Mexico 2019 Part 4.

March 12th, 2020

More city center stuff! Before we delve into that, let’s look at a sign that made me feel a variety of emotions simultaneously – rage, despair, confusion, sadness, other ones. Here it is.

Now I spend my entire day creating signage like this so I have trained my eye to catch bad choices. Therefore the epic tragedy of this sign might not be immediately obvious to you. That’s why I made these helpful notes to bring you into my world of sorrow.

Ughhh. I know there are amazing designers in the country, go find one and rectify this.

I also wanted to show you the symbol of Mexico because it pops up periodically. You can see it on the flag. It’s an eagle holding a snake in its claw on top of a cactus with a indigenous thing under the cactus. I’m not being disrespectful. I asked numerous times what the thing was. It looks kind of like a pillow with thick twig branches. No one could tell me except that it was part of the pre-Hispanic era.

I looked on Wikipedia. It says the symbols are:
The eagle, in a combative stance
The snake, held by a talon and the beak of the eagle
The nopal on which the eagle stands; The nopal bears some of its fruits (tunas)
The pedestal, on which the nopal grows, immersed in the Aztec symbol for water
Oak and laurel leaves encircling the eagle cluster; tied together with a ribbon with the Mexican flag’s colors

Okay, so that’s more information than I had before. I still want to get clarification on the details but that’s good for now. Related: Since our tour ended near sunset I got to watch the folding of the giant flag.

CHARCH! We went to the cathedral. Unfortunately, like most places of conquest the cathedral was built on the site of the previous religion’s destroyed house of worship. These were the original steps.

Surprise: The churches and cathedrals, despite being build during the Baroque period which is the most gaudy period in ever, are surprisingly tasteful. I mean there are splashes of WayTooMuch but the whole interior is not bad. The only gold-encrusted excessiveness was the organ and the altar. The organ is very cool, it has organ tubes sticking directly out and it’s double-sided.

Here’s the altar. It’s very Baroque.

But the rest, lovely. Clean. Simple.

I saw a pendulum in the middle of the aisle. I’ve seen those before and they’re usually to show the rotation of the earth throughout the year but this one is different. Since the city is slowly sinking into the mud this one shows how much the cathedral is shifting.

The city has a lot of tilting, a lot of sagging. Near the end of the tour we saw a two buildings where they needed to spackle between them because they were ever so slowly sliding away from each other.

Outside the cathedral is the main square. The cathedral is a major center of Catholicism. It may seem obvious but it’s important. Directly in front of the cathedral were people sitting in front of blankets. I assumed they were selling trinkets but no, they had herbs and candles and other objects. And they were practicing pagan rituals taught down throughout the generations from their ancestors. I heard a sound that concerned me, it sounded like a man AGGRESSIVELY vomiting but it was one of the shamans doing a bark / growl combo. He was cleansing a woman of demons because she was possessed. This is real. Did I mention this was happening in front of the cathedral? And is that a child’s skull on that blanket? It was at that time that I left. I did not need that answered.

Time for candy and snacks. We went to a ye olde candy shop that sold traditional Mexican sweets. The interior and signage is intact and unchanged.

The guide Pau pointed out one particular snack, a brick of seeds. She said:

“You know, this was banned when the Spanish got here.”

Me: “?”

Pau: “It is amaranth held together with honey.”

Me: “Sounds nice.”

Pau: “But it used to be held together with human blood.”

Me: “Ok, there it is.”

After that we went past the Palacio de Bellas Artes. It looks like a glorious Europen turn of the century building.

But if you get up close there are smatterings of Mexican imagery. Like the man wearing the jaguar head and the snakes around the doorway.

See? If you’re not looking you could totally miss it.

There were a few other things we saw that were notable. One is the inability of the Mexicans to carve lions in the 1500 – 1600s. They had jaguars. They did great jaguars. Imagine a jaguar with a fluffy mane, right? Nope. Janky dog-monkeys for days.

Coming up next: Murals and craftsmen.

Mexico 2019 Part 3.

February 21st, 2020

I apologize for the tardiness between posts. My whole family thought my dad was DYING. We were doing the whole bedside vigil thing at the hospital which, as you can imagine, is very time-consuming. Over time we settled on Dying?? and then it turned into straight-up Not Dying and now he’s in a elderly care facility. I still split my time between working and helping my mom and there was no blogging. But now that he’s in a home and stable I can return to my regular activities. I would like to share my favorite picture from this whole ordeal and it’s when they transferred my dad from the hospital to the home.

Uhhh, that doesn’t look right, with the seat belts all higglety-pigglety like that. What is he, Hannibal Lecter? I sent the photo to Cricket who has locked many a person onto a stretcher in the same way and he simply wrote back “All of that is wrong.” I started laughing and couldn’t stop while I took this picture. Look at my father’s face. His expression says “Is this mockery absolutely necessary?” (It was.)

Before we get back to Mexico proper let’s look at some rando pics I have and wish to share.

Art Nouveau stained glass.

Extremely large cactus. The Moomins for scale.

Coffee maker. I had them explain how it works. You put water in the golden container on the right and light the little flame underneath it. The water boils and goes through the tube into the glass container with the coffee grounds in it. Then the flame is extinguished and the vacuum created causes the now coffee-infused water back into the golden container. You open that wee spigot in the front and you’ve got your coffee. I think it’s pretty cool.

Okay, onto the actual topics of the day. We went on a tour of the main part of Mexico City in the morning and then a tour of the murals in the same area. First we explored the center of the city. The guide (who’s name was Pau, she was awesome) said if we take one thing away from this tour it is “Don’t build your city on a lake.” There was originally an island in the center and then the island-dwellers made proto-islands all around that to grow crops and then they became legit islands and then the lake was drained and now everything is on squishy ground and is sinking down in the most inconvenient way. This is a major church in the middle of the city.

The property of the church is a solid four feet below the street level because it is heading on down and they can’t lift it up, churches are very heavy. So now there are stairs and that’s just how it is.

This is the city square. It is the third largest city square in the world: First there’s the one in Moscow, then Tiananmen Square in China and this one.

Off to one side was a section where someone was digging to create a structure and oh look it’s an archeology site and now we can’t dig anymore.

It was very cool. There was a snake, possibly a feathered serpent:

But the thing that I found the most helpful was a 3D map that showed all the islands that the original dwellers made to grow crops.

Hospital! Pau took us to a hospital, the most mundane-looking hospital you can imagine. If I had to describe it I would use the words “unexceptional and satisfactory.” Here’s a picture of a hallway.

I couldn’t fathom why we were there until Pau took us inside. Turns out the bleh hospital was built around a colonial hospital and that was secret-y and beautiful.

You can see a bit of the present hospital built around this courtyard.

Here’s the entry on Wikipedia about the history of this hospital.

The Church and Hospital are supposedly located at the spot where Hernán Cortés and Moctezuma II met for the first time in 1519, which was then the beginning of the causeway leading to Iztapalapa. Cortés ordered the hospital built to tend to Aztec soldiers wounded fighting with the Spanish.

In his last will, Cortés states that he wanted the hospital to be built for the sons of the Aztec warriors who had perished in battle during the Conquest of Tenochtitlan. This was not an institution for wounded Spanish soldiers.

In 1646, the hospital was the site of the first autopsies performed on the American continent, performed to teach anatomy to medical students of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. In 1715, the hospital published the Regia Academia Mariana Practica Medica to promote more professional practices in the field of medicine in New Spain. The building today continues to function as a hospital.

On the second level a class was being taught to the hospital staff. Did you know nurses still wear those WWII origami hats? I did not.

I was delighted to see that someone built anatomy models out of clay as opposed to buying fancy plastic ones. Crafts! For science!

Now, I came with The Moomins to Mexico City to see the murals by all the famous artists (there will be a post about them later). I am ashamed to say my favorite murals were the ones surrounding the outer edge of this courtyard painted in the 1970s by no one of note. I thought they were so smooth and magical, like a combination of Rousseau and Where The Wild Things Are. I found a photo of the panel representing the meeting of Cortés and Moctezuma.

The Wikipedia entry says that the strip above the mural is original from the 1600s and I’d like to believe that, but Wikipedia also says these murals were painted by the famous Mexican artist Orozco and that is definitely wrong. This is the mural.

And this is a typical example of Orozco’s work.

Yeah, no. I don’t care who you are, you can see that. So the entire second floor has this mural representing the typical life of  pre-Colonial and a bit of post-Colonial societies. There is symbolism everywhere. For example, the reason the little kid is holding a bunny near the moon is because the bunny represents the moon. I found that so cool because Japan has the same folklore. It’s amazing how distant cultures have the same mythologies.

This is a wedding. The bride and groom tied their garments together during the ceremony which Mexicans still do but on a smaller scale like tying handkerchiefs together. The elders on either side are whispering wisdom to each other and those marks coming out of their mouths represent talking. It’s so cool that they look like our speech bubbles but the pictograms were created hundreds of years ago and were translated when the Aztec Codexes were found. People have always been people.

This panel represents magic and occurrences that foretold the future. That’s what the comet represents as well as the conjoined twin.

In addition to corn, squash and beans, the food staples of the indigenous people, insects were and are a big part of the diet (as mentioned in an earlier post). The two big edible bug groups are grasshoppers and maguey worms. The woman is covered in maguey worms and no one knows what the artist was going for but the common theory is that she is the spirit and source of the vital protein.

Once outside again we saw a cornerstone of a Spanish building. When Cortés ‘n’ Crew arrived they wanted to convert everyone to Catholicism so the Spanish knocked down all the existing temples and scattered the stones so the temples could not be reassembled. After a substantial amount of time Catholicism was the official religion and the Spanish could ease up on the oppression of the local belief system. Someone found this cool stone and used it as the cornerstone, probably not realizing it is the head of the most important god of the original Mexicans, Quetzalcoatl the Feathered Serpent.

Coming up next: More Mexico City tour with Cathedral.

Mexico 2019 Part 2.

January 21st, 2020

We’re going to talk about Gods and Death, big day, but first – eatin’ bugs.

Mexico is not afraid to talk about their penchant for insect consumption and that’s how we stumbled on this exhibition:

What enticed us in were the very large wicker ants gracing the foyer and balcony.

The actual exhibit had photos of local insects with recipes which I neglected to copy down so now we will never know the proper way to prepare moth stew or whatever.

And I was delighted by the print of an anthropomorphic beetle reading an important document to a rapt audience of winged critters.

Unrelated but still on the topic of food: I had no idea that Lebanese cuisine had such an influence in Mexico. But I saw shwarma stands all over the place.

I learned that shwarma is a Lebanese influence. Mexico has a whole bunch of different influences. From Wikipedia:

During the 19th century, Mexico experienced an influx of various immigrants, including French, Lebanese, German, Chinese and Italian, which have had some effect on the food. During the French intervention in Mexico, French food became popular with the upper classes. An influence on these new trends came from chef Tudor, who was brought to Mexico by the Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg. One lasting evidence of this is the variety of breads and sweet breads, such as bolillos, conchas and much more, which can be found in Mexican bakeries. The Germans brought beer brewing techniques and the Chinese added their cuisine to certain areas of the country. This led to Mexico characterizing its cuisine more by its relation to popular traditions rather than on particular cooking techniques.

Okay, on to the main topic. Day 1 started with a trip to the Anthropological Museum. It is a totally awesome museum, especially in layout. There’s an big open middle plaza between all the buildings that make up the museum. The plaza is covered by cement and it’s supported by an enormous pillar with indigenous symbols. Bonus: It’s also a fountain. Like a giant tree surrounded by a waterfall. It’s great. This is my picture and it’s crappy. However you can get a sense of scale. That small man with his arms up at the bottom? That’s Cricket and he’s 6’2″.

Here are some better pics I found on the web.

As we entered the first exhibition hall we were greeted by this sculpture.

And this display of a necklace made from human teeth.

I was like “Oh, you’re not going to warm me up with an icebreaker? We’re gonna go right into it? Alright, okay.”

I saw this article when I got home and I understood it. Crystal clear. The Pre-Columbian people were not cute. They would eat your children and make a tiara of the leftover phalanges if they felt like it.

One of the best displays was the outdoor temples. Now remember, we’re in the middle of a city with limited space so whoever designed this did a kickass job. The temples are nestled in thick foliage and you really couldn’t hear the cars even though you were right next to the street.

I saw of my favorite exhibition items, like a mummlet (what I call a mummy that’s in the crouching position, bonus points if they’re stuffed in a ceramic urn).

A selection of shrines with offerings.

Some excellent filigree work done with gold.

Clarification of filigree and why it’s so impressive.

That’s tough to do today with modern tools, imagine how difficult it was to do way back then.

Here’s a supremely janky looking snail.

A screaming badger.

This smiling… frog, maybe? We’ll go frog.

There was a recreation of mural (because the original is some cave in the mountains) and I loved how the brown and black elements overlapped and interacted with each other.

There were some tombs with their contents.

What appeared to be a quaint little KKK meeting rendered in clay.

When I first saw this pair of earrings I immediately went “Nazi!! Nazi earrings!!” but when I got closer I realized my error. From farther away they distinctly resemble something Fuhrer-y.

The cafe downstairs had very nice offerings and if I go back I want to get the salad with the grasshoppers.

And I liked the way you donated to the museum. You dropped coins in the mouth of the snake and they zippered their way down to the bottom. Good design.

Mexico 2019 Part 1.

December 30th, 2019

Mexico! I went a ways back to Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta for the beading intensive with my dream beading artists so I’m not going to cover everything because I did a considerable amount already (see here for the last trip). Anything new I will share aggressively; I accrued a lot. Let’s start with the flight to Mexico City. As we lined up to board I was next to some men that had a really specific look going on. After studying their tattoos (skulls, Satanic pentagrams, skulls with Satanic pentagrams, horned demon faces, flames, upside-down crosses, naked ladies making bad choices, etc.), their black clothing and their guitar cases I came to the (correct) conclusion that these gentlemen were in a band. I did some research when I saw the stickers on their luggage and their name is Belphegor. Belphegor is listed as “blackened death metal” because apparently “death metal” didn’t adequately get the point across. Some of their albums are Blood Magick Necromance, Infernal Live Orgasm and my personal favorite, Bondage Goat Zombie. What was most surprising is they were very nice. I don’t know what I expected, maybe they would eat raw meat or something but they didn’t do any of that. One of them had a neck pillow covered in other band’s names which was rather sweet. The only problem I had was – you know when you’re finding your seat and you’re putting your luggage in the overhead bins and the plane is playing pleasant stuff? The lead singer called in “scheisse musick” and I was like sir, this is Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold Me” and while it is not everyone’s taste it’s a classic, I’m sorry AeroMexico is not blasting some festive number about a cockroach-infused undead woman so settle down with your snotty comments. Drink your beer and eat your snacks and hush.

Please enjoy their logo.

My main purpose for going to Mexico was two-fold: One was to show The Moomins the Diego Rivera murals and Teotihuacan and to go to the studios of the artist who made the alebrijes I saw in Puerto Vallarte. In case you don’t remember I went to a gallery called Peyote People where I was introduced to this exquisite work:

http://design-newyork.com/blog/2016/05/24/mexico-part-3-and-done/

Yeah. I felt a lot of feelings but the pieces were thousands of dollars and that’s more dollars than I have. I did end up buying some small pieces and I was right – going directly to the artists’ studio dropped the prices considerably. An added bonus is watching them work and meeting them in person. That was pretty miraculous.

Here are a few loner images to whet the appetite.

This place was not open so I don’t know what they were selling. I will never know.

I really liked this chandelier with the flame-shaped glass caps over the actual bulbs.

You’re damn right I paid to take a picture with the Mexican Freddy Mercury. That’s not an opportunity you can pass up.

At a church there was this campaign to make items for handicapped people using soda tops. I liked both the idea and the designs.

There were almost no Chinese restaurants which as an American made me feel confused and uncomfortable so when I saw this one I felt compelled to take a picture of it.

The skyline of Mexico City main square at sunset. I like this picture. It’s so black and spiky.

More to come.

Growth and knowledge via the Internet.

December 21st, 2019

I went to Mexico! To look at art! And Oakland California! Where I ended up looking at art! Now I’m back. While I go through my gross dirty laundry and my stack of photos please enjoy these informative treasures.

 

1. This is a long read but it’s totally worth it. I was blown away.

https://pricklylegs.tumblr.com/post/188456524966/synebluetoo-costumersupportdept

 

2. There’s a man who makes things and I delight in watching him work. His name is Bobby Duke and not only is he talented as hell, he is also charming and has a Southern accent. I do love me an accent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkbJemDY-00

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBcjGlXuQAI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSFPG1ACz5g

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taF0nY9GqMg

 

3. I saw a video where a gorgeous male elk walked reeeeeeal close to some men who I think were fishing. The elk was so majestic. He turned his face toward the camera and made his call which sounded… piercing and otherworldly. I don’t know what I expected an elk call to sound like but it wasn’t this.

https://pricklylegs.tumblr.com/post/188374421161

I thought this elk might have been an anomaly but apparently not

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20PET6-Hr_c

I think it’s pretty amazing. People compare it to the sound the undead tormented nazguls make in Lord of the Rings but now that I know it comes out of such a cool creature I don’t find it frightful at all.

 

4. No one think of the cameraman.

https://blizzardofjj.tumblr.com/post/188492221581/nobody-thinks-of-the-cameraman

 

Update: Apparently EVERYONE knows the sound an elk makes except me. I am disappointed in myself for not knowing the calls of antlered mammals but I guess you can’t know everything. Hopefully this disappointment will ebb.

Update on the update: It has not ebbed.

The time has come for charts.

November 11th, 2019

I included these pictures of gourds and pumpkins because I am loving the names.

And this isn’t really a chart situation but I find the comments delightful.

Deer Skull 2.0.

November 4th, 2019

Remember Blinged Out Deer Skull? Cricket gave me a deer skull he found in his backyard and I decided to cover it with beadwork. The finished product looked like this:

I was content with Deer Skull for a while but the I found the box of supplies I used for it and I decided to fix some things that bothered me.

1. Those daggers on the bridge of the nose. They don’t match anything and since they’re so protuberant they tend to fall off, requiring me to glue them back on regularly.

2. The bead-woven sections. I was a bit precious with those, not allowing anything to cross over or overlap with them. That makes them look like they’re not integrated with the piece as a whole and I don’t want that.

3. Those sequins and pin on the forehead beaded panel. Not doing anything to improve the piece.

Here is the skull with the updates:

I’m much happier with it now. That’s how it goes with art: You make something and then after some time has passed and you’ve lived with it for a while the piece can evolve.

Rotting never looked so good.

October 30th, 2019

We’ll get into the title topic but first: I went to the new ‘n’ improved MoMA! They got the building next door and expanded into that new space. It is a very big museum now. My friend G is a member and got me in for $5 so it was well worth my time. We went through all the new stuff (they have structures covered in bells that I thought were great) and we went through the older, most established collection (Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, etc.) That’s where I saw the cat.

That cat is so very special. It reminded me of the naive style of Rousseau.

Untrained, simple, clean. Not a great grasp of three-dimensional space. That was when I noticed a detail of the cat painting.

That is a perfectly rendered lion sculpture. Exact proportions. The light hits exactly where it’s supposed to. Which means the artist could have painted a nice normal cat but chose to make this janky-ass busted cat-thing with no back legs and eyes that look right through your torso laying on a really disorganized couch. I have questions for this artist. Several questions.

Okay, back to the title. I love love love when artists take aspects of life we as a culture consider ugly and make it beautiful. That’s where Kathleen Ryan comes in. You remember those foam fruit impaled with sequins on your grandma’s table? It was a very popular look in the 1960s.

Kathleen Ryan makes larger-than-life fruit and covers the surface with semi-precious stones and steel pins to mimic mold and the natural process of the fruit breaking down. It is stunning work. Her style and where she chooses to place the stones and shells and pearls are so creative.

There’s a video of how Kathleen works. It loops. I might have watched it four times in a row.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B2ekksLBx-2/

I would like to steal this idea and make something similar. I have many beads I don’t know what to do with, I inherited them or someone gave them to me, this would be a terrific way to use them up.

Caitlyn the Mortician and an origami cat.

October 18th, 2019

I’ve spoken on many an occasion about how much I like Caitlyn the Mortician. Here and here, specifically. Snorth got tickets to see Caitlyn live on her book tour and since both Snorth and I are big fans we decided to combine our talents to make Caitlyn a present. We decided on a unique origami cat. Snorth folded one and I took it and drew spookiness all over it. I tried to make it special by putting the date and “4 C8lin” (“For Caitlin”) on the back of the head.

Then I unfolded it and smoothed it flat.

It turns out that all the illustrations were on one side of the paper which is good because you don’t have to worry about the front and the back lining up when it’s printed. I photographed the unfolded drawing and brought it into Illustrator and made a elegant crisp Illustrator file from it with some slight modifications so it’s wouldn’t be an issue if during the folding process things were not exactly lined up (Snorth called it paper creep).

After Snorth printed and folded the new Illustrator version I decided it needed some festive glitter so I took one of my nail polishes and jazzed it up a bit with a dotting tool.

Because unless you have fancy cameras and lights the glitter never shows up properly here is the nail polish I used, First Class by ILNP. You can appreciate the holo.

And Caitlyn loved it! Here is the photo of her and Snorth and Snorth’s niece.

I’d like to think it’s on display somewhere in her home or office.

Internet things I have come across in my travels (on the www, I didn’t leave the house.)

October 13th, 2019

1. Evelyn from the Internets. She has existed for a looooong time but I only came across her recently when I clicked on a video about the origin of “Black sounding” names. Really interesting btw, I learned a lot. Who knew French was such a big part of it? Not me, you know, until now. I thought hey maybe this nice person has more videos and then I crawled into her YouTube page and I have not emerged for days. I will now post some of my favorites.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=575LByUKT00

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KWHfNxntlQ&t

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR1iO5J1mK4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVie7O6lF1Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6b2aN-yKrQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhTrCCdCVm0

 

2. Does everyone remember the great kid who captured his relationship with the local deer back in 2016? If not, here you go:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1IRrZEmBe0

Guess what happened in 2019??

https://coldgamekelv.tumblr.com/post/186343370606/my-girl-canela-is-out-here-enjoying-her-hot-girl

 

3. This is a thing that is.

This is not the first charitable act Pornhub has done. I never stop being amused by their actions. In addition to the scholarship referenced below, Pornhub had a $25,000 scholarship for women in STEM. You don’t have to be in the adult entertainment industry, you simply need to answer their essay question like any other scholarship. I would love to work on Pornhub’s charity projects. UPDATE: Oh, Pornhub is Canadian. That explains the niceness.

This video is Safe For Work so no worries.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=18&v=s6R1iwsHdAk

 

4. Anderson.Paak’s “Come Down.” I heard a short bit of this song in an ad and I looked for it. It’s a real tight song and wait a second, are they sampling the Israeli national anthem??

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OqrcUvrbRY

It’s the only national anthem I know all the words to other than the American one. And it turns out, yes, this dope track sampled the Israeli national anthem which is famously morose. Good job, whoever produced “Come Down.” Eclectic choice, I like that.

The Israeli national anthem *: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMwSlp7I7IQ

 

* Which I now found out sampled from Smetana’s “Moldau” and that drew its inspiration from a Scandinavian folk song so errybody sampling errybody .