An Update for the Spooky Season

Happy Halloween, beautiful watchers! After a long absence, I decided to stop by again to inform you of some changes that will occur here and on DeviantArt over the next few months.

First of all, as I may have mentioned before, I have a new story idea involving The Divine Conspiracy that comes in two parts. The first involves the Banks family traveling to Ireland to take down a resurrected Fomorian that threatens to bring massive death and destruction to the countryside. However, in the course of that story, Finvarra and Oonagh (the king and queen of fae beings and Ricky’s adoptive parents) are kidnapped by Serpent People and taken to the lair of the eldritch gods Yig and Tsathoggua, which lies deep under the catacombs of Paris. Thus, the Banks’ must recruit the services of a friendly commune of vampires, ghouls, and werewolves who live under the city to help rescue them.

If you’re wondering how the story involving the Wampanoag tribe is going, I deleted it from DeviantArt in the end because I didn’t feel it was up to my usual standards. Also, I felt too much cognitive dissonance in being a white guy writing a story involving a colonized culture I’ve never had any contact with, which didn’t help matters. Therefore, as a person who has Irish ancestry on my mother’s side, I felt it would be a better idea to write a story involving that culture instead.

That being said, though, trying to get started on the Ireland story is proving surprisingly difficult. Maybe the solution is not to jump into a new long-form story so shortly after the last one. I’ve been promising Divine Conspiracy character profiles for a while now, so it might be a good idea to finally get started on those.

Of course, given what I said about quitting WordPress in the last update post, you may wonder how that’s going. Well, I haven’t really done anything much on that front since, but that might change, given my recent change in employment status.

You see, the hardware store where I work has been experiencing an upheaval recently as my boss is in the process of transitioning away from one distributor and moving to another. With the financial shockwaves this has produced, the boss has decided to temporarily lay me off, as she can no longer afford to pay me.

Of course, this gives me plenty of free time to shop around other website builders to find out which one best suits my needs. I’ve been increasingly keeping my eye on Squarespace as of late, and many of their blogging templates look very appealing, so don’t be surprised if I make a new update post announcing a new website sometime between now and Thanksgiving.

There’s not much else to talk about, so I’ll leave it here for now. I’ll keep you posted in case any other changes come about. Until next time, friends!

I’m Thinking About Quitting WordPress

Hello, beautiful watchers! I’m sure I caught some of you by surprise last month when I suddenly came out of my break to launch into a bitter rant about how Warner Bros. was stripping HBO Max for parts to try to pull off what basically amounts to a tax fraud scheme. But yeah, I guess I’m back now, but not entirely.

For one thing, the Divine Conspiracy story I’m writing for DeviantArt is only half written so far. I’ve been struggling with this one, honestly. I think that mainly has to do with the fact that it is based on the mythology of the indigenous Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. I’m aware that Native Americans do not tend to take kindly to white people writing about their cultures in their fiction, for entirely understandable reasons. Indeed, the Wampanoag were among the first tribes in the continental U.S. to suffer at the hands of European settler-colonialists in the early 17th century. To be sure, I have done a lot of research to at least try not to get the stories wrong, and, barring a strongly worded letter from an actual Wampanoag tribesperson, I still intend to finish the story. Still, I think I’ll avoid involving indigenous Americans in my silly little fantasy stories in the future to prevent this kind of anxiety.

Another reason I’ve been posting less on this site recently is because I’m starting to think it may have been a mistake to set up my blog on this website in the first place. One of my biggest problems with this site is that it doesn’t feel very user-friendly to me. When you go to the blog’s main page, where it shows my most recent posts, it shows the entirety of the article instead of just a preview like on other blogs. This is a big problem since my articles can get pretty long, especially when it’s a topic I’m incredibly passionate about, like leftist politics and paranormal triangles and Watership Down.

Maybe it would help to share how I created this site in the first place. When my parents were gifting me books and blog posts on how to make money blogging, the one that really caught my eye was The Sassy Way to Starting a Successful Blog When You Have No Clue! by Gundi Gabrielle. I liked how it gave me a step-by-step method for creating a blog and introduced me to names like Namecheap and Inmotion Hosting, which was helpful for someone as indecisive as myself.

After almost three years, however, it doesn’t seem like PrestonPosits is going anywhere. In all that time, I think I’ve only gotten one comment that wasn’t blocked by my spam filter. Growth seems to be going at a snail’s pace if it’s even growing at all. And, as I said earlier, the site doesn’t feel very user-friendly. So what is this poor boy to do?

First of all, I should probably clarify that I am not interested in making money through blogging anymore. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s more that I don’t think I have a realistic chance in our hyper-stratified late-stage capitalist economy. That is unless I take the Gary Vaynerchuk route and spend the next ten years of my life working 15 hours a day, which… I’d honestly rather hang myself.

The morality of work is the morality of slaves, and the modern world has no need of slavery- Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness, 1932

As for where I might move PrestonPosits if I do decide to quit WordPress, I’ve been browsing around other website builders like Wix and Squarespace. Several content creators I follow on YouTube have talked a lot about Squarespace in particular in sponsorship segments, including Dominic Noble, Quinton Reviews, and Schafrillas Productions. True, they’re being paid to say all that stuff, but they still make the site sound intriguing, and they even built websites of their own on Squarespace, so it’s got to be good for something, right?

But what do you guys think? Am I jumping the gun on this one? Is there a way for me to improve this blog without moving it to a different site entirely? Are Wix or Squarespace or Bluehost any good? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

As always, stay safe and keep vaccinated, beautiful watchers, and stay tuned to my DeviantArt page to keep up with the latest Divine Conspiracy stories. Until next time!

I Need to Vent About the HBO Max Situation

Friday, August 19th, 2022- a date which will live in infamy for anyone who cares at all about animation. The animation section of the popular streaming service HBO Max was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the corporate forces of the empire of Warner Brothers Discovery.

Sadly, this unprovoked and dastardly attack was not entirely unexpected. On August 2nd, the company announced that it would cancel two original film projects, Batgirl and Scoob! Holiday Haunt, despite both films being well into the post-production phase of development. Indeed, the canceling of the latter was so abrupt that the studio date for recording the orchestral score had already been scheduled, so they recorded it even after the cancellation was announced.

Things only went downhill from there. The day after the cancellations were announced, HBO Max quietly removed all the HBO Max Original Films they had already made, as if in an Orwellian attempt to convince people that they had never existed in the first place. Then came the aforementioned August 19th purge, in which several animated/children’s shows were removed from the site, including but not limited to: The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo, OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, Victor and Valentino, Summer Camp Island, Little Ellen, Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart, Uncle Grandpa, Mighty Magiswords, Close Enough, and Infinity Train.

Also 200 episodes of Sesame Street, because David Zaslav hates inner-city kids, I guess.

The termination of the latter two is especially infuriating for many animation fans, myself included, especially for how both shows had to fight an uphill battle even to get distributed in the first place. Close Enough, created by J.G. Quintel of The Regular Show fame, was initially set to air on an animation block on TBS that included American Dad! and Final Space. That was ruined when a show on the same block that was to be produced by Louis C.K. was canceled in the wake of his sexual misconduct allegations. Fortunately, it found a home on HBO Max a month after the service launched in May 2020, only to be evicted a little over two years later.

Infinity Train, meanwhile, started as a pilot that premiered on the Cartoon Network App on November 1st, 2016. It quickly became the most viewed pilot on the network’s official YouTube channel, and a petition to turn the pilot into a full series garnered 57,000 signatures. Cartoon Network announced a full series in March 2018 that premiered in the form of ten eleven-minute segments (similar to Over the Garden Wall) in August 2019. After four seasons (out of a planned eight) where audiences were enthralled by the adventures of the passengers on the mysterious and gigantic train as the bizarre and impossible environments contained therein forced them to confront their psychological demons, the series was abruptly canceled in April of 2021.

Don’t be a worry, baby/No need to hurry, baby, when you’re with me/Just take it easy peasy/My little lemon squeezy/You’re always with me

Social media campaigns to #RenewInfinityTrain (which I participated in) went unanswered. Finally, on August 19th of this year came the final insult, when not only did HBO Max remove the series, Cartoon Network deleted the original pilot from Youtube, as well as the soundtrack. Series creator Owen Dennis even gave fans of the show his blessing to pirate the series in retaliation. Fortunately, as of the day I’m writing this (August 21st), the series is still available for download on iTunes… for now at least (also Amazon Prime, but I don’t think I’m willing to further enrich that Lex Luthor cosplaying ghoul that runs the company, personally).

As you can probably imagine, I’m not exactly pleased with what has been happening at Warner Brothers Discovery lately. HBO Max was rapidly becoming my favorite of all the streaming services I use, thanks to its variety. From new blockbuster releases and Studio Ghibli’s library to Cartoon Network and the Criterion Collection, there was no shortage of content for me to discover.

But then David Zaslav took over as CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery and decided to pursue several cost-cutting measures, among which were the aforementioned removals and cancellations. Many have accused Zaslav of outright tax fraud, as it is nakedly evident that he’s using these shows as tax write-offs as well as trying to get out of paying residuals to the people who made them. He’s also stated that he wants to focus more on theatrical releases and is no longer doing Max Originals.

To be honest, though, it’s not anger that I’m feeling in this situation so much as despair. As someone who wants to work in the creative arts and who wants The Divine Conspiracy to become an animated series one day, this, more than anything else, has rammed home how much the arts are devalued under our capitalist system. This, paired with Disney’s lackadaisical approach to queer representation (or outright hostility in the case of The Owl House) and the recent news that Barnes and Noble will be effectively barring new authors from selling books until they can prove they will be successful, shows how incompatible the profit motive is with artistic creation. Artists are held hostage to the whims of fickle CEOs like David Zaslav and Bob Chapek, who can kill a movie or T.V. show just as quickly as they can greenlight it.

Indeed, my mind keeps coming back to a line from a recent USA Today article about the bombing of the Georgia Guidestones, in which Christopher Kubas, executive vice president of the Elbert Granite Association, had this to say:

It’s unfortunate. There are people that think just because they don’t like it, that no one should have the opportunity to see it or experience it, and so they’re going to destroy it for everyone else.

Christpoher Kubas, quoted in “Destruction of the Georgia Guidestones, a monument puzzling from the start, has only heightened the mystery,” by Amanda Perez Pintado for USA Today, August 19th, 2022

That echoes my feelings on the situation with HBO Max, especially with shows as wonderful and creative as Infinity Train, Close Enough, and Victor and Valentino being tossed aside in one of the most nakedly capricious acts I’ve seen committed by a CEO in a creative industry outside of mainstream video games. It’s left me even more uncertain of my future as major corporations continue to make decisions that condemn us all to a future where neoliberal fascism continues to ruin everything we love.

Sorry, this post was such a downer, but I just needed to vent my frustrations. Hopefully the next one won’t be so dour. Until next time!

Taking Another Break

Is it weird to write another update post so soon after the last one? Whatever! It’s my website, and I can do what I want with it!

But yeah, much like last summer, I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a while to concentrate on writing Divine Conspiracy material on DeviantArt. I’m not planning to make this a yearly tradition; that’s just how the cookie crumbled both this year and last.

I don’t know how long I’ll be away working on the piece. Much like the “pilot” I released last year, this story focuses on the Banks family getting embroiled in a supernatural mystery, except this one involves them going out into the field alongside their fellow Templar knights. Specifically, they head to Massachusetts and team up with the local Wampanoag tribe to determine what’s behind the recent spike in activity surrounding the so-called “Bridgewater Triangle” and soon discover that it may have something to do with the long-buried mythology of the local indigenous tribes.

Writing this story is likely to take longer than the pilot, mainly because I’m writing this new story from scratch, unlike the pilot where I had an extensive rough draft to work off of. As such, I needed to take some time to do research, especially by reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes by anthropologist William S. Simmons. Simmons’ book proved especially helpful in informing me of the truth of the folktales the Wampanoag and their neighbors used to tell (or at least as much truth as can be ascertained given how fiercely the Puritans tried to stamp them out).

As for the blog, I’ll still check in regularly to empty the spam filter and update plugins whenever needed. I’m also hoping I might be able to squeeze in time to write another P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist or Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left entry while I’m at it. I’m also pretty eager to start that series on esoteric spirituality that I’ve been promising you guys for a while now. We’ll see how that turns out!

Also, if you’re wondering what’s going on medically, given how much I discussed that in the last update post, things are going just fine. That bad case of the flu is long past, and while it’s clear by this point that I definitely have hemochromatosis, we managed to catch it at the right time where I only needed three phlebotomies to get my iron back down to healthy levels, so no worries there! That’s all for now. Stay healthy, beautiful watchers!

P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist #7: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Virgin Steele

Thunder and blood rage on the wind/Spirits of vengeance collide/ Brother of mine, tyrant of air/I see the mark that you wear/For we are one!- Weeping of the Spirits

This entry in the “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist” series will differ from the previous entries. With those entries, I focused on single songs that resonated with me personally. With the band we will be discussing today, however, I can’t simply choose just one song because they are just that good! This is especially true of what I and many of the other lucky few that have gotten to experience this criminally underrated band consider to be their magnum opus: a trilogy of albums released throughout the mid-nineties exploring humanity’s relationship to the divine with over 40+ tracks of symphonic heavy metal delight.

But to understand what makes this album trilogy so unique, one must understand the band behind it. One of the unsung pioneers of the American power metal alongside Manowar, Helstar, Jag Panzer, and Riot, this group ground away in the metal underground of Long Island throughout the eighties. They recorded four studio albums and fought through lineup changes and folding record labels before finally finding their proper niche with their charismatic and eccentric frontman’s “barbarian romantic” vision in the Marriage trilogy. But how did the band get there in the first place?

Photo of the band’s 2001-2015 lineup from left to right: Guitarist Edward Pursino, drummer Frank Gilchriest, vocalist/keyboardist David DeFeis, and guitarist/bassist Josh Block

Virgin Steele’s story began in June 1981 when guitarist Jack Starr and drummer Joey Ayvazian sent out auditions for a lead singer to help them start a heavy metal band. David DeFeis, a recent graduate of S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, answered the ad with his friend, bass player Joe O’Reilly.

DeFeis had grown up with an artistic family; his father owned a Shakspearian theater company, and his sister was an opera singer. DeFeis himself had grown up listening to classical music throughout his childhood and was introduced to rock through the band Stalk, featuring his older brother and sister on keyboards and vocals, respectively. He even started his own band, Phoenix, when he was only eleven. DeFeis and O’Reilly auditioned successfully, even though Starr’s group already had a bass player named Kelly Nickels. Nickels was fired, as the band judged him to have inferior skills to O’Reilly’s, and subsequently moved to Los Angeles and, after honing his craft, found success with the band L.A. Guns.

The band recorded their self-titled debut album in only a week that December and self-released it the following April. They had previously released the song “Children of the Storm” on the Shrapnel Records compilation U.S. Metal Vol. II, which was positively received by fellow up-and-coming metal bands Metallica and Queensryche. Virgin Steele and Metallica even became labelmates when the British company Music for Nations signed them, alongside bands like W.A.S.P., Manowar, and Mercyful Fate.

After the release of their second album, Guardians of the Flame, in June of 1983, Starr left the band due to creative differences with DeFeis. Starr preferred straightforward anthems, while DeFeis wanted to do more elaborate and classically inspired compositions. The former would form the band Burning Starr, while the latter brought on new guitarist Edward Pursino, who he had known since forming a Black Sabbath cover band named Mountain Ash in high school.

This lineup recorded two albums that would later be regarded as underground classics: Noble Savage, released in 1985, and Age of Consent, released in 1988. Despite joining bands like Manowar and Black Sabbath on tour, the band went into a semi-hiatus for a few years as music industry bullshit started wearing them down. DeFeis claims that “our manager made a royal mess of our career, both financially and spiritually. With other legal problems rearing their ugly heads, we didn’t record another album until ’92.” By that time, Joe O’Reilly had become disillusioned and quit the music industry altogether.

The band subsequently recruited Teddy Cook (of Dio and Great White fame) and Rob DeMartino (who had previously formed a blues-rock group called Smokestack Lightning alongside DeFeis and Starr) to record the bass track for their 1992 album Life Among the Ruins.

The album was somewhat poorly received by fans at the time, as it had ditched the epic power metal leanings of the band’s eighties output in favor of a bluesy glam metal sound heavily inspired by Whitesnake. However, while touring in Europe in support of the album, DeFeis was seized by a sudden wave of creativity that led him to produce the trilogy of albums that would secure Virgin Steele’s cult status as underground metal legends.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Faster and faster, on nightmares we ride/Who’ll take the reins when the miracle dies?- Blood and Gasoline

I should probably start by saying that The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is not based on the 1793 book of the same name by William Blake, despite what Wikipedia might tell you. DeFeis has insisted in several interviews (including this one) that he was unaware of any book by that name when he recorded Part I. He was more familiar with Blake’s collection of poems titled Songs of Innocence and Experience. It was drummer Frank Gilchriest who made the connection when he joined in the middle of recording the second album (Joey Avayzian had retired from the music industry to pursue a career as an inventor).

When asked in the same interview why the albums seem to have the same themes as the book despite not being influenced by it at all, DeFeis had this to say:

I was thinking of opposites. I just wanted to have this reconcilliation of opposites, and I thought, “What’s the most obvious thing you can try and have a union of?” And it was Heaven and Hell, and that’s where the title came from.

David Defeis, Interview with Mark Diggins for The Rockpile, June 30th, 2014

Opposites are also a major theme in Blake’s Marriage. As Blake famously wrote:

Without contraries there is no progression.
Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence.
From these contraries spring what religions call good and evil.
Good is the passive that obeys reason. Evil is the active springing from energy.
Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

Blake was saying that the binary sense of morality that humans had developed (and had been enforced by organized religion) was stifling their growth. They needed to recognize that human nature should not be restrained to please uncaring institutions and that divinity and humanity are not separate from one another.

The Story
Bury me beside the endless sea/Raise my ashes to the wind/Remember things I conquered in my time/Quench my funeral pyre with wine- Crown of Glory (Unscarred)

A similar story can be perceived throughout DeFeis’ Marriage. The story of the album trilogy revolves around Endymion and Emalaith, two messianic figures struggling against a pantheon of uncaring and capricious deities and the earthly authorities who serve them. As David puts it in this interview, the names Endymion and Emalaith came from “a name that conjures up images of forests, pagans, beauty, ruins, and desolation, along with a yearning for a love beyond the grave.” While Emalaith appears to be entirely DeFeis’ own creation, he almost certainly took the name Endymion from a figure in Greek mythology who bore fifty sons to Selene, the goddess of the moon, who later put him into an eternal sleep as she couldn’t bear the thought of him dying.

DeFeis’ Endymion, on the other hand, is placed in a story that plays out like a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Admittedly, a lot of the following story I perceived comes from my own interpretations, as Invictus is the only album in the trilogy that actually tells a linear narrative, according to Dave. Even so, I think you could make a case that the trilogy as a whole does tell a cohesive story.

Part I (released in December of 1994) begins with Endymion and Emalaith running from the secret police of their theocratic government in the opening track, “I Will Come For You.”

Once we had beauty,
Our sun blazed in passion!
We lived a life!
Far from the reaching
Of close-minded preaching,
We lived and died!

Now all in darkness, we wait for the end,
Hunted by men of the cloth.
Murder and torture, they rape and they slaughter,
Claiming the way of the cross!

As Endymion wanders the postapocalyptic landscape that the theocracy has left in its wake, he vows, “under tortured skies, from a land with no sun, I will come for you!” As he searches for where they are keeping Emalaith prisoner, Endymion is harassed by visions telling him that he is either destined to destroy the gods’ despotic rule over the Earth or that he is doomed to die an insignificant death in the wasteland.

Endymion is finally tracked down and captured by the theocracy. Unbeknownst to them, though, they end up imprisoning him at the same facility where Emalaith is being held. Taking advantage of one of his visions, Endymion plans their escape around the outbreak of the final apocalyptic battle (most likely Ragnarok, given the numerous references to Norse mythology in Part II) between the gods, depicted in the song “Blood of the Saints”:

London is mine, New York and Paris shall fall!
One ring to rule in darkness to bind them all!
Come to me now, a moth to the flame,
Burning your eyes as you stare
With the Blood of the Saints!

But as the two lovers make their escape amidst the chaos, giggling excitedly about a “Life Among the Ruins,” Emalaith is killed, likely by the gods, in order to drive Endymion into despair. Instead, he declares himself the new messiah and swears vengeance on all who ruined the world in the name of their vicious gods.

Part II (released in December of 1995) sees the battle of Ragnarok raging on Earth as the various gods fight for their privilege to do with humanity as they please. Endymion gathers followers to help him in his crusade while simultaneously going on a journey in the spiritual realms to learn the secrets of the gods to fight them better. He befriends the god Prometheus, tortured by the gods who now fight the battle of Ragnarok for showing kindness to man, and even finds a way to communicate with Emalaith from beyond the grave. Along the way, he makes the critical discovery that good and evil are not as binary of a concept as he thought they were and declares open war on the gods and all who aid them.

The final album, Invictus (released on April 15, 1998), follows Endymion and his army as they battle for their right to live as they choose in a world without gods. Along the way, the gods send numerous challenges to trip Endymion up, including their own army of human loyalists led by a new antagonist called the Red Queen and a magical artifact called the Sword of the Gods that tempts Endymion into using his newfound powers for evil. They even manage to kill Endymion at one point and send him to Purgatory. The powers he gained during his spiritual journeys manage to resurrect him, however, and he leads his army over deserts and frozen tundras to the home of the gods. Endymion slays the guardian of the Red Queen, despite it being “seven rivers wide” (yikes), and finally destroys the gods once and for all, proclaiming to his followers with his dying breath, “I crown us kings!”

My Twelve Favorite Tracks from the Marriage Trilogy (In No Particular Order)
I sing of power, magic, and truth/A sonnet of pure victory/A hymn to the spirits of magic and grace/And whichever gods there may be/Manacled, beaten, blackened and burned/Cast from the light of the goal/I’ll never falter, stumble, or kneel/Thanks to the strength of my soul!- Invictus

Before I talk about my favorite tracks from the trilogy, I should probably elaborate on what David DeFeis is talking about when he refers to his music as “barbarian romanticism.” DeFeis himself describes it this way in the official biography on the band’s website:

From a whisper to a scream; barbaric, romantic, bombastic, yet subtle; grandiose, yet earthly. A call, a shout, an invocation to freedom and the continual awakening to the awareness that every moment of life is lived to it’s fullest potential. It is a force, a sacred quest which drives Virgin Steele on!!!

David DeFeis, “Biography” on The Official Virgin Steele Homepage

Put more simply, it is a form of symphonic power metal that aims for an emotionally complex sound, with lyrics that are equal parts based on myth and legend (mainly Greek, Norse, Abrahamic, and Mesopotamian) as well as DeFeis’ own real-life experiences. Compare this to fellow New York power metallers Manowar, whose music focuses more on the over-the-top manliness inherent to sword and sorcery type fantasy. I’m not saying that makes them bad in any way; I’m just saying that it kind of makes me scratch my head when Virgin Steele is referred to as “the poor man’s Manowar.”

To explain what I mean, let us briefly examine twelve songs from the trilogy and see what makes them tick:

1. I Will Come for You

Starting Part I with a bang, this symphonic metal masterpiece is a prime example of DeFeis’ barbarian romantic style. Starting almost immediately with only a short instrumental intro, DeFeis immediately starts off his tale of gods and heroes, perfectly showing off the mythological and personal nature of his lyrics:

Whose god is stronger? Who's made by his hand?
Primitive blood stains the sand!
Murder and torture; they're raping your daughter,
Drunk with the blood of the Lamb!

It also demonstrates the band’s softer side about three minutes in as the band slows down to introduce the beautiful “Marriage of Heaven and Hell Theme” that recurs throughout the trilogy, most notably in the same-titled tracks that occur at the end of all three albums.

2. Trail of Tears

This track from the exact midpoint of the album is mainly a mid-paced groove with a faster middle section, featuring DeFeis lecturing an authority figure about the choices they’ve made, the numerous people that have suffered because of it, and how their choices may come back to haunt them someday.

Ask and you won't be forgiven.
This is a blessing in disguise.
All of your choices are spoken.
You've killed the child in my eyes.
I'm gonna see you burn!

When in some dark distant future,
You'll meet my presence in a song.
You'll punch the walls in frustration.
Can you hear my voice and say I'm wrong?
I'm gonna see you burn!

Indeed, with a title like “Trail of Tears,” it’s hard for me not to think that this might be DeFeis’ commentary on America’s treatment of its indigenous population, including by forcing their religion on them. The “you killed the child in my eyes” line especially reminds me of the boarding schools where Native children were abused in the name of “killing the Indian to save the man.”

3. I Wake Up Screaming

This song takes more of a traditional speed metal type of sound. It features DeFeis angrily ranting at the powers that rule over his society, accusing them of trying to strip him of his individuality and make him conform to a broken system run by people who don’t care about those lower than them in the social hierarchy (“All your promises are broken/I think you just want to bury me!”). I can definitely relate to the title of this song in an age when multiple system-wide failures are rapidly closing in on our current society, and our political leaders seem either unwilling or unable to try and stop it.

4. Life Among the Ruins

Another traditional metal track with some symphonic touches, this song reminds us to look for the beauty in life even when everything seems to be falling apart around us, for it is often that hidden beauty that inspires us to push onward even when everything seems to be going wrong.

You are a rose! You are a blade!
I'm down on my knees in the dark in the fiery reign!
You are a rose! You are a blade!
I challenge you to love my bride of pain!
5. Crown of Glory (Unscarred)
I'll never die while the light races over my head;
I can see where we are.
Why must you cry for the life you are leaving behind?
Crown of glory unscarred!

The second track from Part II reads almost like the band’s mission statement. It calls out to the listener to get up and make something of themselves and to stand up against authority figures, both in this world and the next, who would prevent them from doing so. It also provides this verse, which one could consider the trilogy’s thesis statement:

What was forbidden now is open,
The golden apples of the sun.
All that's alive consider holy! Holy! Holy!
Body and soul are reconciled.
And Heaven and Hell, remember their love,
And every road leads me to you! To truth!

Indeed, this might be one of my favorite songs of any genre. It just fills me with a desire to run out into the world to right all the wrongs and knock the daylights out of anyone who tries to stop me.

6. Prometheus (The Fallen One)

It’s hardly a surprise that DeFeis decided to include the story of mythology’s most famous martyr (besides Jesus) in his story about divine injustice. It’s also probably not a surprise that it is an epic track full of galloping guitar riffs, symphonic flourishes, and soaring vocals (including an impossibly high shriek in the atmospheric Middle Eastern-influenced intro that almost puts Rob Halford to shame). However, the epicness of this track still pales in comparison to the one that comes right after it.

7. Emalaith

This track is often considered one of Virgin Steele’s best. It is often considered the one best representative of DeFeis’ barbaric-romantic vision, alongside “The Burning of Rome (Cry for Pompeii)” and “Perfect Mansions (Mountains of the Sun)” (both from Age of Consent). It goes through several different musical shifts throughout its ten-minute runtime. It starts with a soft, keyboard-heavy intro with crooning vocals before launching into a more direct heavy metal assault. This song goes harder than any other song on the album in terms of symphonic elements, even quoting from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor at one point. It definitely succeeds in DeFeis’ goal of portraying “a love from beyond the grave.”

8. Victory Is Mine

The penultimate track from the album is more of a straightforward metal anthem celebrating the spirit of revolutionary fervor (“I will run to the hills where you hide/Seeking vengeance for all of my kind!”). It boasts one of Ed Pursino’s best riffs, and Joey Avayzian’s performance on drums was a great note on which to end his tenure with the band. It also dramatically foreshadows the change in tone as the story moves into its third and final act.

9. Invictus

The title track on the third and final album of the trilogy immediately shows us that things will be different this time around. The production is much gritter than the often soaring acoustics of the previous two albums, possibly to signal that we’ve reached the ugly part of the story, where the final battle to free humanity from their uncaring gods has commenced. Even so, the epic factor has not diminished. Pursino’s riffs are still excellent, and DeFeis’ lyrics have grown extra-defiant as his character Endymion confronts God Himself and calls him out for his mistreatment of humanity. It brilliantly sets the tone for the rest of the album.

10. Mind, Body, Spirit

This song plays out like a heavier version of the title track of Noble Savage. In addition to both tracks being seven-and-a-half minutes long, they both feature pounding metal for the first four-and-a-half minutes and an extended symphonic outro where the guitars are almost nonexistent. The main difference between the two tracks is that M.B.S. is far less melodic, taking more inspiration from thrash metal in its main riff. Despite that, it’s still a worthy song and well worth a listen.

11. Defiance

This is another candidate for one of my favorite songs of all time, though not so much for Pursino’s guitar work or DeFeis’ snarling vocals. It’s mainly due to the lyrics, which, appropriately enough, consist of some of the most uncompromising “Fuck authority”-type lyrics I’ve ever heard in a song this side of Rage Against the Machine. I especially love this little speech Dave gives as the band drops out in the middle of the song to let him have the stage to himself:

Now turn to face me, great despot enshrined.
The wealth of our years of injustice has purchased this night.
I take your power! I slay your clan!
Clouds and furies now fly in the face of despite.
I take your power! I look in your eyes!
Watch! See! See how a god... DIIIIEEEES!!!
12. Veni, Vidi, Vici

Closing out the trilogy is the longest song on all three albums, running at a total of 10:44. It is the culmination of all of Endymion’s struggles as he finally leads his army into the home of the gods and banishes them from the mortal realm once and for all. It features another contender for one of Ed Pursino’s best riffs and a truly epic vocal performance from Dave, including his beautiful falsetto cry of “I crown us kings” at the end. It’s a true masterpiece of power metal magic.

After the Marriage
I rise across the ocean, cast a magic spell/Armed with the power of life, death, and Hell/Charmed with magic, divine my skin/Your lion knoweth nothing of where I begin/Serpent’s bite, sovereign might/Shakes with the power of my works/Unending fire, pains conspire/I stole the secret of God’s…ineffable name!- The Ineffable Name

DeFeis didn’t slow down his rock opera productions one bit after completing the trilogy. He immediately followed it up in 1999 and 2000 with The House of Atreus, a two-part album series based on The Orestia, a trilogy of Greek plays written by Aeschylus in the 5th century B.C.E. The story follows the trials endured by King Agamemnon’s family in the aftermath of the Trojan War, including Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of Queen Clytemnestra, her murder at the hands of their son Orestes, and Orestes’ subsequent torment by the Erinyes (aka Furies) and trial. The two albums combined include a total of almost three hours’ worth of music, yet it never gets boring once. Particular highlights include the epic opening track “Kingdom of the Fearless (The Destruction of Troy),” the ominous “Through the Ring of Fire,” the pounding swagger of “Agony and Shame,” the majestic “Fire of Ecstasy” and “Flames of Thy Power (From Blood They Rise),” and the epic finale “Resurrection Day.”

The next proper studio album didn’t come out until September 2006. The band did release two albums called The Book of Burning and Hymns to Victory in 2001 to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but those were simply compilations (albeit the former featuring re-recorded older tracks and rarities). The next proper studio album was titled Visions of Eden and was another mythological rock opera, this time centering on the story of Lilith, Adam’s first wife. She turns out to be too independent for Adam’s liking, so he trades her for the more submissive Eve. Lilith is banished and tormented by the Demiurge who created her for messing with his divine vision, eventually creating the demonic spirit of vengeance we are all familiar with today.

This album has divided Virgin Steele fans thanks to the obvious shift in the band’s sound, which shifted to a much darker and low-register tone, perhaps owing to their new guitarist, Josh Block, preferring seven-string guitars. Not helping matters was that the songs have become much longer. None are under five minutes, and the longest one (“Adorned with the Rising Cobra”) lasts just shy of ten. Personally, I enjoy this album, even if it somewhat overstays its welcome as its 79-minute runtime draws to a close. I like to imagine it as a prequel of sorts to the Marriage trilogy, with the Demiurge of this story eventually being the main villain of Endymion’s tale. Highlight tracks include “Immortal I Stand (The Birth of Adam),” “The Ineffable Name,” “Angel of Death,” “God Above God,” and “Visions of Eden.”

Sadly, the band would only double down on the worse aspects of Visions… as the years went on. Their next album, 2010’s The Black Light Bacchanalia, made it clear that the band was starting to lose itself in DeFeis’ growing artistic insanity. His vocal choices are particularly bizarre; most of the time, he sticks to his lower range, only occasionally leaping out of a soft croon to deliver a sudden castrato wail like at the beginning of “Prometheus.” Not to mention the bloated track lengths continue here. Much like Visions…, there are eleven songs covering almost eighty minutes, only two lasting less than five minutes and the rest lasting between six and eleven (!) minutes. There are some good tracks here (“By the Hammer of Zeus (And the Wrecking Ball of Thor),” “Pagan Heart,” and “In a Dream of Fire”), but they get less frequent as the album goes on.

Things didn’t get much better with the next album, 2015’s Nocturnes of Fire and Damnation. First of all, longtime drummer Frank Gilchriest is nowhere to be seen, having apparently been replaced by a drum machine. Second, Dave overcompensated for his lackluster delivery on the Bacchanalia by leaping all over the place on his vocal range, packing his vocal tracks to the brim with piercing shrieks. This gets annoying, especially since the vocals are mixed way too high in the final tracks, and he sounds like a parody of himself most of the time. Ed and Josh do their best with good guitar material, but Dave’s overly bombastic performance ultimately drags them down. The only song on the album that manages to make it out with some dignity intact is “Persephone,” thanks to David at least managing to rein himself in a bit more. “Lucifer’s Hammer” almost reaches its level until Dave’s overly expressive vocals pull it down. So yeah, this album wasn’t much to write home about.

The band also released a five-album box set in 2018 called Seven Devils Moonshine. Granted, two of said albums are just reissues of Hymns to Victory and Book of Burning, but I haven’t had the courage to listen to anything on the other three albums since they just seem to confirm that David DeFeis is continuing to lose himself in his own ego.


So yeah, it kind of ended on a downer note there. But that’s not to say the band isn’t worth listening to. It’s only because of their run of albums from Marriage Part I to Visions of Eden being so good that their run of albums from the last fifteen or so years feels so disappointing. Maybe the band has its own Death Magnetic waiting in the wings for some future date, but that seems increasingly unlikely at this point.

But still, even if the band’s descent into mediocrity continues, David DeFeis can rest assured that he still gave The Marriage of Heaven and Hell trilogy to the few like myself who have been lucky enough to witness its majesty firsthand, lighting a fire in our bellies to create our own works of art and fight back against the authority figures in our life who clearly care nothing for our well-being. So from me to you, Dave, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you, and may you have long days and pleasant nights conducting your symphony of Steele.

Watch us fly! On wings of glory/For the twilight hour’s come/Here we ride! On wings of fire/For the judgment of the gods- Twilight of the Gods

A Very, Very Sick Update Post

Hello, everyone. You may have noticed that my upload schedule has recently become a lot slower on the blog. There are a few big reasons for this.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’ve wanted to devote more energy to The Divine Conspiracy on DeviantArt. That is certainly true, as I have been writing a new story centering on the Bridgewater Triangle and how the urban legend intersects with indigenous Wampanoag mythology. Progress has been slow, mostly because I’ve been reading the book Spirit of the New England Tribes to understand their spiritual traditions better.

But that’s far from the only reason progress has been slow. For one thing, I recently decided to have myself tested for hemochromatosis, or iron overload in the bloodstream. My Dad has the disorder, and with all the tests I’ve been subjecting myself to (blood tests, MRIs), it’s increasingly likely that he passed it down to me. Fortunately, the disorder is easy enough to treat. Dad takes care of his by frequently donating blood. A doctor also informed me that eating red meat also contributes to iron buildup, so I’ve been wondering lately if going on a mostly vegetarian diet would help at all (I say “mostly” because, while I don’t have much of an appetite for most meat products these days, I’m not sure I’m ready to give up cheeseburgers or meat lover’s pizza).

On top of that, I also came down with a nasty cold this week that has left me more exhausted than I have ever felt in recent memory. Mom and I believe it is influenza, mostly because it is definitely a lot worse than most colds I’ve had even though a COVID test I took yesterday came out negative. Either way, yesterday morning was an absolute slog. I got up to eat breakfast, only got halfway through because my appetite just wasn’t there, and went back to bed for the next five hours. You can imagine that I didn’t have the energy to stand up, let alone write anything.

The good news is that I’m pretty sure Thursday morning was rock bottom for me, and now there’s no way to go but up. You can likely expect a new post on the blog sometime next week or the week after. There won’t be a big birthday retrospective like the one I did for Watership Down last year, and it won’t be about that TV series I hinted at in previous update posts.

For those who are curious, I was referring to The Shannara Chronicles, based on the Shannara series by Terry Brooks. I remember seeing the first season of the show back when it first aired on MTV and being profoundly disappointed in the choices the series creators made. However, I couldn’t find any streaming services that offered it for free. I especially did not want to pay $17.99 to watch it on Amazon Prime and end up lining that vampire Bezos’ pockets.

Seriously, he should be paying me to watch his streaming service with all that money he’s making!

Instead, this year’s mini-retrospective will be about a very underrated heavy metal band that is almost as near and dear to my heart as Terry Brooks’ books are. I won’t say which one just yet. Just keep a lookout for it in the near future.

And that’s everything I wanted to discuss with you guys today. Remember to wash your hands and keep your masks on because we may be done with COVID, but COVID sure as hell isn’t done with us! Until next time, friends.

So I Just Watched Making a Murderer…

…and it certainly took me on a roller coaster ride, especially regarding its main subject.

(Trigger warning for those sensitive to violent crime topics: this article will contain mentions of such subjects and some brief references to pedophilia.)

This documentary series, which served as one of the earliest Netflix original programs, generated a storm of controversy when it first premiered in December 2015, thanks to its shocking accusations of police corruption and misconduct in the trial of Steven Avery.

Season 1
Police diagram of the site of Penny Beerntsen’s assault

Before we explore that controversy, a little background: Steven Allan Avery was a resident of Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, who grew up in a family that was widely viewed as the redneck black sheep of the community. Nevertheless, his father owned a successful auto salvage business that kept his family fed.

Avery’s calm rural existence was shattered in July of 1985 when he was sentenced to thirty-two years in prison for the rape and attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, despite eyewitnesses corroborating his alibi of being in Green Bay at the time. He was released after 18 years when DNA evidence proved that the rape had actually been committed by Gregory Allen, another local man who bore a striking resemblance to Avery and had a history of violence against women. A vengeful Avery decided to sue the Manitowoc County police department for $36 million and was even the primary inspiration for new Wisconsin state legislation to decrease the likelihood of future wrongful convictions.

But, to paraphrase the words of Michael Corleone, just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. On Halloween of 2005, a local photographer named Teresa Halbach went missing, and a search party found her Toyota RAV4 in the auto salvage junkyard a few days later. Police searched Avery’s property and claimed to have found Teresa’s bones in the remains of a bonfire Steven had held on Halloween. They later found the key to the RAV4 in Steven’s bedroom, and Steven was arrested and tried for her murder. When his nephew, Brendan Dassey, confessed to helping his uncle kill Teresa and dispose of her corpse, things became even bleaker for Steven. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, while Dassey (only 17 at the time of his sentencing) was ineligible for parole until 2048.

Steven and Brendan’s defense teams pointed to numerous inconsistencies in the prosection’s evidence, including but not limited to:

  • It seemingly took multiple searches of Steven’s property to find enough evidence to incriminate him (I think the key wasn’t discovered until the sixth search, if I’m not mistaken).
  • Steven’s lawyers questioned why Steven didn’t use the compactor in the junkyard to dispose of the RAV4 and how he would be stupid enough to leave Teresa’s bones lying around on his property.
  • The lawyers also questioned how little of Steven’s blood was found inside the RAV4, especially when they found a vial of Steven’s blood collected from his previous conviction that looked like a hypodermic needle had punctured it. This was possibly disproven by the prosecution when analysis proved that there was no EDTA (a preservative added to blood samples to prevent coagulation) in the sample.
  • Brendan Dassey’s confession was also thrown into question, thanks to the coercive tactics his interrogators used and Dassey’s intellectual and developmental disabilities (he scored in the seventies on an IQ test), which the defense argued made him highly impressionable.
Interim and Reactions
Photo of Teresa’s RAV4 as it was found in the Avery Auto Salvage Yard

I’ll admit that I was fully convinced that Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey had been framed by the last few episodes of the first season. However, as I looked at some other articles about the incident, I learned about certain troubling facts of Avery’s past that the miniseries’ directors, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, had conveniently left out.

They did talk about some morally questionable things Steven had done before his 1985 conviction. For example, in January of that year, he ran his first cousin off the road and threatened her with a gun after she accused him of masturbating in her direction. They also brought up an incident from 1982 where Avery and a few friends horrifically murdered a cat by pouring gasoline over it and dropping it on a fire (which the documentary frames as an accident) and his burglary of a bar the year before. Avery dismisses it in the first episode by saying that he “was young and stupid and hanging out with the wrong people.”

Somewhat less defensible is the fact that Steven wrote letters to his first wife threatening to murder her, especially when she told Steven she wanted a divorce. He is also alleged to have told another prisoner that he planned to create a torture chamber with which to spirit away female victims. He even bought handcuffs and leg irons shortly before Teresa’s murder, which he claimed was for his then-girlfriend Jodi Stachowski. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Stachowski (who was featured in the first season) later claimed that Steven threatened to kill her if she said anything that made him look bad and had been physically abusive in the past.

Not even members of his own family were allegedly safe from Avery’s depredations. A female relative claimed that Avery had raped her in 2004 and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone. Also, Brendan Dassey later claimed that Steven had touched him in ways that made him uncomfortable, so there’s that too.

That being said, that still doesn’t mean the prosecution is totally innocent either. There are clearly several holes in their arguments. For instance, Dassey originally claimed that Teresa had been murdered in Avery’s bedroom, despite there being no blood anywhere in the room. Their alternate theory that Teresa was murdered in Avery’s garage is also questioned by his attorneys, who question how Avery could have been thorough enough to scrub all of her DNA from the garage and the junk inside and still not think to dispose of her bones. On top of all that, the Manitowoc County sheriff’s department clearly had a conflict of interest in involving themselves in Avery’s case (so much so that his trial took place in neighboring Calumet County). Yet, they were the ones who searched Avery’s property and found all the evidence the prosecution used.

Season 2

The second season, released in December of 2018, mainly follows Kathleen Zellner, an attorney specializing in wrongful convictions, as she tries to build a case for Avery’s innocence. At the same time, we follow Brendan Dassey’s new attorneys as they battle for appeals all the way to the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court.

All the while, Zellner digs up new inconsistencies in the prosecution’s evidence, including but not limited to:

  • The idea that the police did not take Steven’s blood from the vial that his attorneys originally found but from Avery’s bathroom sink after he bled into it from a cut on his middle finger (possibly supported by marks from a crowbar on Avery’s front door).
  • Zellner also managed to gain access to a bullet found in Avery’s garage that allegedly had Teresa’s D.N.A. on it, arguing that if Avery had fired it through Halbach’s skull as the prosecution claimed, there should be bone fragments embedded in it. Instead, forensic investigators only find wood fragments and a waxy substance that Zellner suspects to be Halbach’s lip balm (thus suggesting where Teresa’s D.N.A. came from).
  • Zellner learned of a truck driver who claimed to have seen the RAV4 in a location away from the Avery property before it was discovered in the junkyard. Unfortunately, the first officer he told of this was Andrew Colborn, the officer accused in the first season of being one of the masterminds behind Avery’s framing, and thus nothing came of it.
  • Zellner also interviews Debra Kakatsch, the Manitowoc County coroner at the time, who was not only prevented from investigating the alleged site of Halbach’s murder but was also prevented from testifying at the trial and even quit her job a few months later as she no longer felt safe.
  • The most shocking new evidence that Zellner uncovers is Bobby Dassey’s internet history. Bobby (Brendan’s brother) is revealed to have a morbid interest in violent pornography (some involving children). Zellner even claims that several of the subjects of the images Bobby searched even looked like Teresa Halbach. The same motorist who claims to have seen the RAV4 off the Avery junkyard also texted his friend Scott Tadych (Brendan Dassey’s stepfather) about it, asking to be put in touch with Dassey’s attorneys. Nothing came of it.
My Verdict

There are many reasons to criticize the Manitowoc County police for letting their obvious biases color their view of this case, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated above. However, that doesn’t mean I’m totally convinced that Steven Avery is innocent of Teresa Halbach’s murder, especially in light of his previous history of violence against women. True, it is doubtful that the murder occurred either in Avery’s bedroom or garage. But, even with the alternate scenario that Zellner lays out in the final few episodes, I see no reason why Steven couldn’t still have been involved as well.

Even if it seems like one hell of a coincidence that Avery’s second conviction came right when he was trying to hold the sheriff’s department accountable for its previous foul-up, that doesn’t seem so improbable when you remember that there is a reason American police jokingly refer to prisons as “crime colleges.” Allow me to reiterate this Pyotr Kropotkin quote from my essay on anarchism:

Have not prisons-which kill at will and force of character in men, which enclose within their walls more vices than are met with than in any spot on the globe-always been the universities of crime? Is not the court of the tribunal a school of ferocity?

Pyotr Kropotkin, Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Model

If you combine the horror of American prisons with Avery’s previous violent tendencies, you can probably see why I and many others have a nagging suspicion that Zellner and Steven’s loved ones might be barking up the wrong tree.

However, I am absolutely not convinced that Brendan Dassey had anything to do with the crime. Given his limited intelligence and lack of a criminal record before his fateful interviews, plus the fact that that interview is literally the only evidence connecting him to Halbach’s death, I feel extremely confident in stating my opinion that Dassey is innocent. If you think I’m being overconfident, allow me to point you to another Netflix Original true-crime documentary series called The Confession Tapes, which details the numerous coercive techniques police can use to obtain false confessions. When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Original docudrama about the Central Park Five, also provides a good case study on false confessions.

In the end, despite how emotionally manipulative the series can be in regards to how invested it is in proving Steven Avery’s innocence despite significant possible evidence to the contrary, I am glad I saw it. I do recommend seeing it for yourselves; just maybe educate yourselves on dissenting voices before buying into the series’ narrative of Avery being a perfect angel. And I’m giving this one a 6/10. Thank you, buh-bye!

The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left Pt. 3: Leninism vs. Stalinism vs. Trotskyism

The date was December 28th, 1922. A group of over 2,000 delegates from all over the former Tsarist empire of Russia gathered in Moscow to consolidate the new socialist republic they had fought so hard for over the last five years. Two days later, from the stage of Bolshoi Theatre, they presented to the Russian people the Treaty on the Creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Thus began the first true socialist nation in the history of the world.

But the country’s birth was not without strong labor pains. Indeed, the three biggest names associated with the advent of the Soviet Union-Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky- all had very different ideas for structuring the new government and how best to continue the worldwide socialist uprising they started. In this entry of “The Complete Noob’s Guide to the Left,” we’ll examine the philosophies of these three men to see how the future of socialism may have progressed had either one may have done things differently, as well as how Russia fared when Stalin became the victor.

Part 1: Lenin vs. Stalin
Lenin and Stalin photographed by Lenin’s sister Maria at Gorky Park in September of 1922

Lenin had already been in poor health for about a year before the December 30th declaration. He had been showing signs of hyperacusis, insomnia, and headaches that were so bad that he tried to get his wife and sister to purchase potassium cyanide so he could kill himself. To this day, no one is exactly sure what was wrong with him; theories include neurasthenia, cerebral atherosclerosis, and even syphilis.

In any case, Lenin’s poor health worsened significantly when he suffered a stroke in May of 1922. He had largely recovered by July but then suffered another stroke in December. It has been reported that this second stroke was caused by an argument with secret police chief and Stalin loyalist Feliks Dzerzhinsky over a crackdown in the Caucasus region. Another Stalin loyalist, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, had been sent into Stalin’s homeland of Georgia to quell protest movements against the “autonomization model” that Stalin advocated for. Lenin was angry that Dzerzhinsky had exonerated Ordzhonikidze for any wrongdoing, but the stroke left him unable to do anything about it.

Perhaps I should explain what this “autonomization model” is. Autonomization was Stalin’s proposed solution to the problem of what relationship the former states of the Russian Empire would have with the Bolshevik ruling class in Moscow. He offered to incorporate the Russian regional republics into the new Soviet Federation, with the ethnic minorities of each respective region allowed autonomy within the boundaries of Soviet law. Many republics protested this approach, especially Ukraine, Belarus, and the Caucasian states of Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Lenin sided with the regional republics, arguing that Stalin was pursuing an imperialistic goal. Remember that Lenin’s principal innovation in Marxist thought was combatting the new capitalist model of imperialism, which Marx had failed to foresee. He was worried that autonomization would undermine the Soviet Union’s credibility as the vanguard of the worldwide socialist revolution. The regional republics’ right to self-rule must be preserved, he argued.

Stalin and Lenin managed to reach a compromise before Lenin’s second stroke. Stalin, aware of how powerful Lenin still was within the Bolshevik Party system, agreed to Lenin’s terms, allowing the new socialist republic to come into being as the USSR on December 30th. After the second stroke, however, Stalin quickly set about limiting Lenin’s activities under the pretense of not exacerbating Lenin’s poor health.

But Lenin wasn’t finished with Stalin. He wrote letters protesting against Stalin’s power grabs throughout 1923, even after suffering a third stroke in March. His anti-Stalin complaints became especially vociferous after Stalin insulted his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, when she refused to let him see an ailing Lenin in his bedroom.

The biggest one was “Lenin’s Testament,” which he finished in January of that year, which notably argued for the removal of Stalin from the position of general secretary in favor of Leon Trotsky. He also argued that the centralization of the new socialist government functions should be limited solely to defense and international relations to keep thuggish personalities like Stalin from taking advantage.

Sadly, after Lenin finally passed away on January 21st, 1924, at the age of 53, Stalin managed to persuade the other party leaders to ignore these suggestions. Of course, one must wonder what would have become of the Soviet Union if Trotsky had taken power.

Part 2: Stalin vs. Trotsky

I think the best way I’ve heard to explain the differences in Leninism, Stalinism, and Trotskyism comes from this Quora article by historian Cameron Greene: Stalinism was the conservative side of Bolshevism, Leninism the moderate/centrist side, and Trotskyism the radical side.

Stalin advocated the “socialism in one country” policy, which argued that Russia should not focus on leading socialist revolutions in other countries until it has perfected socialism in the Russian state. He also pursued rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture, intensification of class conflict (especially with kulaks or property-owning peasants), a one-party totalitarian police state to crush counter-revolutionary movements, and subordination of socialist movements across the globe to the interests of the Soviet vanguard. Stalin was also willing to seek the advice of private enterprises like the Ford Motor Company to help the Soviet Union get its state-owned enterprises off the ground.

On the other hand, Trotsky argued for a global socialist revolution in multiple countries to overwhelm the international capitalist order more quickly. He also argued that the bureaucratic police state that Stalin was developing was antithetical to the working class self-determination and mass democracy that Marx advocated for. He was also a harsh critic of Stalin’s willingness to cooperate with capitalists to help jump-start Soviet industrialization, as he was determined not to negotiate with capitalist nations.

Unsurprisingly, Stalin did not take kindly to this criticism. After Lenin’s death, Stalin and the Politburo gradually stripped Trotsky of his government positions until he was formally exiled from the Soviet Union in February 1929. He had been living in Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) for a year at that point. He spent the rest of his life dodging assassination attempts as he traveled the world railing against Stalin’s betrayal of the socialist revolution, even forming the Fourth International in France in 1938. Stalin’s assassins finally caught up with him two years later. Trotsky died at the age of 60 on August 21st, 1940, in Mexico City from brain injuries caused by the blunt end of an ice ax wielded by Ramon Mercader.

Personal Thoughts

It is tempting to argue that the Soviet Union would have been a true worker’s paradise if Trotsky had come to power instead of Stalin. Let’s face it: even if his rapid industrialization did bring Russia into the modern era, Stalin was a terrible ruler by any standard. While there is still debate over whether or not the great famines of 1930-33 (the Ukrainian Holodomor being by far the most infamous) were deliberately engineered by Stalin or whether it was an unintended side effect of rapid collectivization, there is no question that it is a large black stain on his character. The dekulakization program, which took place around the same time and may have led to over half a million deaths, is a lot less excusable, as is the Great Purge of Stalin’s political enemies in 1937, which some estimate killed over a million. His religious persecutions and the roughly 1.6 million who died in the gulags should also not be dismissed.

That being said, however, there isn’t much reason to believe that Trotsky would have been any less of a dictator. Okay, that is kind of a lie. He did believe that the Soviet Union should be more of a union of worker’s councils, which does appeal to my personal preference for anarcho-communism (even if all the communes would still have been required to report to Moscow). However, as the YouTube channel Alternate History Hub explains in their video “What If Stalin Never Came to Power,” Trotsky wasn’t any less bloodthirsty than Stalin. Indeed, Stalin’s rapid industrialization ideas in his Five-Year Plans were actually stolen from Trotsky. The only difference was that Trotsky wanted to share the profits with all Russian citizens, not just a privileged few. There is no reason to believe that a Trotskyist Russia would have avoided the famines and purges that plagued Stalin’s Russia.

In addition, Trotsky would have had a whole nation at his disposal to pursue his goal of a worldwide socialist revolution. Indeed, given that Trotsky was of Jewish heritage, it is highly likely that Trotsky would have been a lot tougher on Nazi Germany than Stalin was. Of course, this could have backfired on the Soviets, as this might have led to fascists being seen as martyrs to the anti-communist cause and leading to the Soviet Union being the main Allied antagonist of World War II instead of the Axis Powers. Then again, it may also have led to socialism gaining a solid foothold in many more countries than just Cuba, Vietnam, and others. Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic.

Some fellow socialists have gone further, arguing that Bolshevism itself was its own worst enemy, that Soviet Russia was doomed to an oppressive dictatorship no matter which leader it ultimately chose. For instance, the October 1973 issue of The Socialist Standard (the official magazine of the Socialist Party of Great Britain) includes an article titled “Trotskyism, Stalinism: What’s the Difference,” where the author argues that Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, and all of the other Bolsheviks were operating off a grievous misinterpretation of Marx. He contrasts Lenin’s view that “on its own, the working class cannot go beyond the level of trade union consciousness” with Marx and Engel’s view that “the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority.” He also points to how Trotsky handled the Kronstadt rebellion as proof that he was no better than Stalin.

The Kronstadt rebellion was one of the most prominent left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks. Thousands of Soviet sailors, soldiers, and civilians seized control of the port city on the island of Kotlin near St. Petersburg for sixteen days in March of 1921. The rebels were disillusioned by the direction of the Bolshevik government. They demanded more civil rights and economic freedom for the working class, that more libertarian socialist groups receive government representation, and that the bureaucratic systems implemented by the Bolsheviks be dismantled. The Bolshevik party leaders, Trotsky included, dismissed their rebellion as a capitalist false flag and invaded the island on March 18th, slaughtering thousands. This move was widely criticized even by contemporary leftists, perhaps most notably Emma Goldman in her essay “Trotsky Protests Too Much.”

In the end, if you ask my opinion, the Bolsheviks ended up falling prey to the same trap that the Founding Fathers of the United States fell into when they created the United States; they were not confident enough in the decision-making capabilities of the working class to allow them to exercise true democracy. True, the Bolsheviks had a leg up on the Founders in that half of them weren’t slave owners, but it’s hard for me to argue that they were any more altruistic than the Founders in the end, given how little tolerance they gave towards leftist ideologies that differed from their own.

However, that leads me to think about the other factions of the Russian socialist movement. Indeed, the Bolsheviks were only one of three main factions in the Russian revolution. So join me on the next episode, where I compare and contrast the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. See you then!

Another Update Post!

Hello again, beautiful watchers! I figured that since I have ended a somewhat ongoing series on this blog recently, it was time that I give some more updates on what’s going on on this site in the future.

First of all, many of the future blog ideas I mentioned in my New Year’s update post are still things I’m interested in. The first one I tend to tackle is the next “Noob’s Guide to the Left” entry, where I plan to compare and contrast Stalinism and Trotskyism to better understand their place in both Russian and communist history. I’m also still interested in examining myths surrounding the 2020 election and the Capitol insurrection (as well as “ancient aliens” myths), and I’ve also got some new ideas for “P.J.’s Ultimate Playlist.”

As for the desire to talk more about animation, I still haven’t decided how to tackle that subject on this blog. I do have some ideas, but I think I’d prefer to sleep on them a bit more before I fully commit to them. I also want to expand upon some spiritual traditions I mentioned in the post I wrote a while back about my religious beliefs, particularly ones involved in Western esotericism, as that is one of the special interests that my autistic brain is focused on at the moment and also because of the significant influence they have on The Divine Conspiracy.

Speaking of which, that is another significant change that will occur on this blog. You see, with all of the nonfiction writing I’ve been doing on PrestonPosits, I’ve found I have very little time for my fiction writing endeavors on DeviantArt, including The Divine Conspiracy. I won’t deny that my insecurities as a writer have played a part in that as well. However, I figured it was time to commit to the project much more concretely. And so I’ve decided that from now on, I’ve decided that I will be devoting every other writing day solely to DeviantArt.

This is undoubtedly going to affect my upload rate on PrestonPosits. My upload rate is already slow because I’m working three out of every seven days of the week, and I never have the energy to write after I get home every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On the other hand, I often go months without uploading on DeviantArt, which I imagine must be immensely annoying for my watchers on that site. Unfortunately, this is the best compromise I can come up with at the moment. This means that I’ll be working on the next Divine Conspiracy story this Thursday, then PrestonPosits on Saturday, Divine Conspiracy on Sunday, then PrestonPosits next Tuesday, and so on.

This likely means that I won’t be doing a large birthday retrospective this May like the one I did last year on Watership Down. I do have an idea for a smaller retrospective on a T.V. series that adapted a certain book series I’m a huge fan of (rather poorly, in my opinion), but I’d prefer to keep that a secret for now.

My biggest focus for the near future is seeing what happens when the Banks family decides to go toe-to-toe with the supernatural forces of the Bridgewater Triangle. Makes sure to tune in to my DeviantArt account to see how that turns out! I hope you’ll see me there, friends!

Are the Vile Vortices Really All That Vile?

For the final entry in my world tour of famous paranormal triangles, let us examine one man’s attempt to present a grand unifying theory of anomalous triangles. The man in question is the equal parts renowned and reviled Scottish-born biologist Ivan Terence Sanderson.

I’m here to bust cryptids and chew bubblegum and… well, you know the rest.

Sanderson is probably best remembered today for helping to found the pseudoscience/subculture of cryptozoology alongside Belgian-French zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans. But he didn’t just content himself with the search for folkloric beasts. As the legend of the Bermuda Triangle gained popularity in the 1960s, Sanderson threw his hat in the ring with an apparent discovery he made in 1968. He claimed that the Bermuda Triangle was but one of twelve such regions on Earth where reports of unexplained phenomena and electromagnetic distortions were higher than usual. Five each rested along the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, while the other two rested at the North and South Pole. Sanderson believed these vortices were shaped like icosahedrons and that the electromagnetic anomalies were caused by cold air and sea currents.

A trio of Soviet scientists (Nikolai Goncharov, Vyacheslav Morochov, and Valerey Makarov) expanded on Sanderson’s ideas in a 1973 article titled “Is the Earth a Large Crystal?” In it, they claim that they had discovered that twelve pentagonal plates of cosmic energy cover our planet and that electromagnetic abnormalities occur at the junctions of these plates (62 in all). They additionally claimed that these plates ran parallel with natural phenomena like seismic fracture zones, ocean ridges, animal migratory routes, and even the locations of ancient civilizations (especially those that constructed megaliths). Perhaps Ancient Aliens alumnus David Arthur Childress puts it best:

…we are speaking about an intelligent geometric pattern into which, theoretically, the Earth and its energies are organized- and possibly in which the ubiquitous megalithic sites are also positioned.

David Hatcher Childress. “Mapping The World Grid.” Bibliotecapleyades unknown . 28 Apr 2008

Of course, the evidence for this phenomenon being a reality is entirely dependent on the vortices actually being paranormal hotspots. I’ve already covered the Bermuda Triangle and the Devil’s Triangle in previous articles and found the evidence decidedly lacking. So let us examine the remaining Vile Vortices and see what mysteries lie within.

The South Atlantic Anomaly

The SAA, located off Brazil’s southeast coast, is interesting because it is an actual scientific phenomenon that NASA has documented. This is because the vortex is located in the region where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to its surface (120 miles to be exact), thus allowing cosmic rays and solar radiation to reach farther into the atmosphere. This thinning often exposes satellites to higher-than-usual radiation levels due to trapped protons, causing technical problems in spacecraft like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station and sometimes even destroying the craft (as with the Japanese X-ray observatory Hitomi in March of 2016).

While the reasons why spacecraft malfunction over the SAA are fully scientifically understood, that still hasn’t stopped paranormal researchers from connecting it to the Bermuda Triangle, thanks to reports that aircraft often experience electronic and navigational malfunctions while flying in the region. The story of the sailboat Tunante II doesn’t help in that regard.

According to the Argentine news website Infobae, the sailboat set out from Buenos Aires on August 22nd, 2014, carrying four passengers on a pleasure cruise to Rio de Janeiro. Four days later, the boat’s owner, Horacio Robert Morales, sent out a distress signal stating that a storm had damaged the vessel’s rudder, mast, and engine. While a Norwegian cargo ship sent to assist the Tunante lost sight of it the next morning at 4 a.m., records from the company that owned the satellite phones onboard indicated that the vessel had survived the storm. But, despite a search covering over 40,000 square miles, no trace of it was found other than an empty life raft.

Some paranormal researchers have seized upon the timeline of events and the Argentine government’s seeming reluctance to carry on the search to suggest that they may be covering up something. However, relatives of the Tunante’s passengers have not ruled out the possibility that the sailboat might have run across pirates that may have hijacked the vessel and its occupants and spirited them away to who knows where.

The Algerian Megaliths

So talking about this vortex is kind of tricky, mostly because I can’t seem to figure out which megaliths the vortices proponents are talking about. The most commonly cited location associated with the supposed vortex is Djebel Mazala Salluste, located outside the city of Constantine in the northeast corner of Algeria. Oddly enough, though, many sources cite it as being south of Timbuktu, which would place it in Mali, while another lists its coordinates as 26.6 North, 4.8 West, which would put it in the central region of the country.

In any case, some have connected a spate of plane crashes in the western Sahara region with the vortex at Djebel. For instance, Air Algerie Flight 5017 was carrying 116 passengers and crew from Burkina Faso to Algiers on July 24th, 2014, when it crashed due to ice accretion in the engines, which caused the plane to stall. At least one source,, implicitly connected the crash to the vortex at Djebel, even though the aircraft came down near the southern border of Mali.

Ivan T. Sanderson apparently became interested in the site after hearing reports of two submarines and four smaller boats that vanished off Algeria’s coast. I haven’t been able to determine which of these he was referring to, although I’ve come across two submarines, the HMS Urge and Minerve, which disappeared in the western Mediterranean in 1942 and 1968, respectively. However, both wrecks have since been located (near Malta and France, respectively), so there’s not much of a mystery there.

The Zimbabwe Megaliths
The conical tower in Great Zimbabwe’s Great Enclosure (photographed by Flickr user Andrew Moore)

This time the center of the vortex is more concrete, resting around the medieval African city that gave Zimbabwe its name. Constructed between the 9th and 15th centuries CE, it was the capital of a great kingdom back in the late Iron Age, although which kingdom is something that modern archaeologists have yet to figure out. First discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1531, Europeans didn’t properly investigate it until 1871.

Of course, because this was the colonial period we’re talking about, the British rulers of the country then known as Rhodesia often bent over backward trying to deny the indigenous Shona people their rightful credit for constructing the city. Because, of course, these backward tribesmen couldn’t possibly be smart enough to build a structure this sophisticated. They need us to bring them into the modern era so they can become smart enough to build structures that sophisticated.

Trust me!

Of course, this begs the obvious question: If the Shona didn’t build Zimbabwe, who did? You probably already know where this is going…

While not as famous as the Great Pyramids of Giza and Meroe in that regard, Great Zimbabwe has on occasion been caught up in the “ancient astronauts” hysteria that really blew up in popularity when the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens started airing in 2009. It doesn’t matter that archaeologists have demonstrated numerous times that ancient peoples had the tools and the resources to construct these sites. In many ways, the ancient astronaut theories have continued the racism that turned the Global South into what it is today.

As for Bermuda Triangle-like activity around Great Zimbabwe, I haven’t been able to find much. Some have mentioned planes vanishing in the region, although those same sources describe those disappearances occurring over the Sahara Desert, which is on the complete opposite end of the continent.

By Saqib Qayyum – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Speaking of ancient aliens, Pakistan’s Mohenjo-Daro is another site that has often been connected with alien builders as well as vile vortices. Ivan Sanderson claimed to have received a letter from a woman who said that planes carrying gold bullion over nearby Afghanistan would go missing, although some of their gold cargo would be left behind, oddly enough.

However, the former area of the Indus Valley Civilization is probably better known among ancient astronaut enthusiasts for the persistent rumors that the area bears scars from an impossibly ancient nuclear war dating as far back as 12,000 years ago. Let’s examine the supposed evidence, shall we?

  • Many passages of the Hindu holy text, the Mahabarata, describe scenes that sound uncomfortably similar to modern descriptions of nuclear warfare. “A single projectile charged with all the power of the universe… An incandescent column of smoke and flame, as bright as 10,000 suns, rose in all its splendor… It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes an entire race.”
  • Mohenjo-Daro itself, along with its sister city Harappa, allegedly are the sites of mass graves, with skeletons scattered across the streets “as if some instant, horrible doom had taken place,” in the words of Kisari Mohan Ganguli, who wrote the first complete English translation of the Mahabarata. “People were just lying, unburied, in the streets of the city.” Some of the skeletons also showed radiation levels 50 times greater than normal, comparable to modern victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The city of Jodhpur, resting in the Thar Desert in northwestern India, is allegedly so radioactive that cancer deaths and birth defects are extremely common, to the point that the government has quarantined the area. In addition, an archaeologist named Francis Taylor claimed to have discovered an ancient city nearby, which shows signs of a nuclear blast that killed as many as half a million people.
  • Finally, there is the Lonar crater, located under a lake around 300 miles east of Mumbai. The crater is about 3900 feet in diameter and is definitely not volcanic in origin. Maybe it could be the result of a nuclear explosion, then?

However, episode 541 of Brian Dunning’s Skeptoid podcast pretty much put paid to all of these ideas:

  • He logged onto a searchable online copy of the Mahabarata and found nothing even remotely similar to the passage quoted above.
  • He similarly found no mention of mass graves in the abundance of archaeological literature available on Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, or any of the other excavated sites in the Indus Valley region.
  • Jodhpur having radiation levels that high from a nuclear conflict that occurred 8-12,000 years ago makes no sense. Even the strongest nuclear isotopes, like cesium-137 and strontium-90, only have half-lives of 30 years at most. Even Hiroshima and Nagasaki are clean of radiation just three-quarters of a century after the infamous bomb drops. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that Francis Taylor’s city of half a million people ever existed.
  • The quotes attributed to Ganguli make no sense, as he lived in the 1880s-90s, long before nuclear weapons were even conceived of.
  • Finally, the Lonar crater has been definitively proven to be a meteor crater dating to around 576,000 years ago, with minerals in the surrounding soil being very similar to those found on the Moon.

Indeed, it seems as if everything involving nuclear weapons in ancient India and Pakistan was invented out of whole cloth, most likely by Erich von Daniken in his infamous 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? However, I prefer to save those comments for a list of ancient astronaut theories that I will almost certainly be making sometime in the future. In the meantime, let’s move on to…

The Wharton Basin

The Wharton Basin is a region of the ocean floor located between Western Australia and Java. The area has not been mapped since the 1960s, despite being on the boundary of the Indian and Australian tectonic plates, thus making it a very active seismic zone. Indeed, the basin ended up on many a geologist’s radar after it was struck by two massive earthquakes on April 11th, 2012, measuring a magnitude of 8.6 and 8.2, respectively. While they occurred too deep underwater to trigger tsunamis (unlike the infamous 9.2 magnitude quake that triggered the deadly Boxing Day tsunami of 2004), geologists are concerned that the quakes may have further destabilized the fault lines that they lie upon.

As for supposed Bermuda Triangle-type activity, there isn’t much to report, probably because the shipping lanes in the region are a bit more lightly traveled than the ones in the Bermuda Triangle. However, one major mystery is connected with the area: the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

The missing aircraft, 9M-MRO, taking off from Charles de Gaulle Airport in December 2011

The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 8th, 2014, carrying 239 passengers and crew bound for Beijing. Air traffic control lost communication with the aircraft around 38 minutes after takeoff. However, they could still track it on radar until it suddenly vanished about 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang Island off the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Search efforts naturally focused on the South China and Andaman Seas until analysis of satellite communications showed that the plane had last been detected over the Indian Ocean at a point about 1500 miles west of Perth, Australia. There are numerous guesses for how the aircraft got there, ranging from hijacking to being shot down to outlandish theories involving black holes and alien abduction. However, there is probably nothing to connect it directly with the supposed Wharton Basin vortex.

The Hebrides Trench

This vortex rests in the Pacific Ocean and centers on the Loyalty Islands on the eastern edge of the Coral Sea. The trench, marking the area where the Australian tectonic plate is being subducted under the New Hebrides plate, is around 4.7 miles deep. It is known for its unique wildlife (cusk-eels, prawns, and other crustaceans) and its frequent earthquakes. The most recent occurred in February 2021 and measured 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale. And that’s the weakest of the many earthquakes listed on the trench’s Wikipedia page!

As for supernatural phenomena, one book published by TIME-LIFE called Mysteries of the Unknown describes strange currents and “ocean vortices of water.” I’m tempted to believe they may be describing maelstroms here, but I’m not entirely sure.

Perhaps the biggest mystery associated with the region is Sandy Island. This phantom island, which supposedly rested east of New Caledonia, has been described as early as 1774 by Captain James Cook. It was first formally recognized in 1876 after being “discovered” by a whaling ship named Velocity. The island, which was roughly the size of Washington D.C., continued to appear on maps as late as 1982, even though cartographers quickly began to doubt its existence. It was finally disproven in November 2012, when the Australian research vessel RV Southern Surveyor surveyed the seafloor and found that no island had ever existed there.

Of course, some quickly jumped to supernatural conclusions when they heard about a whole island disappearing. However, most researchers today believe the Velocity actually encountered a massive raft of pumice that an underwater volcano had expelled.

The Hamakulia Volcano

Speaking of underwater volcanoes, this one, located northeast of Hawaii’s Big Island, is allegedly the site of plane and ship disappearances. There have also been reports of strange lights around the crater as well as “piezomagnetic effects” that magnetize rocks and cause them to throw navigational equipment out of whack.

This might sound like something out of The X-Files, but scientists actually understand very well what is going on here. For instance, the blog Cryptoville points out that volcanoes often produce lightning due to static electricity buildup in the ash cloud, a phenomenon that has been widely photographed. Piezomagnetic effects are nothing mysterious either; they are simply another effect produced by natural electric energies during a volcanic eruption, such as the friction of magma flowing underground.

With all this in mind, it’s probably no wonder that ships and planes are sometimes lost in this region. It’s far from inconceivable that the magnetization of the rocks could mess with a sailing vessel or aircraft’s electronic hardware, so there’s probably no Bermuda Triangle-type portal to worry about.

What is cause for worry, however, is the matter of excessive tourism putting a strain on the locals.

Easter Island

This South Pacific island (known to its indigenous inhabitants as Rapa Nui) forms the easternmost vertex of the Polynesian Triangle, the other two being New Zealand and Hawaii. Its biggest claim to fame is undoubtedly its over 900 moai, which is the name given to the monolithic humanlike statues that dot its landscape. Carved out of compressed volcanic ash at the quarry Rano Raraku, the natives carried them to all parts of the island between 1250 and 1500. They are commonly agreed to be the representations of deified ancestors, set around the island as protectors.

Sadly, they could not protect the Rapa Nui people from the cruel hammer of colonialism when Europeans first arrived in 1722, bringing disease and slave raiders. While it has been long believed that the Rapa Nui society was already in decline due to deforestation caused by the construction of the moai, a growing number of experts believe the colonizers exaggerated such reports to absolve themselves of blame (because of course they would!). By 1877, the island’s native population had been reduced from as much as 3,000 to just 111. Thankfully, the population has increased to 7,750 as of 2017, with most still living on Rapa Nui in the village of Hanga Roa.

Of course, along with colonialism came the arguments that the Rapa Nui peoples couldn’t have possibly created the Easter Island moai. There had to be someone else. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the moai have shown up frequently in ancient aliens lore. Not helping with such rumors is the idea often spread that many of the statues (some of which are as much as 33 feet tall) have the entire rest of the body buried underground, which is demonstrably untrue.

However, famed Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl, upon hearing the common Rapa Nui explanation that the statues literally “walked” to their present positions, conducted an experiment in 1997 alongside Polish engineer Pavel Pavel. A team of 16 people tied a rope around a moai replica’s head and base and rocked it back and forth, causing it to literally rock forward.

Heyerdahl’s experiment sadly had to be cut short due to damage inflicted on the statue in the process. However, a much more successful version of this experiment was performed in 2012 by American archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo. They used teams of three people to rock a ten-foot-tall moai replica with ropes tied around its head about 330 feet. You can view the results in this Youtube video on National Geographic’s official channel, as well as on the November 7th, 2012 episode of PBS’ Nova, titled “Mystery of Easter Island.”

The North Pole

The northernmost part of the globe has been well known for causing wonky behavior in compasses. Indeed, the Magnetic North Pole is where all compasses point, so that’s to be expected. However, the Arctic is no stranger to mysterious disappearances, perhaps the most notable being the Captain Sir John Franklin expedition in 1845.

Captain Franklin’s expedition, consisting of the combined 129-man crew of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, set out from Greenhithe, England, on May 19th of that year. European whalers last encountered it in Baffin Bay in July. Subsequent archaeological investigations, writings by the crew, and interviews with local Inuit peoples have since demonstrated that the missing expedition became trapped in ice off Prince William Island in September 1846 and, after losing two dozen men (including Franklin), the crew abandoned both ships and set out for the Canadian mainland in April 1848. All eventually perished due to a combination of hypothermia, starvation, lead poisoning, zinc deficiency, and exposure to the harsh polar climate. Indeed, many crew members resorted to cannibalism to no avail.

Indeed, even though that cause of the expedition’s demise is well understood by this point (and both ship’s wrecks have since been located), that hasn’t stopped some from speculating about supernatural foul play. Most notably, the 2007 novel The Terror by Dan Simmons (subsequently adapted as a TV series by AMC in 2018) depicts the expedition being stalked by a demonic beast from Inuit mythology on top of trying to stay alive in the harsh Arctic climate.

The South Pole

The South Pole is also involved in a tale of a doomed expedition. In 1911, the race was on to be the first people to reach the South Pole. The two teams were led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and British Royal Navy officer Robert Falcon Scott. Amundsen’s team became the first humans to ever set foot on the South Pole on December 14th, 1911. Scott’s team reached the pole a little over a month later, on January 17th, 1912.

While Amundsen’s team managed to reach their base fully intact, Scott’s crew struggled through blizzards and frostbite, having failed to reunite with the dog teams that were supposed to resupply them. They all succumbed to the elements over the next two months, with Scott himself being the last to perish, probably around March 29th. While they failed in their goal of being the first to reach the pole, they did make one significant discovery. Among their corpses, the search parties found 35 pounds of Glossopteris tree fossils from the Permian period (299-252 million years ago), which, along with being the first fossils ever found in Antarctica, proved that the continent had once been in warmer climates and connected to the other continents.

But some believe that Antarctica holds more secrets. For example, notice the strange shape of this mountain…

This is one of three mountains in the Ellsworth Range, located at the base of the peninsula that juts out below South America, that many say look suspiciously like pyramids. Some, like the new-age website “Earth. We Are One,” have even gone as far as to argue that the pyramids were built by an ancient civilization over 100 million years ago, apparently misinterpreting a study by the Royal Society that showed that Antarctica was lush with vegetation during the Middle Cretaceous. They also incorrectly argue that Antarctica was located at the equator 100 million years ago (it wasn’t; global temperatures were warmer back then).

In reality, the pyramidal shape of these mountains is the result of glaciers smoothing out their topographies. Indeed, scientists have noted that the mountains are four thousand feet high, which would make them ten times larger than the Pyramids of Giza. That would be a tall order for any advanced civilization, whether they came from space or not. Indeed, it’s hard not to draw comparisons between theories like this and H.P. Lovecraft’s 1936 novella At the Mountains of Madness, which, incidentally, may have inspired the 1960 French conspiracy tome The Morning of the Magicians, which in turn was heavily plagiarized by Erich von Daniken in Chariot of the Gods? Interesting.

Also, there’s the conspiracy theory about the disputed territory of New Swabia, which has been rumored to have served as a base for the Nazi Party ever since their defeat in 1945, but that’s a little too ridiculous to get into here, so let’s wrap this up.

And finally, my world tour of paranormal triangles has come to an end. I hope you had as much fun as I did. Remember to tune in for new updates later this week, as there will be some significant changes to how this blog works in the future. So keep your eyes peeled, and maybe keep your eyes peeled for anything strange if you ever find yourself traveling through one of these triangles. I know I’ve shown a lot of evidence to suggest that there’s nothing supernatural going on in these places, but you never know…