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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Read Also:
* 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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Read Also:
* Out to Get You
* Scary Clowns
* Salish Sea Feet

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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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* The Daily Planet
* Super-Dupers 
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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?
* Downtime
* Curb Your God

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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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* Guilty as Charged
* Downtime
* Haunting Memories

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