With apologies to famous Hollywood feature director Frank Capra, who joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps in WWII (the same branch my father, a radar operator, and Ray Harryhausen, a stop-motion animator were in) and made a series of seven documentaries collectively called “Why We Fight,” which are studied to this day in film classes as brilliant, virtuous pieces of propaganda, unlike Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s 1936 Berlin Olympics documentary “Triumph Of The Will,” which everyone agrees is a brilliant, evil, racist piece of propaganda, because we won. Right?
“Dad, if only you’d use your super-powers for good instead of evil!” — my daughter Thea talking to me on the phone about this problem, in so many words. She always gives me the best advice!
There are some people that you meet but never get to know, or maybe only superficially. Say you eat lunch together, have some interesting chatter a couple of times and think, “Gee, what a great girl/guy, I’d really like to know him/her better.”
With these people, if they are semi-public figures in entertainment or the arts or the sciences, their reputation may precede them. They may be important people in their institutions, even leaders, and their time is precious because of (whatever-it-is) they do. You recognize this, and you appreciate every moment they spend with you.
Such was my relationship with Randall Wells, PhD., and director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program. We’ve known each other since the 1968-69 school year, when we both took a marine biology elective at Riverview High School, a school where they painted a yellow line outside the cafeteria that you couldn’t cross, but the next year you could be wading through the rice paddies of ‘Nam carrying your M-16 over your head and praying it would fire when needed. That was all American high schools in the late 1960’s, by the way. And they all sucked a big wet one.
Now, Randy’s parents, a couple of pretty nice, normal people to hear him tell it, owned a couple of rental properties, and one of them they rented to a marine mammalogist named Dr. Blair Irvine. Dr. Irvine worked under a contract with the U.S. Navy to find out if he could train a bottlenose dolphin, in this case a bull named Simo (Latin for snubnose) to protect S.C.U.B.A. divers from shark attacks. Working at the old Mote Marine Laboratory at the south end of Siesta Key, he used a ring-pool, like half a donut, that had been set up by somebody else for shark research earlier.
Dr. Irvine needed somebody to stand atop a tower next to the pool and run and re-load the 16mm Bolex camera that was recording the shark-dolphin interactions, and hearing that young Randy and an interest in sharks, Irvine asked him to do it. I don’t think starry-eyed Randy needed much parental encouragement to leap at the chance!
(We skip over, here, the toil of Dr. Irvine’s experiments with Simo, which may be briefly summed up thus: In a donut-shaped 30′ diameter pool from which it cannot escape, a male bottlenose dolphin will gleefully pursue, ram and batter any non-dolphin-eating species of shark. Simo did it so vigorously, Dr. Irvine had to make him a rubber snout booty so he didn’t rub himself raw on scaly shark skin! That was only on non-dolphin-eating sharks, however.
When faced with confirmed dolphin-killing species of sharks, which are also man-eating species, Simo was so frightened he shit himself and leaped out of the donut-shaped pool! I have this on good authority. Where was P.E.T.A. back then? Or Cleveland Amory, a famous animal-rights campaigner in the 1960’s and 1970’s? And why has this film never been released? This was supposed to one of the triumphs of human dolphin training, I know lots of people who would LOVE to see that footage! Where is it, and who owns it? You, the American taxpayer paid for it, and I don’t see why it should be classified. Is it still with the SDRP or did the Navy grab it, lock stock and barrel, like they do with UFO gun-camera tapes, and make it disappear?)
JUMP CUT TO 50 YEARS LATER
Dr. Irvine has become very famous for his dolphin-in-a-donut experiment, even though the information it returned was utterly useless to the U.S. Navy. (You can only learn so much from a dolphin in a donut, after all.) In 1970 he started the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program with Randy as his apprentice, and it has become, through Dr. Irvine’s and Dr. Wells’ hard work and dedication (and a fucking lot of patience from SarasotaBay’s dolphin population, who refrained from skewering them like shishkabobs when they were captured for testing, which is not often mentioned), the baseline standard for the health and behavior of all bottlenose dolphin populations, everywhere! And Dr. Irvine is living serenely in retirement, while Dr. Wells handles the exhaustive SDRP paperwork, fondly recalling the days when he actally got in the water with the dolphins. He enjoyed that aspect of the job!
And then… and then… along comes me. Little ol’ me, with a silly story…
… about how, one cold March morning 49 years ago, Dr. Irvine, in response to my casually mentioning Dr. John Lilly’s name in a conversation, WENT APE-SHIT ON ME, BEHAVED VERY RUDELY, TOLD ME LILLY WAS EITHER CRAZY OR 50 YEARS AHEAD OF HIS TIME, and left me colder than before I’d met him.
I now realize Dr. Irvine expected me to read his mind that morning, but I didn’t know that’s what he expected, so I didn’t. Not like I can read many human minds anyhow, I only claim to be an occasional telepath, not a goddamn side-show psychic! I didn’t telepathically import that Dr. Irvine had worked briefly with Dr. Lilly, found him personally irritating and thought his research was unscientificcrap.
This from a guy who puts dolphins in donut pools with dolphin-eating sharks! Hey, Dr. Irvine, did you ever think of working in the Roman Coliseum? I hear they’re having cash-flow problems, the lions are eating up all the prophets! Yuk yuk!
You must understand, Dr. Lilly had to work very hard, for two decades, to become the most widely-hated man in the world among marine mammalogists. It’s not like it was easy for him, oh no! He was a neurophysiologist at the National Institute of Mental Health (N.I.M.H.) back in the 1950’s, wiring cat and monkey brains and discovering their pleasure centers. He was also spending a lot of time in a device of his own invention, the sensory isolation tank, under contract from the U.S. Air Force, who wanted to know what would happen to a weightless astronaut who was cut off from all contact with Earth. Lilly found that in such a situation — dark, zero-G, isothermal — the mind rapidly expands to fill the available space… all of it! In such a state, Lilly could apparently go anywhere, do anything, become the ultimate Astral Traveler. He began wondering what a creature who spent a lot of time in such a state would be like.
You must further understand that for about two centuries, since anybody other than a whaler bothered to look at whale guts, or whale brains, the field of marine mammalogy had been a sedate backwater of science, a veritable slough of semi-talented individuals in which a few, like Dr. Alexander Agassiz, a knowledgeable individual, stand out. Marine mammalogy was about as interesting as a bucket of warm spit, and marine mammalogists liked it that way, until the 1930’s. That’s when Marineland curator Arthur McBride began to suspect that dolphins possessed something like the faculty of man-made SO.N.A.R (SOund Navigation And Ranging). But, with WW2 looming on the horizon, McBride was smart enough to keep his suspicions under his hat. Anything he could learn about dolphin sonar, he figured, might improve the Axis Powers’ sonar! So nothing happened there. Yes, a few pods of dolphins got blown up by new, errant sonic-homing torpedos, but it takes time to work all the bugs out of these things…
… And nothing much happened until the early 1950’s… when Dr. Lilly switched subjects. And things in marine mammalogy would never be the same! And the marine mammalogy community would hate him to this day for it! Because Lilly’s musings in the sensory isolation tank had lead him to a species that was living in the same conditions — dolphins.
You see, before, when marine mammalogists looked at dolphins’ brains (and in one gruesome vivisection I read of, they sawed a poor dolphin’s skull open while it was still alive), they saw a lot of folds, or wrinkles, on the cerebral cortex. Those folds increase the surface area for the “gray matter,” or neurons, that mostly exist on the outside of our brains (it’s a better view, there). So the more folds, the more neurons, and the greater the presumed intelligence.
However, scientists everywhere assumed this only applied to Homo sapiens, because let’s face it, dolphins never really did anything useful, like chipping flint spear points, or mastering fire, or inventing alternating current, or typesetting The New York Times, or exploding The Bomb. So they couldn’t be very intelligent, could they, or our marine mammalogists would surely know of it — wouldn’t they? Those cortical folds in dolphins? Don’t mean a fucking thing, honey. Go back to bed and stop dreaming.
“The bottlenose dolphin is somewhere between a dog and a chimpanzee in intelligence. We think this is the most complimentary statement that can be made about any mammal.” — David & Melba Caldwell, famous marine mammalogists.
“Excluding you, I presume? You are both mammals, right?” — Malcolm J. Brenner, to David & Melba.
The first time Dr. John C. Lilly saw those cortical folds, he was amazed. This brain is a first-class thinking machine, he optimistically thought, and set out to prove it by killing 5 dolphins at Marineland, where Dr. Forrest Wood, a U.S. government flunkie who would later write a whitewashed memoir titled Marine Mammals and Man, which never once mentions, or even hints at, the guard dolphins who patrolled Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam for the U.S. Navy, worked as head veterinarian.
Of course, Lilly didn’t MEAN to kill any dolphins! No sir, no sirree! He was just trying to anesthetize them so he could do some brain-probing with implanted electrodes, and he found, to his horror, that as the anesthetic took effect… the dolphin stopped breathing and just died! Unlike all land animals, dolphins had no “breathing reflex” that kept air flowing into/out of their lungs if they went unconscious. FOR DOLPHINS, IT SEEMED, SURFACING TO DRAW A BREATH WAS A CONSCIOUS ACT OF WILL AND DELIBERATE FOCUS!
So he cut back on the anesthetic… no good. And back… no good. And tried different anesthetics… no good. And began to build a dolphin respirator… and by the time Dolphin #6 went under the knife, all was well, and it survived the surgery. But Dr. Forrest Wood was by now mad enough to kill Lilly, and he stayed that way for the rest of his life. You can’t claim Wood wasn’t attached to his charges!
Lilly went on to found the Communications Research Institute in the Virgin Islands, and that setup was pretty good for the dolphins, with a tide-washed pool. And it was here he began his most controversial experiment, the co-habitation of a young kindergarten teacher, Margaret Howe, with Peter Dolphin for six weeks to see if Peter couldn’t learn a little English. What happened has been the butt of countless nasty jokes and a Saturday Night Live skit. It also turned Margaret into a hermit who wouldn’t talk about her experience with Peter to anyone for the next 49 years, until the BBC persuaded her to.
The Nub: To get any work done, Margaret found that she had to manually masturbate Peter every now and then, since he was in isolation with her and had no female dolphins around to “shake hands” with. (“Dolphins have sex the way humans shake hands.” — the late Dr. Ken Norris, the godfather of open ocean marine mammalogy.) It wasn’t sexy for her, she said, but it was sensual and loving. And she didn’t realize how deep Peter Dolphin’s attachment to her was growing… and growing… and growning…
…and when the experiment ended, and Margaret, who had grown really fond of Peter even though she couldn’t teach a goldfish to swim (just listen how frustrated Peter sounds in Lilly’s tapes, released on Windham Hill Records, Sounds and Ultrasounds of the BottlenoseDolphin), went home to catch up on some rest before coming back to continue the work… Peter committed suicide. He held his breath until he went unconscious. With nobody around to re-start his breathing, he asphyxiated. Of course, studious dolphin researchers claim a dolphin doesn’t possess sufficient self-awareness to realize it can die, but fuck them, it happens all the same. Dolphin trainers all over the world report the same phenomena: You walk away from a dolphin at its peril. The transition from a familiar trainer to a new one must be made gradually.
When she heard the news, Margaret was devastated, and blamed… John C. Lilly, of course. Of course! When he had to shut down his CRI lab, Lilly moved the surviving dolphins to a water-filled bank vault in Miami, hardly an ideal enviroment in anyone’s imagination, except, apparently, Lilly. One man who worked for Lilly in the early 60’s, Ted Nelson, describes the crowded conditions there (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONhnEmoSRfk). There, former Creature from the Black Lagoon diver-cum-monster Ricou Browning wrote me in a personal letter, he saw a dolphin in a plexiglass tank, and all the flesh around its neck looked black and rotted. But he offered no pictures to back up his observation, and here the dolphin looks fine.
OK, is it really necessary for this to go on? Is it apparent why people hated Lilly, who could also be austere, demanding, demeaning, stiff, outspoken, and severe? He was also, by this time, combining his trips in the tank with the wonder drug LSD, guaranteed to liven up any hippie Happening! A couple of sources say that that Lilly got turned on to acid by movie producer (Flipper, Namu the Killer Whale) Ivan Tors’ wife, but not Lilly, and why, I wonder, would you waste money on street blotter of questionable provenance when you, as an M.D. and scientist, can obtain the pure stuff in ampoules straight from Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland?
(Ha! Film that with your Swiss-made Bolex, Randy! Hey, did Blair buy you an electric motor for that thing, or did you just yell for the shark and dolphin to hold it while you cranked up the spring-wound motor every 35 seconds?)
Lilly finished up the work for NASA by writing a nifty little book, Programming and Meta-Programming in the Human Biocomputer, which is one of the best instruction manuals for using your brain creatively I’ve ever encountered. But shooting LSD nearly did him in (he got a stroke after he accidentally injected a tiny air bubble with it), and it certainly did in his career! Dr. Joel Elkes, a prominent psychopharmacologist and my mother’s second husband, knew Lilly and had worked with him at N.I.M.H. when he still seemed relatively sane. Years later, when Lilly was deep into acid, Elkes met him again at a psychological conference. “He cried ‘JOEL!,’ threw his arms around my neck, put his head on my shoulder and cried for ten solid minutes,” Dr. Elkes later told me in personal conversation. “Then he just said ‘Bless you,’ and walked away.” ?????
Is it any wonder that such wild, unproven, radical-sounding ideas as dolphins actually talking to each other,plus the time in the float tank, plus the drugs, plus the near-fatal embolism, plus a broken marriage, turned the stolid, staid, scientifically orthodox marine mammalogy community against Lilly? Hey, research grants for anything having to do with dolphin sound production WERE SUDDENLY VERY DIFFICULT TO GET, and that pissed a lot of marine mammalogists off! They had to go and study elephant seals or vaquitas or tusk-beaked grunge whales (OK, I just made that last one up. So sue me), but “talking dolphins”? DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH! That was what that crazy egg-head Lilly was doing, and look where he is now! Down the drain! Hiding under a rock! Teaching sensory exploration classes at the Esalen Institute, in Big Sur, California, where nobody can understand him but everybody knows he’s just so goddamn smart!
But I drift. Back to my problem… with Dr. Blair Irvine.
So, reader, now you know why every marine mammalogist on the planet, and maybe some others too, hated John C. Lilly. Here’s some of the complaints they have about him:
• “He was high on drugs all the time!”
• “He killed more dolphins than Star-Kist Tuna!”
• “He kept dolphins under terrible conditions!” (Sometimes true. You can’t always get what you want.)
• “His so-called ‘research’ was rotten science! He should have determined if dolphins have their own language before trying to teach them English!”
• “That female assistant of his, she fucked the dolphin, you know!” (NO EVIDENCE OF THIS EVER, FROM MARGARET HOWE-LOVATT OR ANYONE ELSE.)
• “He fooled around with his female assistants!” (Some reports of mild flirtation, but Lilly, AFAIK, stayed loyal to the last woman he married, Antoinette Oshman or Toni, for short, until she died of cancer.)
• “He wasn’t even a marine biologist, let alone a marine mammalogist! He had no experience in our learned field, and was out of his depth — Yuk! Yuk!”
• “He had sex with his dolphins! His dope dealer told me so! My God, what a degenerate!” (I really heard this! Not like Lilly needed a dope dealer, and why should I believe a dope dealer over Lilly himself, who never mentioned having a dolphin jones?)
• “I just didn’t like him personally. Working with him wasn’t very rewarding. He was fussy, critical, and demanding.” (By far the most common complaint against him. True, but more so in his early years. By the time the 1980’s roll around, Lilly was out of dolphins but thinking about getting back in, and a much more mellow, laid-back person than he was in 1960.)
Dr. Irvine, having worked with Lilly for only a brief time I gather, was personally familiar with some of these problems. The real ones, anyhow, which were quite enough without the gossip and slander.
And, in response to Dr. Irvine’s not-so-casual question to me on that cold March morning, “What have you read?”, I answered “All of John Lilly’s stuff…”
Let me make this clear: I can take criticism. I can take corrective instruction. What I cannot take, and will NEVER take, is being used as SOMEONE ELSE’S TOXIC WASTE DUMP, and that is what Dr. Irvine did to me that morning. He took his problems with Dr. Lilly, AND DUMPED THEM ON ME! Did this reduce his problems with Dr. Lilly? No, it didn’t discharge them, it just spread them around thinner! And it caught me horribly by surprise, like being sucker-punched by a guy wearing a 3-piece Armani suit and tie.
What it turns out is, “You cannot be the servant of two masters” means it’s very difficult to live with as much cognitive dissonance as I have about the two Dr. Blair Irvines. On is a kindly, nurturing scientist who mentored Randy Wells, the other the asshole who insulted me outside the fish freezer at Floridaland. AND I CANNOT GET THESE TWO MUTUALLY-INCOMPATIBLE IMAGES OF DR. IRVINE TO ALIGN, OR EVEN OVERLAP. HE’S EITHER A NICE GUY INSIDE OR HE’S NOT, AND I SUSPECT HE’S NOT. Why? Because it takes one to know one, and I’m really clear about my own sociopathic tendencies. They were quite apparent in my behavior when I was little. I’m much better at covering them, and imagining their frightening consequences, now.
I’m 69, I’m sick, and I’m tired of fighting the whole goddamn world. I thought I could take on Dr. Irving without harming the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, but I can’t; mind you I did think it wasA VERY STUPID IDEA for Dr. Irvine to use a personal e-mail account to accept donations for the SDRP, and I didn’t suggest he do that. I mean, anybody with half a brain knows you should set up a separate account for donations, because then it’s not associated with you and isn’t hauling whatever baggage you have around for you. Which the SDRP was definitely doing, with me; every month, when I got alerted that my $10 donation came out of PayPal, there would be his name on the email address, staring at me, reminding me of his unwarranted rudeness and anger, over and over and over again…
I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT ANY MORE, OKAY? I just couldn’t.
And since I can’t change Dr. Irvine, or Dr. Wells, or the SDRP (although apparently I did influence that awkward, sudden change of Dr. Irvine’s address, which I know is going to cost the SDRP a hell of a lot of trouble that it doesn’t need, and possibly some donations which it does) the only sensible, rational thing is to cut them all off, end my emotional attachments, and let them go. Which, with this message, I am.
So long, Randy, it was good knowing you, and thanks for all the fish those great lunches we had together, that you paid for. I owe you, but I’m probably not going to be able to return the favor, ever. You never expressed any doubt or nasty opinions when I told you my improbable story about Dolly. I honestly wish you and the SDRP nothing but success, but please let me know when Dr. Irvine dies, so I can be sure to piss on his grave!!!
Adios, muchacho Randy, y via con delfines! Aiieeeee!
Above: Portrait of Dr. Blair Irvine, courtesy GulfBase. I think he has the eyes of a sociopath, but hey, what the fuck do I know? I’m just some guy he used one morning as a TOXIC WASTE DUMP, and he thought he’d never hear from again. Wrong bet, Dr. Irvine, wrong bet. And yes, karma IS a bitch!
(Overnight, Dr. Blair Irvine, former director of the Sarasota Dolphin Research Project, changed his email address, so he couldn’t get any more emails from me like the one he received yesterday! Since this is the address at which the SDRP has received its donations, your next donation to them, if you make one [and I heartily endorse the SDRP, in spite of my personal feelings about Blair], don’t be surprised if it bounces back to your account. Unless you change it, which is troublesome, I admit. But hey, I didn’t tell him to change his freaking email address! I must have really gotten to him if he went to all that trouble! Well, as B. F. Skinner said, any acknowledgement, positive OR negative, can be perceived as a reward by the subject! It would have been better to DO NOTHING, but then again, I shouldn’t have to tell Dr. Irvine, who I am sure is a confirmed behaviorist, something that well-known and simple. Another chink in the armor of a “great scientist.” Yeah, right.)
WAKE UP, DR. IRVINE, WAKE UP!
IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE! MR. BRENNER HAS POSTED HIS LETTER TO YOU ON malcolmbrenner.com/news, HIS WEB SITE! SO THE WHOLE WORLD NOW KNOWS HOW RUDE YOU WERE TO HIM, WHAT POOR CONTROL YOU HAVE OVER YOUR ANGER, AND HOW IMMATURE YOU SECRETLY ARE UNDER THAT FAÇADE OF EMOTIONAL CONTROL YOU SO PROUDLY SHOW THE WORLD! WASN’T IT NICE OF HIM TO WARN YOU? YOU SHOULD THANK HIM FOR BEING SO THOUGHTFUL, THERE WAS NO WARNING FROM YOU WHEN YOU TURNED ON HIM AND VERBALLY MUGGED HIM BECAUSE HE MENTIONED dr. Lilly’s DREAD NAME!
I HATE TO BE THE ONE TO TELL YOU, BUT MR. BRENNER SAYS HE IS PREPARED TO DO THIS EVERY MORNING, UNTIL YOU ANSWER HIS VERY REASONABLE QUESTION ABOUT WHY YOU TREATED RANDY WELLS SO NICELY, AND TREATED HIM LIKE SHIT. LIKE SOMETHING SCRAPED OFF YOUR SHOE, AFTER YOU WALKED AWAY.
YOU WERE VERY UNSCIENTIFIC, WHEN YOU LET YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS ABOUT DR. LILLY OVERCOME WHATEVER TRIVIAL RESPECT YOU MAY HAVE HAD FOR MALCOLM AS A PERSON. YOUR INTEREST IN HIS WORK WAS VERY SHALLOW, AND MALCOLM SUSPECTS YOU ARE A SOCIOPATH, AND WONDERS HOW YOU COULD HAVE KEPT IT SECRET FOR SO LONG, IF YOU ARE. HE ALSO WONDERS HOW MANY OTHER UNHEARD-FROM PEOPLE ARE IN THE SAME POSITION HE IS, HAVING BECOME YOUR VICTIMS ON YOUR WAY TO THE TOP OF THE DOLPHIN WORLD?
OH, AND BTW, MALCOLM SAYS, “HEY, DO YOU OR THE U.S. NAVY OWN THE FILM OF SIMO? WHY DON’T YOU PUT IT ON THE WEB, DR. IRVINE, AND SHOW US WHAT A FUN TIME SIMO HAD, BEING CHASED BY AN AGGRESSIVE BULL SHARK! IS IT TRUE HE JUMPED OUT OF THE TANK TO AVOID IT?”
PUT THE FILMS ON THE WEB, AND LET US SEE FOR OURSELVES! I’LL BET YOU’VE STILL GOT A PRINT IN THE SDRP ARCHIVES, DON’T YOU? WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? LET US BE THE ONES TO JUDGE WHAT A BRILLIANT SCIENTIST YOU ARE!
AND HERE’S A “VALID SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT” FOR YOU: WE PUT YOU, NAKED, IN A CIRCULAR TRACK YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF, AND WE RELEASE A 500-LB. (that’s 228.6 kilos, Malcolm knows you scientists like to do things in metric) TIGER INTO THE TRACK WITH YOU. BUT DON’T WORRY! WE’RE GOING TO GIVE YOU A ROCK TO THROW AT THE TIGER AS IT LEAPS ON YOU, AND IF YOU’RE A DEAD SHOT AND HIT THE TIGER RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES, YOU’LL KILL IT! AND A BELL WILL GO OFF, AND YOU’LL GET A LOVELY FOOD PELLET AS A REWARD… THIS IS THE POSITION YOU PUT SIMO IN, ASSHOLE!
WHAT DO YOU LEARN ABOUT THE BEHAVIOR OF REAL DOLPHINS IN THE WILD WHEN YOU PUT A DOLPHIN IN A CIRCULAR TANK IT CAN’T ESCAPE FROM AND RELEASE A DOLPHIN-EATING SPECIES OF SHARK WITH IT?
NOTHING! YOU LEARN NOTHING ABOUT HOW A DOLPHIN BEHAVES IN THE WILD, WHERE IT HAS ROOM TO MANEUVER, TO GET UNDER THE SHARK, TO GET OUT OF ITS WAY, TO PROTECT ITS MATES AND YOUNG, OR REQUEST AID FROM ITS FELLOWS. BUT HEY, IT LOOKED GOOD TO THE O.N.R., AND GOT YOU A GENEROUS GRANT TO LIVE OFF OF! SO MALCOLM PAID FOR YOUR RESEARCH WITH HIS TAXES, TOO, ASSWIPE!
YOUR EXPERIMENT WAS A WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT, ALL IT TOLD THE U.S. NAVY IS HOW DOLPHINS BEHAVE IN A DONUT TANK, AND IF I AM NOT MISTAKEN, SUCH TANKS RARELY EXIST IN THE OPEN OCEAN. RELEASE THE FILMS AND PROVE MALCOLM WRONG!
LIKE I SAY, MALCOLM PLANS TO DO THIS EVERY MORNING, UNTIL YOU ANSWER HIS VERY, VERY REASONABLE AND RATIONAL QUESTION. MALCOLM SAYS HE CAN HOLD OUT LONGER THAN YOU CAN, OR UNTIL YOU CHANGE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, WHICH EVER COMES FIRST. AND MALCOLM WOULD HATE TO SEE YOU CHANGE IT, IT’S SUCH A BOTHER, YOU KNOW?
HAVE A FUCKED-UP DAY, DR. BLAIR! THIS HAS BEEN A WAKE-UP CALL FROM YOUR CONSCIENCE, AND IF IT’S HARD FOR YOU TO HEAR, DON’T BLAME ME, TURN UP YOUR HEARING AID YOU IDIOT, I’M SHOUTING AS LOUD AS I CAN! — dr. Blair Irvine’s conscience
Please forgive me for not reading your mind on that cold morning in March, 1971, when the head dolphin trainer at Floridaland, Robert Corbin, introduced us. I’m really, really sorry I said something that upset you so much, but only dolphins and a few other “lower” animals have given me the privilege of mental telepathy with them, and you just weren’t on my short list that morning. What can I say, at this late date, to make it right with you?
I’m sure you have long since forgotten the incident, but I haven’t, not only because you treated me like a non-person, but because you implied I was also very stupid, even though you had only met me for about 2 minutes. Let me jog your memory. You had run out of fish for Simo, the poor dolphin trapped in your worthless circular tank shark experiments. (More on that, and why your reputation is undeserved, later.) So you came down to Floridaland, where I was pursuing a independent study project at New College photographing the dolphins for a proposed book about them. And our paths chanced to cross outside the freezer shack, where Robert kept the fish.
Robert introduced us. I had, of course, heard of the experiment you were conducting for the US Navy at Mote Labs; everybody in town had heard about it, following your efforts to tag dolphins by burning holes in their dorsal fins and affixing plastic plaques, a rather crude and ineffective technique. Robert mentioned that I was a student who was very interested in dolphins. I told you a little bit about my project, and you seemed very enthusiastic about it at first. I remember you — oddly, in view of what happened — actually smiling, but it might just have been indigestion making you wince. A long time has passed, hasn’t it? Far too long for anybody except a real weirdo, like me, to still resent it, but I do.
Those first impressions, they are a bitch, aren’t they? It works both ways, Dr. Irvine. Both ways.
And then you asked the fateful question: “What books have you read?” If I had been able to read your mind then, I would not have given the answer that I did. Please believe me on this, is was the lack of clear, decipherable telepathy with you that ultimately let me down. I failed nobody but myself, there.
The answer I gave you was unfortunately honest, forthright and sincere. “Well, all of John Lilly’s stuff…” I started to say, preparing to explain how New College had a lousy library and it was difficult to get research papers there. But I never got a chance, because, as cold as it was that morning, the air between us froze, and you, in an instant, on a dime, in a New York minute, turned from a friendly, somewhat fatherly researcher with an interest in my work (admittedly a liberal arts approach to dolphins) into a lethal polar bear, moving in for the kill. The smile on your face disappeared, to be replaced in an instant with an expression of profound disgust, as if you had just stepped in dogshit — Great Dane dogshit. Something I’d said had obviously triggered you, and this was decades before pop psychologists began abusing that term. What could it be?
Could the mere mention of Dr. John C. Lilly’s name…? Could it? Really? How misfortunate for me, to mention the ONE NAME that would trigger you that morning! And how doubly misfortunate not to have read your fucking mind before hand, so that I’d be forewarned and not make the one mistake that would send you plunging off the end of the dock, dragging me with you! It was there, in the air over your head, clearly flashing red letters that said WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T MENTION JOHN C. LILLY’S NAME TO THIS MAN, HE’LL FREAK OUT — and I chose to ignore it. Or I just didn’t see it. I certainly didn’t mean to provoke you, we’d only just met!
When you spoke, even your voice was different. There was an edge of threat or menace in it when you said “That man is either 50 years ahead of his time, or crazy, and most of us think he’s crazy! Good day!” By “us” I took it that you mean marine mammalogists at large — speaking for the community as a whole, I guess you were — and there may also have been something in there about you having worked with him, and that’s how you knew. Then you pivoted on your heel, got in your truck and drove away, and I never even had a chance to finish my sentence.
I will not describe how I felt as you drove away; instead, here are some of the things I thought about you: • Rude, inconsiderate • Abusive, abrupt
• Talks down at me, thinks he’s superior
• Explosive intermittent disorder (this is the modern diagnosis, I suffer from it too)
• Intolerant • Must be hard to work with, being around a person so critical with a hair-trigger temper
• Doesn’t want to listen, close-minded
• Sociopath, only likes people who can help him out• No empathy with others… and so on. This is an incomplete list, but I’m sure you get the general drift.
As a result of that unfortunate meeting, I THOUGHT YOU WERE A REALLY FUCKED-UP PERSON, PERSONALLY, AND THE WAY YOU TREATED ME CAUSED ME TO HATE YOU. And I don’t like to hate things, it’s a waste of energy. But I do hate you, and I find I’ve hated you for 50 fucking years now. That probably says more about me than about you, and I admit I have anger management problems. But since then I’ve learned something important, and puzzling.
Somebody else gave you the same information, and you reacted differently to him than you did to me. So I think I’m justified in asking “What did he do right that I did wrong?” or, “What was the difference in Dr. Blair Irvine’s approach to me and this other person?”
Dr. Randall Wells, as I’m sure you’ve heard, has been an acquaintance of mine since we met in a marine biology class at Riverview High School in Sarasota in 1968 or ’69. I had a lot of social problems in high school, but Randy wasn’t one of them; he was just a nice, affable, intelligent guy, and he didn’t seem to get picked on much, so we talked a bit. Over the years, my esteem for him has only grown, and I now donate monthly a small amount, all I can afford in my current circumstances, to the SDRP, because I know that 90% of that money will go to benefit the dolphins of Sarasota Bay, and the other 10% to buy beer for the boat crew worn-out from chasing, netting, examining and logging them all day. (Just kidding!) So it is Randy’s compassion for the dolphins, and the excellence of his research, his personal friendliness toward me over time and a belief in acting locally, that make me want to donate to the splendid organization that you and Randy created together.
Now, here’s my problem, Dr. Irvine, and it consists of two words you may have heard before: COGNITIVE DISSONANCE.
You see, Randy is an exceptional person, and I do not see him mentoring, or collaborating, or getting papers published, with somebody who was rude to him, browbeat him, talked down to him, insulted his intelligence, and dismissed him with a wave of your hand, all of which you did to me that frosty March morning. When Randy came to you with John C. Lilly’s name on his lips — he proudly displayed a copy of Mind of the Dolphin on the SDRP podcast last week as his first dolphin book — you reacted differently, very differently, to him than you did to me.
Was it the fact that you were renting your house from his folks that made you feel indebted to them and caused you to moderate your self-righteous anger with the lad, or did I see a side of you you don’t show to others in your profession? The sociopathic side, the side that steps on unsung grad students to get research published, the side that curses the dolphins for struggling when you burn holes in their dorsal fins to tag them? The side that decided I WAS A NON-PERSON SO YOU COULD TREAT ME LIKE SHIT THAT MORNING BECAUSE I DIDN’T READ YOUR MIND AND REALIZE, SOMEHOW, BEFORE THE WORDS LEFT MY MOUTH, THAT ME SAYING DR. JOHN C. LILLY’S NAME WOULD TRIGGER YOU INTO A RAGE OF BARELY-CONTROLLED ANGER?
What was it, Dr. Irvine, that made you react differently to Randy than to me? A short-term circumstance, I hope, something like “Sorry, I hadn’t had breakfast that morning,” or “Sorry, I didn’t get laid the night before.” Those would be comprehensible, if not excuses. Something like “My mother died the day before,” that would be an excuse. I don’t know, and for 50 fucking years your behavior toward me that morning has been like a big grub, festering in my brain, and it doesn’t go away, and if it does, I always come back to it eventually.
What you did, I should point out, was also bad news from a scientific point of view. With Randy you were apparently able to hold a polite discussion and explain to him what was wrong with Lilly’s work. He listened, learned, and grew from it. Me, you told to fuck off, and I hate you for it.
So there’s my cognitive dissociation, Dr. Irvine: which human are you? I cannot make the two images align, or even overlap: are you a kind, nuturing scientist that gets along with his colleagues or the rude, abusive (yes, ABUSIVE, when did you stop beating your wife abusive), short-tempered person I encountered that morning? And more importantly, for reasons that apparently have nothing to do with you, WHY ME? When open scientific discussions such as I presumed we were having get SHUT DOWN because someone dropped a name he wasn’t supposed to, that’s not science, that’s prejudice and bigotry. Let me remind you, you never got a chance to explain your POV to me either, and if that wasn’t your fault, it sure as hell wasn’t mine.
So all in all, Dr. Irvine, I don’t think very well of you, but I allow that I might be mistaken, because Dr. Wells likes you, I mean, you are his mentor and everything, and I don’t think, as I have said, Randy would work for very long with somebody who abused him. I am quite confused as to who you really are, and I hope you see fit to clarify the situation for me, as I find it very difficult to go forward with my own work like this, unable to rectify two polar-opposite views of you. So please tell me, if you will, why I saw the unpleasant side of the distinguished scientist that morning, and why Randy did not.
I’ve decided not to critique the famous experiments with Simo that Randy filmed for you, although I will say, in passing, that dolphins do not in nature swim in 6′ deep donut-shaped pools, and any evidence acquired thereby can only be applied to the behavior of dolphins in the wild by a rather thinly stretched interpolation.
In closing, Dr. Irvine, I hope I have expressed myself clearly, and that you now know the reason for my impertinence in mentioning Dr. Lilly’s unspeakable name to you on that sorry morning. It WAS totally my fault that I failed to read your mind, and for that I can only offer sincere, if abject, apologies. Let me finally say to you the words that I have been wanting to say for 50 long, sad years: EAT SHIT AND DIE, YOU WORTHLESS WASTE OF PROTOPLASM! FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON. I THINK YOU’RE A BUNKO SCIENTIST, AND IF YOU WERE CRUEL TO ME, WHO ELSE WERE YOU CRUEL TO? WHAT OTHER NON-PERSONS DID YOU STEP ON TO GET WHERE YOU ARE? I am sure they remember the encounters, even if you don’t.
Thank you for reading this letter. I will continue to donate to the SDRP because I believe in and trust Randy, not you. I hope I have made myself clear, and have a really fucked-up day.
Most sincerely, Malcolm J. Brenner, author of Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover and other books.
Can you tell I’m a little bit excited with the interview I just recorded for Dick Sunday, a new podcast by Jennifer & Stephanie Smith, alias “the Smithsters,” which is based on the premise that at least one day a week you should bitch about dicks? I mean here the attitude, not the very apparent feature of masculine anatomy (did you know that lizards and snakes have two, but most birds lack one altogether?).
The sisters, a pair of housewives in North Carolina, introduced themselves to me via e-mail, and asked if I wanted to be on their show. Previously, it being their first, Stephanie asked Jennifer if she had any gripes, and Jenny brought up all the stories about dolphins being rough: Male dolphins herd females and beat them up. Male dolphins kill young dolphins so the mothers will come into heat again, like lions. Some dolphins even kill porpoises for sport!… and so on, a veritable calvacade of dubious dolphin disasters.
I’m sorry, something has come up, just go to the link and listen to the podcast, will you? It’s really pretty good, and I’ve got to attend to something else that has just come up. Thanks.
(With apologies to the late August Derleth for modifying his story title.)
Dear daughter, brother, sister & friends, terrestrial, aquatic and otherwise, On Sept. 23, it was reported in major news outlets that a Cuvier’s beaked whale had managed to stay submerged for 3 hrs. 42 minutes, or, in metric terms, 3 hrs. 42 minutes. Yeah, really!
The NYT wrote:
Dr. Quick’s latest paper, published Wednesday in the Journal of Experimental Biology, documents the whales’ most impressive observed descent to date: 3 hours 42 minutes, trouncing the previous record by over an hour. The new record is nearly seven times longer than scientists expect the mysterious mammals should be able to dive, based on scientific understanding of their body size and metabolic rate.
“This is just so beyond what we’ve seen before,” said Andreas Fahlman, a physiologist at the Oceanographic Foundation of the Valencian Community in Spain and an author on the study. “They’re not supposed to be able to do this, but they do.”
Based on the whales known metabolism, which I presume was recorded by some kind of suction-cup-attached recording device, scientists could account for only 33 minutes of dive time. The whale (actually a big dolphin, very little is know about them) beat that by +7x. These creatures also hold the record for the deepest dive recorded, to 10,000 feet, almost 2 miles or 3,048 meters!
With this fact recently on my mind, I was astonished to hear tonight, during an Ian Gordon reading of the H. P. Lovecraft short story “The Temple,” written in 1920 and first published in 1925, Lovecraft describe dolphins, the common Delphinis delphis, accompanying a submarine at great depth for over 2 hours without breathing!
The story concerns the nasty Prussian captain of a German U-boat in WW1, when the weapons had just come into widespread use. He sinks an Allied ship and shoots the lifeboats with his deck gun, but one of the dead, later found clinging to a rail, sports an oddly carven ivory head in his pocket that drives its owners mad. The sub suffers a catastrophic engine failure that leaves it adrift in the currents. After murdering a rebellious crew (how do you shoot someone in a submarine?) and having his #2 commit suicide, the current sweeps the sub and the Prussian, now solo, to a submerged temple… cue the theremin music! (I won’t spoil it for you, but in typical HPL fashion, you won’t leave the theater humming the themesong.)
This is what HPL had to say about the dolphins:
We often cast a beam around the ship, but saw only dolphins, swimming parallel to our own drifting course. I was scientifically interested in those dolphins; for though the ordinary Delphinus delphis is a cetacean mammal, unable to subsist without air, I watched one of the swimmers closely for two hours, and did not see him alter his submerged condition… (13:00-13:20)
…His mind was tired, but I am always a German, and was quick to notice two things; that the U-29 was standing the deep-sea pressure splendidly, and that the peculiar dolphins were still about us, even at a depth where the existence of high organisms is considered impossible by most naturalists. That I had previously overestimated our depth, I was sure; but none the less we must still be deep enough to make these phenomena remarkable. (15:55-16:25)
Now, Lovecraft did intensive research for his stories, including scientific articles; I read an analysis of The Color Out of Space citing several scientific articles published before the short story came out, that include reports of lighting hitting a fallen meteor, for instance, which he mentions in the story! But what was he thinking when he fantasized that the minions of C’thul’hu dolphins could hold their breath for so long, or dive so deep? Was he venturing in forgotten dreams into the weedy Sargassos of some time-lost realm of the great sea-god Nodens, or just fucking around? Only C’thul’hu knows… but I’m not brave or mad or stoned enough to ask him. You first, Indy!
Here’s the web site for the story, it runs just under an hour, and Mr. Gordon is a wonderful narrator. Enjoy his sonorous voice and oblique delivery! https://youtu.be/OBtxU2K9oGk
“The Cult of Cthulhu is active, not reactive. It’s about the Great Old Ones, unspeakable oaths, unquiet voids, hideous sanity-shattering secrets, and magic as black as the yawning gulfs beyond time and space. Our religion has no limitations. That makes it demonstrably superior to Satanism.”
– Venger Satanis, high priest of the Church of C’thulhu
“Debuting Friday, September 18th 2020 The 1-800-Funk-Sauce.com Show Runtime: 11.5 minutes It’s an animated “late night” talk show!“
WARNING:1-800-FUNK-SAUCE is not a working number!
Do not call it, expecting any kind of an answer! I do not know what would happen if somebody actually picked up that phone, but I suspect you’d be worse off than if they hadn’t.
“With new episodes appearing on www.1-800-Funk-Sauce.com every Friday night, starting 9/18, The 1-800-Funk-Sauce.com Show will feature interviews with guests from all walks of life, musical performances from bands from all over the country/world, and various other adult comedy elements. The pilot episode will feature an interview with Malcolm J. Brenner and his former lover, Dolly the dolphin, to discuss their love affair. Musical guest Billy Summer will perform afterwards. “Find your comfortable spot, relax, get into the zone, and tune into The 1-800-Funk-Sauce.com Show, on Fridays starting on 9/18, on 1-800-Funk-Sauce.com.” — Press Release, Joe Seul
Let me explain. Joe Seul is a good guy I met through a bad public-relations contact. At the time, about mid-2017, he was a New College student majoring in music who proved very friendly and helpful in getting the audio book of Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair ready for publication by equalizing the sound and adding a little reverb to my flat, nasal voice, so I sound less like Boris Karloff and more like Morgan Freeman. And it worked out really well, so I was grateful to him, because he didn’t ask for any payment.
“What a swell guy!” I thought. Little did I know what EVIL lurks in the hearts of men!
Well, a couple of years went by when I didn’t hear a lot from Joe. He finished up his work at New College, moved out of the roach-infested hovel that passed for off-campus student housing there and upward and onward to better things in St. Petersburg (the Florida one, not the one in Russia, you know). And then came The Great Covid-19 Lockdown of 2020, and, like a lot of musicians, poor Joe didn’t know what to do with himself.
Not having anybody to jam with drove young Joe nearly insane (am I hitting too hard on this, Joe?) and he began experimenting with new programs, new apps. One of them, he told me, was a rudimentary computer graphics app that allowed him to make 3D animation that looked like an Amiga game in 1990, only not quite that good.
And then, like the skilled lurker, he is, he sprang the question: “I’m using it to do a short interview podcast, a different topic each week and some music, and I’d like you to be the first guest. What do you say?”
What could I say? Joe had me eating out of the palm of his paw, er, hand. I agreed, and since I haven’t had much success lately giving a recording of an interview that’s worth listening to, I was glad hear it would be recorded on regular old cell phone (I’m sure I’ll be able to get that Blue Yeti from my daughter to work right the next time).
It was late on a July afternoon, I think, when the westering sun shines into the house and the central AC struggles to keep it at 83ºF/28ºC against the greater heat outside, but I turned the fan off so the background noise wouldn’t interfere with Joe’s recording. A little hasty, I called him up, but there was some glitch and he called me back a little after 5 p.m.
There were a lot of things I want to talk about. The two other books I’ve written. My telepathic experiences with Dolly, which ended up on the floor of the Dolphin Lover cutting room (except these days they’d be taking up space in your Trash). My thoughts about the venerable age of the bottlenose dolphin species, 12 million years as compared to our +/- 250,000 years. What that means to the evolution of their sonic communications. How their predictive theory of mind abilities, which let them second-guess other dolphins and ourselves, evolved. And so on.
But Joe just launched right in. After a brief introduction, he said “Tell me what happened with you and Dolly at Floridaland.”
Ya know, Joe, it’s like this: You have an extraordinary experience, and you decide to let others know about it, so you spend 37 years writing, editing, printingand publishing a book about it so you won’t have to repeat it over and over and over. And then you go to distribute the book, and what do interviewers ask you?
“Tell me what happened!”
But, gentle reader, I didn’t do that. Instead I sat back and I spent the next little while telling Joe the story of my experience with Dolly, but this time trying to work in as much of my non-dolphin experience, and recent conclusions regarding us, the dolphins and whatever the fuck causes the UFOs as I could while still threading back to the occasional sweaty-palms narrative.
Forty-five heatstroked minutes later, Joe finished up by asking a few questions. “How did you get consent from the dolphin?” was the one I remember.
I didn’t give him my flip answer, either, which is “When was the last time you got a pig’s consent to turn it into a ham sandwich?” That’s flip because most of us do it without giving it a second thought, and also because it begs the question, Why is getting consent from a non-human partner only important when the human’s sexual pleasure is involved?
Because, not to put too fine a point on it, animals are chattel under most laws, and I can do what I want with chattel, provided if it’s an animal covered under the law (I don’t think many of us are going to lose a lot of sleep about the fates of mosquitoes, bedbugs or fire ants) I treat it humanely, even to the point of killing it humanely. And the law spells out how you do this.
I can breed that animal to another animal that may not be its natural choice, and I can, if necessary, hobble an unwilling female animal so that she cannot injure an unwanted male who rapes her. So it’s not whether the female animal (and, BTW, I submit that, in the eyes of the public, ONLY female animals can be the true “victims” of a bestialist) is enjoying it, or really even whether her body is her own, she is going to be used by her owner as a reproductive vehicle! The choice of a mate isn’t hers and her owner’s interest in her pleasure from the act can be accurately measured in micro-give-a-shits.
But suddenly, if I want to step in, and, knowing what I know about the animal’s species, characteristics and habits, not harm the animal, not hurt the animal, not even rape the animal, but just have sex with the animal — “normal” interspecies sex, for want of a better term, you know, the old in-and-out — for our mutual pleasure, THAT IS A HORRENDOUS, UNSPEAKABLE “CRIME AGAINST NATURE” AND WE MUST DO EVERYTHING IN OUR POWER TO PREVENT IT, OR PUNISH THE BESTIALIST IF IT HAPPENS!
To which I answer, “Where’s the harm?”
Harm. The concept of injury or damage, usually to someone else. Remember that? HARM? In Harm’s Way, famous WWII book & movie? “Evidence of harm,” legal concept? Self-harm, disturbing behavior? Armie Hammer, star of the disastrous 2013 Lone Ranger remake?
But I digress.
Joe did ask one memorable question, which was “How did you get consent from her?”
To which I answered, “Are you kidding? She had to get consent from me!”Which is true, and she spent most of the preceding five months figuring out how to do it! Was there a need to elaborate? Maybe another time.
We concluded the interview and Joe went back to his lair for a couple of weeks to edit. Then he sent me an email with a Vimeo address and a password. And what to my wondering eyes should appear…
Idon’t want to spoil it for you, so just let me say that Joe has honored my request to revive Dolly the dolphin in animated form, and chosen to portray us in a highly… COMPROMISED SITUATION.
Let it never be said (by me anyway) that I lack a sense of humor about myself. I acknowledge the many funny actualities in my relationship with Dolly, and point some of them out in the novel, including a photo of her mashing her snout into my would-be girlfriend’s face, while staring straight into the camera. It’s a wonderfully funny picture now, 50 years later, and I’m glad I still have it!
In this regard, let me say that I think Joe has exploited the humorous aspects of my relationship with Dolly in a way that nobody else has done before, and for this I congratulate him! He has also speeded up my voice by about 15-20% to make more of my interview available but doesn’t advise you of this before the interview begins, so I sound a little bit like a lost member of the band Alvin & The Chipmunks, but I mean, hell, Brenner, what do you expect for free? I didn’t really mean to insinuate that Joe was EVIL, just that I was a little… uh… SURPRISED by his… IMAGINATIVE PORTRAIT of myself and the dolphin together, VERY together, in the altogether.
Please check out the 1-800-FUNK-SAUCE.com website starting Friday evening, September 18 and let Joe and me know what you think, if you choose to. Thanks!
The first installment in this series dealt with my brief association, in late 1974, with Dr. Richard A. Blasband, a well-known orgonomist, and how I came to be present at a demonstration by Blasband of the “cloud buster,” a device Reich invented originally to remove poisonous nuclear radiation from his Maine laboratory which later turned out to be a boffo weather control machine, capable of making it rain in the Arizona desert (or so Reich said)!
The second installment dealt with the actual circumstances of Blasband’s demonstration and technical details about how I photographed it on Kodak Infrared Ektachrome with Blasband’s top-end Topcon camera and wide-angle lens. What I did not report, at that time, but which I remember distinctly, is thinking I should take photographs with a large amount of sky in them, because if anything was going to appear, it would probably appear there. Given what was recorded on the slides, I find this premonition eerily prescient.
This final installment deals with unpacking the 35mm. slides, my analysis and that by some technical representatives from Eastman Kodak. It also exposes the dreadful fate that befell the original slides, and why we have to work from custom high-quality 4×5″ negatives.
On October 27, 1974 I wrote: We have some very, very interesting things on film!! On the day I photographed, we got some very strange things. On one shot of the orgonomists we have something like this:
Then, when Blasband was busting on Oct. 11 we got some really weird stuff. (The 36 exposure roll of infrared slides was unfinished when I was done shooting, having about 12 shots left on it, and the film being an expensive special order item, I gave the camera to Blasband to finish up the roll and turn it in to Kodak for processing. Why I don’t think he messed with the film will be explained later on.) I don’t know who was taking the photos – we got some strange, ring-like formations in the sky, like this:
We can see, very faintly on projections something like a dome – but the fuckers are transparent, except for the rim lights!! We’re fascinated. In one series a small brilliant red light appears on the ground to the W. when the ring is directly in the CB beam – ring disappears, dot back near CB – ring appears to W. of CB, dot under it!! Don’t think these are lens flares – they’re there on the shots at f16 but not at f5.6. Very odd…
On Thursday, November 28, 1974 I again met with Blasband at his laboratory outside Doylestown, Pa. He operated his cloud buster, and we took more Super 8 movies and 35mm. slides, but this time with a camera borrowed from my friend Bill Hayward and conventional Fujichrome 100 slide film, which I had observed was better at discriminating closely-matched neutral tones than Kodachrome or Ektachrome. There were no results out of the ordinary. The next day, Friday, November 29:
…Then I took the slides over to Kodak (field office) in Ft. Washington and showed them to a Technical Rep named Barry DuBois (that really was his name!). Fortunately he’s very interested in UFOs! – he has good eyes and saw all kind of things in them. He agreed that the strange objects are much too uniform to be defects in the film & lens flare, and suggested we contact one of the UFO organizations such as NICAP (National Investigations Committee on AerialPhenomena), which I guess we’ll do – after I consult Blasband.
These are my last journal notes on the cloud busting demonstrations with Dr. Blasband and the resulting UAPs; I’m not sure the things I photographed are “objects” so much as phenomena. At this point we should look at scans of the original slides, but I have a sorry, stoned confession to make. After showing the slides to the Kodak tech-rep and friends, I tried a couple of times to have them copied with no success; the weird colors of the Infrared Ektachrome defeated the Kodak duplicating film, and the copy slides were either over- or under-exposed. So I put the slides away and didn’t mess much with them until I was running a B&W photo lab in Seattle in the early 1980s.
At that time I edited the slides and had a custom color lab we did business with make 4×5″ inch (10×12.5 cm.) color internegatives from them, including the complete area of the slide to the edges of the mount window. Color negatives offer a greater range of correction than trying to print from color slides, which is notoriously fickle, and the oversize negatives have virtually no grain and capture every bit of the slide’s resolution.
After that, the slides were again put away until the mid-1990s, when I was working as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Gallup, N.M. One assignment brought me in touch with some experienced UFO investigators from MUFON (Mutual UFO Network), and I asked them where I should send the slides to have them computer-scanned and professionally analyzed. “Send them to optical physicist Bruce Maccabee, he’s excellent and will take good care of the originals,” they said. “He really knows his shit.”
But for some reason I do not now recall, I didn’t follow this great advice. Instead, I somehow got Dr. Bruce Maccabee, Ph.D., mixed up with Village Labs’ Jim Dilletoso, a rather notorious person in the UFO community. Notorious for his flakiness and unreliability. And that’s exactly what happened to the slides.
After Dillettoso had received the slides, I didn’t hear from him, so I called. “These are remarkable!” he said. “There’s nothing like them in my database of over 10,000 images! I need more time to study them.”
And that was the last from Jim Dilletoso. The slides disappeared into the gaping maw of Village Labs, AND HAVE NEVER BEEN RETURNED! So much for Mr. Dilletoso; fortunately, we still have the internegatives to study. Let us turn to them. The 4×5″ internegatives were re-photographed with an iPhone camera, then inverted into positives in PhotoShop.
The first photo shows a general overview of the site, with the upper half sky. The cloud buster is out of frame. In the sky are 4 transparent “orbs,” and to the left, behind the power lines, is a bright curved line of light of unknown origin.
The white spots are dust on the internegative, except for the one immediately to the left of the curved line, which is part of the image. This raises two questions:
1) Are the orbs due to lens flare from glare on the chrome of the car, just below the trees on the left side? No. Lens flare due to light sources in the picture is always transposed to the opposite side of the image and inverted; thus, if the orbs were from the glare on the car, they would appear at the extreme right of the image, slightly above the centerline.
2) Is the curved line of light an artifact? No. The Kodak reps checked the surface of the slide, and the curved line is not a scratch in the emulsion or any other kind of defect. It was in the scene, recorded by the Ektachrome Infrared film, but otherwise invisible to the eye at the time.
The second image shows the cloud buster itself, no humans present in the photo, with details of its construction revealed. In the sky there is another invisible phenomenon.
The close-up shows another curved line in the sky, with a lighter patch apparently emanating from it, expanding in a downward direction. I have no idea what the fuck this is, but it was in the original scene, invisible to the eye and is not an artifact of any type. Everything else in the sky, that is, black lines or white spots, is dirt or dust. Sorry about that.
The third image, somewhat under-exposed, shows the farm structures and a house near the location of the cloud buster. Dr. Blasband rotated the tubes approximately 90º left, and began “drawing” (the orgonomists’ word for what a cloud buster does) from the west. The dark circular area is an artifact of the copy process, but in there we can see something that is recorded on the film:
It’s that odd swatch of light again! What is it doing there, and more fundamentally, WHAT THE HELL IS IT? A close examination shows there is also a faint black line on the lower side of the wider white line. We will explore the possibility that the photos were faked in one way or another shortly.
The final photo shows the gathered orgonomists near the cloud buster.
Note the very odd globular light forms in the sky. They resemble “orbs,” in that they are both luminous and transparent, but anyone can create beautiful orbs with a spray bottle and a cheap camera – cheap, because they have the flash close to the lens, and that’s what’s needed to create the phenomenon best known by its SCUBA divers’ name: BACKSCATTER.
Above, this was created with a $50 digital camera and a spray bottle. Just blow some spray into the air in front of the lens and take a picture, and oh, make sure the flash fires, because it’s the reflected light from the flash that makes the suspended droplets appear luminescent. I’ve diagnosed a couple of “paranormal” photos of orbs that have been taken this way – the same thing can happen with raindrops, dew, drifting mist, an insect or any other reflective object in front of the lens – and the photographers always seem to hate me, for some reason, when I tell them their orbs aren’t the ghost of Aunt Laurie, or visitors from the Pleiades. I really don’t understand it. Don’t people want to know what they’ve photographed?
But back to cloud buster photo #4. There was, of course, no mammoth spray bottle to provide droplets, and no flash on the camera, although the sun, coming from behind the photographer, will do the same job. The shadows of the orgonomists show this to be the case, the sun is directly behind me. There are 4 orbs, and they appear to be in the shape of a triangle, with the fourth orb located on an imaginary straight line between two points of the triangle. Of course, please note that ANY 3 POINTS not in a straight line will be automatically categorized by the human mind as a triangle, be it obtuse, acute or right angle.
The last photo is a detail of #4 showing the orbs with greater clarity. (The tiny white spots are, alas, dust.) The triangle at first appears to be a right angle, with the bottom almost parallel to the ground below. The two orbs denoting the ends of the hypotenuse are of approximately similar size and color, while the two other, smaller orbs have a bluish cast. If you draw all the lines from orb to orb, this displays ALL the triangles: obtuse (the lower three orbs), acute (the upper three orbs) and right angle (the overall figure)!
The orbs don’t appear to be reflections from specular highlights in the scene, like the bright chrome on the car; they’re not the right shape or in the right position.
This invisible figure is just utterly weird. I have no idea what is causing the orbs or arranging them in this peculiar fashion, and although I am no statistician I can tell you the odds against this happening by random chance, and my photographing it without being able to see it, are millions to one.
Which raises a question: Were these photos faked? Short answer: I think not, for several reasons. As I remember it, I shot about 24 pictures on the 36-exposure roll. At this point I could either have rewound the film and developed it, in which case the last 12 pictures would have been wasted (Kodak returned them as unmounted, short black strips of film), or I could leave the camera with Dr. Blasband, let him finish the roll shooting something else and have the film developed. I opted for the latter, because, well, I’m cheap, and the thought of throwing away 1/3 of a roll of special-order Kodak slide film didn’t appeal to me. So Dr. Blasband had the loaded camera for about a week before he finished the film and sent it to Kodak for developing.
During that time, the possibility exists that Blasband did something to the film to create these images, but although I acknowledge that, I think the odds are vanishingly small. Let me explain. The typical way to produce these images, which are lights against a darker background, is by double-exposure. This involves either shooting the two overlapping exposures in quick succession or rewinding the film and running it through the camera a second time to add the supplemental exposures afterward. The Beseler Topcon Super D camera we used had no provision for making intentional double exposures; indeed, there was a wind/shutter interlock against it! It wasn’t until later that professional-grades cameras began to incorporate this feature for special effects photography.
The other method, rewinding the film, requires that you line up the film while loading it accurately both times; usually you mark the 35mm. film leader with a Sharpie, and line this up with some part of the camera, so that both exposures overlap on the same frame line. Then you close the camera and wind to the first frame where you want to add a lighter object and photograph it against a black background, being careful to place it where you want to appear in the final photo. Since the film is slides, the original film is developed to produce the final image, and there is no printing process involving negatives to manipulate the image, add or remove things from it. Slide film is the original WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)! Since I’d never marked the film the first time I loaded it, Blasband would have no reference point to re-load it, and his second batch of double-exposed images might not have lined-up with the first, which I shot. It would be one hell of a crap shoot to get them right!
Finally, although Dr. Blasband owned a couple of expensive cameras, he was basically a photographic novice and didn’t possess either the technical skills or the imagination to create these vague images. And why on Earth would anyone who was going to go to perpetuate a UFO fraud make such a poor, insubstantial one? I’d have gone out of my way to make it much more impressive than this stuff!
Dr. Blasband shot the rest of the roll taking pictures of random things around his property, and I think his wife took a few of him. Of course, the infrared film does nothing for his complexion. And Jim Dilletoso, damn his fucking ass, still has the original slides.
What conclusions can be drawn from these four images? We will not speculate, but deal strictly with the evidence, what was recorded on the film.
Four exposures (1/9) of the Ektachrome Infrared film revealed strange aerial optical phenomena, luminous in the IR range but invisible to the eye.
Are these phenomena connected to the demonstration of the cloud buster? There just isn’t enough information to say either way, and we don’t have a big enough sample to know if these phenomena occur when the cloud buster isn’t operating. It is tempting to connect the two events, the CB demonstration and the appearance of the luminous phenomena, but we can’t do it with any certainty.
The luminous phenomena don’t appear to be artifacts, film defects or processing errors, such as scratches of the emulsion on the film. They don’t appear to be any type of lens flare or other optical artifacts that I know of. The Kodak tech rep Barry Dubois (remember that name?) confirmed this.
The luminous phenomena all appear in the sky. Three of them are similar, a small curved white line of light, while the fourth is a meta-triangle made of orbs, which should not, under these conditions, be recorded.
The curved white line of light moves around from picture to picture; it is apparently something out in the environment. One of the photos shows what appears to be a hazy cone of light extending earthward from the line of light.
It’s unlikely, due to Dr. Blasband’s lack of technical expertise and the characteristics of the camera used, that the optical phenomena recorded are the result of deliberate deception, lens artifacts or special effects.
The event appears to be a singularity. It would be interesting to repeat this photographic experiment at other cloud busting demonstrations and see if anything is recorded; modern digital cameras and camcorders can be modified to record IR and/or UV light.
I have no fucking idea what is going on here. If you do, please write it down on a scrap of paper, enclose with $20 in Bitcoin and mail it to me at the Coyote Enrichment Foundation, Easy Street, Port Charlotte FL 33***. Unfortunately it won’t be tax deductible, but I will ask my private daemon, a python, to give you a hug.
Doubtless if anybody into Reich’s “orgone energy” shit reads this stuff, they’ll be pissed that I’m skeptical and report that this all reinforces Reich’s work. As I pointed out above, we simply don’t have a large enough sample to make this conclusion with any certainty. If we had photographed 100 cloud busting demonstrations, and these luminous phenomena showed up in a statistically significant portion of them, we might be able to conclude that they do tend to appear more often at CB demonstrations than not, but we STILL would not have established any cause and effect, let alone established any proof of Reich’s outlandish claims.
The film project with Dr. Blasband fell apart when I submitted a demo film that was misfortunately lacking a soundtrack to a competition for funding. I began moving away from everything having to do with orgone energy and Reich’s work as I got a better, adult understanding of what science is: a laborious, methodical process of failing to prove something wrong. Only then can we assume it is correct, until a better model comes along and pushes it aside. Reich, as anyone familiar with his career knows, hopped from one field of science to another like a frog in a pond full of lily pads, never staying with any one long enough to master it and disrespecting the accepted masters when they failed to agree with him. I went back to Florida and lost contact with Blasband, who passed away some years ago. I don’t know what happened to his cloud buster.
The odd photos I recorded at that event on windy day outside Doylestown remain a mystery, like many other things in my life. I refuse to speculate on what they might be, where they come from or if they have any intentions, and I am reconciled to the fact that I’ll never know much more about them than I do now. These photos, however, do bear mute witness to the fact that they were there, and so was I.
The first installment of this three-part series dealt with my involvement in the 1970’s with Dr. Richard Blasband, a follower of the late misfortunate Neo-Freudian psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who claimed to have discovered “orgone energy” in the 1930’s, a primordial substance that explained… everything! Except why Reich was such a narcissist, comparing his heavy-handed prosecution by the FDA to the cruxifixction of Christ, for instance. Got it?
The third part will deal with the analysis of the photos taken at the cloud busting training session.
This installment is taken directly from my journal That Ol’ Tripe-Face Boogie, a spiral-bound notebook dated beginning January 1974. Dr. Blasband’s cloud-busting training session occurred on September 28, 1974, a Saturday.Sections in italics are my editorial clarifications of things that need to be explained in context.
…So we come to today (actually the previous day, as this was written at 3:30 a.m.). Hugh (my brother Hugh R. Brenner, R.N., then receiving orgone therapy himself) and I set off for Blasband’s early but he took a long time showering at Rena’s so we got there 20 minutes late – not that it mattered much. Blasband was in the middle of a very detailed lecture to a group of about a dozen ergonomists and others – (M.D. Charles R.) Konia, Sally L****’s orgonomist, was there, looking very strange – Gypsy-ish, with swarthy skin and heavily lidded eyes.
After about an hour’s lecture we removed to the field with the CB (cloud buster in Reichian jargon) in it. It was a beautiful day but unfortunately no clouds. The air was very clear but not quite sparkling. I was filming with the Beaulieu (Blasband’s movie camera, a very expensive French Super-8 mm. with an excellent Angenieux zoom lens) and trying hard to remember all the controls – I think it’s not well-human engineered but I think I did everything right. Blasband put the (cloudbuster’s flexible metal) tubes in the water (a pond) and pointed it W. Within 5 minutes a strong breeze had sprung up. The breezes had been fairly random all day, more or less from the east, but this was constant and from the W. I couldn’t see the discharges on the tubes too well – only a slight purplish flame – but we noticed that the W –> E shimmer of the atmosphere OR (orgone energy or “heat waves”) stopped and went straight up. I tried to film it but the 66 mm. telephoto (on the Beaulieu) wasn’t quite long enough. 100 mm. would be good.
I had Blasband’s Beseler Topcon (a 1960’s Japanese 35mm. camera equivalent to the Nikon-F) full of EK IR (Ektachrome Infrared, a unique Kodak color slide film that recorded red and infrared light in false colors) rated at 100 ASA (now ISO) thru deep red filter and took a lot of photos (with a Topcon RE 35mm. f2.8 lens) at 1/125 @ f5.6 and f16, for bracketing. 5.6 was the meter reading off the grass. I was getting pretty close to the tubes & began to feel dizzy and slightly sick. Blasband had pointed out a kind of patchy blackening of the horizon of a hill to the W. Now the blackening was swirling in a cyclonic fashion! I had never seen anything like it before! It looked like Cecil B. DeMille special effects. I could just barely perceive it. How do we record it on film? It reminded me of a passage in (Arthur C. Clarke’s science-fiction novel) Childhood’s End where Clarke describes the Overmind manifesting itself.
I tried shooting the pipes in innumerable different ways. My spaghetti-legs tripod didn’t help. Finally I felt I had enough. I was so highly charged I felt like I was tripping. B. then swung the CB to the north. Within a minute, the wind had changed direction! That was eerie. I felt like an observer at a magic ritual – things unseen, powers almost beyond control surging around me. I shot the tubes both in normal speed and at 4 fps. at f22, shutter closed to 1/2, 1 stop underexposed. We went back – I’d shot 2-1/2 rolls, or about 7 minutes worth – good tie-in for the footage we already have.
I just threw up twice in the bathroom. 5:20 a.m. This could have any one of 4 causes: 1) The Sherman’s cigarettes I’ve been smoking. As of now I stop smoking cigarettes forever. 2) The dinner – although it wasn’t all that bad; ham, sweet potatoes, string beans. 3) The wine and beer I had at Rena’s (our stepmother). 4) Overcharge from the CB, or 5) all of the above. Sometimes I do abuse my system a little… (writing about sister’s birthday party). …In retrospect, even tho’ there were no clouds to bust, the demonstration was very impressive.
(Historical note: I came to my senses quite suddenly one afternoon, while talking with a customer over a joint in the back of my Seattle photolab, Superposter. When I told him about having had orgone therapy, he said “Huh! You went through that shit?”)
(I’d never heard anyone refer to Reich’s work like that, but his words seem to coalesce several suspicious, subversive thoughts about Reich’s work, the objectivity of his science, the reality of “orgone energy,” his self-appointed reputation as a Great Man, his “UFO experiences,” his closeness to the Great Cosmic Orgone, whether the USAF was REALLY watching over him as he believed, his “murder” in a federal penitentiary, how crazy the people who followed him were, etc., and from that point on I found myself falling out of love with Herr DoktorReich. His feet of clay had left tracks all over my life.)
(But, at the time this was written, I was still amenable to explaining everything in orgonomic terms, hence the comments about the “purplish flame on the tubes” (retinal rhodopsin fatigue, when you gaze steadily at any object) and the swirling cyclonic formation — I was obviously seeing something, but I don’t attribute it to the demonstration of the cloud buster any more. I am absolutely certain that “orgone energy” as Reich described it, a bio-field or life-energy that apparently extends into the Universe at large, and moves everything, doesn’t exist, and Reich’s headlong plunge into self-delusion about it only shows how increasingly narcissistic and crazy he became toward the end of his life.)
In the 1970’s I was still under the thrall of my family’s very own “orgone guru,” the late, absolutely bonkers Austrian Freudian psychiatrist Dr. Wihelm Reich. I lent what skills I had to proving to skeptics that “orgone energy,” which I really can’t explain here except to say that it explains EVERYTHING,existed, could be measured and, possibly, photographed with the appropriate equipment, filters and film.
Thus it was I found myself working with Dr. Richard A. Blasband,one of the last orgonomists to be trained by Reich,a rather humorless man in his mid-40’s who had established an orgonomically-correct (no fluorescent lights, not near a nuclear power plant, etc.) laboratory in the countryside outside Doylestown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The thing that made Blasband interesting was that he had constructed a “cloudbuster,” a purported weather-control device with which Reich claimed he had made it rain in the Arizona desert, among other achievements. You can see something like it in the Kate Bush/Donald Sutherland video “Cloudbusting,” but that’s sort of the Terry Gilliam version of one; Reich’s, as you can see, was much less complicated!(The photo is uncredited and in the public domain.)
Basically this isn’t a machine at all, as it has no obvious energy input, and you can only detect the output if you are a sufficiently “open” or “sensitive” or “unarmored” or “orgastically potent,” which all are ways of saying you’ve paid some Reichian therapist (they drift rather far afield, these days, from what Reich wrote) a lot of dead presidents to treat the chronic muscular tensions that are the root of all your neuroses, psychoses, repressed desire to kill/fuck your mother/father/poodle/FFA project or whatever is bothering you.
The cloudbuster’s nothing but a bunch of telescoping aluminum tubes on a gimbaled axis that allows it to be swung and aimed at any point of the sky, preferably from the horizon to the zenith. The tubes, in turn, are, by Reichian logic, grounded by connecting them to a body of water (running is best)with flexible metal BX cable that has been wrapped in adhesive cloth tape. The theory is that the cloud buster will then “draw” the orgone energy from the sky to the body of water, and, depending on how you manipulate it, make all the clouds in the vicinity of where you point it either grow, or shrink.
(Hey, clouds are either doing one or the other, so you’re bound to win, right?)
With this contraption, Reich’s heirs (Such as Charles Kelly, James Trevor Constable, Blasband et. al.) claim to be able to do wondrous things such as change the path of mighty hurricanes by influencing the Earth’s “orgone energy envelope,” which is the force that controls hurricanes, natch.
(Hey, it’s Reichian physics, the less objective sense it makes, the greater its appeal!)
Let’s get one thing straight: Reich was trained as an M.D. and a psychiatrist, and that’s what he should have stuck with. His fascination with the microscope and his discovery of the “bions” (basic units of life) was the beginning of his endless fall down the rabbit hole of his own ego. Just because a man has a couple of interesting social ideas or espouses an appealing philosophy or writes a textbook titled “Character Analysis” doesn’t mean he, himself, can’t be totally fooled by a slick, sadistic, pedophile quack psychiatrist named Dr. Albert Duvall, who will molest virtually all of his pediatric patients as well as break his Hippocratic and psychiatric oaths with his adult patients.
Hmm, this piece is getting rather long, since I still have the original notes from the experiment, and the rather extensive analysis of the slides to refer to. Perhaps I should make this Part 1, and continue later in the day, it being 12:07 a.m.? Perhaps indeed.