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)
__________
Read Also:
* Scary Night
* Broken Hearts

Continue reading

Floating Enigmas


That Time a Ghost Ship, Adrift at
Sea, Carried a Crew of Cannibal Rats

Most eerie accounts of ships lost or found abandoned, without a shadow of life aboard, fuel nightmares and horror tales. Take the Mary Celeste, for instance, whose missing crew left all possessions and jumped out of her in a hurry, on a clear night in 1872.
The Lyubov Orlova cruiser, though, belongs to another category of fright: the life left behind is not human but feral. Rodents with sharp teeth run around breeding and eating each other. As they carry on their blood bath, the ship drifts towards the North Atlantic.
The Russian-made vessel is only the latest to be cast adrift, but unlike memorable cases in the past, the fate of her last crew is well known: unpaid by the owners, they all left her at a Canadian harbor, where she remained until she broke lose during a storm.
Penniless and prosaic, or lucky as some would put it, the fate of the Lyubov Orlova crew diverges from accounts of many a ghost ship, found empty, or lost forever and possibly sunk. At least they lived to hopefully find new employment, or another line of business.
Those who manned other legendary ships, however, were never to be seen again. Besides the Mary Celeste, there’s the Caroll A. Derring, with its 1921 swashbuckling tale of pirates and the Bermuda Triangle, and the Zebrina, found empty in 1917, with likely hints that the war had come on board.
But just before we lose perspective, the worst possible nightmarish scenarios notwithstanding, nothing at sea can be more terrifying than a shipwreck, both for its potential for unredeeming loss and ability to strike fear into the hearts of sailing souls. Neither has any ship disappeared with a large crew so far. Knock on wood.
And no nautical tragedy encapsulates a higher confluence of fears associated with high seas than the wreck of the Essex in 1820, with its horrific tale of a giant whale hitting it twice, and survivors resorting to cannibalism. The episode inspired at least one masterpiece, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published 30 years later.

THE BLOOD OF EARTH
Giving its primordial existence, though, the vastness of the bodies of water that interconnect and divide our receding lands do instil an inordinate amount of irrational fears and spikes in our fright bones, in diametrically ways that terra firma represents hope and redemption when it’s finally within reach.
Thalassophobia is, in fact, one of the arguably most primeval fears for humans, more intense than even the fear of heights. For our inadequate bodies, not made to soar above the clouds or breathe underwater, can still better avoid the former, whereas to drown, one Continue reading

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.

_____
Read Also:
* No, Thanks
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey

Before Afterlife


Upon Departing, Would You
Tell a Story or Leave an App?

The flip side of living longer is that death now may also take longer to finally succeed. That drives some to rehearse their award acceptance speech, and others, to compose long goodbyes. Here’s to your own, self-penned obituary, and the app and avatar that’ll outlive you.
It’s like custom-making your own narrative. Soon there’ll be more Websites of the departed than the breathing kind like us (knock on wood). A not so silent majority dwarfing billions currently walking and cursing, who in turn are but a fraction of everyone who’s ever lived.
We should be careful about what we wish for, though. One of the gifts of being alive is that, mercifully, we have no idea when our time is up. The powerful industry of ‘cure,’ however, by making sure that we last, may be spoiling even that most gracious of nature’s charities.
Heaven forbid if we were to take away such a precious comfort from those on the death watch, though. After all, to have time to prepare one’s affairs, and everyone around, for that announced demise is no small miracle. Hence, the wills, the lists, the begging for forgiveness.
The same with this new realm we’ve created to keep our distance from others, the Internet. Who do you know who knows your passwords, Wed identities, and above all, your wishes about what to do with it all? Not many and most are not even slightly interested in knowing either.
You can always program, though. Better than to leave behind a wake of digital detritus, why not set something up, or find a way to terminate it all for good? A few predated posts may just do the trick. And there won’t be any need to deputize someone else to run things afterwards.
Granted, the person who’s gone won’t particularly care one way or another. So it’s just an ethical matter of some consideration, on whether you’d like to continue, so to speak, indefinitely, or would rather leave space for those who actually stand to be affected by it: the living.

BETWEEN TOMBSTONE & LIFEBOAT
Marilyn Johnson has helped disperse the common idea that newspaper obituaries, for instance, should be shallow and phony in their eulogy to the dead. In her intriguing The Dead Beat, she demonstrates how obituary writing is an important art form, usually assigned only to experienced journalists. One of the most read sections of any paper, the death notice must tell a compelling story starting by what’s (more)

_______
Read Also:
* Final Cut
* Ways to Go
* Went Before

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)
___________
Read Also
* The Shinning
* Polly & Meow
* Checking In
* Strange Love

Continue reading

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)
_______
Read Also:
* Scary Night
* Broken Hearts

Continue reading

Net Bandits


Here Are the Republicans Who Sold 
Your Internet Rights to Their Patrons

Smiling while preaching against the ‘heavy hand of government,’ Chairman Ajit Pai’s just fulfilled exactly what he’d been put in charge to do: to kick the teeth of the Federal Communications Commission, and yank the Internet from everybody but those who can pay to access it.
By a vote of 3 to 2, the FCC all but allowed big broadband providers to create Web lanes. It’s the Rule of the Mighty: to corporate ou social media giants, access online remains the same. To billions of small, independent sites, though, it’ll take forever. Unless you pay extra.
By betraying the its own mission, to protect everyone’s rights to a free Internet, Pai did a huge favor to both the Trump administration, and to his pals at Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and other big providers that stand to profit from his decision. While, of course, ignoring the people’s will.
For the majority – who know what Net Neutrality is – the Web is a utility, as vital as your water service, and should be left alone by those that had no part nurturing it to become what it is today. Ironically, some of them wouldn’t even exist if Pai headed the FCC, circa 2000.
Thousands expressed support to keep the Internet as it were, through the commission’s public hearing phase. But the game was rigged, and many saw it coming on Pai’s public statements. They sounded a lot like Scott Pruitt’s words and actions running the EPA (into the ground).
But it won’t happen without a fight. Activist groups and individuals, including N.Y. Eric Schnedierman and other Attorneys General, filed suit to prevent the FCC from destroying what’s not up to it to destroy. Eventually, one hopes, even those who still have no idea what they’ve just lost will join in too. Trump supporters, are you listening?
Meanwhile, here are the Republicans who voted to end a free and democratic Internet, and how much they’ve got from telecoms since 1989, according to The Center for Responsive Politics and The Verge. Keep it in a safe place and be sure to remember their names next time you’re in the voting booth. As for Colltales, we’re taking it down either.
THE DIRTY, INFAMOUS HUNDRED MINUS
Mo Brooks, AL ($26,000), Ron Estes, KS ($13,807), Thomas Massie, KY ($25,000), Ralph Norman, SC ($15,050), John Moolenaar, MI ($25,000), Neal Dunn, FL ($18,500), Mike Bishop, MI ($68,250), Alex Mooney, WV ($17,750), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, PA ($70,500), Blaine Luetkemeyer, MO ($105,000), Paul Gosar, AZ ($12,250), Richard W. Allen, GA ($24,250), Kevin Cramer, ND ($168,500), Greg Walden, OR ($1,605,986), Marsha Blackburn, TN ($600,999), Billy Long, MO ($221,500), Gregg Harper, MS ($245,200), (more)
_______
Read Also:
* The Deep End
* It Blogs the Mind

Continue reading

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.
_______
Read Also:
* A Nation of Thanks
* Cold Turkey
* Meatless Time

Hallow Talk

Dolls, Dummies & Porcelain Gore: the
Unsinkable Allure of the Talking Dead

Most people would never admit it, but there are no two ways about it: we like Halloween because it’s creepy. We like the gore associated with it, the scary stuff, and the lure of death, breathing coldly upon our neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
What’s curious in American culture, however, is that even talking about death and the departed and what happens to decaying bodies and what we’re supposed to tell our child about their deceased relatives remains taboo for the whole year, except on October 31.
We use the children’s still unguarded approach to the world as a perfect Trojan horse of an excuse for peeking into the depths of our dark corners, where fears reign supreme, and the sun never shines. And tell everyone that it’s all for their own good.
But heaven forbid if they’re to inquiry about the finality of death, or the possibility – fiercely denied by billions but ever and again confirmed by all the evidence anyone can come up with – that this is it, there’s nothing beyond the Big Sleep, and one’d better making it count while it lasts.
We entrust the wee ones with the task of facing the most terrifying recesses of our psyche, while at the same time disenfranchising them from developing a critical mind about, say, coma, or rigor mortis, embalming, or cremation, and all fun things in between. No wonder they place so much currency on material goods these days.
Whether there’s a point in this cheap thrill of vicariously exposing children to dread towards the unknown, which we all share throughout life, just so they get use to feeling frightened, is truly up to discussion.
For what we, grownups, get out of Halloween is so rewarding to that nook within us which enjoys being spooked that all damage it may inflict on tender minds seems negligible. After all, we tell ourselves, soon enough, they’ll have to handle all of that on their own.
We’d have no problem assuming whole heartedly that we love Halloween. Even as memories of spending those hot South American days of our youth at cemeteries, visiting families and friends who went before, are not our particularly favorite recollections.
We still treasure that we did the time, and remember the smells of fresh flowers and sweat, mixed with a faint scent of recently dug up graves still encrusted deep in our brains. Not quite like the Mexicans, who actually party and camp at the gravesite on the Dia de los Muertos, but still a day to honor all souls, specially the finados.
So we could now proceed to tell rehashed tales about ghosts, goblins, strange apparitions and odd Jack O’Lanterns, stories about unexplained occurrences supposedly told to trustworthy people, rumors from the friend of a friend who’s heard an eerie chime echoing somewhere, perhaps even a dead celebrity sighting or two. But we’d rather not.
As usual, we’ll divert, digress, er, depart from that general theme and find our own niche to mark the date. We’ll focus, (more)
_______
Read Also:
* The Flours of Evil
* All Hallows Eve
* Hallow Ground

Continue reading

The Arrow Has Flown


David Bowie’s Last
Surprise Is His Saddest

Here’s a mutation we never wanted him to undergo. And it had to be from the very top, again, which he reached over and over again, each time a different character, every time a step closer to greatness.
Now he did it: David Bowie passed away just a few days after his 69th birthday, a few days after releasing Blackstar, his last album and arguably one of his strangest, if that’s even possible.
We got so used to be startled by him that it’ll be hard to settle on his final bow. But now that his trip is done, we may finally get it, and in the process, learn something more about our own.
You gave enough to the world, including the arrest of your final twist. Years will go by and we’ll still be deciphering the wonder of your trajectory. We’re now keepers of your music and your art.
Rest in peace, David.
_______
Read Also:
* A Bow to Bowie

The Letter Carrier

Bukowski, the Skid
Row Hero Who Did Try

Charles Bukowski would’ve been 95 today. But it’s doubtful he’d have like it. In fact, the writer who reluctantly embodied the outsider, hardly ever noticed by the literati world, spent his life as if he didn’t give a damn about much. But he actually did.
‘I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail,’ wrote the on and off postal worker and regular menial job specialist, who had bouts with the FBI and the draft board, and developed a not quite accurate reputation as a drinker.
Heinrich Karl, who was born in Germany and moved to the U.S. in 1923, could’ve fooled anyone as just another destitute drunk, who didn’t belong anywhere or cared about having a career. On the outside, he seemed content with a bottle of cheap wine and a whore or two.
But despite his epitaph – Don’t Try, in a reference to advice he once gave to young writers – and fortunately to us, he did care enough to create a vigorous body of work, existential, visceral and deeply American, just as one of his heroes Henry Miller had done.
50 years ago this Aug. 22, Miller wrote Bukowski, ‘I hope you’re not drinking yourself to death,’ echoing concerns shared by his handful of friends and former lovers. He needn’t to worry that much: Bukowski died of Leukemia in 1994. He’d been sober for several years.

But there’s no misreading about his characters, a sore collection of cynical barflies, dirty hotel room dwellers, despised by anyone who loved them. Consumed by self-loath, they longed for (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Medieval Crafts

Continue reading

Before Afterlife


Upon Departing, Would You
Tell a Story or Leave an App?

The flip side of living longer is that death now may also take longer to finally succeed. That allows some to rehearse their award acceptance speech, and others, to compose long goodbyes. Here’s to your own, self-penned obituary, and the app and avatar that’ll outlive you. People do wish to control their own narrative, and obituaries are potentially the final word about it. And soon there may be more Websites of those who went before than the breathing kind like us (knock on wood). Just like the current humanity, counting in the billions as it is, is but a fraction of everyone who’s ever lived.
We should be careful about what we wish for, though. One of the gifts of being alive is that, mercifully, we have no idea when our time is up. Long, extended diseases, and the industry of the ‘cure’ making sure that we last, however, may be changing even that most gracious of nature’s charities.
But heaven forbid if we were to take away such a precious comfort from those on the death watch. After all, to have time to prepare one’s affairs, and everyone around, for that announced demise is no small miracle. Hence, the wills, the lists, the requests for forgiveness, and the peaceful way to depart from this realm.
The same with this new, decades-old world we’ve created to keep our distance from each other, the Internet. How many of those you know know your passwords, your Wed identities, above all, your wishes about what to do with it all? Not many and most are not too eager to give that sort of advance notice away either.
You can always program, though. Better than to leave behind a wake of digital detritus, why not set something up, or find a way to terminate it all for good? A few predated posts may just do the trick. And there won’t be any need to deputize someone else to run things afterwards.
Granted, the person who’s gone won’t particularly care one way or another. So it’s just an ethical matter of some consideration, on whether you’d like to continue, so to speak, indefinitely, or would rather leave space for those who actually stand to be affected by it: the living.

BETWEEN TOMBSTONE & LIFEBOAT
Marilyn Johnson has helped disperse the common idea that newspaper obituaries, for instance, should be shallow and phony in their eulogy to the dead. In her intriguing The Dead Beat, she demonstrates how obituary writing is an important art form, usually assigned only to experienced journalists. One of the most read sections of any paper, the death notice must tell a compelling story starting by what’s known as Continue reading

Bad Valentiming

What If It’s Better to
Skip Valentine’s Day?

Ever tried adding a few sugar spoons to your ice cream? Or drilled a hole on a can of condensed milk and sucked it right in? Well, we did. And here’s another diabetes-inducing rush happening this year: A Less Er Bleeding Chocolate Heart from Pushin DaisiesValentine’s Day falls on a Saturday. Tomorrow. Now go and check your blood levels.
Don’t get us wrong: we’re all for love and affection and all that. But we must admit it: we were never sold on the idea of trading chocolate and flowers and underwear for sex, if you don’t mind our bluntness. But hey, whatever rocks, right? Or so goes the credo.
Across the land, couples – or triplets or whatever – will go through the ritual (sponsored mostly by Hallmark?) of following a recipe concocted by the marketing gods to induce higher levels of shopping, and maybe, a special moment or two in the sack.
Or perhaps that’s not the point at all. That sack part, we mean. Thing is, we can’t ‘unsee’ the buying spree from the romantic thought of dedicating one day a year to our beating, pulsating, engorged bleeding hearts. (Spoiler alert: lots of lovers break up on this day too.)
Full disclosure: we’re being blasé on purpose. Can’t avoid it. What, with this age of revenge porn, and social media shaming, and hacking galore, it’s a wonder that our twitter accounts have been violated only a few times. Or that privacy has nothing to do with it, wink, wink.
But we’re not brutes. After all, when archeologists uncovered in Leicester, England, a 14-century pair of skeletons, buried together, hand in hand, or at least, arms entangled, we did savor for a minute the sweet thought that it was their choice, to be committed to the ground together.
A few years ago, another couple was found in the same situation, but they lived in Roman times. Continue reading

Gotham Suit

A Bold Names’ Quarrel Disrupts
Elusive World of Fonts & Typefaces

Their muted elegance often goes unnoticed by readers. They can’t be detected by word count, spelling or other resources at writers’ disposal. Their selection is personal. Yet once a font is chosen, a whole world of subtle references is added to the content.
Even designers, unsung heroes of the print trade, may fail to pick the right type. And few knew that two stars of the form, Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, had split up.
Called ‘the Beatles of the font designing world,’ an unusually hyperbolic reference to a trade that most people ignore, these two developed a partnership creating some of the most recognizable fonts we’re all familiar with these days.
We’ll get back to their contentions acrimony and ultimate settlement. Their Gotham font has a huge following, but most people are more familiar with Helvetica, in part due to the ominousness of Apple gadgets. Fonts are like that: you don’t even know that you like them.
Typefaces have served way more than their purpose, as design subtly drives people’s tastes and acceptance of new products, a strong sales point. Helvetica, for instance, is so influential that it’s inspired both a Swiss watch company and a Dutch cookie-cutter designer.
Sweden Sans is now that country’s official lettering, playful and patriotic. And, in another welcoming stretch of functionality put at the service of the well being of many, there’s Dislexie, another Dutch designer-created font to help people with the disability to read better.

A STILL VITAL MOVABLE INVENTION
Since Johann Gutenberg‘s erroneously perceived invention of printing, there’s been a certain fuzziness about what consists a font, what’s the difference between that and the older term type, and whatever the hell does it matter to anyone to know anything about them both.
The 1400s were a time of great inventions, but the one that originated a press loosely resembling printing machines of the Industrial Revolution, came to life at least a century before, Continue reading

It’s Your Bird’s Day


Thank Goodness, We
Could Use the Excuse

Hallow Talk

Dolls, Dummies & Porcelain Gore: the
Unsinkable Allure of the Talking Dead

Most people would never admit it, but there are no two ways about it: we like Halloween because it’s creepy. We like the gore associated with it, the scary stuff, and the lure of death, breathing coldly upon our neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
What’s curious in American culture, however, is that even talking about death and the departed and what happens to decaying bodies and what we’re supposed to tell our child about their deceased relatives remains taboo for the whole year, except on October 31.
We use the children’s still unguarded approach to the world as a perfect Trojan horse of an excuse for peeking into the depths of our dark corners, where fears reign supreme, and the sun never shines. And tell everyone that it’s all for their own good.
But heaven forbid if they’re to inquiry about the finality of death, or the possibility – fiercely denied by billions but ever and again confirmed by all the evidence anyone can come up with – that this is it, there’s nothing beyond the Big Sleep, and one’d better making it count while it lasts.
We entrust the wee ones with the task of facing the most terrifying recesses of our psyche, while at the same time disenfranchising them from developing a critical mind about, say, coma, or rigor mortis, embalming, or cremation, and all fun things in between. No wonder they place so much currency on material goods these days.
Whether there’s a point in this cheap thrill of vicariously exposing children to dread towards the unknown, which we all share throughout life, just so they get use to feeling frightened, is truly up to discussion.
For what we, grownups, get out of Halloween is so rewarding to that nook within us which enjoys being spooked that all damage it may inflict on tender minds seems negligible. After all, we tell ourselves, soon enough, they’ll have to handle all of that on their own.
We’d have no problem assuming whole heartedly that we love Halloween. Even as memories of spending those hot South American days of our youth at cemeteries, visiting families and friends who went before, are not our particularly favorite recollections.
We still treasure that we did the time, and remember the smells of fresh flowers and sweat, mixed with a faint scent of recently dug up graves still encrusted deep in our brains. Not quite like the Mexicans, who actually party and camp at the gravesite on the Dia de los Muertos, but still a day to honor all souls, specially the finados.
So we could now proceed to tell rehashed tales about ghosts, goblins, strange apparitions and odd Jack O’Lanterns, stories about unexplained occurrences supposedly told to trustworthy people, rumors from the friend of a friend who’s heard an eerie chime echoing somewhere, perhaps even a dead celebrity sighting or two. But we’d rather not.
As usual, we’ll divert, digress, er, depart from that general theme and find our own niche to mark the date. We’ll focus, (more)
_______
Read Also:
* The Flours of Evil
* All Hallows Eve
* Hallow Ground

Continue reading

Floating Enigmas


Adrift at Sea, Ghost Ship
Carries Crew of Cannibal Rats

Most eerie accounts of ships lost or found abandoned, without a shadow of life aboard, fuel nightmares and horror tales. Take the Mary Celeste, for instance, whose missing crew left all possessions and jumped out of her in a hurry, on a clear night in 1872.
The Lyubov Orlova cruiser, though, belongs to another category of fright: the life left behind is not human but feral. Rodents with sharp teeth run around breeding and eating each other. As they carry on their blood bath, the ship drifts towards the North Atlantic.
The Russian-made vessel is only the latest to be cast adrift, but unlike memorable cases in the past, the fate of her last crew is well known: unpaid by the owners, they all left her at a Canadian harbor, where she remained until she broke lose during a storm.
Penniless and prosaic, or lucky as some would put it, the fate of the Lyubov Orlova crew diverges from accounts of many a ghost ship, found empty, or lost forever and possibly sunk. At least they lived to hopefully find new employment, or another line of business.
Those who manned other legendary ships, however, were never to be seen again. Besides the Mary Celeste, there’s the Caroll A. Derring, with its 1921 swashbuckling tale of pirates and the Bermuda Triangle, and the Zebrina, found empty in 1917, with likely hints that the war had come on board.
But just before we lose perspective, the worst possible nightmarish scenarios notwithstanding, nothing at sea can be more terrifying than a shipwreck, both for its potential for unredeeming loss and ability to strike fear into the hearts of sailing souls. Neither has any ship disappeared with a large crew so far. Knock on wood.
And no nautical tragedy encapsulates a higher confluence of fears associated with high seas than the wreck of the Essex in 1820, with its horrific tale of a giant whale hitting it twice, and survivors resorting to cannibalism. The episode inspired at least one masterpiece, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, published 30 years later.

THE BLOOD OF EARTH
Giving its primordial existence, though, the vastness of the bodies of water that interconnect and divide our receding lands do instil an inordinate amount of irrational fears and spikes in our fright bones, in diametrically ways that terra firma represents hope and redemption when it’s finally within reach.
Thalassophobia is, in fact, one of the arguably most primeval fears for humans, more intense than even the fear of heights. For our inadequate bodies, not made to soar above the clouds or breathe underwater, can still better avoid the former, whereas to drown, one Continue reading

The 2,000 Year Old


A Wife & Christianity as a Hoax,
Highlights of the Year in Jesus

Off-the-beaten-path news about Jesus are hard to come by. But there’s been at least a couple in the past year, that in the unlikely event of being proven true, could shake the very foundations of his church and recast the entire religion built after his death.
Since it’s that time of the year again, whether you like it or not, to rehash stories about his official birthday today, why not retell instead those odd tales, about a supposed wife and Christianity as a possible hoax, along with a few others not easily dismissed.

Before getting into those two highly spicy arguments, which despite having been given short shrift by religious scholars, had their share of intriguing historical research to back them up, let’s do some housekeeping about four other interesting news about the carpenter of Nazareth.
The latest one is the Naked Jesus discussion (we tried to warn you). Just a few months into his papacy and the Franciscan Pope Francis’s inkling for restoring the church’s empathy for the poor has ignited all sorts of disconcerting ideas about religion and, grasp, Christ’s sexuality.
Invoking art scholar Leo Steinberg’s research into the pictorial representation of JC in Renaissance paintings, a recent Lee Siegel story frames the pope’s open attitude towards gays and the dispossessed within the Franciscan order’s very own credo, ‘follow naked the naked Christ.’
Like the Renaissance masters, to present the naked body of Jesus was the proper way to express his own humanity and contempt for material goods. His nudity, thus, was to be perceived as more authentic and pure than the copious and expensive paraments worn by church bishops, priests and officials.

TOMB & CRUCIFIXION
It’s an idea that has been dormant, and socially all but absent, from religion as we know it, as the Vatican, for instance, is closer to a powerful political organization than whatever Jesus’s followers had in mind. And sexuality remains a taboo as it was during the Inquisition.
Comparatively, research into the historical figure and places he may have inhabited have advanced at a more pragmatic pace, albeit most of Continue reading

The Flours of Evil

Edible Treats for
Phony Cannibals

As fake blood flows, and bogus gore parades, there’s a distinct sense of triumph for New Yorkers this Halloween: Hurricane Sandy may’ve almost drowned this city by harbor and sea, but not this time. Many succumbed by water and fire; but the survivors are partying tonight.
Thus those tasty delights that grace this post, concocted by sick but talented minds, with a flair for the showy and a wink of the eye. Never so many scary depictions, nearly lifelike on their precision and playfulness, were so sweet to the palate and pleasing to the view.
That is, if you have a strong stomach and a sense of humor. For that’s what Hallowmuertos could be all about: a combo of fear, respect and games, to take the edge off of life’s grievances and engage in something that Nietzsche said, is ‘deeper still than grief can be’: joy.
Thus Natalie Sideserf baked a Willie Nelson cake as the old bard of pot and country celebrates his 80th birthday this year, while Annabel de Vetten did the sweet lifesize version of beloved fictional serial killer, Dexter Morgan, just as the series was wounding down, all wrapped in cling-film and ready to be sliced open.
Within the same ballpark, there was The Helpers, who baked that lovely brunette head as they launched the movie of the same name, and earlier in the year, Wesker & Son of London, who put up a whole human meat market out of flour and icing, a lookalike butcher shop to mark the launch of Resident Evil 6.

The gloomy (and white chocolate) Dead Babies are a courtesy of the Conjurer’s Kitchen, which also modeled the wax anatomic head, complete with veins and naked eyes. Probably not so edible, it’s still a lesson any forensics buff would appreciate to take. Talking about eyes, don’t miss the Japanese squishy eyeballs, a sophisticate cocktail garnish.
The holiday table with the half torso of the blond lady is a marzipan sculpture by artist Helga Petrau-Heinzel, complete with sides of sweet hearts and viscera, while LifeForm’s Gangrenous Feet is for sale at Continue reading

Not Food

Think Things Don’t Change?
Try a 14-Year Old McDonald’s

Not many corporations convey so well both the state of the economy and our social mores as McDonald’s, the world’s former biggest restaurant chain. And for its product’s poor nutritional value and the environmental impact of its business practices, it’s doing just fine.
Or so it seems. For news about a 1999 burger looking eerily ‘fresh,’ and of a CEO making $8.75 million, while the average patty-flipper earns $8.25 a hour, were both received with jaded nonchalance. No wonder an artist made a life size mummy out of McDonalds.
It’d be stupid to blame solely the economy on the company’s success. Granted, its origins are in fact linked to the Great Depression, and it’s no wonder that now, during such an extended reenactment of those empty pocket years, it remains the compulsory choice for those who can’t afford to embrace the organic, cage-free craze of the era.
It may also be the power of its muscular business model, the 1980s expansionary pull through emerging economies, what may have guaranteed its staying appeal. Such aggressive strategy made possible for McDonald’s to become more popular (read, cheaper) than Indian food in India, for instance.

But who can deny that other element that the most American of all corporations possesses, to which only a overused and detested word can be applied: iconic. The red and yellow colors, the rings, and that obnoxious clown are so infused in urban culture, that artists such as Andy Warhol had no choice but to incorporate it into their work.
As for those who see signs of hope, since McDonald’s no longer the world’s No. 1 food chain, let’s keep things in perspective. Researchers Continue reading

Stings Like a Bee

The Six Fights
of Muhammad Ali

Of all the fights that Muhammad Ali, who turns 71 today, fought, there were four on the ring, and two outside it, that will probably be always associated with his greatness. Was he the greatest that there ever was? No, if you count only the four; yes, if you include the other two.
The first was against the establishment, when he lost and regained his right to fight. There were the brutal battles against Joe Frazier, and the spectacular comeback against George Foreman. Now he’s still fighting, and by all accounts winning, against his final foe, Parkinson’s disease.
We put together a little tour to pay homage to this tragic Othelo, who paid with the prime of his career for the right to indulge on his own convictions. Far from a cartoonish view of perfection and virtue, the Louisville, Kentucky, native, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, was as deeply flawed as many of those he mercilessly mocked and beat on the ring.
Which only enhances the moral authority of his erratic persona outside of it, including his seminal conversion to Islam, and adoption of the Muhammad Ali name, at the dawn of his career. With that decision, he instantly set himself apart from the image of the gifted but immature Negro hero, common to black sports stars who preceded him.
At the same time, he embodied the larger struggle of race and religion which has been as current an issue today as it was at the time of the Founding Fathers. Just a few years later, that decision would weigh heavily on his refusal to serve the U.S. armed forces, and caused the lost of his prime boxing years.
Between those two brackets of personal-slash-political decisions, he graced the world with arguably some of the best performances ever by Continue reading

A Bow to Bowie

Rockstars May Die Young But
At Least One Chameleon Is 66

In case you’re desperate for another frivolous celebrity trivia, the British Medical Journal has the perfect antidote for you: a study about how famous rockers do indeed die young. They probably think that you never heard of such a rehashed leftover from the Romanticism.
David Bowie though, once a self-destructive and flamboyant performer, has beat all odds and is 66 years old today. Despite wearing as many faces and costumes as the number of his songs, he still produced a steady flow of high quality music, to pry open the stereotype.
That might make the John Moores University team of researchers at (of all places) Liverpool to at least blush a little bit, since mascara is something that even Bowie hasn’t applied on in ages. We don’t doubt the intentions or rigor of their scholarship, but come on, is that really necessary?
Talking about rock, which was once a favorite of millions of teenagers around the world, there’s yet another study, about teen rebellion, certainly the nth time anyone attempts to explain it. Guess what? risk-taking may not be a bad thing at that age, that is, if it doesn’t kill them. What do you know?
It’s hard for this kind of research into over-exposed subjects to produce new insights or even originality. Still, in this particular demographics, results often track the social mores of the day. It’s almost as if, at this age of corporate fun and sponsored concert arenas, there’s a new need for youth rebelliousness to be common currency again.
Or so we wish. The author of the study, University of Arizona researcher Continue reading

Fall Caturday

The Good, the Bad
& the (Quasi) Ugly

It seems that for every animal-related good deed humans manage to accomplish, two other either selfish or borderline despicable are always ready to pop up. Abstracting judgement, though, the end result is pretty similar: pets never fail to fulfill their kind side of the bargain.
All cats featured in today’s post, for instance, show a gentle willingness to play along, regardless if they’re two or they’re many. But of all the people who appear here, there’s just a single human who’s at par with their example. As it’s often the case in life, it had to be an old lady.
The original Life Magazine caption for the 1965 picture (below) of a San Francisco mathematician and his cat mentions that he ‘takes a trip on LSD with his cat, who is on the drug too. He does this every other week.’ Dangerous Minds’ Marc Campbell, who republished the photo, struggles to understand why this guy had to submit his friend to the same whims of his inquiring life. It bothers us a great deal too.
Just a few years before, Life’s Ralph Crane photographed a group of women who brought their mostly black cats for a Hollywood audition. As the leashed felines wait with Zen-like patience, we almost lose ours, just wondering what they did to deserve to go through such an ordeal, besides being beautiful. Also, what movie they were trying to pimp their pets for? And finally, why the hell they were all women?
That’s why 87-year-old Misa, and her friend Fukumaru stand above everyone else. The bi-color-eyed stray has adopted the old lady several years ago, and they’re since inseparable. According to Myoko, her photographer granddaughter, he spends the day side by side with Misa, who still works the fields of her backyard in Japan.
In fact, her story is so moving and multifaceted, that we’re including another one of Myoko’s pictures of these two, the only one that’s not black & white on her Website. There you have it; just four photographs, but you’d need much more than the whole weekend to count all the stories they’re telling. By the way, enjoy your break.

Impromptus

Sandy & the Random
Kindness of New Yorkers

No one should be surprised if, among Hurricane Sandy’s misery and flotsam, altruistic, selfless acts of comradery were also on the rise, as spontaneous in nature and crucial in timing as any organized relief effort. Which never turns out to be enough anyway.
Scraped notes about such anonymous lifesaving events would number in the thousands, we’re sure. Since such story may never be completely told, here are a few examples in lieu of what may have happened, a record of what’s been lost in the darkness of the power outages.
From the simple, but utterly practical, bikers who spend their personal calories to charge their neighbors’ cellphones and computers, to the website listing the names and brief bios of those who perished during the storm, to the efforts by the Occupy Wall Street’s volunteer ‘splinter’ group, Occupy Sandy, to even those who simply post videos about devastated areas of the city on the Web.
More examples abound throughout the region and it’s almost contriving to make too much of what comes naturally to some of our fellow city dwellers. But we need to know that with all the gritty, and the powerbrokers, and the heartbreaking, and the widening income gap, New York still comes through as a community of decent folks, no matter what they say about it, you know where.
Even if the latest, and thankfully unnamed, nort’easter failed to live up to its billing, freezing rain and a potential new round of electricity cuts may rub the wrong way the still raw gashes and open wounds that Continue reading

Holy Sandy

As Frankstorm Crushes Halloween,
The Pumpkin Carving Goes Xtreme

In the end, it’s been sad, really. The hurricane has fully lived up to its billing, wiping up the eastern seaboard with Halloween. At this point, it’s been all about rain, flood, oh the horror, oh the humanity.
Since we’ve been locked up inside, shut down in godforsaken shelters, we imagine how our place will stink up so badly after the water recedes. Carving pumpkins, anyone?
If you’re reading this, though, you still have power, so we’re better than most throughout the region. Wonder how pumpkin carving became an xtreme sport? Just check what Ray Villafane does with them.
After that, you’re on your own. Rain or shine, Jack’O Lanterns have been a feature of this time of the year, and no stinky Sandy would dare to take that away from it. Or would it?
As we write this, the wind kicks our tenement building walls and the rain seeps through the bricks, undaunted. We may have to pack and go, pretty soon.
But give it a try, will ya? Just take it easy with those knives and the sticky stuff inside, and the mess, and the the power going in and out, and everybody screaming, and all that.
It’s all for the kids, you know. They love these things. Or so we’re told. Continue reading

Gone With Goya

* On the passing of art critic Robert Hughes, we raided Colltales archives to republish a small post we wrote a year ago this week. It’s a humble recollection of a casual meeting in New York, when we had a chance to go a few rounds with the man without being knocked out.
Hughes, a Type A personality with a talent for conveying visceral narratives of art and history, and an equal flair for the grand gesture, will surely dominate obituary pages in today’s newspapers of both sides of the Atlantic and in his native Australia, we’re sure.
We’ll certainly miss his great mind too, and the kind of art critic that he represented, which seems to be on its way out these days: the relevant contributor, not just the rubber-stamping reviewer.
Robert Hughes was 74. R.I.P.

An Exchange With Robert
Hughes He Doesn’t Recall

‘A note about Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky threw me for a spin today.
The note, on DangerousMinds.com, was about “The Steamroller and the Violin,” first feature of the man Ingmar Bergman credited for having “invented a new language, true to the nature of film,” as the blogger Paul Gallagher writes.
In a second, I went back in time, to a brief encounter on a street of SoHo, New York, with the Australian art critic Robert Hughes. Having as a rule never to approach someone famous, I confess, I did make an exception at the time.
Hughes had just published a highly praised biography of Francisco de Goya and I wanted to ask whether he knew the Continue reading

Go With Goya

An Exchange With Robert
Hughes He Doesn’t Recall

A note about Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky threw me for a spin today.
The note, on DangerousMinds.com, was about “The Steamroller and the Violin,” first feature of the man Ingmar Bergman credited for having “invented a new language, true to the nature of film,” as the blogger Paul Gallagher writes.
In a second, I went back in time, to a brief encounter on a street of SoHo, New York, with the Australian art critic Robert Hughes. Having as a rule never to approach someone famous, I confess, I did make an exception at the time.
Hughes had just published a highly praised biography of Francisco de Goya and I wanted to ask whether he knew the Continue reading