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The Three Christs of Ypsilanti
05.27.2010
09:13 pm

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I was thrilled to read Vaughan Bell’s short essay at Slate about Milton Rokeach’s rarely encountered 1964 book, The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. It’s one of my all time favorite books, but alas, one that no one else I’ve ever met has heard of or read. It’s nearly impossible to find for a reasonable price. The Three Christs of Ypsilanti is a psychiatric case study by Rokeach, a detailing of his experiment with a trio of schizophrenic patients at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The three men—who each harbored the delusional belief that he was Jesus Christ returned—were forced to live with each other in a mental hospital to see if their beliefs could be challenged enough to effect a break-through in at least one of them.

But it wasn’t that simple, as Rokeach found out. Bell writes:

But the book makes for starkly uncomfortable reading as it recounts how the researchers blithely and unethically manipulated the lives of Leon, Joseph, and Clyde in the service of academic curiosity. In one of the most bizarre sections, the researchers begin colluding with the men’s delusions in a deceptive attempt to change their beliefs from within their own frame of reference. The youngest patient, Leon, starts receiving letters from the character he believes to be his wife, “Madame Yeti Woman,” in which she professes her love and suggests minor changes to his routine. Then Joseph, a French Canadian native, starts receiving faked letters from the hospital boss advising certain changes in routine that might benefit his recovery. Despite an initially engaging correspondence, both the delusional spouse and the illusory boss begin to challenge the Christs’ beliefs more than is comfortable, and contact is quickly broken off.

In fact, very little seems to shift the identities of the self-appointed Messiahs. They debate, argue, at one point come to blows, but show few signs that their beliefs have become any less intense. Only Leon seems to waver, eventually asking to be addressed as “Dr Righteous Idealed Dung” instead of his previous moniker of “Dr Domino dominorum et Rex rexarum, Simplis Christianus Puer Mentalis Doctor, reincarnation of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Rokeach interprets this more as an attempt to avoid conflict than a reflection of any genuine identity change. The Christs explain one another’s claims to divinity in predictably idiosyncratic ways: Clyde, an elderly gentleman, declares that his companions are, in fact, dead, and that it is the “machines” inside them that produce their false claims, while the other two explain the contradiction by noting that their companions are “crazy” or “duped” or that they don’t really mean what they say.

In hindsight, the Three Christs study looks less like a promising experiment than the absurd plan of a psychologist who suffered the triumph of passion over good sense. The men’s delusions barely shifted over the two years, and from an academic perspective, Rokeach did not make any grand discoveries concerning the psychology of identity and belief. Instead, his conclusions revolve around the personal lives of three particular (and particularly unfortunate) men. He falls back—rather meekly, perhaps—on the Freudian suggestion that their delusions were sparked by confusion over sexual identity, and attempts to end on a flourish by noting that we all “seek ways to live with one another in peace,” even in the face of the most fundamental disagreements. As for the ethics of the study, Rokeach eventually realized its manipulative nature and apologized in an afterword to the 1984 edition: “I really had no right, even in the name of science, to play God and interfere round the clock with their daily lives.”

There’s another piece I found mentioning the book that’s worth bringing in here, too, because it uses the Three Christs of Ypsilanti as a microcosm of how the world’s major religions all believe they have the one truth and worship the one true god. A guy named Steve Bhaerman who writes a humor column under the pen name “Swami Beyondananda” at a New Age website called InnerSelf had a profound insight about the book, seeing the three messianically-challenged protagonists as stand-ins for the world’s big three religions, each under the delusion that their “truth” is the true truth and it’s the other guy’s religion that is superstitious bullshit:

I hadn’t thought about that book for years, until I was reminded of it by two seemingly unrelated news items. The first involved the Middle East peace process, which recently has been neither peaceful nor much of a process. A huge seemingly unresolvable dispute involves Jerusalem, which houses the sacred sites of three major religions. Someone had the enlightening suggestion that Jerusalem be ruled by God. Of course, the next question was, whose God?

The other news item was about the Catholic church declaring that for all intents and purposes, IT alone is the one sure way to heaven—and perhaps more important, the only certain way to avoid hell. A friend of mine who owns a marketing business (and incidentally grew up Catholic) says, “I can only dream of having such an unbeatable marketing premise. Buy my product, go to heaven. Buy the other guy’s, go to hell.” Not to single out the Catholics, though. Fundamentalists of every stripe play out a dyslexic version of that childhood taunt, “My dog’s better than your dog.” Except that “my God’s better than your God” has caused millions of deaths and oceans of tears.

And that’s when it occurred to me that the three major religious systems are like the Three Christs of Ypsilanti. Each lives in a delusional system that it alone is the One True Path. And now, God has placed them all in a therapy group to see if they can accommodate one another.

Brilliant. If you are interested, some parts of The Three Christ of Ypsilanti can be read online here.

The Three Christs of Ypsilanti (InnerSelf)

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus: In the late 1950s, three men who identified as the Son of God were forced to live together in a mental hospital. What happened? (Slate)

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
God Hates Ronnie James Dio: Westboro Baptist Church to picket memorial in Los Angeles this weekend
05.27.2010
08:20 pm

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Westboro Baptist Church
Ronnie James Dio

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Attention, Los Angeles prankster community: If you haven’t heard, the hateful Westboro Baptist Church will be in town this weekend, picketing the memorial for the late heavy metal warbler, Ronnie James Dio. Considering the idea of who will be at the service (metal heads) and how many video cameras there are in this town, I fully expect to see YouTube clips next week which will rival the immortal Heavy Metal Parking Lot! This is truth-is-funnier-than-fiction style comedy in the making, folks. Could be historically funny.

The memorial will be held at The Hall of Liberty, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills, 6300 Forest Lawn Drive, Los Angeles; May 30, 2 p.m. and is free to the heavy metal-loving public.

Here’s an excerpt from the confused ramblings about the protest from the God Hates Fags website the Church operates:

WBC to picket this public memorial to remind you who worship that old Serpent, Satan, that your time is very short. You know 67 year old, Satan-worshiping (or at least one of their enablers) Ronnie James Dio (of showing his devil horns to the world each time he goes in public) Black Sabbath fame is dead, right? We’ll be there! Just because the chances of any of God’s elect being amongst this group of heavy metal sycophants is slim to none does not mean they should not get some good words. Yes, it is true that Ozzy Osbourne did “accidentally” bite off the head of a bat, but THAT is the least of their sins (little nasties!), they currently do not do that, but they throw raw meat to the audience and encourage violence of EVERY FORM! Here you have the list of admitted sins of this now dead and in hell pervert: 1) He hates his neighbor(s) starting with Ozzy Osbourne 2) He hates God. Pay especial attention to the fact that he changed his original sir name from Padanova to Dio, which means “God” in Italian. 3)Ronnie the simpleton enabled, and encouraged Sorceries: everything he was about including the little finger horn thing (he got this from his mother which is an incantation to ward off the “evil eye”) to the drugs, bloody raw meat and his fellowship with those pentagram necklace wearing freakish band members. Yes, Ronnie James Padanova (NOT DIO) is currently residing in hell. When all those who worship him and his false gods meet him in hell it will be just like this: Isaiah 2:12 For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: Isaiah 14:11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. Praise God all ye, His people. The Great Day of the Lord draws nigh. AMEN

!

Did you get that?

Thank you Julien Nitzberg!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Questions for John Waters (and on Andy Warhol’s TV)

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Author, filmmaker and bad taste-booster, John Waters, is out making the rounds promoting his new book, Role Models.  He’s also featured in this weekend’s NYT Magazine, “Questions For…” section.  Some snips:

There’s a chapter on Leslie Van Houten, one of the so-called Manson girls, who was convicted of murder in 1971, when she was 21, and who you argue should be released.
I do believe that.  Today she is the woman she would have become if she had never met Charles Manson.  Leslie is a good friend and someone who has taken full responsibility for the terrible crime she participated in.

What about the families of her victims, who don’t want her released?
They can never be wrong in their arguments, and I would never criticize their viewpoint.

Where is she being held?
The California Institution for Women, in Corona, Calif., an hour east of Los Angeles.  Every year I visit her on Oscar morning.  I go from her prison to Elton John’s dinner party.  I guess, oddly, that sort of sums up my life.

Is there anyone you would actually kill if you knew you could get away with it?
I find it repellent when people do yoga exercises at the gate in airports.  I want to kill them.

That’s reasonable.
There are little things that get on my nerves, like people who have reading material in their powder room.  When you go in someone’s house, and next to the toilet they have a huge basket of magazines, I find that repellent.  I recommend against straining while reading.

A much younger Waters also showed up in ‘81 on Andy Warhol’s TV.  Part I of it follows, with links to the other segments below:

 
John Waters on Andy Warhol’s TV Part II, III

Bonus: John Waters: Leslie Van Houten: A Friendship

Previously on Dangerous Minds: Andy Warhol’s TV

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Fatwa on your head?  Contact Refuge From Islam!

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Conservative activist—and Tea Partier—Pamela Geller runs an organization called Stop Islamization of America (and in a fun bit of synchronicity today, Google her name and the first site that pops up is AtlasShrugs).

When she’s not working to prevent a mosque from going up at Ground Zero (watch her with Mike Huckabee below), Geller’s busy backing Refuge From Islam, a website designed to, in her words, “provide resources for Muslims who are fearful of leaving the faith.”

Well, what better place to promote a potentially volatile idea like that than the side of a New York City bus?!  The above “Leaving Islam?” ads are currently running on 30 MTA buses in all five of NYC’s boroughs.

While Geller asserts they’re “not meant to be offensive to Muslims,” and are more about “religious freedom,” Eugene Volokh, an expert of constitutional law at UCLA, thinks they “could leave some Muslims reluctant to ride the bus, and “there could also be a risk that some extremist groups might bomb the buses, although that possibility wouldn’t limit,” the free speech right that Geller’s exercising.

 
Controversial ads that help Muslims abandon Islam appear on NYC buses

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Filming next month: Atlas Shrugged, The Movie?!

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For nearly 20 years now, Ayn Rand’s mammoth ode to capitalism and self-interest, Atlas Shrugged, has labored to find its way to a place it probably doesn’t belong anyway: the movie screen.  Why so long a journey?  Well, while some people (Alan GreenspanJohn Mackey!) consider it the intellectual equivalent to The Lord of The Rings, that trilogy’s success didn’t exactly wrap up with a 100-page speech to the masses.

But now, in a roll-the-dice move that would make John Galt proud (or Howard Roark laugh), the current option-holder of Shrugged, entrepreneur John Aglialoro, has set a, gulp, June 11th start date on the production.

And while that’s only weeks away, and he’s currently lacking a single cast member (no word yet on Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron as Dagny Taggart), Aglialoro has at least selected a director: Stephen Polk.  Okay, if not Aglialoro, is Polk worried about the film’s casting?  Nope!

Polk said they are not intimidated to film a storied book even if stars don’t align.  “For more than 15 years, this has been at studios and there has been a whole dance around who’ll play the iconic roles,” Polk said.  “Making it an independent film was the game-changer.  Everybody is saying, how can you shoot this movie without a star?  We’re shooting it because it’s a good movie with great characters.  We’ve been in pre-production for months, but kept it a mystery.  Part of the reason is because there’s so much crap about how you need a great big budget and stars.  We aren’t looking for big names to trigger press or financing.”

For those of you wondering how Polk, whose acting credits far outweigh those of his directing (29 to 1), landed such a gig, what follows is the trailer for his last (and first) film, ‘08’s Cherly Ladd and Barry Bostwick-starring, Baggage:

 
Okay, now, given the above, we still can’t be sure how the resulting Atlas Shrugged film is going to turn out.  But here’s something I do know: it’s gonna have a hard time stopping critics from seizing upon one of the novel’s central images: the train wreck.

Best of luck to both Polk and Aglialoro!

Atlas Shrugged’ Rights Holder Sets June Production Start

Previously on Dangerous Minds:

Ayn Rand Assholes

Frank Llloyd Wright on Ayn Rand, “What’s My Line”

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Muhammed Ali backstage
05.27.2010
10:36 am

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Bob Dylan
Tom Waits
Muhammed Ali
Family Guy
Popeye

 

 
Following up from Bradley’s awesome Tom Waits and Bob Dylan post, here we have a Family Guy spoof of the two rock stars along with two of our other favorites, Muhammed Ali and Popeye!  “Why didn’t you play Hurricane?”  Thanks Britt!

 

Posted by Elvin Estela | Leave a comment
Miles Davis: Call It Anything
05.27.2010
09:22 am

Topics:
Heroes
Music

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Miles Davis

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Miles Davis’ birthday was yesterday but I still love him today, so I’m posting this absolutely staggeringly great series of clips comprising his 1970 performance at the Isle of Wight festival. After viewing this for the first time when it was released a few years ago it got under my skin to such an extent that I had dreams about it for the next few nights. There’s some sort of holy communion with the spirit of pure music going on here that I can’t begin to profess to understand, but the musicians here are obviously touched by the proceedings in a way that transcends mere “rocking out”. See if you don’t agree.

 

 

 

 
The insane $2000 Miles Davis Box Set

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
Photostream: guy collects loincloths
05.26.2010
09:13 pm

Topics:
Fashion

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SongdogMI
loincloths

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From “loincloth collector” SongdogMI, “I used to have a big explanation of why there are breechclouts and loincloths in my closet and why there are photos of them. For now, I’ll just say it’s partly an outgrowth of my interest in the American fur trade, and it’s partly just fun.”
 
Loincloths by SongdogMI
 
(via Everlasting Blort )

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Doctor Who’ theme recreated with just a guitar and Electro-Harmonix effect pedals
05.26.2010
08:31 pm

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Movies
Music

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Dotor Who. Electro-Harmonix

 
(via Retro Thing)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Game Show Pedo
05.26.2010
07:00 pm

Topics:
Amusing

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oh my...

 
I suppose you could say about this, “Well, it was the ‘70s” but even during that free-wheelin’ decade this would’‘ve been wrong! WTF?

Via Lady Bunny Blog

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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