Paper Planes

404 Pages, Old Hoaxers
& Staying Dry in the Rain

This being Summer Solstice time, it seems appropriate to bring you these stories, each with a temporal slant. One would not be possible a few decades ago; another no longer makes much sense; and yet the other one is ageless. So, no sweat, we’ve got you covered.
On the Internet, no one knows you got lost; or that you landed on a ‘Not Found’ page. The Society Against Quackery would not tolerate such nonsense 130 years ago. And yet, since time immemorial, there’s been Virga, a special kind of rain: the type that doesn’t make you wet.
What? Didn’t they use to count paper planes on New York City streets? Or holes in Blackburn Lancashire? Indeed they did, so it shouldn’t shock you if we pick the odd or the unusual for a summer read, rather than the bloody or the bombastic. For there’ll be plenty of that too.
There’s a new Pride Flag with a welcome element of racial tolerance. And, yes, the season‘s proverbial love stories already abound, along those from the 1967 Summer of Love. And the breeze, and that girl from Ipanema, and all cliches about heat and hurricanes.
Since warm days go by faster in the north, they’ll still be filled with talk about ice cream and beaches, parties and drought. Just as Earth will keep on getting warmer, and this sort of conversation feels like sand inside one’s swimming suits. Blame us for wanting you to take it easy.
THIS CALL CANNOT BE COMPLETED
So what’s wrong with searching and not finding? Not acceptable these days. See, even when one lands on uncharted territory, it’s no longer an excuse to avoid making assumptions. Or post your cluelessness on Facebook. No opinion should be spared. Thus the 404 pages.
Which is now as entertaining as if you’d reached a site about scientific curiosities. Museums, institutions, companies, and individuals, all jockey to come up with clever ways to cushion your crushing results. It’s Ok, the image and wording seem to say. Here, it’s funny, see?
As for the code number, like a lot of what still compounds our journeys online, it had a nerdy origin, such as some room number in a building once fully occupied by an electronic brain, as it was known. Or it was by chance, depending on who you find still wondering in the space formerly known as cyber.
THE OLE FLIM-FLAM DEBUNKERS
Way before Tim Berners-Lee was born – the World Wide Web inventor just turned 62 last week – or there was a need for Snopes, a group of Dutch skeptics recognized the potential harm hidden behind human gullibility. And decided to mount a defense against those who’d gladly take advantage of it. Boy, haven’t they got their work cut out for them.
If the Internet metastasized the power of deceivers, in 1881, snake oil salesmen, mystics, end-of-the-world profiteers, and an entire array of their ilk, were already spreading irreparable damage all over. (more)
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* 50 Summers
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Vessels of Tears

Beyond Memory, Three
Wrecks That Still Hurt

The schooner that brought the last 110 Africans to be American slaves, in 1860; a boxcar that carried many of the millions of Jews to Germany’s Auschwitz extermination camp, during WWII; a boat that sunk in the Mediterranean in 2015, killing over a thousand migrants.
For their riders, hope for breaking chains, breathe freedom, or find a future, was yanked out of their reach. But even stripped of their dignity, or forced to renounce name and identity, their lives were not wasted. Now, more than ever, they must be known by all.
It’s an intriguing coincidence. The Clotilda, a slave ship just-found in Alabama; a cattle car used in the Holocaust, being exhibited in Manhattan; and the rescued wreck of the Barca Nostra, on display at the Venice Biennale, are sharing a meaningful moment now.
Slavery. Racism. Xenophobia. Neither vanquished, as believed, nor gone. As their murderous spell threatens the world again, it’s timely that all three vessels have been given a new life as beacons of memory and resistance. History is not made to be repeated.
Some are weary of attributing to objects the significance of the pain and suffering experienced by actual human beings; it risks dehumanizing them further. But it beats forgetting it all. It jolts people out of complacency, and gives them agency over the immovable past.

THE LAST SLAVE SHIP, BURIED IN THE MUD
The story of the Clotilda, the boat that transported kidnapped West Africans to Alabama, is well known. The last slave ship to reach the U.S., at the dawn of the Civil War, it was among other things, breaking the federal ban on ‘importation,’ in effect since 1808.
To avoid being caught, after delivering its heartbreaking cargo, the captain burned and sank the boat. But in a generation, the then former slaves founded Africatown, and helped build this country. They did not forget, though, and now there’s proof for the stories they’ve heard.
The discovery is worth being part of the national conversation about the black African-American experience, just like Reparations for Slavery, and prison and drug reforms. All are about giving people and their stories their due acknowledgement and place in history.

THE SINISTER CARGO OF NAZI TRAINS
In America, circa 2019, when a white supremacist goes in a rampage, killing Jewish people, or another Latino child dies at an immigration facility, the president gives the first a nod, and ignores the other. No wonder that there’s been quite a few of both lately. People of a certain age know how this winds up.
Auschwitz, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a show about Germany’s biggest concentration camp between 1940-1945, features a railcar just like the ones Nazis used to ship thousands of Jews and others to gas chambers. But it teaches more than that.
Hate and murder are the stock and trade of psychopaths in power, but they rely on forgetfulness to come back again. If the murder of six million is no longer (more)
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* The Journey
* Floating Enigmas
* Second Variety

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The Turkey Brief

Five Easy Sides
for Thanksgiving

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

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* No, Thanks
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TrumpaDoom


We Who’ve Always 
Hated Him So Much

If we could all charge Trump for the time we waste being disgusted by him, the fake millionaire at the top would be us. Fair warning: as the fatberg who congealed in New York City cannibalizes even feces thrown at him, his flatulent franchise is at top speed.
So a post about him is a kind of betrayal, like free advertising. Anything about it feeds his monster. Always deeply disliked here, it’s no small feat that he’d find plenty of fans to fan off the flies. Even in a pungent city like ours, he cuts a distinguished odor.
But there are simply too many sharp moments, captured by artists local and global, not to have this post writing itself up. The mordacity of satire and an acute sense of duty of these works dispense with speeches or words of order. And they are funny.
The accuracy of their political commentary may be regarded as only echoing the era. But in this day, to argue over the U.S. presidency is not just required from everyone, but it’s standard equipment of any resistance unashamed to speak its name.

NYC serves once again as a backdrop for a story inspired by its past. Some works were placed on Union Square, long ago a bastion (more)
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* Call Upon You
* Scary Clowns
* Faulty Towers

of the labor and union rights movements. As usual, the city is happy to oblige reenacting its glory days. For the kids, they say.

What Ilma Gore, Alison Jackson, Phil Gable, Wilson Tseng, Joshua Ginger Monroe, John Post Lee, Jeffrey Beebe, Indecline, and many others are doing is reasserting dissent. All but Baptist churchgoers who melted their jewelry into a golden effigy of him.

Here Before Us

Earth Natives Have a Day to
Celebrate But Not Much Else

To call ‘indigenous peoples’ those who predate the European rise to global dominance is an insult and a reminder. Their subordination and misery were brutally determined by the so-called civilization. And their very existence is proof that, if it were up to them, the planet wouldn’t be in such dire straits.
Yet they survive. Thus today’s U.N. International Indigenous People’s Day, both a mournful date and a celebration of their endangered wisdom. Since you’re bound to read and hear all about the reasons that there are for grieving over them throughout the day, we’ll rather focus briefly on some of their legacy.
Even ‘packaging’ natives as part of a supposed worldwide collective is an expression of prejudice. Only in North America, there are more tribes and languages than Europe, Asia and Africa combined. And most didn’t even make it to our times. The same about the rest of the world.
A staggering diversity and history, dating back from at least 10,000 BCE, informs their status as the original lords of Earth. With the now nearly impossible virtue of having not spoiled the place, as we did in mere 500 years. All but wasted, though, when they met our truculence.
The fate of the Comanche, Hopi, Cherokee, and Navajo, Maya, Aztecs, Incas, Mapuche and Quechua, the Tupi, Guarani and Kayapó, plus million others, was sealed in 1492, when Christopher Columbus landed on what he called La Española. It’s been downhill ever since.

NOT YET EXTINCT, NOT YET LOST
That’s no reason to dismiss their fight to protect their land, and our own survival, and criminalize their defiance. Indigenous peoples, native tribes, and forest dwellers, equal resilience. Their endurance is a testament to the power that preserved them to our age.
Moken children see 50% better than Europeans; Bolivian Kallawaya healers may speak the language of Incan kings; Sentinelese live on the Andaman Islands for some 55,000 years; Brazilian Awá-Guajá women care for orphaned monkeys by breastfeeding them.
400 years ago, the Incas performed head surgeries with better survival rates than Civil War-era medicine. Ancient cities uncovered under Guatemala City housed millions of Mayans. Aztecs philosophers would advise on matters of moral virtue and (more)
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Stanley Cubic

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

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

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

Looking for Van Gogh
in a Roomful of Clicks

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

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

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

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