To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, I drew this slightly ridiculous tribute to the Bayeaux Tapestry - I had originally intended this to be one 12-foot long image, but then I realized that if I were to ever turn this into a print that it would be impossible to frame (and difficult to view in one piece online), hence the more conventional 24x36-inch print available here.
I WANT TO GO TO THERE
I like the idea of a guitar amp that looks like it would murder you if you touch it.
The below article comes recommended by Longreads contributing editor Julia Wick, and we’d like to thank the author, Susan J. Palmer, for allowing us to share it with the Longreads community.
It would seem, Dr Palmer, that you have acquired a bit of a reputation for being “soft on the cults”. Are you indeed… a cultlover?
I was standing nervously in the carved oak witness box in the High Court, Lincoln’s Inn in London, when the High Solicitor asked this question. It was in 1994, when I became embroiled in what the Children of God’s lawyer described as “the longest and second most expensive custody battle in the history of the British Empire.“ I protested that I strove to be an objective, value-free social scientist when I studied new religions—but then admitted I also felt a sneaking aesthetic appreciation for “the cults.” This made the judge smile, but it made me wonder—are the two approaches really incompatible?
As a mature researcher, somewhat scarred from my forays into that embattled terrain known as the cult wars, I am now ready to make a confession. I do see myself as a connoisseur. For me, NRMs are beautiful life forms, mysterious and pulsating with charisma. Each “cult” is a mini-culture, a protocivilization. Prophets and heretics generate fantasy worlds that rival those of Philip K. Dick or L. Frank Baum. When I venture into the thickets of wild home-grown spirituality, and explore the rich undergrowth of what society rejects as its “weed” religions, I sometimes think of Dorothy’s adventures in The Emerald City of Oz. Dorothy follows the yellow brick road that leads her through Utensia, a city whose inhabitants are kitchen utensils. Managing to escape King Kleaver (who threatens to chop her), she wanders into Bunbury where houses are made of crackers with bread-stick porches and wafer-shingles and are inhabited by living buns with currant eyes. She ventures on to meet the evil headless Scoodles, then continues on down the yellow brick road.
New religions are no less phantasmagorical. Immersed in the Oz books as a malingering schoolgirl, I wanted to “have adventures” when I grew up. My wish came true. Today I find myself in the not-quite respectable, morally problematic, and impecunious field of “cult” studies. Travelling the “yellow brick road” of social scientific research, I encounter oddly coherent worldviews constructed higgledy-piggledy out of the most incongruous elements: songs of Solomon, UFO lore, electric bulbs, biofeedback machines, gnostic creation myths—all welded into one seamless syncretism. I drop in on dreams of Utopia and discover quaint communes like Puritan villages, the brothers and sisters marching to a tasteful percussion of Bible-thumping. I have felt trapped in nightmares—racist compounds, parodies of Paradise, Nietzchean dystopias.
My cat is helping me with my expense report by sorting my receipts.
So I’ve got a new hobby: making guitar pedals. I kind of fell into it accidentally, but it’s now taking up all of my time and money as I crank out pedal after pedal of questionable build quality, sonic capability and real-world use.
It’s a lot of fun. A lot of fun. It feels good to make something. All of my previous hobbies have been intellectual things, where you don’t really get a finished product at the end to glow over and say “HEY FUCKERS I BUILT THAT”. I am enjoying it a lot.
So I think I’m going to write about that a bit here. Who knows? Maybe people will actually, you know, read this site then.
Corn on the om nom nom
Why do you think the Geek Squads at Best Buy charge so much?