The Giger Bar: Discover the 1980s Tokyo Bar Designed by H. R. Giger, the Same Artist Who Created the Nightmarish Monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien

In 1980s Tokyo, everything was possible — or at least everything was tried out. Having developed feverishly since the end of the Second World War, Japan had by that point inflated an asset bubble so enormous that, so the story goes, the land on which the Imperial Palace stands was worth more than all of California. Many Japanese felt rich, and upwardly mobile young Tokyoites felt much more so; in the capital sprung up countless establishments aiming to cash in on their willingness and ability to spend their new money on experiences, especially experiences slick, expensive, and exotic.

And for the highest-rolling young Tokyoites of the 1980s, consumers for whom pieces of America and Europe wouldn't be exotic enough, there was the Giger Bar. Writer on Japanese culture W. David Marx recently tweeted out a few magazine clippings to do with one of what he calls the "hot yuppie date spots in Tokyo, 1989: GIGER BAR Bring your date to the Tokyo bar designed by Swiss artist H. R. Giger of Alien fame, where 'the atmosphere differs from the usual.' 'alien eggs' on the menu at ¥1200, and something called 'sexual communion' for ¥1500."

"The Giger Bar in Tokyo was actually created against my will," Giger himself wrote in 1997. "While I was in Tokyo, I was asked to make a wish, on stage, during a press conference. Spontaneously, I wished for a bar, which was then brought into being even more spontaneously!"

For that bar, Giger designed "tables-for-two in open elevator cars in the manner of gliding elevators that would travel up and down the four-story establishment, perpetually in motion." But he hadn't taken into consideration the rigidity of Japanese fire marshals, and already "driven to the brink of madness" by the country's complex earthquake-related building codes, Giger ultimately stepped back from his design role.

Giger also hadn't foreseen the fact that his namesake Japanese bar "was tailor-made for the underworld." Five years after the bar opened, a friend visited and told Giger that "it had fallen into the hands of the Yakuza. He went on to report that he was alone in the bar until 11 o'clock, when it began to fill with the type of unsavory characters who might have installed a roulette table in the atrium." By the time Giger wrote this reflection, the Tokyo Giger Bar had closed its doors entirely: "Insiders know that a bar in Tokyo rarely survives more than five years!"

But two other Giger Bars live on, not in Japan but in Giger's native Switzerland, one in his hometown of Chur (originally planned for New York City, a location that proved too expensive for the elaborate design) and the other in Gruyères (adjacent to the H.R. Giger Museum). Those Swiss branches, a couple pictures of which appear above, carry on the Giger Bar's aesthetic in a manner seemingly more faithful to the artist's grotesque biomechanical visions than did the Tokyo branch. Whether this could ever prove a sustainable nightlife concept elsewhere in the world remains to be seen, but as Giger's hardcore fans — the kind who wouldn't hesitate to make the Giger Bar pilgrimage to Switzerland — might well ask, who wouldn't want to have a drink in the womb of the alien queen?

via W. David Marx

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Art & Cooking of Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keeffe, Vincent Van Gogh & More

Mexican cuisine is as time-consuming as it is delicious.

Frida Kahlo fans attracted to the idea of duplicating some dishes from the banquet served at her wedding to fellow artist Diego Rivera should set aside ample time, so as to truly enjoy the experience of making chiles rellenos and nopales salad from scratch.

Sarah Urist Green’s Kahlo-themed cooking lesson, above, adapted from Marie-Pierre Colle and Frida’s stepdaughter Guadalupe Rivera’s 1994 cookbook Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo, is refreshingly frank about the challenges of tackling these types of dishes, especially for those of us whose grandmas ran more toward Jell-O salad.

Her self-deprecation should go a long way toward reassuring less-skilled cooks that perfection is not the goal.

As she told Nuvo’s Dan Grossman:

The art cooking videos are immensely fun to make… And what I’m trying to do is reach people who aren’t necessarily outwardly into art or don’t know whether they’re into art so they’re not going to click on a video that’s strictly about art. But if you can present art ideas through a cooking tutorial perhaps they’ll be more open to it. I love to cook. And I love to think about that side of art history.

To that end, she takes a couple of bite-sized art breaks, to introduce viewers to Frida’s life and work, while the tomatoes are roasting.

As tempting as it is for old Frida hands to skip this well-charted terrain, doing so will not make dinner ready any faster. Why not enjoy the non-cooking related sections with the easiest item on the menu—a tequila shot?

Don't trick yourself into thinking there's nothing more to learn.

For instance, I did not know the Spanish for “I can’t get over this hangover,” but Frida’s pet parrot did. (Didn’t know that either.)

Green also offers some quick how-tos that could come in handy for other, less time-consuming dishes, like a sandwich or a plate of homemade pasta—everything from how to make homemade tomato sauce  to denuding prickly pear cactus pads of their non-edible spines.

If you’re undaunted by the Frida recipes, perhaps you should proceed to Salvador Dali’s towering Bush of Crayfish in Viking herbs, or the Futurists’ highly suggestive Meat Sculpture. Other recipes come from Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keeffe. See above.

Books referenced in the videos include: Dinner with Georgia O'Keeffe; A Painter's Kitchen: Recipes from the Kitchen of Georgia O'Keeffe; Dali's Les Diners de GalaVan Gogh's Table at the Auberge Ravoux: Recipes From the Artist's Last Home and Paintings of Cafe Life; and again Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo.

View the full playlist of The Art Assignment’s Art Cooking episodes here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City this June for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

McDonald’s Opens a Tiny Restaurant — and It’s Only for Bees

How are the world's honey bees doing? Just a few years ago, word spread that they were on the verge of a mysterious extinction. Look for updates on their situation now and you get contradictory results, all of them fairly recent, from "Bees Are Still Dying" to "Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder" to "Yes, the Bees Are Still in Trouble" to "The Bee Apocalypse Was Never Real." But whether they're in existential danger or not, bees at least now have their very own McDonald's — bees in certain parts of Sweden, anyway.

"McDonald’s has created a tiny replica of one of its restaurants, too small for any human to eat there," writes Emily Chudy in the Independent. "The replica, dubbed the 'McHive,' is a fully-functioning beehive designed to look like a McDonald’s restaurant and features seating, a drive-through and an entrance. The brainchild of set designer Nicklas Nilsson, the hive is part of an initiative which has seen beehives placed on certain Swedish branches of the franchise." This project seems to be the first insect-scale restaurant for Nilsson, whose past work includes costume design on the video for David Bowie's "Blackstar."

You can see footage of the McHive's design and assembly process, as well as an assembled McHive full of its "thousands of important guests," in the video at the top of the post. There are more photos at designboom, which quotes the project's advertising agency NORD DDB as saying that "the initiative started out locally but is now growing." In addition to installing beehives on their rooftops, more Swedish McDonald's franchisees "have also started replacing the grass around their restaurants with flowers and plants that are important for the wellbeing of wild bees."

Why so much concern about honey bees in the first place? Chudy quotes a Greenpeace estimate that they "perform about 80% of all pollination and a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day." Bees do the hard work of keeping a surprisingly large part of the natural world working as we've always known it to, and to the extent that bees die out, much else may die out as well, with potential knock-on effects many would prefer not to think about. But then, the taste for predictions of ecological disaster on the internet seems only to have grown since we first noticed the problem with bees: if you really want to feel motivated to petition your local McDonald's to put up a McHive, try Googling the phrase "catastrophic collapse of nature."

via designboom

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

Does Playing Music for Cheese During the Aging Process Change Its Flavor? Researchers Find That Hip Hop Makes It Smellier, and Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” Makes It Milder

Humans began making cheese seven millennia ago: plenty of time to develop an enormous variety of textures, flavors, and smells, and certainly more than enough to get creative about the methods of generating even greater variety. But it seems to have taken all that time for us to come around to the potential of music as a flavoring agent. "Exposing cheese to round-the-clock music could give it more flavor and hip hop might be better than Mozart," report Reuters' Denis Balibouse and Cecile Mantovani, citing the findings of Cheese in Sound, a recent study by Swiss cheesemaker Bert Wampfler and researchers at Bern University of the Arts.

"Nine wheels of Emmental cheese weighing 10 kilos (22 pounds) each were placed in wooden crates last September to test the impact of music on flavor and aroma," write Balibouse and Mantovani. The hip hop cheese heard A Tribe Called Quest's "Jazz (We've Got)," the classical cheese Mozart's "Magic Flute," the rock cheese Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," and so on.

Three other wheels heard simple low, medium, and high sonic frequencies, and one control cheese heard nothing at all. But perhaps "heard" is the wrong word: each maturing cheese received its music not through speakers but "mini transmitters to conduct the energy of the music into the cheese."

That may make more plausible the results that came out when a culinary jury performed a blind taste test of all the cheeses and found that they really did come out with different flavors. According to the project's press release, a "sensory consensus analysis carried out by food technologists from the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences" concluded that "the cheeses exposed to music had a generally mild flavor compared to the control test sample" and that "the cheese exposed to hip hop music displayed a discernibly stronger smell and stronger, fruitier taste than the other samples."

Or, as Smithsonian.com's Jason Daley summarizes the findings, A Tribe Called Quest "gave the cheese an especially funky flavor, while cheese that rocked out to Led Zeppelin or relaxed with Mozart had milder tests." Cheese-lovers intrigued by the possibilities implied here would be forgiven for thinking it all still sounds a bit too much like those CD sets that claimed a baby's intelligence could be increased by playing them Mozart in the womb. But if Cheese in Sound's results hold up to further scrutiny, maybe those parents — at least those parents hoping for a funkier child — should have been playing them hip hop all along.

via Smithsonian Mag

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Jim Morrison Declares That “Fat is Beautiful” …. And Means It

There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance in a young rock god giving voice to the fat pride movement some four decades after his death.

Years before social media amplified celebrity weight gain coverage to the realm of national news, The Doors’ lead singer, Lizard King Jim Morrison, was the subject of intense bodily scrutiny.

The musician’s drug of choice—alcohol—swiftly added some extra cushioning to the sexy, shirtless young lion image photographer Joel Brodsky managed to capture in 1967.

That lean, leather-panted version is the one the Morrison director Patrick Smith went with for the Blank on Blank animation above, using audio from a 1969 interview with the Village Voice’s Howard Smith (no relation).

Occasionally animator Smith balloons the 2-D Morrison’s belly for humorous effect, but let’s be frank. By today’s standards, the 5’11 Morrison, who by his own estimate tipped the scales at 185lb, was hardly "fat."

Pleasingly plump perhaps...

Filling out...

Eating (and drinking) like someone whose bank account didn't require belt tightening.

His compassion toward generously proportioned bodies likely sprang from early experience.

As photographer Linda McCartney recalled in Linda McCartney’s The Sixties—Portrait Of An Era:

He … told me that he’d grown up as a fat kid that no one wanted to know and that this had caused him a lot of emotional pain.

Then he explained what had brought it all to the surface. Apparently he had been walking around Greenwich Village that morning and a girl who he knew as a child had spotted him and started going crazy over him. That bothered him because he sensed the hypocrisy of it all. When he was a fat military brat these people had rejected and ignored him but now, because of his new public image, they were fawning over him.

That “new public image” is the one most of us think of first when thinking of Jim Morrison, but as a flesh and blood exemplar, it was unsustainable. Photographer Brodsky reflects:

The shot on the inner sleeve of the Greatest Hits album was pretty near the end, I think. By that time, he was so drunk he was stumbling into the lights and we had to stop the session. Morrison never really looked that way again, and those pictures have become a big part of The Doors’ legend. I think I got him at his peak.

Morrison didn’t dwell on childhood miseries in his Village Voice interview, nor did he show any self-loathing or regret for physiques past.

Rather, he gave voice to the positive effects of his increased size. He felt like a tank, a beast—a body of consequence.

(To consider the implications of bodily size for a female in Morrison’s world, have a look at cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu’s California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas and The Papas.)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City March 11 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

George Orwell’s Essay “British Cookery” is Officially Published 70 Years After It Was Rejected by the British Council (1946)

Image by BBC, via Wikimedia Commons

Voltaire once joked that Britain had “a hundred religions and only one sauce.” In my experience, that sauce is a curry, which was already a British staple in Voltaire’s time. No doubt he had something much blander in mind. Of course, it’s all hyperbolic fun until someone takes offense, as did George Orwell in 1946, when he wrote, against Voltairean stereotypes, about the misunderstood pleasures of British food. His essay, “British Cookery," was commissioned by the British Council, but they subsequently deemed that it would be “’unwise to publish,’” reports the Daily Mail, “so soon after the hungry winter of 1946 and wartime rationing.”

Not that it matters much now, but the Council has formally apologized to the deceased Orwell, over 70 years later. Senior policy analyst Alasdair Donaldson explains they are “delighted to make amends” by publishing the essay in full, alongside “the unfortunate rejection letter.” You can read it here at the British Council site. Orwell grants that the British diet is “simple, rather heavy, perhaps slightly barbarous… with its main emphasis on sugar and animal fats…. Cheap restaurants in Britain are almost invariably bad, while in expensive restaurants the cookery is almost always French, or imitation French.”

Elsewhere, he concedes, “the British are not great eaters of salads.” Indeed, he says, “the two great shortcomings of British cookery are a failure to treat vegetables with due seriousness, and an excessive use of sugar.” He does go on at length, in fact, about what sounds like a national epidemic of sugar addiction. Such lapses of taste are also what we would now label a nutritional emergency. He may seem to grant too much to critics of British cooking. But this is mainly by contrast with spicier, more vegetable-friendly cuisines of the continent and colonies. The kind of cooking he describes makes creatively varied uses of sturdy but limited local resources (except for the sugar).

Orwell’s brutal honesty about British food's deficiencies makes him sound like a trustworthy guide to its true delights. One of the truths he tells is that “British cookery displays more variety and more originality than foreign visitors are usually ready to allow.” The average visitor encounters British food principally in restaurants, pubs, and hotels, which, “whether cheap or expensive” are not representative of “the diet of the great mass of the people.” This may be said of many regional cuisines. But Orwell is devoted to a native British cooking which had, at the time, almost disappeared after six years of war rationing.

This cooking is rich in roast and cold meats, cheeses, breads, Yorkshire and suet puddings, potatoes and turnips. The British diet is, or was, Orwell writes, eaten by the lower and upper classes alike, under different names and prices. Seasonings are few. “Garlic, for instance, is unknown in British cookery proper.” What stands out is mint, vinegar, butter, dried fruits, jam, and marmalade.

Orwell himself included a marmalade recipe. (A handwritten note reads “Bad recipe! Too much sugar and water.”), which you can see below. Decide for yourself how much sugar to add.

ORANGE MARMALADE 

Ingredients:

2 seville oranges

2 sweet oranges (no)

2 lemons (no)

8lbs of preserving sugar

8 pints of water

Method. Wash and dry the fruit. Halve them and squeeze out the juice. Remove some of the pith, then shred the fruit finely. Tie the pips in a muslin bag. Put the strained juice, rind and pips into the water and soak for 48 hours. Place in a large pan and simmer for 1/2 hours until the rind is tender. Leave to stand overnight, then add the sugar and let it dissolve before bringing to the boil. Boil rapidly until a little of the mixture will set into a jelly when placed on a cold plate. Pour into jars which have been heated beforehand, and cover with paper covers.

An increasing number of people are cutting back or quitting nearly every main ingredient in what Orwell describes as authentic British cooking: from meat to dairy to gluten to sugar to suet…. But if we are going to give it a fair shake, he argues, we must try the real thing. Or his version of it anyway. He includes several more recipes: Welsh rarebit, Yorkshire pudding, treacle tart, plum cake, and Christmas pudding.

Orwell’s "British Cookery" wars with itself and comes to terms. He fills each paragraph with frank acknowledgements of British cuisine’s shortcomings, yet he relishes its simple, solid virtues. He writes that “British cookery” is “best studied in private houses, and more particularly in the homes of the middle-class and working-class masses who have not become Europeanized in their tastes.” It's a kind of cultural nationalism, but perhaps one suggesting those who want others to understand and appreciate a specific kind British culture should invite outsiders in to share a meal.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Nutritional Psychiatry: Why Diet May Play an Essential Role in Treating Mental Health Conditions, Including Depression, Anxiety & Beyond

For years neuroscientists have been trying to correct the old assumption that our minds are reducible to our brains. Research into what is known as the gut microbiome, for example, has shown that mood and mental health are intimately linked to the functioning of an ecosystem of microorganisms within the digestive system. As researchers write in the Journal of Neuroscience, “experimental changes to the gut microbiome can affect emotional behavior and related brain systems [and] may play a pathophysiological role in human brain diseases, including autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.”

Even Parkinson’s Disease has been linked to gut bacteria in studies performed by microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian, who points out that “70 percent of all neurons in the peripheral nervous system—that is, not the brain or spinal cord—are in the intestines, and the gut’s nervous system is directly connected to the central nervous system through the vagus nerve.” Our guts also supply the brain with fuel, and it requires a “constant supply,” notes Dr. Eva Selhub at the Harvard Health Blog. “That ‘fuel’ comes from the foods you eat—and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference. Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood.”

Such findings have given rise to the emerging field of Nutritional Psychiatry, which you can hear described in the TEDx talk above by clinical psychologist Julia Rucklidge. Initially taught that “nutrition and diet were of trivial significance for mental health,” Rucklidge, like most of her colleagues, believed that “only drugs and psychotherapy could treat these serious conditions.” But after encountering evidence to the contrary, she decided to do her own studies. Beginning at around 5:30, she presents compelling evidence for a dramatic reduction in rates of ADHD, PTSD, depression, and psychosis after dietary treatments.

That's not to say that drugs and psychotherapy do not play important roles in treatment, nor that they should be supplanted by a nutrition-only approach. But it does mean that nutritional treatments are shown by many fields of study to be effective and perhaps essential, for reasons consistent with widespread knowledge about the body and brain. “It is now known,” for example, as Joyce Cavaye reports at the Independent, “that many mental health conditions are caused by inflammation in the brain which ultimately causes our brain cells to die.” Inflammation is, in part, caused by “a lack of nutrients such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, vitamins and minerals… all essential for the optimum functioning of our bodies.”

Diets consisting primarily of highly processed foods and sugars are also a cause of inflammation. “Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function,” Dr. Selhub writes. These diets promote a “worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression.” Processed foods with high carbohydrate content and few nutrients have created an epidemic of malnutrition among a significant portion of the population who otherwise seem to have plenty to eat. The situation seems to have majorly contributed to the corresponding epidemics of depression and other mental health conditions.

Nutritional psychiatry is not a fad or a program claiming to recreate the diet of early humans. While “a potential evolutionary mismatch between our ancestral past (Paleolithic, Neolithic) and the contemporary nutritional environment” merits exploration, as researchers write in an article published at the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, many more contemporary factors—such as economic development and the rise of scientific medicine—play a role in how we understand diet and mental health.

Rather than look to prehistory, scientists have studied the diets of “traditional” societies (those not reliant on mass-produced processed foods) in the Mediterranean and Japan. They have found a 25-35% lower rate of depression, for example, in those who eat diets “high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, and fish and seafood,” writes Selhub, with “only modest amounts of lean meats and dairy.” There is no perfect dietary formula, however. Everyone’s gut processes things differently. Dr. Selhub recommends cutting out processed foods and sugar and experimenting with adding and subtracting foods to see how you feel. (Nutritional experiments like these are probably best carried out after consulting with your doctor.)

Just as we will need to change the way we eat if we want to preserve our outer environment, the health of that rich, and no less necessary, inner world known as the microbiome will require what for many is a dramatic change in eating habits. Sadly, it is not a change everyone can afford to make. But for millions suffering from mental illnesses, nutritional psychiatry may represent a life-altering course of treatment.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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