Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
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Backwoods Home
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fun social media stuff

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Like my brownhouse:
   rose coloured heart resonant gelatinous energy bubble
Sunday, April 19 1998

a lark


eya works at Rebecca's Natural Foods up at Barrack's Road Shopping Centre. Many hippies and weirdos do business there, and occasionally they post flyers on the bulletin board. One such flyer that she discovered recently was so priceless and unusual that she brought it home:



DATE: APRIL 19, 1998.




"We have to go!" Jessika had insisted when she'd seen it, and Wacky Jen had (of course) concurred. "Think of the musings!" a little voice had whispered to me.

Today was the day that the "experience" was supposed to take place, though a cold miserable rain was falling. Deya called the organizers and found it was still on. So, once Wacky Jen showed up, we set out in her car.

Whatever the hell the ceremony was (and none of us were sure, certainly the wording of the flyer did little to inform us), it was happening 50 miles to the west near Churchville, a small Shenandoah Valley town on the floodplain of the occasionally flood-prone Middle River. To get there, we passed over treacherous Afton Mountain above Waynesboro (shrouded in dangerously thick fog at the time) and then through the beautiful and tranquil city of Staunton. Being away from it makes me appreciate it more, and seeing it again today made me nostalgic. Neither Jessika nor Deya had never been through its downtown before, and were very impressed. It looks like a real city and retains all of the charm and antique dignity that Charlottesville shed long ago. Its skyline is punctuated by numerous church spires, and their rhythm is emphasized by the unusual hilliness of the terrain. What's more, Staunton has a real park with a genuine duck pond. The only thing it needs to learn from Charlottesville is the value of a downtown pedestrian mall.

Our drive westward ended in gradually reforesting marginal agricultural fields to the southwest of Churchville. There, down in a grassy meander of the Middle River, was the ceremonial grounds. We could see three or four adults, a couple children, and several odd dogs. The people huddled under a broad table umbrella, shelter from the soft cold rain. They had their "sharable food" laid out, and they scrutinized us expectantly. We were nervous for being unable to lose ourselves in the pathetic turnout and would have most preferred to turn tail and leave, but inertia from our fifty mile drive propelled us toward the weird ceremonialists.

Trinity Point
The Trinity Point Project symbol
We were greeted immediately by the ceremonialists' leader, Philip Khnopp. He was normal in appearance and spoke with a clear generic American accent. His sentences made sense on some level, but we knew we were in for weird times only a few sentences into his introduction. He enthusiastically told us about his last ceremony, when (as he put it) he'd managed to roll back "a mile-wide hole in the sky" and, though rain had poured down around him and the other ceremonialists, they'd remained "dry as toast." He handed us a little booklet he'd written, excerpts and images of which I will include as I see fit.

We sat down under the umbrella and sampled some of the sharable food while trying to make sense of Philip's little booklet. Despite the umbrella, rain gradually soaked the booklets' pages, the sandwiches, and our clothes. It would have been miserable to remain out in that field, so Philip convinced his brother that the ceremony should retreat to his house, not far away on this sacred farmland.

Once we were out of the rain at Philip's brother's house, other ceremonialists began to arrive. In the end there were maybe twenty adults present, certainly more than I would have expected given the weather. Without the miserable damp chill to contend with, we could better take the time to become acquainted with the Philip the ceremonialist leader, the other ceremonialists, their strange beliefs, their children, and their dogs. All were interesting and all will be described in detail (as best I can).

    When the kooky conversation got to be too much and I couldn't track down my contingent for solace, sometimes I'd go out to look at the birds feeding on seed put out for them in the yard. There were a great many towees, kinglets and chickadees, some kind of fairly big woodpecker and a grosbeak with a light green beak, a species that I had never seen before. The springtime birdlife was rather different here at the base of the Alleghenies than I remember it being out in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley where I grew up.

Philip and his Trinity Point Project

Topographic map

hilip, the chief facilitator of the ceremonialists, had lived on this land at least since the late 70s. In 1979, he experienced a UFO citing (point #7 on the topographic map), which he related within his booklet with a notarized account. In 1986, he noticed on the topographic map that three hill peaks in the area defined a triangle of 38, 52 and 90 degrees, corresponding precisely with "heart resonant" triangles from ancient Egyptian mysticism. Attaching much significance to this fact, he performed some dowsing and determined that the sides and other lines related to this triangle lined up with important "energy lines" on and within the Earth. After a little math and numerology, he further revealed that the triangular topographic formation lay at the center of a rose-coloured sphere 320 miles across, including Washington DC, Charleston, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Somehow Philip also figured out that this sphere was "spiritually nourished" by the Washington Monument, a structure to which the ceremonialists attached much mystical significance. (One of the ceremonialists, an astrologer, even implied that the monument's being closed for elevator repairs is part of some sort of government conspiracy to keep citizens from its amazing medicinal powers.)

Philip (probably with the assistance of others) went on to erect great medicine wheels, much like traditional Native American earthworks, on the sites of the three vertices of the heart-resonant triangle, as well as a few other points of note. He calls the grounds of his triangular monument "the Trinity Point Project," and eventually he intends to make it into a place of meditation as well as a nature preserve.

Getting the Trinity Point Project to be all that it should be hasn't been easy or straightforward; funding, for example, is a perpetual problem. But Philip has faith the money will come. He's a firm believer in the wisdom of buying lottery tickets, for example.

The redneck Christian neighbors constitute another set of problems. Not all the vertices of the triangle lie on land that Philip can control. Indeed, ever since a falling out with a redneck neighbor, the site of vertex 3 (see #3 on the topographic map), has been inaccessible to ceremonialists.

Portal depiction During intense meditation in 1995, Philip beheld a linear pattern in yellow, which he knew to represent a portal to another dimension. Today he handed out renderings of the portal to any who wanted them. They were printed on expensive greyish cardstock which his booklet suggested were "suitable for framing." He told us that the portal depictions were useful as aids in meditation. You can see a version of the portal which Philip beheld at right.

the ceremonialists and their personal beliefs


he ceremonialists have no name for their group and they're too loosely-organized and unsure of their commitment for the group to constitute a cult, a sect, or a religion. They're all white, mostly middle-aged (late 30s - early 40s), educated, apparently intelligent, and they mostly speak with generic (non-local) accents. They all seem superficially rational, but rational thought was not what had brought them here today. They all have a number of common new-age beliefs, including the reality of the lost continent of Atlantis, the existence of UFOs, the "photon band," past lives, extra-dimensional realities parallel to our own, psychic energy fields, astral projection, mental telepathy, radionics, the value of crystals, and, not least of all, the importance of such practices as Astrology, Numerology, Homeopathy and Dowsing. Whenever possible, they try to make references to as many of these pseudosciences as possible in their conversations. New-age beliefs constitute a kind of orthodoxy, but they also constitute a kind of undefined language system. For the most part, I had very little idea what any of them were saying. I also had the feeling that they couldn't even articulate their kooky ideas to one another. But it was a sharing, loving environment, and every utterance was received with what appeared to be perfect understanding. Wacky Jen later made the observation that it had done no good to express ignorance of some obscure new-age doctrine because no one would take the time (or, indeed, even knew how) to explain things to her. She soon found herself nodding her head in agreement to anything anyone told her.

One especially crazy woman talked of being trapped for 18 months in the fourth dimension during which time she'd in some way been infused with the female spirit of Venus, which led to a lot of bad things including a rape and a lost 65 thousand dollar business contract. I'm sure she believed this firmly, but I doubt she really even knew what a dimension was. Speaking of extra dimensions is just something you do when you're immersed in new-age culture. Perhaps what really had happened was that this woman been in an 18 month long psychotic fugue state characterized by measurable chemical imbalances.

In such a loving, accepting, sharing atmosphere, language rules break down to the point where every speaker is speaking his own language and everyone else, none of whom can translate, just mumble their agreement, anxiously awaiting the moment when they can talk in their language and receive their own round of mumbled meaningless agreement. Later Deya characterized the ceremonialists as "really kind of selfish" for this very reason.

There was a long period during which we found ourselves making introductions to the ceremonialists. It came up that Jessika, Deya and I were all artists, and one of the ceremonialist women was intrigued. She asked what kind of stuff I did, and I tried to explain. Surely my art wouldn't be the sort of stuff she'd like, but I led her to believe it would meet with her approval. She asked if the gallery where I hung my stuff was "new age" and I had to confess that it was not. Very few things in my life are new age, but evidently these people attempt to interact as exclusively as possible with new age everything.

The only adult to whom we, Jessika, Deya, Wacky Jen and I, found ourselves able to relate was a swarthy man with a Latinate accent. When he found out that we were artists, he wanted to commission us to create an arrangement for some massive healing crystals he'd had imported from Brazil. Jessika and he exchanged phone numbers. He lives in southern Albemarle County and I doubt we've heard the last of him.

the children


e found the children refreshing by comparison. They were intelligent, well-adjusted, had good social skills, and when they talked, they made complete sense. The children came in variety of ages, though the youngest was probably six or seven. The plurality of the children seemed to belong to Philip's brother, the guy into whose home the rain had driven us. I should point out, by the way, that Philip's brother didn't seem as interested in the ceremonies as Philip. Deya thought he was going through the motions as an act of fraternal loyalty.

Frazzled by the nonsensical conversations we'd been having with the adults, Jessika, Deya, Wacky Jen and I found ourselves playing with the children in another room. The children had been well provided with a great diversity of toys, including a MagnaDoodle, a flying saucer gun, a flashing cap gun, and numerous fearsome plastic dinosaurs, some of which contained internal electronics and could growl. When we adults were eventually expected to sit together in a circle and receive a lecture about the wondrous rose coloured heart resonant gelatinous energy bubble, the children went off to explore a cave. Those in my contingent were envious.

the dogs


here were several dogs present. They were mostly strange-looking muts, several of whom had long hair that had recently been shorn away, leaving freakish results. One especially friendly and gentle dog looked exactly like a tropical fish, especially in the unsuspecting, stupid eyes. A shaggy little dog named Matilda kept picking on a much larger Chow-mix dog with a purple tongue. One of their fights corresponded with the only flash of lightning all day, but none of the ceremonialists attached any significance to this. There was also a purebred Dalmatian dog who walked about mostly on three legs. One of his hind legs had been shot by a redneck neighbor, requiring extensive restorative surgery. That's part of the price you pay when you're a new-age Yankee moving to conservative Bible-thumping Oliver North country.

Occasionally I joked to Wacky Jen that it was very sad to look at the cute little dogs, that they were so unsuspecting of what lay in store for them, implying (of course) that they would be sacrificed on this auspicious occasion.

the lecture


ll of us adults eventually were gathered together in a circle in one room, and the snacking on the sharable food gradually wound down. I made sure I sat between two members of my contingent so I wouldn't be forced to hold hands with some new age lunatic. I know how these sort of ceremonies go, so I knew we'd be holding hands eventually.

We went around the room and introduced ourselves, some with a few words and others with several paragraphs about how they got into the new age movement, and what mystical experiences they'd had. It gave everyone the experience of being heard, of having his life count for something. Almost everyone concluded by thanking Philip.

Those in my contingent had much less to say, since we didn't know members of this group and weren't involved in new age movements. But we couldn't just say we'd come here as a lark to add excitement to our day. I said, for example, that we were "interested in this sort of thing." I'd been rehearsing a fictional story about my new age credentials, and I could probably have pulled it off (what with the loving acceptance and flexibility of terminology already described), but I feared I'd bust out laughing if I launched into too big of a lie.

Philip handed an old astrologer the birth chart for the Trinity Point Project (it's an Aries, born on Earth Day in 1989), and of course the astrologer told Philip that he'd done everything correctly for the necessary resonances. Particularly important was the fact that the Trinity Point Project resonated very well with the birth chart of the United States of America. Most, however, of what the astrologer said made sense to no one.

One of the ceremonialists, and old aviator, said that the Trinity Point area corresponded with an important magnetic anomaly. Physical manifestations of metaphysical phenomena are very important to new age people.

Next came a long lecture by Philip himself. Not only was the lecture long, but it was almost completely incomprehensible and yawn-inducingly boring. Periodically the youngest child would come in and interrupt the lecture by squealing about some sort of tag game he was playing with one of the dogs. The adults (including his parents) were very indulgent and no one fussed at him at all. They just laughed.

Humour among the ceremonialists, particularly among the women, was strange in an uncomfortably surreal way. They'd all laugh at comments or word choices that didn't seem funny at all, especially if these things contained the slightest trace of sexual innuendo. The laughter was almost hysterical and had a nervous quality to it. Perhaps there was a subtle fear pervading the subconscious mentalities of the ceremonialists and it had to be dispelled in this way. Those in my contingent looked at each other in dismay. These people were weird, but in a boring kind of way. At one point Wacky Jen got up and went to the bathroom just to take a break from the tedium of the lecture.

Philip passed out a single-sheet handout that gave the philosophical basis for "the churning of the Milky Sea," a way to produce beams of psychic energy from powerful places on Earth (such as Trinity Point). Nearly every word on the handout was underlined. (I hate people who do that.)

Anyway, the plan was that we would eventually go out into the rain to one of the medicine wheels and "churn the Milky Sea" with our numbers engaged in focused meditation and walking in a ratchet-shaped pattern referred to by Philip as "the tacion" (probably a misspelling of the word "tachyon"). Who knew, he said, maybe we'd blow open another hole in the sky. This was "high magic" we were dealing with here, and Philip stressed that it was important for us to shut down the energy before we left for the day or else we might generate a tornado. But before we could do anything, we'd first have to be purified.

the purification


e stood in a circle and held hands (I was between Wacky Jen and Jessika). After several attempts, someone managed to light a bundle of sage. While the sage smoke filled the air, we oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm'd a few times.




The sound of my oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmming voice was so ridiculous I could barely contain my laughter. It helped to close my eyes, but then I began to sway.

A woman facilitated for awhile. She suggested that we imagine our feet to be the roots of trees growing into the soil. This would "ground" us. Next, in a calm, hypnotic voice, she told us of a cleansing purity we could feel coming down from the tops of our heads and out through our feet into the ground. We oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm'd a few more times, trying to visualize energy coming in from the person to our left (for me, Wacky Jen) and going out to the person on our right (for me, Jessika). It all seemed too ridiculous, but I played along. At this point Philip took over.

He disengaged our spirit bodies from our physical bodies and then said we were going to the "crystalline center" of the Earth. At this point he made a long elevator noise, ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww pshhhhhh! As I "went down," I dared not open my eyes for fear of tainting the process.

Once we were in the center of the Earth, Philip instructed us to drink our fill of the healing energy around us. We lingered there for a short while then it was back to the surface for us, Philip again running the elevator: ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww pshhhhhh! We re-engaged with our physical selves and burst into "consciousness" with nervous giggles. My back and legs were rather sore from having stood in one place for so long.

Deya was pretty well sick of our lark by this point, and besides, she needed to get home to feed her baby rats. So Wacky Jen told Philip it was time for us to be going. Jessika missed all this, and seeing Philip and the others hugging us goodbye, thought we were being gently evicted before the actual "churning of the Milky Sea." She was visibly upset until we dispelled her erroneous notions.

Philip, by the way, told us we were all "fellow Atlantians" and wished us well as he hugged us. I felt so good when I was finally in Wacky Jen's car being driven at high speed away from those kooky people. We had a good laughter-filled conversation about our experience all the way back to Staunton.



hese ceremonialist were all harmless enough, and their intentions were nothing but benign. I can even understand the emotions that motivate them. Philip's love for the land (which is owned by his parents) is evident in the mystical significance he attaches to the "Trinity Points," and the trouble he has gone through to publicize his "findings." I myself have sought hard-to-verbalize spiritual sustenance from nature, and even formed my own very personal faith system, complete with a stone structure (see, for example, this strange entry). But the whole thing was so incredibly personal that I would never have considered trying to include anyone in my rituals, whatever they might have been.

What exactly any of this had meant, the rose coloured "energy" in the bubble, the extra dimensions and portals to them, and even the rituals we performed were never explained. Unlike most religions with which I am familiar, none of this had anything to do with explaining mysteries of the universe, it seemed to be more about making it all more complicated.

the mansion


eya had found an old Schlitz on the floor, and she passed it around for us to drink. On US 250 in the eastern fringe of Staunton, we decided to get a six pack, so we pulled into a gas station. That's when we noticed the abandoned mansion several hundred feet further back.

Abandoned mansions are never left unexplored by any in my contingent. Who knew, maybe we could fix the place up and move in! The mansion lay across a bridge over the railroad tracks that connect Staunton with points (like Charlottesville) to the east. We soon found our way through the unlocked front door and inside.

In its day, it was a beautiful but not especially ornate brick mansion. It had three livable floors, the upper two of which were laid out almost exactly like Big Fun, with four large rooms per floor and and a grand central hallway and staircase passing through the middle of each floor, front to back. We referred to each room with the name of its analogous room at Big Fun. "Matthew Hart's Room," for example, had no ceiling and no floor, but was instead part of a tall narrow shaft comprised of "Josh Smith's Room" and a basement room. Likewise, "Sara Poiron's Room" was part of a two-floor shaft that also included "Shira's Room." Someone had decided to knock a large hole through the wall, bricks and all, of "Jessika's Room." But for all the destruction and cannibalism of materials, the roof was completely intact and there was no evidence of water damage.

In the basement room under "The Living Room" we found a cellar full of canned fruits and vegetables in Mason and Ball jars. Who knew how long ago these vintage foods had been canned, but the seals all still looked good, so we took a bunch of the jars home with us. Someday soon we may find ourselves eating preserves canned well before the days of our birth.

Outside the house, we discovered that the mansion sat on a parcel of land belonging to a recently defunct limestone quarry. Conveyor belt mechanisms and hoppers stood sadly alone, rusting in the rain. Lime was so rich in the soil (no doubt from the dust of the mining operation) that it made for perfect snail habitat. Snails, you see, need lots of lime in order to make their calcium carbonate shells. The heavy rains of the day had brought out a great diversity of snails, but there was also much evidence of snails from days past, their colourfully whorled but abandoned shells strewn everywhere.

In a nearby building, one far more modern than the mansion, we found the defunct quarry's office. Paperwork lying about indicated that it had been active until about 1988. A slogan on the bulletin board derided people who attributed their problems to computers. And in the back I found the computer that was being defended. It was an old CP/M monstrosity with a couple huge eight inch floppy drives. Back in the day I would have considered it a choice find, but not when I find myself painting on 486 motherboards.

Traffic was bad around Waynesboro because I-64 was closed for an accident. It was a little frightening for me to realize how much traffic passes through this narrow east-west corridor and also to see how much Americans have grown dependent on the Interstate system for their travel needs.

the evening ends early


ack at Kappa Mutha Fucka, it was the usual Sunday Night lineup on Fox. The Simpsons is growing weirder and weirder folks. Did you notice how much satirical scrutiny was given to human interest stories? In the past, that same satirical sentiment would have been summed up in a seventeen second swoop.

We all went to bed fairly early.

one year ago

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