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An interview with the author of the world’s strangest book
03:50 pm


Luigi Serafini

This is a guest post by “undercover banker,” Em, an occasional contributor to Dangerous Minds. Born in NYC, he has lived all over the world. Em returned to the US in 2010 after working in London for 4 years. He’s currently making ready for Canada or France, just in case the lesser of evils does not prevail in November.

If you’ve been Dangerous Minds reader for a few years now, you might remember back in 2013, an article that I wrote—they tell me it’s one of the site’s most popular posts ever—about my decades-long search for what many people regard as the strangest book in the world, Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus. That book is both a figurative, as well as literal, encyclopedia of weirdness insofar as it describes in great detail the basic physics, flora and fauna, and even the vaguely human-like society of a world that doesn’t happen to exist. Well “describes” may be too strong a word as the entire volume is written in a language—and even a script—that no one to date has ever decoded.

During my research on the Codex, I discovered that in 1984 Serafini created an even more obscure volume (if you can believe that) titled the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana. Unlike the Codex, the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana has never been republished until Rizzoli put out a new version (with new drawings) last week. There’s apparently both a standard hardcover as well as a signed, slipcased version, the latter limited to just 900 copies worldwide (300 in France, 300 in Italy and 300 in the US) and including a signed print.

So, how does it compare, you might ask, to the infamous Codex Seraphinianus? Well, it’s similar insofar as there isn’t any text directly associated with the images or ideas therein, though there is a recent postscript (dated April 2016) describing in loose terms how the book originally came about (which Serafini discussed in more detail in my interview with him below.) And like the Codex this volume is filled with illustrations that defy category and some of which, when you take a second look, you could swear were not there before. (My explanation for that phenomenon is that some images just don’t map very well to anything in non-chemically-coaxed minds so that you forget some of them within minutes after you’ve turned the page.)

But that’s where the similarity with the Codex ends. Unlike the earlier book, the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana kinda sorta has a narrative arc, as it appears to describe the coming of Pulcinella (aka “Punch” as he’s called in English) into the world, and the thousand-and-one things in the human realm that arise as a result of this classic trickster’s frolicking around in our collective unconscious (you know—it’s a Jungian thing). And Punch’s frolicking isn’t confined to puppets and plays and cute-but-slightly-annoying little tricks, but runs the gamut of human experience up to and including life and death. Who knows? Maybe even Donald Trump himself is a vast cosmic joke which some force beyond our ken is using to tempt us into self-annihilation, just for shits-and-giggles. Who can say from our lowly mortal perspective?

Visually the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana is quite different from the Codex as well. First of all, the graphite images are rendered in a far more limited tonal palette, with black and white and some red making up the bulk of the colors. Second, the book is broken down into about ten sections that resemble movements in a musical piece, with each page usually containing a single image (though there’s a comics-like intro at the beginning that frames the rest of the book). This sets the pace and tone of the “narration” and kind of forces you to dwell on each image’s possible meaning before you turn the page. It’s a very different experience from “reading” the Codex and one where the physical medium of the paper book itself is put to essential use. Me, I love the thing and have been looking at it almost nonstop since they sent me the review copy (Do they expect to get this back? Well, they can’t have it ‘cause it’s, it’s… uh, lost…).

Did I mention I actually spoke to the mysterious Mr. Serafini over the phone at length a few days ago about the Pulcinellopaedia Seraphiniana? Well, I did. No, really. It was a wide-ranging and fascinating conversation that touched upon the history of Pulcinella and the Pulcinellopaedia and its origin in the Venetian Carnivale, masks, theater, Napoleon Bonaparte, Naples, Jungian psychology, Igor Stravinsky and even trickster modern artist Maurizio Cattelan. And let me state for the record that I truly believe that Serafini is both real (corporeal even) and not merely an incarnation of Pulcinella himself, despite the trickster-ish books he has created over the last several decades.

Here’s the heavily-edited interview, which was conducted in English

So Pulcinella spoke to you?

Luigi Serafini: Some people claim to have seen a ghost and nobody believes them. But then again I can say the same. I can say that I met Pulcinella…well obviously this was a fiction for my text, for my writing… but at the same time Pulcinella was a real part of the history Naples and indeed the first evidence of masks such as Pulcinella goes back to the second century A.D., or even before.

I didn’t know that.

Yes. The ancestor of Pulcinella was Macchus and the Atellan Farce in ancient Rome, and the character evolved over the centuries, finally appearing in its present form in approximately the 16th century in Commedia dell’arte. But an essential element was of course the mask, and only in recent times did actors perform on stage without masks.

It reminds me of the Carnivale in Venice. I guess all those people running around in masks are almost a holdover of something older that survived into modern times.

Well that’s very interesting because there is a connection between my book and the Carnivale of Venice. In 1982 I was invited to Venice because after two centuries the Carnivale started again, but very few people know this strange story. When Napoleon invaded Venice at the end of the 18th century, one of his first acts was to abolish the Venice Carnivale because all the masks were considered dangerous for the French army.

So the recent French prohibition of the niqab for Muslim women had a precedent?

Yes! And so after the Austrians came there was a treaty between Napoleon and Austria and they kept the same tradition of banning the Carnivale. So for two centuries there was no Carnivale… I mean in people’s houses they might celebrate, but in general there was no Carnivale for centuries in Venice in the sense we now know it. But in the late 70s, the director of the Biennale Theater thought that it was the time for a revival of the Carnivale. So after two centuries of no Carnivale at the end of it 1970s the Carnivale reappeared in Venice.

So in 1982 I was invited by in the city of Venice for this new Carnivale. It was a kind of a Carnivale which included a Napoli-type of carnivale and it was fate that I approached the Pulcinella mask. And I was fascinated by it so I built a huge mask of Pulcinella for the Carnivale and in the process I created so many drawings for the project that I had to make a book about Pulcinella and about what was bubbling up inside me. And at the same time it was kind of a challenge because after I did the Codex (the year before)—it was an incredible success for me. I mean I was completely surprised by it and everybody was waiting for some spinoff of the Codex and I said, no I want to do something completely different. While the Codex came more from my own conscious mind, the Pulcinellopaedia is based on what might be described in Jungian terms as coming from the collective unconscious, particularly as the character Pulcinella originates from the culture at large.

My feeling is that the Codex is about a different world than ours but the Pulcinellopaedia is about our world, except maybe showing these things that are happening behind the scenes.

Exactly. It’s the difference between the conscious and the collective unconscious—my unconscious in me is part of the collective unconscious which means it belongs to everybody while my fantasy belongs only to me. So there is something connected with Jung…

It almost looks like it has a story. But I can’t tell what the story is.

More than just a story it is a musical suite and like a suite in Western music it has separate pieces and separate movements that are tonally and semantically linked.

You mentioned Stravinsky’s Pulcinella piece in your book.

Yes. Exactly: It’s a work of mirrors. Now I referenced Stravinsky, Stravinsky referenced Pergolesi, Pergolesi looked at Naples because he worked in Naples. Everybody reflects something from a mirror to somebody else, etcetera etcetera… So it’s a game. It’s a mirror game to me. Stravinsky. Pergolesi. Naples. Masks, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Can you give us any clues as to how to understand the Pulcinellopaedia? Like what’s with the spaghetti? The Pulcinella character is often interacting with spaghetti.

Okay, to more deeply understand the Pulcinellopaedia, the best way is a seven day trip to Naples. So you go out there and you enjoy the lifestyle and the beauty of this very particular city which is dominated by the volcano Mt. Vesuvius. So you always have this image of life and death because of the volcano, the eruption and Pompeii as if everything is just on the border between life and death. So Pulcinella could only be formed there, you know, and he frames and represents the joy of life and naturally, food is an important part of our life. So at the same time spaghetti illustrates the poverty of Pulcinella and his genius to survive, even if he is poor. So his genius is using all the tricks of fantasy like this to find a kind of inner peace in life.

That makes sense. I think at some point in the book Pulcinella looks like he breaks into two, maybe you know, kind of a life one and a death one and they seem to be fighting, I guess, constantly, kind of a balance between the two that’s never fully resolved.

Pulcinella is strange because it seems that whatever he does he always makes another Pulcinella or some sort of image or reflection of him emerges. So in that he is unique and at the same time he’s lonely and like an actor, in the end it’s the theater actor who is close to the audience. The theater is really a serious place where loneliness and the audience meet. And so the actor assumes the problems of the collective unconscious. And at the same time at the end of the performance they’re alone and afterwards he goes back into normal life.

Even in a movie theater you’ve got hundreds of people there gathered in the dark who don’t know each other. And they are all sitting together watching the same show…

So I noticed at the end of the book it looks like you have newer drawings.

LS: Yeah. Because I drew Batman and Superman. Batman for me is a heritage of the Commedia dell’arte and the superheroes are masked people like in the Commedia dell’arte. And so they’re really specializing in something. And it may be that the heritage of Commedia dell’arte is in comics right now. This is where we can see all the masked people which embody some virtues or vices—both—of ourselves.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Atom Heart Motherlode: If that $$$ new Pink Floyd box is gonna be this good, my wife will kill me
01:37 pm


Pink Floyd

I’m guessing that many, if not most, of our UK-based readers caught this weekend’s big Pink Floyd TV special on the BBC. Obviously this program—a satisfying buffet of solid gold early Pink Floyd performances, in and of itself—is but a brief taster to whet the public’s appetite for that much-heralded (but way overpriced) 27 disc box set that’s coming out in November.

Starting with the Syd Barrett-era rarity of a “Jugband Blues” performance and ending prior to the release of The Dark Side of the Moon, the BBC compilation of HD Floyd footage Pink Floyd Beginnings 1967-1972 is a true stunner. Even if you already have most of this footage on high quality bootlegs—I’ve probably got about 80% of it myself—you’ve never seen or heard it quite like this. The only thing I can really compare the quality to would be last year’s Beatles Blu-ray collection, which was absolutely superb in every way. Even the things that would have have a videotape origin have been nicely rezzed up to high definition. Visually it’s simply dazzling.

Which sucks because now I can easily justify spending the big bucks on this goddamned overpriced box set, despite having the vast majority of it already. Trust me, I’d have been happy to pay $250, but even at over twice that (It’s listed for $571 on Amazon—ouch!) I’m simply salivating to own it after watching this hour-long BBC teaser and know myself well enough not to trust my itchy trigger finger anywhere near that Amazon 1-click button. My wife is just going to kill me.

I thought I’d be able to find Pink Floyd Beginnings 1967-1972 on YouTube—it’s currently not posted there—but but fret not Pink peeps, a kind person posted it on an Arabic language website. Having said that, who knows how long it will last? Use it or lose it, in other words.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Ken Russell’s iconic photographs of Great Britain in the 1950s
11:06 am


Ken Russell

One of Ken Russell’s childhood memories was of going to school on a rainy day and noticing the clouds reflected in the puddles. These clouds—that seemed to float on the surface of the water—looked more real than the ones in the sky. They were beautiful and golden—the sky an iridescent blue. It seemed to young Ken that the reflected world down there was far more interesting than the one up in the sky.

It was a small epiphany: “If one could get down there,” he thought “it would be fantastic.” It was a vision of the world that Russell never gave up on.

In 1950s, after a stint in the merchant navy and as a ballet dancer, Russell picked up a camera and started taking pictures of the world as he saw it—this time reflected through the glass of his camera.

Over the decade, he took thousands of photographs capturing a beautifully strange and quirky world no one else seemed to have noticed. He started creating photo-essays on street scenes, market traders, parties, fashion, friends, dancers and documented the lives of many of London’s outsiders—the teenage gangs, the newly arrived immigrants and even the daily life for women in prison.

Russell then began to create his own imaginative flights of fancy—stories of cop and robbers, duels, races on bicycles and penny-farthings. He hawked his work around the agencies.

But I didn’t cut quite the right image. With my down-at-heel brogues and shiny Donegal three-piece suit I couldn’t look the least like Cecil Beaton, the popular image of the fashion photographer, no matter how much Honey and Flowers (from Woolworths) I sprinkled about my person. It was too early for the dirty photographer. You had to be dapper, suave, elegant, queer. If David Bailey had turned up in those days he wouldn’t have got past the door. Generally the editors would look at my stuff and say, “Yes, very nice but who’s your tailor? Ugh!

Nevertheless I did land a couple of jobs because I was so cheap. £2.10.0 a page. Peanuts!

For lack of models, Russell relied on his friends and dancer pals who hung around the Troubadour coffee bar. It was an intensive apprenticeship that led to Russell making his first film in 1956 Peepshow.

Ken Russell’s photographs from the 1950s show his unique eye for capturing the unusual and an immense his talent for creating powerful and iconic imagery.
Troubadour: the penny-farthing bicycle, 1955.
Zora the Unvanquished—writer Zora Raeburn pasting some of the hundreds of rejection letters she received to a wall outside her home, spring, 1955.
More of Ken Russell’s photos from the fifties, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Pop Group meet the Bomb Squad: Stream new album ‘Honeymoon on Mars’—a Dangerous Minds premiere
10:53 am


The Pop Group
Hank Shocklee

The Pop Group emerged from relatively out-of-the mix Bristol, England in 1977 with a devastating mix of noisy art-punk with straight funk and dub that underpinned strident and often just flat-out hectoring leftist lyrics. While both the music and singing were often pointedly tuneless, the band’s jagged rhythms and allegiance to dancefloor sounds set in motion a scene in Bristol that reached an apotheosis in Trip-Hop, and continues today with Grime and post-Grime. The band’s singer/polemicist/leader Mark Stewart has a kind of godfather/elder statesman status, and keeps closely engaged with those scenes’ developments, and the second new Pop Group album since their 2010 reconstitution, Honeymoon on Mars, reflects that continued engagement.

It’s DM’s pleasure today to debut the stream of that entire new album; digital and physical will be available for purchase on Friday. It shows a band completely reinvigorated by the new—contemporary underground beats and electronic experiments dominate the songs, and it’s a much more daring LP than its predecessor, their comeback Citizen Zombie. The lead-off single, “Zipperface,” has been out for a minute, and it’s already been remixed by Hanz, and an intense video was made by Bristol videographer Max Kelan Pearce. But to produce an album that pushes into new territory, the band recruited some old hands. Dub producer and Matumbi bassist Dennis Bovell, who produced the band’s first album Y, has returned to collaborate with TPG again, but perhaps the more exciting news is that they also worked with a producer for a very different band, which also combined energetic and noisy music with heavy politicking—the legendary Bomb Squad mainstay Hank Shocklee, who of course is best known for his dizzying and utterly groundbreaking work with Public Enemy. It was my extreme pleasure to talk to both Stewart and Shocklee about the collaboration’s origins and their creative process.

MARK STEWART: This is the story—the Pop Group, straight out of school, were flavor-of-the-month in New York, us and Gang of Four. We were out there all the time, playing in the No Wave scene with DNA, Bush Tetras. I was constantly trying to dig out things I was interested in in New York, and one of our roadies and I, we had these ghettoblaster radios and we were recording things, and suddenly we heard these huge piledriver noises—it was the first scratching I’d ever heard, and it completely blew my mind. It was DJ Red Alert, from Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation, doing an early hip-hop show. I’d heard rapping before—Bristol had a good import shop—but this was the first live scratching I’d ever heard by a proper DJ. We took those tapes back home—we’d recorded like 14 or 15 shows—and duplicate, duplicate, duplicate on our double-cassette machines, and that kickstarted the scene that was to become Bristol trip-hop.

For me, I was enabled by punk, but I was given a real shiver down my spine by deep roots dub music. That’s why we worked with Dennis Bovell when we were kids, and when we were trying to think of who could pull things together for us now, when we’re trying to pull in all these newer influences like post-grime, trap, Goth-Trad, The Bug—we’re getting all this kind of new rhythmic programming. And who could pull this together? And I remember what Dennis did for us when we were kids, all running off in different directions, and I thought he could help get these new songs together. Then, I thought some of the hard rhythmic stuff, was very hip-hop sort of stuff, and by chance, Dave Allen from Gang of Four was at South By Southwest when we were there and he asked if he could bring Hank Shocklee to one of our shows. I nearly wet my pants.

HANK SHOCKLEE: I saw the Pop Group at South By Southwest. I was introduced to them by Dave Allen, the bass player for Gang of Four. And it turned me on, man! They only played for like five minutes, because the sound wasn’t right, then they got cut off for cursing at the sound guy, then it got to be a fight with the sound people, and I was just like “WOW!” The energy was reminiscent of the early days of hip-hop. [laughs] The attitude was straight punk. Then I saw them another night, and they were really great musicians, it was an eclectic mix of dub, and punk, and funk, they can go into a little bit of jazz. They have that ability, like a traditional classic band from back in the days, when even though bands were into rock ’n’ roll, they’d have other disciplines like classical or jazz, so this way they could go into other variations. I thought that was interesting so I talked to Mark, and said “You know, if you guys ever want to do something, I’m interested.” And lo and behold, he reached out and said he wanted me to do something for the album.

STEWART: When Public Enemy broke in England, it was a sea change. For a place like Bristol, where it’s very multiracial, suddenly loads of people I knew, a couple years younger, had an identity. What Hank was doing with these kind of sheets of noise, when I first heard Public Enemy, I stepped back and nearly kind of gave up, because he was doing similar kind of experiments in a slightly different way that I had only dreamt of. But for this album, nobody was trying to reproduce anything from the past. This is the first time since we’ve re-formed that we’re really what we’ve wanted to be, sort of pulling on things and reacting, and feeding off the now, to try to occupy the future with my brain. Not the whole future, there’s room for other people. [laughs]

Since the beginning of the band, I’m kind of a hunter-gatherer. I just kind of collect bass lines and play with musique concrète, trying to throw loads of stuff into the pot, it’s always cut-and-paste and juxtaposition. Then things would evolve live, and then we’d twist them again. On our album Y, we suddenly started doing loads of editing, we’d have 80 pieces of tape up on the wall for these mad mushroom editing sessions. This kind of evolves again—I’m executive producer, it’s me pulling in all these things and trying to focus on different directions, but I find that you get the best out of people if you don’t tell them what to do too much. In the end, if you look at it like a prehistoric burial site, there’s bronze age things, iron age things, and I throw some dice into the procedure, then they pick up the dice and start doing something, while me and Gareth [Sager, guitarist] have always got our ears open for mistakes. If something interesting is happening, we’re not focusing too much on that. We’re aware of a machine breaking down.

SHOCKLEE: Once they got it all together, they sent me stuff they were working on where they didn’t have an idea where to put it, where it would fit, what it would be. They were ideas in development. I just said send me the stuff that you have, and it was over 40 tracks of ideas that they was trying to put together, but they couldn’t get it all together. I listened to most of the stuff, and I just said “Wow, they have something here,” so I organized it, stripped it back. I brought in my engineer Nick Sansano, who worked with me on all the Public Enemy records, and he partnered up with me in helping produce and shape the tracks and try to create a theme, try to create a story, and try to move it into an area where it becomes a little more cohesive.

I wasn’t able to be there in England to work with the band face to face, but it was very similar to the P.E. process, where I’m going through records and organizing them in terms of samples and arrangements in order to make it fit the agenda that I’m trying to get across. So I looked at the tracks like I had a bunch of samples and a bunch of records, and I just shaped them, and chopped them up, straighten out the bassline, emphasize the beats more, and arrange the tracks to they have, to me, a more consistent flow. I wanted to bridge the gap between what you would hear in electronic music and what you would hear on traditional pop records.

Listen to ‘Honeymoon on Mars’ after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Private Property’: Kinky, sexually tense—and long lost—film noir thriller gets rediscovered
10:33 am


Warren Oates
Private Property
film noir

Private Property
The 1960 independent feature, Private Property, is a rarely seen, sexually tense thriller. Anyone who digs film noir, crime dramas, or vintage indie flicks is going to want to see this movie. Believed to have been lost for the ages, a 35mm print has been found and restored, so, lucky you, now you’ll have a chance to see it, as it’ll be released this week on home video for the first time.
Private Property - title card
Private Property is the work of writer/director, Leslie Stevens (he’d later create the sci-fi horror series, The Outer Limits). Shot in just ten days on a minuscule budget, the movie is a critique of classism and bourgeois suburban life. It’s also a beautifully photographed exploitation film. Stevens’ cast his own spouse, Kate Manx, as the doting ‘50s housewife Ann, and the majority of the picture was filmed on location at or near their Beverly Hills home. Much of the story takes place while the sun is blaring, but when the night comes, those same areas are transformed into creepy, shadowy settings.
Boots and Duke
Corey Allen and Warren Oates play criminal drifters, Duke and Boots. Allen worked primarily in TV, but will be familiar to many as Buzz, the lead delinquent in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Oates is now remembered as one of Hollywood’s great character actors, having appeared in such revered pictures as The Wild Bunch (1969), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974).
Duke and Boots
Though we know next to nothing about the backgrounds of Duke and Boots—factors that contribute to the ubiquitous tension in Private Property—it is clear from the get-go that Duke calls the shots. During a conversation early in the film, Boots admits to being a virgin, and Duke promises to find him a “twitch”. The first woman they spot is Ann, and they begin following, tailing her to the home in the hills she inhabits with her square husband, Roger. From there, Duke and Boots begin spying on her from a nearby vacant house, with the movie’s audience complicit in their voyeurism.
Duke then hatches a long game strategy to seduce Ann and pass her off to Boots. Duke, in his relentless, yet cool pursuit of Ann, exhibits such sociopathy that Donald Trump would praise him for his powers of skillful manipulation. Brilliantly portrayed by Allen, such a character is often seen as a heartless, one dimensional creature, but as Duke’s wicked plan to ensnare Ann progresses, there are hints that he is falling for her.
Duke and Ann
Kate Manx gives a nuanced performance as the lonely lady of the house. Ann is generally a cheerful person, but there is a discernible sadness that is just below the surface. Her husband, Roger, is frequently absent, and when he is around he callously disregards her frequent overtures for sex (“wife noises,” he calls them). She is faithful to her spouse, yet has been so deprived of tenderness and physical intimacy that she is seduced by the smarmy Duke, which challenges her morality. Knowing that Manx would commit suicide (in 1964, shortly after her divorce from Stevens), one can’t help but feel a heightened compassion and anxiety for the vulnerable Ann. The actress would star in just one other film—another written and directed by Stevens, in which Oates also appears—Hero’s Island (1962).
Warren Oates isn’t on screen as much as Allen and Manx, but he too shines here. Like Ann and Duke, Boots is a complex individual. He’s dopey, but not dumb; vicious, yet sensitive. He says he wants to be with a woman, but he may be a homosexual. Boots is actually the loneliest soul in the picture. For much of Private Property, he’s on the outside looking in.
Outside looking in
Late in the film, Boots gazes lovingly at Duke (in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment), revealing he thinks of his partner in crime as more than just a buddy. As is the case with Ann, Boots needs Duke in a way that society will not accept, his confusion over who he thinks he’s supposed to want made clear in the riveting finale.
In many ways, Private Property was ahead of its time, especially in regards to the Ann character. Her descent into moral ambiguity, as well as her obvious—and at times kinky—sexual desires (in one scene, she drapes Duke’s belt around her neck and tightens it), were progressive components in Hollywood movies at that time. Not too mention the sexual tension between Duke and Ann that is so intense it threatens to boil over into your popcorn. The Motion Pictures Association deemed Private Property “unacceptable” due to, among other things, its overt depictions of “lust,” and was subsequently denied the MPA’s Production Code seal. In a few years, cutting edge films like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf (1966) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967) would lead to the creation of a more modern ratings system, but it was too soon for Private Property. Even Manx’s “overly suggestive postures” rattled the conservative censors.
Overly suggestive posture
Without the all-important seal, Private Property was effectively doomed to obscurity. Passed over by major distributors, it was released by the independent Kano Productions in the spring of 1960, before quietly vanishing. Though lost for decades, a 35mm print was recently discovered by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and restored by Cinelicious.
More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
The unhappiest place on Earth: Grisly images from Thailand’s ‘Hell Garden’
09:30 am


Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden

Statues in the ‘Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden’ in Thailand. Photo by Darmon Richter.
Located about 60 miles outside of Bangkok there is a massive “garden” full of statues engaged in grisly situations that would make Hieronymus Bosch blush. The scenes are meant to depict the consequences of straying from the path of Buddhism—such as abusing alcohol or drugs and having loose morals. The bottom line is that at the end of your life (as a Buddhist) if your “bad deeds” outnumber your “good deeds” you’re fucking screwed. And in the case of some of the depictions in the Wang Saen Suk “Hell Garden” getting “screwed” could be quite literally what happens to you in the afterlife. Yikes.

In Buddhism “Hell” goes by the name “Naraka” however it’s not a place where poorly behaved Buddhists end up spending eternity cavorting with the devil, but a place where the deceased must reside until all of their illicit actions (or “negative karma”) has been exhausted. In some cases inhabitants of Naraka must swap out their human bodies for those of animals that have been selected depending on the nature of your crime or bad behavior. So if you’re a criminal that is prone to starting bar fights, then you’ll turn into a duck. The offence of “corruption” will earn you the honor of sporting a rabid pig’s head instead of your own human one. But these Incredible Mr. Limpet sounding punishments pale in comparison to the true horrors that are depicted within the confines of Wang Saen Suk and its stoic misanthropes.

The Buddhist vision of Hell includes over a hundred different “levels” that are both “hot” and “cold.” And those unfortunate enough to find themselves within one or the other are tortured in specific fashions such as being impaled, frozen, burnt by scalding liquids or roasted in ovens. Throughout the Wang Saen Suk these types of gruesome scenarios are on display along with explanations as to why the sinner must pay the specified price for their misdeeds. Despite its appropriate name, the words “Hell Garden” barely seem scratch to the surface when it comes to graphic scenes scattered through the garden of genital mutilation, disembowelment and worse.

My heart is about as black as they come, but the photos you are about to see even pushed yours truly a bit over the edge. That said nearly every image in this post is positively NSFW (and then some).

Photo by Darmon Richer.

Photo by Darmon Richer.
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Party’s over!: Coke party comes to an abrupt end
09:19 am


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Debbie Harry covering The Ramones 27 years ago
09:16 am


Debbie Harry

What we have here is some ultra-rare footage of Debbie Harry performing the Ramones classic “Pet Semetary,” a song which was written for the Stephen King movie adaptation of the same name. This performance from October 23, 1989 was part of Debbie’s Def, Dumb, and Blonde solo tour. The Ramones original had been released five months earlier on their Brain Drain album and had become one of their biggest radio hits. The song has since become a staple of Blondie’s live set.

Though there’s nothing particularly unusual about Debbie Harry covering the Ramones—they were pals and CBGB compatriots, this clip is remarkable for the quality of the performance and the fact that, for a Ramones song, it sounds an awful lot like it should have been a Blondie song.

Debbie’s cover here was recorded at The Roxy in Los Angeles. Though the framing and video quality makes it difficult to verify who exactly is in Debbie’s band here, information online suggests that she had been touring around the same time with a lineup of Chris Stein (guitar), Leigh Foxx (bass), Carla Olla (guitar), Suzi Davis (keyboard), and Jimmy Clark (drums). The image and sound quality here is less than stellar in this rare footage, but the band rocking hard.


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Blondie bombshell Debbie Harry’s awkwardly awesome late-night disco-diatribe against nuclear power

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Bizarre wax Amish children for sale on Craigslist
02:31 pm


wax statues

Someone in the charmingly named town of Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania, is overburdened with wax figures of Amish children and is using an ad on Philadelphia Craiglist to unload them. Here’s the ad:

I have 28 wax figures. I’m asking $300 EACH. There are 4 mechanical. I’m selling 1 figure with a desk for $300. There out of the weavertown one room school house in bird in hand pa. They were made by dwarfmans in 1969. They were appraised at $450 to $800 each. Would love to sell as a set . If your interested in all please contact me. Please NO low balling. I had several offers that I turned down! I have no problem with offers if you buy the 28 as a set (no low balling) and no scams. I take cash on pick up . I can also take credit card but prefer cash.

As Gizmodo’s Katharine Trendacosta figured out, the Weavertown One Room School House is “an authentic one-room school” dating from 1877 in which “life-sized animation brings this interactive classroom to life.” Until May 1969 it was a school for Amish and Mennonite children, but then it became a museum.

One might wonder, what’s up with the museum if all the wax figurines are for sale on Craigslist? A note on the Ultimate Cinema Guide website (??) states that “we are still working on getting the wax figures moving again very soon,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if that note were on the old side. So perhaps they abandoned plans to fix them?

The reasons why and wherefore are secondary. What matters here is that if you can scrape together 8,400 simoleons, you can populate your very own fake Amish classroom—and we won’t even pry all too much as to why you would want to do that…..


Many, many more wax Amish kids, after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Fake human remains become horrifyingly realistic high-art
12:47 pm


Sarah Sitkin

A sculpture by Sarah Sitkin.
LA-based artist Sarah Sitkin says that when she was a kid she used to play with the “dental alginate” mold that dentists use in order to made reproductions of a patient’s teeth. The then budding sculptor and artist would spend “hours” creating plaster reproductions of her own face and hands. Now that you know at least that much about the highly-skilled Sitkin, it should be a bit easier trying to process her surreal sculptures, masks and disembodied heads and hands.

Another fateful aspect of Sitkin’s childhood is that her family owned a hobby shop called Kit Kraft which meant that she quite literally had any kind of artistic tool or material at her disposal. Deadstock inventory ended up in Sitkin’s hands and when she was finally able to work in the store herself she found herself rubbing shoulders with Hollywood special effects artists (including one of my favorites, the great Jordu Schell whose work can be seen in films from the Predator and Alien  franchises.) Sitkin has gone on to develop a large following (including Genesis P-Orridge) and is also the creator of a bizarre and wildly popular skin for the iPhone that not only looks like it was made of real flesh but also included an all-too-realistic ear on the back.

I’ve included a number of images below from Sitkin’s large portfolio that will really get under your own skin in all the best ways possible. That said some should be considered NSFW.

The artist wearing her own creations.

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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