You can get inside Salvador Dali’s head. But do you want to?

It was almost inevitable that the extant coming-of-age of Virtual Reality would, in short order, take us places we should not go.

Case in point: the St. Petersburg Dali Museum has produced Dreams of Dali, a 3-D, 360° video for the Occulus Rift and Google Cardboard headsets, to transport you inside the surreal landscapes that could only exist within the mind of the consummate surrealist.

Don’t get me wrong. Dali is one of my favorite artists of all time. But his work is disturbing enough in two dimensions. That third dimension of experience might just be the one that tips the balance of sanity.

Check it out here in the form of a sanity-hoarding YouTube imbed, followed by Dali’s bizarre collaboration with Walt Disney (really!), the subject of the present Dali Museum exhibition:

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On this date…

On January 30th, 1703, the 47 Ronin fulfilled their debt of honor, and claimed their place in history.

The 47 had been samurai, loyal retainers of  Asano, the daimyo of Akō. Asano Naganori was a powerful and respected provincial lord, but when we was summoned to the emperor’s court at Edo, he was confounded by the inscrutable rules of courtly etiquette. The emperor commanded his minister, master of ceremonies Kira Yoshinaka, to instruct Asano in the intricacies of behavior and protocol. Lord Asano was unaware, however, that this sort of arrangement traditionally included lavish bribes bestowed upon the teacher by the student, so when those were not forthcoming Kira began insulting and berating the young daimyo, beyond what his sense of personal dignity could bear.

It was a capital offense to draw a weapon at the emperor’s court. Asano knew this, but he drew his tanto dagger anyway, and cut Kira’s face. The wound was superficial, but Asano’s fate was sealed. By sunset he was kneeling in the courtyard, abdomen exposed, blade in hand. He committed flawless seppuku and died with his honor intact.

But back in Akō, his 47 samurai had their own honor to worry about. They were absolutely obligated to avenge their master, but any retaliation for Asano’s death had been forbidden by express order of the emperor. In any case, they were no longer retainers; Asano’s lands and holdings had been seized, his family stripped of their titles, and his samurai made ronin; leaderless, wandering swordsmen. Ronin, almost by definition, were without honor, so there was no expectation for them to seek revenge.

The shogunate was not stupid, however. The palace in general, and Kira’s quarters in particular were reinforced against attack, and Asano’s erstwhile retainers were placed under surveillance. It became clear to them that it would be impossible to discharge their duties under these circumstances. So they swore a secret oath, and they disbursed.

For two years, and in many different places, they behaved very unlike samurai. They drank, gambled, and whored. They did not speak of Asano, or Kira, or revenge. Eventually the court forgot them, and Kira let his guard down.

They reconvened outside Edo on the 30th of January, 1703. Before dawn, and in near-blizzard conditions, they made their way to the gates of Kira Yoshinaka’s home. In two groups, they attacked the house from the front and rear. They avoided unnecessary bloodshed; they disarmed guards and tied them up; doing their best to avoid killing anyone but Kira. They also went to neighbors’ homes and identified themselves, assuring the neighbors that they were not brigands and that the operation underway was a matter of honor, a matter of revenge. The neighbors accepted this (most of them despised Kira); none interfered.

Kira was found hiding in the courtyard. He refused to identify himself. It was the scar Asano had given him two years prior that gave him away.

They offered Kira the opportunity to die as Asano did, ceremonially and by his own hand. He knelt, held the dagger, but merely trembled. The leader of the 47 Ronin, Ōishi Yoshio, took off his head.

For reasons lost to history, one of the Ronin, Terasaka Kichiemon, was pardoned by the Shogun, and would live another 44 years. The remaining 46 were doomed. They were afforded respect, though, for their unwavering commitment to bushido and to their master’s honor. Accordingly, they were given two months to get their affairs in order. On Tuesday, March 20th, 1703 they committed mass seppuku and were interred together. Terasaka joined them in 1747. The site of their graves are venerated to this day.

The story of the 47 Ronin has, quite understandably, become a central point of national pride in Japan, and nearly as famous and revered throughout the world beyond. It has the elements of both a fable and an action movie—in fact, it has been made into a movie, at least seven times (the best is undoubtedly the classic 1941 version, directed by the legendary Kenji Mizoguchi).

The difference between this story and so many others that we choose to build into our modern mythology, is that this really happened. The 47 Ronin lived and died for the sake of honor, and they found their honor sated 313 years ago today.

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Burns’ Night! “We hae meat and we can eat”

Happy Burns’ Night, Scotland!

Haggis, neeps, and tatties for all!

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Human trafficking reveals the cracks in our civilization

There are certain flaws in our world, defects and blemishes, that should rightly be recognized but instead become invisible. They blend in with the background, either through the numbing of repeated exposure or through our willful desire not to see.

Chances are, you stepped over innumerable examples today—cracks in the pavement that marked your path; seemingly unimportant, easy to ignore, but when you stop and think about it you realize that ignored, these problems grow and multiply until they are important. Until they’re impassible.

There’s another flaw, immeasurably more horrific, and somehow just as ignored. Human trafficking is thought to be the second fastest growing criminal enterprise, and one of the most lucrative. Up to 36 million people are living under some sort of slavery, right now. Eighty percent of them are women and children. Sixty thousand of them are in the United States.

It’s a problem so huge, so unspeakable, that it’s hard to wrap your mind around, and hard to identify the solutions needed to stop it, ASAP. The most immediate concern, of course, is rescue for the victims. But like most nostrums, that one is far too simple, and is in less than perfect understanding of the scope of the problem.

So let us, then, come to terms with what’s going on, and let us find ways that all of us can start working to stop this heinousness.

Enter artist Molly Gochman, whose collaborative Red Sand Project seeks to enlist us all in raising awareness of the modern-day slavery that’s going on all around us.

Conceived in part with Art Basel, Gochman’s project is straightforward in execution, profound in its implications. Participants sign up online to receive free toolkits, which include bags of blood-red sand. They are then urged to use the sand to fill in sidewalk cracks in their neighborhoods and communities. That’s it.

But in becoming integral to a multi-sourced art project, those cracks are transformed from the everyday invisibility we spoke of earlier, to jarring scars on our landscape, impossible to ignore. The goal is for these silent messages to become ubiquitous, and to become the basis of a conversation that all of us begin having. As a result, we can hope, the victims of human trafficking likewise shed their invisibility, and stop falling through the cracks. And eventually, they go free.

The easiest, most understandable, most avoidable mistake we all can make is to assume that human trafficking is so evil it must be going on somewhere far away. Don’t kid yourself. It happens in big cities and small ones, and in rural villages and tiny hamlets. It happens everywhere. Chances are uncomfortably huge that it’s going on near you, that you’ve walked right past it, that it’s happening in places you thought you knew well.

Human trafficking is not a problem you can or should ignore. Educate yourself, learn what to look for. If you suspect it, report it. And if you have the time and inclination, spread a little sand.

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RIP David Bowie (Jan 8th, 1947 – Jan. 10th 2015)

Actor, musician, singer-songwriter, and latest cancer-stricken hero to leave us—are we in the midst of a rock-and-roll rapture? David Robert Jones, b.k.a. David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, and The Thin White Duke, died Sunday just two days after his 69th birthday, which was also the release date of his 25th studio album, Blackstar.

It’s hard to encapsulate what David Bowie meant for popular culture throughout the past several decades, probably because he was such a moving target. Should we decide to define him as a glam-rocker or a space oddity, he’d shape-shift on us, don a suit and thin tie and sing jazz, or pop, or whatever he damn well pleased. Or he’d get in front of a camera and act, and he’d do that every bit as well. One gets the feeling we’d barely plumbed the depths of his talents.

Towards the end, with failing health and a cancer diagnosis, Bowie was frenetically productive—he wrote the off-Broadway musical Lazarus (a sort of cross-dimensional sequel to his opus, The Man Who Fell To Earth; and he recorded and released the aforementioned Blackstar, which some have said is the strangest album of his career (and that’s saying something). And then he was gone.

It’ll take us a while, I think, to really appreciate the depth and breadth of the void that David Bowie has left behind. Sudden absence of accustomed ubiquity is like that, and it stings. In time to come we’ll learn to live in a world where David Bowie no longer creates. In the meantime there’s nothing for us to do but to take our protein pills and put our helmets on….

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First they came for the monkey’s copyright…

To be sure it was not the most uncomplicated of copyright-protection cases. Wildlife photographer David Slater owned the camera that took the most famous (and arguably, the most glamorous) selfie of the twenty-teens. But it was Naruto the crested macaque who gazed into the lens, smiled broadly, and pushed the button.

On Naruto’s behalf, and yea, on behalf of the creative property of primates everywhere, PETA filed suit last summer to claim simian ownership of the world renowned “Monkey Selfie.”

The wheels of justice normally turn quite slowly, but there must be a top gear for the repression of non-human rights. Because it was just this last Wednesday that U.S. District Judge William “Damn Dirty Apes” Orrick ruled that Naruto and his furry brethren are not entitled to copyright protection, nor can they reasonably be considered “authors” of their own creative product. His ruling asserted that U.S. copyright laws were never meant to be enforced in or for the animal kingdom.

Fear this, my art- and literature-creating friends. This isn’t just a miscarriage of justice for macaque-kind, this is a warning shot across all our bows. You share 98% of your genome with Naruto. You have a hairy back and enjoy bananas (I’m guessing). You too can have your rights-of-ownership revoked, should Orrick or someone like him decide you’re an animal. You are an animal, of course, but that doesn’t mean you don’t take a very nice selfie, and aren’t entitled to own it afterwards.

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Did it come with a data plan?

I want to believe, I really do. But the purported find of this ancient Nokia-esque cuneiform tablet has my BS-meter blaring an alert.

Its conspicuous similarity to a twenty-first (or at least, late twentieth) century comm device, albeit with an ancient Mesopotamian keypad, has the credulous internet all abuzz. Aliens? Time travel? All of the above?

No one would be happier than I if that were true. But let’s slow down and put on our tin-foil thinking caps, shall we?

First of all, there’s almost no credible reportage that I’ve seen as to the origin of this find. The myriad of stories all say that the tablet was found in an excavation near Salzburg, Austria, but there’s a glaring lack of detail as to who was performing the dig, or when, or why.

Secondly—Austria? Not your usual burying-ground for cuneiform writing, which was used in the near-east cultures of Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia.

Not surprisingly, none of this is dismaying the believers. They’ll tell you that archaeologists regularly cover up evidence of ancient alien incursions, and that of course it would have been nothing but a thing for archaic Sumerian astronauts to pop on over to Austria (and, apparently, drop their phone).

I wouldn’t hope to disabuse such notions, but I’d also point out that cuneiform tablets tend to look a little more like what we see here—not just unlike your dad’s cellphone, but also more like, well, lumps of clay. Also, the characters were pressed or engraved into the medium (which is exactly how and why cuneiform developed: it was a convenient script when using reed pens and wet clay). The writing on the Austrian artifact appears to be raised or embossed, precisely dissimilar to just about every other example of cuneiform we’ve yet seen.

It’d be great if it were true, and it’d open vast new lines of historical inquiry (for example, how many bars would you normally get in downtown Babylon?). I hate to be the one, but someone has to say it: this is a fraud.

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RIP Lemmy Kilmister (Dec. 24, 1945 – Dec. 28, 2015)

The toll of the dregs of the year 2015 weigh heavy, with  good people dropping like flies, dammit.

Today we must say goodbye to a rock-n-roll machine, a man who lived fast and died…not young, perhaps, but certainly too soon. Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister, bassist, vocalist, and growling public face of the formative metal band Motörhead, died in L.A. yesterday. It was four days after his 70th birthday, and just two days after he learned he was suffering from an aggressive cancer.

He wasn’t pretty, his voice was far from melodious, but none of that mattered. Lemmy rawked. On stage and off, he showed us how it was done. We knew and he knew what a dangerous example he was setting—few of us could follow in his footsteps (fewer still could survive half as long), but we could still bask in his reflected glory. He lived and died as a heavy-metal sacrifice.

Heavy metal, of course, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. So maybe not all of us appreciated or perhaps even knew Motörhead at quite the level of my hagiography. But still—we all knew Lemmy, didn’t we? How could we not? Just one glance and he etched himself on your memory, to stay. And “Lemmy” was precisely how we all knew him. Despite having one of the most metal surnames imaginable, he was on a first-name basis with the world. Single-name performers abound, and it’s mostly affectation. Lemmy was simply “Lemmy” because that’s all you needed to say. Everyone knew who you were talking about. (And it’s interesting to note that Lemmy himself was never exactly sure where the nickname came from—he was an English kid who grew up on the Welsh isle of Anglesey; he said that the other kids just started calling him that one day. It probably wasn’t complimentary.)

His surviving band-mates broke the news last night, and they asked us to honor Lemmy Kilmister in the only way that makes sense: they said “play Motörhead loud, play Hawkwind loud, play Lemmy’s music LOUD.” It’s the least we can do, isn’t it?

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RIP Ellsworth Kelly (May 31, 1923 – Dec. 27, 2015)

The talented, prolific, and eminently influential artist Ellsworth Kelly died peacefully at home in New York on Sunday. He was 92.

Ellsworth Kelly was among the pioneers of the mid-century Abstract Expressionist movement in both Paris and on the U.S. east coast. In his paintings and sculpture he favored bold colors and geometric designs, often focusing on repetition of shapes, recalling some natural or man-made element he’d noticed and latched onto. His powers of observation and interpretation were legendary.

He worked in isolation, so although his style echoes an amalgam of Picasso, Pollock, and Matisse, it can’t be chalked up simply to influence—it was more complicated than that. Perhaps confluence is more accurate: Kelly and other abstract artists of his era were unconscious channelers of a schizophrenic twentieth-century zeitgeist.

That said, one of his undoubted influences was both prosaic and profound: he was a camouflage artist for the U.S. Army during World War II. It’s clear this translated into both his embrace of geometry, and in his understanding of the interaction between observer and observed.

In the years following the war, and especially in the latter years of the century, Kelly slipped seamlessly into the roll of standard-bearer of contemporary expressionism, without necessarily seeking the limelight for himself. He curated limited exhibitions of Monet and Matisse work in 2014 and 2015, while his own art continued to be central to modern-art collections, public and private, around the world.

Ellsworth Kelly lived a long and productive life, and gifted the art world with his unique perspective and his inimitable style. He will be long missed, and never forgotten.

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On this date…

In 1888, Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear.

Happy Holidays!


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The devil writes well – a chat with The Devil Strip’s Chris Horne

Alternative newspaper publishing might seem more like an anachronism than a workable business plan, yet since March, 2015 we in the Akron, Ohio area have been blessed with a vibrant, funny, and locally engaged alt-tabloid that is shining a light on our arts and music scene in a way that’s long been lacking.

Thirteen issues later, The Devil Strip is already a part of our regional character. Print publishing may indeed be a risky venture (it’s been accurately postulated that the quickest way to make a small fortune in publishing is to start with a large fortune), but visionary publisher Chris Horne clearly saw that the alt-newspaper is not only the traditional publication-of-record for under-appreciated countercultures, it’s also the surest way to bring those cultures into the local mainstream.

A “devil strip,” for those outside the knowing Akro-sphere, is that narrow grassy swathe ‘twixt the sidewalk and the road—Clevelanders laughably and mistakenly call it a ‘tree lawn.’ Its infernal etymology is unclear but local legend declares it a uniquely Akron epithet. In fact there’s an old story, probably apocryphal, that has a kidnapping somewhere out west solved by a linguist, who identifies the culprit as a transplanted Akronite thanks to instructions in the ransom note to leave the loot “on the devil strip.”

“Devil strip,” then, is a silly little term that, thanks to its assumed exclusivity, has morphed into a weird point of local pride. The Devil Strip, on the other hand, is far from silly—it’s quirky and serious in turn, as occasion demands. More importantly, it too has become a point of pride thanks to its whole-hearted embrace of local culture, music, and arts. The city, in turn, has embraced it right back. Here’s hoping this group hug continues on for years and years….

Chris Horne, publisher and mastermind behind The Devil Strip, graciously lent me a bit of his time to discuss his work, its meaning and its future, and the thriving local arts scene that gets his ink flowing:

What is the Devil Strip? (Is it a magazine? A tabloid? A love-letter to Akron culture?)

I like that “love-letter to Akron culture” as a motto. Yeah, it’s a tabloid-sized magazine, an arts n’ culture alt-monthly. Just depends on my mood that day. Sometimes I call it “the paper” and sometimes I call it “the magazine.” Really, what we’re doing is pretty different from the alt-weeklies most people think of when they see something in this format. The big thing is that we’re a community magazine, both in content and concept. Building community is our mission. We haven’t exactly hit what we’re trying to become, but we’re getting there.

How many times this week has someone told you “Print is dead”? What drew you to a medium that conventional wisdom says is endangered?

Ha! Fortunately, zero times. I’ve heard it a surprisingly limited number of times since first encountering that line in “Ghostbusters,” which is my favorite movie. (RIP – Egon, er, Harold Ramis.) What drew me to the medium is that I’ve worked in the medium since I was in high school, but it’s more than nostalgia that does it for me. I think five years ago, for a number of reasons, I’d have been less inclined and less successful with a print magazine, but the zeitgeist is settling back down from its “print is dead” phase, understanding that there’s a place for print.

It isn’t just the tactile experience that I think works for us, or the democratic nature of a free publication. Our marketing budget is zero dollars so differentiating ourselves in a crowded online market would be tough because I don’t need to pull your attention from Ohio.com or Cleveland.com for our gig to work, but from Facebook, Twitter, the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, etc., etc. But you can walk into Mr. Zub’s or Urban Eats or The Eye Opener and see our magazine for the first time, satisfy your curiosity about it for free and then have an uninterrupted experience with good, local arts and culture stories. In print, we don’t compete with 50 tabs open on your browser, and I’m not worried about stealing eyeballs from “second screen opportunities” because even digital natives approach print a little differently. So, for us, the magazine is a Swiss Army knife of opportunity, but it is one that is supplemented by the opportunities we have on the Internet too.

What’s in store for the Devil Strip? How do you see it evolving?

I think we could and should do a better job online, but I’m not in a rush. I think we’ll have more web stories that don’t originate in the print edition, and I think even the ones that do will be augmented by more sound, video and photography. Like bonus features on a Blu-ray disc.

The other thing is that we’re starting to tackle big stories by topic. We’re midway through our first such project, which will result in multiple documentary-style videos, podcasts, print and web narratives, reporting, photos and infographics, each designed to spread because we want the stories we tell to reach the people who need them.

We’re also finding ways to get off the page, planning events for fun and information. If we’d had more time, we’d have had some really interesting events around the recent election season, but by the time another comes around, we’ll knock it out.

How can your loyal readers help keep the Devil Strip rolling off the presses?

When you patronize a local business, which we hope is almost always, tell ‘em the Devil Strip sent you, if you saw their ad or picked up a copy there. I’m also contemplating a “writers’ fund” for some of these special projects and we’d likely take donations for them. But the basic thing is just be local, support local folks. When they flourish, we’ll flourish too.

If I’m not mistaken, between issues 12 and 13 the Devil Strip went from a biweekly publishing schedule, to monthly. What happened there? Should we be concerned?

No, no cause for concern necessary. I’d heard from several folks that they’d barely had (or didn’t have) time to finish one issue before another came out. In the meantime, I was killing myself getting each issue out because the turnaround was too tight. We have an all-volunteer staff, including myself, and it was burning them out too. So I realized it was too fast for me, for our contributors and our readers. In the midst of all that, I’d gotten into the University of Akron coverage, which I was putting online as soon as I finished it, so I realized we have an opportunity to do more work directly online while giving the magazine more time to breathe. The extra time it’s given me allowed me to establish an amazing crew of (again, all-volunteer) editors and bring a sales guy on-board while I focus on growing the magazine. It’s been a pretty phenomenal couple of months since.

Is it fair to say that the Akron culture, arts, and music scene is your main beat? Why do you think these areas weren’t getting the coverage they deserved, pre-Devil Strip?

Yes, Akron arts, culture and entertainment is the heart of what we do and why we exist. I always envisioned taking on bigger social and political topics because this formats can approach things in a way the daily paper and TV stations can’t, but at the end of the day, the most rewarding stories are the ones we publish about that hole-in-the-wall eatery or an overlooked artist or an event that you’d have been mad to find out about after it passed. Nothing thrills me more than when I hear an Akronite–especially a native Akronite–say, “I had no idea that existed until I saw it in the magazine.” That’s the whole point: To bring these great treasures to the surface so we can be a better mirror for our community, validating the creativity, drive and passion the people here have.

Why wasn’t it getting covered? There are a bunch of things that come to mind. I think the main culprit is the media consolidation that left Akron with only one major news source. The ABJ has some excellent arts and entertainment writers but when you’re the primary source of information for half a million people, the fun stuff gets lost. I’m a subscriber and I’ve noticed the paper itself typically buries those stories so on top of all the content we consume on a daily basis and all the content that’s in each day’s paper, you have to dig several sections in if you want to find music, art, theatre, dining, etc. In our case, less is more because we’re like 90 percent arts and culture every issue so it doesn’t get lost. When you pick up The Devil Strip, you aren’t looking for who got shot or how city council voted or what the weather will be like. You pick up The Devil Strip because you want to read about arts and culture in the greater Akron area.

What’s the proper role for an entity like Devil Strip, in terms of local culture? Is it okay to cheer-lead (for lack of a better term), or should you stick to straight reportage?

Straight reportage, as most folks think of it, doesn’t exist. You can’t unbias yourself so you go for objectivity. That’s hard too because we all have a dog in that fight, and if you don’t, your work tends to be boring. So, I’ve decided we’d err on the side of acknowledging our bias, which is decidedly pro-Akron. I want to be fair to all people and every side and so on and so forth, but if we pass judgment on a topic it’s going to be whether it’s good for Akron or not. Hell, if we even pursue a story, that’s the end goal: To know whether it’s good for Akron. That said, I think cheerleading, which I consider to be blind loyalty, can be dumb and dangerous. I want The Devil Strip to be a little more about tough love than that. Sometimes, you have to speak truth to power and the truth can hurt, but in the end, it makes the community stronger. The danger in cheerleading–trying not to hurt feelings–is that you end up with mediocrity at best. Who wants to live in that city?

Arts aside, the Devil Strip took the initiative in reporting on the missteps of the new leadership at the University of Akron (seems like the Akron Beacon Journal was sleeping through the warning signs, and only woke up in time to follow your lead). What has this meant for you and your team? Was it a defining scoop?

It’s been a double-edged sword. Like I said earlier, I always figured we’d do serious reporting. However, I didn’t anticipate it happening so soon. In the end, the UA reporting has probably cost me as much financially as it has gained the magazine in reputation. That’s not because certain advertisers avoid us now–maybe some do, I haven’t heard of any–but because it kept me from calling on advertisers at all. I was already putting in 60-70 hours a week to keep the magazine going and when I got into those first few stories, I just didn’t sleep for like two weeks. I’ve worked in a newsroom for a daily paper and I’ve worked alongside reporters at TV stations, and the demands on them to turn stories daily is pretty intense, but this was unlike anything else I’d experienced. It isn’t a model for good reporting or for good storytelling, so it isn’t anything I want to repeat. That said, it taught me plenty about preparing for the next set of stories we pursue.

Working on any stories right now that’ll blow our minds?

Yup! I think the aforementioned special team project will be a big deal when it’s ready. And we’ve got our sights set on a couple of non-UA stories that are pretty vital to the city’s future.

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RIP Scott Weiland (Oct 27, 1967 – Dec 3, 2015)

We lost one of the voices that defined a decade yesterday. Scott Weiland, iconic and distinctive vocalist for the Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver, and his most recent band, The Wildabouts, died in his sleep while on tour, in Bloomington, Minnesota. He was just 48.

Weiland’s struggle with addiction is as much a part of his story as his music, and while there has been no indication that was a factor in his death it’s impossible not to fear it was at least a proximate cause. But no matter the cause, he went too young.

Hard drugs and a fast lifestyle and an early passing are all too often hallmarks of creative types in general, and rock geniuses in particular. It’s heartbreaking, and it isn’t worth it. STP was one of the bands that got me through my twenties, but I would have rather listened to silence if that somehow might have granted Scott Weiland just a few more years.

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Josh Spero takes on the art$

Sometimes you just have to get yourself kicked out.

Writer, editor, and fellow-traveling art blogger Josh Spero calls out the art world’s misplaced values in a guest post this week in Hyperallergic. Do yourself a favor and read it in full…and/or enjoy this thumbnail recap:

Mr. Spero apparently had the temerity to notice the emperor’s nudity, by questioning the staff at a private gallery in London regarding the Picasso pictured here. Notice the color mismatching around the heads of the central figure and the figure on the right. Spero pointed out what no one else had dared: surely this painting was unfinished.

Gallery staff assured him the painting was most certainly finished, because “This work has sold very well at auction several times.”

And that, my friends, is the plague upon the art world today. Aesthetics be damned, cash money be praised.

Josh Spero, perhaps on behalf of us all, took issue with this attitude, and was politely but firmly asked to remove himself from the premises. I hope he left with his head held high.

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A long wait for John Malkovich’s next movie

Neither in business nor in cinema, these days, do we expect the long game to be played. Both seek a fast turnover and a near-immediate return on investments. That makes it doubly surprising that John Malkovich‘s new film, sponsored and produced by Louis XIII cognac, went directly to the vault, unseen. It is scheduled for release in 2115.

Marketing gimmick? Sure. The obvious tie-in is that “100 Years” is both the film’s title and is the age of at least some of the brandy blended in Louis XIII (bottles of which currently fetch around $3000). The film itself may or may not be a vast exercise in product placement (trailers released thus far suggest that, but it’s not even clear that the footage we’re seeing is part of the completed film).

Lacking any expectation of ever seeing the final product, we’ll withhold judgement as to whether this is a film to be taken seriously, or an expensive commercial for expensive booze. Either way, and granting the gimmicky-ness, you have to admire the ingenuity, not to mention the patience.

In 2011, research firm Bloomburg BNA asked about three hundred CEOs and CFOs if they were willing to make an investment that would make their companies more profitable and sustainable in the long term, but would cause them to slightly miss their next quarterly earnings projections. Eighty percent said they would not. Long-term thinking is completely alien in the current business environment. Even a “business cycle”—roughly six years—is too long. Business planning is now nothing more or less than the maximization of profits, and it is measured only in weeks and months.

None of this is to say that producer Louis XIII, director Robert Rodriguez, or writer/co-star John Malkovich have ushered in any new paradigms in business or film-making. At worst, they’ve done something a little different, a little unexpected. In business, and in film-making, that’s to be admired but it hardly guarantees success.

On the other hand, maybe they’ve gone completely against the grain as to how films get made, and products get sold. Success might still be elusive, but you can argue that it’s a little more deserved.

“100 Years: The Movie You Will Never See” is not coming soon to a theater near you. Best we’ll be getting this century are these handful of gorgeous glimpses. Behold:

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To rebuild a Colossus

It’s been more than 2,200 years since the monumental statue of the sun god Helios, the Colossus, stood as sentry at the mouth of the harbor of the Greek island of Rhodes. Built of iron and bronze by Chares of Lindos to celebrate a military victory over Cyprus; it was completed in 280 BCE after twelve years of construction. It stood for 54 years before an earthquake snapped its knees and brought it tumbling down. It was never rebuilt.

Until…now? The Colossus of Rhodes Project is a consortium of young European architects, engineers, even economists intent recreating the Colossus as a modern cultural center, and as a tribute to European unity and resiliency. Their plan is to emulate Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, who began construction on Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia basilica in 1883 (it’s still incomplete). Gaudi created and sold subscriptions to help fund the project, which led to a sense of ownership and pride among the townspeople as they watched their shared dream rise from the ground.

A similar dream might reinvigorate Greece and other regions of eastern Europe, as they continue to recover from the lingering economic crisis and now work to accommodate waves of immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. The Project team envisions the new Colossus as a symbolic triumph over these and other hurdles, and as a physical declaration of pride of history and hope for the future. The interior of the statue is to include gallery spaces and libraries; the exterior will include solar panels and will be topped with a lighthouse. It is to be nearly 500 feet tall.

As yet there are no estimates of the final costs of the project. It will no doubt be vastly expensive. But it can be done, and it should be done. The purpose is noble, and the outcome will be gorgeous and thrilling to behold. If and when it’s crowdsourced, it will be an opportunity for all of us to share in history.

Solicitations haven’t started yet; I urge you to stay tuned and be ready to donate as soon as the Project is ready to commence. In the meantime, enjoy these videos as a hint of what’s to come:

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