I made a thing.

June 17th, 2018

Does everyone know about my ongoing feud with Russia? Specifically, how goshdurned good they are at crafting and how I feel compelled to crush them with my talent? I believe I mentioned it here. And here. In keeping with this quixotic quest I received an email from my sister K. with pictures of bead-woven necklaces from a Russian website. Even though I couldn’t read anything I looked at the pictures and I really liked the wildflower look of the pieces.

Specifically this one.

While viewing this unabashed awesome talent I got all huffy and was like NOT THIS TIME, RUSSIA. IT’S MY TIME TO SHINE. So I decided to make a lariat for myself using only beads I already own with leaves and seeds at the bottom. I found a whole bunch of really pretty twisted metallic / rose gold-like bugle beads so I worked off of that and made this. I think it turned out pretty great.

If you decide to make a necklace like this, might I recommend what I did which is build all the leaf / seed elements separately and then assemble them as you make the dangly components. That way if you make something that isn’t working (which happened to me) you can simply unravel the cord and remove the leaves and seeds, then fix it and put them back on. No harm, no foul.

Fun fact: I did a Google image search to find out the name of the artist of those wildflower necklaces and it is… Margo Fields. A woman from New Mexico. Not a Russian. I got all riled up for nothing. I don’t regret creating the lariat, it is a piece I will wear and it was a nice stretch for me, but perhaps in the future I should do research before I get a bunch of cyrillic bees in my bonnet unnecessarily.

 

Podcasts that are simultaneously fascinating and appalling. Enjoy!

June 8th, 2018

I had to build a massive project and I wanted something nice to listen while I was enmeshed in work hell so I went to Snorth for a list of podcasts to plow through like it was my job. The project is over and I’ve made it through a goodly portion of Snorth’s recommendations. She and I both like a good true crime podcast and here is the list of what I’ve listened to so far. Warning: these podcasts will not increase your love for your fellow man. Many, too many folks are made of paranoia and hammer claws. Every episode has me making this face:

Like, I get you have to kill that person. They wronged you, I understand. But did you need to do weird stuff with the body? Was that completely necessary? Cut them up? Shove the parts in a tree? Eat the remaining bits? It’s too much.

True Crime Obsessed. Here is the description from their site:

This podcast is a place for you to get even more information on all things true crime. We’ll be talking about podcasts, documentaries, movies (as in “Zodiac”), books, television shows, you name it. 

There is so much out there and we’re going to tell you about it in a knowledgeable and, let’s be honest, funny way. We will always be respectful but we’ll also sprinkle some levity in there because if we don’t we’ll all be miserable, depressed messes. These are the true crime conversations you’d have with your friends… if your friends didn’t think you were a total creep for wanting to watch “There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane”… again.

It’s two people, Patrick Hinds and Gillian Pensavalle, two theater nerds who I believe host a Broadway  musicals podcast together as well. They are gloriously sassy and opinionated and they ring a bell when they like someone (“Hero Bell!!!”) or when they do not like someone (“Garbage Bell!!!”) (it really helps that they announce what kind of emotion they’re conveying with the bell because it’s the same bell for both). True Crime Obsessed predominantly covers documentaries but they’ll branch out to other mediums on occasion. They have a Facebook page where they take suggestions. It’s about as much fun as you can have listening to horrific stories about liars and cheaters and murderers. I definitely recommend it.

 

Criminal. Here’s the description from their site:

Criminal launched January of 2014, and is based in Durham, North Carolina. New episodes come out twice a month, always on Fridays. In 2015, we won a Third Coast International Audio Festival “Best Documentary” award for our story, 695-BGK, and were chosen as an iTunes “Best of 2015.” In 2016, we were featured in “Best of” lists in Wired, The Atlantic, USA Today, and Rolling Stone. We travel all around the country to interview people, and sometimes take the show on the road to tell stories live.

“A true­ crime podcast that understands crime as something sociological, historical, even anthropological — that crime is a function of people, time, and place. With incredible sound design, marvelous writing, and a boldness in the way it makes its choices, there are few shows that feel more alive.”  –Vulture

This is a very NPR-y type structure. The nice lady who hosts, Phoebe Judge, has a strong case of soothing NPR voice which for some reason I find wildly irritating. I feel compelled to post Patton Oswalt’s bit about NPR whenever I mention NPR. However, I girded my loins and gritted my teeth and now I don’t even hear Phoebe’s vocal stylings at all. I built up a tolerance, I guess. It’s a well-researched show that interviews the victims (when possible because, you know, sometimes they’re dead) or the family members so it’s not second-hand. Unlike Serial each episode is its own entity which I did not realize until the third episode. I was SO confused. It’s an excellent podcast to listen to while you’re organizing files or color-correcting images. Interesting, engaging but not overly or unnecessarily dramatic. Also, someone draws a little descriptive sketch for each episode and I am a big fan of hiring illustrators in this day and age.

 

Small Town Dicks. Worst name for a podcast ever. Here’s the description from their site:

Small Town Dicks is a podcast about the big-time crime that’s happening in Small Town, USA. Each episode features the detectives who broke the case in their small town, and includes assets like jailhouse phone calls, suspect interviews and 9-1-1 calls. The show is anchored by veteran, identical-twin detectives Dan and Dave, and hosted by actresses, Yeardley Smith and Zibby Allen.

Do you recognize that name, Yeardley Smith? It’s because she’s the voice of Lisa Simpson. Let me tell you how weird it is to hear the voice of Lisa Simpson ask a police officer, “So, when you found the corpse did you run a rape kit or wait for the coroner?” Aside from the culture shock of Yeardley’s voice, it’s taken from the point of law enforcement and what see and encounter when they go to crime scenes as well as how they they interrogate the people of interest to sort out what happened and who’s responsible. It’s interesting to hear the perspective of cops and detectives on the crimes they experience.

 

Sword and Scale. This podcast is a grim one. Here’s their description:

Sword and Scale is an internet radio show and website covering the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it. The show and website were launched January 1st, 2014 and feature stories of murder, abduction, rape and even more bizarre forms of crime. It’s the purest form of true-crime where nothing is off the table. Everything from 911 calls to court testimony, interviews with victims and sometimes with perpetrators give listeners a 360 degree look at the entire story. Told from the narrator’s point of view, Sword and Scale goes beyond the news clips and the sensationalist headlines to give listeners the whole story and deeper insight into the cases it covers than any other medium.

They don’t cut corners. They don’t soften the details. You’re gonna learn all the facts no matter how upsetting. Sword and Scale plays a great deal of the 911 calls so get ready for unintelligible screaming. I do recommend it though, but don’t binge-listen like I did. It will give you a big case of the gloomies. Maybe alternate with a comedy podcast, or one on wine-tasting, something light and refreshing with laughter and pleasure.

Some artists I am feeling right now.

June 1st, 2018

Oh, there’s a good crop of artists out there this spring. So much delicious, delicious talent.

First, there’s Amanda Louise Spayd. I had seen her work on various websites and every time my eyes would be immediately drawn to it. She works in mixed media using (from what I can tell) resin, fabric, polymer or epoxy clay, wire, vintage bits and bobs and buttons, etc. I love how all of Spayd’s soft sculptures have a look that’s a mix of horror and concern.

Spayd works with other artists and also sometimes moves away from the cloth-based interpretations into harder mediums. And she does super-sweet drawings.

Her is her website: http://www.amandalouise.com/

And here is her shop: https://www.bindlewood.com/

It appears that she doesn’t sell her soft sculptures in her store, you probably have to contact a gallery that sells her pieces.

 

Then, there’s Philip Barlow. I am a huge fan of photorealistic paintings. I have a poster in my home by Richard Estes of people in phone booths that is a favorite of mine.

I think what I love about Estes’ work is how he makes the most mundane of imagery into works of art.

Philip Barlow does something similar. He takes a very ordinary subject, people going about their daily lives, and by taking the reference photo out of focus and then painting the result, creates beautiful color fields filled with colored circles where you know most of the information but there’s enough left out for you to imagine.

If you have mad cash you can purchase his work here: https://www.everard-read-capetown.co.za/artist/PHILIP_BARLOW/works/1599

If you’re more like me you can purchase prints of his work here (and they have a great selection): https://www.icanvas.com/canvas-art-prints/artist/philip-barlow

Back from the dead, it’s… KITCHEN!!! (ominous chord of music, women screaming in the distance)

May 27th, 2018

Uh God. Yeah, so. The kitchen. Remember that? Well, the good news is I tiled the entire backsplash, all of it. Every square inch. Very proud. Pictures later. Now bad news. The countertop, which I poured several years ago, has yellowed considerably. I used a resin that swore up and down it did not turn yellow over time and granted, it happened pretty slowly but it indeed happened and it looks tolerable because it’s supposed to be water, but it’s definitely not the color I wanted. Ignore the cloudiness, that was intentional because the resin has clear glitter mixed into it. Here’s what it looked like freshly painted:

And here’s what it looks like now.

I found the original paints and put some dots to show you how far it’s gone.

Luckily I am the owner and creator of this kitchen so I can deal with this myself. Again, it looks fine because it’s supposed to be water but I want it how I want it and I’m going to get it to how I want it come hell or high water. So Cricket graciously took out my sink:

And my stove:

I bought a fancy sander that oscillates and I am sanding down the resin considerably until it’s pretty thin.

Once it’s the thickness and smoothness I need, I’m going to repaint all the elements which is simple because I can see exactly what I’m supposed to do through the resin. I’ll just paint them on top, no stencils required. After that the scary part happens. I won’t pour resin again, so I can either:

1 – Roll on several coats of a sealant which will leave a very slightly nubbly texture that I’m fine with, or

2 – Spray on several coats of a sealant which will leave a very slightly nubbly texture that I’m fine with.

Most people use resin because they want a glass-like smooth finish that’s easy to clean but that’s not necessary for my project. I can wash food smears off of a slightly nubbly texture just fine. That’s what a “leather finish granite countertop” is. It’s very slightly textured. I’ll conduct a variety of tests and leave them in the sunlight for a portion of the summer to see what happens.

I’m also going to swap out my incandescent kitchen lights for non-UV LED lights. That will probably help as well. Wish me luck.

 

Addendum:

Here’s a video that shows how resins yellow over time. Be careful which ones you use, regardless of what they say.

And here’s what I’ve bought to test out on my sample board:

 

Mmmmm, charts, fresh from the oven. Smells good, don’t they?

May 24th, 2018

 

This entire series is interesting:

Internet musings.

May 15th, 2018

1. I was on Amazon buying something unnecessary and this ad popped up because Amazon clearly knows its target audience:

I was faced with a quandary. If I was going to watch this game (I wasn’t), who would I root for? Normally I root for the animal, but these are both animals. What’s a girl to do? I decided I would root for the Seahawks because they have a bird of prey name and I love owls (it’s a stretch but let’s work with it) AND even though I adore female cardinals (their drab coloring compliments the redness in their beak) I’ve noticed cardinals are very mean to the other birds at bird feeders and I don’t want to be complicit in that. So I would support the Seahawks. SPORTS FAN!

 

2. Everyone know what a black metal band is? Wikipedia says:

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, a shrieking vocal style, heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, raw (lo-fi) recording, unconventional song structures, and an emphasis on atmosphere. Artists often appear in corpse paint and adopt pseudonyms.

You can go on YouTube, there’s a ton of videos there. A thing that is extremely common amongst black metal bands are illegible spiky tumbleweed-resembling logos.

There are great memes out there that illustrate my point:

So, with all this in mind, Snorth’s husband Speeb sent me this on Facebook:

And I tried to figure out the names. I really, really tried. I felt like I was at an eye exam. Here is my response:

 

3. Look at this sea cucumber video! It’s like a little pulsating sphincter and then BOOM! Arms outta nowhere. I love it.

https://gif87a-com.tumblr.com/post/167984024750/this-sea-cucumber-waking-up-to-eat

 

4. Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A place… with people, I guess. I don’t know anything about it. What I do know is there was a camera – you know what? I’m not going to explain. The pictures explain themselves.

 

5. I could watch this gif all day. What awesome costumes. I am so impressed.

 

6. So Maxine Waters is a congresswoman from California and she is relatively famous for the phrase “reclaiming my time.” Refer to this video for clarification:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EvuBakBj3I

And God bless the internet, because now there’s this and I watch it at least once every couple of days.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4u3nt-TFXM

 

Addendum: “99 Red Balloons” played on red balloons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZND9dApFKU

Vienna and Krakow, Part 11 and done.

May 11th, 2018

Salt mine! But first, other stuff.

I was told the typical food of Krakow is the deep-fried crispy pork knuckle, so I went to a typical restaurant that had tablecloths with those awesome Polish flower patterns, they look like this:

Where I ordered the pork knuckle. I have limited knowledge of the porcine foods being brought up without them in my home so I was not prepared for the massive meat knob that was placed before me.

Seriously, it was huge. I started delving in and it was nice. It tasted exactly like a turkey leg from the RennFaire. And it’s really not as much meat as you’d think, there’s a giant bone going through the middle. The knuckle came with mustard and horseradish. Lemme tell you something: Eastern Europe loves its horseradish and I am 100% here for it. Horseradish is a wildly underappreciated foodstuff and we need to incorporate it into more of our daily meals because hell yeah. So good. The Moomins got another authentic Polish dish which was duck with apples. She loved it.

But the true star of the meal was the personal pan pizza-sized breadloaf filled with mushroom soup. Yes. Oh yes.

The other restaurant we went to, and I recommend this heartily, is Grandma Raspberry. That’s the name of the restaurant. Raspberries are a big deal in Poland, kind of like blueberries in Maine. The top floor of the restaurant is fine but we were seated in the basement which… okay. I’ve never personally been to a bar / brothel in the Wild West during the gold rush so I can’t say if this is what it was like but I can say that this is what I imagine it was like. Sort of. The basement was decorated with swagged fabric and flowery couches and lamps that I can only describe as slutty (“Gentlemen, why don’t you rest your weary feet here for a moment and have a refreshin’ glass of fizzy water while I go get the girls?”). There was a man in the corner playing jingly-jangly music on a pianer. The waitstaff was all underage pretty blonde girls with roses in their hair (“We got a lovely new crop of ladies on the train last week, they’re as fresh as a new penny and rarin’ to please”). I think in an attempt to “Grandma” it up there were vitrines filled with antique dolls but it only contributed to the prostitute-y vibe.

Make an effort to check it out if you go to Krakow. The food was really good too. Here’s the menu: http://kuchniaubabcimaliny.pl/files/menu/krakow-ul-slawkowska-17_12-11-2013.pdf

Okay, salt mine. Remember the whale bones which were mistaken for dragon bones earlier? That means there used to be a sea there. The sea dried up, the salt was left behind. For millenia bubbly salt water came up to the surface and people gathered that but around 1300 the water dried up so people started digging for the salt crystals. The salt is vaguely green due to a small amount of other minerals mixed in with the salt, same as how Himalayan salt is pink. In a couple of spots the salt is reddish due to minute amounts of iron. But it’s all mostly greenish.

It starts with you waiting in a room that looks like it’s from a train station. The salt mine has been a tourist attraction for hundreds of years apparently. It’s still in use and extremely large. We were in there for about two hours walking through both big and small chambers and we only saw about 6% of the mine, so there’s a ton more that’s actually being mined presently.

 

Important to know: if you suffer from claustrophobia don’t visit this mine. In order to keep oxygen flowing there are all kinds of scary metal doors and the doors behind you have to slam closed in order for the doors in front of you to open so sometimes you are trapped in small shafts with many people for a several seconds at a time.

You then walk down waaaaay too many steps. I wouldn’t have had a problem with it except they were kind of spiral steps so you get dizzy and lose your sense of up or down about halfway through. It is not awesome.

Because salt is plastic and has some flex to it the miners cut down the entire forest surrounding the mine to prop up the inside. A great deal of it is painted white because you need fewer lights to illuminate a white space. It makes everything easier to see and when it’s 1753 and you’re under the earth dealing with oil lamps that is definitely a plus.

 

Until fairly recently the miners used their own back-breaking labor to chop the salt out of the walls. Now they use machines and dynamite but in the parts we were in you could clearly see the pick marks from the pick axes.

And in some places moisture got in and made what is called “salt cauliflowers.”

The early employees there were apparently treated really well. They were paid decently and they only worked eight hour shifts. The only problem is they had to walk up and down all those gazillion stairs. Some of the workers had artistic skills and that’s where the coolness of this place kicks in. Being super-devout Catholics they carved a chapel. The floor, the walls, the chandeliers – all carved out of salt and all by mine workers. It’s very impressive.

 

There are other chapels throughout the mine but they have non-salt elements. WHICH IS CHEATING.

There are pools of saltwater and no surprise here, they are very salty. In the 1800s there used to be rowboats you could rent and paddle around down there but a boat tipped over and three people drowned so no more rowboats.

In addition to the chapels and pools there are niches with sculptures, both religious and non-religious. There’s King Casimir the Great who, it is said, “inherited a Poland of wood and died in a Poland of stone,” implying that he built up Poland and brought it into the modern era (as modern as it gets in 1350).

They have gnomes that come to life at night and help the miners (TRUTH. FACTS. POLAND.)

There’s Princess Kinga and the story of the mine. Taken from Wikipedia:

There is a legend about Princess Kinga, associated with the Wieliczka mine. The Hungarian princess was about to be married to Boles?aw V the Chaste, the Prince of Kraków. As part of her dowry, she asked her father, Béla IV of Hungary, for a lump of salt, since salt was prizeworthy in Poland. Her father King Béla took her to a salt mine in Máramaros. She threw her engagement ring from Boles?aw in one of the shafts before leaving for Poland. On arriving in Kraków, she asked the miners to dig a deep pit until they come upon a rock. The people found a lump of salt in there and when they split it in two, discovered the princess’s ring. Kinga had thus become the patron saint of salt miners in and around the Polish capital.

There are a couple of people I do not recognize:

And Pope John Paul II who I very much recognize:

As we headed out we walked through the giant room where wedding receptions are held. It is pretty common for people to get married in the salt chapel.

In a children’s play area there are anthropomorphic salt crystals harvesting… themselves, I guess.

And if you’re wondering did I lick a random probably unclean wall? I most certainly did. It tasted pleasantly salty.

Okay! That was my trip to Eastern Europe (you should go) in winter (but not in winter). Now back to art and internet posts.

Vienna and Krakow, Part 10.

May 6th, 2018

Okay, we covered the depressing. Back to the positive things humanity has contributed to history.

But first! A doorframe. I saw a Baroque doorframe with angry… weasels? Lizards? Dog griffons? I couldn’t tell. Thankfully, the club made their logo a line drawing of the guardian beasties so that mystery was solved right quick. Thank you, Klub Pod Jaszczurant.

This was our heated towel rack. I developed a deep and powerful relationship with this towel rack. I would come back from sightseeing frosty with crisp extremities and drape myself on this towel rack. I think the towel rack and I are married in some villages, so intimate was our contact.

In one of the churches I visited I saw a ceiling motif of the ten commandments. Now I’ve always seen them split even in two, five on one side and five on the other. Here it was the first three on one side and seven on the other, which I found odd. I asked my dad why they did that and he said the first three commandments deal with your relationship with God, where the remaining seven deal with your relationship with your fellow man. Ergo, the uneven split. Knowledge!

So if you remember I mentioned that when a building needed repair in Krakow they repaired it in whatever style was popular at the time of the repair, not the style that was popular at the time of the building’s creation. This worked out well for me because one whole church interior was fixed and painted in the Art Nouveau style which is my favorite artistic movement.

The windows were stained glass in the Art Nouveau style but they weren’t very good so I didn’t hurt myself trying to take pictures of them. The church was very dark and the windows were very bright and my camera was like, “What… precisely… are we going for here” so I didn’t fuss with the windows.

Before WWII Krakow had a ton of Jews. Now it’s got about 200 permanent resident Jews but approximately 700,000 Jews visit Krakow every year so the former Jewish district has been turned into a sort of cultural center with restaurants and museums relating to the community that used to live there.

Most of the buildings are around a small town square. This was the oldest remaining building from 1300-something.

Here’s the school off to the side. I like brickwork and am a sucker for a good brick building. Mock me if you must, I will find solace in my bricks.

Here’s a bit of Roman wall. The Jews were sent outside the city limits at one time and it’s cool to see where the city limits used to be.

This was the butchers market. In the center of this octagonal building is where the actual kosher killing happened and then the stalls where you would buy the meat. Now there’s a vintage and second-hand market there on certain days in the stalls.

The Old Synagogue (so named because it’s from the Renaissance) is now a museum. It has a really lovely clean interior with several original elements remaining.

The main thing I took away from visiting this museum (which I recommend, it’s small but excellent) is that Jews loooooove lions on their religious objects and, bless their hearts, they cannot make a decent lion for all the money in the world. There was these ones:

And this:

And these cheerful failures:

And my personal favorites from the 1700s that I call “If I’m going to get lions wrong I’m going to get them epically wrong.”

Brief moment of grimness (listen, it’s Europe, it’s Jews, things are going to get crappy, it’s unavoidable). We walked through the former ghetto. This was the SS office in the center of the square.

After the ghetto was liquidated and everyone in it was sent to concentration camps, the Nazis threw all the furniture in their apartments out of the windows and the square filled up with furniture. So as a memorial the square is filled with bronze chairs. Some believe it represents all the furniture that was thrown out. Some say they are waiting for their owners to come back (spoiler alert: it never happens). It’s a very impactful memorial.

We also went to the Remu Synagogue. From Wikipedia:

The Remah Synagogue, is named after Rabbi Moses Isserles c.1525–1572, known by the Hebrew acronym ReMA (pronounced ReMU) who’s famed for writing a collection of commentaries and additions that complement Rabbi Yosef Karo’s Shulchan Aruch, with Ashkenazi traditions and customs.

I was interested in going there because I heard a story (remember, we’re in Krakow where there are no myths and fables, only TRUTHS and FACTS) that Rabbi Moses Isserles wrote a book that was very important and then he buried it in the backyard where a tree grew out of the book. Then when Rabbi Isserles died he was buried under that tree as well. When people tried to dig him up to move his body to a better cemetery the tree smacked the crap out them with its branches (“No move body! I smack!”) and when bombs were dropping the tree bent over and protected the body from damage. I love that this rabbi is protected by something that is half Whomping Willow from Harry Potter and half Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. I wanted to see the tree and wandering around an old cemetery is always on my list.

 

Headstones had lion fails as well. This one looked like Courage the Cowardly Dog screaming.

Someone had taken the broken headstones and embedded them on the back wall.

The interior of the actual synagogue was very small and cute.

And it took me a while to figure out why there was a lobster on the ceiling because, hello? Sooooo not kosher? But apparently there were the signs of the zodiac around the perimeter of the room (which still makes very little sense because isn’t that Greek mythology, whatever).

Next entry: The Salt Mine! With the Salt Church! And that’s the end of the trip.

Vienna and Krakow, Part 9.

April 20th, 2018

Alright, let’s do this. Better we just get it over with. Head’s up: It’s going to get pretty dark so if you’re not into that maybe skip this one.

Auschwitz is the German name for the Polish town of Oswiecim. Here is some info from the Wikipedia page:

Auschwitz I was first constructed to hold Polish political prisoners, who began to arrive in May 1940. The first extermination of prisoners took place in September 1941. Auschwitz II–Birkenau went on to become a major site of the Nazis’ Final Solution to the Jewish Question during the Holocaust. From early 1942 until late 1944, transport trains delivered Jews to the camp’s gas chambers from all over German-occupied Europe, where they were killed en masse with the cyanide-based poison Zyklon B, originally developed to be used as a pesticide. An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to the camp, of whom at least 1.1 million died. Around 90 percent of those were Jews; approximately one in six Jews killed in the Holocaust died at the camp. Others deported to Auschwitz included 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Romani and Sinti, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, 400 Jehovah’s Witnesses, and tens of thousands of others of diverse nationalities, including an unknown number of homosexuals. Many of those not killed in the gas chambers died of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, individual executions, and medical experiments.

Just to give you an idea of how many people were killed, there was one point in the war where 5,000 people arrived at Auschwitz every day for years. When the Soviets came in there was a total of 7,000 people there, many of whom died after being liberated. The purging was extremely thorough.

We arrived at the main camp called Auschwitz (the secondary camp is either called Auschwitz II or Birkenau). I think it used to be a Boy Scout summer camp with rows of brick buildings. I saw the sign and I thought I was going to freak out but I didn’t. Surprisingly to me, I thought I was going to freak out at several moments and I didn’t. I was just sad.

 

All these buildings are now displays of exhibitions. Each building has a theme. We only walked through about two of them. They had piles of the things left behind, like 800,000 shoes, or eyeglasses.

Or the opened cans of Zyklon B.

Or human hair. Everyone arriving got shaved and the hair was woven into blankets and socks for the German submarine crews. When Auschwitz was opened there was approximately 7.7 tons of hair.

I decided a while back that even though I really did not want to go to Auschwitz I would because sometimes you need to suck it up and see history but I had one condition: No Mengele. I cannot deal with the idea of medical experiments. As soon as we walked past Mengele’s building I was getting ready to bolt out of earshot but luckily the guide basically said, “This was the building where Mengele worked,” and that was it. You could go in if you wanted to and see the exhibit but I decided I’d like to not have nightmares for forever so I took a hard pass on that.

We walked past the firing squad area. There were all kinds of bouquets and memorials all over different part of the property. It was kind of heartwarming to see, these acknowledgements of the loss and sacrifice.

We also stood where the band played every day to set a marching rhythm for the prisoners coming home from the fields. I found that particularly macabre, being a prisoner, having to play upbeat music while people are struggling and carrying their dead friends (your whole bunk was penalized if everyone wasn’t there for roll call, meaning you had to hold up the dead on your shoulders until everyone’s name was called).

I was surprised to see the lack of gas chambers and crematoriums, but that was to come in Birkenau. We took the short drive over to the second camp where I got to walk through the Gate of Death.

That’s where the train cars would come in filled with people. Between the tracks they were separated into two groups – ones that were fit to do forced labor and not fit. Interestingly, the opening scene from the first X-Men movie does an excellent job of showing what that was probably like. 95% were found not fit and sent to the gas chambers immediately. (The fit ones would be worked to death, a process taking on average about three months, after which they would succumb to starvation, alimentary dystrophy, gangrene, necrosis, internal hemorrhaging, and typhoid fever.) Zyklon B would come out of the shower heads instead of water which took approximately 20 minutes to kill everyone. Zyklon B contains potassium cyanide which prevents cellular respiration. After everyone was dead they were brought to the crematorium which ran 24/7. They still could not burn the bodies fast enough so some prisoners’ jobs were to grind up the unburnt remains like teeth and bones of strangers as well as potentially their friends and relatives. The ash was then thrown into the fields or dumped into the lakes in the area.

Before the end of the war the Germans didn’t want the world to know what they did so they destroyed most of the gas chambers and crematoriums before they abandoned Birkenau. There are remnants left.

To represent the destroyed gas chambers, a memorial was built in the location of one with phrases written in every language of people who were sent there to die.

If you’re in the area I recommend you take some time and visit. It’s definitely depressing but I think it’s worth the opportunity and Auschwitz is far more sanitized than other camps I have visited (like Mauthausen, which is in far better condition and where I found myself standing in the gas chamber itself.)

Next entry: Back to churches and art and probably churches.

Vienna and Krakow, Part 8.

April 15th, 2018

Hey everyone! I apologize, I was doing great there and then I got caught in a vortex of work where I had to, and I am not kidding about this, learn a massive amount of the animation program After Effects in a week. Yeah. That happened. I mean, it’s still happening but if I have to look at another keyframe tonight I will punch an innocent so I’m going to talk about Krakow. Krakow! Home of depressing Jewish history! Let’s get into it. Oskar Schindler from the movie Schindler’s List, remember how he was a good guy? Spielberg lied to us. Here’s the truth: Oskar Schindler was a Nazi which we knew. BUT his factory was a German camp. The workers did 12 hour shifts every day, 7 days a week. In the morning they were given black coffee and a piece of bread, lunch was soup with sausage and dinner was black coffee and with a piece of bread. They lived in barracks behind the factory so Schindler wouldn’t have them getting sick or wasting time walking from a nearby camp every day. It was like this for YEARS. And after the war Oskar fled to Argentina with all the other Nazis. He never did the famous scene where if he sold his watch he could save one more or any of that. He wasn’t a hero, he was just pragmatic. Sick or dead workers can’t work. You may address me as Jessica The Truth-Spewer And Dream-Killer if you’d like from this point on. I’ll understand.

The Schindler factory has been turned into a museum and the major exhibit, which is a collection of the buildup to the war and then the occupation in Poland, is creepily excellent. The reason I say “creepily” is because you walk through it and sound in piped to set the scene which makes it very personal. The Moomins and I felt much more of an impact when we were there than when we were at Auschwitz where everything was scrubbed down and sanitized. I was quite a bit shook up but I took some pictures when I remembered to use my camera.

Oddly worded sign in the entrance of the museum.

I looked up what “cold steel” is and it is, in the Wiki’s words, “an American manufacturer and seller of knives, swords and other edged weapons and tools based in Ventura, California. Special Projects is a division of Cold Steel Inc. that produces a line of tools and weapons such as Spetsnaz-type shovels, sjamboks, and spears. Additionally a line of tomahawks, axes, and hammers is marketed under the name of The American Tomahawk Company.” So I’m guessing they’re saying no weapons of any kind.

The Germans required detailed reports on how everyone was doing in the ghettos so someone made this handy-dandy chart of how many of each age group of people. Aside from the grim subject material, I very much liked the design style.

Ugh, this tiled floor. Tough to walk on. I felt like it was leeching bad vibes into the soles of my feet. It didn’t help this music was playing simultaneously. The whole mood was ominous to the nth degree.

Other elements from the exhibit.

This one made me grin. There’s a British comedy skit referencing this particular uniform that I immediately thought of.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn1VxaMEjRU

That’s enough staring into the horror of mankind for today. Since the Schindler factory was in the industrial part of town the factory across the street had been turned into a glass-blowing and ceramic space. Please note that the logo was a dragon blowing glass. Never forget the dragon is real! NEVER FORGET.

And because the industrial part of town has many artist’s studios it was not surprising to see the knitted trees.

Aside from the major cathedral in Wawel Castle there are approximately eight thousand other churches in Krakow. I only visited a handful but they were pretty great. My favorite was St. Mary’s Church in the Old Square.

Here’s some knowledge on it:

Built in the 14th century, its foundations date back to the early 13th century and serve as one of the best examples of Polish Gothic architecture. Standing 80 m (262 ft) tall, it is particularly famous for its wooden altarpiece carved by Veit Stoss (Wit Stwosz).

On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejna? mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of Saint Mary’s two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. The noon-time hejna? is heard across Poland and abroad broadcast live by the Polish national Radio 1 Station.

I heard and saw the trumpeter when I was there. He was perched near a window in one of towers and when he finished he waved his very shiny trumpet out the window and we all waved back and cheered. It was a very jocular medieval moment. You’ll also note the two towers don’t match. Why? I’ve decided it’s because under no circumstances should there be any symmetry in any Polish architecture ever. Please refer to the Wawel Cathedral for additional proof.

The exterior is lovely, but the inside was redone in the 1800s and completely polychromed and it is IMPRESSIVE. My breath was tooken away.

The only painted portion that bothered me was at the base of the curved arches when they turned into the pillars. That red part looked unfinished and a bit sloppy, like they could have done more with that. I normally wouldn’t be bothered by that but it really stood against all the excellent and detailed artwork all over the everything else.

A cool bit I noticed in several Polish churches was putting an arch at the of… the aspe? The front where the priest conducts services from. I forgot what it’s called. That place. Anyway, before that tube starts they put an arch or a bar with the crucifix on it as like a kind of gate. It’s notable to me because it’s unusual, I don’t see it in other countries’ architectures. I thought is was an interesting touch. It’s like it’s saying, “This church may be dedicated to this saint or that saint, but Jesus comes first. Don’t forget.” Here it is in St. Mary’s Church.

And here it is in another church.

Moomins got very excited about a set of extremely large medieval doors and insisted on me taking a picture of her with them. So please enjoy this photo of The Moomins with a set of extremely large medieval doors.

And I was slightly less excited but still somewhat excited about this icon because it’s the first time I’ve seen an icon done in what I consider the Russian style, with the metal plate over the body. It reminded me how close I was to where my ancestors are from (Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine). It’s the closest I’ve ever been.

Coming in the next entry: I’m undecided. Should I cover Auschwitz and get it over with like pulling off a bandaid or should I show some of the nicer things and then finish up on that awful note? I guess we’ll find out.