HE WHO WALKS BEHIND THE ROWS :: fertility death cults in the age of the Terminator
“To REFERTILIZE the soil!To Grow Crops Again!To make the world ALIVE again and green again for our RETURN!”
-Harvest, Weird Science-Fantasy #25, 1954
“One day [in 1910],… I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps”.
This is a return to hyperdensity as yet another rummaging into Terran disquietude inside my Bucharest concrete box.
Some of you may have seen the Terminator: Genisys trailer, the incoming 2015 follow-up to the maligned Terminator: Salvation. Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s I must say I’ve parted ways with the Terminator franchise and Skynet curse since the 2003 calamitous Rise of the Machines.
Not till I saw one of the posters announcing the next historical reset of the Terminator due 2015.
I must say I am somehow more attracted to the putrefaction smell of oozing pulp carrion – more than even to the living pop carcass or the uncut cinematic animal itself. As to Interstellar, even if it features a majestic all-engulfing entry with various exits out of the “Portal” – I am not sure I’ll ever gonna see it on the big screen, although everybody has been praising its IMAX-galactic wow factor and a wormhole experience powered by Kip Thorn’s theoretical muscle.
I feel being pulled to the various fallout’s or the ablative smears of fan-cultic chemtrails on our dark screens – the plethora of poster art and other offshoots only tangentially connected to the franchised audio-video gravitational well of blockbuster deadlock, but pulled strongly from within to another side, for better or worse, or much much worse.
The current no-return pulls me to the image of a young headhunter girl (young Sarah Connor?) with a skull head of the old/new Terminator in her hand, glistening in what could be sunrise or sundown. I am not even sure this poster will make it beyond the release time horizon, but it was enough to change my perception and to make me puzzle about those incredible hyperdense wheat fields* i have seen sprouting of late. One might consider the fields as just another idyllic backdrop, future past Dust Bowl prophecies or the return to the primordial agrarian cycles brutally disrupted by avenging cyborgian interlopers. Spaceships are launched over the fields and this could be read in several ways. Crop failure, past mistakes, depletion - while manifest destiny flies away from manifest doom. Fail here try again and fail elsewhere. My question is who walks behind the rows? There might be something else walking behind the rows, just remember whenever the spaceship takes off in Alien, there is always some remains, an excess, some saliva or sticky goo left behind that clings to the survivors or planetary pioneers. The local Alien has jumped ship, he is a stowaway with them, nested inside the capsule (even hyberpod) and can never be completely purged into outer space. For me these posters show mankind trying to escape not only gravity (that is easy) but its sacrificial moment. Humanity is running away from the altar. The sacrificial Ark is already full with seeds. But nobody wants to run away from the one Who Walks Behind the Rows, a tentacled teratophytic photosynthetic presence that will seed itself wherever man walks, under whatever star systems and suns one might hide. No Blade of Grass is the movie adaptation of the 1956 Death of Grass novel in a world where grasslands and wheat-lands are dying out and sacred anarchy ensues. Until this particular grass apocalypse, nobody was actually considering the full implications of our grass-dependence and how many kinds of grass death there are. “Nature waited… while they consumed each other” speaks the voice in the trailer. With a title seemingly pulled out of a gardening catalogue - the Death of Grass book/movie - forces upon us the tremendous role and cascading impact of the Poaceae (= Gramineae) expansion. What starts as a frivolous small patch of dying lawn grass, ends up in a food riot Armaggedon. A culimating survivalist nightmare were human groups battle it out for theleftovers. A grass virus strain started infecting rice crops in East Asia but ended infecting all other staple crops across the Western World such as barley and wheat. Human devolution, might is right, neo-tribalism, proto-Mad Max road warriors, they are all just secondary effects of our species ancient worship and cultivation of grasslands. The worship of grasses is very powerful, and the mere thought of their death, or lowering fertility rate, is enough to shatter societies and well established order. The writing on the wall is quite clear, compromising the Grassland Planet will revert all progress and return humanity to barbarity. Altough, there are few ways in which one can appease the One Who Walks Behind the Rows and most of them perpetuate sacred cyclical renewal trough sacrificial ocassions.
There is an extraordinary comic book story called HARVEST printed for the first time in Weird Science-Fantasy #25 (September 1954) and creatd by Al Feldstein with art by Joe Orlando and colors from Marie Severin. Farmer Robots have been renewing, rebuilding and repairing themselves, all to grow countless generations of agricultural crops, automatically seeding and regrowing the wheat, corn and vegetables for thousand of years up to the point when their unknown makers – humans living under suspended animation. They will be re-awakened only then when everything is ready, to taste the decontaminated fruit, finally radiation-free after cultivating them thousand or millions of years. The catch is that these robots – have learned to praise and love the crop above everything else, inspired by the seasonal rhythms of their their perfect harvest, they adore their fruits so much that they learn to see newly awoken humans as just pests, ungrateful masters spoiling the crop. All the sleeping “man-things” in their hyberpods are being terminated. Intelligent farming machines have developed their own fertility cults, sidestepping humanity – and in their inhuman autonomy they cherish and glorify the fruits and grains in themselves with a new feel for the eternal cycles.
I guess few can possible remember that Linda Hamilton who played Sarah Connor – the mother of Tech-Com human resistance leader jumped into attention in another movie of 1984, just before she got her role as the chosen vessel in the first Terminator movie. She played ‘Vicky’ - part of a bickering couple driving into rural Nebraska and the town of Gatlin, after having discovering a dead boy on the road near a bizarre crucifix made of twisted corn husks. Gatlin is of course the town surrounded by the famous Children of the Corn cornfields.
When most of us kept looking away(including me), The Children of the Corn franchise was producing a lot of straight-to-video sequels well into our days like the last titled (how else?) -Children of the Corn: Genesis (2011).
Neo-pagan wicka horror followed in the wake of The Wicker Man and Harvest Home, basically seeding the ground for much of True Detective (on the US Southern Gothic side) fame and the earlier, unduly ignored Kill List from 2011 (on the UK ex-soldier paid killers side). And revival is the word. Wreaths of all sorts kept adorning the head. Ominous hay masks and horned gods started appearing in the fields.
A monsoonal climate coupled with the dry season produced storms with abundant lightening, which in turn ignited fires that cleared the previously dominant forest habitats, and paved the way for grassland expansion and the associated large and diverse herds of mammal grazers and their felidae, hyaenidae predators and eventually for hominid scavangers. Grasses are ancient plants, the oldest grass-like fossils date to just before the Great Extinction that killed the dinosaurs 65 millions of years ago. But until the great herds of ungulates and other grazers appeared in the late Miocene to trample tree seedlings or even uproot and turn mature trees upside down (also see Elephants and acacia trees in today’s savanna) so grass can grow underneath, grasses didn’t have a chance. In a sense we are also becoming grazers even if we use different parts of the grass seed, and grazers are also cultivators even if they don’t use species-specific human agricultural methods. Without grazers, trees would eventually shade out and kill most grasses, and most grasslands would eventually be covered by forests. The great coevolution dance of grasslands and the immense number of grazers followed in the wake of contracting and expanding grass-rich ecosystems, including some of the non-domesticated ancestors of current staple foods. In fact most of our more recent Neolithic farming and domestication events (rice paddies, wheat and corn fields, perfect lawns) just built up on this proto-human grassland expansion of the late Miocene.
I am now asking you to consider the unbelievable possibility that the metallic skull-head in the future Terminator: Genisys might be in the end a pre-Columbian crystal skull, usually attributed to Mayan or Aztec civilizations. Say whaaat(I can hear that coming).
Crystal skulls are some incredible, true OOPArt (out-of-place) artefacts, “A fascinating example of artifacts that have made their way into museums with no scientific evidence to prove their rumored pre-Columbian origins.” in the words of Smithsonian anthropologist Jane MacLaren Walsh. We should consider them incredible piece of intense archeoogical retroactivity, twisting our models of temporality, our notions of originality and repetition like an pure object of Anachronic Renaissance. An object that speaks volumes about our compulsion to fixate chronological succession and secure proper origins in place. In fact most of their manufacturing techniques are modern abrasive techniques involving the silicon-carbon compound carborundum (Silicon carbide), a synthetic substance manufactured using modern industrial techniques widely available from the end of the 19th century to the mid 20th and to Idar-Oberstein (Germany) quartz workshops importing Brazilian crystal. Whatever its exact origin, the crystal skull or the sacrificial “Skull of Doom” has infiltrated and replicated inside Western museums, private collections, Hewlett-Packard’s crystal laboratories, sci-fi television series, Indiana Jones cold war quests, novels, video games and has been scanned and dated using ultraviolet light, high-powered light microscope, computerized tomography, electron microscopy and X-ray crystallograph analysis. Forensic reconstructions have been made of the real skull models and they looked a lot like modern Europeans. Everything has been used to dissipate and exorcise the last doubt, but all of this actually encouraged and insured the “doom” - the real doom of retro-viral anarcheology, retro-causally fitting crystalline OOPArt’s as neo-ancient invaders into the most cherished high culture temples of authenticity, the absolutely calibrated control grounds of chronological rigour.
Returning to Sarah Connor or rather to Linda Hamilton, we will find her actually crucified in the middle of incredible monocultural high yield field of corn, as a necessary human sacrifice during a harvest moon ritual celebrating a very bizarre fertility cult, that by the end of this digression will appear entirely familiar I hope.
Ok, Children of the Corn was true classic from the days when Stephen King was the King of horror. However its true glory lies in marking an era where the Green Revolution has shown its true face as the unlikely Terminator. High-yield strains were developed and seeded everywhere around the world, supplanting most of the old gene pools and agrarian biodiversity since Neolithic Revolution to kingdom come. Especially so in the third or the second world, the Communist East being very much into the same ‘let’s have mutant, pest-resistant, gigantic, super-sweet corn’ wave. In fact, we could argue that much of the Eastern ‘collectivization’ was a more or less a camouflaged fertility cult celebrating chthonian energies, renewal and miraculous hybrids. The 1930 Soviet film Earth by Ukrainian director Alexander Dovzhenko encapsulates the process of collectivization as a bacchanal mysterium and the komsomol hero a dying-and-rising god. Dying and rising gods have to be repudiated, ‘killed’(or crucified) and resuscitated.
The Green Revolution is rightfully credited with saving over a billion people from starvation and also for making the expansion of irrigation infrastructure, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides unstoppable. Artificial fertilizers have been credited as the greatest invention of humanity. The Haber process, also called the Haber–Bosch process was hailed as the greatest and biggest invention that made everything else possible. It is currently estimated that the development of synthetic fertilizer with the help of the Haber process has significantly supported global population growth - almost half the people on the Earth(estimates vary) are currently fed as a result of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use and the other half by nitrogen-fixing bacteria and archaea (we might suppose).
With the industrial implementation of the reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas from the air (available in almost endless amounts), the increase in ammonia and ensuing nitrogen fixation has had immense consequences for basically everybody who has hungry belly and who can add more hungry bellies to the list. The current population explosion was almost single-handededly helped by the nitrogen fixing enabled by the Haber process. And this greatly beneffited staple crops such as cereals. This “detonator of the population explosion” has been the real hidden motor behind most of the apocalyptic population bomb vision of the later 20th century. Almost immediately, after the success of atmospheric nitrogen fixation inside a laboratory by German chemist Fritz Haber in 1909, researchers from BASF led by Carl Bosch scaled it up and found military, industrial and agricultural applications. What is important to understand is that the bomb metaphor is not metaphorical at all. The synthesis of nitrogen is also involved in powerful explosives such as dynamite and nitroglycerin, so there was always a lockstep between the explosive matters of detonation and fertility. Before 1909 South American and Chile especially was the nitrogen El Dorado with its huge reserves of guano and then saltpeter. By lowering the cost of ammonia extraction and guano dependence, the Haber-Bosch and Bergius process extensively used by the Brabag cartel in Nazi Germany allowed increased autonomy from all that and a decrease in oil imports still coupled with intensive agriculture.
What I am trying to say by parsing trough admittedly dark and foreboding fertility history is the monstrous fact that there is green doom lurking in the fields(He Who Walks Behind the Rows): a fertility cult overshadowing its humble Neolithic beginnings while keeping a close connection to human sacrificial practices.
The true horror behind the Children of the Corn is exactly this – and now that I dropped the fertilizer bomb I am willing to argue that the fertility cults have been never dead, they kept renewing themselves and pulling the agricultural strings behind the most innocuous farmlands and Mid Western corn fields.
There is also a great and much appreciated revisionist work going on concerning Christianity in the Children of the Corn. He Who Walks Behind the Rows is able to shape-shift into ever newer fertility cults, creating strange corncob Jesus mosaics behind the altar, a church overgrown with corn and a pipe organ stuffed full of corn husks. After the sacrifice, he arrives in order to stop the drough, to make the fields fertile again.
[The Maya maize god is shown in the midst of a group of men and women, while receiving (or perhaps bequeathing) a vine calabash. The other scene shows four babies on the right, with their umbilical cords still attached, surrounding a calabash, which has now split up and from which a fifth, and fully clothed male emerges. A large deity figure watches the scene. replica of San Bartolo murals ca. 100 BC]
Death/rebirth cults and calendar cycles were strongly synced with the return of the maize on which the Mayan civilization depended, with a corn-bred corn-fed humanity with ancestors that were initially created of maize dough. But there was another deadly secret connected with the corn – another vital fact that didn’t cross the Atlantic, thus becoming part of a bigger curse upon the murderous Conquistadors and their followers including ourselves.
[illustration above: King (impersonating the hero Hunahpu) scarifying the penis. Fragment of west mural, San Bartolo murals, ca. 100 BC]
Nearly 5000 years ago, Mesoamerican cultures discovered that cooking corn with lime will allow the solid particles to crack releasing minerals for the body to absorb and basically all tortillas, tostadas, totopos, sopes, tlacoyos, chalupas – Mexican foods are made from this nutritionally rich dough or ‘masa’. The rest of the planet and humankind didn’t understand the role of lime. Spanish conquistadors considered lime as synonymous with death because cadavers during plagues were sprinkled with lime to help disintegrate organic matter. By 1730 symptoms of digestive disturbance, dementia and death started killing thousands in Europe where corn was displacing other staple foods, and only by 1930 it was understood what was causing pellagra (niacin deficiency – a mineral that transforms fat and protein into readily usable body energy).
This was what I would call the curse of the corn, and thus this key to a brighter, more fertile world was already paving the road with skulls and blocking its own assimilation by shutting off energy flows. Maize is King Corn as the 2007 documentary amply demonstrates. The documentary uncovers how the entire US economy seems to be animated by incentives, corn-overproduction spells and fertility rates. The result is King Corn: there is no product in our malls and food stall that hasn’t been laced with corn by-products such as high fructose corn syrup or maize oil (rich in omega 6 fatty acids associated with breast cancer and depression) with many others such as biofuels and bio-plastics to hit the market. We follow college friends Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis as they move from Boston to Greene, Iowa to grow an acre of corn, offer their own sacrifice to the Onw Whol Walks Behind the Rows, knowing corn will probably kill them in end.
Of all the staple food grains of the world the corn has had the biggest morphological divergence from its ancient wild ancestor – the teosinte, a plant whose edible portion is too small and hard to obtain in its wild form. There is also as yet a mysterious lack of wild teosinte seeds in ancient archaeological sites, even if countless archeologists, geneticists and ethnobotanists have been investigating its domestication. One of the most enduring question is how corn domestication could have proceeded without leaving remains of teosinte or maize with teosintoid traits earlier than the earliest known until recently, dating from ca. 1100 BC.
In the meaintime, corn has found other newer homes. “Mamaliga” – is food that has cleverly retro-engineering Romanian traditional history by remaking its agrarian roots during the past 200 or more years. As a fairly recent addition to the table – the mamaliga polenta recipe became the national food, while corn was still being considered a strange, peculiar introduction in the 19th century. You could say that ‘mamaliga’ is a perfect example of fertility cult infiltration making itself culturally and pragmatically unavoidable. Many contemporary nutritionist and food historians noticed this incredible ability of the corn to supplant all other previous foods. The staple food of the Romanian peasant and the whole symbolic apparatus surrounding corn supplanted all other previous grains and foods and many where increasingly worried by this dependence, yet they couldn’t stop its expansion and growing symbolism. By 1897, the Irish writer Bram Stoker was already mentioning in his Gothic horror novel Dracula the ‘mamaliga’ recipe as a staple food in Transylvania and the region around the Carpathians mountains.
What appears to be just another red-neck apocalypse turns out to be something entirely different. The decidedly Amish-looking children Children of the Corn armed with farm tools surrounding the modern city car are very familiar faces indeed even if their Old Testament lingo and old time religion might fool you. This is no theatrical parody of rural homesteading as paleo-religious die hard, anti- progressive green pasture Utopialand. The young killing the old(their parents) are all figures of ultra-modern rejuvenation rituals. Same as Igor StravinskyLe Sacre du printemps representing both ”pagan Russia… unified by a single idea: the mystery and great surge of the creative power of Spring" and a key avant-garde piece of music and choreography at the same time. The old masquerades as the new, and the new as the old. Igor Stravinsky’s piece and The Children of the Corn seem to lie at opposite cultural ends, yet they spring out of the same sacrificial cyclicities and reversals, powering renewal mechanisms.
What hides in these homogenous fields is the true soul of the biotechnological civilization - an eternal Rite of Spring as a perpetual renewal that reaches from hybridization heroes such as Ivan Vladimirovichi Michurin (1855-1935) and Luther Burbank(1849-1926) uninterruptedly back to earlier fertility cults. However, we - in our postindustrial arrogance - consider the sacrificial nature of cyclical fecundity rites a quaint archaic recessive trait, long buried or superseded.
But it was never that way. Even more insidious than a steel Fordist Terminator endoskeleton hiding under old hides and new flesh, the harvest yield hides ever more and prolific high yield, proclaiming the entire universe as edible reality. Enhanced fertility has been the Terminator drive that has invisibly shaped the sacrificial cultish side of Monsanto (and many agro-bio giants) – a true undercover fertility death cult, that might hide in every GMO field, every thanks giving meal and every barnyard. They are just now becoming the high priesthood of this cult.
Here we have an iconography that truly encapsulates an ancestral and all-powerful fertility cult - with a skeletal death farmer sowing the seeds of destruction on the fields of this and other worlds that will be eventually terraformed and turned into bountiful fertile lands as wide and golden as the eye can see. Not just horror science fiction or bioethical dilemma, The Ultimate Killing Machine is a fertility cult of hyperdense and highly selected high energy grasses that are out-competing everything else, including their own immediate ancestors, sacrificing even their steppe and savanna cousins.
When ‘Burt’ – the stranded city victim (and Linda Hamilton’s partner in the movie) hides in the cornfields, he notices several odd things: that there are no animals and no weeds in the field, and that every stalk of corn is free from every blemish. They are the perfect crop. From what I heard, Interstellar is also built around this infertility drive and the strangely monocultural fields that humanity tries to save in the hope of saving herself. That is why I started this search for more terrestrial (or Terran) and decidedly uncanny strange green Earth gateways trough the cornfields of today and tomorrow. We have become the true Children of the Corn and other high yield Poaceae.
Children of the Corn and other fertility cults horrors have been unique in resetting our agrarian imaginary of back-to-the-land permaculture and future plenty in the most radical way. When the harvest moon appears in the sky we should know better, tremble and bring some new sacrifice.
*some may find peculiar why I started on a wheat field in a future Terminator poster to end up tracking cornfield mysteries, leaving the initial Fertile Crescent grains to Walk Behind the agricultural Rows. Well, I apologize for this corn-centric ending in a Gramineae universe, but I will leave room for expanding on wheat-related allergies and gluten- scourges in another segment
Issue four came out last week! Have you bought it? Have you read it? HOPEFULLY THE ANSWER TO BOTH THESE QUESTIONS IS “YES”, but if not, here are some Internet Reviews that might help??
“Unbeatable Squirrel Girl continues to be one of my favourite comics going” - Geek Retreat
“The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is nuts (YUP), great to look at and perfectly blends comedy with an actual storyline that matters. North, Henderson and Renzi are unbeatable (YUP AGAIN) and doing some great things…” - GON Comics
This is a pretty amazing image from a patient with shortness of breath. You will notice there are many small hyperdense pulmonary vessels bilaterally. Two weeks earlier the patient underwent vertebroplasty for an L5 fracture, at which time unfortunately some of the acrylic vertebroplasty cement embolized to the lungs!
u know in the simpsons when bart loses his soul and he puts a marshmallow in his hot chocolate and it absorbs the whole thing?? im rly in the mood for a hyperdense chocolate-marshmallow log right now im fangin 4 one infact
Extreme local + organic food growing in hyperdense Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of the densest cities in the world and while there has been much land set aside for reforestation, there is practically no space to grow their own food.
Steve Cran is a permaculture aid worker used to working disaster relief in places like Uganda, Indonesia and Ethiopia, but when he learned that Hong Kong produced just 2% of their own food, he saw the situation as desperate enough to need his kind of help.
He believes that permaculture happens “in the cracks” so on a slip of private land outside the city center, he created a club where city dwellers could reconnect to agriculture and nature. The Hong Kong permaculture club now gardens, fish ponds, terraced hillsides, a clubhouse (built from bamboo and plastic tarp) with a kitchen (for eating all the local food) and a composting toilet and bamboo shower.