Ramblings & ephemera

A mummified body in front of a TV

From Reuters’ “Mummified body found in front of blaring TV” (17 February 2007): Police called to a Long Island man’s house discovered the mummified remains of the resident, dead for more than a year, sitting in front of a blaring television set. The 70-year-old Hampton Bays, New York, resident, identified as Vincenzo Ricardo, appeared to […]

Ghost brides in China

From Reuters’ “China arrests men for murdering “ghost” brides” (26 January 2007): BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese police have arrested three men for killing two young women to sell their corpses as “ghost brides” for dead single men, a Chinese newspaper reported, warning the dark custom might have claimed many other victims. Yang Donghai, a 35-year-old […]

Some great gross parasites

Parasitoid Wasps From Charles Q. Choi’s “Web-manipulating wasps” (Live Science: 2 March 2011): Although parasites harm their hosts, they don’t usually kill them, if only to keep themselves alive. Not so with parasitoids, which ultimately destroy and often consume their hosts. Parasitoid wasps, which inspired the monster in the movie “Alien,” lay their eggs inside […]

Who would ever think that it was a good idea?

Image via Wikipedia Read this article about Paul Krassner’s experiences with the Manson Family & note the emphasis I’ve added – is this not the greatest sentence out of nowhere you’ve ever seen? How in the world did that ever seem like a good idea? From Paul Krassner’s “My Acid Trip with Squeaky Fromme” (The […]

The Uncanny Valley, art forgery, & love

photo credit: hans s From Errol Morris’ “Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 2)” (The New York Times: 28 May 2009): [Errol Morris:] The Uncanny Valley is a concept developed by the Japanese robot scientist Masahiro Mori. It concerns the design of humanoid robots. Mori’s theory is relatively simple. We tend to reject robots that look too much […]

David Foster Wallace on David Lynch

From David Foster Wallace’s “David Lynch Keeps His Head” (Premier: September 1996): AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term “refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.” But like postmodern […]

Real-life superheroes

From John Harlow’s “Amateur crimefighters are surging in the US” (The Times: 28 December 2008): There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who are willing to dress up as comic book heroes and patrol the urban streets in search of, if not super-villains, then […]

How it feels to drown, get decapitated, get electrocuted, and more

From Anna Gosline’s “Death special: How does it feel to die?” (New Scientist: 13 October 2007): Death comes in many guises, but one way or another it is usually a lack of oxygen to the brain that delivers the coup de grâce. Whether as a result of a heart attack, drowning or suffocation, for example, […]

Denver International Airport, home to alien reptilians enslaving children in deep dungeons

From Jared Jacang Maher’s “DIA Conspiracies Take Off” (Denver Westword News: 30 August 2007): Chris from Indianapolis has heard that the tunnels below DIA [Denver International Airport] were constructed as a kind of Noah’s Ark so that five million people could escape the coming earth change; shaken and earnest, he asks how someone might go […]

50% of people infected with personality-changing brain parasites from cats

From Carl Zimmer’s “The Return of the Puppet Masters” (Corante: 17 January 2006): I was investigating the remarkable ability parasites have to manipulate the behavior of their hosts. The lancet fluke Dicrocoelium dendriticum, for example, forces its ant host to clamp itself to the tip of grass blades, where a grazing mammal might eat it. […]

Interesting psychological disorders

From Lauren Davis’ “Delusion or Alien Invasion? Disorders That Make Life Seem Like Scifi” (io9: 27 September 2008): Capgras Delusion: You believe a loved one has been replaced with an exact duplicate. … Reduplicative Paramnesia: You believe that a place or location has been moved to another site, or has been duplicated and exists in […]

Lost her ability to play piano after she regained sight

From Oliver Sacks’ “The Case of Anna H.” (The New Yorker: 7 October 2002: 64): I was reminded of a blind woman, a contemporary of Mozart and a most remarkable pianist, who, it is said, could no longer play after she regained some sight.

After a stroke, he can write, but can’t read

From Oliver Sacks’ “The Case of Anna H.” (The New Yorker: 7 October 2002: 64): I recently received a letter from Howard Engel, a Canadian novelist, who told me that he had a somewhat similar problem following a stroke: “The area affected,” he relates, “was my ability to read. I can write, but I can’t […]

People being rescued run from their rescuers

From Les Jones’s email in Bruce Schneier’s “Crypto-Gram” (15 August 2005): Avoiding rescuers is a common reaction in people who have been lost in the woods. See Dwight McCarter’s book, “Lost,” an account of search and rescue operations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In one chapter McCarter tells the story of two backpackers […]

Micro-nations

From George Pendle’s “New Foundlands” (Cabinet: Summer 2005): Call them micro-nations, model countries, ephemeral states, or new country projects, the world is surprisingly full of entities that display all the trappings of established independent states, yet garner none of the respect. The Republic of Counani, Furstentum Castellania, Palmyra, the Hutt River Province, and the Empire […]

Jughead’s weird hat

From Jim Windolf’s “American Idol” (Vanity Fair: 20 December 2006): A vestige of the franchise’s 1940s roots remains in the form of Jughead’s hat. In those days, explains Archie Comics managing editor Victor Gorelick, kids would take their fathers’ discarded fedoras, cut off the brims, and scissor them into jagged beanies. Archie artists have recently […]

Henry Ford’s debacle in the jungle

From Alan Bellows’s “The Ruins of Fordlândia” (Damn Interesting: 3 August 2006): On Villares’ advice, [Henry] Ford purchased a 25,000 square kilometer tract of land along the Amazon river, and immediately began to develop the area. … Scores of Ford employees were relocated to the site, and over the first few months an American-as-apple-pie community […]

Living in a cave behind your house

From Reuters’s “Chinese fugitive leaves cave after 8 years” (5 October 2006): A Chinese man wanted by police on gun charges has given himself up after hiding in a cave constructed at the back of his house for eight years, the official Xinhua news agency said. The 35-year-old man from the southeastern city of Fuzhou […]

Dead five years before he was discovered

From Reuters’s “Body found in bed 5 years after death” (4 October 2006): Austrian authorities have discovered the body of a man who apparently died at home in bed five years ago, a Vienna newspaper reported on Wednesday. The corpse of Franz Riedl, thought to have been in his late 80s when he died, went […]

A prison completely run by the inmates

From Mica Rosenberg’s “Guatemala forces end 10-year prisoner rule at jail” (The Washington Post: 25 September 2006): Guatemalan security forces took over a jail run for over 10 years by inmates who built their own town on prison grounds complete with restaurants, churches and hard-drug laboratories. Seven prisoners died when 3,000 police and soldiers firing […]