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Showing posts by: Clare Toohey click to see Clare Toohey's profile
Apr 9 2014 8:45am

The Apple Core, a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg

Pop artist as crime poet? Well, Claes Oldenburg's work repeatedly makes monuments out of the everyday detritus of living, from apple cores to clothespins. By aggrandizing the humble, he offers a fresh perspective and dispels complacence, which is what I think crime stories do. They delve into what's tawdry, venal, cruel, or tragic with such purpose and attention that we come to consider events and people far differently than we do blipped statistics or stale news items.

Here are three minutes of Claes Oldenburg's wonderful words, excerpted from his “Ode to Possibilities” (1961), read in honor of National Poetry Month and as an unusual stop on April's blog tour for crime poetry, 30 Days of The 5-2.

He's for  “an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap” and “an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, whatever is necessary.” IMO, that's the enduring attraction of the crime genre. Do you agree?

The complete text, with much more background on the artist and his work, may be found at the Walker Art Center.

Dec 18 2013 10:45am

Model K10 is better in open spaces, K5 in close quarters/ Photo: KnightscopeVia the International Business Times:

Silicon Valley startup Knightscope has created robots that can replace policemen - and cost just $6.25 (£3.80) an hour to rent.

The robots, which are 1.50 metres (59.06 inches) tall and weigh 136 kilos (about 21 stone), are able to collect real time data and utilise predictive analytics to provide a commanding but friendly physical presence...

“Imagine a friend that can see, hear, feel and smell; that would tirelessly watch over your neighbourhood, keep your loved ones safe and put a smile on anyone walking by your business”, Knightscope said when introducing the robots during the recent Plug and Play Winter Expo in Sunnyvale.

Because there's nothing quite a friendly as unrelenting surveillance and data gathering on people who haven't done know, just in case.

I think we might feel better if it looked less like a derma-peeled Dalek and more like Almost Human's Michael Ealy (or even Karl Urban, IYKWIMAITYD).

h/t: Fark

Nov 18 2013 9:45am

Thrift Store Painting, perfected by Artist Thyrza Segal


Paintings at thrift stores get a bad rap, possibly because they're the kind of things people wanted rid of enough to donate. (Hey, the donors could have burned them or turned them in for use as in quality testing at the Sharpie factory, right?) Anyway, artists Chris McMahon and Thyrza Segal decided instead to perfect discarded landscape paintings by adding monsters, trying as well as they could to match the original paint and color scheme, so the addition would harmonize completely, like the buckaroo roping a who-knows-what above. There are more brilliant improvements to behold at Twisted Sifter (hat tips and thanks), and just remember, Winter Gift Season is Coming.

Thrift Store Painting, perfected by Artist Chris McMahon

Oct 22 2013 8:45am

Tikker Death WatchAmong many new ventures one can fund on Kickstarter is this one: Tikker is a death watch that collects health questionnaire answers and your current age to let you proudly sport a digital countdown toward your estimated demise. This is designed to help wearers value life more, and accordingly, not to waste time—most particularly it seems on negative emotions and skipping vacations.

Not to be a naysayer *ahem,* but there are plenty of stories where rage, pride, revenge, and even plain old boredom become potent motivation for positive outcomes. Just the effort of trying to achieve almost anything can be frustrating and misery-making. Most victory laps have a jagged path of fits and starts, advancements and setbacks in their wake. Perhaps one's individual contentedness really is the most important product of every moment (Not happy?...What about now? Halt valueless activity! Embrace the Smiley Face!). But then again, pain and failure only persist until the moment they don't. As Edison said, “I believe that restlessness is discontent, and discontent is merely the first necessity of progress.”

Here's the somewhat creepy pitch video, so you can judge the whole death watch concept for yourself!

Sep 16 2013 2:00pm

Seven for a Secret, a Timothy Wilde thriller of historic New York City, by Lyndsay FayeSeven for a Secret by Lyndsay Faye is the second historical crime novel featuring Timothy Wilde, a copper of Gotham's fledgling police force in 1846, sworn to uphold slave-catching laws while confronted by a vile trade that abducts even free people of color into bondage (available September 17, 2013).

Timothy Wilde knows New York City intimately, and it's spoiling for a fight. Heaving with change, beset by the tensions of industrial expansion, ethnic groups clash as the Civil War looms in the not-too distant future. His hometown is being inundated by Irish refugees of the potato famine, as well as free colored people, also vying for work and undercutting employment among the rest of the city's striving mish-mosh of residents. The reinforcement of nasty old bigotries and spawning of new ones would worry any man sworn to uphold order, but Timothy Wilde's also innately curious about people, a man who's rubbed shoulders with outcasts and empire-builders alike.

This city plays with its residents a mortal game of musical chairs, and when the langing pianofaorte shops, the consequence for the loser is either a slow death or a short one. There is simply not enough here. Not enough work, enough food, enough walls with roofs topping them. Maybe there would be if we filled in half the Atlantic. But today, there aren't enough chairs for the tens of thousands tearing their way into the parlor for a try.

[“...who pitches whom on the hardwood first?”]

Jun 30 2013 5:30pm

Last Sunday marked the premiere of ABC's new “reality” series Whodunnit. Thirteen guests and a butler assemble at a manor house (you know how we forever adore those). When one guest gets “murdered,” the rest have to find the identity of the rampaging killer as one by one they're eliminated or executed or whatever. This isn't the First 48, so we're not facing real deaths or crimes, but a game.

[Check out the promo and more groundless speculation!]

Jun 26 2013 8:45am

Echo in a walrus Halloween costume by Kristin Kittle

If I lived with someone making these sounds, I'd call poison control, but to someone else, they represent the ideal roommate. Here's a recent U.K. ad for free lodging:

Among the many things I have done in my life is to spend three years alone on St. Lawrence Island. These were perhaps the most intense and fascinating years of my life, and I was kept in companionship with a walrus whom I named Gregory. Never have I had such a fulfilling friendship with anyone, human or otherwise, and upon leaving the island I was heartbroken for months...

I have, over the last few months, been constructing a realistic walrus costume, which should fit most people of average proportions, and allow for full and easy movement in character. To take on the position as my lodger you must be prepared to wear the walrus suit for approximately two hours each day (in practice, this is not two hours every day - I merely state it here so you are able to have a clear idea of the workload). Whilst in the walrus costume you must be a walrus - there must be no speaking in a human voice, and any communication must entail making utterances in the voice of a walrus - I believe there aer recordings available on the web - to me, the voice is the most natural thing I have ever heard. Other duties will involve catching and eating the fish and crabs that I will occasionally throw to you whilst you are being the walrus.

He doesn't want to hear any talk about shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings, but you'll have to read the rest to learn about the accordion.

It reminded me of this ad seeking a paid person to dress as an owl and watch the advertiser sleep. If this is a thing now, what do we call it?

Nature noises via Soundboard. Image of Echo by Kristin Kittle via Southern Living.

Jun 17 2013 8:45am

Heels designed by Tom Ford and photographed by Terry RichardsonA woman in Houston, Texas recently committed murder “with a deadly weapon, namely a shoe...” At least, that's what the police think after Ana Lilia Trujillo answered the victim's apartment door covered in blood and with her repeatedly stabbed boyfriend lying dead in the hallway next to her discarded shoe. According to CNN, who also has video from her preliminary hearing:

[Alf Stefan] Andersson, a research professor from the University of Houston, had 10 puncture wounds on his head — some as deep as an inch and a half — and 15 to 20 puncture wounds along his face, arms, and neck, prosecutors say, according to CNN affiliate KTRK.

The accused had apparently threatened others with this kind of behavior before, making “killer heels” not just a figure of speech, but her actual weapon of choice. (And she's not alone! Check this partial list of other assaults and murder by stiletto attack.)

The dangerous-looking Tom Ford heel pictured above is also indeed killer, but only in our preferred, stylistic sense. Photograph by Terry Richardson.

Jun 5 2013 8:45am

“Real tough guys don't need guns, they just need a positive, can-do attitude.”

This is the proposition behind the amazeballs Thumbs & Ammo blog that goes out proving it, day in, day out.

Here are several samples, but there are SO many great ones, it's impossible to choose a favorite. Check it out for yourself!




May 30 2013 8:45am

Francesca Pitcher of the UK’s North Star Cakes is a very talented sculptor and baker, but more than that, a very generous mom. We know this, because she faced her own deep fear of snakes, using a half-dozen sponge cakes and white chocolate fondant to craft this Amelanistic Burmese python, the real version being one of the most deadly non-venomous snakes there is. Pitcher’s daughter requested the ssssspooky sssixth birthday theme after a zoo visit, and it’s so hard to believe it’s just a cake, you’ll have to scroll down to be sure.

Get more info and great images at the Mirror and learn how its baker had to lock the finished cake away because she couldn’t bear looking at it. The kids, on the other hand, fought over who got to eat the head. Pythons of the world second that emotion.

May 21 2013 8:45am

Artist Mike Doyle is a genius in Lego, and this piece from his Abandoned Houses Series is all and only Lego, no foreign materials, paint, glue, screws, or altered blocks. It was created over 600 hours of effort out of somewhere between 110,000 and 130,000 blocks in black, white, dark and light bluish gray, transparent clear, and translucent black. Here's what he says about it:

The third installment of this abandoned house series continues its textural exploration of decay with a Victorian home engulfed in mud... For me, this piece speaks to the inherent unpredictability of those things which we call our foundation. Like a little dollhouse, a seemingly secure home is plucked up and set on a new path. This charming home, lovingly embellished with ornamental fancy was no match for nature. The fancy embellishments serve as a reminder of our earlier focus on the material world, while the aftermath removes us from that focus. The piece offers no answers or necessarily any hope, but rather points to life’s fragility.

It’s spooky and amazing, and here’s a close-up of Victorian with Tree, just because!

Hat tip: This is Colossal

Apr 29 2013 8:45am

That's the official tagline of a recently launched Twitter app.

To be clear, you’re not creating or scheduling them in advance—heck no, that’s old horse-and-buggy stuff. Via, I learned the very latest thing is using artificial intelligence (A.I.) to mine a user’s tweets for verbiage and subject matter, thereby making the computer able to construct plausible post-mortem quips. Then, for as long as you like, it can tweet as a dead, digital version of you. How very satisfying knowing that your #coffeestainoftheday or *facepalms* will go on.

This unusual legacy is assembled on your behalf courtesy of _LIVESON, which calls itself “your social afterlife,” if social means something like confabbing with a solar calculator or an aphorism generator. However, they’ll even let you assign someone as digital executor, presumably a human, who’s got the good sense authority to shut the service off.

For me, you could probably just auto-tweet pirate insults every other day and save the drag on Haley Joel Osment’s CPU.

Apr 23 2013 8:45am

There are at least 10 important guidelines any successful liar follows:

  1. Lying's Like A Muscle—use it enough to stay limber
  2. Don't Over-rehearse Any One Lie—you might sound flat or too practiced
  3. Don't Sweat Follow-Up Questions—that's when you close the deal
  4. Tell It the Same Way to Everyone—they might compare stories
  5. Don't Keep Incriminating Crib Notes—sheesh, are you nuts?!
  6. Don't Seem Overly Invested—it's a red flag
  7. Don't Fidget or Lose Eye Contact—it betrays guilt and anxiety
  8. Reduce Conversational Stress—too much heat leads to accusations
  9. Don't Get Defensive—why argue if you're being truthful?
  10. When Caught Red-Handed, Accept Responsibility—forgiving you alleviates anger, setting up a better outcome next time

It all sounds reasonable, right? Yeah...but No! Because actually, the lying liars' best secrets really include just the opposite of what I've summarized here!  You could go to Jeff Wise's column from Psychology Today to read the “so-called” legit list of 10 secrets for yourself, if you trust me to send you to the right place. You do, don't you?

(No, honestly, that link will work fine. It's not a keylogging discount-Viagra credit card phishing site.)


(It isn't. I swear...probably)

Image via Killers Without Conscience

Apr 9 2013 8:45am

At a huge and popular Argentine street bazaar, purebred “poodles” have been sold at suspiciously low prices. Turns out, they're 100% pure ferret, plumped in girth with steroids and all fluffed up. Another woman apparently bought one as a Chihuahua. We'd like to see that styling job. Read more about it—with video from the local news coverage!—at the Daily Mail!

This makes the everyday fraud of Chilean sea bass, which is neither from Chile nor bass, pale in comparison.

Mar 26 2013 8:45am

Ah, the (not very) glamorous lives of private eyes! UK filmmaker Tom Betts has created two cool and tiny flicks. He stars as the toiling P.I. of “Dream Job” while Des Yankson plays shamus “In The Big Sleep.” They're each a couple of minutes long, with a great sparse look and sound. Being this brief, as in flash fiction, their charm lies in deftly implying more than they have room to say. But concerned potential viewers may put their minds at ease: no investigators' hairy kneecaps will be exploited in this pair of shorts.

So, besides reminding you of how much you love the righteous use of vibraphone, what did you think?

Mar 10 2013 11:00am

Better Step Off, Youngbloods: VIvaldi Will Play This!Hearing a lot of classical music in the parking garages or on the drug dealers’ corner lately? (Hey, how do you know what’s playing on the druggie corner?) If you wondered why—hypothetically, of course— you might be interested in the video of a presentation hosted at the Library of Congress.

Music and the Brain: Music, Criminal Behavior, and Crime Prevention has introductory remarks and real-world examples from Norman Middleton of the LoC’s Music Division. Spinning deep into the album cuts re: divergent subcultures and hypermasculinity is expert guest Dr. Jacqueline Helfgott, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Seattle University. From the YouTube description:

A fascinating discussion of the use of classical music by law enforcement and other cultural institutions as social control, to quell and prevent crime. Their conversation touches on how classical music is viewed in contemporary culture, how it can be a tool for discouraging criminal activity and antisocial behavior, as well as its history as a mind-altering experience.

[But how does Barry Manilow fit into all this, you ask?]

Mar 5 2013 1:00pm

Donnybrook by Frank BillDonnybrook by Frank Bill is a rural noir novel of drugs and violence (available March 5, 2013).

The Donnybrook is a three-day bare-knuckle tournament held on a thousand-acre plot out in the sticks of southern Indiana. Twenty fighters. One wire-fence ring. Fight until only one man is left standing while a rowdy festival of onlookers—drunk and high on whatever’s on offer—bet on the fighters.

 Jarhead is a desperate man who’d do just about anything to feed his children. He’s also the toughest fighter in southeastern Kentucky, and he’s convinced that his ticket to a better life is one last fight with a cash prize so big it’ll solve all his problems.

$h!+ happens. If even the punctuation-spelled version kinks your neck, take that as your guide that the novel under discussion here won’t be your cuppa.

Still reading? Okay, let me share that in Donnybrook, bona fide, filthy Shit Happens and keeps happening relentlessly, from the opening page through the finale, by which time countless skulls crack, bullets perforate limbs and organs, peddlers pimp underage flesh, dimwits are humiliated, much meth disappears into raggedy faces, nauseating sex is perpetrated between gross-ass freaks, mildew blooms, crooks betray, kindness is punished, bowels void, and blood spatters as malfeasants of every degree of dark-heartedness kill and get killed.

[Yeah, there’s actually More and Worse after the jump...]

Mar 5 2013 9:45am

Did you watch the new ABC crime drama Red Widow this weekend? I think the ratings weren’t great. The short ads I saw everywhere teased a Marin County housewife and mother, whose drug-smuggling beloved was in debt to a dangerous gangster, taking over for her husband after his murder. And I thought: This is way past Weeds. Who the heck would do that?!

So I confess, my expectations were low, though I’ve adored Goran Visnjic’s incipient evil ever since The Deep End (2001) with Tilda Swinton. However, I might’ve been more interested from the start if they’d told more about Marta Walraven, the main character played by Radha Mitchell. You can view what I think’s a more illuminating trailer below:

Aha! She’s not just an innocent carpool leader—she grew up in a Russian mob family! Now that at least makes more sense, vis-a-vis her entanglement, her inability to cut and run, and why she’d think she had any chance of surviving that world.

By the way, another interesting fact is that this new series is another international TV remake: it’s based on a Dutch show called Penoza. Here’s a short clip from that one, just because it’s interesting to see the original ages and hotness levels of the actors playing the couple and how the husband’s death unfolds. No crane shot over a bloodied driveway—simply awesome final eye rolls from the hospital bed instead. “Reanimate!” sounds so much more promising than “Clear!” Anyway, the subtitles are in Dutch, but you’ll get the gist.

Red Widow’s premiere is apparently a wild conglomeration of drama, action, and soap opera (which you can still watch at or presumably from their app). People who’ve seen the second episode say the show picks up steam, and IMHO, later episodes are almost always improved by losing painful amounts of backstory. However, I think we may miss the departed hubby Evan Walraven (Anson Mount) who did, as many have noted, bring the epically flowing mane-age and beardwork that we appreciate so much in Sons of Anarchy.

And now I must ask...are there any new crime shows that have already fizzled for you or changed your (viewing) life? Did you check this one out, and could it earn its way into your weekly rotation?

Feb 26 2013 9:45am

Image: Caters News AgencyInspired by the reality show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, a 22-year-old woman used nail glue to bling her name onto the ankle monitor (in the U.K. called a curfew tag) she’d been assigned to wear for three months after fighting outside a nightclub. She says the security firm attaching the tag told her she could decorate it as she pleased, but when she had to get a new one after a move, there was a bunch of small-minded blah blah about the dozens of diamantes affecting the tag’s performance, and the company dimed her out to the judge. Who appointed them fashion police? The judge agreed that she’d “compromised the integrity” of the device and fined her for it. If by compromising, the court meant making life a little more fabulous for everyone crossing her path, agreed! Why won’t the h8ers in the justice system allow a girl to be dazzling?!

Via The Daily Mail.

Jan 26 2013 10:00pm

Sometimes, less is more. But sometimes, there’s delirious pleasure in heaping more upon more. Like, for example, when you take a perfectly wonderful candy bar—a symphony itself of caramel, nougat, peanuts, and chocolate—and freeze it onto a stick, then dip the thing in batter and deep-fry it. On paper, even to a lover of sweets, the idea may read like needlessly piling virtue upon virtue, with the risk that you end up with nothing that’s distinctly anything and which tastes merely of greasy excess. But of course, when such an ambitiously layered confection works, it’s genius, and Ripper Street reminds me simultaneously of lots of different things while somehow being its own magnificently mashed-up thing.

BBC America just began airing the series which had its debut in the UK last year. It’s set in Whitechapel, London’s East End, circa 1889, and features the police of H Division, notably Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) and his tough-as-nails Detective Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn). Reid is a man of reason and dedication, dismayed at the continuing hysteria and ghoulishness on his turf caused by the Ripper’s recent crimes. He previously investigated those crimes with the now-haunted and still-possessive Chief Inspector Fred Abberline, who will reappear along with rumors of the Ripper’s resurgence.

If you’re spoiler sensitive, view the premiere before reading on.

[Thankfully, nothing’s only as it appears on Ripper Street...]