Welcome back to It Gets Weird! In this episode, Nile and Kyle discuss a mystery that’s been kicking around since the late 1980s: the secret of Ong’s Hat, New Jersey. What even IS Ong’s Hat? A charcuterie? Ye Olde Hat Shoppe? Ah, wait, says here in our notes it’s a town. Turns out some shamans and mystics and chaos scientists got together to conduct some pretty zany experiments, things like transporting a bunch of people to an alternate dimension. Join us on this bizarre inter-dimensional tale!
On this edition of Parallax Views, a special, previously unpublished conversation with Joseph Matheny, a pivotal fixture of the bohemian tech counterculture during the early days of the internet, who may offer a key to understanding the wild social media phenomenon of QAnon and the general hijacking of counterculture by right-wing and corporate forces. This should be of particular interest in light of the recent FBI memo pointing towards QAnon conspiracy theories presenting a potential domestic terror threat.
Joseph Matheny is perhaps best known as a transmedia artist who pioneered the Alternate Reality Game (ARG) with the inter-based collaborative fiction Ong’s Hat. An ARG is a type of game that uses the real world as platform and have been used in marketing campaign for Halo 2, the Lost TV series, and Nine Inch Nails’ Year Zero album. The genre has flourished because of the internet and is particularly interesting in that it does not require the player realize that they are playing.
The parallels between ARGs and the QAnon phenomenon are striking. In fact, due to the focus of conspiracy theories and arcane secret histories found in Ong’s Hat, some have whispered that Matheny is having a bit of a laugh as the possible mastermind behind QAnon. Matheny adamantly denies this and I believe him when he says he’s not involved in QAnon. However, both of us agree that QAnon, whether knowingly or otherwise, uses the mechanics of an ARG in a way that is quite eerie.
In addition to discussing alternate reality games and things like Pizzagate and QAnon as “Dark ARGs” in the age of MAGA, Joseph Matheny and I more generally delve into how counterculture appears to have been hijacked, perhaps even weaponized, by corporate and right-wing elements.
It’s a fascinating episode that you’re not going to want to miss!
There’s one more interview I did back in December of 2018, supposedly still floating around in post-production limbo. If that ever sees the light of day, then that is it. No more interviews.
I made an exception for this one because Denny and I have never done an interview together and I really liked the idea of our great team dynamic being on display in an interview. I hope you enjoy.
What lies at the heart of Ong’s Hat?
Listen to this episode of Decoder Ring:
Decoder Ring is a podcast about cracking cultural mysteries. Every month, host Willa Paskin, Slate’s TV critic, takes on a cultural question, object, idea, or habit and speaks with experts, historians and obsessives to try and figure out where it comes from, what it means and why it matters.
On the early internet, a conspiracy theory known as Ong’s Hat flourished. It combined real physics, speculative science, mysticism, and radical politics, to tell a tale about a secret cult of interdimensional travelers. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, clues would emerge about the travel cult: brochures, book catalogs, mysterious interviews, buried artifacts, and more. For years, users worked together to solve the mystery of Ong’s Hat and the man who masterminded it all.
Decoder Ring talks to those seekers and the man behind the curtain, to find out the truth: What is Ong’s Hat?
Download the art for this episode.
Links and further reading on some of the things we discussed on the show:
• Michael Kinsella’s book about Ong’s Hat: Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat
• “Interdimensional Portal” on YouTube
• Audiobook version of The Incunabula Papers
• Scans of the original Ong’s Hat mail-art
• Joseph Matheny’s website
• Joseph Matheny’s interview on Coast to Coast AM
This episode was co-written and edited by Willa Paskin and Benjamin Frisch. Benjamin Frisch produced the episode.
*SPOILER ALERT* In case anyone missed it, here is the game that was embedded in that episode: https://www.reddit.com/r/trustaleph/
Topics include: Crimbus gifts, planning our funerals, Scary German Lady, Philly Legends: The Bubble Fairy, Josh is home alone, Alien Alloys, BFS Road Trip, Corrections and Josh’s Chaos Dimension: Ong’s Hat, the Pine Barrens, and Joseph Matheny
Characters: Sammy Squarespace (the CEO of Square Space)
The Grey Lodge was an underground private torrent tracker used by millions of people per month in their quest to uncover the esoteric, strange and the downright weird. In this episode we hear from Joe Matheny, one of the founders of the site, about how it kicked off in the very early days of BitTorrent, online culture in the early days of the Internet, proto-copyright trolls, how even weirdos eventually get pursued by the MPAA, and how the demise of indie trackers from Grey Lodge to What.CD mean a net loss for our culture.
Coming soon: the second part of this interview, in which Joe discusses his work as an early creator of “this is not a game” ARG experiences and his well-known work Ong’s Hat, The Incunabula Papers. We’ll be making that available for supporters on the Patreon (and maybe more widely) in due course. In the meantime, if you’re curious to take a look at some of Joe’s work, he’s been kind enough to give us a free pack including Ong’s Hat and some samples from his ARG! Enjoy.
Executive Producers: Mark Zapalac
Sorry it’s taken so long to update the old podcasts, but I’ve finally begun uploading them to Archive.org. You can watch for them here on this site and I promise to try and upload on a regular basis.
Watch this URL for the current upload cycle of The G-Spot archives.
All podcasts will be in this category.
This week: The death of Megaupload, Legislation that could kill Internet privacy, Has George Lucas really retired?, History being made by blackouts, Jim Henson avant garde, Sega Toylets, How the US lost out on iPhone production, and shooting nails into your brain.
Email us with stories you think we should discuss here.
This week we discuss the demise of Vaclav Havel, Christoper Hitchens, and ronery old Kim JI. We also take a look at SOPA, NDAA, the Gingrich judge fiasco, look at some books and films, and announce our first contest.
Oh Schnaps! We forgot to put Nicholas in the picture (sorry Nic, we’ll make it up to you). To enter the contest mentioned at the end of the show, please email ‘CONTEST’ in the header to firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorenzo ran more excerpts of one of my audio projects over at the Psychedelic Salon. This time Hakim Bey and Robert Anton Wilson from the T.A.Z. CDs. Enjoy.
“The Power of Art and the TAZ”
This week – Weird invasion of bestseller lists, Will SOPA destroy the Internet, Louis Farrakhan turns Fox Mulder, What is the LRAD sound cannon?, Matheny does Hollywood…sort of, Making space travel boring, and Occupy updates.
Email us with stories you think we should discuss here.
My friend Lorenzo has posted another show of Robert Anton Wilson material on the ever edifying Psychedelic Salon. This one is audio excerpts from The I in the Triangle DVD that I produced (and introduced).
Welcome to the pilot episode of CCN, a weekly show that examines emerging countercultures, fringe science, Magickal happenings, and other strange blips on the social landscapes that we all occupy.
This week we examine: The Occupy Movement, Metallica and Lou Reed, killing for Star Wars toys, the occult significance of the Statue of Liberty, and The Exegesis of Phillip K Dick.
Personel – Joe Nolan, Kim Monaghan, and Ken Eakins.
I’ll be on the next and other episodes of this show. (Had a GMT/PST brain fart). I also came up with the name.
Lorenzo over at the Psychedelic Salon has (with my permission) put together a podcast of excerpts from the CD I produced, Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Sessions. I hope you enjoy and if you do, remember you can get your own copy at Original Falcon (on CD) or as a digital download form any number of download services. Complete list here.
“Criminally under appreciated” and “The greatest indie songwriter you’ve never heard” are both phrases written in the past 12 years of Mark Mallman’s professional career. He’s opened for the likes of Donovan, Of Montreal, Cat Power, Green Day, Howie Day, Linda Ronstadt, Tegan and Sara, and Guided by Voices to name a select few. His songs have been featured on This American Life, MTV, VH1, MSNBC, Current Television, and Public Radio International. In Minneapolis, he boasts a star on the side of First Avenue Nightclub. He is also featured contributor in the book “Music Theory for Dummies”.
As front man for Kindercore records electro/house/rock act, Ruby Isle – or composer for major motion picture trailers such as 10000bc, Adventureland, The Hitcher, and The Haunting of Molly Hartley – Mark Mallman has accomplished more creatively than most artists twice his age. Unlike ANY other artist, he’s performed the longest rock song ever written, a piano solo with the rear tire of a full sized motor scooter, and for 10 hours inside of a refrigerator box. His newest release, “Invincible Criminal”, was released fall of 2009 on Badman Recording Company (My Morning Jacket, Starf***ker) .
Yony Leyser is a twenty-five-year-old filmmaker living in Chicago, Illinois, USA. He has directed several short films. After being kicked out of film school, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and began his passionate first feature film, William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, about one of the most interesting icons of
the 20th century,
He also works as a curator, video artist and photographer, documenting people who are outside the mainstream of society. His photograph series have included Ida, a utopian transgender commune in Tennessee; Christiana, an anarchist village in Copenhagen; Kopi, Berlin’s largest
squat, and naked bike rides in the US. His work has been shown work in galleries and theaters in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, Paris,
Vienna and Los Angeles. Yony Leyser brings a more personal perspective to Burroughs’ legacy, examining the private versus the public personae
of Burroughs and the effect this may have had on his most intimate
Utne Reader calls Richard Nash “One of 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” Mashable.com ranks him him “The #1 Twitter User Changing the Shape of Publishing.” He ran Soft Skull Press, now an imprint of Counterpoint, from 2001 to 2007, and ran the imprint on behalf of Counterpoint until early 2009. Here’s why he left. The last book he edited at Soft Skull, Lydia Millet’s Love in Infant Monkeys, was just picked as a Pulitzer finalist.
Listen to or download show here
NICK BELARDES is the author of Random Obsessions (2009) a book of oddities where you will learn that Mothman might be your big brother, Napoleon had stomach aches, and Thomas Jefferson’s grandson was an ax murderer. In 2005 he released the dark novel Lords: Part One a fictional account of the mysterious “Lords of Bakersfield.” A writer, poet and author, Belardes turned TV/online journalist overnight after blogging his way to success on Bakersfield issues. His articles and essays have appeared on the homepage of CNN.com and other news sites across America. Lately, he has started to write less journalism in order to focus more on writing books and performing activist poetry that might wake up some of the lethargic brains of California’s Great Central Valley. He lives in Bakersfield, which is in the valley’s southern end. You can find Nick on Facebook and Twitter.
Listen to or download the show here
GINA FRANGELLO is the fiction editor of The Nervous Breakdown. She is the author of the novel My Sister’s Continent (Chiasmus 2006) and the collection Slut Lullabies (forthcoming from Emergency Press). She was the longtime Editor of the literary magazine Other Voices, and co-founded its book imprint, Other Voices Books, where she is now the Executive Editor of the Chicago office. Her short stories have been published in many lit mags and anthologies, including A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross Cultural Collision and Connection, Prairie Schooner, StoryQuarterly, Swink and Clackamas Literary Review. She guest edited the anthology Falling Backwards: Stories of Fathers and Daughters (Hourglass) and teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies. Gina lives in Chicago and can be found online at Facebook, www.ginafrangello.com and the Other Voices Books’ website, www.ovbooks.org. She has twin daughters, a wild preschooler son, and never sleeps.
Richard Metzger (born October 25, 1965 in Wheeling, West Virginia) is a British television host and author. He was the host of the TV show Disinformation, The Disinformation Company and its website, Disinfo.com. He is currently the host of the online talk show Dangerous Minds.
Joseph Matheny in conversation with old friend Steve Peters. Steve is a founding member of No Mimes Media, who produced the Why So Serious for The Dark Knight and Year Zero for Nine Inch Nails ARG/Transmedia Experiences and a host of others. Also, In Your Ear reviews John Hummel Blogs the Religions.
JONATHAN EVISON is the author of All About Lulu, which won the 2009 Washington State Book Award, as well as the forthcoming novels, West of Here, and The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving. In 2009, he received a fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. He is the Executive Editor of The Nervous Breakdown, and an advisory editor at Knock. He blogs at Three Guys, One Book. He especially likes rabbits and beer.
For more information about The Nervous Breakdown check out TNB in the LA Times.