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Like most parts of the human body, the tongue is amazing. It allows us to speak, sing, kiss, and, arguably best of all, or at least most essential, to eat. Not just eat, but to enjoy eating. To savor it. To understand what it is that we are eating.

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It achieves this by the use of five tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.

Salty: The mineral sting of flavor’s foundation.

Sweet: A bit of luxury, a bit of fun.

Sour: That sharp acid burn of depth and complexity.

Bitter: The one that saves our lives.

Umami (savory): The carnivorous urge––your tongue kills.

The ideal meal finds a balance between these five tastes; a feat so difficult, the ability to consistently achieve it is cause for wealth and celebrity.Image result for Anthony BourdainThat guy was cool. 

Today I want to focus on one particular and shockingly overlooked tool in the constant search for beautifully balanced repast.Image result for parsley                                                              Italian parsley

Humble parsley.

If you are anything like me, for too long I regarded parsley to be nothing more than a sprig of annoying salad some lunatic was always sticking on top of my sandwich on the side of my plate.

Why? Related image

Well, for no good reason. Those people WERE lunatics. Or at least dopes.

Turns out, parsley is delicious!

Falling into the bitter range of tastes, it adds that difficult aspect to a dish without making it taste like someone dumped a head of lettuce in your chicken tikka, or mushroom soup, or roasted garlic potatoes, or grilled carrots, or…you get the idea.

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Parsley is also extremely healthy.

A chemoprotective food, parsley helps inhibit the formation of tumors in the human body. It is a source of anti-oxidants, folic acid, and vitamin C, which means it’s good for cardiovascular health and protects against arthritis. Image result for super food

So, next time your local deli guy drops that waxy twig of leafy green on top of your turkey club…don’t throw it away.

Put in your mouth, and ask for more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, hierarchy. Where would we be without it? How would we know who is important and who is not? How would we decide which families are worthy of security, luxury, and opportunity, and which families deserve yesterday’s scraps and a kick in the bum?

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We wouldn’t! (citation needed). Hierarchy is the seating chart for civilization. Without it there would be utter, bloody, lunatic chaos and everyone would die (citation needed).

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You can’t let just anyone sit in the front row.

But some annoying people aren’t satisfied with the little they deserve and want to change the way of things. In order to keep things from changing, we invented sumptuary laws.

Image result for sumptuary lawsProbably not the guys who started it, but they look like guys who would.

Sumptuary laws have been around since, well, probably the moment one guy had more stuff than the guy next to him.  The intention of these laws is to restrict consumption. By restricting what people consume, you control what they can wear and eat, where they can travel, what they can see, do, and learn. Even who they can talk to.

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Control what a person can consume (not just buy), and you can more or less control who they can be.

These laws come in very handy when traditional power structures are threatened by unexpected social progress.

In Japan during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868(!)), the merchant class–what we would call middle class–began enjoying an incredible run of prosperity. Quickly their wealth far surpassed that of the samurai, who were considered important aristocracy with status far above the servile merchants. Rules had to be made to maintain order and the honor of the samurai, while also acknowledging that the newly rich merchants finally had some social clout (cash money, honey).

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So, merchants were allowed to wear their fancy clothing with only one sword, while samurai were ordered to wear two when out and about.

The kings of Europe tended to use sumptuary laws in the ways you’d expect from western royalty: stopping other people from wearing or eating or owning anything the King himself particularly favored and thought made him kingly.

Related imageThe law prohibits you being like these dudes. 

In England, Edward II outlawed the “outrageous and excessive multitude of meats and dishes which the great men of the Kingdom had used, and still used, in their castles.”

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Ahem, except of course, for HIS castle.

In 7th century Greece, part of a legal code stated: “A free-born woman may not leave the city during the night, unless she is planning to commit adultery.”

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The usual patriarchal misogynistic nonsense…until that twist at the end!  Okay, ancient Greece, you do it your way.

I bring up Sumptuary laws, because although they have traditionally been used by the rich to maintain their lofty positions, they can also be used the opposite direction.

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At a time when income and wealth imbalances are indeed medieval in scale and severity, perhaps it is time to impose some consumption restrictions once again. Not on people who want to buy a nice pair of sneakers or a fancy watch, but on the those very special ones who can’t think of anything better to do with their multiple billions than make ugly rocket ships and drink the blood of young people.

 

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Today’s subject is somewhat frustrating for me, because as you will see, this is partially about human limitations within an endlessly fascinating and beautiful world. But let not such petty concerns dampen our curiosity.

So…

Birds be invisible, yo.

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In 2007, a group of biologists studied 166 varieties of North American birds that were known for both sexes sporting rather drab plumage. To our eyes, these were rather boring birds to look at. How sad to be one of these unlucky things, cheated of florid feathering in such a vivid world. Poor, poor birdies.

Image result for boring birdsWhat a boring birdie! Boo! Boo! 

How wrong we were.

Turns out 92% of these drab, unpainted creatures were adorned in colors that exist only in the ultraviolet spectrum. They aren’t colorless after all…in fact, they’re downright psychedelic!

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Image result for psychedelic birdsA lilac-breasted roller. It is beautiful, but not even close…

Since humans only have red, blue, and yellow color receptors, we cannot see ultraviolet light. Birds, however, have both colored retinal filters–which increases the colors they can see in the rainbow spectrum–and possess a fourth color receptor in their eyes.

color rangeAn important looking graph. 

A fourth color receptor is a big deal. If you don’t believe me, here’s a depressingly effective comparison for you.

Dogs have two color receptors: blue and yellow. Because they lack that one red receptor, they cannot see shades of red. Now, look around you…notice all the red things…all the reddish things…think of a sunset or sunrise…a rare steak…a rose. To a dog, the world human beings see is unthinkable.

Image result for what dogs see vs what humans see                                                If he only knew, he’d be so much sadder.

The vastness of difference is unfair. 

But the last laugh is not ours.

For us, the world of birds might as well be an alternate reality, an alien planet, a beautiful dreamworld defying all explanation.

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Groovey, man.

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Faaaar ouuuut! 

Maybe it’s the raw jealousy talking, but I feel like another color spectrum might be precisely what humans need right now to snap us out of this collective funk we seem to mired in. A brighter world, literally. 

 

But I’m happy for the birds. I swear…

 

 

 

 

 

 

An hour’s boat ride off the southern California coast sits Catalina Island. It is a beautiful place, popular with tourists, sightseers, day hikers, and sport fishermen. The scuba diving is world-class due to the abundance and variety of sea life in the surrounding waters, and no less an authority than Jaques Cousteau stated that it was his favorite place to linger beneath the waves. He apparently had a deep appreciation for the squid that breed near the island, which I find slightly surprising, given the many exotic locales he was fortunate enough to spend his life exploring.

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But the subject of this post is about an unusual land-based animal that inhabits Catalina Island: the North American buffalo.

Related imageImage result for paintings of north american bison

And in case you were wondering: no, they have no business being there. 

So how did buffalo wind up on a smallish island off the California coast?

Hollywood!

Image result for silent era film setBuster Keaton shown here for humorous purposes only. He had nothing to do with the buffalo story.

In the early days of the film industry, an attempt was made to film an adaptation of Zane Grey’s Western story THE VANISHING AMERICAN. In order to economically create the proper sense of a wild west setting, buffalo were shipped into Los Angeles, loaded onto a ferry, and transported onto the island where shooting was to commence.

No sooner than the last bison stepped off the boat when the film’s financing fell through, and 14 baffled buffalo were left stranded on the picturesque island. Image result for catalina island buffalo

But the animals shook off their confusion and thrived…and people loved it!

From 1924 to 1996, 59 male bison have been brought in to keep the genetics of the herd robust and healthy, a technique that seems to have worked exceptionally well. In the years following 1969, 2,013 bison have been taken off the island and returned to their natural habitat in the great plains.

Image result for paintings of north american bison in the winter

Raw deal! I wouldn’t want to leave warm and sunny Catalina for the cold expanses of Wyoming or Montana, but maybe that’s just me. And Jaques.

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Thanks to the Wrigley family––of chewing gum fame and former owners of Catalina Island––serious efforts have been made to maintain not just the bison, but all wildlife on the island. 80% of the island operates as a conservation area. The rest is occupied by  wealthy hippies and the service workers that surround them.

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The lucky herd that remains on the island sits today at around 150 animals, and continues to enjoy all southern California life offers.

May it ever be so.

But if you ever go to see them, please don’t bother them. In 2018 a man was gored by a male buffalo.

 

 

Hi, all! I’m back again to do some ferrebeekeeping.

I’m going to start with something personal. I just got a dog!

I love dogs, but I prefer breeds that were created to perform specific jobs or tasks. Dogs with natural vocational skills and an innate sense of purpose seem happier, prouder, and um, gooder dogs, than canines bred to be merely decorative accessories. I prefer people who prefer working dogs as well, but that’s another blog…

We often know these occupationally oriented animals by their very names. Retriever. Shepard. Blood hound. All magnificent animals and wonderful pets.

My wife and I just adopted a terrier, and although the terrier’s genetic calling is not proclaimed in its title, every breath this little puppy takes exudes its identity as a vermin killing machine (as evidenced by our torn and perforated feet).

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Terriers are extremely British dogs, designed exclusively for killing rats and chasing down foxes. A dog perfect for arrogant Lords and dirty basement gamblers alike.

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Out-maneuvering rats and out-witting foxes sounds like impossibly difficult work, requiring extremely specialized skills. Skills like small size, intelligence, tenacity, and fearlessness. If this sounds like your dog, you probably have a terrier. Image result for terriers

They are also stubborn and contrary, often making up for their relative small size with big personalities.

The terrier: the-guy-at-the-local-pub-everyone-likes-to-drink-with-but-he’s-always-hoping-a-barfight-starts of dogs.

 

Image result for terrier painting

 

 

Well, this is my last entry as guest blogger for Ferrebeekeeper. Tomorrow, Beekeeper Prime returns to his home city, hopefully refreshed and renewed and ready to pick up his regular duties. I have had a wonderful time and pray I didn’t muck things up too badly. I also regret I have been too busy to write a post every night––there are so many things I want to share here––but time is a powerful and cruel lord. Beekeeper Prime really is a master of this form, and while I have always been impressed, I am doubly so now.

So, in honor of happy experiences and learning new things (and science fiction!), I present to you my final post.

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What are memories? It is a big question without a satisfying answer. A more manageable question (for neuroscientists, at least) is WHERE are memories. So far the debate over that topic has been fierce, ongoing, and decidedly unresolved.

Some neuroscientists believe that memories are stored in the synapses (connections between nerve cells), while others think memories are located in the more permanent and accessible nuclei of neurons. The former is like writing a note in the sand of a beach. The latter is more akin to placing a file in a metal cabinet. It seems there is merit to both ideas, but who am I to chime in?

A helpful chart…?

Recently, some researchers at UCLA (Los Angeles is neat, I keep telling you) drew closer to an answer of memory-storage question with an experiment involving seas snails.

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aeolid nudibranch

Sea snails learn in similar ways as mammals, but since they have a paltry 20,000 neurons compared to a human being’s 100 billion or so, they are profoundly easier to study.

The sea snail experiment required a snail to be shocked with a small electrical charge, causing the poor snail to curl into a defensive ball for about 10 seconds. Gradually the shock levels were increased until the snail, wondering what it ever did to deserve such shabby treatment, was staying curled up for 50 seconds at a time after EVERY shock, no matter the intensity. The sea snail was trained.

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Micromelo undatus, or the miniature melo

Then the researches extracted a bit of RNA (ribonucleic acid, which forms proteins based on a cell’s DNA instructions) from the trained snail and injected that RNA into an untrained sea snail. Then they zapped this new, freshly injected snail with a shock. Lo and behold, the untrained snail curled up for…50 seconds!

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Littorina littorea, A.K.A. a periwinkle 

As a control test, the heartless-but-on-to-something researchers also zapped an untrained and un-injected snail. That snail curled up for the original 10 seconds.

This, in a weird and brutal way, suggests that there was a “memory” transfer from one sea snail to the other.

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A very beautiful nudibranch

Now, this obviously doesn’t answer directly anything at all, but it does suggest an interesting direction for the research to move in.

Do memories have a physical form? Are they tangible things? Can they be copied? Can they be transferred from one human brain to another?

Unidentified

The sea snail says, “Yes!” and probably, “Ouch, stop that!”

This is well trodden ground for science fiction stories, but the practical implications are astounding. All hail the noble sea snail! We honor thy sacrifice.

noble_snail_by_lukkar-d98ulnu

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles is an underrated town, in my opinion. Aside the variety of stunning landscapes, alien planet heat, and atmosphere of sunfried amorality, there is a lot to recommend it.

One such gem is the Gene Autry Museum, a lovely little building near the Los Angeles Zoo that is devoted to the history of America’s west. The museum is expertly and tastefully curated, with regularly excellent exhibits throughout the year. Their interests range from Native American life and history to Chicano culture to past and current regional artists expressing the many complicated issues facing the modern southland.

They also have a delightful permanent collection, the pride of which is the wall of ridiculous wild west firearms. My wife and I laughed out loud when we saw these two beauties…which I’m sure would have gotten us shot thoroughly dead in whatever saloon we they originally appeared. It would have been humiliating.

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Boy, that sure is a fancy gun you got there, mister. What do the bullets look like? 

These things got me diving down a very specific rabbit hole of absurdly bedazzled and ornate firearms.

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Deluxe Tiffany & Co. Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action 4th Model Revolver Exhibited by the Factory at the 1893

I don’t know what type of person does this to a gun…

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Very Rare Smith & Wesson Engraved Model 38 single action 2nd model top break revolver two barrel set.

But I’m not sure it’s the sort of person you find among the average gun owners of today.

I admit, it’s pretty. For a gun. 

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Well, that’s just stupid. 

Of course, the desire to beautify and personalize our instruments of death is perfectly understandable. Once upon a time this was the way to stake out an identity. Arms and amour were statements of status and achievement. Symbols of the self that have been replaced by hotrod cars and…er…internet blogs.

But I can’t tell if these designs would make a person more inclined to use the weapon or less. Does a gold gilded ICBM stay in its silo or does it demand to be seen streaking across the sky? Thermonuclear Warhead by Faberge…handle with care until detonation.

 

 

 

This is a “news of the day” post. I had intended to write on a different subject (and a much more grim one), but this caught my eye, and while sad, isn’t quite as dark or upsetting as other current news items.

I’ll get the bad news out of the way first: the Tsukiji Fish Market is shutting down.

The Tsukiji (skee-jee) Fish Market has been a common destination for the hip travel/food shows that flooded cable television in recent years, bringing it to wider popular awareness, but it has always been famous within the fishing industry and among professional chefs around the world.

And of course, it’s been a big deal in Japan since its creation…in 1935!

 

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The Tsukiji Fish Market at its founding in 1934/35

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Here’s a part of the market today. 

The Tsukiji Fish Market (officially the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market (Tokyo Chuo Oroshiuri Ichiba) is (or was) the largest wholesale fish market in the world, selling five million pounds of seafood every day. That’s about 28 million dollars. To put those numbers in perspective, it is 11x more than the Fulton Fish Market in Manhattan and 7x more that the Rungis Market in Paris. The Rungis Market is the second largest in the world, so that gives you an idea of what’s going on in Tsukiji every day. Seafood arrives from 60 countries, a lot of it still alive. Among the 1200 stalls spread out over 53 acres, you can find eels, octopus, squid, puffer fish, mackerel, salmon, the occasion hunk of whale meat, and of course the always-shocking-to-see-whole bluefin tuna.

Just this year (2018) a bluefin tuna was sold for $323,000 (36 million Yen).  The fish in question weighed an astonishing  892 pounds. That’s a lot of sushi, but it’s not even the record. In 2013 a 489 pound bluefin sold for 1.7 million dollars. It seems the value of bluefin is a mercurial, to say the least. Indeed the Tsukiji Fish Market is known for inspiring such swings in enthusiasms. They like to keep business exciting down in old Tokyo.

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Big fish. 

 

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Expensive fish! 

The Tsukiji Fish Market provided 90% of Tokyo’s seafood and 1/3rd of the seafood in Japan. That’s impressive, but it also begs the question just how much seafood is being consumed around the world everyday? That doesn’t seem sustainable, does it? A post for another time, perhaps.

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After a long and noble 83 year run, the Tsukiji Fish market is relocating to another neighborhood in Tokyo. The relocation has actually been in the works for many years, caused by the diminishing physical condition of the market. Basically, it had gotten too dirty to work in safely.

I regret I will never see the market in person, but it sounds like the move is for the best.

Earth. The blue planet, home of gentle water and thriving life. A rare jewel hurtling through a cold, ancient explosion of dust and gas. Our home. But what the heck does it look like? Satellite imagery has gifted us with an objective view of our planet, and it truly is beautiful. We are indeed unique among the stars. Thank you, science (and, ahem, the cold war space race).

But I’m speaking about our mental understanding of where we live. The shape of the Earth within us. How continents and countries, oceans and seas, exist in our mind’s eye, influencing our affections and prejudices. Our identities depend very much on how we imagine our literal place on Earth. Who we are is where our feet touch.

Try as we might, we’re not great at doing this. The good news, as usual, is we’ve made some extraordinary art in the attempt to know our place.

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The above is a world map created by Abu Ishaq Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al-Farisi al Istakhri in the year 1193. Not much is known about Al-Istakhri apart from this map and a book with the Tolkienesque title Kitab al-masalik wa-al-mamalik (Book of Routes and Realms). But Al-Istakhri was hardly alone. The 10th century was full of ambitious Islamic mapmakers and world-definers, curious people unafraid of the wider world; a sad contrast to the cringing tribalism so common across the globe today. While I can’t make heads or tails of this map as a piece of cartography, I would be proud to have it painted on the hull of my spaceship. If I had one.

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No, this isn’t a wrinkled stretch of petrified rhino hide. It is actually a 14,000 year old map! Discovered in a cave in Abuantz, Spain, the stone engraving has mountains, streams, large rivers, and shows choice spots for hunting and foraging.  There are even ibex herds marked in the stone, their 14,000 year old grazing habits recorded for all time.

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This is the world as seen by the medieval Christians living in the 1300s. It figures then, that it was drawn using biblical time as its guiding geological principal, instead of the more typical concept of physical space. This more of a spiritual map than an Earthly one. Beginning at the top with Christ looking down upon the Earth, the viewer takes a descending journey from the Garden of Eden all the way down to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Pillars of Hercules. In the center: Jerusalem. To the right: Africa. Note (if you can on these tiny images) the hideous beasts and frightening monsters lurking along the coasts and at the margins, ready to devour any pilgrim foolhardy enough to venture beyond the watchful eye of the Christian God.

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Lastly, the most “accurate map in the world”. I don’t understand the science of how this was achieved, but you can find it here: http://www.authagraph.com/projects/description.

If you’re anything like me, this map is almost as alien and confusing as the others. My eye doesn’t know where to go! My brain rejects what it sees! My red-blooded American heart is shocked and offended! Look at Africa. Now look at Europe. King Leopold would’ve had an aneurism looking at this map. Shame he didn’t, the bastard. How can we be decent––or merely responsible––tenants when we don’t understand the rooms of the house?

Hello, fellow fans of Ferrebeekeeper. My name is Daniel Claymore and I’ll be your guest blog-post-thing person while Ferrebeekeeper Prime is away taking a much needed vacation. As you might imagine, this is a great honor. As you might also imagine, it is quite daunting, too. With that in mind, I’d like to begin simply.

One of the themes of the week that Beekeeper Prime and I discussed was the vanishing relationship between art and science. Or rather, the perceived kinship between art and science, or lack thereof. That got me thinking about highly technical art forms, which lead me to thinking about movies. And when I think about movies, I usually wind up thinking about Akira Kurosawa.

akira-kurosawa

His film career is among the most famous and celebrated in human history, so I won’t describe it here. What is less well-known, however, is that Akira Kurosawa was also a wonderful fine artist. I’d like to share with you some of his impressive work.

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A piece from RAN.

Trained as a young man in illustration and calligraphy, Kurosawa had every intention of becoming a painter. Indeed, he succeeded as a working painter for several years before finally burning out from the relentless grind of uncertainty and impoverishment. It was only by sheer chance (or inescapable destiny) that he found his way into the nascent Japanese film industry, working his way up from assistant director, to writer, to editor, to director, and finally to world class master. But he always retained a painter’s eye. And a painter’s brushes, canvases, papers, pens and whatever else he needed, because the guy sure produced a lot of work…

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Another conceptual design from RAN. He was in his 70s when he did this. And when he actually made the film…one can only hope for genes as good.

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This one makes me dizzy. Not for a film, or never REALLY for a film. Just his state of mind at the time.

There are many more examples you can find online, as well as some excellent books, and I encourage you to explore the subject. Akira Kurosawa had a fascinating and dramatic life, with all the quite tragedy and stunning beauty one finds in his films. As the week progresses there will be trips to stranger places and weirder things, but for now please enjoy these vibrant, moving artworks from a true 20th century polymath.

Please forgive any technical issues. BeeKeeper Prime often mentions his frustration with WordPress and boy, oh boy, he ain’t kidding.

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