Sunday, March 30, 2008

Air Zoo

I have time for just one quick post! I saw this right before I left, and I've been dying to write about it.

Artist Joshua Allen Harris creates animal sculptures out of empty plastic bags, which he then ties to New York's subway grates. Most of the time, they look like ordinary trash. But whenever the trains roll by beneath the pavement, gusts of wind bring the sculptures to life! I've only seen them in person once, but it was a truly magical experience. Check out the two videos below.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm Skipping Town

I'm off to London tomorrow, and until my mission is complete, I may not be able to post regularly. (No, I'm not stalking JK.) But never fear! I'll return in a few days with more weird infomation than most mortals could stomach--and perhaps a some juicy gossip from across the Atlantic.

In the meantime, enjoy another FABULOUS Kiki Strike video! Thank you, Kad!

(Be Careful When You) Say It With Flowers

Now that you're all acquainted with the Language of the Fan, it's time to learn a new tongue. Floriography (otherwise known as the Language of Flowers) is a complicated, sometimes baffling form of communication. Today, few people are fluent in floriography, but a hundred years ago, it was spoken by one and all.

In the Language of Flowers, each and every blossom holds a specific meaning. A simple bouquet could convey a person's love, friendship, admiration, or dislike. A poorly chosen corsage could ruin a relationship. Tucking the wrong flower behind your ear might send an embarrassing message.

For instance, you would never want to present your grandmother with a bouquet of yellow irises, as they symbolize romantic passion. However, if she were a wicked old witch, you might send her a few orange lilies, which would convey your hatred or dislike. But since your grandmothers are probably wonderful ladies, a better choice might be to pluck a few morning glories to show your sweet and sincere affection.

To see a full list of flowers and their meanings, click here.

So what flowers would Kiki Strike send? See below . . .

(Not so coincidentally, these flowers play a big role in one of my favorite books? Anyone know what it is?)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Secret Language of the Fan

(Above: What is she trying to say?)

It's hard to imagine, but it wasn't long ago that females were expected to appear prim and proper at all times. Well into the 20th century, a woman could not easily speak her mind (or flirt with a suitor) without breaking one of society's rigid rules. So, over time, a secret language may have developed--one that didn't involve moving one's lips. Though some historians doubt it ever existed, others insist that the language was passed from woman to woman for centuries until it died out completely some time in the last hundred years.

Called the "Language of the Fan," it involved a series of gestures made using a hand fan. Each gesture contained a powerful hidden meaning. For instance . . .

If a woman covered her left ear with an open fan, it meant, "Do not betray our secret."

If she touched one finger to the tip of a fan, she was saying, "I wish to speak with you."

If she raised the fan in front of her face using her right hand, she meant, "Follow me."

A fan placed over her heart said, "You have won my love."

A half-open fan over her face (or twirling a fan in her right hand) meant, "We are being watched."

Drawing a fan through her left hand meant, "I detest you."

Many of the gestures and meanings have been lost over the years, but a few devoted fan-lovers are trying to keep the Language of the Fan alive. You can read more here and here. You can also see the gestures in action here.

Whatever the historians say, I'd like to believe that women once had their own secret language.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Magic Powder that Can Regrow Limbs

This is the most amazing medical news I've heard in a long time. So amazing that I actually checked the date to see if it was April first. The story is a little bit gruesome, but I promise . . . it's worth it.

Everyone knows that certain animals (such as starfish and salamanders) have the remarkable ability to regrow lost tails or limbs. Believe it or not, human beings may soon have the same ability.

A few years ago, a man named Lee Spievack accidentally stuck his finger in the spinning propeller of a toy airplane. The top half inch of the digit was chopped clean off. Fortunately, Lee's brother happened to be a medical research specialist, and he decided to use Lee as a guinea pig. He sprinked Lee's wound with a newly developed medical powder. In less than a month, the tip of Lee's finger had grown back--bone, blood vessels, skin, and nail. Today, you can't even tell which of his fingers had been injured.

The amazing powder (known as extracellular matrix) is made from pig bladders and has been proven to regrow damaged body tissue. They say it may even be possible to regrow an entire arm or leg!

Read the story on CBS News and watch an unbelievable video here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

And for those of you who don't celebrate Easter, HAPPY SPRING!

Be sure to check out this year's Peeps diorama contest at the Washington Post. It's even better than last year's! And you can vote for your favorite, too! (Mine: Nightmare in Pink) I am definitely entering in 2009. Can you imagine: Kiki Strike & The Irregulars as Peeps!

(Intrigued by the photo above? Click here.)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Greatest Video of ALL TIME

Thanks, Michelle!

Chocolate Bunny Homicide

That that!

I Hope the Ice Cream Man Got Out in Time

Fantastic street art from the suburbs of Adelaide, Australia. Via Wooster Collective.

Friday, March 21, 2008

This One Goes Out to All My Peeps

(Sorry. I know the headline is cheesy, but I JUST COULDN'T HELP MYSELF.)

There are only two things on Earth that I won't eat. Eggs and marshmallows. Don't ask me why, but they both make me gag. Back when I was a kid, whenever I received a package of Peeps (impersonated above) in my Easter basket, I would quickly hand them over to someone with less discerning taste buds. (I have relatives who will eat ANYTHING.)

If only I had known . . . there are so many things that you can do with Peeps that don't require sticking the nasty little beasts in your mouth. For instance, you could craft Peeps dioramas (such as the one shown below). These seem to be quite the rage these days. Even the Washington Post sponsors contests. I'm not sure if there's still time to enter this year's contest, but you can check out the 2007 winners here.

Don't have time to build a Harry Potter Peeps diorama? (Would Harry be a chick or a bunny?) There's also an amazing game known as "Peeps Jousting." (Otherwise known as Mortal Peep Fighting.) Wikipedia includes the following instructions:

"The messy and largely self-entertaining game is played with a microwave oven. One takes two Peeps, and licks the right-hand side of each until sticky. A toothpick is thereby adhered to each Peep, pointing forward like a jousting lance. The Peeps are then set in a microwave, squared off against one another, and heated up. As they expand, the toothpick lances thrust toward each opponent, and the winner is the one that does not pop and deflate (or fizzle and die). Both usually are eaten after the competition, however, regardless who the victor was, calling into question the nature of 'winning' in such a circumstance."

Watch a Peeps Jousting video (featuring a very strange squirrel) here.

You might also try your hand at answering the eternal question: Are Peeps indestructible? According to one source, even the experts at Emory University in Atlanta found it next to impossible to destroy the creatures.

So who's resposible for making these monstrous beasties? Take a visual tour of the Peeps factory here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It's High-Tech Wednesday!

The Japanese have created a new fire alarm system for people with hearing disabilities. Instead of a loud, piercing shriek, the alarms emit the powerful odor of horseradish. You may end up with a pounding headache, but at least you'll get out alive!

A flying saucer house was recently on sale in Chatanooga, Tennessee. It came complete with "three bedrooms, two baths and an staircase that retracts with the push of a button." Very cool.

According to London's Daily Mail, spies may be getting a lot smaller in the near future. Scientists say that ordinary insects may soon be implated with tiny cameras, radio controls, and microphones.

A company called Boston Dynamics has just released videos of their new Big Dog Robot. Intended to be a "pack mule" for soldiers one day, its movements are so realistic it's almost creepy!

Back in January, a "monkey made a 200-pound, 5-foot humanoid robot walk on a treadmill using only her brain activity. [The monkey] was in North Carolina, and the robot was in Japan."

And finally, for all you dog lovers out there, new research indicates that dogs may be able to read people's minds.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chicago's Shadow City

(Above: Descending into the secret tunnels underneath Chicago.)

Last night, I was flipping through the channels on my television when I chanced upon an episode of Cities of the Underworld on the History Channel. I love this program, despite the fact that I rarely learn anything new. But last night was different. I came away from the experience enlightened--and totally humbled. It just goes to show you that there's always something new to discover.

I've spent a fair amount of time in Chicago. In fact, my mother grew up there. But until last night, I had never heard about the vast network of tunnels that stretch under the Second City. After a day of searching the Internet, I've come to the conclusion that there hasn't been much written about them. Very few people seem to know they exist. Here's what I've discovered so far . . .

The underground tunnels link many of the buildings in a part of Chicago known as the Near South Side. Some say that they started out as a system for hauling coal in the early 20th century. However, during the Prohibition years, when alcohol was illegal in the United States, the tunnels became a center of activity for the gangs that virtually ran the city. The passages were used to smuggle liquor from speakeasy to speakeasy, but they also formed handy escape routes whenever the police stopped by for a visit. Eventually, subterranean rooms were even built to house gangsters' private parties.

A stretch of the old tunnels can be found under the famous jazz club, The Green Mill. Once owned by a colleague of Al Capone, the club was a favorite gangster hangout in the 1920s and 30s. You can read more about the tunnels underneath the building here and even see a video here.

I also learned that there's a long forgotten railroad under Chicago (shown below). Built in secret more than 100 years ago, it was intended to transport coal, mail, and other goods from building to building. (I'm still not sure how it is or is not connected to the tunnels mentioned above.) Though they've been out of use since 1959, the railroad tunnels still exist. In fact, you can still reach them through the basement of the Marshall Fields department store! Read more here.

If any of you have additional information about Chicago's underground, please be sure to send it this way!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why Can't You Find a Bear When You Need One?

(Photo by Michael Maloney)

Helen and Jerry Stathatos have a bit of a problem. They live in a lovely California home surrounded by beautiful gardens. Gardens that have attracted bees--lots and lots of bees. For years, the humans and insects have coexisted peacefully. But in the last few months, the bees have gotten a little out of control.

Seems thousands (if not millions) of bees made their homes inside the walls of the Stathatos's home. And now they're producing honey. Gallons and gallons and gallons of honey. The sticky substance has even started oozing out of the walls and dripping down the wallpaper. According to one bee expert, "You walk into the house and it smells sweet. I felt like I was in a jar of honey."

To add insult to injury, the owners can't even get to the delicious honey without knocking down their own walls!

Read more here.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

And happy birthday to International Mastermind! So what's creepier . . . gnomes or leprechauns?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Exploding Toads at Hamburg's Pond of Death

Three years ago, Hamburg, Germany found itself at the center of a bizarre and disgusting phenomenon. Over the space of a few months, thousands of ordinary toads inexplicably exploded. The explosions generally took place between 2 and 3 AM near a small pond that eventually became known as the "pool of death." Like a scene from a science fiction film, the toads would begin to swell, expanding to more than three times their normal size, and then . . . pop.

Scientists speculated that a fungus, pollutant or virus might be behind the explosions. But the truth was far more vile. If you dare, you can find out here. No snakes were involved, but it's still nature at its most disgusting.

The World's Smallest Deer Come to Queens

Napoleon and Josephine (shown above) are pudus, tiny deer that stand only 12 to 14 inches tall. (Roughly the size of a small dog.) They recently moved to the Queens Zoo from South America where their species is endangered. I think they'd make great house pets. How cool would it be to keep a deer in your bedroom?

Read more here.

By the way, those of you who regularly visit this blog know that a super-cute post is often followed by something super-disgusting. So be prepared!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Evil Gnomes Stalk Villagers

Are creepy gnomes terrorizing the town of General Guemes in Argentina? The unbelievable video below was captured by teenager Jose Alvarez who was hanging out with a group of friends after a fishing trip. According to Jose, "Suddenly we heard something - a weird noise as if someone was throwing stones. We looked to one side and saw that the grass was moving. To begin with we thought it was a dog but when we saw this gnome-like figure begin to emerge we were really afraid."

Other people in General Guemes claim to have spotted the gnome in recent days. They say it can be recognized by its odd way of walking sideways. Now many villagers are too frightened to leave the house at night. I gotta say, the video is definitely strange. What do you think?

Back to the Business of Being Dangerous

(Above: What crimes do you suppose he committed?)

Now that the contest is over (congrats, Jin Ai), it's time to get back to the bizarre and dangerous. Kad recently sent me a very handy list of tips for lifting fingerprints from everyday objects, and I thought we could all use a little primer. You never know when you'll find yourself at the scene of a crime!

Things You’ll Need:

Feather or fine hair brush
Transparent tape
Large white index card or piece of paper

Step 1:
Look for objects that can potentially carry fingerprints. Fingerprints leave better impressions on smooth objects. These items hold the best prints: glass, painted surfaces, metal, linoleum, varnished woods and paper.

Step 2:
Grind some graphite power from a pencil. Using a knife, break the lead from a pencil into tiny pieces. Use a coin on a flat surface to grind the pieces into a fine powder.

Step 3:
Sprinkle the powder onto your object. Lay the object on a flat table and gently coat the surface of the object with a fine layer of graphite powder.

Step 4:
Reveal the fingerprint. Lightly dust the powder off the surface with a feather. The powder will stay attached to the oils from the suspect's skin, and a fingerprint should take shape. Be sure to dust very lightly, or you may dust away the fingerprint.

Step 5:
Transfer the fingerprint. Holding a small strip of transparent tape at both ends, place the tape over the fingerprint. Press it down for a moment, then carefully pull the tape up from one end. The fingerprint will transfer onto the tape.

Step 6:
Place the tape face down on an index card. Repeat the process for each finger you can find prints for on the object, and place them on the same card.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

AND THE WINNER IS . . . (Drumroll, Please)

Congratulations to Finalist #1, who revealed her identity as Jin Ai! Your portraits of Iris McLeod are breathtaking! Please contact kikistrike@gmail to collect your FABULOUS PRIZES.

Thanks again to all the contestants. You guys are amazing! And thanks for showing such great sports(wo)manship throughout the competition.

Let the Voting Begin!

Below are the six finalists. Choose your favorite and tell me which one you've chosen in the comments section. Finalists may choose themselves and one other finalist. But otherwise ONE VOTE PER PERSON! We can tell how many votes have been cast by each person. If you submit more than one, your votes will not count. Finalists who vote more than once for themselves will be disqualified.









Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Voting will take place tomorrow--and only tomorrow. So check in early, read the instructions, and cast your vote!

All the Finalists Have Been Posted

Dear contestants, if your artwork is not on the website, don't feel too bad. There will be lots of contests, so another chance to win is just around the corner!

The judges have made their decisions, and we won't all agree with them. (Two of my personal favorites weren't among the finalists.) But I think we can all agree that the finalists are fabulous--and all very different.

The voting will begin tomorrow. As I mentioned earlier, finalists are allowed to vote for themselves, but they must also vote for one other person as well. Other than that, only one vote per person is allowed. (And yes, we will be able to tell!)

Good luck finalists.

Finalist #6

Finalist #5

This entry had two special features that caught the judges eyes--the first was the burnt edge of the illustration. Signifying Iris's clumsiness, perhaps? Also, the envelope in which the entry arrived featured A GIANT SQUID!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

That's It for Tonight!

Sorry about the technical difficulties. I will have the final two finalists up in the morning!

Special Prize #2

Most professional. Wow! Would this winner please contact kikistrike@gmail to collect his special prize!

Special Prize #1

Most unusual . . . Not only was this one of the few photographs entered, it won the judges hearts with its sheer originality. Would the artist behind this please send a note to to collect her special prize?

OK, We Must Pause for a Moment . . .

There are two more finalists. (So six in total.) One sent in images that appear to be too large to load on Blogger and will need to be resized. The second sent an entry via the mail, and it will need to be scanned tomorrow. I'm sorry to make you wait a few more hours, but I'm afraid technology isn't on my side tonight.

There are also two special prizes, which I will get to next . .

But first I must say that the judges had a really difficult time with this competition. And I'm not just being nice. The entries were all amazing. I'm very glad that it wasn't up to me to choose only six. In the end, the competition came down to quirky details--the interesting shadow in Finalist #4's entry. Or the setting in Finalist #1's entry. (The only person to show Iris inside her laboratory.)

So if you aren't a finalist this time around, DON'T DESPAIR! You're all fabulous artists, as far as I'm concerned. And of course, there will be another contest soon enough.

Finalist #4

Finalist #3

Finalist #2

Please excuse the smudge in across Iris's face. It was a scanner problem.

Finalist #1

I will post the work of the finalists one by one. I will leave it up to each of the finalists to decide whether he/she wants to remain anonymous or reveal his/her identity! Congratulations!

The following three illustrations are the work of the same artist. (If you'll recall, you were allowed to enter as many as you pleased.)

Pygmy Hippos!

Now that's adorable! Pygmy hippos are rarely seen in the wild, but this one was recently caught on camera in West Africa. Read more here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


I would be the first to admit that I have no skills when it comes to the visual arts. So when the time came to choose judges for the TWO YEAR ANNIVERSARY contest, I gracefully declined to consider myself for the job. Instead, I rounded up a stellar group of tasteful individuals to review the entries and choose the FIVE FINALISTS. Not only will they be better suited to judge the artistic merits of your entries, they don't share my fond feelings for all of you, and they probably won't sniffle when they're forced to choose between you.

Your judges are . . .

Ms. Lithe S (yep that's her real name): Writer, sophisticate, art-appreciator, and resident of Paris.

Ms. Laura H: Artist, photographer, and all-around cool chick.

Mr. Ace Daly: Male model and world-class aesthete.

They will pick the finalists based on the following criteria: originality, skill, and accuracy (whether it fits Iris's description).

We've received well over 60 entries, and I think they're all fabulous. Good luck to all the contestants!

(Above: My favorite art critic, the wonderful and wacky Sister Wendy.)

Oh, and I almost forgot . . . this is my 500th POST!!!

House Attack

Art by Erwin Wurm