Strange Encounters

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Was this Performance Art Show Calling Out Hate Groups Too Real?

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

The results of the election have churned up a tsunami of cultural backlash aimed at the incoming Trump administration’s rhetoric of hatred and intolerance (or, in at least one case, in support of it). There’s a lot of doom and gloom right now– hate crimes are on the rise as our new political era continues to take shape with increasingly horrifying cabinet appointments, from a conspiracy theory-touting Islamophobe as Secretary of Defense to a Department of Energy head who once called for the agency’s abolishment– even so, artists and cultural figures have banded together to express their dismay.

Some, like the Instagram campaign and public protest #DearIvanka, have infused political action with artsy weirdness, while others have just continued making the art they always have, the only difference being that the injustices they’re concerned with– the patriarchy, white supremacy, xenophobia– have seen something of a comeback as some Americans are once again proud to wear their prejudices on their sleeves (or Twitter feeds).

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Excuse Me, Do You Have a Moment to Read About the Life of a Street Canvasser?

(Photo: Michael Garofalo)

A canvasser gets a bite on Washington Place (Photo: Michael Garofalo)

Do you have one minute to stand up for human rights?

No, nowait! Don’t click away from this page! I’m not one of those clipboard toting canvassers that you see half a block away and cross the street to avoid talking to. They’re part of the city’s ambient-level background noise, like Sbarro storefronts or subway etiquette ads. But when I saw three Amnesty International canvassers standing on St. Marks Place yesterday morning, I found myself wondering what it must feel like to stare denial in the face all day long.

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I Crashed an RNC Watch Party and Felt Like the Elephant in the Room

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

At the Met Republican Club’s RNC watch party (Photo: Nicole Disser)

A strange man approached me last night at the Metropolitan Republican Club. “Do you know what that is on your hand?” he asked, pointing down to an glass eyeball ring I like to wear. I gulped, ready for anything– after all, people had been belting out things like “Traitor!”, “Treason!”, and, of course, the one that got everybody at the RNC watch party chanting: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

“I dunno, blood?” I murmured. Thankfully, I don’t think he heard me. “It’s a mati,” he explained. “It’s supposed to ward off the evil eye.” It was a nice sentiment, but I wasn’t so sure it was working.

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Druids, Faeries, and Sorcery of All Manner at the 5th Annual ‘WitchsFest USA’

At left, Indigo. Right, a man who, when asked, said "I think you know already." (Photo: Nicole Disser)

At left, Indigo. Right, a man who, when asked, said “I think you know already.” (Photo: Nicole Disser)

As one might expect, the 5th annual WitchsFest USA, which unfurled its freak flag over Astor Place on Saturday, was a hotbed for crazies. Oh, we’re not talking about the usual chatty theologians, fantasy-contact-wearing druid bachelors, springy sprites, and cute pagan moms wearing their fishnet best and proudly pushing faerie-winged kiddies through the packed street fest. No, you could hardly accuse these pagan faithful of being antisocial– instead, it was the Christian protest element, out in full force on Saturday afternoon, that earned the watchful eye of the police and the ire of a doting crust punk tribe.

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Medium to the Stars Descends on LES, Will Connect Select Guests With Dead People

(Image via Thomas John)

(Image via Thomas John)

Tarot cards, crystals, and witchery are all the rage these days– case in point: NYU hosted the first-ever (and sold-out) Occult Humanities Conference earlier this year. Now, more than ever before, it seems so not crazy to bring up the rift between a friend’s astrological rising sign and their actual sign in order to explain why they’re not exactly the most self-aware person, and the chances that you’ll be taken seriously if you suggest that a pal with back probz head to the acupuncturist are pretty, pretty high.

Meanwhile (and somewhat counterintuitively) old-fashioned psychics are seeing something of an inquisition– whether it’s a justified one or not, is hard to say.

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Dr. Klaw Is Planning an Epic Crustacean-cation on This Lobster Bike

(Photo courtesy of Ben Sargent)

(Photo courtesy of Ben Sargent)

A few years back, if you were cool enough to have Ben Sargent’s digits in your phone, then chances are you were among the enviable few who could call to get handmade lobster rolls crafted by the chef/handyman extraordinaire, and delivered to your doorstep by his gangster alter ego, Dr. Klaw. The shellfish sammies, prepared inside Sargent’s Greenpoint basement apartment, were held in such high esteem that he garnered not just a cult following, but a media frenzy, and subsequently a Health Department party poop.

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Shakshuka Your Money-Maker at House of Yes’s ‘Sexy Jazz’ Brunch

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

In typical House of Yes fashion, when I stopped by last weekend to check out the brunch scene, there was little to distinguish between the meal-eating in the decadent, shimmering dining room and the festive party atmosphere in the adjacent performance space. It was Easter Sunday, and of course the DIY theater collective was hosting an all-ages fundraising bash next door where costumes stayed true to the holiday’s pagan fertility themes.

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Sincerely Burger Sincerely Wants You to Order This $99 Five-Pound Burger

At left, Chef Christian Ortiz holds Sincerely Burger's humble regular-sized burger next to the five-pounder food baby (Photo courtesy of Sincerely Burger)

At left, Chef Christian Ortiz holds Sincerely Burger’s humble regular-sized burger next to the five-pounder food baby (Photo courtesy of Sincerely Burger)

Apparently Sincerely Burger doesn’t believe that you have to be the Jolly Green Giant, Paul Bunyon, or Giganta (the only not-horribly-creepy female giant character I could find) in order to consume a five-pound cheeseburger in its entirety whilst glugging down a half-gallon milkshake. Nay– you just have to be brave. And have $99 to spare.

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Can These Headphones Really Get You High?

(Image courtesy of Nervana)

(Image courtesy of Nervana)

Several weeks back, I stumbled across a short article about a new music-listening device called Nervana. It zaps electrical signals into your ears, allegedly unleashing enough “fun brain compounds” to make you enjoy a Justin Bieber song. (That’s right: according to one of the device’s creators, test subjects found that the Bieb’s bubblegum pop correlated with a particularly pleasant stimulation pattern.) For just $299.99, you too can experience nerve-ana (pre-orders started last week). But is there any truth to all the hints that the device will get you, well, sorta stoned?

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Five Crazy Things I Learned at the Occult Humanities Conference

(Photo: Nicole Disser)

Yep, this is actually a thing (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Last weekend marked a victory for goths, Tarot freaks, and magic nerds everywhere as the second annual Occult Humanities Conference convened at NYU for a sold-out marathon of lectures with names like “Blues Magic,” “Bohemian Occult Subculture in Britain’s 1890s,” and “The Cut in Ritual Psychoanalysis and Art.” And while, yes, in many ways this was an academic-ish conference, organized by Pam Grossman (founder of the esoterica blog Phantasmaphile) and Jesse Bransford (Chair of the Art & Art Professions Department at NYU), the convening of occultists and occult obsessives still managed to keep it real.

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Can These Magic Crystal Dildos Crack Open Your ‘Sexual Blocks’?

Vanessa Cuccia (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Vanessa Cuccia (Photo: Nicole Disser)

“I was very logical for my whole adolescence until I got a little older and I moved to LA. I started to reintroduce myself to these aspects of the metaphysical world,” explained Vanessa Cuccia, the founder of Chakrubs— a company that makes “sex toys made from 100 percent pure crystal.”

She was addressing a small class of women at Please, a sex shop in Park Slope– for the occasion, the shades were drawn at what’s normally a proudly-transparent establishment. Eileen, Vanessa’s friend and member of her original “focus group” cradled an acoustic guitar and a permanent smile.

A few years ago, Vanessa started carrying crystals around with her “everywhere she went” (according to the event invite that first attracted me to this class), but her bond with crystals took an entirely different turn after a woman with a “very large crystal collection” presented her with a particularly attractive specimen. “That would make a great dildo,” she recalls telling the room full of neo-spiritualists. “And the idea just kept growing and growing and growing.”

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