Culture

Located about 140 miles east of San Diego, in the Imperial Valley desert, there is a place that is known as the last free place in America. There, you will find no mayor, no zoning laws, no sewer system, no police force. It’s known as Slab City. It was built on an abandoned military base and offers its residents something much more valuable than modern amenities, it offers them freedom. Slab City was created when U.S. Marine Corps abandoned a military installation near the town of Niland. Though they dismantled the buildings, they left behind the concrete slabs that served as their foundations. Hence the name Slab City. When workers from the local town found the slabs they built a temporary settlement out of them close to their job site. This initial build and the trailers they had brought with them became the beginnings of the new community.  Over time, people from all over the state were drawn to the area. Its isolation being a huge attraction for people who were looking for a way to live off the grid. In this forgotten place, there are no property taxes or utility bills, which makes it ideal for people trying to stretch their pensions or Social Security checks. Even today, Slab City’s population swells to over 4,000 during the cooler winter months. There is no formal initiation process to becoming a full time resident of Slab City. All that is required is that you simply show up. Once you have found a patch of land that no one else has a claim to, it’s yours. But to live there requires a certain degree of self-reliance. The nearest public amenities are in Niland which is a few miles away. There is just a single communal shower that is fed by a nearby hot spring.   You must be entirely self reliant, electricity will come from a collection of solar panels, generators, and batteries that you will have to set up and provide yourself. Or you can hire “Solar Mike,” a long time Slabber who has been selling and installing solar panels out of his trailer since the 1980s. Though police from Niland occasionally patrol the area and will respond to emergency calls, the community largely polices itself. Slab city is completely uncontrolled and isolated from government concern. All parking is free and unregulated. Yet, despite the drugs, freedom, isolation and heavy south-California sun, the residents reject seniority and avoid shrewdness, remaining polite and open-armed to newcomers. Hippies, free-spirits, eccentrics and adventurers, people have been living for free in Slab City since the late ’40s. What do you think? Could you live off the grid in a self made community? We think it could be an awesome experience, but maybe not forever.  
While the aesthetics of Anime and Manga lends itself well to a younger audience, many TV shows and movies that are animated in that style are far from kid friendly. Many are violent, gorey, and deal with very adult themes. Many would also just fly above the head of the average youngster. Visually stunning, most anime is a joy to watch with intricately woven storylines and stunning imagery throughout. Here, we take a look at some of the best anime movies and TV shows with dark, adult themes that you should not miss. But be aware that these are not for younger viewers. TEKKONKINKREET TEKKONKINKREET is an intricate story of the bonds of brotherhood. The movie addresses the problems of living in a large city in today’s society, and deals with issues such as the loss of a true love, and the kindness that dwells within the human heart.  The story focuses on two street kids, two brothers called Black and White, as they try to prevent the evils of the Yakuza, and big city mobsters, from infiltrating the sanctity of their beloved city. The movie is based on a three-volume ‘seinen manga’ series by Taiyō Matsumoto. Elfen Lied Elfen Lied is a beautifully woven tale of acceptance, and the cruelty and fragility of the human spirit. Lucy is a new breed of human, referred to as a ‘Diclonius’. She is  born with a short pair of horns, and invisible telekinetic hands. She has become the victim of inhumane scientific experimentation by the government. However, Lucy gains freedom from her captors in a bloody and violent escape. During her escape, Lucy receives a blow to the head which leaves her with a split personality. One personality is that of Nyu, a harmless child possessing a limited speech capacity. Nyu stumbles upon a pair of young students who take her in and try to help her. Over the course of the series we learn that Lucy is not the only Diclonius, and a bloody and violent battle ensues between her, the other Diclonius’, and the laboratory that wants to recapture her. Paprika Paprika is the first on this list from the amazing mind of Satoshi Kon.The movie depicts the story of a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients’ dreams. When the machine is stolen, chaos ensues, and it is up to female therapist, Paprika, to solve the mystery and find the missing machine. Despite similarities drawn between this and Christopher Nolan’s 2010 movie Inception, Paprika actually pre-dates Nolan’s movie by four years. It is also, arguably, a far better movie. Serial Experiments Lain Serial Experiments Lain is a cyber-punk anime series from the late 90’s. It follows the story of young school girl Lain, who is obsessed with a virtual social network called ‘The Wired’. When her classmate commits suicide, Lain and other members of the peer group begin to receive e-mails from their dead friend. At first they assume it is merely a cruel prank, but Lain gets more and more curious, and slowly begins to fall deeper into the mysterious web the The Wired is weaving for her. During her investigations and research,  Lain discovers truths that potentially undermine the very fabric of existence. Cat Soup What a peculiar, surreal joy this movie is. Cat Soup is the perfect example of Anime as an art form. The story essentially follows that of a little boy and girl cat as they go on an odyssey to reclaim their souls from the land of the dead. The movie, however, is full of surreal, sexually suggestive imagery and vulgar suggestion. Paranoia Agent The second entry from Satoshi Kon to this list, Paranoia Agent, was Kon’s one and only attempt at episodic TV. This is a masterclass in suspense, paranoia, and mounting tension, that any live action director could seriously take notes from. It tells the story of ‘Little Slugger’, an urban legend about a mysterious, rollerblading kid, who can put you out of your misery if your life’s falling apart.  After a vicious attack on a young female as she makes her way home from work, two detectives are called in to investigate. They discover that Little Slugger may be more than just a rumour, and soon, more and more people fall victim to his attacks. But more than just thuggish attacks, as the detectives dig deeper, the reality they thought they knew begins to crumble around them.  Full of violence, with just a smattering of sex, Paranoia Agent takes you in the kind of paranoid, surrealist trips that only Satoshi Kon could deliver. Wicked City This absolute gem of a movie flies under the radar for some strange reason. It is a neo-noir detective drama set in a futuristic city. It tells the story of two worlds that have existed in harmony for centuries, Earth and the Black World. The Black World is a realm of supernatural beings that most humans are unaware of. A military group called the Radicals are intent to breaching the peace and returning men to their former heritage : as slaves. Two special agents, Taki, a human, and Makie, a supernatural, are called in to prevent the Radicals from seizing control. The two form the Black Guard who must protect a 200 year-old man named Giuseppi Mayart, the only man who can keep the peace from being broken by the Radicals. This smart, stylish and eerie Anime is one of the early Manga greats. Dead Man Wonderland When the sole survivor of a high school massacre, Ganta,  is framed for the crime, he is incarcerated in Deadman Wonderland, a strange and sinister private prison. This prison has a perverted and insidious take on incarceration, and what inmates must endure. During the massacre, the real killer embeded a red crystal inside Ganta. This crystal imbues him with powers, and he soon learns that all of the prisoners at Deadman Wonderland must entertain the public, by performing in dangerous games, in exchange for privileges. All of it is televised, and performed in front of a live audience. Ganta soon forms alliances within the prison and soon develops a rag-tag band of misfit friends. Together they must fight for survival, and find out what is really going on in the prison. Perfect Blue Another Satoshi Kon movie, Perfect Blue offers an intriguing look at the dangers of modern celebrity culture, and its inevitable objectification of its beloved starlets. This was Satoshi Kon’s debut movie, released in 1997, and introduced the world to a decadent, depraved genius.  The movie tells the story of Mima Kirigoe, a recently retired  pop idol and a member of the adored pop group: CHAM.  Mima has come to despise the vapid excess of her pop idol fame, and becomes determined to make it as a real, quality actress.  During the process of redefining herself, Mima’s fans begin to despise her, and a sinister stalker emerges from the shadows and seems to bare witness to every moment of Mima’s life. Chaotic fantasy becomes mingled with reality, and we are drawn to a paranoid, blistering climax. Truly a masterpiece of cinema whether you are a fan of animated movies or not.
Bojack Horseman first emerged on Netflix in 2014 and, five seasons later, it has built up an incredible cult following. Essentially a tale about an alcoholic horse, who is a former 90’s TV star, the show is surprisingly touching, full of depth and insight, and, often times entirely heart wrenching in its existential realness. Seriously, a show about an alcoholic horse is the realest thing out there at the moment. Its no holes barred style, and unapologetic rawness, is something that has seriously touched a nerve in today’s overly saccharine society. Here we present you with some examples of that rawness, and if you aren’t already a fan of the show, these might give you a taste of exactly what you’re missing.   The Realness Of The Opening Credits   When Cuddly Whiskers Explained What It Meant To Be Responsible For Your Own Happiness   When Princess Carolyn Gave Herself A Motivational Speech   When Bojack Reflected On Being An Only Child   When All Bojack Wanted To Know Was That He Was Still A Good Person   When Bojack Remembered The Traumatising Reason His Mother Was Often So Cruel To Him   When Holly Hock Needs To Know If Her Feelings Of Not Being Good Enough Would Ever Go Away   This Crippling Break Up   When Bojack Took Sarah Lynn To The Planetarium   When Todd Comes Out As Asexual   When Todd Lays Down The Truth For Bojack, That He Just Needs To Be A Better Person   Every Single Moment Of Bojack’s Mom’s Funeral Episode   When Bojack’s Mom Levels Him With This Devastating Blow   When Bojack Indulged In Some Serious Self Deprication   When Mr. Peanutbutter And Diane Began Realising Their Relationship Issues   When Bojack Made This Stark Realisation About Himself   The Time When Bojack Helped Diane Get Through A Depressive Episode   When Diane Had To Be At A Party With Mr. Peanutbutter And His New Girlfriend   The Realisation That It Will Get Easier The Poignant Lyrics Of The End Theme Song   So, if you want to watch a subversive and emotionally intelligent cartoon show, Bojack Horseman is the one for you. It is one of the most intelligent shows out there at the moment, and will really punch you right in the feels more times than once each episode. You will also find yourself entirely relating to at least one, maybe more of the characters in a really big way. We personally can entirely get on board with Diane and everything and how she moves through the world.
Everyone is familiar with Drag Queens and what they do. Cultural phenomenons like RuPaul’s Drag Race have seen Drag Queens go from being the side show entertainment at the local, seedy, gay dive bar, to being super stars in their own right. But what about the Drag Kings? Those androgynous beauties that butch it up with exaggerated masculinity for pomp and spectacle? Drag as a performance art form dates back as far as the 1800’s, where women dressed as men, would swagger across the boards of the London halls, performing songs and comedy routines. But it was their Drag Queen counterparts that became the more culturally acceptable norm. Maybe it was because the imitation of maleness is just not considered as entertaining as affected femininity, or because masculinity is a currency that women are typically not welcome to trade in. Whatever the reason, despite some amazing talent existing out there on the fringes of the scene, Drag Kings are not as widely known, seen, or showcased as Drag Queens. So, with that in mind, we have compiled a list of some of the most talented and noteworthy Drag Kings in operation at the moment. Be they performance artists or social media stars, all have something unique to offer and all deserve their moment in the spotlight. Ivory Onyx Ivory Onyx is an American King who performs in bars and clubs around the world. He even won Mister USofA MI in 2013 and 2017. Murray Hill Murray Hill is a well-known New York City  drag king and entertainer. He is the entertainer persona of Busby Murray Gallagher, he maintains this persona even in his private life. Jean Genie Jean Genie is a Californian drag king who specialises in David Bowie impersonation. He even has the naturally different coloured eyes. Rain Dove Rain Dove Dubilewski  is an American model, actor, and activist. They prefer gender neutral pronouns and are best known for their subversive fashion work, by posing as both male and female models.They are also currently dating Rose McGowan. Landon Cider Landon Cider is the Drag King persona of LA based artist Kristine Carr. Landon also performs on stage worldwide. Miles Long Miles Long is an up and coming drag star from America. Currently working the scene in the Southern California area, he is really one to watch out for. Buck Wylde Buck Wylde is a performance Drag King who does the burlesque club circuit. Known for his rockabilly aesthetic and swingin’ 60’s performances. Gage Gatlyn Gage has been performing since 2003, so is quite the seasoned king. Gage came out publicly as a Transman in 2003 and is an Activist/Advocate in the Transgender Community. He has co-founded The Gatlyn Dame Group, Inc. Gunner Gatlyn Gunner Gatlyn is an entertainer from Phoenix, Arizona who has been performing since June of 2006. Former Drag King turned Male Illusionist, he is an FTM entertainer with an extreme passion for the art of drag. Spikey Van Dykey Spikey Van Dykey has been a leading Male Illusionist & Drag King entertainer for 10 years. He first hit the stage making his debut in Birmingham Alabama at The Quest Club in October of 2000.   So, if these gender bending male illusionists have whet your appetite for some gender-role defying entertainment, check your local gay bars, burlesque bars, and scene venues, Go and support your local drag kings!!  
There are many universal Christmas traditions that are acknowledged around the world. The Christmas tree is one, decorations are another and even the very act of giving presents is another. Some of us have our own personal or family traditions that we stick to each year to make the holiday season that bit more personal. There are also many traditions that are celebrated in specific countries that never made it globally. Here we take a look at some of the more interesting international Yuletide customs. Roller Skating To Mass – Caracas, Venezuela Every year in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, you will see hundreds of people making their way to mass on roller skates on Christmas morning. The tradition is no such a spectacle that some of the city’s main streets are closed for the morning to ensure the skaters’ safety. The Yule Cat – Iceland The Yule Cat is a traditional monster from Icelandic folklore. The story goes that if you have not gotten any new clothes before Christmas Eve, the Yule cat will come and eat you. The cat is supposed to be huge and vicious, and traditionally farmers would use the Yule Cat as an incentive for their workers. If you worked hard you would receive a new set of clothes, but if you didn’t, you would be eaten. The Gävle Goat – Sweden The Gävle Goat is a traditional Christmas display erected annually at Slottstorget in central Gävle, Sweden. It is a depiction of the traditional Yule Goat, straw goat figures, that are an ancient Christmas tradition in Nordic countries. In Sweden, people regarded the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right. A Pickle In The Tree – America One particularly weird Christmas custom is the hanging of a decoration in the shape of a pickle on the tree. The first child to find the pickle is said to get an extra present on Christmas morning. What is really strange about this custom though, is that no one is really sure where it comes from. Originally, it was thought to have come from Germany. However, this has been debunked. It is now accepted to have origination in the United States, but no one is really sure why! KFC For Christmas – Japan In 1974, KFC in Japan launched an advertising campaign that promoted chicken as a Christmas meal. The slogan,  “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or “Kentucky for Christmas!” spawned a national tradition that still thrives to this day.  Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, families from all over the country head to their local KFC for a special Christmas Eve meal. Befana The Witch – Italy In Italy, on the eve of January 5th, according to folklore, an old woman named Befana visits all the children of Italy to fill their stockings with candy and leave them presents if they’ve been good. Just like Santa Claus, Befana enters through the chimney and treats are left out for her by the children of the house. The Poop Log – Catalonia Tió de Nadal, the Christmas log is a tradition in Catalonia, Spain and is made from a hollow log, with stick legs, a smile, and a red hat. Each night from December 8th until Christmas Eve, children feed the log small treats with water, and leave him under a blanket to keep him warm. On Christmas Eve, children beat the log with small sticks and sing songs including this little gem: “Poop log, Poop nougats, Hazelnuts and mato cheese, If you don’t poop well, I’ll hit you with a stick, Poop log!”. Once this ritual has been completed, Tió de Nadal poops out presents and candy. Once he has done this he is then used on the fire by the family for warmth. Perchta – Austria We have all become very familiar with the folklore behind Krampus, the Christmas devil. There have been a number of films made about him over the last few years, however there has been very little mention of Perctha. In Austrian tradition, Perchta is a demon who roams the countryside between Christmas and Epiphany to find naughty children. It is said that she would know whether the children and young servants of the household had behaved well and worked hard all year. If they had, they might find a small silver coin the next day, however, if they had been bad, she would slit their bellies open, remove their stomach and guts, and stuff the hole with straw and pebbles. She would also slit people’s bellies open if she found out that someone had eaten something on the night of her feast day, other than the traditional meal of fish and gruel.   So there are some weird and wonderful Christmas traditions from around the world. Will you be adopting any of them yourself this Christmas? I know we might just decide to tell people a little bit more about Perchta if we aren’t happy with their behaviour over the Christmas period!