A 3,700 Year Old Smiley Face.

Painted flask from 1700 BCE found in a burial under a house in area A East, Karkemish (photo courtesy Nicolò Marchetti).

Archaeologists in southern Turkey have dug up an ancient precedent to the Kool-Aid Man. Recent excavations at the ancient Hittite city of Karkemish have revealed a bulbous pitcher decorated with a faint smiley face, as Andalou Agency first reported. At 3,700 years old, the grin predates by a long shot what scientists in Slovakia had previously dubbed the world’s oldest smiley face, a 17th-century drawing on a legal document.

As head researcher Nicolò Marchetti put it, “We have probably found the oldest smiley emoji. We do not know with which purpose the craftsmen drew this symbol on the pitcher, but we call it a smile.”

Marchetti, an associate professor at the University of Bologna, has been leading the seven-year long excavations at Karkemish, which today lies along the border between Turkey and Syria. The short-necked pitcher is one of the most interesting artifacts found so far at the site, which has also yielded a number of urns, pots, and vases. Found in a burial chamber beneath a house, the unusual vessel was once used for drinking sweet sherbet. It will eventually go on view at the nearby Gaziantep Museum of Archaeology — so yes, you’ll be able to get a selfie of yourself smiling with the one-of-a-kind, jolly jug.

Via Hyperallergic.

Tongue Tide!

Purgatory Pie Press, “Volumptuous: Hanging Tower of Babble” (2017) (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic).

Hyperallergic has a write-up on what sounds like a very grand show indeed, Tongue Tides, in Long Island City. I would so love to see this in person.

Are you ready for volumptuous? This hilarious sign by Purgatory Pie Press dangling from Flux Factory’s ceiling, part of “Volumptuous: Hanging Tower of Babble,” a large installation of hanging signage, is a fitting mascot for this playful summer show. Tongue Tide invites us all to play a little more with language, and to ponder other languages besides English. It’s a must-see for writers and wordsmiths and is well worth the trip to Long Island City.

Queens is the most linguistically diverse area on the planet. No other place boasts so many languages in such close proximity, something Rashedul Hasan and Dan Silverman illustrate in “We Are the Queens of New York” (2017), a map piece where dots of different colors represent these many varied languages. It’s really powerful to dwell on just how unique the borough — and New York City as a whole — is from this perspective.


It’s also good to ponder this map because, with all due to respect to Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker, English does not own a monopoly on wit. Many turns of phrase and poetic expressions in other languages pack a punch, even in translation. Some of the best work in this show plays with other languages to give us glimpses of their clever bons mots.

An intriguing artist book by Magali Duzant, A Light Blue Desire (2017), complies blue bromides from across the globe, and blue postcards featuring some of the selections are available for visitors to take home. Blue, in word and concept, can be stretched in so many semiotic directions. The blues are great, but they cast a sad shadow on the color as a metaphor in today’s English, which is further exacerbated by the minority status of the so-called blue states in the US’s broken political system. But blue is not so sad in other languages. One vivid example is the Polish expression for what we might call daydreaming: to think about blue almonds. It captures the futility of idle fantasy so well.

You can see the map, and much more, and there’s more to read at Hyperallergic.

19th Century Archaeological Rome Goes Online.

Rodolfo Lanciani’s photo capturing the discovery of the bronze statue of the Boxer (1885) (all images © Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte).

In 1885, excavations at Rome’s Quirinal Hill revealed one of the most celebrated Hellenistic Greek sculptures: the bronze, seated Boxer at Rest. Present was the archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani, who witnessed its exhumation and snapped a photograph of the rare ancient object. The image he produced is as arresting as the sculpture itself, capturing the figure perched on a mound of dirt, like a time traveler taking in the ruins of a once-familiar world. It’s one of many photographs Lanciani captured of his city’s changing landscape, and it’s just one gem from his own, massive archives — amassed as his impressive effort to document Rome’s entire archaeological history through the end of the 19th century.

Nearly 4,000 records from Lanciani’s collection are now digitized and accessible through a new, online database created over two years by researches at Stanford University Libraries, the University of Oregon, and Dartmouth College. The Rodolfo Lanciani Digital Archive makes accessible about one fourth of the archive that ended up at the National Institute of Archaeology and Art History in Rome when the archaeologist died in 1929, which is available to the public at the Palazzo Venezia only during select weekday hours.

You can now browse through high-resolution drawings, prints, and photos created between the 16th and 20th centuries that show the many infrastructural layers of the capital. From watercolors of entire buildings to architectural plans to sketches of decorative elements rendered by hundreds of artists, the works reveal the city’s famous buildings at different stages as well as structures that have been lost to time.

You can see more and read all about this at Hyperallergic.

Shades: Still on the Couch.

rq asked if I had made any progress, and I promised another pic. Another bad one, I’m afraid. I didn’t feel like dismantling the quilt frame top and hauling it outside. Not as much progress as I’d like, but I haven’t been able to work on it consistently. The current section is 13.5″ x 5″. Click for full size.

© C. Ford.

Cool Stuff Friday.

Photos: Niklas Adrian Vindelev.

Instead of accelerating the demise of traditional craftsmanship, what if digital tools enhanced it and expanded the possibilities of what we can make?What if an architect could use a digital tool — a CNC machine, say — to create something with a distinctly human quality? How might the machine be applied to skills such as woodwork and metalwork? Could it be used to make objects with the aesthetic appeal, including the touch and feel, of a handmade object? Could it also make objects that can be scaled — objects with applicability to architecture?

These were the timely questions that three architects recently explored as residents at SPACE10  — IKEA’S external future-living lab. With a shared interest in exploring how digital tools can be applied to traditional techniques — and the potential of a CNC milling machine in particular — Yuan Chieh Yang, Benas Burdulis, and Emil Froege together found answers in three very different but eye-opening ways.

You can read and see more at Space10.

If you’re in Ottawa, consider Indigenous Walks.

Indigenous Walks is a walk and talk through downtown Ottawa exploring landscape, architecture, art and monuments through an Indigenous perspective.

The character Danerys Targaryen finally returned to Westeros on Sunday night’s Game of Thrones Season 7 premiere, but the actress, Emilia Clarke, shot the scene on a Northern Irish beach called Downhill Strand. Much of what viewers know as Westeros, in fact, is actually Northern Ireland, including parts of Winterfell, Slaver’s Bay, and the Kingsroad—all thanks to the nation’s open tracts of land and many surviving castles. To draw attention to this fact, Ireland’s tourism board commissioned a massive tapestry that details every episode of the series.

The 66-meter-long artwork is on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast. A group of artisans including the museum’s director, Katherine Thomson, are embroidering each meter with characters and symbols that summarize each one of the episodes preceding Sunday’s “Dragonstone.” As Season 7 progresses, they’ll add more yardage to the tapestry to reflect new developments on the HBO juggernaut. By the end of season 7 it will be 77 meters long.

You can read and see more at The Creators Project.

Conservation Lab: Glass Flowers.

Scott Fulton working on a model of an Emperor Alexander apple affected by apple scab disease: Malus pumila (Model 813).

Luffa cylindrica (Model 272), Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, 1892. The Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, Harvard University © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

You can read all about this fascinating restoration at The Creators Project.

Lincoln’s Body Double.

John C. Calhoun print, 1852 Library of Congress/LC-DIG-pga-02499.

After Lincoln’s assassination, there was a dearth of “heroic-style” pictures of the president. So one portrait painter got creative. On a print of the late president, Thomas Hicks superimposed Lincoln’s head onto the body of John C. Calhoun—the virulent racist and slavery proponent who did not exactly see eye-to-eye with the 16th president.

Engraver A.H. Ritchie created the Calhoun print in 1852. The original included the words “strict constitution,” “free trade,” and “the sovereignty of the states” on the desk papers. But when it was altered to feature Lincoln instead, the words were changed to “constitution,” “union,” and “proclamation of freedom.”

Lincoln edited print Library of Congress/LC-DIG-pga-02353.

For a century, no one noticed. The famous photo was only recently revealed to have been faked.

Photojournalist Stefan Lorant was compiling photos of Lincoln for his book Lincoln, A Picture Story of His Life (first published in 1957, then revised in 1969) when he discovered something odd: in the Hicks print, Lincoln’s mole was on the wrong side of his face. After some investigation, he realized that Lincoln’s face in the print exactly matched his face in Brady’s five-dollar bill photo—except in the print Lincoln’s face was flipped, making Lincoln’s mole show up on the opposite side.

Apparently, Hicks hadn’t noticed this discrepancy when superimposing the picture onto Calhoun’s body.

You can read more about this and the other photographic manipulations done by Brady when it came to photographing Lincoln at Atlas Obscura.

A Downward Nerd-Driven Death Spiral, Alassie!

Lassie (CBS) 1954 – 1974 Shown: Jon Provost (as Timmy Martin, 1958-1964), Lassie the Dog.

In a fit of nerdiness, I must point out that in the photo, that is not Lassie the Dog, that’s Pal playing Lassie. All the ‘Lassies’ were played by male dogs, all of them Pal’s descendants. Over at that stew of conservative, christian nuttery, Barbwire, one Dr. Michael Brown opines over the state of television. It’s quite clear that Mr. Brown watches entirely too much television. It never seems to dawn on these glorifiers of a non-existent past that watching television is a choice, you don’t have to watch.

He lists one television show after another, mourning how great they were. No one ever thought Leave It To Beaver was corny back in the day, oh no! Because of course, we all know that yes, all housewives did indeed clean and cook in a dress, heels, perfectly done make-up, and pearls. No one ever joked about that, no. The Andy Griffith show was a perfect reflection of Southern cops. Good thing Mayberry didn’t have any black people. Lucy and Ricky slept in separate beds, which was right and proper! And on and on it goes. In the end, the whine is simply a shill for his book. He does mention a different article though, which centers around The Game of Thrones. We’ll get to that in a bit. What did make me snort tea laughing was this particular comment:

Where are the CENSORS of the 1950’s and 1960’s who would not have permitted such filth and violence to be aired on TV, especially during PRIME TIME???? Even the famous LAW AND ORDER programs have become progressively vulgar and violent over the course of their tenure, and they are not the only TV programs to undergo such anti-societal changes!!!! Again, WHERE ARE THOSE CENSORS THAT WE NEED TO CLEAN UP THE FILTH AND VIOLENCE ON TV, RADIO, THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, AND VIDEO GAMES??????????

Goodness, there’s enough melodrama there for Game of Thrones! This is no longer the age of Comstock, thankfully, and nasty personifications of sourness no longer get to rule over all. Societies change over time. That’s called progress. There isn’t anything new, there just isn’t one tabu after another in regard to talking about something. Or singing about it. Or acting it. There’s a great deal of naughtiness in the works of Shakespeare, all different kinds. Of course, it helps to have a functioning brain to get all that naughtiness. There’s always been naughtiness. Pursing your lips and pretending it doesn’t exist doesn’t get you anywhere, you know.

Moving on to Game of Thrones, the naughtiest of them all! After watching a full six seasons of the show, one Matthew Walther came to the conclusion that Game of Thrones is bad. Very bad. That it took six years for him to figure this out says quite a bit about Mr. Walther. I can’t make any judgments about it; I heard early on about the high amounts of rape in the books, and decided this wasn’t for me. It’s very difficult for me to read such scenes, and I certainly can’t do that on a repeat loop. Nor can I watch it, so I have not read the books or seen the show. In his fervor of complaint, Mr. Walther swallowed a couple of thesauruses doused in deep purple ink.

I used to watch Game of Thrones. Then I realized it was endangering my immortal soul.

You don’t have an immortal soul, dude. Even if you did, I’d expect you’ll have to work off that six years you spent reveling in the show. After all, Jehovah really isn’t the forgiving sort, in spite of all the PR attempts.

Game of Thrones is unquestionably the most acclaimed and beloved show on television. But HBO’s hit fantasy series, which returns for a seventh season this Sunday, is not a drama for adults. It’s not even a soap opera. It is ultra-violent wizard porn — and boring ultra-violent wizard porn at that. Two decades ago, watching it would have gotten you shoved into a locker.

Ooooh, boring ultra-violent wizard porn. Quick question, Matt: if it was so damn boring, why did you watch it for six years? 20 years ago would have been 1997, and no, I don’t think anyone would have been shoved in a locker over watching Game of Thrones. I expect it would have been right popular then, too, just like Tolkien has been popular, Dungeons & Dragons has been popular, and Warhammer has been popular.

Popular culture in the English-speaking world is in the grips of a downward nerd-driven death spiral. Outside of the art-house theaters of our major cities it is almost impossible to find more than one semi-decent film a month that is not an adaptation of some decades-old picture book franchise about men in rubber costumes punching each other.

A “picture book franchise.” Hee. Oh, you can’t manage to say comic book. Or graphic novel. Oh, and they aren’t rubber suits, dude. That would be something quite different. It’s lycra, and lots of people wear the stuff. Besides, it allows us to check out all those finely honed bodies. What’s the point of a world-class arse if it can’t be seen? The punching does get tiring, though. So, it’s impossible to find more than one semi-decent film a month? Hmmm. Glancing over Netflix, I have to disagree. Lots and lots of good stuff that isn’t comic-book based. As for what comprises ‘decent’, well, we’d need to define that word first. There’s always plenty of crappy christian flicks being churned out of one mill or another. Watch those.

The average video game player is more than 30 years old. The only book that most Americans between the ages of 23 and 40 seem to have read whose title does not begin with some variation of “Harry Potter and the” is a fable about talking animals that they were assigned in middle school. Things are bad.

Apparently you can’t bring yourself to type Animal Farm by George Orwell. It’s much more than a fable, you flaming idiot. Obviously, your schooling didn’t do much good. Oh, the utter horror of 30 year olds playing games. I have news for you, Matt, people of all ages love games, video and otherwise. Humans need to play, we are all much better people for having play time. It’s not just for kids. I’ve read the Potter books. I’ve read much more than that. Here’s a tiny slice of the 2,000something books in my house:

How many books do you own, Matt? And how many of them have you read? What’s your library checkout rate? You don’t seem to be nearly as interested in books as you are in movies and television. From where I sit, you don’t get to moan about the reading habits of others without disclosing your own.

There is a deeper sense in which the old problems that were the hallmark of realist fiction and drama — the old stand-bys of morals, manners, marriage, and money — are simply not interesting to people who are not emotionally mature enough to engage with them.

The old stand-bys are still very much with us, you fuckwitted pontificator. I expect there’s plenty of all that stuff in Game of Thrones. Old movies are still popular, y’know. And escapism was every bit as prevalent then as now. People need that, too. Most people have the sense to know that life is not as neat as any movie or television show. We learn early on that stuff isn’t real. Most of us learn that anyway.

We really are, emotionally speaking, a nation of teenagers — albeit horny ones with generous allowances.

Hahahahahaha. Oh my. Speak for yourself, cupcake. My teen years are long behind me, and good riddance to them.

But the real problem with Game of Thrones is not that it is, like most American popular culture these days, fundamentally adolescent. It is that it is obscene. It is not just bad art; it is art that is bad and bad for you.

I had this realization sometime last year. My wife had gone to bed, and I was sitting up having just finished the penultimate episode of the show’s sixth season on my laptop. Then it occurred to me.

Ah yes, the meat of it all – the great revelation, after six years! If you’re a representative example of what Jehovah has to work with, no wonder it never gets anything done. Everyone ready? Here it is:

My goodness. I’ve just spent an hour watching to see if a guy who raped a teenage girl at bow-and-arrow point is going to be eaten alive by the animals he has spent the last few seasons subjecting to forms of cruelty that make Michael Vick look like a PETA ambassador or beaten to death in the freezing cold by his victim’s half-brother. Thank goodness the guy who set his terminally ill daughter on fire in a pyromantic oblation to a heathen god at the behest of a witch who never seems to wear any clothes is not around to prevent justice from being carried out here — the woman whose size makes her the frequent butt of bestiality-related jokes killed him just in time! Lucky that she has a wealthy and well-connected benefactor in a one-armed knight whose hobbies from childhood on have included killing people and sleeping with his queen sister — including in a church right next to the corpse of one of their unacknowledged sons — to whom we were first introduced when he pushed the little brother of the above-mentioned rape victim out of a window to conceal his incest from her drunken prostitute-addicted domestic-abuser husband! Almighty God has made me in His own image and endowed me with faculties of reason and sense perception and given me free will so that I can tune in next week to see whether the unidextrous dueling champ’s royal sister sets her daughter-in-law and the rest of her extended family on fire or just a bunch of priests. Hallelujah!

You certainly are dim, Matt. So, let’s see: rape, cruelty to animals, sacrifices to a god, nakedness, filthy rich people, incest, drunks, other assorted addicts, prostitutes, and abusive husbands. Got it. Which ones of those are not present and rife in current societies, Matt? Those are all part and parcel of what might be termed the human condition. And no, you don’t have to watch it, or read it, if you don’t want to do so. Glad you finally got that one figured the fuck out. Took long enough. Bet it won’t be long before you’re being tormented by your desire to find out what the heck happens in the 7th season.

What does it say about our culture and the state of the souls of millions who participate in it that anyone could find any of this even mildly diverting, much less praise it as a triumph of man’s creative energies and subject it to endless hours of analysis and speculation?

You found it entertaining for SIX YEARS. You are spending many words on it now. Perhaps you should turn your attention inward.

Half a century ago, when our absurdly generous obscenity laws were still occasionally enforced, a program like this could not have been conceived, much less produced at great expense and broadcast.

That would have been 1967, and you are so full of shit, Matt. Yes, it could have been conceived and produced, and likely would have been, and people would have been deliciously scandalised, like they are now, and enjoyed it thoroughly. Just because you couldn’t be quite so explicit in years past, you could certainly imply whatever you liked, and there was a hell of a lot of implication going on. In a famous film, M, starring Peter Lorre, the murders of the children aren’t dwelt upon, but the movie is horrifying nonetheless. There are distinct parallels between the criminal underworld and the cops, too. There’s a tremendous amount of nasty in that film, and strikes all too true to actual life. That was in 1931. The 1960s saw some of the most lurid films ever in the horror genre. You also seem to know absolutely nothing about the actual history of royalty, and their habit of inbreeding. Are you sure you had any schooling?

One of the most persistent liberal myths is that art has no moral content, that reading or watching or listening to something can never be in itself evil.

Oh for fuck’s sake. That’s a myth you made up, Matt. There’s no such thing. I’m an artist. Everything we do is dependent on the subjective perceptions and gaze of others. A great deal of art speaks to morality or issues, and has done throughout the ages. That doesn’t mean all of it does. Sometimes, it’s just something pretty or interesting.

You can only watch so many decapitations and eye-gouges and rapes and brother-on-sister grope fests before you either give up on the wretched proceedings in disgust or decide to pretend that “Lol, nothing matters” and it’s not worth having feelings anyway. Not exactly, in the latter, case a resounding victory for the human spirit.

Well, it did take you six fucking years. Doesn’t say much for your intellect or your spirit.

Game of Thrones reminds us that boredom and despair are, theologically speaking, synonyms.

No, you flaming dipshit, no. Boredom and despair are not synonyms, and have very different meanings, theologically speaking or not.

Both the messes: Alassie! and Matt Walther Is An Idiot.