LONGTIME READERS WILL PRICK THEIR pointed ears at the mention of “Obscure Research Labs.” If you’re not one of them, but especially if you are, please read on:
Back around 1989 or so, I became involved with a group billing itself as “the world’s only TRUE research organization … devoted to finding out Just What’s Going On” (see FAQ). Headed by BT Elder, whose tenure as Professor of Applied Memetics at Miskatonic University came to an abrupt and scandal-hushed end during the 1970s, Obscure Research Labs played a key role in the development of 1990s-era underground popular culture. Without ORL’s influence, Roswell would still be a noncommittal speck on the Nevada map; the Men in Black (the real ones, not their sequel-laden counterparts) would still be frightening witnesses with anonymous abandon; and the Wachowski brothers would still be stuck for an Idea.
The scope of ORL’s work and accomplishments would require several volumes to explain in disambiguating detail. Suffice to say, despite the hours and working conditions I accepted the position of newsletter editor and produced seven issues of the ORL bulletin, “Far Corner.” Filled mostly with recent ORL doings, specifically in the areas of time travel and experimental mass psychology, the newsletter also featured interviews with such secretly famous celebrities as Robert Anton Wilson and Ivan Stang.
Of course, that was all before ORL’s still-unexplained disappearance c. 2002. Although I haven’t worked for them in years, I still Google them on occasion to see what they’re up to, if at all (also, they still owe me money). Thus, imagine my surprise when I discovered someone selling ORL merchandise at inflated prices! It is flattering to have produced a collectors’ item, but annoying to be cut out of the profits. At this writing, I have been unsuccessful in contacting the seller — for all I know, he or she or it may be a disgruntled ex-employee (of which ORL seemed to produce dozens, all altered in some fashion) trying to recoup his, her or its losses.
But perhaps it’s better not to know; to let, as it were, tricephalic dogs lie. After all, according to ORL’s credo and operating principle, “You never can tell…”
 Few are aware that “the Matrix” is the name given by Elder and his mentor, Neal Higgins, to the “glue” which binds consensual reality like the dough in raisin bread: “Among other things, The Matrix is the theoretical basis for just about everything we do here at ORL. Put simply, it’s that vast area between what you know and what you don’t; paradoxically, it’s both universal and personal. (If you could make a circle around yourself to illustrate the limits of your perception, the area inside would represent your knowledge. Outside lies your ignorance. The circle itself is the Matrix — the indeterminate state you use to account for the existence of things you can’t see but ‘know’ are there, like the person typing these words.)” — from the ORL FAQ