If you’re at all into the paranormal or supernatural you’ve heard the name Charles Fort. After all, his name has become synonymous with the study of anomalous phenomena, or “Fortean” phenomena. He basically invented the genre. Over the course of four books published towards the end of his life Charles Fort documented hundreds of cases of strange doings: fish falls, mysterious airships, teleportation, and much more, while arguing for a radically agnostic perspective on life and reality: we don’t know anything. But who was Charles Fort? Well he was a soft-spoken weirdo of a writer and a jokester, at times a quiet homebody and at others hopping trains and ships and travelling the world, even dueling a fellow in South Africa. More than anything, though, Charles Fort was a writer and a hell of a writer at that. He was an artist with a love of language who used language to break open people’s minds well before they were ready for it. Charles Fort absolutely rules.
Because we forgot to say it in the episode, our main source is Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented The Supernatural by Jim Steinmeyer. It’s great, go read it.
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Who the hell is Greta Garbo? From her alleged espionage endeavors with plans to assassinate Hitler to passionate secret lesbian romances, this Old Hollywood icon lived a life worth discussing (although she would hate that we are doing so). Her intense desire for privacy over fame led her to quit acting at a young age but that didn’t stop the media from being obsessed with her, particularly her dietary habits, love life, and the adventures she got into with her dietician Gaylord Hauser. Garbo is the paradox of a woman both revered and misunderstood, and you’ll never believe what she kept under her couch.
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We’re takin’ it a bit easy this week and talking about something close to home: vampires! Specifically, the so-called “New England Vampire Panic” of the 1800s. Before vampires were sexy, they were something else entirely: the reanimated corpses of your friends and family who preyed upon the living and threatened to pull entire communities down into the grave with them. In New England, and very especially in Rhode Island, this type of vampire haunted small villages all the way until the very end of the 1800’s. Meaning that even at the time of the “last New England vampire,” Mercy Brown, it was played for laughs in the papers. The truth though is that the blood-sucking living dead has always represented the fears that people deal with at any given time, and the macabre rites and rituals to combat the vampires represent our species-wide drive to do something, anything, to keep the illusion of control, even when we know it’s only an illusion.
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It finally happened, we lost our damn minds. In honor of No-Nut November, today’s episode will explore the concept of Semen Retention (aka gaining magic powers and solving all of life’s problems by not jerking off) by looking at online communities, exploring the religious foundations behind the idea, and speaking to two individuals who actually practice it.
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What do you think of when you hear the term “cybernetics”? Well there’s a solid chance you’re wrong. This week we’re taking a high level overview of an intellectual Swiss Army Knife that rewired the way we think about everything from economics to ecology, psychology to semiotics. In this episode, we’ll unravel the genius of Norbert Wiener, the surprisingly sympathetic mathematician who gave cybernetics its name and set the course for a science of control and communication. We also dissect the Macy Conferences, where mathematicians like John Von Neuman and anthropologists like Margaret Mead attempted to hash out a universal language for understanding systems across disciplines and may or may not have set the stage for things like, ya know, MK-Ultra and associated devils. Cybernetics is cool as hell though.
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