David Bowie Memorialized in Traditional Japanese Woodblock Prints

The East beckons me — Japan — but I’m a bit worried that I’ll get too Zen there and my writing will dry up. - David Bowie, 1980

David Bowie’s longstanding fascination with Japan pervaded his work, becoming the gateway through which many of his fans began to explore that country’s cultural traditions and aesthetics.

Perhaps the entry point is designer Kansai Yamamoto’s Ziggy Stardust togs, Yukio Mishima’s 1963 novel The Sailor Who Fell from Grace from the Sea—one of Bowie’s top 100 books—or the 1000s of images photographer Masayoshi Sukita captured of the rocker over a period of four decades.




Maybe it was Aladdin Sane’s kabuki-like makeup or director Nagisa Oshima's World War II drama,  Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, in which Bowie played a British officer in a Japanese POW camp.

The recent release of two modern ukiyo-e woodblock prints featuring the rocker has caused such mass swooning among legions of Japanophile Bowie fans, the reverberations may well be powerful enough to ring temple bells in Kyoto.

For each print, artist Masumi Ishikawa casts Bowie as both himself and an iconic Japanese figure.

In the image at the top of the page, Bowie’s Aladdin Sane assumes the pose of the central character in Edo Period artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s Kidômaru and the Tengu, below.

The other print relocates the dashing Bowie from Terry O’Neill’s Diamond Dogs publicity photos to the realm of magician Takezawa Toji, whose spinning top performances had the power to summon dragons, at least as depicted by Kuniyoshi.

The prints were ordered by the Ukiyo-e Project, whose mission is to portray today’s artists and pop icons on traditional woodblock prints. (Bowie follows previous honorees Kiss and Iron Maiden.)

The prints and the blocks from which the impressions were made will be on display at BOOKMARC in Tokyo’s Omotesando neighborhood from June 23 to July 1.

via Spoon and Tamago

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker, Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and Bowie fan.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight opens June 12 at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Patti Smith, The Godmother of Punk, Is Now Putting Her Pictures on Instagram

As evidenced by her Instagram feed the Godmother is just like you and me. She posts pictures of her kids.

She gives her mom a Mothers Day shout out…

She celebrates her friends’ birthdays, posts selfies, travel shots, and pet pics

She’s not above self-promotion if the situation warrants.

But the accompanying captions set punk's poet laureate apart. No LOLs here.  It’s clear that the award-winning author of Just Kids  and M Train thinks about her content, carefully crafting each post before she publishes. Each is a bite-sized reflection, a page-a-day meditation on what it means to be alive:

This is day two of my Venice report.

I bummed around thinking of 

Venice in the seventies. It had

a strong Rasta vibe with Reggae

music drifting from the head shops

and boom boxes on the beach. 

Burning Spear and Jimmy Cliff

and Bob Marley. Venice has an 

ever changing atmosphere but 

I always like walking around, 

anonymous, just another freak. 

On Pacific next to the Cafe Collage

I had steamed dumplings and 

ginger tea at Mao’s Kitchen. 

The food is great and reasonable.

Because it was early it was 

nearly empty. Since I was awake

since 4am i was nearly hypnotized 

by the turning of their overhead 

fan. Before I left they gave me a

fortune cookie. It was a true one.

Reflecting my past and certainly 

my future. A very good day.

Follow Patti Smith on Instagram here.

via W Magazine

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her solo show Nurse!, in which one of Shakespeare’s best loved female characters hits the lecture circuit to set the record straight premieres in June at The Tank in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Doc Martens Boots Now Come Adorned with Traditional Japanese Art

In wake of a recent prom cheongsam dust up, it remains to be seen whether Doc Martens’ special edition Eastern Art shoes and boots will be regarded as a misstep.

Dr. Martens' Artist Series paid tribute to Western heavy hitters like Hieronymus BoschWilliam Hogarth, JMW Turner, and William Blake.

Those eye-catching kicks may have inspired more than a few fashion-conscious punks to delve into art history, but what will consumers—and more importantly activists on the alert for cultural appropriation—make of the Eastern Art line?




The company website describes the inaugural design as:

a new homage to traditional Japanese art with a fresh, contemporary … spin. Featuring detailed hand-drawn paintings, the art is digitally printed on a textured leather designed to emulate traditional Japanese parchment, while gold-tone eyelets and studding complete the look.

One wonders what led the footwear giant to go with a mishmash “inspired by” approach, when there are so many wonderful Edo period artists who merit a boot of their own?

Katsushika Hokusai’s The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife (see here) would make for an unforgettable toe cap…

Kitagawa Utamaro could shod heels and ankles with the floating world.

Tawaraya Sōtatsu’s work would easily transfer from screen to shoe.

Thus far, the lone complaints have centered on the pain of breaking in the new boots, a badge of honor among longtime wearers of the company’s best-selling 1460 Pascal style.

Asia Trend reports that Doc Martens has two shops in Japan, with plans to open more.

If you’re inclined to stomp around in a pair of Dr. Martens 1460 Pascal Eastern Art boots or 1461 Oxfords, best place your order soon, as these special editions have a way of selling out quickly.

via MyModernMet

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Download 2,500 Beautiful Woodblock Prints and Drawings by Japanese Masters (1600-1915)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Mister Rogers Accepts a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Helps You Thank Everyone Who Has Made a Difference in Your Life

Television host and children’s advocate Fred Rogers was also an ordained Presbyterian minister, for whom spiritual reflection was as natural and necessary a part of daily life as his vegetarianism and morning swims.

His quiet personal practice could take a turn for the public and interactive, as he demonstrated from the podium at the Daytime Emmy Awards in 1997, above.

Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award, he refrained from running through the standard laundry list of thanks. Instead he invited the audience to join him in spending 10 seconds thinking of the people who “have loved us into being.”




He then turned his attention to his wristwatch as hundreds of glamorously attired talk show hosts and soap stars thought of the teachers, relatives, and other influential adults whose tender care, and perhaps rigorous expectations, helped shape them.

(Play along from home at the 2:15 mark.)

Ten seconds may not seem like much, but consider how often we deploy emojis and “likes” in place of sitting with others’ feelings and our own.

Of all the things Fred Rogers was celebrated for, the time he allotted to making others feel heard and appreciated may be the greatest.

Fifteen years after his death, the Internet ensures that he will continue to inspire us to be kinder, try harder, listen better.

That effect should quadruple when Morgan Neville's Mister Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is released next month.

Another sweet Emmy moment comes at the top, when the honoree smooches his wife, Joanne Rogers, before heading off to join presenter Tim Robbins at the podium. Described in Esquire as “hearty and almost whooping in (her) forthrightness,” the stalwart Mrs. Rogers appeared in a handful of episodes, but never played the sort of highly visible role Mrs. Claus inhabited within her husband’s public realm.

The full text of Mister Rogers’ Lifetime Achievement Award award speech is below:

So many people have helped me to come here to this night.  Some of you are here, some are far away and some are even in Heaven.  All of us have special ones who loved us into being.  Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are, those who cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.  10 seconds, I'll watch the time. Whomever you've been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they have made.  You know they're kind of people television does well to offer our world.  Special thanks to my family, my friends, and my co-workers in Public Broadcasting and Family Communications, and to this Academy for encouraging me, allowing me, all these years to be your neighbor.  May God be with you.  Thank you very much.

via Mental Floss

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC this Wednesday, May 16, for another monthly installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

3,000-Year-Old Olive Tree on the Island of Crete Still Produces Olives Today

Image by David Hodgson, via Flickr Commons

On the island of Crete, in the village of Vouves, stands an olive tree estimated to be 3,000 years old. Hearty and resilient, "the Olive Tree of Vouves" still bears fruit today. Because, yes, olives are apparently considered a fruit.

Archaeologist Ticia Verveer posted a picture of the tree on Twitter earlier this week and noted: It "stood here when Rome burned in AD64, and Pompeii was buried under a thick carpet of volcanic ash in AD79." That all happened during the tree's infancy alone.

An estimated 20,000 people now visit the tree each year. If you can't swing a trip to Crete, you can take a virtual tour of the Olive Tree Museum of Vouves (it requires Flash) and see this 3D model of the tree.

Across the Mediterranean, you'll find six other olive trees believed to be 2,000-3,000 years old--some of our last living ties to an ancient world. And beautiful ones at that.

via @ticiaverveer

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Discover the Retirement Home for Elderly Musicians Created by Giuseppe Verdi: Created in 1899, It Still Lives On Today

Among my works, the one I like best is the Home that I have had built in Milan for accommodating old singers not favored by fortune, or who, when they were young did not possess the virtue of saving. Poor and dear companions of my life! 

Giuseppe Verdi

Is there a remedy for the isolation of old age?

What about the jolly fraternity and competitiveness of an art college dorm, as envisioned by opera composer Giuseppe Verdi?

Shortly before his death, the composer donated all royalties from his operas to the construction and administration of a luxurious retreat for retired musicians, designed by his librettist’s brother, architect Camillo Boito.

Completed in 1899, Casa Verdi still serves elderly musicians today--up to 60 at a time. Residents of Casa Verdi include alumnae of the Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera House. Guests have worked alongside such notables as Chet Baker and Maria Callas.




Competition for residential slots is stiff. To qualify, one must have been a professional musician or music teacher. Those selected enjoy room, board, and medical treatment in addition to, writes The New York Times, "access to concerts, music rooms, 15 pianos, a large organ, harps, drum sets and the company of their peers." Musical programming is as constant as the fine view of Verdi’s grave.

Dining tables are named in honor of Verdi’s works. Those inclined to worship do so in a chapel named for Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

Practice rooms are alive with the sound of music and criticism. As Casa Verdi’s music therapist told the Financial Times, “They are very competitive: they are all prima donnas.”

When memory fails, residents can tune in to such documentaries as actor Dustin Hoffman’s Tosca’s Kiss, below

Get a peek inside Verdi’s retirement home for artists, compliments of Urban Sketchers here.

via The New York Times

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Cornell Creates a Database of Fugitive Slave Ads, Telling the Story of Those Who Resisted Slavery in 18th & 19th Century America

While the value of slaves in the U.S. from the colonial period to the Civil War rose and fell like other market goods, for the most part, enslaved people constituted the most valuable kind of property, typically worth even more than land and other highly valued resources. In one study, three University of Kansas historians estimate that during most of the 18th century in South Carolina, slaves “made up close to half of the personal wealth recorded in probate inventory in most decades.” By the 19th century, slaveholders had begun taking out insurance policies on their slaves as Rachel L. Swarns documents at The New York Times.

“Alive,” Swarns writes, “slaves were among a white man’s most prized assets. Dead, they were considered virtually worthless…. By 1847, insurance policies on slaves accounted for a third of the policies in a firm”—New York Life—“that would become one of the nation’s Fortune 100 companies.” Given the huge economic incentives for perpetuating the system of chattel slavery, the fact that people did not want to be held in forced labor for life—and to condemn their children and grandchildren to the same—presented slaveholders with a serious problem.

For over 250 years, countless numbers of enslaved people attempted to escape to freedom. And thousands of slaveowners ran newspaper ads to try and recover their investments. These ads are likely familiar from textbooks and historical articles on slavery; they have long been used singly to illustrate a point, “but they have never been systematically collected,” notes Cornell University’s Freedom on the Move project, which intends to “compile all North American slave runaway ads and make them available for statistical, geographical, textual, and other forms of analysis.” While the database is still in progress, examples of the ads are being shared on the @fotmproject Twitter account.

The ongoing project presents a tremendous opportunity for historical scholars of the period. “If we could collect and collate all of these ads,” the project’s researchers write, “we would create what might be the single richest source of data possible for understanding the lives of the approximately eight million people who were enslaved in the U.S.” It is estimated that 100,000 or more such ads survive “from the colonial and pre-Civil War U.S.,” though they might represent a fraction of those published, and of the number of attempted, and successful, escapes.

Many of the ads casually reveal evidence of brutal treatment, listing scars and brands, missing fingers, speech impediments, and halting walks. They show many of the escaped slaves to have been skilled in several trades and speak multiple languages. A large number of the escapees are children. As University of New Orleans historian Mary Niall Mitchell tells Hyperallergic, “ironically, in trying to retrieve their property—the people they claimed as things—enslavers left us mounds of evidence about the humanity of the people they bought and sold.” (Mitchell is one of the projects three lead researchers, along with University of Alabama’s Joshua Rothman and Cornell’s Edward Baptist, author of The Half Has Never Been Told.)

The slaveholders who ran ads also left evidence of what they made themselves believe in order to hold people as property. One ad describes a runaway slave named Billy as having been “persuaded to leave his master by some villain,” as though Billy must surely have been contented with his lot. In the overwhelming majority of cases, we will never know with certainty what most people thought about being enslaved. Yet the fact that hundreds of thousands attempted to escape at great personal risk, often without any help—to such a degree that extreme, inflammatory measures like the Fugitive Slave Act were eventually deemed necessary—should offer sufficient testament, if the relatively few written narratives aren’t enough. “For some” of the people in the ads, says Mitchell, “this may be the only place something about them survives, in any detail, in the written record,”

Freedom on the Move, writes Hyperallergic’s Allison Meier, “expands on the history of resistance against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries.” It offers a compelling picture of two intolerably irresolvable views—those of slaveholders who viewed enslaved people as proprietary investments; and those of the enslaved who refused to be reduced to objects for others’ pleasure and profit.

Visit Freedom on the Move and find out more.

via Hyperallergic

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

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