Who Are You Weird Fuckers?

It’s been an Age since I wrote a post. I still think about writing posts, and I still pop over to my dashboard at least once a day out of a somewhat vain curiosity to see if anyone’s still reading the bullshit I spewed here over the last year.

Oh yeah, it’s been over a year since I started, by the way. The first post went live on 5/24/15. Guess I missed that anniversary. Oh well.

Anyway, I never claimed I’d get a lot of readers or even really wanted to have many. I expected that a few friends would read this shit, have a laugh at whatever I felt like vomiting on the page at the moment, and go on with their days – and for the most part that has been entirely true.

There are exactly 21 people with WordPress blogs who follow this one. I follow three of them and know three others personally. The rest are mysteries. I don’t read a lot of blogs and usually can’t even be bothered to keep up with my actual WordPress Reader feed.

The Twitter account I made solely for the promotion of this blog has five followers. Three I know personally, one dude who randomly decided to follow me because one of those people did, and yesterday I got a notification for the fifth which seems to be a robot account pretending to be a nude model, porn star, or some other breed of female who only tweets asking if people want to see her naked.

My guess is that it’s some 12 year old Ukrainian boy trying to phish up some attention/credit card numbers, but hey. If he wants to see my twitter wall composed entirely of automated links from this blog, more power to his lonely ass.

I think over the course of the last year and change I’ve pretty much established that I am not the most active social media person in the world, and my blog posts are almost entirely self-gratifying rants about shit I hate, people I hate, having no life, and occasionally passing on some random tidbit I find interesting and/or amusing. The point was never to be producing shit people actually wanted to read here; just to produce shit that kept me writing, and even that’s been waning in recent months.

But, I digress.

Back to the issue at hand.

See, every time I pop over to my dashboard to take a look at the measly stats, I find that someone out there is still reading some of this nonsense. It may be the most pathetic stat counter of all time, but the Tanis posts and “Fuck. Zombies.” pull in a consistent 2 and 1 views per day!

I told you it was pathetic, but still. What in the actual fuck? Who cares what I have to say about either of those throwaway topics? Why are people who are searching for zombies and Tanis finding me at all?

Who are you fuckers?!

Yeah, it’s a crap blog full of hideous rants – many written at varying stages of intoxication – but there are some gems here, too. Does anyone read my mythical summaries on Susanoo or Inanna and Dumuzi? No? How ’bout the varying posts all tagged “writing” that explore the very serious (and utterly ridiculous) issues with calling oneself a writer and actually doing something about it? Nope, not those either? Well, fuck, what about that whole page over there where I put up the prologue to my first novel for free?

Not that either.

Nope. It’s a rambling bit of bullshit about first impressions of a podcast that just keeps falling further and further apart as it goes along (seriously. Should have ended it when Nick disappeared into the cabin and left the mystery hanging. Just sayin’.), and an even more rambling bit of drunken bullshit about how overblown and masturbatory the entire zombie craze is that garner steady attention.

I guess people just prefer stupid shit to anything of substance.

In news not at all related to zombies or Tanis, though, I’m finally on a work schedule that doesn’t require long stretches of utter boredom and solitude, so maybe I’ll get back to writing posts that have some meaning, and actually working on those revisions I’ve been putting off for a year.

Or maybe I’ll just keep ridiculing the world and not giving a fuck. Who knows!

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It’s Lost.

No, not my mind. That thing has been missing for ages. I’m talking, of course, of TANIS.

I’m all caught up now, and as the podcast progressed I grew a little less enthusiastic about the creative blending of fact and fiction to invent a mystery and the “myth of Tanis” for one very simple reason:

It’s the plot of Lost.

Seriously. TANIS, the podcast’s mythical location, has magical powers to heal, can only be accessed in special ways, moves around, has some terrifying aspects, and a mysterious cabin that could be TANIS itself or just a location within the greater spooky-zone of TANIS.

Oh, and there’s a cult that worships/seeks it, a group of scientists who want to study it (two, actually), and people who go in sometimes don’t come out and are presumed/actually dead in the real world. Electronics don’t work right in TANIS, either.

While the telling is still entertaining, and the narrative and production are well done, it’s become rather clear at this point the whole thing is really a riff on Lost with a tighter cast, a stronger horror theme, and fewer dead-end plot threads.

There is a bright side, of course. No Evangeline Lily over-acting to make up for a total lack of talent, for one. Nic Silver’s performance is solid, and his plucky internet sleuth Meerkatnip (MK later on) does well too, but some of the side characters give rather wooden reads as they’re clearly not as invested in the production as Nic or as familiar with the story. At several places they sound like they’re actually reading separately and being spliced together.

Still. Better than Jack and Kate crying about everything.

Seeking Tanis? Finding Spoof.

I’m an avid podcast fan, but I’m pretty fucking picky about which podcasts I let in my earholes these days. After I hit critical mass on wrestling podcasts from Stone Cold Steve Austin, Jim Ross, Chris Jericho, Roddy Piper and Ric Flair I learned two things: All wrestlers have the same stories (and tell them often), and the greatest stories are only about 5% true.

I ended my addiction to wrestling podcasts after far too many drunken rants from Stone Cold as he sat around his ranch bullshitting with his ranch hand about absolutely nothing, and I had to cut the Ten Minute Podcast’s life support off when it became Will Sasso’s Parade of Annoying Characters, but I still clung to a fine selection of less-insane podcasts that were mostly NPR productions and the incomparable Welcome to Night Vale. Since coming out to Ohio, I’ve pretty much been surviving on Night Vale, This American Life, Radiolab, and Serial.

Until yesterday.

In a conversation with my brotha-from-anotha-motha-and-fatha I was forced to accept TANIS into my life. I was assured it was a mystery, and that he couldn’t say anything about it until I heard it for myself. A few minutes of casual Internet searching turned up a number of sites promoting TANIS as an absolutely true mystery and a number claiming it mixed fact with fiction, but not much in the way of actually calling it out as total fiction.

Lucky you; I’m here to do just that.

TANIS comes at you from Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, who also produce The Black Tapes – but I’m not interested in that one right now. If ever. Found-footage (or audio) horror annoys me.

The premise of TANIS is that the world is so connected now that there’s nothing you can’t find in a few minutes on the Internet, and they wanted to “find” a true mystery to make a podcast about. So they found the “myth of Tanis”, somehow, without finding anything about this “myth” on said Internet.

It’s worth noting that the TANIS podcast website itself doesn’t actually call this a documentary. They market it as a docudrama, openly, but that doesn’t seem to sink in with some of the people listening. The production is straight forward, and well done, with narrator/host Nic Silver laying out the week-by-week results of his investigation in a style clearly cribbed from Serial. In fact, if we really want to get down to it, Nic Silver and his delivery style might even have hints of Cecil Palmer of Welcome to Night Vale fame.

The idea is that there’s this myth of something, somewhere, or someone called TANIS. TANIS is… everything, and nothing at all. It’s a word at the beginning of the podcast, and the host doesn’t have any idea what it really is or what he’s looking for. Some of the offered explanations are that TANIS is a place that moves around from time to time, or maybe it’s Hell, or maybe it’s Atlantis, or maybe it’s a person, or a state of being, or, or or…

The point is, TANIS could be anything because the myth of TANIS is being crafted by the podcast itself.

Now, I will note here that there is a historical Tanis. It’s a city in Egypt. It’s a place you can go today, assuming you have archaeological permits and aren’t murdered by roving packs of ISIS supporters. Historical Tanis sits northeast of Cairo in the Nile Delta and was the capital of the 21st and 22nd dynasties of Egypt from about 1069 BCE to 720 BCE before it was abandoned to the shifting course of the Nile and the usual changes in the balance of power that go with any three-hundred year reign in the ancient world.

So, abandoned, Tanis became buried in silt and considered “lost” to the world at large. It was known to have existed from numerous sources, but no one quite remembered where it was. In fact, there’s a long history of people stumbling across other abandoned cities and proclaiming them to be Tanis until 1936 when Pierre Montet finally uncovered it after more than a decade of digging.

So that’s the real Tanis; a city that is lost and “found” several times. Its location always shifting according to whoever claims to discover it.

As it so happens, that’s also a theme with TANIS-the-podcast. The ephemeral concept of what TANIS is to the host includes one certainty: TANIS moves around and its location forgotten even by those who’ve been there.

This parallel might be the only real connection between an actual Tanis and the TANIS of the podcast. Everything else is nonsense. Fiction crafted not for the sake of uncovering a mystery, but establishing a myth.

As the podcast plays out, I find it hard to believe anyone would actually believe this patchwork quilt of fringe whackado could possibly be grounded in reality. Hard, but not impossible.

Remember, I’m a longtime fan of Art Bell. I’ve heard everything the most hardcore crazies believe in. Every conspiracy about secret societies, aliens, demons, angels, lost super-cultures, mystical powers, and more such shit than I can even list here has passed through my earholes thanks to Art’s parade of lunatics. If people will believe that shit, it’s not too much a stretch they can believe the increasingly complex tale the TANIS spins.

Name dropping starts right away in the first episode where rocket scientist and Thelemite (as in the Ordo Templi Orientis; Aleister Crowley’s cult) is given as the impetus for this whole investigation thanks to a rambling short story about finding TANIS that essentially sets up the whole premise of the show finding a myth everyone else has forgotten.

Parsons is a favorite of the conspiracy crowd and often blamed for introducing evil pagan names and rites into NASA missions for various Illuminati-themed conspiracies about space and the “truth” of our space program’s findings and goals.

It doesn’t stop with Parsons though. In just the first three episodes we also hear Crowley himself trotted out for having drawn a picture of a being he called LAM and the show accepts in the Ancient Aliens explanation as a drawing of an alien (Crowley did not define it as an alien, but a spiritual entity), Charles Fort (for whom the word “Fortean” was coined to describe any weird mystery or happening) writes a cryptic letter that seems to point toward a search for TANIS, a crazy basement-dwelling hoarder has a mountain of audio tapes and an amateur radio and conspiracy fixation (an obvious Bell nod, as Bell is an avid HAM operator), numbers stations, a sinister “Tesla Nova Corporation” that locks employees away from the rest of the world, an archaeologist who specializes in “new energy” (because, “new” and “archeology” are words that are totally synonymous), a cabin that’s bigger on the inside than out and teleports around, and of course: mysterious forces following the host around erasing evidence of TANIS almost as soon as he finds it.

The shadowy stalkers delete the bare scraps of digital information our intrepid reporter’s scrappy hacker sidekick/employee (who only works for bitcoins) manages to find in a version of the “Deep Web” only seen in movies and seems to exist solely to post innocuous and cryptic messages (unlike the real Darknet, which deals in illicit goods and services, human trafficking, and everything your mother thought the kosher Internet was going to do to you in 1995) almost seconds after she digs them out. Tapes are erased. Mountains of tapes disappear. The Internet is sanitized against anyone finding anything about TANIS: except the podcast that’s all about finding TANIS, and the city of Tanis in Egypt.

It’s a clever tale, for sure. The producers (whoever they REALLY are) manage to blend their creation into a vast conspiracy culture that explains quite nicely why there’s no actual information on this myth available. It’s not that it was never there until created as a work of fiction for a podcast- it was destroyed by a shadowy cabal!

The overload of fringe nutballery has a purpose, though, and it’s one that I do applaud the writers for instead of simply shaking my head in disbelief. They’ve learned this technique from the fringe itself, applied it to their own (made up) story, and bent the names and scant facts in such a way as to make the whole pattern seem just too encompassing not to be real.

By spitballing everything fringe under the sun into one story, slapping a “mystery!” label on it, and delivering it in a very straight forward manner with the occasional hint of serious harm or consequences for the investigators themselves, the guys and gals at Pacific Northwest Stories have effectively emulated, and spoofed, the entire fringe movement in one beautiful stroke.

Radio programs like Art Bell’s Midnight in the Desert, Coast to Coast AM, a metric shitload of podcasts on the Dark Matter Radio Network, and TV shows like… well, everything on the History Channel these days that isn’t about manly men challenging nature with chainsaws and heavy machinery all work on the same premise: pile all the bullshit together and draw in everyone who believes in just one part of it so they’ll believe in all of it.

It’s pretty much what’s kept Ancient Aliens on the air for NINE FUCKING YEARS; that and college kids who like to drink whenever Giorgio Tsoukalos says “it was aliens!”.

They’re just fucking with you, the PNWS gang. They’re telling a good bit of fiction, spinning it as though it could be real, AND trolling every fringe “theorist” and believer who stumbles across the podcast and buys into it. It’s really quite an exceptional bit of work.

Sure, I could just listen to it as a story and try really hard to believe like so many of the other commentators out there, but I prefer to listen to it for what it really is: a microcosmic spoof of a culture of idiocy currently gripping America (and voting for Trump) with a quality of writing about six steps above the actual conspiracy theorist bullshit.

These guys do their research, but it’s not research into whether TANIS is real or what it is. It’s research into how to carefully pile a lot of bullshit in one place and get people to eat it up.

Well done, PNWS crew, but next time don’t tell us there’s something the Internet doesn’t know. That’s just silly.