Stunning Portraits of Siamese Fighting Fish
Photographer Visarute Angkatavanich gets incredibly close up to capture these stunning portraits of Siamese fighting fish in graceful, dancerly poses. The Thai photographer uses perfectly placed lighting to create the dramatic highlights and shadows that give personality to each little finned creature.
The photographs convey a sense of elegance that sits in direct contrast to the territorial nature of the popular freshwater aquarium fish. As they twist and turn and form captivating curves, Angkatavanich times his shots perfectly to capture the magnificence of the individual forms. His subjects are set against either a stark black or white background and the beauty of the flowing fins is playfully complemented by each naturally fierce facial expression.
The Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) also known as betta, is a popular species of freshwater aquarium fish. The wild ancestors of this fish are native to the rice paddies of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam and are called pla-kad (literally biting fish) in Thai. They tend to be rather aggressive.
The people of Siam and Malaya (now Thailand and Malaysia) are known to have collected these fish prior to the 19th century.
In the wild, bettas spar for only a few minutes or so before one fish backs off. Bred specifically for fighting, domesticated betta matches can go on for much longer, with winners determined by a willingness to continue fighting. Once one fish retreats, the match is over. Seeing the popularity of these fights, the king of Siam started licensing and collecting these fighting fish.
Although known for their brilliant colors and large, flowing fins, the natural coloration of B. splendens is a dull green, browns and gray, and the fins of wild specimens are relatively short. Brilliantly colored and longer-finned varieties have been developed through selective breeding.
Ghost Photography of the 19th Century
Photo manipulation is nearly as old as photography itself, and what early photographers lacked in Photoshop, they made up for in ingenuity. Photographers identified nine different methods that could aid in the photographic imitation of “spirits”, including techniques like multiple exposure and combination printing. As David Brewster, in his 1856 book on the stereoscope, explained:
For the purpose of amusement, the photographer might carry us even into the regions of the supernatural. His art, as I have elsewhere shewn, enables him to give a spiritual appearance to one or more of his figures, and to exhibit them as ‘thin air’ amid the solid realities of the stereoscopic picture.
William Mumler was the world’s first known “spirit photographer”. He photographed people who were morning the loss of a loved one and would superimpose their image on the photograph to show that they were still with them in spirit.
Mumler got caught with his fraudulent photography because of P.T. Barnum. He had captured an image of Barnum posed next to a ghost of an exceptionally notable variety: that of the recently assassinated Abraham Lincoln. During Mumler’s 1869 hearing for fraud, Barnum was called to the witness stand to testify against Mumler. Barnum would serve as an expert on “humbuggery.”
Spirit photography lived on well into the 20th century, fueled in part by the Civil War and, later on, by World War I. In the U.K., in the aftermath of the first Great War, the spirit photographer William Hope would develop a following for his work that included Arthur Conan Doyle. The Sherlock Holmes’s creator supported Hope against claims of Mumlerian fraud and wrote a book called The Case for Spirit Photography in 1922. He would also end his friendship with the famous Harry Houdini when the magician publicly claimed that spirit photography was “farcical.”
Why Do We Fear Clowns?
Anyone who has read Stephen King’s It would probably never choose to decorate a children’s ward with clowns. And it probably comes as no surprise to horror fans that a University of Sheffield study of 250 children for a report on hospital design suggests the children find clown motifs “frightening and unknowable”. We don’t know what’s behind the mask.
One might suspect that popular culture is to blame. In It, made into a television movie in 1990, Stephen King created a child-murdering monster that appeared as a demonic clown. King’s It has sparked a slew of horror films over the past 20 years, known as “the killer clown” or “evil clown genre”.
The recurring theme in popular culture of the scary clown goes back at least as far as silent move star Lon Chaney Sr, who identified the spooky potential when he reportedly said, “There is nothing laughable about a clown in the moonlight.”
The place of the scary clown in mainstream popular culture can be seen in The Simpsons with Bart’s intonation of “can’t sleep, clown will eat me”. The phrase became an Internet meme and inspired the Alice Cooper song Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me. Even SpongeBob is afraid of clowns. In the Tunnel of Glove episode, SpongeBob and Pearl are in the dark after the ride has broken down. SpongeBob stammers, “It’s okay Pearl, it’s only the dark. There’s nothin’ scary about… the dark! It’s whats in the dark you gotta watch out for. Monsters, creeps, ghouls, CLOWNS, witches, werewolves, CLOWNS, crawly things, CRAWLY CLOWNS, those are the worst CRAWLY CLOWNS.”
And the real-life serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who often dressed as a clown for neighborhood parties but was secretly killing young men and hiding their bodies in his basement, provides an unpleasant and sinister undertone to the clown theme.
If you search for fear of clowns on the Internet, the results will include plenty of sites referring to “coulrophobia” — an avid fear of clowns. You are not alone with your fear; just stay away from the crawly clowns.
10 Best Horror Films to Watch on Halloween
More and more October has become defined by Halloween. It permeates through the month and has become everyone’s favorite non-holiday, holiday. So to help get you in the mood, here’s a list of ten horror movies to put you in the festive, and frightened, spirit.
- The Shining (1980) - Stanley Kubrick was one of the most acclaimed filmmakers who ever lived, so there’s no wonder that he made one of the best horror film of all time. The sense of isolation conveyed by the wintry setting and Jack Nicholson’s performance as a crazed, homicidal family man are perfect. Watch it with the recent documentary Room 237 to hear about all the insane fan conspiracy theories and interpretations.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Now, everybody should respect George Romero. He basically singlehandedly created a new kind of movie genre: the zombie movie. But, the original Dawn of the Dead is really boring and cheesy. The remake, the debut of Zack Snyder, is better made, more fast-paced and more terrifying. The first fifteen minutes alone are ridiculously intense, and – after our protagonists seek refuge from the zombie horde in a shopping mall – so is the rest.
- Halloween (1978) - You have to watch Halloween on Halloween. This little indie film about a masked psycho stalking babysitters in suburbia was a huge hit, and ushered in the slasher-movie boom of the 1980s. That said, Halloween is more spooky than gory. Michael Myers, capital-E Evil incarnate, has a phantom-like presence in every frame of this feature, and your quaint childhood neighborhood as never looked scarier.
- Friday the 13th (1980) - We’re still stuck in the woods, readers. Despite an absurd string of sequels, the original Friday the 13th is actually pretty good. Well, it’s not like good good – but still, watch it because it’s fascinating to see the humble beginnings of a (former) powerhouse franchise. Friday the 13th might not be much of a box-office powerhouse anymore, but the series left a huge, bloody mark on pop culture and film history. Also, Mrs. Voorhees is one bad mother.
- Phantasm (1979) - This is a goofy little movie about a kid and his brother who think the town’s mortician is reviving the dead to serve as his slaves on another planet. Ya know, one of those stories. The movie’s villain, the Tall Man, is iconic in the horror genre, and so is his weapon of choice: a metallic sphere that impales victims and sucks out their blood (see above). As the tagline says, if this film doesn’t scare you, you’re already dead, so watch out.
- The Descent (2005) - The claustrophobic and creepy story of six women who explore an unmapped cave – which itself is unsettling – who then get attacked by humanoid monsters. As you can tell from the poster, the filmmakers made sure to include plenty of red-dyed corn syrup.
- Suspiria (1977) - This is a bloody and beautiful work of art. Is that a weird thing to say about a cheesy-at-times horror movie about a coven of witches that secretly controls a dance academy? Probably. Dario Argento, a famed Italian horror director, approached Suspiria with the craftsmanship of a master Renaissance painter, and it shows. The plot doesn’t make much sense and the English dubbing is atrocious–none of that matters. Just watch it.
- Black Christmas (1974) - This proto-slasher about a foul-mouthed prank caller who terrorizes a sorority house on Christmas is the perfect transition from one holiday season to another. Have a very scary Christmas!
- The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - This is one of the best horror movies ever made about a cabin in the woods. Maybe not better than Evil Dead, but certainly better than Cabin Fever or On Golden Pond. As the poster illustrates, The Cabin in the Woods is about way more than just that. It’s a puzzle that twists its way to a delirious and blood-drenched conclusion. Oh, and it’s super funny, too.
- Scream (1996) - Like The Cabin in the Woods, Scream gets meta with its horror. With its introduction of the movie-loving Ghostface killer (not to be confused with Ghostface Killah), Scream revitalized the slasher genre in the mid-’90s. It also turns into a surprisingly good mystery.
Last Meals of Innocent Men
Campaign for Amnesty International, displaying the final meal requests of prisoners executed on Death Row, who were later found innocent.
Photographed by James Reynolds
Could you imagine being sentenced to death - knowing you’re innocent - and having to decide your last meal? Having to sit down and think about the things you used to enjoy in life, to narrow those things down to one last meal that will be served to you by people just as innocent as you are?
Animals Preserved by Salt, Not Killed by Deadly Lake
Lake Natron does not turn animals to stone and it did not “kill” these animals as reported by many websites. Lake Natron in Tanzania hosts beautiful wildlife. And for those animals that do become interred here, animals don’t immediately die and turn to stone upon touching the lake. Those that fall in and perish are exceptionally preserved by the salts that make the lake so unique, but the lake’s surface isn’t an aquatic equivalent of Medusa’s gaze.
Nick Brandt unexpectedly found the dead animals that had washed up on the shore, preserved by the high content of sale in the lake, and posed them as they had been in life. The photographs, taken between 2010 and 2012, appear in Brandt’s new book Across the Ravaged Land. The pictures are meant for art and not a statement of science.
Jaimi Butler, of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College in Utah, said that on the shoreline of the northern arm of the Great Salt Lake can preserve animals in much the same way. She has found birds that are so encrusted in salt you can pick them up and they will stay in the same position they were lying in.
Thure Cerling, professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, said by email that the animals in Brandt’s photographs likely died of natural causes. Since there are few predators in the area, their bodies remain and become salt-encrusted when the lake’s water level drops.
The animals aren’t truly calcified, but are coated with sodium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate, said Cerling, who has researched the chemistry of Africa’s Rift Valley lakes. “There is almost no calcium in the lake, although the inflowing fresh waters have calcium, which precipitates as it mixes with the high-pH alkaline waters of the lake.”
Although the alkaline waters of Lake Natron are harsh, they are not lifeless. Even though the lake is particularly warm and salty, algae within the lake supports a species of tilapia adapted to the unusual conditions. In addition, three-quarters of the Earth’s flamingo population use Lake Natron as a breeding site because the water stays low enough to prevent nest flooding but remains high enough that there’s a barrier between predators and the conical nests the birds build.