cult and paste

be careful where you clique

the jumping frenchmen of maine and the birth of the cubicle

I’m making a differential diagnosis for gait and motor disturbances

i’ve just encountered the jumping frenchmen of maine disorder

It was identified by a New York neurologist in the 1880’s. French Canadian lumberjacks in Moosehead Lake Maine, were exhibiting strange hyper-startle and hyper-suggestibility behaviors.

Stricken individuals obeyed any command given suddenly, even if it means striking a loved one. There have been cases with echolalia, the act of repeating back unfamiliar or foreign phrases uncontrollably and echopraxia, the  imitating of movements from surrounding people.

The more common signs are  jumping, yelling, and hitting. Such episodes have been reported across cultures…

A twenty-seven-year-old man was sitting in a chair holding a knife to cut his tobacco. Suddenly, he was slapped on the shoulder and was told to throw the knife. Immediately, he threw it straight into a beam in the opposite side of the room. The slap and the command were repeated a moment later while he was filling his pipe. Once again, the pipe flew out of his hand on to the grass. Later, he was startled while told to “strike” and he did so immediately on the cheek.

“A sixteen year old boy was standing in the room when he was suddenly startled and told to jump. He jumped at least half a foot from the floor while yelling the command to jump.”


One theory is that it’s Behaviorally entrained. Another is that it’s genetic. But as of yet no conclusive cause has been identified. Another theory (my favorite) is that the constant contact and close quarter circumstances create a peripheral subliminal distraction within one’s range of vision giving rise to an auto-induced hypnotic state.

Cold weather and bunkhouse living arrangements placed the men in close proximity so that as they prepared for the next day’s work, read to relax, wrote letters, or performed any other activity requiring mental investment all the while subliminal distraction continues.

Designing areas where individuals could focus their attention without distraction would later become a critical part of the modern corporate habitat.


The Cubicle was first developed by inventor Robert Propst in 1963 for the Federal Reserve Bank of NYC. The layout was a swastika pattern designed in response to the “increasing amount of information an employee had to analyze, organize, and maintain.” At the time Propst working for the Herman Miller company and his creation was called Action office. Later Propst and others instrumental in the design would go on to criticize the effects of cube farms. The dehumanization of the worker at the expense of planner.

Maybe it’s not all bad. In 2007, Thomas Hine postulated that it was the modern cubicle that actually made it possible for women to move into middle management positions.

Civilized robotic behavior brought to you by the misinterpreted good intentions of creative people. What’s a few jumping frenchmen, given that they just jump and don’t go full blown postal?


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