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20 Feb 02:16

Dance Those Monday Blues Away…

by Maika

Whatever the week has in store for you, this shiny, sassy Nosferatu, working their preternatural dance moves to the infectiously uplifting zyn-zyn-zyn of Q-pop, has your back:

I’m just sorry I’ve only been able to find 25 seconds of this inexplicable yet undeniably delightful video to share with you here.

UPDATE: Thanks to the ever so lovely and endlessly inspiring Darla Teagarden, I’ve just learned that our fabulous dancing Nosferatu is Arran Shurvinton. Now we may all carry on basking in their shiny, shimmying glory knowing exactly who they are!

Instagram Photo

[via Sbornik.prikolov]

20 Feb 00:21

I feel this

by swissmiss
03 Feb 13:59

Death in the Village

by Anthony Oliveira


The massive letters are glued to the plywood around the construction site at 582 Church Street, near the centre of Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village. The site used to be a bar called House-Maison. Once at a party a boy kissed me in the bathroom upstairs. He laughed, and then disappeared into the sea of people outside. It is derelict now, under perpetual construction.

The poster was hung there to promote the latest album from hip-hop/rock group N.E.R.D. (the underscore in “NO_ONE” is to make the acronym work), which was released December 15, 2017. You will have trouble reading the sign. Sometime between being affixed in late November and December 4, 2017, the company in charge of patrolling the site—O.B.N. Security and Investigative Consultants—moved its own placard, from where it hung nearby, to a few feet down and to the right, carefully obscuring the word “DIES.” There is an owl scowling on it—an image, presumably, of sleepless watchfulness. The outline of where it used to hang persists, its ghostly outline particularly obvious when it rains. Perhaps the word troubled them.

You will have trouble, too, finding out what the acronym O.B.N. stands for. It is not on the security company’s website, though there you will learn that among its executive board and founders are a number of former police officers or law enforcement personnel, and it is then that you might guess. If you haven’t, a bit more digging will lead you to a Toronto Star article from 2006, in which, amid a pitch from the firm’s vice-president for their services in divorce surveillance, it is explained as a joking reference to O.B.N.’s association with the Toronto Police. I call their offices to inquire about security work (I have been feeling unsafe lately) and they confirm: O.B.N. stands for “Old Boys Network.”

Walk past this constellation of signage and follow the plywood to where it ends. Squeeze past the cars parked there. On the building’s north-most side you will find a small alley, and stone steps down to a basement door. Next to overflowing recycling bins and garbage containers, in a spot that neither O.B.N. patrols nor police bothered to look, you will find a tall heap of dirt festooned with flowers, candles, and birthday cards.

You will find the spot where, on November 29, four days after she went missing, and one day before her birthday, Tess Richey’s mother found her daughter’s murdered body.


I am walking along College Street near Bay. It is raining. From an alcove entrance, over the railing of the building wheelchair ramp, a woman in a red vest shouts over to me.

“Come inside out of the rain and donate to Canadian Blood Services? It’s in you to give!”

“I’m gay,” I say.

She grimaces. “Sorry.”


He was a Mall Santa. This was the detail, culled from his Facebook page, that obsessed the press. We are still waiting for numbers—we are still waiting for so much—but it seems that this man who (it is, my editor wishes me to stress, alleged) had killed at least five men and probably many others would once a year put on a red suit and dandle the children of Toronto on his lap and listen to their fondest wishes. He smiled, and smiled, and still was a villain.

It seems now secondary that there are still gay bodies to be exhumed. That there was blood—gay blood—in the trunk of his car. Gay blood when it is donated is thrown out, and when it is spilt it is easy to forget, running unnoticed in the gutters.

Think instead of the children.

When I look at his Facebook page (it is now locked, but police left it up for several days) I see different angles of parties I attended—photographs taken on Church Street of the same Halloween costumes I had photographed just before him, giant candied skulls moving in a conga line through the crowd that made me tug on my friend’s coat: look, there. In his pictures I see an eye gazing where I gazed, and wonder if it gazed on me: darkly complected, stocky, bearded. Gay.

Maybe when the headlines shout “MALL SANTA!” this is the heterosexual community’s version of the same impulse: look where you were vulnerable.


It is mid December, 2017. We have been looking for Andrew Kinsman for seven months. His posters are still outside in the square and in the coffee shops. In all that time the police have insisted there is no connection between Andrew Kinsman and the rash of disappearances we have been seeing for years. Instead, they tell us to “be careful on the apps.” They do not explain why.

Project Marie, the 2016 police sting operation to lure gay men into sex in the park and then arrest them, is a year old.

Briefly, Tess Richey’s poster hung next to Andrew’s. “But I knew she was dead when the police came in to take down her poster,” a barista tells me. Outside the window is Crews & Tango’s, the drag club and dance space where Tess was last seen. Just a few steps north is where her body was found.

Do not congregate online; do not congregate in the park; do not congregate in the bar.

Tess’s poster has been replaced with one of the person of interest in her case: a slight, white man photographed by blurry CCTV cameras. Another predator, moving through the village.

“Did you talk to them? When they took it down?” I ask.

“Fuck no.”


It is mid January, 2018. I am sitting in the press conference for Andrew Kinsman’s family. We are in the 519 Community Centre; above the lobby bulletin board hangs a sign: “FAMILIES DEFINE THEMSELVES.” The conference is in the ballroom on the second floor. The last time I was here it was full of steamy bodies—the humid rain had moved the TreeHouse Party inside, and we danced in the microclimate of our sweat. I remember a friend’s hand in the small of my clammy back that made me wriggle and slap them away.

Now it is cold. Journalists and equipment personnel sparsely laugh and chat, milling near a hastily erected coffee station. One behind me loudly barks: “There’s probably a book in this!” The family is huddled, watching them. Watching us, I guess. They have just learned an arrest has been made. They have just learned, for certain, that their brother was killed. They are waiting for the body to be found.

They speak imperfectly, as all of us would. They think aloud of the child that Andrew was. Shelley Kinsman takes no questions after her statement. I watch her anxiously clutching and persistently rubbing a small black stone with both hands throughout. I never find out what it was. She looks like my mother, fretting at her rosary beads.

Andrew’s sister Karen tells a story about how her brother wanted to be a paleontologist, and how the family once hid a cow femur and convinced him there must be dinosaurs buried in the yard. He dug and dug until, ecstatic, he found the bones.

The room shifts uncomfortably and moves quickly past the infelicitous image.

“We looked for him in the heat, in the rain, and in the snow,” Patricia Kinsman says. Attend enough press conferences and you learn the strange synesthetic habit of a sudden burst of photos when the subject says something useful—as though the image captured could be made at all congruent to what striking thing was said. A sound like a group of bats taking flight as cameras go off: heat, rain, snow—that was everyone’s favourite pull-quote. A family in suffering, scouring for their prodigal brother lost in the big city.

I have yet to find an article that quoted what Kinsman said next: “We found homeless men living in tents. We met a transgender person afraid of living in a shelter as she had been assaulted and robbed. She lived under a bridge. We bought her lunch. We saw a young man sleeping under a bridge surrounded by bottles. In the forest we found needles and more. We never found Andrew.”

I wonder if the homeless woman they met was Alloura Wells, whose body was found in August in a ravine by a hiker, discovered during a coroner’s exam to be trans, and then neglected, no further identified, in a police morgue for months, until the noise from the family about organizing their own searches (as Alloura’s father put it, struggling with her pronouns: “It’s like [she’s] a nobody”) led them at last to identify her remains.

Probably not. There is after all no shortage of homeless trans people in Toronto. The moment, in any case, passes unremarked upon. (I later speak to Patricia by phone, and she confirms it of course wasn’t: “I would have known Alloura Wells.” I thank her for looking, at least, where police wouldn’t.)

The Kinsmans talk around the problem of the other victims’ families, of the troubling optics of a killer caught after possible decades of activity because he finally killed a white guy. Greg Downer, who speaks with the sisters, says the search has reached out to Selim Esen’s family in Turkey, but they have apparently long “considered the matter closed.” They implore the family to call the police, whom they thank profusely.

“Remember him in your own way,” the sisters say. For their own part, “we know that wherever he is, Andrew is looking down on us.”


“Andrew did not want to look down from anywhere.”

I am sitting with my friend David at the Blake House, a pub just off the village’s main drag. The last time I was here was right after the Pride parade with my then-boyfriend. My shorts were ludicrously short and sparkly, and his eyes were very, very blue.

David slept with Andrew Kinsman a handful of times, and they were friends. It is a kind of relationship every gay man recognizes, but which the media has struggled to quantify. The Andrew that David remembers is not the child his sisters recall at the press conference, but a man who knew his mind—ruthlessly unsentimental, and very kind: “If ever there was a person that didn’t deserve it, it was him.” David looks down. “He was a big man.”

It is a peculiarly terrible feeling watching someone you care about picture someone they care about being disassembled.

The police have been busily peddling a vague warning to stay away from hook-up apps for months, to the exclusion of all other information and amid strenuous denial there was any evidence of a serial killer. Their denials, to David, amount to complicity: “Andrew disappeared in June. There’s a young man on that list who disappeared in August. If he is one of the victims, that is on the police.” He remembers the case of Jane Doe, who successfully sued the Toronto Police for their part in her attack by a serial rapist.

Instead, for David, the horror is that Andrew knew his killer: “The thing that pains me most is that he might have cared for this person, and been betrayed by this person in such a cruel way.”

I ask him about Tess Richey; about the queer voices in Black Lives Matter, whose press conference for the unveiling of the mural behind Hair of the Dog I once watched police perfunctorily scuttle after BLM had questioned the force’s cosmetic image renovation; about Project Marie, and about the subsequent police uproar about being excluded from Pride. Was this laxity of their mission to serve and protect meant to be punitive?

“All of this has laid bare the fact that we are alone,” David says. “We have no superheroes. We are alone. It is the queer community that has done the most work. It is the queer community that has developed strategies.

“And now it is the queer community who mourns.”


I am in the Glad Day Bookshop with a Paper Plane (bourbon, amaro, Aperol, lemon juice) and a book (Midsummer Night’s Dream) when my ex-boyfriend spots me in the window and comes in to say hi. Then: “I hear they might be up to four bodies.”

We talk about how they will probably give him a name. The Mall Santa thing, probably, or something about the gardening. My ex tries the cocktail, and I feel the momentary course of a thrill at the gesture’s casual intimacy.

His eyes are still so blue.

He is late for something, squeezes me goodbye, and he is gone, and I am alone again with my book.


City TV posts a report about the murders. My cousin, to whose face I once denied I was gay when they cornered me at a wedding years ago (“But I saw you!” she pressed. “I just live near the village, so I’m there a lot,” I stammered, my face hot), spots me in the pre-roll, and tags me. I read the Facebook comments.

Del Core Domenico says: “You don’t like cops, now you pay the ultimate prize.” Laughing emojis.

Sandra Wieland says: “Why does the media say gay men were murdered. Do they say straight man shot last night. Stop the labels. We are the human race.”

Wayne Kennedy says: “Leave the police alone they are doing a good gob there [are] other cases to solve.”

Andrew Brown says: “So 2 makes u a serial killer?”

Tom Pearson says: “A bit much to say police won’t do a thing. Division is not helping.”

Chris Kolmel says: “They could have just not bothered looking for the killer. Just coming off as looking stupid”

Dre Khaloo says: “Let’s not forget LGBT ppl u were the 1’s who told the cops not to show up at pride wearing their uniforms catering to the demands of blm so shut ur holes An deal with it”

Richie Zina says: “Confused gays. What about aids? Why are they still so quiet in that? I’m sure aids kills thousands more than this guy did….”

I close Facebook.


I am sitting on the second floor of the village Starbucks, grading a student’s late paper. I become vaguely aware that behind me an older man is explaining to his companion how Grindr works.

“See, these people are all nearby! It changes every time you sign on. I had sex with this guy once. Some of these people are even in this café! Look, there’s that guy!”

To my left across the gulf of the stairs a gentleman sitting alone at a table conspicuously pretends not to hear.

Two police officers, a man and a woman in the Toronto Police yellow winter jackets, walk up the stairs holding coffees, obviously on break. The same old man behind me jeers loudly: “Uh oh, the POLICE are here! I hope nobody in here did anything WRONG!”

The police officers, also, pretend not to hear.

When one of them goes to the bathroom, the old man again heckles him: “Better check if there’s a MURDERER in that bathroom! Better get him this time!”

The officer tries the door, but does not know the code (I know it but do not volunteer it). Instead he returns to his partner, and they hastily leave.

I try to follow to ask them if the jeers are typical lately, but when I get outside they are already in their squad car, pulling away.

I wonder if this is their normal patrol, and if so, I wonder if they are the same cops who, when arresting a man at the southern-most margin of the village a year ago were caught on cellphone video tasering a man while down and insisting to an objecting observer to watch out for the suspect, “because he’ll spit in your face and you’ll get AIDS.”

I wonder if they’re still mad they didn’t get to march in their uniforms in the parade, expecting cheers from the people they’ve left for eight years to die while a murderer picked us off, while across town they arrested us in parks for having sex, and electrocuted us in the streets.

Maybe that is uncharitable.


Since June 12, 2016, I have not once walked into a gay bar or café or community centre without thinking, “I wonder if today is the day someone decides to kill us.”

Not once.


Alex is 23—the age, by five days, that Tess Richey never lived to see.

Alex is non-binary and bisexual, and came to Canada because they believed it was more welcoming and open. They want to ask for my advice about grad school (my advice is what it always is: don’t). We are talking in Glad Day, and around us the daytime coffee shop shimmers, dims, and transforms into a quiet night-time pub. This used to be a club called Byzantium, and the floor still has the tracks that split the dancefloor from the more intimate section where the music meant you had to lean in close while lights drew zigzags on the other person’s face.

When straight people imagine coming out they imagine a tearful, dramatic revelation all at once, but Alex’s story is like mine: by degrees, when it’s safe, when it’s too late for them to ruin your life. Coming out is brave not because it is vaguely “scary,” like a school play; it is brave because it is dangerous. Some people get violent; some punish you financially; some just love you a little less, forever. You let them see the little fraction of yourself that you can trust them with, because you’ve learned love is almost always conditional. Surviving is brave, too.

Bitterness is always possible. Instead, Alex’s kindness has a ferocity of its own; they are a volunteer for every LGBT cause imaginable, and I quickly learn have a distressing habit of crying out to interject “poor thing!” at the exact moment in your anecdote when you are describing the person you are trying most to vilify therein.

More than anything else, Alex loves anime. Their free time (of which their volunteering does not afford much) is devoted to “magical girls”—the genre of which Sailor Moon is the most identifiable example to Westerners. They are highly choreographed stories in which the powerless and disenfranchised are transformed into gossamer agents of justice: beauty and love triumphant, never sacrificing an ounce of vulnerability or compassion to do battle against exploitative evils.

I ask about the disappearances, about Tess Richey, and about Alloura Wells.

“The police aren’t doing anything but when have they ever?” Alex asks, sadly. “We protect each other.”

We talk some more about magical girls.


I leave class at 11 a.m.—a lecture on Shakespeare’s Richard II—to 14 texts from my friends. The death toll is now at five.

On the TV above the café bar I watch forensic personnel dressed all in white dragging enormous flowerpots from a property in rural Ontario. There are bodies in the soil.

Unbidden my mind flashes back to the end of the play. Full of baroque images of the horrors of power, it ends with a last one—a new king, crying crocodile tears, for the victim whose death he didn’t quite order, but tacitly condoned, even as he punishes the murder:

Lords, I protest, my soul is full of woe,
That blood should sprinkle me to make me grow. (5.6.45-6)

What is power? A beautiful flower, whose earth is soaked in blood.

In Shakespeare, eulogies are the privilege of murderers. On the TV, the police spokeswoman speaks, but the TV is set mercifully to mute.


It is Thursday night and the high holiest of days: the premiere of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We are upstairs at The Drink: my sisters, Joe, and David (a different David—there are a lot of gay Davids). My friend Paolo is in the crowd. The bar is packed to its rafters—sitting on the floor beneath our high-top, a gaggle of teen self-identified “bio-drag” apprentices are watching the stage, enrapt, while Ivory Towers holds court.

Ivory Towers is, by day, Geoffrey, a reserved barista whose insta-feed is replete with high-concept foam art and whose lattes are excellent despite being herself lactose intolerant (“Which is also why I can’t suck uncut dick,” she drawls mournfully to the crowd). In costume she is green-haired and in a space-age Barbarella catsuit whose rhinestones catch and scratch when you hug her. The crowd adores her.

During a commercial break I am pulled onstage, and acquit myself admirably in trivia until the lightning round, when I forget that Ru’s fictional airline is called “Glamazonian Airways.” In my defense, I am rather drunk. Smelling blood in the water, Ivory takes the opportunity to tear me apart; noticing the “A” on my shirt, and the solid three weeks since I’ve been to the gym, she cries out: “Alvin, Simon, and Theodore, and it looks like you ate all three!” Afterwards, offstage, we both down a shot of Fireball.

I am incandescently happy.

After the lip-sync and very just elimination of tacky and mean-spirited contestant Morgan McMichaels, my sisters and I spill down the steps, the air pleasantly cool after so many raucous bodies hooting and cheering upstairs. Across the street is Crews & Tangos. I remember that Ivory was almost certainly hosting there the night Tess Richey died.

I hope, before the horror, that her last night was as beautiful as this one.


In the heart of the village, behind the 519, in the park across from Tess Richey’s alleyway memorial, you will find a bank of roses, and among them on plates a list of names. These are Toronto’s dead, lost to AIDS, when no one in power cared to act, when the old boys’ network raided the bathhouses and the parks and the bars.

In the summer we hold a vigil, and by candlelight we recite their names, and we recite the names of those killed at the Pulse massacre, and we recite the names of anyone else who was loved and lost. This year we will recite new names.

Their names were Selim Esen. Skandaraj Navaratnam. Majeed “Hamid” Kayhan. Abdulbasir Faizi. Soroush Mahmudi. Dean Lisowick. Andrew Kinsman. Alloura Wells. Tess Richey.

There are more names. There will be more names still.

And we will forget some. And we will not know how many died in silence and in secret and alone. No one will tell those stories. No one will know how.



I have been staring all week at that mutilated poster: another piece of our vandalized history, another scrap pasted onto the palimpsest of this neighbourhood, another fragment forcibly overlaid atop another fragment, out of which we are expected to assemble some measure of coherence.

It is the product of crass marketers peddling positivity, and then careless old men seeking to conceal anything that might invite the discovery of their own guilt in creating the conditions for a predator to prey.

I have no sense to offer. Maybe offering sense is just another violence—another sign moved to cover something up.

But still: when you make “NO_ONE” into one word you fuse a noun to its adjective, making a new noun—a “no_one” that is nevertheless a thing.

Queer people are so often born in isolation—we have to find each other, have to excavate our history, have to build new families to replace the ones who abandoned us. To walk in the village, for me, is to walk in these overlapping histories: through my own, through memorials, through the sites of arrests and beatings and a thousand indignities and intimacies.

We are never one. Not really.

This story has been updated to clarify details related to the Kinsmans’ news conference.

31 Jan 23:59

A choir of strangers accompanies David Byrne singing David Bowie’s Heroes

by Jason Kottke

i'm a sucker

A group called Choir! Choir! Choir! recently put on a show in NYC where they taught the audience to accompany them on a song, in this case, David Bowie’s Heroes sung by David Byrne. Byrne wrote up the experience in his online journal:

What happens when one sings together with a lot of other people?

A couple of things I immediately noticed. There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing… and group singing. One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up.

The second thing that happens involves the physical act of singing. I suspect the regulated breathing involved in singing, the act of producing sound and opening one’s mouth wide calls many many neural areas into play. The physical act, I suspect, releases endorphins as well. In singing, we get rewarded by both mind and body.

No one has to think about any of the above-we “know” these things instinctively. Anyone who has attended a gospel church service, for example, does not need to be told what this feels like.

So, the reward experience is part of the show.

That’s really thrilling and cool to watch. You can check out some of Choir! Choir! Choir!’s other performances on their YouTube channel, including Zombie by The Cranberries, Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty, Karma Police by Radiohead, and Passionfruit by Drake. (via ted gioia)

Tags: David Bowie   David Byrne   music   video
31 Jan 00:34

The Last “RE” of the Month

by Lyn

I would love to be this stylish (and rich {and in a fulfilling career})


Right now I am sitting in a hotel room in Tokyo. Coming to Japan has been a long deferred dream. I think the calm and order of this culture is exactly what I need at this very frenetic moment.

My “re” word for the moment is to re(flect). 2018 has started with a flood of requests and this week a posted video that has resulted in a mass of new followers (welcome!) and a flood of emails and comments. In fact I had to put down the phone and take a break to stop and breathe but also to try and understand more about the cultural moment we are living in and what I might do with this platform that has drawn a crowd, so to speak.

i had my reset and feel clear about my priorities so that is not a concern but rather how do I remain engaged with my followers personally, not by using a bot or staff, as the numbers keep growing?  Just as it is with my students, it is with and through my relationships that I grow and evolve and that in fact has been the case with my blog and my other social media. 

That being said I will try and respond to all the emails and comments but it may take me awhile at least not until next week. In the meantime any ideas about efficient ways to engage are appreciated. I look forward to sharing my adventures in Tokyo and will have a really fun announcement about something that will be happening in February.

Thank you again for being wonderful. 

26 Jan 23:31

State gaming commision to consider whether Steve Wynn worthy to own a casino here

by adamg

omg shut it down, traffic around there is already a nightmare!

The Herald reports the commission is more than perturbed at the Wall Street Journal report that the casino mogul - whose $2.4-billion Everett casino is now rapidly rising - has been sexually abusing workers for decades, and is starting an investigation into whether Wynn still has "suitability" to own a Massachusetts gaming license.

24 Jan 14:16

Delta Haus Brings Bar Pizzas and Frat House Movie Nostalgia to Downtown Boston

by Dana Hatic

do we really need a restaurant for this experience? gross

There will be toga parties

A movie-inspired bar and restaurant arrived in Downtown Boston last week, and it’s full of nostalgia for several cult classics. Delta Haus calls to mind movies like Animal House, Old School, and Revenge of the Nerds, and as might be expected, the folks behind it also operate Boston’s Caddyshack-themed bar, Bushwood Cocktail Club (as well as sibling spot Finn McCool’s).

Delta Haus (200 High St.) has plenty to offer in the way of food and entertainment. After the success of Bushwood, the team wanted to create something similar in the space beneath Finn’s, according to assistant general manager Keith Gleason. (Bushwood is in an adjacent space.)

“Why don’t we try to duplicate not the same idea, but something along those lines?” he said. The team considered other movies they loved to watch and “rolled it all together.”

“You want to have things to occupy people,” Gleason said, noting that Delta Haus complements Bushwood’s arcade games with its own unique selection of bar games, including pool, shuffleboard, pinball, darts, and air hockey, among others. Pulling from multiple movies gave the team flexibility with both decorations and the menu, which Gleason developed with some help and inspiration from the management team.

“I drew stuff from multiple movies and was able to hopefully get a couple chuckles from people,” Gleason said.

Look out for menu items like the “Bleu-Tarsky burger” (named for John Belushi’s Animal House character), and cocktails like the “Mrs. Dean Wormer” and “Fawn Liebowitz.” Just as Jack Daniels played a role in Animal House, the liquor is featured in two different cocktails.

Other items on the food menu include several varieties of a South Shore classic, bar pizza, plus a fried chicken sandwich, and appetizers like “pledge pretzels” and “delta nachos.”

Aiming to appeal to anyone who was ever in a fraternity, attended a fraternity party, or watched movies about them, Delta Haus serves some classic college beers, like PBR, Coors, and Rolling Rock, and it’s all “frat-style,” according to Gleason (no glassware, but plastic cups nicer than Solo cups). The bar also stocks several (less fratty) local craft beers, including Sam Adams seasonal, Harpoon IPA, Allagash, Jack’s Abby House Lager, and UFO Abracadabra.

For decorations, Delta Haus fully embraces the movie theme — there’s a mirror sporting different quotes, as well as several other design features, including some created by an employee who’s an artist.

“On the back wall by the dart area we’ve got a collage — it almost looks like a page out of a yearbook — that has all the different characters from all the different movies we drew from,” Gleason said.

There are couches on one side of the bar, and there are tables made from barrels with tops on them featuring the bar’s logo and caricatures. There are also seven televisions scattered through the space.

“It’s definitely a unique space,” Gleason said. “Every person who came down here [during the first few days in business], you saw them pointing, laughing, just having a good time.”

Delta House made its official debut on Thursday, January 18. “If the first week was any indication, it’s gonna take off just like Bushwood’s did,” Gleason said.

The bar plans to host events (think toga parties and Greek Olympics) as well, so stay tuned to social media for details.

Located in the Financial District, Delta Haus is initially operating Wednesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and may extend those hours depending on demand.

Delta Haus [Official Site]
Finn McCool’s Is Serving ‘Boston Poutine’ and Corned Beef Nachos Downtown [EBOS]
Cannonball: A Caddyshack-Themed Bar Just Opened in Downtown Boston [EBOS]

22 Jan 23:45

People plastic-wrapping their heads together, as one does

by adamg

It's been an odd day

Snoe was waiting for the bus in Union Square in Somerville when she noticed the people connecting their heads via the magic of plastic wrap. "Public art?" she wonders.

09 Jan 00:39

Instead of Selling Objects, Build Public Trust

by (Nina Simon)

Nina Simon is so smart and I have nothing to look forward to

You run a regional museum. It's been struggling financially for years. Now, you have a new vision--co-created with trustees and community leaders--for a path forward. You'll transform it into an interactive science-oriented institution. And you'll build your endowment, too. How will you pay for it? By selling off artworks that no longer serve your mission.

This is the plan that plunged the Berkshire Museum into hot water. It's sparked public uproar, legal battles, and nationwide press coverage. It's cracked the crumbling, outdated rules around deaccessioning--and unearthed more serious issues of public trust.

Here's what happened. In July, the Berkshire Museum released its $60,000,000 New Vision, along with a funding mechanism: selling 40 of its most valuable artworks. Berkshire Museum officials argue that art is not core to their institution going forward and that they are therefore deaccessioning material that is no longer relevant to their mission. But it's not that simple. The 40 artworks are valued at $50 million. They include two of the most famous paintings by Norman Rockwell. Rockwell donated those paintings himself to the Berkshire Museum to be enjoyed in his home community. The Berkshire Museum has been unwilling to sell or transfer the paintings to another regional institution, presumably assuming they will get the highest price at auction.

Cue public uproar and legal action to block the auction. Cultural organizations, community members, and museum leaders have spoken out against the sale. The controversy started in July of 2017. The Attorney General of Massachusetts has put a hold on the sale and will issue a ruling at the end of January. It's taken me six months to figure out how I feel about the whole thing.


At first blush, I'm sympathetic to the Berkshire Museum. I am not a fan of the rule that restricts deaccessioning of museum artifacts for purposes other than improving the collection. I think the rule needs to be overhauled, for three reasons.
  1. The rule is simplistic. It states that museums can only sell objects to purchase or care for other objects. No other assets in a museum are restricted in this way, and this restriction can lead to lopsided priorities and bizarre practices. I once consulted with a museum that had no museum--no building, no public programs, no exhibitions. It had a collection and an endowment (funded by deaccessioning) to grow and perpetuate that collection. Their objects were locked in a private prison, protected far from the public in whose trust they purported to be held.
  2. The rule is weak. This rule is poorly enforced with few consequences--which is the very reason an issue like the Berkshire Museum's arises. The rule against wanton deaccessioning is a kind of gentleman's agreement in the museum world. Professional organizations like AAM and AAMD are against it, but their forms of censure are few. Individual museums might risk bad press, finger-shaking, and loss of funding for taking these actions, but the consequences are highly variable and often short-lived. Trustees can hold their noses and roll the dice if they want to.
  3. The rule is outdated. The deaccessioning rule (last updated in 2000) perpetuates the hegemony of artifacts as the heart of museums. While some museums have, admirably, stuck with an object-rooted mission, many have shifted to other goals. It doesn't make sense to maintain a special class of protections for one category of assets when many museums no longer base their missions on the care and stewardship of those assets. This is essentially the argument that the Berkshire Museum is making--that they will no longer BE an art museum and therefore should not be required to protect art objects uniquely.
I think the deaccessioning rule has outlived its usefulness. But that doesn't mean I support the Berkshire Museum's choice. I don't.


To me, the issue in the Berkshires is not about deaccessioning artwork. The issue is violation of public trust.

The Berkshire Museum isn't deaccessioning artifacts of questionable public value. They are selling off forty of their top artworks on the open market. By deaccessioning the most valuable art in their collection, the Berkshire Museum is transferring valued public assets into private hands. They are making an arrogant gamble, claiming that their planned new museum will have equal or greater public value than the artworks they are selling to fund it. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. They are selling heritage to finance progress. It's not surprising that not everyone takes their claims on faith.

It's not entirely the Berkshire Museum's fault that they are in this position. The inflexible rule on deaccessioning forces them into an all-or-nothing choice. Right now, there is no "ethical" vehicle by which a museum might sell high-value artifacts for any purpose other than to buy and protect other artifacts. An institution like the Berkshire Museum risks professional censure whether they sell a painting on the open market or to another museum--assuming they plan to use the proceeds to fund their New Vision. Why wouldn't they make the rational choice to get as much money as possible for their sins?

Because their choice has consequences beyond their own self-interest. It exposes the fragility of the rule of deaccessioning, the thin line between "treasured public asset" and "hard cold cash." The rule is built on a sleight of hand, a conceit that says that museums WON'T acknowledge the market value of objects... until they will. As Diane Ragsdale put it, "When communities become markets, citizens become consumers, and culture becomes an exploitable product."

When museums start putting price tags on their objects, other institutions do too. When Detroit was going bankrupt in 2013, the city's emergency manager fought to sell off some of the prized artworks in the Detroit Institute of Art. In 2009, Brandeis University came close to looting and liquidating its Rose Art Museum, and today, a similar controversy is raging over the museum at La Salle University. At La Salle, as in the Berkshires, university leadership argues that the deaccessioning and closure of the museum is a necessary, painful corrective to dire financial conditions. These museums and their artworks were exposed as market assets to be cashed in as needed.

Museum professionals often decry these actions because they will disincentivize future donors from giving valuable artwork to museums (and therefore, the argument goes, to the public). But I think there's a much more insidious impact of these actions: it encourages the continued slide of museums away from the public trust and into the market economy.

And once that happens, all bets are off. Two years ago, the Detroit Institute of Art won the battle to keep their treasured artwork in the museum. But other battles have been--and could be--lost. It could even happen on a national scale. If a rapacious, short-sighted federal government is willing to strip protected land for natural resources, what's to stop them from looting the Smithsonian to fund their own version of progress?


There are creative alternatives to traditional museum deaccessioning policies that could solve this problem. Instead of fighting to protect an imperfect and antiquated rule, we could create new rules--rules that put the public trust, not objects, first.

Other nonprofit industries have done this. Accredited American zoos, for example, have a strict policy that governs how animals move from one institution to another. If your zoo no longer plans to exhibit giraffes, those giraffes don't suddenly become fungible assets on the open market. They become tradeable assets within a controlled market--with other accredited zoos, who will care for the giraffes as well as you once did.

Food banks have an auction-based model. There's a national online auction site where food banks can bid on large lots of donated food with fake money, called shares. The auction system helps individual food banks determine what they need most, rather than a national agency guessing--and sometimes, guessing wrong.

Both zoos and food banks have gotten creative about how to manage their assets AND serve the public trust. Instead of clinging to outdated deaccessioning policies, it's time for museums to get creative as well. If we don't, we risk betraying the public trust in a venal grab for more flexible assets.

Rather than converting assets from the public trust to the private market, I'd like to see more creative ways for nonprofits to INCREASE the number of assets in the public trust. I'd like to see dividends from large endowments shared among nonprofits in their respective communities. I'd like to see more land trusts sharing their space with other organizations. I'd like to see more museums sharing their artifacts. I'd like to see more marketplaces like those of zoos or food banks, so assets in the public trust can be shared wisely and efficiently.

We shouldn't have to choose between the Norman Rockwell paintings and a great Berkshire Museum. There should be a way to expand the pie of public assets instead of swapping the heritage we have for the future we will build.

What if the Berkshire Museum could sell a fraction of their prized artworks to other museums, for a fraction of their fundraising goal, so they could test out whether their "New Vision" actually served their community better? What if they got involved in a project like Culture Bank, to invest the artworks securely to fund some aspects of their planned transformation? What if they worked out a way to accrue less and get more -- more for their community, more for the public at large?

The pressure will always be on to capitulate to the market economy, to embrace the market and live by its rules. But we can resist. Nonprofit organizations have unique opportunities to resist. If we want to embrace communities instead of markets, we have to fight for it. We have to fight for the public trust, generosity, and shared ownership. We have to be ingenious in coming up with alternative forms of economic value, accumulation, and transfer. No one is going to do it for us.

05 Jan 23:11

Presidential murder as a deterrent to nuclear war

by Jason Kottke

fucking dark

In an article titled “Preventing nuclear war” published in the March 1981 issue of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Roger Fisher suggested that before the President could launch nuclear weapons against another nation, they would first have to kill a person with their bare hands, as a prelude to killing perhaps tens of millions.

An early arms control proposal dealt with the problem of distancing that the President would have in the circumstances facing a decision about nuclear war. There is a young man, probably a Navy officer, who accompanies the President. This young man has a black attache case which contains the codes that are needed to fire nuclear weapons. I could see the President at a staff meeting considering nuclear war as an abstract question. He might conclude: “On SIOP Plan One, the decision is affirmative. Communicate the Alpha line XYZ.” Such jargon holds what is involved at a distance.

My suggestion was quite simple: Put that needed code number in a little capsule, and then implant that capsule right next to the heart of a volunteer. The volunteer would carry with him a big, heavy butcher knife as he accompanied the President. If the President ever wanted to fire nuclear weapons, the only way he could do so would be for him first, with his own hands, to kill one human being. The President says, “George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.” He has to look at someone and realize what death is — what innocent death is. Blood on the White House carpet. It’s reality brought home.

As it stands, the President can choose to use nuclear weapons pretty much on a personal whim. It would seem that the 80s are back, both in movies/TV and also in the daily existential dread of the Cold War. Yay. (via clive thompson)

Tags: atomic bomb   Roger Fisher
01 Jan 20:44

Today’s Possum of the Day has been brought to you by: The...



Today’s Possum of the Day has been brought to you by: The kitchen sink!

29 Dec 03:30

My 10 Favorite Ciders of 2017

by Meredith

Yum ciders!

This is my fifth annual roundup of favorite ciders for the year. Wow! That's 50 favorites recorded here, and my heart knows that there are many more. 2017 was a challenging year; I don't want to understate that. For me, though, it was also a healing and exploring year. I did more with cider than ever before: volunteering, pouring, teaching, writing, speaking, and consulting. I'm so grateful for all of those opportunities.

My cider highlight had to be judging two more cider competitions for the first time: The Pennsylvania Farm Show Competition ( and the cider category at the Good Food Awards (

But one of my favorite at home cider activities each year has to be compiling this list of my 10 favorite ciders of the previous blogging year.

For context, here are my lists for the previous four years:

And I'll quote my own rules. “As in earlier years, I have two rules: I'm not listing more than one cider from any company, and I am going to limit myself to ciders that have coverage in the blog. Beyond that, my only caveat is that these are my personal favorites that I wrote about in 2016. These may or may not be your favorites, but I encourage you to taste them and make up your own mind.”

10. Virtue Percheron

Virtue Cider was started in 2011 by Greg Hall; This cidery is based out of Fennville, Michigan. They use a lot of international inspiration for their ciders and aren't afraid of a little funk.

My tasting notes include leather, dried tropical fruits and raisins, all as an overlay to overripe apples. The scents include something a little floral and a little spicy. The french oak barrel aging gently steers the flavors of the Percheron. The definites are high acid, medium high tannins, with a low intensity of bubble. What I especially like about this cider is the mutually supportive spice and richness.

9. Dunkertons Dry Organic Cider

Dunkerton's Cider is the only English company to have made the list this year. They make cider in Pembridge, Herefordshire and have done so since 1980. That has allowed them to see a lot of changes in the cider market both in the UK and abroad in that time.

The cider looks like dark tea but hazy; it had only a few visible bubbles. Gorgeous. When I first tasted it, I said the drinking experience like getting mildly whacked in the head, but assuredly in a good way. This is so dry and tannic that its level of bitterness was almost provoking, but since it offered up medium acid to go with those tannins, it brought me round. The aromas bring richness, and the whole experience is heavenly but this one is not for beginners.

8. E.Z. Orchards Poire

E. Z. Orchards has been growing apples since the 1920s in Oregon. Now, they make Cidre and Perry as well, in a style much inspired by French ciders and perries. With the Cidre part of the business founded by Edward Zielinski, E. Z. Orchards has made a name for itself in the region for trees, fruit, Cidre, and shared knowledge.

The first thing I noticed after pouring this cider, is how it was ambiently sizzling with effervescence. The Poire reminds me immediately of French ciders and perries in its farmy yet fruity aromas. The keeving fermentation process can create some reductive notes in the aromas like fallen leaves, warm wet wood, and farmy scents. After the funky aromas, I was shocked by how cold and clean tasting it was. Sweet and distinctly like fermented fruit sweetness; its the only perry on this list, but it's here for a reason.

7. South Hill Prelude 3

I know, perhaps it seems unfair for them to get the stop spot last year and yet still appear on this year's list. I can't help it. I like South Hill's ciders. These are simple apple-centric ciders that only tweak or adjust in ways that I tend to enjoy. This cider is from a single tree, yet it still tastes great.

The Prelude #3 is dry and sparkling, but it's so much more. It smelled honeyed and floral. Other aromas include orange, but concentrated like Seville oranges or tangerines. The Prelude #3 offers up a strong tannic presence, but overall the cider is round and soft. The tannins are beautifully balanced with bright golden acidity. For flavors, I taste vanilla, citrus, ripe apples, and just a bit of soft leather.

6. 2 Towns Ciderhouse Cidre Bouche

2 Towns Ciderhouse has been operating as a cidery in Oregon since 2010. 2 Towns was founded by Lee Larsen and Aaron Sarnoff-Wood, focusing on local fruit and innovative cider processes and experiments.

This is a French inspired cider through and through. Its semi-sweet, smelling of overripe apples, lemons, leather, hay, and wood. I love this ciders fine bubbles and full mouthfeel. It's my absolute favorite from this producer!

5. Champlain Heirloom

The Heirloom comes from Champlain Orchards out of Shoreham, Vermont. This cidery is truly a fruit farm that happens to make really great cider, among other things, on stunning land. All of the stages--growing, milling, pressing, fermenting and bottling--happen right there. They grow many fruits and more than 100 varieties of apples.

This semi-dry cider smells bready and tart but tastes stony and grassy with notes of green grapes. It absolutely wowed me. I love the light and vivacious body on the Heirloom. The esters from the smell remain as pleasant and clean flavors, and I find the acidity bright and high without ever being sharp or pointed. This is fruity sort of acid, balanced with medium tannins. Such a pleasurable and drinkable cider.

4. Blue Bee Charred Ordinary

Blue Bee is Richmond's first urban cider--in fact, it's Virginia's first. They focus on heritage fruit, incorporating varieties that can bring both acidity and tannin to their finished ciders. You can visit their tasting room year round.

The Charred Ordinary's aromas remind me of barn wood, barrel, and overripe cider apples. This aroma is extraordinarily rich: frankly outstanding. There's definitely something citrusy going on, specifically lemon. Once I tasted it, I could tell that the Charred Ordinary is 100% New World in style and not old. This cider is defined by high acid, mid-level tannins, and almost no sweetness. This cider ZINGs and keeps on zinging. And that's a very good thing.

3. Quebrada del Chucao Sidra Espumante Brut Nature

The company, Quebrada del Chucao, has been around since 2010 in Chile. It is a collaboration between a fruit-producing family and a university-trained winemaker. The back of the bottle describes the orchards from which the apples came as being more than 60 years old.

Though I expected sweeter, this cider is on the dry side of off dry with 7.5%ABV. I love how bubbly it is, and we can thank bottle conditioning for that natural sparkle. I'd expected it to be sweet because the sidra smelled both sweet and briney reminding me a little bit of both French and English ciders.

2. Black Diamond Solstice

Another strong cider maker from the Finger Lakes Region, Black Diamond is the small family cidery of Ian and Jackie Merwin. They have had a cidery since 2003, and a 150+ variety strong orchard near Trumansburg, New York since long before then. Cider is a natural focus for Ian Merwin as a Pomology Professor Emeritus at Cornell.

In this cider, the aroma notes included overripe apples, sun-warmed rocks, late-summer dust, and caramel. The Solstice tastes fruity, beautiful, and complex while also being uncompromisingly dry. The mouthfeel is fully and boozy. The Solstice's high acids are balanced with high tannins, making the Solstice come across as astonishing and rich. This is a mature and balanced cider, an absolute favorite.

1. Eden's Imperial 11 Degree Rose

Their logo reads “Unique expressions of extraordinary apples,” and Eden Specialty Ciders certainly supports that by making some of the finest cider I have ever tasted. It's astonishing to me that this is their first appearance in a top 3, but it wasn't hard to choose this cider as my absolute favorite of the year. Eleanor and Albert Leger have been helming their cidery since 2007. But for this year, I have to pay homage to the Imperial 11 Degree Rose, which is a blend of heritage apples and red currants.

This cider is off dry, dripping with fruit, and 11% ABV, making the Imperial 11 Degree Rose a big big cider. It's zesty, sprightly, tart and extremely bubbly. I love its flavorful intensity, and I know I'm a sucker for really good bubbles. High acid ciders with lots of fruit and some tannic structure are often among my favorites, so my love for this cider should come as no surprise. I could drink this all the time and never be sad about it.

But most of all, I want to end this post with gratitude for the cider experiences and people. From farmers to restauranteurs and every flavor of cider maker, cider writer, cider seller, and cider fan in between, you all enrich my life so much with your ciders and your stories. Here's to even more in the coming year! Cheers!
27 Dec 23:07

Today’s Possum of the Day has been brought to you by:...

Today’s Possum of the Day has been brought to you by: Contemplation!

21 Dec 20:30

The Year in Your Future Self

by Katie Heindl

As the fire that illuminated the darkest parts of 2017 burns to a guttering close, it’s a safe guess to make that you’re exhausted, right? Each day in the last 365 brought with it a mid-to-high-level crisis, outdone only by what was inevitably coming the day after. Staying bodily alert enough to remain vigilant, or at the very least conscious, to absorb by osmosis the psychic terror of friends, coworkers, and the people you just know online felt like being put through the ringer anew with every blow to the world as we know (knew?) it.

There was one positive, however, and that was the rampant scourge of the overblown mantras extoling self-care taking a backseat. It didn’t make much sense to put face masks front and centre when it seemed possible we would have an atmosphere that did the work of a chemical peel all on its own in fifty years. And it’s not like the New Year is looking any better. If chaos reigned in 2017 then it’s going to be torrential in 2018. That’s why I’m taking guesswork out of what it is you should resolve to do, change, or be in the coming year. I’m offering up ready-made personas to adopt, outfits to wear, and modes of thought to embrace that can be shed and swapped like so much clothing from Zara with every new week, depending on what the projected social, political and economic situation calls for. Here they are, radical self-care in a randomized order to match all the curveballs coming at us in this new Thunderdome where we are all trapped.

- A club-footed, slightly right of centre leftist with a bad case of vertigo dressed as the new, hot cast of Star Wars lost on a remote desert planet (rags, layered), dressed as someone getting right into precious gems dressed as a surefire way to get work in the gig economy, so, a giant USB stick.

- An octopus dressed like an octogenarian dressed like a becalmed Georges St-Pierre reading The Hunt For Red October in the octagon grappling with the concept that even someone as prolific as Tom Clancy will have their legacy eventually fade from memory, but still extremely tough and bleeding freely from the head.

- A Proud Boy dressed as dat boi dressed as Adam Sandler in The Waterboy dressed as Cthulhu made out of Chihuly glass emerging from a giant tub of Kozy Shack Rice Pudding as the grand finale of your own show on the old pirate ship outside the Señor Frog’s on the Las Vegas strip.

- A head-to-toe toe shoe taking a casual stroll down the promenade.

- Your most sincere hopes and dreams in exchange for Ben Affleck’s under-eye bags and Matt Damon’s remorse stuffed in an astronaut suit and launched into space on a rocket with MR. ME TOO scrawled on the side in bubblegum pink bubble letters as the final proof of centrifugal force and the necessity of investing more in our space program.

- All the hair you’re going to lose untangling the knots made by scarves from now through to March woven into wreaths and laid upon the caskets of remorse and regret because we don’t have time for that shit in 2018.

- A giant, enamel pin of yourself worn on the back of a jacket made of fabric befitting of this spring’s assured trend—florals—so that everyone can find you when the brimstone begins to rain down.

- A flirtier version of you dressed as an even flirtier roughneck serving a 10-tiered-terrine meant to replicate the layers of earth, chilled, as we watch our nations’ leaders tear the planet apart in what has to be some kind of phallic, over-compensatory gesture but wait, is there gluten in this?

- A bust of Brendan Fraser made out of the imagined likeness of bitcoin carved entirely from rare, exotic softwoods (camphor, massaranduba, pau marfim, etc.) and you just keep it in your bathtub where it repeatedly swells and dries and molds and rots as a reminder that time comes for us all.

- What you would normally wear to brunch but if brunch was an Ironman race through the Bornrieth Moor bog in northern Germany and feral boars were about to overcome you unless you were prepared to turn on them and take the largest down so it could be cooked as the side of bacon you insisted on even though you aren’t really that hungry.

- Simon Cowell wearing an enormous cowl reading all your muted words on Twitter back to you as you stand onstage under blistering spotlights as a thing you picture to get yourself fired-up enough to make a single phone call.

- How good you are going to feel when the NBA overthrows the American presidency dressed as an Avatar (a scuba suit is fine in a pinch), a little sullen but encouraged that those now leading the free world at least know what it feels like to dunk on someone as you are dunked into the rising seawater overtaking all coasts.

- The ultimate in day-to-night dressing: a bodysuit that can be worn when all the things that don’t impress Shania Twain much are offered to you spilling from a golden cornucopia at the end of an 100-foot-long Crocodile Mile slide, but the slide is covered in creamed corn and even if they don’t impress you much, either, there’s a Babadook that might just be Jack White stumbling toward you.

- Drones???

- The intense regret you’ll feel when American Apparel gold lamé becomes a currency and Uniqlo comes out with HEATTECH human skin puffer jackets that you can’t afford. You scour through your cached MySpace profile, dreading the laughingstock you’ll be at the apocalypse ball when you’re struck with a make-it-work moment so strong that you pull off a fascinator made of human teeth to compliment your suit/gown of Clif Bar wrappers—the only uncontaminated food left. The world ends and you look fantastic.

20 Dec 16:00

A world that can’t learn from itself

by Jason Kottke

I would like to read non bleak things and think non bleak thoughts, really.

From Umair Haque, a provocative question: Why Don’t Americans Understand How Poor Their Lives Are?

In London, Paris, Berlin, I hop on the train, head to the cafe — it’s the afternoon, and nobody’s gotten to work until 9am, and even then, maybe not until 10 — order a carefully made coffee and a newly baked croissant, do some writing, pick up some fresh groceries, maybe a meal or two, head home — now it’s 6 or 7, and everyone else has already gone home around 5 — and watch something interesting, maybe a documentary by an academic, the BBC’s Blue Planet, or a Swedish crime-noir. I think back on my day and remember the people smiling and laughing at the pubs and cafes.

In New York, Washington, Philadelphia, I do the same thing, but it is not the same experience at all. I take broken down public transport to the cafe — everybody’s been at work since 6 or 7 or 8, so they already look half-dead — order coffee and a croissant, both of which are fairly tasteless, do some writing, pick up some mass-produced groceries, full of toxins and colourings and GMOs, even if they are labelled “organic” and “fresh”, all forbidden in Europe, head home — people are still at work, though it’s 7 or 8 — and watch something bland and forgettable, reality porn, decline porn, police-state TV. I think back on my day and remember how I didn’t see a single genuine smile — only hard, grim faces, set against despair, like imagine living in Soviet Leningrad.

Haque places the blame on our inability as a society to look outward and learn from ourselves, from history, and from the rest of the world.

So just as Americans don’t get how bad their lives really are, comparatively speaking — which is to say how good they could be — so too Europeans don’t fully understand how good their lives are — and how bad, if they continue to follow in America’s footsteps, austerity by austerity, they could be. Both appear to be blind to one another’s mistakes and successes.

Reading it, I noticed a similarity to Ted Chiang’s essay on the unchecked capitalism of Silicon Valley (which I linked to this morning). Chiang notes that corporations lack insight:

In psychology, the term “insight” is used to describe a recognition of one’s own condition, such as when a person with mental illness is aware of their illness. More broadly, it describes the ability to recognize patterns in one’s own behavior. It’s an example of metacognition, or thinking about one’s own thinking, and it’s something most humans are capable of but animals are not. And I believe the best test of whether an AI is really engaging in human-level cognition would be for it to demonstrate insight of this kind.

Haque is saying that our societies lack insight as well…or at least the will to incorporate that insight into practice.

Tags: politics   Ted Chiang   Umair Haque   USA
16 Dec 03:02

Against Signatures

by Tracy Wan

"after all, what perfume really traffics is immortality"

There’s a mathematical beauty to constants that is universally appealing. Beneath the undulations of our days, constants form the rare, unbroken terrain on which we can set our experience, and distill from it some form of understanding. We make homes in places and people and traditions, and erect them around us like the architecture of a meaningful life: a framework to fasten the “I” together—or, and perhaps more accurately, to keep everything from falling apart.

As the daughter of peripatetic immigrants who never quite found their footing, I have always felt alarmingly fluid, lacking not only anchorage, but a sense of constitution. Without a clear notion of provenance or the reassurance of belonging, that constant, solidified “I” became the horizon of my ambition. It was a myopia that blinded me to other pursuits and interests. All I sought was a place to be still in my own image, and learn the confines of myself.

Most symptomatic of this obsession was my longing for signatures: elegant, recognizable penmanship, a bar where they knew me by name, a uniform to whittle my feral anxieties down to an unthinking sense of self. That’s how identity works, right? Anything rehearsed over time can approximate instinct. When I discovered the world of perfume, I latched onto the notion of a “signature scent” as the quickest means to my end: the shortest of shortcuts to a sense of self.

The signature scent, or so the cultural myth goes, is an expression of one’s individuality. I bought into that thinking with zeal, convinced that a beloved fragrance would become a leitmotif in the vital chapters of my life, inextricable from my memories and the memory of me. For strangers, it would announce my presence in any room, even upon leaving it; for loved ones, it would be a physical reminder in my absence, found lingering on a scarf or the neck of a sweater. Most importantly, a signature fragrance was a way to present an idealized version of myself everywhere I went—something that embodied my essence and projected it outward, speaking for me so that I did not have to. I’ve never liked talking about myself, anyway. Maybe because I don’t know where to begin.


The fragrance industry has long been predicated on the idea that the relationship between a person and their scent is a perfected monogamy. Of course, this manufactured exclusivity comes at a price, but that’s a cost most are willing to eat—after all, what perfume really traffics is immortality. A chosen perfume is an unspoken promise that you can outlive yourself through memory; a token to leave behind in your wake. We see its power at work in the sweatshirts we keep near when our partners are away, the vintage lipsticks and dusty compacts from our mothers that become keepsakes. For every formative person in our lives, there is a scent we can retrace back to them; some of these become indelible in our minds.

There are days still when I am arrested in my tracks by the faint waft from a passerby, the same fruity-chemical aroma of fresh shampoo that used to emanate from a boy I loved as a teenager. And for a second, I am shrouded by that feeling again—a poignant yearning and ache in the heart, an emotion so pure and wild you could swear it was infinite. That’s the sorcery of scent, and its wonder: it can summon anything. Even, on occasion, a person you used to be.

Conversely, having a signature scent is like suspending a version of yourself in amber. This was her scent, they’d say, followed by a list of qualities that the scent might represent, a few key points that would summarize you as a person. It seems romantic in theory, but comes with its own complications. What if the impression you make isn’t the one you want to last? What if the scent that speaks for you ends up saying the wrong things?

The idea of a signature smell is alluring because we never expect to outgrow ourselves. And when we do, it unearths a specific kind of sadness, like returning to a formative place only to find it unrecognizable. Maybe it’s worse, because we’re doomed to witness a terminal incompatibility—a falling out of love with a version of yourself you were sure was going to be it. “[The woman] is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself,” John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing. “Her own sense of being in herself is supplanted by a sense of being appreciated as herself by another.” It’s one thing to want to be seen; it’s another to reduce yourself in service of that desire, and in doing so, become the one guilty of overlooking.


I started buying perfume long before I could afford it. Each purchase was an attempt at bottling a sense of self; the expense, I rationalized to myself over and over again, could be justified by the self-assuredness it would grant me. Can you really put a price on existential ease? I was, or so I thought at the time, investing in myself. Now, in my twenty-eighth year, it occurs to me that I have spent more than a decade trying to acquire an identity through perfume—a manufactured sense of femininity, elegance, class privilege, you name it—only to find it rigid and ill-fitting. Not the promised essence of immortality, but a trap.

Freedom came in the form of plastic vials I hoard in boxes, hundreds of small samples inherited from perfume shops, beauty counters, trips abroad. Unlike a bottle of perfume, which requires a certain level of fiscal privilege and irresponsibility, samples come free with purchase, gentle persistence, or, if all else fails, the price of a small latte. In an industry premised on exclusivity, choosing a handful of disposable samples over a unique and personal bottle feels treacherous—but also defiantly democratic, like beating capitalism at its own game. The immigrant in me loves this. Faced with my samples, I am a pirate, giddy before her spoils.

Each little vial is a portal onto an alternate reality, a place that you might glimpse in a dream, or a painting. Like windows that open right onto the sea. And within those dreams, I am not confined to the limits of myself, but am instead ushered into a world of infinite costumes and personas to try on for size—all the lives I have ever wanted, and some I have never imagined. Culturally, we’ve over-romanticized scent’s relationship to the past; more impressive yet is its power to rewrite the present, and become a locus of possibility.

With the right scent on, I feel like a European heiress swathed in furs, never without lipstick, always moisturized. Or an architect dwelling in a remote cedar cottage of his own making, cigar smoke permanently in his hair. Sometimes I’m a wild creature perched in the crevices of a damp, metallic cave, feasting on insects; others, something insentient, like the silvery dust that coats the moon of my imagination. I am trying to say is that I never smell like me; and for the first time in my life, I don’t want to. Sarah Manguso articulated it best in 300 Arguments: “The trouble with setting goals is that you’re constantly working toward what you used to want.”


If a signature scent represents the delineations of a person fully fleshed, perfume samples offer the liberty of a protean form—the same lack of definition that I used to lament. Today, it brings me a renewed sense of agency, a purposeful expansiveness. It’s the same species of joy as playing with makeup, or trying on other people’s clothes; extending ourselves beyond the decaying sacks of flesh we inhabit. Last year with it beloved misfits and iconoclasts who showed us the freedom of resisting definition, but it did leave a lingering sweetness: the celebration of a mercurial life.

Who says a sense of self has to exist in the singular? That the “I” in our self-imposed narratives has to come from a place of continuity? What I used to blame on weakness of character—a proclivity for inconsistencies and a magpie attention span—I am finally seeing as strength. With no hard or fast definitions, we are free to be: to absorb, to experiment, to turn towards our own suns. To be ourselves by not holding ourselves to it. It feels like an untapped superpower.

Like having a person you can call at any hour of the day, or the languid ease of never needing to know what time it is, collecting scent samples makes me feel like the beneficiary of a rare kind of luck. It feels luxurious to wake up and be able to pick the kind of person I want to project into the world: austere or effusive, elegant or shamelessly saccharine, romantic or repulsive. To be noticed for the right reasons—which is to say, those of my own choosing.

I don’t fall in love with smells anymore. What I cherish now is the process of trial and error, because through it I have learned the virtues of living deliberately. Since smell is our most primitive sensory faculty, every new scent forces me to pay attention: to engage, to process, to react. I measure my sense of self against these new realities. Does this feel right? Could this be me? It’s a little like trying to open a door with a handful of keys in the dark, but that is how I choose to learn about myself. It takes more effort, of course, than the unthinking signature—but the reward is in the exercise.

Maybe what binds the fragments of our existence together aren’t the constants and routines, but the sharp irregularities that catch our attention. When I smell something new, I am present and grounded and alive, channeling the entirety of my awareness into that moment. What better call to attention—what better reminder of this evanescent experience we call life—than the redolence made possible by our own warmth? The scent we exude is an experience so singular, so contingent on our chemistry, emotions, and the yet unnamed workings of our bodies, that it can never truly be replicated. Each instance is a testament to the inevitable ways in which we grow and evolve, the possibility of “I” in the plural. It’s how we find our way back along a path that is ever changing: a signal we leave ourselves in the dark. Something that says, Don’t forget. You are here.

12 Dec 00:08

It’s Monday!

by swissmiss
05 Dec 00:16

Voyager 1 just fired its trajectory thrusters for the first time since 1980

by Jason Kottke

america is great you fuckers

Nasa Voyager

The last time that the four trajectory thrusters on the Voyager 1 probe were fired, Jimmy Carter was still President of the United States. But with the main attitude control thrusters deteriorating from trying to keep the probe oriented correctly, the team thought they could keep the mission going using the trajectory thrusters. So they fired them up.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, Voyager engineers fired up the four TCM thrusters for the first time in 37 years and tested their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses. The team waited eagerly as the test results traveled through space, taking 19 hours and 35 minutes to reach an antenna in Goldstone, California, that is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Lo and behold, on Wednesday, Nov. 29, they learned the TCM thrusters worked perfectly — and just as well as the attitude control thrusters.

Voyager 1 was launched in 1977, is currently more than 13 billion miles from Earth, and is still functional and doing science. Incredible.

Tags: astronomy   NASA   science   space   Voyager
10 Nov 15:55

The tension between creativity and productivity

by Jason Kottke

Read the essay by Quinn Norton.

Cory Doctorow was an early adopter of the lifehacking lifestyle and toolkit, including David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done.

Allen’s book is a fantastic and inspiring read. The core of his philosophy is to recognize that there are more things in the world that you want to do than you could do, and that, in the absence of a deliberate approach to this conundrum, you are likely to default to doing things that are easy to scratch off your to-do list, which are also the most trivial. After a lifetime of this, you’ll have accomplished a lot of very little.

Allen counsels deliberate, mindful prioritization of this list, jettisoning things on the basis that they are less satisfying or important than the other things you’d like to do - even if those other things are harder, more time consuming and less likely to result in a satisfying chance to scratch an item off the list.

After living and working this way for more than a decade, Doctorow reports that there’s a conflict between the optimization of your time via getting things done and the sort of experimental playtime you often need to do creative work.

The corollary of this is that it gets much, much harder to winnow out activities over time. Anything I remove from the Jenga stack of my day disturbs the whole tower.

And that means that undertaking new things, speculative things that have no proven value to any of the domains where I work (let alone all of them) has gotten progressively harder, even as I’ve grown more productive. Optimization is a form of calcification.

Quinn Norton wrote an essay called Against Productivity in which she moves to Puerto Rico to focus on working productively but ends up goofing off and discovering a new career & life path in the process.

I visited with new friends, and tooled around on the net (albeit always at 2G speeds). I watched rain fall. I cooked. I considered the shape of the buildings a lot, and looked after cats periodically. I walked to old forts and lookouts. At one point I took pictures of doors for no reason I could discern. I berated myself for being unproductive, for wasting this precious time I’d set aside to put my professional life together. I spent hours anxious to craft my time to be quantitatively better for writing. Then it all collapsed, and the only habit I fell into was depressive empty afternoons when I was alone with the cats and the rain. But I also, and wholly by accident, thought the thoughts that would take my career and life in a new and unimagined direction.

I was chatting with a friend on the phone today about a talk we’re doing together in a couple weeks and she brought up the same issue, unprompted. She’s a naturally productive person who finds herself with some free time, yet she’s finding it difficult to not stay busy, even though she knows she needs the mind-wandering time to replenish her creative reserves. I struggle with the same thing. I get more done in less time than I ever have, but sometimes I feel like there’s nothing creative about my work anymore. Sure, I make the doughnuts every day but am not inventing the cronut. How do you accomplish your work but also leave ample time for letting your creative mind off the leash?

Tags: books   Cory Doctorow   David Allen   Getting Things Done   Quinn Norton
01 Nov 23:07

Evening recapitulates morning: Sullivan Square a mess again

by adamg

I am always far too pleased with myself when I make it on UHub

Best to avoid if you can, Chrissie reports. Snoe confirms:

Just hopped off the 86 bc the driver said it would be faster to walk."

01 Nov 22:33

Ice Fishers

by swissmiss

new bus stop shelter?

These images by Aleksey Kondratyev Captures of ‘Ice Fishers’ are stunning.

01 Nov 22:30

Tabloid Art History

by Jason Kottke

Tabloid Art History

Tabloid Art History

Tabloid Art History

Twitter account Tabloid Art History shares pop culture images paired with art history references because, in their words, “for every pic of Lindsay Lohan falling, there’s a Bernini sculpture begging to be referenced”. A TAH art journal is also available (in online and paper versions).

Tags: art   remix
30 Oct 23:19

Sketch comedy as media archaeology

by Tim Carmody

I'm just sharing this so I can watch Kids in the Hall

I consider the late 1980s and the 1990s the Golden Age of sketch and improvisational comedy. Cable helped, but even Saturday Night Live was good, particularly in the Phil Hartman years. Generation X comedians had digested the lessons of Peter Sellers and the Goons, Monty Python, The Richard Pryor Show, early SNL, SCTV, and more. HBO, Comedy Central, MTV, the BBC and CBC all needing inexpensive, entertaining programming that didn’t necessarily conform to older network standards meant there were a lot of shows looking for talent and willing to experiment.

For me, the Big Five from that era are A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Kids in the Hall, The State, The Chris Rock Show, and Mr. Show with Bob and David. Chappelle’s Show is a sixth one if we hold over to the ’00s. It’s a generational accident, but I was in the right place and right time for all of these shows at their apex. They’re the episodes I remember, and the ones I rewatch. People younger or older than me have a different list, and that’s just fine. I feel lucky that for fifteen years, I was able to make these shows mine.

One of the great things about these shows is that they were completely of their moment, but (with the exception of Chris Rock) they weren’t topical. It’s not like SNL or The Daily Show where you have to respond to whatever was happening that week, and as a viewer, you sort of have to know what was happening that week in order for it to make sense. Mr. Show might indirectly reference the OJ car chase, or Chappelle’s Show Kobe Bryant’s rape charges, but you can take the allusions or leave them. Most of them feel like they reference history rather than trivia.

You don’t need a time machine to try to imagine how you would have understood the comedy in 1994; the shows are their own time machine, bridging the present and the past.

This, at least, was true for a long time. What you notice, though, when you recommend these shows to a precocious 14 year old, is that some of the media conventions don’t really exist any more. Or, at any rate, they’ve shifted from dominant to residual phenomena. Mr. Show’s “Underground Tape Railroad” uncannily predicts viral social media, but the fact that these tapes were really bought and sold and pirated and passed around almost seems like something the writers of the show are making up. You don’t need to know about Tommy and Pamela, but you kind of need to know the kinds of things the media was satirizing.

Infomercials, televangelists, musical box sets, daytime (and nighttime) television talk shows — the bread and butter of 80s-90s parody just doesn’t have the same reach and relevance now as it did then. The same thing happened to Python and SCTV, which are now almost archeological in how they captured the dominant media genres and personalities of their time.

This is why, while I would not say that Kids in the Hall is better than Fry and Laurie or Mr. Show, I would argue it is aging better than any of the other shows in its generation. It’s less dependent on lampooning particular media forms or figures and better at loving, withering, character-driven weirdness, whether everyday or abstract. It’s simply less like television.

Instead, it leans on dramatic monologues.

Surreal office humor:

Domestic drama:

Bunuelian craziness:

Black and white newsreels:

Office humor, plus history:

And sketches that reference media genres that don’t actually exist, but should:

The one exception I’ll grant is the classic “Citizen Kane.” Everything about it screams dated. Old movies on broadcast television on just a few channels, advertised in newspapers. Some of the films mentioned are twice as old now as they were when the sketch was written. But I contend that this sketch remains perfect, and would work just as well (if not better) if Dave Foley’s character refused to consult his smartphone.

Not everything about Kids in the Hall still works. It offers an almost all-white version of Canada. The drag characters and humor are better than most of their predecessors’, but often still not good enough. Some of the gay jokes, even Buddy Cole’s, fall very flat. There are way too many ethnic stereotypes. Mark McKinney wears fucking blackface as a character called “the Blues Man.” This was totally fucked-up then and is fatal now.

But when the show is good, it is unbound from time. And especially in comedy, that is a very rare thing.

Tags: comedy   improv   Kids in the Hall   love letters   sketch comedy
18 Oct 23:13

The Gentle Oraclebird – a post-project review

by sawdustbear

love love love

Earlier this year, I was invited by my friend Lisa to bring an installation work to a gallery in Columbus she worked with, 934 Gallery. I immediately agreed, and we spent the next couple months talking about ideas that would be possible to install in a fairly short period of time.

My decision to embark on this as a solo project had several factors – I would not have the time to fundraise enough money to bring a crew in, even on a volunteer basis(I still feed and house my volunteers), I did not feel like I would have the mental and emotional capacity to run a crew given my tight schedule…and life, and I wanted to see if I could do it. In addition, the amount of build would be significantly limited by time and transport options, so it would have to be a “small” installation(by my usual standards).

My interest in divination, and especially at the intersection of science fiction and new human rituals, comes from a lifetime of passing through or being adjacent to religious spaces(Buddhist, Catholic, Taoist, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu…there have been quite a lot!), but also from more recent influences like my friends Pam Wishbow and Stasia Burrington, who have built compelling new divination concepts, and/or evolved older ones in new and interesting ways. The specific cultural tradition that I feel the Gentle Oraclebird board draws a direct lineage to is the Chinese tradition of kau cim, something that I’ve been lucky to have experienced since I was a child.

I knew I wanted to build a project that explored new human rituals, and I was leaning towards doing something gentle, and kind and …soft. A lot of my previous work is meant to be a bit unsettling, even if there have been recurring themes like human tenacity and generosity.

A lot of the initial ideas that grew into the specific aesthetic and concept of this installation came during a retreat that I help run on Quadra Island, Wayward. During the first week, I built this small oracleboard, that is read by tossing stones. I picked up that piece of red-brown driftwood from the beach, and basically planned the entire aesthetic of the piece around that. During the second week, I began work on an Oraclebird deck of cards that I already knew I would try to integrate into an installation.

When I got home, I began thinking of how I might want to expand that small wooden oracleboard into something larger and invitingly interactive.

Ultimately, I went for a fairly literal interpretation, and essentially enlarging it. I spent a lot of this time thinking of how to break people out of the art-audience model and into art-participant mode. There is basically no barrier at all at events like Burning Man(which is why it was actually a huge relief here to build art that wouldn’t have to account for assholes climbing on, and trying to actively destroy, your art), but in a gallery setting, visitors have simply been trained to not touch the art. In this case, I WANT visitors to interact with the divination pit, by throwing the ball into the bowls and matching them up with their fortunes.

Here are my first working sketches of the Gentle Oraclebird “divination pit”. I made these in early August. At this point, I was already quite certain that it would be a floor installation, and that I would build a “pit” inset into a raised wooden floor. I had also decided that I would be using the Oraclebird fortune cards, and that they would be mounted in wall boxes.

Most of my work from this point forward was finishing the card deck, which would be the fortunes, which is probably the most integral part of the installation. I wrote all of the fortunes while thinking of what I wanted this installation to be, which was a kind and supportive sort of new divination system. Like I was joking about on Twitter – therapists tend to say that I am emotionally closed off, but I’m trying to build a love letter to my friends with 400 linear feet of lumber over here.

I also wanted to include some people that would not be able to make it to the show, so I built an Oraclebird twitter bot! The build process for that bot, as well as a list of all the card fortunes, are in an earlier blog post. If you were a person that followed a lot of my work(and has a good memory), you might have noticed a small glimmer of the Oraclebird(Gentle the Oracle evolves into becoming the Gentle Oraclebird once her story passes through time and becomes a bit more mythologized) as well – she appears here and here.

The work that I did before heading to Columbus was mostly the interior of the divination pit, which would break apart for easy shipping. These boxes are constructed pretty simply, with bought bamboo wooden food bowls as the “divination bowls” and then mounted in 1’x1′ boxes I built myself. As a side note, Rustoleum’s gold spray paint is very nice and reflective.

All of the things you see above were shipped to Columbus, costing about $200+ via regular USPS. It costs more to do so via gallery shipping services. Below are smaller saleable art pieces that I also made for the installation. Since I didn’t have the time to fundraise or do any grantwriting for this installation, I knew I would have to try and recoup some of my costs by making some affordable art pieces and merchandise.

When I arrived at Columbus, I was met with a surprise! I had thought that I would be building in the gallery’s “installation room” and was told that I would actually have the entire gallery! This was both nervewracking and exciting but I was definitely not going to turn down the chance to build a second installation! But, of course, I had to build the work I was already there to do. That was at least, going exactly as expected, which is to say that I loaded 400 linear feet of lumber into a rented Toyota Camry and the room that I was building in was definitely not built with consistent dimensions(this was expected, and totally fine). As you can see, I decided on a simpler “boardwalk” style for the platform surrounding the divination pit. The structure itself is very minimal, although if I was building somewhere that was not a gallery setting, I would reinforce it all a bit more.

Meanwhile, I spent a couple hours mulling over ideas for the other installation in my head. It went in many ridiculous directions, which I will not bore you with. Instead of putting things down on paper, which makes me commit to them in some regard, I actually just…think…and I only start planning on paper once I’m pretty sure I’m going to go forward with an idea. In this case, I’d been thinking about labyrinths for a bit.

The last time I was in New York, I walked a labyrinth in Battery Park with a friend, and they explained the whole concept of labyrinths – which are not mazes, but rather a unicursal pattern often used for private meditation. Since the Oraclebird show is about adaptation of ritual, I decided that I wanted to  build a labyrinth, of sorts, on a large wall of the gallery. Instead of walking, because we are constrained by gravity, it is meant to be followed with…eyes. The path will be mostly unambiguous, although there would be small alcoves that contain fortune cards that reflect the ones in the primary Oraclebird installation, as well as vintage fortune cards.

The Oraclebird’s Labyrinth would be meant as a personal space built to store her most treasured moments to meditate on. In this way, the entire installation would explore both outward ritual meant to serve a community(the divination pit) and inward ritual, to serve self. I wasn’t expecting to do this, but it very much corresponds with the belief that you simply have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Thus, I decided to live this by ordering whatever fancy delivery food I wanted to to keep my mood up over three long solo build days.

From this point onwards, I’m working on both installations simultaneously, which is actually how I enjoy working. I also meet a great cat named Bepis.

The rest of the build is fairly uneventful. I realize that the heavy croquet ball I bought for the divination pit was far too cringingly loud, so I replaced it with a weird little twig ball I got at Target, which is actually more aesthetically perfect. I’m not sure you can see the blue grid lines in the picture, but the labyrinth installation was built by painstakingly drawing a grid on the wall first…but after that, things got easier(lots of fiddly little cuts of wood getting measured to fit, but that is something I’m not bad at).

I had brought vintage postcards, pictures, and fortunes to create a collage of the Oraclebird’s life on one wall of the divination pit installation, but I moved them to the labyrinth instead. The labyrinth became a way to plot out and store the Oraclebird’s life and fondest memories, which felt really perfect for the tone of this work. All paths lead home.

On the last day, it rained. I still had a lot of wood to cut, and the shop was next door and…that sucked. It was fine, though!

Overall, the build went very well! I am very grateful for Lisa and Abby and the gallery for giving me space to explore and build. I finished the installation on the day before opening, which was earlier than I expected.

Here are some pictures of the Oraclebird’s Divination Pit and the Oraclebird’s Labyrinth.

I made a hand drawn paper map for visitors to the installation, to give them directions for the installations, and for the practical need to include prices somewhere! Once a zinester, always a zinester. Here are some pictures of that map, as well as the other parts of the installation. I basically expanded out the work I meant to have in just the installation room to some other walls. It was actually really nice to give my art so much room to be experienced, even if I do like my usual sort of cramped style.

Throughout opening night, I watched as people played with the divination pit and walked away with their own fortunes. Many people told me that their fortunes were “surprisingly accurate” which was really wonderful to hear! Several people told me that the fortune they received was exactly what they needed to hear. In one delightful incident, a man wanted to roll the twig ball twice to see if he would get a different fortune, but got the same one twice.

I am very pleased with how this installation turned out, although I will admit that I really love my labyrinth the most…because designing and building it in less than three days feels like a really good accomplishment. But overall, I set out to tell a story about new rituals and kind fortunes, and I did it. I am forever grateful to Lisa and Abby at 934 Gallery, especially Lisa, my longtime friend and host, who gave me a ridiculously comfortable bed to sleep in and a very nice cat to cuddle. I am also endlessly grateful to all my Patreon subscribers who give me a financial cushion to be able to experiment with work like this.

And now, I nap.


09 Oct 23:52



YESSSSS #3 & 4

07 Oct 00:00

Anti-invitations for cancelled weddings

by Jason Kottke


Cancelled Weddings

For a NY Times piece on cancelled weddings, Jessica Hische created these anti-invitations in the style of fancy wedding invites.

My thoughts immediately went to fancy wedding stationery, and I had a lot of fun both writing and designing these fake anti-invitations. I tried to poke fun at some of the current trends in wedding stationery design, which meant I got to have fun playing with watercolors!

Tags: design   Jessica Hische
05 Oct 13:55


by swissmiss

After watching this short experimental video I have decided I want to live in Lucas Zanotto‘s brain for a little bit. (My kids LOVE his apps.)

29 Sep 12:47

Ninajasmin, 22


maybe a version of this is how i wear my issey miyaki lab coat?

“I’m wearing a denim jacket by Acne, a hoodie by Daniel Palillo, a Marimekko dress and Dr Martens. At the moment I’m inspired by surgical staples on the skin, Coraline and Pee Wee.“

4 August 2017, Tyynenmerenkatu

28 Sep 00:47

The Nocturnal Reader’s Box — Interview And Giveaway!

by S. Elizabeth


Nocturnal Readers 2

It is 2017 and friends, since I first learned of and became obsessed with their existence three years ago, I have tried a lot of subscription boxes. Candles, jewelry, clothing, food and wine, makeup, perfume, sleep or bath-related–if it exists, I have probably subscribed to it for at least a month before canceling in a snit, disappointed and frustrated.  (Except the wine, if I am being honest here.) I am looking for a certain subscription box experience, you see, and these purveyors of purported monthly gratification were not even coming close to satisfying the needs of my dark heart.

It was in the void of my despair I then encountered The Nocturnal Reader’s Box.

A Subscription Box for fans of Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy Books and Psychological Thrillers, The Nocturnal Reader’s Box is a monthly subscription service that specializes in bringing to their customers new and exciting books from authors, both well-established and lesser known. Each box includes one newly released book, one previously released book, custom artwork, one wearable, and various expertly curated fandom merchandise.. Having subscribed back in May, I have since received three boxes and not a one of them was a dud–which is no mean feat, considering that in the past, my experience has been that I will usually like one thing in a box and everything else is sort of “meh”. Or another criticism I have of “dark” or “horror” genre boxes like this is that the quality of the items is very poor, and most of it is cheap, crappy nonsense. Every item in every Nocturnal Reader’s Box I have received thus far–from bookmarks to coffee mugs, from tote bags to trucker caps, is something I took out of the box, exclaimed at how awesome it was, and actually use. Even the snap back trucker cap. It says Captain Trips on it! How can I not?

And of course, there are the books themselves–all of which I have devoured within days of receiving each box.

unboxing by spoopyhol

If it sounds like I am really hyping them up, that’s because I am. I can’t help it. As a lifelong lover of all things horror and haunted, I could not be more thrilled with the excellence of The Nocturnal Reader’s Box, and I only wish I had discovered them sooner.

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with founders Vincent and Jessica Guerrero about their dark offerings; see below for our Q&A and be sure to leave a comment to be eligible for a giveaway of their now sold out October Nocturnal Reader’s Anniversary Box!

unboxing by book.happy

Haute Macabre: You note yourselves “lovers of everything dark”–let’s drill a little further down into that, shall we? I’d love to hear of your various dark interests, however they developed and whatever they may be, but books in particular, of course!

Vincent Guererro: So I was exposed to horror at a very young age in the form of film and comics. My mother was a horror junkie back in the 80s (and still is today) and we would watch every horror movie that came out. I was about 4 the first time I actually asked my mom to read horror to me, and I was hooked.

I remember horror always being a part of my life growing up. My father used to work as a distributor in grocery stores and would bring home Tales from the Crypt comics that were extras from the month before. Its great to have a community like the one we are building that can get together online in our forum and discuss these types of things. Its amazing how many of our subscribers started adult speculative fiction at the same age as me.

Jessica Guerrero: Growing up I wasn’t exposed to horror as much as Vincent. The only horror that I got was through the films that my older cousin would make me watch. After we were married and our book collections were merged I was introduced to a whole new genre and I haven’t looked back. This was only about 8 years ago, but we read so much (especially now) that I’m pretty far down the literary horror wormhole.

I think what’s really exciting about reading horror is that you can genuinely be frightened, but having my husband next to me at night helps to calm that fear once the lights are out.

unboxing by its_just_jasmin

Why the subscription box route, and can you tie that into the genesis of the Nocturnal Reader’s Box? How do you feel you differ from other horror-themed subscription boxes?

J.G: When researching a box for ourselves, everything that came up was 90% young adult, and no one was dealing in horror fiction. So, we made a box to which we would subscribe, thus, The Nocturnal Reader’s Box.

V.G.: Like Jessica said, we never really set out to start a business. I was in school finishing my MBA, and we figured, what the hell, I don’t want to be stuck in an office forever haha. I used to be subscribed to other horror themed boxes, but those only dealt in film horror, and there was so much out there that wasn’t being represented. Stuff that hadn’t been adapted into film that needed exposure, so it just naturally fell together.

We knew we didn’t want a storefront, and an online marketplace could be fun, but we also felt that we wanted to add something to the subscription industry that felt lacking.

unboxing by somethinonya

How do you choose the books and corresponding items that you include with each box? What have been some of your favorite boxes to curate for Nocturnal Readers thus far?

J.G:  We typically choose the books for each month first. Once those are set, then we can start brainstorming items that go with a central theme. Now that we’re no longer theming our boxes, I’d say the process is a little more natural and we can choose the items based on our subscribers preferences. As far as favorites its a hard choice, but I’d have to say the All Hail the King box, and The Feast.

V.G.:  The publishers that we have worked with have all been amazing. They send us titles and we get to spend most of our time reading and creating designs. We have been able to work with some great authors, including Stephen King.
With the All Hail the King box, we were able to literally talk to him and his agents about creating an exclusive cover for our subscribers. I have loved every box that we put out, minus our first one. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t live up to what I thought it would.

unboxing by bookish mommy

I myself have thought to curate quality niche boxes but found it a really daunting prospect. What have been some of the challenges you’ve run into, whether anticipated or thoroughly unexpected? Conversely, I’d as someone who desperately wants to see endeavors like this succeed, please share with me some of the more rewarding aspects of this undertaking.

J.G.– There have been months where we’ve had to completely throw out a theme and start from scratch because of one reason or another. Of course, we have a deadline to meet each month and the closer we get to that deadline, the more creative we have to be.

V.G.— For me personally I think my only issue is learning to work with customers. I absolutely love creating this box with my family each month. We honestly get more excited than the subscribers do waiting for them to receive their boxes. When something goes wrong, like with shipping, its not something we can control, but we get a dissatisfied customer, and that’s a bummer. So as far as negatives, that’s a big one.

J.G. & V.G.—The positives are too long to list, and though that seems like a cop-out, its very true. So I will just say that we get to stay home with our daughter, reading and creating every day. Our community is engaging and fun. We have made a bunch of real friends that we’ve been able to actually hang out and get drinks with.

The amazing community keeps us going, we are constantly trying to figure out new ways to connect and to give back, and we are having a blast!

The Nocturnal Reader’s Box has generously offered an October Box to one reader!

What horror novels have haunted you recently? What are your all-time beloved spooky reads? Tell us all about your frightful favorites in the comments, and be sure to follow both Haute Macabre and The Nocturnal Reader’s Box on instagram to be eligible for the giveaway. A winner will be chosen one week from today.

Find The Nocturnal Reader’s Box: website // instagram // facebook // twitter

Image credits: The Nocturnal Reader’ Box, spoopyhol, book.happyits_just_jasmin_, somethinonya, bookish-mommy

Dodging Knives and Throwing Bullets: Dark Art & Inspiration: In Post

27 Sep 00:25

pizza beans (cookbook preview!)

by deb

Good morning! In less than one month (28 days, not that I’m nervously counting or anything), my second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, will be ready to leave warehouses and head to you or your favorite bookstore. A book tour will be quickly under way (I hope we get to meet!). And all of this means that today, I get to share two more awesome things:

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