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Hail the (Apocryphal) Flail! It’s BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup

2016 May 20
by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits, coming at you via the Black Phoenix Gazette. This week’s batch:

☠ Archaeology of the undead: The many precautions people have taken to keep corpses in their graves.

☠ The military flail – that spiked-ball weapon attributed to Medieval warfare – probably didn’t exist.

☠ A Smithsonian linguist finds that the Native Americans of central Massachusetts spoke five languages instead of one.

☠ You think Tony Montana was a cool customer? Behold the violent Ice Cream Wars of 1980s Scotland.

☠ Sad news: that baby bison who was placed in a van by stupid tourists in Yellowstone ended up having to be euthanized.

☠ “Straw hat-snatching did, in fact, trigger a bloody, three-day riot in 1922.”

Die Antwoord’s new mixtape opens with a tutorial for Americans on how to say “Die Antwoord.”

☠ 20th Century literary pioneer and style icon Blanche Knopf changed the world’s reading lists forever without getting any credit for it – until now.

JP Sears’ particularly biting brand of New Age satire is having a moment. Naturally, we’re living for his send-up of the essential oils craze. Enjoy below!

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night Without BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup!

2016 May 13
by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

☠ This European archaeology project is bringing the sounds of the ancient world back to life.

☠ The picture book Duck, Death, and the Tulip is an uncommonly tender illustrated meditation on the cycle of life.

☠ Meet the Quebec teenager who managed to discover Mayan ruins without leaving home, simply by studying the stars.

☠ What were photo studios like a century ago? This guy has recreated one in miniature.

☠ Congress has finally approved burials in Arlington Cemetery for female WWII pilots.

☠ Buckle up for this interview with Christian ex-gay therapy survivor Garrard Conley about his new book, Boy Erased.

☠ Check out the concept art for Terry Gilliam’s latest attempt to adapt Don Quixote!

Welcome to the world of paleoscatology, in which scientists are digging up stools “as precious as the Crown Jewels.”

☠ We’ve just learned that David Bowie had been scheduled to appear in the new “Twin Peaks” series. Guess we’ll just have to watch his Fire Walk With Me scene on repeat!

Welcome to #BPAL7wordstory Contest, Round Two: SLOTH Edition

2016 May 9
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by black phoenix


For the second time, we invite BPAL’s fans to participate in our creative process. Welcome one and all to the return of our Seven Word Story Contest!

Call it what you will — flash fiction, microfiction, writing for short attention spans — we want to see just how imaginative you can get in seven words of fewer between now and 19 May 2016.

The winning story will inspire an original fragrance crafted by BPAL’s head perfumer, and will be featured on the label alongside a credit to the author (who will also receive a free bottle of the blend).

On the heels of our Lupercalia update, we’ve decreed the theme to this edition of the contest will be SLOTH. We advise you to use the full 7-word range to express yourself — or whatever you have the energy for.

Profanity is allowed, as are multiple entries, but try not to over-exert yourself.

The deadline for entries is 19 May 2016.  Please read the rules below before submitting. Email your entries (and any questions about the Contest) to, or tweet them @bpal with the hashtag #BPAL7wordstory.

BPAL Seven Word Story Contest Rules and Regulations

By submitting an entry, you agree to be bound by the Official Submission Guidelines and Rules and represent that you have read and understood all requirements set forth.

How do I submit a 7 Word Story and what are the deadlines?

All submissions must be received by the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab by May 19, 2016. Stories should be submitted online via email to or on Twitter using the #BPAL7wordstory hashtag. On or about June 1, 2016, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab will announce the selected story.

On June 29, 2016 a fragrance inspired by the winning story will be released for sale on Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, featuring the full text of the story and winner’s name on the label.

Selected authors will receive credit under the name of their choice on the copy text for the fragrance, one bottle of the fragrance inspired by their story, and enviable fame within the Black Phoenix community (no warranties on the fame bit).

By submitting an entry, you agree to be bound by these Official Submission Guidelines and Rules and represent that you have read and understood all requirements set forth below.

  1. Submitted stories must be written in English; stories written in other languages will not be accepted.
  1. All entries must be 7 words or fewer.
  1. Stories must be original and unpublished at the time of submission, including the entrant’s social media accounts. All submissions must be exclusive to the 7 Word Stories Project through April 30, 2017, regardless of whether a story is selected as winner.
  1. All information must be submitted electronically via email ( or Twitter (#BPAL7wordstory).
  1. Stories must only have one author. No coauthored works, please. Because…Seven Words.
  1. A submitted story may not contain any material that is copyrighted or otherwise owned or controlled by someone other than the author (including but not limited to, poetry, music and/or lyrics, characters originally created by others in any medium, and/or stories based on real people and/or other people’s lives, other than public figures). We would be fascinated by how you’d manage it, though.
  1. All submissions should be complete stories which can stand on their own.
  1. By submitting a story, authors (and/or their parents and/or guardians) agree that Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and any sponsors or other supporters of the 7 Word Stories Project may use the author’s name, image and all or a portion of the submitted story to promote the project, regardless of whether the story entered is selected as winner. Authors who are under the age of 18 must have the permission of their parent or guardian to submit their work.
  1. Employees of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab or any of their respective entities, subsidiaries, and immediate families (spouses, parents, children, and siblings and their spouses) and/or persons living in the same households as such persons of each are not eligible to enter.
  1. All applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations apply. You are responsible for knowing the laws of your jurisdiction with respect to contest entry. The 7 Word Stories Project and these rules will be governed, construed and interpreted under the laws of California. By entering, you agree to be bound by these rules and by the decisions of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, which are final and binding in all respects. Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab reserves the right to change these rules at any time, and in its sole discretion, and to suspend, cancel, postpone or extend the project. Individuals who violate or fail to comply with these rules, violate any law, rule or regulation in connection with participation in the application process, tamper with the operation of the entry process, or engage in any conduct that is detrimental or unfair to Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, the application process, any other applicants (in each case as determined in Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s sole discretion), are subject to disqualification.
  1. By entering, authors retain their copyright but grant Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab the license to use their entire story for promotion of the scent, contest, and the Lab in general.
  1. The Lab agrees to use all commercially reasonable efforts to provide credit in whatever format entrants request (i.e., real name, forum name, other pseudonym).
  1. The winning entry or entries will be selected in the sole discretion of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab.The Lab reserves the right to select one or more entries based on the quality of entries received. Entries will be judged on their overall narrative, as well as their potential for providing scent inspiration.

Live It, Learn It, Love It: BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup!

2016 May 6
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by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

☠ Josh Boone, the director of that Interview With a Vampire remake, just posted a pic of the completed script!

☠ We won’t be the only class act at RuPaul’s DragCon, hennies. Director Darren Stein will be joining Peaches Christ and Rebecca Gayheart for a screening and discussion of Jawbreaker. Learn it, live it, love it!

☠ We’re also gagging on the news that Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange will be playing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford for a series called “Feud” on FX.

☠ Nothing can prepare you for the weirdness of these psychedelic animations from what used to be the Soviet Union.

☠ Grab your hankie: Patton Oswalt writes a memorial tribute to his recently departed wife, true-crime writer Michelle McNamara.

☠ Can you spot the subtle architectural design features that make your city feel more hostile?

☠ “Make it up as you go along,” and other lessons we can learn from Robert Altman’s majestically weird 3 Women.

☠ “Magazines all too frequently lead to books and should be regarded by the prudent as the heavy petting of literature.” Fran Lebowitz and others provide these quotes in honor of World Press Freedom Day.

☠ This will go down in history as the week Radiohead released a claymation remake of The Wicker Man as their new music video. Enjoy below!

Check Out Our RuPaul’s DragCon Exclusive Scents!

2016 April 28
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by black phoenix

Here’s a list of the exclusives we’ll be serving up next weekend at RuPaul’s DragCon, May 7-8. But don’t take our word for it – here’s spokesqueen Ariel Italic to demonstrate our new wig sprays! Take it away, Ariel…

++Wig Spray
A glittering cloud of cotton candy and rhinestone white musk.

A blur of red musk and smoke dotted with mascara, khol smears, and a splash of booze.

Effervescent, sharp, and a little bitter: pink grapefruit and champagne.

You’d be hard pressed to get fishier than this: gilded sweet pea, pink musk, and vanilla sugar.

With label art by Tenebrous Kate!


Welcome to BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup

2016 April 22
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by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

☠ Ladies, gentlemen, avians: your 2016 Audobon Photography Award winners!

Neon Demon = spiritual sister to Suspiria? Watch the trailer and let us know your thoughts.

☠ Who knew the battle over the Sea Monkeys fortune could turn so ugly?

☠ Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska has a lot to say about Fairy Tales and the Necessity of Fear.

☠ “Be cheerful, live your life.” Ancient mosaic ‘meme’ found in an excavation in southern Turkey.

☠ Private journals reveal how Octavia Butler literally wrote her successful career into existence.

☠ Horreurs! Sweetest-monster-alive Doug Jones will be starring in a “remix” of the classic 1922 horror film Nosferatu.

☠ 2016′s Eisner Award and Reuben Award nominees for outstanding comics and cartooning include a record number of women!

☠ Closing out this week with a little Old Hollywood thrift store vinyl: it’s Dorothy Shay, “The Park Avenue Hillbilly” (circa 1950):

Playable Characters Abound in BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup

2016 April 15
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by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits, coming at you via the Black Phoenix Gazette. This week’s batch:

☠ Experts suspect Aztec death whistles probably sounded like human screams.

☠ Leery of the Labyrinth remake? At least you have a magically faithful board game adaptation to look forward to.

Introducing Cloth Lullaby, a children’s book about famous spider sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

The Ghosts of Everest: in which the mountain’s recent spate of disasters could spell the end of guided ascent tourism.

☠ Happen to have an abundance of abandoned webs? Start spooling your own super-strengthspider thread.

☠ This week’s dose of inspiration: the secret lives of the women who broke taboo to act inShakespeare’s plays.

☠ Our top Etsy pick comes with a bonus vocab word: Xylographilia, the love of woodcuts.

Crispin Hellion Glover will be terrorizing Starz’s American Gods as the sinister Mr. World!

☠ Audience members at American Psycho on Broadway are finding themselves in the fake-blood splash zone. We’re overjoyed to see that the trailer below contains both business cards AND video tapes!

Carnaval Diabolique, Act 3: The Parliament of Monsters

2016 April 13
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by black phoenix


The Carnaval has crept back into town! Welcome to Act 3 of Carnaval Diabolique, teeming with sideshow denizens and deadly reptilian passions. What astonishments await in the Parliament of Monsters? Can the rumors of an otherworldly “Vulture Maiden” possibly be true?

You’ll have to pay for a peek behind that heavy curtain to find out.


A Pantomime of Deviltry and Debauch in Seven Acts

$24.00 per 5ml bottle.
Presented in an amber apothecary vial.

(Acts 1 and 2 can be browsed here.)


Before you stands a tent, striped in orange and black canvas. The tent seems impossibly large; its tattered black banners snap in the chill wind. The Carny Talker slaps his cane upon a bare spot on the canvas wall, and a huge golden mouth bursts forth from the fabric forming a gleaming fanged entryway illuminated by flashing white bulbs. An ornate sign unfurls above the doorway, and in a florid script it reads, “The Parliament of Monsters”. The Carny Talker grins at you malevolently, gestures at the gaping maw with his cane, and barks, “Step this way, my friends! Through this doorway you will find the most magnificent and mind-shattering marvels of the multiverse! Each and every one of these fantastic and fearsome freaks has committed their spirit, nay! – their very soul! – to an unlife of unrepentant sin and unwholesome debauchery! Not simply a common display of human and inhuman oddities, these are both the shunned and misbegotten children of nature, and those whose very visages show that they have willingly and – YES, eagerly! – walked the crooked path of turpitude! Their sins ARE their salvations, as you shall soon see, my friends, and these marvelous monstrosities present the tapestry of their depravity to you in all of its ghastly glory and sinister splendor! EACH is a Prometheus of perversity! THIS, and THIS ALONE, is the finest display of decadence and depredation in all the hells! Yours, for your education and elucidation, for a nominal entrance fee…”

He tips his hat, grins, and steps aside, gesturing for you to enter.

You pass through the golden mouth, and find yourself inside a narrow, cramped corridor. Large wooden paintings of skeletal hands crook their bony fingers, leading you forwards. At the first turn, you hear a bizarre jumble of sounds: the high-pitched sound of gears grinding, metal on metal, the sound of sultry, low-pitched laughter, a clattering, wings flapping, soft hissing. Suddenly, a sharp howl pierces the darkness. As you make your way around the corner you are momentarily blinded as floodlights flicker to life, and thirteen gold-gilded stages are illuminated, bathed from beneath in sinister, caramel-colored light.

Dust, incense, wet tobacco, singed straw, and a curl of opium smoke.

You move towards the first stage on your right, and as you walk, you feel something brush across your cheek. Something about the softness of the phantom caress makes your skin crawl, and you flinch involuntarily. At that moment, the Spider Girl strides haughtily onto the platform, her stiletto heels clicking a strange staccato as she walks. Her body is wrapped in skin-tight strips of black PVC, and the gleaming vinyl glistens in stark contrast to the alabaster skin on her six pale, white arms. She gestures to the rafters above with a graceful flick of her blood-red nails. In dread, your eyes are drawn skyward: above her, in a gossamer snare, web-shrouded bodies twist and struggle.

A swirling, hypnotic perfume of black currant, poppy, red and black musk, lilies, nicotiana, tobacco tar, and patchouli.

Moving counter-clockwise through the room, you come upon the next stage. The backdrop is shredded, and seems to have been torn in a fury. On the remaining half of the canvas, you can barely make out a faded illustration of the sun setting over a pyramid. On the center of the platform, an elaborate golden sarcophagus has been set upright and propped up towards the edge of the stage. Beside it, upon the ground, sits a hooded lantern. A woman’s image is painted on the front of the sarcophagus, and upon the gold limned body, a tale is being told in hieroglyphics: scenes of murder, carnage, and grotesque, mad passion. Although you do not know the language, the inscription upon the tomb translates within your mind, and the words burn behind your eyes as if they were written in blood and fire: “The Guardian will never part the veil for her soul. Mighty Sutekh, have pity on us all.” A thin, dark-skinned man wearing a linen loincloth climbs onto the stage. His form is frail and withered, he is impossibly old, yet his long, straight hair is as black as the night skies. With solemn, reverential gravity, he slowly moves the casket lid aside. Within the box, you see a skeletal figure wrapped in stained, ragged cloths, draped in a mauve cloth. The dark-skinned man bends low, and lights the lanterna magica. From within the glass, images begin to form, and glowing alchemical symbols cast their eerie light onto the mummy. As the lights touch the creature, the desiccated body swells, and with horrific, agonizing slowness, a woman’s form begins to appear within the wrappings. At her chest, the rotted wrappings burst, exposing sinew and the glinting white bones of her ribs. Her hands reach towards her face, and with a screech of agony and eons-long rage, she tears the gauze from her glittering black eyes.

The perfume of life-in-death: embalming herbs, black myrrh, white sandalwood, black orchid, paperwhites, olive blossom, tomb dust, and Moroccan jasmine.

Upon the next stage, a primitive cage has been erected. It is made of heavy, dark sticks bound with strips of deep brown leather. The stage is as dark as pitch, and from the shadows, you hear soft hissing, spitting, and an ominous chorus of weird rattling sounds. You approach with some trepidation, and peer between the bars. Your attention is seized by writhing forms on the straw bottom of the cage. As your eyes adjust to the gloom, you realize that the floor is seething with serpents, dark and colorful, languid and large, swift and small. You hear a sultry chuckle, and you see bright, unblinking emerald eyes staring at you from the corner of the cage. A woman crawls through the snakes, her scaled body as sinuous and lissome as the creatures that share her home. She reaches towards you languorously with her sharp-clawed hands and sighs.

A sensual blend of twisting, exotic, serpentine oils: black amber, oakmoss, green sandalwood, bergamot, jasmine sambac, gardenia, orange pulp, black cardamom, vanilla, blackberry, black musk, blackened vanilla husk, white honey, ti leaf, and ginger.



Snake Oil with King mandarin, myrrh, and almond.

Snake Oil with acai berry, amber, cardamom, white sandalwood, neroli, and smoked vanilla.

Snake Oil with oakmoss, sea moss, white moss, and olive leaf.

Snake Oil with cocoa, teakwood, and rice milk.

Snake Oil with blood orange, blood apple, lemon peel, plumeria, and red gardenia.

Snake Oil with linden blossom, calla lily, passion flower, and narcissus.

Snake Oil with vetiver, black coconut, vanilla, and opoponax.

Snake Oil with four mints, bergamot, and green tea.

Snake Oil with orris, white frankincense, and black copal.

Snake Oil with cinnamon, cassia, and red ginger.

Snake Oil with sugar cane, frankincense, champaca, opoponax, labdanum, and hyssop.

Snake Oil with leather, tonka bean, red sandalwood, and sage.

A huge crowd mills in front of the next stage. You hear the din of their voices, chattering in a Babel’s fall of languages, laughing and buzzing with a strange anticipation. As you get closer, you notice that they are wearing a motley mix of clothing from ages past… all rotting, all in shreds. In the sea of faces, all bearing a similar chalky pallor, some stand out: there is a woman in a threadbare Burgundian gown, a young man in torn breeches and sagging slops, a maiden in a dagged-sleeve houppelande that is splattered with cruor, a snarling Victorian rogue with a battered silk top hat, and a vacant-eyed man in a shredded Confederate uniform. As you make your way through the crowd, you feel cold fingers pluck at your clothing, and the hard, almost glassy skin that you brush against radiates an unnatural cold. You hear tittering sighs as you push through the gathering, and your skin prickles as you feel icy breath upon your neck. Abruptly, someone cries out, and the strange congregation begins clapping a steady rhythm. Their voices rise in a tintamar of ghastly cheers as torches flare to life. The firelight illuminates a gargantuan, shining black stake in the center of the stage. It is festooned with black ribbons, drooping moss, and viciously-colored poisonous blooms in a playful, grotesque mockery of a Maypole. Two women, clutched tightly in a brutal embrace, spin onto the stage, shaking a tambourine and clacking a hembra in time with the clapping. One is clad in violet, with violet tresses to match; the other is a vision of swirling rose. Their long, waving hair whips in manic arcs as they twirl, stomp, and pirouette around the onyx shaft. The crowd becomes more and more frenzied as the dance reaches a mad crescendo, and suddenly you realize that the two are one: they are conjoined, identical twins, bound eternally at the ribs. The violet sister, caught in the throes of the ritual’s passion, throws her head back and moans. She bares a set of gleaming white fangs and bites deeply into her sister’s neck. The rose maiden screams in joy, and returns her sister’s violent kiss as the crowd explodes into Corybantic mayhem.

Simplicity and innocence, gleefully despoiled! Hope is sugared rose, Faith is sugared violet. The sisters are inseparable, and may only be purchased together. Presented in a velveteen pouch. $48.00.

To your side, you hear a man’s deep whisper, “Slowly I turned… inch by inch… step by step….” A scream interrupts him, and a roar of laughter pulses through the shadowed hall. Following the commotion, you move to the next stage. A bone-thin man moves across the stage, and sits upon an overstuffed, threadbare armchair. A battered violin is propped against the chair’s side. The audience starts to dissipate, and you realize that you must have just missed his performance. Relaxing, he reclines lazily, and as the light falls on his face, you come to realize that he is truly skeletal: a thin membrane of skin covers most of his body, but in many places, bone is completely exposed. He winks at you, and chuckles at your obvious discomfiture. The sweet smoke from his cigar touches your senses, and you hear the soft clink of the ice as he swirls the bourbon in his tumbler.

“Late for the show, are ya, friend? I’ll tell you a quick one, and then you’d best skedaddle. I have better things to do than sit here and be gawked at all night.” He takes a swig from his tumbler.

“A man goes to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist says, ‘I think you’re crazy.’ The man says, ‘I want a second opinion.’ The psychiatrist shrugs and says, ‘Alright, you’re ugly, too.’”

His attention is diverted by a scantily clad woman in the audience beside you, and he leers at her. “Hello, nurse!” he growls, and leans towards her lecherously. “How’s about you come back to my dressing room, and I show you my stamp collection?”

Bourbon, black tobacco tar, dry bone, bay rum aftershave, and sleazy cologne.

The sound of metal smashing metal jars your ears, and you follow the cacophony to the next stage. The backdrop is painted with streaks of lightning, and you see that an iron sign hangs above it, now broken, pounded into pieces, possibly by a hammer or mallet. Despite the damage, you can still make out the words that have been burned into its face:

Property of Pygmalion Industries, LLC

A slender, willowy blonde is facing the sign, looking up at it thoughtfully. She reaches up, and with unbelievable strength, speed, and fury, pounds the sign with her fists until it is an unrecognizable mess, and it falls to the ground with a thunderous crash. She turns, and you realize that this is no creature born of woman: she is half human, half machine. Her exposed stomach shows brass and copper gears, and her joints are girded with steel. You see that her hands are covered in blood as she reaches towards a large burlap sack on the floor, picks it up, and tosses it at your feet. It lands with a sickening wet splat. She locks her gaze on yours, and her hollow, mechanical voice murmurs, “I am no man’s property.”

Gentle flowers over hot metal, shocked to life.

The ringing of a gong seizes your attention, and you follow the sound to the next stage. It is empty, devoid of any backdrop, and the platform is dark. A haze blankets your vision, like heat radiating off of the desert floor. You hear the sound of hands clapping a steady rhythm, and within moments, the haze begins to coalesce into the forms of a troupe of ghostly women, clad in linen shifts. Their wraithlike hands pluck at the strings of translucent zithers and harps, shake spectral sistrums, and their pallid lips blow upon ethereal flutes. The music that they play is discordant, otherworldly, and seems to be at once a funeral dirge and a paean to life: a triumphant lamentation. As the sound swells, you hear the beating of wings in the distance, and a keen, a siren’s ululation, joins the haunting melody. As the song reaches its eerie crescendo, a beautiful winged woman alights on the stage, summoned by the phantom song. Her skin is dusky brown, and the vigor of her youthful body seems in conflict with the depth of grief reflected in her eyes. Her wings spread out behind her in morbid majesty, and she takes flight. Her dance is, itself, a visible act of mourning, and is almost sensual in its sorrow.

Frankincense, hyssop, hibiscus, river reeds, orris root, palm frond, and olibanum.

A massive glass tank is positioned on the stage, decorated with a rough canvas painting of sand and sea. Within the tank, you see a swirl of ivory, coral, and russet. After a few rushed passes, the furiously moving creature slows and makes her way towards the glass. As she approaches, you see that her features are lovely and delicate, and though her pearl-adorned torso is that of a beautiful, slender woman, her bewitching face is crowned by lethal spikes and instead of legs she has a writhing serpentine tail. Upon spotting you, her dorsal spikes flare, and she sneers maliciously. She slaps the face of the tank with her powerful tail, and you hear a crack and groan as the glass fractures under the strain.

Seaweed, kelp, salty ocean spray, bitter almond, night-blooming jasmine, frankincense, and benzoin.

Upon the next stage, a spotlight is focused on a mammoth bronze sculpture of two snakes entwined. Their bodies are wrapped around each other in an intimate embrace, and their tongues touch suggestively. The deep, somber boom of a standing bass leads into a twelve-string guitar’s plaintive moan, and as the music swells, a stunning, statuesque woman steps out from behind the statue, her fierce and regal face in profile. The spotlight dims to a deep amber-red, and shines a dark, sanguine light onto her, tinting her long, wild hair the color of blood. She sings:

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless.
Dearest, the shadows I live with are numberless.
Little white flowers will never awaken you,
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you.
Angels have no thought of ever returning you.
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?
Gloomy Sunday.

She turns, and abruptly faces left. Her features are coarser, more masculine, and you notice the rough, dusky shadow of an evening beard on the singer’s face. On this side, the hair is cropped short, and as s/he sighs and begins the next verse, you hear the voice deepen to a weathered, sorrowful baritone.

Gloomy is Sunday; with shadows I spend it all.
My heart and I have decided to end it all.
Soon there’ll be candles and prayers that are sad, I know.
Death is no dream, for in death I’m caressing you.
With the last breath of my soul I’ll be blessing you.
Gloomy Sunday.

The singer turns to face the audience, and your senses reel. On the left side, the features are sharp, but feminine. You can see the curve of her breast, the soft fullness of her hips, the arch of her fine brow. On the right, it is the body of an Adonis, muscular and commanding. You see that a thick seam runs down the center of the body, stitched roughly.

Though the vision is disconcerting, the warmth and passion in the singer’s voice swells inside your heart, and you are spellbound. Enraptured, you realize that though the gender is opposed on either side, one soul binds the whole.

Dark, moody, and bittersweet: black currant, patchouli, tobacco, cinnamon leaf, caramel, muguet, and red sandalwood.

You are shocked out of the torch song’s melancholy mood by shrieks, hoots, and yowls. You move to your left, and see that instead of a stage, a gigantic iron cage has been hung, hovering a few feet off of the ground. Elaborate, delicate silver sigils are engraved upon huge iron disks that have been mounted to the sides of the cage, and they flicker and spark whenever one of the wild men touches the iron bars that imprison them. The backdrop depicts a blistering volcanic eruption, spiked with thick luminescent bolts of lightning. Several beings are held within the cage, male and female, spanning every age. They flash their razor-fanged smiles at you malevolently as they anxiously crawl, pace, and stalk the length of their prison, stopping occasionally to pose and preen as they gossip with one another in an unrecognizable guttural, grinding language. Their tattooed skin glows an angry crimson, curving horns protrude from their skulls, and their eyes blaze with unholy light.

Fiery, primal, and precociously diabolical: red amber, Spanish moss, Indonesian patchouli, ambergris, sweet ambrette seed, red pepper, two cloves, and vanilla flower.

A lively tune is being played nearby; it is syncopated, a disjointed song, but perky and upbeat. As you turn to the next stage, you see the broad back and shaggy hair of the next performer. He is seated on a stool in front of a battered upright piano. Wire pokes out from holes in the back of the decrepit beechwood, and broken pinblocks are scattered on the floor. A bowl of glistening viscera has been plopped on a small end table next to the pianist. You can see that the ivory keys of the piano are smeared with blood. He pounds and tinkles the keys merrily, and laughs to himself. The man turns to the audience, and his unkempt russet hair, feral yellow eyes, wild balbo, and chin curtain beard betray his lycanthropic nature. He smiles widely, innocently, and waves his red-stained, black-clawed paw in a genial welcome. He bellows cheerfully, “Hi there! Make yourself comfortable! Don’t you look absolutely necrolishious! HA! HAHA! I just made that word up!” He laughs again, turns, and resumes playing the piano. The rambling tune picks up pace, and he plays with a showman’s flourish. The song slows as he chats with the audience from over his shoulder. “You know, my ex-girlfriend was a real handful, but really… I’ve never known a woman that was as tender as she was. She was all gushy, and well… to be honest, she just fell to pieces for me. Eventually, things ran their course… three courses, really… and, as they say, nothing lasts forever. But I’ll always have a piece of her, here… close to my heart.” He chuckles, and pats the chest of his patchwork overcoat.

In the distance, possibly from Meskhenet’s stage, you hear one of the phantom musicians give Wulric a gratuitous rim shot.

Friendly, charming, and cuddly, but possessing one hell of a mean streak: cocoa absolute, French vanilla, birch tar, lavender, bourbon vetiver, wild musk, cardamom husk, clary sage, and cistus.

A tiny woman stands in the center of the stage, the perfect woman in miniature, her copper hair bouncing in elegant curls. She is surrounded on all sides by a necropolis of maimed, mutilated stuffed animals, decapitated fashion dolls, and eviscerated wooden figures. It is a strangely ghastly tableau: the disemboweled toys ooze fiberfill, batting, and sawdust from their gaping wounds. In one dainty hand she clutches a shard of glass, and in the other she nimbly twirls a razor blade. Her face is twisted in a grimace of mad ferocity, and she hisses as she brandishes her makeshift weapons at you. “Play with me?” she growls.

Soft, yet sociopathic: white carnation, iris, orange blossom, poisonous pale white berries, and sugared cream.

As you come to the final stage, you see a spotlight focused upon a large pile of pitch-black ashes on the center of the floor. A parchment scroll has been tacked to the foot of the stage. It reads:

Now I will believe
That there are unicorns; that in Arabia
There is one tree, the phoenix’ throne; one phoenix
At this hour reigning there.

You catch a whiff of burnt cinnamon, and a whirlwind begins to form within the center of the cold pyre. The ashes rise, condense, and coalesce into the dusky form of a woman. She shakes her body gently, tossing her hair, and the ashes fall from her skin. She is perfect, radiant: not a single cinder mars the flawlessness of her countenance. Her body seems to cast a shadow shaped like a triumphant bird, wings outstretched, onto the blank taupe canvas behind her. Her eyes are closed, and her head is bowed; her expressionless face is enigmatic. Her dark eyes begin to glow, and her mouth turns up in a secretive, intimate smile. She throws back her head and extends her arms, and suddenly the scent of smoldering myrrh assails you. Within moments, the woman explodes into flame, and you see that her face is now a vision of passionate ecstasy. The turbulence of the conflagration whips around her violently, and gouts of flame burst from her body, igniting the canvas behind her. She raises her arms in exultation, and through the flames, you see both the outline of her scorched black skeleton and the shadow of the phoenix triumphant.

Three deep, dark myrrhs, smoke, cassia, and cinnamon bark.


Thar She Blows! It’s BPAL’s Weekly Link Roundup

2016 April 8
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by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

☠ Let’s hear a warm welcome for Zari, Sesame Street’s new character for viewers in Afghanistan.

☠ Behold! The terrifying interiors of a wrecked cruise ship that’s been underwater for two years.

☠ Love a good poison pen letter? Check out My Turn: Nancy Reagan and the Case of the Weaponized Memoir.

☠ Here’s a photographic history of Irish potato farmers fighting against eviction with improvised weapons, such as boiling water, dung, and bees.

Science Kombat is a playable arcade-style game featuring eight legendary scientists. Dibs on Marie Curie!

The origins of visionary art in Los Angeles, a city of seekers where spirituality and creativity remain inseparable.

Stone Age humans managed to bring deer to the Scottish islands by sea!

☠ Other news from the region: a rare, goatskin-bound first folio of Shakespeare’s works has been discovered on the Scottish Isle of Bute.

☠ Check Salma Hayek’s fabulous fairy tale steez in the upcoming film Tale of Tales! Trailer below.

Bloody Good News: It’s BPAL’s Weekly News Roundup

2016 April 1
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by black phoenix


Welcome to our weekly roundup of cherished news bits! This week’s batch:

Help reprint Alphonse Mucha’s lost Art Nouveau masterpiece, Le Pater.

Chinese Fashion Week just presented a line that’s pure American Horror Story.

☠ Also in red: this young woman from 1913, whose vibrance was captured using Autochrome.

Atlas Obscura introduces newcomers to Polari, the secret gay language of yesteryear.

☠ How much do you know about controversial 17th century painter Artemisia Gentileschi? Here, this should help fill in the cracks.

Public Information Films is a scintillating archive of classic PSA’s  educating, persuading, and  warning us of hidden dangers.

☠ Whoops – Mississippi’s new religious equality bill paves the way for legal human sacrifice!

☠ In memoriam: This week a museum curator was forced to kill a bio-art exhibit made out of human stem cells that started growing out of control.

☠ ICYMI: 14 things only an Aries or the “Two Weeks” lady from Total Recall can relate to. Revisit her unforgettable scene below!