This Could All Be Stoner Nonsense, Of Course
December 20, 2021 1:36 PM   Subscribe

bite no bit, and drink no drop, and certainly don't assent to their clickthrough ToS.
posted by zamboni at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

The Childe User may draw their own parallels between "bite no bit, and drink no drop" and "by continuing to use this service you agree to…"
posted by zamboni at 2:07 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Interesting essay, thanks for posting it.
posted by maxwelton at 2:08 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding the thanks. This was very interesting.
posted by Well I never at 2:57 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’ve never tried DMT but I have occasionally seen machine elves in the dim light of early morning. They do seem mechanical and very busy. Sometimes it happens when my eyes are re-accommodating to the dark after getting up. My theory is that low level feature recognition circuits are being randomly activated. I assume some people are more disposed to seeing them, and while I would never think them real, it’s easy to believe some people would, especially before the modern era.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:32 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

It also occurred to me that zombies might fulfill some of the roles of elves in modern folklore, especially as a proxy for a fear of the “other.”

I saw an excellent lecture on YouTube that I’ve tried and failed to locate where the Native American speaker deconstructed Zombieland as the sublimised fear of colonizers that the colonized would someday exact their just vengeance. It changed my view of the film completely, and the scene where they gleefully destroyed the Native American gift shop took on a whole new meaning.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:41 PM on December 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Imagine my momentary confusion - and subsequent mirth - upon clicking through, surveying the illustrations and beginning to read when I'd mistakenly read the title to be: Elvis in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
posted by thecincinnatikid at 3:59 PM on December 20, 2021 [11 favorites]

But do people fear the machine elves they see? I've never gotten that impression from DMT accounts. People tend to always fear zombies, unless they look like Bill Murray...

I can't really think of a zombie story where the protagonists don't fear the zombies, which is, to you point, about colonization...
posted by Windopaene at 4:03 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

i saw that (and machine elves) sjswitzer and think that it was rich hall's "inventing the indian," maybe interviewing the native american proponent of the thesis, but that doesn't seem to be it; later i looked for it and couldn't find it. oh: is it this?

enjoyed the piece. wanted several more paragraphs (or maybe chapters) and am not entirely satisfied with the labor reduction, though it is interesting. got comments about machine elves, the so much more ancient "wheels within wheels" angelic vision (is that elijah?) but no liberty to craft them, as, at present, i am the happy machine elf joyfully toiling for some time longer.

this artist's work (the rosenberg algorithmic music generator, more than kressel and portents) always has evoked machine elves for me. ym most certainly will vary. NB - single bandcamp link to the page of a person personally known to self.

on preview: fear has featured in some of my encounters, but not fear _of_ the machine elves. i don't think i have seen them menace, but they might be seen as menacing.
posted by 20 year lurk at 4:10 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

MetaFilter: a band of radar-antennae, elf-like insects merrily working away, each cave the same, the grey-white walls endlessly parading by… infinity of life forms… merry erotic energy nets…
posted by doctornemo at 4:16 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

A++ Walter Benjamin goof, would nerd again
posted by phooky at 4:18 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

here it is: "Anthropology of Zombies: Frontiers of the Reanimated West" by Dr. Shaawano Chad Uran, is the fuller (and earlier-seen, by me) presentation of the examination of zombie movies. the "is it this" link from my earlier comment is the same scholar, made much more recently and focusing pretty exclusively on zombieland.

i view fairies as having individual will, zombies as having no will (but maybe inchoate rage and hunger), and machine elves as being entirely alien, ineffable. it is clear they're active, i'm not sure they're doing work. um. a person of my acquaintance reported them speaking.
posted by 20 year lurk at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Once, during an extended stay in a Texas mental hospital, I got to know a nice lady in her mid-sixties who was there for about a week.
We talked a lot and she told me how she got there. Ever since childhood, she told me, as she fell asleep little men would appear in a pool of light and they would discuss among themselves all the good things she'd done that day and conclude that she was a wonderful person.
The only person she told about this was her husband but when he died (a year or so before she ended up in hospital) she'd got close with one of her neighbors and had mentioned the little men to her. The neighbor informed the local mental health authorities and, since she saw no harm in what was happening, she told them everything. Hence the hospital stay.
She told me the drugs had made the little men go away and asked me if they would come back when she got out and flushed the meds down the toilet.
I said I didn't know but that if they did she should never tell anyone else. I hope your little men came back C.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 4:55 PM on December 20, 2021 [52 favorites]

Thanks mefites, you always come through!

(Machine elves for me have only been a thing to puzzle at and have never been frightening. The article does relate (news to me!) that elves often been seen as sinister or tricksters and have represented fears about inversions of social order. That’s the elf/zombie tie-in I was reaching for, however tenuously. Carry on!)
posted by sjswitzer at 4:57 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

In 2015, I was struck down with severe fatigue. There was a couple of months there when I didn't have the strength to leave the house. It was a terrifying time. I had read lots of stories about people with chronic fatigue, and I had no idea if I was going to get better, or if I would spend the rest of my life staggering between the bed and the couch.

Fortunately, my problem was diagnosed, it was treatable, and I slowly got better.

While I was recovering, I re-read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. In it, a young lady named Lady Pole is restored from the dead through the magic of a fairy known only as The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair. Except it's not really life: every night the Gentleman whisks her away to his underground castle and forces her to dance all night, so that every day she is crippled with exhaustion, stuck in a shadowy half-life.

I knew exactly how that felt, and I hated the Gentleman with a fiery passion for inflicting it upon her.

Later, I learnt that Susanna Clarke also suffered from chronic fatigue. Perhaps that's why Lady Pole's sufferings were so vivid.

Which is a long-winded way of saying: the section of this article about being fairy-taken still hits home, even 6 years and a full recovery later.
posted by davidwitteveen at 6:23 PM on December 20, 2021 [12 favorites]

I have never heard of "machine elves" and am a little weirded out by everyone saying "oh yeah see them all the time."
posted by emjaybee at 6:59 PM on December 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

posted by juv3nal at 7:06 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can't say I've ever ingested DMT (why? you got some?), but "Lilliputians" are a common feature of Charles Bonnet Syndrome (hallucinations that can accompany loss of vision), as are "cartoons," which could be related to "clockwork" (i.e. artificial, uncanny) quality of machine elves. There does seem to be a bit of hard-wiring to hallucinate little people, exploited labour notwithstanding.
posted by wreckingball at 8:36 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

This was a great article, and it brought to mind my own proclivity toward dim-light hallucinations and also a reflection on what I've meant when I've thought about those hallucinations or "the house spirits" who might hear you if you don't knock on wood, or any other little things I carry in my life as Jungian expressions of some unknown that lurks just beyond my senses.

Thanks for posting this. It was a fascinating read and went well beyond anything I was expecting.
posted by hippybear at 9:19 PM on December 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

>I have never heard of "machine elves" and am a little weirded out by everyone saying "oh yeah see them all the time."
I have some images from when I had a bunch of them wedged in my scanner -- will share only if you can tell me how they got wedged in there, or why.

(I really need to know. Help!)
posted by k3ninho at 2:34 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Whatever machine elf put some strange script sideways down this comment thread is to be congratulated.

...or am I the only one seeing that?
posted by clawsoon at 7:07 AM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

Machine elves thrash about wildly, so it’s easy to imagine them reaping, threshing, weaving, sewing, smithing, etc. and it’s interesting to me that we have actual machines to do those very things now.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:47 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have consumed every kind of drug and I'll say this.
I am profoundly glad that I ate a truly colossal amount of shrooms before I ever started dicking around with DMT.
I really cannot emphasize how important the first is to the latter. My experiences with LSD and mescaline are of a different category, but the shrooms>>>DMT learning curve was critical.

I can think of one specific event where I had eaten a stupid amount of shrooms and was in a lovely, caring environment surrounded by beautiful humans and so, feeling very safe, I simply stuck my head between some couch cushions and went a'flyin' aboot.

I came before a massive, toltectic doorway over which brooded a huge face - an imperious stone God gazed down on me, a naked little worm, and asked in Spanish, "¿Por qué has venido aquí?"
and I was very, very afraid. I said, "I think I've come to the wrong place and I am very sorry to have bothered you."
They replied, "it is okay, little one, nobody here is going to hurt you. Do you want to go away from here?"
Despite my curiosity I couldn't shake the feeling that I really was, in fact, inside somebody else's dreamworld and wholly unprepared to receive whatever understanding this strange god had to offer, that I lacked the inheritance of whatever culture was necessary to make use of this arcane wisdom, I wanted it but I felt very strongly that I hadn't earned so I said, "Yes, thank you. I'm sorry for bothering you."
Laughing, the god closed their eyes and I shattered into little spinning shards of colored glass and fell upward out of the coach and crawled over to the table and spent the rest of the night drawing brightly colored butts on construction paper.

So when I smoked DMT and met the elves I wasn't exactly afraid, - they were small (but I felt that if I tried to chase them or approach them they might get very very large?) and I was very happy to just watch them dance and work. I just wanted to watch and they seemed by turns to either smile coyly in my direction or they were content to ignore me. I think, if I hadn't had that first experience inside the couch, I would have run toward them or tried to hold them or something and I'm certain I would have gotten myself very badly bitten.

So, anyway, DMT is a fantastic place where you can visit, you can choose to learn, you can do all sorts of things. But it's better to start with shrooms and just sort of patiently get accustomed to going with the stream of the river, floating carefully, and observing. You'll remember what you see and it will better prepare you for the next occasion. Just don't... uh... improvise. Is what I'm saying. Just chill.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2021 [13 favorites]

thatwhichfalls: She told me the drugs had made the little men go away and asked me if they would come back when she got out and flushed the meds down the toilet.
I said I didn't know but that if they did she should never tell anyone else. I hope your little men came back C.

Flagged as fantastic. Also a good illustration that the killing of the elves that the article argues started with the Victorians and reached its apogee with WWI has continued, like the Inquisition mopping up the last traces of Cathar heresy one mind at a time after the Albigensian Crusade, with the targeted administration of anti-psychotic medications.

FWIW, I have never seen the mechanical elves, or even felt any hint of them.
posted by clawsoon at 8:26 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Patrick Harpur in his book Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld is a good introduction to these denizens of this other reality. He has a very interesting take on the reality of these creatures.
posted by njohnson23 at 9:28 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

“Fairy-taken” is also a less individualistic explanation than “languishing.” This sadness and inability to work is happening to you, but not because of you. It’s not that you failed to hustle hard enough, or to take appropriate care of yourself—it’s just that there’s something very evil and arbitrary in the world, and it chose to snatch you up. And there’s no solution and no cure, unless you can trick the fairies into letting you go.

This is so good. So many people around me are looking for causes and therefore solutions and sometimes you just have to realize that if take the blue ribbon from your wrist and tie it around a tree you can walk away.
posted by BrashTech at 10:26 AM on December 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

This whole thread is fantastic, classic Metafilter!

No clawsoon, you are not the only one to see the machine elves script.

I must have zero DMT in my brain, because I can never conjure even one elf, faerie or 'tiny little fat people floating in the air'. I can just about manage to imagine a dark cat flitting past the edge of my vision in certain circumstances.

My brain just doesn't seem to want to turn random visual inputs into faces, or people. It will do geometric patterns if given enough encouragement. A recent 'Amazonian' experience gained me some purple and green repeated geometric patterns, but other people had cartoon characters and woodland sprites joining them.

This reminds me, some time in the past 20 years someone posted a link on Metafilter (I know, that isn't much help) to what I remember as a selection of coloured pencil drawings of geometric patterns that could be produced by the human eye. My recollection is that these were produced by someone who knew about the chemistry of the eye, rather than by someone trying to transcribe visual hallucinations. Obviously, I can't find them here, there or anywhere, so if anyone remembers that, please share the link.

Here's a nice comic about getting taken by fairies - Hope for the Future
posted by asok at 10:27 AM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

brightly colored butts

Now there's a username just begging to be taken
posted by chavenet at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

The only time I've had an inkling of the elves (being that I have only done shrooms a couple times, and DMT never) was after a long MRI on my brain. For those who've never had an MRI before, it involves being shoved in a rather comfortable tiny tube which will definitely not make you claustrophobic, told to lie immobile, and they use some rather egregiously powerful magnets on you while playing soothing NIN B-sides at a reasonable and pleasant volume.

For at least a couple hours after, I saw the elves in the mirrors. They seemed nice, but not particularly interested in talking to me.
posted by mrgoat at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2021 [6 favorites]

I've never seen mechanical elves, but I have seen numerous tree dragons (they're gentle) and peripheral humanoid woodland folkloric creatures--sometimes horned.
posted by thivaia at 2:38 PM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

chavenet: I wouldn't have even seen the butts if it wasn't for the pile of giggly-goofs who had climbed onto another, different couch.
I'd asked them what they were doing and they were all laughing so hard, finally they explained that while I'd been couch-diving they'd all come to the conclusion that they were very, very wet.
(This is totally normal for mushrooms, especially golden teacher which I think was the strain.)
So they'd created for themselves a special mantra, "nothing is wet!"
Then they'd decided that the safest coarse of action would be to get on a boat - and I think their logic was that if they were on an actual boat instead of in the water (the floor?) that they couldn't possibly be wet, anyway.
So they were all up on their couch-boat and they started laughing and saying, "the sky is butts! The sky is butts!"
And I'll be god damned if I didn't look up at the ceiling and it was just... all... like spectral butts. I thing the visual patterning on the strain was like parenthesis, like )( repeated over and over again and they were definitely butts.
The butts were all sorts of lovely colors.
I didn't really want to get on the boat because even though we were obviously all peaking at the same time I didn't feel particularly wet and I didn't want to be a drag by forcing them to explain their entire new cosmology to me... explaining shit when you're on shrooms rapidly becomes so tedious because, "Come on, dude! It's so obvious! Just, like, look!" and so I decided to make butt pictures so we could all remember the sky of glowing, colorful butts.

This was such a good group of people. Just so damned fine and they really invested in the "zero session," - laying out crayons and cartoons and putting together different setlists, candy, tons of water, and gentle "turn around, friend!" signs on the basement stairs and the exterior doors lol.

And everyone was so incredibly chill. I'll never get that back, I suppose, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. A merry band of psychonauts on winter vacation, all with square jobs, all with good and loving intentions, all desiring only what was best for each other.

I suppose that's why we never took MDMA in that kind of setting... we'd take it at shows... I think if we'd have introduced it the level of connection and enmeshment would have been either overwhelming or... impregnating lol.

Safe travels.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:47 AM on December 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

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