One of my most unforgettable travel experiences was visiting the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora, near Prague. This small 19-century monastery chapel would be unremarkable, except that it is decorated with thousands of human bones and skulls. There are skull- and femur-decorated columns, hanging garlands of bones, a chandelier made of every bone in the human body, and a replica of the Schwarzenberg family coat of “arms” – that also includes leg, finger, scapula, and coccyx bones! The memory of that space makes any Halloween display seem tame and unimaginative.
If Kutná Hora isn’t in your travel plans, check out Memento Mori, a spectacular book of essays and photographs by UCLA PhD and art historian Paul Koudounaris. His 500 color photographs here are arresting, both in subject matter and photographic technique. The handsome hardbound book includes a stunning centerfold of a bejeweled and gold-encrusted mummy. The detail and visual opulence of the photo justifies the giant four-page spread. I enjoyed reading the informative essays about the use of human bones as a form of remembrance in cultures around the world, from Europe to Thailand, Japan to Peru, and from ancient times to the present day. Here’s just one fun fact: there are two venerated human skulls (ñatitas) enshrined in the homicide division of the national law enforcement agency in El Alto, Bolivia. These two cranium crime-stoppers have provided “clues to difficult cases and have been credited with helping to solve hundreds of crimes.”
Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us
by Paul Koudounaris
Thames and Hudson
2015, 208 pages, 9 x 13.3 x 1 inches (hardcover)
$39 Buy a copy on Amazon
See sample pages from this book at Wink.
From her groundbreaking first album Switched-On Bach (1968) to the unforgettable soundtracks for A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1980), and Tron (1982), Wendy Carlos is a living legend of electronic music. In March, Oxford University Press will publish Wendy Carlos: A Biography, written by musicologist Amanda Sewel, musical director of Interlochen Public Radio. From […]
Our cities’ sewers are some of the most incredible structures in the built environment. In a new book, “An Underground Guide to Sewers: or: Down, Through and Out in Paris, London, New York, &c.” historian Stephen Halliday explores the systems (and people) that deal with our shit so we don’t have to. From the book […]
Gregory Priore -- former archivist for Pittsburgh's Carnegie Library -- has pleaded guilty of stealing $8m worth of rare texts from the collection over a 25 year period, fencing them through John Schulman's Caliban Book Shop (Schulman has also pleaded guilty, and admitted to forgery as well).
We’ve all got a perfect website in our minds. In the past, the problem has been the barrier of language – specifically, the computer languages used to create those glittering, animation-filled pages you flock to. Now, Mac users have an alternative. Blocs 3 is a website builder that can provide an easy visual interface for […]
You can do all the pre-workout stretching in the world, but that doesn’t mean you’ll escape stiff muscles and nagging pain after a particularly grueling gym session. When those knots and their accompanying aches and soreness start barking, your options usually boil down to either a deep tissue massage or just grinning and bearing it. […]
Spring doesn’t officially start until March, but you might want to start your spring cleaning a little early in the office supply closet. You’re going to need the extra space. HP is holding a massive “Back to Business” sale on a vast array of its gear. And when we say “gear,” we’re not talking about […]