The blog of author Dennis Cooper

I am unknowable presents … Secretly encoded

‘Steganography is more ancient than codes and ciphers, and is the art of hidden writing. For example, a message might be written on paper, coated with wax, and swallowed to conceal it, only to be regurgitated later. Another way is to tattoo the message on the shaved head of a messenger and wait for the hair to regrow to cover up the ink. The best stenography uses innocent everyday objects to carry messages. A once-popular technique in England was to use a newspaper with tiny dots under letters on the front page indicating which ones should be read to spell out the message. Some people would spell out a message using the first letter of every word, or use invisible ink. Rival countries have shrunk writing down so that an entire page of text becomes the size of a pixel easily missed by prying eyes. Steganography is best used in conjunction with a code or cipher, as a hidden message always carries the risk of being found. There is a secret message encoded in this post.’ — collaged


16 Enigma Machines

‘Like all the best cryptography, the Enigma machine is simple to describe, but infuriating to break. Straddling the border between mechanical and electrical, Enigma looked from the outside like an oversize typewriter. Enter the first letter of your message on the keyboard and a letter lights up showing what it has replaced within the encrypted message. At the other end, the process is the same: type in the “ciphertext” and the letters which light are the decoded missive.

‘Inside the box, the system is built around three physical rotors. Each takes in a letter and outputs it as a different one. That letter passes through all three rotors, bounces off a “reflector” at the end, and passes back through all three rotors in the other direction.

‘The board lights up to show the encrypted output, and the first of the three rotors clicks round one position – changing the output even if the second letter input is the same as the first one.

‘When the first rotor has turned through all 26 positions, the second rotor clicks round, and when that’s made it round all the way, the third does the same, leading to more than 17,000 different combinations before the encryption process repeats itself. Adding to the scrambling was a plugboard, sitting between the main rotors and the input and output, which swapped pairs of letters. In the earliest machines, up to six pairs could be swapped in that way; later models pushed it to 10, and added a fourth rotor.

‘Despite the complexity, all the operators needed was information about the starting position, and order, of the three rotors, plus the positions of the plugs in the board. From there, decoding is as simple as typing the cyphertext back into the machine. Thanks to the reflector, decoding was the same as encoding the text, but in reverse.

‘But that reflector also led to the flaw in Enigma, and the basis on which all codebreaking efforts were founded: no letter would ever be encoded as itself. With that knowledge, as well as an educated guess at what might be encrypted in some of the messages (common phrases included “Keine besonderen Ereignisse”, or “nothing to report” and “An die Gruppe”, or “to the group”), it was possible to eliminate thousands of potential rotor positions.’ — collaged


Lenticular Encryption

‘For all the time we’ve spent staring blankly at GIFs, it’s crazy to think that those looping animations could have been hiding coded messages all along. Prosthetic Knowledge put together this “Lenticular Encryption” project to show how illicit info can be snuck into everyone’s favorite image format.

‘Staring at these with eyes alone won’t reveal their secrets—it takes a little analog and digital media double-team to make that happen. Angling a lenticular sheet on top of the screen will expose a whole new layer of intel and add another “visual narrative” beyond the straightforward animation.’ — collaged


Encode hidden messages in your Facebook pics

‘Facebook is a place where you can share pictures of cute animals and fun activities. Now there’s a browser extension that lets you encode those images with secret, hard-to-detect messages. That’s the idea behind Secretbook, a browser extension by 21-year-old Oxford University computer science student and former Google intern Owen-Campbell Moore. With the extension, anyone – you, your sister, a terrorist – could share messages hidden in JPEG images uploaded to Facebook without the prying eyes of the company, the government or anyone else noticing or figuring out what the messages say. The only way to unlock them is through a password you create.

‘The extension is only available for the Google Chrome browser – Campbell-Moore cites its developer tools and popularity – and the messages are restricted to 140 characters. Less certain is what Facebook thinks; a spokesman declined to comment. But it’s still the first time anyone’s managed to figure out how to automate digital steganography through Facebook, the world’s biggest social media platform. Unlike cryptography, which uses ciphertext to encrypt messages, steganographic messages are simply hidden where no one would think to look.’ — Wired


34 secret codes


Movie encoded onto living bacteria

‘Researchers at Harvard Medical School have stored a video in the DNA of bacteria. It’s the first time a video has been recorded into living cells, as opposed to synthetic material. The team inserted a short animated image of ‘The Horse in Motion’ (one of the earliest moving images ever created) into E. coli, using gene-editing system CRISPR. The movie was split into five frames, and each frame chopped into single-colored pixels. They then created DNA codes corresponding to each color and strung them together. Each bacterium carried snippets of the video stored in their DNA, and when taken together, the scientists were able to retrieve and reconstruct the pieces to play the video.’ — collaged


Hollywood Encodes the Path of the Sun

‘One of the main things that secret societies, the Vatican, Hollywood and the ruling class engage in is the encoding of the sun’s path through the zodiac. Maybe we should stop asking what is encoded but why it is encoded – to include dates of faked events and staged disasters. This clip which details how the sun’s path is encoded in the () film ‘Michael’ is just a reminder of what we should all know by now. All movies and media contain encoded, hidden subtext of the sun’s zodiacal path- but why?’ — Crrow777


28 decoder rings

‘Secret decoders are generally circular scales, descendants of the cipher disk developed in the 15th century by Leon Battista Alberti. Rather than the complex polyalphabetic Alberti cipher method, the decoders for children invariably use simple Caesar cipher substitutions.

‘The most well-known example started in 1934 with the Ovaltine company’s sponsored radio program Little Orphan Annie. The fan club’s member’s handbook included a simple substitution cipher with a resulting numeric cipher text. This was followed the next year with a membership badge or pin that included a cipher disk – enciphering the letters A-Z to numbers 1-26. Similar badges and pocket decoders continued with the Captain Midnight radio and television programs.

‘None of these early decoders were in the form of finger rings, but “secret compartment” rings were common radio program premiums and in the early 1960s secret decoder rings appeared – notably in conjunction with the Jonny Quest television program sponsored by PF Shoes. A later, less ornate, decoder ring was offered by Kix Cereals. and the men’s magazine Oui offered a Captain Jet Decoder Ring[citation needed]- and in 2000 Ovaltine offered a Secret Decoder Ring to be worn on the finger which used their traditional A-Z to 1-26 scheme.’ — collaged


Bruno Borges

‘Brazilian psychology student Bruno Borges seemed fine when he left his family home to work on a ‘secretive project’ four months ago, but he hasn’t been seen since then. His concerned relatives managed to access his locked room, and what they found inside was both bizarre and disturbing.

‘The room was covered wall-to-wall with cryptic text and formulas, as well as several strange paintings. 14 books, reportedly written by Borges, contained an indecipherable script. Watching over it all was a tall statue of Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century Italian philosopher who was one of the first to predict the presence of extraterrestrial life, estimated to be worth around $2500 USD.

‘A video tour of Borges’ room, possibly taken by a police officer, has leaked to YouTube.’ — bored panda


The Secret Code Hidden In All Pixar Movies


A Bug’s Life


Cars 2

Finding Nemo

The Incredibles

Monsters University


Toy Story




39 coded encoded devices


This Creepy Puzzle Arrived In Our Mail

‘We received a letter from Poland containing a really weird CD. Written on the disc is what looks like a product key, however upon examining the contents of the CD it’s quite clear that this is a puzzle of some sort.

‘The CD contains a video of this creepy looking dude in what appears to be an abandoned building doing.. stuff.. There are tons of clues in his actions, for one he seems to be blinking in morse code (or something similar, possibly binary) with a light in his hand. There are also symbols popping in and out around him. There might also be clues in his body language, albeit more subtle. In the DVD menu there is also a clue, which I almost missed.

‘Clearly a lot of effort was put into making this, and I’m personally very curious as to what it actually is.

‘I haven’t put all that much time on trying to decode it. I tried googling the letters on the CD and in the video, to no avail. I also checked the disc for hidden files, but there’s just the video. Also there didn’t seem to be any clues on the envelope itself, just our address and a polish stamp. And while there are a few similar puzzles like this, I couldn’t find anything about this one.

‘So I’m reaching out to you to try and help decode this.

‘Update 1:

‘This post has received a lot of attention. It’s getting closer to an answer.

‘Somebody on Reddit put the sound into a spectrogram and this came out. One thing is for sure, there are indeed hidden messages in the video.

‘Update 2:

‘It’s getting really weird now. First of, people are saying it looks like the kind of mask doctors wore during the black death plague. The beak is to fill with various herbs. Somewhat interesting. And this is where it starts to get seriously creepy.

‘But the sickest part is that when decoding images from the sound, disturbing images where uncovered.. Basically what looks like women being tortured, or something.. That’s obviously NSFW, so I won’t post it, but you can find it easily if you look around a bit.

‘Now there are so many theories about this. Some say Illuminati, some say serial killer or even a threat directed at me. Perhaps, perhaps not, but I am highly skeptical. It makes sense to send it to me if it’s an elaborate joke or experiment, but if it were a serious threat I doubt it would be sent to a tech blog … ‘ — GadgetZZ.com

(The story thickens – continued)



p.s. Hey. Today someone with ties to the blog who wishes to remain unknown and has chosen the moniker ‘I am unknowable’ presents a guest-post about things through which the unknown can encoded and/or decoded. I have been authorized to tell you that the host’s identity is secretly encoded in the post and can be decoded if you wish. Thank you. ** H, Hi. Thank you. Yes, ‘Providence’ is one of my very favorite films. Yes, yes, you make sense. I really can’t wrap my mind around the idea that JA is dead. It seems unthinkable. Very, very best to you. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Yes, send me the post this week, great (!), and I will set it up as soon as I am able. Really excited! Yesterday was involved with creating and placing Zac’s and my film’s opening titles and credits. This morning we start three weeks of hardcore sound editing and mixing. Wait, SCAB is up! Wow!!! I’ll go get it as soon as I get back from my work today! Everyone, the awesome Dóra Grőber has just launched a literary magazine called SCAB, which we will be celebrating/introducing via a post here very soon, but you can go view and download it right now if you can’t wait. This is super exciting. No brainer urge to you to click this and begin getting fully acquainted! So great, Dora! Huge congratulations! How was today? ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. So true, of course, what you said about Ashbery. And he had a long genius work life. But he was still in his prime as a poet, and it does feel like something immensely valuable has been cut down far too soon. Thank you for the great thoughts about Resnais! ** Kyler, Hi. Nice to have had that in your head/ears while discovering Paris. I actually live about three minutes walk from The Grand Hotel. ** Kier, Yay, Kier! Hi, hi, hi, I’ve missed you! It’s so fantastic to see you! We’ve finished the editing and coloring the film, and now we’re in the last stage — sound work — as of 10 am this morning. We’re really excited and happy, and I can’t wait for you to see the film. Your drawings are a big component of the film, as you will see. Zac and I would absolutely love to show ‘PGL’ in Oslo. The producer is the one who decides how/where the film is shown, and I will speak to him as soon as I see him about that possibility. That would be great! We both loved Oslo when we were there, and it would be awesome to see you! Let me check. So cool about the great studio space! Me too about ‘Twin Peaks’. I’ll see Zac and just a few minutes, and I’ll pass along your big love. Kier! It’s so cool to see you! Please hang out as much as feels good to you. That would be such a mega-boon! Giant love, Dennis. ** Steve Erickson, Hi, Steve. I agree with you, of course, about Resnais, and I hope there’s some kind of revival or vogue for his work in the States, which seems inevitable. Funny mix of remixers there – Haxan Cloak and Heath. I need to hear those. Will do. I saw something about that ‘Nashville Statement’, but I didn’t quite understand, I’ll go seek clarification. ** Tosh Berman, Hi, T. God, I hate when that happens. A couple of times on the old blog that happened with the entire p.s. as I was trying to post. Ugh. ** Bill, Hi. I don’t think Resnais’s more recent films ever got much play or attention in the States at all. Super hope that heat is finally hitting the dust. So spooky. I like rambling but entraining under certain circumstances, so I’ll peek at it and see. ** Misanthrope, Yes, that ‘Green Lantern’ series has become quite obscure. No cult has accrued. I could be completely misremembering, but something in my memory tells me that Bruce Lee played Kato in that series? But if that were true, certainly it would be better known. “Why can’t all adults be cool and like video games like George?”: That’s question I find myself asking myself all the time. Japan! Well, sad for you, but … Japan! Where in Japan? ** Nick Toti, Hi, Nick. Interesting about your friend. It would be obviously great if your history allows ties to still exist. It’s awesome to be close with people with whom you have little practical in common. ** Jamie, Hey! I’m good. I’m awfully glad you’re good, so good that you’re going to France today?! That’s pretty good. Food poisoning is no fun. But I guess it’s much better than meds fallout. If you do get away today, have an extremely deserved blast-plus-r and r. And see you on Saturday if not before. Bonnest voyage! May your next few days make the health and vigor of my next few days seem like being stick in mud. Love knocked out of the park, Dennis. ** Scunnard, Hey, buddy! Coincidentally, I actually came across those photos/GIFs yesterday, and, yes, I was enthralled. Thank you for thinking of me. What’s up? ** Nicholas Jason Rhoades, Hi, pal. Good words. Thank you for gracing here. ** Armando, Hi. Things are going busily and well, thanks. Well, I hope the bed had a luxurious, pleasurable side effect. ** Alistair, Hi, A! ‘Providence’ is amazing. Highly recommended. If there was something that had the biggest influence on ‘The Marbled Swarm’, it was that film. Thank you a lot for the good sound-editing vibes. We start in … , yikes, an hour. And thank you a lot for talking back to the people who expressed smitten-ness with your book. Love, me. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Happy Tuesday! ** Sypha, Hi, James. I can certainly see why Alistair urged you to use that paragraph somewhere. It’s a great beauty, my friend. Thank you for sharing it. ** Okay. Be with and amongst the unknown and its devices today. See you tomorrow.


  1. Hi!

    Thank you so much – both for the post offer (I’m working on it, it just needs some editing!) and for the shoutout! I hope whoever reads SCAB, finds joy in it! And, of course, I hope you’ll love it too! I’m really proud and excited!
    Today is a bit of a lazy day for me so there’s nothing too exciting to share, really.
    I hope things are livelier over there, though I’m pretty sure they are with the sound editing and mixing starting today! How’s everything going?

  2. “He Is” has just been released as a single in the US, despite the fact that it’s 2 years old, and you can download an EP from iTunes containing 4 versions of the song, including the remixes I mentioned. I think I am going to gather my thoughts on the band, rewriting my Facebook posts on them into something better thought-out, and post it on my blog.

    Have you heard the Bug vs. Earth album? It’s 90 minutes long, and quite good. It’s hard to tell where Earth ends and the Bug’s production/remixing leaves off – there is plenty of feedback drone and their more recent spaghetti Western soundtrack style. Justin Broadrick pops up to do vocals on two songs – I believe he played alongside Kevin Martin in the band Techno Animal – and he sounds far more bad-ass than he does in Jesu.

    Most of Resnais’ late films, with the exception of SMOKING/NO SMOKING, got some form of American distribution. WILD GRASS got more than usual, because Sony Pictures Classics picked it up, rather than the smaller indie distributors who released the rest of his late work. But none of them played New York for more than a few weeks, and from what I recall, the average age of their audience was about 65.

  3. David Ehrenstein

    September 5, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Congrats Dora!

    I love the “Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring” in “A Christmas Story”

  4. @ I am unknowable, thank you for a fascinating day. I never knew the Enigma machine was such a beast of a thing, wow.

    @ Dóra, super congrats re SCAB, it looks outstanding! I have a few days off later in the week, when I will go over it with a fine tooth comb.

    Alex was round last night and we saw the final Twin Peaks episode, and then we made plans for a Yuck ‘n Yum meeting with Becca in the Vision building at the weekend. I’ve also arranged to see someone from a thing called Business Gateway at work on the 20th to discuss YNY matters too. They’re not from the bank, it’s an organisation that offers advice and resources etc and I reckon it’s worth getting as much feedback as possible at this early stage.

  5. The question now is how to get lenticular encryption into my GIFS. Will need to investigate. Also this Secretbook is right up my alley. You thinking of encryption in your GIFS?

  6. I am unknowable…I love shit like this. Did you know that George Washington was big into stuff like this? His favorite thing was disappearing ink. Seems it would disappear and then the receiver of the paper would warm it over fire and the message would appear. He was very big into spy craft and used it very successfully during the American Revolution.

    Dennis, Oh, okay, that was the Green Hornet. Different superhero. They did a full movie of it with Seth Rogen and Jay Chou in 2011. There was a Green Lantern movie with Ryan Reynolds that bombed. It was good until about halfway through, and then it got ridiculous and didn’t make sense.

    That’s why in Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds jokes not to give him a green costume.

    Yeah, I’ll have to ask my friend which part of Japan. She’s told me and I’ve forgotten. It’s not Tokyo, I know that. Some base we have over there.

    So two American women are through to the semifinals of the U.S. Open (tennis). Two more play tomorrow. I’m getting all nationalistic and want all four in there. Venus Williams won tonight and will play Sloane Stephens two days from now in one semifinal. If all four make it, it’ll be the first time that three African American women will be in the semis of a grand slam at the same time. The fourth would be a white woman named Coco Vandeweghe, niece of former NBA player Kiki Vandeweghe. Kind of interesting all the way around if it happens.

  7. I used to be really interested in numbers stations, although after a certain point there’s only so much people can say on-line about the subject and the mailing list I belonged to that discussed them got very dull. I like the samples of them on Wilco’s YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT and Cameron Crowe’s film VANILLA SKY, although I never liked the idea of paying $60 for a box set of 4 CDs worth of them.

  8. Hey,

    Fuck, things like today’s post aint no good at all for utter, huge paranoids like me… I bet KUBRICK and Robbe-Grillet were heavily into all this/knew A LOT about it… Also people like Joyce and Borges… And that Brazilian student’s last name was – of all motherfucking things – “Borges”… Fuck… Also, it’s funny you should mention ‘TMS’ in today’s comments; I can’t begin to imagine the amount of stuff you must have hidden in that novel… And, that beaked mask surely means something. You know, the one in that part of the post about the person who got that DVD in the mail and whatnot… I’ve seen it before and it’s always been in very particular, specific, peculiar… “places”… You’ve seen it too. I know it *MUST* have some meaning, and that meaning – whatever on Earth it is – is some extremely heavy and macabre shit… Shit, I’m going to need more xanax today… This is why I’m supposed to be on antipsychotics (though I OBVIOUSLY don’t take them at all) in the first place; all my paranoia and shit… This is all so very Lovecraftian…

    “Well, I hope the bed had a luxurious, pleasurable side effect.” Not really, but then again, I was unconscious for most of the day, so that’s always a plus; then again, I had nightmares, as always, which is *NEVER* a plus… Oh well.

    P.S.: I can’t even begin to say how much I fucking LOVE that photograph of Didion that was featured on the September 2nd. post…

    Good day; good luck,


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