Saturday, April 22, 2017

Oh God I need to pee

The famous astronomer Tycho Brahe died from a burst bladder after refusing to relieve himself during a lavish aristocratic party

The peculiar death of the astronomer may still be a mystery. He was attending a banquet in Prague, reportedly hosted by a wealthy aristocratic family. After drinking too much during the party, he refused to go to the bathroom despite his physiological urges, thus rupturing his bladder.

A colored print of Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg palace-observatory

Apparently, he kept holding in and could not get up from the table to relieve himself, carefully trying not to insult the wealthy family, since people that are present at the table must not get up before dinner is finished, as it is a breach of etiquette. Brahe’s bladder surely must have been of astronomical proportion before it burst, actively trying to appease courteous etiquette rather than surrendering to biological urges.

This would have been a noble display of moral courtesy if it wasn’t for the excruciating pain in his stomach. He could not urinate properly, felt constant writhing pain and kept trying to convince Kepler to adopt his planetary system to no avail. Tycho Brahe died in agony, eleven days later, on 24 October 1601, at the age of 54 and he wrote his own epitaph: “He lived like a sage and died like a fool.”

There have been speculations that the unfortunate astronomer has been poisoned with mercury, fueling rumors that Kepler was trying to kill him in an act of jealousy or spite. Some scientists that exhumed Brahe’s grave in 1901 tried to solve the mystery once and for all but failed as there was not enough evidence. Results show that mercury concentrations in his body were not even close to high, so it’s impossible that he was poisoned in this way.

Statue of Brahe and Kepler in Prague, Czech Republic.

Tycho’s hopeful planetary model was discredited, but his research and astronomical observations were an essential contribution to astronomy. He was primarily an empiricist who set new standards for precise and objective measurements, although he would flip his wig if he found out that the Earth orbits the Sun. If only he answered nature’s call, who knows if he would have renounced his erroneous planetary model, done even more crucial research, invented new measuring equipment, or kept throwing lavish parties.

(Far more interesting facts about Brahe)

In 1566 at the age of 20, he lost part of his nose in a duel with another Danish nobleman named Manderup Parsbjerg. The duel is said to have started over a disagreement about a mathematical formula. Because 16th century Denmark didn't have resources like the internet to figure out who was right, the only solution was to try to kill each other. For the rest of his life, Brahe wore a prosthetic nose. His fake nose was likely made of copper, although he probably also had gold and silver noses around for special occasions.

He lived in a castle, where he kept a rather unusual group of regular entertainers. He employed a little person called Jepp, who Brahe believed possessed psychic powers. Jepp was his court jester, and spent most dinners under the table. It's probably best not to speculate on just why Brahe preferred that arrangement. Then there was Brahe's elk, a tame beast that Brahe kept as a prized pet. The elk met a rather bizarre end, reportedly drinking a lot of beer while visiting a nobleman on Brahe's behalf, after which it fell down the stairs and died.

BLOGGER'S NOTES. Fake nose, drunk elk, lascivious dwarf: this must be the wonderful world of Tycho Brahe! All the bizarre crap surrounding his life is much more interesting than a rather sad career spent in Kepler's shadow.

But I had to include an excerpt from that amazing source of historic bullshit, The Vintage News. For some reason I am still on their shit list after a couple of years of bitter exile. I am not allowed to like a post, or comment or reply to a comment (though I'm still allowed to share - as if I'd want to, the way they treat me!) because of some unknown sin I have committed. Thus I am forced to read everyone else's comments, including those of a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi with guns, insignias and pictures of Hitler all over his home page.


Not only does The Vintage News do very well without using any researchers or fact-checkers, they can't write in English and give the impression of a very bad translation. It's entertaining, at least, if a little infuriating.

Of course, I had to find out if you actually can burst your bladder. Apparently it's rare unless your bladder is diseased and/or has received a violent trauma. Bursting it from crossing your legs is rare, because - and I found this particularly fascinating - the body just takes care of the problem, and it starts coming out all by itself! Clever of the body.

Didn't Kramer say that on Seinfeld once? I think so, but I have no idea in which episode.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Giant wool cat head: ready to wear!

A Giant, Creepy, Realistic Wearable Wool Cat Head

by Rebecca Escamilla at 8:18 pm on April 14, 2015

photo via Needle Felted Cats

Housetu Sato and his students at the Japan School of Wool Art created a giant, creepy, realistic needle-felted wool cat head that they can wear on their head.

photos via Cat Doll

image via Housetu Sato

photos via Cat Doll

via Kai-You, RocketNews24

Cat rescue: the Unknown Kitty

Sanzhi Pod City: the aliens have landed

Sanzhi UFO houses

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sanzhi UFO houses (Chinese: 三芝飛碟屋; pinyin: Sānzhī Fēidiéwū), also known as the Sanzhi pod houses or Sanzhi Pod City, were a set of abandoned and never completed pod-shaped buildings in Sanzhi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan. The buildings resembled Futuro houses, some examples of which can be found elsewhere in Taiwan. The site where the buildings were located was owned by Hung Kuo Group.

Construction and abandonment

The UFO houses were constructed beginning in 1978. They were intended as a vacation resort in a part of the northern coast adjacent to Tamsui, and were marketed towards U.S. military officers coming from their East Asian postings. However, the project was never completed in 1980 due to investment losses and several car accident deaths and suicides during construction, which is said to have been caused by the inauspicious act of bisecting the Chinese dragon sculpture located near the resort gates for widening the road to the buildings. Other stories indicated that the site was the former burial ground for Dutch soldiers.

The pod-like buildings became a minor tourist attraction due in part to their unusual architecture. The structures have since been subject of a film, used as a location by MTV for cinematography, photographed by people, and become a subject in online discussions, described as a ghost town or "ruins of the future". The houses are referred to in the title of a track on the experimental German pianist Hauschka's 2014 LP Abandoned City.


The buildings were scheduled to be torn down in late 2008, despite an online petition to retain one of the structures as a museum. Demolition work on the site began on 29 December 2008, with plans to redevelop the site into a tourist attraction with hotels and beach facilities.

By 2010, all of the UFO houses had been demolished and the site was in the process of being converted to a commercial seaside resort and water-park.

Blogger's Blah Blah. This topic was so bizarre that it cried out for an equally bizarre treatment, so I began to make animations, some of which freaked me out so badly I found I couldn't use them. (Maybe I'll post outtakes later on. Or not. A director's cut?) 

I love making cars and buildings and other inanimate things come to life, and it's a cinch with architecture because of all the uniform surfaces. They don't even need to be square. The levels to these things - and by the holy, aren't they the worst-looking things you ever saw? No wonder people thought they were cursed - made it easy to make them flap and applaud and otherwise jump around. But God, it was tiring, and WEIRD. Just plain weird. 

This isn't the first time I encountered Pod City - I remember reading about it years ago. One of the photos was an aerial view that made me reel. It was like a host of evil mushrooms squatting and rotting on the ground.

There is a slight cheat here. The yellow structures in some of the gifs are likely Futuro houses, which I don't even want to get into. They look UFO-ish in the most classic My Favorite Martian sense, with evil portals all around them that stare like malevolent eyes. My God. There are some of them left in Taiwan, most of them rotting away, but the original Pod City has been demolished and is (supposedly!) no more. If this were the X Files, Scully and Mulder would be on it by now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Disaster on a cruise ship

Astonishing beauty: waterfalls of Vietnam

The bridge on the grass: a walking dream

I remember the date, May 1, 2005, because my father-in-law had just died and I had just returned from a soul-shredding trip back east for his funeral. I had nothing left in me, but was in that wild, I've-got-to-get-out-of-here state that always makes me slam the door behind me and travel.

On foot. I went off into the woods, and around here that means I went down the street and turned left, but these were public spaces, dog paths, old-lady-jogging places, and I needed far more surcease, more refuge. I needed to get away from the whole damn human race.

I kept walking, and once more turned left.

I was on a bridge. I was aware that a year or so ago, there was no bridge here, never had been. I had a vague memory of someone building one. Why? It led to nowhere.

Or had I tried it once, and found the rough path over the bumpety old tree-roots just too creepy and uncomfortable? I was on that path, and soon borne up by the rushing of streams.

These were hissing, shisshing, fish-and-glitter streams that rushed through my ear canals and rattled the tiny tympani behind them as if gushing through my skull. Suddenly I had the sense of smell of a horse, and, snorting, lifted my head.

The path led ever on. It twisted and wrenched. I was aware of civilization not far away, as if I could even see houses and hear lawnmowers through the cedars. But it couldn't be so, for these woods were primeval, pulling me deeper in. My feet were in a state of hypnosis. I could not refuse.

I went over bridge after bridge. Where had this path been all my life, I wondered  -  inaccessible to the dogwalkers, the granny-runners. Sealed off, yet here. One stream roared like traffic in a tunnel. It was awful, and I sped on.

As if pursued. But look. Here was the place I always turned back. Or not? I had never been on this path, so how could I remember turning back?  My scalp was electric. Beyond this twist lay the place of the faeries.

I can't describe how each tree seemed inhabited, not by a human or a squirrel but by its own fleshwood-spirit. I can't explain how each tree seethed, how burls swelled like pregnancies, wood cancer that somehow popped out of the symmetry of the trunk and made it look hideously deformed.

Then I stopped at the sight of a massive, salmon-coloured stump, the fleshy remains of a huge fallen cedar. It seemed to hum and swarm with life. I wondered where the tree had fallen, and when. And the sound it must have made, and what pushed it over. The tree-flesh seemed vital yet, not grey but livid red, full of ant-tunnels and probably housing one of those termite queens the size of a rat.

I walked beside a huge gully. I have always hated the word gully, it's ugly and hollow and hellish. I remember when I was about two or three, it could be my first memory, falling down into a gully in Delhi where my grandmother lived, and my sister, who was about 15 at the time, bending over me and saying, "Are you wounded?"

My feet slipped in spongy moss and slime. It was a pleasant day, but I was menaced. Something veered and eered. I could not see it. I turned around quickly, and it vanished.

Now strong cords pulled me, whipcords snaking out from under the ground to yank my feet out from under me. I burst into a clearing, and -

I stopped, then stepped, as cautiously as Pocohontas. The ground sank and groaned under me, giving way with each step and leaving a dark depression.  I stopped uncertainly and looked up and all around me.

I stood in an exact circle of tall cedars. I lifted my head and felt a crackling charge of energy whizzing clockwise around and around me. I chanted some sort of prayer that I wish I could remember now, something about my father-in-law. My temporal awareness had burned away like fog.

As I stood in the electrocharged circle I noticed a squirrel violently frisking its tail, jerkily making its way toward me. But it did not stop. It crept and stopped, crept and stopped until it was only a foot away from me. Then another squirrel appeared, and began to creep towards me. They sat up on their hind legs with their tails jerking and their beady eyes glistening in the sun, waiting.

I walked. Huge fallen logs, roots of trees just jutting up in the air: how had they been uprooted? Why were all these trees laughing at me? Then I saw or felt with my foot the weathered slat of an old ladder. Or something like it.

But it wasn't a ladder. It was a bridge. It was a bridge that lay flat on the grass. And it went on and on. I stepped on it and began to walk.

Perhaps the ground wasn't level here. But it was. Perhaps the ground was marshy here. But it wasn't. This thing was, it just was. I wobbled along on the rickety old slats, cursing the fucking little gnome who had put this bizarre useless thing here just to freak me out and make my hair stand on end.

Then. Then I did see something, a minor gully ahead of me where the ground fell away. But the rickety little bridge remained level. Like a horse stepping on a live power line, I jumped back.

Had I walked on it, I surely would have tumbled in.

This was some booby-trap set by a vindictive fairy tale witch, some Tenniel nightmare ink-drawing designed to scare the living shit out of innocent children. I wheeled and ran. And ran and ran, and it was a good thing that no bear ran after me. Everything unspooled and unreeled and unhappened, so that by the time I got home again, 
I was not even sure any of it had been real.

But I went back a few days later. I had to know. Yes. It was all there. I noticed a humming and a cracking. A subtle sizzling in the air, something that I picked up with the tip of my nose.

This was once a place deep, deep in the black-green uterine core of British Columbia, before the white man came and ripped the hell out of it, as he continues to do. It was a place where you had better not go, not even if you were aboriginal and knew the danger. The place of Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood and the Handless Maiden and all those other sweet children who started out innocent, but ended up lost and devoured.

Don't go there. Don't go there, my girl. This is a place of enchantment, but in the archaic sense, the faerie chant seducing you with coils of magic that will never set you free.

All is changed, changed utterly. I go to that place sometimes still, and like a soft drink left out too long in the sun, most of the fizz has gone out of it. But the trees are still murmuring to themselves, nasty little things they don't want me to hear

One day I realized the weird wooden bridge on the grass was gone: just gone, and then I wondered if I had imagined it. So I decided to go a little farther, clambered down and up that gully, and kept going.

A few minutes later, I had no idea where I was.

This was a profound disorientation. I couldn't turn in any direction. The view behind me was even more unfamiliar than the view in front of me. Panic crept up my scalp and I started running, desperately running. Like a hunger, like a thirst, like a stab of unbearable desire, I needed something, anything that looked familiar.

I ran until my lungs ached, and then: I burst out. Burst out of the forest, as if the forest had an actual door. I found myself on a road, a main road, paved, travelled, but completely unfamiliar. I had no idea how I would ever get home.

I walked and walked. I didn't have the nerve to flag a car down. Then I saw something. A bus stop. But I had nothing with me. I wriggled my hands into the pockets of my jeans and came up with a frayed yellow bus ticket that had probably gone through the wash.

I waited and waited. A bus came, a bus I had never heard of before, but it had to take me somewhere, somewhere familiar, somewhere in the civilized world! I made myself look normal, or hoped I did, and got on. I had the thought that I should have some sort of passport, to take me from one mode of being to the next.

I went home to recover, then as I was getting ready for bed I discovered a small bulge in my jeans pocket. I took it out and turned it over. It was a small stone in the exact size and shape of a cat's paw: neat toes and pads on one side, smooth elegance on the other. I didn't remember picking it up. For some reason I put several coats of nail polish on it. I have it still in a case with my jewelry, a bizarre trinket that wouldn't mean a thing to anyone else.