SPIRITUAL SOAP: Weird & Güd - The Business of Fear
Heads in vats & cows in streets: fear, the great inventor
Before we were The Black Sheep, we were a newsletter named Spiritual Soap. Please enjoy this article from our history!
I enjoy research too much and I’m a shameless critic. Weird & Güd is the conjoining of those misanthropic qualities into something useful: recommendations and fascinations neatly packaged together for you every week, no hermeticism required.
The android tramp stamp — a tell-tale sign of a life extension penny-pincher.
Eddie Jones, 1975. Cover art for We Can Build You, Philip K. Dick.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation — No, it’s not the villain in a sci-fi novel, it’s the real company in Arizona doing exactly what it sounds like — or at least, they intend to do what they offer once that offer, you know…exists. Not one to let reality curb their optimism (or bottom-line), Alcor will still behead your corpse and freeze it for you, just in case. If you’re a big Scientology-style-baller, freeze your whole corpse for $200k and maybe one day you can sneer at those losers who could only afford to freeze their heads.
The spirit of commerce finds a way where there’s a will (don’t let that pun go to waste), but placing your literal fate in the hands of business is an investment like any other — sometimes you lose. Most life extension companies have themselves perished. Cryogenic company bankruptcy means you lose the self-satisfied superlative of “cryonaut” and join a short but insane history of “suspension failures.” Cryonics today is relatively stable but the early days was a liquid nitrogen drenched Wild West — faulty equipment that lead to partial thawing, bodies refrozen after partial decomposition with only desperation left in the absence of science, relatives who lost faith as the bill for their deceased’s dreams became more real than reanimation.
One person’s peace is another person’s sci-fi plot.
For all my sarcasm and suspicion, I hold no ire against this fusion of faith and science. Cryonics is faith in science — faith to one day do what it cannot today. I’ve never met a cryonaut-to-be, but based on this actual quote from Alcor’s website, I think we could all let their optimism inspire us:
“…doomed is not the same as dead.”
In more ways than just DIY costumes, our great-grandparents lived what we make horror movies of today.
Halloween’s wild past — Anoka, Minnesota. It hasn’t done much, but it did host the first town-organized Halloween celebration. Parades, costume-making, trick-or-treating — all of these quaint Halloween activities are little more than bread-and-circuses to distract our great-grandparents from their preferred Halloween activity: absolute chaos.
Before 1930, Halloween was a rogue holiday. It came over from Ireland with a vague idea of who it was — a harvest-y, ghost-y, nighttime-y festival — but it had no parents to make sure it did homework and went to bed on time. With no rules to guide it (and no industries to commercialize it), Halloween went wild — wagons on roofs, cows released into town streets, church seats slathered with molasses (peak 1920s wild). This was mostly acceptable to our great-great-grandparents who had bigger things to worry about like dying of pretty much every imaginable disease and workplace danger.
This photo of 2 sisters on Halloween in 1910 might help you understand why it was almost banned.
It wasn’t until the kids really weren’t alright that Halloween was grounded; the mischief had escalated to arson and even assaulting pedestrians (in early 1900s flavor, the weapon was usually ashes or flour). One newspaper set the gold standard for “back in my day” lecturing — it advised the public to “load their muskets or cannon with rock, salt or bird shot…pepper them good and proper so they will be effectually cured and have no further taste for such tricks.”
So how did we go from shooting kids with muskets packed with whatever birdshot is to giving them candy? Never underestimate the power of the rebrand. Some politicians tried replacing Halloween with Youth Honor Day, Conservation Day, or UNICEF Day — all of which make assaulting strangers with flour sound wildly attractive. The answer to the question of influencing people was clear: bribery. Halloween’s wild past began to fade in 1965 — the year that candy and costumes became a $300 million industry. That is, except for long-suffering Detroit, who remained almost constantly on fire every Halloween for decades longer. Seriously, there are even graphs:
Who are we to judge? A minimum of 200 fires is a goal we can all aspire to.
Yes, the kids might’ve won this one — but hey, any day is a good day when your wagon isn’t on your roof, so maybe a Walmart-sponsored Halloween means we all win in the end.
The eternal fear of death and the undead — but make it fun!
I hope this makes your week a little weirder and a little güder. Now go forth, be weird, and above all, be güd.
I sit alone at a desk biting my nails to bring you every edition of Spiritual Soap. Is it worth it? Don’t tell me, show me.