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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Read Also:
* 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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Read Also:
* 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

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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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* Out to Get You
* Scary Clowns
* Salish Sea Feet

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