• Watch this documentary of Joe Coleman, extraordinary artist and carnival barker

    R.I.P Rest in Pieces is a fascinating documentary by director Robert-Adrian Pejo about Joe Coleman, my favorite artist. From the video description, Coleman is "known around the world as a shamanic, moral voice diagnosing the ills of 21st century America. Coleman holds nothing back, telling us of a world wracked with tumorous cities, perversion, divorce, violence, atomic bombs, and a human race destroying itself. Simply because we are born."

    R.I.P Rest in Pieces is an intimate portrait of Coleman's life and work, where you can learn more about his personal life, early performances, paintings, and his incredible house where he collects and showcases oddities from around the world, such as a dead baby inside of a jar of formaldehyde.

     I initially heard about Joe Coleman when I came across his interview in the RE/Search Publications book Pranks! on his early performance art. Interested in sideshow performances, Coleman began performing as a "geek" himself and took these sideshows to the extreme. He would bite the heads off of live mice, wire his own body for explosives, and give the audience an experience unlike anything they had been confronted with before.

    Shortly after reading this interview, I found a book of his paintings which completely blew my mind and shook me to my core. Coleman's paintings filled a void of what I had been looking for in artwork for all of my life. Coleman paintings deal with the darker side of humanity, and are extraordinary in detail. He uses a one-hair brush and views his work through jeweler's goggles. This process allows him to paint an average of on square-inch a day.

    There is a ritualistic, occult aspect to his painting process. He doesn't plan out his compositions beforehand, and just invents them as he goes. His paintings include many images within images, down to a nearly microscopic level. I've always been enthralled by this relationship between the microscopic and macroscopic in his work. I could spend hours looking at a single one of his paintings and still have more to discover. I get completely absorbed by and lost within the cosmic grandiosity of his work every time I look at it.

  • The horror of the black swallower, a deep sea predator

    If you were a deep sea fish, you'd likely want to avoid the black swallower at all costs.

    Although this creature is relatively small, with a maximum length of 25 cm, the black swallower stands out for its unearthly ability to swallow fish whole that are over two times its length and 10 times its mass. The black swallower is able to accomplish this because of its extremely distensible stomach and wide jaws.

    Black swallowers have been found dead from having eaten too large of a meal. They often swallow fish so large, that the fish begin to decompose inside of them before digestion is complete, leading to a release of gasses that sends the black swallower adrift to the ocean's surface.

    I can't stop looking at photos of the black swallower's giant, translucent, egg-sack-like belly filled with the unfortunate critters who crossed its path.

  • The history of Laughing Sal, an animatronic funhouse lure

    Have you met Laughing Sal before? If you have, you'll surely remember her wicked laugh, gap-toothed grin, and uncanny electronic motions. Laughing Sal, also referred to as "Laffing Sal, Laffin' Sal, Sally, ect." was originally made in the 1920s and 30s by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania. Sal was built for the purpose of luring people into funhouses and dark attractions at amusement parks and carnivals throughout the United States. Sal is one of the first animated amusement park characters and considered a precursor of the animatronic characters from all around the world, including Disney parks' Audio-Animatronic figures. I've loved the uncanny, antique charm of Laughing Sal since I was a kid. If I see a Laughing Sal at a carnival, I'll undoubtedly be lured over by her sexy missing tooth and nightmarish laughter.

    From Wikipedia on the construction of Laughing Sal:

    "The figure stood 6 feet, 10 inches (2.0 m) high, including a 12-inch (30 cm) pedestal. It was made of papier-mâché, consisting of seven layers of pressed card stock with horse-hair strengthener, mounted over steel coils and frame. It did not come with a hat — hats were added by the purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth.[3] The head, arms, hands and legs were detachable and were held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts. When activated, the figure waved its arms and leaned forward and backward. A record player concealed in its pedestal played a stack of 78 RPM phonograph records of a woman laughing. When the records finished, an attraction operator re-stacked and restarted them. A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh." 

    There isn't a complete list of the Laughing Sals left in existence, but here is a list of some known Laughing Sal locations on Wikipedia:

    [image: Todd Lappin, CC BY-NC 2.0, Modified]

  • Groove to this psychedelic McDonald's commercial from 1969

    Today, I'm groovin' to this 1969 McDonald's commercial and its psychedelic theme song. Trip out with Ronald and his friends as they skip through the land of apple pie trees, past the giant hamburger creatures, the milkshake volcanos, the french fries field, and my personal favorite, the hamburger patch (a garden of burgers hopping up and down with googly eyes). Ronny and friends eventually arrive at a McDonald's restaurant, but this isn't just any McDonald's; it's McDonald's Land, filled with the type of things you might see if you ate a psychedelic-infused burger and ate a milkshake that came out of a volcano.

    Previously on Boing Boing:

    The rise and fall of McDonaldland

  • Who was Jack T. Chick, publisher of the best-selling comics in history

    Chick tracts, originally made by Jack T. Chick, are pocket-sized evangelical comic books. Over 800 million tracts have been printed during Chick Publications (Jack T. Chick's company) first 50 years of business, making them the most successful comics in history.

    After Jack T. Chick died in 2016, Chick Publications has kept his tracts in print including tracts by new writers. On the Chick Publications website, they state "Our ministry is primarily publishing the gospel tracts of Jack T. Chick, but we do occasionally publish a manuscript in book form."  They hope that their content "educates Christians in one of the areas for which we have a tract."

    Upon first discovery of Chick tracts, it was difficult for me to believe that they weren't satirical in nature. The fact that Chick tracts utilize such a cool pen and ink drawing aesthetic to get their dead-serious messages across makes them all the more fascinating to me. I enjoyed watching this video with lots of interesting commentary on Chick Tracts that the Cartoonist Kayfabe Channel. 

    From Wikipedia:

    The storyline commonly features at least one Christian person and one or more "non-Christians". Depending on the storyline the "non-Christian" may be a stereotypical "wicked person"  a member of a "false religion" or a "moral person" depending on "good works" to gain eventual entrance to Heaven. In these storylines, the Christian attempts to convert the non-Christian to Christianity (and may also feature a contrast where another character, often the "moral person", does not), with the convert receiving entry into Heaven, while the person rejecting the message is condemned to Hell. The endings may feature a recycled scene in which Jesus Christ (portrayed as a giant, glowing, faceless figure sitting on a throne) condemns or welcomes a character, an angel taking the believer to Heaven, or the non-believer meeting demons upon his or her arrival to Hell. Chick Tracts end with a suggested prayer for the reader to pray to accept Jesus Christ. In most of these tracts it is a standard sinner's prayer for salvation.

  • Strawberry Switchblade is one of my favorite 1980s bands

    Strawberry Switchblade was the coolest. Formed in Glasgow, this Scottish new wave/pop duo composed of Rose McDowall (lead vocals) and Jill Bryson (vocals and guitar) formed in 1981. Strawberry Switchblade emerged from the end of the punk era. Their sublime music combines synth-pop, new wave, and goth styles. Their first single, written by Bryson about her agoraphobia, is called "Trees and Flowers". This is the first song I heard by the group and I loved them right away.

    They're best known for their 1985 song "Since Yesterday", which hit #5 on the UK charts. I adore the girls' unique, gothic-lolita-esque, fashion sense. Their style is an integral part of the "Since Yesterday" music video where they are dressed in awesome polka-dot dresses, bows, and punky makeup. Strawberry Switchblade was popular in Japan, and it remained that way long after its popularity decreased in the UK. Their ethereal cover of the Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning is one of my favorites of their songs.

    From The Manc Review:

    Following the success of Strawberry Switchblade, Jill Bryson is now a self-employed artist, while Rose McDowall is  still making music, adding her individual brand of magic to "Current 93", "Nurse With Wound", "Death In June", collaborating with Boyd Rice in the band "Spell", as well as singing backing vocals on albums for Felt. An accomplished solo artist, McDowall has continued casting spells, with her melancholic mix of neo-psychedelic folk, baroque and pagan pop.

  • Watch the "Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults" VHS from 1994

    Today I came across this handy-dandy one hour and fifteen minutes long "Law Enforcement Guide to Satanic Cults" VHS, from 1994. This tape will tell you everything you need to know about the many hazards of satanism. I learned that there are three levels to being a participant in the dark arts; each one being increasingly risky. 

    The three levels include "Dabblers", "Spiritual Involvement," and ranked at an ungodly level 3 is "Criminal involvement."

    Learn about the alarming meaning of the goat's head, how to spot satanic rituals, and the evil holidays of the satanic calendar… beware the "Winter Solstice!"

  • Take a tour of this deserted Japanese village populated with scarecrows

    Take a virtual tour through the Japanese village of Nagoro, home to 200 scarecrows and 29 humans. Nagaro was once a thriving town, but over time most people left to get jobs in the city.

    A woman named Ms Tsukimi Ayano, the "Scarecrow Mother," has been making scarecrows for over a decade now and placing them around this small, quiet town to make it feel less empty. There is even a scarecrow registry that visitors can look at which lists the name, age, sex, personality, and life story of each scarecrow.

    The village is known as Kakashi no Sato (Scarecrow Village) in Japan.  Visitors can take scarecrow making workshops, attend the scarecrow festival on the first Sunday of every October, and explore the town.

    Ms. Ayano said "Before I started making scarecrows, nobody stopped by. Now many people visit here…I hope Nagoro will become lively again and many people come here for sightseeing." This incredible town is one of the coolest places I've ever heard of, and it's now on my list of places I hope to visit someday.

  • Reddit's r/coolguides is a how-to goldmine

    The r/coolguides page on Reddit has lots of fun and useful stuff to browse through from guides on wilderness survival to vintage instructions about talking on the telephone. I hope I never actually need to refer to the one about "how to make seawater drinkable", but I do think it's a good skill to know, just in case I find myself stuck in a rubber boat with Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix. I have similar feelings about the "Circles of Hell in Dante's Inferno" guide, but it's probably wise to have it on hand, just in case I need it as a map one day. 

    How To Talk on the Telephone

    Why Do Some Woods Burn Better?

  • Zig Zag is an electrifying new sci-fi zine

    Zig Zag is an electrifying new sci-fi zine by British artist Will Sweeny. I love his alien-like creatures paired with the glowing, psychedelic color palette of his drawings.

    This trippy story is about "the evolution of The Mindseye Trooper, a mechanical secret agent constructed in a remote lab and piloted by an imp spawned from an extraterrestrial fungus. From embryonic zombie to powerful hero, The Trooper must infiltrate an alternate dimension in which a brutal tyrant has terrorized the inhabitants and dispensed psychoactive justice. Along the way, he meets a Witchdoctor who gifts him a mysterious weapon, and a priestess who unites the disparate aspects of his personality. [Fantagraphics].

    In my opinion, this description is just one out of many possible ways to read the story — the wordlessness of this 20-page story allows me to create my own narrative as a reader. As a lifelong fan of Jim Woodring (who creates incredible wordless comics), I've always appreciated the fun I can have projecting my own stories onto comics that have no words, so I enjoyed this aspect of Zig Zag.

    If you would like a copy, you can get one here. Check out Will Sweeny's instagram page for more of his artwork.

  • Enjoy these surreal "One Minute Movies" by The Residents

    One Minute Movies is a short film written by and starring The Residents. The Residents are an avant-garde music group (one of my all-time favorites) and an art collective.

    I've always loved the multimedia aspect of The Residents' work, and the way that their prolific body of work feels like an entirely different dimension within itself. The Residents always appear in costume in order to conceal their identity, and are known for their iconic look of wearing giant eyeballs over their heads and top hats.)

    One Minute Movies was released in 1980 and directed by Graeme Whifler. The film features the songs  "Moisture", "The Act of Being Polite", "Perfect Love" and "The Simple Song" from the album Commercial Album.

    The film contains people in psychedelic eye-ball-headed costumes, a strange man holding a framed photograph and floating up the side bedroom wall, spooky ritual-like scenes, and other happy mutant scenarios. I love the experimentation and other-worldliness of these clips. Despite the avant-garde nature of these videos, MTV played these clips often because music videos were still a newer medium and there was little else available to play at the time.

    One Minute Movies was one of the first films that demonstrated how through the marriage of song and video, music videos could be an art form on their own. The Museum of Modern Art currently holds One Minute Movies as well as the rest of the resident's films and discography.

  • Check out this trippy optical illusion

    I can't stop staring at this optical illusion that I came across today. Each ball is traveling back and forth in a straight line, but as more balls are added, they begin to look like they are bouncing around in a circular motion. The longer I stare at it, the harder it is to believe that the balls are staying on their lines.

    Here is an interactive version of the illusion: "Interactive Dot Illusion (Individual Linear Motion Yields Circular Motion)". Users can adjust the number of dots, the dot speed, and the dot color. The faster It goes, the weirder the illusion looks. It's pretty mesmerizing, and fun for both kids and grown-ups to play around with.

    Click to expand
  • Enjoy these episodes of the groundbreaking 1980s show, New Wave Theatre

    Watch episodes 1-25 of the experimental music TV show New Wave Theatre on archive.org.  

    New Wave Theatre was broadcast locally in the Los Angeles area during the early 80s as part of the late-night variety television show Night Flight. Peter Ivers hosted New Wave Theatre, David Jove produced, created, and co-wrote the program with Billboard magazine editor Ed Ochs. New Wave Theatre stood out for showcasing rising punk and new wave acts such as X, Bad Religion, Fear, the Dead Kennedys, 45 Grave, The Angry Samoans, and The Circle Jerks. 

    From Wikipedia:

    The show started with a montage of clips from punk and new wave acts while the title appeared and the theme song, an abrupt mixture of Fear's "Camarillo" and The Blasters' "American Music" played. Ivers would appear at the beginning and end of each show wearing dark glasses, spouting a stream-of-consciousness spiel about life, art, and music.

    New Wave Theatre abruptly ended in 1983 when Ivers was tragically found bludgeoned to death in his Los Angeles Apartment. To this day, nobody has been able to find the murderer responsible for his death.

    I wish I would have been around in the '80s to feel the excitement of this cutting-edge show coming on late at night, but I'm having a blast watching the episodes that have been uploaded to Archive.org. I can't think of anything on TV today that compares to the coolness of New Wave Theatre on any level.    

  • Mischievous stowaway bat caused a flight to turn around for an emergency landing

    This mischievous stowaway bat caused an Air India flight from New Delhi to the United States to turn around for an emergency landing. The video shows the lively chiroptera having fun and flying around the cabin as passengers fell into a panic and forced the early landing.

    The airplane captain was altered about the incident after nearly 30 minutes in the air. The plane was fumigated shortly after it landed, and the passengers got onto a new, bat-free plane.

    I'm not sure what happened to the bat, but I hope it's safe and flapping around in its natural habitat.

  • Watch this cartoon about the Orwellian life of a man whose sole job is to push buttons

    Shadow Puppets by Chuck Gamble is a 10-minute animation about the "Orwellian life of a man whose sole job is to push buttons — and discovers freedom by making shadow puppets. (Letterboxd)"

    Animated in a stark black and white palette, this beautiful yet tragic story depicts a man's bleak existence in a totalitarian work where his only source of joy and freedom comes from making shadow puppets with his hands.

    When an act of cruelty inflicted upon the man leads to the loss of his fingers, he must find another way to make his shadow puppets. This film was made in 1994 and featured at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival.

    This is a phenomenal short animation with a lot of soul. It made me feel equal amounts of dread and hope. I love how the inked, sketchy, black and white animation style gives this film the feeling of an artistic comic book. The artistic originality of this film makes it stand out as a story of human cruelty and finding the light within the darkness.

  • Jac Mac and Rad Boy Go! is an insanely cool animated cartoon from the 1980s

    Director Wesley Archer's Jac Mac and Rad Boy Go! is an insanely cool animation that aired on both the '80s late-night program Night Flight and MTV's Liquid Television. This animated short tells the story of two hooligan teens driving like maniacs and stirring up trouble everywhere they go. What I love about the animation style is how amazingly raw and experimental it is.

    Wesley studied in the Graphics/Experimental Animation program at CalArts. Jack Mac & Rad Boy, Go! was his third-year project there. Archer first inked the cartoon in 1983 and then colored it in a year later for its first public exhibition before it was shown on Night Flight in 1985.

    Archer has worked on many notable shows since such as The Simpsons, King Of The Hill, Futurama, Rick and Morty, and more.

    Here is a creator commentary video about Jac Mac and Rad boy, which also shows the pencil test and color film:

  • Watch Carnival of Souls a haunting 1962 independent horror film

    Recently, I watched the obscure, 1962 independent horror film Carnival of Souls on Archive.org. It's the one and only feature film that Herk Harvey directed and was made on a budget of $33,000.

    Starring Candice Hillgoss, Carnival of Souls tells the tale of a woman who becomes drawn to a mysterious abandoned carnival after a traumatic accident. This haunting, atmospheric, black-and-white film feels like a precursor to David Lynch's work. This film slipped through the cracks upon its initial release and slowly received praise from critics over the following decades.

    I prefer the type of creepiness of The Twilight Zone over that of slasher films, and so Carnival of Souls was right up my alley; it's just as much of an art film as it is a horror film. The Time Out Film Guide commended the film's "striking black-and-white compositions, disorienting dream sequences and eerie atmosphere," adding that the film "has the feel of a silent German Expressionist movie" (Wikipedia).

    What I love about this movie is that it feels like a relic from a lost era of horror films, and not just because it was made in 1962. The movie is also very anti-Hollywood in its themes and presentation.

    The unforgettable imagery in this film is buried deep in my psyche.

  • Siteless is a book of architectural inspiration

    One of my friends gave me a copy of the book, Siteless: 1001 Building Forms by François Blanciak as a gift a few years ago, and I use it often for reference images and inspiration for my drawings. Although I'm not an architect and this is an architecture-inspired book, the forms in it are great for drawing inspiration, creature parts, or just fun eye candy.

    Siteless, published in 2008, includes 1001 different building forms — "structural parasites, chain link towers, ball-bearing floors, corrugated corners, exponential balconies, radial facades, crawling frames, forensic housing" and more. The forms are all drawn freehand and laid out 12 per page, in no particular order. Besides the title of each form, the book contains few words, which I'm glad for because it allows me to get lost within the shapes as a reader. The end of the book demonstrates what it's like for these shapes to be constructed in real life, at an architectural site in Tokyo.

    The book is a great resource for artists and designers who draw things like architecture, interiors, products, and so on, and therefore a great reference book to have on hand, but it's also great for general inspiration as well. Art students, architects, interior designers, furniture designers, product designers, and graphic designers, take note: This is a great book to have on hand and I would highly recommend it

    From the MIT Press site:

    Its author, a young French architect practicing in Tokyo, admits he "didn't do this out of reverence toward architecture, but rather out of a profound boredom with the discipline, as a sort of compulsive reaction." What would happen if architects liberated their minds from the constraints of site, program, and budget? he asks. The result is a book that is saturated with forms, and as free of words as any architecture book the MIT Press has ever published.

  • Today is Koo Koo the Bird Girl appreciation day!

    (Minnie Woolsey, 1880 – after 1960) performed in American sideshows and is known for her one and only film role in Tod Browning's controversial 1932 film, Freaks. Woolsey spent time in a mental hospital before she began performing, but little else is known about her early life.

    Woolsey was born with an extremely rare congenital growth skeletal disorder called Seckel Syndrome. Seckel Syndrome caused Woolsey to have a small head, short stature, mild intellectual disability, and a narrow face with a receding jaw and large features, hence the name "Koo Koo the Bird Girl". Woolsey was also bald, had no teeth, and was either fully blind or had severely impaired vision. 

    In Woolsey's "Koo Koo the Bird Girl" performances, she would wear a bodysuit made of feathers and a single feather on top of her head while she danced and spoke gibberish. Woolsey is in many scenes in Browning's film Freaks, such as the wedding ceremony. Freaks received an overwhelming amount of critical backlash upon release because many people thought the film was exploitative of the real sideshow performers who acted in it. Upon reflection today, many film critics hold the opinion that Freaks is a deeply compassionate film that portrays its actors in an honest and respectful way. 

    Woolsey performed in a circus sideshow at Coney Island into her '80s. The date and cause of her death is unknown. Woolsey was a fantastic performer who led an extraordinary life. Her performance in Freaks left a big impression on me, and she is an inspiration to others as well:

    From Wikipedia

    Australian performer Sarah Houbolt created a performance called Kookoo The Bird Girl. Speaking to Disability Arts Online, Houbolt said, "My full length show, KooKoo the Birdgirl, is about Minnie Woolsley, a historical performer with disability, who starred in Freaks (1932). This is an art history piece, and a female perspective on the side show. My passion to uncover her story is as a result of the importance of telling our history from a disability perspective. Minnie lived in a time of compulsory sterilisation and anti-marriage laws for disabled women, which not many people know about."

    Koo Koo the Bird Girl is in the back row, fourth from the left

    [Photo of Koo Koo the Bird Girl by chandoo – forum.xcitefun.net, Public Domain. Photo of Congress of Freaks by Century Flashlight Photographers, Inc. Edward J. Kelty, President – [1], Public Domain]

  • This lamp is great for drawing late at night

    I recently moved into an apartment that has no light fixtures in the living room ceiling. I use my living room as my art studio and often like to draw at night time, so this was a bit of a problem for me. After spending some time trying to find the right living room lamp, I decided on this one by TaoTronics. I love the quality of their headphones, so I figured they would make a good lamp, too. FYI artists and people who need a bright lamp: this is the best drawing light I've used for my nighttime sketch sessions — it fully lights my paper and the living room. It also has a cool, minimalist look. My favorite thing about it is that it comes with a little remote that allows you to change the color and brightness of either light. The lights also rotate 180 degrees, so you can adjust them to your needs. This makes it perfect for my at-home art studio.