Reykjavik: The Sculpture Garden

Friday, September 20, 2019. Reykjavik, Iceland.
Soundtrack: That Handsome Devil – Treefood

In the heart of downtown, at Reykjavik’s pinnacle, wedged firmly between Cafe Loki and the more practical landmark of Hallgrimskirkja, there’s a museum devoted to Einar Jonsson, Iceland’s first sculptor. Behind the museum is an elaborate sculpture garden, featuring some of the only trees available in Iceland and some truly bizarre metal sculptures.

Braxton set me straight on Icelandic soil composition. Apparently due to the severity of the weather, the soil depth sufficient for tree roots just kind of… runs off and gets ground away. In most of the country, the mountains and valleys are bare, or mossed a greyish green.

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Sculpture garden #sculpture #reykjavik #bastardtravel

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The majority of Einar Jonnson’s works explore his fascination with aging and mortality. The first one in the park came out swinging.

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Thor wrestling with age #Thor #sculpture #bastardtravel

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There’s an ubermensch vibe when Icelandic people talk about Thor. He’s not just a cultural hero, he’s an ideal in the same way Superman is, which is why he was the schmuck selected to grapple with Age’s weird, saggy cadaver.

The underbelly is filled with people, men and women, old and young, the faces and names that make up the bulk of a life, gathered over the course of Age’s body. He’s twisted in agony. His face is sallow and gaunt, a lifeless, expressionless mask on his broken neck.

And there’s Thor, supporting the weight on his shoulders, clasping the weathered hands, struggling to prop up the weight. There’s nothing antagonistic in this wrestling, aside from the stressful arm postures that define Jonsson’s work.

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The King of Atlantis #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The King of Atlantis, with his stupid pyramid hat, vibed like a shoutout to Aleister Crowley. The choice of cows, native neither to Iceland nor Egypt, might reflect Moloch. There was a strong Christian sentiment in a lot of the sculptures that didn’t move me sufficiently to photograph (what a weird coincidence), and this dude with that context might be a warning about barking up the wrong tree.

Unless I’m overthinking it, and it’s just a dude in a stupid pyramid hat.

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Spring #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Ladygirl’s favorite sculpture in the park, Spring. Unsurprising, since it’s the only one with even an echo of optimism. The dejected angel with the twisted wing strains to crack open a skull and release the enthusiastic little dryads inside. Everything that died in winter gives way for the coming new, beautiful growth, even in Iceland, possibly including the angel.

The angel’s youth shouldn’t be glossed over here, either.

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Grief #sculpture #bastardtravel

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I deal with grief a lot in my line of work, and this about sums it up. The little fate-ling holds up a hand. Hard stop on this particular lifeline. The subject of the painting emotes overdramatically, twisting up his body and hiding his face. The grief is authentic, but there’s no range of expression that allows for it, so the subject dips into comic and caricature. He reaches for the corpse of the deceased, but it’s lifeless, an outline shaped like the one he loved. A bare scratching on the wall.

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Earth #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Simple, and a little opaque, but it still has its power. The bald-headed giant is Earth, and it’s doing its damnedest to support us. We see that strenuous arm position again. Try to hold your arms out straight like that for a minute, see how well it goes. Earth is doing that nonstop, bearing our weight with mountaing discomfort as we catch a nap, oblivious. The take-home is recycle.

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Spirit and Matter #sculpture #bastardtravel

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More of the weird arm position, Spirit and Matter working together to push a squirming human being into human Being from between their shared legs.

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Sleep #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The otherworldly little nude of the woman is quietly reassuring the contorted giant. Sleep will make it better. The giant’s doing all he can to shut out the world, clenching up painfully, but here he still is. Insomniacs will feel this one.

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Wave of Ages #sculpture #bastardtravel

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Memorializing the suffering of those that came before, caught and struggling in the whirlpool of the past but necessary sacrifice for the beauty of the present, the realization of the wave.

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The End #sculpture #bastardtravel

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The End brings all these threads together. The pictures don’t do it justice. The first woman is young and attractive, sex distilled, her hands tangled up in her hair and her breasts thrust out, legs spread in invitation. The second is withered and aging, clenching her fists to either side of her failing body, eyes closed to what’s happening around her. The third woman is further into the decay, her face drawn and skeletal. No ignoring it now. She grasps at the chest of the big central figure in desperation, the way she might have two iterations ago, when she was young and hot and exploding with life.

The central figure, the largest, is stretched on a rack and writhing. He’s at the end of his line, as evidenced by the exposed skull, turned away from the pleading women, each pleading in her own way. The desperation of the last one tortures him, mars his flesh, but there’s nothing he can do about it. His hands are bound.

And on the other side of the statue, hidden from the women and the skull giant, there’s a young man. His upper body is positioned similarly to the giant’s, as though stretched on the rack, tortured, crucified. His head lolls, his eyes closed. Dead to the world, at a glance.

Look closer. In picture #3, we can see his feet are planted. He’s not dangling. He’s standing. He’s supporting the weight of the giant, and the time-lapse of womanhood that got dragged along for the ride. His feet are planted, and more than just euphemistically; one of his legs grows into the trunk of a twisting tree. He’s rooting them all there.

He is the dying giant, and this is his life. He is the architect of his own torment, and he plays the victim right until the end.

If I still smoked, I’d need a cigarette.

Love,

B.

 

 

Those Cheeky Devils

August 17, 2018. Bastard HQ.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled venomous travelogue to catch you up on recent events in Little Rock, Arkansas, where representatives of the Satanic Temple are presently boolin outta control.

Arkansas has been struggling with controversy surrounding the separation of church and state for a while now, if by “struggling with controversy surrounding” you mean “baffled by”. It came to a head in 2017 when they constructed a monument to the Ten Commandments at the Capitol Building in Little Rock. A gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie.

This didn’t sit too good with a dude named Michael Tate Reed, who drove his car into the monument that night.

That’s already funny enough, but it turns out Mikey wasn’t a radicalized atheist! You can tell because radicalized atheists do nothing but smoke pot and have lengthy debates in the comments on Chris Hitchens youtube videos. No, this is better; dude is a staunch Christian who believed that God called on him to destroy the monument.

The Little Rock gubmint decided this is the hill they’re gonna die on. Give up now and the devil wins, right? So they build another monument, another gorgeous 6-foot marble dealie. They’re getting criticism from all sides, but they remain strong in their conviction. This is rapidly become a crusade!

Well, you need the polarity for a good narrative conflict, especially on matters as grandiose as good versus evil. Enter the Satanic Temple, looking to be your heretic, yeaaaah.

These witchpunk son of a bitches load up their eight-and-a-half-foot Baphomet statue, ordinarily located in their cute little art gallery in Salem, Massachusetts, and cruise down to Little Rock to parade it around the Capitol and generally cause a fuss.

And what a fuss it has caused.

Here’s a couple tweets I stole:

twitter

boolin

Sure, there’s a legitimate realpolitik interplay at work here, but I’ve met the Satanic Temple. Two years ago, I took pictures at their podium (which was forbidden, but I figured if anyone would appreciate transgressing arbitrary demonstrative propriety rules, it would be the Satanic temple). I got pictures sitting on the Baphomet statue, which will show up one day in a #tbt post.

The political aspect is theater, because, in their devotion to discord, they see politics as  cheap theater. These kids are just out there having a good time.

baphomet

Baphy represents the dichotomous nature of everything. Animal and man, male and female, above and below, you get the picture. It’s almost too appropriate to wheel him out next to the 10 Commandments monument, especially since you know these obnoxious little neo-goths are telling the religious right counterprotesters, “our monolith is bigger than yours”.

The Satanic Temple gets a bad rap because of edgy teenagers in facepaint who kill sacrifice cats or whatever, but what you’re talking about there is a perversion of Christianity. See, acknowledging a “Mr. Satan” as a spiritual entity means you’re playing the God game. To have a real Satan means you have a real Sky Dad that he’s in rebellion against, and believing in one necessarily predicates believing in the other.

If your grandma believes in angels, she must also believe in demons, but it’s best not to mention that to her.

Satanists actually believe in a sequence of decidedly libertarian (or maybe libertine) anti-commandments called the Seven Tenets. They look a little something like this:

  1. “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.”
  2. “The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.”
  3. “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
  4. “The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo one’s own.”
  5. “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
  6. “People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and remediate any harm that may have been caused.”
  7. “Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.”

Pretty close to Buddhism, but with spookier statuary.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of nice to see headlines about a “religious conflict” in the news without a bunch of explosions and corpses. And if nothing else, you got to give them points for the aesthetic.

podium

forbidden. what’re they gonna do, hex me?

All right, kids. Vaya con Dios, or Hail Satan, or Hail Eris, or namaste, or whatever the hell it is you do. Juju is juju. However you handle it, keep your mana bar full.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

Budapest: Saints and Heroes, Rain and Ruin

November 29, 2017. Budapest, Hungary.

It’s hard to look at the weirdly rounded mountains and omnipresent crumbling limestone deposits and not imagine that it’s all still underwater, especially at night. It’s hard to take a picture that neatly isolates what I’m talking about, but the overall impression is that Budapest was probably where the original Castlevania games were set.

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In one of the endlessly sprawling parks, I found this little summary of how Budapest happened. Buda is the mountainous side, Pest the one with all the buildings leaning backward for some reason. Around the corner was Philosophy Park, which didn’t feature any of my favorites but I was still honorbound to check out.

Can you name them? Probably not, because the artist took a hell of a lot of creative liberties. Let’s make it a matching game. Above we got Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus the Christ, St. Francis Assisi, and Bodhidharma. The dude skipping legs is Gandhi.

He was the easiest to guess. Also present was Abraham, groveling in the dirt, as is the typical requisite demand of his horrifying god.

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There was also allegedly a statue of Ankhenaten, alias Amenhotep IV, an Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th dynasty who died around 1334 BC. He was the one who dragged ancient Egypt toward monotheism through worship of Aten, a kind of catch-all solar superdeity.

I say allegedly because I defy you to look at this sculpture and tell me this isn’t a fuckin annunaki.

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annunakum?

Philosophy Park’s little plaque alleges that it was sculpted to pay homage to the great minds who increased understanding and compassion throughout the world and helped shape culture, but I’m pretty sure it was just dude’s hamfisted attempt to Leo da Vinci some Ancient Aliens lip service.

After that I headed up to Castle Hill proper and peeped the palace, the decorative statuary, and the associated vistas.

Further down through the Castle District is the Matthias Cathedral and Fisherman’s Bastion.

The cathedral is done up in a Gothic Revivalist style, which makes it look sort of like a Batman coloring book. Fisherman’s Bastion got its name from the fact that it was always manned by fishermen, who were rarely effective fighters, but did well enough that Buda Castle never fell in the middle ages.

They were charging admission to walk the 20 foot ramp to the top of Fisherman’s Bastion, then walk back down it again. I passed.

Across the bridge was Budapest’s oldest castle, Vajdahunyad Vara. It shared a lake with Heroes’ Square, which was a sort of Parthenon for Hungarian culture heroes like King Matthias and St. Stephen.

Among them is a bust of Bela Lugosi.

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This wasn’t an approved statue. There was an empty alcove on the castle’s exterior, so a German artist named Hartmut Zech took a trip to Budapest and he and his friends hid it there in the middle of the night.

Zech has done this kind of thing before. He made a bust of Jim Morrison and used a baby stroller to push it into the cemetery where Morrison is buried. That was removed before the week was out. But the Budapest authorities came to the castle, saw the bust, shrugged, and just kind of left it. So there it remains.

 

 

 

 

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i activated this hedge and learned double jump

Across the river from my hostel, in Gellért Hill, there’s a church in a cave. It once belonged to yet another local saint, St. Ivan, who used thermal water to heal the sick. The same pools he used now flow into the Gellért Thermal Baths, which I’m going to go check out and get healed by when I get around to it.

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It sure was a church in a cave. They gave me a headset for an audio tour. It was not optional.

I can’t stand audio tours. Just give me a plaque or a reference booklet. It’s like opening an article, then learning that it’s only a youtube video, so you immediately close the article. I can read exponentially faster than your voice actor can talk, I don’t care if they’re auctioneering. Let me learn shit on my own and get on with my life.

Not only was I subjected to an absolutely draaaaaagging audio presentation about what turned out to be a panoply of Roman Catholic wood carvings, it veered off into explaining chunks of Catholic dogma like the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What’s unusual is, it wasn’t explaining it informatively. It was explaining it sort of like an affirmation, because it was clearly operating under the assumption that you wouldn’t be in this saint’s cave church unless you, yourself, were Catholic, and Jesus is our Lord, and the Sacred Heart represents our need not to just acknowledge Jesus’ actions but also his inner thoughts and motivations that led him to being such a fuckin’ bang-up messiah and all this other culty shit I learned in childhood and repressed.

For a reason!

There was a projector running upstairs. The movie showed slow-motion videos of happy children running while piano-led Hungarian covers of Imagine Dragons songs played in the background. Then it shifted to a cabal of priests, all decked out in clerical vestments, telling the appropriated Native American “two wolves live within us” story next to a waterfall.

Have you ever seen a clergyman in full finery hanging out on a hiking trail, let alone seven of them? It’s incredibly bizarre. There’s something viscerally wrong about seeing them all gussied up outside of a church, just prowlin’ around in the woods with God’s ballroom gown dragging behind them.

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For dinner, I opted to try the For Sale ruin pub. It’s covered in papers, and you can add to them if the spirit moves you.

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I got a menu from a waitress and sat at a table for five minutes, but no one came near me. This was just as well, since all the food was a minimum of 4000FT ($15), and the place was crawling with bugs. If you looked at a light, you could see dozens of little gnats and flies buzzing around like dust motes.

I left the menu and approached the bar, whereupon the bartender disappeared into the back room and never returned. I gave her a few minutes, then decided an overpriced lager full of spiders didn’t sound ideal and left.

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fuckin viennese

I eventually scavenged a porter and some Hungarian ratatouille at an underground hipster bar. I know it was a hipster bar because of the Transformers decals on the wall, and the waiter’s preposterous waxed mustache.

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The vegetables were a godsend. I’m a carnivorous dude, but I’m also fairly in tune with my flesh prison, and three days of nothing but sausage fat and fried potatoes leaves you feeling lethargic, ponderous, and sort of undead.

I’d been staving off scurvy with supermarket fruit juice, but even that proves to be a challenge when you’re functionally illiterate. I’ve been flagging down locals and saying, “Excuse me, this giant word next to 100%, is it ‘juice’?”

They think it’s funny, but it’s not. It’s very serious.

hohes

All right, I’ve written so much that WordPress’s shitty word processor is starting to arbitrarily reformat and delete what I’ve already put down, so that’s my cue. See you soon.

Love,

The Bastard

Vienna: Empires, Ashes, and the Mysterious Wiener Grant

November 25, 2017. Vienna, Austria.

The Chinese food had only mildly poisoned me. It’s unbelievable that I needed to experience it to give this advice, but listen: Don’t eat the Chinese food in Austria. I was down, but not out, and I decided that only a coward would let some mild food-poisoning interrupt a travel, especially a Bastard one. I hit the gloomy, perpetually moist streets of Vienna.

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when did herbie come thru

 

India from the Metro had been backpacking on the fly. He tailed me to the hostel and booked a room there, then asked if I wanted to head into town together. I was leery. I travel alone. There are more opportunities that way, I don’t have to be double-checking if my co-pilot wants to do this thing, or if they’re comfortable hopping a fence, or if they’re too soft-spoken and respectable to blithely ask the locals dumb questions in lazy American English. But, he came along for part of the morning, and he was utterly transfixed by the palaces.

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Europe is filthy with palaces. You can’t throw a rock without hitting one, and each is ostentatious in its own way. The Austrian baroque style is big into imposing white rock, ostentatious statuary, and just enough gold that you have to do a double-take and say, “shit, is that gold?”

For my own part, I’d had my fill of palaces. I’d been too long away, I was tuning into the old gutter frequency again. I wanted to get lost somewhere seedy and low-profile. Instead, we peeped a couple unpronounceable palaces.

 

He found another palace that I didn’t think warranted photography. It had been repurposed into the brick-and-mortar arm of a QVC jewelry magazine. It was plenty opulent, if you’re into that sort of thing. All my belongings are made of wood, leather, and stone, so…

 

We were trying to get into the city center by way of Albertinaplatz. It was a snarl of foot traffic and odd monument sculptures.

For those of you whose German is even worse than mine, Mahnmal gegen Krieg und Faschismus means “monument against war and fascism”. This chunk of the city is a way of apologizing for Hitler without having to mention Hitler. More on him later.

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this hideous bronze dog is an absolute steal at $3000

I found the Hungarian house, where Countess Elizabeth Báthory harvested her victims in . The story runs deeper than the factoids we got in grade school. Lizzie split her time between her husband’s Hungarian house and Cachtice castle. Eventually she had to flee to the latter full-time after arousing too much suspicion. Everyone knows she bathed in and drank the blood of these virgin girls, but that was the endgame.

She’d send her servant Ficzkó into the market to collect likely peasant maids for employment at the Hungarian house and the castle. Being as they were hired servants, it wasn’t that unusual that she flogged so many of them and left them naked in the snow. It started getting a little more unusual when the servants were walking around with fingers torn off and flesh bitten from their faces. You could hear the screaming echo through the Hungarian quarter at night, but nobody dared question the countess. Government, am I right? The estimated head count was 600 virgins, but there’s obviously no documentation.

From History Today:

“She believed that drinking the blood of young girls would preserve her youthfulness and her looks. Witnesses told of her stabbing victims or biting their breasts, hands, faces and arms, cutting them with scissors, sticking needles into their lips or burning them with red-hot irons, coins or keys. Some were beaten to death and some were starved.”

A Lutheran minister told Hungarian authorities, and by December of 1610 the countess was “arrested”. She wasn’t tried, of course, because she was a countess, but she was locked in a single room of her castle until she died four years later. She dropped off real quick after she stopped getting her blood baths. Maybe she was onto something.

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Unbelievably, they’re still using it as apartments. For Hungarians, I assume. It’s a closed house, no tours or anything, so the best I could do was take a picture of the unassuming door and soak up as much of the aura of 400-year-old evil as I could. It’s a pretty busy street, though. Not terribly conducive to reflection on Renaissance atrocities. Probably why she chose it.

Then I stumbled upon the Kaisergruft, the Austrian Imperial crypt. My travelling companion dipped out at this point. We had both expressed how tired we were of museums, but our definitions of “museum” appeared to differ.

I’ll say this about the Austrians: they knew how to die.

 

 

 

 

 

Even at Sedlec, you didn’t see death glorified like this. Death was incidental there, a sort of means to an end dedicated specifically to the art and then, as an afterthought, Jesus. These crypts were a full embrace of death, a momentous momento mori emblazoned with crowned skulls and gargoyle heads and every kind of Imperial seal, crest, or design you could imagine. I couldn’t help but be awed. All this time, money, and labor, for a suitcase full of bones.

Brings to mind a Marcus Aurelius quote.
“Death smiles at us all; all we can do is smile back.”

Well, Imperial Austria was, and continues to be, grinning like Schwarzenegger.

I made my way out of the crypt and, after the only affordable breakfast I could find in Vienna, I crossed the street and discovered this burrito place.

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Wiener Grant! What the fuck could that mean? Is it that guy? Why is he so mad? Why is his tattoo so incredible? I needed to know more.

I barged into the burrito store without a moment’s hesitation and asked the poor, unsuspecting counter girl.

“Who, or what, is Wiener Grant?”

She looked at her hipster coworker then said, “Was?”

I wasn’t fooled. She spoke English. 75% of the Austrian population speaks English, and it’s a damn certainty that a Viennese girl in her twenties will.

“Outside, on the sign. Over that painting of the dude in his shorty-shorts, it says ‘A burrito a day keeps Wiener Grant away’.” What is Wiener Grant? Is there any other way to avoid him?”

“It is… hard to explain,” she said. Well, yeah, I knew that already.

“It is like…” the hipster said, gesturing. “Vienna is… grumpy?”

“Viennese are cranky people,” the girl said, making a demonstrative face. “Wiener Grant is when you feel blahhhh. Cranky, because you are Viennese.”

“So it’s not a guy.”

“No.”

“Well, that’s a relief. Thank you.”

There’s more to this chronicle, but I have to catch a bus soon. I’ll have another post later today.

Love,

The Bastard

 

 

 

Rome: Most of Tourism Is Taking Selfies with Rocks

November 6, 2017. Florence, Italy.

I took a bus out of Rome earlier today, bidding a fond farewell to everyone from the Melting Pot hostel, which is easily the best hostel I’ve stayed in so far. I owe the proprietor a review, although I’m not sure in what format yet.

My present hostel is an enormous multi-story affair in the middle of Florence, and for context, this is my present work space, chosen because it’s the only place no one’s screaming:

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It would be ironic, if I still believed in irony.

I finally made my way to the Coliseum after learning that the most effective way to repel grifters is with sudden, public psychological abuse. This convenient method will also work in a battery of other social situations, pretty much whenever.

A lanky dude was trying to appeal to my nonexistent better judgment, but his fatal misstep was implying I’m not a pretentious douchebag.

“You can wait in the line and go in yourself,” he offered, a generous god, “But you’ll just be walkin’ around the coliseum lookin’ at white rocks. You come with me, 10 euros, I’ll get you a trained English guide, he’ll tell you about the gladiators, Romulus and Remus, the executions… everything.”

“Uh huh,” I said. “You get a lot of people at the coliseum, don’t know what gladiators were?”

While he was pondering that one, I told him, “I think I’ll be good. Ciao.

They kept slithering up and insisting the line was 3 and a half hour wait. I announced, “Sounds sort of like bullshit to me. It’s half done and I’ve been here 10 minutes. This look like 3 and a half hours to anybody else?” They haggled it down to 3 hours, insistent it would take 3 hours because one of the metal detectors was broken.

“You’d think they could afford to get them fixed, considering how much your group tickets cost.”

Off he went. My segment of the line was left in relative peace until a dude who looked remarkably like Dogg the Bounty Hunter greased his way up to me and touched my shoulder, imploring me to “Just buy the ticket and skip the line.”

“I’m committed now,” I told him, and everyone in a 30 foot radius. “I’m in it to win it. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even want to see the Coliseum. I just like standing in lines. It lets me feel like I’m part of something.”

Once the parasites were gone, I whiled away the remainder of the time in line (about 20 more minutes) chatting with an Asian couple about their previous jaunts around Europe.

As promised, the rocks were predominantly white. It was filthy with humans, all of them photographing themselves at the ruins where 500,000 people were killed — oh look, a fact I knew without a certified English tour guide. I took one myself on the way out, but only to fit in. Being accepted is important to me.

I contemplated the Roman forum, but a trio of British girls assured me that the line that wrapped all the way around the block was the line for people who already had their tickets. Nah. I got the idea.

My tour of Rome would need to be expedited, since I was due for Florence tomorrow and then Athens on the 8th. I booked ass from there to the Pantheon, which, it turns out, is different from the Parthenon, and is filled with obscure Catholic statues, rather than things I care about.

Still, it was very big.

I swung up the Campidoglio, a gorgeous hilltop plaza designed by my boy Leo da Vinci, and wound up in the Capitoline Museums. One was dedicated to how great it was to be a Roman treasurer or whatever, but the other was packed to brimming with stolen Greek statuary! Now we’re talking. I spent some time with the severed heads of a few of my idols:

 

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ugly ass socrates

Little known fact: Though Socrates wrote no philosophical written records, he was the author of the Operation Ivy classic “Knowledge”.

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my boy Plato. talk about the Perfect Forms, huh? ladies???

 

“Good people need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the law.” – Plato

Like the law of no pictures in the museum?

 

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Seneca, seen here suffering. Dude loved suffering.

“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” -Seneca

Christ, and he posed for this. Imagine how often he must’ve imagined suffering.

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your favorite and mine, epictetus

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”  -Epictetus

Only slightly more less stoic now that he’s rendered in stone.

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that dick pythagoras

He doesn’t get a quote. He doesn’t deserve one. I’m too mad that his beard is a goddamn triangle.

From there, I ate a pizza with a letter off (pieza? pienza? pinza?), lauded as “The most ancient food in Rome”. It was, in fact, normal pizza, only oval. I wolfed it down and scurried up to the Vatican. I had a score to settle with God.

To be continued.

Love,

The Bastard

Barcelona: Círculo del Arte

October 26, 2017. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. 

The first Arte you gotta know about was the magnificence you’re gonna encounter as you make your way through the cramped pigeon warrens that surround the Gothic quarter.

Simply breathtaking.

Hold on. Do you know about bocadillos? We should talk about bocadillos.

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They’re this European miracle where you give someone like $3 and they give you a baguette jammed full of… something. In this case it was tuna. Since discovering them, I’ve eaten almost nothing else. The chorizo one was incredible, but I had a hot one full of garlic sauce, onions, and chicken breast called a “pollastre” that changed my life.

So, eat your bocadillo, then try not to get divebombed by pigeons. If you’re lucky, on your way to the Picasso Museum, you might happen upon the skeevy back alley that leads into the Museo Europeano de Arte Moderno (MEAM), or as I like to call it, the Font of Madness.

The museum was empty, which is to be expected considering the platform 9 3/4 situation you had to go through to find the entrance. I was going to pass by, but there was really no ignoring the creepy bondage poster.

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$8 with the student discount. That’s like two bocadillas! Which is like half a hostel! Totally unreasonable, but I was in too deep to turn back now.

TWO DISCLAIMERS: I’m not sure what the rules are on posting pictures of museum exhibits in public, and I couldn’t find them online. If I’m stepping on toes, I’ll take them down. If I’m advertising… you’re welcome, I guess? Either way, they belong to their artists and the museum, all rights reserved, etc.

Also, there’s gonna be a lot of naked ladies and death imagery ahead. I’m not sure if how much of both I saw says more about the museum or about me.

semillas

This was the first one that really shook me. It’s called Semillas (seeds) by Tenaya Sims. Attached to the card is a somewhat dissonant story about when the artist was a child, he accidentally lit a ballpoint pen on fire, then spilled the burning ink onto the ground and tried to stamp it out, which just spread it around. He said that’s what inspired this. I guess art is mostly in the interpretation, because this painting gave me genuine pause. Towering over me, wreathed in burning debris, what I saw was the goddess that brought down the sky.

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The card said something about growth and propagation in this one, but I saw a whole lot of carcasses going on.

This was called Laura, I can’t find the artist but I wish I could. The realism was stunning. I really thought she was going to start smirking while I gawped up at the detail in the face, in the individual eyelashes, murmuring “shiiiiiiiiit”.

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This one from Miki Chart stands on its own, but it becomes truly devastating with the explanation card. Forgive my paraphrase, but it was something to the effect of:

“Here’s we have a mandolin, a traditional instrument that very few people play in this day in age. Atop it we see a canary. Though we may have forgotten the melody, it has not, and it is by its echoed song that it’s kept alive. It’s a reflection on importance of remembering the past.”

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I’m working on a fantasy novel, and I wrote almost this exact scene the day before I saw this painting. The dress was a different color, it was only one guard, and the presence of death was more an implication than Death the Physical Dude, but otherwise, identical to what’s going on here. Same girl, same build, same eyes, same season, same dagger. That, I assure you, is a jarring experience.

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You don’t realize how surreal this one is at first. At least, I didn’t. The longer I looked, the more weirdness happened. In my ever humble, that’s what art should be for.

20171026_075438.jpgThis is where I started to doubt my own ability to interpret art, because I know nobody else is gonna look at this and see Regina Spektor jerking the earth off onto a pile of skulls. That… couldn’t have been the artist’s goal. It’s a knife. Right? It’s a knife? It has to be a knife.

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Here we what’s left if you drive a stake through Tom Waits‘ heart.

After that, I went upstairs to the paranoid schizophrenia floor. I’m not going to try to interpret what happened here. Remember that awful movie The Cell with J. Lo? It was like a better version of that, in real life.

That about did it for me. I staggered outside, Slav-squatted against an alley wall next to turquoise merchants, and stared at my hands for 20 minutes.

If you ever get the chance, you have to check this place out. It’s like drugs. It’s like being inside drugs.

Love,

The Bastard

 

Alive, Alive Oh

October 24, 2017. Dublin, Ireland.

The key to the luggage room was attached to a small, dirty leprechaun, which I would have labeled deeply problematic if not for the fact that everyone else involved was far more Irish than I am. My liberal arts education had not prepared me for a situation in which I was so abruptly devictimized. In a fog of sleep-deprived indignation, I stashed my pack in the luggage room, heartened by the obvious lie that it was under 24/7 CCTV surveillance. The dour lad at the desk told me my room wouldn’t be prepared for another 6 hours or so, although I was welcome to some dry bread.

I thanked him from his generosity, but having just eaten an entire pig farm at The Pantry, I declined and decided to see what center city Dublin was like once anything was open.

There’s an Oscar Wilde monument outside of Trinity College, and that seemed to be the place to start. Mamaduke’s maiden name was Wilde and I’ve always had an affinity for Uncle Oscar’s writing. The tragedy of the modern world is its lack of drolleries.

I found him in a park that cropped up, sudden and dissonant, next to a highway that consisted entirely of kitschy St. Patrick’s Day trinket shops and coffee houses.

And beneath it, a Seneca quote, which I obviously couldn’t pass up.

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The sun had risen now, and I had my bearings, so I decided to head back into town and maybe scope out some of the crypt cafes I’d heard so many Google Maps about. On my way there, though, I stumbled upon what was explained by a tour guide as as “Dublin’s sort of unofficial mascot”: sweet Molly Malone.

I was overcome with emotion.

And then, as if this wasn’t enough, I got a little unscripted bonus at the end. Truly, Ireland is a lucky, lucky place.

More to come.

Love,

The Bastard