Arch Stanton Guest Post: “Batman Cries” by Joe Settineri

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This is an emergency post. Sometimes an event is so life-shattering, so monumental, that you can’t help but urgently move to share it with every person you know. Today, I share with you: “Batman Cries” by Joe Settineri. If that title doesn’t grab you and immediately require 100% of your attention, well… how did you even find this page in the first place?

So this life-nourishing bit of mana appeared in my life as a tweet from someone claiming this was part of a PR promotional email, which normally warrants immediate deletion without further waste of your precious time but they noticed the particularly grabbing headline you saw above.

I am almost certain this is satire. There has to be a nudge-and-wink I’m missing somewhere, because this could not have been approved by multiple serious professionals. I struggle to understand the intended purpose here if it was indeed a sincere song and video, therefore I am electing to go step by step this song that is… something.

0:01: Look at this Stepford-ass neighborhood with its quaint houses and charming light fixtures. It’s nighttime, which goes without saying because the title includes “Batman.” You could say this is redundant, but let’s take nothing for granted. Our protagonist is an inoffensively quasi-handsome man, a kind of a Long Island Tony Romo. He is singing over some somber piano, alone in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk as water runs into a sewer gate. This is called foreshadowing, people!

0:24: Wait a second, our protagonist’s face looks different in this shot.

0:39: EYE PAINT! Joe looks like he is fronting an emo KISS cover band. No one tell Gene Simmons, we don’t want this artistic masterpiece to vanish due to a frivolous copyright infringement claim. We are approximately one-ninth of the way into the video, and I am HOOKED.

0:45: Joe is BELTING out the chorus. This motherfucker is leaning into it, he is giving it everything his high school music teacher taught him – really utilizing that diaphragm to project his emotions as he sings “when he cries, when BAT-MAN- CRIIIIIIIIIIES!” We have hands pumping, gripping dramatically, and arms akimbo as Joe channels his inner Scott Stapp to really convey his emotion. This is the first chorus. There’s still like four minutes. How can Joe keep this energy?!?!

1:20: Joe is now in a foggy shower with his face paint. Now, I don’t typically wear much makeup, but this will lead to running mascara, correct? Is Joe going to show us his impersonation of a sorority girl who went too hard at the Phi Delt kegger? God I hope so.

1:33: It’s raining now. Joe is remarkably dry despite the pouring rain. The logistics aren’t adding up – is he on a sound stage and the rain is behind him for texture/ambiance, or is he under an umbrella? And it doesn’t work as a storytelling aspect either – we still have a long ways to go and it’s already raining. Even in “November Rain” Guns N Roses knew to keep us titillated by withholding the rain until the end of the video. Joe may have blown his load too early.

1:36: The pouty little emo kid pulling his hood over his head is delightful. I will find this gif, and it will be my response to everything in my life going forward. A distant uncle left me his vast fortune? Slouchy Batman. Dog died? Slouchy Batman. Stuck waiting in the rain? You got it – slouchy Batman. Immediately following slouchy Batman, Joe is now wet. The tension has been dissolved. Joe is wet and wearing face paint, all within the first ninety seconds of this video.

1:45: To quote the ephemeral Tobias Funke: “I’m afraid I prematurely shot my wad.” SLOUCHING IN FACE PAINT IN THE SHOWER! Knees tucked in looking forlorn – is it possible to get this tattooed across my chest?

1:50: Face paint shower Joe has his hand on the glass looking down as the water cascades over him. If you have never seen a movie before, this is suggesting our character is distressed or experiencing self-doubt about who he is as a person. Really soak in this for a moment – an adult man is scream-singing about how Batman cries while pantomiming as a KISS tribute band member while acting serious in a shower. If you don’t find this incredible, leave this site immediately and question where you are in your life.

2:00 Second time through the chorus, but this particular moment, Joe (somehow dry again in the rain) leans back to yell his displeasure at any heavenly body who will hear his wails about a comic book character crying.

2:08: Face painted Joe is back in the shower and pounding on the tiling. I have moved from “I need this tattoo” to “I need a triptych of this face painted man tattooed across my body.”

2:25: Not only is this chorus absurdly long, but they repeat it. This song is like 70% “Batman… CRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIES,” but at this particular moment, Joe is howling like the Wolfman at the moon after another slaughter he was powerless to prevent.

2:35: DEAD. I am dead. I cease to exist. Face painted Joe strikes a symbolic Jesus pose with arms spread, and crashes face first into a pool. This is a man in face paint. Imitating Jesus. Falling into a pool. Singing about Batman. There is nothing I can say that will be funnier than that Madlibs-ass sentence. They second shot is him floating face-down in the pool. Just astonishing. This is where I am convinced this is satire, because no one in their rational mind could think this would perceived as anything other than bonkers.

2:52: The man sinks in the pool. Hooded face painted Joe curls under sweatshirt in the rain. He falls to his knees in the shower. The bridge comes in. He claws at the light post back as he pulls himself up. He dramatically stumbles to his feet in the middle of the street in the rain as he encourages himself to “come on, stand up” in song. The song builds with strings towards its triumphant crescendo: face painted Joe screaming about Batman crying again in the pouring rain.

The song plays out to the same beats: Joe Wolfman-howling while looking at something vaguely just off-screen, face painted Joe leaning into the rain, arms outstretched as we defeated our foe: Batman’s loneliness.

I did more research on Joe Settineri. He has no Wikipedia page, but does have two albums on Spotify from 2009 and 2014. According to his own site, he is a “go-to singer in Los Angeles” (whatever that means) and quit his job in finance to pursue his singing career. As of 10 pm October 24th, there are 35,729 streams of “Batman Cries” on Spotify. He has one other perfect fine music video (“Hello Goodbye”) posted June 1, 2018 with 909 views; “Batman Cries” has 21,500. His site includes the following about this soon-to-be part of internet lore: “The new video for BATMAN CRIES explores the inner superhero in us all — the strong, inner-spirit that fights for us and keeps us moving, dreaming, and striving. It’s about the eventuality that even our strongest self needs to be reassured, lifted up, and cheered on. It’s about being down – seriously down – with seemingly no way up and finding that inner strength to go forth. When a superhero is down, it tears us apart, but when that superhero is us, it’s a matter of life and death.” Unrelated to the video, but the producer’s name is “Mike Krompass”. That doesn’t impact anything, but I really needed you to hear the last name “Krompass,” which I’m pretty sure was part of Kenneth Parcel’s made-up religion in 30 Rock.

This is 100% real, people. There is nothing but absolute sincerity in every bit of this, and I don’t understand a single bit of it. I set out to get answers about what this was about, and yet I left with more questions. I may not have got what I came for, but I got what I needed.

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Arch Stanton Guest Post: CIA Operations, Ranked by Insanity

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There is a surprising amount of publicly available information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s past operations on Wikipedia! The basic premise of the organization as a whole is pursue American interests overseas, which was bound to lead to some moral gray areas. What is acceptable foreign actions, and what constitutes an obscene overstepping of moral standards? I have no idea! You definitely aren’t going to learn anything about morality here, but you can learn about some insane historical footnotes. Starting with the most reasonable actions and ending with the most indefensibly insane:

(NOTE – there are a lot of these – A LOT. Many are related to things you are already are familiar with, while others are more unfamiliar. Any single one of these could warrant a full self-standing article, so I will do my best to briefly summarize the most insane parts of each while still attempting to be subjective and instructive, because we all came here to learn right?)

Canadian Caper: In 1979, Iranian students took US embassy personnel as hostages in a protest of the Iranian government. In 1980, somewhere in the midpoint of the crisis before all the hostages were released, the CIA, with the help of six Canadians, an Irishman and one Latin American (before you bitch, Wikipedia didn’t specify the last individual’s nationality – vague brown person it is!). This group pretended to be a film crew looking for a location to shoot their fictional science fiction movie (word play!), and then snuck eight Americans out with them when they left. This was the movie Argo with Ben Affleck. As far as international intervention goes, this is a great reason to fuck with some foreigners.

Operation Lincoln: During the height of the Cold War, individuals accepted by the USSR for travel to the Soviet bloc were briefed before their trip about things to observe and take note of, and then debriefed upon their return. Relatively innocuous if you ask me. Just asking some questions about the people threatening to nuke the planet into oblivion is all!

Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis: Post-Cold War, the CIA leveraged their global surveillance records and capabilities for the study of climate change. Look how thoughtful the CIA is! Nothing came of this, but hey, the effort is what counts right? /watches Florida get hammered relentlessly during hurricane season for the umpteenth year before falling entirely into the Atlantic

Operation Timber Sycamore: The CIA began providing money and weaponry to Syrian rebels fighting President Assad, who likes to gas and murder civilians. So, pretty justified I would say.

Operation MIAS: Remember all those missiles and Stingers and anti-aircraft the CIA sold to the mujhadeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 80s? Yeah they want those back now please. SPOILER: they didn’t get all of them.

JMWAVE: Around the time the Cuban government began to tip their hand as a communist state, the CIA went to the University of Miami and built a station to spy on our now-enemies to the south. When your rival loads a ton of nuclear-tipped missiles a few miles away from your border, you’re gonna want to keep an eye on that; I’ve played Risk, I know this.

Project COLDFEET: In 1961, the Soviets were forced to abandon an ice station in the Arctic due to pressure in the ice disrupting their only means of egress. For some reason, the Soviets thought they could just leave the station to eventually be folded into the ice, but the CIA is all about digging through other people’s trash, and flew out to collect any pertinent data they could from the station. Hey, if your rival is going to leave his shit out in the open, it’s fair game I say. /eats all of your leftovers from the fridge, “I SAID FAIR GAME!”

Project Azorian: Similar to COLDFEET. A Soviet submarine sunk in the Pacific in 1974, and the CIA was hell bent on uncovering what those rascally Soviets were up to. The Soviets watched the sub sink to a deep trench, and figured it would be safe from prying eyes miles below the surface. NO FUCKING WAY, said the CIA. Roughly $800 million dollars later (approximately $4 billion in 2018 dollars), the CIA managed to get the sub off the floor of the ocean, only for two-thirds of the recovered sections to break off and sink back to the bottom completely destroyed after a mechanical failure. FYI – the average teacher makes $36,617 annually. Think on that while you grapple with $4 billion spent to recover one-third of a soggy submarine.

HTLINGUAL: Between 1952 and 1973, the CIA intercepted mail sent to the Soviet Union and China as a matter of national security and general nosiness. Originally the CIA only monitored names and addresses, and then graduated to straight up opening and reading mail. Considering the political environment, this seems like a pretty reasonable operation; I don’t love it but hey, don’t send shit to communists.

Osama bin Laden/Operation Neptune Spear: Before you break out into chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, consider: the CIA led a joint special operation into an allied country in order to execute a known terrorist. We celebrate this because: A. it worked, and B. fuck that guy, but consider if it had not? Consider a bunch of SEALs showed up in Pakistan, shot a bunch of civilians, and left? Absolute chaos – the Obama presidency is all but over before his second term, a critical ally abandons the US in the war on terror, and the US looks like an even bigger asshole on the international stage. Lost in the celebration was how big a gamble this was. That said… U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

Operation Gold: When Berlin was separated post-WWII, foreign countries rushed to establish embassies in order to stake their claim over central Europe. Almost immediately, the US and British set to tapping the Soviet landlines back to Moscow. Lest it seem like we are unfairly maligning America, be assured the Soviets did equally terrible things across the board (keep this in mind as this certainly applies throughout the rest of the list).

Operation Merlin: The CIA left significantly flawed designs for nuclear weapons in a place they expected Iran to steal them in order to delay their progress during the Clinton Administration. I have no problems with some good old-fashioned counterespionage, but my real issue here is the gambit was immediately uncovered, which turned out to not only be useless, but a boon to the Iranians who could suddenly weed out any inaccuracies in their current program against a list of everything you shouldn’t do while making a nuclear missile. Lower than it originally would have been due to poor execution.

Extraordinary Rendition: If you are not familiar with the concept, extraordinary rendition is another delightful little moral quandary where American captives or detainees with potentially useful information are “rendered” to allied nations with more flexible stances on torture, where they are then, ahem, “interrogated” for additional information. Some would call this “kidnapping”, others would call this “deterring illegal combatants from further action”. I understand others concerns about the process but I maintain the outlook of “fuck with the bull, get the horns” of international geopolitics. Fuck ’em.

Secret War/Laotian Civil War: If I didn’t lead with “Secret War”, no one would be that interested in this. Anyway – did you know Laos had a civil war?!? At the same time as the Vietnam War? I bet you didn’t, but the CIA sure did. Soviets were dumping money into the communist rebels while the US threw weapons and funds at the reigning monarchy in an attempt to keep them in power against an artificially-inflated resistance force. The Wikipedia article was real long, but it looks like the rebels won with the backing of the North Vietnamese across the street. The CIA has a pretty sub-par record in southeast Asia.

Albanian Subversion: Wikipedia gets exceptionally opinionated on this article by referring to this as “one of the earliest and most notable failures of Western cover paramilitary operations”. Seems like editorializing to me. The CIA, in addition to other western intelligence agencies, sought to foment resistance to Soviet communism in Albania by installing expats and other agents throughout the newly-formed communist government. A Soviet mole tipped off Moscow, which immediately crushed and/or captured the agents and sent them to life in prison camps. Gonna chalk that up as a tough loss.

Air Bridge Denial Service: Starting in the 1990s, the CIA targeted aircraft believed to be trafficking drugs from Colombia and Peru, and would “force them down” (shoot them out of the fucking sky). I am extremely curious about the legality of such a program, because I am pretty confident in saying the CIA certainly was not. The project was suspended after a legitimate aircraft was shot down and two Americans were killed. Jk they halted the program for less than two years before resuming their plan to shoot anything suspicious flying out of Colombia. Drugs are bad, but the War on Drugs is even dumber, and shooting civilian aircraft because you distrust them seems like a morally questionable area.

Project MERRIMAC/CHAOS/RESISTANCE: A information gathering procedure against individuals who posed a threat to the CIA. Not terrible until you realize this was a domestic program and included spying and surveillance on domestic anti-war groups. So far we’ve seen justifiable threats, but this is more paranoia about a bunch of stoned hippies.

Plausible Deniability: Basically, everything is off-the-books. Instead of keeping an org chart, the CIA likes to just pretend potentially damaging projects or people don’t exist by leaving the off the books. I do the same thing in my phone with ugly girls.

Contras: Not Iran-Contra, mind you. Just the Contras. They were totally fine. They were only counterrevolutionaries fighting against the socialist-sympathetic Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Their ideology is described as “anti-communist”, which you can really take a lot of different directions if you really dive into it. If we fold in the Iran part, well… then the CIA was receiving money from illicitly-promised weapons to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard in order to fund the resistance against a naturally-selected sovereign government after the presidency explicitly said that’s totally not what they were doing. This is hard to explain – I can’t believe American citizens had the attention span to follow this long string of affairs. It was just discovered our current president committed goddamn TAX FRAUD in order to gain his fortune and no one even batted an eye. Christ we are so fucked.

“Disposition Matrix”/Drone Strikes: I bet you opened this tab and did not expect to delve into a legitimate ethics discussion, did you? The Disposition Matrix is the database maintained by the CIA in order to track, capture and kill suspected enemies of the US by way of unarmed aerial vehicles (drones). The process for determining who lives and dies, or when they are allowed to be targeted or what the equation for determining an acceptable amount of collateral casualties is not publicly known, but we DO know President Obama is the first person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize while staking his foreign policy on the concept of executing unarmed civilians in foreign countries on ambiguously defined qualities.

Tibet: The CIA had a long-running operation during the Cold War in Tibet where they pushed political action, propaganda and the general idea of an independent Tibetian state among foreign nations in an attempt to piss off China, and by extension, the Soviets. If you haven’t noticed, this is a recurring theme. The CIA worked closely with the Dalai Lama’s brothers in order to basically annoy the Chinese, and ended the program once President Nixon agreed to call it off after visiting China in 1972. This pissed off the Dalai Lama, who used it as evidence the US never actually cared about Tibet’s plight. Imagine what an asshole you had to be to piss off the Dalai Lama. Tricky Dick was one of a kind.

Operation CHATTER: Technically not the CIA, but its forerunner in the US Navy; the government was interested in identifying and testing natural and synthetic drugs during interrogation and recruitment of agents. At the risk of spoiling later entries, this one is relatively low as the testees were animals and consenting volunteers.

Bay of Pigs: You know the basics – the CIA got some Cuban expats together to invade and overthrow the newly-Communist government of Cuba under Fidel Castro. This faux revolution lasted three days before the rebels were hammered by Cuban armed forces. Like Operation Merlin, it loses additional credibility by being an absolute shitshow in the sense that not only did it not succeed, but backfired tremendously in that it strengthened Castro’s position as a legitimate leader and pushed Cuba to more closely align with the USSR, leading ultimately to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I may be overstepping my bounds here, but it seems like the CIA tends to overvalue short-term gains in regard to potential long-term losses. But hey what do I know, I’m just an asshole writing on the internet.

Assassination Attempts of Fidel Castro/Operation Mongoose: The CIA hates many things: communism, independently-elected leaders, unapproved foreign activity, communism again, coherent strategies, communism again for the third time, but none of these compare to their detestation of Fidel Castro. They HATED that guy. There are at least eight attempts on Castro’s life according to declassified CIA documents, whereas a Cuban counterintelligence chief stated it was closer to 638: I’m guessing it’s somewhere between those two estimates. Some of the verified attempts included: subcontracting the mafia for an execution, cigars laced with botulism, bacteria-laden scuba suits with a booby-trapped conch on the bottom of the sea, an (actual) exploding cigar, a hypodermic syringe masquerading as a pen, an attempt to blow him up while visiting Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban museum, cold creams filled with poison, and tampering with podiums where he was set to visit. The CIA also attempted to thin Castro’s revolutionary beard, lace him with LSD during public speeches in attempts to make him seem disoriented, and dropped leaflets over the country offering hundreds of thousands to anyone who could bring them the head of heads of state but only offering $2 for Castro in an attempt to denigrate his power. I was not kidding when I said the CIA hated Castro more than you could imagine.

Battalion 3-16 in Honduras: A CIA-funded and -trained army unit responsible for carrying out assassinations and torture. That’s pretty unfortunate, and then you realize, this Battalion had collaborated with the Chileans and Argentines to assist in their respective rebellions and coups. Geez guys. If you wanted to jump off before things got too real, now is about that time.

Project Dark Gene: Back when the US and Iran were the bestest of friends (oh did you forget the US and Iran used be super tight? You can’t be arch nemeses without a period of aggressive cooperation), they would look for holes in USSR radars by flying America planes stationed at Iranian bases through them to test for responsiveness, effectiveness and interception tactics used by the Soviets. Imagine being a pilot and being told you are going to fly into the USSR in order to see what happens next. IT’S OKAY, IT’S FOR SCIENCE! To reiterate, we are ranking based on the sheer audacity of these operations, not necessarily the questionable morality of said operations. Because morally, this is dubious, but look at the notion they did this with the outlook of “fuck it, let’s see what happens” really escalates the insanity.

1953 Egyptian Coup d’Etat/Project FF: WE COVERED THIS ALREADY! It was great, and you should read it (https://musingsandmalarkey.org/2018/07/12/arch-stanton-guest-post-episode-11-in-today-i-learned-project-ff/). We call this ‘synergy’ in the blogging biz. Teddy Roosevelt’s kid got pissed off at the Iranian head of state whom he prefer to refer to as “Fat Fuck”, and eventual had his deposed. What a delightful little anecdote!

Stargate Project: Literally the X-Files in real life. The CIA created a unit dedicated to investigating potential psychic phenomenons. This unit was really only formed after multiple similar projects were eventually combined – GONDOLA WISH, GRILL FLAME, CENTER LANE and SUN STREAK. Take a moment to appreciate the fact the CIA has had multiple independent iterations of projects dedicated to psychic activity, and one was called “GONDOLA WISH”.

1954 Guatemalan Coup d’Etat (MS Alfhem/Operation PBHistory): Pretty straight forward at this point. The elected officials were communist, and the CIA ain’t about that shit, so they dabbled in fomenting a little revolution. Just a little one, no big deal.

Operation Charly: The CIA would provide weapons and military accouterments to the Argentinean military which they would then forward to Central American anti-communist parties in order to presumably round out their cosplay outfits. Or to murder people. Potato, po-murder.

Operation IA Feature: It doesn’t get much publicity, but the CIA has interests in Africa! In this instance, they were providing support to Angolan rebels. Pretty boring really. This is why no one knows about CIA ops in Africa.

Operation Midnight Climax: Definitely the SEXIEST named operation. Part of  larger, yet-to-be-addressed project where the CIA would hire prostitutes to lure johns back to safe houses where they would be unknowingly dosed with LSD. Drugging unsuspecting victims is unchill, even by CIA standards, but you have to appreciate the perspective of “hey they’re already breaking the law so fuck ’em, right?”

1951 Iranian Revolution: In an attempted to be cooler than their imperial British predecessors, the Americans were going to let Iran govern itself. What a novel idea! The Iranians then sought to nationalize what was at that time a private British company responsible for draining oil out of the country. Suddenly, this seemed like a bad idea. The CIA hustles in, astroturfs a revolution forcing the leader Shah Reza Pahlavi to resign. Problem solved! Oil = retained! At least until fundamental Islamists took control of the country, executing dissenters and nationalizing the oil anyway. It went just about as poor as it could have possibly could have. This gets a bump down because in the immediate aftermath, the CIA was so pleased with itself it took this same playbook to South America where they did the same shit a dozen more times before realizing they had fucked up what they originally perceived as a success more than they could have possibly expected. The fun part is seeing your success collapse, and then looking at all your current successes based on that same plan as they begin to unravel, and thinking “well this is just unfortunate”.

Operation Mockingbird: In the 1950s, the CIA attempted to influence domestic news sources in order to promote propaganda. They also funded student organizations and magazines to push their policies in a more organic manner. Part of me is deeply offended by this, but what modern technocrat doesn’t do the same shit with well-placed soft ball interviews or puff pieces about all the good things they’re doing? Did you guys know Mark Zuckerberg likes smoking meats (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBxTEoseZak)? Look how quaint his little backyard is! That’s totally where he lives guys, just like you! Definitely not in the middle of the four surrounding properties he bought and tore down for additional privacy (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-to-raze-four-homes-with-a-view-of-his-own-2016-05-24)!

Operation CHAOS: This was the CIA equivalent of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, where American citizens/dissenters were surveyed, infiltrated, discredited and blackmailed. COINTELPRO was all about really ruining lives domestically, where CHAOS was about attempting to identify any possible foreign influences. I’m sure that was it, they definitely wouldn’t resort to planting evidence to make their own case.

Operation Washtub: The CIA resorted to planting evidence of Soviet weapons in Nicaragua to make the case the government was harboring Soviet sympathies. Well, so much for the CIA not fabricating reasons to fuck some shit up. FYI – it worked. It drummed up enough dissent among locals (in addition to CIA canvassing and efforts) that the Nicaraguan president eventually resigned in 1979. The ends justify the means, I suppose. The CIA does seem to draw heavily from Machiavelli.

Edgewood Arsenal: The CIA was in charge of documenting the results of low-doses of various chemical agents. The victims – ahem – “volunteers” were generally aware of what they were agreeing to, but without reading more into it, I have a hunch they were not made fully aware of the dangers they were to be exposed to. A sample of the chemical agents tested were: alcohol and caffeine (original Four Lokos baby!), cannabis, LSD, PCP, benezoids, irritants/riot control pepper sprays, pesticides, mustard gas, and fucking sarin gases. It escalated from “aw hell yeah this is a party” to “sweet Jesus I am being murdered in the most painful ways imaginable.” Obviously (or, given the rest of this article, maybe not), these experiments resulted in massive lawsuits and government crackdowns.

1973 Chilean Coup d’Etat/Project FUBELT: In the 1960’s, Chile was one of those undecided countries in terms of the Cold War. There came a point when it became clear socialist Salvador Allende was set to win an open election, and the CIA was dispatched to fuck things up, because that’s what they’re there to do. Once Allende was identified as a likely leader, the CIA set about to assassinate his character before his confirmation and begin laying the groundwork for a military coup to boot. Why is this project ahead of the long list of similarly situated operations? One – FUBELT is a wonderful name. Two – Castro was on the record as anti-American and pro-Soviet, same as many other Central American countries, so they essentially identified themselves as hostiles in regards to the US. Allende was relatively neutral in the Cold War and intended to operate Chile as he thought best, not by American or Soviet terms. But fuck if that was going to be allowed – a military coup was pressed against him. He vowed to never resign his democratically-elected position, and instead opted to shoot himself in the head. I am sure the CIA considered this a win. I don’t really have a punchline here. Not only did the CIA topple an elected government, but they replaced him with Augusto Pinoche, who was a bit of a dick, to put in the most modest of terms. Pinochet was a fan of mass executions and tortures in the center of then-abandoned soccer stadiums. I am pretty comfortable calling this a low point for the CIA and American foreign policy in general.

Operation Northwoods: Moving away from “morally dubious” into “wait, what?”, let’s revisit Cuba. Doesn’t it feel like it’s been a while since we talked about the CIA’s throbbing boner for fucking with Castro? In 1962, the CIA floated an array of operations to the Kennedy administration about false flag attacks in order to drum up the justification for large-scale war in Cuba. Some of the alleged ideas to get the American public’s backing included: sinking Cuban refugees attempting to flee to America, hijacking planes, blowing up American ships, and orchestrating terrorist attacks in American cities. We’ve seen some pretty heinous shit but really let that sink in – the CIA was totally cool with killing American civilians in false flag attacks so they could invade another country. Sometimes I really understand conspiracy theorists who think the government is out to get, because history has this nasty habit of proving them correct. I like to think that, at some point, CIA agents looked at their plans and had an honest moment of reflection on “are we sure we aren’t the bad guys?”

MKUltra: The CIA mind control operation! This is a fun one! Until you realize it was less ET and more “identifying drugs to force confessions from unwilling participants by manipulating their mental states.” When you put it that way, less fun. Most of what we know about this comes from a Congressional investigation called the Church Committee and the testimony that resulted since, as soon as it was apparent Congress was curious what all these hallucinating people were talking about, CIA heads ordered most of the physical documentation destroyed. The best thing I learned about this was many of the victims were Canadian because, eh, what are they going to do about it?

Project ARTICHOKE: I’ll let a particularly descriptive sentence from the CIA documentation introduction clarify this project: “Not all viruses have to be lethal.” Do you really need to know more? Do you really WANT to know more? Yes you do because you are a sadist. Similar to MKUltra, this was an earlier attempt to see if the CIA could take control of an individual to the point they would “do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation.” Further details emerged about targeting “weaker” and “less intelligent” segments of society. Spoiler! They were almost certainly “black” and “Native American”, and probably women because it was 1951. I wonder what later generations will look back on us and think “what was their deal with [x]?” like how we look back at the 1950s and 1960s obsessions with mind control.

Acoustic Kitty: We have covered a wide range of territory, escalating into some pretty reprehensible actions in the ambiguous and all-encompassing name of “national defense”. Many of these dabble on the edge of or veer into moral gray areas, with many straight up terrible (it going to take a while for me to get over the CIA telling Kennedy “whattya mean we can’t kill some Americans to go kill some Cubans?”), but most had some basis in reality. But not Acoustic Kitty. Oh baby, Acoustic Kitty was something different. The CIA wanted to bug cats to spy on the Kremlin. They inserted microphones into the cats’ ears and a small transmitter at the base of the skull. The first cat was bugged and let lose outside the Soviet compound in DC where it was immediately hit and killed by a taxi. Subsequent tests failed as the cats turned out to be hard to train and pretty indifferent to handler requests, and opted to just prowl around looking for snacks. This project cost the CIA $20 million dollars in the 1960s. TWENTY MILLION DOLLAR CATS. Steve Austin was seriously injured in an experimental airplane crash, and he was remade with the best the United State of America had to offer, and he still only turned out to be the Six Million Dollar Man.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 23 in Today I Learned – the Spirits of St Louis

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Readers, it’s time I come clean. Many of these ‘today I learned’ posts are things I saw in various corners of the internet or in a book that seemed interesting and worth of additional research, at which point I at them to a list of potentially interesting subjects. When I feel compelled and I am in the proper mental and/or emotional space to begin MY PROCESS, I will pluck a topic and write. This current topic has been one of my favorite historical tidbits for quiet a while now, and I have been waiting for the right moment to share it. I understand my integrity has been tarnished by this revelation, and it has been a mighty weight on my soul for months now, for what is the internet if not a forum for honesty among anonymous sources?

THE SPIRITS OF ST LOUIS! They were a basketball team in the American Basketball Association (ABA), a high-flying pro league that rivaled the NBA while stalling out in the 60’s and 70’s despite offering flashy dunks and ball handling skills next to the comparatively bland NBA. You may be familiar with the ABA because Will Ferrell made a movie about it, but it was in that part of his career where his shtick was overplayed and most people skipped it. The NBA was also floundering financially in the 1970s, but not nearly as much as the ABA, and sought to gain some of the more prosperous teams and more crowd-alluring players. By the summer of 1976, only seven ABA teams survived, and the NBA made their move to incorporate some of the flailing teams – the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs were all incorporated into the NBA. The Virginia Squires, already in the early stages of bankruptcy, received nothing from the NBA: sucks to suck dudes, as you will soon see. The Kentucky Colonels (yes, there was a basketball team named after KFC) took a $3.3 million buyout, no insignificant amount in 1976.

The Spirits of St Louis were in a unfortunate position – they had no marketable players to auction the rights off to and had no value to the NBA as a franchise, but they did have guile. SO much guile. Owners and brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna negotiated their buyout with the NBA a bit differently than the Kentucky Colonels. Instead of taking the upfront cash entirely in cash, they settled for 1/7 of the future television money that the now-NBA bound franchise would collect “for as long as the NBA or its successors continues in its existence” (they still took $2.2 million in cash). The NBA did some back-of-a-bar-napkin math, came up with some fantastically infinitesimally small estimate for what these television splits would be at the time, and managed to rush to close the deal before the Silnas brothers realized how much they were leaving on the table.

You see where this is going.

At the time, the NBA had no television deal. Who wanted to watch basketball on TV? This was still in the infancy of the league, only a decade away from an era when barnstorming – going to town-to-town where a “pro” team would play whatever team the locals could cobble together. Think the Harlem Globetrotters but less entertaining and DEFINITELY not black – could you imagine a team of black guys schooling the shit out of a bunch of sister-fuckers in whatever backwater they happened to get stuck playing in?

Fast-forward a few years: the NBA is one of the most popular leagues in America, with a lucrative television deal. Given the fact most of America only wants to watch Michael Jordan and the Bulls in addition to the Celtics and Lakers, the owners of the other, shittier teams strong armed the fun, popular teams into what is now called revenue sharing: every dollar earned by teams or the league not specifically generated by in-stadium concessions is split evenly among all teams. Let’s do a bit of math: there are 30 NBA teams, four of which had origins in the ABA (so two-fifteenths), and the Silnas brothers had a contract stipulating they were entitled to one-seventh of that. This equates to roughly 2% of the NBA’s total revenue from television contracts.

The first year, the Silnas brothers received a check for $521,749.00; the Kentucky Colonels’ owner chuckled heartily to himself while sipping bourbon and thinking about which of his horses he was going to stud out (note – I have no idea what a wealthy man in the 70’s in Kentucky would do in his free time). In the 90’s, estimates suggest the Silnas brothers collected $4.4 million PER YEAR. In 2007, the NBA, pissed at getting grifted thirty-plus years ago in a moment of poor judgment, sought to buyout the Silnas brothers’ interest from this contract for $5 million a year over the next year while on the cusp of what was to be a record-setting television deal by a professional league in America. The Silnas brothers knew what they had, and went back to diving into their Scrooge-McDuck-piles-of-cash the NBA was contractually locked into sending them annually. The Silnas brother collected roughly $14.5 million for the next eight years.

In 2014, the NBA lawyered way the fuck up to take on this unassailable contract that was burning the everloving shit out of them – WHICH OF YOU ASSHOLES LET THEM PUT “IN PERPETUITY” IN THE CONTRACT. The Silnas brothers had collected roughly $300 million from the NBA by this time DESPITE NOT HAVING A TEAM THAT EVER PLAYED IN THE NBA. The NBA knew the only way out was throw more cash at the problem – they offered a lump sum payment of $500 million in exchange for a greatly reduced annual fee.

The brothers collected roughly $800 million over 38 years despite not doing shit. Literally, no work at all besides a splash of foresight netted each brother $360 million (their attorney was set to get 10% of all proceeds of the deal as well – he was raising the roof, or whatever the appropriate dance move was used for celebrating in 1976 for his luck). Because all good things must come to an end, the Silnas brothers invested heavily with Bernie Madoff in the mid-2000s, and lost a large chunk of their money. Psyche! They pulled out and got all their money plus gains before the bottom fell out of the Madoff operation (later it would be determined they were improperly paid and had to contribute $24 million back to other victims). I’m sure there was more than one NBA owner happy to see these two come back to earth from their sparkling high castle in, uhh, St Louis.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Attempted American Secessions, Ranked

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Pretty self-explanatory subject right? Do I really need to introduce this more than “here’s a bunch of times people attempted to make their own states or countries”? If you think so, that’s unfortunate because we’re starting now:

Civil War/War of Northern Aggression if you’re a fucking loser: Yadda yadda yadda – it’s the Civil War, you know about it already, and I’m not going to delve into the history when we have more interesting ones to address. I will add this attempted secession continues to this day with the “League of the South.” Surprisingly, it’s all racists who want reparations for their “loss of assets” once the slaves were freed. Cute.

Texas v White (1869): Like the Civil War, this entire article could be about the various times Texas seceded and attempted to secede and divided and/or attempted to divide itself. We’ll touch on the big ones. First: After the Civil War, Texas moved to secede from the Union by itself since the whole “fight for it” didn’t go as planned. The Supreme Court decided unilateral secession is unconstitutional because the (still valid!) legal basis was that Texas could not secede from the United States because it was illegal. Credit were it’s due –  pretty infallible logic right there. This has done absolutely nothing to distill the notion to Texans that they could leave if they want to. I don’t know where they would get that idea, oh here’s Governor Rick Perry (who received a D in a class called “Meats”, which is hilarious and I will remind everyone until the end of time about, until you realize he went to Texas A&M where “Meats” is like a 700-level class): “Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that…” I can never tell if Texas is the greatest American state or the absolute stupidest, and then I realize the answer to one begets the answer to the other.

Texas (1836): Texas seceded from Mexico, Mexico said they couldn’t do that, Texas told them to fuck off y’all like Texas is wont to do whenever someone addresses them. Mexico threatened to reclaim the territory if the United States admitted them as a state, which the US promptly did with what I imagine was a smirk while staring directly into the Mexican ambassador’s eyes. War was fought, Mexico got stomped, and Texas lived happily ever after, for thirty-three years before they attempted to secede again. There are like thirty more of these, but these are the two most interesting ones that cover most of the good stuff.

Absaroka (1939): Big swaths of Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming had had enough of FDR’s bullshit New Deal, and had enough with Democratic policies dictating rural ranchers and farmers livelihoods. This attempted secession was ended when anyone with the actual ability to make it happen ignored them, leaving it to peter out on its own.

Vermont (1791): While the states were doing their Articles of Confederacy thing (ie, everyone bumping into each other and making a huge mess), Vermont was largely governed as part of New Hampshire. Despite this, New York had a reputation to uphold as a group of outstanding assholes, and declared it part of New York, going as far as to send militias to the territory to tell them to stop saying they weren’t part of their state. Eventually, Vermont was granted independence, but many in New York STILL disagree about this! Yes, there are New Yorkers who claim Vermont’s independence was invalid then, and thus remains a part of New York now. When I think of aging hippies who like ice cream and the Grateful Dead, I know I think of New York.

Maine (1820): Originally part of Massachusetts up until 1820, Maine sought to establish their own state. The Massachusetts government asked who the fuck they were, and they told them whatever they wanted to hear so these mealy-mouthed fishermen would leave them alone.

West Virginia from Virginia (1863): West Virginia apparently wanted nothing to do with the Confederacy, marking the last time West Virginia was on the right side of history, and sought approval to secede, which was granted. After the Confederacy got their asses handed to them in the Civil War, Virginians then claimed West Virginia’s secession was invalid as it was not granted under the United States Constitution, but instead under the Confederate Constitution which were no longer a thing, so therefore West Virginia isn’t a thing, because logic and reason escapes these people. In Virginia v West Virginia (1871), the Supreme Court told Virginia to go pound sand and leave West Virginia alone. We have all been singing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver ever since.

Staten Island, New York (1993): After being the shittiest borough since the island was originally swapped for beads, Staten Island was fed up with being heavily-taxed, poorly supported with infrastructure and transit, and being the recipient of the rest of New York City’s garbage. The proposal gained a ton of steam on the island, and was roundly ignored everywhere else because, again, who gives a shit what anyone on Staten Island wants.

San Fernando Valley, California (2002): Attempted to secede from Los Angeles. Apparently wanted the porno-film-making part of town to be separate from the regular film-making part of town.

Killington, Vermont (2006): Killington requested to leave Vermont and to join New Hampshire, to which New Hampshire said no thanks. This is the city equivalent of being the fat kid on a pick-up baseball team who gets stuck playing left field, who then declares he’s going to the other team only to find out the other team doesn’t want him either.

Superior/Sylvania (1858): You know how Michigan looks like a mitt, and then has that other little part that everyone forgets about? Well the other little part was tired of being forgotten about and proposed they be left to their own devices. If you’ve ever met anyone from the Upper Peninsula (UPies is the preferred nomenclature – literally pronounced ‘you-pees’), you understand why this is a terrible idea. They pout that everyone forgets they exist, at which point everyone forgets they exist again and returns to ignoring them. It must be tough to be “Wisconsin, but shitty”.

Miller Beach, Indiana (2007): “Beach” sounds exotic until you realize it’s in Indiana, and actually a part of the city of Gary. Denied.

Calabash, North Carolina (1998): Calabash wanted to secede from itself. They really proved a point by reincorporating as “Carolina Shores”, and then asking if Calabash would continue to share its fire and emergency services with them.

Alaska: Apparently constantly threatening to secede or divide among itself, but in 2006 a request made it to the Alaska Supreme Court (Kohlhass v State) where it was determined secession was illegal and thus no initiative to secede would be presented to the Alaskan people for a vote. I imagine Alaska is basically  “Texas with more bears”, or “Alabama if people got lost in the woods more”, or “Georgia without all the DUIs”, or “cold Florida”.

Republic of Madawaska: Originally claimed independence from Maine/the United States and eastern New Brunswick in 1827. I imagine this had a lot to do with the idea that no one had any idea which section of the woods belonged to who. As to “why”, well no one really knows. They were lumberjacks, not historians, so they didn’t write much down. There was a war between Maine and Canadian lumberjacks where the only casualties were the result of a bear attack. Everyone forgot the war about until 1842 when someone pointed out Canada and the United States were technically still at war, which was news to federal officials on both sides. About the Republic of Madawaska, tough shit I guess. Was it an American state, Canadian territory, or an independent country? No one really had a long term plan here, which is basically the same reason anyone ends up in northern Maine.

California: What a trash heap this is. #CALEXIT has been a thing since 2010 – that’s before #BREXIT was a thing! – when the left-leaning citizens wanted to separate from the rest of the American states. After Trump was elected, this faux movement gained a second life, with as much as 32% – ONE-THIRD OF THE FUCKING STATE – being in favor of secession as of 2017.

Here’s the fun part – that was the LEFT leaning secession movement. Let’s get the the RIGHT leaning movement – the proposed state of Jefferson, which would include the southern part of Oregon and all the not-city parts of northern California. Originally proposed in 1941 by indignant California Republicans who were tired of being pushed out of state politics due to their rural and more spread out population. This has been an on- and off-again topic since then every time some huffy hillbilly gains political office and complains about all TUH LIBURALZ down in San Francisco and Los Angeles telling them how to live their lives. This movement has seen a resurgence as all the counties pushing for it voted heavily for Trump despite the rest of the state voting for Hillary. With a likely Jeffersonian capital of Fresno, I like to imagine the state song would be a Korn song.

Jefferson (1859): This is a different Jefferson! In 1859, a bunch of landowners in Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and what was then the Washington territory decided they were going to do their own thing and have their own state. WHICH IS WHAT THEY DID. They elected officials from remote corners of all these other pre-existing territories and states, passed laws and operated almost entirely free rein for over sixteen months! The federal government created what is now Colorado, and most of the laws from Jefferson were rolled over. But for a while there it was a bunch of ranchers who essentially successful seceded for almost two years before someone noticed and told them to cut that shit out.

New Shoreham, Rhode Island (1984): A tiny town located on Block Island threatened to secede because the state denied them the ability to ban mopeds from the island. When this was announced, Massachusetts and Connecticut both pushed to reincorporate this tiny town that had HAD ENOUGH OF THESE MOTHERFUCKING SCOOTERS. The state backed down and let them control the amount of scooters on the island.

Conch Republic (1982): Key West declared a “tongue-in-cheek secession” from Florida and the United States, certainly the only incident in history in which that phrase has ever been used. Originally stemming from real concerns about the US Border Patrol blocking access to and from the islands, the secession has been a source of local pride and boost for tourism with a much-celebrated Independence Day on April 23. I imagine everything in Key West is “much celebrated”, as their state song is almost certainly a Jimmy Buffett song.

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Cascadia: Basically the same premise as Jefferson – all the conservative-leaning counties want to govern separately from the more liberal cities and coasts. This one is slightly different as it includes parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana – and here’s the best part – all of British Columbia, because what could possibly be a bigger fuck you then making a new American state out of Canadian territories. I cannot overemphasize how thrilled I am that there is a movement full of angry conservatives who want to stick it to Democrats by repossessing a chunk of Canada. They aren’t much for sharp shooting and prefer to just scattershot everyone everywhere.

American Revolution: YOU KNEW THIS WAS NUMBER ONE U-S-A! U-S-A!

But seriously, I came in with four or five incidents in mind only to learn there are hundreds of these attempted secessions or proposed states. Almost ever state has at least one incident where people threatened to leave or start their own country, and each is fascinating. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s a wild ride.

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 22 in Today I Learned – CIA Filipino Vampires

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Usually when I write these posts, the choice title is pretty obvious – someone’s name or a self-explanatory descriptor of the event. But today – whoo boy, ‘CIA Filipino Vampires’ sounds like a Cards Against Humanity-themed Mad Lib, but really only skims the surface. Let’s unravel a new spool of wonderful tales of American imperialism!

The background – the Philippines, post World War II. The Philippines had strongly resisted Japanese occupation during the war, but eventually succumbed to their superior forces and weaponry. After the war, a new government was installed consisting most of people who had originally folded to the Japanese because the United States didn’t really seem to give a shit who was left in charge. A national rebel force – the Hukbalahap – was vehemently anti-Japanese and embraced communism, which meant they were about to get heavily fucked with by the CIA due to the Philippines being a highly-strategic point. Was it actually a strategic point? Unlikely, beyond its general value as part of the Truman Doctrine wherein the US would oppose any form of communism anywhere in the world, hence the Korean and Vietnam War. But “lack of strategic value” has never stopped America from getting involved!

Anyway, the United States wanted to quell this rebellion with as little effort as possible – again, probably because it wasn’t THAT valuable as an asset, but fuck if the Soviets were going to have it. The CIA elected to deployed Air Force Brigadier General Edward G Lansdale to settle the conflict. Why Lansdale? Because he was a fierce believer in the idea of “psychological operations” – psyops at the time – and believed he could resolve this little tete a tete with a bit of mental brutality.

Lansdale sent in some locals to mingle around critical villages the CIA needed to push the rebels back. The locals returned to their towns with tales of an “aswang” – not a Google autofill of your last weird search, but Filipino vampires of lore – telling villagers and rebels alike they had seen the mythical creatures in the area, looking for victims to reap for blood. Aswangs are a somewhat ambiguous term, as some areas think of them as shape-shifting ghouls, others as evil spirits, and others as warlocks. Lansdale, seeing as he was part of the CIA in the 50’s, decided “fuck it – this aswag is gonna be a vampire.”

Lansdale sends these rumors swirling through villages, and had his forces sit back a few days to let these vampire stories take root in the rebels. Some indefinite point down the line, CIA forces hid along rebel patrol routes, and silently snatched the last man in the group. The patrol would end back in the village before realizing they had lost a man somewhere during the rotation. During this window, Lansdale’s men would puncture the poor sap’s neck, hang him upside to drain him of his blood, and then drop his body back near the patrol route so a rescue team looking for their missing comrade the next morning would stumble across it. Being superstitious (if you were a 1950s Filipino villager rebel) or an idiot (my term), these rebels would find a body mutilated in exactly the pattern heard in previous rumors. Being superstitious (1950s Filipino term) or cowards (my term), the Hukbalahap bailed the hell out of the area after only one incident of bloodletting, allowing the CIA-backed Filipino forces to casually takeover a tactically-useful hills.

While certainly the most historically entertaining tidbit (albeit in a Patrick Bateman-esque way), the aswang was not the end of Lansdale’s psyops in the Philippines. Lansdale had American aircraft buzz villages where suspected rebels were hiding, and blast the names of the rebels gained through counter-intelligence over loudspeakers, threatening death unless they immediately surrendered. If you were some poor Filipino rebel, I would imagine this a good indication to flee the town or surrender. This tactic proved to be a pretty effect means to rustling out rebels, but Lansdale preferred a more psychotic approach. Using the same tactics of eliciting the names of suspected rebels, the Filipino army would sneak into the village housing these rebels and paint an enormous eye on a wall facing the house of each suspected rebel. The “eye of God” was even more compelling than the loudspeakers; to quote Lansdale’s memoirs: “The mysterious presence of these malevolent eyes the next morning had a sharply sobering effect.” Rebels tended to disband immediately under the painted eyes rather than continue to fight.

Looking back on this tale of psychological warfare, my biggest question remains – were the rebels ACTUALLY terrified of these mythological attacks becoming reality, or were they frightened by the American operative who kidnapped and drained their comrades of blood in the jungle? A question as old as time!

Arch Stanton Guest Post: College Football Preview

Just kidding! This isn’t a college football preview as much as a discussion of college football mascots, although I fear I may have alienated the vast majority of the potential readers with a title and topic as plebeian and regional as college football. Bear with me – there is something for everyone here: corruption, animals, the South being portrayed in a poor light.

College football is unlike any other sport in the sense it is profoundly unadorned with any logic or reason. You root for your favorite baseball team because that’s where you live, but your favorite college football team is so much more than that. It is an essential descriptor of the type of person you are, of your family personal history, and something innately within you beyond literary characterization. With a few tidbits about a few teams, maybe you’ll get an idea about the types of people involved in the stupidest sport to ever exist.

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Alabama Crimson Tide: OF COURSE we start with Alabama. Eternal #1, perpetual distributor of curb-stompings, and owners of an elephant mascot. Well not currently, but they did previously! Up through the 1950s, the University of Alabama kept a real, live, elephant as a mascot. You may be asking ‘what type of elephant exactly did they keep as a mascot?’ or ‘where did they get an elephant in Alabama?’, and you would be showing a fundamental lack of understanding of the University of Alabama, the state of Alabama, and college football as a whole by assuming any of this was according to a larger plan or more than flamboyant pageantry. The elephant’s name was Alamite, and was originally brought to games and carried the homecoming queen onto the field, but was given up as it became too costly. With that in mind, consider Alabama’s current coach makes over $11 million a year, had his home paid off by boosters, and recently stated they were going to upgrade their football facilities to the tune of $600 million. Do not rule out a future resurrection of a live elephant mascot in Alabama.

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Texas A&M Aggies: A&M is an agriculture school with a strong ROTC program, so obviously their mascot is a rough collie named Reveille. Reveille is the highest-ranking member of the Texas A&M Corp of Cadets, making her the Air Bud of the armed forces. There have been nine official Reveilles, with the deceased priors buried at the field. Texas A&M is a weird place, like if a military outpost hosted Burning Man.

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Baylor Bears: Baylor has two bears they keep on campus: Judge Joy and Judge Lady, two sassy old broads who sound like they’re on a Golden Girls-Judge Judy spinoff. Up until 2010, they were brought to games on leashes. Live black bears, on leashes, during a sporting event with tens of thousands of noisy fans – Texas as hell. I saw one report that they originally were given lots of Dr Pepper before they realized, “hey wait a second – bears probably shouldn’t drink carbonated sugar water!” Again – Texas. As. Hell.

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Auburn Tigers: So Auburn is nicknamed the Tigers, but their mascot is a live eagle. Why? There’s some half-assed story about how a wounded eagle flew over a field in 1898 while Auburn was driving against Georgia, but that seems to be mostly bullshit. Auburn has kept an eagle on hand despite this limp-wristed excuse for history since 1930. They are their seventh official golden eagle. I went to a game in Auburn once, and before the game, they set this enormous dog kennel up on one of the outer rims of the upper deck. The camera zooms in and projects to the largest videoboard in college sports (suck it Saban!) a scene of a college kid rattling the cage. As the fear of being witness to the most horrific display of animal abuse I could imagine, this eagle crawls out and takes off around the stadium. The crowd goes WILD. It circles a few times before descending on the arm of a handler at midfield, with the crowd still screaming. Somewhere in front of me in my section, a man cries out above the roar, “AIN’T EVER SEEN NO ELEPHANT DO THAT! WAR EAGLE!” It remains one of the highlights of my life.

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University of Tennessee Volunteers: Tennessee is named after their citizens willingness to leap to a call to action in the Battle of New Orleans from Andrew Jackson, and less so their enthusiastic for the support of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Yes, the Civil War was almost one hundred and fifty years ago, no it does not matter one bit in the realm of college football (Ole Miss still calls themselves the fucking Rebels. Give up your participation trophy already losers). Who cares about that – they have a bluetick coonhound named Smokey who sits on the sidelines during games, and he is delightful. Tennessee is on Smokey X, who gets wrapped up in blankets during night games, and on especially chilly nights, dons a coonskin hat. It’s precious. Smokey IX is forever regarded as the greatest Smokey, as he repeatedly nipped (Tennessee’s words) or bit (opponents’ words) players during games. Look at this dog. I would die for Smokey.

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United States Naval Academy Rams: Obviously, a live ram shows up during games. His name is Bill the Goat, because the Navy doesn’t overthink these things. Navy is on Bill the Goat XXXIII, with the first appearing in 1893. Navy does not fuck with tradition. Animal welfare agencies have been heavily involved with Bill the Goat, as ultimate rival Army has kidnapped Bill prior to their annual face-off on multiple occasions, and left him in inopportune locations. (FYI – no Bills were hurt, although a few have been mildly inconvenienced by being rerouted to animal shelters on game day).

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University of Colorado Buffalo: Ralphie V is a live buffalo they run out onto the field before games. This is a delightful tradition, until Ralphie decides his handlers are going for a wild, nationally-televised ride should he remember he is a 1,200 pound animal that four hungover assholes with ropes could never hope to contain. There are multiple instances of Ralphie breaking lose, with handlers getting shed with others nearly being trampled (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEVVKi35lRM). In a list of terrible ideas for a live mascot to wrangle on the sidelines, Ralphie is pretty high.

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University of Georgia Bulldogs: The Bulldogs, surprisingly, have a bulldog as a mascot named Uga. Not because he’s ugly but because of the University of Georgia is abbreviated as U of GA… get it? It’s very clever. We are on Uga X after the first appeared in 1956. In the most college football/SEC/Georgia part of this entire list – the fondness with which each Uga is remembered by directly correlates to the football team’s winning percentage while he was active, lest you forget what this is all about.

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University of Florida Gators: Had a live gator on the sidelines starting in 1957 (sorry, no pictures), but eventually decided a prehistoric swamp monster was probably not an ideal candidate to be roaming around the chaos of a football game. The school swapped in a costumed version of an alligator in 1970. Cowards, although Albert is a pretty great costumed mascot. He wrestled Steve Irwin one time! He got a wife!

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Florida State University Seminoles: Florida State is what most people like to refer to as “problematic” – they have had multiple incidents of sexual allegations against players that were swept under the rug or “mishandled” by local police. A professor had the AUDACITY to demand that her students/players actually attend and show effort in class – she was promptly fired and blackballed from academia. Florida State isn’t so much of a school as a vehicle for football.

You’ll be shocked to hear they have a tandem live mascot – Osceola, a Seminole rider, on top of Renegade, an Appaloosa horse. The rider is a white guy with face paint carrying a flaming torch – the school has had the approval of the local Seminole tribe that this is totally not racist, you guys! – but people insist this is wildly inappropriate, to which alumni suggest “you should have seen what it was before” (a white guy in red face dancing around the middle of the field). So obviously, it will never die.

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University of Southern California Trojans: The Trojans have a horse (Traveler!) with a nameless Trojan rider, so a massive improvement on Florida State. We are on Traveler IX. I really only added this to prove that they have football on the west coast, albeit it is vastly inferior in terms of the full-only stupid displayed by the south.

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University of Arkansas Razorbacks: The Razorbacks have a live boar on the sidelines for their games named Tusk. Apparently, a wild boar is called a tusk, so having a domesticated boar and calling him “Tusk” is technically inaccurate, but “technically correct” has never been a selling point in Arkansas. We are on Tusk IV (Arkansas was late to the game on actual live mascots), with Tusk II repeatedly jumping out of his four-foot cage despite being a 500 pound big. Suddenly, Robert Baratheon’s death seems far more realistic than originally presumed.

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University of South Carolina Gamecocks: I’ll be damned if that isn’t a beautiful chicken (FYI – for a good time, Google ‘beautiful chickens’)! South Carolina goes by the “Cocks”, because they have no sense of irony and/or a wise understanding of teenage boys willing to buy apparel with “COCKS” splayed across the front. They have a giant chicken-man in a costume named Cocky that no one gives a shit about, but they also have an enormous chicken (actually from a gamecock breed) named Sir Big Spur. This is AWESOME until you realize handlers and fans frequently shoehorn how Sir Big Spur is “bred to fight”, which seems like an unusual way to describe something that has been outlawed for decades in America.

/double checks laws on cockfighting

//sees its only been outlawed since 2008 in South Carolina

Well what the fuck do I know.

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University of North Carolina Tar Heels: Tar Heels – surprisingly not rooted in outdated racism! They have had at least twenty-three rams named Ramses – I couldn’t find an official number, but I did find a report that Ramses XXIII was brutally murdered by a drunk guy in 1996. Yeesh. Also – apologies for the enormous balls on Ramses in the above picture, but I thought you should see them.

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University of Texas Longhorns: If we want to discuss college football stupidity, we are definitely taking a lengthy detour into Austin, Texas to look at the Longhorns, perhaps the stupidest team in all of college football (Alabama sees you, spends millions to take roughly a hundred yards off of the teams walk from the locker room to the field on game day (this is actually happening as part of that massive expenditure I mentioned above)). No team has had more money involved and a longer history of general “wait, what happened?” than Texas. Evidence A – Joe Jamail, a local attorney who became big shit and decided the most appropriate thing to do would be to finance a football team and fight opposing counsel in depositions (true story! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIxmrvbMeKc).

As incredible as Texas’ endless reserve of boosters is, this is about mascots. ENTER BEVO, a big-ass steer Texas trots on the sideline during games. We are on Bevo XV, direct descendant of the four previous Bevos, including Bevo XIV who famously attended George W Bush’s second inauguration. You know, the guy who grew up in Connecticut, graduated from Yale and got an MBA from Harvard – obviously the 1,800 pound steer would be around for his party. That said, I get it – Bevo is delightful. The Longhorn Network (a University of Texas athletics-only channel – oh, does that seem preposterous to you? WELCOME TO COLLEGE FOOTBALL), runs a five-hour special on Christmas of Bevo standing at his ranch set to Christmas music.

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Louisiana State University Tigers: This is what we have been building towards. I may have jumped the gun on calling Texas the most outlandish because LSU is DEFINITELY the dumbest program in sports, which is why I love them unconditionally. Louisiana, if you didn’t know, is currently in the midst of a massive budgetary crisis where the state is struggling to finance its public institutions, but the public school did manage to rustle up $9 million to buy out their last head coach, who had won a national title for them only a few years prior. This is not a new phenomenon – famously crooked governor Huey Long tripled the size of the marching band after being shown up by an opponent, and when the state legislature would not approve funds to be used to build a new, Roman-style football stadium, he built a row of dorms, and added a field to one side of the new dorms, and had bleachers installed adjacent to the field. Free stadium! Louisiana is everything you would think it would be.

Alas! The mascot! We’ve seen other outlandishly named teams, but Louisiana doesn’t shy away from that. Yes, they have a real, live Bengal tiger. His name is Mike. Who is Mike? No one seems to have a great idea, but we are on Mike VII, who is really the eighth Mike (one died and they forgot to jump to the next number) (again, LSU is just stupid as hell, and we should all learn to embrace it). You know how we noted how other mascots have broken loose? Well, Mike’s been loose a few times. Sometimes because he was kidnapped by rivals, because stealing a BENGAL TIGER is something you do when you want to cheat death, but other times he just… got out. I dunno man, why you gotta make such a fuss? He didn’t kill anyone! He was tranq’d and returned unfazed. Mike originally became a mascot once a booster thought “it would be RAD to have an actual tiger for a mascot”, and because it was the 1940s, and it apparently wasn’t that difficult to find a tiger for sale in Baton Rouge, LA. Now, LSU rescues tigers from shitty zoos or subpar habitats, only to wheel their asses out on to a corner of the field during game day. Humanitarianism is one thing, but goddamn if we ain’t playing in-conference this week! LSU embraces everything about Louisiana, the Southeast Conference, college football, and America as a whole, with endless waves of pageantry, flamboyance and excess, and for that reason, I am eternally loyal to them.

(Big hat tip to Spencer Hall/@edsbs and his incredible season opener previews (one on LSU Tigers, Alabama Elephant, South Carolina Cocks and Tennessee Volunteers – this is why I ended up digging in on mascots in the first place. Spencer is one of my favorite writers, and each article is an incredible read even if you know nothing about college football. Strongly recommended if only for the wonderful evaluation of southern Americana. Start here: https://www.everydayshouldbesaturday.com/2018/8/30/17799866/tiger)

Arch Stanton Guest Post: Episode 21 in Today I Learned – Straw Hat Riots of 1922

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You know how you aren’t supposed to wear white after Labor Day, or wear black shoes or a black belt with khakis, or avoid clashing patterns? Imagine there were legitimate social repercussions of these rules beyond petty gossip (except the black shoes and brown belt – c’mon, you look like you’re about to lecture me on your PC setup at a high school dance). The Straw Hat Riots are the result of people being downright indignant about perceived dress code faults. Why, you could stay they were riotous!

Somewhere in the late 19th century, men became stuffy about unwritten dress codes. I presume it was all the repressed sexuality of the late-Victorian age – maybe rubbing one out without being the subject of a tri-state scandal would have loosened the mood a bit. One particular rule became a particular sticking point – no straw hats after September 15th. This was an age when everyone wore hats outside all the time, lest you be some sort of psychopath, but straw hats were SUMMER ONLY, and after September 15th, men were to wear their finest felt hats. Why such a specific day? The New York Times once explained that any man who wore a straw hat after this day “may even be a Bolshevik, a communal enemy, a potential subverter of the social order.” Yes – you were a communist revolutionary if you doffed your cap during the wrong season and a day – A DAY – after September 15th. Take a second to appreciate that you can wear whatever fedora you prefer during any season, and you can jerk it scandal-free.

As started above, a sartorial faux pas currently only results in a side eyed glance or a tsk tsking of a mild taboo, but in the early 20th century, your hat would be torn off your head and stomped into dust by rowdy children if caught out of season, especially in fashionable New York City. It may be important to provide a bit of historical context – this is between the World Wars, where immigrants are flooding Ellis Island and settling down wherever they can, most of whom speak no English, let alone have any idea of the minutia of social codes. So imagine – a bunch of immigrants fleeing European fascism or starvation come to America only to have these little shits stomp on your nice hat you bought after fourteen hours in a factory that mauled your fingers. You would be pissed! And just think, this was before teens became Monster energy drink guzzling and Juul-vaping domestic terrorists.

In 1922, things had come to a head (pun 100% intended, a-thank you), and these prepubescent hooligans were roaring to get to the cap-snatching, so much so they started on September 13th! Why, these straw hat wearing gentlemen were just that! They weren’t Bolsheviks just yet! After hats had begun being snatched and stomped, gentlemen reacted predictably – by beating the shit out of some juveniles.  Bonfires of straw hats were started around New York City, and the police were called in. The first night resulted in seven people being convicted of disorderly conduct.

This was no one-day affair. The next three days involved riots of hat-stomping and child-fighting, with the police on full guard for “hat-hunting hoodlums”. Hat-wearers laced their caps with nails to inflict damage on any on potential snatchees, while gangs of teenagers started wielding bats, some with nails driven through the top. One person claimed a mob of 1,000 teens roamed through Manhattan grabbing hats, only to run into trouble when they clashed with dock workers who weren’t having it. The “1,000 person mob” part was disputed, but the daylong traffic standstill while dock workers fought teenagers was not. To reiterate – this is over straw hat etiquette shortly after World War I ended. Imagine being this mad about ANYTHING after surviving artillery shelling in a shit- and water-logged trench in Belgium.

Eventually the riots subsumed as gentlemen began to unveil their felt caps with the official season change, but 1922 was not the end of the stupidest riots in history – in 1924, a man was KILLED over his straw hat. I am of the opinion that human life was considered significantly less valuable across history until recently (note – this only applies to white Americans. Sorry rest of the world). There have been other riots related to apparel throughout American history (Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles when black and Hispanic youths were decidedly wearing TOO MUCH fabric during World War II so people got mad; the Hard Hat Riots when union construction workers started beating the shit out of anti-war hippies in 1970 in New York after appropriating their hatwear) (unrelated but how incredible is this country that there are THREE notable riots resulting from fashion choice?!?), but none will ever top the teens being mad about straw hats and subsequently organizing to bring New York City to a halt. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never been more proud to be an America or more terrified of roving gangs of teenagers.