Quarterly Journal of the Society of Intrigue

Volume 318, Issue 1 From the editor:

Spring is once again upon us. Death has loosened its grip and the hunt for truth begins anew — time to get out there and explore. The Society has several exciting initiatives lined up for the coming fiscal year, as we look to plumb the very depths of what the mortal mind can know. To this year's contingent of thirteen initiates, I bid you welcome. You were wise to open that box; not everyone shares your fortitude. Each of you were chosen for a reason, though that reason may take years to fully grasp. (Sorry about the initiation rites! One day you'll look back at them and laugh. Some day. Many years from now.)

I wanted to take a moment to address the unpleasantness that has loomed like a murder of crows over these past months. What was at first mere rumor can now be confirmed: The Onyx Contingent has sabotaged several of our efforts, and is plotting to reveal our existence to the public. On the one hand, I must urge both caution and vigilance. On the other, we cannot shutter ourselves away and let fear weaken our bonds. These slippery bastards have thrown their stones at us before. Let them come.

But enough of such trifles. Spring is in the air, and we have work to do. This issue of the QJSI features an eye-opening work of investigative journalism from the great Reginald Thatcher, as well as a photo essay that would be fit to frame were it not for ... well, you'll see.

-Eleanor Greystoke Sedgewick Chairman, Society of Intrigue

Notable deaths, disappearances, voyages of no return, trans-substantiations, transferences of soul to phylactery, emergences into final form (page 5)

Letters to the Editor (Page 9)

  • What to do when CERN learns the terrifying truth about the Higgs Boson? Opinions vary greatly
  • Feedback on the Clockwork Heart experiment
  • What right do we have to question missives issued by the Weeping Vault?
  • There are too many leaves falling from the sky at night while our eyes are draped in broken memories

News Roundup & Current Events (Page 13)

Historical Perspective: Crypto-Numismatism (Page 21) The study of mysterious coins may be derided as a hobby for "eggheads and grandpas," but it has a great deal to teach about the history of nations — what we know, what we think we know, and what we cannot ever know, there is nothing to know, forget you ever read this, in fact why even turn to this page?

Cover Story: The Howl And The Ledger (Page 27) An accountant on holiday in Geneva stepped into a tobacco shop to refill his pipe. What he found there may blow the lid off an impending financial tsunami. Reginald Thatcher explores how the Lycanthrope Accord of 1951 created a black market that is devouring the world's strategic silver reserves.

Point/Counterpoint (Page 51)

  • Point: The Society's supply of dark matter and echofire could accelerate the development of time manipulation and faster-than-light propulsion if it were made available to the world's scientific community.
  • Counterpoint: If they were ready for echofire, they would already be reading these pages.

Photo Essay: Time Out Of Mind (Page 54) The haunted beauty of chronoplasm is compounded by its ephemeral nature — it reflects multiple spectra simultaneously, but within a year's time will have never existed. See these stunning photographs before they disappear from the pages.

Coded Messages (Page 68)

Cartoon Corner (Page 74)

The Final Word with Leonard "Mandrake" McGovern (Page 75) Speaking of crypto-numismatists, someone's a little cranky about all these buffalo nickels!

Est. 1691 — Mundum nunquam scire

Void If Detached: An Accidental Archive Twenty Years In The Making

In December 1991, 16-year-old me met up with some friends and drove to the sprawling new multiplex in Tyngsboro for the premiere of Star Trek VI. The place was packed. Sitting in front of me was a guy wearing a varsity jacket emblazoned with the logo of the United Federation of Planets. His crew took up the whole row, and had managed to sneak an entire pizza into the theater in the box, which remains the single greatest feat of movie theater contraband I've ever seen. 16-year-old me loved the movie, so I went again two weeks later — then set both ticket stubs aside on a dresser. That's when the tickets began accumulating. When I left for college, I swept the pile into a Japanese air mail box that my sister had used to send something home from Tokyo. The box is still with me. For twenty years, I've been sticking ticket stubs into my wallet the instant the usher tears them, then dropping them into the pile when I get home. Nearly 300 in all, a scrap heap of dot matrix and thermal ink. Why?

I have no freakin' idea. At some point I noticed that I'd been doing it for a while, and my brain automatically checked some box somewhere that says "Repeat Until Death." Hooray for consistency?

While writing about The Avengers earlier this summer, I took a quick picture of my ticket from the 1998 movie by the same name. Digging through the pile to find it was an unexpected memory bombardment, and before I really knew what was happening, I was possessed by the idea that I should photograph all of them. Each and every one. Then suddenly I was making a spreadsheet to catalog them, at which point it crossed a line and became a thing I was actually doing.

Naturally, I'm putting it all on the internet.

So this is me introducing Void If Detached, the Tumblr where this little endeavor will live. Check it out every now and then to see how much popcorn I've excavated. If you're on Tumblr, feel free to follow it or do other Tumblr-ish things. I'll also maintain an index on this page with links.

Consistent though I've been, not every ticket is here. There are some gaps in my college years — Crimson Tide, Braveheart, Heat, Get Shorty, Desperado, Fargo and The Usual Suspects just to name a few. What can I say, shit gets lost when you relocate to/from campus four times a year. Also, my friend Johnny worked at a movie theater in those days, and would sneak friends in when he could. I did not pay to see Stark Trek: First Contact or The Island of Dr. Moreau. There, now you know my terrible secret.

Anyway, yeah. This whole thing may end up only being interesting to me, but ... I mean hell, have you seen some of the other stuff I've put on this blog over the last five years?

Date Movie Location Price Time
 Dec 6, 1991   Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   9:40 PM 
 Dec 21, 1991   Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country   Tyngsboro 12   $4.00   2:20 PM 
 May 23, 1992   Alien3   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   7:10 PM 
 Jun 20, 1992   Batman Returns   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   9:50 PM 
 Jun 10, 1993   Jurassic Park   Tyngsboro 12   $6.75   9:50 PM 
 Jun 30, 1993   The Firm   Tyngsboro 12   $6.75   9:45 PM 
 Jul 9, 1993   Jurassic Park   Tyngsboro 12   $6.75   10:00 PM 
 Sep 18, 1993   Manhattan Murder Mystery   Unknown theater   $2.50   1:30 PM 
 Jan 9, 1994   Shadowlands   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   9:30 PM 
 Jan 21, 1994   Philadelphia   Loews Janus Cinema   $7.00   10:20 PM 
 Jan 29, 1994   Schindler's List   Loews Harvard Square   (?)   4:00 PM 
 Circa 1994   The Rocky Horror Picture Show (possibly)   Loews Harvard Square   (?)   12:00 AM 
 Mar 28, 1994   The Ref   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   4:15 PM 
 May 15, 1994   The Crow   Tyngsboro 12   $6.50   4:40 PM 
 Jun 3, 1994   Maverick   Premiere 8   $6.50   9:50 PM 
 Jun 18, 1994   Speed   Premiere 8   $6.50   9:55 PM 
 Oct 7, 1994   Ed Wood   Hoyts Newington   $6.75   9:40 PM 
 Oct 11, 1994   Quiz Show   Hoyts Newington   $6.75   9:30 PM 
 Oct 15, 1994   Pulp Fiction   Hoyts Newington   $6.75   9:30 PM 
 Dec 19, 1994   Junior   Tyngsboro 12   $4.50   9:15 PM 

Prices don't include charges from Fandango or Moviefone. Man, remember Moviefone? "Hello! And welcome to Moviefone! Brought to you by the New York Times and American Express!"

100 Band Names Generated by Diablo 3

And now, 100 band names courtesy of the random item generator in Diablo 3.

Try out each one by saying the following out loud:

"Thank you, we're __________ ! Come check out our merch table!"

Rare Pants The Flawed Stone Human Knowledge Rift Beating Truth Deliverance Knuckle Prowess Flesh Buckle Mutiny Blitz Hex Rain The Timber Fulminating Flag Fatal Walking Stick Living Dominion Soldier's Cure Juggernaut Revenge Forsaken Hawk The Dam Inscrutable Weapon War Hunger Brigand's Prize Doom Lock The Shoulders Truth Helmet Spontoon of Agony Salubrious Ironwood Shield of Invasion Wild Casque of Focus Protection Craft Stalwart Skin The Shade Scarred Bastion Nomad's Coat Grand Siphon Bone Reminder Mangle Void The Gnaw Blessed Crack Smasher's Deed Hollow Force Awful Hammer Devastator's Method Frigid Fortress Tower Thorn Worthy Keepsake Honor Eater Sinister Fortune Sly Fists Crush Root Thief's Story Hellrack Solid Yumi Highlander's Badge Gruesome Locket Abyssal Focus Hazardous Star Exceptional Ono Thick Silk Shoes Masterwork Wrecker Balanced Reaver Fine Porcupine Sword of Starlight Grim Decapitator of Death Ravage Ruin Sage's Scar The Blitz The Bludgeon Slam Prison Academy Tooth Horrid Smash Black Rake Mental Ploy Daring Coat Dreaded Mail The Robes Prime Redoubt Stout Skull Watchful Heart Broken Crown Standoff Immortal King's Soul Cage Danetta's Rage Sun Keeper Falcon Flurry The Helix Strange Ramparts Vital Incantation Vile Menace Demolisher's Maw Iron Reign Null Sunder Volcanic Shot Bullseye Riot Strong Cross Keen Force Last Judge Shiv Retribution Dire Bane Power Tomb Wicked Point Subtle Essence 62 Gold

The Avengers, Inflation, And The Box Office Mystery That Haunts Me

When Titanic passed Star Wars to become the highest-grossing movie of all time, George Lucas took out an ad in Variety congratulating James Cameron. It's a cartoon of all the Star Wars characters sinking into the ocean, which is way funnier depending on your opinion of Episodes I-III. Plus they forgot Lando, the only black character in either movie.* But whatever.

The congratulatory ad is apparently a tradition — Steven Spielberg did the same when Star Wars surpassed Jaws in 1977, then Lucas returned the favor when E.T. topped Star Wars in 1982.**

When Avatar defeated Titanic, James Cameron built himself a submarine and descended to the bottom of the ocean. Which apparently was an option? Better than taking out an ad to congratulate himself, I guess.

All of which is to say, I saw The Avengers last weekend. As someone whose affection for Joss Whedon exists in a state of irrationality, I was predisposed to like it. More to the point, I wanted it to do well. That feels like a weird thing to want, like rooting for a team's revenue rather than the score, but there you go. The movie's pretty damn good, which I think is my objective take. But even so, I wasn't prepared for the news that it had broken the most frequently shattered box office record, piling up the best opening weekend ever.

New records for opening weekend are practically annual at this point. All of the top twelve opening weekends in history happened in the past six years. The Avengers unseated the final Harry Potter film, which came out less than a year ago — and with The Dark Knight Rises looming in July, The Avengers' reign may be shorter lived than its theatrical release. The whole thing is kind of goofy, and got me thinking yet again about a mystery that has bothered me for years.

Can anyone explain why Hollywood reports box office performance in dollars? Because I'm genuinely asking.

Think about major media outlets for a second:

  • Television: Household viewership, measured by Nielsen ratings
  • Music: Units sold, measured by Billboard
  • Books: Units sold, measured by The New York Times
  • Newspapers/Magazines: Circulation, measured by the Audit Bureau of Circulations
  • Video Games: Units sold, measured by The NPD Group
  • Sports: Attendance, reported by the teams

Yet not only are box office figures reported in dollars, they're like baseball stats that fans rattle off and compare historically.

Which makes no sense whatsoever.

Curious about inflation, I went digging through some boxes in search of a particular item. As it happens, I have kept the ticket stub of every movie I've seen since Star Trek VI in 1991. This is completely true, and certainly not an indication that I'm a weirdo. After a few minutes, I was able to find my ticket for The Avengers — I refer of course to the 1998 opus starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman, based on the '60s British TV show.

My friend Johnny talked me into seeing it, and if he's reading this I would like to remind him that he still owes me those two hours back. I will take them from you on your death bed if need be, tiger. I'm a patient man.

Not counting the Fandango surcharge, I spent 54% more to see The Avengers on Friday than I did fourteen years ago. More than half. How am I supposed to take your box office numbers seriously with that kind of markup? And that's to say nothing of add-ons like IMAX and 3D, which skew the numbers further. MPAA figures show that 3D accounted for 21% of North American box office revenues in 2010 (driven largely by Avatar) and 18% in 2011.

Look, this isn't complicated. You don't have to stop reporting the truckloads of money. Truckloads of money are great! Better than toast and jam, and that's coming from someone who likes toast and jam quite a bit. Just report admissions too, so that we have a number that's actually useful. Is there a reason not to do that, or some sort of logistical impediment? I really am asking, if anybody out there happens to know about these things.

In the meantime, I suppose I shall make do with these juiced stats. They're not all bad, I guess. I have to admit, I am keen on the image of Joss Whedon standing on his roof this morning, blazing middle fingers in all directions and shouting "WHO'S CANCELING FIREFLY NOW, ASSHOLES?"

*Before you point out that Lando didn't appear in Star Wars, the cartoon includes Jabba the Hutt, Yoda, the Emperor, Boba Fett, Admiral Ackbar, IG-88, Salacious Crumb, some Ewoks, a drowning speeder bike trooper, and the blue puffy muppet who plays keyboard for Jabba's band. I'm not kidding.

**When Star Wars briefly reclaimed the title with the 1997 "Special Edition" re-release, Spielberg did the classy thing and kept the tradition going. My guess is that Spielberg is actually the one who started the tradition, since I doubt that William Friedkin publicly congratulated him when Jaws passed The Exorcist in 1975.

Post-Stasis Welcome Packet and Indoctrination Orders: Form XB8-6000 (A Friendly Hello!)

Good morning! Welcome to the future. You, intrepid voyager, have reached your destination. Outside these walls, a world of sights and sounds beyond your imagination awaits. This packet contains everything you need to acclimate to your new surroundings. Please take a few moments to familiarize yourself with its contents.

To begin, we acknowledge that you have no idea where you are, what is going on, or why the klaxon in your pod will not stop. Bear with us as we do our best to explain. Everything is fine.

At some point between the Years Before Reckoning 2009 and 2016, all people on Earth were instantaneously placed into stasis — flash frozen, if you will. No record of the event exists, so the exact date is unknown. The human population was then harvested, disinfected, and placed into stasis pods. You have been revived because it is your turn to serve the Yalgrenach. The current date is Year After Reckoning 612.

The klaxon is to make sure you woke up. Touch the blue sensor to turn it off.

As you read this, automated instruments are performing a series of diagnostics on your physical and cognitive functions. With the exception of the vision test, you should be able to continue reading without interruption. Muscle stiffness is normal, as is the sensation of smelling citrus. Both will pass. Any diseases or conditions you had at the moment of Reckoning have been removed. Your life expectancy just tripled!

No doubt you are wondering where you are. The short answer is, "the volcano where Buenos Aires used to be." The full explanation is tricky, because tectonic engineering has accelerated continental drift. This is one of nearly 115,000 hibernation facilities. After indoctrination, you will be taken to a transport hub for deployment to your sector. There you will perform your tasks to the best of your ability, until such as time as you are transferred to another sector or sent to the meat furnaces.

Please hold all questions about the meat furnaces.

Should you encounter fellow awoken servants, they may refer to the "winged ones." This is because the Yalgrenach are a race of insectoid hominid bat-crocodiles. You are strongly advised not to address the Yalgrenach directly, or to make sudden sounds or movements in their presence (sneezing, etc). In the rare event that one needs to communicate, you will be made to understand the horror of their true language in the limbic system of your cerebellum. This will hurt for days afterward. But for the most part, you will receive orders from the Scythe-Mechs, or from printed out packets like this one.

We greeted you with "good morning" as a comforting formality, but in truth, time no longer has applicable meaning. Without a direct view of the sky, your circadian rhythms will be managed by your Yalgrenach pit lord. Speaking of which — "Where did the sky go?" Great question! The Atmospheric Dampening Shield (ADS) protects us from whatever is happening to the moon. The Yalgrenach have given us every assurance that once the lunar project is complete, the shield will be removed. Outdoor activity is discouraged due to ice storms and lightning.

Before you proceed to indoctrination, take a moment to confirm that your welcome packet contains the following:

  • One (1) flame-retardant coverall
  • One (1) pair chain mesh gloves
  • One (1) pair permaboots
  • Six (6) meal ration units
  • One (1) canteen
  • Three (3) potassium flares
  • Bottle of twenty (20) radiation antidote skin patches
  • One (1) copy of "After Reckoning: A Primer"

Naturally, this is all a great deal to process. One moment you were going about your life, oblivious to the wisdom and benevolence of the Yalgrenach, the next you were waking up in your pod. The adjustment will be difficult. But we want to stress the importance of looking forward, not backward. Your loved ones may still be in stasis, or may be centuries gone. Please do your best not to focus on your loved ones. Your pets definitely died alone and afraid. Please do your best not to focus on your pets.

Your position has been designated: MEAT FURNACE TECHNICIAN Please report to sector: MEAT FURNACE

By now, your sedative is likely wearing off. Your senses are returning to normal, your mind is clearing. Panic is a common reaction. Just breathe through it. Everything is fine. This is happening. This is happening.

Follow the green floor markings to indoctrination.