Merry Tuesday my little apple carts! I’ve got a lot of editing to do so I shall leave you with this wonderfully bizarre short film The Voice Thief by the criminally gorgeous Adan Jodorowsky, son of Alejandro, and featuring Asia Argento (also gorgeous), daughter of Dario. Toodle pip!
Can A Youtuber Be A Cult Leader?
I’ve been researching YouTube communities for a few weeks now for an upcoming book and found myself pondering a surprising question. Before we dive in I’d like to remind everyone that I don’t have the answers, just an overwhelming curiosity. Also some of the videos contain naughty language, so be aware.
Communities exist because, as we know, YouTube is a vast website where thousands of videos are uploaded every second and, without individuals of common interest pulling together and promoting each other, they’d all be lost in a vacuum. The thing is, people are people and, no matter how much we’d love to, we don’t really get along – at least certain people can’t with each other. I’ve noticed each community (Booktube, Storytime, Ranters, Vegans… oh God, the Vegans… we’ll come to that) will have its antagonists or people who just don’t agree with the way others are doing things, the others often take sides, and sometimes it leads to the disintegration of the group and sometimes not. It’s the same with any large mass of people, online or otherwise, it’s just a new platform for all this to happen.
There’s another element to online disagreements though, one which is both fascinating and disturbing: can a YouTuber become a cult leader? It sounds completely daft but more and more I’ve wondered at the possibility. There is a general fear that impressionable people can be lured into cults via the internet, though whether there is any basis in fact is another matter.
One YouTuber years ago jokingly (?) attempted to start his own cult and, interestingly, he’s a person many have since had genuine concerns about. They worry that his young fan base is easily taken in by what he tells them and so on. But does that make it possible for him to be a real cult leader? In order to decide that I suppose we ought to define what a cult leader is.
The following video demonstrates the common ways a rational person is manipulated and transformed into a follower:
It seems pretty crazy and far-fetched to think someone could manage all this by uploading videos onto a website, right? But some are convinced it’s possible. I suppose we can look at it two ways. When we don’t like someone, we tend to view everything they say and do through the worst possible lens. For example, the lady in the video below felt a YouTuber was disrespecting disabled people and, once she approached him via social media, he didn’t respond well and neither did his followers.
It’s never nice to be spoken to in an unpleasant manner, in real life or online, and it can be mentally upsetting particularly for the very young or those with chronic illness. The seeping in of negativity from online to everyday life once seemed ridiculous to people, but the potential real world damage is becoming clearer.
The lady below points out several entirely plausible things that qualify him as a potential cult leader, and she’s not the only one, but is it also possible she’s seeing them because…well…she doesn’t like him? Or is she right?
And yet… a YouTuber forming a cult doesn’t seem completely impossible. Back to the vegans.
About a year ago troubling aspects of a group known as Raw Till 4 became evident. Led by a very angry pair known as Durian Rider and his girlfriend Freelee (or Diddly Rider and Free Pee as one dissenter refers to them), the Raw Till 4 diet promotes eating large quantities of raw carbohydrates until 4 when you can… eat cooked carbohydrates? I’m not sure. They set up a vegan festival in Thailand where anyone could go and discuss all things vegetably and raw, before in-fighting and accusations of sexual predation (apparently projection on Durian Rider’s part) caused the entry rules to become stricter and stricter, and those on the fringe were denounced as ‘fake vegans,’ until only a hardcore few meeting all the requirements were allowed to attend. Some began noticing the health advice, among other things, was perhaps not up to par:
However the thing that most worried people was the video of a young girl, 16 at the time, defending the pair. She has a history of eating disorders and apparently blindly followed the pair’s teachings. Notice in the video below the moment she brings up concerns from her doctor and Durian Rider tells her to “ignore your doctor, just listen to the king and queen.”
So yes, I don’t think it’s beyond the scope of possibility. I think we ought to be aware, though, of hysteria and making things fit to our way of thinking. Adam Curtis says, after all, that the internet is “an echo chamber, reflecting our beliefs back at us.” But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen…
Merry Halloween! John Waters This Filthy World
It’s here! Later tonight I shall be watching Derren Brown and stuffing my face but until then here is something to amuse all you weirdos out there. It’s like that programme An Evening With, where the star shares charming anecdotes with the audience, except in this context it involves burlesque, horror, trash and cult cinema and fetishes. It’s very funny.
BE WARNED: Much of this is NOT for children. Do not watch if you’re under 18 (or whatever age you think it’s OK). Happy Halloween!!
John Waters This Filthy World (2006)
Codex Seraphinianus: A New Edition of the Strangest Book in the World
The strangest book in the world and I’ve never heard of it? Well, yes, there’s probably quite a lot I haven’t heard of. Never mind, here’s a link to an article on a very odd book in an unknown language with intriguingly bizarre pictures.
New book – The Filing Cabinet of Doom and other stories
What’s that? An entire book filled with stuff from my brain? Wow, where can I purchase such a thing?!
Well, worry no more. With just a few clicks of the button you too can be a proud owner of my words (and technically the words of Burning Bulb Publishing). If you’re from the UK you can purchase on the kindle from here, or on paperback via here, or if you’re American you could buy them here or here. If you are from elsewhere, I apologise for not including your Amazon links. I hope we can still be friends.
Bizarre Book Club 5: A Drug and Madness Special
Drugs and madness, everyone’s favourite things! It’s in the lyrics of the extra bit in that number Julie Andrews sang to the Von Trapp children that ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s true. Bee keeping was probably in there too.
Anyway…we all love Burroughs, but what of those before him?
1. Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Essentially Junky for the Georgian period, this long and rather waffling essay (still entertaining though, don’t get me wrong) details the author’s fall into the grip of opium addiction. Made more interesting by the fact that his buddies and fellow hop heads were Byron and Coleridge, I recommend this to anyone with a high concentration level, which I admit wasn’t always me (ooh, squirrels).
2. The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga. Here’s a blog post on the Uruguayan author’s frankly depressing life and possibly the reason his stories frequently include death, madness and murder. Perhaps I’m wrong but I get the feeling his writing is more poetic than the English translation, however I still enjoyed his Mediterranean infused gothic tales.
3. Hunger by Knut Hamsun. The main character in Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun’s turn of the century novel is really hungry. Seriously, that’s the basis of the book, and it’s amazing.
Hamsun wanted to show the fragility of human perception by detailing the ups and downs in a struggling writer’s life. Everything seems hopeful when he’s had a bit of bread, but without it he does and says some very peculiar things, including harassing a young lady as she wanders down the street and almost eating a pencil. It’s much better than I’ve explained here so I suggest getting a copy forthwith.
4. The Young Doctor’s Notebook (or Country Doctor’s Notebook)/Morphine by Mikhail Bulgakov. Frequently paired together, especially since the brilliant adaptation featuring Jon Hamm, this collection of short stories details in naturalistic prose the usually surreal author’s (his other works include The Master and Margarita) time as a country doctor in Russia. Oh, and his raging morphine addiction.
The stories of treating his confused peasant patients are worth it alone (a woman in labour is brought in and the midwives check her vagina only to find lumps of sugar inserted. The baby was overdue and they’d apparently tried to ‘lure it out’). However some of the nightmarish scenarios in Morphine (a fictionalised account, as are all the stories) stay with you. I had no idea morphine withdrawal would really cause terrifying hallucinations, I thought that scene in Trainspotting was just to jazz it up a bit.
He’s a funny and thought provoking writer and I’m now going to search out his other, apparently weirder, works and you probably should too.
Well that’s all I have time for, but be sure to tune in for more exciting updates. In the meantime, here’s a cat saying “Oh Long Johnson.”
The oddest Asian films I’ve seen so far, plus baby shaped pears
Fancy seeing you here. No, I’m not following you, we just know the same people. Well maybe you’re following me, did you think of that?
OK so I’m going to assume you’ve seen the films of Takashi Miike, Chan-Wook Park, Tetsuo, Battle Royale and all those ‘girl with hair on face’ films.
Warning: Some of these trailers might have disturbing things in them. Others are just silly. Now let’s have a look.
1. Matango: Attack of the Mushroom People.This is a colourful and slightly campy 60s offering from Japan (and looks very much like the inside of my brain), though its not without its moments of tension. A group of holiday makers crash a ship on an island and find themselves without much food, but never fear: those mushrooms look tasty! Unfortunately they have some side effects.
2. Horrors of Malformed Men. There’s a mad scientist on an island! He’s made genetic freaks! He’s…doing Butoh on a rock?…He’s… telling a convoluted back story to someone about things I don’t quite understand…
3. The Forbidden Door. Indonesian outing which, even with a disappointing ending, was entertaining enough for me. An artist who makes sculptures of slightly too realistic pregnant women stumbles on a secret door in the house he shares with his girlfriend. Not only that but a friend introduces him to a very exclusive and very disturbing club. It’s not Fight Club.
4. Hansel and Gretel. Included because it’s so pretty (never fear, it’s more than a little odd), this is a Korean film about a man who gets lost in the woods. He stumbles on a beautiful house filled with a loving family, but the parents look worried…
5. House. 70s Japanese film about a group of friends who go on holiday (people just need to stop going on holiday) to a house in the country. A house of some seriously weird sh*t!
6. Dumplings. What’s in the dumplings that keeps everyone looking so young and beautiful? Let’s not ask…
OK that’s all I have time for but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more weirdness. In the meantime have a look at this news story about pears in China that have been “shaped during its initial stages of growth using special molds” to resemble babies. Yum.
7 films about relationships that I actually like
Even if you hate unrealistic romantic comedies and ‘family movies,’ relationships intrigue us all because, for some reason, we keep choosing to go through them, and most people have some semblence of family even if they aquire them later.
Perhaps because the subject is so vital to our existence I not only class the following films as ones I love, but films that are amongst my favourites. Despite the surreal settings or situations in most of them, I feel they portray relationships of all kinds in a way that’s more honest than most.
Maybe surrealism allows the director to take a step back and look at things objectively. How do they differ from the ‘realistic’ films in the list? I don’t know, what do you think?
There are plenty of good ‘relationship’ films out there (such as Harold and Maude) but these are the ones I’ve chosen. Interestingly, most feature comedians and an eccentrically attired woman.
Woody Allen has done many films that are not good, but the ones that are count as some of my favourites. Annie Hall is a truthful, funny look at all stages of a specific relationship which leaves us with the same bittersweet nostalgia from thinking on our own experiences:
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Another film where a particular relationship is broken down and studied by the director, this has so many moments where I think ‘Oh God, I do that’ that it’s quite painful at times. It’s genuine and heartfelt. Jim Carey is having ex girlfriend Kate Winslet erased from his memory, which allows him to wander through his thoughts as an outsider:
This one’s about deconstructing storytelling itself rather than studying the relationship between Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I love her character and their interaction.
There’s something very old film, Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life‘ about it that warms the cockles, it’s sweet and inventive in a way that’s rarely seen these days in a mainstream film and I urge all who haven’t seen it to do so. Will Ferrell is a character in Emma Thompson’s book, and has to stop her from killing him:
The game of dare between childhood friends, a boy and a girl, increasingly escalate along with their feelings for each other. This is a lovely, dark little story which is, for lack of a better description, very French:
I can see why some people might find this film relentlessly bleak, but I think it’s also oddly refreshing. The nosy side of me gets to watch the intimate problems between these people as well as watching how they live, it reminds me quite a lot of a stage performance. The scenes where drunken nights quickly turn unpleasant are very truthful, and I love the films of John Cassavetes in general.
Featuring real sex this is an entertaining journey through the sexual/relationship troubles of a dominatrix, a gay couple and a woman who’s never had an orgasm. Somewhere the answer lies in a late night club:
I was quite pleasantly surprised by this one, especially since it contains Tom Cruise’s wife Katie Holmes. It’s a very simple story of a girl whose terminally ill mother is coming to visit her in New York for Thanksgiving. Her oven breaks and she has to knock on all the other apartment doors in the building.
However the mum is…kind of a bitch (well, I suppose she is dying), and April is the family black sheep. Her relationship with boyfriend Bobby appears to be central to her newfound stability. It’s just very sweet but not sickly, and sometimes you need that. Please ignore the cheesy trailer music, it is very misplaced:
Rather Useful Writer Links
Recently I sent a short story to a magazine, and it was rejected. So? I hear you cry, this happens all the time. Do not sully our eyes with such pointless jibber jabber. Get thee forthwith into a nunnery, or at least next door.
What made this rejection interesting, my little slices of pepperoni, was the list of links they sent me. Websites with a range of publications that take short stories! They were: New Pages, Poets and Writers website, a list of Poetry Publishers who accept Electronic Submissions, a list of Online Literary Journals and a list of Literary magazines.
As well as that I discovered a benefit from following Neil Gaiman on Twitter other than being able to ask him directly if I can lick his face (I don’t really do that. Or do I?). The other day he posted this link, which appears to be a site called LitReactor, ‘a compendium of top advice from Contemporary Authors.’ Apparently it’s from the team that brought you ChuckPalahniuk.net, the site full of advice and workshops for cult writers, Chuck being the author of such cult classics as Fight Club.
Go on, you know you want to…
Writer’s Groups, Online Workshops and Self-Editing Part 2
A short while ago I mentioned I had joined a local writer’s group. This was really enjoyable as the stories and poems were surprisingly (how much of a snob am I?) good. However while I found reading my story aloud helped me to locate things that needed changing, what I really missed was feedback.
I began thinking about joining an online workshop. A couple of friends I went to uni with suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). I was only interested in the free ones though, so I joined Critique Circle. Honestly just look in google, there’s loads.
I was nervous at first, and unsure whether anyone would get around to looking at my story or if people were just posting theirs. However you can’t upload a story until you’ve gained enough credits by critiquing someone else’s. I chose a template for my comments to ensure I did it thoroughly, and picked a story from the ‘newbie list.’ The one I chose was over 4,000 words which apparently gives you double credits, so I uploaded my story. I also noticed that the homepage features a different writing excercise every day and encourages activity from members via polls and competitions.
I waited over a week but, as there are quite a few options going down the left side, I was unsure what to do next. I kept checking my message inbox thinking the critiques would appear on there. However today, after clicking on ‘my story’ (should have been obvious I suppose), I found there had been 8 critiques. I read through them, some being more detailed than others of course, but the different templates the site offers for critiquing allows most people to be quite in-depth about their suggestions. The process highlighted areas I hadn’t realised needed work and, despite the occasional differences of culture between UK and America (a letterbox is something we have on our doors, not the thing on a stick) it was very good.
Quite intimidatingly you grade them on the helpfulness of their critiques via multiple choice, but this is also probably good otherwise you’d just get hundreds of “I liked it it was nise.”
I’m always self-editing but it can only get you so far. You do need to be quite ruthless with your work which I’m sure you already know; if you have to read a sentence more than once it probably needs changing. It can’t beat having other people look at it though. We have such a clear idea of how things are in our minds that we sometimes don’t realise other people can’t quite see it.
So there we are, free doesn’t necessarily mean bad. I hope it was useful. Au revoir!