ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA - EXTENDED CUT (BLU-RAY)

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After the restored longer version of Once Upon a Time in America was shown at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival (which I wrote about here), the film was promptly removed from circulation “pending further restoration work.” Not much has been written about it since, but now, on September 30, Warner Bros. is finally releasing the extended - and, presumably, “further” restored - version on Blu-ray. Although press reports and reviews will doubtless tell you that this version more closely approximates Leone’s intended director’s cut, the reality is far more complex. First, there’s a small matter that nobody ever mentions: Leone preferred the 229-minute version. How do I know this? Because he said so: “the version that I prefer is this one.”

Here’s the full quote:

“Then there is the very long one that has never been edited and which lasts fifty minutes longer. Four and a half hours. But we rejected the idea of two parts on TV. It is so intricate that it has to be done in one evening. And besides, let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

[Source: Sergio Leone: The Great Italian Dream of Legendary America by Oreste De Fornari]

This raises obvious questions: If Leone were alive today would he even want to have these scenes reinstated? Would he want a bunch of technicians, splicers and knob-twiddlers, many of whom had no previous association with the film, tampering with his *preferred* version without his consent? We will never know, of course, the extent to which Leone would have approved of this longer version. And that’s the point. We can’t know. So, please, let’s not refer to it as the “Extended Director’s Cut,” as is stated so misleadingly on the cover of the Blu-ray.

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A different albeit related question is this: did Leone actually assemble a fully edited, ready-for-distribution 270-minute director’s cut in 1984? Most fans assume so, but considering the ample evidence to the contrary, I have my doubts. Let’s review the evidence:

1) In his 1988 interview with De Fornari, Leone is quoted as saying:

“Then there is the very long one that has never been edited…”

The quote contradicts the notion that Leone finished editing the longer version. It is, of course, possible that he was mistranslated. After all, in an earlier interview he’s quoted as saying the exact opposite: that the scenes had been edited. Perhaps in the later interview Leone used the word “edito” which sounds like “edited” but which Google translates as “published” and which could, I suppose, be interpreted as “released.” So he might have said that the missing scenes had never been released.

But…

2) In the Cannes press kit, Davide Pozzi, Director of L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory which performed the restoration, wrote:

“Technically, the homogeneity of the unedited scenes was the biggest problem, as unfortunately the negatives for these scenes no longer exist.”

Was Pozzi mistranslated too? I doubt it since I think he’s fluent in English. So what does he mean by “unedited scenes” if not that the scenes were…unedited?

I don’t know, maybe we can construe “unedited scenes” to mean “scenes that need to be reinserted from where they were removed.” And why not? Doesn’t Gian Luca Farinelli say, in that very same press kit, that “beginning and end frames of the cut scenes allowed us to identify the exact place they were deleted from.”?

So there you have it. All they had to do was take a beginning frame from here, an end frame from there, and reinsert them whence they came. Finito!

But…

3) In an Italian article from 2011, Andrea Leone, Sergio’s son, said “Il montaggio degli inediti è una ricucitura complessa,” which roughly translates as “the editing of the unreleased footage needs complex re-stitching.” (Note: in the context of filmmaking, “montaggio” refers to editing.)

Here we have a sentence containing three words that seem to refer to or could be interpreted as “editing” - montaggio, ricucutura and inediti. (Note: the Italian translation of “unedited” is, according to Google, “inediti.”) Whatever the precise translation, one thing is certain: the process to reinsert the missing scenes would be “complessa” - i.e., complex.

Hmm, if all they had to do to arrive at Leone’s fabled director’s cut was insert the unreleased (and supposedly fully edited) footage back into the existing 229-minute version, why would Andrea say that it would be a complex editing process?

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Come to think of it, editors routinely leave extra footage at the head and tail of frames on rough cuts so that the shots can later be trimmed for content, rhythm, and running time. It is common practice, is it not, for editors to significantly whittle down the running time of rough cuts by the time the film is released? So, yeah, we know where the missing scenes were cut from (the script pretty much tells us that anyway), but so what? That doesn’t mean they were taken from a completely edited workprint - i.e., the fine cut.

In his 1984 interview with Cahiers du Cinéma Leone discusses the film’s duration, saying that he was given carte blanche to make a four-and-a-half hour version, but then…

“Four months after the start of editing, they said to me no, it is not possible. They demanded that I cut the film. I did not want to go back to the first concept which was three hours. I cut as much as I could…”

This is, I think, telling: Leone knew that a four-and-a-half hour version was out of the question two months *before* he finished editing the film. It’s not as if they demanded he shorten the film *after* he’d assembled a fully edited 270-minute fine cut. I suspect, then, that Leone excised around 40-50 minutes of footage from an *incomplete* workprint, not from the *fine* cut, with the idea of later assembling a longer version for Italian TV, but never got around to fine-tuning the scenes.

According to Leone’s biographer, Christopher Frayling:

“Leone had ten hours of usable footage in the can. With help from editor Nino Baragli, this was pruned to six hours. Then, finally accepting that there was unlikely to be a two-part version, Leone delivered a *fine cut* of three hours and forty-nine minutes.”

So it sounds like the “fine cut” - the one that results from trimming down the rough cut - was three hours and forty-nine minutes, not four hours and twenty-nine minutes. If so, that means the missing scenes never made it all the way through the most crucial creative phase of the editing. How do we know the extent to which the scenes had been edited? Were they completely edited, up to and through post-production, or were they only partly edited and/or in need of additional post-production work?

Of course, it was Andrea Leone, after all, who said reinserting the missing scenes would be a “complex” task, and we all know from the fiasco of the premature release of the restored version that Andrea has his head lodge in his asshole up to his Adam’s apple, so it stands to reason that he was just talking shit.

But…

4) Reportedly, Morricone and Fausto Ancillai, the film’s original sound editor, helped supervise the restoration, which suggests, at the very least, that the sound and music in the missing scenes hadn’t received proper post-production attention.

Admittedly, I don’t know the exact contributions Ancillai and Morricone made to the restoration. All I know is what little has been reported of their involvement. I think Variety was the first to report Ancillai’s role as supervisor, and Pozzi thanks him in the aforementioned press kit for his support during the restoration process.

Interestingly, Pozzi did not thank Morricone, which might indicate that the composer’s involvement was minimal, I don’t know. Farinelli mentions Morricone in relation to the restoration in this 2011 article but it’s in Italian and the Google translation is ambiguous:

“It will be a challenging process and we are at the beginning. A job that will require at least a year, also because in addition to the frames, there are the sound effects and the soundtrack of Morricone, who is added to the work of replacement.”

I can’t tell if Farinelli is saying that Morricone will work on the new scenes or simply that the sound and music need additional work/enhancement. Maybe someone who understands Italian can interpret this.

This French translation of the Italian article is less ambiguous, and if it’s closer to the mark, then there’s good reason to believe that Ancillai and Morricone contributed additional sound and music to the excised scenes.

“It’s a real challenge ahead of us today. A job that will require almost a year, because in addition to the image, there is the sound and music of Ennio Morricone to be added.”

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Leone makes another telling statement in the Cahiers interview:

Cahiers: How was the sound done in the movie?

Leone: Everything was in direct sound, with Jean-Pierre Ruh, who won an Oscar for Tess. But it was necessary to *post-synchronize* some scenes because sometimes I try shooting with the film music and the actors who have rehearsed with it sometimes prefer to film with it and to *dub afterwards* since it gives them a certain atmosphere.

So just because Leone shot the missing scenes with direct sound does not mean he completed post-production work on the dialogue, let alone the effects and music.

Most directors do not play music on the set, so Leone was unique in this regard, but even under normal circumstances dialogue is often modified and/or replaced during post-production. Moreover, whether scenes are shot silent or with direct sound, the music and sound effects get mixed in afterwards, during the post-synchronization process.

Given Leone’s operatic style and imaginative sound designs, the mixture of sound and music was a particularly important element of his cinema. To put the matter into stark relief, imagine if the opening of Once Upon a Time in the West, with its marvelous symphony of sound effects, or, more to the point of this post, the sequence in Once Upon a Time in America with the ringing phone echoing persistently through Noodles’ guilt-ridden flashback, had been excised before going through Leone’s creative sound mixing process! That phone rings 24 times at gradually increasing intervals over a span of 3 minutes and 43 seconds. How would the scene play if left to the devices of Andrea and his knob-twiddlers? How many times would the phone ring? Would the sequence climax with that piercing electronic shriek? I’d say “fat chance” but that would be an insult to fat chances. No wonder they enlisted the film’s original sound editor to supervise the restoration!

To be fair, the majority of the missing scenes appear to be heavy on expository dialogue, so perhaps the situation isn’t as serious as it might have been.

But Leone’s forte lay in his operatic style, his flair for creating dramatic marriages of image, sound and music, which likely inclined him to excise these talky scenes. And if, as I suspect, Leone cut the scenes before post-production and put them aside for safekeeping with the intention of fine-tuning them later, but ultimately abandoned plans to assemble a longer version, then, well, I’m afraid the Leone clan’s decision to reinsert the scenes was a doomed venture from the beginning.

When Raffaella first announced the discovery of these scenes in 2006, she said:

“We want to restore 40 minutes of deleted scenes we have found. Mind you, though: we will not reassemble the movie, which will stay what my father did.”

Yet she couldn’t leave well enough alone. Instead, she did precisely the opposite of what she said she would do: she *changed* what her father did. One has to wonder why. Did Leone’s secret diary reveal that he preferred the extended cut after all? Did Leone’s ghost encourage her to go forth with the project? Or, perhaps, were there more, shall we say, financial considerations afoot? Did she, her brother, and their moneymen calculate that it would be more profitable to reinsert the scenes? Maybe plastering “Extended Director’s Cut” across the Blu-ray cover would fill their coffers. But would the siblings Leone really sell out papà Leone for a stinking fistful of denaro? Well…maybe.

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In any case…

This comment by Pozzi makes a mockery of the notion that the newly restored longer version is Leone’s director’s cut:

“Technically, the homogeneity of the unedited scenes was the biggest problem, as unfortunately the negatives for these scenes no longer exist. The only materials available were discarded strips of working positives which had been badly preserved. Making this task even more difficult was the fact that the working positives had been printed without particular care, as originally they were part of the working copies which circulated between the assistant editors and sound editors as a work reference.”

Perhaps someone more familiar than I with the ins and outs of the editing process can straighten me out here, but if the missing scenes were unedited, if the negatives no longer exist, if the only materials available were discarded strips of working positives that had been badly preserved and carelessly printed, and if assistant editors and sound editors had used these copies as a work reference, on what possible grounds can a case be made that the reinsertion of these scenes into the existing film somehow constitutes Leone’s director’s cut?

Moreover, that these scenes were used as a work reference suggests, does it not, that they were still in the process of being edited? So even if Leone had assembled a complete 270-minute director’s cut in 1984 (which remains questionable), who’s to say that these “discarded strips of working positives” had been edited in the same way and to the same extent as the corresponding footage that made it into the alleged 270-minute version?

The ultimate question - the long and the short of it, I suppose - is this: given the above facts, how do we know with anything approaching certainty whether the missing scenes had been fully edited, partially edited, or not edited at all? Which ones, if any, made it all the way to the fine cut? Maybe some did. Maybe others never made it past the rough cut. Maybe others needed post-production tweaking.

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At least one scene was likely removed at the rough cut stage. Frayling says that Leone excised the chauffeur scene *during shooting* due to his reservations about producer Arnon Milchan’s acting ability, a well-founded concern given that the confrontational scene involves an amateur with no acting experience going up against the greatest actor of his generation. According to Leone’s trusted long-time assistant, Luca Morsella, whose close day-to-day contact with Leone surely gave him privileged insight into the director’s mentality and decision-making process, “Sergio had promised the part of the chauffeur to Milchan…but lost his nerve about this. He was worried that having taken so much trouble over casting everyone else, this might not work. So he said no. There was a row with Sergio, who finally agreed to shoot it. He shot it then cut it, and then told interviewers Milchan had made him cut it!”

Elizabeth McGovern, meanwhile, expressed grave doubts about her Cleopatra scene, not only because she felt she lacked the acting chops to pull off Shakespeare but also because “it stopped all the action…and was very strange to have a death scene Kabuki-style at that point in the movie.” She, for one, was happy to see it go. Frayling shares McGovern’s assessment of the scene and of herself, calling the scene “awful” and McGovern “no Shakespearean actress.” One has to wonder if Leone too harbored doubts; this might be the scene he least regretted cutting and the one he’d least want reinserted.

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Still, in the end, it might turn out that the scenes did travel all the way through post-production and that Leone did assembled a complete, release-ready 270-minute director’s cut in 1984. Maybe such a cut really existed, despite good reason to think otherwise. I don’t know.

I *do* know that, however many minutes of shitty looking footage Andrea and Raffaella manage to splice into their father’s 229-minute version, the newly restored longer version is not now, nor will it ever be, a true Leone-approved director’s cut. This is so for the following reasons:

1) Leone preferred the 229-minute version:

“Let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

To me, that’s the final word on the subject, straight from the lion’s mouth, so to speak.

2) Leone is dead. So unless his ghost directed the restoration from on high, I’m guessing he never gave Andrea, Raffaella, Scorsese, his personal chef, or anyone else approval to reinsert the scenes.

3) Leone ain’t no ghost. Which means he did not participate in the restoration of *his* film. And that means he had no input into how the editing of the missing scenes was handled. So how then can the restoration be the director’s cut if the director wasn’t around to make decisions about how best to cut it?

4) Just because Leone might not have wanted to remove the scenes in 1984 does not mean that he’d want to reinsert them today. Maybe he’d want to put back all the scenes. Or none of them. Maybe he’d want to reinsert the Louise Fletcher scene but leave out the new one with Treat Williams. Or vice versa. Maybe he’d decide to burn the chauffeur scene to spite Milchan. Maybe he’d choose to shorten a scene, or add a sound effect, or employ Morricone’s score in some idiosyncratic way. We’ll never know. Because he’s dead.

As far as I’m concerned, this newly restored version, or any other version Raffaella and Andrea decide to cobble together in the future, is nothing more than an approximation of a director’s cut Leone envisioned once upon a time.

That said, I can’t wait to see it! And I hope the accompanying 32-page booklet addresses some of the above issues.

Postscript (10/3/2014): I am now in possession of the misnamed “Extended Director’s Cut.” I haven’t watched the film yet, but in the process of downloading a digital copy, I happened to watch the pre-credits restoration notes. This caught my eye:

Additional sound restoration and sonorization of cut scenes: Fausto Ancillai and Ennio Morricone

Additional editing supervision: Alessandro Baragli and Patrizia Ceresani

“Sonorization” refers to the practice of adding music and effects to silent films. So there you have it: Fausto and Ennio contributed additional sound and music to the cut scenes. They “sonorized” the film!

That Alessandro Baragli, presumably Nino’s son, and Patrizia Ceresani provided “additional editing supervision” can mean only one thing: the cut scenes underwent editing of some kind. After all, there had to be editing going on in the first place for there to be a need for “additional editing supervision.” I guess Alessandro and Patrizia supervised the supervision of the editing. Perhaps Nino supervised the two career assistant editors from beyond the grave.

What a joke it is to claim that this is the “Extended Director’s Cut.” It should be called the “Deceased Director’s Additionally Edited and Sonorized Extended Cut.” But, of course, that wouldn’t fit on the cover of the Blu-ray.

Post-postscript (10/3/2014): Raffaella Leone makes some interesting remarks in this article:

Raffaella Leone: “This is the movie that our father showed us when he finished editing ‘his’ movie.”

Wait, what? “His” movie? Hmm, so then I guess Leone showed her the additionally edited and sonorized 251-minute version. And here I thought “his” movie was a completely edited, un-sonorized 270 minutes.

I wonder if Raffaella has ever read the 1988 interview her father did with Oresto De Fornari, in which he says:

Sergio Leone: “Let’s be honest: this one is my version. The other perhaps explained things more clearly and it could have been done on TV in two or three parts. But the version that I prefer is this one, that bit of reclusiveness is just what I like about it.”

Make no mistake, Raffaella: your father’s talking about the 229-minute version. Your father preferred the 229-minute version. Your father said it was *his* version, the one *he* prefers.

I have no idea what movie your father showed you, but whatever it was it wasn’t *his* movie, at least not the one he said was *his* in 1988. And it certainly wasn’t this additionally edited and sonorized 251-minute version just released on Blu-ray. Ya know, the “Extended Director’s Cut?”

Raffaella Leone: “To bring back to the screens that movie in its original version has been very difficult and time consuming.”

Wait, what? “bring back…that movie in its original version.”

“That movie.” What movie? The one he showed you once upon a time? *His* movie? So *his* movie was 251 minutes? I thought it was 270 minutes.

Questions for Raffaella (who no doubt reads this blog):

1) How can this movie be the “movie in its original version” if its original version was supposedly 270 minutes?

2) How can this movie be the “movie in its original version” if this movie in its present form was edited and sonorized?

3) Why did you decide to reassemble the movie, and change your father’s preferred 229-minute version, after you said “we will not reassemble the movie, which will stay what my father did”? Why didn’t you leave your father’s film alone, as you originally said you would?

4) What about the additional footage Scorsese supposedly has? Wasn’t that part of the original version? Or are you planning to release an even more original “original version” in the future with even more original footage from your father’s ever-evolving director’s cut?

LIVING THINGS (ERIC SHAPIRO, 2014)

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Living Things consists of a dinner-table debate between a vegan and a meat-eater. That’s it: just two people sitting down to dinner and debating the morality of eating animals. Never having been a fan of two-handers, I had my doubts about the film, but because its subject matter interests me, I decided to give it a look. To my surprise it wasn’t half bad. Despite having its share of overwritten dialogue, the film is watchable because of the intense interplay between the two characters, whose increasingly malicious verbal sparring steadily escalates, then spins out of control and, finally, explodes into physical violence.

The acting too is better than expected, especially that of Ben Siegler as Leo, a macho meat-muncher whose incipient rage bubbles under the surface of his barbed comments, sarcastic retorts, mocking tone and unwavering eye contact. Siegler brings considerable intensity to the role, so much so that he overmatches Rhoda Jordan, who plays Leo’s vegan daughter-in-law, Rhona. It doesn’t help that Rhona is stereotyped as a quixotic, muddle-headed vegan prone to spout New Age mumbo-jumbo. She loses credibility before the debate even starts with this foolish statement:

“In yoga we study the unconscious mind. In the unconscious mind everything’s the same as its opposite, so when you say “No” your unconscious also says ‘Yes.’”

Such stupidity renders debate utterly pointless, for if “No” also means “Yes” then when a vegan says “No” to meat she also means “Yes” and when a meat-eater says “Yes” to meat he also means “No.” So it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter, end of debate. At least Leo had a good retort: “A lot of frat boys would be happy to know that.”

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Other eye-rolling things Rhona says:

“Love is the ultimate truth. Compassion is the ultimate truth.”

“I see karma playing itself out in everyone’s life every second of every day.”

“Everything is everything. We are all interconnected. You’re me and I’m you and we’re all one.”

“All beings are one.”

So very nauseating.

Moreover, some of Rhona’s weak rebuttals to Leo’s arguments had me yelling out what she should have said and what I would have said if I were there. Happily, my blog provides a forum for me to rebut Leo’s arguments.

Leo’s first objection to veganism is no surprise: where oh where do you get your protein from? That meat-munchers emit the “protein question” with such robotic predictibility suggests that it has been preprogrammed into them. And so it has been. All of us were brainwashed into believing the protein myth early on. Remember what was in the protein box of the “Basic Four” food group charts we were shown in elementary school? Why, a thick steak, of course. And didn’t our parents tell us that we had to eat our meat (and drink our milk) if we wanted to grow up to be big and strong like them?

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But wait, surely our parents and teachers wouldn’t steer us wrong. They always spoke the unvarnished truth! If there’s one thing we can believe it is this: to get enough protein we need to eat cows. Otherwise, we’ll turn into scrawny and malnourished vegan wimps. End of story.

But like many stories this one is a myth, which begins with “once upon a time” and ends with cancer or heart disease. Yes, I’m afraid our parents did steer us wrong (and did wrong by steers) when they told us that we had to eat our meat.  Reality tells a different tale. And reality never lies. Ma and Pa, on the other hand, overlooked some facts:

  • 1) All the protein we need is easily obtained from plants. Where do you suppose the animals we get our protein from get theirs? Hint: plants. Just as lions get their protein from gazelles who get theirs from plants, so we get our protein from cows who get theirs from plants. Vegans simply bypass the animal and get their protein directly from the source: plants.
  • 2) Broccoli has more grams of protein per calorie than steak. So does kale. So does Romaine lettuce. Mom and Pop never took a class in nutrition so they never learned that fuckin’ “rabbit food” has more protein per calorie than steak. As my pops might say, who’da thunk it? But that’s not all. Broccoli and the rest also have more iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin E per calorie than steak. Veggies also have more, way more, fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin A, and beta-carotene than steak…because steak has precisely *zero* of these nutrients. And veggies have more, way more, many orders of magnitude more, phytochemicals and antioxidants than steak because, again, steak has *none* of these cancer-fighting, cholesterol-lowering micronutrients.

Beans, legumes, seeds and nuts are also packed with protein. So toss some chickpeas, walnuts and pumpkin seeds on your spinach salad, then make like Popeye and go kick a pansy meat-muncher’s ass.

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Crucial point: it is the *protein* we need, not a specific type of food that contains protein. Meat contains protein that we need to eat but we do not need to eat meat to get the protein. Even if, thanks to the hunting prowess of our troglodytic ancestors, a meat-adaptive gene were somehow embedded in our genome - let’s call it the Burger gene, which phenotypically expresses itself whenever we walk past the supermarket meat counter or drive past a McDonalds - we need not conclude from this that meat is, should be, or must be an essential part of our diet. Again, we can get all the protein we need from plants. The same goes for every other essential nutrient, with the sole exception of vitamin B12, which is readily available through fortified foods and/or supplements. The fact is, if you eat animal products, you do so because you *want* to, not because you *have* to.

Exactly why humans associate eating animal protein with superior size and strength is a mystery given that the biggest and strongest land animals on earth eat nothing but vegetation. Maybe you’ve heard of them: hippopotamuses, giraffes, rhinoceroses, buffaloes and elephants. Unless I’m terribly mistaken, elephants neither grow to their mammoth size nor acquire their prodigious strength by eating other animals. No, I’m pretty sure elephants grow big and strong by eating plants.

Speaking of plants…

Leo expresses another common and equally baseless objection to veganism when he says:

“Plants have feelings too. It’s a matter of fact. They feel pain even.”

Inexplicably, instead of challenging Leo’s idiotic assertion, Rhona accepts it as fact! In an admission most unbecoming of a karmically-concerned New Ager who believes that “everything is connected” and that “all beings are one,” Rhona says that although plants can feel pain, she neither cares about nor empathizes with plants because, I kid you not, she can’t “snuggle up next to them.” This is her rebuttal. This is how she justifies eating plants - plants that she evidently regards as sentient. Oh yeah, but of course: the decision whether to inflict pain, suffering and death on a sentient being hinges on a deep philosophical question: can I snuggle up next to it? If snuggling is not an option, then anything goes - so feel free to brutalize that worthlessly unsnuggable creature with as much gusto as you can muster.

But wait, let me rack my brain and see if I can come up with a better argument. Hold on, I’m brainstorming here. Yes, yes, an idea is forming now. Just a minute. Almost there. Eureka! By George, I think I’ve got it! How about this? To experience pain one must have a brain. A plant has no brain. Therefore, a plant cannot experience pain.

Only a brainless human would contend that a brainless plant feels pain. And Rhona, I’m afraid, is nothing if not brainless. Not to mention karmically fucked.

Even Daniel Chamovitz, an authority on the biology of plants who argues that plants can respond to sights, sounds and smells, told Scientific American that “just as a plant can’t suffer subjective pain in the absence of a brain, I also don’t think that it thinks.” He goes even further on his blog: “so if suffering from pain necessitates highly complex neural structures and connections of the frontal cortex, it follows that plants obviously don’t suffer - they have no brain. Your plants may ‘know’ what’s happening, but frankly my dear, they don’t give a damn.”

And *that* is why, my dear Rhona, you need not give a damn about plants: because plants don’t give a damn about themselves. But maybe plants just need a little lovin’, so go snuggle one.

Even if plants could suffer pain, that would be no reason to stop being vegan. Veganism would still cause less harm to plants than non-veganism for this reason: non-vegans slaughter countless plants to feed to and fatten up the sentient animals they in turn slaughter and eat. Fact: it takes about 16 pounds of plant protein to produce a pound of steak. So to those meat-munchers who say that plants feel pain I say this: every time you sit down to a steak dinner, just remember that you’ve got 16 pounds of plant pain on your plate. How do you sleep at night knowing that you’re responsible for the suffering and death of all that sentient vegetation? If you truly care about the plants - and you must, otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing that they can feel - there is something you can do for them right now, today: GO VEGAN, because veganism minimizes the harm done to poor, defenseless plants. So, I repeat: Go VEGAN! Do it for the plants.

Plants: sentient since 1960.

A more sophisticated but no more persuasive argument relating to plants not raised by Leo is this: the number of wild animals killed in crop production exceeds the number of *pasture-raised* animals killed for meat.

Note that this argument applies only to ruminants raised on pasture such as cattle, sheep and goats. No one would be foolish enough to make such a claim about commercially farmed chickens, pigs and feedlot ruminants because before these animals go to slaughter, at a fraction of their natural life spans, they consume astronomically more harvested crops than humans. It makes no sense to argue, with regard to factory farmed animals, that vegans kill more animals than non-vegans, given that meat-munchers fatten up the billions of farm animals they eat each year on harvested crops whose production kills untold numbers of wild animals. In short, meat-munchers not only *intentionally* kill vastly more animals than vegans, they also *unintentionally* kill vastly more animals than vegans.

And make no mistake: unless there is a dramatic paradigm shift toward veganism, factory farming ain’t goin’ away. As a practical matter, the quaint family farms of yesteryear, where happy animals once grazed peacefully on verdant pastures before going on a leisurely drive to the slaughterhouse to be humanely exsanguinated, cannot possibly supply the overwhelming demand for animal products. Only hyper-efficient factory farming has the wherewithal to churn out the massive amounts of meat, eggs, and dairy needed to satiate the voracious appetite of the non-vegan. (By the way, you are either deeply deluded or willfully ignorant if you think that “happy” meat from “jolly” farms and “friendly” slaughterhouses doesn’t involve significant suffering and death. It does, so stop lying to yourself.)

But imagine that by some miracle everyone and his gristle-gobbling grandmother agreed to forgo chicken and pig and eat only grass-fed ruminants. (Wait. Give up bacon and wings? Perish the thought!) Could this newfangled animal-eater legitimately claim that he causes less harm to animals than vegans?

Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer: I’m afraid not.

Longest answer: http://www.animalvisuals.org/projects/data/1mc

The longest answer is a link to an exhaustively researched study that decisively debunks the animal-gobbler’s argument.

The introduction explains why the argument fails:

“In a 2003 article in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, Steven Davis advanced the argument that fewer animals would be harmed if we consumed a diet containing large herbivores (namely cattle) fed on pasture than if we consumed a vegan diet, based on his calculation that more wild animals would be killed in crop harvesting than in producing food from a ruminant-pasture-forage system. Gaverick Matheny identified a crucial error in Davis’s calculation: it assumed that equal amounts of land will produce equal amounts of food from crops or from animals on pasture. In fact, an amount of land will produce much more food when used to grow crops for direct human consumption than when used to raise cattle, provided it is suitable for growing crops. Once Matheny corrected the calculation, Davis’s argument made the case for, rather than against, a vegan diet, given an objective to cause the least amount of animal death.”

Crucial point: because an acre of cropland produces so much more food for so many more people than an acre of grassland used to raise ruminants, far *fewer* animals are killed *per consumer* in crop production than are killed in raising animals on pasture.

The chart below, which provides an eye-popping visual snapshot of the study’s results, leaves no doubt as to which food system kills more animals.

Finally, as a moral matter, there’s a difference, is there not, between *accidentally* killing animals in crop production and *intentionally* killing animals for food? Intention matters, no? Yet some animal-eaters would have us believe that, since wild animals are unintentionally killed in the harvesting of crops, it’s perfectly okay to deliberately breed, fatten, slaughter, and devour farm animals by the billions every year, even though it isn’t nutritionally necessary to do so. What nonsense. Vegans do not bring billions of animals into existence year after year for the express purpose of fattening them up for slaughter and eating them, just to titillate their taste buds. Animal-gobblers do.

Here’s what vegans do: 1) reject outright the intentional killing of fellow sentient beings, and 2) seek ways to improve harvesting methods so that fewer animals are accidentally killed in the process.

I ask you: which way is more humane?

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It’s only a matter of time before the self-justifying animal-gobbler brings up “nature” - and it doesn’t take Leo long to go there:

“Humans are animals and animals eat each other. That’s how nature works. And guess what? We are part of nature. It’s no big deal, it’s just nature.”

Yes, humans are animals. Yes, (some) animals eat other animals. Those are facts. Here is another fact: humans have no nutritional *need* to eat animals. Here is yet another fact: unlike nonhumans, humans can reflect morally on the issue and choose not to kill and eat animals.

Given that we have no nutritional need to eat animals, and that we have the cognitive capacity to make the moral decision not to eat them, we are left with a few simple questions: why choose to eat animals when we have no nutritional need to do so? Why choose to eat animals when we can choose not to - when we can choose to eat something else instead? Why not bypass the supermarket meat, dairy and egg aisles and toss only veggies, fruits, beans, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds into the shopping cart?

Callous animal-gobblers might respond this way: “I kill and eat animals because I *want* to not because I have to. I want what I want and have no *need* to justify my predilection for animal products. I kill and eat animals because they taste good. And I don’t give a fuck what happens to animals on their way to my stomach as long as they arrive there. Pleasuring my palate outweighs the mere life of an animal.”

I’ll say this for such an animal-gobbler: at least he gives an honest accounting of his heartless disregard for nonhuman life. For him, titillating his taste buds trumps the suffering and death of sentient beings. What is there to say to so coldhearted an animal killer as this? “Fuck off” sounds about right. So to him I extend my heartiest dactylion.

More often animal-gobblers try to justify their animal-gobbling by appealing to something over and above mere personal predilection. Eager to explain away their craving for animal flesh and secretions they point to something outside of themselves; very often that something is “nature,” which is precisely where Leo points. “Humans are animals and animals eat each other. That’s how nature works.”

But to argue as Leo does that it is natural and therefore okay to kill and eat animals because other animals do so is a fallacious appeal to nature. That nonhuman animals *must* eat other animals for survival has no bearing on the question of whether the human animal *should* eat other animals for pleasure. Yet Leo, an animal with the capacity to reflect morally on his own actions, appeals to the actions of animals with no such capacity for moral guidance.

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Not for nothing is he named Leo, which means “lion” in Latin. (Leo the Lion is also the famous MGM mascot.) Peering through his safari binoculars, Leo observes that lions chase, catch, kill and eat buffaloes, and therefrom concludes that it is perfectly fine for him to drive to the supermarket and buy a steak. “Look, see what lions do? They eat buffaloes, therefore I must eat cows.” Leo fancies himself an apex predator atop an imaginary food chain doing what his Paleolithic ancestors did: stealthily stalking prepackaged prey at Kroger armed only with a crude hunting weapon fashioned out of plastic called a credit card. Yes, Leo is at the top of the food chain in that he hunts for food at the top supermarket chain.

Imagine Leo at the supermarket:

 ”Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat.

As a carnivorous apex predator, I am constitutionally incapable of not eating meat. Make no mistake: me must eat meat. I hunt for food at the top supermarket chain; therefore, I am at the top of the food chain. I must wheel my shopping cart up and down and all around the meat aisle because my Paleo-powered brain constantly sends me urgent pro-meat messages in the form of inner whispers: “Beef is what’s for dinner.” “The other white meat is what’s for lunch.” “The incredible edible egg is what’s for breakfast.” “Get milk.” Whence do these messages originate? Surely not from the meat, dairy and egg industries, for I am impervious to Madison Avenue brainwashing. No, no, the messages emanate from a more primal source - namely, the tiny Paleolithic caveman residing within the innermost recesses of my brain. It is he who whispers these must-eat-meat exhortations. And it is to him I owe my allegiance. Hail to the Stone Age homunculus in my mind!

I am powerless to resist the dictates of my prehistoric brain. I must obey the whispering troglodyte in my head. Bypassing the meat, dairy and egg sections at Kroger is unthinkable. My legs dutifully follow a mandate to walk to the meat counter. My mouth is forced to order ground beef. My hand is compelled to reach for milk and eggs. What’s more, buying bacon strips is indelibly etched into my genome. I can do nothing about it. I just find myself involuntarily tossing body parts into my cart. I am merely the locus through which a biological imperative to eat animals operates.

Beans bad. Grains bad. Meat good! Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat.”

Inspired by Leo and other wannabe troglodytes, I hereby propose the Meat-Muncher’s Mantra: “Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat. Meat. Meat. Me must eat meat….”

Still, as stirring as the Meat-Muncher’s Mantra may be, I can’t help but notice that Leo is mighty selective about where he casts his field glasses. Hasn’t he observed a male lion taking over a pride from another male and killing the ousted predecessor’s cubs? In one fell swoop the lion eliminates a rival and the rival’s offspring and brings the female into heat so as to have his own offspring by her. Why not emulate this leonine behavior? What better way to maximize your reproductive fitness! Why not kill some guy and his kids and then rape the wife/mother so that *your* genes rather than *his* get passed on? No biggie, right? It’s perfectly natural. After all, lions do it. And if lions do it, why shouldn’t we?

As for our Paleolithic ancestors, it is a typical phenomenon, is it not, associated with evolutionary development that competition for limited resources be exploited as a means of displacing or eliminating weaker organisms and/or weaker groups of organisms? By outcompeting other tribes for resources we guarantee our tribe’s success and eliminate the other tribes. So let’s do it. No biggie, right? It’s perfectly natural. After all, cavemen did it. And if cavemen did it, why shouldn’t we?

And therein lies the problem with basing one’s morality on “nature.” What evolution has wrought often bears little resemblance to what is generally considered “moral behavior.” Few of us would be moved to consider it moral to kill off an entire people. Likewise, if only we’d reflect on it for a minute, few of us would be moved to consider it moral to inflict unnecessary suffering and death on sentient nonhumans.

One more point about “nature.” By arguing that eating meat is natural, Leo implies that veganism is unnatural. He’s suggesting that whereas he possesses a natural inclination to eat animals, Rhona’s veganism constitutes an artificial constraint she’s imposed upon herself on the basis of her own experience. That is nonsense. Since the human animal has come into existence through strictly natural processes and nothing else, we cannot but act, in every instance, in complete conformity to nature. All that we are has been produced by nature, including our moral sentiments, which occur in us just as naturally as any other desire. Leo’s implied distinction between natural and artificial is a false dichotomy: Rhona’s moral concern for exploited animals is just as natural as Leo’s selfish desire to eat them.

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So much for Leo’s main arguments. Here are my replies to a few other things he says:

“Like you said 95%. Like they say about McDonalds, how can a billion people be wrong?”

Leo needs to crack open an introductory textbook on logic and look up argumentum ad populum. Inside he’ll discover that an appeal to what the majority likes or believes is a fallacious argument.

“You got a cause? Great. But don’t come around telling 95% of the population that they’re butchers.”

It is true: 95% of the population do not themselves butcher animals. But 95% of the population pay butchers to do what butchers do, which is butcher animals for 95% of the population to eat. He who pays a butcher to butcher an animal is as responsible for the butchering of that animal as the butcher.

“It may allow you to live mentally in a self-satisfied state of idealism. But what you are onto here is contributing absolutely nothing to the greater good.

The only one satisfying himself here is the guy pleasuring his palate with animal flesh. And veganism does contribute to the greater good. It contributes to the greater good of *nonhuman animals* (not to mention the planet). Ya see, my friend, doing less harm to nonhumans necessarily contributes to their greater good.

“You know what your problem is? The fact that you’re a philosophical person. We do not live in a philosophical world. And since people have been around there have been philosophers doing their damndest to tell us why we shouldn’t fight, or we shouldn’t kill, or we shouldn’t eat meat. But generation after generation, human nature reveals itself to be reliant upon all such things.”

What past generations did has fuck all to do with what I decide to have for dinner tonight. I don’t need a philosophy degree to choose not to victimize innocent animals. Just a functioning conscience.

2013 NOFF AWARD WINNERS

Oh yeah, almost forgot: here are the winners of the 7th Annual Noff Awards!

And here are the 189 eligible films I’ve seen:

ABC’s of Death, The
Absentia
Act of Killing, The
Afternoon Delight
All is Lost
All the Light in the Sky
Alyce Kills
Amazing Ocean
American Hustle
American Mary
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
Angels’ Share, The
August: Osage County
Band Called Death, A
Bastards
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2
Battery, The
Bedeviled
Before Midnight
Berberian Sound Studio
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc - The Egg of the King
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey
Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3 - Descent
Beyond the Hills
Birders: The Central Park Effect
Birth of the Living Dead
Bitter Buddha, The
Blackfish
Bling Ring, The
Blue Caprice
Blue is the Warmest Color
Blue Jasmine
Buffalo Girls
Butler, The
Byzantium
Call, The
Canyons, The
Captain Phillips
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Computer Chess
Conjuring, The
Counselor, The
Croods, The
Crystal Fairy
Dallas Buyers Club
Dark Skies
Dead Man’s Burden
Dead Sushi
Despicable Me 2
Dirties, The
Drinking Buddies
Drug War
East, The
Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal
Elysium
Enough Said
Ernest & Celestine
Escape from Planet Earth
Escape from Tomorrow
Europa Report
Evil Dead
Exhibitionists, The
Frances Ha
From Up on Poppy Hill
Frozen
Fruitvale Station
Gangster Squad
Garden of Words
Gimme the Loot
Ghosts in Our Machine, The
Girl and a Gun, A
Graceland
Grandmaster, The
Gravity
Great Beauty, The
Heat, The
Her
Hijacking, A
History of Future Folk, The
Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The
Horrible Way to Die, A
How to Make Money Selling Drugs
Hunt, The
Iceman, The
In a World…
Inhuman Resources
Inside Llewyn Davis
In the House
It’s a Disaster
Jeffrey Dahmer Files, The
John Dies at the End
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
Last Stand, The
Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh, The
Laurence Anyways
Let the Fire Burn
Leviathan
Like Someone in Love
Lords of Salem, The
Lovelace
Magic Magic
Mama
Maniac
Missing Picture, The
Monster in Paris, A
Monsters University
Motorway
Much Ado About Nothing
Mud
Museum Hours
My Amityville Horror
Nancy, Please
Nebraska
New World
Oblivion
Off Hours, The
One Life
Only God Forgives
Out of the Furnace
Oz the Great and Powerful
Pacific Rim
Painting, The
Paradise: Love
Passion
Past, The
Philomena
Pieta
Place at the Table, A
Place Beyond the Pines, The
Post Tenebras Lux
Prince Avalanche
Prisoners
Rambler, The
Reality
Resolution
Room 237
Rush
Selfish Giant, The
Short Term 12
Side Effects
Sightseers
Silence, The
Simon Killer
Sleep Tight
Sound City
Speciesism: The Movie
Spectacular Now, The
Spring Breakers
Star Trek Into Darkness
Stoker
Stories We Tell
Student
Sun Don’t Shine
Superman: Unbound
Talking Cat!?!, A
This Is the End
To the Wonder
Touch of Sin, A
Touchy Feely
True Nature
Turbo
12 Years a Slave
20 Feet from Stardom
Twixt
Unspeakable Act, The
Upstream Color
Vanishing Waves
V/H/S/2
Violet & Daisy
Wall, The
Warm Bodies
We Are What We Are
Welcome to the Punch
Wind Rises, The
Wings of Life
What Maisie Knew
What Richard Did
Wind Rises, The
Wolf Children
Wolf of Wall Street, The
World’s End, The
World War Z
Would You Rather
Wrong
Wrong Cops
Wuss
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
You’re Next
Zero Killed

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BEST PICTURE

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American Hustle Before Midnight Berberian Sound Studio Blue Jasmine Frances Ha

 

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Inside Llewyn Davis Only God Forgives Sightseers Spring Breakers 12 Years a Slave
And the Noffscar goes to: Before Midnight 

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BEST DIRECTOR

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Harmony Korine for Spring Breakers Richard Linklater for Before Midnight Nicolas Winding Refn for Only God Forgives David O. Russell for American Hustle Peter Strickland of Berberian Sound Design
And the Noffscar goes to: Richard Linklater

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BEST ACTOR

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Christian Bale in American Hustle Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave Ethan Hawke in Before Midnight Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis
And the Noffscar goes to: Ethan Hawke

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BEST ACTRESS

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Amy Adams in American Hustle Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy in Before Midnight Jade Dornfeld in Alyce Kills Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha
And the Noffscar goes to: Cate Blanchett 

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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Jeffrey Combs in Would You Rather Michael Fassbender in 12 Years a Slave William Fichter in Wrong James Franco in Spring Breakers James Gandolfini in Enough Said
And the Noffscar goes to: James Franco

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave Sarah Paulson in 12 Years a Slave Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives
And the Noffscar goes to: Sally Hawkins

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BEST SCREENPLAY

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Before Midnight Blue Jasmine Frances Ha Nancy, Please Sightseers
And the Noffscar goes to: Before Midnight 

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BEST EDITING

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Berberian Sound Studio Let the Fire Burn Only God Forgives The Past Spring Breakers
And the Noffscar goes to: Berberian Sound Studio 

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BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

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The Grandmaster Gravity Only God Forgives Spring Breakers 12 Years a Slave
And the Noffscar goes to: Gravity

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BEST SCORE

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twelve_years_a_slave_xlg1.jpg

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Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey Listen

Maniac 

Listen

Listen

Only God Forgives

Listen

Listen

Listen

12 Years a Slave

Listen

Listen

 

Zero Killed 

Listen

And the Noffscar goes to: Only God Forgives 

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BEST ART DIRECTION/SET DESIGN

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The Great Beauty Inside Llweyn Davis Her The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh Only God Forgives
And the Noffscar goes to: The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh

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BEST SOUND

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All is Lost Berberian Sound Studio Leviathan 12 Days of a Slave Upstream Color
And the Noffscar goes to: Berberian Sound Studio 

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BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

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Beyond the Hills A Hijacking In the House Laurence Anyways The Past
And the Noffscar goes to: The Past 

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BEST DOCUMENTARY

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The Act of Killing Birders: The Central Park Effect The Ghosts in Our Machine The Jeffrey Dahmer Files Let the Fire Burn
And the Noffscar goes to: Let the Fire Burn 

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

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Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 2 - The Battle for Doldrey Berserk: The Golden Age Arc 3 - Descent

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

Wolf Children

And the Noffscar goes to: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 

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BEST ORIGINAL SONG

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“A Girl and a Gun” from A Girl and a Gun

Listen

“Juno” from Maniac

Listen

“Funky Baiser” from A Monster in Paris

Listen

“La Seine” from A Monster in Paris

Listen

“Nosferatu, Me and You” from Twixt

Listen

And the Noffscar goes to: “La Seine” from A Monster in Paris 

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BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

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Gravity The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Oz the Great and Powerful Pacific Rim

 

The World’s End
And the Noffscar goes to: Gravity

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BEST SCENES

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Before Midnight:

Lover’s quarrel in hotel room 


Berberian Sound Studio: 

Credits to fictional Giallo film

Watch

Maniac:

Murder set to ‘Goodbye Horses’  

Watch

Much Ado About Nothing:

Party scene/’Hey nonny-nonny’  


Passion:

Murder/ballet split/screen 


 

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Post tenebras lux:Opening

 Watch

Spring Breakers:

“Everytime”

Watch

20 Feet from Stardom: 

Merry Clayton returns to the studio where she sang backup on ‘Gimme Shelter’ - “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away!” 

Watch

The Wolf of Wall Street:

Delayed drug effects

Watch

Wrong:

Meeting Master Chang in the forest

Watch

And the Noffscar goes to: The Wolf of Wall Street 

EARTHLINGS (SHAUN MONSON, 2005)

“Of all the films I have ever made, this is the one that gets people talking the most. For every one person who sees Earthlings, they will tell three.”  Joaquin Phoenix

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If you eat, wear clothes, or use products, then you ought to watch Earthlings.

Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, Earthlings brings the viewer face to face with a few of the billions of otherwise anonymous animals who suffer terribly and die brutally every second of every day in every place throughout the world for the products you use, the clothes you wear, and the food you eat. That humans inflict so much suffering and death on so many nonhumans year after year for nothing more than hamburgers, fur coats, cosmetics, and countless other such trivial items is an enduring testament to our callous disregard for our fellow Earthlings.

Step back for a moment and consider what we are doing to animals at fisheries and hunting preserves; on fur farms and factory farms; and inside testing labs and slaughterhouses. Behold the magnitude of the bloodshed and the heartless efficiency with which it is perpetrated. The *hundreds of millions* of land animals killed each year by hunters, by furriers, in medical labs and in pounds account for only a miniscule *2 percent* of the total number of land animals killed annually. Farm animals bear the 98% brunt of the slaughter. Hundreds of millions? Pfft. The United States alone raises and kills about 10 *billion* animals a year for food; worldwide, the figure balloons to a staggering 57 *billion.* (Tack on another *trillion* for fish and other aquatic animals.) Only one word does justice to what this is: a holocaust. As Isaac Bashevis Singer said via one of his characters: “In relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.”

Of course, the difference between the animal holocaust and the Jewish holocaust, other than that the former involves the slaughter of sentient nonhumans and the latter involved the slaughter of sentient humans, is that the Nazis sought to eradicate Jews once and for all, whereas farming continuously creates and destroys animals by the billions year after year after year after year…

By providing a horrifying glimpse inside of the farming industry’s carefully concealed torture chambers and death houses, Earthlings throws the grim reality of the animal holocaust into stark relief.

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“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a
slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.” - Theodor W. Adorno

If the tragic plight of animals does not bother you, then fuck off.

If their plight does bother you, then watch Earthlings. Do not look away and pretend that this horror is not happening. It is happening, everywhere, at all times, and each one of us is a direct participant in it. If you think you’re not involved, that your hands are clean, you’re deluded: he who pays someone else to slaughter an animal for him is as responsible for the agonizing death of that animal as the one who wielded the knife.

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A problem with Earthlings is that it fails to make clear that the overwhelming amount of suffering and death on display is completely *unnecessary*. I’d like to rectify that shortcoming by pointing out three facts:

Fact 1: We do not *need* to eat animal products.

Fact 2: We do not *need* to wear animal skins/furs.

Fact 3: We do not *need* to use products tested on animals.

Keep these facts in mind while watching Earthlings.

Allow me to elaborate a bit on fact 1 and explain why I have gone vegan:

1. We can be perfectly healthy without eating animals. We do not *need* to eat animals. Eating animals is *unnecessary.*

If you think that eating meat, dairy and eggs is necessary, that’s because you and virtually everyone you know have been indoctrinated into believing so by none other than the meat, dairy, and egg industries. There’s a word for the dissemination of such misinformation. It’s called propaganda. You, my friend, have been duped. No one other than those with a vested interest in these industries maintains that it is medically necessary to consume animal products. Indeed, there is widespread consensus across the spectrum of health care organizations that a well-planned vegan diet not only provides all the necessary nutrients but also offers optimal protection against cancer and heart disease. If you doubt this, allow me to disabuse you of your doubt with some (sausage-free) links:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, has stated:

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the best hospitals in the United States, has stated:

“Eating a plant-based vegetarian or vegan diet can be a healthy, exciting alternative to traditional meat-based meal planning. Obtaining proper nutrients from non-animal sources is simple for the modern herbivore. There is a wide variety of vegetarian/vegan-friendly meat/dairy/egg replacements currently on the market. Recipes are abundant on the Internet as well as in a variety of vegetarian cookbooks.”

“There really are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet! A plant-based diet has many health benefits, including lowering the risk for heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and cancer. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus maintain weight and bone health.”

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/nutrition/food-choices/understanding-vegetarianism.aspx

The Mayo Clinic says:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet is a healthy way to meet your nutritional needs. A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vegetarian-diet/HQ01596

Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation says:

“Vegetarian diets can provide all the nutrients you need at any age, as well as some additional health benefits. Vegetarian diets often have lower levels of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than many meat-based diets, and higher intakes of fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Vegetarian diets may lead to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, healthier weight and less incidence of Type 2 diabetes, all of which can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.”

http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484249/k.2F6C/Healthy_living__Vegetarian_diets.htm

The American Heart Association says:

“Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients.”

“Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus and some forms of cancer.”

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp

The American Cancer Society says:

“Some studies have linked vegetarian diets to lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer. A strictly vegetarian diet must be properly planned to be sure it provides all the required nutrients.”

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/vegetarianism

The American Diabetes Association says:

“A vegetarian diet is a healthy option, even if you have diabetes. Research supports that following this type of diet can help prevent and manage diabetes. In fact, research on vegan diets has found that carbohydrate and calorie restrictions were not necessary and still promoted weight loss and lowered participants’ A1C.”

http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/meal-planning-for-vegetarians/

Dietitians of Canada, one of the largest organizations of dietetic professionals in the world, has stated:

“A vegan eating pattern has many potential health benefits. They include lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Other benefits include lower blood cholesterol levels and a lower risk for gallstones and intestinal problems. This eating pattern can take some extra planning. Vegans must make sure that enough nutrients like protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B12 and omega-3 fats are included. A well planned vegan diet can meet all of these needs. It is safe and healthy for pregnant and breastfeeding women, babies, children, teens and seniors. A variety of plant foods eaten during the day can provide enough protein to promote and maintain good health.”

http://www.dietitians.ca/Nutrition-Resources-A-Z/Factsheets/Vegetarian/Eating-Guidelines-for-Vegans.aspx

The British National Health Service, the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world, has stated:

“With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs.”

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegandiets.aspx

The British Nutrition Foundation, team of nutrition scientists that conducts academic reviews of published research on issues of diet and public health, has stated:

“A well-planned, balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can be nutritionally adequate.”

“Studies of UK vegetarian and vegan children have revealed that their growth and development are within the normal range.”

http://www.nutrition.org.uk/publications/briefingpapers/vegetarian-nutrition

The Dietitians Association of Australia has stated:

“Vegan diets are a type of vegetarian diet, where only plant-based foods are eaten. They differ to other vegetarian diets in that no animal products are usually consumed or used. Despite these restrictions, with good planning it is still possible to obtain all the nutrients required for good health on a vegan diet.”

http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/smart-eating-for-you/nutrition-a-z/vegan-diets/

The Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, a branch of the USDA, has stated:

“Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients.”

http://www.choosemyplate.gov/healthy-eating-tips/tips-for-vegetarian.html

The National Institutes of Health, the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research, has stated:

“People who follow vegetarian diets can get all the nutrients they need.”

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/vegetariandiet.html

The Perelman School of Medicine, a medical school ranked second for research in 2012, has stated:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health. Eating a vegetarian diet can help you reduce your chance of obesity; reduce your risk of heart disease; lower your blood pressure; lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.”

http://www.pennmedicine.org/encyclopedia/em_DisplayArticle.aspx?gcid=002465&ptid=1

The New York Presbyterian Hospital, an esteemed university hospital system affiliated with two Ivy League medical schools, has stated:

“A vegetarian diet may take a little extra planning—especially at first—but it is easy to learn how to ensure your diet is healthy.”

“People who follow a vegetarian diet are relatively healthier than those who don’t. Vegetarians tend to have a lower incidence of obesity and fewer chronic health problems, including some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

http://nyp.org/wellness/showDocument.php?contentTypeId=1&contentId=1876&heading=Vegetarian+Diets%3A+The+Myths+vs.+Facts

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, one of the largest medical centers in the world, has stated:

“A well-planned vegetarian diet can give you good nutrition. A vegetarian diet often helps you have better health.”

http://www.upmc.com/healthlibrary/Pages/ADAM.aspxGenContentId=002465&ProjectId=1&ProductId=1

The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, one of the top three hospitals in the US, has stated:

“If properly planned, a vegetarian diet can be healthy.”

“Some of the health benefits of a vegetarian diet may include decreased blood cholesterol levels
and blood pressure; lower incidence of heart disease, some forms of cancer, and digestive disorders like constipation and diverticula disease; lower incidence of obesity and some forms of diabetes.”

http://www.dining.ucla.edu/housing_site/dining/SNAC_pdf/Vegetarianism.pdf

Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, has stated:

“Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods. Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, low-risk interventions that may lower body mass index, blood pressure, HbA1C, and cholesterol levels. They may also reduce the number of medications needed to treat chronic diseases and lower ischemic heart disease mortality rates. Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”

http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html

Now that you’ve been thoroughly disabused of the troglodytic me-must-eat-meat myth, allow me to repeat the simple, incontrovertible fact with which I began:

1. We can be perfectly healthy without eating animals. We do not *need* to eat animals. Eating animals is *unnecessary.*

2. We don’t just eat animals. We eat *sentient* animals. A sentient animal is one who is subjectively aware, perceptually alert, sensate and conscious (although not necessarily self-conscious in a human-like way.) A sentient animal has interest, wants, and desires. A sentient animal has an interest in staying alive. A sentient animal wants to be comfortable. A sentient animal desires freedom of movement. A sentient animal seeks pleasure and avoids pain. A sentient animal *feels.* Make no mistake: the farm animals we eat are as sentient as the companion animals we love.

A handful of benighted souls still cling to the absurd and discredited Cartesian conception of animals as mere automatons devoid of conscious experience. But anyone who has ever held a blissfully purring cat or been greeted by an excited dog with tail wags and tongue licks knows that Descartes’ impoverished characterization of animals as empty machines is wrong on its face.

That animals are sentient strikes most of us as self-evident. But it’s always nice when science authoritatively confirms what we already know, and a group of prominent scientists recently did just that, declaring unequivocally that nonhuman animals possess conscious awareness. Here’s an excerpt from The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness:

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

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This newborn calf, still wet with amniotic fluid and already tagged for slaughter, was yanked away from his mother at birth by a two-legged monster and will spend the rest of his short life in the cramped confines of a veal crate. Yet another innocent victim of the dairy industry.

3. By virtue of their sentience, farm animals have the capacity to suffer, and suffer they do at factory farms and slaughterhouses, which are nothing if not places of torment. Few of us would willingly step foot into such hellholes, but farm animals spend the entirety of their joyless existence there. They are born into them. And in them they die. Please understand: the vast majority of the *billions* of animals we eat *annually* suffer mercilessly from birth to slaughter, first enduring confinement, enslavement and torture, and then meeting a brutal, terrifying death. Then we, the consumer, after paying someone else to slit their throats for us, devour the butchered corpses of these once-sentient beings for no better reason than that their flesh titillates our taste buds.

The heartless commodification of these sentient nonhumans is deeply saddening. Sadder still is that the animals we exploit, torture, kill, chop into pieces, slice into shreds, roll into balls, skewer on sticks, roast in ovens, fry in pans, char on grills, stew in pots, spin on rotisseries and greedily deposit into our ever-expanding gullets have done *nothing* to us to deserve the ultra-violence we ruthlessly visit upon them.

Throughout their lives these animals sought kindness but found only cruelty; sought companionship but found only solitude; sought pleasure but found only pain; sought comfort but found only misery; sought freedom but found only captivity; sought life but found only death. Their will to live remained strong to the last, permeating every atom of their abused and exhausted bodies even as they were led onto the killing floor of the slaughterhouse, where the death house executioner awaited to snuff out their lives.

Ah, but they’re just animals, right? Sure, they’re sentient. Sure, they had wretched lives and horrific deaths. Sure, all that agony and carnage was utterly gratuitous. But fuck ‘em. They taste good. Let ‘em be McNuggeted, Whopperized, and packaged and sold to children as Happy Meals. As Ronald McDonald said, “Nothing brings joy to a child like the corpse of a slaughtered animal.”

Doubtless a significant portion of the population does not give a shit about animals. If you are one of those people, then fuck off.

If you are not one of those people, that is, if you are someone who cares about animals and does not want to see them suffer and die needlessly, then please keep reading.

earthlings9.jpg

4. Do you oppose inflicting *unnecessary* suffering and death on sentient beings? Do you oppose *needlessly* harming defenseless animals? Do you oppose animal cruelty?

If you answered “Yes” to the above questions but continue to eat, wear and use animals, then your professed values do not align with your behavior. To eat animals is to participate in animal cruelty. To eat animals is to needlessly harm them. To eat animals is to support inflicting unnecessary suffering and death on sentient beings.

You cannot reconcile caring about animals with killing and eating them. To say that you are against imposing gratuitous suffering and death on animals as you chomp on a mouthful of pig is absurd. Caring about animals is not consistent with harming them or paying someone else to harm them for you. Stabbing defenseless animals in the neck or paying someone else to stab them in the neck for you is an odd way to show that you care.

There is only one way to align your values with your behavior: GO VEGAN

5. I used to eat a variety of animals. Animal flesh tastes good. I get it. So what?

Cats and dogs taste good too. Just ask the Koreans.

earthlings5.jpg

From what I understand, human meat, otherwise known as “long pig,” is downright scrumptious. Not only zombies hanker for human flesh. Fijians regarded the flesh of the human as the food of the gods. The Tupinambás preferred human meat to all other kinds. Māori warriors relished the delicious taste of their enemies. The Aztecs too were fond of long pig. One of their favorite recipes was hominid stew flavored with peppers, tomatoes, and squash blossoms. Mm Mm good! People…it’s what’s for dinner.

Lest you think cannibalism is a thing of the past, think again. Roasted human head was on the menu at this restaurant, which proudly catered to its cannibalistically inclined patrons. Sure, the dish was a bit pricy, but what do you expect? Hominid head is a delicacy.

So let’s review. Dogs taste good. Cats taste good. Humans taste *the best.* So what?

Is palate pleasure a good reason to impose suffering and death on dogs, cats and humans?

If you think so, then fuck off.

If you don’t think so, then ask yourself this: if palate pleasure is not a good reason to inflict suffering and death on cats, dogs and humans, why then is it a good reason to inflict suffering and death on chickens, cows and pigs? Like all sentient beings, farm animals want to live a normal life with a chance to pursue their interests free from pain, fear and violent death. Does your palate pleasure trump their basic desire to live unmolested? Are you okay with depriving them of everything that could make their lives worth living, and subjecting them to the horrors of the abattoir, just so you can indulge your appetite for chicken wings, hamburgers and pork chops? I hope not.

Victimizing defenseless animals because they taste good is barbaric. Count me out. I can please my palate just fine without participating in animal cruelty.

Watch Earthlings. Make the connection. Reject speciesism. Go vegan.

SPECIESISM: THE MOVIE (MARK DEVRIES, 2013)

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Speciesism: The Movie is the thinking person’s animal rights movie, the intellectual companion piece to The Ghosts in Our Machine. Drawing upon the philosophy of Peter Singer, the Princeton professor whose seminal 1975 book, Animal Liberation, is considered a classic of the animal rights movement, Devries’ film advances the position that no rational justification exists for excluding other sentient animals from the realm of ethical concern, and that causing them unnecessary suffering is a violation of our most basic moral principles.

No, the film ain’t gonna win an Oscar. But it is, at least, thought-provoking. Mostly I’m plugging it for this reason: I feel obligated to be a voice for the mute suffering of non-human animals. What happens to factory farm animals on their way to our stomachs is an abomination. Let’s be honest: if you or I did to our cats and dogs what is regularly done to chickens, cows, and pigs, we would be arrested on felony cruelty charges. So if you’re opposed to animal cruelty (and who among us isn’t?), please give this film a look. On behalf of the billions upon billions of sentient creatures who suffer mercilessly from birth to slaughter so that we may enjoy our fried eggs, milkshakes, bacon strips, and hamburgers, I thank you.

Click to visit the official page.

PARADISE LOST: A BLOODY DEBATE, WEST OF MEMPHIS

Count Dracula: This is very old wine. I hope you will like it.

Renfield: Aren’t you drinking?

Count Dracula: I never drink…wine.

bela-lugosis-dracula-cape-up-for-auction1.png

I regret to inform my readers that this blog has been co-opted by Cinatas Cinap and Retro P. Pus. As such, my role here has been relegated to that of debate moderator. Hello, my name is Al A. Vomit, the blogger formerly known as Mat Viola. Tonight’s debate will focus on Exhibit 500. Introduced by the defense during the penalty phase of Damien’s trial in an effort to keep him off death row, Exhibit 500 is an extensive record of Damien’s mental illness around the time of the murders, the contents of which make non-supporters rejoice and give supporters fits. But hear this: emotional outbursts from the audience will not be tolerated - no cheering or booing, applauding or hissing, high-fiving or jeering.

The debate format is as follows: I’ll introduce a topic from Exhibit 500. The participants will debate it. And I’ll put a stop to it when I can stand the lunacy no longer. To ensure the participants adhere to this agreed upon format, electrodes from my trusty electro-shock generator have been attached to the foreheads of Messrs. Cinap and Pus, allowing me to zap them with 450 volts of electricity should their commentary stray off point. However, I also reserve the right to zap them for the sheer fun of it. Zapping is at my sole discretion.

First issue: Damien’s penchant for consuming human blood. That Damien had, and perhaps still has, a hankering for blood is not in question. Damien himself admits as much. The question is, so what? What does it mean? Is he a vampire? Does he suffer from Renfield’s Syndrome? Does he have an iron deficiency? Whatever the case, his taste for blood is well-documented. One notorious incident occurred during Damien’s September 1992 stint at the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center:

“Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it.” [Page 464 ]

Mr. Cinap, you won the coin toss, so you’ll go first. The floor, I’m afraid, is yours.

Cinatas Cinap: Before I discuss Damien’s twisted predilection for human blood, allow me to expose Exhibit 500 for the unholy abomination it is. First, notice that, alphanumerically speaking, Exhibit 500 adds up to 10. Now, Exhibit 500 actually consists of 509 documents. If you add those 9 additional documents together you get 45 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9 = 45)

45 + 10 = 55.

55 + 500 = 555.

Basic occult numerology tells us that 555 used three times and reduced to a number is a hidden 666.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

555 = 15 = 1 + 5 = 6.

Therefore, Exhibit 500 is actually Exhibit 666. In other words, it’s Exhibit Satan.

Oh goodie, I get to test out my electro-shock generator.

Cinatas Cinap: YOWCH! My but that stings like the dickens! Why in tarnation did you do that?

Cut the numerology claptrap, Cinap. Veer from the issue again and the voltage increases. Now, why does Damien have a taste for blood?

Cinatas Cinap: A “taste” for blood? That’s like saying pigs have a “taste” for slop. That Charles Bukowski had a “taste” for booze. That William S. Burroughs had a “taste” for smack.  Echols doesn’t have a “taste” for blood…he has an all-consuming, unquenchable, vampiric craving for it. Echols is to blood drinking what Kobayashi is to hot dog eating. Echols can quaff a barrel of blood faster than a partying frat boy can shotgun a can of beer. Echols chases a shot of Cub Scout blood with a decanter of toddler blood. Echols…

Retro P. Pus: Please zap that insufferable tub-thumper, would ya?

Retro P. Pus: YOWIE! Man oh man that smarts!

Let’s get something straight. Nobody tells me when or who to zap or not to zap. I zap when and who I want to zap. Stay on point, Pus.

Retro P. Pus: I have just one thing to say: Damien does not drink blood:

Retro P. Pus: See? He licks blood.

Cinatas Cinap: Ha! Undead revenants like Echols don’t “lick” blood. They drain it. As in, from your body. As in, all 10 pints of it. Your body is to Echols as a plant is to a sap-sucking aphid.

Retro P. Pus: Damien is constitutionally incapable of lying. If he says he licks, he licks!

Cinatas Cinap: Damien is constitutionally incapable of not drinking blood. He drinks!

Retro P. Pus: Licks.

Cinatas Cinap: Drinks.

Retro P. Pus: Licks.

Cinatas Cinap: Drinks.

Retro P. Pus: Laps.

Cinatas Cinap: Swigs.

Retro P. Pus: Sips.

Cinatas Cinap: Slurps.

Retro P. Pus: Takes a little nip.

Cinatas Cinap: Guzzles 7% of your body weight.

Retro P. Pus: Wets his whistle.

Cinatas Cinap: Soaks his horns.

Retro P. Pus: Gingerly samples.

Cinatas Cinap: Aggressively chugs.

Retro P. Pus: Delicately tastes.

Cinatas Cinap: Violently gulps.

Cinatas Cinap: OUCH! Jiminy Crickets! It burns, it burns…

Retro P. Pus: OW! Criminy, my body’s a throbbin’!

Shut…the fuck…up! Never mind how much blood Damien ingests. The question is, why?

Cinatas Cinap: Because drinking blood gives him power.

Retro P. Pus: Pfft. Blood is mostly water. Just a bunch of cells designed to absorb and deliver oxygen. Hardly a nutritious food for humans. I mean, a unit of blood gives you roughly 100 calories from albumin, sugar, and fat, and 350 calories from hemoglobin. That’s a whopping 450 calories per unit! Wow! What a source of power! Damien might as well eat a donut.

Cinatas Cinap: First of all, who said anything about human? Echols is undead. As such, he has no resting metabolism calorie requirement; hence, he needs far fewer calories than a human. Second, if you think Damien limits his daily intake of blood to a mere unit, I have a story about Metallica-listening teens who got falsely accused of murder to sell you. Third, and most important, Damien doesn’t drink blood for its nutritional value. He drinks it for the same reason mortals drink Red Bull: for an energy boost. Blood is the energy drink of choice among walking corpses. It gives cadaverous Damien his vigor, his oomph, his get-up-and-go. Without it he’d just be lying around the crypt all day, miserable and depressed, complaining about how fatigued he is. But it’s not really about the blood per se. He’s got a more sinister underlying motivation. You see, by drinking blood, Damien absorbs the victim’s life-force. Forget sugar. Forget protein. Forget fat. Damien sucks souls. Damien chews Chi. ‘tis thence he gets power.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, inanity billows out of your mouth like pollution out of a smokestack.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, the truth must ride on infrasonic sound waves to your ears - because you can’t hear it.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, the truth is to your big mouth as light is to a black hole.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, the truth frightens you, which is why you flee from it like a nun from a dildo factory.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, idiocy oozes from you like oil from a pimply-faced adolescent.

Cinatas Cinap: Pus, one more word out of you and I’ll kick your ass. Just shut up!

Retro P. Pus: You shut up!

Cinatas Cinap: No, you shut up!

Retro P. Pus: No, you shut…

Retro P. Pus: EEEYOUCH! Gadzooks! You’re really puttin’ the hurt on me now!

Cinatas Cinap: AAARGH! Egads! Ya got me good that time!

Mr. Cinap, apologize to Mr. Pus.

Cinatas Cinap: I’ll do no such thing…

Cinatas Cinap: OW! Alright, alright…Pus, I sincerely apologize for the dildo comment and whatnot.

Mr. Pus, apologize to Mr. Cinap.

Retro P. Pus: Cinap, I’m truly sorry for the mean and nasty things I said about your oozing idiocy and billowing inanity.

Retro P. Pus: OW!

Increase the sincerity or I increase the voltage.

Retro P. Pus: Okay. Mr. Cinap, no words can express how deeply sorry I am for whatever I said and what have you.

Ok, carry on, Mr. Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: First, let me say that I have the utmost respect for my worthy opponent. I hold the eminent Mr. Pus in the highest regard. Really. I truly do. I’m not just saying that. Having said that, Damien drinks blood. Only a complete moron would think otherwise. Furthermore…

Wait, what did you say?

Cinatas Cinap: Damien drinks blood.

After that.

Cinatas Cinap: Furthermore.

Before that. You said something under your breath.

Cinatas Cinap: No…no I didn’t.

Yes, you did. Let’s play that back, amplified.

Cinatas Cinap (recorded and amplified): Only a complete moron would think otherwise.

Cinatas Cinap: ZIPPITY ZAPPITY FUCKING DO DA! Ok, ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Reasonable people can no doubt reach different conclusions on this issue. Please accept my humble apology. My contrition is bone deep.

Ah, aversive conditioning is a beautiful thing. Start over, Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: Damien drinks blood. But not just any blood. Damien prefers chillun’s blood. Why? Because the younger the body the purer the blood, and the purer the blood the more power Damien derives from it, and the more power Damien possesses the easier it is for him to infect others with his vampirism, and the more vampires he creates the easier it will be for him and his minions to eradicate our chillun, and eradicating our chillun spells the end of the human race. Don’t you get it? The juvie hall incident was just the beginning! Damien is a Vampire Regent with an insatiable thirst for the lifeblood of innocent young’uns. He must be stopped before it’s too late for us all.

Retro P. Pus: I respectfully beg to differ with my esteemed opponent. Intelligent people can reasonably disagree on this issue…but the fact is, you’re dead wrong and I’m indisputably right. Damien *licked* that boy’s scrape to hasten the healing process. You see, due to a benign genetic mutation, Damien’s saliva is awash with antibacterial and antiviral enzymes, the curative properties of which promote wound healing. Just as Saint Mary Magdalena of Pazzi cured a nun of sores by licking her wounds, so Damien cured the injured boy by licking his wound. Far from being a blood-drinking vampire, Damien is a wound-licking healer. He’s a mender, a shaman, a curandero, a medicine man whose medicine comes from an inner wellspring of cleansing spittle. Not for nothing did Damien take the name of Saint Damien of Molokai, the martyr of charity who selflessly cared for lepers until he died of the disease himself. One day Damien will be known, not as the West Memphis Boogeyman or the Witch City Bugaboo, but as Saint Damien of the Arkansas trailer parks.

Cinatas Cinap: I say this with all due respect to the honorable Mr. Pus: Poppycock! No, scratch that - Cockypop! Fact: Cub Scout blood contains regenerative properties essential for the health and well-being of animated cadavers. Fact: Damien is an animated cadaver. Fact: Undead Damien regularly replenishes himself with revitalizing Cub Scout plasma so as to acquire the energy needed to help his Pa bring about the Apocalypse. Deny these patently obvious truths at your peril.

Retro P. Pus: I humbly put it to my distinguished challenger that he’s blowing a minor incident out of proportion with inflammatory rhetoric. Notice how innocuous the original incident report was:

“Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it.” [Page 464 ]

Retro P. Pus: Now see how the story grows increasingly sensationalistic with each telling, going from a level-headed description of Damien’s beneficent wound-licking to satanicky panicky embellishments about Damien’s sinister vampirism, much of it originating from none other than vampire and demon hunter extraordinaire, Jerry Driver:

“Knocked him down to the ground, sucked the blood from the arm, rubbed it over his face and body, and say he is a blood sucking vampire. . .  also grabbed another person and tried to suck their blood.” [Page 341]

“Hit male who cut wrists sucked blood of male.  Smeared blood on self.  Made statements indicating belief he is a vampire who worships the devil.” [Page 366 ]

“While in the detention center, Damien witnessed a co-patient slashing his wrist. Damien is reported to have knocked the co-patient to the ground and began to suck the young man’s blood…was observed sucking the wrists of the young man and smearing his blood over Damien’s body.  [Page 374-375 ]

Cinatas Cinap: There’s nothing embellished or sensationalistic about it. Damien not only drank from that poor boy’s arm like a parched Bedouin at an oasis, he ripped the lad’s limb off at the shoulder, clubbed everyone in sight with it, and smeared the gushing hemoglobin all over his face and naughty bits while maniacally declaring himself a devil-worshipping, blood-chugging vampire.

Retro P. Pus: Hey Cinap…ever wonder what it’s like to be a fear-mongering, rumor-spreading, misinformation-spouting, twaddle-spewing, rabble-rousing, monosynaptic, infrahuman zealot? Well, wonder no more. You’re a natural.

Retro P. Pus: AHHHHH…! My deepest apologies to Cinap! Respect!

Cinatas Cinap: Instead of defending Damien from me, you should be defending yourself from Damien. With permission from moderator Vomit, I’d like to cover what the citizenry needs to do to ward off Damien.

Proceed, Mr. Cinap.

Cinatas Cinap: Thank you, Mr. Vomit. Ladies and gentlemen, listen up. The Echols menace is a matter of grave concern. And I mean that literally. The Pus’s of the world would have us believe that Damien is harmless. Better than harmless, in fact. He’s a magickal medicine man committed to improving our collective lot in life - a fuckin’ do-gooder! The reality is far more sinister. Damien wants you to believe what Pus believes. Damien wants to give you a false sense of security. Why? Because then you’ll let your guard down. That’s when Damien will swoop in and massacre the populace. So pay attention! What I’m about to say is of the utmost importance. Heed my words or die. It’s that simple. To stay alive you must arm yourselves with apotropaics aplenty. Now hear this: Follow my instructions without the slightest deviation or, make no mistake, the end is nigh:

1) Build a moat around your house and fill it with holy water. Holy H2O is the Echols repellent par excellence. It is to Damien as sulfuric acid is to mortals. He won’t dip his little toe in there.

2) Bloodthirsty corpses like Echols despise hallowed ground. So dig up the consecrated dirt from your local churches and spread it evenly around your yard. Damien won’t step foot on it.

3) Sprinkle mustard seeds on the roof of your house. Don’t ask why. Just do it.

4) Tattoo a crucifix in the center of your forehead and on each butt cheek. That way you’re protected from top to bottom and front to back.

5) Eat raw garlic daily and DO NOT brush your teeth. Repeat: DO NOT brush your teeth. Never ever again. Pucker up for a kiss if Damien approaches and watch the alliumphobic fiend flee.

6) Purchase firearms for everyone in the family, including the chillun, and load them with sacred silver bullets. Making holy bullets is a snap: simply inscribe a silver coin with a cross and forge it into the shape of a bullet. If Damien comes a knockin’, blow his preternaturally pale ass back to the stinking bowels of Hell from whence he came.

7) To counter Damien’s malevolence, keep your body and spirit pure by crumbling Eucharist wafers on your breakfast cereal. [Warning: This does not work with Count Chocula, Franken Berry or Boo Berry cereals.] These blessed crackers also go well with soups, salads, and pasta sauce. You can even try them with your favorite dips, be it sour cream, salsa, hummus or guacamole. Added bonus: Christ’s crackers are surprisingly nutritious.

8) Beat Damien at his own game: Imbibe a carafe of the blood of Christ daily. With the Holy Spirit coursing through your veins, Damien is sure to go suck some heathen’s neck instead.

9) Keep a tanning lamp in every room of the house. Not only will the artificial sunlight repel the heliophobic Echols, but you’ll get a beautiful golden brown tan to boot.

10) Never leave home without a wooden stake. Why? Because Damien never leaves home without his staff - aka a big old stick. If you run into him you’re sure to find yourself fencing Damien to the death. So be on guard! You must plunge the stake into his decomposed heart before he disembowels you with his staff. Of course, you could simply blow his decayed brains out with your silver-bullet gun, but that wouldn’t be very sporting.

Are you quite done?

Cinatas Cinap: Almost. Only about fifty more essential vampire antidotes and repellents to go through.

Cinatas Cinap: YOW! BLISTERING BARNACLES! leck mich am Arsch!

Let’s translate that from German to English.

Cinatas Cinap (recorded and translated): Lick my ass!

Well, Cinap - what do have to say for yourself?

Cinatas Cinap: Das tut mir Leid?

You’re done. Go ahead, Pus.

Retro P. Pus: Defend myself against a piddling blood licker? Pfft. Why, Damien Echols can lick my blood anytime. I’d be honored to have Mr. Echols lick my wounds. And I stress *lick*.

Cinatas Cinap: If Damien doesn’t drink blood, why did he tell his counselor that drinking blood makes him feel like a god?

“He obtains his power by drinking blood of others. He typically drinks the blood of a sexual partner or of a ruling partner. This is achieved by biting or cutting. He states “it makes me feel like a God”.  [Page 52 ]

Retro P. Pus: He was misquoted. Damien didn’t say he drinks blood; the shrink did. Damien’s no biter either. He’s a licker, not a biter. A lover, not a fighter. This is just another example of people putting words in his mouth. And of course he felt like a god! When you’re blessed with magickal healing powers, how else are you supposed to feel?

Cinatas Cinap: Amazing how you dismiss Damien’s theomaniacal ravings. You won’t be so dismissive when he’s got his fangs sunk in your jugular vein. Only then, as the lifeblood slowly drains from your body, will you realize how damning Exhibit 500 is.

Retro P. Pus: Exhibit 500 is jack shit, wrapped in fuck all, inside not a goddamn thing.

Cinatas Cinap: What a contemptible potty mouth!

Retro P. Pus: Aww, did I injure Cinap’s pansy ass delicate wittle sensibilities?

Word of advice, chaps: my hand is on the button of my electro-shock generator.

Retro P. Pus: Let me rephrase: Exhibit 500 amounts to nothing. It’s rumor, gossip, hearsay, anecdote, allegation, assertion, misinformation, hyperbole, sensationalism, embellishment, exaggeration, and confabulation more than documented fact. It certainly doesn’t prove Damien killed those kids, nor does it place him at the crime scene.

Cinatas Cinap: I say this with all due disrespect and with the utmost disregard for my dishonorable opponent…

We all heard that, Cinap. You’re not fooling anyone. But carry on…

Cinatas Cinap: If nothing else Exhibit 500 sheds light on Damien’s disintegrating mental state at the time of the murders.

Retro P. Pus: It sheds light on the mentality of satanicky panicky Bible belters bent on railroading a sensitive kid simply because he was a bit unconventional.

Cinatas Cinap: Right, it’s just “a bit unconventional” to sacrifice your firstborn to Satan!

Retro P. Pus: Quick! Call an exorcist! Mr. Cinap is possessed by the satanicky panicky spirit of Jerry Driver!

Hear that ominous hum coming from the electro-shock generator? That’s bottled up electric current itching to roast a couple of nuts.

Cinatas Cinap: Fact: That there was no blood at the crime scene proves Damien was there. He drank it all.

Allow me to put this into syllogistic form:

1: Damien drinks every drop of blood spilled in his vicinity.

2: Robin Hood Hills was in Damien’s vicinity.

3: Blood was spilled in Robin Hood Hills.

4: Police found no blood in Robin Hood Hills

5: Therefore, Damien drank it.

I defy you to find a flaw in that reasoning.

Retro P. Pus: Ah, but blood was found at the scene; Luminol testing detected it. The area “lit up like a Christmas tree” when Luminol was applied. That proves Damien wasn’t there, because if he had been, he would have drunk it all.

1: Damien drinks every drop of blood spilled in his vicinity.

2: Robin Hood Hills was in Damien’s vicinity.

3: Blood was spilled in Robin Hood Hills.

4: Police found blood in Robin Hood Hills.

5: Therefore, Damien didn’t drink it.

Cinatas Cinap: Ah ha! So you admit that if Damien had been there he would have drunk all the blood.

Retro P. Pus: Yes, Damien would have drunk it all had he been there. But since blood was detected, it follows, ipso facto, that he didn’t drink it. Hence, he wasn’t there. Hence, he’s innocent.

Cinatas Cinap: Ipso facto? Try Ipse dixit. Fact: Damien was there. Fact: Blood was detected. Conclusion: Damien doesn’t drink blood. He licks blood, as he himself admits.

Time to roast these nuts.

Sorry folks, that’s all the time we have. There’s much more to discuss about Exhibit 500. Perhaps I’ll schedule another round of debate. In the meantime, go watch West of Memphis and see if there’s any mention of Damien’s taste for human blood.

Cinatas Cinap: Don’t watch that lousy piece of propaganda! Watch the biopic of Damien instead. It’s called The Omen.

Retro P. Pus: West of Memphis is the unvarnished truth!

Al A. Vomit

A SATANIC MUSICAL INTERLUDE

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Whatever you do, do not forget to drop by here on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. Why? Because that’s when WM3 heavyweights Cinatas Cinap and Retro P. Pus will be debating Exhibit 500. It promises to be a truly momentous occasion, which just happens to coincide with the video release of West of Memphis.

In the meantime, let’s listen to some music. Now, what type of music would be fitting as an interlude between posts about the WM3? Classical? Nah. Opera? Uh-uh. Nordic folk? Nope. Vietnamese chamber music? ‘fraid not. Scat jazz? Kabuki? Polka? Funk? Barbershop? Yodeling? I’m gonna have to go with no to those. Heavy metal? Well, yeah, but heavy metal music is verboten on this blog, so that’s out. Besides, this is a film blog, and so only film music will do. Fuck Metallica. I’ve got some real devil music for ya.

Let’s kick it off with music from the granddaddy of all demonic possession movies, The Exorcist. Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ is so closely associated with The Exorcist it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t originally composed for the film. Poor Mike: I doubt he set out to make “scary” music, but who can listen to it now without thinking about swiveling heads, crucifix masturbation, and projectile vomiting?

The commercially disastrous sequel to The Exorcist features a score by my all-time favorite film composer, Ennio Morricone. Here Ennio gives demonic possession a kinky disco beat, complete with sadomasochistic bullwhip lashings. Is there nothing The Maestro can’t do?

L’arcidiavolo is more bawdy comedy than horror movie, but that’s okay, because the theme of this post gives me an excuse to play the fiendishly cool guitar riffs in this cue by Morricone contemporary Armando Trovaioli.

Nobody puts his lips together and blows quite like Alessandro Alessandroni. A world-class whistler, Alessandroni is the dude whistling so memorably on the soundtracks of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns. In La plus longue nuit du diable, Alessandroni puts his whistling talents in the service of Satan with some seriously sinister lip-piping. His sister, Giulia, supplies the equally eerie and otherworldly vocalizations.

Spawns of Satan need shuteye too. Here’s Mia Farrow’s Rosemary La-La-La-ing a lullaby to her hellborn baby:

Charles Manson. Do I have your attention now? Charlie wasn’t the only murderous musician in his “family.” Let’s not forget the satanic stylings of fellow family member and convicted murderer Bobby Beausoleil. Imagine Beausoleil’s spooky psychedelic music from Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising playing in the secret torture chamber underneath Damien’s Hermetic Reiki Center.

Step aside Charlie Daniels. Daniels plays a mean fiddle, but he’s no match for Satan, whose supernatural ability to pluck the fretboard with ten fingers is on diabolical display in Christopher Young’s masterly ‘Concerto to Hell’ from Drag Me to Hell.

Want to see the Devil actually play the fiddle? Check out the 50:07-51:39 minute mark of The Devil and Daniel Webster. Old Scratch appears in the form of Walter Huston, frantically fiddling an orgasmic rendition of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ at a sinful hoe-down. Here Bernard Herrmann uses the multi-track recording of a solo fiddler to devilish effect.

“Damien. Damien. Damien, look at me. I’m over here. Damien, I love you. Look at me, Damien. It’s all for you!”

Remember that from The Omen?

There’s no better way to conclude this post than with one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded on celluloid, Satanic or otherwise. Jerry Goldsmith must have commissioned an evil choir from the pits of Hell to sing his ‘Ave Satani’. Doubtless Goldsmith’s Gothic choral orchestrations were influenced by Stravinsky’s ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, but he betters the both of them in terms of sheer spine-tingling, hair-raising, goose bump inducing creepiness.

For those of you unfamiliar with Latin:

Sanquis bibimus, Corpus edimus
Prode corpus Satani
Ave, Ave Versus Christus
Ave, Ave Satani

We drink blood, We eat flesh
Bring forth the body of Satan
Hail Antichrist
Hail Satan

PARADISE LOST: THE BOOGEYMAN, WEST OF MEMPHIS

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Citizens of Salem beware!

A murderous fiend with an insatiable thirst for blood resides in your midst. His name is Damien Echols, aka the West Memphis Boogeyman. Spawned from an unholy union of Arkansas trailer skank and Satan, Damien is half white trash, half dark lord - in other words, unpure, adulterated evil. Be on the lookout for an inky-haired, raven-eyed mutant with tattoos and talons wearing noir leather and Goth goggles, listening to death metal and Zen chimes, clutching an inverted pentagram in one hand and waving a magick wand in the other, munching raw gristle from the leg bone of a dog carcass, oozing malodorous fumes of sulfur, twittering a steady stream of inspirational fortune cookie platitudes out of one side of his mouth and quoting Aleister Crowley out of the other, and bragging about murdering and mutilating scores of prepubescent cub scouts. If you see someone matching this description, run for your ever-lovin’ lives!

If perchance you find yourself trapped in his malignant presence, say while standing in line at the local supermarket, for God’s sake do not look at him. You’ll feel his vacant, soulless eyes peering at you from behind those ultra-cool shades, inviting you, urging you to look in his direction, but you must resist the impulse lest you be transfixed in his fatal gaze. If he’s standing in line behind you, face forward and do not look back. If he’s standing in front of you, turn around and proceed backward to the checkout counter. Many a poor soul has paid the ultimate price for mistakenly thinking it safe to look at Damien just because he’s sporting snazzy Ray-Bans. Do not make that same mistake. You see, my friends, his hip sunspecs are specially equipped with a motorized rotating psychedelic hypnosis spiral, one glance at which instantly puts you into a deep and everlasting trance, rendering you forever powerless to resist his every command. The hypnosis spiral is one of Damien’s favorite secret weapons against pesky interviewers. If an interviewer is on the verge of asking him a challenging case question, such as why none of his alibi witnesses can cover him between the crucial hours of 6:30-9:00pm on the evening of the murders, Damien simply activates the hypnosis spiral and telepathically programs the spellbound interviewer to ask him only soft questions.

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Like other wand-wielding wizards, Damien exudes magickal charisma. But hear this: Resist his devilish charms or be indoctrinated into his cult of death and compelled to do his evil bidding with the rest of his legion of murder groupies. To embrace Damien is to embrace the abyss. An abyss bejeweled by twinkly crystals and perfumed with myrrh-scented incense. Watch out! His soft-spoken, Zen-like demeanor masks a diseased mind hell-bent on death and destruction. Make no mistake, while masquerading as the victim of a gross miscarriage of justice to the outside world, Damien is secretly concocting magick potions, casting evil spells and, worst of all, hatching diabolical plans within the confines of his Reiki center, which is nothing but a front for his foul and nefarious activities.

Public Service Announcement: A Reiki session with Damien is an appointment with death. If not physical death, then certainly spiritual death. His promise to re-channel your energy flow for just $130 is a pretext for getting you alone for an hour so he muck around with your chi, drain your lifeblood, sap your élan vital, and swallow your eternal soul.

Take heed, Damien plans to make your town his personal slaughterhouse, so for the love of God and all that’s holy, lock your doors and hide the women and chillun. Tonight he’s on the prowl, his elongated fingernails sharpened to fine points, lurking unseen and skulking unheard, perhaps hiding tightly coiled behind a bush ready to spring at unsuspecting passersby, or creeping with malice aforethought just outside your back door, or, one shudders to think, lying in wait under your chillun’s beds itching to tell them their final bedtime story.

Never venture outside after dark lest you run afoul of Demon Damien and his devilish disciples. Should you find it necessary to leave the relative safety of your home, stay the fuck out of the woods, especially during the full moon, for Damien’s out there, presiding over orgiastic esbats from the stroke of midnight to the witching hour, when he and his maniacal minions stomp, skin, and devour puppy dogs, commune with vile denizens of the netherworld, place hexes upon your town, and sacrifice nubile young virgins to the King of Hell.

Speaking of nubile young virgins, Damien would like nothing better than to defile, debauch and deflower your teenage daughter, so if she thinks he’s hot, you must act quickly to protect her hymenal membrane. Purchase a chastity belt posthaste and strap it on her securely until she gets over this foolish and fatal adolescent crush.  (A more extreme option is genital mutilation. Given Damien’s penchant for mutilating the genitalia of young’uns, this is probably your daughter’s fate anyway, so you might as well do it yourself before he gets his talons on her.) If she expresses a desire for a tattoo of, say, an inverted pentagram or, heaven forbid, the dreaded “X”, well, I’m afraid it can mean only one thing: she’s possessed by a dangerously erect incubus from the bowels of Hades. Contact an exorcist immediately, or before ya know it she’ll be sucking cock in Hell.

Dearest Salemites, I beseech you: heed my warning before it’s too late. You and your loved ones are in great peril! The West Memphis Boogeyman has put down stakes and set up shop in your town, intent on making a new name for himself: the Salem Hobgoblin or the Witch City Bugaboo. Endowed with powers dark and magickal, Damien’s ability to rend entire communities asunder is unrivalled in the annals of arch villainy. Only an evil wizard of the highest order could rape, torture, castrate, mutilate, murder, and urinate into the mouths of your chillun without leaving a trace of inculpatory evidence. No fingerprints. No broken fingernails/talons. No hoofed footprints. Not a strand of freaky long black hair. Not a drip of vampiric blood. Not a drop of warlockian urine. Not a drib of demonic jism. Nothing. Almost as if he’d never been there. Oh…but he was there alright. And he’ll brag about it later at your local tarot card store.

(If all this weren’t bad enough, Damien also happens to be a twittering cliché-generator cruelly infecting your town with a never-ending onslaught of witless platitudes, vacuous maxims, would-be epigrams, and hackneyed sayings.)

Good people of Salem, do not say you weren’t warned.

Yours truly,

Cinatas Cinap

The above letter, penned by one Cinatas Cinap, reflects the “Satanic panic” that gripped the nation during the 80s and early 90s, a dark period in American history, to be known henceforth as the Antichrist Zeitgeist, which climaxed in the great Beelzebub hubbub of ‘93. I refer, of course, to the notorious case of the West Memphis 3, the central figure of which, Damien Echols, is now considered the primary if not sole source of the panic then sweeping the nation. Virtually every “satanic” incident in the country from the moment of his birth until 1993 has been directly traced back to the creaky front door of his dilapidated trailer home. Ya see, Damien is to Satan what Jesus is to God: his dutiful son. But whereas God sent Jesus to suffer for our sins, Satan sent Damien to make us suffer for the hell of it. Damien is the Antichrist, possessed of a soul vile enough to make Old Scratch beam with fatherly pride. (If you doubt me, consider that the name Damien Echols is an anagram for Demon Chi Sale. Coincidence? Surely not! His very name implies that he’s a walking, talking, tweeting advertisement for demon chi. What a marketing opportunity for the Hermetic Reiki Center! Don’t be shy! Step right up! Get your genu-ine white trash demon chi here!) If Damien had his druthers in ‘93, he would have lain waste first to West Memphis, then to the country, and finally to the entire world, setting the stage for Dad to ascend from Hell and take dominion over the earth, bringing the dastardly father/son duo one step closer to their ultimate goal: triumphantly storming the gates of heaven and wresting control of the universe from God Almighty. Such would have been our tragic fate were it not for the heroic efforts of demon-hound juvie officer Jerry Driver; occult expert and mail order PhD Dale Griffis; Detective Gary “this case goes to 11″ Gitchell; then-Judge, now-Senator David Burnett; and then-Prosecutor, now-Judge John “there’s not a soul in there” Fogleman. Let us now give thanks to these courageous saviors of humanity.

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Oh, shut up, non-supporter! Hater, be gone! Saviors of humanity? Ha! More like saviors of human-inanity! For the record, the above was also written by the cretinoid Cinatas Cinap, a zealot trying to co-opt this blog with alarmist non-supporter bullshit. But I won’t let him! My name is Retro P. Pus and I’m here to set the record straight about Mr. Echols. Damien Echols is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life. All the more tragic, then, that he was railroaded by a bunch of Bible belt bumpkins bent on burning him at the stake just because the poor kid wore black, listened to Metallica, and read Stephen King books.  (Okay, so maybe Damien tried to enucleate a schoolmate. Big deal! Who hasn’t? He was just going through what scientists have identified as the “Heavy Metal” stage of adolescent development. All teenage boys go through it as a rite of passage to adulthood. It’s no biggie. Besides, although Damien admits to attacking the boy, he denies trying to claw out his eyes. Let’s move on, people!) In the end, Mr. Echols not only survived the most egregious miscarriage of justice in the history of the universe, he emerged from it, miraculously, not just a better man, but the best man in the history of mankind, a noble, wise, saintly, magickal, multi-talented prince among men who now just wants to get on with his life, a life destined not just for greatness but one destined to be nothing less than the greatest life in the history of existence.

I assure you, Mr. Echols is just here to help, not just himself, or you, but everyone and everything in the universe and beyond. There’s no reason to fear him. He wants to rearrange your chi, not your face. He wants to X you, not hex you. He wants with you to harmonize, not with his fingernails to gouge out your eyes. So please, I beseech you, exonerate him, don’t abominate him. C’mon, let’s hear it! Exoneration, not abomination! Exoneration, not abomination! Exoneration, not abomination!

Sincerely,

Retro P. Pus, Esq. (aka Ret R. Oppusa)

P.S. Damien Echols is also an anagram for ID Chosen Male - so there!

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Yeah, well, Damien Echols is also an anagram for has demon lice. And his wife, Lorri, might like to know that Damien Wayne Echols is an anagram for wed one slay machine. Take that, supporter!

Insincerely,

Cinatas Cinap

P.S. Don’t salute him, electrocute him! The solution is electrocution! The solution is electrocution! The solution is electrocution!

————————————————————————————————————

What West of Memphis tells you: Damien was the victim of a modern day witch hunt because of how he looked (scary), what he listened to (devil music), and what he read (horror).

What West of Memphis doesn’t tell you: Exhibit 500 exists.

What is Exhibit 500? It’s a compilation of Damien’s psychiatric records, introduced by his lawyers during the sentencing phase of his trial in a last-ditch effort to keep him off death row, which shows, among other things, that Echols was placed in a psychiatric hospital three times in the year leading up to the murders. In other words, Exhibit 500 is what gives non-supporters a sizable boner and what supporters would rather not discuss.

By no means does Exhibit 500 prove Damien murdered those boys, but it does provide insight into his mental state around the time of the murders. For example, in early 1993, just months before the murders, Damien described himself as sociopathic, suicidal, and homicidal. (Note: Damien described himself thus on an application for Social Security disability benefits, so it’s possible he was exaggerating the severity of his condition in order to receive said benefits.) That West of Memphis fails to mention, let alone address, some of the jaw-dropping material in Exhibit 500 betrays the bias and, perhaps, dishonesty of its makers. On the other hand, alarmist non-supporters are being equally disingenuous when they indiscriminately cite material from Exhibit 500 as though every word therein were incontrovertible fact.

Next post, I’ll examine some of the material in Exhibit 500, hopefully with a bit more objectivity than the likes of Messrs. Cinap and Pus.

Sincerely,

Al A. Vomit

PARADISE LOST: CONFESSIONS, WEST OF MEMPHIS - POSTSCRIPT

You’ll recall from his first confession that Misskelley mistakenly said the victims were tied up with rope, when in fact they were bound by their own shoelaces.

DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Alright, who tied the boys up?

MISSKELLEY: Uh, Damien.

DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Did Damien just tie them all up or did anyone help Damien or

MISSKELLEY: Jason helped him.

DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Ok, and what did they use to tie them up?

MISSKELLEY: A rope.

Such a glaring discrepancy seemingly supports the “false confession” theory. However, there’s reason to believe that Misskelley, guilty or not, already knew the boys had been tied with shoelaces. Below is testimony from Kevin Johnson, a Search and Rescue worker who was an acquaintance of Misskelley’s:

STIDHAM: You tell the jury what you told Mr. Misskelley?

JOHNSON: Yes, I told him that–that one of the boys were beaten and caserated.

STIDHAM: You told him that one of the boys had been castrated?

JOHNSON: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: What else did you tell him?

JOHNSON: Uh…

STIDHAM: Did you tell him anything else?

JOHNSON: Yes, that they, that - that they was tied with the shoestrings.

STIDHAM: Where did you get this information, Mr. Johnson?

JOHNSON: From the–heard it from the members of the Search and Rescue.

Johnson’s testimony lends credence to the non-supporter contention that Misskelley intentionally lied to the cops. And if he lied about the shoestrings maybe he lied about other details as well, such as what time he was in the woods. Jessie himself says as much in subsequent confessions. According to the incident report filed after his patrol car confession, “Jessie said he lied about the time and the rope to trick the police and to see if they were lying”.

The issue comes up again in the Bible confession:

STIDHAM: What did they tie them with?

MISSKELLEY: Shoe string.

STIDHAM: Why did you tell the officers it was a brown rope?

MISSKELLEY: I made it up.

STIDHAM: Why?

MISSKELLEY: (silent)

STIDHAM: You don’t know why?

MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating)

And yet again in the 2-17-94 confession:

DAVIS: Now you said before when the police asked you in their statement and asked you what they were tied up with. And you said they were tied up with rope.

MISSKELLEY: I made that up.

DAVIS: Why?

MISSKELLEY: Tried to get off, you know get ‘em off track.

Not surprisingly, Jessie offers a very different explanation for the rope/shoelace discrepancy when proclaiming his innocence in statements to Stidham and defense witnesses.

On 12-10-93 he says:

MISSKELLEY: He ask, they asked me was they tied up with, and I, I guessed, I just said, well, brown rope. And, uh, Ridge said no, it wasn’t, and then I tried to argue with him and say yes it was. And it was like they was arguing with me so I was going to argue with them back and say yes, it was.

WILKINS: “Jessie, was it a brown rope?” You know, you say, “No, it was a green rope.” And you said “no.”

MISSKELLEY: They was arguing with me so I was arguing with them back, saying it was a brown rope. He asked me how they was tied up and, I didn’t know. So I just guessed. I said from the front, and he said no, they wasn’t. So…

STIDHAM: …so you just kept guessing until you got it right? ‘

MISSKELLEY: Yeah.

WILKINS: So you said okay and talked it back to them the next time around? `

MISSKELLEY: Yeah. I, I just guessed until I got it right, you know. I didn’t know how they was tied up.

And on 12-17-93 he says:

MISSKELLEY: That’s when they started asking me, uh, asking me questions about them boys.

OFSHE: Give me some examples of the kind of questions they asked you.

MISSKELLEY: (Pause) About what the boys was tied up with.

OFSHE: Did you know what the boys were tied up with?

MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating)

OFSHE: What did you tell them?

MISSKELLEY: A rope.

OFSHE: What did they say?

MISSKELLEY: Uh, Gitchell shook his head, No - I mean, Ridge shook his head, no. Said it wasn’t a rope.

OFSHE: What did you do next?

MISSKELLEY: I told them it was a rope. They said, no it wasn’t a rope.

OFSHE: What made you think it was a rope?

MISSKELLEY: That’s what normally what people tie up people with a rope. So, I figured it had to be a rope.

Even here, Misskelley denies knowing about the shoelaces. What’s going on? I see three possibilities: 1) Kevin Johnson misremembered - despite his testimony he didn’t tell Misskelley how the boys were tied up, 2) Misskelley forgot what Johnson told him, or 3) Misskelley lied.

Number 2 seems unlikely (though still possible), given that Misskelley remembered Johnson telling him about another significant detail:

STIDHAM: Did you know what happened to the little boy?

MISSKELLEY: I heard that they - - they was cut up.

STIDHAM: Who told you that?

MISSKELLEY: Kevin, that same day the, uh, they paged him - - the thing was cut - - thing was cut.

WILKINS: Who’s Kevin?

MISSKELLEY: Johnson.

WILKINS: Who’s he?

MISSKELLEY: He’s a search and rescue.

WILKINS: Oh, and he lives behind you?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating.)

And:

OFSHE: How did you learn that one of the boys had been cut on his penis? How did you come to know that?

MISSKELLEY: Because one of my friends, he works at Search and Rescue. And, I guess he seen the boys cause he told me about how they was cut up and all that.

OFSHE: Who was that?

MISSKELLEY: Kevin Johnson.

OFSHE: When did he tell you that?

MISSKELLEY: I’d say about couple days later.

OFSHE: After the killings?

MISSKELLEY: (no audible response)

OFSHE: So you already knew that one of the boys had been mutilated, that just penis cut up?

MISSKELLEY: That’s what Kevin said. You know, I didn’t know.

OFSHE: Well, you had that information and you had the information from Kevin?

MISSKELLEY: Right.

If Misskelley remembered Johnson telling him how the boys were cut up he’d probably remember Johnson telling him how they were tied up. So, if we eliminate number 2, we’re left with two possibilities: either Johnson, contrary to his testimony, didn’t tell Jessie, or he did and Jessie lied about it.

Let’s assume Jessie lied about the shoelaces. Questions for supporters and non-supporters alike:

1) If he’s innocent, why would Jessie lie to the cops about the shoelaces?

If he’s innocent, then Jessie’s confession is a complete fabrication and we’re left with an entirely different question: why is this innocent man confessing? That Jessie said the boys were bound by rope is just another lie in a sea of lies, is it not? But if the confession amounts to nothing more than Jessie telling the cops “what they wanted to hear” so they’d stop “hollering” at him and let him go home (as he maintained to Ofshe), then why tell them the boys had been bound by rope, which is decidedly not what the cops wanted to hear? If he knew the boys had been tied up with shoelaces, and if as he claims he was only telling the cops what they wanted to hear, then he should have told them that the boys were tied up with shoelaces. Lying defeats the stated purpose of Jessie’s confession.

2) If he’s innocent, why would Jessie lie to Stidham, Wilkins and Ofshe about the shoelaces?

If he’s innocent, why not say, “Kevin Johnson not only told me how the boys were cut up, he also told me how they were tied up, but I lied to the cops about the latter because….” He’s got nothing to hide, so why bother lying to his defense team about it?

3) If he’s guilty, why would Jessie lie to the cops about the shoelaces?

If Jessie was remorseful and voluntarily confessed, why would he lie about the shoelaces, or anything else for that matter? Why “trick the police” and “get ‘em off track” in a supposedly voluntary confession. To what end? To…”get off”?  If he wanted to confess, why try to “get off”? If he wanted to “get off”, why willingly confess in the first place? If somehow he inadvertently confessed and then wanted/tried to get himself out of trouble, why make up barefaced lies to “throw off” the cops rather than just, ya know, retract his earlier admission of guilt?

And why tell the cops what Kevin Johnson said about how the boys were cut up but not what he said about how they were tied up?

4) If he’s guilty, why would Jessie lie to Stidham, Wilkins and Ofshe about the shoelaces?

If Jessie admitted that “Kevin Johnson not only told me how the boys were cut up, he also told me how they were tied up, but I lied to the cops about the latter”, the first thing he’d be asked is “Why?” What would he say? He can’t tell Ofshe et al that he was trying to throw off the cops - that statement is reserved for his confessions.  He can’t say he was telling the cops what they wanted to hear - because, ya know, he wasn’t. He’d have to make up some other bullshit. It’s simply easier on Jessie to deny knowing about the shoelaces, for it avoids the inevitable “why?” question. Guilty men falsely proclaiming their innocence don’t like “why” questions. The fewer whys the better.  Am I right?

Kevin Johnson’s testimony about the shoelaces is the kind of detail you won’t find in West of Memphis or the Paradise Lost films. You’ll find it only through independent research. I bring it up not to draw from it any definitive conclusions about Lil J’s confession, but to offer an example of an interesting detail which adds complexity (and perplexity) to the case. Perhaps it doesn’t mean much from an overall perspective. But sometimes the minutia reveals secrets. ‘tis better to delve deep into an ocean of minutia and come up empty-handed than to prematurely pluck a false conclusion from surface details.

Remember, the devil is in the details - unless, of course, the WM3 are innocent, in which case “The Devil” is not in the details.

PARADISE LOST: CONFESSIONS, WEST OF MEMPHIS

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For those unfamiliar with the case of the so-called West Memphis Three, here’s a chronology of events.

And here’s a short history of my interest in the case:

1) On May 5, 1993, the day the three cub scouts were brutally murdered, hogtied and tossed into a watery ditch, I was tanning all day by the family pool. That night, I heartily quaffed a few carafes of fine wine at a bacchanal and had carnal knowledge with a bevy of delightfully delectable divotchka’s. I know this because that’s what I did every day and night back then.

2) My girlfriend and I saw Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills in 1996. On the drive home we discussed the case for a few minutes. Both of us were undecided as to the guilt or innocence of the soon-to-be called WM3. After having a pleasant dinner at Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant, we repaired to her parent’s house and made mad passionate love. Employing several devastating sexual techniques, which I’ve copyrighted, patented and trademarked, I effortlessly brought the two of us to simultaneous orgasm, then rolled over and dozed off as she droned on about the sanctity of our love or some such thing. By then I’d forgotten all about the case. In fact, I don’t think I gave it another thought until…

3) …Paradise Lost 2: Revelations came out in 2000. I saw it by myself. On the drive home I discussed the case with myself for a few minutes and concluded that I was still undecided as to the WM3’s (and Byers’) guilt or innocence. That night I had dinner by myself, went to bed by myself, and cried myself to sleep thinking about my ex-girlfriend. I didn’t give the case another thought until…

4) …2011, when the WM3 took the Alford plea and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory came out. This turn of events piqued my interest in the case like never before, but still not enough to make me actively research it.

5) In late 2012 I moved to Dollars, Taxes with my two cats, Iggy and Tara. People think I’m bragging when I say I live with two females, but it’s totally true. I just don’t mention that I have to scoop their poop. Around this time I started following Damien “I believe in Magick” Echols on Twitter. To my surprise, he answered (and “favorited”) a few of my tweets, though not the one in which I informed him that the Moon was just a lifeless rock forever orbiting senselessly around the Earth.

6) I saw West of Memphis on January 27, 2013. (Later that night, I watched an unrelated documentary called Machete Maidens Unleashed! But never mind about that. That’s a completely different story.) If you’re looking for an objective analysis of the case, you won’t find it in West of Memphis, a blatantly one-sided advocacy piece which aims to prove the trio’s innocence once and for all while pointing an accusing finger at Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of victim Stevie Branch.

7) Still harboring doubts about the purported innocence of the WM3, I googled “the WM3 are guilty” and found highly researched sites like wm3truth.com forcefully arguing against the WM3. More importantly, I discovered an exhaustive archive of case documents and trial transcripts at callahan.8k.com. And so, for the first time, I found myself researching the case in earnest.

8) From there, I decided to write a series of posts, each one focusing on a key aspect of the case, using a “what West of Memphis tells you/what West of Memphis doesn’t tell you” approach. First topic: Jessie’s confession(s).

Note: The first ten people to comment on this post will not receive a complimentary X tattoo on his or her derrière, courtesy of Damien “I’m not a tattoo artist” Echols.

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Jessie’s confession(s)

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(Oops, now I really gone and done it.)

What West of Memphis tells you: Misskelley’s June 3, 1993 confession was coerced and false.

What West of Memphis doesn’t tell you: Misskelley confessed numerous times, both before and after his conviction.

On June 3, 1993, Jessie Lloyd Misskelley Jr., affectionately known as Little Jessie or Lil Jessie or Lil J, confessed for the first time, implicating Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin in the process. You can read the transcript of the confession here and/or listen to the recording of it here.

The problem is that the confession is riddled with inaccuracies, full of details that contradict the known facts of the case. For example, Misskelley initially claims he was at Robin Hood Hills on the morning of May 5, 1993 even though the murders occurred sometime after 6:30 PM that evening:

DETECTIVE GITCHELL: What time did you get there?
MISSKELLEY: I got there about 9.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: In the morning?
MISSKELLEY: Mm-hmm.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Of Wednesday morning?
MISSKELLEY: Mm-hmm.

Only after police prompting does Misskelley get the timeline correct:

DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Just sit there. Jessie, uh, when when you got with the with the boys and with Jason and Baldwin when you three were in the woods and then the little boys come up, about what time was it? When the boys came up to the woods?
MISSKELLEY: I would say it was about it was about five or six, five or six.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Now, did you have your watch on at the time?
MISSKELLEY: Un-uh.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: You didn’t have your watch on?
MISSKELLEY: Un-uh.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Uh, alright you told me earlier around seven or eight or, which time is it?
MISSKELLEY: It was seven or eight.
DETECTIVE GITCHELL: Are are you sh-
MISSKELLEY: I remember it was starting to get dark.

How do we account for this whopping time discrepancy? Was Misskelley *misleading* the cops or were the cops *leading* Misskelley?

But that’s just one of many discrepancies. Misskelley also claims that the boys were tied up with rope (they were tied with shoelaces); that only their hands were tied up (they were hogtied); that Christopher Byers was choked to death with a stick (he was beaten and, possibly, castrated); and that the boys were sodomized (the autopsy showed no evidence of anal penetration). Supporters contend that these and other inaccuracies prove that Misskelley never stepped foot in those woods, that he was pressured by overzealous cops into giving a false confession.

Non-supporters, on the other hand, contend that Misskelley voluntarily confessed but tried to downplay his involvement at the same time. I find this problematic. Downplaying his involvement is one thing. Forgetting details is another. Intentionally misleading cops with obviously bogus details in a supposedly voluntary confession is something else entirely. Why didn’t Jessie downplay his involvement without including the gross inaccuracies? Why provide details that both he and the cops know to be untrue? Take the time discrepancy. If guilty, Jessie knows, and he knows the cops know, that the murders occurred in the evening. There’s no point in lying about that since both parties know the facts. He might try to fudge some details the cops weren’t certain about, for example by saying that he never struck the boys or that he left the crime scene early, but saying the murders occurred in the morning, which he and the cops both know is a barefaced lie, makes no sense. Why not say, 1) he was there at 7 PM, 2) he chased down Michael Moore and brought him back to Damien and Jason, 3) he watched Damien and Jason brutally beat and murder the boys, hogtie them with their own shoelaces, and throw them in the water, and 3) he left. That way, he confesses, gets the facts right, and downplays his involvement. Deliberately adding erroneous details to throw off the cops is gratuitous. Why would he do that? Why purposely make a voluntary confession appear false?

Perhaps Jessie never intended to confess. Perhaps he slipped up by admitting to chasing down Michael Moore. Perhaps after making this blunder he tried to limit the damage by intentionally lying. In other words, he bumbled his way into confessing and then tried to bumble his way out of it, only to get himself hopelessly entangled in a web of truths, half-truths, and outright falsehoods. Perhaps.

Either way, it seems supporters have Occam’s razor on their side: Jessie got the details wrong simply because he wasn’t there. But maybe things aren’t that simple. After all, Misskelley didn’t confess just this once. He confessed at least six times - to the cops, to the prosecutors, and even to his own attorneys. Of course, if that first confession is false then the rest of them must be too - unless somehow he was innocent on June 3, 1993 but guilty later. Still, Misskelley’s serial confessions surely must give supporters pause. Has there ever been a case, anywhere, at any time, in the entire history of the judicial system, in which a wrongfully tried and convicted person so repeatedly confessed?

On June 11, 1993, a few days after confessing to police, and again on August 19, 1993, a few months before his trial, Misskelley confessed to his defense attorneys, Dan Stidham and Greg Crow. Coercion was not a factor in these confessions, so why did Jessie make them? According to Stidham, Jessie didn’t know what a defense lawyer was - he thought Stidham and Crow were working for the cops! I find this incredible, especially since Jessie and his father were, shall we say, no strangers to the criminal justice system.

More believable is that Stidham initially wanted to make a plea deal with prosecutors - and Jessie just went along with the plan. That was Stidham’s strategy until late September, 1993, when a private investigator working for Echols’ defense team convinced Stidham the confession was false, prompting a change in strategy: plead not guilty and argue that the cops coerced Jessie into confessing. And Jessie? Yep, he just went along with the change of plan.

Just how compliant is Lil J?

Breaking News: Jessie Misskelley admits to being the second gunman.

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FBI officials confirmed today that Lil Jessie Misskelley, the dumbass of the WM trio, has admitted to his involvement in the assassination of JFK. That Misskelley was born 12 years after the event in question is, officials concede, a mildly troubling discrepancy. Nevertheless, they insist that Lil J’s confession is fundamentally truthful. The following conversation took place between the FBI and Misskelley on 4-1-13:

FBI: Jessie, let’s go straight to that day - November 22, 1963. What happened on the grassy knoll?

Jessie: I ain’t never been on no glassy knoll.

FBI: Admit it, knucklehead! You’re the second shooter. Just confess and we’ll go easy on you. Now tell us what happened.

Jessie: When I was there, I saw Oswald shoot that man…

FBI: President Kennedy?

Jessie: Right. Then he started screwin’ him and stuff. And then I left.

FBI: Quit downplaying your involvement. Tell us the truth!

Jessie: The truth is, me and Oswald done it.

FBI: You shot Kennedy from the grassy knoll?

Jessie: Yeah, Oswald done shot him from that there book suppository building, then I done blowed his brains out from that there glassy knoll. Then I left.

FBI: What time were you there?

Jessie: To my knowledge, I’m gonna say midnight.

FBI: And when you say midnight, you mean noon, right?

Jessie: Right, I was there at noon.

FBI: What weapon did you use?

Jessie: Ah…I done blowed his brains out with a high-powered pea shooter.

FBI: And when you say pea shooter, you mean Carcano rifle, right?

Jessie: I’m gonna say, right.

FBI: Just how stupid are you?

Jessie: To my knowledge, I’m gonna say borderline retarded.

FBI: There’s no borderline about it, Lil Jessie Misskelley, no borderline about it at all.

[Note: Actually, it might not be so easy to pressure Jessie into confessing. Check out the December 10, 1993 statement Jessie made to Stidham and defense witness Dr. William Wilkins, in which Stidham and Wilkins try unsuccessfully to coerce Jessie into confessing to a bogus robbery.]

The false confession defense failed at trial: on February 4, 1994 Jessie was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years without the possibility of patrol. No sooner had Lil J stepped foot out of the courthouse than he was at it again, confessing anew to the cops, this time to deputies transporting him to prison. Here’s the incident report.

Of all Jessie’s confessions this one seems the most difficult to explain away. Supporters contend that the post-conviction confessions were motivated by Jessie’s desire for a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against Damien and Jason at their upcoming trial. But exactly when did prosecutors first approach Jessie about such a deal? Was it, ahem, between the time his sentence was read and when he stepped into the car transporting him to prison? Did prosecutors catch him in the hall on his way out the courthouse doors? Or did the feeble-minded Misskelley have enough sense to start angling for a reduced sentence before prosecutors approached him about it. (Maybe he’s savvier than his borderline retarded reputation would suggest - after all, the incident report says that “Jessie claims he has felt sorry for what has happened and talks as if he wants to testify against the other boys so they will not go free and to help himself.”) Whatever the case, Jessie returned to his original admission of guilt. And he did so, as far as I can tell, of his own volition. Nobody is coercing him to confess. Nobody has broached the possibility of a reduced sentence. Yet there he is, blabbing nonstop to deputies about his participation in the murders all the way from the courthouse to the prison. The question is, why?

We might also ask why Jessie confessed again a few days later, on February 8, 1994, in a private tape-recorded conversation with Stidham. Prosecutors got wind of Jessie’s patrol car confession and went to the prison with Stidham to talk to Jessie about it. Once there, Stidham insisted on talking to his client alone. Not only that, he had Jessie make the statement with his hand on a Bible. Here’s the opening exchange:

STIDHAM: Okay. Jessie, a few minutes ago I asked you about making some statements to the officers when they transported you from Piggott to Pine Bluff. You told me that you had told them some stuff. Is that Correct?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: And at first you told me that you were just making it up, that you were lying to them, and then you placed your hand on the Bible and told me that you were there when these boys got killed.

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Uh, what’s the truth, Jessie? I want to know the truth.

MISSKELLEY: The truth is, me and Jason and Damien done it.

STIDHAM: You were there when the boys were killed?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Now, what’s going to be very important is for you to tell me why it was that you have been maintaining that you weren’t there all this time?

MISSKELLEY: I was scared.

STIDHAM: What were you scared of?

MISSKELLEY: I always lied and I hadn’t ever put my hand on the Bible and swore. Nobody didn’t tell me to do that. If they would have told me that at first, I would have done it. Nobody told me to put my hand on the Bible.

STIDHAM: Okay. So basically, you’ve been lying to me and Mr. Crow for the past seven, or so months - about not being there when in fact you were there?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

So, at first Jessie told Stidham he’d lied to the deputies. Then he put his hand on a Bible and confessed. Hmmm. Given that Jessie was born and raised in the Bible belt, could it be that the Good Book holds some totemic power over Lil J’s feeble mind, compelling him to tell the truth? About 45 minutes later Stidham emerged from the room visibly upset and muttering “What am I going to do now?” Yep, Lil J had gone and done confessed again.

Of course, just because Jessie had his hand on a Bible doesn’t mean he was telling the truth. Indeed, although Misskelley’s Bible confession aligns more closely than before with the facts of the case, perhaps because he incorporated details gleaned from his trial into the story, some of what he says still lacks the ring of authenticity, particularly references to an enigmatic, unnamed man in black who presided over satanic cult meetings Jessie allegedly attended with Damien and Jason.

STIDHAM: What’s he look like?

MISSKELLEY: He’s tall, got black hair. He looks just like Damien.

STIDHAM: Mustache, beard?

MISSKELLEY: Mustache and a beard.

STIDHAM: He had a mustache and a beard?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh, at that time he did.

STIDHAM: How can he look like Damien, Damien doesn’t have a mustache and a beard?

MISSKELLEY: When he shaves it he looks like Damien.

Aha, the black-clad mystery man with no name is the spitting image of Damien - except for, ya know, the mustache and beard. Only when clean shaven does the shadowy nameless one resemble Damien, doncha know? A satanic cult leader who looks just like Damien, eh? Hmmm, could he be…oh, I don’t know - SATAN!

But wait, his name starts with an “M”:

MISSKELLEY: Murphy - no. I can’t remember. I can’t think of his name.

STIDHAM: Murray?

MISSKELLEY: It started with a M.

Perhaps he’s…oh, I don’t know - Mephistopheles!

STIDHAM: Murray Farris?

MISSKELLEY: Uh -

Aha, Murray Farris just might fit the description. Cult leader - check. Name starts with “M” - check. Wore a mustache and beard - check.

STIDHAM: Do you know who Murray Farris is?

MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating) I hadn’t never saw - I hadn’t ever heard that name.

Damn! The mystery continues. According to Jessie, Damien did Mr. Nōnàmé’s bidding. When Nōnàmé told Damien to do something, such as kill a dog or hurt a kid, by God Damien did it.

MISSKELLEY: No, he told Damien what to do - he always told Damien what to do.

STIDHAM: What did he tell Damien to do?

MISSKELLEY: He tells Damien, you know, go kill a dog, or - hurt a kid or something, and he’d do it.

Is Lil J’s hand still on that Bible? This sounds like horseshit. Damien strikes me as a guy who does nobody’s bidding but his own - unless, of course, that nobody happens to be - SATAN!

The Bible confession has its share of howlers. To wit:

STIDHAM: Who was carrying the beer?

MISSKELLEY: Damien.

STIDHAM: And he was carrying a stick in one hand and the beer in the other?

MISSKELLEY: Well, it was Jason. (inaudible)

STIDHAM: The beer?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh.

Wow, that beer sure changed hands quickly. First it was in Damien’s hand. Then - presto chango! - it was in Jason’s. I wonder how many beers they drank before the boys arrived. Didn’t they toss the cans away? Apparently not. The WM3 might be murderers, but at least they’re not litterers. No doubt after beating, raping, murdering, hogtying, and submerging the boys, they did the right thing by picking up and recycling their empty beer cans.

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STIDHAM: Did Damien and Jason get in the water?

MISSKELLEY: No.

STIDHAM: Damien and Jason get in the water?

MISSKELLEY: Yeah. Damien.

Damien and Jason didn’t get in the water…but Damien did. In the first confession both of them got in the water and took turns giving each other underwater blowjobs. One wonders: Did Damien give himself an underwater blowjob?

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STIDHAM: Let’s start from the point where you guys were walking on this trail off of the service road by Blue Beacon, what happens?

MISSKELLEY: What do you mean?

STIDHAM: I want you to tell me where ya’ll walked to and what you did. I don’t want to ask you whether you did this or this. I want you to tell me what happened?

MISSKELLEY: I still don’t understand.

Jessie’s asked “what happened?” and he says he doesn’t understand the question. What’s not to understand? Is Jessie incapable of telling the story without leading questions?

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STIDHAM: What was the boy wearing that you went and got and brought back?

MISSKELLEY: Uh - to my knowledge, I’m going to say, the one - I don’t know their names, you know, to my knowledge, the one that was wearing, uh, like a boy scout uniform. I don’t know, you know, that’s to my knowledge. That’s what one of them was wearing, I don’t know which boy.

Say what? Is it so hard to say “he was wearing a boy scout uniform” without sputtering and stammering incoherently? And, uh, I don’t know, but, I’m going to say, ah, to my knowledge…didn’t Jessie specifically identify the boy as Michael Moore in the first confession?

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STIDHAM: Okay, let’s start at right now, let’s go from, ya’ll are sitting there by this pipe drinking?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating)

STIDHAM: Then what happened?

MISSKELLEY: We hear some noise, me and Jason hid and Damien just sit there, and we hollered for Damien, you know - not real loud, but lightly, and Damien hid. Then that’s when them three little boys came out.

They hollered. Not loudly, mind you, but lightly. They, ahem, lightly hollered. In other words, they whispered - the opposite of hollering.

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STIDHAM: Well, what happened after everybody started hitting on the kids?

MISSKELLEY: Um, uh, Damien choked - I don’t remember which one.

STIDHAM: Now you know, you heard during the trial that the medical examiner said none of the boys were choked.

MISSKELLEY: He didn’t choke him - “choke choked.” Just, you know, just say like just hold their head and choked, not hard enough, just holding him.

In Lil J’s world, hollering isn’t really hollering and choking isn’t really choking. He didn’t choke choke him, he just kinda, ya know, choked him, but not in a hard way. By the way, what happened to the “big old stick” he used to choke the boy to death in the first confession?

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STIDHAM: How deep was the water that the boys got thrown into?

MISSKELLEY: I’m going to say deep, real deep.

STIDHAM: Over their heads - over your head?

MISSKELLEY: Yeah.

This statement would be absurd were Jessie not roughly the size of a hobbit.

Jessie also seems mighty confused about the topography of the woods and the surrounding area:

STIDHAM: Make an X where the dog track was.

MISSKELLEY: Dog track?

STIDHAM: Uh-huh. ‘Cause I’m going to write Boys Blue Beacon beside it. Now tell me where the Dog Track is?

MISSKELLEY: The Dog Track?

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STIDHAM: Okay. Now where does the interstate run?

MISSKELLEY: Interstate?

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STIDHAM: Where did you put a bridge at?

MISSKELLEY: The bridge?

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STIDHAM: Draw me the creek now.

MISSKELLEY: Creek?

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STIDHAM: Where’s this 76 Truck Stop?

MISSKELLEY: 76?

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STIDHAM: Okay, are there smaller pipes beside the bigger pipe?

MISSKELLEY: Uh - to my knowledge I don’t really know.

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STIDHAM: There’s the X. Now tell me where Blue Beacon is from that X.

MISSKELLEY: From that X?

STIDHAM: Okay. Make an “X,” a green “X” for me.

MISSKELLEY: Make a X?

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STIDHAM: Okay. You said over there in (inaudible)?

MISSKELLEY: I’m not too good with my - my -

STIDHAM: I’m going to make a X right here.

MISSKELLEY: I’m not too good with my - whatever you call it.

Great news! Stidham and Misskelley have taken their comedy routine on the road. For tickets to the duo’s next show, in which by popular demand they’ll perform their classic routine “Where does the X go?”, please call 1-800-CON-FESS.

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Still, the Bible confession contains the single most incriminating detail in all of Jessie’s confessions. Jessie says he was drinking Evan Williams whiskey on the evening of the murders and smashed the bottle under an overpass on his way home. Sure enough, Stidham and the prosecutors looked for and found just such a whiskey bottle under an overpass in the area, which seems to corroborate his story with actual physical evidence. Hold on a minute while I don my supporter hat. I see two possibilities: 1) Jessie made up the story about the whiskey bottle, and the fact that one was found under an overpass in the vicinity of the crime scene was a coincidence. If you drive under enough overpasses in the area chances are good you’ll find one, 2) Jessie indeed smashed a bottle under the overpass, but did so at another time and knew it would be there. Now let me doff the hat. Neither explanation is particularly compelling, so unless a supporter can come up with a better one, I’m placing the Evan Williams whiskey bottle on the “guilty” side of the ledger. By no means does this prove Jessie was involved in the murders. But it is…interesting.

On February 17, 1994, in defiance of the advice of his counsel, Jessie gave his final documented confession, twice stating that he was going ahead with the statement because “I want something done about it.” With Damien and Jason’s trial looming, Jessie was being pulled in two conflicting directions: prosecutors were dangling the possibility of a reduced sentence in front of him in exchange for testifying against Damien and Jason, while his defense lawyers were claiming new evidence could win him a new trial if he’d just stop confessing for a minute and start proclaiming his innocence instead. At the same time, Jessie’s father, affectionately known as Big Jessie or Big J or J Biggie, was urging Lil Jessie to listen to his lawyers. (If nothing else, it may be said of Lil J that he loves his Big Daddy J.) In the end, Jessie opted not to testify, recanted his confession(s), and has maintained his innocence to this day (though unsubstantiated rumors circulated in Arkansas for years about confessions to prison counselors). Apparently, he didn’t “want something done about it” quite badly enough.

So, why didn’t Jessie testify? Is he really innocent? Did Stidham coerce him into recanting? Did Jessie decide not to betray his partners in crime? Did Big Jessie threaten to ground him if he did? Was Lil Jessie simply too petrified to take the stand? Who knows, but I suspect he weighed the pros and cons of testifying and ended up doing what he thought was to his advantage. If so, I wonder why Damien and Jason still defend him. Why don’t they denounce him? After all, he not only (falsely?) implicated them in the first place, he probably would have thrown them under the bus had he thought it in his best interest to do so. Were I Damien, guilty or not, I’d kick his ass, if not sacrifice him to the Prince of Darkness.

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The following is an imaginary whispered conversation between Lil J and Damien “spawn of Satan” Echols during a photo shoot:

Damien (whispering): Hey dumbass, so how many times have you confessed now?

Jessie (whispering): To my knowledge, I’m gonna say I gone and done confessed ‘bout 100 times. And then I left.

Damien: Confess again and I’ll make you my next sacrificial offering to the Evil One. Understand, knucklehead?

Jessie: Yes, Master Damien.

Damien: So, shit for brains, why did you confess to the cops that first time?

Jessie: I just said what they wanted me to say. I told them I wasn’t there but they wouldn’t listen. They just kept on hollering at me and egging it on, saying I was there, but I wasn’t. After they kept egging it on, I figured in my head, well, they ain’t gonna stop until I say what they want to hear, so I finally said, okay, I was there and I done it, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.

Damien: Why did you confess to Stidham before your trial? Did your defense attorney coerce you into confessing too, dimwit?

Jessie:  To my knowledge, I don’t know. He raised his voice real loud. Then he hollered at me. Then he egged it on. Then I stood up and balled my fist. Then I left. To my knowledge.

Damien: Were you trying to get a plea deal, dumbbell?

Jessie: I don’t deal with no pleas. I tell about what I know. And I don’t tell about what I don’t know.  If I don’t know nothing, I don’t tell nothing. If I don’t know something, I don’t tell something. If I know nothing, I don’t tell something. If I know something, I don’t tell nothing. To my knowledge, that’s what I’m gonna say.

Damien: Later on, did Stidham coerce you into recanting, nitwit?

Jessie: I just said what he wanted me to say. I told him we was there, and we done it, but he wouldn’t listen. He just kept on hollering at me and egging it on, saying I wasn’t there, but I was.  After he kept egging it on, I figured in my head, well, he ain’t gonna stop until I say what he wants to hear, so I finally said, okay, I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it, but I was and I did.

Damien: Shhh! Keep your damn voice down, muttonhead! You just confessed again, numbskull!

Jessie: We didn’t have nothing to do with it. We don’t know nothing about it. We didn’t do nothing to those boys. We never committed no murder. We ain’t never been to no Robin Hood Hills. I didn’t chase down no boy. And I didn’t bring no boy back to you. And you didn’t kill nobody I didn’t bring back neither.

Damien: Shut the fuck up, you imbecile!

Jessie: Hollering people make me mad. Better not egg it on. I’ll pull a ball bat and I’ll pull a knife and I’ll pull a gun on you if you holler at me and egg it on and make me mad.

Damien: So nincompoop, why did you confess to the deputies transporting you to prison?

Jessie: To my knowledge, I didn’t say nothing to no deputies. Them deputies was lying ‘cause they don’t like me, ‘cause my name is Jessie Misskelley just like my Big Daddy. They don’t like Big Jessie and they don’t like Little Jessie neither. They was trying to send me up the river like they done to my Big Daddy.

Damien: Hey blockhead, you had just been convicted. They weren’t trying to send you up the river, they were taking you up the river.

Jessie: They said I confessed to what we done, but I didn’t say nothing about what we didn’t do, ‘cause I never talk to no deputies who say I done something when I didn’t do nothing.

Damien: Why did you confess to Stidham with your hand on the Bible, you ignoramus? You can’t deny that.

Jessie: I don’t deny nothing. I don’t deny nothing but the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God. Nobody never told me to put my hand on no Bible and swear to God to tell the truth about nothing, the whole nothing, and nothing but the truth about nothing. Or something. To my knowledge. The truth is, I don’t know nothing about nothing or nobody no more. And then I left.

Damien: Why did you confess to the prosecutors, against the advice of your counsel? Were you going to testify against me and Jason in exchange for a reduced sentence? Why didn’t you go through with it?

Jessie: The bottom line is this, my friend: I once was a pawn of the State, a cog in the wheels of injustice, a hapless victim caught in the labyrinthine mechanisms of an endemically corrupt system, a tragic figure trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare from which there was no escape. Then I left.