Link, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 29

All set for the refreshing summer version of our weird links roundup!

And let’s start right away with a quiz: what is the mystery object in the picture below?
(The answer at the end of the post).

  • First, a couple of links for those who know Italian. Il Podcast della morte is a nice project put together by some former students of the Master in Death Studies at the University of Padua: they interview in each episode a lecturer from the master’s program (the chat with yours truly is in the second episode) and the topics are really wide-ranging, confirming once again that to talk about death is to talk about life, with all its infinite facets.

  • Another tip, if you are interested in these topics, is to subscribe to the newsletter Appuntamento con la morte, created by the talented Sofia: with very accurate scientific and medical insights, she addresses poisonings, head transplants, rigor mortis, cadaver dogs, and much more.
  • Two delights for Edgar Allan Poe lovers: The Raven illustrated by Gustave Doré, and some of his stories read by Iggy Pop, Jeff Buckley, Christopher Walken and Marianne Faithful.

  • The Church of Abuna Yemata Guh, above, gives literal meaning to the concept of mystical vertigo: to access it, one must climb a steep rock face for two hours. A spectacular video here.
  • A couple of animal & nature-themed links: in this video we discover the incredible basket star, a kind of miniature Cthulhu.
  • Here’s the guide-animal for people who are intolerant of routine and who find it hard to stay in one place all the time: the armored catfish, whose occasional itch is to… cross a desert!
  • Finally, below, a Nephentes attenboroughii inflicts the worst of death penalties on a rat:

  • Sunken lanes are paths or roads naturally sunk lower than the surrounding ground level. Some are very old, others are formed in as little as twenty years; several theories have been proposed to explain their origin (erosion, water, herd passage, etc.) but none is entirely convincing. The only thing certain is that the tunnels created by the vegetation are wonderful, as you can see in these photos.
  • Another unsolved archaeological mystery: the stone spheres of Costa Rica.
  • Even ants in their own little way get into trouble. (Thank you, Roberto!)
  • If you want to cry, here is the letter that the famous physicist Richard Feynman wrote to his dead wife; proof that even the most rationally inclined mind is capable of poetry and feeling.

  • How does one earn the appellation Boulgaroktónos, that is, “The Bulgar Slayers?” You take 14,000 soldiers as prisoners, divide them into groups of 100, arrange them in single line tied with a rope; then, for each group, you gouge out both eyes of 99 men and only one eye of the first in line, and send them all back to their homeland, with many tributes to the Czar.
  • Have you gone through any diets to pass the bikini test? Have you gobbled down bars, studied food plans, weighed carbohydrates and proteins, heroically given up ice cream? Pffft. Whatever deprivation you have endured pales in comparison to the diet imposed on King Sancho I aka the Fat!
    From the Italian Wiki page: “The doctor then became even more stringent: depriving Sancho of his freedom he had him locked up in his room bound hand and foot, and to ensure that he could no longer eat excess food he had his mouth sewn shut, leaving just enough space between his lips for the insertion of a straw with which to drink. This extreme treatment proved effective, however, partly because of the violent rejections Sancho often made of the food given to him, which then led him to lose even more weight. He was also forced to take longer and longer walks in the courtyard of the caliph’s palace, often being dragged with a rope; he also had to take hot baths and saunas to stimulate sweating and receive painful massages ro promote the reabsorption of excess skin.” (Thanks Roberto!)
  • The backlash of the blustering alchemist.
  • Published a couple of years ago, this by Valentina Tanni remains one of the most comprehensive articles (in Italian) on the internets mythology of Backrooms, eerie liminal spaces where reality and simulacrum merge.
  • Museum objects we like: eighteenth-century dildo with pump to simulate ejaculation.
  • Beautiful article on the first talking androids and the pioneers of mechanical artificial language.

In closing, as promised, here is the answer to the quiz: the mystery object contains a Goa Stone.
But what exactly is it?

Surely some of you are familiar with bezoars, those solidified, petrified balls of food or hair found in the intestinal tract of some mammals. At one time bezoars were thought to be a panacea that could cure all ills: they were worn as talismans, rubbed, grated, and made into decoctions.
Here is a photo I took of a bezoar ready to be dipped into your five o’clock herbal tea:

But bezoars were in short supply. Fortunately, here came to rescue the most classic Italic inventiveness, namely the art of counterfeiting.
In the mid-sixteenth century a Florentine Jesuit, who was living in Goa (India), invented these miraculous stones from scratch by mixing hair, fossilized teeth, shells, resin and crushed gems. Before long the business took off, and for two centuries the Jesuits held a monopoly on the Goa stones.

That’s all, happy and weird vacations!

4 comments to Link, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 29

  1. paolo tosi says:

    caro Ivan sempre prezioso…

  2. -Paolo says:

    Anche stavolta, piatto ricco! Grazie e a presto, spero.

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