• All of Me is Illustrated celebrates the Ray Bradbury Centennial with a 21st Century take on "The Illustrated Man"

    The release of All of Me is Illustrated, Stories by Ray Bradury, celebrates the author's Centennial with the stories, "The Illustrated Man," and "The Illustrated Woman," published together in a 272-page hardcover book featuring over 100 contemporary photographs of illustrated bodies by some of the leading tattoo artists of the 21st Century.

    "Bradbury's tattooed-person tales embedded within this glorious parade of contemporary inked bodies breathes new life into his notions about how tattoo meanings can change, how the viewer of a tattoo can see something different from what the owner might have intended, and how psychology intersects with the desire to permanently inscribe one's skin." —from the Introduction by tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman

    This is not merely a pairing of Bradbury stories sandwiched between a collection of garden variety tattoo photography. Photographer Peter Roessler invites an atypical intimacy between his subjects—or "collectors" as they're referenced in the book—and their viewers. The collectors featured among these pages are revealing more than the body; they're sharing the stories those bodies have to tell. As Friedman states in her introduction, it's the intersection of psychology and the desire to permanently inscribe not just one's skin, but in these cases the entire body, that ultimately makes this book so compelling.

    All of Me is Illustrated is published by RosettaBooks in cooperation with Inked magazine. Featured artists include Paul Booth, Steve Butcher, Jessa Bigelow, Ryan Ashley Malarkey, Yomico Moreno, Andy Pho, TeeJ Poole, Duke Riley, DJ Tambe, Tatu Baby, Carlos Torres, Dmitry Troshin, Jess Yen and Popo Zhang, with photography by Peter Roessler. Select images are also available as signed and numbered fine art prints.

       

    [Images provided by the publisher COPYRIGHT © 2020 WIENER SCHILLER PRODUCTIONS, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]

  • Debbie Harry debunks the debunking of her brush with serial killer Ted Bundy: "It was him."

    In Debbie Harry's gripping new memoir Face It, she sets the story straight about the night she got into the car of serial killer Ted Bundy.

    Her story factors into the painting by Robert Williams, "Debbie Harry's Fears," which the two discuss together in a short video.

    It happened in Manhattan during her pre-Blondie years, in the mid-1970s. Debbie was walking cross-town, alone, around 2:00 a.m. on the way to a party for the New York Dolls. She couldn't find a cab, her shoes weren't made for walking, and a polite, nice-looking guy slowed his car beside her and offered her a ride. She claims to have never been one to hitchhike "not even during the hippie years," but she was desperate. And he didn't seem weird.

    She recalls a white car with a stripped interior, which included the removal of the passenger seat interior door handles. Photos of Bundy's car track with her claim, but her story had been previously debunked, because supposedly Bundy was in Florida at that time, not New York.

    After a valiant escape fit for an action movie, she eventually dismissed the experience. "I had not though about that night for maybe fifteen years," she writes in Face It. Until she happened across a magazine article about the execution of Ted Bundy, and saw his photo. In the story, Bundy's revealed his M.O. to the journalists who covered his death sentence, and Harry claims what Bundy told them was exactly what happened to her. When she saw his picture in the magazine, "the hairs on the back of my neck stood up," she states. "It was him."

  • Purrrre Genius: CatVideoFest 2020 is clawing its way to a theater near you

    Cat videos. They're almost like a universal language; even people who don't love cats love cat videos. And what better way to overindulge than with CatVideoFest 2020, coming soon to a theater near you. What started as an experiment at a Minneapolis art center eight years ago quickly grew into an international phenomenon, and it's sweeping the country, with a curated compilation of the latest and best cat videos culled from countless submissions including "sourced animations, music videos, and internet powerhouses." The first festival was held outdoors in the summer of 2012 and drew a crowd of 10,000!

    Image: Catvideofest.com

  • The Dresden Panometer gives visitors an immersive experience on a 1:1 scale of the Allied bombing raids of 1945

    The Dresden Panometer is a converted former gasometer that exhibits 360°  panoramas created by the artist Yadegar Asisi.

    "The 15 m high visitor's tower provides you with a 360-degree view from the tower of Dresden's Town Hall and reveals the extent of the destruction in the panorama by Yadegar Asisi, almost 3,000 m² in size."

    Image: YouTube screengrab

  • Not all CDB drops are created equal: I found the best

    I'll admit to having been a CBD denier. I dismissed it as a bullshit trend; the second-most overrated after kombucha. The variety of products I'd tried always left me feeling somewhere between slightly nauseous and groggy. And mentally dull. It didn't seem to matter what form the product took, or which sort of extra bells and whistles had been added to "enhance" the oil.

    Add to that the dizzying variety of distinctions: hemp extract vs. hemp seed oil, full-spectrum vs. broad-spectrum, oils vs. tinctures, the addition of terpenes, the claims of "sustainably grown," "lab tested," and "pure," and, most maddening, the all-over-the-map price points that make no clear sense.  Reading ingredient labels left me further confused, but more determined to sort it all out.

    I wanted something simple, but my standards were high. A Google search for "organic CBD drops" was a rabbit hole of false leads and dead ends. So I created my own filters, and after researching about a trillion oils, winnowed down the options from there.

    Filter #1: Organic

    If I opt for organic vegetables, why shouldn't my CBD oil rise to the same standards? This one simple step eliminated all but a handful of products.

    Filter #2: Purity

    I wanted plain CBD oil drops, not a Wiccan brew of essential oils, spices, and exotic immunity boosters preserved in alcohol. Furthermore, I'm a grown-up, I don't need my CBD oil to taste like a candy cane or an orange popsicle, and I couldn't find any good reason why it should contain another ingredient besides its carrier oil. Coconut-derived MCT oil is the popular go-to of the industry; it's quickly-absorbing and easy to digest, and pretty much tastes like nothing. Works for me.

    Filter #3: Price point

    This part was shocking; price points have little bearing on quality. I saw prices vary as much as fifty bucks between products that for all intents and purposes, were virtually the same. Some of the more expensive ones had prettier bottles or cooler-looking labels, but were actually of inferior quality to some of the cheaper brands.

    Filter #4: A little help please!

    I needed word from an entity who knew more than I did. I looked at several "Top 20" lists online, but a lot of those sources were dubious, and literally none of the selections on the lists I saw passed the filters I had set. In the end, CBD Validator was my go-to: "the first and only independent, unbiased and easy-to-use tool that rates CBD oils using a 50-point proprietary rating system based on source, price per dose, safety, quality, and transparency."

    From there, it was a short walk to their highest-ranked oil. Sitting at #1: Bravo Botanicals.

    Bravo's oil met all my criteria, and at only $30 for a 500 mg bottle, they also KO'd their competitors on price. Certified USDA and Vermont Organic, full spectrum, subtle flavor, and only two ingredients, but the proof was in the dropper. After putting it to the test I'm here to say that Bravo Botanicals CBD drops are nothing short of bliss in a bottle.

    But that needs some qualifying. Fortunately—at least at this stage in my life, knock wood—I don't suffer from many of the conditions CBD oil is said to remedy; seizures, chronic pain, inflammation, or anxiety. I wanted to know how it effected sleep, stress/irritability, and focus. I can't speak to other factors.

    Sleep: I am not, by nature, an early riser. But I aspire to be one. An intermittent pattern of waking bright-eyed, mind racing, at 4:00 a.m. doesn't do me any favors, and by the time I get back to sleep, it's time to wake, and my whole day is lost to a foggy drag. I wanted to know if CBD drops could get me to sleep, and keep me sleeping through the night, without the next-day hangover I've experienced with over-the-counter sleep aids. Bravo's drops passed the test. Without changing any other aspect of my routine, I'm weeks in, and have not once seen the dreaded digits "4:00" glowing in the darkness of my bedroom. It was a complete turnaround.

    Stress: What if, I thought, the Bravo dropper helped get me through those days when there just aren't enough hours. Could CBD oil really quiet the drumbeat of a work-related panic? Evidently, yes. But it wasn't like a two-martini lunch. I wasn't bleary-eyed or slurring my speech; I could function. But on those days when life felt like a runaway train, I was unflappable, I stayed on track, and I enjoyed the ride.

    Focus: See above. This was something that especially concerned me, because I wasn't willing to trade my short-term memory for a sense of calm. In the end, I found that this wasn't a factor. In fact, with the reduction in stress, my focus improved. It was a win-win.

    I learned that there are some obvious distinctions I had never considered about CBD, like the way the plants are grown and the method by which the oil is extracted. Bravo is a no plow, no till, organic farm, that boosts its soil's beneficial microorganisms with biological compost teas. They use only subcritical CO2 extraction to process the plant, which means their product is never touched by ethanol or alcohol, and it's free of chlorophyll and residual plant waxes. As I later discovered, these are not common industry practices., and I do believe it makes a difference.

    Side effects? None that I've noticed. Do I use the drops every day? No. And my sleep pattern has seem to reset, for now. But should I find myself waking to the dreaded "4:00," there to remind me that, no, I won't get right back to sleep, and yes, the entire rest of the day is a is going to be an unqualified wash, I'll know where to turn.

  • To Be or Knot to Be: The Museum of Everyday Life seeks submissions for its new exhibition

    Glover, Vermont's eminently arcane Museum of Everyday Life is seeking submissions from "artists, philosophers, collectors, and ordinary people" for their 2020-2021 exhibition on knots.

    This is a self-service museum ("turn on the lights when you enter, and don't forget to turn off the lights when you depart!") housed in a dilapidated barn in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, 30 miles south of the Candadian border. It's a cabinet of curiosities for the ordinary, with previous exhibitions such as "The Incredible Story of the Safety Pin," "A Celebration of the Match," and "Toothbrush from Twig to Bristle in All its Expedient Beauty." They've mounted puppet shows, indulge in cantastoria, put on parades, and dabble in toy theater, and they even pushed their own boundaries with their 2015 exhibition, "Dust." Their current exhibition through May, "The Pivot and the Blade" explores scissors.

  • "The Fuddy Duddy Walk," is the '60s dance craze that never was

    Jack Nitzsche was a legend in his own time; an arranger, producer, songwriter, and Academy Award-winning composer. His disparate discography includes collaborations with Phil Spector, the iconic 1966 Batman theme, titles by The Rolling Stones, Doris Day, Ike & Tina Turner, The Monkees, Glen Campbell, and the Ronettes, as well as several film soundtracks, including PerformanceThe Exorcist, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and An Officer and a Gentleman. But one of his earliest known arrangements was for a song so unlistenable it isn't even named on any of his published discographies.

    The title dates from 1963, when a hit song that doubled as a dance craze was the holy grail of the Top 10. But not even the hand of Jack Nitzsche could get this eminently abrasive earworm, "The Fuddy Duddy Walk" by The Entertainers, to join the ranks of "The Twist," "The Mashed Potato," or "The Watusi." "The Fuddy Duddy Walk" is more like proto-punk dance craze anarchy, and it's not hard to imagine a crowd of pencil-skirted and flat-topped teens covering their ears in buzzkill horror, stampeding from the dance floor and fighting their way to the nearest exit. It's an aural assault strictly for music masochists, with a nearly unintelligible vocal that codes neither male or female, rock or soul, black or white. Just sweetly painful.

    Photo: Jack Nitzsche, by Brian Ashley White (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • If you loved HBO's "The Deuce," The Rialto Report will leave you spellbound

    The Rialto Report is a podcast series and digital library that archives oral histories, images, magazines and books covering the golden age of the adult film industry in New York, from the early-1960s to the mid-1980s. It's the project of adult film historians Ashley West and April Hall, both of whom served as consultants for HBO's The Deuce.

    Their podcast interviews are in-depth, intimate, and unrivaled, featuring some of the industry's biggest and most influential names of the era; Seka, George Payne, Candy Samples, Hyapatia Lee, Jerry Butler, Candida Royalle, and Uschi Digard are among other well-and-lesser-known performers and industry stakeholders featured throughout the series.

    Certainly, this "golden age" wasn't exactly golden for all involved. Many performers—both women and men—were exploited, underpaid, mistreated, abused, or worse, and the Rialto Report doesn't sugarcoat. Their interviews pull no punches and never miss an opportunity, allowing their subjects the space to share their perspectives and tell their own stories—many of them surprising, some of them shocking, all of them intriguing—bringing listeners to the inside of an opaque industry during New York's epoch of the X-rated.

     

     

     

  • Josie Cotton released a new album more than 30 years after it was recorded

    It was the early 1980s; MTV was in its infancy, the New Music scene was beginning to hit national airwaves, and Josie Cotton was having a moment. She had an international hit with the infamous Johnny Are You Queer (decried by some as homophobic and banned in Amsterdam, but also simultaneously embraced as an anthem played in heavy rotation at Pride parades), brought her inimitable style to the 1983 movie Valley Girl, and was making charts with the marginal hits He Could Be the One, and with the early music video, Jimmy Loves Maryann.

    Just before she was to complete what would have been her third album, Cotton was dropped by her label, Elektra records. She finished the album nonetheless, but later chose to step back from the music industry altogether, and the tracks were packed away, divided, and lost in storage.

    Although less-visible than her contemporaries of the L.A. music scene (Josie Cotton is the invention of Kathleen Josey, who is rumored to be a Texas oil heiress whose grandfather was a business partner of J. Paul Getty), Cotton remained a prolific songwriter and singer, releasing several excellent albums over the years, adeptly exploring a variety of genres and reinventing herself with each project, but on independent labels and without much hoopla. A lot of her later work is top notch: Rabbit Hole, Beautiful But Deadly from Movie Disaster Music. See The New Hong Kong, If a Lie Was Love, All I Can See is the Face of Bruce Lee, Super 8 from Pussycat Babylon, and her inspired, under-the-radar collection of exploitation movie themes, Invasion of the B-Girls.

    Josie Cotton's lost third album was resurrected from storage after she was approached by a Stranger Things soundtrack query from Netflix, in search of unreleased music of the mid-1980s. She was inspired enough to revisit the tapes and mix the tracks; it's more than three decades late, but Everything is Oh Yeah is, in fact, a new album, circa 1985. It's both a time capsule and a time-travel fantasy, featuring contributions from early punk rock legend Geza X (The Dead Kennedys' Holiday in Cambodia, et al.), and the Stray Cats' Brian Setzer. Bouncing from new wave to surf to girl group to neo-rockabilly, there are some fun, mid-'80s gems in here for sure—and even a Beatles and a Ramones cover.

    The first-ever release of 1985's Everything is Oh Yeah (above) coincided with the debut of her latest video, Ukrainian Cowboy:

  • This 1930s how-to on making novelties out of mice heads is perfect for the 21st century Internet

    Truly inspired is a maker who can turn a rodent infestation into a crafting opportunity, but if you've got a sharp knife, a steady hand, a strong constitution, don't believe in karma, aren't concerned about hantavirus pulmonary syndrome or hemorrhagic fever—and don't mind being dismissed as a psychopath—crafting with mice could keep you busy every rainy afternoon for the rest of your life.

    This how-to dates from the early 1930s as The Great Depression still cast its shadow, and for makers this meant making the most of what they had at hand. So, if life gives you rodents, make bookends – or a chess set. Or a pair of salt-and-pepper shakers. Embellish your dungarees with funky furry appliqué. And there's no rule that says you have to stick exclusively to mice. Sundry vermin, small ailing pets, and bats or birds that inadvertently fly in through an open window and can't escape are fair game too. Does your neighbor have an annoying little dog with an incessant bark that keeps you up at night? If the dog moves slowly, is easy to catch, or can be quietly lured from its yard with a slice of baloney, you can solve your problem and procure a novelty table lamp at the same time. If you've got a possum going through your garbage, a family of squirrels taking up digs in your attic, or a litter of feral kittens that somehow made their way into your basement, understand that these critters are not problems, but creative opportunities. And free art supplies! As the indigenous people of North America efficiently used every part of the buffalo, no part of your rodent need go to waste either; bones can add valuable phosphorus to your garden soil and the guts can be dried on a windowsill for use later. You'll think of something.

    Turning living things that dart into tiny holes and quickly disappear into the darkness under your kitchen sink into "bookends, candle sconces, and so on…" requires quick reflexes, and mice aren't a crafting medium for the novice; if you've ever killed one in a trap and neglected to dispose of the carcass after a few balmy summer days, then you know what the home of someone who crafts with mouse pelts might smell like if they aren't a proficient home taxidermist. Maker beware.

  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, #17

    Safe to assume the head hunter in this application is not a white-collar employment recruiter, but a member of some ambiguously exotic indigenous tribe who takes no prisoners; either claiming the heads of his victims prior to a meal of human flesh, or as a souvenir of a victorious battle. What's not entirely clear, however, is whether we're looking at the head of the hunter or the hunted – but for the maker compelled to repurpose their cottage cheese container with absolutely no regard for anthropological accuracy or concern for offending their head hunter friends, this how-to circa 1967 enhances one's kitchen with an adorable googly-eyed man-eating killer who's also a useful countertop accessory, if you happen to use a lot of string. And he's even sporting a decorative humerus bone harvested from one of his unfortunate combatants.

    Why was head hunting chosen as a theme for a kitchen item? Is it the association of the cutting, cooking, and eating of meat, or does it have something to do with the illusion created by the string hanging from his mouth? Is it supposed to look like this endearing savage is salivating over his next human meal? Testing al dente vermicelli? Removing a tapeworm? Other blanks that need filling: the full story behind that bone in his hair, and whether or not he knows anything about the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller.

    Head_Hunter1

    Indigenous-looking brown-skinned people inspired many a mass-produced knickknack through the early-to-mid 20th Century. Cookie jars and salt & pepper shakers celebrated cultural diversity in colorful – but not entirely flattering – cliché. Caricatures of scrappy-looking Caribbeans adorned cocktail glassware and were shaped into bottles of rum, while Chinese rice field workers and jug-carrying Nubians made for stylish TV lamps, bookends, and planters; The sombrero and serape-draped Mexican was seen dozing beneath many a cactus in a variety of dust-catching figurines and functional forms. The Head Hunter String Holder is a lowbrow DIY strain of that genre, and one of its last stops, squeezed from the final gasps of this ethno-human-novelty era of racist tchotchkes.

    Head_Hunter_2

    Exotic tribal folks skewed considerably less adorable when seen clubbing pigs for a five-year feast in the grindhouse-vérité cinema of the early 1960s that began with Mondo Cane. Cannibal exploitation films like Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1977) and The Man from Deep River (1972) didn't help matters either, sensationalizing the realities of the primitive in lurid, living color. Not nearly as cute or well-groomed as their cartoon counterparts — and less conducive to a kitchen motif than previously thought — the live-action head hunters of R-rated movies effectively killed off mid-century primitive preciousness by the late 1970s. Even the glitter-flecked pipe cleaner hoop earrings, as suggested in the instructions for the head hunter here, do little to redeem his impish appeal.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, part 16

    All boys love guns, so what kid wouldn't want a motorized shooting gallery right in his own living room? It's "just like the large ones at penny arcades," says this how-to from 1959, but this project comes with added value: as the maker, you'll have the bonus of being the coolest dad on the block, because your son will be the envy of all his friends. You'll also have the private satisfaction of knowing that you've trumped every other dad in the neighborhood and made them all feel like failures who don't do cool things like build motorized shooting galleries for their kids. That's a lot for a single DIY project to deliver.

    Home_Shooting_Gallery_5
    Home_Shooting_Gallery_4

    This was a more innocent time in America — save the Cold War and the constant threat of a nuclear bomb — when people were a lot less freaked out about kids using BB rifles in the home. It was the late-1950s; almost a century since a U.S. President had caught a bullet, and it was a more trusting era, when the notion of bringing firearms to school and spraying students and faculty with gunfire would have been considered extreme. In mid-century America, no one was prattling on about kids becoming desensitized to violence because they spent a couple hours after school knocking off plywood squirrels with an air rifle.

    Home_Shooting_Gallery_3

    The Coolest Dad on the Block doesn't come by his title without considerable elbow grease, however. Building the guts of a motorized shooting gallery is not something that happens quickly — and if you aren't proficient with a soldering gun or have the patience for rivets you might as well forget it. How many weeknights will you lose cutting and painting silhouettes of rabbits, ducks, and squirrels? All depends on how good you are with a jigsaw. It might seem like a lot of work, but once your kid grabs hold of his rifle and you flip that switch, those first twenty or thirty minutes before that kid gets bored are going to be proud ones. But even if the novelty lasts for as long as a few afternoons, it's likely that you'll have put more hours into that shooting gallery than he will. Might be easier — and definitely quicker — to just go luddite and shoot at real animals.

    Home_Shooting_Gallery_2

    The fun of aiming at the same, tired, rotating vermin figures is bound to wear off sooner or later, and an adolescent will likely move onto other youthful pastimes like sticking firecrackers up cats' butts, smoking cigarettes, and breaking windows; it would still be four more decades before a tween could pummel a prostitute into a bloody pulp, shoot her in the head, and set her on fire courtesy of Grand Theft Auto. It might be said that the CGI prostitutes of one generation are simply the analog plywood Squirrels of another, but kids today have it all: pipe bombs and cop killing, hostage torturing, they even get to watch blood pool beneath the bodies of their victims after a sniping spree and experience the soulless rush of hooker sex, all sourced from a joystick without leaving the sofa. A kid of the late-1950s could only dream of that kind of fun.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, part 15

    There are few less appetizing marriages than the one of hosiery and hot casserole. This how-to from the pantyhose-crafting craze of the '80s is one in which dinner and webbed nylon unite by way of navy blue knee-highs. On that point alone, The Pantyhose Casserole Carrier deserves a special prize in the world of How-To misfires.

    To be clear, the instructions call for a pair of new pantyhose or knee-highs. But how would your party host really know that the puffy carryall housing tonight's tuna noodle casserole wasn't stitched together from expired office wear that had seen one too many humid July subway commutes? And what are the fungal ramifications of food still hot from the oven being packed for transit inside a pouch of eukaryote-riddled nylon? No one wants any pair of knee-highs getting that close to their dinner.

    Pantyhose_Casserole_3

    Another Pantyhose Casserole Carrier conundrum: its cleaning. Nothing grabs the grime of potluck-friendly dishes like lasagna, tamale pie, or your grandmother's famous macaroni & cheese better than stretch mesh nylon and polyester fiberfill, and if your Casserole Carrier wasn't objectionable enough the first time out, imagine the impression you'll make a few potlucks in, with those knee-highs indelibly splashed with cream-of-mushroom soup stains or embedded with the remains of browned parmesan. Maybe even snagged with an unsightly run.

    Pantyhose_Casserole_2

    And consider the what-ifs. Paying a visit to sit Shiva? Could anything scream goyem louder or offend the grieving more inappropriately than a knee high-sourced casserole tote finished with red gingham ribbon? And what if this how-to works like a gateway drug leading a maker to the reckless crafting of other dinner table accoutrements like Bunion Pad Trivets or Deodorizing Insole Coasters? Could Control Top Oven Mitts or Cotton Crotch Pot Holders be too far behind?

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 14

    Among the many disreputable first place titles the United States holds over the rest of the developed world (e.g. adult obesity, pregnant teens, our crime rate, and no less than ten television shows hosted by Guy Fieri), we're also the most overmedicated country on earth —we've even got antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and anticonvulsants contaminating our drinking water — and take another prize for prescription drug abuse. Our mania for meds also provides us with more post-consumer pill bottles than any other landmass on earth, and these simple DIY projects promise that "a touch of glue, a sprinkling of glitter, and a dab of paint" will bring a "new look" to all those empty pill containers you can't seem to part with.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 13

    There are some very good reasons why store-bought items are superior to the hand made. Quality, for one. Appearance, another. Because of this, sometimes creating an item by hand requires the Maker to compromise their standards of excellence in order to save themselves from crushing disillusionment and demoralizing exasperation. Often it requires the wholesale abandonment of standards altogether. This is especially true when you're working only with nutshells, glue, and post-consumer household detritus.

    5. Nut_Shell_Critters

    Here are three excellent examples of finished products created from an assortment of materials that actually looked better when they were kitchen garbage. Another distinction almost too obvious to state: nutshells don't really look much like feathers, but this is a detail that obviously eluded the crafter at work here, and if we're also expected to make the leap from walnuts to alligators, clearly there is no room for splitting hairs. What might appear "cute" to one person can easily look "diseased" to another, but that's what makes the world so interesting. Maybe a parrot feathered with split peanut shells coded crafty & creative in the late-1960s when this Family Fun How-To originally appeared, but in the 21st Century this bird—with its plumage appearing heavy, clumped, and lacquered—immediately calls to mind the varieties of waterfowl flailing helplessly along the Mexican gulf shoreline after the BP oil spill. A different, yet equally alarming, take: the shell casings seem to be alive and almost animated. Squint your eyes and does it not appear that this helpless parrot's feathers are being stripped from scalp to tail by a swarm of turgid thumb-sized parasites feasting on a feather-and-blood meal?

    4. Walnut_Alligator

    2. Peanut_Shell_Parrot

    Misdirected effort? A conversation starter? Deadly? Whether or not you suffer from severe nut allergies, Nut Shell Critters are an eye-of-the-beholder phenomenon for sure, but there's still room for improvement. "Acorn Owl" may roll off the tongue better, but pistachio shells might have been a wiser choice, as the acorn caps used to feather this craptastic window sill dust catcher read like crusted brown scabs. Nevertheless, the net result more closely resembles a cloaked, nutshell Satan than it does a woodland bird of prey. And on the topic of reptiles: is an alligator more, or less threatening with its skin covered in a puffy, yeasty-looking rash?

    3. Acorn_Owl

    Despite their many misfires, Nut Shell Critters have one great advantage among the world of How-To: they cost almost nothing to produce—except for the hours from your life than can never be replaced—allowing the Maker to flip a modest investment into one top-notch shit show.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 12

    Playing into the hands of unimaginative gift givers of the Cold War era, the "His & Hers" trend was a merchandizing strategy in the form of bath towels, coffee mugs, toothbrush sets, bedroom slippers, and the like, to cash in on the post-war marriage boom peaking from the mid-1950s to the early '60s. The genre later spoofed itself (His & Hers flasks, false teeth cups, toilet paper holders) and inspired a strain of third-rate gag gifts and adult novelties (His & Hers birth control kits, edible underwear, screwdriver sets).

    His & Hers bath towels were harmless enough, and almost anyone could make an argument for a His & Hers toothbrush set (how many of us have grossed out our spouse by accidentally using theirs by mistake?), even His & Hers flasks make sense for a pair of rummies who just tied the knot. However, the instructions to make this coverlet—featured in a DIY publication from 1972; coincidentally when the His & Hers trend and the interest in marriage among young adults were both on the wane—assures homemakers this bedding is an effective way "to make a territorial claim!"

    This how-to never explains or even suggests the need for such rigid boundaries, and we can only guess at what the consequences might be if He or She should stray too far to the center. Are there particular activities that can only occur on "Her" side, or "His"? How badly does this couple need to loosen up? This may be nothing more than a project for an enthusiastic newlywed hobby seamstress expressing the short-lived afterglow of her wedding day in felt appliqué and decorative trimmings, but a bed — unlike a bath towel or a toothbrush — is something to be shared in a marriage, not divided into equal parts like a desert highway or an Olympic-sized lap pool. Imagine being the horny new groom who comes home to this.

    Or maybe this hobby seamstress isn't so newly wed. Maybe she's a few years in, and the novelty of being a "Hers" wore off a long, long time ago. Maybe a customized bedspread is the only thing she has left besides a wedding band to remind herself that she's still a wife, because lately she's been feeling a hell of a lot more like an indentured servant. Maybe hitting that Hers flask she keeps hidden in her sewing drawer and losing herself in a coverlet project might help dilute her aching disappointment and the sobering reality of a bleak and lonely future married to an insufferable bore with abhorrent table manners and fungused toenails.

    Flash forward to the 21st Century, with the wedding boom decades behind us, replaced by one of the highest divorce rates in the world and a growing demographic of young adults whose value for marriage is on par with the landline. You might be quick to think this bunch has little use for an item like a His & Hers bedspread, but everything old is new again and ripe for reimagining; consider the modern LGBT possibilities of His & His, Hers & Hers, Theirs & Theirs. Makers of bath towels, slippers, and coffee mugs take note, the mix & match possibilities are endless.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 11

    "Cannibals are almost extinct," this How-To from 1963 begins, "but you can make this one yourself for pure fun." And certainly nothing spells pure fun like the consumption of human flesh by other humans, so what young hobbyist could resist a craft project that commemorates this "almost extinct" community with an effigy made of tin cans and rubber hose?

    Artistic liberties? Why not? Who says a cannibal can't wear lipstick—or is that blood?— and although the primitive fellow depicted here is decidedly ethnic and the instructions suggest to paint this figure "brown," there's no arguing that Jeffrey Dahmer, Armin Meiwes, and Hannibal Lecter were all white as the driven snow, and certainly no less "fun" than any other cannibal, save the raffia skirt and hoop earrings.

    Cannibal_1

    True, there's nothing overtly telltale about this androgynous little guy, no distinguishing characteristics to identify this smiling, lipsticked, blue-eyed savage as a human flesh eater. Heck, there aren't even any distinguishing characteristics to identify his gender, he doesn't even have nipples—perhaps they were bitten off by a fellow tribesman—nor is he/she wielding a spear, stirring a caldron filled with severed limbs, or snacking on a chewy jungle oyster, but that's where the fertile imagination of a child steps in and fills those pregnant blanks. It's where the "pure fun" happens. This was the early 1960s, remember, when toys were analog. They didn't spoon feed kids like toys do in the 21st Century. Amusement did not come embedded with computer chips or occur exclusively on a glowing touch screen. A child of the Cold War era had to engage his mind and do most of the heavy lifting to create the fun and excitement of human sacrifice and the drama of exaggerated racial stereotypes.

    Cannibal_2

    The question remains more than five decades later: Are cannibals extinct? Hardly. As any of the forty-eight remaining members of The Donner Party demonstrated, cannibalism has nothing to do with the color of your skin, the state of your nipples, or whether or not you wear lipstick or accessorize with raffia. Ultimately, we're all cannibals at heart, it's only a matter of being hungry enough.

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  • Maker Mayhem: Low Moments in How-To History, Part 10

    The attention span of a child is short-lived at best, so creating a DIY project for kids comes with a unique set of challenges: designing a step-by-step process that is both exciting and engaging (and preferably one that a child can enjoy unsupervised), employing materials that are unusual and fun to work with, and producing a payoff that is as satisfying as it is enduring.

    Tongue_Depressor_3

    However, if there were ever a project to discourage a child from trying to make anything by hand, the Tongue Depressor Bracelet would certainly top the list. It's the "Scared Straight" of How-To; enough to swear an aspiring young Maker off home made craft forever. Imagine a child so patient that she could endure waiting half a day—a minimum of eight full hours—just to soak a tongue depressor in water; the first demoralizing step in a project to create a bent wood bracelet that isn't even guaranteed to fit properly, and that no friend would envy. The second step in this process takes even longer. Overnight, in fact. Then there's the time spent waiting for the tongue depressor to completely dry. Soaking + shaping + drying = nearly two days of a child's life. For a child this feels like six lifetimes—and this is just prep, before any of the fun starts. Even a child in a coma couldn't muster the wherewithal to endure such boredom. This is actually slower than watching paint dry, or witnessing the birth of a Sea Monkey. Literally slower than molasses in January.

    Tongue_Depressor_1

    How committed to their vision—or hyper focused and unmedicated—would a child have to be to roll with that? To sustain that level of interest in a tongue depressor bracelet is not normal, or healthy, nor should it be encouraged by adults. This project is more like craft punishment: "MARCH STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM AND DON'T COME OUT UNTIL YOU'VE MADE FIVE TONGUE DEPRESSOR BRACELETS!"

    The Tongue Depressor Letter Opener is considerably more feasible, and more fun, mostly because with a little sharpening it could double duty as a shiv, and all children love weapons. The tongue depressor-trimmed flower pot pleases less, mostly because it calls to mind too many tongues, and you never know from where exactly all those tongue depressors were scavenged.

    Tongue_Depressor_2

    The suggestions continue, telling us that with the addition of "gummed tape," a tongue depressor coaster is made to look "something like bamboo shades" although they in fact look very much like a bunch of tongue depressors held together with gummed tape. It is also suggested that they may be "decorated…and hung on the wall," but even an intrepid crafter should proceed with caution.

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