A Survey of Other Great Attractions in Zones of Avoidance

by Sway Benns

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Robert Fortune

In 1848 the British East India Company sent Scottish Botanist and Traveler Robert Fortune to a remote part of China inaccessible to foreigners [Zone of Avoidance] to steal secrets of the tea industry trade [The Great Attractor].

The British certainly understand the importance of a beautifully steeped cup of black tea. Nay, consider a more blanket statement: We humans are serious about our drugs. To wit, in the 1920s, Japanese physicist Torahiko Terada studied the phenomena of a light mist skirting delicately above the surface of a cup of tea like a fog. This phenomena was reconsidered in the 1970s, and only recently saw headway via a study of “Dynamics of microdroplets over the surface of hot water,” submitted to Cornell University Library.

For nearly a century, humans—presumably intelligent ones at that—have devoted time and resources to gazing at the air slightly above the horizon of their daily brew.

But we digress. This was a delicate situation, sending a Scottish man into China and asking that Scottish man to assimilate himself so vigorously that even those looking for Anglo-foreigners would be fooled. One imagines the British East India Company took great care to ensure a variety of precautions were taken.

But the BEIC had different ambitions: Going the route of the 1965 biopic Genghis Khan, and simply dressing Fortune in Mandarin garb and hoping for the best.

Luckily for them, this Great Attractor was incompetently guarded: Fortune was able to waltz through a green tea factory collecting information for England, easing the tight grip of this closed source and ensuring Earl Grey for all at a reasonable price.

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 Lasseter’s Reef

In 1929, Lewis Hubert (Harold Bell) Lasseter announced that he should be given money to rediscover a gold reef [The Great Attractor] he had uncovered in the uncharted desert of central Australia [Zone of Avoidance] despite—like many exalted white men in history—having absolutely no evidence of this fact except for a possibly shape-shifting memory of being there one time.

Luckily for Lasseter: Desperation set in.

The Great Depression hit and Australians wanted metal. Bewilderingly, a privately funded expedition—complete with motorized vehicles, aircrafts, and expedition crew—set off in search of Lasseter’s reef. The expedition was lead by Lasseter himself, a man deadset on withholding the actual location of the gold. Outside of the absence of a reliable map—or any map at all—the project was riddled with complications; the most significant being the slow realization by the expedition crew that Lasseter likely suffered from mental illness. The crew eventually called it quits—after about 50 red flags—and Lasseter found himself wandering the desert, not as a traveling mogul billionaire playboy, but as a lone pilgrim, eventually succumbing to the punishing elements of the environment, returning to the dust that bore him. Dying with him: £50,000, a plane, and the notion that some mysterious reef of gold in the middle of the Australian desert could lay undiscovered for centuries.

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Lewis (also known as Randall Wulff)

Lewis, a conventional Canadian musician with a white Mercedes and a fondness for Christie Brinkley, released two mind-blowing albums [The Great Attractor] L’Amour and Romantic Times in the mid-80s. Record label Light in the Attic re-released these gems of delicate, whispered ballads in 2014. At some point, presumably, someone at the label was like, “Hey, we should find this dude and pay up before he sues us.”

The Zone of Avoidance? Lewis doesn’t give a shit about paper. After two-and-a-half years of searching, Light in the Attic found Wulff in a jaunty all-white ensemble, having a cup of coffee in British Columbia. In a statement released by Light in the Attic about the encounter, they quoted the former-stockbroker as saying, “I’m not looking into coin. I’m not looking into anything. I’m just strumming my guitar.” Which is likely one of the greatest music-related curbs of all time.

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Batman & Robin (1997) and All the King’s Men (2006)

The 2006 film All the King’s Men has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Odd since the cast seems unsinkable, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, and James Gandolfini (who played a character named Tiny). [Great Attractors].

Here’s another interesting fact: the 1997 Batman & Robin also has an 11% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The cast in that film? Also (mostly) great: George Clooney, Uma Thurman, and Michael Gough. [More Great Attractors].

What else do these films have in common? Both were remakes of much superior films released in 1949.

Zone of Avoidance: Mighty Joe Young (52%), The Great Gatsby (48%), and Alice in Wonderland (51%), all films originally released in 1949, that were remade in subsequent years. There’s also Little Women, which is listed as a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, but we’re willing to write that off as a statistical outlier.

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Babylon

The Great Attractor: An ancient city in Mesopotamia. The birthplace of a goddess of sex and love. Ishtar Gate. Fertile plains. Antiquities. Palm trees. The Euphrates River. The Tower of Babel.

Rebuilt by Mr. Zone of Avoidance himself—Saddam Hussein.