Ancient Village Facing Abandonment

Ever wanted to live on an island off of the Mediterranean sea?  Now you can!  Homes in  Ollolai, Sardinia are selling for 1 euro, which is about $1.20.  Mayor Efisio Arbau hopes to revive the city, which has decreased in population from 2,250 to 1,300.  There are about 200 historic homes for sale; however, they are in decrepit condition.  Part of the deal includes restoring your house within the next three years (estimated renovation cost is about $25,000).  These homes are made of gray granite which grows on nearby mountains.

This ancient village has an extensive history, which is just one attractive feature.  While three homes have only been sold so far, it seems Ollolai’s culture has been revived through news pieces alone.  As I was reading up on the town, I realized I knew little to nothing about Sardinia.  Its unique culture is a result of its invasion by the Phoenicians, the Vandals, the Moors, as well as the Roman and Byzantine empire.  Evidence of its Stone Age history include surviving dome like structures, about 700 across the island, called nuraghi.  While their function is unknown, they are evidence of a town ‘lived in’ for thousands of years and ironically, their exteriors are in better condition than the homes for sale.

Some other interesting information about Sardinia include its folkloric traditions as well as diverse languages.  Some traditions include “s’istrumpa,” which involves throwing an opponent to the ground to earn the town’s respect in a wrestling-like match.  “Other town events include a carnival where participants wear costumes including goat-style masks with horns, fur and dangling bells or white embroidered face veils that symbolize the union of death and life” (Marchetti CNN).  In terms of language, while Italian is most obviously spoken, other languages include Sardinian, Catalan (from Catalonia, Spain), and Arabic.  I am particularly interested in the Sardinian language which seems both familiar and foreign to my understanding of Sicilian, due to the use of the “ddu” sound.

Other towns like Candela, on the Italian mainland, are also enticing newcomers to their towns, offering payments up to 2,000 euros to relocate with your family, to increase population size and better the economy.  However, Ollolai seems most fit to take on this challenge as new buyers will only add another layer to the town’s rich culture.

-Stephanie Montalti

Source:

Marchetti, Silvia. “Italian Town Ollolai Sells $1 Homes to Lure New Residents.” CNN, 8 Feb. 2018, http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/ollolai-italy-one-euro-homes/index.html


Beef in Nigeria

On January 1st, 2018, Benue State in Nigeria entered the new year with a mass killing of 73 innocent citizens. Why? Cows.

Fulani-Herdsmen
Fulani Herdsman leads cattle on road

Yes cows. The Fulani herdsmen, a group located in the northern region of Nigeria, have been linked to a new wave of violence that stems from disputes over grazing areas for their cattle. Over the past two months there have been numerous sightings of herds of cows, at times hundreds, invading highways, churches, and local secondary schools.

fulani-herdsmen-1
Cattle invade local road in Nigeria

There have been many reasons presented for this crisis. One reason is the climate change that has occurred in the northern region of Nigeria, which is closer to the Sahara desert. The mix of wind and sand as well as lack of rainfall has led to a large amount of soil erosion, making the land used by the Fulani herdsmen incapable of sustaining their cattle. This has caused them to begin to move south, into a territory that is frequented by farmers from other tribes, and has in some cases agitated previous ethnic clashes.

Another probable cause is the rapid increase in the population of Nigeria and the expansion of ethnic groups from their indigenous lands to other parts of the country. Many southern farmers have relocated to areas in the north, which has caused a limited amount of available land for the herdsmen who are native to the north.

cows invaled school
Cows invade local secondary school in Anambra State (southeast Nigeria)

These herdsmen, who have been quoted stating “cattle are more precious than human beings” have shown that they will go to extreme lengths in order to ensure the survival of their cattle. With the new year massacre, it is evident that they are not bluffing. Many of them have suggested that the government do something to relocate the southern farmers out of their native land back to the South, but many are opposed to this because this form of tribalism promotes a sense of separation among the citizens of Nigeria and can soon lead to secession of tribes and the degeneration of Nigeria as one unified country.

Names-of-people-killed-by-Fulani-herdsmen-in-Benue-1
Mass burial held for the 73 people who were killed in the New Year massacre in Benue State

In attempts to salvage this situation, recently the Nigerian government has put forth a proposition they call “cattle colonies.” This policy is set to solve the problem between herdsmen and farmers by designating different strips of land in each state as herding grounds. These grounds will be donated by each state and used for the herdsmen to feed their cattle, without interfering with the agricultural lands used by the farmers. As simple as this may sound, there are complexities that arise. For one, land is very sacred to most Nigerians and involve spiritual aspects in regards to selling or transferal of use. Many will not opt to give up their lands to the government, and the government does not have sufficient laws in place that will allow them to take possession of these lands from the families and communities that own them.

Government officials have also suggested cattle ranching, which would involve building ranches for herdsmen in the northern states and eliminate the southern migration and ethnic clashes. Despite these suggestions, the country is still lacking a concrete solution to the matter. This has left Nigeria in a dilemma, one that the government and the citizens must solve quickly in order to ensure that these mass killings and destruction of land by the Fulani herdsmen does not continue.

-Fortunate Ekwuruke

Sources: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/nigeria-cattle-colony-problem-180128104645450.html

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/11/africa/benue-killings-mass-burial/index.html

A new wave of brazen attacks by herdsmen in Nigeria is sparking fears of genocide

 


Success in Failure

We are progressing into an era of experimental museums. In New York City alone, we have seen the rise of the Museum of Ice Cream, where visitors could swim through a pool of colorful sprinkles for a limited time, and the Museum of Sex, which offers a bouncy room designed to look like female breasts. For a short while, the Museum of Broken Relationships had a pop-up exhibition near Flatiron Plaza that displayed submissions from exes all over the world. In a somewhat similar vein, I would like to introduce the Museum of Failure.

(C) NBC

The Museum of Failure showcases what it says in the title, but as opposed to personal failures, the museum places the spotlight on mistakes made by big name corporations. For example, Harley Davidson once marketed their own perfume. Colgate, the popular toothpaste brand, tried to sell frozen lasagna dinners. There is something satisfying about seeing companies with huge advertising teams and publicity consultants stumble and fall.

Through its message and medium, the museum is innovative on two fronts. First, it displays failed inventions and bad ideas as “art” in a museum setting. Traditionally, museums were places for middle to upper-class patrons of the fine arts to admire artistic masterpieces in an insulated environment. They displayed “the best of the best,” whether that meant the most expensive, the most appraised, or the most rare pieces of work. Many museums today still uphold this implicit association, from the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris to the van Gogh paintings hanging in the MoMA. The Museum of Failure subverts this expectation of worth by showing pieces that have little value to the companies that once invested in them and little value to the general public.

(C) SEE Global Entertainment

Second, the museum emphasizes learning from failure in our current times. In our globalized cyberculture, we are bombarded with other people’s achievements and successes. YouTube features videos of child prodigies, musical masterminds, and science geniuses. Instagram showcases the highlight reel of your friends’ lives through saturated filters and bright smiles. Your Facebook feed tells you that your brother’s best friend from middle school got married yesterday to his high school sweetheart. As a social media voyeur, it’s hard to feel accomplished about doing anything when you measure yourself up to the global scale of talent. Even the smallest failure might make you think, Oh God, what is wrong with me? The Museum of Failure is a much-needed venture behind the scenes in which the B-roll is actually the main event. So the next time you make a mistake at work, remember that the multimillion company Bic once made a line of pens exclusively “For Her” – because of course, women can’t use the same pens that men use.

(The museum is open now in Los Angeles, and will open in April of 2018 in Helsingborg, Sweden. However, the official website states that the Museum will be going on a world tour, so a exhibition might be opening in New York City in the near future.)

– Monica Saw-Aung

Sources

The Museum of Failure, Special Entertainment Events (SEE), failuremuseum.com.

Petroski, Henry. “Will the Museum of Failure Succeed?” American Scientist, vol. 106, no. 1, 2018, pp. 20–23.

 

 

Poem of the Week

“Poetry’s a hard sell sometimes… whereas the sandwich or the steak frites… And yet what happens is we come to these certain times where nothing works except for the poem. The sort of 9/11s of your experience. You’re kind of like, ‘I can’t walk, talk, sleep, eat.’ And then the poem comes in and kind of provides salve… It’s a kind of feeding. But, then you know, there’s the bad poetry. Whereas a kind of shitty roast beef sandwich works out.”

This excerpt was taken from a discussion between author Kevin Young, and Prune chef and writer Gabrielle Hamilton from August, 2016, about the relationship between food and poetry. The conversation contextualizes a provocative notion about consumption. In her book, “Blood, Bones, and Butter,” Hamilton discusses her time spent travelling, and the various ways she grew familiar with her hunger, and, consequently, satisfying her appetites. The two marry this gastronomic satisfaction to a less physical one, and ultimately pose the question to each other: what value is there in poetry?

Later in the conversation, Young remarks that,

“I think a lot about just that thing: what is necessity? How poetry is a necessity and how sometimes, like food, we take these necessities for granted. Especially here in the States, I think we spend a lot of time not thinking about our meal, not thinking about the words, and you know, it’s election season so there’s a lot of not thinking about words. And yet, at the same time, we turn to them, as you said, in these really urgent moments. I mean, what happens when someone dies? You eat some food. You hear some poems. You hear verse.”

I stumbled across this interview after scarfing down a pretty crappy sandwich (for those of you who read my blog post from last week – I made it, not my dad, but it still sucked). I am someone who chooses meals pretty carefully, who chooses words pretty carefully. But I was hungry, in denial that my bread was stale, and intentionally-ignorant of the fact that the almond butter had gone dry. By the time I was halfway through, I felt some level of chef’s remorse. I knew this sandwich was going to suck, I had ignored all the signs, and now I had wasted a meal on a sucky sandwich, borne of my own bare hands.

Worse things could have happened, of course, and I quieted the residual flavor of my mistake with cold milk. But – my proactive apologies for being dramatic – this mistake is sort of illuminating in my own understanding of conspicuous consumption.

What is so special about poetry, what makes it so unique, is that it is a form of expression which requires meticulous choice in words. Each pronoun, each lack of adjective, each period and comma and line break, they each, at the very least, cultivate the possibility of expressing something. This possibility is inherent to their existing within the paradigm of the poem. There is something beautiful about the curation demanded by poetry. But this idea of poetry extends beyond itself, and stands to suggest something about the way we consume things in areas where the curation is not guaranteed. Do we hold our news organizations to adequate standards of language? Do we hold the books we read to standards? Do we hold the people we speak with to standards? How many conversations take place daily for us in which we are spewing surface-layer-bullshit to have a cordial, meaningless conversation? Can you imagine if we dropped the act, if we curated all of our conversations to be passionate and consequential and sincere?

Maybe it starts with food. Maybe it starts with acknowledging that the bread is stale. Maybe, if we allow ourselves to feel our hunger, to become familiar with the sensation of desire deep in the pits of our stomachs, we will better understand precisely how to satisfy it, we will know what to make for lunch. Maybe if we listen more, if we think more, if we speak less, better yet, if we allow the spaces we leave in our conversations to speak for themselves, we will understand conspicuous consumption more intimately. Maybe, if we try our best to find verse in what first appears the mundanities of the daily, we will better understand the value of poetry.

That being said, shitty sandwiches do kind of work… at least sometimes.

To listen to the full conversation (which I highly recommend!), check it out here: https://www.nypl.org/blog/2016/08/09/podcast-kevin-young-gabrielle-hamilton

-NG

 

 

Currently Drinking

Traveling as a vegan can be difficult, but the one thing you can always count on is Tequila. Of course, most alcoholic drinks are vegan, but tequila is especially important because so much of food is incorporated into social activities. It’s a bit awkward ordering a salad at the pizza parlor while the rest of the group is moaning around individually carved triangles dripping with cheese. Pizza is such a group activity, it’s the tequila of food world – very few people will buy a pie just for themselves, they long to share it with an entire group, the cheese acting as a glue for the social bonding experience. Just like very few people buy an entire bottle of tequila just for themselves, or even want to order a shot just for themselves. Even when surrounded by strangers, they’ll insist on people taking a shot beside them. Wine, beer, any other drink can be drunk alone, but tequila demands audience participation.

I really do enjoy it. Not so much the taste, or the scorched warpath it leaves down the column of my throat. But I like that it’s cheap, it gets me buzzed faster than anything else, and I adore the ceremony.

For me, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to understanding the appeal of catholicism. There’s a ritualistic nature to taking a shot, followed by painstaking labor I’m able to endure only because I’ve grasped onto enough faith that beyond that point lies euphoria.

And, again, with tequila I get to continue taking part in a primary social experience. (So please God never let me find out that alcohol is bad for the environment, comes at the cost of animals, or is mass produced by starving child laborers. Yeah, I know it’s killing my liver, but that’s a non-issue.) Anyway, here’s the best way I’ve found to enjoy the ceremony:

Step One) Tell somebody you’ve never taken a shot of Tequila before. “What?!” They’ll exclaim, excited to take on some authority, assume the role of an intoxicated priest. More often than not, you’ll find a free shot sliding down your way.

Step Two) Acquire a wedge of lime and a salt shaker, along with your shot.

Step Three) Sprinkle salt on the patch of slightly webbed skin between your thumb and index finger. Feel free to continue past that point, but no need to go any farther than the knuckle.

Step Four) Take a shot. It’ll feel like swallowing all of 2017 in one burning second.

Step Five) Lick your salty hand!

Step Six) Sink your teeth into that lime! Imagine it’s a lifeline to 2020. Don’t let up until you’ve drained all the citris out.

Step Seven) Thank your priest, wander around to the other end of the bar, and repeat as necessary.

Happy Drinking!

~Amanda

Folk Therapy: Todd Snider and Storytelling in Contemporary Folk Music

In mid-December, I sat in standstill traffic on the FDR, staring at tail lights and trying to think of anything except bashing my forehead into the steering wheel out of sheer, unadulterated frustration; this was how my workday felt everyday by 6 PM. By this point, I’d spent the last 8-10 hours in the driver’s seat of a 15-foot U-Haul van, darting from West Village townhouses to Upper East Side high rises, to brownstones in Brooklyn Heights and the quaint cookie-cutter single family homes in Flushing, Queens. In the front seat next to me were spent coffee cups, empty gatorade bottles, sometimes a banana peel or a pre-packaged pound cake wrapper; In the back, behind a thin sheet of steel perforated with holes, like you might see in a prison transport, was my cargo: a pile of Christmas trees.

I’d gotten the job through a posting on Craigslist, off the books, paid in cash, and pretty straightforward: Pick up van and trees from lot, drive trees to customer, set trees up, pray for tips; not the worst gig you could ask for. But after working six days a week for a month, spending most of that time bumper to bumper with taxis and bread delivery trucks and 4-million other near-homicidal commuters, that 6 PM slog back to the lot in Downtown Brooklyn was enough to make me use words that would make my mother disown me. If I didn’t find a way to get through it, even for the last ten days of the season, I was going to snap. And then the answer came to me through my phone speaker.

I’d stopped listening to the radio after 92.3, like many other alt stations, simply regurgitated the same six songs that were currently popular, on top of a few Red Hot Chili Pepper and Green Day tracks, for all twenty-four of its commercial-free hours. Instead, I would bring my phone charger and start up my Pandora app. I’d recently discovered Dan Bern, a lesser-known folk musician from the 90’s, and was playing his station, when I heard what would be my first Todd Snider song, “The Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern.” Within a week, I’d downloaded two of his live albums and was hooked.

Snider describes his music best at the beginning of all of his shows, as he introduces himself: “My name is Todd Snider, I been drivin’ around this country more than fifteen years, I make these songs up and I sing ‘em for anybody that’ll listen to ‘em, some of ‘em are sad, some of ‘em are funny, some of ‘em are short, some of ‘em will seem like they go on forever, sometimes I may ramble on for as many as eighteen minutes in between a particular song.” And ramble he does, but it never drags: Snider is a gifted storyteller, both in his music and in his rambling. His stories about experiences such as meeting “Nascar drivers,” taking magic mushrooms, or his “classic showbusiness story,” are enough to leave the listener laughing hysterically, his pace on point with that of a master stand-up comic. And his music throws a wide net both in genre and in message: his songs range from the bluesy ballad “45 Miles,” about his experience with a car accident driving down a mountain in the Sierra Nevadas, to the happy-folksy picking on the hilarious “Statistician’s Blues,” which pokes fun at the often-times ridiculous habit we have of boiling humanity down to numbers on a spreadsheet.

Snider also isn’t afraid to get political with his music. One of his more popular songs, “Conservative Christian Right-Wing Republican,” is an on-the-nose condemnation of who he feels is pulling the strings of society. As his lyrics put it:

“Quite diligently working so hard to keep the free reigns of this democracy, from tree-hugging, peace-loving, pot-smoking, porn-watching, lazy-ass hippies like me.”

However, most of Snider’s politics come into play in more subtle and clever ways, through songs like “The Devil You Know,” and “Broke.” “The Devil You Know” starts out as a fast-moving ride through the eyes of someone living in a bad part of town, during a man-hunt in his neighborhood for a bank robber. As the song unfolds, though, rather than casting judgement on the robber, Snider saves his criticism for the society that simultaneously condemns the actions of criminals while also putting into place the framework that creates them. By the end of the song, Snider is clear about whose side he is on, as his character helps the robber get away.

In “Broke,” especially, Snider is masterful at layering his opinion into his lyrics. What begins as a simple story of having a credit card declined at a grocery store ends with a tongue-in-cheek jab at the American prison system. It’s these tracks that highlight not only Snider’s ability to tell a clever story, but to leave the listener questioning common perceptions of American society.

Of course, this isn’t to say Snider’s music is all politically charged: much of it is simply a reminder of that great truth we all know yet somehow manage to forget during the monotony of everyday adult life: that we all just need to relax, take a breath, and appreciate the million little things that make getting out of bed every morning worth it. Or as “Ballad of Devil’s Backbone Tavern,” puts it:

“She said ‘Life is too short to worry,’ She said ‘Life is too long to wait, It’s too short not to love everybody, Life is too long to hate. I meet a lot of men who haggle and finagle all the time, Trying to save a nickel, maybe make a dime,’She said, ‘Not me, boy, no siree, You know I ain’t got the time.’”

It was tunes like this one, along with others like “I Can’t Complain,” that reminded me a little bit that traffic wasn’t the end of the world, and that ramming that goddamn Ford Mustang that just can’t pick a goddamn lane would most likely not make me as happy as I imagined it would. The driver of said goddamn Ford Mustang and I thank you, Todd.

-John Tucker

Kishinev

When I was little, I lived in a little city called Orhei in a little country called Moldova. Some people called it Russia since it used to be part of the USSR, whilst others called it Romania because the language and customs were basically the same give or take a couple syllables. I just called it home.

Nowadays, things are different. We used to live in a little farm, with the cow grazing just outside. Her name was Katya. My mom and dad didn’t know this, but Katya and I had a plan to escape in case they decided that we didn’t have enough money to keep her around. This already happened to her friend Sasha, and we agreed that it couldn’t happen to her. When we made this plan, I took the wagging of Katya’s tail as an affirmative.

Right next to Katya was our little hen house. We had ten hens, and all of them were really nice. Their clucking brought calmness to my mind, and when we left for America it was disconcerting to have entire hours where the house would remain completely silent. Not a single moo from Katya or cluck from the hens penetrating the silence.

Back in those days, life was simple. Every morning we would wake up at dawn, and go about the daily chores we had around the house. I had started helping when I was 4, and although I was probably more of a nuisance than help, my parents let me do some of the small things. I was in charge of cleaning the chicken troughs. Our hens were very picky and they had to have clean water! I would always think about ways to scrub more efficiently as I was doing it. I even suggested attaching a brush to a stick so that I could hold two sticks and clean both of the troughs at the same time. Of course I was also the one who suggested putting holes in the roof so that the hens could just drink the rain water.

After we were done with chores, I collected the eggs from the hens, and helped squeeze some milk from Katya. I always thanked her afterwards – “спасиба катя” (spasiba Katya) – and patted her rump. If you didn’t thank her, Katya could be quite the diva. I brought the eggs to my mom and the milk to my dad, and they would go about preparing breakfast.

This was my chance to finally go talk to Andryuha and Farzan. Andryuha was blond and crazy and I had known him since I came to Kishinev after my birth in Israel. Farzan was calm and quiet. He had darker skin. He was from the only Persian family in the city. We were known around the neighborhood as the “разбойники” (razboiniki) – a term that literally means bandits, but in a much more playful sense. We would climb trees, steal fruits, and play with people’s drying laundry. Then we would meet up at Farzan’s house where his mom always had a giant meal waiting. It was a mystery how that woman did it, but every single time a giant feast was available with food that no one else in the city made.

Right about the time I turned five, my parents had decided that the farming lifestyle was too difficult. Living on debt wasn’t easy. They had filed for refugee status as persecuted Jews from the USSR years ago. The US had accepted that application, and they had been postponing it ever since, in hopes that life in Orhei would turn around. It hadn’t. We moved to New York, my father started a small business, and the rest is history.

Nowadays when we come back, we don’t go to Orhei, we go to the major city, Kishinev. We stay at a fancy hotel and walk around the malls. Occasionally we go to the bazaar and I smell the scents of nostalgia, but the full on heart-throbbing sensation of being home eludes me. One year, I decided that I would take a trip to Orhei, just to remember that feeling.

Orhei was different too. The farm we used to live at was now a hotel with a neon sign. However, some farms were still there. The children ran around barefoot and the old apricot tree that Andryuha, Farzan, and I spent hours hanging off of was still standing beautiful as ever. The people didn’t speak Russian like they did when I lived there. Only Moldovan. Everyone that remembered my family remarked that I looked like an American now. That I walked as if I owned the streets, and that everything from my clothes to my way of speaking wasn’t like it used to be.

I went looking for Andryuha, but his mom said he went by Andrey now. It made sense but it still stung. Apparently he was off at a telemarketing conference in France. I added him on Facebook and he said that Farzan lives in California now. He’s also married.

It’s funny how things can live so brightly in memory, and yet grow so much fainter in actuality.

-Eytan Galanter

The Pulp Finesse of Meatloaf’s Hellscapes

While all artworks are intended to evoke senses other than sight, there is no artistic subdivision that so blatantly attempts to conjure a soundscape more than the artwork of an album. Album artwork continues to be painstakingly pondered and created by the musical artist. However, a general and technologically ineludible underappreciation for album artwork has been developing. In an age where music is accessed on smartphones and iPods, album covers seldom exceed 5 X 2 inches. When albums were sold on vinyl records, there was a monumentality that all albums assumed; each had its own distinct stance based sheerly off of the tangible product with artwork designed to be stared at inquisitively as a patron would view a tapestry at the Cloisters.

The interconnectedness of the music and art world has certainly disbanded from what it once was in the 60s and 70s. The Velvet Underground’s alliance with Andy Warhol produced music that was inspired by and set the trends for the New York art scene, culminating in a nothing-less-than-iconic album cover to The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967, subject to Dadaist interpretations since its reveal. Such an alliance between musical and visual artists was attempted most recently to minimal praise by Lady Gaga with her 2013 album ARTPOP, which has an album cover with a Jeff Koons gazing ball and sculpture of the singer interspersed with scenes of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.

Despite the increasing dissipation between artists of complementary mediums, there are certain albums which cannot be regarded without factoring in their cover, which is sonically paralleled in the music, and to imagine another image would be impossible. Three of those albums belong to Meatloaf.

Meat Loaf On stage

Meatloaf: The human incarnation of a fire-breathing dragon moonlighting as a belter of power ballads about feral passions, divine judgement, and Coupe de Villes.

batoutofhell1
Bat Out of Hell (1977). Artwork by Richard Corben.
batoutofhell2
Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell (1993). Artwork by Michael Whelan.
batoutofhell3
Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose (2006). Artwork by Julie Bell.

An apocalyptic Rubens triptych when viewed together, the three albums comprising the Bat Out of Hell trilogy tells an enigmatic story fans are discussing to this day. Shamelessly grotesque, the albums depict the travails of a scantily-clad, red-blooded muscleman exhuming himself out of a grave via a motorcycle with a mare’s head attached able to withstand scorching temperatures. Equally unclothed is a winged woman introduced on the sophomore cover, whom the blonde hero attempts to rescue much to the displeasure of one colossal, raging bat. It is apropos to overly describe such hyperbolic artworks, for their immensity and deliciously pulp renderings is analogous to the theatrical, verbose songs on each album.

As Kandinsky gave music a visually abstract representation, the artists of the Bat Out of Hell albums—Richard Corben, Michael Whelan, and Julie Bell—hyper-realistically transcribe Jim Steinman’s lyrics and Meatloaf’s vocals in a way that the sheet music to such songs could never capture. On the title track of his first album, Meatloaf roars: “I’m gonna hit the highway like a battering ram / On a silver-black phantom bike / When the metal is hot, and the engine is hungry / And we’re all about to see the light / … / But when the day is done / And the sun goes down / And the moonlight’s shining through / Then like a sinner before the gates of Heaven / I’ll come crawling on back to you.” Corben’s technique for the 1976 cover seemed to be to paint the lyrics of the title track in a sci-fi baroque portrayal.

It’s no secret that Meatloaf’s albums have not matched the success and brilliance of his first Bat Out of Hell (which went 14 times Platinum in the United States and is #71 on Q Magazine‘s list of 100 Greatest Album Covers of All Time). Yet, the effervescence of his image and the lyrics’ narrative has been consistently captured by all three album artists. I’m aware that my emotional ties to Meatloaf’s music is why I can tolerate and poke fun at such artwork. The intentionally lowbrow art juxtaposed with the sweeping orchestrations and rock-opera vocals heighten the album’s overall listening experience. It instills a seditious sentimentality, one that glorifies the possibility of rescuing a flagrant exaggeration of femininity from the depths of hell or owning a motorcycle and being downright badass.

While such canvases may never be hung alongside Basquiat at the Met or as revered as a shelf of Alan Moore’s meta-comics, the artwork of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell albums transport viewers to a dreamscape where the heavens are an amorphous auburn shadowing a dystopian city where hell is perpetually at odds with itself. The lyrics carry listeners to parking lots where lovers are losing their virginity and fumbling with Levi zippers before melodramatically proclaiming wanting and needing but never loving each other. The end product is a synesthesia limbo where the colors orange and blue seduce each other and the constant rumbling of a motorcycle can always be heard in the distance.

–Salvatore Casto

An Unusual Med for Melancholy

You often hear that Henri Rousseau was mocked for his amateur paintings, yet I find The Sleeping Gypsy to be the most appealing work of art inside the MoMA. And I’m someone who casually looks at art—I’m not too serious about the endeavor—but gazing upon this painting I feel profoundly moved. My jaw stiffens as if holding back tears—and my cold, bored heart feels oddly thrilled. Heh, please note—I would much rather risk being mocked for my emotional dramatics then deny this painting the thoughtful expression it deserves.

I should mention that The Sleeping Gyspy is an image of a lion that happens to cross paths with a resting gypsy in the desert. The painting dismisses the usual notion—that the ravenous lion will rip this vulnerable woman apart. Instead, there is harmony in a provocative mutualistic symbiosis, however fleeting it may be. The warmth and luminescence of the painting assure me of this. The surprising complexity of this scene immediately radiates upon the mind of any spectator, and leaving them with a mild euphoria. Trust me—this is a painting with a pleasant aftertaste.

 

IMG_4201.GIF

 

It also might be worth noting that Rousseau created this enchanting scene with nothing more than his own innocent musings of the African desert. The Sleeping Gypsy is, in essence—the manifestation of a dream. Derived purely from imagination—I think that’s why it’s a painting you can really converse with, and even explicate from (as I do now).

In conclusion—if you’re ever hit with the melancholy blues—I reckon’ studying this painting for a few minutes might do the trick.

-MC