When Exactly Did Clowns Become Scary?


Pennywise the Clown

When exactly did clowns become scary?

Published:  March 25, 2018
Updated:    March 25, 2018 12:12 AM EDT
NEW YORK — His nose was round and bright red, his face as white as a sheet. His mouth was surrounded by an exaggerated smear of red makeup and his arched eyebrows hung ridiculously high on his forehead.
Such was the daily uniform of Bozo the Clown, who entertained kids for decades when TV was in its infancy. It’s also a uniform that for many now seems grotesque and sinister.
The death of longtime Bozo performer Frank Avruch this week triggered both feelings — warm memories from some and a shiver of fear from others who associate clowns more with the film It.
Which begs the question: When exactly did clowns go from birthday-party goofy to downright sinister? Well, hold onto your really big shoes — experts are divided.
David Carlyon, author, playwright and a former clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1970s, argues that the fear of clowns — known officially as coulrophobia — is a relatively new phenomenon, born from the counter-culture 1960s and emerging as a popular force in the 1980s.
“There is no ancient fear of clowns,” he said. “It wasn’t like there was this panic rippling through Madison Square Garden as I walked up through the seats. Not at all.”
Carlyon said clowns were considered sweet and funny for two centuries until an inevitable backlash that included Stephen King’s hit novel It, the film Poltergeist, Heath Ledger’s white-faced maniac Joker, the misanthrope Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons, the shock band Insane Clown Posse and Homey D. Clown from In Living Color.
“Anything that gets that much glorification and is sentimentalized within an inch of its life invites someone to snark at it,” said Carlyon, who recently discovered the cover of a National Lampoon from 1979 with a girl cowering in fear of a malevolent clown.
“There’s nothing in any available evidence that kids were afraid of clowns in the ’40s, the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s,” he said. “Who said that about Red Skelton?”
Not so fast, argues Benjamin Radford, an author and editor at Skeptical Inquirer magazine who literally wrote the book on the subject, 2016’s Bad Clowns. Not to throw a pie in anyone’s face, but he argues that evil clowns have always been among us.
“It’s a mistake to ask when clowns turned bad because historically they were never really good. They’ve always had this deeply ambiguous character,” he said.
“Sometimes they’re good; sometimes they’re bad. Sometimes they’re making you laugh. Other times, they’re laughing at your expense.”
Radford traces bad clowns all the way to ancient Greece and connects them to court jesters and the Harlequin figure. He notes that Punch, an evil puppet who frequently smacks his partner Judy with a stick, made his first appearance in London in the 1500s. “You have this mass-murdering, baby-killing clown that’s beloved by Britons everywhere of all ages,” he said.
Clowns in America had their roots in circuses and they were at first meant to amuse adults, but clowning history took a detour in the 1950s and ’60s when the squeaky-clean Bozo and Ronald McDonald became the “quintessentially American default clowns” for kids, Radford said.
The more sinister clown waited patiently for his day to shine. “Stephen King didn’t invent the evil clown. That was long before his time. But what he did was turn the coin over, if you will,” Radford said.
Even if there’s debate on the issue, Radford paid homage to Avruch, the first nationally syndicated incarnation of the iconic Bozo. Without virtuous clowns like him to lay the foundation, the bad ones make no sense.
“The fact is that we need both bad and good clowns because without the good clowns like Bozo, there’s no contrast, there’s no tension to make the evil or scary clowns entertaining or interesting,” Radford said

A Turn For The Worse?

Enraged Mob

Rage or Jublication?

ISIS vs The World

Surely, it can’t be just me who is increasing getting desensitised (I’d say alarmed but think we’re past that point of ‘concern‘) to the constant flow of news and images – primarily about death and destruction, near and far. At home and abroad. Natural and man-made or human inspired.
If your ‘danger radar’ is just now alerting you to the potential dangers that currently exist then I’d suggest that you have a chat with your neighbourhood ‘friendly survivalist nut-job’ to pry you out of your apparent stupor.
I’m not advocating for or against the ‘tin-foil wearing’ crowd. I’m more of the phaser on stun mentality. But sensitivity to the sun does make it necessary to to use sunscreen (though I do wonder at times when considering the UV blocker levels – why not just keep your clothes on, the skin covered and stay out of the sun as much as is feasibly possible?
We all have our blindspots
I just glanced at the latest news on tv and, if itwasn’t about Trump and Clinton, The Republicans vs the Democrats, the Yahoos vs the Experts and representatives of the Intelligensia (and I’m in Canada!).
Sure there were clips about the nephew of Rob Ford – Former Mayor of Toronto (and infamous for certain public and private predilictions). Even Justin Trudeau appears to be currently off the media’s radar screens.
The U.S has Trump. Toronto had Ford
But I don’t want to dwell on the current state of internal politics in Canada or the U.S. It appears that we, as citizens, both deserve the poxes that that we have imposed upon ourselves.
ISIS and The Global State of Terrorism
I’ve grown up through times when the word Civilisation, past present or future encompassed notions that envisioned advanced stages of human social development, organisation and cultural distinctions.
A time when the advancement of Human civilisations culminated in a document such as the Rules of War. The Geneva Convention. Not-with-standing the equally astute strategic military observations recorded by Sun Tsu in the conduct of warfare (The Art of War).
Regardless of where you stand in relation to any of the views espoused by the brilliant minds of the past, it cannot be denied that essential to (past or current) civil society are our notions of civil behaviour. There is civility. There are rules of behaviour and conduct in the execution of the act of war. That is, there can be referees.
Love thy neighbour. There’s a rule. Do unto others, is another. Turn the other cheek. The Golden Rule: … Love for your brother what youd love for yourself.
One doesn’t need a translator when someone is showing you ‘the love’. It’s the hate and anger and rage and violence that bring the  action of others into question. Walls are not built or erected when there is a sense of trust or commonality of values and beliefs among individual, groups, tribes, communities, nations or states.
Questions such as, which of the current crop of humanity will be judged as being either progressive or regressive against a siding scale of what is (apparent to any civilised human being) civil and acceptable behaviour and action with regard to the broader question of the  human condition.
ISIL and all existing terror groups or organisations are a malignant blight on civilisation and (what I’ll call) ‘common human decency’.
The Barbarians are at the gates
But, did they ever leave? Did any of them ever sign on to (or publicly acknowledge acceptance of) the notions and principles that have come to be enshrined in International Laws, Constitutions, Treaties, Agreements, Rights, Duties, Obligations and Guiding Princples that provide structure to international organisations and institutions (U.N, NATO) that modern nation states try to hew to within the International Community of nations?
Today, yet again, another mad man or outright maniac slit the throat of an 84 years priest (man of the cloth). In the sanctuary of the church itself.
The news media, politicians and headlines scream … Another Terrorist Act …..
This will soon be followed by more condemnations, condolences and offers of political and public expressions of support and solidarity against the barbaric and wanton acts of violence against innocent civilians.  The beat goes on. Weariness continues to seep in and empathy get depleted and diluted when stacked against the constant barrage of ‘senseless’ acts of savagery.
Emotional burn out
It’s not that there’s some centrally organised collective or select group of individuals (like the mass media) who are deliberately working to desensitive its readership or viewership against the horrific pain and suffering that individuals and groups daily undergo at the hands of elected and unelected political groups and organisations. Mad men, despots, tyrants, butchers and meglomaniciacs, one and all!
I don’t need the media, the experts or the politicians to tell me what Terrorism is or is not. Root causes are not my current concerns. Safety and security of my person, friends, family and neighbours are what concern me. We know the end results of unrestrained, unimpeded random, wanton and senseless barbaric acts of a few thousand among billions can do.
The question now is, what is going to be done to eradicate the scourges from the face of the earth?
Article 54 of Protocol I (the 1977 Geneva Conventions) deals with prohibitions against the Scorched Earth policy as a military strategy. Of course, the countries and militaries that pay heed to international conventions on the conduct of civilise warfare are primarily signatory countries with stable governments and political institutions. Unsurprisingly, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups don’t subscribe to such niceties. Fair fights (or playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules) are for boy scouts.
Villify Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi  or Bashar al-Assad for the horrid and deplorable actions that they have engaged in (especially against their own citizens) during their ‘stewardship’ of the countries and it will be well deserved.
What cannot be denied, however, is that – monsters that they are or were – they certainly had a damn good grasp of the dangers that the other monsters that they were keeping at bay posed to the world at large. Monsters and abominations that have now been set loose in the world and on civilisation.
And when it comes to terrorists and terrorism, it should matter not one whit whether they cloak themselves in christian or islamic garbs. Whether it’s the work of a ‘lone wolf’ nut-case or fully funded and organised group, the insanity has to be stopped. If that means utilising lethal force against the leadership, promoters and participants then so be it.
I have no sympathy for individuals or organisations that clamour for name recognition and publicity. To further their demented cause they fall over themselves in their haste to claim responsibility for any and all despicable acts of terror reported around the world. The killing of an 84 year French priest in his church. The suicide bombing of mourners at a funeral or harried shoppers at a market or passengers on a bus or train. The killing of concert-goers at a music hall. Diners and revellers at a restaurant.
It’s time to say, Enough is Enough!
And yes, I’ll dance when those insane barbarians are dispatched to the hell that they deserve!

‘The West Needs To Understand It Is Inevitable: Islam Is Coming Back’

‘The West Needs To Understand It Is Inevitable: Islam Is Coming Back’


The West needs to understand it is inevitable: Islam is coming back

Faisal al Yafai talks to Britain’s most radical Islamic group, banned across the Middle East, about faith, defiance and the future
Thursday November 11, 2004
The Guardian
The east London hall echoes to the sound of the speaker’s voice: “They want us to redefine Islam to fit the agenda of the west,” he intones, and the audience murmurs. “Islam is going to be political, no matter how hard they try. Islam itself is political. Allah has not remained silent when it comes to political matters.”
The speaker is a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, the most controversial Islamic group in Britain today. Critics have called for the group to be banned, as it is in Germany, while supporters hail it as the saviour of the Muslim community. Hizb – the name means Party of Liberation in Arabic – is banned throughout the Middle East, and three British men are in jail in Egypt accused of propagating its views. In Uzbekistan, thousands of Hizb members are in jail, and a Russian thinktank has compared the group to al-Qaida.
Eighteen months ago, the group briefly appeared in the public eye when the wife of Omar Sharif, the Briton who launched a failed suicide-bomb attack in Tel Aviv, was found to have leaflets from the group in her home. Hizb ut Tahrir also has a presence on university campuses, where it has been accused of anti-semitism.
Until recently, the leadership of Hizb was secretive and cautious, reluctant to release details of the scale of its membership, its leadership structure or its funding. One ex-member who spent years with the group says there are probably only 500 members across the country, but the group may have 10 times that number as committed supporters. Hizb’s annual conference in Birmingham last year attracted about 8,000, by the far the most for a Muslim organisation.
In a sign that the group is changing direction, it has given the Guardian unprecedented access to its leadership. The newspaper has spoken to current and former Hizb members and supporters in London, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester in an attempt to piece together the group’s motivation and ideology.
The leader of the group, a 28-year-old IT consultant called Jalaluddin Patel, is the first leader in its 18-year history in the UK to speak to the national press. He says Hizb has nothing to hide but will not release membership figures: “It’s a genuine security issue. We’re unsure about the manner in which western society would treat a group like ours.”
Patel insists that Hizb is no threat to the west, but part of it. But he adds that the west “needs to understand what is really an inevitable matter, and that is that Islam is coming back, the Islamic caliphate is going to be implemented in the world very soon … The Muslim people need to realise that the way in which they will restore a form of dignity and bring civilisation back to the Islamic world is to establish a modern caliphate.”
The call to re-establish the caliphate, the single Islamic state that existed for a millennium and a half, until the end of the Ottoman empire in 1924, forms the thrust of the group’s message. But its call for Muslims to be strong is not just political; it is also religious: “Secularism has failed the world” declares a Hizb poster.
Bringing the caliphate back will not be easy: at one debate on the future of Iraq, held just off Brick Lane, an American journalist warned the audience that America, China and India would never tolerate an Islamic state “strung like a belt across the world. There would have to be a response.”
Hizb’s message is too radical to seem immediately threatening. But it is the scale of its ambition that is striking. Hizb appears to be focusing its efforts in Britain on removing Pakistan’s President Musharraf, a key ally in the US war on terror. Last month the group led a march of thousands to the Pakistani high commission in London, calling for regime change and declaring “Pakistan Army: why are you silent?”
In Pakistan the security services say they are keeping close watch on Hizb, mindful of the group’s links with an educated middle class and fearful of possible links with other, more radical groups.
Despite recent moves by the group to open itself up – in March this year, for the first time, Hizb announced the nine people on its executive committee – it remains difficult to join it. Before membership, supporters must be invited to join a study group. Patel dismisses the idea that these study groups brainwash supporters: “If you call brainwashing the imparting of ideas and discourse based on those ideas, then I’m afraid that’s what it must be. But fortunately we’re not in the business of brainwashing.”
At 28, Patel is relatively young to be leading a national group, though he has been involved with Hizb since he was 16. He came to Hizb searching for answers, studied with the group, and became chair of the executive committee at 26. Although reluctant to talk about his own background, it is clear his upbringing was comfortable and not particularly political – he says his father knows he is involved with Hizb but doesn’t know he leads it. “He will now.”
Hizb often holds public debates with figures from politics or the media. The meetings are usually packed. Across the country the group publishes books and magazines and holds discussion groups trying to galvanise the Muslim community on a variety of issues. But the solution is always the re-establishment of the caliphate.
Hizb is reluctant to say where its gets the money for these activities. Patel says it all comes entirely from donations from members and supporters, gathered as and when needed. No one in the party receives a salary.
Hizb ut Tahrir was formed in Jerusalem in 1953 by a Palestinian judge. Since then, it has expanded across the Middle East and throughout the world, from Indonesia to America. But it is in Britain that the group probably has its strongest presence. Its conferences have attracted thousands of British Muslims.
In Tower Hamlets, east London, Hizb distributed a leaflet opposing the Brick Lane festival last month, arguing that the promotion of “the culture of drinking alcohol, dancing and free-mixing” was not the image the area’s Muslim community ought to be projecting.
Meetings – or “circles” – follow the same format, with a speaker from the group expanding on a subject for around 40 minutes. The audience, almost always students and professionals in their 20s and 30s, listen and then pepper the speaker with questions. Some meetings are men- or women-only. At those that are mixed, the women, seated separately from the men, ask the most forceful and detailed questions, usually from beneath a sea of headscarves.
Although one of the main aims of the group is to forge a strong religious identity for Muslims in Britain, it also believes the wider Muslim world has been ill-served by its rulers. It has openly called for coups against Arab governments to establish more representative leadership. Governments such as Egypt which feel that Hizb is a threat have banned it and arrested its members.
The group came to Britain in 1986, founded by a Syrian called Omar Bakri Muhammed. Bakri remained leader for 10 years until he left to form another, more radical, Islamic group, al-Muhajiroun.
In the mid-1990s, Hizb was a fixture on university campuses, organising societies and debates. Its rhetoric was fierce and angry. Then Hizb went quiet, and now its influence on campus is limited to some Islamic societies or smaller groups. Some maintain it is still a threat: in March this year a motion proposed by the Union of Jewish Students to the National Union of Students conference banned Hizb from campuses because of alleged anti-semitism.
Last year the German government banned the group for the same reasons and the country’s interior minister, Otto Schilly, proposed Britain should follow suit, saying: “It won’t do if the same thing is then not banned in a neighbouring country. We have to act in harmony.”
Patel calls such accusations misguided. But he does not deny being anti-Israel: “Being anti-Israel is probably a sentiment held by one billion Muslims around the world. It’s not unique to the party. A lot of western commentators could be classified as anti-Israel.”
On some campuses, the group has renamed itself, using such names as the Ideological Society. Its uncompromising tone, in contrast to the mute moderation of some imams, is a powerful attraction. In cities where it has a strong presence, such as Birmingham and Leicester, some mosques have made it clear that Hizb is unwelcome. “We don’t like their ideas at all,” said the imam of one of Birmingham’s biggest mosques. “They’re not Islamic ideas, they’re very nationalistic, racist ideas that they’ve got from somewhere else.”
Hizb says such criticism is an attempt to depoliticise Islam and warns against seeing political awareness always in the context of angry youth. Hizb offers a worldview that can be easily grasped, a straightforward solution to many of the problems of society. The scope of Hizb – Patel says “every mosque in this country” has members or supporters – has led to worries about its influence. But it is not on the Home Office’s list of proscribed organisations, and the Metropolitan police’s anti-terrorism branch says it has no evidence of illegal activity.
Critics are most concerned about Hizb in Central Asia, where its brand of political Islam is motivating impoverished Uzbeks against the government of Uzbekistan. In testimony before the US Congress earlier this year, a director of the Nixon Centre, a rightwing thinktank, warned: “Like other Islamist movements, HT’s goal is to overthrow secular regimes around the world. Unlike many others, however, HT hopes to achieve this goal peacefully … I think HT, which is not considered a terrorist organisation, is an even more dangerous long-term threat, as it is the elementary school for the ideological training of many other groups.”
This is the “conveyor belt for terrorism” argument: the implication is that such an organisation might inspire others. Patel is dismissive: “I think it’s a very disingenuous view. The Founding Fathers of America would probably have been called a conveyor belt for terrorists because they produced the intellectual ideas which led to the American people rising up against colonial rule.”
If there is a threat it comes in ideas, because the message of Hizb – of a strong, international Islamic state; of a Middle East free of the western powers; of Islam as a solution to the problems of society – may be far more dangerous to the west.
Patel accepts that the very notion of a caliphate implies the destruction of institutions and government systems, but believes there is no alternative – although he stresses the transition will not be violent. And although Hizb has been making its argument for over half a century without visible results, Patel does not see that as a criticism of the concept. “We believe the caliphate could be established tomorrow. We believe all the ingredients are there,” he says. And he has a warning for the Muslim rulers of the world: “One of the greatest obstacles that exists is the brutality of the state and the fear that is instilled in the masses. What we say is that it is a matter of time before the masses observe that brutality and say enough is enough.”
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Disjointed Conversations


The clouds languidly flow across the azure sky, besetted with fading golden rays of the setting sun. The sparkling but dying rays valiantly attempt to stay alit for one last instance before they seep away into nothingness.
Cool evening breezes rustle through the trees, slowly fluttering the leaves of autumn above like multi-coloured hues of the rainbow. Birds flitter and chirp, flicking from branch to branch, tree to tree.
In the background can be heard the distant and occasional automobile as it passes by, out of site and momentarily attracting one’s attention. Then its passing is  quickly discarded as a mere distraction.
The branches and bramble enflamed within the fire-pit emits the pungent aromas of  the surrounding forest of oaks, birches, pine and other underbrush . Shadows thrown by the overhead branches lazily plays tricks with the last remaining rays of sunlight that has absorbed my attention …..
What?! Sorry, it’s my day off. Yes, it’s a beautiful evening. Great for communing with nature. Fall is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
No, I live in the city. Lived in the area for a while but moved away.
Oh, really?!
Hey! Look at the size of that tree house ……..
My attention returns to the sky as those gathered about turn their attention to the tree-house pointed out by the excited child. But by now twilight had slipped its veil over the backyard in the countryside.
Against the thin dark mask of nightfall that was slipping into place was the puffy shape of the clouds pinned against the sky like patchworks of cotton. If you looked carefully and long enough the barest hint of the distant moon about to begin its march across the night sky was discernible. Playing hide and seek or attempting to break through? The game is entered.
A radio suddenly blares on, spewing out a discordant clashing musical instruments clamouring for superiority. All of which is counter-weighted by the sound of raw voices, angry voices, sad voices, dazed voices emanating from the throats of individuals who, apparently, have not yet learnt how to find themselves.
A voice in the crowd eventually intercedes and asks one of the children to change the radio station. This was then momentarily followed by the distinctive static that one hears when swiftly twirling the tuning knob through the various radio frequencies. Disjointed communication.
Then, just as quickly clear sound once again breaks forth from the speakers. The children slowly and subtly disperse off in various directions. Looking back up at the sky one notices that the stars are starting to sparkle through the occasional breaks of the now silver-lined clouds.
Scanning the sky once again, the moon is now completely obscured by the clouds. The earlier breezes seem to have died off, now gently caressing the shadowed and framed branches against the night sky.
The bumps and indentations of the ground under the carpet of  grass cushioning mould themselves to the back; and the pleasure lulls you into a deep sense of relaxation. Just then, a big husky dog strolls over and lays beside you, hunched on its forelegs, eyes and ears alert to the sounds of the night; the children wandering and playing amongst themselves. The dog, a guardian of the night.
I am slowly slipping under, holding on to nothing.
Voices dissipates. Sounds meld into nothingness. The song comes on at that precise moment and the imagination takes flight. The senses sharpen; and I am drifting away from the shore to what’s out there. To where it all began. Where it all comes together. The beauty of the infinite, the unknown.
Grey mornings. Blue skies. Red evenings. It doesn’t matter who’s around to feel alive. All you’ve got to do is crawl out of that hole that you’ve dug for yourself. If you stay the night would not give you up. If you want, the morning would keep its trust. The demons would get their battles and you can be assured that the voice of reassurance would reach out from close-by to steady you.
Some days just slip away ……
Want another beer?
Sure, thanks.
Look what you made me wear! I look and feel like a peacock. Everyone one else here is so casual.
Don’t worry about it. No one here will say anything to you. Besides, you look good.
But you said that we were going to a party?
(There is petulence and accusation in the tone and the words).
  Well, we’ll say that we’re going to a party over at ……..
The conversation is whispered between the man and woman going by.
People are clustered in random groups and engaged in various conversations around the bristling flames among the logs in the pit. Introductions are made all around. Jokes are shared. Personal and intimate news are exchanged. Social issues are discussed and commentaries made. Music appreciation and the hopes of mothers and fathers are given vocal expression. The atmosphere overall is quite easy-going.
The tongues of the flames hungrily licking at the cords of wood within the fire pit have their own magic. Whipped here and there by the passing breeze. Sculpted by the random positioning of the upright or fallen logs. Fuelled on occasion by the still fresh sap that bursts forth from within the heart of the stumps as the outer layer of bark is scorched and reduced to smoldering coal.
The radiant heat of the flames reaches out in waves across the open expanse of space that surrounds the pit and makes its presence felt to all those within its radius. Beautiful things, flames are. Their unbridled form and energy. A panorama of liquid colours contained within those elemental gases. And, at the same time, deadly to the unwary and uninitiated. Death and rebirth – dancing and weaving they are entwined from spark to dust. Insignificance to brillance.
Looking back up at the sky it can be seen that the stars are more clearly seen; and they are also out in greater numbers. The sliver of the moon is clearly visible overhead as the cloud cover slowly dissolves away to expose the majesty and beauty of the heavens and the night sky. A new sense of moisture is detected within the featherly touches of the breeze. Sounds in the night take on a new tone and generates new perceptions. Voices do not appear to simply disappear into the nothingness of the surrounding landscape. Instead they appear to be contained within the somewhat intangible boundaries created by the blanket of the night.
What do you think about the Clinton and Lewinsky scandal?
The opinions, pros and cons are bandied about all around. No side comes down clearly on either side of the subject. But there is a concensus that Clinton is a disgrace to the Presidency of the U.S and to men in particular. Monica, both the men and women agreed, was a little too naive and was used by everyone involved in the incidents and ensuing investigations.
When do you think the teacher’s strike is going to end? I say that it is time the government legislates the striking teachers back to the classrooms. We are, after all, their employers?
The teachers fared no better than Clinton and Monica.
The radio, forgotten in the distant background, is turned off and everyone realises that it is quite late. The beer, fire and conversations are slowly fading away. The dog rises and goes off in search of the children, most of whom have by now disappeared into the house. The dying embers of the fire are beyond the attempts of the ever-present breeze. The black and vast canvass of the night sky is now clearly awashed with sparkling stars. The silver crescent of the moon begining to dip toward the western horizon – the whisper of another dawn waiting in the wings of the eastern horizon.
Day and night. They will and always have been with us from the very begining. Tomorrow is just another day. Tonight is tonight. And there are days …….