The World’s Largest Christian TV Network Has a Lot to Hide
Trinity Broadcasting Network (or TBN) is the largest Christian TV network in the world. Its shows are currently available in 95 percent of American homes.
TBN has its headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, in the modest building you see above. The network offers free tours to the public, so I headed down to check it out.
This guy (above, right) was the tour guide for my group, which was made up of me and a visiting Boy Scout troop. I’m not sure if he was new or something, but he left A LOT of the company’s history out of his tour, so I’ll be filling in some gaps for him as I go.
Our tour began in the grand entrance hall. As we walked through, the tour guide explained to us that TBN was started in the early 70s by married couple Jan and Paul Crouch in an effort to spread Christianity to as many people as they could.
What he failed to mention is the church’s reliance on what’s known as “prosperity gospel.”
If you’re not familiar, prosperity gospel is a system in which you’re told that the more money you give to the Lord, the more blessings the Lord will give to you in return. In this instance, “the Lord” refers to “Trinity Broadcasting Network.”
They gather these donations by holding telethons in which they promise viewers miracles in exchange for donating money to TBN. And being poor isn’t a problem: The network tells viewers that God especially likes it when people who are poor or in debt donate money they can’t afford. ”He’ll give you thousands, hundreds of thousands; he’ll give millions and billions of dollars,” Paul Crouch once told his viewers, according to the LA Times.
The company is reported to bring in tens of millions of dollars in tax-free donations annually. It is unclear if God held up his end of the bargain to those who donated.
Next, we were taken around a small museum area that featured various old copies of the Bible, some of which were more than 100 years old.
Britain’s King of Adultery Helps People Cheat
Are you bored of monogamy? Do you just have an uncontrollable urge to have sex with someone other than the person you sleep next to every night? If so, I have some excellent news: A matchmaking service is offering husbands and wives seeking a fling the opportunity to shit all over their marriage vows in the most secretive and expensive way possible.
In fact, UK-based Infidelities—a “discreet one to one private client personal and bespoke introduction service for men and women who are in a committed relationship but seek an affair”—has been around since at least 2009, but David, the 70-year-old founder of Infidelities (who didn’t want to disclose his real last name as he thought it might damage his other businesses), hadn’t done any press about the site until I met with him recently in the lounge of the Ritz hotel in London.
When I arrived, David was taking a break between meeting clients, who he told me are generally pretty well-off. He mentioned that they’re occasionally related to famous people and said that he once arranged an affair for the sister of a well-known author. “When she gave me her name, it was quite an unusual surname,” he said. “Later, I picked up a book from the library, and it had the same surname as the woman I’d met that morning.”
So you’re in a relationship, and you’ve decided to pork someone else. First off, you’re an asshole. Secondly, you’re going to need an airtight plan if you want to get out of this thing alive. Happy Valentine’s Day!
I Used to be a Scientologist, Now I Help People Out of Cults by Smoking Weed
Dennis Erlich (pictured above, in a weird hat) was the original guy who exposed the craziness of Scientology on the internet. A member since 1967 and later a minister, he started to rebel against the church in the mid-80s. In the early 90s, he began issuing a newsletter called InFormer, exposing the secrets of Scientology.
He became the original internet censorship case in 1994 when he scanned pages of Scientology texts to an online newsgroup, telling the wider world about Thetans and Xenu for the very first time. In 1995 a federal judge permitted Scientologists to raid his house, a video of which can be seen here
Since then he’s been helping people get back to normal life after being in cults, mainly through smoking marijuana. If you’ve just left a cult, his InFormer Ministry Collective
is probably the best place to learn how real life works, whilst also learning how to get super stoned and grow your own weed.
VICE: When you were Minister in Scientology, were you aware you were in a cult?
Dennis Erlich: I thought I was part of a team that was saving the world.
What happened to change your mind?
In 1968 Hubbard established the Sea Org
. They started sending their military missions into the organizations where I was in LA. The very first time these uniformed military types came into the organization they had all of us line up against a wall in the basement. Three uniformed, very fit individuals walked in. The tallest one opened up his jacket, revealing a .45 tucked under his arm. He pulled out a Nazi dagger, with a swastika on it, and flung it into the ceiling above him. Then said in a loud voice, “This organization is now under Sea-Org control.” We had to stay all night. A lot of the things in Scientology knock down the barrier that separates what you’re willing to accept and not.
100 Literary Rumors
I don’t know what you’ve heard but I’ve heard a lot of shit. People whispering in hallways and Gmail chatting about all kinds of dark secrets. People up in parties with their coat and hair all looking nice and their mouth just full of you wouldn’t even want to know. I’ll tell you anyway.
Lydia Davis can’t stand the sight of children wearing bike helmets.
Richard Brautigan never crossed state lines except on foot.
Jack London loved braiding men’s hair.
Matthew Rohrer claims to have never been inside or seen an ad for Chili’s.
Jack Kerouac was addicted to licking stamps.
Jhumpa Lahiri has collected more than 200 personally autographed headshots of Al Pacino.
“’Wow, cool sky!’” was the original first sentence of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.
Gertrude Stein was on the payroll of the New York Mets.
Virginia Woolf passed the bar exam in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine.
T.C. Boyle ghostwrote the screenplay for Mrs. Doubtfire.
Gordon Lish religiously eats at the Applebee’s on Times Square on the 13th and 18th of every month.
Michiko Kakutani‘s Gmail password is wolfdickfourteen.
Barry Hannah hated the sight of charcoal.
Gary Lutz has beaten Mike Tyson’s Punch Out more than 400 times.
From ages eight to 18, Ann Beattie earnestly believed she was born wrapped in a shower curtain.
Dave Eggers bathes in almond milk every Sunday and video records it.
Thomas Bernhard hated the color blue until the creation of Cookie Monster.
Angela Carter had an erotic fixation on pumping gas.
The wallpaper on Mary Jo Bang’s laptop is a photograph of Rod Stewart holding a baby up to the sun.
George Orwell wore a cock ring 24/7.
Andre Breton lost tens of thousands of dollars due to his inability to remember a flush beats a straight.
Marco Roth believes people who drive white cars are innately selfish by definition.
Samuel Beckett lost every game of chess he ever played by eventually conceding.
Karen Russell owns an original audio recording of Carmelo Anthony reading Gravity’s Rainbow aloud from beginning to end.
Joyelle McSweeney once threw a football so hard she burst all the veins in her right arm and had to have the arm surgically replaced with a fake.
Paul Auster has responded to over 8,000 missed connections ads on craigslist under various pseudonyms.
Though he can see fine, Michael Martone prefers to read in Braille.
Ron Silliman started a Kickstarter campaign under a pseudonym attempting to raise funds to buy the RZA’s childhood home.
Italo Calvino peed sitting down.
Girl News - Girls and Being a Teenager
Who else knows every single thing about music and books and movies but also knows how to use hash oil but also houses a private, expanding and infinite constellation of feels and thinks? Nobody! Weirdly, teenage girls have it the hardest: nobody likes them, because stop shotgunning one another with loud inconsequentials on the subway, OK? And because they are messy and self-serious and uncontained and are always, like, stroking their filthy accessories and iPhone charms in this grossitating way. I’m a professional girl, and when I am with two or more teenage babies I feel like they’re going to combust and just period and period and period all over me. But, but but but, they’re all anybody thinks about, looks at, looks at with their dinky in their hand, wants to be, has shit to say about. Teenage girls are as full of secrets as Gretchen Wieners’ hair but exist at the center of contemporary society, which is fucked, right?
Also, for every post-teenager girl, her teenager-self is a lodestar. The interim between adolescence and a 21st birthday, or whatever, is characterized by absorption and experience and wrongthink and total psychic, psychotic distress, true, but every year after that is just editing. Actually, yeah: Adulthood is just making a Pinterest out of what you liked when you were 15, basically. Shit, guy.
A DAILY SCHEDULE
If you are a teenage human girl, hi. I love you. The squeezes I want to give you, girl… I’d crack your bones like Nicki eats your brain, dig? Anyway, it’s Friday, and what you need to be doing is downloading Do The Right Thing, which is not specifically a Teenager Movie but that is as or more crucial an experience as any rando Selena Gomez vehicle, and then text your friends to come over way later. Then I want you to get the fuck on your bike or skateboard and side-wind somewhere to commune with your girls and just, like, rub your sweat on each other and seal joints for each other with your tongue-tips and probably go swimming naked with boys because you want to look at them but only go with boys who pretend not to look, or look with the dignity and respect of a blind elder statesman, and then way later after you’ve watched Do The Right Thing and had multiple, mental les petite morts about ice (trusssssst me) go out to the yard and sink in, watching stars or satellites or just your phone’s screen, fading in and out in the dark until morning, when you go eat some pancakes to come down a little softer. There’s other stuff, about watermelons and cooking syringes and vodka, but learning how to be bad is even funner than being it, dangerous angel. Anges dangereuses! Ooooh, that’s even better.
Usually my, like, advice-manifesto is to emulate the behavioral patterns of rich old white men. Like this:“When you get old and confident it’s so great because you do whatever the shit you want, like rich old white men. Seriously? Let rich old white men be your Spirit Animals when it comes to pursuing only and all of what amuses you.” Maybe that’s too triple-black-diamond for the moment? Look, I like every new year that I am because “more” is a better birthday present than a telescope and water skis (that is a reference to the 1980s, but I’m not sure why?), AND if you’re a certain/the right kind of person your eventual oldening will mostly be an opportunity for better material items and (the price you pay is sometimes sobbing in parking lots, and you have to try harder at having friends, but otherwise it’s cool), rendering teenager-ness a period only distinct because of how you remember exactly where and how that dude rubbed your pussy-area outside of your jeans because something about how your hormones operate makes any and all sexual encounters imprint on your memory, forever and ever and ever, with total recall whenever you close your porcelain doll-eyes. Anyway, that feeling of tilting your face out the window of a car on a 6 AM hot-white highway isn’t about “16,” it’s about “choices.”
It’s not how skinny you are that makes grownup women want to be you (after all, the skinniest skinnies are born-again Orange County fortysomething moms of ten who have actually but secretly accepted Lululemon as their lord and savior); it’s how much you don’t know what you look like.
Julian Assange and Daniel Domscheit-Berg, prior to their falling out.
A Chat with WikiLeaks’ Former Spokesperson
When Julian Assange found himself being chased down by Interpol in 2010, WikiLeaks unloaded a 1.4 gigabyte encrypted “insurance file” onto the internet. Thousands of people have since downloaded it and many have tried in vain to break its heavy-duty security wall that protects the document’s speculative contents. Ostensibly, the plan is that should the organization come to serious harm or its members sentenced to prison, the password for the insurance file will be released and the most sensitive WikiLeaks cables of all will be spread worldwide.
These are supposedly cables so damaging to the US and other world powers, that Assange figures they’d rather loosen the noose from around his neck than push him off of the gallows, for fear of what these cables could expose. With Assange’s recent quest for asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and the threat of him being extradited to Sweden to face dubious sexual abuses charges ebbing closer, some are speculating that the password may well be on the verge of release.
Although the insurance file concept is in theory a cunning plan, it effectively goes against everything the movement supposedly stands for. By withholding what are possibly “smoking gun” cables, they’re keeping the rest of the world in the dark for the sake of protecting just one man.
And let’s be clear—despite its intended purpose of protecting WikiLeaks as one unit, the insurance file password certainly seems to apply only to Assange’s protection, as Bradley Manning has been held for a torturous 23 hours a day in solitary confinement since he was arrested in May 2010. Without Manning’s cable leak, WikiLeaks would still be a little known group of politically motivated hacktivists. Assange owes him the release of the insurance file password, but is he simply too wrapped up in his own ego to do so, or could it all just be a bluff? What if WikiLeaks are effectively holding the world to ransom with a flash grenade and there’s nothing of any real value in the insurance file?
I spoke to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, the former WikiLeaks spokesperson and—according to many—Julian Assange’s number 2 who defected from the organization in 2010, after seeing it descend into what he claims is now an ironfisted hierarchy where everything is dictated from the top by Julian Assange. I asked him about the insurance file.
VICE co-founder Shane Smith is doing an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit this afternoon. Go ask him a question.
The Sordid Secrets of Babylon - Kenneth Anger Knows Them All
A few days before I was set to interview Kenneth Anger, I started feeling weird. I kept imagining a terrible scene: sitting across from the 85-year-old filmmaker in a dimly lit, very old room while he grows increasingly frustrated with my line of questioning. And while I don’t believe in such things, I began worrying that if I annoyed him enough he’d cast a Thelemic curse on me. He’s done it before.
Whether or not I’ve been doomed is still unclear, but regardless, I got what I came for. I wanted to speak with Kenneth because, as I see it, he has transfigured the Hollywood aesthetic into some of the most emblematic and striking short films ever made. Much of his work—especiallyRabbit’s Moon,Scorpio Rising,Kustom Kar Kommandos,Lucifer Rising, andMouse Heaven—runs along a twisted continuum of American iconography, societal norms, and belief.
Kenneth also wroteHollywood BabylonandHollywood Babylon II, books that detailed hushed celebrity scandals from the silent-film era through the late 60s. Some critics have cast doubt on claims made in the book, but who are they to say they know better? They weren’t there. And before the existence of societal scourges likePeople, TMZ, andUsWeekly, it was much easier for famous people to get away with sordid deeds.
Six years after its initial publication in France, the book was released in the US in 1965. Within days it was banned and pulled from bookstores until a new edition was printed in 1975. A review in theNew York Timesfamously stated: “If a book such as this can be said to have charm, it lies in the fact that here is a book without one single redeeming merit.” In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.
During my visit to LA to interview Kenneth, his name kept popping up seemingly at random. When I visited the Museum of Death on Hollywood Boulevard and mentioned my upcoming interview to the nice couple who run the place, they told me they’d been friendly with “Ken” for years and that he had cursed them no fewer than three times (in one instance via their answering machine). He also continues to send them all sorts of mail on an almost daily basis—letters, notes, books, and other packages—apparently because he likes the post office and enjoys mailing things to people.
Another strange occurrence happened during a free afternoon when I made the poor decision of taking the Dearly Departed Tour, a bus excursion to locations around LA where infamous celebrity scandals and deaths took place. The guide kept angrily referring to Kenneth, calling him a “tyrant” and a “liar.” He even accused him of fabricating the circumstances surrounding the death of 1920s starlet Marie Prevost.
During a lunch meeting with author John Gilmore (see his piece, “This Is Hollywood, Isn’t It?” soon onVICE.com), Kenneth became a point of conversation yet again. John put it more eloquently than anyone when he said the director has been “the iconoclastic, ancient, experimental filmmaker and thorn in Hollywood’s groin since childhood, a self-proclaimed spiritual magician who predates the glamour days.” He went on to recount the time Kenneth showed up at fellow director and mutual friend Curtis Harrington’s funeral at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery wearing a black raincoat, eyeliner, and fingernail polish. His shirt was opened to his navel, revealing the giant lucifer tattoo emblazoned across his chest, and he was accompanied by a boyish photographer who took pictures as Kenneth kissed Curtis’s corpse before its cremation. Before he was ejected from the premises, Kenneth handed John a small plastic vampire figurine that contained mint candies inside, clarifying its original use by saying, “It’s actually a dispenser for tickle-ribbed rubbers.”
But in the end, our interview did go well, or at least I thought it did. Kenneth was very polite if somewhat reserved, and throughout our chat, the only awkward moments were when he would pause after answering a question. A few times he had something to add and would pick up again, but mostly he would just look at me in the eyes and say, “OK?” to signal that he was ready to move on. By the end, it was clear that he is truly a walking treasure trove of history; he has lurked at the core of Hollywood longer—and knows her better—than anyone else.
VICE: Would you say that you lean more toward loving or disdaining Hollywood?
Kenneth Anger: I have a certain amount of ambivalence about it, but basically I am fond of it. And so whatever vices it has I appreciate; it is colorful. And it used to be a lot more colorful than it is now. This is sort of a mellow period, but there were days in the 20s and the 30s when it was having a different scandal every week, practically. I appreciated that as a historian, but we haven’t had any juicy scandals recently.
Does this have anything to do with the way the press covers celebrities? Are too many people famous nowadays?
No, it was the personalities, sort of larger-than-life personalities. And they were genius. Like Charlie Chaplin, for instance. At the same time, they had a propensity for pushing the boundaries and getting in trouble. In his case, he liked young girls, and that still is sort of a no-no.
Have there been any recent scandals that particularly interested you?
I have a pretty good antenna about what is happening in Hollywood, and it has just quieted down. In the 60s there was a flare-up with the Manson crowd and all that, but that has all quieted away.
And you would know because you lived through most of it. You were making films before you were even a teenager, right?
I was a kid, yes.
When was the last time you watched anything you filmed from that era?
I haven’t looked at them; they are filed away. I do have most of them, and I was working on 16 mm. Now I prefer to work in digital.
Why short films? Have you ever been tempted to make a feature?
Well, I could manage a shorter film with my own personal budget, and I compare my films to poems—I consider myself a poet of films. And something like 15 minutes or half an hour, I can manage that myself quite well as far as the budget goes. I have made films of up to 40 minutes, but oddly I never felt attracted to going into feature-length films.