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Sunday, 2 October 2011

the bell tolls : a book for halloween - no 2, The Book Of Skulls

Works by Noah Scalin from The Book of Skulls by Faye Dowling
Exploring skulls in popular culture these days doesn't just mean alas poor Yorick or horror films, the Jolly Roger or goth bedroom decor. From the Grateful Dead's psychedelic skull posters to Damien Hirst jewel-encrusted art skulls have been invading the mainstream to become a defining motif of our times. Maybe it's all the 2012 end of time, four horsemen of the apocalypse galloping towards us myths that are working on our collective subconscious. Whatever it is, Faye Dowling's The Book Of Skulls gathers together contemporary, skull-based, graphic design images to match the inventive skeletal creations of Ray Harryhausen, including Noah Scalin (works pictured), whose works also feature on his own Skull-A-Day art blog. Whether the skull is the "ultimate anti-establishment" symbol that Dowling says it is is debatable, but this is definitely good seasonal eye-candy, and fit for the coffee table at a very modern danse macabre.
The Book Of Skulls by Faye Dowling, published by Laurence King

taiwan's abandoned city of ufo houses

UFO House (originally uploaded by RAY雷)
The futuristic ufo-pod houses of the Sanzhi vacation resort in Taiwan were aimed at US officers on leave in New Taipei city, but deaths and money losses during construction meant it ended up abandoned soon after completion in 1978. Unfortunately, these Kubrickesque remnants of lost utopian dreams are long gone, with the site flattened for redevelopment at the end of 2008, but at least flickr photos like this one preserve them for immortality. See more pictures of abandoned vacation resorts from around the world at Environmental Graffiti.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

the bell tolls : a book for halloween - no 1, Dracula's Guest

Let's start from the beginning, shall we, in this book a day for Halloween, building the chill factor right up to the eve of Samhain, and starting with the biggest bad of them all, the vampire. Michael Sill's compendium of vampire tales resurrects forgotten Victorian authors, but also places the sharp-toothed bloodsucker in a richly-defined historical context. This isn't just fangs for the memories, or even just a backstory to the recent popular culture invasion from Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Twilight, but also the backstory to Bram Stoker's Dracula. The stories here paved the creepy churchyard path leading to Stoker's breakthrough novel in 1897, and they're set within a lineage that includes the plague, overcrowded cemeteries and folklore from Europe and beyond. Included are the mythic tales that inspired Byron and Shelley, the sensational real-life stories from the Victorian era that honed the vampire into an aristocratic legend and a lost chapter from Dracula itself as well as plenty of gruesome imagination from the lesser-known vaults of vampire literature. The terror is not from the blood, of which there's far less than you'd expect throughout these tales, but from the ghastly dread, and the biographical details and rigorously researched notes that Sims adds, including how a corpse actually rots, drive that stake home on target.
Dracula's Guest: A Connoisseur's Collection Of Victorian Vampire Stories, by Michael Sims, is published in paperback by Bloomsbury in October