Archive for September, 2011

The City of Doom’ by Maxwell Grant

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” — The Shadow knows!

A Maxwell Grant (aka Walter B Gibson) tale of The Shadow.

One by one, the industries around the town of Hampsted have suffered impossible accidents, and each apparently at the hands of their most trusted employees. The toll in human lives is frightful, and the psychic toll on the citizens of Hampsted is even more oppressive. Such an implausible array of accidents draws the attention of The Shadow, especially when one of his most valued agents, Harry Vincent, has disappeared investigating the scene.

⇒ Continue reading “The City of Doom’ by Maxwell Grant”

Io9 — A Mind Control Double Whammy or Double Miss

Last week, website Io9 published not just one, but two posts dealing with mind control themes. However, I have to give both posts only a mediocre rating.

People Who Gained Superpowers From Being Brainwashed

Ten individuals from SF literature, movies, television, comics, etc, all of whom acquired their powers from being brainwashed. Unfortunately, the histories of these individuals don’t quite match up with description.

Commentary: Unfortunately, out of the list given, only a couple actually fit this title. The rest were indeed brainwashed (or something similar: the article’s definition of brainwashing is overly broad) and gained superpowers but those powers were not directly the result of the brainwashing. (I’m taking a more literal view of the title here than I suspect the author does: I still think its misleading.)

The only ones listed that actually fit the description would be Captain Underpants, an autocratic elementary school principal who was hypnotized into becoming the superhero Captain Underpants when triggered; the Marvel characters Black Widow and Winter Soldier, both Soviet Cold War black ops who were brainwashed into their identifies as part of their training; and River Tam, again, brainwashed as part of her physical and psychic training.

Most of the others were brainwashed and given powers at the same time, but being brainwashed was not the cause or source of those powers. Even others, such as Simon Phoenix (“Demolition Man”), already had their abilities before being brainwashed, or Max Guevara (“Dark Angel”), who was already being brainwashed before his training (on top of genetic tinkering which occurred before birth.)

And at least one doesn’t even come close to fitting the brainwashing theme: the Marvel character Captain Universe, the identity taken by anyone possessed by the Uni-Power. Although the description says that when possessed by the power, they gain heroic attitudes, but this is more a case of those attitudes already present in the person selected.

Another that doesn’t fit the theme is Neo from the Matrix movies: the article tries to claim his training in the martial arts through memory implants is a form of brainwashing, yet the concept also has to include some kind of mental control, which is not apparent. The article says that the brainwashing included indoctrination about rejecting the reality of the Matrix but I think that’s just assumption on the part of the author.

Recommendation: Not recommended.

10 Mind Control Clichés

10 clichés that seemingly every evil mind controller has. Well, not every one, but a lot from the comics to have many of them, but there are as many exceptions to the rules as there are examples. A couple seem to really reaching to be included, and some of the cliches are also woefully incomplete. For example:

1 ) Mind controllers compensate for a lack of physical prowess: when you look at most mind controllers, you are struck by their physical deformaties: Professor X is wheelchair bound, the Puppet Master is dwarfish with an oversized head, Mesmero has green skin, Hector Hammond has an incredibly enlarged head, etc. Yes, this is a valid cliché, but always for men and only for men, never for women. The cliché for mind controlling women like the White Queen, Saturn Girl or Hypnotia is that they are the opposite, exceptionally physically endowed (in all senses of the word.)

2 ) Fingers on the forehead: Primarily used only by the characters with psychic abilities, which is a significant but still proportionally small group of mind controllers. There are about as many (Vampirella) who use the “look into my eyes” cliché, others who use magical gestures (Mandrake the Magician) and then there’s the ones who use strictly mechanical devices (the Controller, Universo) who don’t have any kind of gesturing. (Then again, Universo, in his first incarnation, did tend to grandstand a lot.)

3 ) Psychic manipulation, mind-warping drugs, hypnosis, and subliminal nudging: Of course, there’s also mechanical devices (Doctor Drakken’s mind control chip or the MKUltra machines), alien implants, sorcery and, of course, don’t forget the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. (I wonder who’s controlling them this turn? If I don’t know, then probably I’m not cleared for that information. Fnord.)

4 ) Brainwashing henchmen: While it may be the heroes best way to infiltrate the villain’s headquarters or to avoid capture (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”) its better used by the villain to ensure the loyalty of his underlings.

5 ) It’s poor form to mind control non-villains: Yet even the heroes do it, except they have episodes of angst about it: how many times did Professor X mind-wipe people who saw the X‑Men, or, in the first movie, mentally blank an entire mall because one of his students used his powers without permission? Then there’s also the famous incident when Zatanna magically erased specific memories in a number of Justice League opponents, setting off what would be a seriously tragic event and the near-collapse of the League itself, many years later.

6 ) Blank stares: Blank stares are the hallmark of mind control, but they’re only part of the overall whole picture of the total blank look of someone totally entranced. However, in the Orient, its a little different: mind control is shown by a totally featureless iris.

7 ) Mind controlling hats and helmets: Not a very prevalent cliché here, and one that is almost strictly a source of controlling the one wearing the hat: about the only one who makes considerable use of the cliché here is the Batman villain the Mad Hatter; maybe he holds the patent on the design and doesn’t market it?

8 ) Mind controllers are creepy: Its one of the first things any mind controller learns, how to keep their powers a secret (even if it takes using their powers to do so.) Such powers also make very good Psychological Disadvantages: Deep Secret for heroes to have.

9 ) Everything’s more awesome on the astral plane: The Astral Plane only because the vacation spot of choice for psychic battles once Steve Ditko started drawing Doctor Strange, but even then it is overrated. Mostly the battles take place in the mind of one or both of the combatants, although sometimes the battle is between invisible mental projections.

10 ) Mind control battles end with everyone’s brains exploding and faces melting: The image here is so 80’s. Nowadays such battles tend to end with only a bloody nose or bleeding from the ears as the only sign of a struggle.

Commentary: In trying to violate every one of the 10 listed clichés, the author actually managed to create the most boring mind controlling character ever seen.

Recommendation: Only half recommended.

Happy Anniversary Star Trek!

Its been quite a ride, Star Trek. 45 years ago, the first series aired its first episode (not the first filmed) to an unsuspecting audience. The result, after the three years of the “five year mission” was nothing short of the bginning of a revolution in television, movies and popular culture. And sprinkled in among the five different series and many movies are frequent stories about mind controlling aliens, telepathic control, hypnosis and even the Vulcan Mind Meld (created because the Standards & Practices department objected to Spock hypnotizing a patient, saying it was a medical procedure and that McCoy should do it.)

And, of course, I must post a shout to Bjo Trimble, the lady who was most responsible for the letter-writing campaign that got the original series’ renewal for the third season. Failing that, the series might not have been run in syndication (not enough episodes to market) and therefore never achieve the popularity it did. Because of her and the thousands and thousands of people who deluged NBC with letters, it survived long enough to finally find its place, and now phrases like “beam us up” and terms like “transporter” and “warp factor 9” are part of everyday slang.

Out of Control” Hypnotist? Or Maybe Just a Case of Mass Hysteria

It was just another show for stage hypnotist Miller Zambrano Posada. Several high school students were on stage, responding to his suggestions just as others had in the past.

But once it was over and the audience started leaving, then it happened. In what appears to be a case of mass hysteria, over 40 of the students began acting oddly. First a few, then several, then many of the students started displaying abnormal reactions. They were all taken to a hospital and all are reported to be okay. The hypnotist himself was taken into police custody as parents accused him of witchcraft.

With very little to go on, its hard to come to any other conclusion than this being a case of mass hysteria. It is known that only one of the students affected were ever on stage. It does also demonstrate the power of hysteria as it developed from just one person to a whole groyup. What I find interesting is the breakdown: out of the 41 students, only 5 were boys while 36 were girls. The article doesn’t say which was the one who was actually on stage but the odds are very much in favor of it being a girl.

Unfortunately this sort of thing (and the reporting that accompanied it) just furthers the stereotypes involved. Furthermore, the stereotypes here, where the hypnotist was accused of “Witchcraft”, are even worse than most here in the Us.


The Hypnotic Tarot — Part I: The Suits

I have quite an interest in the Tarot, largely from a symbolic and possibly even a Jungian perspective and certainly from an artistic standpoint. As an art collector, I have several pieces of art that are based on the Tarot, including “The Star” by Frank Kelly Freas 1 that is one of the “stars” of my entire collection.

I also know that it is common for Tarot enthusiasts to create their own Tarot deck: doing so not only personalizes it, it deepens the connection with the Tarot symbology and imagery for the individual. Therefore, its only natural to combine this interest with my interest in hypnosis to want to create the Hypnotic Tarot deck. Of course, one caveat: everything surrounding the Tarot is open (and quite fervently) to discussion and argument, from the history of the Tarot to the individual meanings of each symbol. What follows is my own interpretation which has about as much (or as little) validity as any one else’s.

This first part will discuss the basic elements of the Tarot, the suits and their accompanying symbols. The Suits order the Minor Arcana, the 52 cards that eventually became the playing cards in use today. The Suits and their symbols also appear regularly in the Major Arcana. Subsequent parts will cover the Major Arcana and the individual Suits of the Minor Arcana.

⇒ Continue reading “The Hypnotic Tarot — Part I: The Suits”

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