Links, Curiosities & Mixed Wonders – 20

Monday morning according to Gustave Doré.

First of all some quick updates on my upcoming activities.

  • On November 1st, together with my friend Luca Cableri, I will be a guest of the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival. We will talk about wunderkammer and space, in a conference entitled The Space Cabinet of Curiosities. — November 1st, 10 am, Teatro Miela in piazza L. Amedeo Duca degli Abruzzi 3, Trieste.
  • On November 3rd I will speak at Sadistique, the BDSM party organized every first Sunday of the month by Ayzad. The title of my speech: “Pains are my delight”: Erotics of martyrdom. Obviously, given the private context, access is forbidden to the curious and to those who have no intention of participating in the party. Consult prices, rules of conduct and dress code on the event’s official page. — November 3rd, 3-8 pm, Nautilus Club, via Mondovì 7, Milano.
    [BTW, Ayzad recently launched his own podcast Exploring Unusual Sex, you can listen to it on Spreaker and Spotify]
  • I remind you that on November 14 we will inaugurate the collective art exhib REQVIEM at Mirabilia Gallery in Rome. The exhibition, organized by l’Arca degli Esposti and curated by Eliana Urbano Raimondi and myself, will feature works by 10 international artists within the context of the only Roman wunderkammer. — November 14th, 7 pm, Galleria Mirabilia, via di San Teodoro 15, Roma.

Without further ado let’s start with our selection of links & weirdness!

  • In his encyclopedia of natural history L’univers. Les infiniment grands et les infiniments petits (1865) Felix A. Pouchet recounts this case which allegedly happened in 1838 in the French Alps: “A little girl, five years old, called Marie Delex, was playing with one of her companions on a mossy slope of the mountain, when all at once an eagle swooped down upon her and carried her away in spite of the cries and presence of her young friends. Some peasants, hearing her screams, hastened to the spot but sought in vain for the child, for they found nothing but one of her shoes on the edge of a precipice. The child was not carried to the eagle’s nest, where only the two eagles were seen surrounded by heaps of goat and sheep bones. It was not until two months later that a shepherd discovered the corpse of Marie Delec, frightfully mutilared, and lying upon a rock half a league from where she had been borne off.
  • The Halloween special which caused the death of a young boy, pushing the BBC to pretend it never even aired: a nice video tells its story. (Thanks Johnny!)
  • Fungi that turn insects into zombies: I’ve already written about them a few years ago in my little ebook (remember it?). But this video about the cute Entomophthora muscae has some truly spectacular images.

  • Italian creativity really tops itself when it’s time to put up a scam. A small business car ran over a wild boar in the Gallura countryside, forest rangers were alerted so that the accident damage could be reimbursed by the municipality. It turned out the boar had been just taken out of a freezer. (Article in Italian, via Batisfera)
  • In 1929, the Australian writer Arthur Upfield was planning a detective story and while chatting with a friend he came up with a method for the perfect murder. So perfect in fact, that his novel couldn’t even work, because the detective in the the story would never have solved the case. He needed to find a flaw, one small detail that could expose the culprit. To get out of the impasse the frustrated writer began to discuss the plot with various people. Little did he know that one of these listeners would soon decide to test the method himself, by killing three men.
  • I sometimes think back to a little book I had as a kid, Idées Noires by Franquin. Here is an example of the Belgian cartoonist‘s very dark humor.

“The law is clear: everyone who kills another person will have his head cut off.”

  • An since we’re talking about beheadings, I took the above photograph at Vienna’s Kriminalmuseum di Vienna. It is the head of criminal Frank Zahlheim, and on the cultural implications of this kind of specimens I wrote a post last year that you might want to re-read if you’ve got five minutes.
  • Greta Thunberg becomes a pretext to clarify what autism and Asperger’s syndrome really are (article in Italian).
  • In England, back in the days, whenever someone died in the family the first thing to do was tell the bees.
  • To conclude, I leave you with a picture of a beautiful Egyptian mummified phallus (circa 664-332 a.C.). See you next time!

La barba di api

Petro Prokopovych è stato l’inventore della moderna apicoltura. Studiando e osservando la biologia di questi incredibili insetti, agli inizi del 1800 progettò diverse strutture per il loro allevamento commerciale, come i favi mobili o le reti per lasciar passare le api operaie, ma non la Regina. Il suo amore per questi insetti andava ben al di là del semplice sfruttamento dei loro prodotti naturali, come cera o miele. Prokopovych fu il primo uomo a “costruire” su se stesso una barba fatta di api.

La sua performance, che fu presto riproposta nei sideshow e nei circhi itineranti di tutto il mondo, si basava su una semplice ma ingegnosa trovata: appendere sotto il mento una piccola cella contenente l’ape Regina viva. Attratte dai suoi feromoni, le altre api si dirigevano verso la minuscola scatoletta, vi si accatastavano a migliaia.

Questo spettacolo serviva innanzitutto a dimostrare che le api non erano così aggressive come la gente supponeva; esse infatti attaccano e pungono soltanto quando si sentono in pericolo. Ma di certo lo sciame di insetti pullulante che ricopriva la faccia del performer stimolava una fobia diffusa, e rendeva altamente spettacolare questo show.

Tanto che ancora oggi il cosiddetto bee bearding è un’impresa tentata da molti. Secondo il Guinness dei Primati, il record ufficiale è ancora detenuto dall’americano Mark Biancaniello. Sulla sua faccia e sul suo corpo si sono posate nel 1998 ben 350.000 api, per un totale di 40 kg di peso.

Nel filmato sottostante vi proponiamo una dimostrazione delle varie fasi del bee bearding. Una breve nota esplicativa: se l’affumicatura iniziale vi sembra strana, è in realtà un procedimento standard nell’apicoltura, mirato a calmare le api. Spruzzando del fumo sull’alveare, infatti, le api si sentono in pericolo e si ingozzano di miele per fare provvista (in caso l’alveare venisse distrutto dal presunto fuoco). Di conseguenza, con la “pancia” piena, sono meno aggressive.

Comunque, la sensazione di migliaia di api che zampettano sul vostro corpo dev’essere davvero unica… se amate gli insetti, e sapete mantenere la calma.