Happy Indigenous Peoples Day.

In celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, have a book! Nothing like some good reading. Give As We Have Always Done by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson a read, you won’t be sorry! Ms. Simpson’s site is here, Peter d’Errico reviewed here, and the book can be purchased direct from UMN press.

Animal Sculptures.

Autumn is officially upon us. It’s the season of shorter days, brighter moons and bountiful harvests. Niigata prefecture, in Northern Japan, is known for its rice paddies and rice production. Around this time of year the rice harvest becomes a big deal, as well as the tons of rice straw, or wara, that is leftover. It can be plowed down as soil improver, fed to livestock, or even woven into decorative ornaments. But before any of that, for the past 9 years Uwasekigata Park has hosted a Wara Art Festival by teaming up with art students to create creatures, both large and small, from rice straw.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Niigata’s Wara Art Festival. And to commemorate, participants have sculpted animals twice as large as previous years.

The Wara Art Festival all started in 2006 when the local district reached out to Musashino Art University to seek guidance on transforming their abundant amount of rice straw into art. And in 2008, the very first Wara Art Festival was held. Since then, every year the school sends art students up to Niigata to assist in creating sculptures made out of rice straw. The festivities have ended but the sculptures are on display through October 31, 2017.

You can see more at Spoon & Tamago!

That one may smile…

Apparently, It’s World Smile Day, originated by Harvey Ball, the commercial artist who came up with the ubiquitous smiley face in the 1960s. Perhaps Mr. Ball wasn’t a fan of Shakespeare: That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. – Hamlet.

I’m not a fan of Mr. Ball’s smiley face, I’ve always hated that damn thing, and I’ve had a lifetime of seeing it everywhere, and it’s all over the bloody net, too. Give me Kilroy any day. As a girl, and a woman, I’ve been subjected to the “smile!” command my whole life, from those I know, and perfect strangers. You can’t go anywhere without getting that obnoxious command from someone, usually a man.

Smiles don’t necessarily mean one damn thing, especially as so many of us are expected to fake smile throughout the day no matter what. Out in public, you can rarely be lost in your thoughts without hearing “smile!” or “it can’t be that bad, smile!” Kindness, courtesy, and thoughtfulness can easily take place without a smile, as well as with one. If you have a genuine reason to smile, by all means, do so, but do we really need a smile command day?

As Shakespeare noted so long ago, a smile can easily mask villainy of all kinds. Those looking to con someone are known for their easy smiles. And so on. I also have little use for making shit like this a “day”. Great, so you’re gonna smile your way through this day, then what? Go back to being an asshole the other 364? Screw smiling. If you want to make a difference, work on small kindnesses whenever you’re out and about, if you can manage them, with or without the smile. That will stretch further, and have a good chain effect, rather than a bunch of people being smiley because it’s an ‘official day’. All this crap does is promote the artificial smile, and makes people think it’s perfectly okay to keep on with the “smile!” command aimed at people they don’t know. Please, don’t do that, and if someone is not smiling, perhaps they have reason not to do so, and refraining from insisting on a smile would be a small act of kindness.

Note: Anyone who decides it would be clever to pepper a comment with smiley faces will most likely find it edited.

“I guess all we can do is not watch Star Trek,”

Disclaimer: I have not watched Star Trek Discovery, and unless it’s out on disc one of these days, most likely won’t see it. In spite of the various opinions I have read about it, I am glad there’s serious attention to diversity, we need more of that.

Okay, on to Pete LaBarbera, who is all upsetty about Discovery having a gay couple, portrayed by gay actors. Mr. LaBarbera is opining that this simply isn’t balanced or fair.

LaBarbera discussed the Star Trek news with VCY America’s Jim Schneider on the September 26 episode of the “Crosstalk” program, saying that the show’s decision to include gay characters is another sign that “the homosexual activists are never satisfied, they always want more, more, more.”

Wanting representation is hardly “more, more, more”, Mr. LaBarbera. Quickly, run through your not overused brain, the representation of white straight people. All of history. I’ll wait. This is one show, that is not going to be beamed directly into peoples’ heads or anything. It’s hardly the Queer Revolution, dear.

At the same time, he said, “We have yet to see an ex-gay, a former homosexual prominently portrayed in Hollywood.”

Um, well, first, catch your ex-gay star. I don’t watch bad christian films, but I’m sure this has been covered by one of them. Perhaps you could talk Kevin Sorbo into portraying a ‘former’ homosexual? I’m sure he’d do it, playing the role with all the wooden enthusiasm he brings to his caricatures of atheists. I imagine that the Hollywood number crunchers are fully aware of the fact that trying to make money on a prominent portrayal of a ‘former’ homosexual simply won’t bring an audience. Or money.

“I guess all we can do is not watch Star Trek,” he said, adding that “this sort of propaganda” and “political correctness” is “why Trump won in the first place.”

Yes, that’s fine, don’t watch Discovery. No one will cry about it. As for the rest of your tripe, no, that’s not why the Tiny Tyrant “won”. Corruption is the answer you’re looking for.

When Schneider asked LaBarbera what listeners could do to confront this kind of thing, LaBarbera said, “Remember, the other side never stops fighting. There is a battle between good and evil in this country.” He urged listeners to call their elected officials about enforcing Trump’s announced ban on military service for transgender people and opposing the “very, very dangerous” Equality Act, which “would make it easier for homosexual activists and liberal attorneys to persecute people of faith for opposing this juggernaut which calls itself ‘gay.’”

:near-fatal eyeroll: Oh cupcake…when our mere existence is enough to give you hives, it’s rather difficult to avoid the whole “persecution” shtick. Perhaps you should work on not being so incredibly sensitive, your hysterical tendencies do get all over peoples’ nerves. Go on, go sit in your closet, stick your fingers in your ears, squinch your eyes shut, and whatever you do, avoid Discovery. You’ll be fine.

Via RWW.

Japanese Bathroom Ghosts.

Illustrations of the 12 different types of Kappa, a water spirit who is sometimes known to haunt outhouses, from the 19th century.

And why not? Lavatories are notoriously spooky, and across cultures. Japanese lav spooks are quite detailed, and there are plenty of urban legends to go around, too.

Kappas may be repelled by farts, but they were known to appear in outhouses all the same. Yoshitoshi/Public Domain.

Never forget the power of a good fart! Atlas Obscura has the full rundown on lavatory spooks, with more to read, videos to watch, and many more images!

Brewery Biosensors.

Just stay clear of their claws. Fredlyfish4/CC BY-SA 4.0.

There are an endless number of decisions that a brewer can make about a beer recipe, but one ingredient—water—seems like it should be an afterthought. But even for the most basic, cheap beers, brewers pay a lot of attention to water chemistry. If it’s too alkaline, or full of minerals and other contaminants, it will impact the flavor of the final product. So they carefully test their water sources to make sure they’re good enough—and now one brewery in the Czech Republic has hired some tiny new employees to take over this task. They’re paid in food. Because they’re crayfish.

[…]

At the Protivin Brewery—brewers of the Platan family of beersReuters reports, they can show whether water pumped from a local natural source is safe to use. Five of the clawed arthropods have infrared sensors mounted on their backs that monitor their heart rates and movement. A portion of the water headed for the brew kettle is diverted to their tank, and if three or more of the crayfish have elevated heart rates, or start moving around a lot, a computer will tell brewers within three minutes that there’s a problem.

The brewery is working with scientists from the University of South Bohemia to develop this biosensor system, which they plan to continue upgrading. Cameras that can monitor the crayfishes’ hearts are a planned addition. The system remains experimental, so brewers still have to monitor water quality in a lab.

Anything in the name of a good beer! Via Atlas Obscura.

Ricardo Edwards.

© Ricardo Edwards.

© Ricardo Edwards.

© Ricardo Edwards.

Jamaica-based visual artist Ricardo Edwards says his detailed portraits are each infused with “little fragments” of his personality. If that’s the case, any meeting with him would sure to be a mind-blowing experience of beautiful renditions of Afrofuturist imaginings, as is the through-line of his work. Pulling from cultural histories, the artist’s paintings are rife with symbolism: there is a bloody police officer wading through water with a horned skull covering his face, and in another photo a person with tribal tattoos bursting through a similar skull.

“My main inspiration comes from my culture and the exploration of my own obscure thoughts,” Edwards explains to Artists of Jamaica. “Motive? to express myself and hopefully inspire. If my work inspires or motivates at least one person in this reality before I die my purpose would’ve been served.”

You can see more at Afropunk and Artists of Jamaica. Stunning work, all.

Social Foretelling.

IV. – Development of Wireless Telegraphy. Scene in Hyde Park. [These two figures are not communicating with one another. The lady is receiving an amatory message, and the gentleman some racing results.]

This is from Punch magazine, in 1906. They didn’t quite get to cellphones, but they weren’t completely off the mark, either. The Punch Almanack, in 1879, also speculated on the possibility of a telephonoscope:

(Every evening, before going to bed, Pater and Materfamilias set up an electric camera obscura over their bedroom mantel-piece, and gladden their eyes with the sight of their Children at the Antipodes, and converse gaily with them through the wire.)
Paterfamilias (in Willow Place): “Beatrice, come closer, I want to whisper.”
Beatrice (from Ceylon): “Yes, Papa dear.”
Paterfamilias: Who is that charming young lady playing on Charlie’s side!
Beatrix: “She’s just come over from England, Papa. I’ll introduce you as soon as the game’s over!”

A version of Skype was foretold, too, by a number of people. You can see more here.

Peter Saul: Fake News.

Peter Saul, “Quack-Quack, Trump” (2017), acrylic on canvas, 78 x 120 inches.

If you’re unfamiliar with Peter Saul, do yourself a favour and click over to read John Yau’s article at Hyperallergic. Peter Saul has never known any fear when tackling the hot and heavy subjects of the day, and that has not changed.

In the 1960s, Saul titled two of his paintings, “Mickey Mouse vs. The Japs” (1962) and “I Torture Commie Virgins” (1967). The 1970s brought “Crucifixion of Angela Davis” (1973). In 1990, he did a painting titled “Legal Abortion,” and in 1993, he did one of Jeffrey Dahmer strapped into an electric chair, celebrating his birthday with a cake made from a butchered male pelvis.

Saul’s recurring subject is pain and abuse of all kinds — what we inflict on others and do to ourselves. It seems that the only way he can embrace these often monstrous subjects, and whatever they stir up in him, is with scandalous humor. This is why such distinctions as tasteful and tasteless seem beside the point when looking at and thinking about Saul’s garish work, which is just one reason why he is such an important artist. He also happens to be an amazing colorist and terrific caricaturist. More than socially conscious, he is a formally inventive artist with a deep love for toppling sacred cows and pushing everyone’s buttons. In his hands, painting and paint become a platform for preposterous visual proposals.

This is the America that Saul has never shied away from, never failed to poke, probe, or give the finger to — a self-righteous country that has been in a race war ever since intolerant religious freedom seekers landed on the Eastern seaboard and began slaughtering Native Americans in the name of God. I love the fact that he keeps hammering away at everything a well-behaved citizen, whether of a liberal or conservative political persuasion, would have an informed opinion about — Abstract Expressionism, Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, fast food, sweaty businessmen, big-breasted women, or capital punishment. Saul has a quarrel with the world and he isn’t above using puerile humor, ghastly bad taste, or in-your-face grotesquerie to nettle it.

Peter Saul, “Donald Trump in Florida” (2017), acrylic on canvas, 78 x 120 inches.

Saul sees the President as a predatory crocodile — a cold-hearted creature incapable of empathy. There are six paintings in the exhibition, all of them irreverent. They riff on self-importance, make fun of Rembrandt, laugh at climate change because it is all too real. Saul’s impertinence is a frontal, no-holds-barred attack. I want him to keep it up. I want to see how far he can go. I want him to know that I am cheering him every step of the way. I don’t think Saul can be too tasteless when it comes to this disgusting regime.

Peter Saul: Fake News continues at Mary Boone (541 West 24th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through October 28, 2017)

I too am cheering Mr. Saul on, we need him more than ever. There’s much more to read and see at Hyperallergic.

President Pottymouth.

Johan Olander, “President Pottymouth” (2017), inkjet on matte photo paper with hand-painted enamel additions, 8.5 x 11 inches.

President Donald J Trump’s official portrait is so rich in infantile machismo that mockery is inevitable. Look at it for minute and you can’t but help to want to distort it in order to show its true nature.

Via Hyperallergic.

The Rowboat Bath.

Some ideas were best discarded. This is one of them, from 1916.

The rowboat bath is the newest contribution to the physical enjoyment of living.

The rowboat bath is the newest contribution to the physical enjoyment of living.

"The rowing-bath has been perfected in a western sanitarium for the purpose of adding zest to the morning plunge. It is valuable as a curative measure, but it may also be used with enjoyment and benefit by any one. The rowing-bath consists of a metal container which is attached to the nozzle of an ordinary tub by means of a rubber cord sufficiently strong to give the element of exercise. Entering the tub, the bather attaches the rowing device and turns on the cold water. As it pours into the tube he scoops up the water and, pulling the container toward him with a rowing motion, empties it full upon his breast, thus securing the zest which accompanies the pleasant pastime of buffeting surf. This bath is a diversion from the ordinary "shower" on a hot summer day."

The rowing-bath has been perfected in a western sanitarium for the purpose of adding zest to the morning plunge. It is valuable as a curative measure, but it may also be used with enjoyment and benefit by any one.

The rowing-bath consists of a metal container which is attached to the nozzle of an ordinary tub by means of a rubber cord sufficiently strong to give the element of exercise. Entering the tub, the bather attaches the rowing device and turns on the cold water. As it pours into the tube he scoops up the water and, pulling the container toward him with a rowing motion, empties it full upon his breast, thus securing the zest which accompanies the pleasant pastime of buffeting surf. This bath is a diversion from the ordinary “shower” on a hot summer day.”

I wonder how many people bought this ridiculous thing before it sank into obscurity. Looking at that picture, all I can envision is what a mess it would make, and it wouldn’t be the male enthusiastic ‘rower’ who cleaned it all up, either.

Via The Public Domain.

Sept. 20th: Grave Robbing 101 at Lincoln Park.

Here’s a fun thing to do on a Wednesday evening if you’re in the area:

When the area now known as Lincoln Park was City Cemetery during the 1840s to 1860s, it was a regular smorgasbord for grave robbers — medical schools tended to have a “no questions asked” policy, and a fresh cadaver could pay as much as a month in the coal mines.

Author and tour guide Adam Selzer leads “pupils” on a walking tour of Lincoln Park, showing relics of the old cemetery, a tomb snooping demonstration, and repeating stories and quotes from the archives about all of the body snatching that took place on the grounds — featuring enough tricks of the trade to launch your very own career. Humorous, entertaining, and educational as all get out.

Tickets are $20.00, and all the details are at Atlas Obscura.