Crate of Curios part 39

For yet another week we’ll continue the voyage into the phenomenon of Bauhaus. Having thus far dealt with the women of Bauhaus represented by Anni Albers and its connection to Greece, exemplified by Jan Despo (Ioannis Despotopoulos). Today we’ll have a look on the tragic side of Bauhaus, as not all of its teachers survived WW2. So let’s get to opening this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Friedl Dicker-Brandeis was born in Vienna in a working class family and lost her mother in an early age. Having studied graphic arts and joined the school of Johannes Itten in Vienna, Friedl and a number of other students followed Itten to Weimar after he moved there to teach in Bauhaus. Her interests tended to gravitate towards painting, color theory, theatre stage design, and art pedagogy that she started practising already whilst in Bauhaus. Her involvement with the Communist Party led her to move to Czechoslovakia later on, and despite having obtained a passport to Palestine, before the eve of WW2, she remained there, as her husband Pavel Brandeis was unable to get one. In 1942 both of them were sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp. There Friedl Dicker-Brandeis spent the last 2 years of her life teaching art to hundreds of children using a modified Bauhaus system, designing theatre sets and painting as much as available supplies allowed. Two years later, she was sent to Auschwitz and gassed. After her death over 5,000 drawings of her students were found – most of which are now if the Jewish Museum in Prague.

2. Occasionally intimidated by the requests for ‘native speakers’ of a language in any capacity? Apparently you shouldn’t be. When it comes to communication, the non-native speakers actually have an advantage.

3. How well do you actually see color? Take this test to find out.

4. When it comes to relationships, there are in fact not two but three kinds of people – takers, givers and matchers. (by Ness Labs)

5. When you look at the supermarket shelves these days, it’s easy to get an impression that there are only about 5 kinds of apples in existence. However, there used to be hundreds.

6. And to finish off for this week, here’s Tom Gauld’s take on Princess Bookworm and Count Dracula.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 38

As promised in the previous Crate, I’ll continue to explore the personalities connected to the legendary school of Bauhaus as well as its legacy – and considering just how much in terms of artistic movements and developments has sprouted from there, I’m flush with material for weeks to come. This week I’ll direct the gaze closer to home and take a look at the direct link binding Greece and Bauhaus. So, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Bauhaus was an international establishment by design and the its founder Walter Gropius made a point of inviting teachers to join from all over Europe. Ioannis Despotopoulos (Jan Despo) back then still an architecture student, also moved to Weimar in order to join the establishment. There seems to be some doubt whether he was actually ever a registered student at Bauhaus, but it is certain that he was in contact with many of its prominent members during the two years he lived in Weimar. It is also without doubt that the spirit and ideas of Bauhaus influenced him deeply, as witnessed by his writing “The Organic City” («Η Οργανική Πόλις») and numerous other papers that to large extent have remained unpublished. It does not seem to be widely known that Jan Despo is the architect behind The Athens Conservatory that was in 1959 originally intended to be a part of the Cultural Center of Athens. Unfortunately, the Athens Conservatory was the only part of the complex that was ever built and even that stayed unfinished for years due to lack of funds. Despotopoulos’ original designs for the Conservatoire even included acoustic panels and other minute details of its interior design. His other works include Sotiria and Tripoli sanatoriums, Asvestichori hospital in Thessaloniki, the School Complex of Academia Platonos and others.

2. Need to come up with a revolutionary product? Now you can let this list of 10 types of innovation guide your brainstorming sessions.

3. Watermelon season is nearly here, so it’s just about time to learn how to pick the best and ripest one.

4. How does it feel to suddenly wake up a stranger in one’s homeland? Let this excerpt from Miha Mazzini’s ‘Erased’ guide your imagination.

5. How would ‘I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud’ sounds like as a limerick? Wonder no more.

6. And to finish off for this week, a little comic guide to your personal cat thermometer.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 37

As I was searching for articles for this week’s Crate in my bulging folder of bookmarks, I came across a few about women in Bauhaus and this reminded me that I had wanted to do something involving Bauhaus for a good while. It is by far my favourite “school” of art and their philosophy of incorporating art into everyday life is something that I very much agree with. So, in the coming weeks the Crate will among other things explore the people and heritage of that short-lived yet enormously influential institution. Let’s get to it right away.

  1. The quirk and genius of Bauhaus was in demolishing the idea of art education altogether and putting it together from scratch. So, where before had been fortifications and fences between crafts, ‘fine art’ and ‘commercial art’, suddenly there were none. Crafts got the possibility to take their proper place among other fields of art and there is no place that exemplifies it better than the weaving workshop of Bauhaus. In principle all workshops of Bauhaus were open for all applicants, but in reality women were discouraged from applying to ‘heavy craft areas like carpentry’ – and thus in 1922 Anni Albers – back then still Annelise Elsa Frieda Fleischmann – ended up in the weaving workshop instead of glass. However, after initially having considered weaving to be inherently for sissies, she slowly became fascinated by it and by systematically exploring the possibilities of the medium, opened it up for completely new uses and interpretations. As if her work wasn’t enough, her marriage to Josef Albers, one of the central figures of Bauhaus turned her one of the figureheads of the movement even long after the closure of the school.

2. There is something about islands and some of them have a particular IT-factor. Apparently the tiny island of Saint Martin has it in abundance, as despite its minuscule size of 87 square km, it is still divided between two nations – namely the French and the Dutch. This split that dates back to the Treaty of Concordia in 1648 has also provided the island with two very aptly named fortifications – namely Fort Amsterdam and Fort Louis.

3. Ever seen a remarkable colour on a picture and wondered to yourself what on Earth it might be called? There’s a way to find out – this nifty colour finder lets you search from the colour wheel or upload your own image.

4. In case you’re occasionally wondering about the roots of your perennial misery – we’ve got the answer. It’s the age – and apparently things will start looking up after you’ve passed your 47th birthday.

5. The image of postwar USA seems all rosy and sunny looking back from the distance of many decades. However, where there’s sun, there are shadows – and those shadows were reflected in film noir – the most class-conscious genre Hollywood has ever produced.

6. And to finish off for this week a cartoon from 1901 French satirical magazine Le Rire – The Simple and Quick Method of Recognizing the Nationality of Women by the Geometric Method.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 36

It was a lovely hot evening today here in Athens. If it wasn’t for still having to wear a mask outside, one could be forgiven for forgetting entirely that a pandemic is still not entirely eradicated. I hadn’t had time to prepare the content of all this months’ Crates yet, so this one I’d dare to describe like I would an effortlessly stylish outfit – ‘ just something I threw together’. So, let’s have a look at it without any further ado.

  1. Now, be completely honest – how many Finnish painters can you name? Most probably none, so let’s make sure that next time someone asks you this question you’d have earned some bragging rights. Enter Helene Schjerfbeck – a deeply private painter, set on the road of an artist by a broken hip at the age of four, when her father gave her pencils to amuse herself during convalescence. Despite the lifelong limp the badly healed hip left her with, financed by government grant she studied art in France, and after experimenting with different styles, arrived at a confident minimal expression by the end of the 19th century.

2. What is creativity? We don’t necessarily like to combine it with the world of finance, yet this is exactly what Robert J. Sternberg has done with his Investment Theory of Creativity. I found this little gem from the post of Might Could Studio, which is absolutely worth checking out.

3. If you – like the rest of the world – like Frida Kahlo, you can enjoy the virtual tour in her birth home Casa Azul, provided by the Frida Kahlo Museum.

4. In case you are a history nerd who also happens to like internet culture, you’re in luck – this handy Historic Tale Construction Kit, lets you make up the dankest Bayeux tapestry memes.

5. Think it’s a good thing to have plenty of choice? You’re mistaken. Decision fatigue is a thing.

6. And to finish off for this week – the absolute truth about any vital internet structure from the pen of XKCD.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 35 – Siblings special

For the first time, in the beginning of May I actually planned a whole months of Crates ahead and decided that as I had rather enjoyed composing the Isolation special edition, I’ll do another thematic Crate this month… and this time the theme is going to be siblings in the widest sense of the word. So, after a greyish somewhat rainy afternoon and evening, let’s proceed to opening this special Crate without further ado.

  1. Surely you have heard more than enough about Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo who used to be the only one who bought his paintings. However, Vincent and Theo also had three rather remarkable sisters – Willemien, Elisabeth and Anna.

2. As the theme embraces the concept of ‘sibling’ in the widest possible sense, what else is an association, but a brother-or sisterhood based on shared principles rather than shared bloodline? The 14 rebellious students who left the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1863, ended up forming The Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions, more widely known as The Peredvizhniki or The Wanderers in 1870. During their over 50 years of existence, they arranged 48 mobile exhibitions and although by far the most of the ‘common people’ their art was aimed at could not afford to attend the exhibitions, the widespread reproduction of the Peredvizhniki paintings as postcards and illustrations in magazines made them well-known throughout Russia. The art of the Wanderers was no renewal of style, but a renewal of subject matter that successfully managed to turn landscape painting into a tool of Russian nation-building.

3. The question whether birth order affects one’s personality has been around for a long time. The answer is… it’s complicated.

4. Sibling rivalry has been a familiar concept throughout history, meriting a thorough examination by Sigmund Freud who was deeply fascinated by it and epitomized by the relationship between Hollywood actresses and sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.

5. Occasionally, however, instead of rivals, siblings can end up as friends and co-inventors like the Wright Brothers. Entrepreneurs, rather than scientists they actually worked together on a range of different projects before embarking on aviation.

6. A surefire way of building lasting bonds is team sports – exemplified by Sisterhood FC, the first women’s Muslim football club in the UK.

7. The 1960’s California cult The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, however, wished to establish the bonds between fellow humans through the influence of magic mushrooms and LSD.

8. Is it possible to produce genius siblings? In 1965, Hungarian psychologist Laszlo Polgar set forth to find out. He courted his to-be-wife Klara with descriptions of the pedagogical experiments he had planned for their progeny and somehow it worked. They got married and and their first daughter Susan was born in 1969. They went on to have two more girls – Sofia and Judit. All of the three sisters went on to be professional chess players and Judit – the world champion.

9. Brothers are not only created by sharing blood and genes – in Arab as well as Ancient Roman culture, the real brothers were created by sharing the same mother’s milk.

10. While talking about associations, we should definitely not forget the remarkable salon of Fanny Boscawen in 18th century England that became known as The Bluestocking Society – a gathering of a number of the most cultured and educated ladies (and a few gentlemen) of the day. The unusual name supposedly originated from the blue worsted stockings a popular participant, botanist and writer Benjamin Stillingfleet used to wear. By the mid-19th century though, Victorian attitudes towards women’s position had become widespread and the term ‘bluestocking’ gained a derogatory air.

11. And to finish off on a light note – let’s enjoy the hungover cattiness of Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 34

Summer is here, cafes are full to the brim with people who after months and months of lockdown find even the word ‘home’ unutterable. An undefinable laziness is creeping in, a desire for total holidays, complete relaxation, the ideal summer that… does not exist for most. However, while we are still dreaming about the innocent slow days at the blue sea, let’s open this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Before the entrance of Count Dracula to the silver screen, ‘vampire’ or ‘vamp’ has a somewhat different meaning – namely it designated an independent city woman, a pre-flapper, who lived as she liked and burned bright in the city nightlife. One of the first ‘vamps’ was Valeska Suratt, a silent movie actress and vaudeville star of 1910’s.

2. Continuing on the topic of darkness, let’s jump to one of the places of Earth with the most polluted air – that dubious honour belongs to the Nigerian city Onitsha. State capital Lagos (photo from the slum of Ebute Metta) and oil city Port Harcourt are not faring much better.

3. Don’t know if you’re sufficiently hydrated? Check your pee with this handy Pantone chart.

4. In order to remember just how remarkable forms nature is able and willing to create, I’d suggest spending some time on the wonderful site of Australian SeaGems.

5. What can we expect from the post-pandemic life? Are we ready for new Roaring Twenties? Ted Gioia thinks that there is a fair case to be made for it.

6. And to finish off for this week, another little gem from my beloved Incidental Comics by Grant Snider. Every time I’m planning to post something else, he comes up with something totally poignant – like this little chart of poets’ day jobs.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 33

Finally the jackets are off in the daytime, compulsory sms-sending is off, everyone is off (well, at least until Monday). The prefecture borders were finally opened on Friday and Athenians who had been waiting for months to visit their summer homes left the city in droves. The ones who stayed spent it in cafes and queuing in shop lines – as although the sms and click-in-shop are gone, the limitations concerning the number of people pr establishment square meter are still in place. Now, however, having returned home in anticipation for yet another workweek, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate of Curios without further ado.

  1. We all know that the internet belongs to cats. What you might not know, however, is that the success story of the felines started way earlier – namely with the Victorian illustrator Louis Wain whose at the same time fantastic and tragic life will be immortalized in a movie this very year. The incredibly prolific “Hogarth of Cat Life” spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental hospitals, after being a household name in Britain a few decades earlier.

2. Want to disappear off the grid? Welcome to the Earthship community. Apparently some of them even have Netflix.

3. The right to the pursuit of happiness is even written into the US constitution. However, which happiness do you want to pursue – the eudaimonic kind or the hedonistic kind?

4. Ever wondered what birds actually get up to in their nests? (I mean, who hasn’t?). Here’s your chance to peep into an owl’s nest. If owl’s don’t happen to be your cup of tea, there’ plenty of other wildlife livestreams to choose from.

5. Italian on the quest against pasta? That would be Filippo Marinetti, the spiritual father of the futurist movement, a supporter of Benito Mussolini and the author of “Futurist Cookbook” – one of the most eccentric cookbooks in existence. Against all common sense, the dishes have even been taste-tested.

6. And to finish off for this week – remember that you can always say no.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 32

T-shirt weather is finally here, the Sahara dust has subsided and we are enjoying the wonderful Mediterranean blue skies again. Next week just might herald the end of movement restrictions and I’ve had a coffee in my usual corner cafe again. According to any parameters, life is good. So, without any further ado, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate.

  1. We hear a lot about the ‘richest people of the world’, ‘the Fortune 100 list’, etc, so it can be easy to forget that incredible wealth is not something unique to our era. In fact, on the list of 10 wealthiest individuals of all time, the 20th century is represented by a single person – and that’s not Jeff Bezos. The richest person in history is in fact estimated to be a 14th century African ruler Mansa Musa who ruled over the empire of Mali.

2. Adding the word ‘forced’ to any other word normally makes it worse. Forced empathy, however, might make you a much better negotiator.

3. Ever wondered what the students actually do at the universities? In LOLmythesis, the graduates explain their thesis topics and results in a single (often hilarious) sentence.

4. We tend to connect the British Isles with a constant drizzle and grey gloom rather than with palm trees and laid-back lifestyle. The British Isles, however, are composed of a good number of isles, among them the Isles Of Scilly, just off the coast of Cornwall, that enjoy an almost subtropical climate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. And just so you don’t think it’s an innocent little place – The Isles of Scilly ended their 335 Year War with the Netherlands only in 1986.

5. If you are not familiar with the cartoonist The Oatmeal, it’s high time you made the acquaintance. And what better way to do it than with the story imagining his dogs as a pair of middle-aged men instead.

6. And to finish off for this week, another wonderful little comic by Grant Snider.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 31

A hot Easter Sunday filled with Sahara dust has passed and today, Easter Monday, promises the opening of cafes and restaurants – albeit without music -as another step towards reclaiming our pre-pandemic life. If anything, the last six months has shown how much the little pleasures in life actually count. Hence, selfishly counting this newsletter among one of said little pleasures of life, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Naive art provided much of the inspiration behind modernism – one need only to name the quiet tax collector Henri Rousseau – but it does not only belong to the beginning of last century. One example of it would be a former Soviet factory worker Rosa Zharkikh, who after a near-death experience at the age of 46, started her path as an artist trying to map her visions with needle and thread into intricate embroideries.

2. No matter where, we are evaluated on our output. However, as Austin Kleon (who, by the way was the main inspiration behind this very newsletter) notes in his blog – our output depends on our input.

3. Women in Ancient Greek society have been thought to have been confined to the gynaeceum and busied themselves mostly with everyday household matters – and certainly not with anything that had to do with creation. Now, however, a shift in patterns on Greek amphoras during the Early Iron Age has called that view into question.

4. After having collectively lived through it, many of us are probably prone to classifying 2020 as the worst year ever. However, things could get much much worse – as they did in 536 A.D, supposedly the worst year in the whole European history.

5. Glass is something we mostly do not connect with sensuality, but after seeing Amber Cowan’s detail-rich works, we might just change our minds about that.

6. And to finish off for this week, a little comic from Safely Endangered.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 29

The ubiquitous Sahara dust has made the last few days rather hazy and probably rather unbearable for anyone prone to allergies, but soon enough we should be out of the dust cloud and heading into the spotless blue skies territory again. People are out regardless and there is impatience in the air about knowing whether it would be allowed for people to visit their families in other municipalities for Easter. So in order to distract ourselves during the waiting time, let’s open this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. The original romantic Bohemian artists – the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were famous for their devotion to red-headed model-muses. The most famous of them was the tragically short-lived Elizabeth Siddall, who like Kate Moss in 1990’s helped to redefine the governing beauty standards of the 1850’s and in her case make willowy figures and copper hair into desirable assets (which they hadn’t been thus far). (The photo is thought to be Siddall, but unconfirmed.)

2. Forced to read business jargon on a regular basis? Here’s a delightful website that helps to turn it back into regular language.

3. Vegetarianism as a conscious approach to eating (as opposed to a practical reality of not being able to afford meat) has been around for a rather long time and followed a pattern of ebb and flow. It’s most recent flow started mid-19th century, where meat-free diets were seen as a part of temperance movement.

4. Why do we tend to think that fixing something automatically means adding something when subtracting is an equally valid choice? Apparently it’s complicated.

5. Down in the dumps? Lacking inspiration? Mystified by adulting? Worry not, Zen Pencils has got you covered with the most excellent comics about historical creators and their trials and tribulations.

6. And to finish off for today, here’s a handy guide to waterbodies of knowledge by Tom Gauld.

And that was it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.