February 10, 2019 in 2,990 words

to set a mood • • •

Misbehaving: being clever and wicked is a form of creativity

Suppose you forgot it was your partner’s birthday, but you know that they would appreciate the smallest of gestures, say a bouquet. It’s late at night and no florists are open. The cemetery on your way home has recently had a funeral, and you walk across the site and pick up a good-looking bouquet of roses from someone’s grave. You then head home, and the flowers are happily received by your partner.

Would you say that you hurt anyone?

This isn’t so much a moral dilemma as it is a creative misbehaviour. More specifically, it is an instance of the dark side of creativity – the side that few people acknowledge or talk about. Variously referred to as malevolent or negative, dark creativity uses the creative process to do something socially unappealing and guided by self-interest. You might not intend to harm someone else, yet harm is often a byproduct of your actions. In the instance above, you found an original solution (stealing flowers from a graveyard) to a problem (upset partner) that was effective (happy partner).

That is what makes up the crux of creativity – originality and effectiveness in behaviour.

But can we call such an act truly creative? For one thing, it violates moral codes of conduct (stealing); for another, it involves deception (omitting the truth about where you got the flowers).

Our Breath and Sweat Almost Ruined King Tut’s Tomb

But a new circulation system is making things better.

To work on the wall paintings, the conservation team crammed a lot of equipment into the small burial chamber.

cracked into Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, he was dazzled by the contents—“Gem-Studded Relics in Egyptian Tomb Amaze Explorers,” The New York Times declared—but he wasn’t especially impressed by its walls. The resting place of the young ruler is humble compared to others in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings—four rooms occupying 9,762 cubic feet, less than a quarter of the size of the burial site of Ramesses V and VI. Conservators have remarked that the paintings on the thin clay plaster covering the rough-cut walls of the burial chamber show numerous drips and other signs of haste; the tomb was likely prepared quickly, since the ruler died young. Carter once characterized the scenes depicting Tut’s funeral procession and the journey of his successor, Ay, as “rough, conventional, and severely simple.”

Tourists haven’t seemed to mind the rush job on the walls—in fact, they have been utterly entranced. Just before the 2011 Egyptian revolution, several hundred people per day squeezed into the confined spaces. Each and every one of those visitors had inconvenient but unavoidable habits: namely, breathing and sweating. In those cramped subterranean quarters, moisture is the enemy.

Visitors often crowd at the tomb’s entrance.

VISITORS CAN MEAN ALL SORTS of trouble for historic sites. Footsteps can quake fragile, old structures, and people have a tendency to leave behind scribbled musings and wads of gum. Even the lightest-trodding, most respectful visitor presents passive problems. In Tut’s tomb, “visitors increase relative humidity, elevate carbon dioxide levels, and along with natural ventilation into the tomb, promote the entry of fine airborne particles,” wrote researchers, led by the Getty Conservation Institute’s Lori Wong, a wall paintings expert, in a 2018 paper in Studies in Conservation.

In partnership with Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, Getty conservators just wrapped a nearly decade-long conservation project to guard the tomb against the impact of heavy-breathing, heavy-sweating visitors. (The tomb remained open to the sweaty masses nearly the whole time.) Before they began, the team had to quantify just how bad the problem was. The researchers installed a suite of monitors to track air temperature, relative humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, and other environmental factors. In 2009—the first year of data collection—relative humidity inside peaked at 70 percent in September, one of the desert’s most sweltering months. (Meanwhile, humidity averaged less than half of that just outside the tomb.) The mean temperature indoors hovered around 80 degrees Fahrenheit all year long; National Geographic once described the environment inside as “almost tropical.” It was impossible to pin down the precise levels of carbon dioxide because the air in there routinely maxed out the sensor, which went up to 3,500 ppm—roughly ten times higher than the concentration outside, according to conservators.

There’s a serious philosophical argument supporting the man suing his parents for giving birth to him


Children never asked to be born.

A man is suing his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. That might sound ridiculous, but he has a point. The plaintiff behind the lawsuit, 27-year-old Raphael Samuel, believes in “anti-natalism,” namely the philosophical theory that parents do not have moral standing to bring an unwitting child into the world. And there are some seriously legitimate philosophers who advocate for this argument.

The best-known anti-natalist is David Benatar, head of the philosophy department at the University of Cape Town and author of the 2006 book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. (Though Benatar is heralded as a philosopher, he’s controversial at the University of Cape Town for comments he’s made about race, and was dismissive of African philosophy in a recent interview with Quartz.) A 2012 New Yorker article on the theory highlights a central premise of Benatar’s work: If a couple have multiple hereditary genetic diseases and live in horrendous conditions, we might well agree they have a moral obligation not to procreate and so avoid bringing into the world a child who will suffer terribly. Conversely, if a couple is wealthy and disease-free, we would not consider them morally obliged to create a child.

Benatar takes this logic and applies it to all suffering and happiness that children experience as a result of being born. And so failing to create children that experience happiness is no moral flaw, but giving birth to children who suffer is indeed wrong. The New Yorker article quotes a key passage from Benatar’s book: “One of the implications of my argument is that a life filled with good and containing only the most minute quantity of bad—a life of utter bliss adulterated only by the pain of a single pin-prick—is worse than no life at all.”

A separate New Yorker profile of Benatar from 2017 highlights the many ways in which the philosopher believes life is bad: We’re often either too hot or too cold, need the bathroom, have to wait in line, and generally suffer discomforts and indignations. We underestimate just how terrible life is, believes Benatar, and, in fact, life is not a worthwhile gift for any potential child. According to the article, Benatar argues that death is not an easy solution to this problem: “Is life worth continuing? (Yes, because death is bad.) Is life worth starting? (No.)” Just because life is bad does not imply that death is good; better to never have to choose between them. “Of course, life is not bad in every way,” writes Benatar, as quoted in the New Yorker piece. “Neither is death bad in every way. However, both life and death are, in crucial respects, awful. Together, they constitute an existential vise—the wretched grip that enforces our predicament.”

5 Bizarre Celebrity Trends You’ve Probably Not Noticed

It’s been said before that celebrities are just like us, and I believe that. If you put me and the Rock side by side, why, you’d have no idea who was who. Incidentally, if anyone wants to make a sequel to Rampage, I will star in it for 50 percent less than what the Rock gets paid, and I am willing to kiss that monkey. Anyway, the point is that celebrities, like the rest of us, tend to follow predictable trends.

Then again, just because they’re predictable doesn’t mean they’re not super weird …

5. Game Show Hosts Keep Turning Into Hardcore Conservatives

“Extremely Republican game show host” is such a common phenomenon that other publications have asked experts to look into what’s causing it. The answers all seem iffy — something about how hosting a contest makes you believe in merit-based individualism?

Let’s start with Chuck Woolery. If you’re under the age of dead, you may not know who he is, but he used to host a show called The Love Connection, which was like Tinder, but with a glib man judging you in front of a studio audience. Losers were sacrificed to a volcano! That’s how long ago this was! These days, thanks to Twitter, we also know that Woolery is a staunch conservative and Trump supporter.

His feed continually spawns headlines like “Game Show Host Chuck Woolery Accused of Anti-Semitism After Karl Marx Vladimir Lenin Comments on Twitter.” He uses his platform to decry the evils of Obama, vaunt the genius of Donald Trump, and talk about how Islam is “gonna get us all killed.” If you’re wondering what an elderly man who made millions doing what seems like a fairly easy job has to be angry about, good question! If you figure that out, you’ll figure out America.

Then there’s Pat Sajak, the Wheel Of Fortune host (fun fact: he actually replaced Chuck Woolerly in 1981), who for decades seemed like network TV’s version of a golem fashioned from clay to be inoffensive and boring in every way. Then he too found Twitter, and his feed is a train wreck of conservative posturing and blind frothing rage. One of Sajak’s biggest bugaboos is climate change, a subject he returns to again and again with statements like “I now believe global warming alarmists are unpatriotic racists knowingly misleading for their own ends.” Alrighty!

Wink Martindale, who has an astonishing six decades in radio and television, came out as a Trump supporter, and he uses Twitter to mock athletes who take a knee during the national anthem. Ben Stein from Win Ben Stein’s Money said back in 2016 that he’s sure Donald Trump doesn’t know a goddamn thing about the economy … but that he’d still vote for him. He has since said that the people who heckled Mitch McConnell at a restaurant were like Nazis, and he called Obama the most racist president ever. Related note: Some presidents literally owned slaves.

Dear billionaires: Please hire me to ghostwrite open letters to your blackmailers



Dear Billionaire,

It is with great excitement that I write to you today in application of my dream job: the ghostwriter of open letters to your would-be blackmailers.

Being a billionaire’s ghostwriter has been my dream ever since Feb. 7, 2019, the day I first read the work of the industry’s founding legend, the person who wrote Jeff Bezos’s Medium post. This is the standard all of my ghostwritten open letters to your blackmailers will strive to meet. If I reach further than others into your enemies’ illicit dealings, it is because I stand on the shoulders of the “No thank you, Mr. Pecker” giant.

As your ghostwriter, I will pre-empt whatever your blackmailer is dangling over you in a tone so unruffled that readers will be utterly unprepared for whatever your equivalent of the cargo shorts thing is. I work discreetly and without judgment. Have you been photographed in a crotchless furry costume? Did you take a quick shot of your junk in between Davos panels? No matter. What I care about is conveying the righteousness of your position in a voice that feels true to your own, and that you retain formidable private investigators whose limitless budget we can lightly reference at the right moment.

A bit about my qualifications: I am a journalist with extensive experience pretending to be a shark, and an expert on both Toblerone and LeBron James. I created a Medium account years ago at an employer’s behest and have been unable to unsubscribe from their emails since. I have a degree in English and a lot of unexpressed anger to draw from. Currently I am a writer for Quartz, which is fine but does not provide sufficient opportunity to do the type of writing I now realize I love best: calm, clear, first-person prose saturated in contempt.

Casa Bonita: The definitive guide to Colorado’s world-famous Mexican restaurant

The uniquely weird, 45-year-old Lakewood institution shows no signs of slowing down.

Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita has been a memory-making institution for decades, filling children with countless sopapillas and dreams of plummeting from the top of a man-made, three-story indoor waterfall while people eat tacos, listen to Mariachi music and watch puppet shows around them.

Metaphors, industry expectations, predictions of its demise – they all disappear into the deep fryer when it comes to Casa Bonita.

There are plenty of reasons why the beloved, Mexican “eater-tainment” concept is celebrating nearly a half-century of sopapillas, cliff-divers and surreal childhood memories in the west Denver suburb of Lakewood.

It’s the last of its chain, which once included outposts in Oklahoma and Arkansas. It’s a historical landmark in its hometown, as neighbors have gradually embraced its kitschy appeal since its 1974 opening to sell fine art, enamel pins and bumper stickers, among other products.

In this 1988 file photo, customers listen to a mariachi band perform during their meal at Casa Bonita in Lakewood.

It offers a window into both past trends and the immersive, “experiential” art and entertainment on which the fast-rising, Santa Fe-based Meow Wolf is building a national empire. And how many other restaurants can boast an episode of “South Park” (2003’s “Mexican Disneyland”) based solely on them?

Casa Bonita (Spanish for “pretty house”) is vast, occupying 52,000 square feet with the capacity to seat more than 1,000 people. It’s wacky, with a 1970s-indebted Disneyland-meets-Las-Vegas vibe that includes everything from gun and sword fights (fake, of course) to skee-ball, puppet/magic shows, a labyrinthine cave, live mariachi bands and all manner of arcade and gift-shop distractions.

And no one who goes there can ever forget it.

Ed. If I recall, the last time I was there, I took my partner-in-crime to experience the place, sometime in 1984 or 1985. Perhaps it’s time for a repeat.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

The bomb blast which stuck the port town of al-Mokha, on Yemen’s west coast killing at least six people last week might not seem too extraordinary in a country ravaged by a war now edging towards its fifth year. But it’s a rare instance of violence in the town government-controlled forces recaptured from the Iran-backed Houthis in 2017. And, unlike much of conflict in this part of the country, Yemeni government security officials believe it was likely carried out by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the Islamic State in Yemen.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on Pro Kabaddi. I can’t find many recent clips on YouTube, but I enjoy what I see! Cheers to all you legends who have told me about it. Have a good one!


The Love Story Behind L.A.’s Bunny Museum

Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski’s collection has grown to over 30,000 rabbit-related items.

AT THE BUNNY MUSEUM IN Altadena, California, visitors will find bunny clocks, bunny stuffed animals, ancient bunny rings, bunny drawings, and more. The museum was born out of Candace Frazee and Steve Lubanski’s infatuation with rabbits. Early in their relationship, the couple began giving bunny trinkets and ornaments to each other as gifts on birthdays and holidays. Soon those occasions felt too infrequent, and bunny exchanges happened daily. Their wedding cake—a carrot cake—was even topped with a bunny bride and groom. After four years of collecting, Frazee and Lubanski opened the Bunny Museum to the public.

Today, the collection consists of over 30,000 rabbit-related items. Frazee compares the pair’s love for bunnies with a belief or way of life. Lubanski describes the museum as “a way of showing a couple’s love toward each other and how it perpetuated the collection further and further.” In the video above, Atlas Obscura unpacks the museum’s unique origin story.

Ed. Yes, I’ve been to the Bunny Museum.

Ed. I’m so glad. I’m also glad @notatlasobscura keeps this thing going. Obviously, every time I pay a visit to Atlast Obscura, I pay a visit to the fake as well.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?