Author Archives: Colin Horgan


(For the best presentation of the data collected for this entry on the folk dance form of Moshing, I have provided a transcription of my interview with the informant. Interviewer input/clarification is in brackets[] for the duration of the interview.)

“I guess [moshing] is the process of…of, like, uh, throwing yourself against other people in, like, kind of a dance that can look, sometimes, like it’s like fighting, but it’s more, like, just bumping up against each other, like, kinda hard. Usually associated with, like, uh, heavier music, so like uh punk or metal or hard rock or something like that. Although I’ve seen it happen at rap concerts too. Usually any kind of aggressive or loud music. I’ve seen it happen at a dubstep concert once, too, that was weird.

“[So what is generally the process for the formation of…] a mosh pit? Generally you need, like, one guy who is not afraid to be a little out there. Cause like you need one person to be a catalyst. No one wants to be the asshole who just starts pushing people around, you know? But someone who doesn’t mind being the asshol e will start, and then it’s kind of like uh, a space, and people will recognize the mosh pit, especially if it’s at a music venue, or like a uh, uh, type of music where like, it’s commonplace. And they’ll kind of see it, and they’ll kind of spread out in a circle and they’ll kinda like back everybody up, um, and then uh, and then it’s just kind of like a circle, I guess, and, people just come in from the sides of the circle, almost like a dance circle.

“There’s kind of two parts to the mosh pit, there’s  the people who are inside the mosh pit, and then there’s the people on the edges who are still participating in it because they’re kinda like pushing people back in, like, people bump up against the side, and they’ll kinda push them back. Then there’s the people in the mosh pit, which is like…basically, there’s a direction around the circle, like they’ll be going around the circle like this (making a circular motion with hand) like against each other, and sometimes people will go the opposite way if they want to get beat up a little bit, like, more intensely. And then there’s different variations on it depending on what kind of show you’re going to.”

[What kind of variations would that be?]

“Well a big one is, um, skanking, which is, uh, you do at ska concerts, which is, uh, ska is a mix between, um, punk and reggae, but, skanking is basically like almost dancing but you’re kicking out your legs and kinda like throwing your head down a little bit and moving your arms around, but you’re also kinda bumping into people so it kinda looks like a mosh pit and feels like one, but it’s not as intense, usually. Then sometimes, uh, I don’t really have words, like a vocabulary for what these other ones are called, but, like…okay, there’s just your average one, which I guess is just called a circle pit, is what they call it, uh, and that’s people, like, running around a circle, and like pushing each other. That’s like what you’ll usually see. Sometimes in really, really crowded places it could be like a mass of people just, like, so, like, bumping up against each other. They’re just, like, swaying back and forth and like, because there’s no room to even have, start a circle pit. Um, and then…there’s other stuff too I’m not that familiar with. There’s like hardcore dancing, which is like, throwing your legs around and like, I don’t know. I don’t really know how to describe it. It looks very odd. Um, yeah, let’s see…that’s most of it. Sure, I guess.”

[So it seems like, from former experience, there are, like, rules to the mosh pit?]

“Yeah, there are definitely rules that are associated with it. A lot of it is like safety stuff, so, if somebody gets knocked down you definitely are gonna clear a space around them. Everybody in the mosh pit, like, they won’t necessarily stop but they’ll clear a space around them, and like, have people around the person, and then, uh, you’ll help them up too, I mean, it’s just common courtesy. And then, if there’s like a fight or something, they’ll try to break them up, unless it’s, kinda like a for fun fight, like that you can tell, but sometimes people get actually mad.”

[When would someone get mad?]

“Well, like, back in the day, like 1980s and shit when this stuff was like super intense, it’d be over like, almost like gangland stuff. So like, oh you’re not from, you know, my crew of like…this would happen mostly in like hardcore, especially in Los Angeles, so this is kinda specific, but, um, people get in fights over like not being in the right group of friends, or like, if you’re like associated with certain stuff. So let’s say you were, like, a Neo-Nazi or something like that, you’d probably get beat up by, you know, like anti-fascists or whatever. Um, or, uh, a lot of straightedge guys, back in the day, they’d use to, there were some straightedge militant groups that would beat up on people that were like drinking and stuff like that at shows. So there was like some stuff, but there was like regular stuff of like people just getting mad at each other, um, you know, like tensions could run high sometimes.

“Rules…well there kind of are, there’s like a structure to it, yeah, it’s just kind of funny cause like music associated with it, being just like an all-out melee but that doesn’t usually happen. I’ve never seen a total all-out melee at least. I dunno.”

[Now there’s obviously an element, of like, at least flirting with danger, would you say that’s a main draw to it?]

“Yeah, well like it’s a good release of energy. I know, like, at least for me, like once I started going to it, I kind of have to go every once in a while just to get rid of, like, any kind of tension I have. I dunno. I have this theory, this is gonna be really stupid. I have this theory that, like, it’s kind of related to, like, our primal need for like war-dancing and stuff like that because, um, well I was watching some stuff about, like Native American stuff, it’s just kinda like a similar kind of process. You need some way to get out aggression and stuff like that, like it’s a weird kind of way that would seem taboo, normally, but like, yeah, so that’s why people…I think that there’s something kind of primal about it, I guess. Yeah”

[So would you say this is tied to the music this is normally associated with it? Like does it spring from the music or is it more like applied to it?]

“Well it is, because the music is pure emotion. It’s definitely not, like, I mean, it’s not musicianship, that’s not why people go. It’s not like you’re like, a good-sounding show. People like it when it sounds, like, crappy or something sometimes. So it’s definitely about the energy of the moment, and the kind of emotional release it’s giving you. Um, but yeah. I don’t really know. I’m kind of bad with describing it, it just kinda feels like, you know, like a good release, I guess.”

[So, first show you ever went to, where you first saw moshing?]

“That I saw moshing? I think I went to, like, a Warped Tour with my friends, back in, like, sixth grade maybe. Fifth or sixth grade. And…oh, I remember what happened. So, it was the first show of the day, cause Warped Tour is set up, like, there’s like a bunch of bands or whatever, so first show of the day. Uh, my friends were more into this kind of stuff than I was, I was more into listening to stuff like industrial and stuff like that. I had like never really gone to shows because my parents had never really let me to. So this was the first show I was at, so this band called TSOL comes on, it was like this old-school punk band from like back in the day, and uh what happened was I was with my friends, and uh this humongous skinhead guy, like, uh comes over, grabs my friend by the neck, and like pulls him in as soon as the music starts playing, and there’s like this mass of people, and we were all like, ‘oh shit oh no, he has our friend’. Turns out my friend knew him, from like, it was like really weird to us so I didn’t even participate that first time I saw it. I didn’t participate until…I actually started out with doing, like, skanking and stuff first cause it’s a lot easier, like, and, in terms of getting over it, cause it looks more like dancing. And then I kind of moved into, I kinda go to like hardcore shows a lot and mosh.”

[When would you say you started getting into the more hardcore stuff?]

“Oh that was definitely when my brother, he was like always the person who, uh, who would be into the heavier music, so I think that was, like, around, let’s see…when I actually started going to hardcore shows and hardcore moshing was probably around, uh, eighth grade, ninth grade. Yeah.”

[Did you know about moshing before the first time you actually saw it?]

“Yeah, there was Youtube and stuff, so if you start off looking for your bands, you know some band or whatever on Youtube and you find some live show and you see what’s going on. It’s kinda just part of the vocabulary. I had already listened to punk music to so it was like, just like, I dunno when I first learned about it, but I’m sure it was pretty early.

“My friends were really into it, and also like the only two CDs I owned, my mom actually gave them to me, which was really funny, was like a Public Enemy CD and a Clash Greatest Hits CD, so you know I was just like listening to that kind of loud, aggressive music, I guess.

“I think it’s interesting that it’s not really limited to, like, just punk bands, it’s kind like funny when I saw it at a Dubstep thing, and then, um, I’ve seen it happen at Rap shows like twice now, and I don’t even go that often to those, so, it’s kind of funny to me.”

[Would you say there’s a kind of aspect to the music for when, like, a mosh pit usually starts?]

“Well, there’s definitely like, uh…usually it will start, like in the beginning or when they’ll do like their first little build-up. So like, okay, basically punk songs are like two minutes long so there’s not a lot of buildup but like you’ll hear a song start up and people just start going at it. But there’s usually just like some kind of um, oh I don’t know what the word it, uh some kind of, in the chorus like that they’ll usually speed up a certain part, just like ‘duh duh duh duh duh’ like that and that’s when, like, crazy, they start jumping off, like people will just start like jumping on the stage and jumping off, like doing backflips into the crowd and stuff.”

[So I guess a big thing is just, like, the emotion of the music which can kind of transcend genre.]

“It’s just fun, too, you know. Kinda just…I really don’t know why it’s fun. I have my theories, like I was saying, but it’s just, like, weird.”



Having sprung from Punk and Hardcore culture,

The Hitler/Jesus Game

(This entry is presented as a transcript of my informant’s answers during our interview. Interviewer input/clarification is put in brackets[] for the duration of the interview.)

“It is the uh it’s always hard to call it by something. I guess you could call it “The “Hitler/Jesus Game” ugh that’s such an odd name for it. Some people call it the Hitler Game, some people call it the Jesus Game. Uh basically it’s a uh Wikipedia game. It’s not, obviously the game isn’t on Wikipedia. The game was created by people who use Wikipedia.”

“The goal is to pick something at random or make a list of random things for somebody to pick from and then try to get uh through the hyperlinks on that Wikipedia page to try and get to Jesus or Hitler in as few clicks as possible.

“I play it Jesus or Hitler, some people play it with just Jesus, some people play it with just Hitler, umm but uh it’s a very amusing game. Like, my record is two clicks, I went from pineapples to Hitler in two clicks. Uh on Wikipedia. From Pineapples to Hitler in two clicks. The, I think, the intermediary was actually World War 2. The pineapple industry exploded during the 1940s during World War 2 because uh soldiers needed…see you actually do learn things from this game, um, which is interesting, like you learn random facts that are totally useless but entertaining nonetheless. Uh, but yeah, no, apparently the pineapple industry blossomed during World War 2 so that was an easy click. World War 2 then, straight after, Hitler. So yeah.

“Some people will restrict you by the number of clicks, like you have to get to Jesus or Hitler in six clicks, uh specifically, that’s both the maximum and the minimum, like you have to use that many to get there. Sometimes you’ll have to circle around the topic before you finally enter it. That’s a very challenging way to play that game. Um, the other rules, uh, it’s kinda just decided upon by the person playing the game. It’s a very loosely based rules system that, you know, I kinda came up with with a group of friends in high school. But I mean, other people play it too, so I’m wondering how it was first created. It’s kind of this urban legend, that, uh, all of, you know, my friends happened to know about, I mean, you even know about it and you’re from the east coast, right?

Somebody mentioned it to me, like, we didn’t just invent the game, I heard about the game from a friend of mine, and then we just kind of created the rules out of that. At first it was just, let’s get to Hitler in as few clicks as possible, and then somebody said, uh, somewhere along the line, I don’t remember who, um, ‘maybe we should try doing Jesus. Jesus might be easier, because we were having such a hard time trying to get to Hitler in as small number of clicks’. So that ended up being entertaining.

“Mainly in high school was when I played this. [Was that when you first discovered it, in high school?] Yeah. Generally afterschool, uh I think that was when I first heard about it was afterschool, and uh from occasion to occasion. And you know a random subject would come up or we’d start talking about something and somebody would say ‘hey that was actually, that would be a pretty good word to try on Wikipedia for the Hitler game, uh, yeah’.

“[Would you mind playing a round?] Sure, let’s do it.

“Give me a word. [Let’s just do a random, uh, just random article…so what did we get?] Huntingdonshire Regional College. Okay. And you can play with friends, too, that’s another side detail I forget to mention. Yeah, so, I might need some help. This is really obscure.

“Okay, so let’s see here. Huntingdonshire…Further Education? Or England! England will definitely get us there…if we don’t get something related to World War 2 or Hitler I will be absolutely shocked. Okay. Like the bombings or something.

“(Looking through the England Wikipedia entry) History…[Once you hit a country it’s basically over.] Yeah. Oh my god goes all the way back to the Paleolithic Era. That’s kind of cool. Celtic culture…we’re moving up through the ages guys! Middle Ages, Hundred Years’ War, Late, Modern, and Contemporary. Industrial Revolution, Duke of Wellington, Victorian Era, we’re getting there guys!

“What? This is why we just can’t assume in two clicks. Okay the Blitz!..there’s one that says Winston Churchill, the Allies. Do we go with Churchill or the Allies? Let’s go with the Allies, we’ll have more success with the Allies.

“[Are we allowed to go back? If we need to?] Uh, I don’t go back. We might be able to get Hitler somewhere in here…like if we could get to Germany. (Sigh of frustration) Well I know it could be in here somewhere…After the German Invasion of Poland, Invasion of Poland, we could do…If Hitler isn’t in here…he isn’t, which is just embarrassing, quite frankly. Um, okay. Second World War then.

“No, will we have more success with Second Wolrd War or Axis powers? I’m thinking Second World War thinking of how much of a failure Allies was. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Okay. Collapse of the German Reich, come on now, well there’s Germany. Commanders and Leaders, there’s Adolf Hitler! We’re there.

“We went from the Allies to the Second World War. And before that, let’s see here, that was one, two…three…five clicks. That’s not too bad!”



I originally asked my informant to conduct this interview because the Hitler/Jesus Game just happened to come up in conversation the previous week, and I was intrigued that this person (who grew up on the opposite side of the continent from myself) knew about this game that I also encountered in high school. When interviewing him, I made sure to investigate all the possible differences between our versions of the game, to which I found a surprisingly large amount. For example, my version of the game only used the Hitler Wikipedia page as an end goal, and one always had to start from a random page. In addition, the rule set I used did not allow for the use of Wikipedia pages for countries, cities, or World War II specifically. I was surprised to find my informant’s version to have none of these rules, and instead to be much more of a free experience. It is not necessarily better or worse, though I think it speaks to how we came upon the game. I discovered it by myself online, while my informant developed the game with friends after hearing about the basic ruleset. He also had a much more social version, allowing for input from a group, while the thought of playing the game with other people never crossed my mind. Even with such a simple, silly game, the kind of game that would be spawned by an internet culture that often looks for any kind of distraction from boredom, there can be so much variation to be discovered.

The Prophecy of the Samaysquatcha

“A long time ago Yosierra people dwelled the land of Emeral Coh. Since then our people have been run off by men with boomstick.

“However, it was fortold by our prophets that one day, a generation would be born in the land of Emeral Coh that would take back what was ours. A sign of the coming of this generation would be the return of the Samaysquatcha, a gorilla beast who has come to aid the Yosierra peoples in the days of old. When the Samaysquatcha was spotted in the forest of old, the elders of the Yosierra shall re-enter the land of Emeral Coh and summon the young warriors of the new generation and train them in the warrior way. When the warriors are ready, the bravest warrior shall hunt the Samaysquatcha and take his life. Then shall the other warriors take his body to the waterfall of Emeral Coh and feast on his flesh. Only then shall the young warriors have the strength to overcome the foreign men and reclaim the land that was once ours.”

This story is part of a much larger activity that my informant, a camp councilor, performs once a summer at the children’s (age 6 to 17) summer camp he councils. It is performed on a day in which the camp, which is normally coed, is split, boys separated by girls, each off to their own activities for the day. The story lays out the events that the boys partake in that day: after the story is told, the storyteller, who acts as the Yosierra Chief Elder, is taken by other staff members representing “the foreigners”, described in the story as “men with boomstick”. The foreigners then take the chief out of sight (usually behind a cabin), where he is “executed”. The staff applies some theatrics to the execution in order to sell it to the campers. As my informant describes, “we shoot off cap guns, throw fake blood on the cabin window, stuff like that.”

Once the chief is gone, the next-eldest staff member acts as replacement chief, and instructs the campers to begin the enactment of the prophecy. To add some dramatic tension, the new chief begins by instructing the student to build a teepee and fortify it with sticks and other found objects. The foreign men would then commence a surprise attack on the campers, destroying their fortifications and giving the boys “the first lost”, showing them that “they’re not ready yet”.

At this low point the new chief gives a speech to raise the boys’ spirits and begin the painting ceremony, where the boys decorate themselves with body paint. As the boys finish applying their war paint, a staff member dressed in a gorilla costume runs by, signaling the “return of the Samaysquatcha”. The boys are instructed to chase the Samaysquatcha to the campsite’s waterfall, where they find a staff member next to the “Samaysquatcha corpse”, the gorilla costume filled with beef jerky. The staff tells the boys that the prophecy is coming true, and to celebrate the campers “feast on the flesh of the Samaysquatcha”.

Fueled by the strength of the Samaysquatcha, the campers begin their final phase of training. The staff instructs the kids “to find the best spear stick”, which my informant clarifies is “a stick that could resemble a spear”. With their new weaponry, the campers learn to “sneak, find a target, and beat the target with their finest spear stick”. Once they complete this task, the campers return to the waterfall where, one at a time, they cleanse themselves in the water and take on their new “native name”. The campers are now ready to “reclaim the land that was once [theirs]”.

Under the chief’s instruction, the campers line up near the foreigner’s fort, a cardboard construction put together by the rest of the staff, who act as the foreigners for the “final battle”. Another staff member sets up a fire pit to the side of the battleground “with just a few glowing embers” and throws gasoline into it, creating a pillar of fire, “the sign to charge”.

As the battle rages, some of the campers use a water balloon launcher to lob balloons at the foreigners’ fort. Other rush the fort with water balloons and flour bombs (“flour stuffed in a plastic bag, that you throw and it explodes all over the place”), and cinch their victory with their cardboard weapons. My informant says this battle usually last forty-five minutes, after which the kids “scalp the staff”, pretending to take the heads of all the foreigners. The battle is then won, and the prophecy has come true.

Although this is first year my informant has taken part in this specific story, he informs me “the camp has been doing this for a while, since the sixties”. The activity takes place every year, and it follows the same beats as this particular iteration, but the theme rotates every year. My informant explains, “this year we’re doing a Wild West theme, but last year we did Robin Hood…I think the very first one I ever took part in was a space theme, where aliens were coming to take the land, which was the whole planet”. Nevertheless, the activity plays out the same every year, “slightly twisted to meet the theme”.

The Wadsworth Constant

“To determine is a video is worth watching, skip a third of the way into it and you can see if it’s worth watching. If it’s not interesting then, it won’t be for the rest of the video.”

My informant says this rule, which he knows as the Wadsworth Constant, applies “to any internet videos, like Youtube videos or Vimeo videos”. He learned the rule from Reddit, the self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet” that aggregates and ranks user-submitted content. He discovered the Wadsworth Constant about a year ago, when he had it described to him by another Reddit user, though he believes it has existed in this form “for a while”.



At first this rule might seem absurd to anyone who has a basic understanding of the sort of video content popular on the internet. Most internet videos are not very long, perhaps only a few minutes, and shorter videos are often spread around more than longer ones. With content that’s already so short, it seems unnecessary to find shortcuts for determining the worth of this kind of content. A rule like this could only come from a community that places a premium on time, and ponders the value of the content the consume in this limited time seriously.

It’s telling that my informant first learned of the Wadsworth Constant on Reddit, a page with hundreds and thousands of entries, all vying for a user’s time and attention, adding hundreds more every hour. As “the front page of the internet”, the side acts as a metaphor for the internet as a whole, as this place where millions of different things draw our attention, and it is literally impossible to view every one. The Wadsworth Constant, as it has been developed, tries to stymy the paralysis that could overwhelm one when trying to view all this content. With time held at a premium, internet users want to make sure they are using their time to the fullest, even when just watching internet videos.

Chinese New Year Superstitions

“On Chinese New Year, you’re not supposed to use scissors or knives cause you’re cutting away your good luck on Chinese New Years. Also, on Chinese New Year, little kids are supposed to wear new clothes because, supposedly, there’s a monster that takes the little kids away, so if you wear the new clothes it’s like the monster can’t recognize you.”

My informant learned these beliefs from her parents when she was little, when once she got curious and asked why there were special rules that her and her sisters had to follow on Chinese New Year. Her family continues to practice these rules today, even though her siblings are all grown. When asked why the clothes rule is practiced, in particular because the belief states it only applies to children, my informant replies, “I dunno…Really, it’s an excuse to wear new clothes”.



My frame of reference for New Years’ folk beliefs is limited to American ideas of the New Year celebration, including champaign, and kissing a loved one. Both of these beliefs act as forms of homeopathic magic, drinking champaign representing wealth that will be found in the New Year, and kissing a loved one representing a romance that will continue or grow in the New Year. The scissor prohibition found in my informant’s Chinese New Year beliefs is similar, though has an opposite mindset: instead of doing something that will inspire good luck in the New Year, one must avoid doing something that will bring misfortune in the New Year. Both sets of beliefs rely on actions of symbolic significance, for these actions do not enact their effects in a literal sense (one cannot literally cut luck away, for example, for even luck is an abstraction that cannot be recognized in the physical world). Nevertheless, traditions such as these stick with people because they provide hope and stability for the future, and there is comfort in knowing that tangible actions one can take in the present will have some effect (even imaginary) on the future.

As for the monster that steals little kids away, the belief intrigues me because often belief in monsters is instilled in children in order to enforce some kind of discipline (scaring children into behaving). This monster, however, seems to have no obvious ties to discipline, only a justification for wearing new clothes on this specific day. Perhaps this could be a way for parents to get their children they did not necessarily want to wear, in which case the monster does become a disciplining threat, though my informant’s approving tone did not suggest that happened with her family. Maybe it is just an excuse to wear new clothes in the new year, like my informant suggested.