“Not all those who wander are lost.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Flamenco, Whatsapp & Google Translate

deur Gerard Scholtz (Rol af vir foto’s) Ana, flamenco cantaura, led us through Seville’s narrow, dark and cobbled backstreets. We were running a little late. [...]

Cordoba, die wit stad

deur Gerard Scholtz (Rol af vir foto’s) Ons het afgewyk van die Silwer Roete om ook Cordoba en Granada in te sluit. Kom so [...]

  • COLUMN
    on 19 October 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Africa is a wildlife destination. If we don’t preserve our wildlife, we will become less than half a destination

  • Ear Inn in New York, New York
    on 18 October 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Name a law, and at some point over the last quarter-century, it’s probably been broken within the walls of this living Manhattan relic. What’s now among the oldest remaining drinking establishments in New York City has been throughout the course of its sordid history a distillery, a brothel, a smuggler’s den, and a speakeasy. There's allegedly a ghost named "Mickey," and it was once home to James Brown—not that one. The bar known today the Ear Inn was built as a home in 1817 for James Brown, an African-American who fought in the Revolutionary War and served as an aide to George Washington. He’s rumored to be the man rowing at Washington’s knee in Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. He commissioned the building with money made from a lucrative career in the tobacco industry. At the time, the shores of the Hudson nearly reached the walls of the building. A wooden panel on the bars facade indicates the late 18th-century's high tide. Extensive landfilling would expand Manhattan westward into the river to accommodate a booming shipping trade. As with most longstanding drinking establishments, the ensuing chain of events is far from definitive and hardly bears detailing. It should suffice to say that the building changed roles and hands, in no particular order, from a distillery serving passing sailors; to a bar whose upstairs was a functioning brothel; to an eatery that served construction workers building the Holland Tunnel; to a bar-restaurant whose upstairs was a doctor’s office; to a restaurant-speakeasy during Prohibition; and finally settling into the modern day as another (albeit, far, far older) Lower Manhattan dive bar. Over the years, the building earned a reputation for being a one-stop shop for every sailor’s unsavory needs. Today, resident ghost "Mickey the Sailor” is rumored to have drank himself to death here in the late 1800s, and makes appearances from time to time waiting for his next shipping job. While the neighborhood around it becomes unrecognizable from the bastion of vice and recklessness it once was, the Ear Inn is one of the last gasps of edge in Soho. “It’s all dog walkers and joggers here now,” co-owner Richard “Rip” Hayman told The New York Times. “In the evening, you can smell the Botox.” Inside, however, the Ear retains the air of an 18th-century longshoremen’s den of vice, its walls crusted with gritty nautical curios and oddball, ear-centric artwork from decades of collection. For much of its existence, the bar was informally known as “the Green Door” in honor of its entryway. It earned its new name in the 1970s. In order to give the spot a more official title without wading through a sea of paperwork to satisfy the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the owners simply spray-painted the right-half of the 'B' on the neon “BAR” sign out front, giving the Ear Inn its name.&nbs

  • Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle in Beverly Hills, California
    on 18 October 2019 at 9:00 pm

    The luxurious neighborhoods of Beverly Hills have no shortage of weird intersections, but this one might be the weirdest. In 2010, publicist to the stars Ronni Chasen was tragically killed in a hit and run at the corner of Linden and Whittier. In the wake of the accident, locals were reminded of a decades-old legend: The Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle. This simple, nondescript intersection has been home to a series of strange events. In 1966, William Jan Berry of the band Jan and Dean got in a near-fatal accident at the intersection, resulting in a months-long coma. Ironically, Jan and Dean was known at the time for their hit song “Dead Man’s Curve.” There were earlier incidents near the intersection, too. In 1947, notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel was assassinated in his girlfriend’s home just across the street from the intersection. The gunman was never found. Most notably, in 1946, Howard Hughes lost control of his airplane, the brand new XF-11, over the streets of southern California. He tried to emergency land it in a nearby country club, but instead crashed into a house at that fateful crossroads of Linden and Whittier. Hughes survived, but suffered lasting and severe injuries. While nothing strange has been recorded in the years since Chasen’s death, the street is now a hotspot for paranormal investigators and others brave enough to test their fate at the Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle.

  • This Artist Builds Tiny, Lifelike Replicas of Beloved Dive Bars
    by John Paul Titlow on 18 October 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Santa Barbara doesn’t have many dive bars. But those that do exist in this idyllic beachside town have one thing in common: Chances are, they’ve been shrunken down into a lifelike, diorama-sized watering hole, complete with tiny features like barstools, beer taps, wine bottles, and weird art clinging to the grit of the walls. These miniature bars are the creation of Michael Long, a local artist who turns some of the area’s most beloved haunts into handmade works of hyper-detailed assemblage art. “The grimier the better,” Long declares between sips of an IPA at Elsie’s Tavern. Fittingly, it’s this eccentrically decorated, cash-only dive that first inspired him to recreate bars when he worked here in the late 1990s. “I enjoy making things that are grittier and more worn,” says Long. “So trying to make something that is beautiful or ornate becomes a real challenge. I like the darker side of things.” These replicas of bars—including local favorites like Elsie’s, The Pickle Room, and The Mercury Lounge—are part of Long’s ongoing assemblage art series depicting the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Built with a mix of raw materials and found objects, each of these structures feels like it could be a miniature movie set. Think Wes Anderson, but with fewer vibrant colors and more cigarette stains. This unique, three-dimensional artwork has gained Long some local notoriety and Instagram praise. Long, who cofounded a small, bizarrely decorated art-studio space call The Rondo, has had his work featured in galleries and exhibitions across town. But it’s the bars that seem to generate the most enthusiasm. “Bars attract like-minded people,” says Long. “It creates a camaraderie that you don’t get at home or at school or at the gym.” Peering into one of these boxes, it’s hard not to get sucked in by the details: beer cans, plants, refrigerator magnets, wine glasses dangling above a worn-looking bar. Even the warm light of the mini-bulbs used to illuminate each interior helps it feel more like the real thing. In Elsie’s Tavern, Long has his mini-Elsie’s diorama with him. Patrons stop in their tracks, do a double take, and walk up to the box to marvel at how realistically it emulates their surroundings. “Getting started is the hardest part,” says Long. “Once I get started, I can knock it out pretty quickly.” He often begins by sketching the room. From there, each box takes about 24 hours to complete. “It’s like a big, backwards puzzle,” he says. “I create all the pieces and lay the entire thing out. Then I take it apart, paint each piece and let it dry.” The painting stage is where much of the grit and stressed-looking texture of these miniature environments comes from. Finally, Long glues and nails everything back together, this time with a more true-to-life feel. “Once it’s all colorized, it all of the sudden becomes like a little movie set,” he says. About 90 percent of each box is hand-fabricated using materials such as wood, epoxy, and wire. In one case, Long used leaves to make fake trash. In another, he used part of a vintage photo slide to create backlit windows. One model even features a neon “OPEN” sign made of small-gauge luminescent wire that actually lights up. While he’s got barstools and cash registers down, it’s these unique details—plants hanging in Elsie’s, or the intricate, Chinese lantern-style lights inside the historic Pickle Room—that require more experimentation. To add beer cans, drinking glasses, and record players, Long tracks down miniature objects from other artists or flea markets. These toy-like objects provide fun, eye-catching realism, but Long uses them sparingly. “I try my best not to make it look like a dollhouse,” he says. “I want it to give an emotional feel rather than be a photorealistic model.” This feels less surprising once you learn why Long first built dioramas, long before he glued together any miniature barstools: his nightmares. Born in Santa Barbara, Long spent much of his childhood moving from place to place. This frequent, disruptive relocation appeared to have a side effect, he says: recurring nightmares in which he never quite knew where he was. The confusion often followed him into a sudden, sweaty state of consciousness. At five years old, Long started building paper-based “dream boxes” that emulated the rooms in his nightmares. “There were a lot of bloody basements and doors that went to nowhere.” He realized it had a cathartic effect. Once replicated in 3D, the dreams would stop. Decades later, Long found himself back in Santa Barbara, an affluent vacation town better known for its postcard-worthy beaches and pricey restaurants than hole-in-the-wall drinking spots or weird art. Still, it’s here that Long has set up shop as the self-appointed, epoxy-armed documentarian of the town’s unpolished, weird underbelly. “There are all of these cool little bars off to the sidelines that are really for the locals,” he says. It’s these hidden gems that seem to resonate the most with people—even if you have you squint to see the details.

  • How to Name a Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda
    by Chloe Berge on 18 October 2019 at 8:20 pm

    A baby mountain gorilla’s eyes glow amber amidst the leafy, emerald-green jungle. Here, deep in the lush, shadowy world of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, it’s the gorillas’ domain. Time slows in the presence of these majestic animals. Sound seems dampened by the thick, balmy air. Only a bird trilling pricks the silence. The park’s tangled, muddy maze has led a group of hikers to the Susa family, a troop of 26 mountain gorillas—including one newborn—that live on the fog-wreathed heights of Mount Karisimbi, one of the park’s inactive volcanoes. Hulking silverbacks saunter across leaf-littered trails, their massive shoulders seesawing with terrifying strength. Others in the family sigh and guffaw with their arms crossed, as the baby coos and lolls about on the forest floor with his mother. To know these animals, even for a brief time, is to want to protect them. And every September in Rwanda, tens of thousands of people gather at a riotous festival in hopes of doing just that. Kwita Izina, a naming ceremony for new baby mountain gorillas—which translates to “give a name”—is modeled after an ancestral tradition used for human babies, and aimed at raising conservation awareness. “This is an ancient Rwandese tradition, and now we’re doing it for our most treasured animal,” says Rosette Rugamba, a founding member of Kwita Izina and owner of Amakoro Songa Lodge, near Volcanoes National Park. “We’re linking conservation and culture.” The custom of hosting a naming ceremony for newborns is one of Rwanda’s oldest cultural traditions, widely believed to date back to the foundation of the monarchy, in the 11th century. A week after a child was born, its parents would invite friends and family from their clan—or ubwoko in Kinyarwanda, the country’s indigenous language—to their home to help choose a name. Women and children would prepare food—typically a one-pot dish combining local produce such as cassava, peas, and peanuts—while the men shared sorghum malt beer. The ceremony would begin with the presentation of the newborn to the clan, followed by a collective prayer to Imana, the supreme being, to protect the family and endow the parents with many more children. Everyone from the tribe’s youngest members to its elders would suggest a name—typically something with an auspicious connotation. Once the parents chose from the list of proposed names, the clan mothers would erupt in cheering and applause, known as impundu (“happiness sounds”), and a parting beer made from fermented bananas, called agashinguracumu, would be served to the departing guests. The family would be showered with gifts, such as a cow or new linens, and the baby would be allowed to leave the house, and enter the outside world, for the first time. This naming ceremony is still practiced today, though adapted to contemporary life. Prayers are often directed to a Christian god now, for instance, and might coincide with the child’s baptism. “It’s a big party,” says Rugamba. “Now it’s also a party for our gorillas.” Mountain gorillas are endemic to this part of the world, spanning the Virunga Massif—a chain of volcanoes that shares borders with Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. But they’ve long been victimized by humans. Despite Dian Fossey’s storied work to protect these endangered animals from poachers and human-transmitted disease—work that included her establishment of the Karisoke Research Center, in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains, in 1967—the gorilla population steadily decreased throughout the 20th century. As the 1994 genocide devastated the country’s people—an estimated 800,000 were killed between April and June—it also left the gorillas unprotected and open to more attacks from poachers. “Three or four years later,” says Jean Paul Karinganire, a biologist at Akagera National Park in western Rwanda, “when Rwandan refugees returned home, they were given land that encroached on gorilla habitat, which further reduced the population.” But slowly, through a strong park-ranger presence and a vigilant local community, population counts have started to climb. Since Kwita Izina began, in 2005, more than 280 baby gorillas have been named. At the same time, the number of mountain gorillas in the wild has risen. According to the most recent census, in 2016, there were 604 in the Virunga Massif—up from the low-water mark of 242 just a few decades earlier—and 1,004 in all (including those in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park). The naming ceremony has helped bolster these numbers in two ways: by raising international awareness about (and funds for) gorilla conservation, and by keeping the local community involved in conservation efforts, and celebrating their successes. Ninety-four percent of Volcanoes National Park staff come from local villages, whose residents actively help protect the gorillas by maintaining the park’s perimeter wall—which reduces human-wildlife conflicts—and reporting suspicious activities in the area. In return, 10 percent of Rwanda’s tourism revenue, including the sale of trekking permits to see the gorillas, is fed back into the local communities surrounding Volcanoes National Park. The money is used to build medical centers and schools, supply clean water, and repair roads and other infrastructure. In September, Kwita Izina was held in Kinigi, a town in the foothills of Volcanoes National Park. Rwandan dancers in vibrant beaded garb moved to the drum-based rhythm of the "Intore," the traditional national dance, whipping their long straw headdresses around like sheaves of wheat in the wind. The hum of the crowd and the pulse of the music grew feverish under the midday sun, until finally, each chosen representative took to the stage—a platform shaped like a silverback gorilla—to share their baby gorilla’s name, chosen from a pool of names supplied by park rangers. Rwandans from all over the country waved the national flag and cheered, as the mythic spire of Mount Karisimbi loomed in the distance. “I loved every minute of Kwita Izina,” says Karinganire, who grew up in Kigali, the capital city. “I first discovered the gorillas when I was 10 years old and watched Gorillas in the Mist. Then at university, my knowledge about them grew, and since this event started, it increased my curiosity. They’re a species that is so unique and close to us humans. Then I got to see them in person in 2012. It was the best experience of my life.” For 30 years prior to the first official gorilla-naming ceremony, mountain gorillas were named by park rangers and researchers in Volcanoes National Park, as a way to track the animals and monitor their health. At the ceremony’s inception, Kwita Izina organizers invited the president of Rwanda and his wife, as well as the park’s rangers, to name the gorillas. But as Rwanda’s conservation success story grew, so did the list of attendees. In 2019, 30,000 people watched as 25 baby gorillas were named by a group of international delegates—selected by a Rwandan government committee for their dedication to gorilla conservation—as well as local delegates who were chosen because of their community impact. This year the group included a young Rwandan boy who constructed a 4.25-mile road by hand for his village in the Karongi District, as well as foreign diplomats and celebrities such as Dutch football legend Louis Van Gaal and British supermodel Naomi Campbell. Just as human names are carefully chosen and imbued with meaning, so are the gorillas’ names. From the rangers’ pool of suggestions, delegates announced names with meanings such as “excellence” and “leader.” (In 2017, a gorilla was named Macibiri in tribute to Dian Fossey, whom locals called Nyiramacibiri—“the woman who lives alone in the mountains.”) Many elements of the day hark back to the traditional naming ceremony used for people, from the jubilant applause to the gala dinner where the gorillas, and those working to conserve them, are recognized and toasted with local beer and wine. The decision to extend Kwita Izina, an ancient familial tradition, to the gorillas, is a symbolic torch set aflame, signaling to the world that the life of a mountain gorilla is as deserving of care and attention as a human one. “The gorillas need my protection,” says Karinganire. “I love them, and I love how my country has taken a leap in conserving them.&rdquo

  • Dead Man's Alley in Cardiff, Wales
    on 18 October 2019 at 8:00 pm

    It's an old adage that you should occasionally look up when wandering to spot hidden treasures lurking above. The same can be said for looking down, especially if you happen to be passing through the walkway between Working Street and Trinity Street near the Cardiff Market. Here, between two cemeteries belonging to St John the Baptist Church, you'll spot a few metal numbers emboldened onto the pathway.  These numbers indicate where bodies once laid in burial vaults that were thought to be their final resting place. The church itself was originally constructed in 1180, but was rebuilt during the 15th century after the church was sacked. When the Cardiff Market opened in 1891, patrons and workers had to trek around the graveyard to reach the market. Thus, an agreement was made between the Church and the Corporation Council to construct a pathway that would create a shortcut to the market. It's uncertain whether the bodies were left undisturbed or whether they were removed to make way for the footpath. This shred of doubt has led to the walkway being dubbed "Dead Man's Alley." The church still owns the property and is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. As part of their deal with the council, the path remains open throughout the year, although, the church is allowed to close it on Good Friday.

  • Scientists Are Learning More About Scandinavia's Battle Axe Culture
    by Isaac Schultz on 18 October 2019 at 7:27 pm

    In 1959, a 4,500-year-old family and their battle ax turned up in Linköping, in southern Sweden. Woman, man, child, and dog emerged during an archaeological investigation that also turned up a variety of grave goods. The grave came to be known as Bergsgraven (“Mountain Grave”) and offered a glimpse at a population that little was known about. Over the years, more graves in the region have been found and their dead are now believed to be distinct from other European cultural groups at the time, due to one particular type of item they were often buried with: battle axes. To determine how the Battle Axe Culture (great name for a band) was related to other European cultures of the Neolithic, researchers recently turned to DNA, and published their findings in a new paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “We have been interested in the Bergsgraven burial for a long time,” says Helena Malmström, a bioarchaeologist at Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author of the study. “It is a very well-preserved, school-book example of a Battle Axe burial.” Scientists have long been interested in how people dispersed across Europe, and the cultures they developed in different places. Graves are a key source of information for this study, because how people were buried and what they were buried with can be so distinctive. The Corded Ware Culture, also active in the third millennium BC, were named for the decorative imprints on their ceramics, which resemble pressed cords. The Funnelbeaker Culture, which occupied Central Europe about 2,000 years earlier, liked their pots with wide tops. Because of glaciers, Scandinavia was colonized much later than many other parts of Europe, and as a result, its Neolithic people—and their genetic signature—are distinct. Bergsgraven was a natural place for Malmström and her team to target in their quest to learn more. They analyzed genetic material from the grave as a part of The Atlas of a Thousand Ancient Genomes Project, which is attempting to track the arrival, dispersal, and interrelations of ancient Scandinavians through genetic analysis. “We have thus far unraveled three genetically distinct groups, the Battle Axe Culture, the Funnelbeaker Culture, and the Pitted Ware Culture, ” Malmström says. The Pitted Ware Culture are known of the gouges they made in their pots before firing, so let’s not speculate on which one would win in a fight. Besides being distinct from the other groups, the genetic information pointed researchers to the people’s roots. The Battle Axe Culture appears to share common ancestry with the Corded Ware Culture, which ranged more widely across Europe. Both groups and their distinctive genetics and cultural signatures—the grave goods—are connected genetically with the slightly older Yamnaya Culture of the Pontic Steppe, north of the Black Sea. “With the new knowledge on the ancestry of the Battle Axe Culture people, we have come one step further toward the goal of the Atlas Project, to understand the demographic history of Stone Age Scandinavia,” Malmström says. “By analyzing data from more prehistoric individuals in the future, we aim at further increase the knowledge of dispersal, interaction, and admixture between prehistoric groups.” The Atlas Project is seeking to do what any good atlas does—reveal something remarkable, and tell people about it. Good thing it’s not the battle ax that’s doing the talking.

  • '22 Bees' in Manchester, England
    on 18 October 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Twenty-two bees fly over Manchester's Northern Quarter. They're part of a two-story mural painted to honor the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. On May 22, 2017, a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert resulted in the deaths of 22 attendees and the wounding of 139 others, more than half of them children. In the immediate aftermath, the Manchester Bee was quickly adopted as a symbol of public unity, which spread quickly via social media. A Manchester Tattoo Appeal was launched almost immediately, in which tattoos parlors offered tattoos of the bee for a £50 donation to victim-supporting charities. Commissioned by the Manchester Evening News, the mural was painted just days after the bombing by artist Russ Meehan. Meehan had been painting bees on walls across Manchester for a number of years, but his artwork took on new significance in the wake of the attack.

  • El Aliso Sidewalk Plaque in Los Angeles, California
    on 18 October 2019 at 6:00 pm

    A special tree towered 60 feet above the village of Yang-Na, shading the Kizh Kitc Gabrieleño people with its 200-foot-wide canopy. The Kizh called it Sha'var. It was a sacred site for them, and a landmark known to Native Americans as far away as Yuma, Arizona. The invading Spanish called the tree El Aliso (Spanish for "sycamore"). In 1834, French immigrant Jean-Louis Vignes bought 104 acres along the Los Angeles River, including the giant tree, and built a wine cellar in the tree's shade. Fittingly, he called his vineyard El Aliso in the tree's honor. El Aliso can even be seen in early photographs of Los Angeles. But as time marched on, the tree became less healthy. The river burst its banks and changed course during a very wet winter, and as the city grew up right underneath the massive sycamore, it began to choke the life right out of El Aliso. By 1895, the old sacred tree had died and was felled for firewood. In more recent years, landscape architect John Crandell determined the tree's former location—an island dividing Commercial Street from the 101 Freeway—via clues in an 1845 document. In April 2019, a plaque honoring El Aliso was installed at the tree's approximate location. Unlike the many historical markers playing up Los Angeles' Spanish and Mexican roots, the El Aliso plaque strongly emphasizes its importance to local Native Americans and is dedicated to the Kizh-Gabrieleno people.

  • Barrage de Malpasset (Malpasset Dam) in Fréjus, France
    on 18 October 2019 at 5:00 pm

    The Malpasset Dam was an arch dam in Fréjus, France. The structure was built between 1952 and 1954 to provide drinking and irrigation water for the region. Tragically, its existence was short. In the late fall of 1959, the dam showed sings of leakage, but the officials did not deem it necessary to warn the locals downstream. Heavy rainfall toward the end of November and beginning of December saw the dam nearing its maximum capacity.  Disaster struck on December 2. The dam's guard, seeing that the structure had reached maximum capacity, asked to be allowed to release excess water. His request was denied until the evening, and by then, it was too late. The dam broke that night, unleashing a 130-foot-wave (40 meters) that roared toward Fréjus and the surrounding towns at a 43 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour). The closest two towns and the highway were swept away. By the time the wave reached Fréjus 20 minutes after the dam broke, it still had enough power to flood and destroy portions of the city. A total of 423 people died, 135 of whom were children younger than 15. Decades later, you can still see the wrecked dam. Big chunks of concrete speckle in the riverbed, lining the walk from the parking lot to the dam ruins. It's impressive to stand beneath what remains of the wall that once held back an entire lake and released a catastrophic wave through the valley you've just walked through.

  • COLUMN
    on 19 October 2019 at 10:00 pm

    Africa is a wildlife destination. If we don’t preserve our wildlife, we will become less than half a destination

  • Ear Inn in New York, New York
    on 18 October 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Name a law, and at some point over the last quarter-century, it’s probably been broken within the walls of this living Manhattan relic. What’s now among the oldest remaining drinking establishments in New York City has been throughout the course of its sordid history a distillery, a brothel, a smuggler’s den, and a speakeasy. There's allegedly a ghost named "Mickey," and it was once home to James Brown—not that one. The bar known today the Ear Inn was built as a home in 1817 for James Brown, an African-American who fought in the Revolutionary War and served as an aide to George Washington. He’s rumored to be the man rowing at Washington’s knee in Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. He commissioned the building with money made from a lucrative career in the tobacco industry. At the time, the shores of the Hudson nearly reached the walls of the building. A wooden panel on the bars facade indicates the late 18th-century's high tide. Extensive landfilling would expand Manhattan westward into the river to accommodate a booming shipping trade. As with most longstanding drinking establishments, the ensuing chain of events is far from definitive and hardly bears detailing. It should suffice to say that the building changed roles and hands, in no particular order, from a distillery serving passing sailors; to a bar whose upstairs was a functioning brothel; to an eatery that served construction workers building the Holland Tunnel; to a bar-restaurant whose upstairs was a doctor’s office; to a restaurant-speakeasy during Prohibition; and finally settling into the modern day as another (albeit, far, far older) Lower Manhattan dive bar. Over the years, the building earned a reputation for being a one-stop shop for every sailor’s unsavory needs. Today, resident ghost "Mickey the Sailor” is rumored to have drank himself to death here in the late 1800s, and makes appearances from time to time waiting for his next shipping job. While the neighborhood around it becomes unrecognizable from the bastion of vice and recklessness it once was, the Ear Inn is one of the last gasps of edge in Soho. “It’s all dog walkers and joggers here now,” co-owner Richard “Rip” Hayman told The New York Times. “In the evening, you can smell the Botox.” Inside, however, the Ear retains the air of an 18th-century longshoremen’s den of vice, its walls crusted with gritty nautical curios and oddball, ear-centric artwork from decades of collection. For much of its existence, the bar was informally known as “the Green Door” in honor of its entryway. It earned its new name in the 1970s. In order to give the spot a more official title without wading through a sea of paperwork to satisfy the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the owners simply spray-painted the right-half of the 'B' on the neon “BAR” sign out front, giving the Ear Inn its name.&nbs

  • Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle in Beverly Hills, California
    on 18 October 2019 at 9:00 pm

    The luxurious neighborhoods of Beverly Hills have no shortage of weird intersections, but this one might be the weirdest. In 2010, publicist to the stars Ronni Chasen was tragically killed in a hit and run at the corner of Linden and Whittier. In the wake of the accident, locals were reminded of a decades-old legend: The Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle. This simple, nondescript intersection has been home to a series of strange events. In 1966, William Jan Berry of the band Jan and Dean got in a near-fatal accident at the intersection, resulting in a months-long coma. Ironically, Jan and Dean was known at the time for their hit song “Dead Man’s Curve.” There were earlier incidents near the intersection, too. In 1947, notorious mobster Bugsy Siegel was assassinated in his girlfriend’s home just across the street from the intersection. The gunman was never found. Most notably, in 1946, Howard Hughes lost control of his airplane, the brand new XF-11, over the streets of southern California. He tried to emergency land it in a nearby country club, but instead crashed into a house at that fateful crossroads of Linden and Whittier. Hughes survived, but suffered lasting and severe injuries. While nothing strange has been recorded in the years since Chasen’s death, the street is now a hotspot for paranormal investigators and others brave enough to test their fate at the Beverly Hills Bermuda Triangle.

  • This Artist Builds Tiny, Lifelike Replicas of Beloved Dive Bars
    by John Paul Titlow on 18 October 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Santa Barbara doesn’t have many dive bars. But those that do exist in this idyllic beachside town have one thing in common: Chances are, they’ve been shrunken down into a lifelike, diorama-sized watering hole, complete with tiny features like barstools, beer taps, wine bottles, and weird art clinging to the grit of the walls. These miniature bars are the creation of Michael Long, a local artist who turns some of the area’s most beloved haunts into handmade works of hyper-detailed assemblage art. “The grimier the better,” Long declares between sips of an IPA at Elsie’s Tavern. Fittingly, it’s this eccentrically decorated, cash-only dive that first inspired him to recreate bars when he worked here in the late 1990s. “I enjoy making things that are grittier and more worn,” says Long. “So trying to make something that is beautiful or ornate becomes a real challenge. I like the darker side of things.” These replicas of bars—including local favorites like Elsie’s, The Pickle Room, and The Mercury Lounge—are part of Long’s ongoing assemblage art series depicting the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Built with a mix of raw materials and found objects, each of these structures feels like it could be a miniature movie set. Think Wes Anderson, but with fewer vibrant colors and more cigarette stains. This unique, three-dimensional artwork has gained Long some local notoriety and Instagram praise. Long, who cofounded a small, bizarrely decorated art-studio space call The Rondo, has had his work featured in galleries and exhibitions across town. But it’s the bars that seem to generate the most enthusiasm. “Bars attract like-minded people,” says Long. “It creates a camaraderie that you don’t get at home or at school or at the gym.” Peering into one of these boxes, it’s hard not to get sucked in by the details: beer cans, plants, refrigerator magnets, wine glasses dangling above a worn-looking bar. Even the warm light of the mini-bulbs used to illuminate each interior helps it feel more like the real thing. In Elsie’s Tavern, Long has his mini-Elsie’s diorama with him. Patrons stop in their tracks, do a double take, and walk up to the box to marvel at how realistically it emulates their surroundings. “Getting started is the hardest part,” says Long. “Once I get started, I can knock it out pretty quickly.” He often begins by sketching the room. From there, each box takes about 24 hours to complete. “It’s like a big, backwards puzzle,” he says. “I create all the pieces and lay the entire thing out. Then I take it apart, paint each piece and let it dry.” The painting stage is where much of the grit and stressed-looking texture of these miniature environments comes from. Finally, Long glues and nails everything back together, this time with a more true-to-life feel. “Once it’s all colorized, it all of the sudden becomes like a little movie set,” he says. About 90 percent of each box is hand-fabricated using materials such as wood, epoxy, and wire. In one case, Long used leaves to make fake trash. In another, he used part of a vintage photo slide to create backlit windows. One model even features a neon “OPEN” sign made of small-gauge luminescent wire that actually lights up. While he’s got barstools and cash registers down, it’s these unique details—plants hanging in Elsie’s, or the intricate, Chinese lantern-style lights inside the historic Pickle Room—that require more experimentation. To add beer cans, drinking glasses, and record players, Long tracks down miniature objects from other artists or flea markets. These toy-like objects provide fun, eye-catching realism, but Long uses them sparingly. “I try my best not to make it look like a dollhouse,” he says. “I want it to give an emotional feel rather than be a photorealistic model.” This feels less surprising once you learn why Long first built dioramas, long before he glued together any miniature barstools: his nightmares. Born in Santa Barbara, Long spent much of his childhood moving from place to place. This frequent, disruptive relocation appeared to have a side effect, he says: recurring nightmares in which he never quite knew where he was. The confusion often followed him into a sudden, sweaty state of consciousness. At five years old, Long started building paper-based “dream boxes” that emulated the rooms in his nightmares. “There were a lot of bloody basements and doors that went to nowhere.” He realized it had a cathartic effect. Once replicated in 3D, the dreams would stop. Decades later, Long found himself back in Santa Barbara, an affluent vacation town better known for its postcard-worthy beaches and pricey restaurants than hole-in-the-wall drinking spots or weird art. Still, it’s here that Long has set up shop as the self-appointed, epoxy-armed documentarian of the town’s unpolished, weird underbelly. “There are all of these cool little bars off to the sidelines that are really for the locals,” he says. It’s these hidden gems that seem to resonate the most with people—even if you have you squint to see the details.

  • How to Name a Mountain Gorilla in Rwanda
    by Chloe Berge on 18 October 2019 at 8:20 pm

    A baby mountain gorilla’s eyes glow amber amidst the leafy, emerald-green jungle. Here, deep in the lush, shadowy world of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, it’s the gorillas’ domain. Time slows in the presence of these majestic animals. Sound seems dampened by the thick, balmy air. Only a bird trilling pricks the silence. The park’s tangled, muddy maze has led a group of hikers to the Susa family, a troop of 26 mountain gorillas—including one newborn—that live on the fog-wreathed heights of Mount Karisimbi, one of the park’s inactive volcanoes. Hulking silverbacks saunter across leaf-littered trails, their massive shoulders seesawing with terrifying strength. Others in the family sigh and guffaw with their arms crossed, as the baby coos and lolls about on the forest floor with his mother. To know these animals, even for a brief time, is to want to protect them. And every September in Rwanda, tens of thousands of people gather at a riotous festival in hopes of doing just that. Kwita Izina, a naming ceremony for new baby mountain gorillas—which translates to “give a name”—is modeled after an ancestral tradition used for human babies, and aimed at raising conservation awareness. “This is an ancient Rwandese tradition, and now we’re doing it for our most treasured animal,” says Rosette Rugamba, a founding member of Kwita Izina and owner of Amakoro Songa Lodge, near Volcanoes National Park. “We’re linking conservation and culture.” The custom of hosting a naming ceremony for newborns is one of Rwanda’s oldest cultural traditions, widely believed to date back to the foundation of the monarchy, in the 11th century. A week after a child was born, its parents would invite friends and family from their clan—or ubwoko in Kinyarwanda, the country’s indigenous language—to their home to help choose a name. Women and children would prepare food—typically a one-pot dish combining local produce such as cassava, peas, and peanuts—while the men shared sorghum malt beer. The ceremony would begin with the presentation of the newborn to the clan, followed by a collective prayer to Imana, the supreme being, to protect the family and endow the parents with many more children. Everyone from the tribe’s youngest members to its elders would suggest a name—typically something with an auspicious connotation. Once the parents chose from the list of proposed names, the clan mothers would erupt in cheering and applause, known as impundu (“happiness sounds”), and a parting beer made from fermented bananas, called agashinguracumu, would be served to the departing guests. The family would be showered with gifts, such as a cow or new linens, and the baby would be allowed to leave the house, and enter the outside world, for the first time. This naming ceremony is still practiced today, though adapted to contemporary life. Prayers are often directed to a Christian god now, for instance, and might coincide with the child’s baptism. “It’s a big party,” says Rugamba. “Now it’s also a party for our gorillas.” Mountain gorillas are endemic to this part of the world, spanning the Virunga Massif—a chain of volcanoes that shares borders with Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—and Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. But they’ve long been victimized by humans. Despite Dian Fossey’s storied work to protect these endangered animals from poachers and human-transmitted disease—work that included her establishment of the Karisoke Research Center, in Rwanda’s Virunga mountains, in 1967—the gorilla population steadily decreased throughout the 20th century. As the 1994 genocide devastated the country’s people—an estimated 800,000 were killed between April and June—it also left the gorillas unprotected and open to more attacks from poachers. “Three or four years later,” says Jean Paul Karinganire, a biologist at Akagera National Park in western Rwanda, “when Rwandan refugees returned home, they were given land that encroached on gorilla habitat, which further reduced the population.” But slowly, through a strong park-ranger presence and a vigilant local community, population counts have started to climb. Since Kwita Izina began, in 2005, more than 280 baby gorillas have been named. At the same time, the number of mountain gorillas in the wild has risen. According to the most recent census, in 2016, there were 604 in the Virunga Massif—up from the low-water mark of 242 just a few decades earlier—and 1,004 in all (including those in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park). The naming ceremony has helped bolster these numbers in two ways: by raising international awareness about (and funds for) gorilla conservation, and by keeping the local community involved in conservation efforts, and celebrating their successes. Ninety-four percent of Volcanoes National Park staff come from local villages, whose residents actively help protect the gorillas by maintaining the park’s perimeter wall—which reduces human-wildlife conflicts—and reporting suspicious activities in the area. In return, 10 percent of Rwanda’s tourism revenue, including the sale of trekking permits to see the gorillas, is fed back into the local communities surrounding Volcanoes National Park. The money is used to build medical centers and schools, supply clean water, and repair roads and other infrastructure. In September, Kwita Izina was held in Kinigi, a town in the foothills of Volcanoes National Park. Rwandan dancers in vibrant beaded garb moved to the drum-based rhythm of the "Intore," the traditional national dance, whipping their long straw headdresses around like sheaves of wheat in the wind. The hum of the crowd and the pulse of the music grew feverish under the midday sun, until finally, each chosen representative took to the stage—a platform shaped like a silverback gorilla—to share their baby gorilla’s name, chosen from a pool of names supplied by park rangers. Rwandans from all over the country waved the national flag and cheered, as the mythic spire of Mount Karisimbi loomed in the distance. “I loved every minute of Kwita Izina,” says Karinganire, who grew up in Kigali, the capital city. “I first discovered the gorillas when I was 10 years old and watched Gorillas in the Mist. Then at university, my knowledge about them grew, and since this event started, it increased my curiosity. They’re a species that is so unique and close to us humans. Then I got to see them in person in 2012. It was the best experience of my life.” For 30 years prior to the first official gorilla-naming ceremony, mountain gorillas were named by park rangers and researchers in Volcanoes National Park, as a way to track the animals and monitor their health. At the ceremony’s inception, Kwita Izina organizers invited the president of Rwanda and his wife, as well as the park’s rangers, to name the gorillas. But as Rwanda’s conservation success story grew, so did the list of attendees. In 2019, 30,000 people watched as 25 baby gorillas were named by a group of international delegates—selected by a Rwandan government committee for their dedication to gorilla conservation—as well as local delegates who were chosen because of their community impact. This year the group included a young Rwandan boy who constructed a 4.25-mile road by hand for his village in the Karongi District, as well as foreign diplomats and celebrities such as Dutch football legend Louis Van Gaal and British supermodel Naomi Campbell. Just as human names are carefully chosen and imbued with meaning, so are the gorillas’ names. From the rangers’ pool of suggestions, delegates announced names with meanings such as “excellence” and “leader.” (In 2017, a gorilla was named Macibiri in tribute to Dian Fossey, whom locals called Nyiramacibiri—“the woman who lives alone in the mountains.”) Many elements of the day hark back to the traditional naming ceremony used for people, from the jubilant applause to the gala dinner where the gorillas, and those working to conserve them, are recognized and toasted with local beer and wine. The decision to extend Kwita Izina, an ancient familial tradition, to the gorillas, is a symbolic torch set aflame, signaling to the world that the life of a mountain gorilla is as deserving of care and attention as a human one. “The gorillas need my protection,” says Karinganire. “I love them, and I love how my country has taken a leap in conserving them.&rdquo

  • Dead Man's Alley in Cardiff, Wales
    on 18 October 2019 at 8:00 pm

    It's an old adage that you should occasionally look up when wandering to spot hidden treasures lurking above. The same can be said for looking down, especially if you happen to be passing through the walkway between Working Street and Trinity Street near the Cardiff Market. Here, between two cemeteries belonging to St John the Baptist Church, you'll spot a few metal numbers emboldened onto the pathway.  These numbers indicate where bodies once laid in burial vaults that were thought to be their final resting place. The church itself was originally constructed in 1180, but was rebuilt during the 15th century after the church was sacked. When the Cardiff Market opened in 1891, patrons and workers had to trek around the graveyard to reach the market. Thus, an agreement was made between the Church and the Corporation Council to construct a pathway that would create a shortcut to the market. It's uncertain whether the bodies were left undisturbed or whether they were removed to make way for the footpath. This shred of doubt has led to the walkway being dubbed "Dead Man's Alley." The church still owns the property and is responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. As part of their deal with the council, the path remains open throughout the year, although, the church is allowed to close it on Good Friday.

  • Scientists Are Learning More About Scandinavia's Battle Axe Culture
    by Isaac Schultz on 18 October 2019 at 7:27 pm

    In 1959, a 4,500-year-old family and their battle ax turned up in Linköping, in southern Sweden. Woman, man, child, and dog emerged during an archaeological investigation that also turned up a variety of grave goods. The grave came to be known as Bergsgraven (“Mountain Grave”) and offered a glimpse at a population that little was known about. Over the years, more graves in the region have been found and their dead are now believed to be distinct from other European cultural groups at the time, due to one particular type of item they were often buried with: battle axes. To determine how the Battle Axe Culture (great name for a band) was related to other European cultures of the Neolithic, researchers recently turned to DNA, and published their findings in a new paper in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “We have been interested in the Bergsgraven burial for a long time,” says Helena Malmström, a bioarchaeologist at Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author of the study. “It is a very well-preserved, school-book example of a Battle Axe burial.” Scientists have long been interested in how people dispersed across Europe, and the cultures they developed in different places. Graves are a key source of information for this study, because how people were buried and what they were buried with can be so distinctive. The Corded Ware Culture, also active in the third millennium BC, were named for the decorative imprints on their ceramics, which resemble pressed cords. The Funnelbeaker Culture, which occupied Central Europe about 2,000 years earlier, liked their pots with wide tops. Because of glaciers, Scandinavia was colonized much later than many other parts of Europe, and as a result, its Neolithic people—and their genetic signature—are distinct. Bergsgraven was a natural place for Malmström and her team to target in their quest to learn more. They analyzed genetic material from the grave as a part of The Atlas of a Thousand Ancient Genomes Project, which is attempting to track the arrival, dispersal, and interrelations of ancient Scandinavians through genetic analysis. “We have thus far unraveled three genetically distinct groups, the Battle Axe Culture, the Funnelbeaker Culture, and the Pitted Ware Culture, ” Malmström says. The Pitted Ware Culture are known of the gouges they made in their pots before firing, so let’s not speculate on which one would win in a fight. Besides being distinct from the other groups, the genetic information pointed researchers to the people’s roots. The Battle Axe Culture appears to share common ancestry with the Corded Ware Culture, which ranged more widely across Europe. Both groups and their distinctive genetics and cultural signatures—the grave goods—are connected genetically with the slightly older Yamnaya Culture of the Pontic Steppe, north of the Black Sea. “With the new knowledge on the ancestry of the Battle Axe Culture people, we have come one step further toward the goal of the Atlas Project, to understand the demographic history of Stone Age Scandinavia,” Malmström says. “By analyzing data from more prehistoric individuals in the future, we aim at further increase the knowledge of dispersal, interaction, and admixture between prehistoric groups.” The Atlas Project is seeking to do what any good atlas does—reveal something remarkable, and tell people about it. Good thing it’s not the battle ax that’s doing the talking.

  • '22 Bees' in Manchester, England
    on 18 October 2019 at 7:00 pm

    Twenty-two bees fly over Manchester's Northern Quarter. They're part of a two-story mural painted to honor the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing. On May 22, 2017, a suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert resulted in the deaths of 22 attendees and the wounding of 139 others, more than half of them children. In the immediate aftermath, the Manchester Bee was quickly adopted as a symbol of public unity, which spread quickly via social media. A Manchester Tattoo Appeal was launched almost immediately, in which tattoos parlors offered tattoos of the bee for a £50 donation to victim-supporting charities. Commissioned by the Manchester Evening News, the mural was painted just days after the bombing by artist Russ Meehan. Meehan had been painting bees on walls across Manchester for a number of years, but his artwork took on new significance in the wake of the attack.

  • El Aliso Sidewalk Plaque in Los Angeles, California
    on 18 October 2019 at 6:00 pm

    A special tree towered 60 feet above the village of Yang-Na, shading the Kizh Kitc Gabrieleño people with its 200-foot-wide canopy. The Kizh called it Sha'var. It was a sacred site for them, and a landmark known to Native Americans as far away as Yuma, Arizona. The invading Spanish called the tree El Aliso (Spanish for "sycamore"). In 1834, French immigrant Jean-Louis Vignes bought 104 acres along the Los Angeles River, including the giant tree, and built a wine cellar in the tree's shade. Fittingly, he called his vineyard El Aliso in the tree's honor. El Aliso can even be seen in early photographs of Los Angeles. But as time marched on, the tree became less healthy. The river burst its banks and changed course during a very wet winter, and as the city grew up right underneath the massive sycamore, it began to choke the life right out of El Aliso. By 1895, the old sacred tree had died and was felled for firewood. In more recent years, landscape architect John Crandell determined the tree's former location—an island dividing Commercial Street from the 101 Freeway—via clues in an 1845 document. In April 2019, a plaque honoring El Aliso was installed at the tree's approximate location. Unlike the many historical markers playing up Los Angeles' Spanish and Mexican roots, the El Aliso plaque strongly emphasizes its importance to local Native Americans and is dedicated to the Kizh-Gabrieleno people.

  • Barrage de Malpasset (Malpasset Dam) in Fréjus, France
    on 18 October 2019 at 5:00 pm

    The Malpasset Dam was an arch dam in Fréjus, France. The structure was built between 1952 and 1954 to provide drinking and irrigation water for the region. Tragically, its existence was short. In the late fall of 1959, the dam showed sings of leakage, but the officials did not deem it necessary to warn the locals downstream. Heavy rainfall toward the end of November and beginning of December saw the dam nearing its maximum capacity.  Disaster struck on December 2. The dam's guard, seeing that the structure had reached maximum capacity, asked to be allowed to release excess water. His request was denied until the evening, and by then, it was too late. The dam broke that night, unleashing a 130-foot-wave (40 meters) that roared toward Fréjus and the surrounding towns at a 43 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour). The closest two towns and the highway were swept away. By the time the wave reached Fréjus 20 minutes after the dam broke, it still had enough power to flood and destroy portions of the city. A total of 423 people died, 135 of whom were children younger than 15. Decades later, you can still see the wrecked dam. Big chunks of concrete speckle in the riverbed, lining the walk from the parking lot to the dam ruins. It's impressive to stand beneath what remains of the wall that once held back an entire lake and released a catastrophic wave through the valley you've just walked through.