitting in my bookcase.

I believe I still have the Principia Discordia (the original Loompanics edition), the Book of the SubGenius, Revelation X and Kooks in a box in my storage locker in Melbourne.
posted by acb at 7:52 AM on August 28, 2012


I don't get it.
posted by ODiV at 8:29 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aha! An excuse for an anecdote:

Sometime circa 1999, I lived in DC and had a backpack with a J.R. "Bob" Dobbs pipe smoking man button pinned to it. And one day I was in the Metro somewhere downtown and looking at the map to figure out how to get somewhere. And a youngish guy came up and asked what I was trying to do, so I told him, and he told me what lines to take, and I said thanks. And then he said "Nice pin. You into the Subgenius?"

And I stood up very straight and looked right into his eyes and very seriously said: "No."

And we had about 20 awkward seconds of direct eye contact while he waited for me to say something else, but I didn't. And finally, after what seemed like a very long time, he said "Oh. Uh. Ok." and then he turned and walked away.

I never really knew why I said that, and I still don't, but somehow it seemed in keeping with the spirit of the thing.
posted by rusty at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm another person who got introduced to a lot of this weirdeness via the Whole Earth Review/CoEvolution Quarterly at about the same time (right when they were getting porny). It was all stuff you could mail away for, for very little money. Somehow going to an alternative college where I could indulge in weird to my heart's content (which meant a totally different thing where everyone was trying to outweird each other, I was super normal) meant that I hit my own personal level which was rooting around in gopher servers looking for lockpicking and pirate radio information and digging in the government documents library reading about COINTELPRO.

Moving to Seattle after college and working for Left Bank Books was a great way to actually learn how deep a lot of this stuff went, especially for the people who were into them, and I had a PO box and got to order a lot of zines as well as a Mondo 2000 subscription. I saw Robert Anton Wilson do an opener for Cypress Hill at a free concert once where Pearl Jam was headlining. A few more from those days

- Jim Hogshire, writer of Pills-a-go-go
- Jim Koehnline, great trippy pastiche art and this book
- the Metaphysical Library was a good way of getting at some of this stuff since the public library was terrible at it

Weird culture is really important to me and I'm so happy you made this post.
posted by jessamyn at 1:17 PM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh and the whole stupid reason I was going to comment originally. I met Mike Gunderloy well after Factsheet Five, he was homesteading way out in Eastern Washington and I met him and his wife and stayed over at their place, super nice people, had a lot of cats. We knew each other because we were early PacNW bloggers back when there were maybe only twenty of us. I got to spend the night in the motor home at his place. Really interesting guy (now a Ruby developer) at the time somewhat grouchy about just being known as "that Factsheet Five guy"
posted by jessamyn at 1:21 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


The way I see it, Gunderloy has a good chance of being forgotten as being "that Factsheet Five guy." There are surprisingly few of those newsletters surviving on the internet. I got an email from Tim "Zamora" Cridland saying he had a box of old Off The Walls he's looking to sell. I asked him for permission to give his email address (or maybe an address at which he could be reached) here for interested parties, but I also suggested that he get in touch with Jason Scott about maybe getting some of them up on the Internet Archive.

As I made the post, it dawned on me that in a few years half the links will be broken again, and someone else will have to come along to track it all down again, and another small but significant percentage will have vanished forever. I'd much like to reduce the chance of that happening.
posted by JHarris at 1:37 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The last time I saw my copy of HWBM was in New Jersey. Somewhere around Ong's Hat, if memory serves.

I am somewhat shocked that HWBM came out after The Dark Knight Returns. I would've sworn it was 5 years earlier than that, maybe more. Time is getting flexible for me I guess...
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2012


met Mike Gunderloy/ Factsheet Five

Cool! I never met him, but hung out with Seth Friedman and Miriam Wolf and Chris Becker after they took over. We had a weekly poker game in San Francisco - John Marr of Murder Can Be Fun was a regular, and John Held Jr. (mail art guy). Pagan Kennedy showed up once. Seth and Miriam are in Portland now; that poker game I play in is the direct descendant of it.

I continue to put Factsheet Five on my writing credits, but I'm still waiting for someone to respond to it. Fool's errand probably.
posted by msalt at 3:30 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


rusty: I never really knew why I said that, and I still don't, but somehow it seemed in keeping with the spirit of the thing.

The first rule of SubGenius is you don't talk about SubGenius.
posted by localroger at 4:47 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way I see it, Gunderloy has a good chance of being forgotten as being "that Factsheet Five guy."

Not for me. I had friends who were anonymous xerox artists back in the early 80s and when they finally put out a mail art zine, Cerebral Discourse, it got a fairly positive review in Factsheet Five. Which was such a big deal for them and me, too, as I had some xeroxes of xeroxes of xeroxes of a couple of old family pictures in the first edition.

A bit later, in 1986, there was a write in contest for a guest host on The Jim Althoff Show, a local AM talk show on KING AM, and I wrote in, just totally full of myself and in long hand, to boot.

And got picked for the guest host slot. The producer immediately tried to ram a typical set of talk show guests down my throat but I balked and kicked back. As it was, I had to put up with a couple of local celebrityies originally from the Rocket, who ate up more airtime than I would have cared for, but... I did get to interview Mike Gunderloy and Greg Bear. I think I have a cassette of that somewhere still.

Jim Althoff had no idea of who Gunderloy was or of the whole nascent zine scene, so it was so cool to get to interview Gunderloy via phone, and, not only that, but to get to talk about some of the darker stuff he covered, all of which went right over Althoff's head. That would never happen today.

And, for me, the high point was meeting Greg Bear and interviewing him live.

Althoff's go-to science fiction writer up until then was Ben Bova, which should tell you something about Althoff's level of sci-fi hipness. But, after that show, it was Greg Bear and Greg Bear only. Which was such an improvement.

And my favorite part was after comparing him to, among others, Olaf Stapledon, having Greg Bear look me in the eye and say, on air, "Wow, you really know your onions..." I was on, like, Cloud Nine for weeks. All I knew then was that Bear's work had that same cosmic flavor and had no idea of what an influence and inspiration Stapledon was to him in his younger days.

I was in the Seattle phone book back then and I got calls about that show at the weirdest times for weeks after. And everyone mentioned Gunderloy.

S'funny, Cerebral Discourse only had two issues -- consisting of stapled xerox art a few score pages long, which contained the works of Phlegm Pets, CDR Rotor and The North Idaho Native, among others, which they sent out for free plus postage. Now there are folks in Europe selling them for $50 each. And to think that, for years, I used to cart around a whole box of them that they never sent out... Oh, man...
posted by y2karl at 6:53 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, wow, why I never thought to Google Cerebral Discourse before this, I do not know. And, hah, to think I am still friends with the inimitable Phlegm Pets. Boy, this takes me back.
posted by y2karl at 7:58 PM on August 28, 2012


HWBM is where I began my lifelong love affair with Archie Mchpee.
posted by Megafly at 9:41 PM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]


But none of us live forever, y2karl. Already this culture is aging out of memory. I was largely ignorant of most of this until I got my copy of the book in the mail, and I was 15 when it was published. In a century people will wonder what the hell all this was about, and there will be precious little for them to find.
posted by JHarris at 12:30 AM on August 29, 2012


Oh, I figure that in a century people will be amused at the retro goofiness of it all, and certain highlights will live on in corners of the culture, like people now view the spiritualist/seances of the late 1800's/early 1900's.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:54 AM on August 29, 2012


I like to imagine a period roleplaying game in which some of the conspiracy theories of 80s newsletters turns out to be true, like Call of Cthulhu in the 20s. Maybe that can be the setting of GURPS SubGenius?
posted by JHarris at 10:22 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sort of like GURPS Cabal is loosely based on Golden Dawn? Yeah, that works.

(GURPS Illuminatus is of course already a thing)

(this isn't nearly as obscure as GURPS book subjects can get)
posted by Artw at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I personally own a copy of GURPS Discworld. I know of a GURPS Prisoner.
posted by JHarris at 12:32 PM on August 29, 2012


I don't think I've ever worked so hard to find the "fave" button on an FPP, afore...

I remember the magic of feeling like you were really really really in some sort of secret underground and getting shit in the mail from these folks. It was such a weird edge of the world feeling and you felt truly subversive and TRULY DANGEROUS.

I guess the only thing that would come to it now would be what?? Building illegals stuff? Finding some far off corner of the web with some really sick fetish that you need to be a member of??

It used to be so easy to be scary in the old days.
posted by Skygazer at 1:45 PM on August 29, 2012


I used to love my Survival Research Laboratories t-shirt, lost now.

And Factsheet Five, what a treasure trove that used to be.

Man..
posted by Skygazer at 3:14 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


GURPS Illuminati is fantastic, some of Nigel Findley's best work.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:18 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]




This is an awe-inspiring post, and as much as I was over Bob 20 years ago (pretty much pre-Internet), I have learned much from this, and so I gift to you this, your 300th favourite.
Because the 299 was bugging me.

I go now to delve into these terrifying links.
posted by Mezentian at 9:17 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hooooooooooooooooooooooooly shit. Uh. Thanks! Wow!
posted by lazaruslong at 4:23 PM on September 6, 2012


Someone mentioned that the site with the interview with Ivan Stang seems to have died, possibly from traffic generated by this post. Oops. I've got the text saved on Dropbox, that link should do until I can find a more permanent place to put it. (Of course, I'll take it down if sources complain.)
posted by JHarris at 8:18 PM on September 8, 2012


JHarris - thank you. Do you know the date on that interview?
posted by philip-random at 10:27 AM on September 9, 2012


I do not. From context I had figured it to be maybe mid 90s.

Hey, it looks like it's up on subgenius.com now!
posted by JHarris at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2012


y2k, I may still have about three issues of Cerebral Discourse. I should have known! A fave.
posted by mwhybark at 9:06 PM on September 11, 2012


Three days left before comments close. I still find myself wishing I could have included more things from the book.
posted by JHarris at 4:48 PM on September 24, 2012


no great work is ever complete
posted by philip-random at 5:35 PM on September 24, 2012


You did a fantastic job, man.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2012




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