Witch’s Crew

When People Dress Up to Party,
They Won’t Waste Time Fighting

There’s a funny reason why we can’t avoid posting something about Halloween, today: clearinghouse. After a year-worth of subjects revolving around death, cemeteries, you know, weird stuff, voilá, when Oct. 31 dawns, we’ve got ourselves a sparkling dripping, new bloody-soaked post.
So, since it’s already late, here’s a quick review, via links, of what’s been accumulating dust and spider webs in our files. Morticians, burials, new ways to dispose the deceased, endearing stories that attract us like zombies to fresh brains, or bad teeth to sugar.
It’s our way to mark a moment on the life of kids of all ages when they get to play up themes that scare the bejesus out of grown-ups. These mini Frankensteins soldier on to trick-or-treating and we wonder when they switch from daring night visitors to frightened candy pushers.
For sure, the quirky nature of this holiday is never lost. Halloween’s pagan origins and connection to the demonic and the sinister, while a source of wholesome fun, also prompts raging displays of ghoulish hate and sucking disgust, by clergy members and assorted zealots.
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Read Also:
* Getting There
* Everything Must Go
* Kicking Ash

It’s likely the same class of vampires preying on witches and warlocks from way before the Dark Ages. Plenty of ways to enlighten ourselves here, to never repeat what happened to Joana D’Arc, the poor souls of Salem, and countless other victims of intolerance.
Myth, astronomy, recipes and costume tips, even a queer Halloween gallery, which granted, makes a lot of sense. We can think of no other feast where attire is that important, other than religious processions, of course. Except no one is doing it for fear, hence the anonymous deadline quote. Get set for the parade & Happy Halloween.

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Downtime

Seven Treats to Give
Yourself & the World

The year has started with a bang and your head still hurts. So let’s ease ourselves into it, as gently as possible, shall we? Thus our very useful guide of stuff to do – the kind you never find time for – whose rewards you’ll be collecting way beyond December. 
Like, serving meals at a Soup Kitchen. Or taking a bath, in a sensory-deprived tank. You pick the order. In a pickle? The state may owe you cash. Kinda blue? Host a pet this weekend. And more. New York choices are plenty for serving and be served. Just sign on.
For soon enough, there’ll be laundry to do, people to call, and debt collectors to avoid. Holidays are brutal, and their toll usually lasts for months. Here’s your chance to break the mold and get started on something rare, to remember this January like you never done before.
Only a minority is already living in this future we may’ve imagined 2016 would be, this same time last year. Most of us can’t even write the date correctly yet. Gosh, there’s still so much left to do just from a few days ago, let alone 12 months past.
Never mind new resolutions. Nothing ever changes purely on their account, anyway. Start simple, they say, progress wearily, and proceed with caution. We know, our head hurts too. Who can stand strong emotions so soon? Take this guide and calls us in the morning.

PICNIC AT A GRAVEYARD
It may sound morbid but many are still mourning the death of yet another year, without achieving anything near what David Bowie, who’ll be 69 this Friday, already had at a much younger age. So weep, but take some wine and cheese with you. You’ll be in good company.
Green-Wood, in Brooklyn, and Woodlawn, in the Bronx, are both beautiful, full of history, and peaceful enough for some quiet crying. Plus, they’ve both hold periodic activities, some after midnight, of course, that don’t involve your corpse just yet. Good hauntings.

SERVE SOME SOUP
Come holidays and big dates, someone always has this idea of volunteering at rescue missions around town. Problem is, they’re usually fully booked at those times, by others just like you, except a bit more industrious to enlist their names. It’s all good, though.
Now, most places can’t get enough help. With increased homelessness in this frigid city of ours, it’s a golden chance to fulfill one of those rare urges that doesn’t benefit only you. Whether it’ll make you feel good about yourself is irrelevant. Gotta serve somebody.
TAKE A TANK BATH
Neuroscientist John C. Lilly (who’d have been 100 today) is credited with developing sensory deprivation tanks, where one can float for hours on Epson salts. Later, he added LSD to the experience, (more)
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Read Also:
* Curb Your God
* Battleground Masters
* Random Kindness
Continue reading

Hiroshima at 70

Weary World Marks
a Somber Anniversary

Within a minute, the world would be changed forever. Life ended instantly for 80,000, and would be cut short for twice as many in just a few months. Worst of all was the fear that, for the first time in history, mankind could easily destroy itself, a fear that ushered the Cold War.
From Japan to the U.S., from Germany to Brazil, and all corners in between, millions are joining in to renew vows against the still untamable power of the split atom, even in its limited ‘pacific’ uses. But along with tragedy, the nuclear age has also produced heroes and redemption tales.
At 8:15am local time, the Enola Gay dropped its terrible load, perversely named the Little Boy, over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, after what its inhabitants may have thought was just another air raid siren, alerting for American bombers flying overhead. It wasn’t, or rather, it was way more than that.
Three days later, the Fat Man, another gun-type uranium device, destroyed Nagasaki, the final act of a two-punch strike that, for apologists, broke Japan’s imperial ambitions in the Pacific, and effectively ended World War II. Or so goes the official narrative.
What the mushroom clouds actually ignited was the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which at few crucial moments almost came to a civilization-ending blow, and a new era of unimaginable terror for all other nations, impotent to stop the two superpowers from acting like the world’s overlords.
But it’s also helped breed a new crop of pacifists who made us understand the risks of having the planet’s fate rest with so few, and highly belligerent, hands. It’s their activism and courage that have granted the world a reprieve, and prevented other cities from being destroyed like those two.

DISFIGURED BODIES, WHOLE SOULS
First, there were the survivors. Even though most of them died within a few years of the explosions, thousands of citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki took upon themselves to show the world what such power really is capable of. As they perished from radiation and other diseases, their legacy passed on.
Soon after, even former Japanese combatants joined in, convinced that they had been part of a war that had no winners on that particular front. The bomb’s destructive power caused many despicable (Click below to continue reading)
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Read Also:
* Bloody Throes
* Nukes for Nuts
* Nuking the Future

Continue reading

Undercover Suckers

The Roof Came Down First;
Then the Bed Bugs Attacked

We’ve been outed. Neighbors are looking at us as if we’re lepers, whose very breath can infect them with the curse of filth and decay. We hear whispers behind our backs, and almost feel the fingers pointed at us on our wake. Suddenly, we’re ground zero to everyone else’s horror.
No, there are no chunks of human flesh in our refrigerator. Or a special task force looking at our faces pasted on charts at some police precinct. Any despicable acts of malice or evil? No, not yet anyway. We’re just hosts of the latest scourge of living in Manhattan: bed bugs.
The first reaction most people have once they become aware that the person they’re speaking with has been exposed to flesh-eating bugs at their own bed, besides instinctively taking a few steps away from them, is disgust. And the false realization that somehow, it’s all the person’s fault.
Never mind that they seem to be everywhere these days. Questions about personal hygiene, or unsavory habits, come to mind, along with visions of dirty food containers laying around the house, candy wrappers and scraps of pizza on the living room’s sofa, and, of course, a clogged toilet bowl, stuffed with industrial-grade human waste.
It’s also the last thing they’ll be willing to talk about, before coming up with an excuse for a quick retreat away from any possible contamination. Possibly, even the thought that perhaps everything that person has done or spoke about in the past is now somewhat tainted by the revelation.
We’re all quick at seeing ourselves above others, taking a sanctimonious stand that grants us the grace of appreciating without restriction our wise life choices. Specially compared to someone who could be so vile and crass as to invite beg bugs to feast on their own bodies. Repugnant.

DWELLERS OF TENEMENT WALLS
Be I digress. Fact is, when the ceiling finally collapsed on the bedroom, after years of water seeping through and leaking ROOF, a century of semi-rotten wood literally rained over us, bugs and dirt included. Whether there’s a connection, it’s not clear yet, but that’s when it all started.
Our tenement building, as thousands of others in New York, has outlived its initial life expectancy, and stood the passage of time with incredible dignity and vigor. While many others came down, dead by old age or real estate greed, ours remains a beacon from another time in the city.
We, ourselves, are all but a relic, what with our negative banking account, our defiance to stay put while everyone around us could as well purchase us on the cheap, and still wishing to shape and inspire the future with our humanity and hopes for better days. Just don’t tell that to the son.
In any event, and mostly for being sheltered within such a fortitude of a construction feat, we’ve managed to withstand the challenges of being underfunded and Continue reading

Ailurophile, Caturally

Cats & Their Subtle Ways
of Taking Over Our World

The Internet may be the realm of cats. But Japan has been their unofficial land for 15 centuries. Out of its over 6,800 islands, 11 are felines-only places. There, as here or everywhere, an endless stream of news about cats seems to be always pouring. Our duty is to report them. Hey, it’s their world; we just work here.
For sure, they’ve been around way before catching rides on sixth century Chinese boats. And before Egypt and Tibet and New York City threaten to suit us for misrepresentation, they’ve occupied every pore of society, from houses to cafes, from offices to retirement homes, and the very social mores of our age.
The opening of Life of Cats, a two-part show of the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection‘s of cat woodblock prints by Edo-period artists at New York’s Japan Society, presents the perfect opportunity to jump at such an omnipresent, furry, and ever so gracious, subject. The heavy-handed commentary is ours, of course.
The exhibit of almost 200 prints, some popular, others very rare, covers the influential 17th-through-18th centuries period, through works by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Utagawa Yoshiiku, and many others, depicting cats in a variety of settings and situations, both playful and thought provoking.

Divided in five sections – Cats and People, as People, and versus People, Transformed, and at Play – the selections, from the most extensive collection of ukiyo-e prints in the world, offer a journey through pre-industrial and pre-urban Japan through the mid 1800s and beyond. It’s complemented with modern artwork.
In surprising, evocative scenery, the felines are shown as companions, stand-ins for humans, threatening, and just plain child-friendly playful. The technique allows to exquisite detailing and implied hidden contexts, expertly told as stories by the shows’s curator, and Japan Society Gallery’s director, Miwako Tezuka.

HOME & OFFICE PET COMFORT
Back to contemporary times, Japan’s arguably where the cat cafes first sprouted, but it’s in no way the sole sanctuary Continue reading

Sleep With the Fishes

There Will Never
Be Another Gus

Depressed. N​eurotic. ​Terminally bored. Obsessive, self-absorbed and inscrutable. Yes, any of these would be a good description for a New Yorker; many did fall for the cliche of the ‘cooler than thou celebrity.’ Gus, the polar bear who died last month, was all of that and more.
In his eventful 27 years, he pretty much ran the gamut that most residents of the city have tracked on their way to legend in their own mind: he got here eager to inhabit the imagination of eight million-plus people. But in the process, he may have lost his er, bearings.
Since 1988, Gus had ruled Manhattan’s only zoo, in New York’s Central Park,  as its most distinguished and most eccentric resident. Kids loved all 700 pounds of him, but somehow, somewhere along the way, something clicked inside him.
There was a time he was just a tender teddy from Toledo, Ohio. But once in New York, he sported an almost autistic trait: swimming laps for hours on end, as if he’d found a straight connection to his inner Olympic god. It was his moment of Zen, repeated over and over, day after day. Mesmerized, visitors couldn’t get enough of his thunderous and yet graceful back and forth routine.
He presided for a quarter of a century over a way too small tank, cherished by his two female companions, Ida and Lily, who both died before him. He leaves no offspring. Which is a pity, because he was, after all, the only bear worth knowing in the Big Apple, as 22-year Continue reading

Jose, Neda & John

The World’s Poorest President,
The Two Nedas & a Rogue McAfee

What happens when we skip a few days, and neglect to publish our daily stories? We get our files full of them, that’s what happens. So, you can just imagine what we’ve got in store, after a two weeks-plus stretch that included a major storm and a presidential election.
In the end, it’s all about people and their incredible tales. Jose Mojica, leader of four million Uruguayans, for instance, had $1,800 to his name in 2010. Millions of Iranians think Neda Soltani was killed in a public rally. And anti-virus mogul John McAfee is being sought for murder.
From the poignant, to the Kafkaesque, to the deeply disturbing, we’d be hard pressed to find commonality on these stories. That task we must leave to you, reader, to chew it up at your own discretion. In fact, they’re like what the cat would drag down to your door, after a night on the prowl.
Many of you may thank the cat and get rid of the carcasses. Others, however, may wish they had personally experienced some of the action, even if only as a fly on the wall. They may even get inspired to go out today and make their own lives count. One will never know. Short of that, you’ll do just fine reflecting about them, and chewing up some of that commonality.
After all, look at that beautiful antique children’s park toy, the Jane’s Carousel, that illustrates this post. It’s spent decades in some dusty storage space, and nothing ever seemed to happen to it. Then, after a 30-year restoration effort, it looked shiny and ready for another century of entertaining those young at heart.
But alas, it was not to last. Down hard came the storm to almost rip it out of its moorings. It got thrown and bounced a few times, and wound up eerily floating on a pool of dirty water. It survived, however, and Continue reading