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75 + 51 points

Anthropologist from Mars by Lincøln, Jellybean of Thark

December 31st, 2007 7:18 PM / Location: 34.069542,-118.4038

INSTRUCTIONS: Go somewhere large groups of people frequent, but is a place you would not normally go to. Preferably, these people should have nothing in common with you. Bring a notebook, camera, binoculars, etc. Study these people. Interview them. Take field notes. Make observations and theories.

Your proof should include some culmination of what you've learned. A paper? Guided tours? Signs?

This task brought to you in part by the Multilateral Task Exchange
Yay for grouplessness!
Boo for flags :(

For this task, I, Lincoln will be doing the write up and narration for our exploits, but I very much speak for both myself and Captain Barbapoca.

So when I set out to do this bad boy, I thought about a group of people very much not like me. And I thought about the filthy rich. So where to go to find the filthy rich? I thought about a trendy little spot on the Sunset strip where they like to frequent. But when Captain Barbapoca showed up for our anthropology assignment (complete with pith helmet) I decided on Rodeo Drive (that's pronounced row-day-oh, which is very telling) because it was Sunday and there'd be a lot of people out and about for us to study. So off we go to the cold black heart of Beverly Hills. Now I must admit that when I started out on this task, when I saw it and signed up and enlisted the aid of Captain Barbapoca, I had my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. I brought my tripod and the good Captain brought a pith helmet and we were going to go and make fun, and pretend. That turned out to not be the case. This turned into a real anthropology mission. And we felt like we were from Mars (well, the captain is from Mars, but I felt like I was too). This was one of the most alien environments I have ever been to. But the thing that made it so strange was that the beings walking around looked like people. Everything felt so normal. But it wasn't. Everything was far from normal. I am going to say several times in this description that I was scared or nervous or something made me uneasy. I don't know how to stress enough how true that was for this experience. It was very frightening. You will see pictures of our faces and we will look worried or scared or uneasy. We are. We are not that good at acting.It was truly frightening. I know you're going to look at the pictures and think "that doesn't look scary at all" and you're right. But it was. It really was.

So anyway, we get to Rodeo and park up the hill in a residential neighborhood and walk down into the mess. The first thing we notice is that instead of street lights, they have chandeliers in glass cases. Without doubt real crystal. Weird. We also hear music playing all up and down the street and we see that there are speakers strapped to every streetlight filling the street with music. And the funny thing is, we were listening to that music the whole time we were there, and I can't think what songs were playing. Not one. So scary. I remember that there was music playing, but not one single song. Were they using music to get into my brain? The people on the street are not friendly but also not hostile. They treat us as if we aren't even there. And it's not because we're anthropologists from Mars either, they treat everybody they meet in this strange absent minded negligent way. Interesting.

We had a plan to interview some of the natives, but found that they were a bit too disconcerting right off the bat, so we decided to wait a little bit for the interviews, we would first document and observe. We decided to go into one of their establishments. I believe it was called Juicy. Juicy something. I don't really remember, I was too terrified. All of the people inside seemed to be in some kind of trance, like they were hypnotized. I mean they moved and acted like real normal people, but they didn't talk much, and they never smiled or laughed. And they looked at us all of the time. Just watched us. It was unnerving. We both wandered around in the store, but neither of us got very far in. We didn't know it at the time but each of us was too frightened to go too deep into the bowels of the place. We thought about engaging one of these people in conversation, but I felt like I would have gotten a better reaction out of the coyote I saw at my back door this morning. So we took a few photos, and moved around a bit, trying to see everything. It was a clothing store, but there were no racks of clothes. There were a few free-standing racks, and there were clothes on them, but there were jackets mixed with dresses with shirts. There was no order I could see. There were also no price tags on anything. There was a shelf with no merchandise, but little gold knick knacks all clumped together. There was a table with books on it, but we couldn't figure out if they were for reading in boredom or for sale. After only a few moments I had had enough. We didn't so much leave as we fled. Once we got out onto the street I was feeling a little strange. I looked at the Captain and he looked a little pale and sweaty. He looked at me with a worried look and said he had to sit down. I was feeling a little wobbly myself. I have to reiterate that this isn't a joke, we're not putting you on. These looks on our faces aren't faked. The place was actually very frightening. We felt like Rosemary and we couldn't figure out why all of the neighbors were being so friendly. Except that nobody was very friendly at all.

We left that place and ventured further into the dank dark bowels of the place. Which may have been a mistake. But we were on a mission and we would not fail. So we ventured on. It didn't get any less weird the further we went. Their trash looked different than our trash. The things they were selling in their stores were strange and unsettling. We happened upon a shop that had a clockwork reindeer out front and nothing but sunglasses within. I asked a woman who was standing at the door like a sentry what they sold in there. I wondered if it could just be sunglasses. She confirmed that in fact all they sold were sunglasses. Well, actually they also sold sunglass cases and sunglass accessories as well. I quietly wondered how they can afford to pay the rent. I also noticed that while the sentry answered all of my questions, she didn't quite know how to handle me, when given a question about the store and what they sold within, she knew what to do, which was to answer it, but when given more abstract stimuli, she shut down. She reminded me a lot of JohnnyCab "What do you sell here?" "Sunglasses." "That's it? Just sunglasses?" "Yes." "Wow." "Well, we also sell sunglass cases and accessories." "That's amazing." "Hmm." "So what do you do here? Standing at the door?" blank stare. "What's your job here?" She literally tilted her head with a confused look on her face. I thought she was going to start billowing smoke out of her ears and just repeating "Sunglasses" over and over. Like Ian Holm as Ash. Her sudden inability to communicate made me unable to communicate. So I stuttered a couple of times and then walked away.

We found the entrance to a little side mall type thing. It was an opening between two buildings, and there was stuff inside there, like an atrium. We decided to go in there. Guh. Another mistake in a long list of mistakes. So when we get into the place we're on the third of five floors. There are two floors going down and two going up. We inspect the place and it feels a lot like an M.C. Escher painting. And maybe some of you like some of us have maybe always wanted to be inside an M.C. Escher painting, but let me tell you as one who has been in there, it's not fun. Looking down was disconcerting, and so was looking up. We decided to explore further. It was decided that I would take the elevator up to the top and Barbacoca would go down to the bottom and we would document. Barbapoca had no problem going forward with his plan, but once I got in the elevator, not only was I confused because there were both numbers and letter to represent floors but there was no second floor. there was a 1 and a 3, but no 2. Meanwhile Barbapoca had made his way down to sub level 1 and was wondering why I wasn't ascending yet. And I was trying to escape the elevator. when finally I figured out how to get out, I went down to try to find the good Captain. But first I found a service door, went through and found a service elevator, but remembering that a security guard had watched me go in, I decided to pretend I had gotten lost and wander out. The security guard said and did nothing. I went down and found Barbapoca. He had been exploring the depths. It was frightening down there. The very bottom floor was a garage of sorts and also had a restaurant. and other things. Some jackets lived down there. The ceiling was about 6'6" tall, maybe less. Much of the ceiling was plastic painted like sky and lit from above. So weird. And there were these diorama-like things that were shoddily put together, sixth graders could have done a better and more artistic presentation. They were supposed to be forest scenes I think. Trees and moss. There were people milling around down there and I began to feel like we were the only humans in a horde of zombies that hadn't recognized us yet. And as you're all aware, we're against zombies, almost as much as we're against robots.

So we fled the bowels of the painting and went up to the first sub level, which featured a large glass building that looked a lot like a greenhouse, but instead of plants it had gold furnishings. And one lady sitting in there calmly like I imagine all of the citizens of Miranda must have looked like before the Pax got them. And not wanting to wait around for the Reavers to show up we took off.

We got to the top (middle) floor and were about to leave when I saw a path leading between to walls in a weird way. So I followed the path. There was an unmarked door. Barbapoca tried it and it didn't open. We were very committed to this task, but were relieved when it didn't open. But then I noticed the floor, and realized that the door opened in, not out. He opened it in, and it worked. Shit. Now we would have to explore back behind the scenes. Normally I find that kind of thing to be brilliant and awesome. I love it. But here it felt strange somehow. And I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but it was odd and unnerving. We found some stairs and made it up to the top floor. Up there was a little walkway that was kind of a catwalk kind of a sidewalk. One side was open and there were potted plants everywhere. The other side were the businesses and all of the windows were one way mirrors. There could have been anybody in there. We walked the length of it (cautiously) and as we got to the far end, there was an door propped open. There was all kinds of strange items stacked up in the walkway outside of the door. Like somebody was moving. On closer inspection, the door that was open was glass and written on it was "Laboratory" but backwards to us because it was open. We crept forward and noticed a biohazard disposal container, and the dread filled us again. Then two men came out of the open door, one was carrying a half dead plant and they were both wearing perfume. Not cologne, but perfume. We each said hi to the men and were of course ignored. We turned and although we both felt like running, we slowly walked back to the less scary end. There was a place at that end called Ora Dentistry Spa. Dentistry Spa. No shit. Check the pictures. There was a bathroom up there, so we went in to investigate. There's a pretty funny video below of our experience in the bathroom.
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It was very clean and very perfumed. Everything up here was perfumed. Suitably frightened (again), we left (fled). We made a brief pitstop on the second floor which the elevator didn't stop at. Knowing it didn't stop there made me uneasy. There were many long hallways, and lots of terror, we didn't stay long. We fled. We crashed through a door and wound up in an alley. I felt like I could breathe for the first time. The alley had trash and graffiti and dumpsters and shitty cars. It felt more like home. As I was talking about feeling normal, a man walked past the mouth of the alley and was looking at us the whole time. I was reminded of that scene in "They Live" and I didn't have any sunglasses (I only realize right now that maybe that's what they were selling at that store). I wanted a picture of the guy walking past the alley, but I was too busy just watching him. But there were plenty of them walking past. There's no shortage of them.

Exiting the alley, we made a right to head back to Rodeo Drive. On the way, we spot a window display that confused us. One was a faux army jacket sporting artwork such as a soldier might have worn in Vietnam. It was paired with a t-shirt showing a flag-draped hand giving a peace sign. The mixed iconography confused the Captain and myself. Wearing someone else's uniform is a strange thing to do, and goofy, peace sign clothing is nothing new. You don't usually see them paired together like this. We guessed it was meant to be ironic.

We went back in to the heart of Rodeo Drive one more time. I do not know why. We learned very little on our second journey in. We saw Faberge Eggs and a big giant store where everybody that worked there had short skirts and caused many men to flock in and be near them. Clever. I also noticed that there were mannequins up on the top floor and all of them were wearing skirts, and everybody could look up their skirts. Which had a subliminal way of making us think that it would be possible to see up an employee's skirt. Insidious. I'd also like to point out how open all of the space is in all of these shops. Since we were learning very little we decided to leave this place feeling we'd learned all we could be observing them in this environment. On our way back to the car we noticed they had street-crossings that allowed you to cross any way you liked, straight across or diagonally.

We went to where they worked. But were unsure about where exactly they worked, I saw a strange looking building and we stopped to investigate. It was a very interesting building, but when looking in the windows, we discovered that those people didn't work there, regular people did. This was useless for our study, but we did notice that there people ran Myspace. I left them a note and we left.

We decided to go and observe their nests. See them in their natural domestic habitats. Watch our video below for a little introduction to this new and strange environment.

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Very strange thing here. All of the lawns were perfect and there were topiaries everywhere. And I noticed when I looked around and saw the Captain's car, is that it was the only car on the street. I mean there were cars driving around, but none parked on the streets. They hid their cars. Either behind doors or underground. The meaning behind this is still unclear. An older member of the species walked by wearing a a Fila track suit and he was never near "the hood" and was likely never in "the hood". I noticed many instances of what I like to call "peacocking" which is showing off and decorating for the benefit of others. We noticed that every house had a little box that we assumed was to communicate with people out on the street. This helped keep the necessary distance they require from all others. They also installed gates and fences and the less intimidating form of fence, the hedge. We also observed giant replica lions we assume were there to intimidate the uninvited. I observed what I thought was a bridge in somebody's front lawn, and on closer inspection I discovered that it was in fact a bridge. They had made a body of water in their front yard, just so they could build a bridge over it. We also noticed multiple newspapers lying in driveways where the carriers had thrown them. This indicated to the keen observer that the papers were ordered and delivered but the intention isn't to be read, I would imagine that the purpose is to look intellectual. Which is an indicator for everything else we discovered. All of the expensive things that they owned wasn't for the pleasure of owning them, but rather as a symbol of their value set against the false scale of monetary worth. So basically everything is fake. They don't own things for the reasons the things were intended. Which might explain the cold reception we received earlier in the day. We have deduced that the people here expect things to be fake and when confronted with real people they had no tools to deal with it.

+ larger

Beverly Hills
Chandeliers in glass boxes
Chandeliers instead of street lights
Topiary Knights outside of Juicy
People in the store called Juicy.
Captain Barbapoca and Lincoln
Post Juicy Trauma
Post Juicy Trauma
In the gutter
Escherian mall.
The M.C. Escher mall
That weird greenhouse type room.
Rocks on grates over pots
Rocks on grates
Barbapoca exploring on his own
Pyramids balanced
Lincoln in the elevator
The Senator descends
Dental Implants
This is not a skylight.
Mall basement
This thing.
For a specific purpose?
This weird little room
The "backstage" stairs
M.C. Escher mall from the top floor
Look down there!
Barbapoca and the Ora Dentistry Spa
Ora Dentistry Spa
Closed notice.
Barbapoca documenting
Gold-tinted windows
Pretty Smelling Bathroom
Muddy Waters
Taking a break
escape to second floor
Alarm Silense
Behind the second floor
Frightening hall
The Captain presses on
As does Lincoln
Escape into the alley.
Escape to the alley.
We meet a fellow anthropologist.
Our fellow anthropologist
Faberge Eggs
The skirts store
Every way cross walks
The Captain is adrift
This damned dog
Where they work?
Myspace swag
Another Myspace desk
These are certainly the Myspace offices
Lincoln takes advantage of an opportunity
Dear Myspace:
Dear Myspace
ping mars.wmv
Lincoln and Barbapoca
Perfect green lawns
No cars
Where do they park?
Barbapoca's is the only car on the street.
Get the shot
Art in the front lawn
Lincoln documents
Fila Man comes
Fila man goes
Barbapoca documents the talk box
The talk box
Barbapoca examines the talk box
This house had two talk boxes
Lincoln examines the talk box
Gates and lions
Lincoln explores
A bridge
The paper

11 vote(s)

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13 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on December 31st, 2007 7:48 PM

I wonder what era this will fall into.

(no subject)
posted by susy derkins on December 31st, 2007 8:07 PM

Yeah, better vote tomorrow to be sure my 5 points last at least 2 weeks.
I knew anthropologists were brave, cannibals and such, but this was truly chilling, all the way.

(no subject)
posted by Sean Mahan on December 31st, 2007 8:27 PM

Bugs and the actual time of score-enzerofication notwithstanding, History shall record: INTERREGNUM BEGINS AT MIDNIGHT.

(no subject)
posted by o f on January 1st, 2008 5:01 AM

This has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it in places. I suspect the reason you couldn't find where they work is because they don't. They have people to do that for them.

p.s. kudos for the Firefly reference, if we all keep it in our hearts and minds, maybe it'll be returned to us.

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on January 1st, 2008 12:25 PM

I like the twist of applying anthropology to the very wealthy, as usually anthropologists look at societies with less material wealth.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on January 1st, 2008 1:40 PM

Thanks rongo, this task certainly deserves more info and perhaps another excursion, but it was really honestly frightening. But Jane Goodall kept going back.

And I didn't realize just how much I felt like we were browncoats on Ariel until you mentioned it there. But that's what it was like.

You know you're tasking hard when you're sweating and running scared...
posted by Charlie Fish on January 1st, 2008 2:10 PM

Your description had the atmosphere of a horror movie - and then, when you got to the mall, you split up?! Don't you know the rules of horror movies?

I kept imagining the Twilight Zone tune in the background as I read. It's as if you felt uncomfortable because you might have been breaking some unknown rules imposed by these faceless tyrants in their own territory. Like 1984. The paranoia of being watched and suspected, even when you're not.

I think being that rich must be lonely.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on January 1st, 2008 5:28 PM

I'm glad you felt like you were watching a horror movie, because we felt like we were in a horror movie.

We split up for the sake of the task. We thought a picture of me up high from down at the bottom and vice versa would help out the documentation of the task.

(no subject)
posted by Jellybean of Thark on January 1st, 2008 6:39 PM

Right. The idea was to show the Escherian scale of the place.

Excellent! (Annunciated like baby Stuie not Bill S. Preston)
posted by Blue on January 3rd, 2008 5:04 PM


I am familiar with the phenomena +1
posted by Waldo Cheerio on March 5th, 2009 12:24 AM

I have occasion to be in Beverly Hills once in a while, but never in the consumer areas, so I have never been confronted with the high density consumer-dictated culture. These do bother me though: They are real chandeliers. Someone stole one, so now they are bullet-proofed chandeliers.

The worst I have seen, is that Tac and I went shopping for a pair of women's pants, with the intent of finding one with legitimate pockets. Not fake pockets, or pockets too small to put anything in, or pants so tight you couldn't put anything in anyway, but goddamn cargo pants, for a girl. We went to twelve stores in a fashion district. Not a single design in most of them that came close to a pocket you could put your hand it. I don't mean in her size, I mean none at all. Thousands of pairs of pants, no pockets. We became very agitated and unnerved by this, and by the reception of our requests by sales people. It took too much effort to explain pockets, we would mime the action of reaching in out own to demonstrate the concept before a flash of realization would hit most sales people.

I believe it was an Abercrombie and Fitch that we literally ran out of, panting and shrugging our shoulders. It wasn't melodramatic -- they had endless alien musak, air thick with the smell of cologne maybe, and a lot of these things you were describing. We leaned against a wall and talked to each other to be sure we weren't crazy, that there was something creepy going on.

We eventually found the pants, and I had forgotten about that experience besides the surprising difficulty of the quest -- your honest assessment of the alienness of it brought that all flooding back just now.

(no subject)
posted by Jellybean of Thark on March 5th, 2009 8:28 AM


That's some harrowing stuff.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on March 5th, 2009 1:50 PM

I just re-read this entire praxi and I had completely forgotten just how bad it was there. I still don't think the words really convey the true tone of that place. I know from reading the comments that it came across, but when I read it just now, I kinda re-felt everything I felt then, and the flashback of memories was much more vivid than the words written here suggest. It is amazing how I blocked much of this mission from my memory. I know I had an active desire to avoid this place, but not specifically why. Re-reading this was terrifying and enlightening.

I also realized that I'm gonna give more credit to the characters in horror films for splitting up or going in the basement or going to check on that noise outside, because those people don't know they're in a horror movie. They don't have the benefit of the creepy soundtrack or the jump cuts to let them know just how perilous their predicament is. Just like we had no idea we were in a horror movie. We knew shit was wrong and very strange, but if they had captured us and kept us tied to chairs in basement rooms getting ready to harvest our organs, we would have been totally surprised. Because we assumed the rules of society applied.