Category Archives: Editorials

My random ramblings, generally having very little to do with my art

Chronicles of Cecil B. DeMille

Recently an interesting item crossed my virtual desk that I thought might be of interest to those of you who’ve been following the deMille Saga. A friend who’d previously heard me talking—well, let’s be honest here—geeking out about the Lost City and my various expeditions to try and find it shot me an email about an upcoming (now downgoing) film premier that would be taking place at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The name of the film? The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille.

LostCityFilmPoster

The venue was, of course, perfect for the film, being both an iconic part of Hollywood history and shaped like an ancient Egyptian temple, much like the Lost City itself. The film was an independent documentary about a group of interested amateurs (so, people rather like myself, I suppose) and their quest to locate the Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille, uncover the story behind it, mount an official archeological expedition to the site, and make a documentary about it (yay self-referential storytelling), a quest that spanned nearly three decades. A saga in of itself, probably—nay sir, definitely moreso than my own.

One of the things that immediately struck out to me is that their adventure carried a very similar underlying theme to my own, that is, that anything that could possibly stand in the way of their goal, no matter how oblique, somehow found a way to do so. Weather, bureaucracy, corporate regime changes, stuff I would never even think of, perfectly timed to completely throw a wrench in the gears your expedition. I still maintain that I do not believe in curses, but that’s pretty spooky, right?

Jokes aside, the film is both sweeping in scale and distinctly human in tone, juxtaposing the search for the Lost City with the behind-the-scenes story of the filming of The Ten Commandments (a history nearly as epic as the film itself).

The film also forced me to rethink exactly what it was I was looking for. Not a crumbling but nonetheless solid ruin which had been abandoned and subsequently swallowed up by the pseudo-desert, but a hollow façade that had been pushed over and deliberately buried to keep it from falling into the hands of a rival studio. If anything, my best shot of actually seeing the Lost City is the Oso Flaco Dunes Center, where the face of one of the sphinxes and several other artifacts uncovered by the expedition are on display, not at the actual site itself. Not that I’m going to stop trying to get there, of course. If the film taught me anything, it’s that perseverance pays off.

For those interested in seeing it (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t) the film will not be receiving a full theatrical release, but is available for streaming on Amazon Video, Google Play, and Vudu.

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Curse of Cecil B deMille

I arrived home at six today, my arms numb from four hours at ten and two, from my third expedition to try and find Cecil B deMille’s Lost City of the Pharaohs. This time it was a two day trip. The idea was to spend the night in town so I could get up bright and early and head right to the Dunes while the day was still young.

It didn’t help.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t make it to the Lost City, but I definitely made significant progress towards finding it before external circumstances beyond my control swooped in and ruined it.

I left for the trip up at 4 on Sunday. I knew there was no way I’d make it to the Dunes before they closed, but I wasn’t planning on going until Monday morning, so that was fine. I stopped in Santa Barbara (which despite what certain goofy psychic detective would have you believe, looks nothing like British Colombia) for dinner at thus little organic pizza place, and ordered “one with everything” (yes, it was really called that. The place was very tongue-in cheek about their hippiness) which was good, but didn’t really agree with me. Back on the road, I hit a bank of fog with the approximate mass and density of nine-day-old pease porridge around the time I passed some Air Force base or other (I don’t remember what it was called, but it wasn’t Vandenberg) which stuck with me all the way up until I reached Santa Maria, where I checked into a motel only to discover that I’d left the wall charger for my smartphone at home. “Not a problem,” I thought, “I’m sure its got enough charge to last until morning”.

But I was wrong.

As it turns out, my phone’s charge did not last until morning, and that was the beginning of the end of my little voyage. I figured I could just let it charge in the car on the way to the Lost City, but when I got to the point on the road nearest the coordinates I’d found for the Lost Citywhich turned out to be not to be in the part of the Oceano Dunes I’d previously visited, but at a separate part called the Oso Flaco Lake Trail, which had its own parking area on the complete opposite side of Guadalupe (I did say Oceano Dunes was fucking enormous)my phone was still at only 10% power, which was a problem, because I needed my phone’s GPS to find my way the rest of the way to the coordinates. I decided to idle the car for a hour or so to build up a little more charge… and that’s when the second domino fell.

As I’m sure you’re aware, when you use a car charger to charge a phone’s battery, this draws power from the car’s battery. This is all well and good when I’m driving around and my hybrid’s wheel well generators (or whatever they’re called) are spinning, but with the car idling that power supply becomes decidedly more finite. Especially when I’m idling for an hour or so. So I was sitting there in my car with the window open, watching two tractors with huge, comically disproportionate wheels like on a child’s toy plow a field and reading a book, when I looked up and notice that the lights on my dashboard had gone dark. “Oh,” I thought, “the car must have turned itself off automatically. That’s a smart feature, I guess.” This was, however, not the case, as I discovered when I turned my car back on only to find that I’d all but drained the car’s rechargeable battery. In the middle of the desert. Several miles outside the most backwater little bump in the road I’ve ever visited that wasn’t in New England. Far from anything that could reasonably described as being “a building” or having “an address”.

Turns out that, beyond having to explain to the Triple-A guy that, “No there isn’t a cross street. There is only one road, and I’m all the way at the end of it”, this wasn’t a huge problem. What was a problem was that all three (yes, all three) gas stations back in Guadalupe were mysteriously out of order at the time. Oh, and one of them claimed they “didn’t sell gas”, despite being, you know, a gas station.

It was at this point I began to suspect that Cecil B deMille’s Lost City was cursed, presumably for authenticity’s sake. I don’t believe in that kind of hocus bogus bullcrap, of course, but I was up against a Final Destination-grade contrived coincidence that seemed determined to prevent me from getting there. I know they say that everything that can go wrong will go wrong, but it generally doesn’t happen everywhere at once. But did I crumble? Did I lay down and die? Oh no, not I.

So the tow guy towed me to the neighboring (read: far away, but with nothing of any significance in between) town of Oceania (also in the middle of nowhere) to refuel and recharge my car, which I did, and everything worked great again… except that it was now 2pm and my phone was back down to 5% charge from calling roadside for assistance, so there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to drive around for long enough to get it charged, get back to Oso Flaco, trek out to the Lost City, and still get back home at a reasonable hour, and I couldn’t stay overnight again, because I have work tomorrow morning.

I got lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall in Oceania (ah, but I repeat myself), which was delicious but agreed with me even less than the pizza did, and headed home with no Lost City and no photographs. I did discovered to my relief and annoyance that the painfully long, unbearably mountainous detour from the 101 freeway that my GPS had been telling me to take on this and previous trips up, and which I’d obediently taken against my better judgement, had been completely unnecessary, and that I could just stay on the 101 the whole way… so yeah, I guess that’s something.

Another weekend, perhaps. I’ve dedicated too much to this to give up now. The damn thing isn’t even lost anymore. I will get there, even if its the last thing I do. And if things keep up the way they’re going, it just might be.

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Fantastic Collective Nouns

The animal kingdom is home to a plethora of what are known as “collective nouns”, or singular nouns that refer to groups of animals. While most people just talk about “herds” and “flocks”, many animals have much more interesting, if somewhat more obscure, words that can also be used whenever they gather, whether it be a crash of rhinos, a murder of ravens or an exaltation of larks. Well why should real animals get to have all the fun? Here’s a list of proposed collective nouns for mythological, legendary and fictional creatures, people and entities.

And yes, I’m aware that somebody else has already done something like this, but this list was generated independently of Wondermark’s. Any similarities are pure coincidence, or perhaps a sign that great minds truly do think alike (or that fools seldom differ).

  • An Abundance of Furred Trout
  • An Abduction of Greys
  • An Asylum of Melonheads
  • A Banquet of Wendigos
  • A Barbarity of Orcs
  • A Case of Bonsai Kittens
  • A Chariot of Ancient Astronauts
  • A Choir of Angels
  • A Circle of Demons
  • A Cloak of Shadow People
  • A Conspiracy of Reptilians
  • A Critias of Atlantians
  • A Crypt of Vampires
  • A Depravity of Satyrs
  • A Disfigurement of Kuchisaki-Onnas (if anyone knows the proper Japanese plural of “Kuchisaki-Onna”, please let me know)
  • A Futility of Snipes
  • A Gibbering of Elder Gods
  • A Glamour of Fairies
  • A Hail of Drop Bears
  • A Hoard of Dragons
  • An Inconvenience of Kobolds
  • An Innuendo of Unicorns
  • A Martyrdom of Saints
  • An Oppression of Illuminati
  • A Paradox of Time Travelers
  • A Peal of Thunderbirds
  • A Prophecy of Mothmen
  • A Puddle of Slime Monsters
  • A Recursion of Ouroboroi
  • A Release of Krakens
  • A Resemblance of Doppelgängers
  • A Revulsion of Gorgons
  • A Riddle of Sphinxes
  • A Ride of Valkyries
  • A Sabotage of Gremlins
  • A Saucer of Martians
  • A Shamble of Zombies
  • A Shining of Ghosts
  • A Shriek of Banshees
  • A Seduction of Succubae
  • A Stealth of Hidebehinds
  • A Stride of Bigfoot (Bigfoots? Bigfeet?)
  • A Testament of Prophets
  • A Touristry of Lake Monsters
  • A Wink of Cyclopes
  • A Wrinkle of Hags

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My Day as a Psychic Adviser

(names and screennames have been changed to protect the identities of the ignorant. Admittedly, I’m not good at pseudonyms)

I spend a good amount of time on Yahoo! Answers’s Religion & Spirituality forum, mostly trolling Fundies and Newagers and the likes, but occasionally answering seriously (often a mixture of the two). Anyway, yesterday someone posted a question asking for “psychic help”.

Question posted by &

Help what’s our future?

Have any one had dreams that came true? If so did your dreams had a virus out break which makes the dead walk like zombies? Tell me if your dream cames (sic) true and like visions of the future and tell me about your dream that always comes true. If u had a dream about a virus out break that involves zombies can you tell me what your dream was? I mean only peoples dreams that come true like visions of the future. This is my dream.

I had a dream just months ago and my dreams always came true so I saw my self grabbing to big blades and I was hunting zombies and I was enjoying it. Until I got biten (sic). So then I just woke up. I have alot (sic) of dreams that turns out to be visions of the future. And there could be a virus our break very soon in our life time. But it was like the walking dead like zombies. The zombie I was biten (sic) by was slow and I got biten (sic) by the hand. Please people who’s dreams always come true tell me what you’ve dreamt (sic) because I think there’s going to be a virus out break in 2012 or 2011. Please answer this. When did u have the dream? And what did the dream look like? What did you do? And what where the zombies I should say doing? Please answer this.

As I usually with questions directed at “psychics”, I donned my sarcastic satirical psychic persona and chimed in with my “prediction”

Answer by BrokenEye Evoluted:
The spirits are telling me that you will die on the last day of your life, and you will die of old age, unless something else gets you first.
Source(s):
PSYCHIC!

Obviously lampoonery, right? Apparently not. A few minutes later, I received a personal message from that user (who I refer to above as “&”), requesting further psychic assistance from me.

Hello BrokenEye Evoluted,
You have received a message from another user!
From:
&
Subject: hello
Message: alright this i have hard time believing anyways ive (sic) been getting dreams that came true but the mayans (sic) predicted that there will be a virus out break that involves the dead walking. just testing you answer one of these answer
I have one problem will alot (sic) actually but one of these following questions is true:
A. I have a ghost following me
B. I have two demon kids following me
C. i have a good spirit following me
D. i have no spirits or demons following me

so answer this is it A,B,or C,or D my email is fakeemail@email.fake

My first thought was “wait a minute, why does this guy think I was serious? My sarcasm was pretty blatant. Can’t see why he didn’t pick up on it.”

Then I just shrugged and thought “alright, he thinks I’m legit. I’ll play along and see how long it takes ‘im to figure it out,” so I emailed him back

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Thu, 23 Dec 2010 19:21:16 -0800
Subject: Hello, its BrokenEye Evoluted
To: fakeemail@email.fake
I’m going to need a more little information before I can tell you what your dream means.

1. What is your name?
2. What is your star sign?
3. What was the date and day of the week on which you had the dream?
4. What colors were you wearing at the time?

The thing about what color he was wearing should have tipped him off, but then again, some Newagey types attach a lot of significance to the colors of things.

That was last night. I got a response from him this morning, and kept up the charade over the course of the day.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 6:28 AM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Not sure about the second and third question but I think I wear light blue. The dream was almost for months ago now. I don’t know which star sign I have. I’m Rowan Martin Elmo Smith. Thanks for answering my email.

The star sign wasn’t important, as astrology is a load of crock anyway, but I was playing the psychic so I decided to make him think it was important

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 07:37:47 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

What’s you’re birthday then? I can figure out what your star sign is based on that.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 8:48 AM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

my birthday is december (sic) 10 1992 i was born in watertown canada (sic) at 9:20am

more information than I “needed”, but what the hell

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 10:07:17 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

I see. That would make you a Sagittarius.

Now are you seeing any other psychics? I ask, because their astral field signatures may interfere with my ability to get an accurate reading.

I made up the term “astral field signature” on the spot. I was completely pulling shit out of my ass at this point, but he still bought it.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 11:43 AM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Will I get horoscopes but never talk to psychics but I just got an email of one psychic named clara (sic) but we never talk that much. I do talk to other psychics i just send two psychics a message today just fre (sic) minutes ago.

How do you get horoscopes if you only just now found out what your star sign was? Oh yeah, they say what month each sign is for next to the name of the sign in the newspapers. Never mind, then.

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 12:30:56 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

Alright, I’m sure that’s fine. I’ll try to work around that.

Tell me, I’m sensing someone you know, possibly a friend or family member, has had a large change in their lives recently. Does the letter C mean anything to you?

One of the single most clichéd bogus psychic phrases, but once again, he still bought it.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 1:22 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Oh yeah my mother moved to the webbers trailor (sic) and no the C doesn’t mean anything to me. Wow you sensed a change and it was my mother moving out and that occurred two months ago though. Thank you for answering.

That’s right folks, he bought it even though the letter C meant nothing to him

From: brokeneye@gmail.com
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 13:36:05 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

I see.

And have you noticed anything strange or out of place in or near your home lately?

Less clichéd, but clearly the same type of bullshit

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 2:10 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Yes, why do you ask?

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 14:19:28 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

I knew you did.

Now this is slightly unorthodox, but could you by any chance send me an email of your palm so I could get a reading from that?

Do “real” psychics read palms from pictures? I don’t know, and I don’t care. And apparently, neither did he.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 3:11 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

did (sic) you see the pictures? if not then i dont (sic) know how to put pictures in and send them in. Anyways i cant (sic) really see the lines in my palm the pictures ive (sic) taken. if you dont (sic) see my pictures then i dont (sic) know how to put them in.

Photobucket

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 15:19:37 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

Ah, excellent.

You have very impressive phalanges. I’m getting an excellent reading from your carpal lay lines.

I can tell concerned about your life possibly being in danger. Is this correct?

“Real” palm-readers don’t talk about phalanges and carpels. They talk about heart lines and rings of Solomon. Most people don’t even know what a phalanges even is (it’s the sections of your fingers between the knuckles, btw). He still bought it.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 3:24 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Hmm you maybe right I’m in danger and many finds (sic) this hard to believe.

Earth to Rowan! I got the thing about your life being in danger from your comments about that dream you had. Remember that? I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know (apart from the impressiveness of your phalanges). Dear lord this guy is oblivious.

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 15:38:09 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

Rest easy Rowan. The stars assure me that you are in no immediate danger, and the stars are rarely wrong about such things.

There is an area in the reading that’s a little foggy. It feels important, but I can’t tell for sure what it is.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date:Dec 24, 2010, at 3:40 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Oh thank god for that. Thanks.

Maybe it’s because I felt I knew this guy a little more after all that, but at this point I decided to help him out a bit instead of just doing it for the lulz. He seemed like a decent person, if a bit naïve, and he clearly needed the help.

From: brokeneye@gmail.com
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 15:51:58 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

I really think it would be wise for you to hear the rest, if I could just reach it. Maybe you could help me. Have you heard of a man named James Randi?

If you know who James Randi is, you can probably see where I’m going with this. If you don’t know, just wait and see

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: On Dec 24, 2010, at 3:58 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

No I never hear of that name james.why (sic)?

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 16:18:30 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

He is the founder of the coveted Randi Prize. I’d like you to find out who the last winner was for me. The knowledge may help to bridge the spiritual gap preventing me from accessing this last and vitally important message my Guide Spirit is trying to send you.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 4:25 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

what do you mean by’ I’d like you to find out who the last winner was for me? and randi prize (sic)? um help more details please.

Really? Of all the ridiculous things I’ve said to you so far, that is what you question me on? The Randi Prize is a prize, founded by James Randi, and I want you to find out who won it last. I understand that you’re not the sharpest spoon in the drawer, but honestly Rowan, even an idiot would be able to figure that out

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 16:36:38 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

It’s not directly related to your inquiry. I just need to know so that the fog separating me from the most crucial message in this reading will clear, allowing me to relay that message to you. I need to know who the last winner of the Randi Prize is. The message is of vital importance, but I can’t see it clearly until you find that information for me.

Just Google it, you stupid git!

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: On Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 4:43 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

i (sic) think it was Christopher Kimberlin

Actually that’s the ACA Pauling Prize, but thanks for playing.

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 17:18:38 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

Really? That’s odd, because according to the website, in the 47 years since the Randi Prize was founded, none of the over six-hundred and fifty people who have applied for the Randi Prize have ever collected the one million dollar Randi Prize which is offered to anyone who can empirically prove that they have psychic powers.

Ah yes, and that brings me to the vital message I was trying so hard to reach. And that message is as follows:

I, Rowan, am not actually psychic. Nobody is. You have been duped, bamboozled, hoodwinked, deceived, defrauded, hoaxed, swindled, and played for a fool. Every question I asked was intentionally vague, specifically designed to prompt YOU to supply ME with the reading. These are some of the most basic tricks in a practice known as cold-reading, which has been used by so-called psychics, fortune tellers, diviners and oracles for centuries to give the appearance of being psychic. I did not do this out of malice or desire to take advantage of you, however. Rather, I did this to demonstrate just how easy it was for someone to wrongly convince you that they had powers of extrasensory perception. A less honest man than myself would have let you believe the lie and then charged you for his “services”. I suspect that some of the other “psychics” you see are doing exactly that, and I strongly suggest that you no longer pay for such things. I hope this has been a valuable learning experience for you.

And just so you know, your dream is not an omen or anything of the sort. Merely the subliminal activity of your sleeping brain, although the fact that it was a nightmare does suggest that you might be under a good amount of stress at the moment. I know this not because of any psychic powers, but because of my knowledge of basic human psychology, of which I am an avid student.

So the next time you feel compelled to seek the aid of a “psychic adviser”, I hope you think of me and what I’ve taught you here today.

That’s where I was going with this, btw

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Dec 24, 2010, at 5:28 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Wow I actually learned something here. And your (sic) not psychic?

From: brokeneye@email.fake
Date: Fri, 24 Dec 2010 18:40:50 -0800
To: fakeemail@email.fake

Not psychic, and only an extremely amateur cold-reader.

And while its possible that you may be in some sort of danger, but it’s not particularly probable and if you are, it’s entirely unrelated to your dream. So unless there’s some sign in the world o’ the waking that you’re in danger, it’s probably safe to assume you’re not.

From: fakeemail@email.fake
Date: Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 6:52 PM
To: brokeneye@email.fake

Oh ok thanks.

And that was my day as a psychic adviser. In retrospect, I’m slightly worried about how he just accepted my explanation without argument. I mean, I’m glad I was able to teach him about psychics and everything, but a normal human being would have gotten at least a little pissed that A) he had been tricked and B) something he strongly believed to be true had just been disproven. Does this kid just believe everything people tell him is true at face value? If he’s that naïve, then maybe he is in danger after all (but not from Mayan demon ghost zombies). Someone’s gonna take advantage your dumb trust someday, Rowan, and you can bet that they’re not going to be as friendly as I was. The world is a cruel harsh place, full of identity thieves, scammers, muggers, politicians, ad men, and other manipulative bastards who will stop at nothing to get from you what you want. I just hope you learn that before you have to find out the hard way.

Postscript: I still occasionally got emails from Rowan after this encounter, generally asking whether something was legit, including one regarding a website where you could pay to have wishes granted (hey, we’ve already established that this guy was a few major arcana short of a deck). After a while, though, I started getting spam from his address, which had apparently been hijacked by a hacker of some sort, which I was afraid was gonna happen. Of course, he didn’t notice this until I emailed him to point it out. He apparently changed his address, because I haven’t heard from him since. The spammer’s still there, though.

Maybe I should be worried.

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