Listen to Patti Smith’s Glorious Three Hour Farewell to CBGB’s on Its Final Night

CBGB is a state of mind – Patti Smith

All good things must come to an end, but it hurt when CBGB’s, New York City’s celebrated – and famously filthy – music club shuttered for good on October 15th, 2006, a victim of skyrocketing Lower East Side rents.

While plenty of punk and New Wave luminaries cut their teeth on the legendary venue’s stage – Talking Heads, The RamonesBlondie – final honors went to Patti Smith, a CBGB’s habitué, whose seven-week residency in 1975 earned her a major record deal.

In her National Book Award-winning memoir, Just Kids, Smith described her first impressions of the place, when she and her guitarist Lenny Kaye headed downtown to catch their friend Richard Hell’s band, Television, following the premiere of the concert film, Ladies & Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones at the Ziegfeld:

CBGB was a deep and narrow room along the right side, lit by overhanging neon signs advertising various brands of beer. The stage was low, on the left-hand side, flanked by photographic murals of turn-of-the-century bathing belles. Past the stage was a pool table, and in back was a greasy kitchen and a room where the owner, Hilly Krystal, worked and slept with his saluki, Jonathan…

It was a world away from the Ziegfeld. The absence of glamour made it seem all the more familiar, a place that we could call our own. As the band played on, you could hear the whack of the pool cue hitting the balls, the saluki barking, bottles clinking, the sounds of a scene emerging. Though no one knew it, the stars were aligning, the angels were calling.

Some 30 years later, Kaye prepared to bid CBGB goodbye, telling the New York Times, “It’s like it’s grown its own barnacles:”

 You couldn’t replicate the décor in a million years, and dismantling all those layers of archaeology of music in the club is a daunting task.

The Village Voice observed that it was “a crazy, emotional night for everyone in the crowd and for everyone on the stage,” and the New York Times reported how Smith documented the club’s awning with a Polaroid, explaining, “I’m sentimental…”

But Smith, who actively encouraged young fans to resist worshiping at the altar of the club’s reputation when they could be starting scenes of their own, also pushed back against sentimentality, telling the crowd, “It’s not a fucking temple — it is what it is.”

That may be, but her three-and-a-half-hour performance, above, was still one for the history books, from the opening reading of Piss Factory (I’m gonna be somebody, I’m gonna get on that train, go to New York City /I’m gonna be so bad I’m gonna be a big star and I will never return) to the closing in memoriam recitation (Joe StrummerJohnny ThundersStiv BatorsJohnny, Joey, and Dee Dee Ramone…)

Smith took care that other artists who helped make the scene were represented in her below set lists, from Blondie and Lou Reed to Television and the Dead Boys:

Piss Factory  0:22

Kimberly/Tide is High 12:40

Pale Blue Eyes 20:30

Lou (Reed) had a gift of taking very simple lines, ‘Linger on, your pale blue eyes,’ and make it so they magnify on their own. That song has always haunted me. (The Associated Press)

Marquee Moon/We Three 29:02

Television will help wipe out media. They are not theatre. Neither were the early Stones or the Yardbirds. They are strong images procduce from pain and speed and the fanatic desire to make it. They are also inspired enough below the belt to prove that SEX is not dead in rock ‘n’ roll. (Rock Scene)

Distant Fingers 38:48

Without Chains 47:50

We had emotional duties, and I respected that. But I also thought it was important to do a song like that. (Rolling Stone)

Ghost Dance 55:30

Birdland 1:00:08

Sonic Reducer 1:11:52

Redondo Beach 1:16:00

Free Money 1:20:44

Pissing in a River 1:28:27

Gimme Shelter 1:33:50

I was thinking about the words to that: “War, children, it’s just a shot away.” To me, a song like that is more meaningful than ever. (Rolling Stone)

Space Monkey 1:43

Blitzkrieg Bop / Beat on the Brat / Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio? / Sheena Is a Punk Rocker 1:48:30

Ain’t It Strange 1:55:20

So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star 2:02:11

Babelogue/Rock n Roll N – – – – – – 2:10:17 

Happy Birthday to Flea 2:21:38

For Your Love 2:22:15

My Generation 2:27:22

Land/Gloria 2:36:51

Even though I wrote the poem at the beginning of “Gloria” in 1970, it took all those years to evolve, to merge into “Gloria.” And that was pretty much done at CBGB. We recorded Horses in 1975, and did all the groundwork at CBGB. (Rolling Stone)

Elegie 2:55:57

As I was reading that little list, those people seemed in that moment — because of the intense emotional energy in that room — to be alive. Everyone in the room knew or heard of or loved one of those people. That collective love and sorrow and recognition made those people seem as alive as any of us. (Rolling Stone)

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NYC’s Iconic Punk Club CBGBs Comes Alive in a Brilliant Short Animation, Using David Godlis’ Photos of Patti Smith, The Ramones & More

Beautiful New Photo Book Documents Patti Smith’s Breakthrough Years in Music: Features Hundreds of Unseen Photographs

Patti Smith’s 40 Favorite Books

– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Life & Art of Gustav Klimt: A Short Art History Lesson on the Austrian Symbolist Painter and His Work

The Austrian symbolist painter, Gustav Klimt, a driving force of the Vienna Secession, has joined the ranks of famous, dead artists being served up as pricey, super-sized, Instagram-friendly immersive experiences.

Jane Kallir, author of Gustav Klimt: 25 Masterworks and co-founder of the Kallir Research Institute, a foundation dedicated to furthering the study of Austrian and German Modernists, is not buying into this approach.

Having visited the Gold in Motion immersive Klimt exhibit at New York City’s recently inaugurated Hall des Lumières with Artnet’s Ben Davis, she definitely has some notes:

They take liberties with the originals. If you know the originals well, which I do, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what they were working from. The color is sometimes way off. And some of the images are not by Klimt at all. They seem like pastiches of Klimt or pieces of Klimts that they’ve pasted together in different ways…these images are blown up to a height of, what, 20 feet? It really doesn’t work, aesthetically. Klimt’s drawings are especially difficult because they’re so delicate, at times almost invisible.

But mustn’t some young visitors, after posting the plethora of selfies that motivate many a pilgrimage to this “multi-sensory celebration,” be moved to learn more about the artist it’s cashing in on?

That’d be a good thing, right?

Of course it would, and Paul Priestley provides a great introduction to Klimt’s life and work in the above episode of his Art History School web series.

We grant that spending 13 minutes with a middle-aged arts educator in a festive vest is a less sexy-seeing prospect than “step(ping) into a wonderland of moving paintings” to be “amazed by the golden era of modernism.”

But Priestley offers something you can’t really focus on while gawking at enormous 360º projections of The Kiss during a $35 timed entry  – historical context and a generous portion of art world dish on a “lifelong bachelor who had countless liaisons during his lifetime, usually with his models, and is rumored to have fathered more than a dozen children.”

Priestley makes clear how the young Klimt’s career took a fateful turn with Philosophy (below), part of a massive commission for the ceiling of Vienna University’s Great Hall, that was ultimately destroyed by the Nazis, but has since been resurrected after a fashion using AI, black and white photos, and eyewitness descriptions.

When Klimt’s first go at it was displayed, it was savaged by critics as “chaotic, nonsensical and out of keeping with the intended setting.”

Philosophy’s drubbing put an end to Klimt’s official commissions, but private ones flourished due to the bohemian painter’s “beautiful women in elegantly languid and flattering poses.”

Imagine how those status conscious society matrons would have reacted to seeing their likenesses tapped as immersive art, which Vice’s Alex Fleming-Brown pegs as “the latest lazy lovechild of TikTok and enterprising warehouse landlords.”

Surely they would have relished the attention!

Well, everyone, that is, except Margaret Stonborough-Wittgenstein, sister of Ludwig, who chafed at her appearance in Klimt’s 1905 bridal portrait as  “too innocent, timid and girlish…” and stuck the picture in the attic.

C’mon, they can’t all be The Kiss.

It’s an astonishing painting, but there’s so much more to discover about Klimt and his four decades worth of work.

But first, with apologies to any readers who genuinely enjoy immersive art exhibits – many do – here are Jane Kallir’s not entirely conciliatory thoughts on Beethoven Frieze, Klimt’s voluptuous vision of lust, love and disease, which was deliberately enhanced by accompanying sculpture and live music when it made its public debut in 1902, and is currently being parceled out and writ large in digital form in the building formerly known as New York’s Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank:

I asked myself whether Klimt would have approved of the Beethoven Frieze projections. I believe most artists embrace cutting-edge technology, whatever it may be in their day and age. The Beethoven Frieze segment is a Gesamtkunstwerk on a scale that Klimt might have dreamed of—might have. This is the one part of the presentation that could be faithful to his intentions.

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Gustav Klimt’s Masterpieces Destroyed During World War II Get Recreated with Artificial Intelligence

– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch You Suck at Cooking, a Hilarious Source for Tasty Recipes and Food Hacks of Questionable Veracity

Is it just us, or did half of Gen Z teach themselves how to cook on TikTok during the height of the pandemic?

The recipes that go viral have more in common with gonzo science experiments than Julia Child’s Coq au Vin.

Hacks are golden in this forum – whether or not they actually work – and running time is of the essence.

There’s an unmistakable visual vocabulary, too – from the god shots of manicured hands dumping pre-measured ingredients into mixing bowls to the reveal of the completed dish just seconds later.

One has to be conversant in these tropes to subvert them as gleefully as the anonymous creator of the seven year old online series You Suck at Cooking.

Unlike such TikTok heavy hitters as cloud bread or whipped coffee, most of You Suck at Cooking‘s dishes are things you might consider preparing on a regular basis, however trendy they may be at the moment.

The responsible party’s cooking and editing skills are solid, but his writing is the real star here. We also appreciate the massive amount of planning and care that goes into every five minute episode.

He’s an unabashed coiner of vocabulary and elaborate ways to refer to straightforward appliances and ingredients. His delivery is mild mannered, but he doesn’t mince words when it comes to culinary biases – e.g., condimenting only one side of the bun is a certifiable burger crime and if you don’t like pickles, one thing you can do is seek help.

Simple dishes such as overnight oats require so little instruction, he’s freed up to skewer the questionable claims of food-focused wellness “experts” by leaning all the way in.

The spirit of the project carries over into his written step-by-steps on the rare occasions when mere video demonstration will not suffice.

(His cookbook, You Suck at Cooking: The Absurdly Practical Guide to Sucking Slightly Less at Making Food, was published anonymously in 2019.)

To get the most from your experience, we recommend you first watch his deep fried Korean-style corndog How To, then follow the written recipe:

1. Go to the store 

2. Buy corn dogs 

3. Enjoy 

If you insist on making corn dogs yourself, first read these frying safety tips

The reason home fryers are safer than doing it on the stovetop is because they limit the heat of your oil so it won’t catch fire. It’s easy to let it get too hot which is very bad news. 


    • 1 ¼ cups flour 
    • 2 tablespoon sugar 
    • ½ teaspoon salt 
    • 1.3 teaspoon yeast 
    • 1 egg 
    • 100 ml warm water

Wangjangle until your wrist is furious (I did it for a few minutes tops)

Let it sit for half an hour 

Dry off anything you’re rolling in it 

Peg your dogs 

Roll ‘em 

Roll them in artisan Italian bread crumbs (okay seriously this is a flavor game changer and I can’t recommend them enough. Kortalian food just has such depth. 

Fry for 3 minutes 

Cool for a few minutes 

I think anything else is pretty straight forward

When it comes to cooking hacks, our hero is a champion fabulist.

It’s safe to assume that the first tip is legit, after which… well, let’s just say that some of his orange peeling methods remind us in the best possible way of our old pal Shel Silverstein’s Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book.

Enjoy a playlist of all 150 episodes of You Suck at Cooking here.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Celebrate Kurt Vonnegut’s 100 Birthday with a Collection of Songs Based on His Work

There’s a passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions that crosses our desk a lot at this time of year. It’s the one in which he declares Armistice Day, which coincidentally falls on his birthday, sacred:

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.

Here, here!

Hopefully Shakespeare won’t take umbrage if we skip over his doomed teenaged lovers to celebrate Kurt Vonnegut’s 11/11 Centennial with songs inspired by his work.

Take the Kilgore Trout Experience’s tribute to Sirens of Titan, above.

The driving force behind the KTE Tim Langsford, a drummer who mentors Autistic students at the University of Plymouth, was looking for ways to help his “foggy mind remember the key concepts, characters, and memorable lines that occur in each” of Vonnegut’s 14 books.

The solution? Community and accountability to an ongoing assignment. Langsford launched the Plymouth Vonnegut Collective in 2019 with a typewritten manifesto, inviting interested parties to read (or re-read) the novels in publication order, then gather for monthly discussions.

His loftier goal was for book club members to work collaboratively on a 14-track concept album informed by their reading.

They stuck to it, with efforts spanning a variety of genres.

Mother Night might make your ears bleed.

The psychedelic God Bless You, Mister Rosewater mixes quotes from the book with edited clips of the collective’s discussion of the novel.

The project pushed Langsford out from behind the drum kit, as well as his comfort zone:

It has taken an awful lot to be comfortable with the songs on which I sing. However, I have tried to invoke KV’s sense of creation as if no one is watching. It doesn’t matter so do it for yourself…. Although do I contradict that by sharing these things to the internet rather than trashing them unseen or unheard?!  

Ah, but isn’t one of the most beautiful uses of the Internet as a tool for finding out what we have in common with our fellow humans?

Congratulations to our fellow Vonnegut fans in Plymouth, who will be celebrating their achievement and the legendary author’s 100th birthday with an event featuring poetry, art, music and film inspired by the birthday boy’s novels.

Folk rocker Al Stewart is another who “was drawn by the Sirens of Titan.”  The lyrics make perfect sense if the novel is fresh in your mind:

But here in the yellow and blue of my days

I wander the endless Mercurian caves

Watching for the signs the Harmonians make

The words on the walls

The lyrics to Nice, Nice, Very Nice by Stewart’s peers in Ambrosia are pulled straight from the holy scripture of Bokononism, the religion Vonnegut invented in Cat’s Cradle.

The band gave the author a writing credit. He repaid the compliment with a fan letter:

I was at my daughter’s house last night, and the radio was on. By God if the DJ didn’t play our song, and say it was number ten in New York, and say how good you guys are in general. You can imagine the pleasure that gave me. Luck has played an enormous part in my life. Those who know pop music keep telling me how lucky I am to be tied in with you. And I myself am crazy about our song, of course, but what do I know and why wouldn’t I be?  This much I have always known, anyway: Music is the only art that’s really worth a damn. I envy you guys.

If that isn’t nice, we don’t know what is.

Vonnegut’s best known work, the time-traveling, perennially banned anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, presents an irresistible songwriting challenge, judging from the number of tunes that have sprouted from its fertile soil.

Susan Hwang is uniquely immersed in all things Vonnegut, as founder of the Bushwick Book Club, a loose collective of musicians who convene monthly to present songs inspired by a pre-selected title – including almost every novel in the Vonnegut oeuvre, as well as the short stories in Welcome to the Monkey House and the essays comprising A Man Without a Country.

She was a Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library 2022 Banned Books Week artist-in-residence.

She titled her recent EP of five Vonnegut-inspired songs, Everything is Sateen, a nod to the Sateen Dura-Luxe house paint Vonnegut’s abstract expressionist, Rabo Karabekian, favors in Bluebeard.

We’re fairly confident that Hwang’s No Answer, offered above as a thank you to crowdfunders of a recent tour, will be the bounciest adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five you’ll hear all day.

Keep listening.

Sweet Soubrette, aka Ellia Bisker, another Bushwick Book Club fixture and one half of the goth-folk duo Charming Disaster, leaned into the horrors of Dresden for her Slaughterhouse-Five contribution, namechecking rubble, barbed wire, and the “mustard gas and roses” breath born of a night’s heavy drinking.

Songwriting musicologist Gail Sparlin’s My Blue Heaven: The Love Song of Montana Wildhack – seen here in a library performance – is as girlish and sweet as Valerie Perrine’s take on the character in George Roy Hill’s 1972 film of Slaughterhouse-Five

Back in 1988, Hawkwind‘s The War I Survived suffused Slaughterhouse-Five with some very New Wave synths…

The chorus of Sam Ford’s wistful So It Goes taps into the novel’s time traveling aspect, and touches on the challenges many soldiers experience when attempting to reintegrate into their pre-combat lives :

That ain’t the way home

Who says I wanna go home?
I’m always home
I’m always home.

Having invoked Vonnegut’s evergreen phrase, there’s no getting away without mentioning Nick Lowe’s 1976 power pop hit, though it may make for a tenuous connection.

Hi ho!

Still, tenuous connections can count as connections, especially when you tally up all the references to Cat’s Cradle’s secret government weapon, Ice Nine, in lyrics and band names.

Then there are the submerged references. We may not pick up on them, but we’re willing to believe they’re there.

Pearl Jam‘s front man Eddie Vedder wrote that “books like Cat’s Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Player Piano…they’ve had as much influence on me as any record I’ve ever owned.”

He also earned a permanent spot in the karass by passing out copies of Bluebeard to attendees at the 4th Annual Kokua Festival to benefit environmental education in Hawaii.

A memorable Breakfast of Champions illustration is said to have lit a flame with New Order, propelling Vonnegut out onto the dance floor.

And Ringo Starr edged his way to favorite Beatle status when he tipped his hat to Breakfast of Champions, dedicating his 1973 solo album to “Kilgore Trout and all the beavers.”

There are dozens more we could mention – you’ll find some of them in the playlist below – but without further ado, let’s welcome to the stage Special K and His Crew!

Yes, that’s Phish drummer (and major Vonnegut fan) Jon Fishman on vacuum.

But who’s that mystery front man, spitting Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales?

Happy 100th, Kurt Vonnegut! We’re glad you were born.

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Kurt Vonnegut Diagrams the Shape of All Stories in a Master’s Thesis Rejected by U. Chicago

Kurt Vonnegut Offers 8 Tips on How to Write Good Short Stories (and Amusingly Graphs the Shapes Those Stories Can Take)

Kurt Vonnegut Gives Advice to Aspiring Writers in a 1991 TV Interview

Kurt Vonnegut: Where Do I Get My Ideas From? My Disgust with Civilization


Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Join her for a free Vonnegut Centennial Fanzine Workshop at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum & Library on November 19.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Behold a 21st-Century Medieval Castle Being Built with Only Tools & Materials from the Middle Ages

Construction sites are hives of specialized activity, but there’s no particular training needed to ferry 500 lbs of stone several stories to the masons waiting above. All you need is the stamina for a few steep flights and a medieval treadwheel crane or “squirrel cage.”

The technology, which uses simple geometry and human exertion to hoist heavy loads, dates to ancient Roman times.

Retired in the Victorian era, it has been resurrected and is being put to good use on the site of a former sandstone quarry two hours south of Paris, where the castle of an imaginary, low ranking 13th-century nobleman began taking shape in 1997.

There’s no typo in that timeline.

Château de Guédelon is an immersive educational project, an open air experimental archeology lab, and a highly unusual working construction site.

With a project timeline of 35 years, some 40 quarrypeople, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters, tilers, blacksmiths, rope makers and carters can expect another ten years on the job.

That’s longer than a medieval construction crew would have taken, but unlike their 21st-century counterparts, they didn’t have to take frequent breaks to explain their labors to the visiting public.

A team of archeologists, art historians and castellologists strive for authenticity, eschewing electricity and any vehicle that doesn’t have hooves.

Research materials include illuminated manuscripts, stained glass windows, financial records, and existing castles.

The 1425-year-old Canterbury Cathedral has a non-reproduction treadmill crane stored in its rafters, as well as a levers and pulleys activity sheet for young visitors that notes that operating a “human treadmill” was both grueling and dangerous:

Philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote that they were “unequalled in the modern annals of legalized torture.”

Good call, then, on the part of Guédelon’s leadership to allow a few anachronisms in the name of safety.

Guédelon’s treadmill cranes, including a double drum model that pivots 360º to deposit loads of up to 1000 lbs wherever the stonemasons have need of them, have been outfitted with brakes. The walkers inside the wooden wheels wear hard hats, as are the overseer and those monitoring the brakes and the cradle holding the stones.

The onsite worker-educators may be garbed in period-appropriate loose-fitting natural fibers, but rest assured that their toes are steel-reinforced.

Château de Guédelon guide Sarah Preston explains the reasoning:

Obviously, we’re not trying to discover how many people were killed or injured in the 13th-century.

Learn more about Château de Guédelon, including how you can arrange a visit, here.

Explore the history of treadmill cranes here.

And see how the Château de Guédelon has housed Ukrainian refugees here.

via The Kids Should See This

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Artist Makes Astonishing Armor for Cats & Mice

As a child, Jeff De Boer, the son of a sheet metal fabricator, was fascinated by the European plate armor collection in Calgary’s Glenbow Museum:

There was something magical or mystical about that empty form, that contained something. So what would it contain? A hero? Do we all contain that in ourselves?

After graduating from high school wearing a partial suit of armor he constructed for the occasion, De Boer completed seven full suits, while majoring in jewelry design at the Alberta College of Art and Design.

A sculpture class assignment provided him with an excuse to make a suit of armor for a cat. The artist had found his niche.

Using steel, silver, brass, bronze, nickel, copper, leather, fiber, wood, and his delicate jewelry making tools, DeBoer became the cats’ armorer, spending anywhere from 50 to 200 hours producing each increasingly intricate suit of feline armor.  A noble pursuit, but one that inadvertently created an “imbalance in the universe”:

The only way to fix it was to do the same for the mouse.

“The suit of armor is a transformation vehicle. It’s something that only the hero would wear,” De Boer notes.

Fans of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard series will need no convincing, though no real mouse has had the misfortune to find its way inside one of his astonishing, custom-made creations.

Not even a taxidermy specimen, he revealed on the Making, Our Way podcast:

It’s not an altogether bad idea. The only reason I don’t do it is that hollow suit of armor like you might see in a museum, your imagination will make it do a million things more than if you stick a mouse in it will ever do. I have put armor on cats. I can tell you, it’s nothing like what you think it’s going to be. It’s not a very good experience for the cat. It does not fulfill any fantasies about a cat wearing a suit of armor.

Though cats were his entry point, De Boer’s sympathies seem aligned with the underdog – er, mice. Equipping humble, hypothetical creatures with exquisitely wrought, historical protective gear is a way of pushing back against being perceived differently than one wishes to be.

Accepting an Honorary MFA from his alma mater earlier this year, he described an armored mouse as a metaphor for his “ongoing cat and mouse relationship with the world of fine art…a mischievous, rebellious being who dares to compete on his own terms in a world ruled by the cool cats.”

Each tiny piece is preceded by painstaking research and many reference drawings, and may incorporate special materials like the Japanese silk haori-himo cord lacing the shoulder plates to the body armor of a Samurai mouse family.

Additional creations have referenced Mongolian, gladiator, crusader, and Saracen styles – this last perfect for a Persian cat.

“I mean, “Why not?” he asks in his TED-x Talk,Village Idiots & Innovation, below.

His latest work combines elements of Maratha and Hussar armor in a veritable puzzle of minuscule pieces.

See more of Jeff De Boer’s cat and mouse armor on his Instagram.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Cats in Medieval Manuscripts & Paintings

Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer  (1471-1528) never saw a rhino himself, but by relying on eyewitness descriptions of the one King Manuel I of Portugal intended as a gift to the Pope, he managed to render a fairly realistic one, all things considered.

Medieval artists’ renderings of cats so often fell short of the mark, Youtuber Art Deco wonders if any of them had seen a cat before.

Point taken, but cats were well integrated into medieval society.

Royal 12 C xix f. 36v/37r (13th century)

Cats provided medieval citizens with the same pest control services they’d been performing since the ancient Egyptians first domesticated them.

Ancient Egyptians conveyed their gratitude and respect by regarding cats as symbols of divinity, protection, and strength.

Certain Egyptian goddesses, like Bastet, were imbued with unmistakably feline characteristics.

The Vintage News reports that harming a cat in those days was punishable by death, exporting them was illegal, and, much like today, the death of a cat was an occasion for public sorrow:

When a cat died, it was buried with honors, mummified and mourned by the humans. The body of the cat would be wrapped in the finest materials and then embalmed in order to preserve the body for a longer time. Ancient Egyptians went so far that they shaved their eyebrows as a sign of their deep sorrow for the deceased pet.

Aberdeen University Library, MS 24  f. 23v (England, c 1200)

The medieval church took a much darker view of our feline friends.

Their close ties to paganism and early religions were enough for cats to be judged guilty of witchcraft, sinful sexuality, and fraternizing with Satan.

In the late 12th-century, writer Walter Map, a soon-to-be archdeacon of Oxford, declared that the devil appeared before his devotees in feline form:

… hanging by a rope, a black cat of great size. As soon as they see this cat, the lights are turned out. They do not sing or recite hymns in a distinct way, but they mutter them with their teeth closed and they feel in the dark towards where they saw their lord], and when they find it, they kiss it, the more humbly depending on their folly, some on the paws, some under the tail, some on the genitals. And as if they have, in this way, received a license for passion, each one takes the nearest man or woman and they join themselves with the other for as long as they choose to draw out their game.

Pope Innocent VIII issued a papal bull in 1484 condemning the “devil’s favorite animal and idol of all witches” to death, along with their human companions to death.

13th-century Franciscan monk Bartholomaeus Anglicus refrained from demonic tattle, but neither did he paint cats as angels:

He is a full lecherous beast in youth, swift, pliant, and merry, and leapeth and reseth on everything that is to fore him: and is led by a straw, and playeth therewith: and is a right heavy beast in age and full sleepy, and lieth slyly in wait for mice: and is aware where they be more by smell than by sight, and hunteth and reseth on them in privy places: and when he taketh a mouse, he playeth therewith, and eateth him after the play. In time of love is hard fighting for wives, and one scratcheth and rendeth the other grievously with biting and with claws. And he maketh a ruthful noise and ghastful, when one proffereth to fight with another: and unneth is hurt when he is thrown down off an high place. And when he hath a fair skin, he is as it were proud thereof, and goeth fast about: and when his skin is burnt, then he bideth at home; and is oft for his fair skin taken of the skinner, and slain and flayed.

Pigs and rats also had a bad rep, and like cats, were tortured and executed in great numbers by pious humans.

The Worksop Bestiary Morgan Library, MS M.81 f. 47r (England, c 1185)

Not every medieval city was anti-cat. As the Academic Cat Lady Johanna Feenstra writes of the above illustration from The Worksop Bestiary, one of the earliest English bestiaries:

Some would have interpreted the image of a cat pouncing on a rodent as a symbol for the devil going after the human soul. Others might have seen the cat in a completely different light. For instance, as Eucharistic guardians, making sure rodents could not steal and eat the Eucharistic wafers.

Bodleian Library Bodley 764 f. 51r (England, c 1225-50)

St John’s College Library, MS. 61 (England (York), 13th century)

It took cat lover Leonardo DaVinci to turn the situation around, with eleven sketches from life portraying cats in characteristic poses, much as we see them today. We’ll delve more into that in a future post.

Conrad of Megenberg, ‘Das Buch der Natur’, Germany ca. 1434. Strasbourg, Bibliothèque nationale et universitaire, Ms.2.264, fol. 85r

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Winnie the Pooh Went Into the Public Domain, and Someone Already Turned the Story Into a Slasher Film: Watch the Trailer for Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

Where Christopher Robin plays

You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood

Of Christopher’s childhood days…

Those sweetly sentimental lyrics were penned not by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-The-Pooh but rather the Academy-Award winning songwriting team of brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, who also penned the scores of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book.

If you are under the age of 60, chances are your concept of Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit and Tigger is informed by Winnie the Pooh and Honey Tree, the 1966 Disney cartoon that launched a successful franchise, not E.H. Shepherd’s charming illustrations for the 1926 book, Winnie the Pooh, which entered the public domain this year.

This means that Milne’s work can be freely reproduced or reworked, though Disney retains the copyright to their animated character designs.

Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, told the Washington Post that the bulk of the inquiries she fielded in the lead up to 2022’s public domain titles becoming available had to do with Winnie the Pooh:

I can’t get over how people are freaking out about Winnie-the-Pooh in a good way. Everyone has a very specific story of the first time they read it or their parents gave them a doll or they [have] stories about their kids…It’s the Ted Lasso effect.We need a window into a world where people or animals behave with decency to one another.”


Judging by the trailer for their upcoming live action, low budget feature, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Jagged Edge, a London-based horror production company, is not much interested in Ted Lasso good vibes, though they do manage to stay within the limits of the law, equipping a black clad Piglet with threatening tusks, and dressing the titular “silly old bear” in a red shirt that doesn’t exactly scream Tummy Song.

More like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Producer-Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield whose as-yet-unreleased credits include Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare and Spiders on a Plane told Variety that “we did as much as we could to make sure [the film] was only based on the 1926 version:”

When you see the cover for this and you see the trailers and the stills and all that, there’s no way anyone is going to think this is a child’s version of it.

Here’s hoping he’s right.

The trailer traffics freely in slasher flick tropes:

A bikini clad young woman relaxing, obliviously, in a hot tub.

A hand held camera tracking a desperate, and probably doomed, escape attempt through the woods.

Unnerving warnings written in blood (or possibly honey?)

The childish scrawl on the sign demarcating the 100 Acre Wood is both faithful to the original, and unmistakably sinister.

Equally disturbing is the lettering on Eeyore’s homemade grave marker. (SPOILER: as per Variety, a starving Pooh and Piglet ate him…and apparently discarded a human skull nearby.)

The “enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days” has gone decidedly downhill.

Director Frake-Waterfield paints Pooh and Piglet as the primary villains, but surely the college-bound Christopher Robin deserves some of the blame for abandoning his old friends.

On the other hand, when a college-bound Andy tossed his beloved childhood playthings in a giveaway box at the beginning of Toy Story 3, Buzz and Woody did not go on a murderous rampage.

As Frake-Waterfield described Pooh and Piglet’s devolution to HuffPost:

Because they’ve had to fend for themselves so much, they’ve essentially become feral. So they’ve gone back to their animal roots. They’re no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.

An interview with Dread Central offers a graphic taste of the violent mayhem they inflict, even as Christopher Robin, as clueless as a bikini clad innocent in a hot tub, bleats, “We used to be friends, why are you doing this!?”

Unsurprisingly, the film’s tagline is “This Ain’t No Bedtime Story.”

View production photos, if you dare, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto Her allegiance has long been with the 1926 version. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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What’s Entering the Public Domain in 2022: The Sun Also Rises, Winnie-the-Pooh, Buster Keaton Comedies & More

Hear the Classic Winnie-the-Pooh Read by Author A.A. Milne in 1929

The Original Stuffed Animals That Inspired Winnie the Pooh

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