A Shot of Quarantine

What Are We All Doing
Behind Those Windows?

We’ve seen them all: the outstanding online performances, the eerily empty cities, the constant wailing of sirens. We saw the long food lines and the vigil of families outside hospitals. We didn’t have to but we watched it anyway when a couple broke social distancing and had outdoor sex on a dirty rooftop.
But let’s imagine some of the other things people do mostly behind windows and balconies. But not everything, for St. Fauci’s sake. Just simple queries, like, are they cleaning or having wild dreams? stuffing themselves or Pilate-ing? Gardening naked anyone? Feeling envious of people with nicer, safer masks?
To quarantine and be under lockdown may have now similar meaning but they used to be separate things. Yes, one could be always quarantined for virus exposure, but usually in a medical facility. Astronauts go through an isolated time upon returning from space. And animals still go through a hell of cold cages when plane traveling.
The lockdown is the prison-like part of that compounded meaning. But don’t compare it with the real thing, especially in the U.S., with its largest incarcerated population in the world. If anybody should be let out is them. Now, if someone still doesn’t get it, tell them about prison toilet etiquette. Or how to talk through one.
But either way, we’re in this predicament for an imperative: to stop the spreading that’s killing thousands every day. Humans, we want to get out and away from it all. Beaches? picnics in public parks? public performances? We love them. But to have them reopened now, would reset the high rates of contagion back to January.

TIME MEANT TO WASTE
There are now hundreds of sites with tips about what to do with your time. Play games, they say. Binge on movies and series (but not the news, apparently). Read. Meditate. Do Yoga. Cut your own hair. Mend a sock or ‘try yodeling through an open window’ as the Swiss Embassy in the U.K. just recommended in a list.
People are having wild dreams too and for that, there are already many articles explaining why. We can’t say anything bad about catching up on sleep, so it’s all good. Others are finding lost mementos while cleaning. And there are those who, of course, don’t want and don’t plan to do a damned thing right now. Or ever.
That’s good too. To hell with overachievers who only enjoy breaks if they can squeeze yet another hundred-page long accounting report. Then again, that should be a bother to no one but their mates. Which is another thing being reported often: who are these monsters living here and what did they do with my family?

LOCKING UP MR. HYDE
People do crack up and suddenly turn into beasts. Domestic violence is no fiction and it’s spreading out too. Compared to the evil that humans do to each other, some, er, peculiar habits, or little character flaws, which seem to fester in these times, can be mostly managed. Smoking for instance. Just don’t do it here.
Naturism can’t be considered disturbing anymore. Kudos to a kind of society that doesn’t place a premium on physical beauty even if it doesn’t attract any either. And let’s face, picturing the president naked in the White House is way more offensive. So if you have a garden, by all means, tend to it. Clothing optional.
As for masks, they’re now an essential accessory to go out. Some are even making their own, and it’s all peachy. Even if there’s a little, tiny, itsy bit of envy directed at those who can flaunt (more)
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* Wash Up
* Downtime
* At Bat

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Life Inside

Odd Animals & the House
Cats Who Caught a Virus

Now for something completely different. An unknown number of unknown species go extinct every year but there are still plenty to go gaga about the natural world. A 150ft stringlike creature, likely the longest in the ocean? Check. A bug that smells like spring? Check. A ‘nano’ animal that can survive outer space? Check, again.
But I know what you’re thinking: not, ‘what’s with the siphonophore, the springtail, or the tardigrade. No siree, what you wanna know is what the hell is up with those cats? Indeed, many more odd-looking beings sit out there, either to be found or missed, but we’d go to war to keep our Internet Cats Home Improvement Goals.
‘I-ching,’ for short. You know, the science that studies how cats keep us all under their spell, refuse to do a single thing you ask and are known for always landing on their feet. Who would never be on those homecoming videos where humans play god and are welcomed by their slobberingly loving pets. You may’ve won the war but to your cat, it’s, so what?
Or in Cat World we’re all dogs: we sit mesmerized for hours, startled at times, very afraid in others, but ultimately ready to serve and do whatever may appease them. It rarely does. But even as cats seem brutally aware of our flaws and pointless lives, some humans do live to worship them. Just don’t call them ‘chingers.’
Which brings us to those stringlike, buggy, and piggish-looking creatures. There’s no cult dedicated to them nor they set the standard for coolness. But their very existence shows why humans love felines. Who are not above having dopes like Joe Exotic jumping on their bandwagon but let’s not get into all that crap just yet.

LONGER THAN A BLUE WHALE
The siphonophore lives in deep waters and its relatives have been snaking their way beneath waves for over half a billion years. The specimen captured on camera off Western Australia was a whopping 45m long, which yes, it’s longer (but not as relatable as) the majestic Big Blue. As it turns out, though, neither it needs to be.
For starters, it’s not one but a colony of predators among 175 species. It’s also luminescent and related to one of the oceans’ fiercest, the Portuguese man-of-war. It may look the part but similarities stop there. After all, it’s hard to beat the glamour of a carnivore with a notorious sting and a tentacle stretched back into the Discovery Age.

More U.F.O.-like than medusa, you may bet your goggles nevertheless that the Apulemia uvaria caught on video has its own charms. We just don’t know how do they work, and whether some of its (more)
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* Mutants & Chimaeras
* Tough Crowd
* Suddenly Last Caturday

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Museums of Something Else

Looking for Van Gogh
in a Roomful of Clicks

You’re about to fulfill a lifelong dream: getting up close with your favorite masterpiece. This painting’s haunted your memories for years, and it’s now about to make living in this city all the worthier. But when you’re finally ready for its close up, your reverie suffers a low blow.
Between you and the frame, a phone-picture-taking crowd is busy, turning your dream into a blurry background to their selfies. Miffed, you swear never to come back again. Which brings us to today’s offering: museums are important, but don’t have to suck. Here’s why.
As depositories of humanity’s cultural and artistic achievements, museums have been incomparable. Often the sole local well of knowledge, they anchor communities around a shared past. No wonder they’re also useful for tyrants to stake a claim into the future.
Besides displaying disturbing mementos of our brutal heritage, and the vanquished civilizations we’ve helped destroy, these warehouses of memory and fractured narratives also face crushing competition of the present day’s increasing obsession with accessibility.
Round-the-clock knowledge at one’s fingertips is rendering irrelevant the need for an actual physical place to house art and the past. But the Internet has the potential to turn voyeurism into something intimate and personal, in ways that museums seem to be faltering at.
We’re not ready to give up on them just yet, though; just pointing to alternatives that may enhance their mission. Read and click on the illustrations to open up new possibilities. It may soothe your soul and give you a healthy reason to skip that rude crowd this weekend.

THE MOURNING ART COLLECTION
For a place displaying death-inspiring art objects in its galleries, and housed next to a cemetery, the possibility of sudden demise should be never too far. But since its 1990 inception, the Museum of Mourning Art has thrived, even if it had to auction some of its artifacts to survive.
It sits next to Arlington Cemetery (no, not that Arlington), Philadelphia, and it did have to close briefly, while it sold some items. But unlike its neighbors, it’s bound to come back to life, and in line with Americans’ peculiar taste for anything related to the departed.
Its art focus is distinct from similarly lugubrious institutions such as New Orleans’ Museum of Death, Houston-based National Museum of Funeral History, and New York’s Morbid Anatomy Museum. Step into these places for a glance of what’s literally coming next.

POP-UP FEELINGS & BROKEN HEARTS
For an unfortunately brief time, New York had its throbbing pulse measured by art. The pop-up Museum of Feelings mixed ‘social media and real-time data from local news, weather reports, flight delays’ and even the Stock Exchange, and translated them into colors.
It was the kind of tactile, refreshing experience traditional museums have to avoid these days, lest not give ideas to deranged minds. It’s now limited by the Web, but it still suggests an alternate reality (more)
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Read Also:
* Scary Night
* Broken Hearts

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Mutants & Chimaeras

Three Man-Made Freaks
& One Beauty All Her Own

To be riveting, a view of the future has to be unsettling, unfamiliar, disturbing even. The whole sci-fi genre is built upon fears of the unexpected, the threat of chaos taking over natural order. In fact, it should first get rid of concepts such as natural and order altogether.
It’s a completely different animal when that extends to our world, and it affects, well, animals. Uneasy when it’s warm in winter? check. Nervous with melting glaciers? check. But have you seen a two-headed snake lately? An odd butterfly? What about a human-milk producing goat?
And the worst part of it all is, we did that. Our so proud species, capable of writing symphonies or reaching for the moon, can also act ever so casually towards that same natural world that was around billions of years before us. And treat Earth as our landfill.
It gets personal when we’re talking about living, breathing, beautiful beings, of course. For the record, though, we’re no prudes; nature has been creating oddities since forever, and to consider it ‘gentle’ is a fatal, wishy-washy mistake, often deservedly punishable by death.
But exactly because we claim to be a step higher of the brutal and uncontrollable forces of the wild, it’s also our responsibility to own up our flaws. For every once in a while, the unpredictable tops itself and produces a creature of rare beauty, even if it may frighten us a bit.

NATURE’S SCARY MONSTERS
You may say that all animals are routinely harmed in ways our civilization considers acceptable: though the condition that produces a two-face specimen has been around since ancient times, but it seems to be increasingly linked to chemical pollution. The odd butterflies were found around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plants. And genetic engineering is behind the goats with human milk.
Scary, isn’t it? What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder, wrote Aldous Huxley in his 1931 nightmarish, but no longer that far from the present, view of the future. Brave New World may have anticipated out thirst for cellphones, and social media, and gadgets to tell us what to do next, even without mentioning it. Our very best wishes usually lead us to committed misguided deeds.

TRANSGENIC SEEDS & GOATS
Surviving on this planet have been always complex, but for as long as natural resources seemed unlimited, we’ve managed it. We’re too many now, though, and such a demographics explosion is virtually intractable. Thus at times, we cheat a bit, just to catch our breath.
Consider hunger: we produce more food than ever before, and yet, many still go to sleep hungry or die of starvation. Science does its part the only way it knows: by trial and painstakingly error, experimenting with this and attempting to use that. But since food is also a big, multi-billion business, so not every side is playing by the rules.
It’s in this vacuum that corporations seize research, and rush to market unproven technologies. After all, there are profits to be made. Genetic manipulation may hold the key to create super crops, able (more)
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* Finger Picking
* Nuking the Future
* X-Rated Fruit

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For Giving

10 Gifts Shy
Of a Big List

Here’s our much anticipated – by no one – annually compiled, peculiarly picked, and praised often, End of the Year List. A favorite three-years-in-a-row (not really), it’s for someone with a particular set of tastes – or a Web search engine – such as yourself.
From family fare or affair, to smart-ass kids, for bored adults, and to friends or foes, there’s not nearly a thing for everyone. But the best present will be the – uninsured – reaction, or face, the gifted may express at the gifter, or the grifter.
Full disclosure: lists are atrocious. Holidays too, though one mellows about them before going mad. But giving gifts is nice, people like it. Receiving? not so much. Don’t dare mentioning landfills are on their way out, not without looking like one.
Even for the obscenely wealthy, it can a be a chore, but to hell with the lot of them. The poor always finds ways to give some, just not in cash; the other lot has all of it. Either way, to gift loved ones can be fun. And a pain in the butt.
Full disclosure too: no one sent these to the mailbox downstairs, and to some of us, shopping is hideous, no matter how much is the discount coupon. None will ever touch our open hands – or carbon footprint. It’s all for a laugh or chuckle, no adds or sponsors.
FOR FAMILY & FAKE COUNTRY
Nothing says family like an old-fashioned, vicious card game. Or insulting stickers, to have a saying in the nasty show that follows. Load your stuffings with Stick to the Man decals, or Cards Against Humanity. Hear your phone suddenly stop ringing.
Or you’d rather go higher, and choose instead some choice tree ornaments. Those marking that day when a giant octopus swallowed whole the Staten Island Ferry, in the New York Harbor, are great conversation topics. Oh, you can’t remember that tragedy? That’s odd.
Fear not: Playboy Trump’s Make America Great Again for White Folks With Guns is the perfect alternative to an intelligent conversation about the Long-Playing’s cover model. Yup, time to replay, Go Tell it On Fox News. And have some smocking.

FOR THE SCREEN & ADDERALL CROWD
Children are good (arguably). Bundles of joy, or electroshocks to the privates of single people, and psychopaths. Yours, of course, are adorable, but the miniature kind, you know, wee human parrots, silver spoon in the mouth, can all beat it, pardon the Newyorkism.
We’re all biased, though, to the earnest kind, inquiring little big minds, asking questions but having the sense of shutting up in time. For them, the Book of Religions. It’s like a secular tour through naves and catacombs of the earliest form of mass opioid.
In fact, they’ll learn so much, they’d want to create their own, but discourage them immediately. Threaten to place the chainsaw by the tree side; it should do it. Maybe. Or let them be filthy rich pastors, and bad mouth them on social media. Good parenting.
FOR THE HALF-BED PARENT SET
There’s a progression on this section. Start by the Coloring Books for Spicy Adults, a 50s-ish set of ‘ironic’ drawings, inviting you to spill some color on lifeless silhouettes. Hey, when was the last time you were asked to paint the town red?
For the grey hair confident, get the conversation going when the gifted unwraps that 55-Gallon Personal Lube. Rehearse some best-practices about consenting adults having mature exchanges, and go for broke: suggest a party when everyone is doused with it. Get lucky.
For the truly Breaking Bad Series-afficionado, few things spell, I’m ready, than the miniature Meth-Preparing, Lab-Van, Incense Holder. Get those masks going and, while the fumes fill the room, stream the episode when they cook it in their underwear.
FOR FRIENDS WITH FRIDGE BENEFITS
The Instant Underwear is the default Plan B for those already acquainted with Depends. Now it’s your chance to show that you care about your old sofa, just as talk veers towards (more)
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* Present Time
* The Gifter’s Referral
* Crappy Holidays

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The Turkey Brief

Five Easy Sides
for Thanksgiving

How come America’s most beloved holiday became such a minefield of discord and intra-family carnage? No idea. But there’re still ways to prevent that carved bird from becoming airborne, thrown across the dinner table by a disaffected relative.
Thanksgiving did become synonym to a hard time to be had by all. It now even includes its own set of preppy tips, so to avoid confrontations and visits to the E.R. They vary but have one topic in common: do not talk about politics. Or religion. Or sex. Or Turkey.
Or something else, for often it’s the way the conversation is conducted, never mind its content, what may lead to the breakup of many a relationship. Of course, foul language and inappropriate use of utensils can also be accountable for spilled blood.
Whether on the account of a heated exchange over a swampy-orange stink bomb set off in DC two years ago, particularly pungent today, or for smearing our culinary and/or dietary whims on everybody’s faces, things have a way to heat up like ovens on Thursdays like these.
Tales of communal pilgrims are no longer the adult option; we’ve already ruined this holiday. But fact is, Thanksgiving‘s the utmost family holiday in the U.S., screams and sugar rushes et al. Taken as such, it’s not that we’re navigating unfamiliar territory here. Have a Roving One.

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* No, Thanks
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey

Two Thursday Tails


It’s a sudden moment, that when chronology acquires relevance. When it’s evident that there are less days ahead than those already lived. So we said goodbye and I wondered if it was the last time, or just like the summer, there’d be more like it. There will, but will we still be around?
As I dove into the station, to catch the downtown-bound to my life, I wondered if there’d be another train to lead us back to this moment, when we were together and things felt alright. Or like lives already spent, the time we had is the only time we’ll have for keepsake?
If that’s so, did we really took it all in, and got to the bottom of each feeling, and sucked every last juicy drop of our shared experience as much as we possibly could? Or rather, should we feel now fulfilled that we did what anyone probably would?
It’s very likely that I’ll find myself back at that corner of 8th Ave, thinking about that night we promised we’d always be there for each other, no matter what, even if no one should promise that, even if we didn’t actually utter any vow that we’d at least try it.
And it’s also possible that such a sharp as nails moment will no longer have its place. We may embrace again, sooner than even we’d hoped, faster than the feeling of loss had the chance to sink in. Given the time that has already passed, it’s unlikely, though. And yet, one wonders.

I know that this little movie will be playing in a loop for as long as my eyes will be able to open, and even if they won’t. And every time some detail of the moment will be missed, another will be incorporated to flesh out the bone dry part where memory keeps losing its grip.
Just like that perfect line we come up with while falling asleep, a sentence so bright and round and expressive to challenge our will to rest, for after all, it’s almost dawn and we haven’t really bat eyelids for more than a wink and there’s a full work day ahead and all that.
Or when, on the other bank of the night river, we’re waking up and shreds of an engaging dream still linger but inexorably fade, as we fight hard to keep it, as if slumber could be caught like a fish in the ocean. We fight but always lose and forget most of it. And what we commit to paper is a far cry from the relevance the dream seemed to carry.

We run with this mound of fine sand in our hands, trying to protect it so to form whatever vision we’d had at the shore. But it keeps sipping through our fingers, and dissipates like images dawn evokes, till there’s no speck left to build our castle. There’s no turning back for more; the moment, as its memory, no longer makes sense to the awaken mind.
Did we lived through it all as fully and deep as we should’ve? Or we’re bound to grieve over what it’s been wasted and starved from lack of our attention and care? Will we be forever thrown on this loop of flawed recollections, missing yet another link, hour after hour, moment upon moment, at every turn played over and again on our brains?
Will we see each other one more time? Should we wonder – as I do – whether we’re even entitled, by love forsaken right, to demand a recount, and have another shot, and see one last day rise by each other’s side? I sure hope we would, despite all other things that I also hope for, already knowing that I’m just fooling myself once more.
What was, has already been, I know, there are no reruns, for sure. We can’t go back in time beyond memory and remembrance. We may trust we did the best we could, knowing that we actually didn’t. Still, we’ve got to live with it, or forget all about it, but who really does that?
There, I did get up and screwed up my sleep, and will probably pay dearly for it, and for what? It’s not nearly as inspiring as it sounded back when I was ready to fall asleep. It didn’t dissolve my doubts or soothed my sense of loss. It didn’t even make me feel as if it was all worthwhile. Sleep would’ve definitely been more meaningful.
Still, will there be another time?

People who never turn anything off, including themselves, may not get it, but there’s such thing as doing nothing. In fact, if ‘power naps’ reset the brain and reboot entire systems within our body, then dropping it all and just staring at a wall should do wonders for anyone. Not us, though; we haven’t got the time. Maybe tomorrow.
It’d help if we could freeze the city over for one night, and walk the empty streets as if the sole survivors of a cataclysmic event. Precious moments of eerie stillness, with not a soul on sight and the hum of urban machines quieted down. Then again, we’d better watch out, lest not end up as another slaughtered stats in the evening news.
Even those who write best-sellers about the need to periodically drop out, when cameras and mikes are covered up, may not always be so pious on turning off their own phones. It’s the culture, we say, over the sounded-off broadcasts another boorish presidential statement. He’s like a sledge-hammer drill: pure atrocious noise.
Yet, there’s poetry in catching the automated world existing by itself, while its switch can still be turned off. When lights turn to green and there’s no car in a hurry to go anywhere. Being sleepy and bored used to be synonyms to lazy and spoiled, but new research sees them as crucial precondition to genius. Doing anything tonight?
Dreams often source new ideas, and may pop up right after we open up our eyes, from a minutes-long slumber. And the extreme restless from having nothing else to do has proven to be grounds to launching many a revolutionary take on the very concept of creating something out of thin air. Then again, we may always roll over and, well, doze off.

So what’s wrong with that? Ok, a lot, but also nothing too. These two extremes have argued from time immemorial and the likely reason why advocates for a 24/7 moto perpetuo seem to be winning is because most haven’t slept well in centuries. Again, the very idea of having a 24/7 society was probably dreamed by someone who’d just woken up.
I once went back to city I’d lived for years, without telling anyone. I’ve checked in at a lousy motel (another old wish) and wandered around as if it were my first time. It was exhilarating. I walked and walked as if wearing a mask, but looking over my shoulder Continue reading

Stanley Cubic

Kubrick, Who’d Have Been 90 & the   
Odyssey to a Future That Never Was

A New Yorker who spent most of his life in the U.K., Stanley Kubrick had been an accomplished photojournalist before his movie career as a director took off. His 1946 series for Look magazine, Life and Love on the New York City Subway, displays the same keen eye and compositional style that would mark his filmography later on.
In just a few years, the man who would say at one point that ‘the most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile, but that it is indifferent.’ went on to become anything but, with a string of now classics, such as Path of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, 2001, A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, to name a few.
Today, when he would’ve become 90, Stanley Kubrick is intrinsically connected with the future that he realized with his movies, more than anything he’s ever envisioned. And that’s no small feat for such an overachiever. Even as he just missed the dawn of the iconographic year that named his sci-fi masterpiece, much of what he and Arthur C. Clarke anticipated is finally rising on the horizon of our times.
Not that we should feel too nostalgic about the future that could’ve been, with its interstellar travel, and dreams of finally understanding our evolutionary connection with the ‘indifferent’ universe surrounding us. We’re actually lucky that another one of his disturbing dystopias of what may lay ahead, A Clockwork Orange, based on an Anthony Burgess book, hasn’t quite materialized. Yet.
Before going back to those pictures of a post-war Manhattan, and to a few interesting audio and visual tchotchkes about Kubrick we’ve found on the Internet, let’s do him some justice. For even at the heart of his enormously challenging techno-futuristic visual parables, there was his deeply humanistic option for a different construct of our own fate.
From his anti-war trilogy of sorts, Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, and Full Metal Jacket, to his portraits of individuals at odds with an all too powerful system, either stoically like Spartacus, or as a crook, like Barry Lyndon, or even one succumbing to his own creeping madness, as in Stephen King’s The Shinning, Kubrick remained faithful to his non-religious but highly moral Jewish working class roots.

RIDING THE UNDERGROUND
The Museum of the City of New York has some 40 thousand negatives that the young photographer took of Manhattan in the 1940s. Some of his pictures are so cleared eye they could’ve been taken now. Subway riders fast asleep, hanging from the overhead bars, or with their faces buried in newspapers. Yes, you could make that iPhones, but the underlying content would be the same.
Calling him Stan Kubrick, the Camera Quiz Kid, Mildred Stagg wrote in 1948 about ‘the boy who said that had turned nineteen a week ago, and has been a staff photographer for Look magazines since age seventeen.’ And registered the kid’s own impressions about (more)
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* The Shinning
* Polly & Meow
* Checking In
* Strange Love

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Museums of Something Else

Looking for Van Gogh
in a Roomful of Clicks

You’re about to fulfill a lifelong dream: getting up close with your favorite masterpiece. This painting’s haunted your memories for years, and it’s now about to make living in this city all the worthier. But when you’re finally ready for its close up, your reverie suffers a low blow.
Between you and the frame, a phone-picture-taking crowd is busy, turning your dream into a blurry background to their selfies. Miffed, you swear never to come back again. Which brings us to today’s offering: museums are important, but don’t have to suck. Here’s why.
As depositories of humanity’s cultural and artistic achievements, museums have been incomparable. Often the sole local well of knowledge, they anchor communities around a shared past. No wonder they’re also useful for tyrants to stake a claim into the future.
Besides displaying disturbing mementos of our brutal heritage, and the vanquished civilizations we’ve helped destroy, these warehouses of memory and fractured narratives also face crushing competition of the present day’s increasing obsession with accessibility.
Round-the-clock knowledge at one’s fingertips is rendering irrelevant the need for an actual physical place to house art and the past. But the Internet has potential to turn voyeurism into something intimate and personal, in ways that museums seem to be faltering at.
We’re not ready to give up on them just yet, though; just pointing to alternatives that may enhance their mission. Read and click on the illustrations to open up new possibilities. It may sooth your soul and give you a healthy reason to skip that rude crowd this weekend.

THE MOURNING ART COLLECTION
For a place displaying death-inspiring art objects in its galleries, and housed next to a cemetery, the possibility of sudden demise should be never too far. But since its 1990 inception, the Museum of Mourning Art has thrived, even if it had to auction some of its artifacts to survive.
It sits next to Arlington Cemetery (no, not that Arlington), Philadelphia, and it did have to close briefly, while it sold some items. But unlike its neighbors, it’s bound to come back to life, and in line with Americans’ peculiar taste for anything related to the departed.
Its art focus is distinct from similarly lugubrious institutions such as New Orleans’ Museum of Death, Houston-based National Museum of Funeral History, and New York’s Morbid Anatomy Museum. Step into these places for a glance of what’s literally coming next.

POP-UP FEELINGS & BROKEN HEARTS
For an unfortunately brief time, New York had its throbbing pulse measured by art. The pop up Museum of Feelings mixed ‘social media and real-time data from local news, weather reports, flight delays’ and even the Stock Exchange, and translated them into colors.
It was the kind of tactile, refreshing experience traditional museums have to avoid these days, lest not give ideas to deranged minds. It’s now limited by the Web, but it still suggests an alternate reality (more)
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Read Also:
* Scary Night
* Broken Hearts

Continue reading

Final Cut

Writing About the Departed With
Art (or Sending Them Off to Hell)

Writing one’s own obituary is almost as hard as accepting compliments. Or stopping self-congratulating. Some do it for fun, but writers have turned them into an art form. A tough editorial beat, they may actually outlast both newspapers and print journalists. For now, though, every media vehicle has a file stuffed with celebrity obituaries. Just in case.
summation of somebody’s life, they’re far from the niceties-ridden cliches of yesteryear – or when penned by family and friends. Still, some are not above using them to settle scores with the deceased, as it happened to Popeye, June, and Kathleen. Not that they’d care.
Many would be surprised that the written take on the classic eulogy, resembles an actual tombstone: title, brief vital info, and epitaph, all condensed between a few hundred to a thousand words, give or take the departed’s station in life. ‘A tight little coil of biography,’ as Marilyn Johnson put it to the NYTimes, when she published Dead Beat in 2006.
‘I try to get into the head of the person,’ says Economist’s Ann Wroe, about writing Prince‘s obituary. Her paper was a late comer to death notices, but for over a century, they’ve been a distinct feature of the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and the Times. The genre did experience a renaissance of sorts, though, in the early 80s, according to Johnson.

Jim Nicholson, of the Philadelphia Daily News, is often cited as making an imprint on obituary writing style. He did find ways to give a patina of relevance to the life of even the most obscure stiff, by adding unusual details, dug out of interviews, and without resorting to redundant figures of speech or phony superlatives.
But no one could’ve devised what’s now a trend: the final tirade, designed to highlight not virtues but cruel flaws and unforgivable slights that the now – good riddance! – dead supposedly imposed onto the writers. Truthful or spiteful, it’s catching on and there’s no telling when it’ll, well, die out. Thus, mind your ways, or it may happen to you too.

HURRAY, HORSE’S ASS POPEYE IS DEAD
Leslie Ray ‘Popeye’ Charping, 74, died Jan. 30, in Houston, Texas, after battling cancer for years. A regular, nice obituary will go on, mentioning his good deeds, and loved ones he left behind. But Shiela Smith and Leslie Roy Charping, his two children, would have none of that.
In their brutal eulogy, they wrote that ‘Popeye’ lived 29 years ‘more than he deserved,’ and listed ‘being abusive to his family, and expediting trips to heaven for the beloved family pets,’ among his hobbies. Not ones to find anything nice to say about him, his kin added a few more choice ‘qualities’ of his.
As ‘he did not contribute to society’ and ‘possessed no redeeming qualities,’ lovely Shiela and Roy chose neither to hold any service nor ‘prayers for his eternal peace,’ in lieu of the lack of apologies ‘to the family he tortured.’ ‘Leslie’s passing proves that evil does in fact die.’

NO KIND WORDS OR DEEDS FROM JUNE
Cornelia June Rogers Miller, 86, died Feb. 23, in Gainesville, Fla, hardly knowing that her death was not going to be missed, at least for one of her daughters. Posted anonymously four months later, her obituary went viral, raising charges of plagio, and causing a bitter sibling ruckus.
‘Drugs were a major love in her life as June had no hobbies, made no contribution to society (see a pattern?) and rarely shared (more)
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* A Life, Abridged
* Before Afterlife
* Ways to Go

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Felicide & Stuffed Shoes

Cat Murderer on the Loose
& the Beach of Lost Lone Feet

There are many modalities for the act of killing. Psychopaths do it with method. Still, we’re not often jolted by a new, or at least, rare kind of murder, involving the dismemberment of cats and feet. Welcome to the grimmest post we’ve been forced to write in a long while.
For 11 years, disembodied feet have been turning out on a Canadian beach. The 14th of them showed up last week. Meanwhile, since 2014, some 450 cats have been found dead and dismembered in the U.K. The cliche ‘police has no clues’ applies to both. And so does sheer fear.
It’s another cliche to say that people are fascinated with serial killers, but that may not be completely true. No more than being fixated on spinning wheels, or joining cults: everybody knows that the outcome is senseless and always the same, but that never stopped anyone from doing something stupid.
What we know is that no one should be afraid of living because the world is fraught with danger. That being said, cruelty, ghastly acts of pure evil even the most pious among us has thought of committing once or twice, is in fact part of human nature. And there’s been always many who do commit them.
Also intrinsic of being a person is the deep-seated desire to exact revenge on those who brutalize the vulnerable. Tread with caution, though. While tyrants and bullies thrive on just such a currency, the incautious is usually betrayed by it, and winds up just as abhorrent as the subject of his or her quest.

THE BEST FOOT FORWARD WAS LEFT BEHIND
A girl found the first one in 2007, at the shore of Jedediah Island, in British Columbia: a man’s size 12 right foot Adidas sneaker. Luckily to her family and friends, they were spared the gore picture she’d have probably sent them, for the iPhone had been launched only a few months before.
Linked to a depressed man who’d disappeared, the macabre found did not suggest that it was the handiwork of a psycho. But after a few of them, all wearing either running shoes or hiking boots, the evidence is overwhelming. Either that or there’s a copycat or two on the prowl.
For those who knew the unfortunate Salish Sea victims, all that’s left is the depth of an unsolved mystery, and everybody else’s morbid curiosity. As for whoever is still thinking about revenge, well, no human has had seven pair of feet to be guillotined, so that should settle it.

HUNDREDS OF MISSING HEADS & TAILS
What’s known as the Croydon Cat Killer – why there’s always a catchy name for every gruesome deed? – seems now to operate all over England. Although the specifics of his or her signature style of killing makes it hard to have another monster imitating it, the possibility can’t be discarded yet.
It’s also hard to imagine someone with such a reserve of raw hate, to systematically lure an animal to slaughter it without mercy. Unless, of course, one thinks about the meat industry and what it does (more)
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Heavenly Palace


As Tiangong Crashes Down,
Star Dreams Remain Aloft

Has the world gone mad? A camelback rider could’ve said that about the Sphinx in 2550, then under construction. And so could a tourist during the rare pink snowstorm that blanketed Europe the other week. Some may say it about the Chinese space station’s plunge into Earth.
It’s reassuring to see that reality can still top whatever buffoonery the orange rerun of Mr. T. may come up with. What? NASA is inviting people to add their name to the cargo of that soon-to-be launched sun probe? Well, nature has a couple of penguins taking selfies for you.
Not all is fun and cookies however, in the realm of the bizarre and out of whack. Like some nut, high on proving that god existed, who crashed her car on a pole on purpose, with her two kids strapped in the back seat. They all lived but god’d better not help her get back the children.
Or a guy who ran the cops to the ground, and beat a record that shall not speak its name (or get on the Guinness Book): he spent 47 days without going to the bathroom. They wanted to recover some drugs they say he’d swallowed, but after watching him on the throne for six weeks straight, they couldn’t take it anymore and just gave up.
Guess what science came up with, just so we’re clear we have no idea what we carry around in our bowels? Not one but two unknown human organs in less than a year: the mesentery and the interstitium. They’re with us since our bodies got the latest upgrade, circa 30,000 years ago, among the biggest organs in the body. But only now got their own billing.

WE WILL BE LIVING AMONG STARS
The man sitting on the White House toilet, tweeting, is quickly running out of tricks to cover up his con, but life, in the words of that great Jurassic Park philosopher, will always find fresh ways to shock and awe us. Even when it takes, say, a couple of thousand years. Or we’re unaware of its wonders.
Shorter and much more recent is our history building space stations. Since way before the Skylab ended six years of watching over us and precipitously rained in pieces over the Australian town of Esperance, of all places, in 1979, we’ve been trying to stay aloft each time longer.
Mir, which lasted 15 years and managed to survive the breakup of the Soviet Union, before breaking up itself and falling back to Earth in 2001, upped the ante. And the beloved International Space Station, the current title holder that completes 20 years in orbit this November, is still sitting pretty on the night sky.

THE FALLING BROKENDOWN PALACE
Do not blame the Chinese for trying. Here’s a land where the impossible takes place everyday. For millennia. From building a quasi-replica of Paris to having a number of metropolises sitting on empty, awaiting its much slowed down population growth, China gets it. But Tiangong 1, its first space station, is coming back to Earth.
Where? No one knows. The prototype was not supposed to last pass the two-year mark, in 2013, anyway. These things cost a lot to maintain. They say the next one will be bigger and better than this small but highly-sophisticated space bus. Still, a refrigerator-sized leftover chunk may surviving reentry. So look out.
Even if what goes up has to come down, eventually, whatever happens above has been considerably better, and nobler, that what’s going on down here. For to keep people up there takes our best and the absolutely limit of our capacity as living beings. Astronauts make us proud.

CHERISH THE FRESH & THE UNEXPECTED
Yes, the world has gone completely insane. But just as it’s crucial to know all about thorns, let’s not forget to caress the petals. The fiery universe, or universes, are expanding to the speed of life, but we’ve been given a bubble to breathe in and grow. We’re the guardians of the guardians that protect us.
We’re not excelling at it, that’s for sure. But let’s not confuse (more)
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* Space Droppings
* Ungrounded
* Meanwhile, Up There

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Super Snitching

Daily Planet Defends
Legendary Reporter

A tweet of artist Daniel Picard with a photo that supposedly shows Batman as the author of the graffiti that accused the reporter Clark Kent of being Superman, unwittingly made Perry White, the Daily Planet’s Chief Editor, the main news of his own newspaper this week. The shy but well regarded Kent is a longtime staff writer at the Planet.
The graffiti showed up on several Metropolis buildings two days ago, and began trending on social media. Both Kent and Superman were advised not to speak publicly about the matter, according to sources. But scrutiny by the city’s press corps and late-night chatter on talk shows threatened Perry’s own position at the Planet.
In an official note, he called the rumor ‘fake news.’ However, the stunning picture of Batman in the very act of scrawling the message put pressure on the Planet‘s editorial board. Hundreds of commentaries and posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, are questioning the authenticity of the photo, and Picard is yet to explain its provenance. Some posters are accusing Perry of having hired the artist to ‘stage’ the picture and embarrass Batman.
Gotham Gazette, main paper of Batman’s city, also got dragged into the controversy, but hasn’t yet published anything about the matter on its pages. According to Perry, the rumor is ‘irresponsible,’ and represents a ‘threat to the security of citizens of Metropolis.’ The Planet ‘makes itself available’ to Commissioner James Gordon, the city’s chief of police, to help in the investigations, the note concludes.
The Twitter picture, which is being examined for possible manipulation by police forensics experts, shows a high level of technical precision, usually not accessible to anyone outside official minting agencies and law enforcement. A parallel investigation is also being launched to find out the identity of its author, since Picard doesn’t sign it on his tweet.
Rivalry between Superman and Batman already sowed tensions among officials of both Metropolis and Gotham City, and in at least one occasion, caused a major conflict of residents of the two cities. In 1978, during an Independence Day parade, citizens got into a massive public brawl, that resulted in two casualties and dozens of injuries. Since then, the superheroes have avoided appearing together in public.
Periodically, rumors surface about the civilian identity of the two most popular American heroes, and the names of Kent, for the Man of Steel  – a native of the planet Krypton –  and Bruce Wayne, a wealthy Gotham philanthropist, for the Cape Crusader, are often mentioned. Even as no one has proven it, there’s consensus that law enforcement and official authorities are aware of their secret identities.
News about this issue will be published as soon as it becomes available.

(*) Exclusive coverage Colltales.
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© Photos by Daniel Picard. All rights reserved.

The Space in Between

Silica, New York Hacks
& How to Sell Your Soul

Here’s for holding more than one thought at the time. It’s easy to overlook the many worlds one goes through, and ignores, in the course of a day. Or curses we allow ourselves to be trapped. But fear not: others have been there and escaped. All it takes is an unbiased focus.
It’s hard to incorporate certain words into conversation, such as silica, let alone to add tips on how to make the best out of it. Or hacks to suggest out-of-towners. And while at it, souls be damned, but why not get the most out of a good, old-fashioned blood pact with the devil?
It’s all in a New York minute, as they used to say when a movie followed news at 11. One would need change to make a phonecall, and a camera to take a picture. In those deceivingly quaint times, time itself seemed to last longer. But if you could get a glimpse of the past as it really happened, you’d catch everybody running.
The years when one has no concept of how things even worked before their era end when they first get fired from a job. Or step onto the spilled contents of someone else’s stomach. When you realize it can happen to you too, but at least, you’re not the only one. Granted, it’s as twisted a consolation as sex before breaking up.
Or when one stops thinking about sex. For life really starts once you get it where it comes from. But it’s all so brief; linger much, and you’re already on the other side, that river has passed you by. But while fools dwell on counting waves, the quick sells a self-help kit. Hence, the quirks, hints, and multiple vices of living in the big city.

MULTI-USES FOR A LITTLE PACKAGE
Sometimes one can’t avoid using one of those detestable buzzwords like iconic, or hacking. But if there’s anything that gets very close to both is those little silica bags that come inside a new shoebox or latest gadget. You’d think they’re poisonous but you’d be dead wrong.
What they are is stuff that clogs our landfills. Good thing then that you can use them for drying you phone, after fishing it out of the toilet bowl. Or stick them into your smelly luggage (please, don’t use the same ones). They’re handy for dissipating fog too, but you’re not crazy of visiting us during winter, are you?
Silica is also good at preserving old photos. Chances are, though, your favorites are already on the cloud, and the old ones got trashed by your ex. In any case, be creative and use those bags (more)
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* Is It Raining Yet?
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A Year to Subtract

The Banned, the New & the
Obscene, Plus Satan Tweets

On the Chinese calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog, which is but another of many ironies we hadn’t really asked for. For there’s no doubt to whom this one’s been gone to. Yet, throughout its mostly painful months, we came through with another appreciation. For the trivial.
Whether for better, worse, or neither the case, is up in the air. Trump’s Orwellian ban on words, a new organ and continent, things we’ve got stuck inside, plus a Tweeter account wittier than the president’s, 2017 had us all gagging. But it could be even worse. Maybe.
Like this just in, breaking news: by closing time, we still haven’t heard from Mary Lee, the East Coast GPS tag-wearing, 16-foot shark, we grew fond of following. She’s missing and our hearts are skipping beats; knowing she was out there (without us) gave us so much solace. Please call home, proud Mary.

Speaking of the Orange-in-Chief, he’s beaten and abused us the whole year, and we ducked and despaired. But while he’s taken credit for the very air we breathe, the puppeteers behind him looked all familiar: they’re doing their usual worst, but, let’s not be coy about it, we know where they all live.
Just saying, not holding our breath about it, as our old Nanny from Kansas used to say. But as we prepare our hour of reckoning, we may count blessings for not having lost our heads, for we’ll be needing them when our ship arrives. By then, hopefully the New Year won’t keep going K-9 on us.

THESE WORDS SHALL NOT BE UTTERED
There hasn’t been precedent of a U.S. presidency being so often compared to 1984, the nightmarish dystopia George Orwell envisioned in his 1948 book, even discounting party-biased assumptions. But a recent Trump administration brief to the country’s top health agency seems to confirm people’s fears.
The words ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus,’ ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based,’ are for now on forbidden to be used by the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, government officials told the agency. Does that imply that, with the new order, you’d better watch what you say?
Enough to send chills down anyone’s spine, isn’t it? Yet, despite such blatant totalitarian ‘edit,’ which follows the redacting of ‘climate change’ from government environmental sites, many are not convinced (more)
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No, Thanks


Uh-Oh. I Think I’ve Burned
the Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

Too late to start a new one now. I thought I’d followed the directions of the recipe. Taste is what matters, right? Not really. It looks good in the picture but the real thing is considerably darker. What a fiasco. I should’ve known better but not even a Beatles song will help me now.
I’ll tell them it fell on the floor. No, gas power was shut off on my block. Maybe I’ll Trump them: ‘I never said I was bringing a pie.’ I could pick one up at the corner deli but what if they’re all gone? No, I’ll say I gave it away to a Soup Kitchen. That’ll make me look real good.
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Punctuation Wars

The Comma World of
Grammar Vigilantes

‘Language is a source of misunderstandings,’ wrote Antoine Saint-Exupéry. He’d surely have elaborated it further to indict the written word too, but probably wanted to keep the sentence short. Knowing the risks helped him avoid mix-ups by a discriminating use of punctuation.
Many a wrong diacritic, though, fell an incautious scribe. Among them, behold the common comma, tricky hook known to trip phrase and auteur alike. Lives and reputations have been ruined by its misuse, and to misjudge the pause literally sucks the air out of the communication.
Isn’t it why they’re often referred to as accidents? Don’t dare tell that to a philologist, who’d be capable of stuffing your pretty face with quotation marks so thick, soon you’d be spitting your own full stops to the matter. And you thought you English teacher was mean.
Speaking of which, native English-speakers tend to look down on accents used in the most languages, as unnecessary pomposity. They don’t know how easy they have it. Those marks are in fact as vital to meaning as words themselves, and you may forget to use them properly at your own risk.
And unless you want to get into a fistfight, it’s also advisable to never, ever, say to a grammarian that punctuation need not to apply to emailing, texting, and/or tweeting. As Michael Skapinker put it, in one of his FT columns, social media and short messages do not protect us from misunderstandings.
SPLICE, YOU COMMA CHAMELEON
He was referring to a recent Maine court case worth thousands of dollars, won due to good comma placement. For often, you may think that being tired, frustrated, slightly drunk and ready to hit the sack, excuse you from adding a fifth comma, just before the ‘and.’ Don’t, we beg you.
Let’s be forgiven only once about this, two full sentences shouldn’t be separated by just a comma, as in this case. There’s simply not enough pause, critics of the Splice comma say. But on the prior graph, you’d be in Oxford comma jurisdiction, as the lack of that fifth messes all up the meaning.
It’s all a tad less than thrilling, you’d say, lacking fun and games quality, until somebody sues, that is. For ages, (more)
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* What’s the Point
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Here Comes the Monsoon

Hands for Venice, Early
Cicadas & a Flooded Vault

To some, you haven’t lived if you haven’t fallen in love. Or planted a tree. To write a book or have a child, all give us meaning, and reasons to be remembered. Yet to others, pain is life’s truly master and nothing turns you into one faster than a leak dripping on your bed.
Water’s tomorrow’s gold. Without it, there’s no life. Too much of it, and billions lose their roof. As glaciers melt, floods dictate survival. Thus, Venice’s a sinking treasury, cicadas are coming out early, and an Arctic seed vault, our future food insurance, is not ready for doomsday.
‘There occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune, all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.’ The 360 B.C.E. retelling by Plato on an earlier account, still haunt us, even as it’s most likely fictional.
It’s a tale about an once proud civilization doomed by the power of natural forces and succumbing entirely into a watery grave. It can be argued that it’s happening all over again in a larger scale, and that natural power this time has been unleashed not by fate but by the human oversized collective ego.
More recent and certifiably historical catastrophes have happened ever since, as when Pompeii and Herculano were lost to the not so sudden fury of the Vesuvius. The lesson is a recurrent one: force the hands of Earth and she’ll do as it has for millennia. Some see in the mutating climate a harbinger of yet another planetary cleansing.
ALL HANDS ON DECK
Speaking of which, Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn prepared a surprise for the 2017 Venice Art Biennale. Support, the two giant hands that emerge from one of the canals of the legendary city on the lagoon, is a stunning statement about global warming. And its striking visual impact leaves no doubt about the power of art promoting awareness.
Among the five or 10 most distinctive cities in the world, Venice is obviously the most vulnerable to rising sea waters. Even as the rapidly eroding coastal lines of Rio or New York, Sydney or Tokyo, place them equally on the crosshairs of a dramatic change in global temperatures, if Venice sinks, so does its irreplaceable architecture and art.
Despite a perennially complicated relationship with its environment, it has overcome centuries of political turmoil and Italy’s rising (more)
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* Sunken Past
* In Hot Water Continue reading

Time Off

When Calls Drop
& Streets Go Quiet

People who never turn anything off, including themselves, may not understand, but there is such thing as doing nothing. In fact, if so-called power naps reset the brain, then dropping everything and just staring at a wall could do wonders to anyone. Not us, though; no time. Check back tomorrow, say after 5:30pm?
It’d help if we could freeze the city over and walk the empty streets as if survivors of a cataclysmic event. Such moments of eerie stillness, with not a soul on sight and the hum of urban machines quieted down, are still possible. Just don’t be long or you may turn into a slaughtered lamb on the nightly news. You know, evil loves shadows.
We suspect that even authors of best sellers about the virtues of dropping out have a hard time turning off their own phones. For when computer cameras and mikes are covered up, we may still carry on, afraid we’re missing out on something on Facebook. Thus our every second is filled with white noise.
Yet, there’s so much poetry in catching the automated world existing by itself, while its switch can still be turned off. Like when lights turn green and there’s no car in a hurry to go anywhere. Being sleepy and bored used to be equated to being lazy and spoiled, but new research changed all that. They are now deemed essential to genius.

TURN ON, DROP OUT, TUNE IN
Dreams are often a source for original ideas, popping up right after we open up our eyes from a minutes-long slumber. And the restlessness of having nothing to do has launched many a revolutionary take on the very concept of creating something out of thin air. Or we may always choose to just roll over and, well, nap.
Sides have argued over this since forever, and the likely reason we’re now convinced that we need to be on 24/7 may be because one of them hasn’t slept a wink in centuries. Then again, the very idea of having a non-stop society, to optimize productivity and increase efficiencies, was likely dreamed of by someone who’d just woken up.

STRANGER IN A STRANGER LAND
I once went back to a city I’d lived before, without telling anyone I was there. I’ve checked into a cheap motel and wandered about like a tourist. It was exhilarating. I walked and walked, (more)
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The Morning After

For Those Who’ll
Feel Like Losers

Ok, so you’ve worked hard – or didn’t do a thing – and your candidate still didn’t win. Don’t feel too bad: fate is as fate does, but in case you’re wondering, it was absolutely your fault. Now let’s save you some bucks for the four years worthy of therapy ahead, shall we?
Choices are few and involve major changes, just what you were trying your best to avoid. Regardless, you’re here now. Assuming that you’ve already called for refills of your acid reflux prescription, plus a few bottles of extra strength Tums, next thing to do it to cope.
Relax, help is on its way, so you won’t despair alone. Yes, it feels as if you won’t be able to even look at your new president without gagging. But worst have happened to you, and you did just fine, right? Well, let’s not get into that now. The working word here is survive.
And you will endure, and abide, and stomach (did we mention Rolaids?). You’ll even learn to conjugate similar verbs because you must. For the love of heavens, everyone will beg you to. But in case you falter, we’ve put together a short list of strategies to help you out. You’re welcome.
But before you yell at your computer, on the account of our meek picks, let us cover our behinds with the appropriate disclaimer: no, this is not everything. And if you’re already into yoga, meditation, or just joined the circus or a cult, you shouldn’t be on the Internet anyway. Unless, of course, you aren’t sure about your choices. We feel you.
May your horse come ahead, and you don’t lose your you-know-what over this election. But if things go south and going north sounds no longer remote, print this list; you’ll have less than two months to pack and split. Tell everyone you’re off to get the paper and have a go. Either way, good luck to you.

WHY NOT (CALL YOUR AGENT &) LEAVE?
The Celebrity DeLite. Many have actually said so, probably thinking about that mega production being cast in Europe, as we speak. If they say Oh Canada, they’re likely Canadians. But if you too can afford it, by all means: kick the tires and sell the farm. Don’t forget to call Mom.
Since you’re no Bryan Cranston, you may consider going where you’re actually needed. A few years making new friends, maybe even learning a new language, and you may find that losing this election was your biggest victory. Just kidding. No, seriously, you may never have a better excuse.

EAT ROOMS, DIG ACID, TRY AYAHUASCA
The Turn On, Drop Out Solution. Yes, this one is not for everybody (we also hope that kids are already in bed as your read this). But stay with it for a moment. First of all, no one is telling you to become drug addicted, just so to deal with harsh politics.
In fact, Ayahuasca has being a success at curing (more)
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* Pre-Existing Conditions
* Polls & Tallies

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Head & Tails

Who Is the Mad Dog 
Murdering English Cats?

Maybe it’s Internet envy. You know, people who hate you just because you’re all over the Web. And your name is Justin Bieber. The culprit is unlikely to be among cat’s biggest enemies (no, not dogs): bird lovers. But watch out: the U.K. has a serial kitty killer on the prowl.
Nothing cute about it, though. Someone is beheading cats in the South London Croydon neighborhood, and police has no clues, other than the killings are gruesome and ostensible: the psycho leaves mutilated bodies where their human companions can easily come across them.
Again, it may have to do with Internet access and its magnifying effect. For justAtop a Mountain, in Calp, Spain (Aleksandr Osipov:NatGeo)a few decades ago, serial killers were known mostly by law enforcement agents. Now, you need to ask your Uncle Bob to please, shut up already, when he babbles about them as if they were his pub buddies.
Their creepy habits, pathology, and biographies are a constant theme of family dinner conversations, and inspiration to countless movie plots; best seller books and even songs have been written about them, and everybody seems to have heard of that lonely soul who married one in jail.
That’s how most of us know of a particularly haunting trait they all seem to share: an early childhood taste for torturing and murdering small animals. Thus, the British press, not particularly known for nuanced coverage, sobriquet for the newest psychopath: Croydon Cat Ripper.

BLOOD SPREADING OR COPYCATS?
Cats have attracted extreme passion or fear throughout history, and the overstatement needs no emphasis. From ancient Egyptian adoration to Dark Ages‘ obscurantism to redemption through the Black Plague, the domestic feline trajectory with humans has been as vertigo-inducing as a roller coaster.
But once clichés are set aside, a richer picture emerge, of a creature with a rare appeal, both aloof and Zen-like tempered; independent, suffused with mystery, and yet, resolutely loyal to those who (more)
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Thinking With Tentacles

Mad Penguins & Whale Accents
in the Court of the Octopus King

Research into the natural world has been a reliable way of gauging our walk on this planet, and where we’re probably heading to. But a new approach, devoid of any rancid anthropomorphism, has offered fresh insights into animal intelligence. And the results are remarkable.
Heard the one about whales with a Caribbean accent? Or penguins having sex parties wilder than drunken priests? But no one was ready to witness an octopus opening a jar from inside, or sneaking out at night to feed on crabs nearby, before returning to its tank. Or not.
What these and other animals prove is that cognitive ability is not a human monopoly. In fact, whenever the need to compare them with us is subtracted from the equation, crows, cephalopods, and pigeons, to name a few, can outsmart a thinking bloke often in a radical way.
Evolution has proposed alternatives to some species so far from our own, that they could be almost aliens raised in Pluto for we know. Since we no longer equate physiology with identity, it’d be better get acquainted with mental prowess that owes nothing to rationality.
Not that we even apply it to everything, and yes, to us, there is something wrong with that. But elephants have always cried of sadness, and chickens do side up with individuals in danger. We were just too busy trading their tusk for the ivory, or simply eating them, to pay any attention.

ADÉLIES JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Let’s get this out of the way: penguins are not humans, thus morality is not an issue, even if a colony, in the distance, looks like a black-tie cocktail party. And for belting out loud, the Adélies have nothing on the singing lady Adele. But when it comes to parties, theirs do get wild.
During Capt. Scott‘s second, and doomed, trip to Antarctica, between 1910-13, George Murray Levick wrote of widespread necrophilia, males sexually coercing young chicks, before killing them, and shock, having sex with other males. To him, it was ‘depravity,’ and his notes (in Ancient Greek, to harden access to them) went missing.
Till now: they’ve been uncovered and bad ‘science’ journalism have ensued, of course. But the biggest recent news about the Adélie had nothing to do with sex. In February, it was reported that 150,000 penguins died, after being landlocked by the fracture of a giant iceberg.
But it was a hoax, better researched stories have confirmed. Neither sex fiends nor massacred by climate change, yet, penguins are just, once again, being victims of bad reporting. Why we care has nothing to do with humanity either: they just look like us. We’re already changing their history. Time to tell their stories way better, too.

DEEP SONGS & ACCENTED CLICKS
Since at least the 1970s, news about whales is always surprising, even as their numbers keeping receding towards extinction. The size of their brains, rich social lives, their songs, complex and uniquely identified with their pods. And then there’s the loneliest of them all.
The fact that research into these massive but elusive species has reached such a level of sophistication is, in itself, (more)
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* Eerie Impersonation
* The Saddest Song
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