I have had a deep love for The Residents since I first saw/heard their magic. They have made some incredible videos and albums, but The Gingerbread Man (2008) is one of my favorites. As with all of the Resident's artwork, the creativity and originality behind this video are astounding. I'm fascinated by the strange, experimental animation styles in the video.
I first learned of the Swiss visual artist, Pipilotti Rist, from her video Ever is Overall. I am entranced by this piece every time I see it. Ever is Over All (1997) is a slow-motion video of a woman taking a stroll down the sidewalk and smashing parked cars with a large pole in the shape of a tropical flower.
As the woman breaks the car windows, she is smiling, skipping, and wearing a beautiful blue dress and red shoes which remind me of Dorothy from Wizard of Oz.
The soundtrack is dreamy, adding to the overall sublime feeling of the video. Even the destruction of the cars feels peaceful and hypnotizing through the way it's portrayed. Ever is Overall is one of those artworks that I come back to again and again, and I'm inspired every time I watch it.
Pipilotti Elisabeth Rist (born 21 June 1962) is a Swiss visual artist best known for creating experimental video art and installation art. Her work is often described as surreal, intimate, abstract art, having a preoccupation with the female body. Her artwork is often categorized as feminist art. Rist's work is known for its multi-sensory qualities, with overlapping projected imagery that is highly saturated with color, paired with sound components that are part of a larger environment with spaces for viewers to rest or lounge. Rist's work often transforms the architecture or environment of a white cube gallery into a more tactile, auditory and visual experience.
In 16th century England, the Ale Houses Act 1551 made drunkenness a civil offense. A common punishment for those who disobeyed this law was the drunkard's cloak.
The drunkard's cloak was made from a barrel, with a hole in the top for one's head to poke out of, and two arm holes on the side. The person being punished would be "paraded through the town" in this attire, as a form of pillory.
I imagine it would have been pretty strange for travelers, visiting England, to see people walking down the street wearing barrels without knowing the context. I also wonder how heavy and uncomfortable the cloak would have felt after walking for a while. I assume that aside from the aesthetic embarrassment of the situation, the phsycial discomfort would have been a notable part of the punishment.
"An early description of the drunkard's cloak appears in Ralph Gardiner's England's Grievance Discovered, first published in 1655. A John Willis claimed to have travelled to Newcastle and seen "men drove up and down the streets, with a great tub, or barrel, opened in the sides, with a hole in one end, to put through their heads, and to cover their shoulders and bodies, down to the small of their legs, and then close the same, called the new fashioned cloak, and so make them march to the view of all beholders; and this is their punishment for drunkards, or the like." (Wikipedia)
In early modern Europe, it was common for tutors to whip their students as a form of punishment. However, some historians believe that when it was time for a prince to receive punishment from his tutor, a "whipping boy" was punished instead.
A whipping boy was a student taught by the tutor as well, alongside the prince. When the prince misbehaved, the whipping boy "received corporal punishment for the prince's transgressions in his presence. The prince was not punished himself because his royal status exceeded that of his tutor; seeing a friend punished would provide an equivalent motivation not to repeat the offence. An archaic proverb which captures a similar idea is "to beat a dog before a lion." (Wikipedia)
I was imagining a leather whip being used to inflict the punishment until I saw the illustration below. The "whip" being held by the tutor looks more like a creepy bundle of twigs, or a witch's broom.
Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on 16 November 1581 is a painting by the Russian artist, Ilya Repin. This piece, made between 1883 and 1885, is also referred to as Ivan the Terrible Killing His Son. This chilling scene depicts Ivan the Terrible in a state of shock and despair, cradling his bleeding son. It's believed that Ivan The Terrible murdered his son, and the painting was made using models who reenacted this infamous event. "Repin's painting has been called one of Russia's most famous paintings and is also one of its most controversial. It has been vandalized twice, in 1913 and again in 2018. It remains on display in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (Wikipedia)" The dread-filled look in Ivan The Terrible's eyes sends a shiver down my spine every time I look in this painting.
"Lonely Water" (1973) is a British PSA about water safety, featuring Donald Pleasence as the voice of the Grim Reaper. I love its old-school, horror movie vibe.
The Grim Reaper in this PSA stands around in its hooded cloak, near potentially dangerous bodies of water where children are playing.
He makes a remark about a "Danger, No Swimming" sign: "Only a fool would ignore this, but there's one born every minute."
This amusing yet convincing PSA from the Central Office of Information ends after the Grim Reaper says "I'll be back (Pre-terminator)," in an eerie voice.
Have you ever had a lucid dream? In lucid dreams, one is aware of the fact that they're dreaming, and sometimes even has control over the environment, characters, and situation in their dreams. I've had many lucid dreams myself, and have always felt that there is something so mysterious, psychedelic, and even supernatural about being able to explore the dream world with a conscious awareness that you're doing so.
I received this card from a friend recently, and he said I could share it on Boing Boing. The following are the words my friend wrote about her recent lucid dream experience:
Last night I had a lucid dream. I was sitting next to this girl, who didn't know that she was a character in my dream. She thought that she was real. I told her that she wasn't real, and that I was dreaming. She put her head in her hands, and I could tell that she wanted to cry. I regretted telling her, and I woke up before I could say anything else to her.
I asked my friend how she felt about this dream, and she told me "The dream left me wondering if the girl I met, who told me that she was real and I was the one in her dream, was a real entity or just a figment of my imagination. Is she living inside of me, or am I living inside of her? The girl in my dream has been on my mind ever since."
Maybe the girl in my friend's dream really was some kind of entity, or maybe she was just a compelling character that my friend's mind invented. Either way, my friend's dream has left me wondering about the mysteries of consciousness, and the nature of reality.
I love these short interviews with people tripping on LSD from the 1987 documentary "LSD: The Beyond Within". You can find the two interviews with young women, 58 minutes into the film. I think these interviews took place in the mid-1960s, judging by their clothes and hairstyles. Both of them talk about their altered perception of colors and the world surrounding them.
I love how poetic and dreamy the interviews are. The entire documentary is worth checking out if you're interested in psychedelia and the history of the 1960s counterculture movement. Some of the topics discussed in the film are the invention of LSD, key figures associated with the psychedelic revolution such as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary, and the backlash against LSD and hippies.
From the Youtube Caption:
There is more to reality than meets a normal eye. Behind the curtain of everyday consciousness is hidden another unutterably strange universe. It's the world of mystical experiences and those who have been there describe the visit as the most significant event in their lives.
Until recent times, it was a world known only to holy man, to saints, and perhaps to the insane. Then a generation ago, this drug, LSD, escaped from the laboratory and was consumed by millions of young people. To some, it's a doorway to the mystical universe – chemical ecstasy, enlightenment in a bottle. To others it's a dangerous and subversive poison.
I recently found out that I have exploding head syndrome (EHS).
While I've had exploding head syndrome all my life, I didn't know what it was called until yesterday, when it was briefly discussed in a podcast I listened to.
Exploding head syndrome (EHS) is an abnormal sensory perception during sleep in which a person experiences unreal noises that are loud and of short duration when falling asleep or waking up. The noise may be frightening, typically occurs only occasionally, and is not a serious health concern. People may also experience a flash of light. Pain is typically absent. Despite the name, the sufferer's head does not actually explode.
I've never bothered to research my EHS symptoms because I wasn't even aware that it was a real medical condition. At least once a month, I violently jolt awake to the sound of a loud bang or mechanical buzzing noise while I'm drifting off to sleep. It always scares me when this happens, but I usually end up falling right to sleep afterward.
Although it may cause momentary discomfort, EHS is harmless. EHS is not known to have a specific cause, but possible explanations include "ear problems, temporal lobe seizures, nerve dysfunction, or specific genetic changes" (Wikipedia).
I don't enjoy my exploding head syndrome, but at least this condition has a pretty awesome name.
During the Dancing plague of 1518, between 50 to 400 people in Strasbourg, Alsace (modern-day France) manically danced from July to September until they apparently either had to be hospitalized or dropped dead.
Some sources claim that, for a period, the plague killed around fifteen people per day, but the sources of the city of Strasbourg at the time of the events did not mention the number of deaths, or even if there were fatalities. There do not appear to be any sources contemporaneous to the events that make note of any fatalities.
It all started when a woman started dancing wildly in the middle of the street. More and more people joined, mostly young women. Historians agree that the dancing plague took place, but the cause is still unknown.
I haven't found any evidence that music was playing during the dancing plague, so I assume that the afflicted people were dancing like victims of demonic possession in silence. This mental image makes the whole thing a million times creepier.
During the pandemic, many of us (myself included) tried cutting our own hair for the first time. It's too bad I didn't see this tutorial by Basil Wolverton beforehand. Who knew that a barrel of paint remover and some glue is all one needs to achieve the perfect haircut, as pictured in the last panel. I'm sure that my DIY pandemic haircuts would have turned out way better if I had followed these simple instructions!
I recently found an old Jibba Jabber doll in my grandparents' basement, which brought back all the fun memories I have of playing with this weird, noise-making toy as a child. When you hold the Jibba Jabber's neck and shake it around, it makes a noise that sounds similar to a squeaky dog toy, or a Groan Tube.
Jibba Jabbers were made by the company Ertl in the mid-90s, and included an insert that warned people about Shaken Baby Syndrome in the packaging with the doll: "when Ertl was told about Shaken Baby Syndrome, the company responded, as reported by the US Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, by "placing an insert in Jibba Jabber packaging explaining that while Jibba Jabber is for fun, a lethal form of child abuse involves the shaking of babies. The pamphlet lists seven ways to react positively to a child rather than resorting to violence. [Wikipedia]"
I've been using stinging nettle in both supplement form and steeped into a tea throughout my life to treat my allergies. Don't worry, this plant doesn't actually "sting" in its edible form. Nettle tea is a shrub, originally native to North Africa, Asia, and Europe. The plant is now found worldwide and has been used for centuries as herbal medicine. I have hay fever, allergies to all sorts of animals, and other common things. For me, stinging nettle has been an amazing alternative to over-the-counter allergy medications because it's a completely natural plant that leaves me without any side effects. Besides being a treatment for allergies, stinging nettle has a ton of other amazing health benefits too such as urinary tract health, hormone balance, reduced inflammation, reduced arthritis-related pain, blood sugar management, prostate health, liver health, wound healing (as a cream), and more. This awesome plant is also full of nutrients, minerals, vitamins A, C, K, and several B vitamins. I order my nettle tea in bulk online, but it can also be found at many health food stores. Drink up!
Action Park was lawless, run by wild teenagers, and spending the day there was like playing a game of Russian roulette.
One of the first things people saw when they entered New Jersey's Action Park, which operated in New Jersey from 1978 – 1996, was a tube-shaped water slide with a loop in it. Yes, that right — the slide would take people straight down and then completely upside down, around the loop. This slide, which often left kids with injuries and lacerations (due to knocked-out teeth that became lodged into the padding of the slide), was just one of the many treacherous attractions that drew people to this park.
A documentary streaming on HBOMax called Class Action Park gives a detailed look into how this theme park came into existence, what happened during its heyday, and why it finally had to shut down for good.
From the documentary's website:
During its 1980s and 1990s heyday, New Jersey's Action Park earned a reputation as the most insane — and possibly the most dangerous — amusement park that ever existed.
It was known as a lawless land, ruled by drunk teenage employees and frequented by even drunker teenage guests. The rides were experimental and illogical, and seemed to ignore even the most basic notions of physics or common sense—not to mention safety.
Let's put it this way: There was an enclosed tube waterslide that went in a complete loop—and that wasn't even close to the most dangerous ride at the park.
Lying somewhere between Lord of the Flies and a Saw movie, Action Park is remembered as a place so insane and treacherous that, decades later, anybody who ever stepped foot in it is left wondering whether their memories could possibly be true. It became a nearly perfect breeding ground for urban legends and myths.
Watch the trailer:
I recently watched a great hour-long documentary on outsider art, called Turning The Art World Inside Out. The term "outsider artist" has never sat completely right with me, because it feels sort of exclusionary and othering.
Wikipedia defines Outsider Art as:
art by self-taught or naïve art makers. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.
That said, Turning The Art World Inside Out offers insight into the practices of many so-called "outsider artists" and their unique visions. One of my favorite artists from the documentary is Ionel Talpazan (1955-2015), who made magical, colorful UFO paintings. He's interviewed in his apartment/studio and talks about his life, art, and thoughts about UFOs.
You can watch the documentary on YouTube:
If I ever travel to Vermont, my first stop will definitely be the Bread and Puppet Theater. Watching live puppet shows has been something I've loved since I was a kid, and although I've only seen videos of their performances, it seems like nothing comes close to the magic of Bread and Puppet shows.
Bread and Puppet is one of the best and oldest nonprofit puppet theaters in the United States. Here's a 6-minute video with footage of the awesome puppets, interviews about the history of the theater, and a few clips of past performances:
Lots of Bread and Puppet performances have been taped and uploaded to archive.org and Vimeo. If you happen to be in Vermont this summer, Bread and Puppet is currently performing on Saturdays and Sundays, July 10 through August 29. Tickets are available here.
From their website:
The Bread and Puppet Theater was founded in 1963 by Peter Schumann on New York City's Lower East Side. Besides rod-puppet and hand puppet shows for children, the concerns of the first productions were rents, rats, police, and other problems of the neighborhood.
More complex theater pieces followed, in which sculpture, music, dance and language were equal partners. The puppets grew bigger and bigger. Annual presentations for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Memorial Day often included children and adults from the community as participants.
Many performances were done in the street. During the Vietnam War, Bread and puppet staged block-long processions and pageants involving hundreds of people.
In 1974 Bread and Puppet moved to a farm in Glover in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The 140-year old hay barn was transformed into a museum for veteran puppets. Our Domestic Resurrection Circus, a two-day outdoor festival of puppetry shows, was presented annually through 1998.
Jesco White, born July 30, 1956, is an Appalachian folk dancer and performer, who has followed in the footsteps of his father D. Ray White, a famous mountain dancer and entertainer. The Dancing Outlaw is a fascinating portrait of Jesco's creative passions, personal life, and struggles. He has been the subject of multiple documentaries, including one about his entire family called The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, of which Johnny Knoxville was one of the producers.
You can watch the film at The Internet Archive.
The Dancing Outlaw (1991), directed by Jacob Young, featured [Young] at home in West Virginia and gave audiences a glimpse into his troubled life. Young originally came to Boone County in search of D. Ray who had been murdered years prior. The TV series aimed to showcase "the unsung geniuses and charismatic madmen of Appalachian county." The director used this opportunity to unveil Jesco's talent and introduce America to the Dancing Outlaw. Viewers are acquainted with Jesco's three distinct personalities. "The gentle and loving Jesse, the violent and dangerous Jesco, and the extremely strange Elvis." This is the first of many mentions he makes regarding his lifelong struggle with his personality disorder. His admiration of Elvis is apparent in his stage attire and Elvis room within his home which White claims "saved his life from certain doom." The film won an American Film Institute Award and an Emmy for Best Documentary, was screened at the Museum of Modern Art, and was named best public television program in 1992.
Hamilton's Pharmacopeia is a docu-series about psychoactive substances. The show is created, written, and directed by Hamilton Morris (son of the acclaimed documentarian, Errol Morris). In each episode, Morris travels around the world and studies the chemistry, history, and first-hand experiences of various substances. What makes this show so interesting is the way that Morris explores drugs from these various angles, and takes a very honest approach while doing so. During Morris's first-hand experiences, the audience gets to watch Hamilton take drugs with scientists, shamans, people connected to fringe cultures, and then reflect on his experiences. The show originally premiered on Viceland in 2016.
Here's a short clip from one of my favorite episodes of the show, "A Positive PCP Story." In the clip, Hamilton meets Timothy Wyllie, "an artist and founding member of The Process Church whose experiences on PCP led him to be an advocate of the drug's use." Wyllie is a pretty fascinating character, who makes fantastic UFO art and has an unusual outlook on PCP use. A look into Wyllie's far-out perspective and lifestyle make this episode especially interesting.
Edward Mordrake was a 19th-century English man who (according to an urban legend) had an evil little face on the back of his head.
Although the face could not see, eat, or talk, it had an agenda of its own and could whisper (only to Mordrake), laugh, and cry and drool.
Mordrake claimed that the face whispered bad things to him at night. He also complained that the face would sneer when he was happy, and smile when he was crying.
Mordrake pleaded with doctors to remove the "demon face," but they refused to attempt the operation. Mordrake was so tortured by the face on the back of his head, that he killed himself at age 23.
Although Mordrake's story is likely just a creepy myth his condition was described in Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine:
One of the weirdest as well as the most melancholy stories of human deformity is that of Edward Mordake, said to have been heir to one of the noblest peerages in England. He never claimed the title, however, and committed suicide in his twenty-third year. He lived in complete seclusion, refusing the visits even of the members of his own family. He was a young man of fine attainments, a profound scholar, and a musician of rare ability. His figure was remarkable for its grace, and his face – that is to say, his natural face – was that of an Antinous. But upon the back of his head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, "lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil." The female face was a mere mask, "occupying only a small portion of the posterior part of the skull, yet exhibiting every sign of intelligence, of a malignant sort, however." It would be seen to smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping. The eyes would follow the movements of the spectator, and the lips "would gibber without ceasing." No voice was audible, but Mordake avers that he was kept from his rest at night by the hateful whispers of his "devil twin", as he called it, "which never sleeps, but talks to me forever of such things as they only speak of in Hell. No imagination can conceive the dreadful temptations it sets before me. For some unforgiven wickedness of my forefathers I am knit to this fiend – for a fiend it surely is. I beg and beseech you to crush it out of human semblance, even if I die for it." Such were the words of the hapless Mordake to Manvers and Treadwell, his physicians. In spite of careful watching, he managed to procure poison, whereof he died, leaving a letter requesting that the "demon face" might be destroyed before his burial, "lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave." At his own request, he was interred in a waste place, without stone or legend to mark his grave.
It's unfortunate that we don't get to find out what Mordrake's life would have been like past age 23, but If I had an evil face on the back of my head that smiled when I wept, I would gladly self-destruct.
In 1886, one woman's fear of ghosts and a spare $20.5 million (equivalent to $550 million in 2020) led to a 38-year-long project in which the Winchester Mystery House was built.
Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After Winchester died in 1881, leaving Sarah Winchester with a fortune, she began to fear that the ghosts of people killed by Winchester firearms would haunt her mansion.
Sarah hired carpenters to work on the house around the clock. She didn't hire an architect, and added onto her home in a willy-nilly fashion until it became seven stories high. The mansion is full of bizarre additions such as doors and stairs that lead to nowhere, windows that look into other rooms, windows on the floor, hidden passages, and other oddities that were meant to confuse the ghosts from finding her.
In 2017, the Winchester Mystery House debuted their first new daytime tour in 20 years, the Explore More Tour. This tour takes guests through rooms never before opened to the public and explores the rooms left unfinished at the time of Sarah Winchester's death.
The Winchester house is now a designated California historical landmark, and is located in the city of San Jose. This strange architecture of this house puts it at the top of my list of haunted places I want to explore.