a bad time for satire," Marty Wombacher sighs, and he must be right, because
his satirical zine Fishwrap, despite being consistently wicked and funny,
is getting harder and harder to find. In fact, you wouldn’t have seen his
two most recent projects unless he made a point of mailing them to you. And
they’re only 12 pages each. n Yet they’re both a hoot. One’s
a parody of The
New Yorker, the other a parody Vanity Fair. On The New
Yorker’s contributors page we find "Adam Gopnik is the author
of ‘Paris to the Moon,’ a book normal people with actual lives have
never heard of," "Edward Sorel must have contributed something because
his name is on the list, but gosh darn it all if we can remember" and "Alex
Ross is the New Yorker’s fluffer." An ad for Bombay Sapphire
notes that "A Day Without Gin Is Like a Night Without Vicodin."
In the Vanity
Fair, Graying Farter’s "Editor’s Letter" is headlined
"That Thing I Do!" to go with his flippy hairdo. It’s the music
issue, and includes an interview with Phil Spector with this introduction:
by many to be the greatest rock ’n’ roll producer ever; in reality
Phil Spector is nuttier than a 377 pound Snickers bar. Crazy, cuckoo, off his
rocker, not playing with a full deck, riding the two wheeled tricycle, shoveling
snow in July, topping a triscuit with motor oil, playing the stringless ukulele,
frying the teflon terrier, barking at spiders, tipping the tarryman, wilding
Rosie O’Donnell–these are the words that describe Phil Spector best."
been short on funds lately, so just about the only people who’ve seen these
parodies are, in fact, Graydon Carter, Adam Gopnik, Edward Sorel, et al.–he
makes a point of mailing copies to those he parodies. So far, he says, he hasn’t
heard back from a single one of them. To borrow a term from George Tabb: pussies.
In a better
age, Wombacher would have the backing to turn Fishwrap into a proper
21st-century MAD. In the meantime, he’ll mail you copies of these
if you send $2 postage each to Fishwrap, 18 W. 16th St., #2R, NYC 10011.
As a kid
growing up in Southern California, Gregory Bishop devoured everything his local
public libraries offered in books on UFOs, psychic research, strange phenomena–everything
we’ve come to know now as fodder for entertainment like The X-Files.
Back in those days, though–he’s 37–this was strictly of geek
fringe interest. Curiously, he says he never liked science fiction, and reads
little fiction of any kind–though he admits that many people might question
whether the types of books he reads can really be labeled "nonfiction."
mind that the fringe became so mainstream in the 90s. For one thing, he never
thought his interest in topics like alien encounters, the chupacabra and Nikola
Tesla made him "cool"–just as well, since nobody else would have
thought so, either. For another, he’s done his part to keep up the old
kook-culture allure of all this material through his zine, The Excluded Middle.
Begun with like-minded friends Robert Larson and Peter Stenshoel in 1994, The
Excluded Middle has gone through nine issues, lately averaging 64 pages.
The first issue was 500 copies, cranked out at the local photocopy shop. Bishop
(who currently maintains it as a solo effort) says it sells between 5000 and
8000 copies now, very respectable for a zine.
nine issues have now been compiled in a fat workbook-size softcover, Wake
Up Down There! (435 pages, $24.95), put out by David Hatcher Childress’
Adventures Unlimited (www.wexclub.com/aup). Childress publishes a large catalog
of fringe-topic books–not a few by himself–with titles like The
Time Travel Handbook, Anti-Gravity & the World Grid, The Christ
Conspiracy, Man-Made UFOs 1944-1994 and Mind Control, Oswald &
Up Down There!–the title comes from a passage in John Keel’s cryptozoic
classic The Mothman Prophecies–is a veritable supermarket of ufology,
conspiratology, forteana and weird science. Eschewing both the true believers
and the complete skeptics, Bishop et al. favor a frame of mind that embraces
"the excluded middle"–open-minded, non-dogmatic, curious and
fairly sure that if the truth is out there, it’s too "mercurial"
(Bishop’s term) to be grasped by anyone whose mind has already been made
up–whether that person is a mainstream scientist or a solitary crackpot.
It’s a way, Bishop writes in his foreword to the book, "to entertain
opposing points of view or cognitively dissonant concepts and still be entertained."
Wenner and Rolling Stone, Bishop freely admits that half the reason for
starting his zine was so that he could get to meet his heroes. Just about everyone
who’s anyone in the "anomalous phenomena" field turns up in Wake
Up Down There!, either as a contributor or an interviewee. Robert Anton
Wilson makes a few appearances and is his usual witty self, as in this interview
exchange with Bishop:
don’t sense you have as much hope in the future as you once did. Is this
incorrect? And do you agree with Israel Regardie’s statement that things
will get worse before they get any better?
I think I’m as optimistic as I ever was in the long-run evolutionary perspective.
This idea that we have to go through some horror before we’re cured, if
that were true, we’d have been cured long ago. We’ve been through
enough horrors, especially in this century. After Hitler’s death camps
and Hiroshima and Viet Nam, how many horrors do we have to go through before
we’re ready to be happy? I think we’re ready to be happy right now.
I’m not going to let Regardie stop me.
he can’t object now. Do you think all this is "millennium jitters"
or is the shit really going to hit the fan?
I regard myself and my friends as the power elite. That way I don’t have
to worry if someone else is manipulating me. They’re trying, but we’re
outsmarting them every step of the way. Most people want to believe somebody
else is in charge. Then they don’t have to take responsibility. Then they
have the supreme pleasure of perpetually complaining that somebody else is in
charge, and it would be better if only they were in charge. As long as I think
I’m in charge, I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’ve got to
take the responsibility for all of it. How can I go on? (laughs) Well, some
of us have more balls than others. I’m sixty years old. In any traditional
society I would have been hanged long ago.
a rare interview, via e-mail, with Ira Einhorn, back when Einhorn was still
a fugitive in France. It begins with the classically Einhornian statement, "I
did not kill Holly Maddux, and am still not sure who did, though I am involved
in on-going research on the matter that will eventually be a large book."
Bishop says the e-mails had to go back and forth a while before Einhorn would
let the interview be published. "Strangely enough," he jokes, "he’s
kind of a control freak."
that appear in Wake Up Down There! include the SubGenius’ Ivan Stang,
Carlos Castaneda, Kooks author Donna Kossy, Clay Shaw, Wilhelm Reich,
legendary ufologist Jim Moseley, Sun Ra, Philip K. Dick, conspiratologist Jim
Keith, Paranoia’s Joan D’Arc, remote viewing expert Joe McMoneagle
and one of my favorite psychic/psychedelic researchers from the 50s and 60s,
a fascinating interview with a clinical psychologist (he ran the bad acid trip
tent at the original Woodstock) attempting to "translate" the symbols
and markings–including a form of "alien writing"–done by
(or channeled through) mental patients. While he admits that 90 percent of his
attempts produce gibberish, they do sometimes yield lines of accidental poetry
like this instruction from aliens: "If you want to make light solid, show
it to the moon."
John Carter, who wrote the Feral House Sex and Rockets: The Occult World
of Jack Parsons, contributes a really interesting piece tracing some of
the Nazis’ occult preoccupations back through the Thule Society all the
way to Shabbetai Sevi (1626-1676), who rose up out of the Jewish quarter of
Smyrna to proclaim himself the Messiah. Also in the way of obscure history,
there’s a piece on Aleister Crowley’s contacts in the 1910s with an
entity called Lam, whose portrait, as drawn by Crowley, bizarrely foreshadows
the classic eggheaded space alien of 50 years later. And there’s a transcript
of a phone call Jackie Gleason (a big amateur ufologist) made to a radio show,
wherein he rudely taunts a fellow flying saucer nut.
transcript is in a piece by Bishop in which he discusses the difference between
the UFO "contactees" of the 50s with the UFO "abductees"
who came to dominate the scene later. Earlier contact with aliens was generally
positive and peaceful, whereas the abduction scenarios are all about fear and
paranoia, rape and invasive surgery. Bishop tells me that he wonders if the
shift in attitude is "a reflection of the times these people were interacting
with whatever it was they were interacting with." As our society in general
has grown more paranoid, and "people feel like they’re under a microscope
all the time anyway," stories of alien encounters have grown similarly
more dark and frightening.
the zine and the book, Bishop deals with arcane topics on a show called Radio
Mysterioso that’s netcast Sunday afternoons on killradio.org.