With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy less than two months away, the Smithsonian Magazine has published an interesting article on the iconic 'Zapruder film' that ignited a virtual conspiracy industry. One part of the feature discusses the 'Umbrella Man' mystery - in particular a short documentary of that name made by film-maker Errol Morris - as an illustration of how sometimes conspiracies become like "a snake eating its own tail". The six-minute documentary Umbrella Man consists of Morris talking with Josiah “Tink” Thompson, one of the first and most respected of Warren Commission critics:
“So here is Tink,” Morris says, taking us back to Thompson’s Life magazine days, “hunkered down over the Zapruder film looking at it frame by frame by frame. And he notices there is a man, a bystander among the crowds waiting for the Kennedy motorcade—and he’s holding an umbrella. And indeed he looks really out of place.”
“Because the sun is shining.”
“The sun is shining. As I say to Tink, in my film, ‘it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood,’” Morris says in a wry Mister Rogers imitation.
“And the Umbrella Man became an icon of conspiracy theorists?” I ask. “They believe that when he raised the umbrella it was a signal for the assassins?”
“As in all of these theories, there are multiple versions, there are variants. There’s the version where the umbrella was a signal to the co-conspirators. There’s another version where the Umbrella Man himself is one of the assassins...with the umbrella.”
...In Morris’ film, Thompson discloses something I hadn’t known: that the Umbrella Man had eventually come forward and explained himself. “The Umbrella Man himself showed up to give testimony to the House assassinations committee,” Morris says.
And he reproduced a clip of his appearance before the committee in his Umbrella Man film. His name was Louie Steven Witt and he testified that he brought the umbrella on that sunny day because—wait for it—he wanted to express his displeasure with JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy.
“Who,” Morris says, “had been ambassador to England in the 1930s and [was] known for his policies of appeasement to the Third Reich.”
“Symbolized,” I say, “by the umbrella that Neville Chamberlain carried back from Munich, after Chamberlain claimed to have brought ‘peace for our time’ by letting Hitler swallow up half of Czechoslovakia, giving Hitler the impetus to launch World War II. The umbrella became the symbol of appeasement in 1938 and here in 1963, this guy carries an umbrella and thinks, ‘Whoa, people are really going to be blown away, this is really going to make a statement!’ And it turns out he becomes a symbol himself. It’s almost like history is a kind of snake swallowing its tail.”
“Part of the problem of rationality and irrationality—and it really is a problem—is how do you separate the two? Where is that line of demarcation between nutso thinking and good thinking?”
Which brings us to the double irony: Morris and Thompson’s attempt to nail down this one tiny factoid ended up getting them linked to the coverup by a conspiracy theorist.
Expect plenty more articles and news stories related to the JFK-assassination in the coming couple of months.
In today's WTF moment: the official Instagram account of the U.S. Air Force yesterday posted a picture of Chief of Staff General Mark A. Welsh donning...a Captain America-styled luchadore mask during a briefing.
Military Times also posted its own image of Welsh, who was talking at the Air Force Association’s Annual Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition.
Consequently, a few commenters on the Instagram account called the mask “creepy” and noted that “the regs” (regulations) probably don’t allow for masks in uniform.
Military Times reported: “Pointing to the ‘A,’ he said, ‘A is for Airpower.’”
To the contrary though, Business Insider’s own Paul Szoldra rightly noted that Captain America was in the Army, not the Air Force.
“Creepy” or not, generals of his rank can do stuff like this.
It's 6 pm and you're riding the subway back home. It's been a long, hard day & you feel your eyelids are getting heavy. Suddenly, just when you rest your head on the window & start to doze off, you hear a voice offering you a nice discount on a smartphone plan.
You lift your head startled, and the voice instantly disappears! You turn around to see if one of the passengers was talking to you, but everybody is silent.
You rest your head on the window again, and the voice returns, now telling you to consider a trip to Jamaica. WTF??!!
This episode, which seems straight out of a Philip K. Dick novel, could one day become a reality, 'thanks' to a technology that relies on the conduction of sound to the inner ear through the bones of the skull. Using the same principle, 2 German companies have released a video purportedly showing train commuters receiving audio messages through the vibration of the glass windows:
"Some people don't like advertising in general. But this is really a new technology. [It might] not only be used for advertising, but also for music, entertainment, mass transport information, weather reports and so on."
Because you know advertisers will never be satisfied until they can invade your very thoughts & dreams.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, the answer is YES: they can hear your voice through the vibration of walls & windows, too:
Srsly, wiretap bugs are sooooo 1960's... but I guess some agencies are too nostalgic.
Guidestones is a web series that uses the enigmatic Georgia Guidestones as the basis for its conspiracy-themed storyline. You can watch the entire series on your computer at Guidestones.org for free, and/or purchase the entire series for download from iTunes. I've embedded the trailer above, and a synopsis below:
Based on true events, GUIDESTONES is the story of Sandy Rai (Supinder Wraich), as she and a fellow journalism student investigate an unsolved murder that sends them around the world in search of the truth.
Shot on location in Canada, the United States, and India, GUIDESTONES is a unique, interactive experience that combines narrative and documentary filmmaking techniques while blending mystery, action, and drama in a Da Vinci Code-style thriller.
Link: Watch Guidestones.
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Remember when President Obama was going to bring 'Change!' to the White House. Wondering where it all went wrong, with continued extra-judicial killings etc? Bill Hicks explains it all, very simply, above (NSFW language).
One of the more interesting modern mysteries is the case of the Toynbee Tiles - hundreds of anonymous messages embedded in the streets of numerous major cities. For those interested in going further down this particular rabbit hole, you can now download a documentary about the enigma - Resurrect Dead - from iTunes. Here's the trailer:
Most people don't notice the hundreds of cryptic tiled messages about resurrecting the dead that have been appearing in city streets over the past three decades. But Justin Duerr does. For years, finding an answer to this long-standing urban mystery has been his obsession. He has been collecting clues that the tiler has embedded in the streets of major cities across the U.S. and South America. But as Justin starts piecing together key events of the past he finds a story that is more surreal than he imagined, and one that hits disturbingly close to home.
The documentary's website also has a gallery of tiles found so far.
For the modeling enthusiasts out there: check out Tamiya's new line of conspiracy-flavored kits, from the JFK shooting to a faked Moon landing, and even Roswell (click the image for a larger version):
In reality, the Tamiya conspiracy series is likely just a clever viral advertising campaign. But man, I wouldn't mind a Tamiya Roswell spacecraft...although its likely my destructive dog would create its own debris field before too long.
Internet activist and hacktivist group Anonymous has had a big 2011: members have taken on Bank of America and Sony among other corporate targets, and have been credited with some part in this year's "Arab Spring". Next on the agenda: the secret world government meeting at Bohemian Grove...
So if you're free, get down there and man the barricades - see you there. I'll be the guy wearing the Guy Fawkes mask..
In our modern, technology-filled world, we stumble through life largely oblivious to the electromagnetic radiation that we are constantly bathing in. So when I came across this art project from 2004 I thought it was pretty cool: 1301 fluorescent tubes standing in a field, that are powered only by the electric fields generated by the powerlines above them.
Richard Box, artist-in-residence at Bristol University’s physics department, got the idea for the installation after a chance conversation with a friend. ‘He was telling me he used to play with a fluorescent tube under the pylons by his house,’ says Box. ‘He said it lit up like a light sabre.’
Box decided to see if he could fill a field with tubes lit by powerlines. After a few weeks hunting for a site, he found a field, slipped the local farmer £200 and planted 3,600 square metres with tubes collected from hospitals.
A fluorescent tube glows when an electrical voltage is set up across it. The electric field set up inside the tube excites atoms of mercury gas, making them emit ultraviolet light. This invisible light strikes the phosphor coating on the glass tube, making it glow. Because powerlines are typically 400,000 volts, and Earth is at an electrical potential voltage of zero volts, pylons create electric fields between the cables they carry and the ground.
Box denies that he aimed to draw attention to the potential dangers of powerlines, ‘For me, it was just the amazement of taking something that’s invisible and making it visible,’ he says. ‘When it worked, I thought: ‘This is amazing.’’